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Despite Concerns, Safety Probes, Musk Promise “Full Self-Driving” Autopilot to Debut in August

But CEO Musk doesn’t explain what that actually means.

by on Jun.12, 2018

According to a new tweet from Tesla CEO Musk, products like the new Model 3 may soon be updated with full "self-driving" capabilities.

Tesla Version 9, an apparently major software update to the operating system used for the automaker’s vehicles, will debut in August and, according to CEO Elon Musk, add “full sell-driving” capabilities to the controversial Autopilot system.

The news, announced in a Musk tweet late Monday, comes at a time when earlier versions of the semi-autonomous Autopilot system have come under intense scrutiny. A preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board has raised serious concerns about how it functioned in the moments leading up to a fatal crash of a Tesla Model X SUV in California earlier this year.

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But Musk has repeatedly downplayed such concerns — even pointing his finger at owners who may not have used Autopilot properly – while promising a far more advanced version of the system was coming. And in his late Monday tweet, Musk said, “to date, Autopilot resources have rightly focused entirely on safety (but) with V9, we will begin to enable full self-driving features.”

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NTSB: Model X Accelerating, Driver Took No Action in Crash

Report doesn't assign blame, just determines final moments.

by on Jun.08, 2018

A fatal March crash involving a Tesla Model S in Mountain View, California. Pic courtesy KTVU.

The National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation into the crash of a Tesla Model X determined that seconds before the crash the vehicle was in Autopilot mode, accelerating and had no input from the driver to avoid the collision.

Walter Huang, 38, was killed on U.S. Hwy 101 in Mountain View, California, when his Model X slammed into a road divider, hit two other vehicles and then burst into flames, Huang, who according to his wife had complained previously about the failure of Autopilot in the same area before, was pulled from the vehicle before it caught on fire.

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Huang had the vehicle in its semi-autonomous Autopilot mode for nearly 19 minutes before the crash and it was set at 75 miles an hour. However, due to traffic in front of him, the vehicle was traveling at 65 mph before the vehicle in front of him moved, allowed the Model X to accelerate to the selected speed. (more…)

Uber Posts Positive Q1 Earnings After Tough 2017

Shuttering of Arizona ops stings as Waymo, Lyft take off.

by on May.24, 2018

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has made an impact on the company in the short time he's been there.

After nearly a year of problems and attempts to rectify them, including the addition of a new CEO, Uber Technologies’ first quarter results reveal some of the positive impact of changes implemented across the ride-sharing company.

Uber reported net income of $2.5 billion on gross bookings of $11.29 billion, an increase of 55% compared with the year-ago period. The company’s net revenue grew 67% to $2.5 billion.

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Much of the company’s positive results can be attributed to the changes implemented by new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi and two significant transactions: the sale of GrabTaxi Holdings Pte Ltd. and a joint venture with Yandex N.V. (more…)

Three Quarters of Americans “Too Afraid to Ride” in Self-Driving Vehicles

As more problems reported, acceptance declines, finds new AAA study.

by on May.23, 2018

A fatal March crash involving a Tesla Model S in Mountain View, California. Pic courtesy KTVU.

They’re expected to flood our roads by the millions over the next decade, and Congress is currently working on legislation that would expand testing on public roads – but a new AAA study reveals that the American public is, if anything, growing more concerned about the safety of autonomous and fully driverless vehicles.

Nearly two-thirds of U.S. drivers would be “afraid” to ride in one today, up from 63% when the AAA last polled American motorists in late 2017. The decline in confidence appears to follow an array of incidents involving prototype autonomous vehicles, including the first-known fatal crash near Phoenix when a hands-free SUV being tested by Uber slammed into a pedestrian.

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“Despite their potential to make our roads safer in the long run, consumers have high expectations for safety,” said Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of Automotive Engineering and Industry Relations. “Our results show that any incident involving an autonomous vehicle is likely to shake consumer trust, which is a critical component to the widespread acceptance of autonomous vehicles.”

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Tesla’s Musk Orders “Flattening” of Management Team as Problems with Safety, Manufacturing Mount

Newest crash also linked to Tesla’s Autopilot system.

by on May.15, 2018

Tesla's Elon Musk "flattened" the company's management structure to improve communications.

Facing increasing problems that have raised concerns about both Tesla’s technology and manufacturing operations, CEO Elon Musk has ordered a shake-up of the company’s management structure.

Tesla continues to struggle to meet production targets for its Model 3 battery-sedan, an issue that led to record first-quarter losses. But the company has also found itself in the news because of a series of serious vehicle crashes, at least some of which appear to have occurred while they were operating in the semi-autonomous Autopilot mode.

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While those crashes could raise concerns about the safety of Tesla’s products, the more immediate threat to the company’s viability is lagging Model 3 production at its Fremont, California assembly plant. In a memo sent to employees, Musk noted he was “flattening (the company’s) management structure to improve communications,” while shifting away from “activities that are not vital to the success of our mission.” (more…)

Click It or Ticket is Back: This Means You Teen Driver

Gen Z drives least likely to buckle up overtime behind wheel.

by on May.11, 2018

Teenage drivers are the least likely group of drivers to use seat belts, according to a new survey.

In a digital world, it is the most “analog” of devices that will save your life: a seat belt. It’s common sense to get in and buckle up; however, the digital generation, Gen Z, are the least likely of driving age groups to strap themselves in when driving.

According to a recent national survey of drivers by Erie Insurance, just 77% of Gen Z drivers — the age group most likely to get in and die from a car accident — buckle up. As drivers get older, they are more likely to use seat belts: 81% of millennials use them, 87% of Gen Xers and 94% of Baby Boomers make sure to buckle up every time they get in a car.

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This isn’t just posturing, but based on hard evidence. In 2016, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the use of seat belts in passenger vehicles saved an estimated 14,668 lives of occupants ages 5 and older. Many Americans understand the lifesaving value of the seat belt – the national use rate is at 90.1% – but nearly 27.5 million people still don’t buckle up. (more…)

Pedestrian Deaths Skyrocketing – Pot, SUVs and Smartphones Catching Blame

Tech distractions and possible tech solutions.

by on May.09, 2018

Despite recent efforts to improve safety, pedestrian deaths have risen for the past few years.

Highway deaths have been on the rise in recent years, reversing a long period of improved roadway safety. And one reason for the deadly turnaround has been the skyrocketing increase in pedestrian fatalities.

Since 2009, the number of pedestrians killed in motor vehicle crashes has jumped by nearly 50%, and a number of factors are being blamed, including the use of mobile devices by both motorists and pedestrians. But a new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety puts a chunk of the blame on the increasing number of SUVs on the road.

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Both the number SUVs and their design appear to be factors, according to David Harkey, the president of the insurance industry trade groups, who noted that, “SUVs have higher front ends, and often the design for the vehicle is much more vertical than passenger cars.” That can make for a more blunt impact and less likelihood that a pedestrian being struck by an SUV might be able to roll off the vehicle and reduce injuries.

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Musk Looks Beyond Model 3 Problems, But Creates Some Headaches in the Process

CEO talks future product, factories – but still sends stock plunging.

by on May.03, 2018

Forget those earnings numbers. Tesla CEO Elon Musk was far more interested in talking about future products, the next-gen Roadster shown here.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is not one to suffer fools – or critics – lightly, as he proved during a 75-minute teleconference call following the release of the automaker’s first-quarter earnings report on Wednesday evening.

The South African-born executive attempted to put a positive spin on what was Tesla’s worst-ever quarterly deficit, promising future earnings while also revealing plans for new factories, new products and a new, fully hands-free version of the Autopilot system. But Musk also offered a harsh assessment of some of the reporters on the earnings call, while repeatedly cutting off analysts looking for long-term financial projections that he dismissed as “boring.”

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“These questions are so dry, they’re killing me,” he interjected before dismissing one analyst’s questions. Musk later shifted his disdain to reporters, at one point suggesting that by questioning the safety of Tesla’s current, semi-autonomous version of Autopilot, reporters might convince drivers to turn it off “and then die.”

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Teens Improving Some Areas of Distracted Driving, Studies Reveal

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

by on Apr.18, 2018

Teen drivers are still texting and driving at alarming rates, but those rates are coming down slightly.

If there is a “symbol” for distracted driving, it’s the texting-while-driving teenager barreling down the road. While crashes remain the single largest cause of death for teens, things are improving in some areas.

A recent American Automobile Association poll revealed that 94% of teen drivers acknowledge the dangers of texting and driving, while 35% of those polled admitted to still committing the act. That’s an improvement in terms of cutting down on that behavior.

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April is Distracted Driving Awareness month. Distracted driving is the cause of a quarter of all crashes, but that number jumps to 58% when teenagers are involved. It takes only three seconds for a driver’s attention to be diverted for a crash to occur – an issue that is exacerbated in teens who don’t have years of driving experience. (more…)

Family of Tesla Model X Fatality Hires Law Firm, Plans to Sue

San Franciso-based law firm points to Autopilot as cause of death.

by on Apr.12, 2018

A fatal March crash involving a Tesla Model S in Mountain View, California. Pic courtesy KTVU.

As the investigation into the death of a Model X owner continues, Tesla is taking a familiar stance when it comes to where the fault lies in the collision with a concrete median: the driver.

Walter Huang died in a crash and vehicle fire in a Model X near Mountain View, California, last month. The family hired law firm Minami Tamaki LLP to explore legal options, and the firms said it believes the Autopilot feature in the electric carmaker’s vehicle probably caused his death.

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Tesla notes that according to its readings from the vehicle, Huang did not follow the procedure for using Autopilot. The company said he went longer than six seconds before touching the steering wheel. The system requires drivers to touch the wheel every five seconds. (more…)