Tesla has released its latest quarterly data that it says shows that driving with Autopilot engaged is nearly 10 times safer than average cars, and carries almost 90% lower risk of being involved in a car accident.
The data shows that when driving without Autopilot, Tesla’s “active safety” features are responsible for reducing accident risk five-fold compared to the national average. Driving without either, accidents in Tesla cars occur about half as often as the national average.
The new results were published as reports emerged of an accident involving the death of two men in Houston, Texas who were in a 2019 Tesla Model S. The reports say that police believe there was nobody behind the driving wheel at the time, and the occupants – reportedly aged 59 and 69 – were in the front passenger and a rear passenger seat.
Police are still investigating the crash, in which the car allegedly drove into a tree and burst into flames, but it is sure to bring increased scrutiny to the EV maker, which is preparing to add a “download button” for its Full Self-Driving beta software and which has been criticised for its decision to include untrained Tesla drivers in the testing of the software.
In using its Autopilot and Full Self-Driving features, Tesla makes clear that neither are intended to be used without a driver. FSD may be rolled out as a driverless feature once tesla determines it is safe enough to do so, and once regulations allow.
“In the 1st quarter, we registered one accident for every 4.19 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 2.05 million miles drive,” the EV maker wrote in a post published via its website.
“For those driving without Autopilot and without our active safety features, we registered one accident for every 978 thousand miles driven. By comparison, NHTSA’s most recent data shows that in the United States there is an automobile crash every 484,000 miles.”
The results were tweeted by Tesla CEO and co-founder Elon Musk on Sunday morning (Australia time):
Tesla with Autopilot engaged now approaching 10 times lower chance of accident than average vehicle https://t.co/6lGy52wVhC
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 17, 2021
The new data shows accidents occurring more than in the company’s Q4 2020 data of one in every 3.45 million miles (5.55 million km) but less than Q1 2020 – Q3 2020.
The increase in accident rates in Q4 2020, which were also seen in Q4 2019, can be attributed to the fact that the vast majority of Tesla vehicles are driven in the northern hemisphere’s winter when accidents are more common.
On Thursday, Musk said April is, “a “march of 9’s” trying to get probability of no injury above 99.999999% of miles for city driving. Production Autopilot is already above that for highway driving.”
According to Reuters, the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it had 27 crash investigation cases involving Tesla cars in March.
The NHTSA special crash investigations viewer and crash investigation sampling system, which include crash dates from 2016 to 2019, show that out of around 8,000 open cases none of them involve Tesla vehicles. An early report from NHTSA’s crash statistics unit says that further information from 2020 will be released in the northern hemisphere in autumn 2021.
The Tesla Model 3 has also been awarded a Top Safety Pick+ award from the US-based highway safety insurance organisation IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) for the last three years – every full year it has been in production – in the mid-size luxury car segment.
These awards are rated on physical crash impact mitigation and avoidance features including structure and safety cages, driver/pedestrian injury measures and prevention, and importantly to receive the “Plus” version of the award, the quality of its headlights.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018, and has a keen interest in the role that zero-emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum. Bridie also owns a Tesla Model 3 and has it available for hire on evee.com.au.