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NTSB: Autopilot was in use before Tesla hit semitrailer

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Ntsb: autopilot was in use before tesla hit semitrailer
The roof of this Tesla Model 3 was sheered off when the car ran under the side of a semitrailer March 1 if Delray Beach, Florida. The driver of the car, 50-year-old Jeremy Beren Banner, was killed. (Courtesy: NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD)

DETROIT — A Tesla Model 3 involved in a fatal crash with a semitrailer in Florida March 1 was operating on the company’s semi-autonomous Autopilot system, federal investigators have determined.

The car drove beneath the trailer, killing the driver, in a crash that is strikingly similar to one that happened on the other side of Florida in 2016 that also involved use of Autopilot.

In both cases, neither the driver nor the Autopilot system stopped for the trailers, and the roofs of the cars were sheared off.

The Delray Beach crash, which remains under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, raises questions about the effectiveness of Autopilot, which uses cameras, long-range radar and computers to detect objects in front of the cars to avoid collisions. The system also can keep a car in its lane, change lanes and navigate freeway interchanges.

Tesla has maintained that the system is designed only to assist drivers, who must pay attention at all times and be ready to intervene.

In a preliminary report on the March 1 crash, the NTSB said that initial data and video from the Tesla show that the driver turned on Autopilot about 10 seconds before the crash on a divided highway with turn lanes in the median. From less than eight seconds until the time of the crash, the driver’s hands were not detected on the steering wheel, the NTSB report stated.

Neither the data nor the videos indicated the driver or the Autopilot system braked or tried to avoid the trailer, the report stated.

The Model 3 was going 68 miles per hour when it hit the trailer on U.S. 441, and the speed limit was 55 mph, the report said.  Jeremy Beren Banner, 50, was killed.

Tesla said in a statement Thursday that Banner did not use Autopilot at any other time during the drive before the crash. Vehicle logs show that he took his hands off the steering wheel immediately after activating Autopilot, the statement said.

Tesla also said it’s saddened by the crash and that drivers have traveled more than 1 billion miles while using Autopilot.

“When used properly by an attentive driver who is prepared to take control at all times, drivers supported by Autopilot are safer than those operating without assistance,” the company said.

The circumstances of the Delray Beach crash are much like one that occurred in May 2016 near Gainesville, Florida. Joshua Brown, 40, of Canton, Ohio, was traveling in a Tesla Model S on a divided highway and using the Autopilot system when he was killed.

Neither Brown nor the car braked for a tractor-trailer, which had turned left in front of the Tesla and was crossing its path. Brown’s Tesla also went beneath the trailer and its roof was sheared off. After that crash Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the company made changes in its system so radar would play more of a role in detecting objects.

David Friedman, who was acting head of NHTSA in 2014 and is now vice president of advocacy for Consumer Reports, said he was surprised the agency didn’t declare Autopilot defective after the Gainesville crash and seek a recall. The Delray Beach crash, he said, reinforces that Autopilot is being allowed to operate in situations it cannot handle safely.

“Their system cannot literally see the broad side of an 18-wheeler on the highway,” Friedman said.

Tesla’s system was too slow to warn the driver to pay attention, unlike systems that Consumer Reports has tested from General Motors and other companies, Friedman said. GM’s Super Cruise driver assist system only operates on divided highways with no median turn lanes, he said.

Tesla needs a better system to more quickly detect whether drivers are paying attention and warn them if they are not, Friedman said, adding that some owners tend to rely on the system too much.

“Tesla has for too long been using human drivers as guinea pigs. This is tragically what happens,” he said.

To force a recall, NHTSA must do an investigation and show that the way a vehicle is designed is outside of industry standards. “There are multiple systems out on the roads right now that take over some level of steering and speed control, but there’s only one of them that we keep hearing about where people are dying or getting into crashes. That kind of stands out,” Friedman said.

NHTSA said Thursday that its investigation is continuing and its findings will be made public when it’s completed.

The Delray Beach crash casts doubt on Musk’s statement that Tesla will have fully self-driving vehicles on the roads sometime next year. Musk said last month that Tesla had developed a powerful computer that could use artificial intelligence to safely navigate the roads with the same camera and radar sensors that are now on Tesla cars.

“Show me the data,” Friedman said. “Tesla is long on big claims and short on proof. They’re literally showing how not to do it by rushing technology out.”

In a 2017 report on the Gainesville crash, the NTSB wrote that design limitations of Autopilot played a major role. The agency said that Tesla told Model S owners that Autopilot should be used only on limited-access highways, primarily interstates. The report said that despite upgrades to the system, Tesla did not incorporate protections against use of the system on other types of roads.

The NTSB found that the Model S cameras and radar weren’t capable of detecting a vehicle turning into its path. Rather, the systems are designed to detect vehicles they are following to prevent rear-end collisions.

 

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The Nation

House endorses adopting California AB5 provisions at federal level

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U.s. house of representatives passes pro act; endorses adopting california ab5 law at federal level
Owner-operators and carriers are weary of California's AB5 morphing into federal law. Introduced as the PRO Act, the proposed legislation will have far-reaching impacts on all sectors of the trucking industry.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives has passed legislation similar to California’s AB5 law in that it requires employers to prove that independent contractors used in conducting business should not be classified as employees. The controversial California law, as applied to the trucking industry, is currently under an injunction imposed by a U.S. District Court judge that prohibits its enforcement. California-based carriers, the California Trucking Association (CTA) and owner-operators doing business in the state, as well as trucking organizations on national and state levels, have all publicly opposed AB5. The Trucker previously reported that industry leaders feared a law like AB5 would spread beyond California’s borders. With Congress considering the “Protecting the Right to Organize” (PRO) Act (HR 2474), those fears appear credible.

As widely discussed in trucking-industry circles, AB5 places the burden upon employers when classifying workers as employees or independent contractors. If a worker’s circumstances do not pass all components of a three-prong test, the individual is deemed an employee, a classification impacting company operations and the individual’s ability to choose working status. For this reason, many owner-operators who entered the business for its self-employment opportunities oppose AB5.

The federal PRO legislation incorporates the same tests imposed under AB5 and applies them nationwide. CTA contends that AB5 is prohibited under federal law, an argument with which the judge ruling in favor of the request for an injunction was noted as appearing to agree. With the injunction in place, the PRO Act could be considered a case of amending federal law for the purpose of allowing a state law to be enforceable.

The language in the federal act as included in Section 2(a)(2) defines an employee under the same terms as discussed in AB5. As with the California law, the sticking point relates to the (B) prong of the test. Under the (B) prong, a company cannot hire an independent contractor to perform tasks, inherent to the company’s business, which other employees already perform. A carrier in the business of moving freight and employing individuals who move freight could not hire an independent contractor to perform similar tasks.

Should PRO receive U.S. Senate approval, something political pundits doubt is possible, it would be passed to President Donald Trump to either sign into law or veto. Of the two, a veto seems most likely, as the administration has stated PRO “appears to cut and paste the core provisions of California’s controversial AB5, which severely restricts self-employment. AB5 is actively threatening the existence of both the franchise business sector and the gig economy in California. It would be a serious mistake for Congress to impose this flawed job-killing policy on the entire country.”

Truckers nationwide should remain in tune with further action on PRO. It may impact many careers.

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OKC police confirm security guard who shot truck driver at TA has died by suicide

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police lights stock photo
A security guard who discharged his weapon, shooting a truck driver during an altercation at an Oklahoma City TA Travel Center, has taken his own life.

OKLAHOMA CITY — A security guard who shot a truck driver earlier this month during an altercation with a truck driver in Oklahoma City has died by suicide.

Sgt. Brad Gilmore, assistant public-information officer with the Oklahoma City Police Department, confirmed that 45-year-old George Bischoff went to a local shooting range, Big Boys Guns, Ammo & Range, on Feb. 20 around 1:35 p.m. and took his own life with a single, self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Bischoff had been questioned twice regarding an altercation that took place Feb. 14 around 4:30 a.m. in which he confronted a truck driver, 42-year-old Paul Sisk, at a TA Travel Center in Oklahoma City regarding a reserved parking space.

“Somewhere during that altercation, it became physical and the security guard fired one shot, hitting the truck driver,” Gilmore said. “The truck driver was transported to a local hospital, where he was treated and has since been released.”

Gilmore said the security guard was initially questioned following the incident but at that time, Gilmore said, police had not yet had a chance to talk to the truck driver.

“The security guard was brought back in and questioned again, and we were in the process of discussing the case with the district attorney’s office; and on our end, charges had not been filed,” Gilmore said.

Gilmore could not confirm whether the gun used at the range was rented or owned by Bischoff, but he said local news outlets have reported that the gun was rented.  Gilmore said the incident remains under investigation.

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Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse identifies nearly 8,000 substance-abuse violations

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Fmcsa’s drug and alcohol clearinghouse identifies nearly 8,000 substance-abuse violations in first weeks of operation
FMCSA’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse program is designed to improve road safety by identifying drivers who are barred from driving commercial vehicles due to drug violations. (iStock photo)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration released data on Feb. 21 following the first weeks of operation of its Commercial Driver’s License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse. The information released showed the clearinghouse has detected and identified nearly 8,000 positive substance-abuse tests of commercial drivers since Jan. 6. The clearinghouse now has more than 650,000 registrants.

“We’ve seen encouraging results from the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, but there’s still work to do to ensure we identify more drivers who should not be behind the wheel. The clearinghouse is a positive step, and the Agency continues to work closely with industry, law enforcement, and our state partners to ensure its implementation is effective,” said Jim Mullen, FMCSA acting administrator.

The clearinghouse is aimed at improving road safety by providing FMCSA and employers with the necessary tools to identify drivers who have violated federal drug and alcohol testing program requirements and are prohibited from operating a commercial motor vehicle. The goal of the clearinghouse is to ensure that such drivers receive the required evaluation and treatment before they have the opportunity to resume driving.

Those required to register for the clearinghouse include:

  • Employers of commercial driver’s license (CDL) and commercial learner’s permit (CLP) holders, or their designated service agents, and medical review officers who report drug and alcohol program violations that occurred on or after Jan. 6, 2020;
  • Employers or their designated service agents who conduct required queries that inform them whether prospective or current employees have drug and alcohol program violations in their clearinghouse records. Employers must purchase a query plan before conducting queries in the clearinghouse – query plans must be purchased from the FMCSA clearinghouse website only;
  • Drivers who respond to employer consent requests or would like to view their clearinghouse record when applying for a job; and
  • Substance abuse professionals who report on the completion of driver initial assessments and driver eligibility for return-to-duty testing for violations committed on or after Jan. 6, 2020.

There is no cost for registration. Commercial drivers are not required to immediately register for the clearinghouse but will need to register to respond to an employer’s request for consent prior to a pre-employment query or other full query being conducted. In addition, employers must be registered during the first year of implementation to ensure they are able to conduct the required annual query on all employed drivers.

Combatting drug abuse has been a top priority of the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Trump Administration. President Trump has brought attention to the nation’s opioid crisis by declaring it a nationwide public health emergency and has implemented critical federal initiatives to help reduce opioid abuse.

For information about FMCSA’s clearinghouse program, including user brochures and instructional aids with step-by-step registration instructions, visit clearinghouse.fmcsa.dot.gov.

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