Is Tesla’s Autopilot Safer Than Human Drivers? (We Checked)

In a world where Teslas are becoming more and more popular, there are a wide range of follow up questions being asked. For example, are these vehicles truly worth the investment?

Since Teslas are not inexpensive vehicles, it is a question that bears asking.

That’s why this handy guide is here to help.

Let’s take a closer look at these vehicles from an investment standpoint so that readers are able to make the most informed decisions possible going forward.

How often are self-driving Teslas involved in accidents?

The numbers are staggering, especially as compared to the number of accidents that take place with normal vehicles. Tesla vehicles account for a whopping 70 percent of all crashes, whether we are discussing self-driving vehicles or those that are driver-assisted.

Once the numbers are broken down in full, however, it makes sense.

Because Tesla is by far the biggest player in the self-driving game.

Of the 392 crashes that were analyzed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 273 were due to Tesla vehicles. 

Six fatalities occurred, while a number of others were injured as a result of these malfunctions. This data was released to the general public as a result of NHTSA regulations.

Automakers are now required to report both types of accidents, whether the car is self-driven or driver-assisted. GM and Ford have also had issues with their vehicles that allow for hands-free driving but nothing to the extent of what Tesla is currently dealing with.

While the NHTSA cautioned the public not to come to any conclusions just yet, it has to be hard for a potential Tesla buyer to square these numbers.

After all, no one wants to be left holding the bag for expensive repairs once their Tesla has been in an accident.

As with most vehicles that are a bit more pricey, the repairs are also going to be far more expensive, too. In fact, the NHTSA is going to be expanding their probe even further.

They will examining all of the vehicles that the company produced between the years of 2014 and 2021. 

The investigation is going to be centered upon the Autopilot function that is included with each Tesla purchase. Clearly, there are a number of instances where it has failed to assist drivers who are engaging in risky behavior.

For many, it seems to be an excuse to divert their attention from the road, which can cause all sorts of issues for other motorists. Tesla is still experiencing recalls as a result of these types of malfunctions.

In fact, one took place just last year.

The Full Self Driving beta test led to the recall of 12,000 vehicles.

This is especially concerning for many potential buyers because these tests were designed around city driving. The emergency brakes of these vehicles had a defect where they could be activated without warning.

Do people generally trust Tesla’s self-driving feature?

To build on the last question, the answer has to be no. It has to be difficult for anyone to put their trust in these sorts of features when there is constant news of accidents and recalls.

On the other hand, there are other drivers who are perhaps a bit too trusting of these features.

One driver was even caught sleeping behind the wheel.

This speaks to how polarized the conversation has become but in a general sense? People do not seem to be too trusting of these features. In fact, surveys show that distrust is actually quite higher.

For every motorist that seems to be willing to give themselves over to the self-driving features, there are a large number of others who do not want any part of using them. The aforementioned survey findings are astounding.

76 percent of respondents do not feel safe in a self-driving car.

73 percent of respondents took it one step further. They said that they do not feel as safe on the road because the idea of having to share the roadways with self driving cars is too much for them to bear.

The future may have arrived but that does not mean that people are blindly trusting of these technological capabilities.

“Whether because of road rage, reckless driving, or car accidents, it’s understandable that many people are wary of taking their eyes off the road and relying on a self-driving car,”

Rachel Brennan of Policygenius explains.

“As advances in autonomous vehicle technology continue, auto companies and insurance companies will need to resolve a number of challenges, from helping people feel safe on the road to navigating new insurance implications, like who is at fault in an autonomous vehicle incident.”

80 percent of respondents also stated that they would not be willing to pay more for a car with this sort of feature.

85 percent said that they would not use a vehicle of this nature to transport their loved ones. 

These numbers speak to the sort of deep mistrust that exists within much of the population.

How well is the autopilot system tested against humans?

The testing of Tesla’s autopilot system is a hot topic, as people want to know how well it has been tested against humans.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigations that were discussed above?

They were actually prompted by the National Transportation Safety Board, which does not believe that these systems have been tested properly.

There is a widely held belief that safety is not being given first priority and that innovation is king.

It is hard to argue against this narrative when some of the most crucial voices in the industry are speaking out.

“The past has shown the focus has been on innovation over safety and I’m hoping we’re at a point where that tide is turning,”

said Jennifer Homendy.

As the new chair of the NTSB, she is uniquely qualified to make this claim.

Homendy went on to say that she does not see much of a link between the rigorous testing autopilot systems receive in the world of aviation and the ones Tesla relies upon.

Meanwhile, Elon Musk claims that Teslas that have been equipped with eight cameras are actually safer than a human driver.

What’s the difference between autopilot and full self-driving?

For starters, both of these features do require a fully attentive driver, so there is no major difference there.

There are some crucial ones that need to be noted, though.

For starters, the full self driving feature is much more expensive than the autopilot feature because it is much more advanced.

The upgrade may seem great but the amount of value that the motorist will receive will depend on the frequency of usage.

It is also important to note that the self driving feature’s price has gone up and will continue to go up as time goes on. For those who feel as if they will be using the feature frequently, it may be worth their while to take the plunge before the price goes up any further.

Full self driving is exactly as it sounds, while autopilot is not quite the same.

Autopilot allows for steering, acceleration and braking but the driver must remain fully attentive. All of these features require the proper amount of supervision. The vehicle is not autonomous in the same manner that it would be if the self driving feature was being used.

With self driving, the vehicle moves without any actions from the person who is sitting in the driver’s seat.

On board cameras and ultrasonic systems are used as a means of detecting potential dangers. 

This lets the car know where to go and how to drive.

How quickly does Tesla’s autopilot system improve?

In order to truly understand this timeline, it is vital to start at the beginning.

When the autopilot system was first introduced back in 2015, Tesla made it abundantly clear that these systems were not to be relied upon in the same manner as a self driving system.

From there, Elon Musk made promises in 2016 that these vehicles would one day be able to outperform a human driver.

The Summon feature was tested soon after, with less than satisfactory results.

In the meantime, multiple deaths occurred while the autopilot feature was in use.

Tesla promised to address the issue but they were eventually sued for issuing a video that was said to have edited out driver input.

In the years to come, no significant improvements were made.

The Autopilot has come under continuous fire for allowing drivers to disengage from the task at hand too easily. Deaths and lawsuits have become more and more common as well.

While the company claims to have made improvements, they are not leading to a lesser amount of death or accidents.

In 2021, the NHTSA has ordered the company to turn over any and all information that they have about the autopilot function.


Tesla Has Highest Number Of Crashes Involving Self Driving Cars

Survey shows Americans don’t trust self driving cars

Is Tesla’s autopilot safe?

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