NHTSA: Tesla Autopilot accounts for 70% of ADAS crashes. Why this may mislead consumers and cause confusion

By Kevin Armstrong
Tesla preventing a crash
Nigel McGill/YouTube

You may see headlines state that Teslas were involved in nearly 70 percent of advanced vehicle technology crashes, however this statistic doesn't paint an accurate picture.

The U.S. Department of Transportation released the initial data it has collected since the agency advised more than 100 automakers to report collisions related to automated driver-assist systems.

Of the 392 crashes submitted to the NHTSA, Tesla had the largest amount of incidents, with Honda coming in second.

Tesla: 273

Honda: 90

Subaru: 10

Other: 19

The other 19 incidents are divided between nine manufacturers.

NHTSA is saying that this data shouldn't be used to make any conclusions on the safety of these systems.

The data provided by NHTSA lacks context, such as the number of vehicles equipped with the system, the number of miles driven, or how individuals are using the system.

While Tesla has the most incidents, Tesla's Autopilot is very actively used. Autopilot is likely used more than 3x than Honda's system, which would instantly change the takeaway people are getting out of this report.

This data also doesn't show how these systems are preventing accidents. Autopilot is a much more advanced system than those available on other vehicles, so while it was involved in more accidents, it also prevented additional accidents.

Tesla runs Autopilot safety systems passively in the background. It's ready to hit the brakes or even move out of the way of a vehicle to help avoid an accident.

I'd encourage Tesla to follow up on NHTSA's report with exact figures of how many vehicles have Autopilot, how many miles have been traveled, and how many times Autopilot has moved within its lane to avoid potential accidents.

The video below shows many of these situations where Autopilot has prevented collisions.

What NHTSA is trying to find out is whether these systems are safe. However, without proper context and additional information, NHTSA is adding confusion about the capabilities of Autopilot.

In a day and age where consumers read headlines and not articles, this report is causing more harm than good.

Due to this report, two senators are now calling on NHTSA to take further action. Senator Ed Markey said, "we are seeing a never-ending parade of reports about Autopilot operating in ways that skirt our safety laws and endanger the public, from rolling through stop signs and phantom breaking. Tesla has argued Autopilot makes us safer, but this report provides further evidence slamming the breaks on those claims."

This report comes just one week after NHTSA upgraded its probe into Tesla's Autopilot. The initial investigation started after a dozen crashes involving Teslas and parked emergency vehicles.

In fact, the agency has 35 active crash investigations where Autopilot is believed to have been used. Several news agencies reported they reached out to Tesla but did not receive a comment on the report.

It's likely the company predicted it would have higher numbers, due to the large number of miles driven with Autopilot.

ADAS, which stands for advanced driver assistance systems, includes driver assistant systems for steering and speed and provides traffic-aware cruise control. Tesla is a frontrunner in this technology and has 830,000 of these vehicles on the road in the U.S. Tesla also has far more advanced crash reports, which is lacking in other automakers.

NHTSA calls this report a first of its kind and plans to release the data monthly. Dr. Steven Cliff, NHTSA's Administrator, said, "new vehicle technologies have the potential to help prevent crashes, reduce crash severity, and save lives, and the Department is interested in fostering technologies that are proven to do so; collecting this data is an important step in that effort. As we gather more data, NHTSA will be able to better identify any emerging risks or trends and learn more about how these technologies are performing in the real world."

The report is admittedly not comprehensive. The NHTSA admits it lacked data to provide immediate information from all automakers. It also stated that some companies were more "robust" with data because their vehicles are equipped with telematics (Tesla). In contrast, several other manufacturers do not have telematics capabilities.

Tesla wins Autopilot, FSD 'misleading' marketing lawsuit in Germany

By Gabe Rodriguez Morrison
Tesla was being sued for the use of 'Autopilot' and 'Full self-driving' terms
Tesla was being sued for the use of 'Autopilot' and 'Full self-driving' terms
InsideEVs.com

In 2020, a Munich court ruled that Tesla used misleading marketing tactics in Germany by using the words "Autopilot" and "Full Self-Driving" for its driver-assist features. The lawsuit was filed by Wettbewerbszentrale (Competition Center), a network of German companies and one of the largest, most influential national self-regulatory institutions.

The allegation was that Tesla’s use of the words “Autopilot included” in its vehicles was false advertising since the car still requires the driver to operate and stay vigilant. It was also alleged that Tesla's Full Self-Driving suite was misleading marketing.

In October of 2021, Tesla appealed the court’s ruling in the Higher Regional Court of Munich, which ruled in Tesla’s favor. The decision was only made public recently, according to TeslaMag.de, an industry insider who was able to confirm the verdict.

This was an important victory for Tesla, as the Competition Center wanted to ban the company’s use of words like “Autopilot” in its marketing. This suggestion was rejected by the Higher Regional Court of Munich, which said that anybody visiting Tesla’s website to purchase an electric vehicle is suitably informed that the product is not fully autonomous.

Despite Tesla's overall win, the court ruled that the company would have to modify some language on its official website in Germany when referring to its vehicles’ upcoming features. Full Self Driving, for example, would have to be listed with an estimated availability rather than “by the end of the year.” More specifically, the feature language can't just read "coming soon," "next up," or "by the end of the year."

Instead, there has to be a date that Tesla expects the feature to be available to its customers. This was only a small win for the Competition Center which initially wanted to ban what they called misleading language on the company website.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles also initiated legal action against Tesla over the company's use of the words “Autopilot” and “Full Self-Driving” for its driver-assist features. The legal action is aimed at preventing the misuse of new vehicle technologies. Tesla’s successful appeal in Germany is hopefully a sign that they will be equally successful in the United States.

Musk discusses details and cost of Optimus robot, working prototype this year

By Jorge Aguirre
Tesla will have a working prototype of Tesla Bot this year
Tesla will have a working prototype of Tesla Bot this year
Tesla

Ahead of the unveil of the first working prototype of the Tesla humanoid robot on September 30, CEO Elon Musk has disclosed more information about Optimus and how he envisages it being used over the next decade.

Musk wrote about a variety of subjects in his column, "Believing in Technology for a Better World," published in China's Cyberspace Administration official journal. He doubled down on his previous statements that the Tesla Bot is intended to replace human labor in repetitive, boring, and dangerous tasks.

Musk also stated that the vision for Optimus is to have the robots serving millions of households globally. Tesla wants the robot to function not only in industrial settings, but also domestic ones.

“Tesla Bots are initially positioned to replace people in repetitive, boring, and dangerous tasks. But the vision is for them to serve millions of households, such as cooking, mowing lawns, and caring for the elderly”, he wrote.

According to Musk, the Tesla Bot was designed in a humanoid form because it will make it easier for humans to accept it, and it will help it integrate better into a world built for humans.

“The Tesla Bot is close to the height and weight of an adult, can carry or pick up heavy objects, walk fast in small steps, and the screen on its face is an interactive interface for communication with people. You may wonder why we designed this robot with legs. Because human society is based on the interaction of a bipedal humanoid with two arms and ten fingers. So, if we want a robot to adapt to its environment and be able to do what humans do, it has to be roughly the same size, shape, and capabilities as a human,” he continued.

The CEO confirmed that he’s planning to launch the first prototype of the humanoid robot this year, while focusing on improving its intelligence and solving the problem of large-scale production.

“Thereafter, humanoid robots’ usefulness will increase yearly as production scales up and costs fall. In the future, a home robot may be cheaper than a car. Perhaps in less than a decade, people will be able to buy a robot for their parents as a birthday gift,” he said.

Elon Musk talks about the Tesla Bot at AI Day

Tesla Bot was first introduced at the first Tesla AI (recap of event) in August of last year.

The Tesla bot will have its own specialized sensory and actuative systems, in addition to being equipped with the same Autopilot computer used in Tesla electric cars, which will enable it to recognize real-world objects.

It will also be able to lift up to 150 pounds, carry 45 pounds, walk at 5 miles per hour, and have human-like hands and visual sensors.

Tesla's Autopilot cameras will be installed on the front of the robot's head, and its inner workings will be powered by the company's Full Self-Driving computer. Tesla's Full Self-Driving computer interface, which is found in all newer Tesla models, will apparently serve as the bots’ brain.

Tesla's AI Day Part II is being held on September 30th, where Tesla is planning to show off an early prototype of the Tesla Bot and potentially its integration of Steam games into Teslas.

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