Emergency stopping of self-driving cars

A recent event ….

Recently, a Tesla car was stopped on a road in a very smart way. According to the Geek Wire and Los Altos Online, the police officers used several cars to flank the self-draving vehicle, then they gradually slowed  the rogue car by using the preemptive braking system on the Tesla. I will call it the TFBB procedure, as it appears an easy way to remember the steps.

A four step process

The recipe for success is simple. One has to follow the following four steps:

  • Tail (T)
  • Flank (F)
  • Box (B)
  • Brake (B)

Starting with the second step, each one of them involves more manpower and vehicles than the previous. Also, on a highway with 3 or more lanes in the same direction, there might be another step which becomes obvious after reading the whole article.

stop-self-driving-car-tailing

Tailing

Make a Crown Vic tail the rogue vehicle. This will ensure the self-driving car cannot slow down before changing lanes

stop-self-driving-car-flanking

Flanking

Add a second car to the right of the self-driving vehicle. Normally, the Tesla will  keep going on its own lane. Obviously, in UK the flanking car will be on the left lane. We assume here the Tesla is going on the speed lane.

stop-self-driving-car-boxing.png

Boxing

Put a Crown Vic car in front of the self-driving vehicle. This will ensure a complete surrounding of the self-driving vehicle which normally cannot change direction or accelerate  anymore.

stop-self-driving-car-braking.png

Braking

Once the rogue car is surrounded and based on what is expected from such a vehicle, the three Crown Vics will sloww down gradually. The onboard computer of the Tesla will try to prevent bumping into the preceding car by slowly braking. The laws of physics apply here and the Tesla will halt by itself.

stop-self-driving-car-safety-first.png

Conclusion

It is such a pitty that the Tesla car has no wireless receiver that could halt the car in event of an emergency signal from the  police cars. Maybe the car maker will take into account this event and add a safety feature.

It is clear now that on highways with 3 or more lanes, one needs to do a double flanking, on both sides. In this case, the whole procedure could be summarized by the mnemonic TFFBB.

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