Fatal Tesla Autopilot crash due to ‘over-reliance on automation, lack of safeguards’

The United States’ National Transport Safety Board (NTSB) has released its final findings on the fatal crash involving a Tesla Model S operating in semi-autonomous Autopilot mode.

The crash occurred in Flordia in May 2016 when Joshua Brown’s Tesla Model S collided with the underside of a tractor-trailer as the truck turned onto the non-controlled access highway.

Tesla Autopilot system is a level two semi-autonomous driving mode, which is designed to automatically steer and accelerate a car while it’s on a controlled access motorway or freeway with well defined entry and exit ramps.

According to the NTSB, Tesla’s Autopilot functioned as programmed because it was not designed to recognise a truck crossing into the car’s path from an intersecting road. As such, it did not warn the driver or engage the automated emergency braking system.

The report said the “driver’s pattern of use of the Autopilot system indicated an over-reliance on the automation and a lack of understanding of the system limitations”.

The NTSB’s team concluded “while evidence revealed the Tesla driver was not attentive to the driving task, investigators could not determine from available evidence the reason for his inattention”.

It also noted “the truck driver had used marijuana before the crash, his level of impairment, if any, at the time of the crash could not be determined from the available evidence”.

Tesla did not escape blame, with the NTSB calling out the electric car maker for its ineffective methods of ensuring driver engagement.

In issuing the report, Robert L. Sumwalt III, the NTSB’s chairman, said, “System safeguards, that should have prevented the Tesla’s driver from using the car’s automation system on certain roadways, were lacking and the combined effects of human error and the lack of sufficient system safeguards resulted in a fatal collision that should not have happened”.

The electric car maker has since made changes to its Autopilot system, including reducing the interval before it begins warning the driver that their hands are off the steering wheel.

As part of its findings, the NTSB also issued a number of recommendations to various government authorities and car makers with level two self-driving features.

These NTSB called for standardised data logging formats, safeguards to ensure autonomous driving systems are used only in the manner for which they were designed, and improved monitoring of driver engagement in vehicles fitted with autonomous and semi-autonomous safety systems.

Joshua Brown’s family issued a statement through its lawyers earlier this week in anticipation of the NTSB’s report.

“We heard numerous times that the car killed our son. That is simply not the case,” the family said. “There was a small window of time when neither Joshua nor the Tesla features noticed the truck making the left-hand turn in front of the car.

“People die every day in car accidents. Change always comes with risks, and zero tolerance for deaths would totally stop innovation and improvements.”

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Samsung Secure Folder for Android safeguards your private data

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If you want to secure your Galaxy smartphone, the first thing that you should do is set up a screen lock. But what if you want to go a bit further, and protect specific things on the device? Well, Samsung just released Secure Folder, which gives you a “private, encrypted space” to store sensitive data in.

Secure Folder is derived from Knox, the company’s secure platform for business users, and can be seen as a consumer-focused iteration. It acts as a sandbox for apps and data and works with existing authentication options to keep them safe.

“Users may leverage this feature to store and encrypt personal and private content, such as apps, images and documents, and keep them hidden. They can also make copies of their favorite apps and easily access them via alternate profiles. Any notes, photos, contacts or browsing history within the apps stored in Secure Folder will remain separate from the same apps outside Secure Folder”, explains Samsung.

To secure and unlock the data in Secure Folder, you can use a PIN, password, pattern or a fingerprint. The biometric authentication is probably the most convenient option, but keep in mind that you should use it in conjunction with a hard to guess PIN or password to be as efficient as possible.

Secure Folder can be set up using a Samsung account, according to the information provided by the company, and can be renamed or hidden from the home screen to make it harder to find in case someone has physical access to your device. The icon can also be changed.

To get files into Secure Folder, you have two options. You can move data using the “Move to Secure Folder” option in the native apps or, from Secure Folder, by tapping the Add files button.

So where does the Samsung Account come into play? Well, if you want to backup the data in Secure Folder, Samsung gives you the option to use its cloud service for it. The respective data is only available to the original user.

Secure Folder requires Android 7.0 Nougat and is currently offered only for the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge, but Samsung says that it will make it available for other devices as well. The app can be downloaded from Galaxy Apps, Samsung’s app store for Galaxy devices.