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NTSB: Autopilot was in use before Tesla hit semitrailer

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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

Big rig causes 100-year-old bridge to collapse in North Dakota

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This undated photo provided by Grand Forks County Sheriff's Department shows the overweight semi that caused the collapse of a small, historic bridge near Northwood, N.D. Authorities say the semi, with a trailer load of dry beans, was traveling on the 56-foot-long, restricted-weight bridge over the Goose River Monday. (Grand Forks County Sheriff's Department via AP)

NORTHWOOD, N.D. — Sheriff’s officials say an overweight semitrailer loaded with dried beans caused a more-than-century-old bridge to collapse in North Dakota.

Grand Forks County sheriff’s officials say the bridge over the Goose River near Northwood collapsed Monday afternoon. Photos show the wooden and iron span buckling under the weight of the vehicle. The bridge is partly submerged in the water.

Police said a 2005 Peterbilt semi-truck was driving on the bridge when the structure reportedly crumpled beneath it, causing the trailer to hangover the west abutment.

The 56-foot-long bridge was built in 1906 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

It has a 14 ton weight restriction. Sheriff’s officials say the semitrailer was 29 tons over that limit.

The driver, who was not injured, faces an $11,400 overload fine.

Officials say it will cost up to $1 million to replace the bridge.

It was not immediately clear if weight-limit signs were posted, and police said the incident was still under investigation

Northwood is about 200 miles northeast of Bismarck.

 

 

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Women In Trucking names its 2019 top woman-owned businesses

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Angela Eliacostas is the founder and owner of AGT Global Logistics, one of the companies the Women In Trucking Association has named its 2019 Top Women-Owned Businesses in Transportation. (Courtesy: Women in Trucking)

PLOVER, Wisc. —  The Women In Trucking Association (WIT) has announced its annual list of the “Top Woman-Owned Businesses in Transportation.”

The names of the companies being recognized in 2019 were released in the latest edition of Redefining the Road, the official magazine of WIT.

WIT created the list was created to recognize women in leadership and encourage more women to become proactive leaders in their organizations and even start their own businesses, WIT president and CEO Ellen Voie said. The program supports WIT’s overall mission “To encourage the employment of women in the trucking industry, promote their accomplishments, and minimize the obstacles they face.”

Entrepreneurship is a viable means of economic self-sufficiency, and many women are choosing an enterprise connected to transportation to be part of their career aspirations, according to Brian Everett, publisher of Redefining the Road.

Companies considered for the recognition must meet criteria that includes majority ownership by a woman, financial stability and growth, innovation and entrepreneurial spirit. Each company was nominated and chosen based upon business success and accomplishments, including those related to gender diversity.

This year’s list includes companies from a diverse range of business sectors in the commercial freight transportation marketplace, including motor carriers, third-party logistics companies and original equipment manufacturers.

Companies named to the 2019 “Top Woman-Owned Businesses” list and their primary female business owners are:

  • Bennett International Group; Marcia G. Taylor, CEO
  • Kenco Logistics; Jane Kennedy Greene, chairwoman
  • London Auto Truck Center; Donna Childers, vice president
  • Rihm Family Companies; Kari Rihm, president and CEO
  • Veriha Trucking, Inc.; Karen Smerchek, president
  • Rush Trucking Corp.; Andra Rush, CEO
  • Aria Logistics; Arelis Gutierrez, CEO
  • Lodgewood Enterprises; Arlene Gagne, president
  • S-2international, LLC; Jennifer Mead, CEO
  • International Express Trucking; Karen Duff, president and CEO
  • Brenny Transportation, Inc.; Joyce Brenny, CEO and founder
  • Knichel Logistics; Kristy Knichel, CEO
  • Garner Trucking; Sherri Garner Brumbaugh, CEO
  • LYNC Logistics; Cindy Lee, president
  • Ontario Truck Training Academy; Yvette Lagrois, president
  • AGT Global Logistics; Angela Eliacostas, owner and founder
  • Powersource Transportation; (Barb Bakos, president
  • LaunchIt Public Relations; Susan Fall, president
  • United Federal Logistics, Inc.; Jennifer Behnke, president
  • BCP Transportation; Nancy Spelsberg, Ardis Jourdan, Kristie Rozinski
  • Ladybird Logistics Ltd.; Felicia Payin Marfo, managing director
  • DGT Trucking; Donna G. Sleasman, owner
  • RFX Inc.; Kimberly Welby, president and CEO)

These companies will be recognized during a special program at the Women In Trucking Accelerate! Conference & Expo, Sept. 30 – Oct. 2 in Dallas. For more information, visit WomenInTrucking.org.

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The Nation

Can you say oversized load!

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That is big!

 

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