“Some people look at him and say, ‘Oh that crazy daddy, what is he doing? ‘” Cupani told CNN Business. “Well, I do a lot of things like that, but I’m going to make sure my kid doesn’t get hit.”
But it’s also another example of the unintended consequence of rolling out unfinished, disruptive technology in the wild — and shows how far some Tesla supporters are willing to go to defend it and the company. Enough people seemed to be pursuing their own experiments that a government agency took the extraordinary step of warning people not to use children to test car technology.
“Consumers should never attempt to create their own test scenarios or use real people, especially children, to test the performance of vehicle technology,” NHTSA said in a statement Wednesday. The agency called this approach “very dangerous”.
Earlier this month, California resident Tad Park saw that another Tesla enthusiast wanted to try out “fully self-driving” with a child, and volunteered. two of his children. Park told CNN Business it was “a bit difficult” to get his wife to accept. She agreed when he promised to drive the vehicle.
“I will never push the envelope because my kids are so much more precious to me than anything,” Park said. “I’m not going to risk their lives in any way.”
His Tesla slowed down as “box boy” approached. Then he sped up again and hit his cardboard dummy. Cadamuro speculated that this could be because the cameras couldn’t see the short boxes once they were immediately in front of the bumper, and therefore forgot they were there.
Cadamuro said his video started out as entertainment. But he wanted people to see that “fully autonomous driving” isn’t perfect.
“I find a lot of people have two extreme ideas about the ‘fully autonomous driving’ beta,” Cadamuro said. “People like Dan think it’s the worst thing in the world. I know friends who think it’s almost perfect.”
Cadamuro said he also performed other tests in which his Tesla, traveling at higher speeds, effectively steered around “box boy”.
According to Raj Rajkumar, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University who studies autonomous vehicles, quickly and accurately detecting smaller objects like young children will generally be more difficult than detecting large objects and adults for a computer vision system. like the one that Tesla vehicles are based on.
The more pixels an object occupies in a camera image, the more information the system has to detect features and identify the object. The system will also be impacted by the data it is trained on, such as the number of images of young children it is exposed to.
“Computer vision with machine learning is not 100% foolproof,” Rajkumar said. “Just like diagnosing a disease, there are always false positives and false negatives.”
Tesla did not respond to a request for comment and generally does not engage with trade media.
“Wild West Chaos Rules”
Some Tesla supporters had criticized O’Dowd’s use of cones as lane markings during his original tests, which may have limited the sedan’s ability to steer around the dummy. Others claimed that O’Dowd’s test driver forced the Tesla to hit the dummy by stepping on the accelerator, which was not visible in videos posted by O’Dowd. Some Tesla enthusiasts have also reported blurry messages on the Tesla vehicle screen indicating that O’Dowd’s test driver was pressing the accelerator to rig the tests.
O’Dowd told CNN Business that the blurry messages referred to the unavailability of supercharging and uneven tire wear. CNN Business could not independently verify what the message said because O’Dowd did not provide any clearer video of what happened in the car during testing.
O’Dowd is the founder of Project Dawn, an effort to make computers safe for mankind. He ran unsuccessfully for the US Senate this year in a campaign focused exclusively on his criticism of “total self-driving”.
NHTSA is currently investigating Tesla’s driver assistance technology, so changes may be coming.
“The software that controls the lives of billions of people in self-driving cars should be the best software ever written,” O’Dowd said. “We use the absolute rules of the chaos of the Wild West and we have something so terrible.”