Autopilot implicated in far more crashes than rival systems

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the US federal agency responsible for road safety, is about to reveal data on collisions involving vehicles equipped with an autonomous or partially automated driving system. These figures should highlight the large number of accidents involving Tesla vehicles compared to other manufacturers.

Tesla is involved in many more accidents than its competitors

The United States government launched an investigation into Tesla’s Autopilot last August after a string of about 30 crashes involving vehicles from Elon Musk’s company. As part of this investigation, authorities have asked several car manufacturers for data on their own level 2 assisted driving systems, including information on terrain and accident reports, as well as any legal actions related to these. driving systems.

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These are the results of this query that will soon be published, and that the media ABC News was able to consult beforehand. The numbers are stark: Tesla’s crash rate per 1,000 vehicles is significantly higher than the corresponding numbers from other automakers that provided data to NHTSA. The agency received 191 crash reports involving Teslas on Autopilot and other vehicles, along with 16 additional crashes involving parked emergency vehicles or vehicles with warning lights, for a total of 207 for the automaker.

Of the 191 incidents, the agency withdrew 85 due to actions by other vehicles or insufficient data to reliably and firmly assess the situation. That left 106 that were included in the Autopilot survey. By comparison, General Motors reported three crashes when Super Cruise or other partially automated systems were in use.

Stellantis, formerly Fiat Chrysler, reported two crashes involving its systems, while Ford and Nissan reported none when their partially automated driving systems were activated.

The end of radars on the Tesla vehicles in question?

It should be remembered, however, that Tesla has many more vehicles equipped with partially automated systems on American roads than most other manufacturers. Their number reaches 830,000. In addition, the firm collects real-time data on its vehicles, which allows it to have a much faster and more complete reporting system than its counterparts.

The other brands have to wait for the reports to reach them and therefore sometimes do not know of the accidents for several months. Despite these elements that must be taken into account, the difference in the number of accidents reported is striking, and could point to a problem with Tesla’s Autopilot, the merits of which Elon Musk tries to praise but which does not seem not convince 100% across the Atlantic.

The steering wheel of a Tesla vehicle.

The Autopilot system detects the driver’s hands on the steering wheel. Photography: David von Diemar / Unsplash

Raj Rajkumar, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon University who studies autonomous vehicles, said he wouldn’t be surprised if it was found that Tesla had a high number of accidents involving its systems. driving assistance. Tesla has indeed stopped using radars in its system and relies solely on cameras and computers, a system that the expert describes as “fundamentally dangerous”. This is because the system computer can only recognize what is in its memory. With that in mind, flashing lights from an emergency vehicle could confuse the system, like anything the computer hasn’t observed before.

Emergency vehicles can look very different from any data the Tesla software was trained on “, he explains to ABC News.

Tesla targeted by critics in self-driving sector

Tesla has been the target of criticism in the area of ​​self-driving for quite some time. Indeed, his choice to name his system ” Full Self Driving is far from unanimous because the device does not guarantee autonomous driving as its name seems to suggest. Several voices have been raised over the names given by Tesla to its various assisted driving systems, which can confuse drivers.

Indeed, Tesla recalls that these are not fully autonomous systems and that drivers must be vigilant, but the number of accidents recorded may raise questions. The firm also recalls that the Autopilot detects hands on the steering wheel to ensure that drivers are attentive. General Motors, for its part, monitors the driver’s eyes using a camera to ensure that he is looking straight ahead, a system that seems safer.

Official results from NHTSA are expected to drop in the coming days, and authorities can be expected to order Tesla to make changes to its various driver assistance systems.

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