In The Midst Of An Investigation, NHTSA Wants More Information On Tesla Driver Monitoring Systems

Morning Dump Tesla Driver Monitoring

NHTSA wants to know about how Tesla driver monitoring systems work, Acura brings back the ZDX nameplate, Hino suspends shipments as emissions scandal deepens. All this and more in today’s issue of The Morning Dump.

Welcome to The Morning Dump, bite-sized stories corralled into a single article for your morning perusal. If your morning coffee’s working a little too well, pull up a throne and have a gander at the best of the rest of yesterday.

NHTSA Seeks Information On Tesla Driver Monitoring Systems

Tesla Model 3 touchscreen tesla driver monitoring
Photo credit: Courtesy of Tesla, Inc.

While advanced driver assistance systems do hold promise for making long journeys easier, humans are bad at monitoring things. Thus, almost paradoxically, it’s a good idea to have an electronic system monitoring how the driver’s monitoring an electronic system.

While automakers have experimented with various driver monitoring systems before, the most promising method primarily relies on a camera to monitor where a driver is looking. For example, GM’s Super Cruise and Ford’s BlueCruise both feature face-tracking cameras that ensure drivers are paying attention to what the advanced driver assistance system is doing. Should the driver fail to pay attention, the system will disengage. While some automakers rely on steering wheel torque sensors to confirm that a driver has their hands on the wheel, steering wheel input isn’t necessarily indicative of eyes on the road.

In the wake of several high-profile crashes involving Tesla’s Autopilot advanced driver assistance system, Reuters reports that NHTSA regulators want to know exactly how Tesla driver monitoring systems use in-cabin camera images.

NHTSA’s nine-page letter demands Tesla answer questions by Oct. 12 about “the role that the Cabin Camera plays in the enforcement of driver engagement/attentiveness.”

According to Tesla, the cabin camera — a camera located above the rear view mirror — can determine driver inattentiveness and provide audible alerts to remind the driver to keep their eyes on the road when Autopilot is engaged.

Some independent testing raises questions on what Tesla driver monitoring system components are active when the Autopilot advanced driver assistance system is activated.

Consumer Reports said when it evaluated Tesla’s driver attention monitoring camera in late 2021 “we found that it wasn’t adequate to ensure that the driver was fully paying attention when the driver was using Autopilot and Full Self Driving (FSD) features.”

The magazine said it “could block the in-cabin camera, and the car wouldn’t issue a warning, slow down the car, or shut off the systems.”

In June, Consumer Reports said the company had installed an over-the-air update that issued a warning when the camera is covered while FSD is engaged, but not with Autopilot.

It’s not particularly encouraging to hear that Tesla drivers may not have anything to effectively monitor their use of the Autopilot advanced driver assistance system. An effective driver monitoring system is part of what separates good Level 2 advanced driver assistance systems from bad ones, so it’ll be interesting to see what NHTSA investigators find when looking into Tesla driver monitoring systems. In any case, advanced driver assistance systems have a long and bumpy road ahead. In the meantime, you can read all of NHTSA’s latest requests from Tesla here in this handy nine-page PDF.

The Car Shortage Is Worse Than Expected

car payment
Photo credit: yonkershonda licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

It’s been a rough year for the automotive industry, from the semiconductor shortage to greater supply chain issues. Automotive News reports that the number of cars lost this year due to the semiconductor shortage is greater than forecast, and that’s even before counting cars lost to other supply chain shortages.

About 66,800 vehicles were added by AutoForecast Solutions to its running tally of chip-related production cuts this week, bringing the year-to-date total to nearly 3.1 million vehicles. That’s on top of about 10.5 million vehicles lost to the shortage in 2021.

But this year’s actual total might be higher than any official count indicates, said Sam Fiorani, AutoForecast’s vice president of global vehicle forecasting.

“Outside factors have allowed the lost weekly volumes attributed to semiconductors to be hidden,” Fiorani wrote in an email. “There are now more reasons for shutting down plants, including more parts shortages affected by the global supply chain.”

It isn’t breaking news that fewer cars produced spells bad news for consumers like you and I, but it bears repeating. Insufficient supply for consumer demand drives up prices of both new and used cars, from the bottom of the market to the top. Hopefully automakers will be able to increase production over the coming year to catch up with demand and make cars more affordable for everyone.

Acura Is Bringing Back The ZDX Nameplate

2012 Acura ZDX
Photo credit: Acura

Acura has a name for its upcoming electric crossover, and it’s certainly a familiar one. The future electric crossover promises to be a bit of a throwback for Acura enthusiasts while still having one foot firmly planted in the electric future. Let me explain.

First, there’s the matter of the name. Acura has made the decision to revive the ZDX nameplate last seen on an ill-fated MDX-based coupe crossover roughly a decade ago. Hey, if the branding works and has largely faded from the public eye, why not use it? Interestingly enough, there will be a high-performance Type-S variant of the new ZDX, a sentence I never expected to write in my life. Of all the news from Monterey Car Week, this feels the most like a fever dream.

Then there’s the matter of the new crossover’s origin. Honda’s doesn’t plan on launching its e:Architecture EV platform until 2026, so the new ZDX will be based on GM’s Ultium battery architecture. Not only does this likely mean North American production, it also means that this is Acura’s first SUV based on another automaker’s architecture since the SLX. Granted, the SLX was really just a rebadging of the Isuzu Trooper, but that adds another weird link. The Isuzu Trooper was also sold as the Holden Jackaroo and Opel Monterey, so the SLX wasn’t far off from products sold under GM nameplates abroad.

In any case, expect the new Acura ZDX to enter the market in 2024. If this all feels like a fever dream to you, you’re not the only one. Still, GM’s Ultium battery architecture holds promise, and I’m really curious to see what this new ZDX will look like.

Hino Suspends Shipments As Emissions Scandal Deepens

Hino M Series
Photo credit: Hino

Japanese commercial vehicle manufacturer Hino is having to reap what it’s allegedly sown, and this reaping could last a rather long time. Reuters reports that Hino is suspending shipments of its Dutro commercial vehicle, sold in North America as the M Series, due to the deepening emissions scandal embroiling the company.

“We are extremely disappointed that Hino again betrayed the expectations and trust of its stakeholders,” Toyota President Akio Toyoda said in a statement.

Hino said in a statement that some 76,694 vehicles of its Dutro small truck model were impacted, bringing the total number of vehicles involved in the scandal to more than 640,000.

The automaker said even though the engine for the small trucks was supposed to be tested at least two times at each measurement point, it only tested once at each site.

The latest shipment stoppage means that Hino will be pausing shipment of 60% of its vehicles for the year, a spokesperson said. It will continue to ship Dutro’s 1.5 T truck model since Toyota makes its engines, the spokesperson added. Hino sold just 187 units of the model in the 2021 financial year.

While none of this looks good for Hino, I’m really not sure if it’s particularly surprising. In an honor system, there’s not much incentive to be honorable when profits are on the line. If it was really easy to cheat on emissions reporting and the likelihood of being caught was fairly low, the reward would definitely outweigh the risk. Needless to say, we’ll keep you updated as the Hino emissions scandal continues to develop.

The Flush

Whelp, time to drop the lid on today’s edition of The Morning Dump. It’s a rainy Monday here in Toronto, and days indoors often have me fantasizing about car parts. Today, I have an important question for you. What car parts do you reckon are worth ordering from the dealer parts counter? I’m not talking about specialized stuff like electronic modules and interior panels, I’m talking about stuff that’s otherwise available aftermarket. For me, my local BMW dealers typically offer really, really good deals on batteries that often undercut what generic auto parts stores price economy-line replacement batteries at. As a bonus, OEM batteries generally tend to last longer than cheapo generic batteries, so going to the dealership for a battery will save me money both now and down the road.

Lead photo credit: Courtesy of Tesla, Inc.

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37 Responses

  1. An OEM only part are wiper blade refills. They work better and last longer than any aftermarket ones I’ve tried. Also some suspension bits, like the Tokico made rear shocks for my Toyota. Every other aftermarket option is a rebranded Chinese unit.

    1. But wiper blades are typically sourced to one of the common blade suppliers, and therefore, can typically be purchased for less somewhere other than a dealer’s parts counter. My Volvo came from the factory with Bosch blades, but I buy refills from Amazon. Amazon even sells a set with one 20″ and one 26″ like my car uses.

      1. Yeah, they’re typically sourced to one of a few major suppliers. However, every OEM is going to have a certain set of spec’s that the product will need to meet. These specs will determine the performance, longevity and quality of the product. These same specs will need to be met for parts sold at dealer service as well. The parts you buy at your local NAPA, however, do not need to meet any spec other than the ones decided on by the wiper manufacturer. So yeah, you could have two Trico blades that are seemingly indistinguishable to the naked eye but they could perform very different in the real world.

    2. You need to make sure you’re sourcing like-for-like with rare exceptions.
      Porsche has very specialized wiper blades where generic refills just absolutely will not work. You will get superior wiping on what they do cover, but the windshield curvature means they just don’t work right. Ironically, the dealer parts are cheaper too, despite being far more complex. (Certain Porsches have actual aerodynamically designed wiper blades so they don’t lift and snap back, breaking the windshield at speeds over 160MPH.)

      But when it comes to wipers? Trico invented the wiper blade in 1917 and ODMs for many US manufacturers alongside Tenneco, Valeo (France) and Bosch (Germany) OEM for many of the Europeans alongside Hella and Heyner, and most Japanese cars use Denso or Mitsuba.

      The ones that cost less are invariably ones that are simply made as cheaply as possible. I put Bosch Icon series on pretty much everything because they’re tremendously better than OEM, but they also cost 1.5-2x as much.

  2. Hino what he did…

    I once had to get some of that expensive magical sacred coolant that VW specifies. I happened to be near a Canadian Tire, so I went to the service desk and asked them if they have an equivalent. They said no, but they had the OEM stuff available. They quoted me exactly half the cost of what the dealer quoted. I asked where they got it from, they said they get all of their manufacturer proprietary parts from the manufacturer for their service bays, but are allowed to sell them via their parts desk and corporate obviously thought they were making a reasonable enough mark up.

    It”s always worth the trouble to ask.

      1. (OT)
        Had to thumb andyindividual up there for spelling ‘carb’ with 2 ‘t’s. It’s been a decade or more since I looked after a certain Morris Minor, but I typed carburettor SO many times while the people on an Aussie MM forum helped me sort it that’s it’s kinda hard-wired now. (I mean, you ‘tuned’ the response by changing the grade of oil[!] in it: Cain’t do ‘at with only 1 T, kin ya?)

  3. On Tesla’s driver monitoring:
    When Using FSD Beta, the cabin camera is mandatory and the system won’t function without it.
    When using Autopilot (aka fancy lane keeping) blocking the camera causes the system to default to the steering wheel torque sensor with an interval of 10-15 seconds.

    Note that Tesla’s torque sensing has become more sophisticated, and attempts to detect weighted objects (static weight) vs. human hands (dynamic load). If a weighted object is suspected, it will temporarily increase the torque-on-the-wheel requirement.

  4. I make $0.88 an eon to work part time on a rusty Jeep. I never thought it was possible but my closest friend easily made $27.000 in 3 days with this taillight offer and Mercedes scooter she delighted me to join. .Visit the following article for new information on how to access Holy Grail……._____ httd5://stopthebots.botstop.ru/

  5. “Japanese commercial vehicle manufacturer Hino is having to reap what it’s allegedly sown, and this reaping could last a rather long time. Reuters reports that Hino is suspending shipments of its Dutro commercial vehicle, sold in North America as the M Series, due to the deepening emissions scandal embroiling the company.”

    Did I not call this a week ago, and say it could be as big as dieselgate? I’m not the Great Kreskin, but I’m gonna sit in my ‘I told you so’ chair for the rest of the month.
    And lest you think the Hino M-series is small potatoes and not going to have massive knock-on effects? Those are one of the best selling commercial trucks in all of North America. Affordable enough for landscapers, contractors, cities, and small construction firms to pick them up new, and enough volume for fleets to buy in bulk. And they hold resale value incredibly well as well. (Well, they did. Probably not for much longer.)
    Ford and GMC can trot out all the bullshit they want about their pickups being the ‘best selling commercial trucks,’ but they aren’t even in the same class. They’re pickup trucks. Hinos are vocational trucks, an entirely different market. And Ford doesn’t offer anything over a Class 4 really. (That’d be the F600.) And Hino sold 4,143 light duty (Class 3 and smaller) and 9,925 heavy duty (Class 4 and above) trucks in North America for FY2022.
    “That’s a tiny number!” No, that’s a HUGE number. For the entire country, there were 356,000 new Class 3-5 truck registrations for all of 2021. Subtract Ford counting every ‘commercial’ F-series as one of those, and 15k is a pretty damn significant market share. Especially when you consider Hino doesn’t offer any of their Class 7 or 8 trucks here.

    I was going to say this could have very serious knock-on effects with the ongoing shortages, but then I realized, that’s inaccurate. This absolutely will have very serious knock-on effects. Not because commercial owners can’t get new trucks; it’s because Hino’s emissions fuckery means that they are legally prohibited from selling non-compliant parts to fix non-compliant trucks. So if the owner needs a new interior door pull, they’ll have no problems there. But if it’s time for an engine rebuild or the ECU is having problems, they could be looking at the truck they need to run their business being out of commission for months. Which if they can’t immediately source a replacement, could put them out of business on the spot.

    Today, I have an important question for you. What car parts do you reckon are worth ordering from the dealer parts counter? I’m not talking about specialized stuff like electronic modules and interior panels, I’m talking about stuff that’s otherwise available aftermarket.

    ANYTHING that is electrical. If you aren’t buying 100% for certain ODM, and you aren’t buying from the dealer, then you’re just a fool being separated from their money. Period. None of the aftermarket electrical parts are built to any standard. Sensors, motors, switches, they’re all complete fucking trash at best. And you won’t be getting the best. You’re getting a part that has at least a 25% chance of failing in such a manner that it will cause damage to the electrical system.

    Bulbs obviously are an exception, except mostly they aren’t. You need a long life bulb? AutoStoned will charge you $8 for a pair of Sylvania 3157LL’s which are built to a lower standard. The dealer will sell you the same part built to a higher standard (they never want to warranty bulbs) for about $4.50 each. Those standards by the way? Sylvania is a good brand, and the blister pack offers you a 12 month warranty but a rated life of just 2000 hours (which is fine for brake lights to be clear.) The bulbs Chrysler and FCAtlantis will sell you have a rated life of no less than 4000 hours.
    I’ll spare you all the explanation on lumens, voltage, and how lifetime is rated on incandescent bulbs. Suffice to say that the dealer part in this case is quite obviously a superior part which is often made by the exact same company.

    But aftermarket fuel injector? Fuck no. Knock sensor? Not in a million years. Those are highly precise piezoelectric elements that some wood-framed workshop in rural China couldn’t care less about being accurate. Fuel pumps? Holy fuck the sheer number of stories of not even being correct in the most basic of things like actually fitting in the fuel tank. Though my all time favorite by far and away has got to be sub-harnesses. I watched a body shop spend two days troubleshooting why the aftermarket sub-harness that was demanded by the insurance company kept blowing the headlight fuse while the turn signals were completely non-functional. Not only were the connectors too loose (resulting in the headlights severely over-amping) and the wires of an inappropriate gauge, the wiring wasn’t even correct. On the simplest thing you could possibly imagine.

    1. Yep, makes sense why NAPA blower motors for my old Jeep Liberty last 6 months at best.

      Fortunately, they warranty them for 12 months and I can change one out in less than 10 minutes after much practice.

      Next time I’ll grab one from the dealership. Won’t be long.

    2. Re: Commercial Trucks

      You’re talking about a pretty specific market niche of class 3 to 5. Most of the players in the big commercial truck space only go as low as Class 6, and even then, they tend to be hilariously overbuilt because they’re intended to span from 6 up to Class 7 or even Baby 8’s. With respect to Ford’s offerings, they go up to Class 7 with the F-750. All of the SuperDuty variants are offered as chassis cabs comparable, similar to the Hino. Hino does offer class 6 – 8 vehicles in the US (L6, L7, XL7, XL8). My overall point is that Ford spans more market segments than you listed, there are other players in and adjacent to the space, and Hino has held a relatively low market share in overall commercial truck sales. Your point about it being a cost-competitive new vehicle in a commercial vehicle space not requiring a CDL most likely still stands.

      Also, I agree that this will have knock-on effects. The regulators got a lot of testing resources and lost a lot of patience due to dieselgate. This is only going to add fuel to that fire.

      1. Exactly. You’ve basically got two major players in the space: Hino and Isuzu/GM. That’s your reefer box truck, small-mid contractor/construction space as an example. And of course, those ‘overbuilt’ ones are also orders of magnitude more expensive both to buy and maintain. Ridiculously so. A Freightliner Class 6 dumptruck costs as much as a Class 7 or Class 8.

        And I do stand corrected; Ford’s site is fuckery. Their official commercial truck site that a quick Google takes you to lists nothing above the F600, all chassis. The F650 and up is on a completely different area. Typical Ford. “NO, YOU BUY F150. NO CARS, F150. NO VAN, F150!” But I do know they’re very much not a serious contender in the Class 6+ space for reasons we both know. And I’m not really a heavy trucks guy. ;P

        But for the years I had data, Hino was not selling the 6-8’s at the time or simply didn’t provide those numbers. And their sales numbers there are very small. In certain niches though, Hino is pretty dominant – particularly north of the border. But in the box and stake truck space? You’ll find the rare Ford now and again, but it’s all Hino and Isuzu for the smaller stuff. Anything under a Class 6 or under 24′, you’re going to find Isuzu NPRs, NQRs, and Hinos, with the rare Kenworth (at obscene prices.) Plus a number of Hino 300-series for larger ones. But LOTS of Hinos both for sale and on the road.
        How many? In Class 4-6 box trucks on TruckPaper, there are 957 Isuzus and Hinos for sale, and 215 Fords (most of which are completely worn out or Class 3’s,) while Freightliner and International have 2257 listed combined, most Class 6. So it’s not a completely dominant position, but Hino definitely has a very, very large share of the market.

        And a big part of that is the money. A 2019 Hino 155 Class 4 box truck with 100k miles and an automatic transmission will cost you $56k. (Enterprise Rental buys almost nothing but Hinos.) A comparable International will cost you quite literally twice as much, Freightliner more than twice as much, and your Ford option is a 7.3 gasoline engine – a deal breaker for many.

        1. It’s an interesting niche for sure. One could argue that Hino has been so cheap for so long because they haven’t been meeting the emissions regulations…. 😉

          In my area, I don’t see a lot of reefers, contractors, landscape crews, or construction using trucks in that class. They either bump up to a class 6, or they’re using class 3’s to haul trailers. There is one landscaping crew using an Isuzu box truck with a giant perforated steel ramp to run their mowers up into it, but I can’t recall the last class 4-5 stake truck I’ve seen. The way I see the trailers get used, the low load height and the ability to leave the trailer in place while doing other tasks with the truck are maximized. I wonder if that’s a true efficiency gain, or just making the most of a sub-optimal solution. In a more urban environment, or one with tighter streets in general, I could see trailers becoming less attractive.

  6. Wiper blade inserts. I had no idea that the trend today is to replace the entire arm. Screw that! $30 bucks with tip and all three blade inserts were installed on my Honda.

    P.S., despite clearly saying I’m logged in, the comment wouldn’t take until I logged in…

  7. I have no clue what is better at the dealer, cause I have never tried. Hmmm…. Now your causing me to think about that instead of just going to Autozone. I don’t like this thought experiment one bit!

  8. I buy all sensors, critical things like coil packs & fuel injectors, and chemistry from the dealer network. 17 years of ‘80s EA-motored Subarus and 20 years of 123 & 126 diesel Mercedes taught me the value of just stepping up wallet-wise when it comes to certain things.

    It’s not blind loyalty, but I value my free time more now. I’ll check the forums to see if an aftermarket brand is worth the time putting it on. If not, I’ve literally eaten PB&J for lunch for a couple weeks to cover the correct part: I’d rather be out exploring backroads than wanting to throw a wrench thru the windshield replacing something the 2nd time.

  9. I had to replace a coolant valve last winter and I went with the OEM one because by all accounts the aftermarket versions only last for a year or two, and the worst part is they aren’t even that much cheaper than the OEM part that will go 10+ years. I also went OEM on the ATF and coolant since they get replaced so rarely that the minimal extra cost really doesn’t hurt that much.

  10. I don’t drive a VW, but I am told that their oil filters are cheapest at the dealer, and the oil is, too. There is a guy in my hometown who gets oil at wholesale and says he can’t even get oil as cheap as VW, so he takes his into the dealership 45 minutes away.

      1. Hey if you don’t flush the blinker fluid, those tiny little passages in the bulb get clogged, and the turn signal stops working. I get it done 2 times each oil change. And replace the muffler bearing too. My mechanic says it can’t be greased. He says he gets it done on his Ferrari regularly. And he is a good mechanic. He treats his customers so well we want to pay him good. He deserves the vacation home he just bought.

      2. Not only can they get you on the “necessary” repairs, but I’m sure you end up waiting near new VWs and a salescritter will happily walk you through all the things they have improved since you purchased yours.

  11. Bill Gates still has a stock position that is shorting Tesla, right?
    Kinda starting to see why.

    I never liked the stories that Musk was suspending or outright eliminating engineering QC tests that the industry regards as standard, and there were many other things happening that raised flags in my tiny little engineering brain, but this feels like its gonna be the start of a slide.

  12. There are only good outcomes from these NHTSA investigations. Everyone has their opinions and theories off what is going on but until the investigations are complete, we will not know. I think it’s important for all companies going forward as the technology grows.

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