Misc OpenPilot notes after a 3,000 mile road trip (Part 2)

I’m clever, clever enough to title my last post as Part 1 so I’d be forced to write a Part 2 before moving onto other topics. I’ll focus more on the human factor of car autonomy for this post.

We decided to drive from Fort Meyers, FL to Indianapolis, IN all in one shot. It ended up being a ~20 hour drive, ~1,100 miles. It’s the longest, most exhausting drive I’ve ever been on, and it wouldn’t have been possible without OpenPilot.

Some of the drive data

Vehicle autonomy is interesting. On one hand, it frees the human from having to perform many observations and actions a second. On the other, it could lull you into a mindset of reduced situational awareness. There is no doubt that mental and physical fatigue is reduced with autonomy, but I feel as if it comes at a cost.

Look closely on the left. There’s a car stopped, blocking the two left lanes

It only takes a second any time that you are driving to be involved in a fatal accident. The above video was during a test loop of OpenPilot on the interstate. Earlier on that drive, I was messing about with my cell phone to dial in live-tuning settings for PID, my awareness was not on the road.

OpenPilot, at the time, did not have stopped vehicle detection, and even if it did on this drive, it’s unlikely that vision and radar would have picked up a black car at night, and a side profile at that. The collision would have been catastrophic, possibly fatal at 75MPH for not only me, but the driver of the spun out car.

Luckily, there was other traffic ahead and I noticed the brake lights of the cars ahead, causing me to pay attention. Even then, the vehicle was difficult to spot. Notice the swerving semi by the end of the video.

Do a favor for me and stop reading this to consider, how do you perceive OpenPilot? Is it some wizbang self-driving thing that you look for opportunities to share with friends and family at every opportunity? Be honest, do you pay less attention and/or play with your car’s infotainment system or cell phone while OP is engaged? Do you frequently drive with your hands off, and away from the steering wheel?

If your sentiment is anything other than an enhanced cruise control system, you are gravely mistaken, and will be for a long time as “self driving” is much, much further out.

Why?

  • Radar can’t detect static objects, like stopped cars. Otherwise, every single object like sign posts and telephone poles, manhole covers would cause your brakes to slam on.
  • Vision radar (new in 0.6.x) CAN detect stopped cars, but shouldn’t be relied upon. The training set isn’t fit to detect stopped cars in all situations, and certainly not situations like where a kid on a bicycle darts in front of your car (true story).
  • The cameras in our obsolete phones that run OP can often defocus and not see anything at all in front of you, especially when it’s raining (I had several times where OP focused on the rain beads on the windshield and not the road).
  • OP currently relies upon lane lines, with some limited “laneless” path prediction. Count on slamming into a concrete barrier if you go through a construction zone and lane lines are misidentified (and you are fucking around, staring at your crotch on your phone).

The most dangerous aspect of OpenPilot is how good it is, and how much further it has improved, and will improve. It’s to the point where you can achieve a ~80% engagement rate over 3,000 miles; and it’s the slim chance that something CAN go wrong with OP engaged that’ll get you. Humans are interesting creatures. If you drive a few thousand miles, many months with OpenPilot and it acts a certain way all other times, at what point do you loose the perception that OP could not detect a stopped car ahead of you (and you just so happen to be playing on your cellphone)?

At what point do you sit back and slip into pure observation, no longer interfacing with the car actively? Or, what if you come across a situation on the interstate where a car is spun out ahead of you and a snap judgement will be the only thing that saves you? A few people have fallen asleep with OP engaged, one woke up some hours later and was fine. The other smashed into the car in front of them, the accelerator still applying gas after he crashed into them.

One thing became immediately apparent to me. The last few hours of the drive, neither of us were fit to be driving. Our awareness was lapsed due to fatigue, our eyes tired, I was even a little dizzy. Still, we pressed on. It came to the point where it felt dangerous to NOT have OpenPilot engaged as it was driving better than I was.

I don’t want to come across as overly alarmist, but I am trying to scare you a little. You must remain ready, and willing to take over controls at any moment, especially when driving with OpenPilot. You must know your limits and be able to make a judgment call to find somewhere to get some rest, it’ll creep up on you, trust me.

With all of that said, I still greatly enjoy OpenPilot. I wouldn’t have preferred the trip without it. However, one must remain aware, and engaged with their vehicle, ready to take over at a moment’s notice. My advice? Disengage OP and drive yourself every so often to stay acquainted with the car’s controls, especially when tired. It’ll become immediately apparent just how disoriented you are at any given moment.

Cleanup

I love writing and wish to do it daily. However, not all things need to be shared. Writing helps me process, gain introspection.

There is a question of vulnerability and the concept of being vulnerable to those who are close to you. It’s a finite resource, and I’ve yet to find a balance of what I wish to accomplish in private, and the stories that I want to share publicly.

I have plenty of stories and experiences to share; I want the ones I share to be positive or ones of growth.


Fly me to the moon

The local airport had an open house. Airplane rides, Huey, food, and socialization. Lola has never been on an airplane before, it was time to fix that.

Amanda climbed into the copilot seat, mom and Lola climbed in the back of the four-seater Cessna.


A just discovered favorite from the Pacific Coast

No matter where we go, what we do, I find myself in love with life, my partner, our little family.

Salt Lake & Indiana Days 6 & 7 – Anxiety, Nausea, and the feeling of Home

The second the airplane tires hit the ground in Indianapolis we cheered, “We are home!”


Let’s do a recap of the bad first so that I can end on a high note. Turbulence coming into Salt Lake City (SLC) Airport fucking sucked. We were in a holding pattern and looped a few times with 50MPH wind gusts. The wings of the airplane (and our stomachs) were flapping around, some gasps from the other passengers.

I dug in, braced my body and meditated, thought about being on top of a rock. I dug my thigh into the aisle armrest and concentrated on the pain as a grounding point. I could feel my heart trying to jump out of my chest. I continued to hold it together, not vomit or panic (but thought on the edge of such). This went on for what seemed to be forever until we finally hit the ground, controlling my breathing and doing such from my diaphragm.

Amanda (who loves rollercoasters) was rather sick herself from the motion. She comments that we would rent a car and drive 12 hours home if she would have vomited.

Upon boarding the next airplane, I panicked and tried convincing myself,  Amanda to rent a car for the rest of the journey. She was supportive and asked what she could do. Once we passed the threshold and boarded the plane, I relaxed and didn’t give myself a way out. I was doing this, the power to be miserable, or enjoy the flight was my choice, my perception.

Once we were in the air, I returned to my normal flight postures. We watched a movie, I spent some time gazing out the window (dusk 30,000 feet up is beautiful), and the air was perfectly smooth the rest of the way home.


Here’s the self-analysis and takeaways.

  • Driving home would have sucked (and be more dangerous than just flying the last three-hour stretch). It would have been 12 hours overnight. I would have regretted driving.
  • I suffer from motion sickness and would have benefited from medication for such. I had such medicine on me but did not take it as:
    • I’ve never taken it before and don’t like taking medication unless I do so first in a controlled environment (like home).
    • The turbulence started suddenly and ended within 15 minutes. The medication may not have begun working in time.
    • It would be beneficial to try it first at home, then use it as a tool to manage such sensations as a preventive measure next time I fly.
  • The anxiety was centered around the sensation of nausea, and my paranoia of vomiting. The same feelings are duplicated by the “Rocking ship” (everyday fair ride), and the centrifuge (space mountain, Disney).
  • Exposure to further nausea stimulus would help normalize the experience for me, just as being a passenger in a motor vehicle has over the last few years. I’ve known pilots who sit and spin in a chair to reduce dizziness by becoming exposed, and comfortable to it.

I am proud of myself. I managed the anxiety well and used my tools such as deep breathing and meditation to center myself and not allow the physical sensations to become a recursive mechanism to a full-blown panic attack. I recovered quickly and prepared myself for the next flight; then didn’t give myself a way out past the point of no return.

And I think that overall, I’ve concentrated and led myself to believe that these experiences (over the past week) are seeds which will grow within me. That the more I do, the more I can do. That all experiences, all emotions can lead to growth, or at the least, we have the lenses to choose how we perceive them.

I can be better here; I can be more patient there. I can express kindness when feeling like this, or like that. I can show that I need some time alone now, or then. I can rally and push myself out into something unknown or uncomfortable then, or there. I can appreciate this experience, that one; I can be appreciative of all these experiences.

My body is doing this, or that. Here’s a new sensation, here’s one that’s usually scary, here’s one that is generally warm. Can we observe these sensations from a place of non-judgemental curiosity? What’s the root emotion here? Where does this come from?

Wanting nothing, and appreciating everything. Choosing to see the good aspects of humanity around us. Talking to someone in the airport which seems nervous; asking them their name and about their life. Smiling in the airport, while boarding and carrying love in your bones for others. Wishing people good weekends and giving your eye contact. These things are grounding.


I feel the whole experience away from home, across the country seeded much growth in me. Everytime that I’m anxious, I look back at all the things I’ve done in my life, all that I’ve overcome; and now I have this experience as the benchmark until the next one. You never quite know how strong you are, until being strong is the only option, and I keep looking forward to more opportunities.

And the next time someone asks me to fly with them? Certainly, if I can sit next to you and hold your hand.

Vulnerability is a tornado

“I had a friend tell me that vulnerability to them was the feeling of not knowing whether your nightmare is materializing in front of your eyes or if it is the sun rising to save you. This seems to be a pretty common theme with people. Vulnerability is scary. You can’t hide in vulnerability; you cannot cover up with it and pretend not to exist. There is no such thing as Vulnerability & Chill. Vulnerability is not light or easy. Vulnerability is not the neighbor stopping by with mis-delivered mail or casserole dishes. It does not like to knock politely and wait to be invited in. Vulnerability is a tornado. It is fierce, unexpected, and likely to knock you off your feet.

To me, vulnerability is the reason I am still here. Vulnerability is what makes my life important and worthwhile. It is what makes me feel alive. I want vulnerability in my daily tasks. I want vulnerability to be #1 on my to do list. I want vulnerability in every conversation. I want the rawness that comes with being open to be ever present. Vulnerability is one of the few things that is always worth my time. It is what makes poetry, poetry. It is responsible for your voice shaking when you are getting really honest. It is a release, a realness, an awakening, or a burden finally lifted.”

Spotlight Effect

“First, we have an egocentric bias in how we assess our actions and appearance to others. We’re the centre of our world, which deludes us into exaggerating our importance. To many others around us, what we do is largely a non-event. It’s highly likely that they’re caught up in their own spotlights.

It also makes sense since no one else follows us around the clock and so they don’t see the same things that we do. But we’re so used to seeing things from our own perspective, we struggle to accurately judge what other people’s perspective is like.

Second, there is what psychologists call the illusion of transparency. Here’s an example they provide…”

Continue reading this article on Medium — Spotlight Effect: Why no one else remembers what you did

“But more importantly, there’s no need to be obsessed with what others think of us. The reality is that everyone has greater concerns — themselves. So speak your mind. Take some risks. Be the man in the arena.”

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Theodore Roosevelt – Citizenship in a Republic

‘Manda

We talked online for a few days, but when the time finally came to meet her at a breakfast place in real life, I had reservations. I felt like I had my fill of those who label themselves as “feminist”, and I was unsure what to make of someone whom labels themselves as queer, who was previously married to a cis female who self identified as butch.

Long story short, I needed to be able to feel wanted by a future partner. Hugs, kisses, nights sleeping next to each other with our feet touching, communication, vulnerability, and sexual intimacy; viewed as a further expression of love and connection, instead of some shallow fantasies (which in truth, were nothing more than public displays of sexuality for attention and unhealthy self body image validation). Such is not to “be expected”, but required in what I want, and need to be happy.

I have grown to refuse to believe that I should feel bad, or allow myself to be male shamed for wanting vulnerability and intimacy in a relationship of my own choosing, even if I so happen to identify as a male. This is the core tenant of why my past relationship ended (also, the infidelities) and my only regret is not leaving, much, much sooner. If I had only listened to my therapist.. but hindsight is 20/20.

I was recently out of several poor first date experiences, and didn’t have high expectations. My goals were to finally be brazen enough to be aware of my needs, and turn those down in which I didn’t foresee a healthy relationship in. What a concept! Finding my own self worth, love, and finally knowing that I’d be okay being alone, instead tripping all over myself for the first person who glances my way.

Still, this person named Amanda who went to Ball State for Creative Writing (oh god, another creative AND from Ball State) reeled me in with her tagline of Vulnerability and Connection. I thought to myself, what does that even mean in real life?

But then everything just sort of started flowing, growing. From her first (rather intense) eye contact, to the first poem she shared, to the nights spent driving back and forth to each other’s places, to morning waffles and a coffee mug with a llama on it. It was just organic.

And the thing is, yet here we are living together “only” six months later. Even though we’ve both been very careful, very mindful to ensure we are acting with conviction, that we are genuine in how we feel. That we are being responsible, and logistical. That our drives are healthy, aren’t co-depdendant.

We just work and I don’t find myself saying that she’s the “love of my life” or blowing things out of proportion, or future focusing. We exist in the here and now, and find ourselves content; something that I can genuinely say thats never happened to me, until now.

We casually talk of marriage, and children. We speak of travel, self discovery, meditation. Growth. We encourage each other to grow. And while we talk of such things from time to time, we don’t need those fantasies to be happy right now; like I had, she had in other relationships.

There’s no more desperation to be seen. When she leaves, I don’t cry, because we meet each other’s love languages. I not only fulfill myself, but she makes me glow. I can’t begin to explain how important this is, there’s no greater sadness of feeling absolutely alone when with someone, even while they are there.

I don’t have to deal with depression, anxiety, severe body image issues from my partner. I’m empathetic to those that suffer (I had severe anxiety and agoraphobia for most of my life), but I know now that I simply can’t be with someone whom suffers because I’ll do what I always do and try to fix them, or at least make them feel better; then take it out on myself when I don’t have an impact. I know now that the only person I can fix, can save, is myself.

But there’s more. Six months in and I still haven’t scratched the surface as to the depth of Amanda.


Writer, Ball State, Vegan, Queer. Emotions overflow, sensitive, feeling, vulnerability, tarot and spirituality. A fierce Aries, Type A personality. Doesn’t put up with bullshit. Sets boundaries for herself. Has high expectations of those she loves, but is forgiving.

Money smart, thrifty. Sense of adventure. Absent mental illness. Caretaker, raises children throughout multiple years as a career. Creative, artist. Busy, projects, independence. Trust, vulnerability, empath. INFJ. Shy, but very intense once she lets you in.

Entrepreneur, has been running her own business (and succeeding) for much time now. She feels most at home in the water, some of our favorite memories are carrying each other in the water, floating, weightless.

Excellent parental, and dare I say mother figure to my daughter. Influence to become her best self, absent gender norms that are usually imposed on children. Positive reinforcement, good role model.

My focus is to break down the emotional barriers we are taught to uphold in order to keep our feelings hidden. I have a great amount of respect for boundaries, digging into ourselves for truth, and the duality of life. Andrea Gibson wrote a poem called “Dive” in which they said, “See Life, it doesn’t rhyme/It’s bullets/and wind chimes/It’s lynchings/and birthday parties/It’s the rope that ties the noose/and the rope that hangs the backyard swing.” I want to mesh the beautiful and the dark. I want to remind people that the best night of your life cannot be possible without the worst night, too.


We have big, big hearts. We are here to share them. Here is mine.

The Heart Bomb – Amanda’s Blog https://theheartbomb.com

Our key factors which make us work so well:

  • Vulnerability. We are completely open to each other. Our bodies, minds, habits, and whatever lies beyond.
  • Communication. Difficult topics are sought out and talked about. No sugarcoating to “avoid conflict”. Active listening skills.
  • Teamwork. We actively pursue acts of service to show each other care. We are both tuned in this love language for receiving and providing. Tasks are split to our unique skillsets.
  • Physical touch and intimacy. Touch is a shared love language. There is no pressure, or expectation. Intimacy occurs organically and we both voice when we need more, or less touch.
  • Independence. We both know that we cannot fix each other and such comes from within. We pursue our own projects and time away from each other, and look forward to missing each other.
  • Trust. We speak with conviction. We are friends first, and lovers later. Monogamy is important to us.

The little things:

  • We enjoy sleeping next to each other, often curled up in one another. We both find this enjoyable, restful, and loving.
  • Amanda is always up for an adventure. I can recommend taking a trip in the RV and she’s ready to go.
  • We feel like we can recharge around each other, and know when introvert time is needed.
  • We both seem to be excellent at self-diagnosis and often bounce ideas off each other for greater self understanding.
  • We don’t tell each other what to do, or try to control each other. We are free agents and to ourselves first, but take priority in each other.
  • We’ve never been in a “fight”. When tensions rise, we sit down and talk calmly. Assess the situation, come up with solutions or learning points.
  • We both find ourselves not feeling desperate, like we have with previous partners. We find ourselves content, fulfilled by each other in a gentle warmth.

We just keep growing, in ourselves and with each other. I’ve seemed to loose my train of thought and article structure, but had to write something, anything, to evidence this wonderful creature who is currently sleeping next to me.

But why am I apologizing? This is my space, my writing, thoughts, and I do what the fuck I want.

Go checkout her blog, she could use some readers (and often is a better writer than I).

VULNERABILITY: Why it is important, exhilarating, and a rainbow-hued nightmare.