Calif. police use Tesla system to halt sleeping man’s car

By Tom Krisher

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

DETROIT _ The Autopilot system on a Telsa Model S may have helped the California Highway Patrol stop the car after its driver fell asleep on a freeway.

Similar systems, now offered by nearly all automakers, use cameras and radar to detect objects in front of them and automatically keep a safe distance or even stop or slow the vehicles before a crash. The systems also can keep cars in their lanes. Tesla’s Autopilot feature allows the vehicle to change lanes automatically when prompted by the driver, navigate interchanges and exit freeways.

In the case of the driver who fell asleep, California Highway Patrol officers spotted him Friday afternoon as they were looking for drunken drivers. They pulled alongside the grey Model S on U.S. 101 and saw that the driver was asleep. When the driver didn’t respond to their lights and siren, they slowed traffic behind him and tried to figure out if Autopilot or other driver-assist systems were engaged, according to Officer Art Montiel, a CHP spokesman. They then pulled in front of the car and slowed down, and the car eventually stopped.

No one was hurt and the car didn’t crash. The 45-year-old driver was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence.

Systems like Tesla’s semi-autonomous Autopilot are the building blocks of self-driving vehicles, but humans still must be ready to take control. Here are answers to questions about how the systems work and the incident in the San Francisco suburb of Redwood City:

Q: Was the driver using Autopilot system?

A: Maybe. Montiel said officers believe it was on but they haven’t confirmed that yet. Telsa won’t comment. The car’s automatic cruise control system, which keeps it a safe distance from vehicles in front of it, could have been operating without Autopilot being engaged, as could its automatic emergency braking system. Authorities are investigating which systems were in use.

Q: Isn’t the system supposed to stop the car if the driver is not paying attention?

A: Telsa’s Autopilot is designed to safely pull over if a driver doesn’t put force on the steering wheel. But some drivers have been able to fool the system. It’s unclear whether that happened in the case of the sleeping driver. A similar system from General Motors called Super Cruise monitors the driver’s eyes and will stop the car if they are not paying attention. Tesla CEO Elon Musk wrote on Twitter that it is  “default Autopilot behaviour” to gradually slow to a stop and turn on the hazard lights. “Looking into what happened here,” Musk wrote.

Q: Can’t these cars drive themselves?

A: No, they can’t. All manufacturers, including Tesla, warn drivers that the systems are for assistance only and they must pay attention and be ready to take over driving. Tests by AAA and theInsurance Institute for Highway Safety both found that the systems can’t handle every situation they encounter on the roads. Safety advocates criticized Tesla for naming its system Autopilot, especially after an Ohio man died in a crash while using it in Florida two years ago. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating several other crashes in which the drivers appeared to place too much confidence in Autopilot, including one fatality earlier this year near Mountain View, California.

Re-imagining classic carols for December’s spotlight on impaired driving

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ICBC launches telematics pilot for new drivers

ICBC launches telematics pilot for new drivers

ICBC is taking the next step forward into telematics research with a new pilot—this time inviting as many as 7,000 drivers with less than five years of experience to see how telematics technology can improve their driving and make B.C. roads safer.

ICBC’s rates are under considerable pressure, in part from a significant increase in crashes. In fact, in B.C., new drivers are 5.6 times more at risk of getting into a crash and for that crash to be severe, than those with 20 years of driving experience*. This risk gradually decreases as new drivers gain more experience. Starting September 2019, inexperienced drivers will be paying more to better reflect this risk as part of the recent changes to rate fairness. This pilot is an opportunity to assess if telematics can measurably improve driver behaviour and help offset that impact in the future by decreasing this demographic’s risk of being in a crash.

Results from the first telematics pilot earlier this year that focused on the technology’s usability found that over 40 per cent of participants saw improvements in their driving by using the technology, and nearly three-quarters recommended that ICBC explore its use further—particularly for inexperienced drivers.

Now ICBC will look at telematics solutions that involve a small in-vehicle device that communicates with an app installed on the driver’s cellphone. For each trip, driving behaviours like speeding, braking patterns and level of distracted driving are recorded and an overall score is produced. The results from the pilot will help inform whether a longer-term telematics program should be implemented for more ICBC customers.

“From our first telematics pilot earlier this year, ICBC has developed a telematics strategy to identify how the technology can be used to improve road safety and drive behavioural change among higher-risk drivers in B.C.,” said Nicolas Jimenez, ICBC’s president and CEO. “We heard from those pilot participants that most believed the use of telematics would make the roads safer for everyone. This is our next step in a thoughtful examination of telematics technology and how it might help to keep these drivers safer.”

In early 2019, ICBC will confirm a vendor that will provide the technology for the pilot through a Negotiated Request for Proposal process, and participant sign-up will begin in the spring. The pilot will launch in the summer with incentives for drivers while collecting driver feedback and driving behaviour data for one year.

Anyone interested in participating in the pilot can sign up for updates at icbc.com/driverpilot. ICBC is looking for participants in the Novice stage of the graduated licensing program or with less than five years of experience as a fully licensed driver from all across B.C.

*New driver refers to someone with less than one year of experience as a fully licensed driver. Stats from 2018 Rate Design Application.

B.C.’s insurance corporation cuts ad budget in favour of traffic enforcement

VICTORIA _ The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia is slashing its advertising budget in half and redirecting the funds toward police traffic enforcement.

Attorney General David Eby says high risk drivers are ignoring the corporation’s road safety messages.

He says channelling advertising funds directly to enforcement will offer the chance to deliver the message directly to risky drivers.

Starting in the next fiscal year, the insurance corporation will add $2.4 million to enhanced traffic enforcement.

The Ministry of the Attorney General says that will boost the public insurer’s investment in direct safety traffic programs to $24.8 million.

Corporation president Nicolas Jimenez says ICBC’s cost pressures can be traced directly to the 350,000 crashes, about 960 a day, that were recorded across British Columbia last year.

“With crashes at an all-time high in our province, we’re committed to doing what we can to reduce claims costs and relieve the pressure on insurance rates,” Jimenez says in a news release.

The corporation says the $2.4 million remaining in its advertising budget will be spent educating drivers about upcoming changes to the provincial auto insurance system.

#DriveSmartBC – Building Trust, Driving Confidence

ICBC’s current corporate slogan is “Building Trust, Driving Confidence.” Pair that with this week’s announcement of a $582 million loss for the first six months of the corporation’s fiscal year and one begins to wonder about the confidence part. That loss is being blamed on the rising number and cost of claims.

Laying the blame there is probably the easiest thing to do and the least likely to require a lot of explanation.

ICBC rates are set by the BC Utilities Commission, which is ultimately controlled by the provincial government. That’s the same government that took dividends out of ICBC coffers that could have been invested by the corporation and the profits used to pay insurance claims.

Our provincial government also controls many other facets of this issue. Driver licensing, policing, traffic laws, highway design and maintenance to name a few.

So, who’s in the driver’s seat and where are they taking us? Are we happy with the direction of travel?

There are three ways to reduce this deficit, take in more money, reduce costs and quit running into each other or other things.

No one wants to pay more for their vehicle insurance. This is a relatively immediate consequence and one that we feel acutely. It’s easy to complain about as it’s visible to us all regularly.

Let’s make the high risk driver pay a high risk premium. Ditto for those who actually cause a crash. They should pay more too. Good drivers should pay the smallest premium.

Recently, reducing costs has come in the form of paying less for claims. This is a little more palatable because we’re all better than average drivers and perhaps this isn’t seen as something that will directly affect us. Someone else will pay the price regardless of whether they are the culprit or the victim.

Finally we come to a very complicated problem, how to reduce or eliminate collisions. Vision Zero. The most certain way to reduce insurance rates.

People make mistakes. Despite our best intentions bad things can happen and this is why we buy insurance.

The reduction of these mistakes and the minimization of the consequences of those that do happen will be a long process. Safe highways, safe vehicles, safe speeds and safe users all combine to produce the safe systems of Vision Zero.

I can make a difference immediately if I try. I realize that driving is a team effort, not an individual one. I won’t be selfish and I’ll share the road. I will even try to put others first if there is a need to.

Will you?

Holiday CounterAttack roadchecks start this weekend

Holiday CounterAttack roadchecks start this weekend

The annual holiday CounterAttack campaign is kicking off this weekend with roadchecks set up across the province.

The B.C. government, police and ICBC are urging drivers to plan ahead and make smart decisions to get home safely this holiday season.

Impaired driving remains a leading cause of fatal car crashes, with an average of 68 lives lost every year in B.C. Police across the province will be setting up roadchecks to keep impaired drivers off our roads throughout December.

For more than 40 years, ICBC has supported impaired driving education campaigns and funded CounterAttack enhanced police enforcement. ICBC also provides free special event permit kits for businesses, sports facilities and community groups to promote the get home safe message.

ICBC is a sponsor of Operation Red Nose, a volunteer service in 19 B.C. communities that provides safe rides to drivers who feel unfit to drive, no matter the reason. This service is available November 30 until December 31 on Friday and Saturday nights, including New Year’s Eve.

Next fiscal year, ICBC will be directing additional funding to police traffic enforcement throughout the province without increasing the operating budget.  The funding will come from ICBC’s annual advertising budget. This shift in focus will help get more police officers on the road to crack down on risky driving behaviors and help prevent crashes.

Get more stats and facts from ICBC’s infographic and learn more about the CounterAttack campaign on icbc.com.

Quotes:

Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General

“Generations of B.C. drivers and passengers have grown up with CounterAttack’s deterrent messages and stepped-up seasonal enforcement. With cannabis now legal in Canada, we’re determined to preserve CounterAttack’s life-saving benefits in detecting alcohol- and drug-affected drivers and removing them from B.C.’s roads.”

Chief Constable Neil Dubord, Chair of the B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police Traffic Safety Committee

“Police officers across the province will be working hard to keep impaired drivers off our roads this December. Driving while impaired by alcohol or any drug, legal or otherwise, has been against the law for many years, and that hasn’t changed. Do your part this holiday season and look out for family and friends – take a stand and don’t let them get behind the wheel impaired.”

Lindsay Matthews, ICBC’s vice-president responsible for road safety

“We want everyone to enjoy the holidays with family and friends so make sure you plan ahead for a safe ride home. Whether you’re attending a holiday get-together or meeting friends to watch a game, if your festivities involve alcohol, please leave your car at home or find an alternate way to get home safe – use a designated driver, call a taxi, take transit or use Operation Red Nose.”

Statistics:*

  • On average, 17 people are killed in crashes involving impaired driving in the Lower Mainland every year.

  • On average, 10 people are killed in crashes involving impaired driving on Vancouver Island every year.

  • On average, 23 people are killed in crashes involving impaired driving in the Southern Interior every year.

  • On average, 19 people are killed in crashes involving impaired driving in North Central B.C. every year.

Editor’s notes:

Lower Mainland media are invited to attend an evening CounterAttack roadcheck on Saturday, December 1 in Vancouver. Please contact Joanne Bergman, 604-314-3138, for location.

Several police detachments throughout B.C. will also invite media to attend CounterAttack roadchecks in their communities on December 1.

B-roll footage of a CounterAttack roadcheck is available for download.

Notes about the data:

*Fatal victim counts from police data based on five-year average from 2013 to 2017. Impaired is defined to include alcohol, illicit drugs and medicines.

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