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Anti-Tesla IEEE Report Mysteriously Disappears From Duke Pratt School of Engineering’s Website

I saw an odd comment on Reddit about my article on the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) report on Tesla’s Autopilot System. Someone shared the article on Reddit and u/norman_rogerson mentioned that the link to the full report was broken. Very, very odd. I looked over that report with my own two eyes and linked it directly. So I went back to my article and clicked the link expecting to find it again. It led to something new, though. The report is no longer available on Duke Pratt School of Engineering’s website.

I went back to the author’s tweet to see if it was still available. The link was still there, but it did now redirect to the webpage about Robotic Arm—Manual Interface. However, the Wayback Machine has an archive of the report for those who want to read it. Click here for that.

When I brought this up with a few Tesla Twitter friends, one of them, Jessica Meckmann, had the ingenuity to screenshot the URL of the link and shared the screenshot with me. Notice the web address still has “IEEE Tesla” in it.

Jessica’s screenshot.

It seems that the Duke Pratt School of Engineering may have taken that IEEE report down after some backlash, perhaps because one of the authors works for a company specializing in radar and lidar tech that is a competitor of Tesla’s — and especially since Tesla doesn’t use this kind of tech (radar and lidar) for its autonomous driving.

I find this quite interesting and wonder if any outlets that may have used the report or if anyone citing the report will notice that it’s no longer available on the website without the aid of the Wayback Machine archival site. I also wonder if Duke University will issue a public retraction, and I am curious to see how the IEEE will react as well.

There’s more, though.

This was a peer-reviewed report. Elango Vanangamudi noted that on the Wayback Machine’s link , there was another version on August 21st which showed that the authors removed the line “Given the recent deaths of two people in a Tesla Model 3 when the car reportedly crashed because no one was in the driver’s seat. …” It noted that there was just that one edit made before publishing. However, this is not the case with this anti-Tesla IEEE report, which still included the false or misleading line.

Jessica confirmed this in the file comparison. The screenshots below are from her. The first one is the recently updated one dated August 22. The second one is the original. Take note of the texts in the red box. I find it incredibly odd that the authors went back and edited the published peer reviewed report after being called out for bias on Twitter.

Screenshot by Jessica Meckmann used with permission

Screenshot by Jessica Meckmann used with permission

There’s more fishiness about the report. I didn’t get into those details in the other article because I wanted to call out the bias politely. I didn’t expect that the report would be taken down, but thanks to the Internet Archive and Wayback Machine, those reports are still accessible — the original and the edited versions.

A lot of folks in the Tesla community reported being blocked by the author when they asked her questions about the report. I remember that tweet she made about folks trolling her, which is why in that previous article, I wanted to emphasize that this was not a call to harass or troll her. However, her actions, her biased stance against Tesla, and the report being taken down all imply that she doesn’t care about accuracy at all — at least to me. And if she did, she wouldn’t be going on CNN to go off on Tesla.

She joined host Michael Smerconish, who told her upfront that he is a Tesla owner:

“I drive a Tesla and I love it, and I use the function that we’re now discussing, and my own perspective is one of these crashes largely being the result of human factors.

“When I read about these different accidents, I see people making mistakes like they do with or without the so-called Autopilot function, like the guy who dropped the phone and then bends down to pick up the phone and bad things then ensue. Or the driver who’s drunk shouldn’t have been drunk. What’s your reaction?”

The author replied:

“Well, it is true that Tesla does make it clear in the manuals that you always need to be in control and despite the public advertising of Full-Self Driving or Autopilot that you the human are in control. So there’s no disputing that Tesla, at least from a legal standpoint, understands that the driver is supposed to be in control.

“But the problem is that humans, again because they get easily bored and they see that the car is good enough and we’ve seen this for more than 20 years in human factors research that if automation or autonomy is pretty good, even if it’s deeply flawed, people will still basically see the automation as a legitimate authority and then start to engage in complacency, distraction, and indeed the car lulls people into a false sense of security.

“I think that’s the problem is that in just a half a second a lot of really bad things can happen in your car.”

She also suggested that Tesla should drop the name Autopilot.

“I actually do think words matter. We should not be using words like Autopilot and Full-Self Driving because it does convey to people that the car is more capable than it is.

“I can assure you that there’s a ton of people on Twitter that are very angry at me for speaking out and I want to be clear that this isn’t just a Tesla problem,”

The Tesla community isn’t mad at the author for “speaking out,” but we are a bit upset about the bias that she represents. She serves on the board of Veoneer, which listed Tesla as one of its competitors in its 2020 annual report. In fact, many had questions about her report that she just ignored. Such as this one:

You can watch the full interview here for more.

I do want to point out that her stance on boredom being a factor is actually pretty fair. We all get bored easily, but this isn’t Tesla’s fault. If we are going to blame Tesla because its drivers get bored and mess up, then we need to blame all manufacturers for their customers getting bored and having some type of accident. I’m coming for you, Farberware. Kidding!

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