For all the autopilot skeptics, this one is for you! According to the latest stats published by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Tesla’s Autopilot has resulted in 40 percent fewer crashes than with the cars without any driver-assistance technology. The agency has published their new report [PDF] in collaboration with IEEE Spectrum.
The report has come after investigations were launched in response to the fatal accident in June 2016, where a tractor trailer crashed into a Tesla Model S which was using Autopilot on a Florida highway. This was the first fatality involving Autopilot, raising many eyebrows at the technology’s safety and triggering an investigation.
Tesla’s Autopilot recently made all the headlines as it was praised for “predicting” a crash before it ever happened, and possibly saving the passengers’ life using the auto braking feature. The autopilot comes with a sensor that applies car’s brakes when it detects any obstacle in front of the car without any input from the driver, while its cruise control takes note of the speed of the car. Autopilot also has automatic lane changing and parking capabilities, which means it has all the tools to can save an inattentive driver’s life and limb.
In the case of the Florida tragedy, the Automatic Emergency Braking didn’t deploy or warn the driver before the accident. However, the report essentially cleared the system of all blame since it says the cars’ automatic braking is only designed for rear-end collisions, meaning it can’t detect and respond to a side collision. This leads to the conclusion that it wasn’t the technology malfunctioning that resulted in the fatal collision, but solely the inattentiveness of the driver.
The NHTSA report noted that the Tesla driver was distracted for at least seven seconds before the crash, and didn’t even try to brake or steer away from the truck.
The findings also hailed Tesla’s autosteer technology, which reportedly led to a marked reduction in Tesla crashes. The Autosteer system can detect road markings and other vehicles to help drivers stay in their lane, but only if the driver keeps hands on the wheel. If the driver removes his hands, the software gives multiple warnings before turning the technology off.
After the debut of Autosteer crashes have gone down by almost 40 percent for Teslas. Previously for every million miles, there were 1.3 crashes, and after the Autosteer there were only 0.8, as shown in the graphic above.
Although all Tesla cars now have full capability to drive autonomously, the law still forbids the drivers to let the car take the wheel entirely. But this report will surely go a long way in making people feel less wary about the autonomous cars, which as proven by stats, is safer than human drivers, at least in certain situations.
[h/t IEEE Spectrum]