Tesla’s record in road accidents with driver assistance systems caused a sensation. But, in fact, the news that has gone around the world is fake news: Tesla would be at the top of the “dangerousness” ranking with 273 claims involving its advanced driver assistance systems. More than any other car manufacturer, true, but too few to give even a summary judgment. Just to understand what we are talking about, in the US there are 5 million road accidents a year and 43,000 deaths.
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The data originally comes from the famous investigation that the NHTSA, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened on Elon Musk’s electric car accidents: 750 customers opened a colossal official investigation into the problem linked to the fact that the car, without warning, suddenly stops for an alleged failure of the emergency brake assist system.
But it is a fact that is included in a much more complex investigation and that takes into consideration accidents only starting from June 2021, not only that: this same data derives from the report that the agency requested from the car manufacturers that spontaneously released numbers not verified by anyone. The US security agency itself has in fact stated that the numbers provided are not standardized, therefore it is difficult to evaluate the system performance of each car manufacturer. Yet now Tesla is in the dock.
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The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), a US control body on safety issues, also intervened on the subject, which in fact branded the report as “a hodgepodge of data“which make it difficult to understand because Tesla collects a huge amount of high-quality statistics, which could mean they are overrepresented in the NHTSA report.
Not only that: here, as we said, we are talking about nothing, just 273 accidents. The data of global accidents are very different, not only absolutely, but also specifically: US statistics tell us that self-driving cars are involved in an accident on average every 7 million kilometers.
In particular, if the autopilot is activated, 1 accident occurred for every 7.92 million kilometers. On the other hand, if the autopilot is disabled but all other safety functions are active, 1 accident has occurred every 2.04 million kilometers. And finally, if autopilot and safety features are disabled, there is 1 accident for every 2.51 million kilometers. From these numbers it is clear that cars with autonomous driving systems are much safer than others but, be careful, do not get confused: here we are talking about level 3 automatic driving – like that of Tesla – the only type approved, which still requires (very) active supervision of the driver.
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Autonomous driving as a whole is in fact classified on the basis of six levels. It starts from level 0, in which the vehicle has few safety systems and which intervene only in certain situations (such as crossing the carriageway), up to level 5, in which the car is totally autonomous and does not present not even pedals, levers or steering wheel. Therefore the summary Nhtsa survey refers only to assisted driving systems, not autonomous.