“Some people look at it and go, ‘Oh, that crazy dad, what is he doing?'” Kupani told CNN Business. “Well, I do a lot of stuff like that, but I’m going to make sure my kid doesn’t get hit.”
But it’s also yet another example of the unintended consequences of deploying an unfinished breakthrough technology in the wild — and shows how far some Tesla supporters are willing to go to protect it and the company. It turns out that so many people are doing their own experiments that one government agency has taken the extraordinary step of warning people not to use children to test car technology.
“Consumers should never attempt to create their own test scripts or use real people, especially children, to test the performance of automotive technology,” the NHTSA said in a statement on Wednesday. The agency called this approach “extremely dangerous.”
Earlier this month, California resident Tad Park saw another Tesla enthusiast want to test “full self-driving” with a child and volunteered. two of his children. Park told CNN Business that it was “a little difficult” to get his wife to agree. She agreed when he promised to drive.
“I’m never going to go over the top because my kids are the most precious thing in the world to me,” Park said. “I’m not going to risk their lives in any way.”
His Tesla slowed down as it approached the box boy. Then he accelerated again and hit his cardboard dummy. Kadamuro speculated that this could be because the cameras couldn’t see the short boxes when they were directly in front of the bumper, and so they forgot they were there.
Kadamuro said that his video started as entertainment. But he wanted people to see that “full self-driving” is not ideal.
“I found that a lot of people have two extreme views on the ‘full autonomous driving’ beta,” Kadamuro said. “People like Dan think this is the worst thing in the world. I know some friends who think it’s almost perfect.”
Kadamuro said he also ran other tests in which his Tesla, driven at higher speeds, effectively controlled the box boy.
According to Raj Rajkumar, a Carnegie Mellon University professor who researches autonomous vehicles, fast and accurate detection of small objects, such as small children, will generally be more difficult than detection of large objects and adults for a computer vision system like the one that Tesla cars rely 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 affected 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% reliable,” Rajkumar said. “Like diagnosing a disease, there are always false positives and negatives.”
Tesla did not respond to a request for comment and does not generally interact with professional media.
“Wild West Chaos Rules”
Some Tesla supporters criticized O’Dowd’s use of cones as lane markings in his initial testing, which may have limited the sedan’s ability to bypass a dummy. Others claimed that O’Dowd’s test driver forced the Tesla to hit the dummy by depressing the accelerator pedal, which was not seen in the videos posted by O’Dowd. Some Tesla enthusiasts have also pointed to blurry messages on the Tesla car’s screen as an indication that O’Dowd’s test driver was pressing the gas pedal to rig the tests.
O’Dowd told CNN Business that the vague messages were about the unavailability of boost and uneven tire wear. CNN Business was unable to independently verify what the report said because O’Dowd did not provide a clearer video of what was happening in the car during testing.
O’Dowd is the founder of the Dawn Project, whose goal is to make computers safe for mankind. This year, he ran unsuccessfully for the US Senate in a campaign solely focused on his criticism of “full self-driving.”
NHTSA is currently investigating Tesla’s driver-assistance technology, so changes may be ahead.
“The software that drives the lives of billions of people in self-driving cars must be the best ever written,” O’Dowd said. “We use the absolute rules of chaos in the Wild West, and we got something so terrible.”