Tesla Leads Carmakers in Undesirable Category

Their vehicles with autopilot crash more than those of other manufacturers
By Mike L. Ford,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 15, 2022 6:55 PM CDT
Tesla Leads Carmakers in Undesirable Category
This 2018 photo shows a traffic collision involving a Tesla Model S sedan and a fire truck in South Jordan, Utah. The Tesla driver said the car's semi-autonomous autopilot mode was engaged when she slammed into the truck at a red light. She broke her foot in the crash.   (South Jordan Police Department via AP, File)

Teslas with autopilot have made plenty of headlines in recent years, including in a handful of fatal crashes. But new data released by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration reveals that crashes are more common than previously known. Teslas have been in 273 crashes since last July, accounting for almost 70% of all crashes involving "advanced driver-assistance systems," per the Washington Post. Honda came in second with 90. The data set is the result of a federal order last summer requiring all automakers to report serious crashes involving driver-assistance features. Previously, regulators relied on media reports and other piecemeal sources.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has long insisted that such systems will make roads safer. NHTSA administrator Steven Cliff said that potential exists, but "it’s an open question whether these systems overall or individual systems have accomplished that.” Per CNBC, Cliff also warned against jumping to conclusions, admitting that "the data alone may raise more questions than they answer." For example, regulators still don't have a clear understanding of how many vehicles with the technology are on the roads or how far they've traveled. Furthermore, it remains unknown whether there were injuries in 294 of the 392 crashes in question. Cliff says regulators need more time to get a full picture, but this is an important first step.

According to CBS News, Tesla's numbers "may be high because the company uses telematics to monitor its vehicles and get real-time crash reports," while other automakers require more time to gather reports, if crashes are reported at all. Adding to the uncertainty, most cars only allow drivers to use the features on highways, but Teslas can engage the technology on city streets. Tesla did not respond to requests for comment, but the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, which represents most carmakers, said "the data collected by NHTSA isn't sufficient by itself to evaluate the safety of automated vehicle systems." (Read more Tesla stories.)

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