22 March 2018

The 'Superior' Autonomous Vehicle

A woman pushing a bike across a road is tragically killed by an Uber autonomous vehicle. It didn't seem to see here, despite the fact that she had nearly got across the path of the vehicle when the collision occured. The driver was momentarily distracted, which is an irrelevant point as I shall explain.

I was on vacation in Australia driving a large MPV. Approaching me was a person pushing a bike on the shoulder of the road, which was quite wide enough to do so. Just as I was nearly up to the person, they suddenly turned their bike onto the road in front of me. In a flash I did a frantic S movement away from the pedestrian/bike and missed them.

I looked back in the rear view mirror to see that the young man had pulled back off the road and was standing still. He looked disoriented as he took in the near miss scenario. The point is would an autonomous car have reacted a quickly as I did? In the case of the Uber vehicle mentioned at the outset, it had more reaction time. If the car I was driving was in autonomous mode and it didn't react, could I have intervened and avoided the impact? No! A human is at their sharpest while fully in control of their vehicle.

So what of Uber's autonomous vehicles? Here is a quote: Uber's self-driving vehicles are equipped not only with cameras, but with radar and lidar, which works like radar but uses lasers to detect objects on and off the roadway. 

Uber and other companies working to develop self-driving cars tout the safety of their systems not only because the vehicles won't lose focus on the road, like human drivers, but because they have superior sensing capabilities. 

Last fall, Uber officials showing off their vehicles in Tempe said their radar and lidar were able to detect objects, including jaywalkers, as far as 100 yards away and avoid collisions.

Source of quote: USA Today.

I question that these vehicles have superior sensing capabilities after seeing the photographic evidence. I cannot understand their jaywalker claim either, after this incident. One cannot expect new technology to be perfected without real world testing. The sad reality is people have, and will continue to die while this testing continues.

I would prefer it if they weren't overselling the current capabilities of the technology. I guess if they were candid about the present state of things, then they may not get real world testing permits. However, putting these vehicles out while not ready is dangerous. It seems to me the whole process is being rushed and unnecessary deaths are occurring as a result.

My condolences to the Herzberg family and friends of the family.

14 March 2018

Autonomous Cars : Part 2

Those behind the autonomous car industry are a defensive bunch it seems to me. They have been putting cars on the road in real world situations to learn how to deal with it. Some of the results are less than impressive.

A while back a man driving a Tesla car was killed when it slammed into a truck while using its autopilot function. It was claimed that the driver was watching the movie at the time (this was strongly denied by his lawyer) and that he didn't have his hands on the steering wheel. Therefore Tesla seemed to take the stance it was driver error.

However, a safety agency report said Tesla’s Autopilot design also contributed to the accident. The 'autopilot' function was not designed to stop if a truck was crossing in front of it. The agency also recommended that vehicle manufacturers and federal regulators take steps to ensure that more advanced automation isn’t used in situations it’s not designed for.

Calling it autopilot is just plain stupid and dangerous if the driver cannot take his hands off the wheel at any time. That isn't autopilot. The system's inability to notice the dangerous situation unfolding surely means it wasn't ready to be put to use in a car. OK, the driver was trusting the system too much but to have to have your hands constantly on the steering wheel makes the autonomous system pointless.

In another more recent case, a small self driving bus had been put into operation and almost immediately was involved in an accident. A tech writer on board stated the truck driver couldn't see the small bus as he reversed into the space he required (see pic above). The accident was quickly described as human error.

However, what surprised me was how this machine was allowed to operate outside its play pen. There was plenty of space behind the pod to reverse into to avoid the slow motion scrape, but no it just stopped. Like a rabbit caught in headlights. It could have sounded its horn to warn the truck driver of its presence, but such a basic feature wasn't in its defensive arsenal.

My take: The move from basic to advanced autonomy is a long road, perhaps an impossible journey for human technology to ever pull off while unpredictable scenarios are part of the equation. True, failures are part of any learning curve. However, the speed to deflect any criticism away from the technology is disturbing. It may be to avoid negative publicity but to do so also come across as arrogance. Its a belief that technology is our future, a god we must trust in to take us to a better world. Yeah, right. All I can say is dreams are free.

Part one can be found by clicking here.

08 March 2018

Canada Light Vehicle Production : 2017 (By Brand)

Guess where this factory is? 180,000 Ford Edge
SUVs rolled off the assembly line in 2017

Vehicle production in Canada was the lowest since 2010, so not a stellar year. The problem was passenger cars which were down to a level that you'd have to go back over 50 years for it to be lower. The good news is light trucks are holding up well. In fact it reflects a global trend.

Passenger cars: Four brands make the cars here, three are holding up well but GM has brought the total down. The Chev Impala and Camaro have gone in the past two year. The good news about that is its done and as long as other manufacturers don't follow suit then it should hold up from now on.

15 16 17 Brand 2017 % +/-
2016 % +/-
1 2 1 Chrysler 235,102 34.4% -1%
236,336 30.6% -13%
2 1 2 Toyota 210,073 30.8% -12%
237,553 30.8% -6%
4 3 3 Honda 209,205 30.6% 0%
208,771 27.0% 17%
3 4 4 GM 28,087 4.1% -69%
89,318 11.6% -56%
5 Ford 129 0.0% n/a

Total 682,596

Light Trucks: There was a general downturn here spread across the five car makers. Honda did manage a small gain. GM and Chrysler were the two worst affected but no models were dropped at least. 

15 16 17 Brand 2017 % +/-
2016 % +/-
2 2 1 Toyota 361,462 25.8% -1%
364,165 23.3% 8%
1 1 2 GM 318,335 22.7% -19%
394,949 25.3% 5%
5 4 3 Ford 254,025 18.1% -6%
271,494 17.4% 35%
3 3 4 Chrysler 246,625 17.6% -23%
321,555 20.6% 33%
4 5 5 Honda 219,229 15.7% 4%
210,767 13.5% 2%

Total 1,399,676

Grand Tot 2,082,272 -11%
2,334,908 2%
Data source: Automotive News.

Summary: Just over two million light vehicles were made in Canada. How will the industry fare in future? That will depend on how competitive it is and also up to decisions made by company executives.  

Pick-Up Trucks 2015 : Top 50 Models

Pick-ups were once work horses that were utilitarian in execution. Today most are more car-like in comfort and finish, so private buyers have increasingly been obtaining them. They are more popular in some regions than others. In countries with an outdoor lifestyle - such as New Zealand - they have become extremely popular.

Easily NZ's best selling model

The biggest selling pick-up models are large vehicles sold in North America. Medium sized ones are selling everywhere else with some small models for Asia and emerging nations. US and Japanese brand names dominate the list, with Europe's lesser interest in this sort of vehicle reflected by their absence. However, Mercedes and Renault should soon be on the list with Navara based offerings.

Rk Model 2015 2014 +/-

1 Ford F-Series 920,632 907,652 1.4%

2 Chevrolet Silverado 670,187 592,514 13.1%

3 Toyota Hilux 580,613 597,310 -2.8%

4 Ram Pick-up 542,559 528,554 2.7%

5 GMC Sierra 289,797 270,621 7.1%

6 Isuzu D-Max 273,744 260,988 4.9%

7 Ford Ranger 205,699 187,617 9.6%

8 Toyota Tacoma 199,964 174,009 14.9%

9 Toyota Tundra 131,433 126,639 3.8%

10 Chevrolet Colorado 108,107 29,040 272.3%

11 Fiat Strada 106,787 163,747 -34.8%

12 Nissan Frontier 98,387 109,210 -9.9%

13 Mitsubishi Triton (L200) 91,670 81,040 13.1%

14 Great Wall Pick-up 90,866 150,362 -39.6%

15 Volkswagen Saveiro 73,237 97,102 -24.6%

16 Nissan Navara 71,329 78,067 -8.6%

17 Volkswagen Amarok 65,290 69,692 -6.3%

18 Mitsubishi Triton 60,719 69,181 -12.2%

19 Nissan Pick-up 58,908 52,065 13.1%

20 Daihatsu Grand Max PU 58,121 57,151 1.7%

21 Suzuki Carry Pick-up 53,055 56,265 -5.7%

22 Mazda BT-50 52,616 53,685 -2.0%

23 Toyota Land Cruiser PU 49,593 41,370 19.9%

24 Chevrolet S10 43,054 58,801 -26.8%

25 GMC Canyon 36,564 5,168 607.5%

26 ZX Auto Grand Tiger 34,828 34,572 0.7%

27 Suzuki Ravi 33,008 13,267 148.8%

28 Dongfeng Rich 32,119 57,858 -44.5%

29 Nissan D22 30,623 42,399 -27.8%

30 Iran Khodro Bardo 27,883 88,082 -68.3%

31 Mitsubishi T120-SS PU 27,584 29,378 -6.1%

32 Chevrolet Montana 24,369 36,950 -34.1%

33 Zamyad Z24 22,940 27,892 -17.8%

34 Holden Colorado 22,106 20,996 5.3%

35 Foton Tunland 19,735 19,410 1.7%

36 Isuzu KB 16,855 17,680 -4.7%

37 Suzuki APV Pick-up 16,785 22,604 -25.7%

38 Nissan Titan 16,357 16,580 -1.3%

39 Saipa 151 Pick-up 13,548 20,359 -33.5%

40 Foton Sup 12,608 13,541 -6.9%

41 Huanghai Serie N1 11,934 14,700 -18.8%

42 Ram 1500-3500 11,890 12,530 -5.1%

43 Iran Khodro Arisun 10,934 - n/a

44 Chevrolet Luv D-Max 10,657 10,657 0.0%

45 Jac Pick-up 9,526 9,132 4.3%

46 Gac Gio Pick-up 8,687 11,784 -26.3%

47 Ram 700 8,159 1,495 445.8%

48 Bahman Cara 6,877 1,741 295.0%

49 Chevrolet Tornado 5,964 5,375 11.0%

50 SsangYong Actyon Spt 5,786 7,357 -21.4%

Data source: focus2move.

For more on pick-ups, try these if you wish.

2019: Australia/New Zealand/South Africa 

2015-19: Belgium Denmark France Iceland Italy Sweden United Kingdom

Argentina Brazil Indonesia Thailand

2015: World Top 50