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Archive for the ‘Semi-autonomous Driving’ Category

Safety Groups Want Tesla Autopilot Name Banned

Groups argue it is “deceptive and misleading.”

by on May.23, 2018

Despite Tesla's claims to the contrary, safety advocates believe the company's use of the name Autopilot is misleading.

It’s called Autopilot but, at least for now, Tesla’s semi-autonomous technology is a not completely reliable co-pilot, it can require rapid human intervention to avert a crash. And that, two consumer groups argue, makes the use of the Autopilot name “deceptive and misleading.”

The Center for Auto Safety, or CAS, and Consumer Watchdog aren’t the first to raise concerns about the Tesla technology. German regulators briefly considered banning the name, Autopilot. But the American non-profit safety groups have taken their concerns to the Federal Trade Commission, asking it to initiate an investigation of how Tesla not only has named, but also how it promotes its semi-autonomous system.

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In a letter to the federal agency, they claim Tesla has taken steps to “mislead and deceive customers into believing that Autopilot is safer and more capable than it is known to be.” (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.

Safety First!

“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 Model 3 Not Faring Well in Media Spotlight

Consumer Reports, Edmunds point out problems with new sedan.

by on May.21, 2018

Tesla's Model 3 isn't getting the rave reviews from some media outlets the company would like.

Tesla’s Model 3 is slowly working its way on to the driveways of the tens of thousands of folks who ordered one — including Consumer Reports and Edmunds, and the results are not what the EV maker had hoped.

Consumer Reports said it “found plenty to like about the luxury compact sedan (which starts at $35,000 but goes all the way up to $78,000), including record-setting range as well as exhilarating acceleration and handling that could make it a healthy competitor to performance-oriented cars such as BMW’s 3 Series and the Audi A4.”

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However, it quickly pointed a few flaws in the new model, primarily long stopping distances in the magazine’s emergency braking test and difficult-to-use controls, that prevented it from earning a recommendation. (more…)

Tesla Model S Was in Autopilot at Time of Crash

Driver repeatedly took hands off the wheel.

by on May.17, 2018

The NTSB is investigating a third crash involving a Tesla vehicle using Autopilot at the time of the collision.

A Tesla Model S sedan that crashed into the back of a fire truck in Utah last week was operating in semi-autonomous Autopilot mode, the battery-electric automaker has confirmed, though the company has also tried to shift blame to the 28-year-old driver by noting that she repeatedly took her hands off the wheel and admitted being distracted immediately before the crash occurred.

The incident is the latest in a series of accidents involving Tesla vehicles in the U.S. and abroad and could raise new concerns about the safety of the automaker’s products – especially those using Autopilot which Tesla CEO Elon Musk has hailed as a potentially life-saving feature.

Safety News!

The latest crash occurred when a Model S slammed into a parked fire truck at around 60 mph. The female driver suffered a broken foot. She subsequently told authorities that she was driving in Autopilot mode. Tesla engineers on Wednesday accessed the vehicle’s black box and confirmed that statement, though they also revealed that the driver had taken her hands off the wheel for as much as 80 seconds immediately prior to the crash. (more…)

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…)

Toyota Earnings Jump, Despite Rising U.S. Incentives

Record R&D spending could hurt operating profit.

by on May.09, 2018

Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda is not only pushing for automotive sales growth, but leading the company into the emerging mobility sector.

Toyota saw earnings jump 21% between January and March, the final quarter of its fiscal year, despite having to sharply ramp up incentives in a slowing U.S. automotive market.

The automaker reported a profit of 480.8 billion yen, or $4.4 billion, up from 398 billion yen the year before. Toyota’s sales also rose 2% to 7.58 trillion yen, or $69 billion. For the full fiscal year, it earned 2.49 trillion yen, or $23 billion, a 36% increase, with sales rising 6%, to 29.38 trillion yen, or $268 billion.

Beyond the Numbers!

The strong performance helped highlight the cost-cutting efforts initiated by CEO and President Akio Toyoda, the grandson of Toyota’s founder declaring, “We’ve become a leaner, trimmer company … and in the past year we’ve developed our remaining fat into muscle, so that we’re in a strong position to be more competitive.”

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Production Version of Kia Niro EV Breaks Cover

Timing of U.S. launch unclear.

by on May.04, 2018

The long-range version of the Kia Niro EV will get 236 miles out of a 64 kWh battery pack.

We got a first look at the concept version of Kia’s all-electric Niro model during the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year. The Korean carmaker has now pulled the wraps off the production model during the Fifth International Electric Vehicle Expo in Seoul.

A quick glance suggests the version that will be rolling into showrooms is a bit more conservative than the CES show car, with relatively conventional lights and bumpers. Perhaps the biggest difference between the Niro EV and earlier versions of the crossover can be seen in the textured, albeit solid, grille – which actually bears more than a passing likeness to the snout on the all-electric Hyundai Kona that debuted at the New York International Auto Show barely a month ago.

Product News!

Kia is being sparse when it comes to offering details about the Niro EV, though it did indicate the battery-electric vehicle will be offered with a choice of two different batteries – at least in some markets – the more powerful, 64 kWh pack will provide enough energy to travel an estimated 236 miles between charges, the 39.2 kWh pack reducing range to around 149 miles.

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Toyota Readying Its Own Autonomous Car Testing Site

New site allows TRI to conduct more "dangerous" testing.

by on May.03, 2018

The Toyota Research Institute plans to build an autonomous vehicle test site within the MITRP.

Toyota is looking to take its autonomous vehicle testing to a new level – a more dangerous one – without putting the public at risk so it’s going to construct a new closed-course testing facility near Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The Toyota Research Institute (TRI) filed construction permits this week to transform an approximately 60-acre site at Michigan Technical Resource Park (MITRP) in Ottawa Lake into a facility that takes testing to the edge.

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Expected to be operational this October, the new site will be used exclusively by TRI to safely replicate demanding “edge case” driving scenarios, too dangerous to perform on public roads. (more…)

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.”

Tesla News!

“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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Despite Problems, Musk Promises Tesla Profit in Second Half of 2018

Stock up, but not everyone convinced.

by on Apr.13, 2018

CEO Elon Musk shown exiting the back seat of a Model 3 at its debut. Musk still needs to dig out of trouble caused by Model 3 delays.

It’s been a tough few weeks for Tesla, the battery-electric automaker again missing production targets, being accused of improperly firing nearly 1,000 factory workers and being scolded by federal safety regulators for its role in investigating a fatal crash involving its semi-autonomous Autopilot system.

But that has done little to dampen the enthusiasm of CEO Elon Musk. After earlier this week suggesting Model 3 production isn’t delayed but in a “time shift,” the South African-born exec on Friday tweeted a promise that Tesla will be both profitable and produce positive cash flow by the second half of this year.

Promises, Promises!

Musk’s latest tweet came in response to a harsh Twitter post by British news magazine The Economist, which warned Tesla would need to raise more cash this year. “The Economist used to be boring,” Musk responded, “but smart with a wicked dry wit. Now it’s just boring (sigh). Tesla will be profitable & cash flow+ in Q3 & Q4, so obv no need to raise money.”

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