Long-time Slashdot reader RockDoctor writes: Regardless of their other potential benefits, modern cars, and modern electric cars in particular, involve complex networks of computer code, hardware, and servo systems cooperating (?) to deliver services to the user, like acceleration, steering and braking. Slashdot nerderati know better than most that such complex networks can never show unexpected, non-designed behavior, due to the infallibility of hardware, program coders and system designers… Yeah. Right. “I’ll have some of what he’s been smoking!” That’s Musk-grade optimism.
On Sunday evening, a middle-aged driver in a “brand new” vehicle found it would not decelerate below 30mph (50kmph). He retained steering control, and avoided crashing until police vehicles “boxed in” his vehicle and helped him exit into a police van (most have sliding side doors) from the moving vehicle. The police then “carried out a controlled halt” on the unmanned vehicle, stopping it from driving away with the van’s brakes until a roadside assistance technician arrived 3 hours later and managed to shut it down. “[W]hen the [technician] got to me […] later, he plugged in the car to do a diagnostic check and there was pages of faults,” said the “kidnapped” driver from Glasgow. “He said he had never seen anything like it and decided he was not willing to turn the engine on to see what was wrong.”
By inference, the vehicle did not have a mechanical brake (“hand brake”: English; “parking brake”: American), which should have been able to keep the vehicle halted regardless of the motor’s actions (even if a “clutch” did get burned out). From the only time I’ve been inside an electric car, I can’t say if that is normal; it’s certainly something I’ll look for if I ever rent another. Had the failure happened at 10 a.m. in the morning, not 10 p.m. in the evening, the body count could have been … substantial.
A dumb question, stemming from my only use of an electric car: do they have a weight sensor under the driver’s seat that locks-out the main motor unless there is (say) 30kg in the driver’s seat? Most have some such sensors — they trigger the “seatbelt not fastened” alarm or silence it for empty seats — but whether they can override the drive system … ?