Home Vehicle Cars Autopilot Safety has come in question after TeslaCam records massive crash

Autopilot Safety has come in question after TeslaCam records massive crash

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TeslaCam recorded an unfortunate and spine chilling event. A Tesla crashed into a Honda car at an alarming 140 mph. Tesla Hacker Mr. Green shared the video on Twitter on the 12th of November. Mr. Green has a track record of finding hidden features in Tesla. He was the one to reveal the use of the mysterious in-car camera. Green also discovered the new 4D-radar Tesla is planning to add in the future. His recent discovery is of the crash video. Here’s the video of the horrendous crash,

Serious questions pop up after seeing the video. Why is the driver driving at that speed? Was the autopilot engaged? Was it a malfunction or possible failure? How was the data or the video retrieved? These are various safety concerns that struck me in this incident. Let’s address them one by one.

Safety issue due to the HW unit

Mr. Green retrieved the date from HW 2.5 unit. A junkyard sent him the HW unit. A Twitter user asked the same question. This is what Mr. Green had to say

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It is interesting that the car had an HW 2.5 unit. Tesla cars are now equipped with HW 3.0. The problem is that data about the previous owner can easily be retrieved from the HW. Teslas that end up in junkyard are not exactly junk. With the right coding skills, all the past information is easily available. This is always a risk factor surrounding crashes. Mr. Green is a white hat hacker. He brings transparency and first-hand information. However, this is not the case with every hacker. Personal information in the wrong hands means trouble.

Safety Issues around Autopilot

How the incident went down questions about how safe the autopilot is. On uploading the video, the replies were focused on whether or not Autopilot was active. Some comments suggested that the autopilot wasn’t engaged. Others suggested that autopilot was engaged but the driver was asleep. At first glance, we can see that the driver’s hand isn’t on the steering wheel. However, the steering sign on the dash kept flashing. This occurs when the car or autopilot mode is trying to tell the driver to take control. The autopilot wants the driver to apply torque on the steering wheel. What happens if the drive ignores the flashing sign?

First case: The car slows down, turns on the hazard lights, and halts.

Second case: However, if the driver’s foot is on the pedal, the car auto steers in the same lane indefinitely

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Here’s a video explaining the above scenario

How the incident occurred

Upon further investigation, Green was able to make a decisive statement about the accident. Unfortunately, it was the latter of the two cases. He was able to retrieve response graphs by decoding the HW unit further. The two graphs show the pedal position and steering control under autopilot.

Mr. Green explained in his tweet, “What made matters even worse – the driver had their foot on the accelerator pedal gradually increasing the pressure and increasing speed. While normally AP does not operate above 90mph, but it will keep steering you don’t take control”

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We showed this case in the video above

Mr. Green dove further to provide more information about the crash. He was able to revise the video with CANbus data overlaid. (The red flashing is periodic “autopilot fault” messages). It clearly shows that the Driver is forcing the speed to remain high. The autopilot does steering while flashing like crazy. However, it doesn’t change lanes even after seeing the obstacle.

The state of Honda after the crash was miserable.

Autopilot Safety has come in question after TeslaCam records massive crash Autopilot Safety has come in question after TeslaCam records massive crash

Everything wrong with the crash

From the video, it is clear that autopilot spots the obstacle. However, it doesn’t change the lane. This is down to the fact that it doesn’t have the authority to do it. As explained in the video, the driver kept pushing the accelerator pedal. As a result, the car auto steers in the same lane indefinitely. This incident could’ve been avoided if the autopilot was coded to match the speed of the obstacle. Unfortunately, this was a worst-case scenario for the autopilot.

The owners give their consent for the Autopilot feature. However, Autopilot’s handling of the situation amazes Green. He said, “It is concerning that Tesla allows you to do this. You would think that when the car is steering it would also limit acceleration and avoid running into stuff it sees – same as it avoids getting outside a lane. I understand that just stopping might be unsafe, but following a car in your lane without running into it is a lot safer than just stopping – or hitting it, obviously”

Tesla hasn’t acknowledged autopilot’s failure and we don’t think they will. The fact that they have the owner’s consent plays a role in this. However, we hope Tesla addresses the issue internally and come up with a solution.

We don’t have confirmed the news on the driver’s situation. Also, we can’t comment on whether it was a health issue or he/she, unfortunately, fell asleep. However, two people are reportedly injured. We hope for their rapid recovery and will keep you guys updated.

Ritwik Shah
Aspiring Mechanical Engineer and Formula Student. An automotive and sports enthusiast who is always up for a discussion.

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