An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has determined that "operational limitations" of Tesla's Autopilot system played a "major role" in a fatal crash last May, but that the driver was also at fault for not paying adequate attention to the road. At the time, Autopilot was capable of steering the car within its lane and autonomously braking for vehicles in the road ahead. His last action was setting the cruise control at 74 mph on the 65 mph road, two minutes before the collision. The NTSB report was issued on the same day that U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao revealed the federal government's latest voluntary guidelines for autonomous technology, which includes a section on driver monitoring and the transfer of control from vehicle to operator when a system determines that human interaction is required.
With the looming advent of the age of autonomous cars comes many questions. Foremost among them: Can they deliver pizza? That's what Domino's and Ford will try to find out in the coming weeks when they deploy a jointly-developed self-driving car into the streets of Ann Arbor, Mich., that's equipped with a heated compartment hidden behind the passenger side rear window that rolls down and dishes out orders when a customer enters an access code into a tablet installed on the side of the vehicle. Whether its people or pizza, the question remains: What do you give a robot for a tip?
Electronic blind-spot monitoring and lane-keeping systems do help to prevent crashes, according to new studies from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. A second institute study of blind-spot detection systems -- usually warning lights in side mirrors -- found the systems lower the rate of all lane-change crashes by 14 percent and the rate of such crashes with injuries by 23 percent. A separate study by the insurance industry-funded institute and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's AgeLab found that drivers using automated systems that scan for parking spots and then park the car spend a lot more time looking at dashboard displays than at the parking spot, the road in front or the road behind. Automakers, taking note of the problem, appear to be switching to systems that vibrate the steering wheel or driver's seat, Cicchino said.
As it continues to improve its sensor technology to help its vehicle understand its surroundings and respond quickly and safely to unfolding events, it's also been considering how to deal with unavoidable collisions, whether it's with a "soft" human that could easily sustain an injury, or a harder object like another vehicle. A patent recently awarded to Waymo offers some insight into how the company is approaching the issue. In Waymo's own words: "The vehicle may contain tension members that are arranged so that a change in tension across one or more of the tension members will alter the rigidity of the vehicle's surface. The vehicle may identify and respond to a potential collision by altering the tension that is applied to one or more tension members, thereby altering the rigidity of the vehicle's surface."
Ocado, which launched 17 years ago and makes deliveries from a string of warehouses across the country, has just started testing its first self-driving "CargoPod" truck built by U.K. tech firm Oxbotica. It's designed primarily for short journeys or last-mile deliveries in urban or residential areas, taking relatively small orders to customers rather than weekly or monthly supplies. While Oxbotica is focusing on last-mile deliveries, the likes of Waymo and Uber are developing self-driving trucks big ones to transport large amounts of goods over much greater distances. Uber, meanwhile, last year drove a semi full of Budweiser along more than 100 miles of freeway using driverless technology developed by Otto, a tech company that it purchased for $680 million in 2016.
Cyber criminals would target software defects in radios, ECUs and on-board WiFi to immobilise cars and hold motorists to ransom at the roadside. The advent of driverless cars, vehicles connected to city infrastructure and cloud-based infotainment systems all offer criminals more ways than ever to take over motors. The car industry is taking a proactive approach to hacking threats with security experts Thatcham Research working with Government and other specialists to draw up a basic framework and safety standard for manufacturers to adhere to. "This will give drivers assurance that connected autonomous vehicles have been designed and tested to meet exacting cyber security standards."
New York City's entire taxi fleet -- nearly 13,250 vehicles -- could be replaced by just 3,000 ridesharing cars if these services were optimized, according to a new study from the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). CSAIL's Daniela Rus and her team created an algorithm that crunched data from three million New York City taxi rides, calculating routes and schedules for two-person, four-person, and ten-person vehicles. The results showed that 3,000 four-person cabs could help handle 98 percent of the City's demand (with a waiting time of 2.3 minutes), while 3,000 two-person cabs could handle 94 percent and just 2,000 ten-person vehicles could handle 95 percent. "To our knowledge, this is the first time that scientists have been able to experimentally quantify the trade-off between fleet size, capacity, waiting time, travel delay, and operational costs for a range of vehicles, from taxis to vans and shuttles," Rus said in a press release.
Tesla Motors said in a statement on Thursday it's unlikely that its semi-autonomous Autopilot system was engaged when a Model S crashed in Indianapolis, killing the driver and a passenger. Autopilot limits the vehicle's speed to less than 35 miles per hour on the street. Witness statements and the damage to the car suggest the car was going faster than that, Tesla said. Witnesses reported that the vehicle was driving at a high speed when it hit a tree, crashed and caught fire, killing 27-year-old driver Casey Speckman and 44-year-old passenger Kevin McCarthy.