Has V10 Autopilot Solved the Stationary Vehicle Problem?

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What has your Autopilot experience been driving above 50 mph and encountering stationary vehicles?

  • Using Autopilot on v10 and travelling over 50 mph, I have collided with a stationary vehicle

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Using Autopilot prior to v10 and travelling over 50 mph, I have collided with a stationary vehicle

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • On v10, travelling at more than 50 mph, Autopilot has stopped my car for a stationary vehicle

    Votes: 9 31.0%
  • Prior to v10, travelling at more than 50 mph, Autopilot has stopped my car for a stationary vehicle

    Votes: 10 34.5%
  • None of the above

    Votes: 17 58.6%

  • Total voters
    29

DocScott

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#1
One of the most important advances that could take place with Tesla's Autopilot is one that it would be difficulty for any single driver to detect: it could get better at avoiding high-speed accidents.

In the past, it's been a known limitation of Autopilot that it has difficulty recognizing stationary objects when driving more than 50 mph. That limitation is even written in to the manual. Most of the serious accidents on Autopilot that have been reported in the media have been of this type--a stopped or slowly moving vehicle ahead is not recognized by Autopilot, and if the driver did not take control (or did not take control soon enough), the Tesla plows in to the car or truck ahead. Of course, people driving cars that don't have Autopilot sometimes crash in to stopped cars and trucks, too--that's an inherently hazardous situation.

Until Autopilot is much better in this situation than a human driver, L3 at highway speeds is not achievable. In addition, only limited progress can be made on issues like phantom braking, because Tesla certainly would not want to change things so that the chances of Autopilot not noticing a stationary vehicle ahead increased. But once the problem of detecting stationary vehicles ahead is solved, then progress in extending autonomy has a chance of advancing pretty quickly.

v10 has been out for about a month now, and I'm intrigued that I haven't seen any recent media reports of these kinds of accidents, or even near misses of this kind. Not that they happened all that often before, but maybe, just maybe, v10 is better with this?

I've put up the poll above to see what our experience as a community is. I expect a lot of us will answer "none of the above," as the dangerous circumstances described don't happen all that often. But maybe we're a big enough group that we'll be able to tell if v10 is picking up some circumstances that v9 wasn't.
 

GDN

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#2
What is the real percentage of these accidents in the past? I haven't tracked them, but my gut tells me we would hear of maybe a couple a year for a total of 10 to 12. I don't think it was anywhere near multiple per month.
 

PaulT

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#3
FYI, I thought the Cadillac Cruise had level 3 on a FEW highways...I doubt it does any better than Tesla. To say a Tesla can’t achieve level 3 without this stationary vehicle avoidance feature working perfectly I think is false.

Honestly many emergency vehicles are hit by all kinds of cars, you only hear about it when it is a Tesla. It would be better for emergency vehicles drivers to figure out better ways to manage ALL risks, not just the ones they are responding to, I.e. don’t park in dangerous locations if you don’t have to.
 
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JWardell

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#4
I think the poll needs an option for "My autopilot has not stopped for a stationary vehicle outside of my lane (before or after v10)" or perhaps "I have never seen a completely stationary vehicle stopped in the middle of the highway while driving at full speed"

At the moment, most if not all traffic-aware cruise control systems from all brands are programmed to ignore stationary objects when driving at highway speeds. Otherwise they would come to a screeching halt for lots of common things like bridges and signs and manholes and small debris. People would never use the systems because of the annoyance. So instead they rely on the driver to pay attention and be aware of anything moving the same speed as the surrounding surface (zero).

I certainly agree this needs to be figured out before any full autonomous driving, but it will be extremely annoying with major phantom breaking issues when they start working on it. Perhaps this is something next for the early access beta testers. It's one of those things that is useless until it is 99.99% perfect, same goes for any other part of full autonomous driving.
 

GDN

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#5
Honestly many emergency vehicles are hit by all kinds of cars, you only hear about it when it is a Tesla. It would be better for emergency vehicles drivers to figure out better ways to manage ALL risks, not just the ones they are responding to, I.e. don’t park in dangerous locations if you don’t have to.
All too often I have to wonder what First Responders are thinking. I'm sure they responded to a situation they needed to evaluate and not completely sure what they were responding too, but once evaluated need to clear the roadways much faster than the do. We've all seen it, just like I did on Friday. 3 police cars blocking 2 lanes of a 6 lane busy freeway at night. A single car off to the side of the road talking to one man. I may be quick to judge but there was NO life threatening event going on. However the issue and lights were causing much more of a distraction to hundreds of drivers and there was no doubt the whole situation was causing more harm than good on the road. I'm glad to say though I don't think anyone rear ended the vehicles with flashing lights on them.
 

ibgeek

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#6
I have never had any issues with this. I came up on a vehicle last week that was not only stationary but also half in and half out of the fast lane. My Model 3 did slow but not unreasonably and moved over to avoid the collision. I was moving at around 80 MPH. It was scary because the truck in front of me initially blocked my view of this stalled car then darted to the right at the last minute leaving me very little time to react. I think my car handled it better than I would have.
 

DocScott

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#7
I think the poll needs an option for "My autopilot has not stopped for a stationary vehicle outside of my lane (before or after v10)" or perhaps "I have never seen a completely stationary vehicle stopped in the middle of the highway while driving at full speed"
It does have that option. That's what "none of the above" is meant to cover. As I said in the initial post to this thread, that's what I expect to be the most common answer, because the situation is relatively uncommon. And yet already we have one answering in the poll that v10 did stop in that situation. I'll be interested to see how the poll plays out...
 

MelindaV

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#8
in my commute, I have a couple blind corners (one specifically is a sweeping onramp overpass) where you can not see stopped cars until right on top of them. Autopilot (the current and all previous) has always reacted to the stopped cars coming around the corner. There have been times when I didn't think it was slowing quickly enough and stepped on the brake, but it has never acted like it didn't see them at all.
 

DocScott

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#9
it will be extremely annoying with major phantom breaking issues when they start working on it.
Doesn't that describe the experiences of many with v9? What makes you think they haven't been working on it?

And it's not the sort of thing that Tesla is likely to make a big announcement about, because that would highlight previous limitations. "Autopilot won't crash in to stationary vehicles at highway speeds any more!" doesn't make for a good press release, even if they always highlighted that detecting stationary vehicles at highway speeds was not in the current feature set.

So maybe, just maybe...they've finished working on it? Oh, not that there aren't corner cases they can still work on, but that the basic functionality is now there?
 

DocScott

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#10
FYI, the Cadillac Cruise has level 3 on a FEW highways...I doubt it does any better than Tesla. To say a Tesla can’t achieve level 3 without this stationary vehicle feature I think is false. A far inferior car already does it.

Honestly many emergency vehicles are hit by all kinds of cars, you only hear about it when it is a Tesla. It would be better for emergency vehicles drivers to figure out better ways to manage ALL risks, not just the ones they are responding to, I.e. don’t park in dangerous locations if you don’t have to.
I am unaware of that capability of the Cadillac Super Cruise (which is L2), and can't find anything about that from my web searches. There is a rumored "Ultra Cruise," but it's not available to consumers yet.

A Tesla or any other car could certainly attain L3 without being able to handle stationary vehicles at 55 mph...for example, Smart Summon might get there.

But no car can attain L3 at highway speeds without being able to handle a stopped vehicle; that would be crazily unsafe.

Here's a pretty good article on the prospects for L3 in the near future. The author of that article thinks we may have multiple carmakers there in 2020, but we aren't there yet with any of them.
 

JWardell

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#11
Doesn't that describe the experiences of many with v9? What makes you think they haven't been working on it?

And it's not the sort of thing that Tesla is likely to make a big announcement about, because that would highlight previous limitations. "Autopilot won't crash in to stationary vehicles at highway speeds any more!" doesn't make for a good press release, even if they always highlighted that detecting stationary vehicles at highway speeds was not in the current feature set.

So maybe, just maybe...they've finished working on it? Oh, not that there aren't corner cases they can still work on, but that the basic functionality is now there?
I don't think so. I think people are complaining about phantom braking slowing 10mph or so, which is unsettling when not expected. This would be locking the brakes and coming to a hard stop. Or maybe yes, they are witnessing a slight hint of this.
Hard to tell, because I don't experience phantom braking for no reason they way some folks complain about it.
I certainly do hope and assume they have been working on it, but not so sure they have released that code to the public yet.
Oh to be a fly on the wall in Tesla engineering!
 

PaulT

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#12
Thought I read somewhere about cruise being there in very few highways... now I can’t find that so you may be right. Sorry.

Regardless, we need to stop expecting perfection from autonomous driving or we will never get there. People are not perfect and lots of them can’t handle stationary objects either. Autonomous driving should absolutely be held to a higher standard than people, but perfection (getting it right all the time) is not it.
 

Enginerd

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#13
On a possibly related note, is it possible that NOA now changes lanes away from a stopped emergency vehicle on the side of the road? When this happened today, the rationale for the NOA lane change was slightly ambiguous. There was a slower truck in the distance, which also changed lanes to give the highway patrol some space. The displayed message was clearly the standard "changing lanes to pass slower traffic" message. However, the lane ahead was basically clear. Anyone else have an example of this?
 

garsh

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#14
At the moment, most if not all traffic-aware cruise control systems from all brands are programmed to ignore stationary objects when driving at highway speeds. Otherwise they would come to a screeching halt for lots of common things like bridges and signs...
The issue is that the radars used by Tesla (and pretty much everybody else) only scans horizontally. They don't distinguish objects vertically. It's unable to determine if the stationary object directly in front of you is a car stopped on the road or an overpass.
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12475706

Tesla's long-term goal is to eventually have autopilot rely only on vision. Once the neural network becomes good enough, that will solve the problem. Right now, I notice too many instances where my Tesla doesn't appear to notice a car near me (it doesn't appear on the display), so I think they have a lot of work to do before we get to that point.
 

DocScott

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#15
Right now, I notice too many instances where my Tesla doesn't appear to notice a car near me (it doesn't appear on the display), so I think they have a lot of work to do before we get to that point.
The criteria for showing a car on the display doesn't have to be the same as the criteria for braking if it thinks there might be something in front. (And yes, that would require visual analysis.) For one thing, the display is trying to classify type and orientation of vehicle.
 

garsh

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#16
The criteria for showing a car on the display doesn't have to be the same as the criteria for braking if it thinks there might be something in front. (And yes, that would require visual analysis.) For one thing, the display is trying to classify type and orientation of vehicle.
Even when Tesla didn't worry about type and orientation (remember the "dancing cars" in earlier iterations of software?), it would often miss displaying a few cars. But you're right, that doesn't necessarily mean that the car failed to recognize the presence of a vehicle.
 

Mr. Spacely

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#17
All too often I have to wonder what First Responders are thinking. I'm sure they responded to a situation they needed to evaluate and not completely sure what they were responding too, but once evaluated need to clear the roadways much faster than the do.
I agree. Often a small fender bender leads to a series of bad accidents because they don't clear the roads fast enough...
 

MelindaV

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#18
I agree. Often a small fender bender leads to a series of bad accidents because they don't clear the roads fast enough...
mostly because other drivers can't pay attention to what they are supposed to be doing (driving) and instead are watching what is going on with the wreck on the shoulder, adjacent lane or other side of the freeway.

On my commute there is a lift bridge on the freeway that mostly only raises outside of normal commuting hours. coming home Friday, I was approaching it and traffic came to a stop about a mile prior. Signs didn't show there was a bridge lift, but there was no traffic getting thru on the other direction of the freeway, so figured it started after I passed the signs... but no, it was a major wreck on the other direction of the freeway blocking all lanes (an entirely other bridge span) that people on my side of the freeway were slowing to look at.
 

Achooo

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#19
Where I live in Irvine, there are several non-highway roads with posted speed limits of 55 or 60 mph. As a result, I am regularly using Autopilot at these speeds in situations where you could come up to an intersection showing a red light where a stationary vehicle or two are waiting. Every time this situation has occurred my car has recognized the stationary vehicles and stopped on its own; before and after V10. I have never encountered the situation of a stopped vehicle on the actual highway in my lane.
 

ibgeek

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#20
Where I live in Irvine, there are several non-highway roads with posted speed limits of 55 or 60 mph. As a result, I am regularly using Autopilot at these speeds in situations where you could come up to an intersection showing a red light where a stationary vehicle or two are waiting. Every time this situation has occurred my car has recognized the stationary vehicles and stopped on its own; before and after V10. I have never encountered the situation of a stopped vehicle on the actual highway in my lane.

Good point, this has not been an issue with me either.