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Tesla Autopilot is a lot dumber than CEO Musk claims, says Cali DMV after speaking to the software’s boss • The Register

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s public statements about the state of his automaker’s Autopilot assistive driving technology overestimate the system’s capabilities, according to documents released by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

Legal non-profit PlainSite obtained the DMV documents via the California Public Records Act and they include a summary, written by Miguel Acosta, chief of the DMV’s Autonomous Vehicles Branch, of a March 9, 2021 meeting between DMV officials and Tesla personnel.

Acosta wrote that “DMV asked CJ [CJ Moore, director of Autopilot software at Tesla] to address, from an engineering perspective, Elon’s messaging about L5 capability by the end of the year.”

This refers to a Twitter exchange at the beginning of the year. On December 31, 2020, Comma AI’s Twitter account said to Musk, “We hear you are extremely confident that you’ll have level five [full automation] next year…” and invited him to wager on that.

On January 1, 2021, Musk responded, “Tesla Full Self-Driving will work at a safety level well above that of the average driver this year, of that I am confident. Can’t speak for regulators though.”

But as Acosta recounts, Tesla engineers see things differently. “Elon’s tweet does not match engineering reality per CJ,” wrote Acosta.

An effort was made to redact this particular passage but it wasn’t very effective – selecting the unusually large area of whitespace then copying and pasting the result into a text editor reveals the white-on-white text.

Selective disclosure

Aaron Greenspan, founder of PlainSite, told The Register in an email that the DMV messed up. “The DMV attempted to redact that text and clearly failed,” he said. “They essentially admit as much regarding selective disclosure in the cover letter posted at the beginning of the PDF on our site. Whether the slip-up was inadvertent or intentional I don’t know.”

The DMV did not respond to a request to explain what happened. The remainder of Acosta’s observations are visible in the posted file:

The DMV’s concern is that Tesla must provide clear communication to the public about the capabilities of its vehicles. “As Tesla is aware, the public’s misunderstanding about the limits of the technology and its misuse can have tragic consequences,” said Acosta in an April 21 letter to Eric Williams, associate general counsel at Tesla.

The May 7, 2016 fatal crash of Tesla with a trailer truck near Williston, Florida represents an example of the potential consequences of misunderstanding the limits of the company’s self-driving technology. The US National Transportation Safety Board in its report [PDF] on the incident said the probable cause of the crash “was the truck driver’s failure to yield the right of way to the car, combined with the car driver’s inattention due to over-reliance on vehicle automation…”

The fatal March 23, 2018, crash of a Tesla Model X in Mountain View, California has also been attributed to “the Tesla ‘Autopilot’ system’s limitations, the driver’s over-reliance on the ‘Autopilot’ and the driver’s distraction.”

Tesla did not respond to a request for comment but the company claims that its vehicles “are engineered to be the safest cars in the world.”

Greenspan disagrees. “I think there is significant evidence suggesting that Tesla Autopilot is dangerous to the public as designed and advertised,” he said. “Future versions may be safer as the result of design and marketing changes and better testing.”

Greenspan in the past has been a short seller of Tesla stock and last year sued Elon Musk, Tesla, and others [PDF] for defamation, harassment, copyright infringement, DMCA violations, and securities violations.

Asked whether his legal challenge of Musk has any bearing on his concerns about Tesla’s Autopilot, he responded that all journalism has bias.

“That being said, at the time I published this response from the DMV I did not have a short position on Tesla,” said Greenspan. “I have pursued the truth about Elon Musk and other billionaires/ultra-wealthy individuals at various points both when I have had a respective short position and when I have had no position at all.”

“I’ve also reported on companies in which I or my family have held long positions at times. I can’t predict in advance whether a document will confirm or reject my investment hypothesis, or if it will end up being relevant to anyone at all, but in the end what matters is that the documents speak for themselves, not what I think or what I’m invested in. And both long and short-sellers have cited PlainSite documents for this very reason.” ®



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Amazon Web Services outage hits sites and apps such as IMDb and Tinder | Amazon

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Several Amazon services – including its website, Prime Video and applications that use Amazon Web Services (AWS) – went down for thousands of users on Tuesday.

Amazon said the outage was probably due to problems related to application programming interface (API), which is a set of protocols for building and integrating application software, Reuters reported.

“We are experiencing API and console issues in the US-East-1 Region,” Amazon said in a report on its service health dashboard, adding that it had identified the cause. By late late afternoon the outage appeared to be partially resolved, with the company saying that it was “working towards full recovery”.

“With the network device issues resolved, we are now working towards recovery of any impaired services,” the company said on the dashboard.

Downdetector showed more than 24,000 incidents of people reporting problems with Amazon. It tracks outages by collating status reports from a number of sources, including user-submitted errors on its platform.

The outage was also affecting delivery operations. Amazon’s warehouse operation use AWS and experienced disruptions, spokesperson Richard Rocha told the Washington Post. A Washington state Amazon driver said his facility had been “at a standstill” since Tuesday morning, CNBC reported.

Other services, including Amazon’s Ring security cameras, mobile banking app Chime and robot vacuum cleaner maker iRobot were also facing difficulties, according to their social media pages.

Ring said it was aware of the issue and working to resolve it. “A major Amazon Web Services (AWS) outage is currently impacting our iRobot Home App,” iRobot said on its website.

Other websites and apps affected include the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), language learning provider Duolingo and dating site Tinder, according to Downdetector.

The outage also affected presale tickets for Adele’s upcoming performances in Las Vegas. “Due to an Amazon Web Services (AWS) outage impacting companies globally, all Adele Verified Fan Presales scheduled for today have been moved to tomorrow to ensure a better experience,” Ticketmaster said on Twitter.

In June, websites including the Guardian, Reddit, Amazon, CNN, PayPal, Spotify, Al Jazeera Media Network and the New York Times were hit by a widespread hour-long outage linked to US-based content delivery network provider Fastly Inc, a smaller rival of AWS.

In July, Amazon experienced a disruption in its online stores service, which lasted for nearly two hours and affected more than 38,000 users.

Users have experienced 27 outages over the past 12 months on Amazon, according to the web tool reviewing website ToolTester.



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South Korea sets reliability standards for Big Tech • The Register

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South Korea’s Ministry of Science and ICT has offered Big Tech some advice on how to make their services suitably resilient, and added an obligation to notify users – in Korean – when they fail.

The guidelines apply to Google, Meta (parent company of Facebook), Netflix, Naver, Kakao and Wavve. All have been told to improve their response to faults by beefing up preemptive error detection and verification systems, and create back up storage systems that enable quick content recovery.

The guidelines offer methods Big Tech can use to measure user loads, then plan accordingly to ensure their services remain available. Uptime requirements are not spelled out.

Big techs is already rather good at resilience. Google literally wrote the book on site reliability engineering.

The guidelines refer to legislation colloquially known as the “Netflix law” which requires major service outages be reported to the Ministry.

That law builds on another enacted in 2020 that made online content service providers responsible for the quality of their streaming services. It was put in place after a number of outages, including one where notifications of the problem were made on the offending company’s social media site – but only in English.

The new regulations follow South Korean telcos’ recent attempts to have platforms that guzzle their bandwidth pay for the privilege. Mobile carrier SK Broadband took legal action in October of this year, demanding Netflix pitch in some cash for the amount of bandwidth that streaming shows – such as Squid Game – consume.

In response, Netflix pointed at its own free content delivery network, Open Connect, which helps carriers to reduce traffic. Netflix then accused SK Broadband of trying to double up on profits by collecting fees from consumers and content providers at the same time.

For the record, Naver and Kakao pay carriers, while Apple TV+ and Disney+ have at the very least given lip service to the idea.

Korea isn’t the only place where telcos have noticed Big Tech taking up more than its fair share of bandwidth. The European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association (ETNO) published a letter from ten telco CEOs asking that larger platforms “contribute fairly to network costs”. ®

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Twitter acquires Slack competitor Quill to improve its messaging services

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As part of the acquisition, Quill will be shutting down at the end of the week as its team joins the social media company.

Twitter has acquired the messaging platform Quill, seen as a potential competitor to Slack, in order to improve its messaging tools and services.

Quill announced that it will be shutting down at the end of the week as its team joins the social media company to continue its original goal “to make online communication more thoughtful, and more effective, for everyone”.

The purchase of Quill could be linked to Twitter’s new strategy to reduce its reliance on ad revenue and attract paying subscribers.

Twitter’s general manager for core tech, Nick Caldwell, described Quill as a “fresher, more deliberate way to communicate. We’re bringing their experience and creativity to Twitter as we work to make messaging tools like DMs a more useful and expressive way people can have conversations on the service”.

Users of Quill have until 11 December to export their team message history before the servers are fully shut down at 1pm PST (9pm Irish time). The announcement has instructions for users who wish to import their chat history into Slack and states that all active teams will be issued full refunds.

The team thanked its users and said: “We can’t wait to show you what we’ll be working on next.”

Quill was launched in February with the goal to remove the overwhelming aspects of other messaging services and give users a more deliberate and focused form of online chat.

In an online post, Quill creator Ludwig Pettersson said: “We started Quill to increase the quality of human communication. Excited to keep doing just that, at Twitter.”

The company became a potential competitor for Slack, which was bought by Salesforce at the end of 2020 for $27.7bn. The goal of that acquisition was to combine Salesforce’s CRM platform with Slack’s communications tools to create a unified service tailored to digital-led teams around the world.

Last week, Salesforce announced the promotion of Bret Taylor to vice-chair and co-CEO, just days after he was appointed independent chair of Twitter after CEO Jack Dorsey stepped down.

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