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Tesla Autopilot Crashes Way More Common Than Thought

'Washington Post' counts 736, including at least 17 fatalities
By Steve Huff,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 11, 2023 9:35 AM CDT
Tesla Autopilot Crashes Way More Common Than Thought
File photo shows the logo of Tesla Model 3 at the Auto show in Paris.   (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, File)

Tesla's Autopilot technology, intended to enhance driver safety and convenience, is under scrutiny due to growing concerns about the interaction between the system and drivers. In the last four years, there have been 736 car accidents in which one of the vehicles was a Tesla on Autopilot, reports the Washington Post, a much larger number than past reports indicated. The Post analyzed information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and found that these crashes have "surged" since 2019. According to the investigation by Faiz Siddiqui and Jeremy B. Merrill, this demonstrates the dangers of a rise in Autopilot use, in addition to the fact that there are simply more Teslas on the roads now.

A 2022 government report on Autopilot-involved accidents said at the time that just three fatalities had been connected to self-driving Teslas, but there has been a sharp rise since then: The Post counts at least 17 fatal crashes, most in the last year, and five in which people were seriously hurt. Still, as the Post notes, Tesla co-founder and Twitter owner Elon Musk in the past has said that his EVs driving in Autopilot mode are safer than cars with human drivers at the wheel. As Newsweek reported in a 2021 roundup of Musk quotes regarding self-driving, he has said that accidents would be "reduce accidents by a factor of 10," and—similarly—tweeted that "with Autopilot engaged now approaching 10 times lower chance of accident than average vehicle."

Still, as recently as an early May 2023 interview with the AP, transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg indicated that while he does believe autonomous vehicles could potentially reduce yearly road deaths, "it's far from automatic that" self-driving technology will "meet that potential." As an NHTSA spokesperson said in the Post report, while the agency "has an active investigation into Tesla Autopilot, including Full-Self Driving, NHTSA reminds the public that all advanced driver assistance systems require the human driver to be in control and fully engaged in the driving task at all times. Accordingly, all state laws hold the human driver responsible for the operation of their vehicles." Read the full Post report. (More Tesla stories.)

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