Tesla is under a lot of scrutiny right now because of mounting public pressure to lockdown its popular “autopilot” feature. Autopilot systems allow the vehicle to make decisions on its own when on certain roadways. According to Elon Musk, drivers are still supposed to keep their eyes on the road and be ready to take over at a moment’s notice, and so the liability for autopilot software error should still fall on the driver.
But the real question is this: are vehicles with autopilot more dangerous than those without? After all, a few accidents doesn’t mean anything. They were inevitable.
It’s the answer to that question that many outlets are ignoring. Studies have indicated that autopilot actually increases safety rather than decreases it. In other words, keep it on and you’re less likely to have an accident. Isn’t it suspicious that the news has left that little detail alone?
The accidents have increased during winter, which was a reality that Tesla said it expected. And to be fair, the safety information we’re relying on actually comes from Tesla itself. It would be far more reliable from a third-party. That means trust is a big issue for those who argue Tesla should be taking more responsibility for deaths that occur when autopilot fails.
The last quarterly report for 2019 said: “In the 4th quarter, we registered one accident for every 3.07 million miles driven in which drivers had Autopilot engaged. For those driving without Autopilot but with our active safety features, we registered one accident for every 2.10 million miles driven. For those driving without Autopilot and without our active safety features, we registered one accident for every 1.64 million miles driven. By comparison, NHTSA’s most recent data shows that in the United States there is an automobile crash every 479,000 miles.”
There are a lot of facts to swallow, but here are the main takeaways: somehow, Tesla owners seem to be somewhat safer than your average driver. In addition to that, those who engage autopilot are much less likely to get into an accident than those who have an average vehicle. To put it mathematically, Autopilot means you’re about six times safer.
Electrek reported: “The main complaint about Tesla’s set of Autopilot data is that the system is mostly used on the highway versus city driving, where accidents are more common. Therefore, it’s not really useful to compare those two datasets. Also, the comparison with the overall NHTSA data also includes older vehicles, which are more likely to be involved in accidents than Tesla’s much more recent vehicles on average.”
In other words, what we really need to know is how they stack up against other newer models of traditional vehicles and all their safety features as well.