Tesla's Autopilot Report Makes Big Safety Claims With Little Context

WIRED | 10/4/2018 | Jack Stewart
MijacMijac (Posted by) Level 3
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Tesla has published its first voluntary “Vehicle Safety Report,” and the numbers seem to clearly back CEO Elon Musk’s assertion that drivers who use Tesla’s sort of self-driving Autopilot feature are involved in fewer crashes than those who turn it off, and far fewer crashes than the general driving population. But without more detail, the numbers mean little.

In the report, Tesla says that between July and September of this year, it “registered one accident or crash-like event for every 3.34 million miles driven in which drivers had Autopilot engaged.” Tesla drivers not using Autopilot went 1.92 million miles between incidents.

Company - Crash - Events - Misses - Request

The company equates “crash like events” with near misses, but didn’t respond to a request for more detail on what that means. The report offers no insight into the severity of the crashes, whether anyone involved was injured, what may have caused the crashes, or where and when they happened.

Tesla’s Autopilot cleverly combines adaptive cruise control, which maintains a set distance from the car in front even if it slows down, and steering assistance, which keeps the car between painted lane markings. Tesla stresses both features are intended for use in limited circumstances. “Autosteer is intended for use only on highways and limited-access roads with a fully attentive driver,” the Model S’s manual says. Although the system can be engaged anywhere, that technically means drivers using Autopilot sticking to roads like freeways—routes free of intersections, pedestrians, cyclists, and other complicating factors. Drivers not using it might be on crowded city streets, or twisty country roads, making a comparison useless without that extra information.

Autopilot - Tesla - Criticism - System - Drivers

Since releasing Autopilot in 2014, Tesla has faced criticism that the system makes drivers overly confident in its abilities, lulling them into a dangerous sense of complacency. At least two people have died in crashes where Autopilot was engaged....
(Excerpt) Read more at: WIRED
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