Tesla: Data Shows Vehicles on Autopilot Crash More Than Rivals


The US government will soon release data on crashes involving vehicles equipped with autonomous or partially automated driving systems, which will likely single out Tesla for a disproportionately high number of these crashes.

In the coming days, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration plans to release numbers it has been collecting for nearly a year. The agency said in a separate report last week that it had documented more than 200 crashes involving Teslas that used Autopilot, “Full Self-Driving,” Traffic-Aware Cruise Control or other partially automated cruise control systems. the company.

Tesla’s figure and its crash rate per 1,000 vehicles were significantly higher than corresponding figures for other automakers that provided the data to The Associated Press before NHTSA’s release. The number of Tesla crashes was revealed as part of an NHTSA investigation into Teslas on Autopilot that had crashed in emergencies and other vehicles stopped along roads.

Tesla has far more vehicles with partially automated systems operating on US roads than most other automakers – around 830,000, dating to the 2014 model year. And it collects real-time data online from the vehicles , so it has a much faster reporting system. Other automakers, on the other hand, have to wait for reports to come in from the field and sometimes go uninformed of accidents for months.

In a June 2021 order, NHTSA asked more than 100 automakers and automated vehicle technology companies to report serious crashes within a day of discovery and to disclose less serious crashes by the 15th day of the following month. The agency assesses how the systems work, whether they endanger public safety and whether new regulations may be needed.

General Motors said it reported three crashes while its “Super Cruise” or other partially automated systems were in use. The company said it has sold more than 34,000 vehicles with Super Cruise since its debut in 2017.

Nissan, with more than 560,000 vehicles on the road using its “ProPilot Assist”, had no accidents to report, the company said.

Stellantis, formerly Fiat Chrysler, said it reported two crashes involving its systems. Ford hasn’t reported any crashes involving its “Blue Cruise” driver-assist system that went on sale in the spring, though Ford didn’t say if there were any crashes with less capable systems. .

GM said the three crashes were not Super Cruise’s fault. It also reported two crashes that occurred before the June 2021 order, a spokesperson said.

Several automakers and tech companies, including Toyota and Honda, declined to release their numbers before the NHTSA data was revealed.

A message was left seeking comment from Tesla, which has disbanded its media relations department. NHTSA would not comment on the data on Tuesday.

Raj Rajkumar, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon University who studies automated vehicles, said he wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out Tesla has had a high number of crashes involving its systems. driving assistance. Tesla, based in Austin, Texas, has stopped using radar in its system and relies solely on cameras and computers – a system that Rajkumar calls “intrinsically dangerous”.

The system computer, he says, can only recognize what is in its memory. Flashing lights on an emergency vehicle, Rajkumar said, could confuse the system, like anything the computer has never seen before.

“Emergency vehicles can look very different from any data Tesla software was trained on,” he said.

In addition to publicly released crash data, NHTSA has dispatched investigation teams to far more incidents involving Teslas using electronic systems than other automakers. As part of a broader investigation into crashes involving advanced driver assistance systems, the agency has dispatched teams to 34 crashes since 2016 in which the systems were allegedly used. Of the 34 crashes, 28 involved Teslas, according to an NHTSA document.

NHTSA said in documents that it had received 191 accident reports involving Teslas on autopilot and non-emergency vehicles, along with 16 others involving parked or emergency vehicles equipped with warning lights, for a total of 207. Of the 191, the agency removed 85 due to actions. other vehicles or insufficient data to make a firm assessment of the accidents. That left 106 that were included in the Autopilot survey.

It was unclear whether 207 was the total number of Tesla crashes reported to NHTSA under the order. A spokeswoman for NHTSA would not comment.

The agency has ordered automakers and technology companies to report crashes involving driver assistance systems, as well as fully autonomous driving systems.

In defending its partially automated systems, Tesla said Autopilot and “Full Self-Driving” cannot drive themselves and drivers must be prepared to intervene at all times. The systems can keep cars in their lanes and away from other vehicles and objects. But in documents released last week, NHTSA raised questions about whether human drivers can intervene quickly enough to avoid crashes.

Tesla’s “Full Self-Driving” is designed to perform a route by itself with human supervision, with the eventual goal of driving itself and managing a fleet of self-driving robo-taxis. In 2019, Musk pledged to make robot taxis work in 2020.

Tesla’s Autopilot driver assistance system detects hands on the wheel to ensure drivers are paying attention. But it is insufficient, Rajkumar said. In contrast, systems such as GM’s monitor a driver’s eyes with a camera, he said, to ensure they are looking ahead.

About Mohammed B. Hale

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