Tesla in Autopilot sped up before Utah crash

This combo image from photos released by the South Jordan Police Department showsa traffic collision involving a Tesla Model S sedan with a Fire Department mechanic truck that stopped at a red light in South Jordan, Utah. (South Jordan Police Department via AP)
Updated 25 May 2018
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Tesla in Autopilot sped up before Utah crash

  • Heather Lommatzsch, the driver of the vehicle, told police she thought the vehicle’s automatic emergency braking system would detect traffic and stop before the car hit another vehicle.
  • Police say car data show Lommatzsch did not touch the steering wheel for 80 seconds before the crash. She told police she was looking at her phone at the time and comparing different routes to her des
SALT LAKE CITY, US: A Tesla 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 Thursday. Two people were injured.
Data from the Model S electric vehicle show it picked up speed for 3.5 seconds shortly before crashing into a stopped firetruck in suburban Salt Lake City, the report said. The driver manually hit the brakes a fraction of a second before impact.
Police suggested that the car was following another vehicle and dropped its speed to 55 mph to match the leading vehicle. They say the leading vehicle then likely changed lanes and the Tesla automatically sped up to its preset of 60 mph (97 kph) without noticing the stopped cars ahead of it.
The police report, which was obtained through an open records request, provides detail about the vehicle’s actions immediately before the May 11 crash and the driver’s familiarity with its system.
The driver of the vehicle, Heather Lommatzsch, 29, told police she thought the vehicle’s automatic emergency braking system would detect traffic and stop before the car hit another vehicle.
She said she had owned the car for two years and used the semi-autonomous Autopilot feature on all sorts of roadways, including on the Utah highway where she crashed, according to the report.
Lommatzsch said the car did not provide any audio or visual warnings before the crash. A witness told police she did not see signs the car illuminate its brake lights or swerve to avoid the truck ahead of it.
Lommatzsch did not return a voicemail Thursday. A Tesla spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
The car company has said it repeatedly warns drivers to stay alert, keep their hands on the wheel and maintain control of their vehicle at all times while using the Autopilot system.
Police say car data show Lommatzsch did not touch the steering wheel for 80 seconds before the crash. She told police she was looking at her phone at the time and comparing different routes to her destination.
She broke her foot in the crash and this week was charged with a misdemeanor traffic citation. Online court records do not show an attorney listed for her.
The driver of the firetruck told police he had injuries consistent with whiplash but did not go to a hospital.
Tesla’s Autopilot system uses cameras, ultrasonic sensors and radar to sense the vehicle’s surrounding environment and perform basic functions automatically.
Among those functions is automatic emergency braking, which the company says on its website is designed “to detect objects that the car may impact and applies the brakes accordingly.” Tesla says the system is not designed to avoid a collision and warns drivers not to rely on it entirely.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has said it is investigating the May 11 crash.
Tesla’s Autopilot has been the subject of previous scrutiny following other crashes involving the vehicles.
In March, a driver was killed when a Model X with Autopilot engaged hit a barrier while traveling at “freeway speed” in California. NHTSA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating that case.
This week, Tesla said Autopilot was not engaged when a Model S veered off a road and plunged into a pond outside San Francisco, killing the driver.
Earlier in May, the NTSB opened a probe into an accident in which a Model S caught fire after crashing into a wall at a high speed in Florida. Two 18-year-olds were trapped and died in the blaze. The agency has said it does not expect Autopilot to be a focus in that investigation.


Indian cancellation of defense equipment orders hurts investor sentiment: Experts

A tender was withdrawn for short-range surface-to-air missiles, with Israel’s SPYDER system having been the front-runner. Supplied
Updated 18 June 2018
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Indian cancellation of defense equipment orders hurts investor sentiment: Experts

  • New Delhi scrapped a $500 million deal for Israel’s Spike Anti-Tank Guided Missile. Israel had agreed to transfer the technology to India, and had set up a factory in a venture with an Indian company
  • Modi wants the country to decrease its reliance on foreign firms, reduce its import bill and manufacture equipment in-house

NEW DELHI: The Indian government’s penchant for canceling or withdrawing tenders for defense equipment at the last minute is likely to hurt investor confidence in the country, experts said on Sunday.
New Delhi called off a $9 billion deal to co-develop with Russia a next-generation fighter aircraft, after the state-owned Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) said it would do the job in-house, Indian media reported this week.
Under the deal, a significant amount of the research would have been carried out in India. Russia had agreed to tailor the aircraft to Indian needs, and was to hand over all the technology, the Economic Times reported.
India is the world’s largest importer of defense equipment, and imports at least 90 percent of its equipment, including parts for assembly.
The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants the country to decrease its reliance on foreign firms, reduce its import bill and manufacture equipment in-house.
But India lacks much of the high-end technology needed for such equipment, which is why deals where foreign partners agree to share technology are useful for its long-term plans, experts say.
When such deals are canceled, “it greatly reduces confidence in India,” said Saurabh Joshi, editor of StratPost Media Pvt Ltd., a defense news website.
“We can’t willy-nilly… accept arguments that a particular equipment can be developed and produced indigenously before such tenders are withdrawn,” he added.
“There should be an adequate test to develop and produce indigenously. Otherwise, we’re simply postponing an acquisition process by 10 to 15 years, and it’s the armed forces that have to go without critical equipment until then.”
Experts say one reason for the government canceling orders could be a lack of funds. The Russian deal is not the only one to be jettisoned recently.
New Delhi scrapped a $500 million deal for Israel’s Spike Anti-Tank Guided Missile. Israel had agreed to transfer the technology to India, and had set up a factory in a venture with an Indian company. The reason given for the cancellation was the same: To develop the missiles indigenously.
A tender was also withdrawn for short-range surface-to-air missiles, with Israel’s SPYDER system having been the front-runner, experts said.
On average, it takes a tender at least six years to go through the various steps before the final purchase order can be placed.
Any company that loses a bid has to account for that time and investment to its head office and its board, Joshi said.