Watch Tesla's Autopilot Save a Driver from a Nasty Collision

It was a dark and stormy night when a car accident was prevented by very cool technology.

Tesla's Autopilot feature has been put to the test and there's video footage to prove it.

It was a dark and stormy night, the driver going straight down the road at 45 mph when, all of a sudden, a vehicle turned in front of his car. Good thing he was in a Tesla equipped with the latest Autopilot software, or else there may have been an accident.

The poster wrote that he was “watching stopped traffic to [his] right” when the car turned in front of him. “I did not touch the brake. Car did all the work.”

However, this close shave doesn't mean we should give ourselves over to our robotic chauffeurs. Tesla's Autopilot is not a substitute for driving. The feature is not a reason to take your hands off the wheel to shave and butter your rolls with jam. It's more of an advanced cruise control. However, some people have chosen to use it as a reason to clock out while driving, misusing the feature, and risking their own lives and the lives of others in the process. One second of inattention could be the difference between noticing that oncoming vehicle or not. 

This idea was well-illustrated in National Geographic's show Brain Games. In the episode, "Pay Attention" (around the 8:07 mark), narrator Neil Patrick Harris asks the viewer to count the number of things that change in an image after a second of black. The test “gives remarkable insight as to how much of the world you're missing at any given moment,” Harris says.

What Tesla's Autopilot is, is a tool people can use to make driving down the highway a more relaxing experience, but it requires supervision.

Brad Templeton likens the feature to the development of cruise control. “With regular cruise control, you could take your feet off the pedals, but might have to intervene fairly often either by using the speed-adjust buttons or full control,” he writes in his blog. “Interventions could be several times a minute. Later, 'Adaptive Cruise Control' arose, which still required you to steer and fully supervise, but would only require intervention on the pedals rarely on the highway. A few times an hour might be acceptable.”

It's a numbers game, and Tesla is working toward reducing how often drivers will have to intervene. 

Tesla's system will no doubt encounter scenarios it didn't expect, which is where you, the attentive driver, swoop in to correct the vehicle. We're witnessing a coming-of-age story for autonomous cars and at this point in the story we are the parents. There will be stumbles during this period, but drivers are supposed to be watching to catch it when it does fail. Eventually, the data collected from these encounters will help to train the next generation of software updates that will bring humanity closer to the unmanned car. Tesla drivers are training the cars of 2020.


Natalie has been writing professionally for about 6 years. After graduating from Ithaca College with a degree in Feature Writing, she snagged a job at where she had the opportunity to review all the latest consumer gadgets. Since then she has become a writer for hire, freelancing for various websites. In her spare time, you may find her riding her motorcycle, reading YA novels, hiking, or playing video games. Follow her on Twitter: @nat_schumaker

Photo Credit: Jon Hall

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Why are so many objects in space shaped like discs?

It's one of the most consistent patterns in the unviverse. What causes it?

  • Spinning discs are everywhere – just look at our solar system, the rings of Saturn, and all the spiral galaxies in the universe.
  • Spinning discs are the result of two things: The force of gravity and a phenomenon in physics called the conservation of angular momentum.
  • Gravity brings matter together; the closer the matter gets, the more it accelerates – much like an ice skater who spins faster and faster the closer their arms get to their body. Then, this spinning cloud collapses due to up and down and diagonal collisions that cancel each other out until the only motion they have in common is the spin – and voila: A flat disc.

Scientists study tattooed corpses, find pigment in lymph nodes

It turns out, that tattoo ink can travel throughout your body and settle in lymph nodes.

17th August 1973: An American tattoo artist working on a client's shoulder. (Photo by F. Roy Kemp/BIPs/Getty Images)

In the slightly macabre experiment to find out where tattoo ink travels to in the body, French and German researchers recently used synchrotron X-ray fluorescence in four "inked" human cadavers — as well as one without. The results of their 2017 study? Some of the tattoo ink apparently settled in lymph nodes.

Image from the study.

As the authors explain in the study — they hail from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment — it would have been unethical to test this on live animals since those creatures would not be able to give permission to be tattooed.

Because of the prevalence of tattoos these days, the researchers wanted to find out if the ink could be harmful in some way.

"The increasing prevalence of tattoos provoked safety concerns with respect to particle distribution and effects inside the human body," they write.

It works like this: Since lymph nodes filter lymph, which is the fluid that carries white blood cells throughout the body in an effort to fight infections that are encountered, that is where some of the ink particles collect.

Image by authors of the study.

Titanium dioxide appears to be the thing that travels. It's a white tattoo ink pigment that's mixed with other colors all the time to control shades.

The study's authors will keep working on this in the meantime.

“In future experiments we will also look into the pigment and heavy metal burden of other, more distant internal organs and tissues in order to track any possible bio-distribution of tattoo ink ingredients throughout the body. The outcome of these investigations not only will be helpful in the assessment of the health risks associated with tattooing but also in the judgment of other exposures such as, e.g., the entrance of TiO2 nanoparticles present in cosmetics at the site of damaged skin."

Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash
Mind & Brain

Do human beings have a magnetic sense? Biologists know other animals do. They think it helps creatures including bees, turtles and birds navigate through the world.

Keep reading Show less