Motorcycle rear-ending raises questions on Tesla vehicle type approval in Europe

Motorcycle rear-ending raises ...
The rear-ending of a motorcyclist by a Telsa Model S with Autopilot engaged has raised safety question in Europe
The rear-ending of a motorcyclist by a Telsa Model S with Autopilot engaged has raised safety question in Europe
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Several parties in Europe suggest that Tesla's Autopilot hasn't been adequately tested, especially when it comes to detecting motorcycles
Several parties in Europe suggest that Tesla's Autopilot hasn't been adequately tested, especially when it comes to detecting motorcycles
Screenshot from the display screen of a Tesla Model X
Screenshot from the display screen of a Tesla Model X
Reports indicate that the Tesla Autopilot system may not fare as well with motorcycles as with other cars
Reports indicate that the Tesla Autopilot system may not fare as well with motorcycles as with other cars
The rear-ending of a motorcyclist by a Telsa Model S with Autopilot engaged has raised safety question in Europe
The rear-ending of a motorcyclist by a Telsa Model S with Autopilot engaged has raised safety question in Europe
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A traffic accident in Norway, involving a Model S with Autopilot engaged, two other vehicles, and a motorcycle, has prompted questions as to whether testing of Tesla's Autopilot system sufficiently took into account two-wheeled vehicles. This follows recent official tests in Germany that characterized this feature as a "traffic hazard."

The Federation of European Motorcyclists' Associations (FEMA), in co-ordination with the Koninklijke Nederlandse Motorrijders Vereniging (KNMV) and the Motorrijders Actie Groep Nederland (MAG NL) motorcycle clubs, has issued a formal letter to the Dutch vehicle authority RDW inquiring whether testing procedures of autonomous vehicles take into account two-wheelers.

Similar action had been undertaken earlier by the Norwegian riders' organization NMCU, directing questions towards the transport minister, Ketil Solvik-Olsen, and Tesla co-founder and CEO, Elon Musk. This was sparked by an accident on the E18 road to Drammen, Norway, where a Tesla Model S with Autopilot engaged rear-ended and seriously injured a female motorcyclist on July 27.

The reason for this action taking place in the Netherlands has to do with EU policy. Any manufacturer wanting to import a vehicle into the EU needs only to obtain a European whole vehicle type approval in one member state; this documentation is then automatically valid throughout the Union. Tesla obtained it by the RDW, hence the involvement of local motorcyclist organizations, and the country's vehicle authority being the primary recipient of the letter.

According to FEMA, it had reached out via email to the RDW on the same subject in March, without ever receiving a response. For motorcyclists the problem is the lack of evidence that Tesla's self-driving hardware and software were developed in tests that included motorcycles. Instead, actual events seem to be proving otherwise, as the two Dutch organizations, KNMV and MAG NL, are claiming knowledge of a number of other accidents or near-accidents directly tied to Tesla's Autopilot.

Reports indicate that the Tesla Autopilot system may not fare as well with motorcycles as with other cars
Reports indicate that the Tesla Autopilot system may not fare as well with motorcycles as with other cars

Merely a week before the FEMA letter, a small scandal was unfolding in Germany after the magazine Der Spiegel published a previously unseen report from the Federal Highway Research Institute (BASt) on the Tesla Model S Autopilot. The German tests had started as soon as the first fatal accident involving the system was reported in May in the US. With an estimated 3,000 Tesla Model S cars sold in Germany, the authorities were understandably obliged to look deeper into the matter.

After many thousands of kilometers of testing, BASt reportedly concluded that Autopilot represents a significant traffic hazard. Judging that is was not designed for complex urban traffic situations, the report declared that the car's sensors are too short-sighted to cope with the reality of German motorways.

The federal agency in charge of motor transport evaluated the research institute's results and responded swiftly, proposing that the government provisionally suspend Tesla's type approval. Although this didn't happen, German Model S owners are reported to have received official federal correspondence urging them to remain vigilant while the Autopilot system is engaged.

The question posed by Der Spiegel to the German transport minister Alexander Dobrindt asking why he knowingly – according to the magazine – ignored the report, is very similar to the one that FEMA is asking the Dutch authorities. Actually its letter contains a series of queries, culminating to the final question that sums it all up: why a car equipped with advanced safety elements that may be insufficiently tested was allowed on public roads?

Screenshot from the display screen of a Tesla Model X
Screenshot from the display screen of a Tesla Model X

FEMA supports its arguments American research conducted by John F. Lenkeit of Dynamic Research, which concludes that forward collision warning systems for automobiles fail dramatically to detect motorcycles, providing inadequate results in 41 percent of tested cases, against only 3.6 percent for passenger cars.

It then proceeds to demand that Advanced Driver Assistant Systems (ASAD) must always be tested with two-wheelers as well, especially since there are several other manufacturers currently developing self-driving technology. Taking it one step further, FEMA suggests that Tesla should have its approval suspended until it can guarantee the safety of other road users.

And just as things are heating up for Tesla's Autopilot in Europe, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (CDMV) has ordered Tesla to cease and desist from advertising said system as self-driving, automated or autopilot. As a vehicle rated at level two in ASAD technology in the US, it is not officially considered capable of self-driving without the driver paying any attention – that is reserved for levels three to five, according to a scale adopted by the US federal government and the auto industry. Claiming to do so would therefore be misleading on behalf of Tesla, argues CDMV.

Tesla's response to the above? After suggesting that is has always been clear that its Autopilot does not make a car autonomous any more than its namesake makes an aircraft autonomous, on October 19 the company announced that every Tesla produced from this point on will include full self-driving hardware, which will allow fully autonomous capabilities to be bestowed upon the vehicles via a software update, once it has been developed.

Source: FEMA

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Robert Walther
Still early in the startup learning process. Maximum safety evolution will only occur when all vehicles, automated or not, have ID markers, e.g. RFID location beacons with a multitude of identifiers and response features. Probably a cell phone, identifier app as well. Manufacturers' clothing labels to cover un-celled pedestrians.
With all respect for Tesla, but their latest marketing bullet point that all vehicles will have the hardware but not yet the software, is very worrisome. First of all, how do they know what hardware will be needed while the system is still being developed and (maybe?) even be validated? The tests might show that the sensors and processing needs are insufficient (the earlier Tesla accident with the truck confirmed this). Secondly, it clearly shows that the software is far from ready. And they want to upload that software over the air? Thirdly, it clearly shows a lack of understanding how safety critical systems are developed . Marketing should follow engineering and not the other way around.
Brian M
Of course the good old human driver has even worse problems with our two wheeled driving brethren!
Once the technology reaches the top level of auto-drive, then motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrian are likely to be a lot safer in the mean time the Tesla is an assistive technology (and a very useful one), but not fully autonomous.
Tesla really needs to alter their marketing to make this clearer.
Joe Blough
The carnage of self driving has yet to begin. The real world of road conditions, traffic and pedestrians is chaotic. It is hubris of gargantuan proportions to assume that sensors will detect and deal with everything. Cameras blinded by sprayed mud from a passing truck, whiteouts, and more will kill and maim people who think their automobile is in control. Children will need to be managed by robotic controls so they don't run into a street and much much more. As the technology rolls out a growth industry will be the lawyers suing over mishandled situations resulting in injury and death. Driver assist makes sense, dedicated lanes for self driving make sense, but relax and let the car do it is a safety fantasy.
Florida Rj
There it is in plain sight...Teslas have no problems at all seeing motorcycles.
Bob Flint
There never will be "ALL" vehicles, certainly not in our, or our grandchildren's life times. The slow & expensive both in resources & lives evolution may eventually come to a middle ground whereby the additional low light & infrared sensors and auto braking systems become fairly common in many but not all vehicles. The motorcycles and trikes and various other custom vehicles abound. Does everyone really believe our freedom to break traffic laws will disappear, not happening even now the current models of all manufacturer's still allow speeds WAY beyond 60mph. This will never change, and the downgrading of society to a set speed and travel laws is suppose to come from the manufacture's but they won't because it won't; Google's little bug puttering along at a anemic 30mph or less...
But the maintenance of all the systems and ALL the vehicles is paramount to the overall functionality of the system
geez - it can;t handle ANY special cases..
You naysayers are hilarious. You remind me of the president of IBM, who said he thought there was a market for maybe five computers on the entire planet. Or the founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, who said people wouldn't want computers in their homes. Or Bill Gates, who thought the Internet was a fad. Or Steve Ballmer, who assured everyone that the iPhone was going to bomb big-time. Self-driving cars are coming no matter what you say, and the shortsighted will be left eating their dust.
Martin Winlow
Do these motorcycling organisations write to their goverment everytime a motorcyclist is rear-eneded? I guessing not and so why on this occasion when the fault for the accident (as far as we know) lies firmly at the door of the *driver* of the Tesla? (It may, of course be no fault of the Tesla/driver at all - we all know how dangerous some motorcyclists' riding can be). @'Joe Blough' - "... to assume that sensors will detect and deal with everything." Yeah, right. Like human drivers do, I suppose? Like it or not autonomous driving is coming and coming *very* soon. It is in everyones interests and the money to be made and saved (let alone the enormous drop in deaths and injuries from collisions) far outweighs the anachronistic attitudes of a few luddites.
Martin Winlow
@ Bob Flint - Your writing style is very odd! Several of your sentences appear to be missing a word or two such that they make no sense. Do you not proof-read before hitting the 'submit' button?
Anyway... I'm afraid you just don't appear to get it. Motor vehicle autonomy has little to do with some of the points you mention and the exact opposite implications to several others.
Of course there will always be vehicles that are not autonomous (although I can see a time when all vehicles on certain types of roads *must* be autonomous-capable or they simply won't be permitted on them). It is all about freeing people up from the drudgery of being stuck behind the wheel not controlling them. It is also about taking the bad/unsociable human elements out of driving so that it is safer and more pleasant for all (including pedestrians and fauna, too, FTM). So much so that one obvious implication of widespread autonomy would be a raising of the motorway speed limit for example, or even the removal of it altogether.
Much more important than the question of *should* it happen (because it is going to and very, very soon) is the question of what effect on our society will it have - aside from a 90% drop in deaths and injuries on our roads. For example, 75% of the cost of running a bus is down to the driver and fuel (TFL figures). An autonomous electric bus, then, could be free for passengers to use within existing subsidies (or very nearly so). Imagine the effect of that on not just towns and cities but even more interestingly on rural communities. Add to that the notion that almost all taxis could be autonomous, not to mention freight trucks and the next obvious question is going to be "What's going to happen to all those lost driver jobs?"
And then there is the question of the legal ramifications of when it does all go wrong.
@wlw - It isn't supposed to handle 'special' cases or, indeed, any cases - That's *the drivers job*. Hasn't all the publicity over this issue sunk in yet?
Besides, your dismal attempt at punctuation renders anything that you have to say automatically irrelevant.
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