Elon Musk’s Loop gets Autopilot and an intruder, According to TechCrunch Less than a fortnight after its official launch, The Boring Company’s Loop system in Las Vegas had its first security breach.
On June 21, the morning of the ultimate day of the International Beauty Show, an “unauthorized vehicle” joined the system’s fleet of Tesla taxis underground, emails between the Loop’s operations manager and a Clark County official show. The emails were obtained by TechCrunch under public records laws.
The emails provide new insight into the operations of the Loop beyond the intrusion, including the system’s surprising reliance on a non-Tesla electric vehicle, plans to permit Tesla vehicles to use its Autopilot driver assistance system and confirmation within the company ranks that the technology isn’t autonomous.
The Boring Company (TBC) called the Las Vegas Metro Police to handle the intrusion. “The driver of the unauthorized vehicle was cooperative and eventually escorted out of the system,” reads one email.
While there have been no injuries or fatalities as a result of the safety breach, the incident might be embarrassing for TBC, which has touted the safety and safety of its $53 million systems to the LVCC.
According to a management agreement between TBC and therefore the LVCC, the system is meant to possess “physical barriers [to] guard against the entry of accidental, rogue, or otherwise unauthorized vehicles into the tunnels.” These include security gates on roadways into the system and dozens of concrete bollards surrounding its ground-level stations.
Neither TBC nor LVCC skilled inquiries about the incident. TechCrunch will update the article if either party responds to questions.
Autopilot gets an opportunity
The emails obtained by TechCrunch provide quite the exploits of a thrill-seeking trespasser.
The emails also detail plans by TBC to extend the amount of Tesla vehicles within the LVCC Loop from 62 to 70 and to permit the utilization of Tesla Autopilot technologies. Until now, TBC has had to disable all driver assistance technologies on its vehicles, which are operated by human drivers.
The new scope of operations would require the utilization of seven active safety technologies — automatic emergency braking, front and side collision warnings, obstacle-aware acceleration, blind-spot monitoring, lane departure avoidance, emergency lane departure warning also as two “full Autopilot” technologies: lane centering and traffic-aware control.
TBC’s justification for using Autopilot was begun during a letter to the Clark County Department of Building & Fire Prevention in June, obtained by TechCrunch alongside the emails.
TBC president Steve Davis wrote that disabling the features “actively removes a layer of safety,” from a “proven, road-legal technology.” Davis quoted Tesla’s Safety Report for the primary quarter of 2021 that claims Tesla drivers operating with Autopilot experienced crashes at but 1 / 4 the speed of Tesla drivers operating without Autopilot or active safety features, per mile driven. “As demonstrated… disabling these features in Tesla vehicles increases the likelihood of an accident,” wrote Davis.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), however, last week opened a proper safety probe into the technology, following a variety of crashes.
Jerry Stueve, the director of the building and fire protection in Clark County, replied in an email: “We will take this into account, although it’s going to help in our evaluation of this request if you’ll better define the term ‘auto drive and what it entails.”
“Agreed that the term ‘Autopilot’ is usually unclear and may mean many various things counting on the vehicle and scenario,” replied Davis. (In this, he apparently disagrees together with his boss, Elon Musk, who has called criticism of the Autopilot name as misleading “idiotic.”)
“Agreed that the term ‘Autopilot’ is usually unclear and may mean many various things counting on the vehicle and scenario.” – Steve Davis, TBC
“These aren’t ‘autonomous’ nor ‘self-driving vehicles,” continued Davis. “The use of Tesla Autopilot and active safety features adds additional layers of safety while operating the vehicle, however, the utilization of the features still requires a totally attentive driver who is prepared to require over the wheel at any moment.”
Autopilot versus autonomous driving
This distinction is vital because it appears to contradict what TBC has promised LVCC since it first pitched the Loop system. In its land-use application in May 2019, before signing the development construct, TBC wrote: “Tesla Autonomous Electric Vehicles (AEVs) will carry passengers in express, underground tunnels to 3 underground stations.”
A planning document in July 2019 stated: “Utilizing autonomous electric vehicles in underground tunnels may be a unique transportation solution which will minimize disruptions and conflicts to existing buildings and transportation systems.” it’s used similar language in applications ever since, including for a proposed Vegas-wide Loop with dozens of stations.
In January, TechCrunch obtained a management agreement between LVCC and TBC that stated: “[The LVCC] procured the People Mover System, in part, due to the power for People Mover System vehicles to work autonomously … The Agreement recognizes the intent for the System to maneuver from drivers within the vehicles to autonomous operations and provides for a fee renegotiation, no later than New Year’s Eve 2021, incorporating this expected transition in operations.”
That deadline now seems almost bound to be missed. In June, Stueve told Davis: “As stated early within the project, the approval of autonomous operation would require extensive scrutiny, testing, and validation. This process could take a big amount of your time .”
In reply, Davis wrote: “I want to form sure that it’s clear that we aren’t posing for autonomous or self-driving features/operations.”