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Will Auto-Pilot (Steering) Be Delayed Due To Legal Restrictions? (NY Times Article)

Discussion in 'Model S' started by Andyw2100, Mar 21, 2015.

  1. Andyw2100

    Andyw2100 Well-Known Member

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    #1 Andyw2100, Mar 21, 2015
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 22, 2015
    Below is a link to a "New York Times" article about Elon Musk's recent press event. The article points out that the self driving aspects of auto-pilot may not be legal. How concerned should we be about this?

    Elon Musk Says Self-Driving Tesla Cars Will Be in the U.S. by Summer - NYTimes.com

    One excerpt:

    “There’s a reason other automakers haven’t gone there,” said Karl Brauer, an analyst with Kelley Blue Book. “Best case scenario, it’s unclear. If you’re an individual that starts doing it, you’d better hope nothing goes wrong.”
    Mr. Brauer said while a handful of states had passed laws legalizing autonomous vehicles, those laws were written to cover the testing of driverless cars, not their use by consumers.
    “It’s not just a philosophical reason why automakers haven’t allowed their vehicles to drive themselves,” he said. “There’s a legal reason, too.”
     
  2. gpetti

    gpetti Active Member

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    I think this article is trying to stir up something contentious. The article repeatedly uses the word autonomous and only briefly mentioned that Tesla refers to this as auto pilot. The liability of auto pilot might have some grey area and inevitably some one will try to sue Tesla if something goes wrong. To my mind this is no different than the rules and legalities governing cruise control. Presumably at some point a car company has been sued for an accident where cruise control malfunctioned? Also presumably there are some scenarios where a car company could be successfully sued too. One thing that is unique with the Tesla auto steering approach is that they are not enforcing the drivers hands remain on the wheel. Their philosophy is that this is backwards. if a driver lost consciousness, that is when you really need automated steering. Maybe they will save some lives through this approach?
    Tesal also have some existing history of ignoring the cautious nature of other manufacturers. Take for example the fact that they don't hide any touch screen options during driving. Presumably they are taking some legal risk there too though maybe auto pilot will save any drivers who fall afoul of that freedom. :smile:
     
  3. Rockster

    Rockster Active Member

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    Legislators acting as barriers to progress?

    Imagine my lack of surprise.
     
  4. woof

    woof Model S #P683 Blue 85 kWh

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    In Europe, the BMW i3 has a feature that works similar to Tesla's Auto-Pilot, in that it handles steering, acceleration and braking:

    BMW ConnectedDrive : Intelligent Driving
    This feature is unavailable in the US versions of the i3. The "wisdom of the internet speculation" is that it's due to the litigious nature of the US. Perhaps there are legislative blocks as well.
     
  5. breser

    breser AutoPilot Nostradamus

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  6. mspohr

    mspohr Active Member

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    The NYT article is confused. It refers to "autonomous" cars and Tesla's autopilot as if they were the same and then points to possible legal restrictions on autonomous cars. Big difference between the two. Sloppy reporting by NYT.
    As far as autopilot goes, I don't see much difference between it and cruise control (or airplane autopilot). In all these situations, you have a driver at the wheel who is supposed to be monitoring the operation of the vehicle and has responsiblity to take over if anything unexpected happens.
     
  7. breser

    breser AutoPilot Nostradamus

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    The NYT article isn't entirely wrong but they don't really explain the nuances very well. See the Wired article for a better article on that standpoint. A car with cruise control is autonomous to some degree. NHTSA has defined some levels that describe the various degrees of autonomy that the vehicles can have:

    Tesla's plans appear to move the Model S into Level 3. As the Wired points out Level 3 vehicles are illegal without specific licensing in some jurisdictions.

    Most people think of self-driving or autonomous vehicles as Level 4 vehicles only, but reality is more complicated than that.
     
  8. mikeash

    mikeash Active Member

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    You can buy cars right now from major automakers that do automatic lane keeping. I don't understand why everyone is convinced that Tesla is going to be the first at this, either to praise them, or say they're too ambitious, or say it won't be legal somehow. Somebody better tell Infiniti that the Q50 is actually illegal, I bet they'll be shocked!
     
  9. breser

    breser AutoPilot Nostradamus

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    #9 breser, Mar 21, 2015
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2015
    These systems currently require the driver's hands to remain on the steering wheel. Though some enterprising people have found ways to get around this (I'm sure we've all seen the videos on YouTube). Tesla has said they intend to not require that, though it does appear that Tesla requires the seat belt to be fastened for TACC to work. As it is these vehicles are probably Level 2 vehicles, but may be pushing it into level 3. Some states have written laws that only allow operation of level 3 vehicles for testing purposes and require special licenses. Since these vehicles are in somewhat of a grey area between 2 and 3 the authorities are watching but not doing anything right now. But Tesla clearly intends to move beyond the current vehicles (e.g. lane changes with just the turn signal). Most states don't have any laws so the cars are absolutely legal there.

    So the articles aren't really wrong that the vehicles fall into a legal grey area in some jurisdictions. I think the NYT article is not very clear on this.
     
  10. Cyclone

    Cyclone Active Member

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    Honestly, TACC without steering control (even just lane keeping) would seem to put us at Level 1, and the release six months from now for lane keeping and lane changing with input from the driver would seem we move to Level 2. That said, I can understand the comment that perhaps the removal of one's hands from the steering wheel puts us into a gray area towards Level 3, even when Tesla's implementation continually says the driver must remain alert and available for immediate control.
     
  11. bob_p

    bob_p Member

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    Tesla might have been able to avoid some of this if they hadn't named it "Auto Pilot" - and instead had used a name that implied "Driver Assistance".

    By making statements that the Auto Pilot software should be able to drive the car between on ramp to off ramp, that certainly gives the impression this is an autonomous system - and that the driver could theoretically just sit back, take hands off the wheel and do something else while the car is driving itself - no matter what happens on the road (such as someone dropping a tow hitch on the road ahead).

    I believe other cars have the ability to monitor the driver - and issue a warning if the driver appears to be falling a sleep or not watching the road. If Tesla added that capability in the car - and required drivers to be paying attention (even with hands off the steering wheel), that might help to emphasize this is driver assistance and not autonomous driving.
     
  12. iadbound

    iadbound Member

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    Autopilot is just a name. It doesn't suggest a legal definition of the system. Moreover, Tesla has surely done extensive legal research on the status of its autopilot feature. If it were illegal in many jurisdictions, Tesla would have disclaimers prominently featured on its website.
     
  13. yak-55

    yak-55 Member

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    Yes, I agree. More clever marketing (creating customer expectations) by Tesla.

    No doubt. Anything less would be imprudent. They are not that clumsy.

    Here the *vast* preponderance of the evidence suggests you are wrong. Tesla has made many, many promises with (at best) poor or incomplete disclaimers. Both on their website and in other communications. My opinion is that Tesla *purposefully* exploits ambiguity (big, incompletely detailed promises) in its marketing. Whether or not this is a good business strategy remains to be seen.
     
  14. ecarfan

    ecarfan Well-Known Member

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    Will Auto-Pilot (Steering) Be Delayed Due To Legal Restrictions? (NY Times Ar...

    Since it appears that Tesla is run by Musk as he sees fit, what Tesla does is a reflection of his personality. Yes he has a tendency to make sweeping statements that often run ahead of reality, but my sense is that in the long run reality usually catches up with his vision of what the future should be, and I'm okay with that. He is setting goals and working towards them.

    I think Auto Pilot is a fair description of the near term goal that Tesla is pursuing. Musk has said many times that Tesla's Auto Pilot function is similar to what commercial aircraft have had for decades, in the sense that a qualified pilot always have to be immediately available to take over the controls if needed.

    Confusion arises when the term "autonomous driving" is used in place of Auto Pilot. Not the same thing in Elon's mind, and rightly so.

    I think that the law in many states, but not all, is compatible with how Elon describes the coming Auto Pilot feature. We are at the very beginning of driving automation and it is going to be quite awhile before the legalities get sorted out, so there is bound to be some confusion for awhile. On balance I believe that driving automation will reduce accidents, not increase them.
     
  15. arijaycomet

    arijaycomet Member

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    Precisely. This is just the tip of the iceberg as to what feature come to market, how we handle them, and how each municipality figures out how to handle it. There may be state-wide legislation that will prevent (or allow) these features, and so forth. But in the case of chicken-vs-egg, the auto manufacturer will first offer the option, and then the law will adapt (or restrict) as needed. I agree, this should only help to reduce accidents, so there will be good lobbyists who support this (NHSTA, insurance companies, etc).

    What I think people often forget too is that these "features" aren't (yet) meant to replace people. As you said, they are expecting you to be there and take over, being fully aware at all times, and monitoring the driving. It isn't like you get to grab your kindle and read a book. Not yet, anyhow-- but sure that will eventually come to exist. For the moment this just helps you out with driving--- you can have a more relaxed experience hopefully-- but you're still ever present, watching the cars, traffic, gauges.... like you said, same as in commercial aircraft. People assume Autopilot will be 100% autonomous tomorrow, and that just isn't the case.

    I'm excited to see how these updates and progressions unfold... I think we're still a ways away from a true on-ramp to off-ramp experience, but even just the ability to steer, keep speed, and maybe even pass slower traffic, that alone would be awesome!
     
  16. yak-55

    yak-55 Member

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    Very well said. I didn't mean to be critical of the Tesla Marketing approach, per se, as much as to contrast it with other more established firms. In this specific instance (evolving regulation of driving automation) I suspect Tesla is using its marketing approach to actively influence the direction of potential regulation/legislation. If so, bully for them!

    The amount of buzz (effectively free publicity) Tesla generates for a firm with tiny market share is certainly impressive. Like the NY Times article or not, when you are small and cash constrained (virtually) any publicity is good publicity!
     
  17. Evbwcaer

    Evbwcaer Member

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    I don't see a problem at all. It is perfectly legal to sell a car with illegal capabilities. Every car is capable of speeding, some jurisdictions have excessive acceleration laws, you can leave your brights on when not legal.

    I don't see a legal problem for Tesla rolling these features out. If the features malfunction, big problem for Tesla. If a driver gets caught using these features where not legal, the driver gets a ticket, and maybe their insurance will prohibit the use of features. I just don't see trouble for Tesla, assuming everything functions well.
     
  18. donv

    donv Member

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    Nope. Only Mercedes requires that-- Infiniti doesn't. In fact, from the videos I've seen, Infiniti doesn't even require weight on the seat, which is a little bit surprising.

     
  19. Beryl

    Beryl Member

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    Exactly. Well stated. This is a non-issue for rolling out Autopilot capabilities, IMO.

    The public should concentrate on getting laws passed so more capabilities are legal and urge insurance companies to lower the rates for those who use autopilot.
     
  20. Andyw2100

    Andyw2100 Well-Known Member

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    #20 Andyw2100, Mar 22, 2015
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2015
    I think both of you are dead wrong.

    The "Wired" article breser linked to included this:

    --
    The cars could, however, be kicked off the road if regulators aren’t thrilled with the idea of autonomous vehicles roaming the country, says Bryant Walker Smith, an assistant professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law and affiliate scholar at the Center for Internet and Society, who studies self-driving vehicles. There are laws prohibiting reckless driving, for example, and “a state or local law enforcement agency could use these provisions to target” the cars “if they believed the vehicles to be dangerous.” That could lead to a revoked registration, or refusal to register cars going forward.
    --


    While it may be legal for Tesla to sell cars that can't be registered or driven legally in certain states, that's obviously not something they are going to want to do.

    What happens if one state winds up making the autopilot functions illegal? Does Tesla pull the firmware in all 50 states because the car with the firmware as it stands is illegal in one state? Do they disable the features in that one state via GPS? Would the state go for that, or would the state still view the car as illegal? What if the state that makes the autopilot illegal is Hawaii or Alaska--a state that isn't going to be easy to drive a Model S to? How much of the above applies then? What if the state is Maine? Do people in LA lose autopilot because someone from LA conceivably could drive their car to Maine? What happens if one small state, like Rhode Island, just stops allowing Teslas to be registered? Does Tesla give up sales in Rhode Island or take away autopilot from everyone?

    To say this is "not a problem at all" and a "non-issue" for Tesla is, in my opinion, pretty short-sighted.
     

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