So Calling It “Autopilot” Seems to Be Marketing Nonsense

But then what did we expect? Car assistance systems only boost safety if drivers pay attention, tests find.

During the test drive, Autopilot generally performed well on a busy stretch of New Jersey highway, but the car nearly drove into another when two lanes merged together.

“Not quite a perfect system. The car was not aware that there was another car that was about to steer into us,” Stevens said.

The net safety benefit isn’t clear. If it mostly encourages drivers to not pay attention, then they might not be paying attention at a crucial moment.

On the magazine’s test track, Fisher demonstrated how Tesla’s Autopilot struggled to navigate turns when the road lines faded and relied on the driver to hit the brakes as the car approached the end of the track. He said Autopilot can’t monitor how the technology is used or a driver’s attention to the road.


Electric Cars – Not the Climate Answer You Were Looking For

Batteries are weak spot in electric cars, in more ways than one. Swedish survey: Production of electric car batteries emits tons of CO2

VL The Swedish Environment Institute has investigated the influence of lithion-ion batteries on the environment from the Traffic Administration and the Energy Agency from a life-cycle perspective. Batteries intended for electric cars are included in the survey. The authors Lisbeth Dahllöf and Mia Romare have done a metastudy – that is, they have reviewed and compared available studies.

The report shows that the production of batteries leads to high emissions. For each kilowatt hour of storage capacity in the battery, emissions of 150-200 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalents already produced at the factory.

Considering both the Nissan Leaf, and the Tesla Model S…

Already when you buy the car, there has been a discharge corresponding to approximately 5.3 tonnes and 17.5 tonnes for batteries of this size, respectively. The numbers may be difficult to relate to. By comparison, a trip round Stockholm-New York by air causes emissions of about 600 kilograms of carbon dioxide.

(A tonne is 1000 kilograms for you metrically-challenged Americans, or about 2205 pounds)

Running costs (in terms of carbon-footprint) will depend on how your electricity is generated locally. The article notes that Sweden gets the bulk of its power from two sources, nuclear and hydroelectric, so they look quite good on the going-forward costs. (Leftists’ heads exploding over nuclear power in three, two, …)

Okay, it always fun to explode people’s preconceived notions (that attitude got me into a lot of trouble in my youth), but if you read the fine print, the data quality may be a bit suspect. (What is the energy consumption of Cobalt mining in the Congo? Who really knows. Its human-cost in terms of child labor, etc is usually what people worry about. That, and the fact that it has quadrupled in price in 2 years.) But it is clear, that these vehicles aren’t the answer to everything.

The Wonders of Technology – only wonderful when they work

First we have the Amazon Echo inanity. Amazon Echo sent family’s private conversation to another user | CBC News

It turns out the Amazon echo that recorded a private conversation and then emailed the MP3 to an “acquaintance” wasn’t hacked. It was doing what it was programmed to do, just not what anyone actually wanted it to do.

An “unlikely” string of events prompted Amazon’s Echo personal assistant device to record a Portland, Ore., family’s private conversation and then send the recording to an acquaintance in Seattle, the company said Thursday.

Having spent the bulk of my career in application software development, my take on what “unlikely” means is that the programmers (who probably did their own testing) never considered that line of actions. Why? Because Alexa is all about playing music, and reading calendar entries, and the like, and they tested that over and over again by listening to all their favorite music. (Hat Tip to Small Dead Animals: I, For One, Welcome Our New Self-Driving Overlords)

I wouldn’t have one of those things in my house if you paid me to.

Then we have our latest Tesla autopilot-enabled crash. Police: Tesla in Autopilot sped up before Utah crash – CBS News

So not only was Tesla’s vaunted (if you talk to them) software not able to recognize and avoid a big red truck with flashing lights, it actually sped up, right before it crashed.

A Tesla Model S that crashed while in Autopilot mode in Utah this month accelerated in the seconds before it smashed into a stopped firetruck, according to a police report obtained by The Associated Press. Two people were injured.

Elon Musk doesn’t understand why this is news.

It’s super messed up that a Tesla crash resulting in a broken ankle is front page news and the ~40,000 people who died in US auto accidents alone in past year get almost no coverage
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 14, 2018

For a smart guy, that’s a pretty stupid statement.

Self-driving Car Hits Firetruck

If you can’t detect a big red truck with lights and sirens… Tesla’s Autopilot was engaged during Utah crash

  • The driver of a Tesla electric car that hit a Utah fire department vehicle said the car’s semi-autonomous Autopilot mode was engaged at the time of the crash.
  • Tesla’s Elon Musk said it was “super messed up” that an incident involving his company was receiving significant attention, while thousands of auto accidents a year are regularly ignored.

Because Tesla should only get good publicity.

Not only was the autopilot engaged, but it did not appear to slow down or apply the brakes before the crash.

Tech News Roundup. Tesla, Hacking 911, Another Data Breach

There is too much insanity for individual posts….

First we have Tesla. Someone conducted a very unscientific test, but was able to reproduce some of the behavior reported prior to the latest crash.

They want you to believe it was the driver, or a broken part. I think the real reason is that auto-driving cars are not quite ready for prime time. Video shows Tesla Model S Autopilot veering towards barrier where fatal crash occurred – SlashGear

Unfortunately the part that seems to be broken in this video is the autopilot. Not a scientific test, but with 2 data points that line up….

Will be interesting to see if anyone else does something similar.

This is an easy prediction: Attacks on cities and on 911 infrastructure will continue for the foreseeable future.

Cities remain a tempting target for hackers. Cities continue to be vulnerable. (They love to put stuff on the intertubes, but they don’t love to pay for security.) Hackers have taken down dozens of 911 centers. Why is it so hard to stop them?

There have been 184 attacks on cities in the past 2 years.

911 centers have been directly or indirectly attacked in 42 of the 184 cases on SecuLore’s list, the company says. Two dozen involved ransomware attacks, in which hackers use a virus to remotely seize control of a computer system and hold it hostage for payment.

It doesn’t say how many of those attacks were WannaCry, or one of the variants patched by Microsoft last year, but I think it probably fair to say that at least some of those attacks were the result of city managers ignoring pleas from their IT staff to upgrade old systems. Some of them are denial of service and some of them like the hack of Atlanta are newer problems.

As long as managers and people responsible for paying the bills don’t think security is important, we will have more attacks on 911 centers, more retailers will have their systems hacked, and more people who want to buy something or schedule a vacation or get help in an emergency will pay the price.

And finally, the latest retailer to prove that they shouldn’t be trusted with your credit card (or other) information is Panera.

Continue reading

The Tesla Crash Highlights Costs to Fire Departments

There are a lot of issues, but consider the impact on fire departments. Fire chief: Tesla crash shows electric car fires could strain department resources |

“Even after 24 hours of extinguishment, these (lithium) ion batteries could reignite if they’ve been damaged, and again cause a fire,” Diaz said.

Fire crews arrived to the scene of the accident around 9:30 a.m. Chief Diaz said the last engine company went back into service around 4:30 p.m. In a gasoline car fire, he said, all companies would’ve likely been back in service within minutes.

Consider that for a minute. 7 hours versus a few minutes. Exactly how many more engine companies are going to be required to handle the number of accidents? Do batteries burst into flame at once, or can they ignite later? Taxes will have to be raised for more trucks and more personnel. And before all that happens, there will be a shortage of fire fighters. So what impact will that have?

And all of that is in Mountain View, CA, where they can call in a Tesla engineering team to dismantle the battery. What is Chicago or Detroit supposed to do? (Chicago can’t fund the teachers’ pension and is being bailed out by the People’s Republic of Illinois. Do you think they can afford a bunch more fire fighters?) What is the “recommended 3000 gallons” to control a battery fire going to look like in water-starved Florida, or Arizona?

What Price Lithium-Ion Batteries?

Do you care that children mine Cobalt in some of the worst conditions to produce those electric cars and cell phones? Would you care if wasn’t kids, just poor people in the Congo? Congo’s child labor spurs demand from Apple, Tesla for ethically produced cobalt

Good luck.

Cobalt helps power everything from smartphones to laptops to electric vehicles.

It’s a key ingredient in lithium batteries, a product that has seen an explosion in demand recently.

But 60 percent of the world’s cobalt comes from the Congo, where children often do much of the hard labor.

Of course that won’t eliminate the problem. It will just shift the distribution around. (It’s simple economics – there is so much cobalt available, and Apple/Tesla/Samsung/et al need it.) So that cobalt from the Congo will end up in your security camera, or the off-brand battery you order for your laptop. Or whatever. Anything with a memory that lives beyond a power outage probably has a lithium-ion battery today. While Apple can dictate terms, not every manufacturer can.