More and more data is being collected from tracking improvements in Tesla’s autopilot system. The Californian brand has been closely following the development of its semi-autonomous driving style since 2018. Every quarter it publishes a report on the number of accidents with its cars, distinguishing between those that occurred while driving conventionally without active aids, driving with aids and driving in activated autopilot mode.
A questionable comparison
On the occasion of the release of the report for the first quarter of 2021, Elon Musk shared a very shaky conclusion about Tesla’s numbers. The billionaire therefore tweeted that “the risk of an accident for a Tesla with an activated autopilot system is ten times lower than for a conventional vehicle”. He then shared a link to the report in question. In order to arrive at this observation, he unfortunately forgot a detail that still burdens the autopilot in order to be able to make a comparison with human driving.
Tesla with the autopilot switched on is now approaching a ten times lower chance of an accident than the average vehicle https://t.co/6lGy52wVhC
– Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 17, 2021
If the autopilot mode is activated, is there ten times less risk of an accident? To arrive at this point, Elon Musk relied on data from the accidents in the first quarter compared to the total number of kilometers driven. Tesla reports as follows:
“In the first quarter we registered an accident for 6.7 million kilometers driven in which the drivers activated the autopilot. For those who drive without an autopilot but with our active safety functions, we have registered one accident for every 3.3 million kilometers driven. For those who drive without an autopilot and without our active safety functions, we have recorded one accident for every 1.5 million kilometers driven. For comparison, the latest NHTSA data shows that an accident occurs every 778,000 km in the United States. “”
It therefore seems consistent to conclude that Tesla had a ten times lower accident risk with autopilot mode enabled than conventional cars in the US that were driven without semi-autonomous mode, as Elon Musk suggests. The argument is wrong, however, as most of the kilometers traveled in autopilot mode are on parts of the motorway. Sectors that are much less dangerous than other asphalts: in the city and on roads in rural areas with two directions of traffic.
“Because of the way the autopilot is used in Tesla vehicles, this is not an ideal way to view this data,” commented Fred Lambert, editor of the Electrek specialty page. The journalist also stated that the Tesla in autopilot mode had a higher accident risk this year compared to the data for the first quarter of 2020: 4.19 million miles (2021) versus 4.68 million miles (2020). But the copies in circulation are also more numerous.
While waiting for FSD mode
The Tesla CEO’s comments come out of time as the Texas authorities announced a fatal accident aboard a Model S yesterday. According to the latest elements of the investigation, the exit from the street of the limousine was produced at high speed when “nobody was in the driver’s seat,” reports the local broadcaster KPRC 2.
Two men dead after a fiery crash in Tesla Model S.
“[Investigators] are 100 percent certain that no one was in the driver’s seat driving this vehicle at the time of the impact, “said Mark Herman, Constable 4 of Harris County Precinct 4.” You are positive. ” # KHOU11 https://t.co/q57qfIXT4f pic.twitter.com/eQMwpSMLt2
– Matt Dougherty (@MattKHOU) April 18, 2021
We must therefore wait until Tesla democratizes its latest versions of the autopilot “FSD” (Full Self-Driving) on a larger scale. This future version of Autopilot, which claims a 100% autonomous mode, will be introduced to some beta testers. Compared to the autopilot we know in France, you can also travel in the city, as these impressive pictures show.
With the FSD mode, Tesla can compare itself with the average crash risk for cars without autonomous driving equipment. The kilometers covered include parts of the city, the countryside and the motorway. A measure closer to what Tesla and Elon Musk put forward in their report.