Last week the Nation Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that it was closing its investigation into a fatal accident involving a Tesla Model S. The full report has been made public, and it reveals some key insights about Tesla’s Autopilot.
One of the key findings from the report was that Tesla’s crash rates have dropped by 40% since the introduction of the Autopilot Autosteer feature. Autopilot is a feature that allows the vehicle to control itself in certain conditions, and those condition are set by Tesla themselves.
The NHTSA’s report reviewed crash rates from Tesla’s vehicles before and after the introduction of Autosteer and stated:
ODI analyzed mileage and airbag deployment data supplied by Tesla for all MY 2014 through 2016 Model S and 2016 Model X vehicles equipped with the Autopilot Technology Package, either installed in the vehicle when sold or through an OTA update, to calculate crash rates by miles traveled prior to and after Autopilot installation
Now, the idea of autonomous driving is still very heated. Many drivers have the preconception that when Autopilot is engaged they do not have to be paying attention, which is farther from the truth. It won’t stop drivers from doing it anyway, and Tesla has sensors in the steering wheel to force drivers to keep at least one finger on the wheel, but that is not enough at times. On the other hand, a 40% reduction in the amount of crashes is very significant. As the world continues to move towards a time where all vehicles could be able to communicate back and forth in real time, crash rates could drop even further. For the time being, however, drivers still need to be paying attention 110% of the time while they are driving, even if they are using Autopilot.
For those that claim that Autopilot is nothing more than a sales pitch, here are a few videos to prove otherwise. With that being said, Autopilot is not a perfect system, but has not been the fault for any serious crashes. Tesla records all of the data collected from every car when Autopilot is activated to avoid any fraudulent claims against the company, and that data has already been used to prove that some claims are false in several court cases against Tesla.
The feature is nowhere near perfect, but the argument for continuing the idea of self-driving cars is becoming harder to stop.