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.

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Tesla Superchargers, Patents, and Autopilot Opened Up for Competition

By Kevin Armstrong
Tesla is offering up its patents in exchange for other manufacturers' patents
Tesla is offering up its patents for an exchange

Tesla has signaled a more open approach by allowing other automakers to access its Supercharger network. This move, spurred on by a groundbreaking deal with Ford, is more than a simple act of corporate benevolence. Superchargers, now a significant profit center for Tesla, could potentially revolutionize the electric vehicle charging infrastructure by making it universally accessible.

Patents Unleashed: A Closer Look

Tesla has also made strides in the world of intellectual property, opening up select patents to other automakers. This move echoes a similar step taken nearly a decade ago when Tesla announced an open-source approach to its patents. However, the details warrant attention. Tesla isn't giving away these patents out of pure altruism. There's an important caveat; Tesla requires a cross-license deal, effectively asking for access to the other automakers' patents in return. Critics argue that this does not constitute "free" access. It's a strategic maneuver aimed at mutual growth rather than unilateral generosity.

FSD and Autopilot: A Bold Proposition

Adding to the mix, Tesla's CEO Elon Musk announced the possibility of licensing Autopilot and Full Self-Driving (FSD) technologies to other automakers. This move could transform the landscape of autonomous driving by making Tesla's advanced technologies more widely accessible. However, the practical implementation is a complex process. Past discussions about licensing self-driving technology to other automakers have not materialized, indicating potential hurdles ahead.

An Industry Gamechanger

While the recent developments have generated much buzz, the long-term implications for Tesla and the electric vehicle industry remain unclear. Directly licensing technologies and working with companies that have designed them is a viable way to accelerate technological adoption. Tesla's moves could pave the way for more partnerships akin to its early collaborations with Daimler and Toyota. However, the willingness and ability of other automakers to integrate Tesla's technology remain to be seen.

The overarching narrative here aligns with Tesla's mission statement to help accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy. By allowing broader access to its technologies, Tesla stands to propel the entire industry forward, even if it potentially narrows its competitive edge. But as Musk stated, "Patents do not define technology leadership...but rather by the ability of a company to attract and motivate the world's most talented engineers."

Whether this bold gambit will yield the intended results or backfire remains a question only time will answer. For now, Tesla continues to push boundaries, challenging the status quo in its relentless pursuit of a sustainable future.

Tesla Gears Up to Enhance Service Mode: New Features Unveiled in Upcoming Software Update

By Kevin Armstrong
Tesla is making improvements to its Service Mode
Tesla is making improvements to its Service Mode

In the ongoing quest to deliver advanced vehicular technology, Tesla never fails to surprise. Tesla enthusiasts have new reasons to rejoice as a host of features are set to augment Service Mode in an upcoming software update.

Pioneering Enhancements: From Diagnostics to Calibrations

With every update, Tesla's futuristic touch becomes more evident. Michal Gapinski, creator of the Tesla Android Project, which famously enables Apple CarPlay in Teslas through a web-based solution, has shared some upcoming features to Tesla's Service Mode with us. In a forthcoming software update, Service Mode will house new diagnostic screens for seat belts, the HVAC system, and what appears to be a new window calibration screen. These screens promise to provide a comprehensive, accessible system check-up that offers valuable insights into your Tesla's health.

Sealt Belt Service Menu

Tesla is making improvements to its Service Mode
Tesla is making improvements to its Service Mode

The first new Service Mode menu appears to display details about Tesla's seat sensors, seat belts and the restraint control module (RCM). The car's visualization is displayed from the top with various areas are highlighted around the vehicle including what appears to be the seat sensors, seat belt buckles and retractors. Tesla displayed how they're tied together and how they communicate with the RCM.

New Window Calibration Menu

Tesla is making improvements to its window calibration system
Tesla is making improvements to its window calibration system

But that's not all. Tesla also appears to be adding a new menu for calibrating vehicle windows. This updated window calibration menu features a new visualization, lets you easily calibrate each window individually and displays the generation of the hardware installed.

HVAC Visualization

A particularly intriguing feature in the upcoming update is a dedicated service mode for Tesla's HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) system. This unique feature will display fan RPM and temperatures in various areas, seemingly allowing a multi-angle view of the HVAC system's visualization.

Though Service Mode is tailored for technicians or Tesla owners with a deep understanding of their vehicle, it offers a new level of engagement, providing detailed insights that can help troubleshoot, reset, calibrate, and even configure new parts.

Accessing Service Mode

To access Service Mode, navigate to Controls > Software, and tap and hold on the vehicle's model name that appears underneath the car's image until a water ripple appears. Then release and type 'service' in the dialog box before hitting 'ok'. It is crucial, however, not to make changes unless you understand the implications fully, as they could negatively affect the vehicle. Moreover, DO NOT drive with Service Mode activated, as it disables critical safety features like traction control.

While the new Service Mode features are not in production yet, they are expected to debut in an upcoming update. As we eagerly await these enhancements, one thing is clear - Tesla continues to push the envelope in providing owners with an unparalleled, comprehensive understanding of their vehicles.

Stay tuned for more updates on these exciting developments as they're expected in an upcoming software update.

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Latest Tesla Update

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Take a look at features that Elon Musk has said will be coming soon.


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