The Fed is more likely to find Tesla autopilots than other ADAS crashes

Following the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s announcement that it is upgrading Tesla’s autopilot investigation, new data suggests that other automakers’ vehicles are less likely to crash while using their equivalent technology.

The Associated Press reports that several automakers have found that their driver assistance systems – that is, partially automated systems that can take on some driving responsibilities with continuous human intervention – cause fewer accidents than autopilots.

General Motors has told the outlet that its Super Cruise system has been involved in only three accidents since 2021, which it claims was not a defect in its system and two before. The Super Cruise was first launched in 2017 and the company has sold more than 34,000 vehicles equipped with the system.

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Nissan, whose proprietary assist has sold over 560,000 vehicles, has not yet made a crash to report. Ford, similarly, had zero crashes for its BlueCruise reporting, although their system was launched very recently. Stellantis, meanwhile, said it had only two crashes to report for the system.

When it announced that it was upgrading its investigation into autopilots, NHTSA reported that it was aware of 207 autopilot-related accidents in one way or another, of which 16 vehicles crashed into emergency vehicles.

Like GM, a number of these accidents were attributed to factors beyond the control of the system (such as other vehicles crashing into it) but 106 remain for which other vehicles cannot be blamed. Of these, about half are related to drivers responding too slowly to their vehicle prompts, and a quarter are involved using autopilots in situations where Tesla said there could be problems with the system.

The regulator, however, said it would check whether the system adequately employed drivers. The NHTSA writes that allowing drivers to perform their supervisory tasks properly is an “important security consideration” for ADAS systems.

Although the autopilot was significantly more involved in accidents than other rival semi-automated systems, it has been operating for much longer and in more vehicles than other systems. Approximately 830,000 vehicles are equipped with it but the same report found that its crash rate per 1,000 vehicles is significantly higher than that of other automakers.

Although this is a complex problem, it is possible that Tesla drivers use their systems more than other drivers because, say, it is not limited to highways like the Super Cruise. Lower crash rates may be related to other car manufacturers’ more conservative approaches to their ADAS systems and less aggressive marketing.

While the government is expected to release data collected from both Tesla and other automakers soon, it is expected that autopilot safety records will be single. It remains to be seen what action it will take, but now that NHTSA has upgraded its investigation, it may simply drop the case altogether or initiate a withdrawal.

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