Elon Musk, co-founder, and CEO of Tesla wanted autonomous cars to be the vehicle that not only generates and saves more energy, but also the car that can save hundreds of thousands of lives in the future. Besides making a profit, these are almost the same goals of other car brands that manufacture self-driving vehicles. The CEO mentioned in a previous statement, that if deployed today, Tesla's Autopilot system would save a lot of lives.
This gives hope to almost every road user out there, at least until reports of an autonomous vehicle crashed into a truck and claimed a life on a Florida highway back in May. The incident is only one among three car crashes while the autopilot system was managing the wheels. Musk, however, is still making bold claims about the autopilots safety system even without sufficient data to back it up.
The Sensor Technology
Sensor provider and developer, Mobileye, explained that the sensor installed on the car was not yet capable of preventing a crash from lateral traffic. Another incident revealed a Tesla Model X running 55 miles per hour swerved into wooden stakes while the autopilot was engaged. The accidents involving autopilot directly contradicts the vision that the autopilot is safer than and can decide quicker than a human driver.
According to the incidents compiled by the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety, Tesla's autopilot has four times higher fatality rate compared to the usual everyday cars that are human driven. Another report claims that there are already seven autopilot incidents in total. However, there are still no official reports of the other incidents and no claims have been done yet to suggest that the autopilot system has been at fault.
The number of accidents may be few compared to statistics of human driver error, but that still does not imply that the autopilot system is safe, considering the number of Tesla cars on the road and how many miles they have driven. Combined Tesla miles driven up until September is predicted to be at three billion miles already.
What The Records Say
According to historical data, there have been six crash incidents in over 2.8 billion miles from Tesla cars that were driven by humans, or one incident per 470 million miles. Tesla cars with the autopilot engaged have a record of one car crash within a total of 220 million miles, or simply stating one fatality per 220 million miles. To sum that up, Auto-piloted Tesla cars have twice the risk as one that is driven by humans.
Depending on your perception and analysis, the data above may be irrelevant or not as significant as it should be. But the incident of having one fatality is still a huge disappointment in safety standards. Tesla and their research and development team should increase the pace of increasing safety standards and should set a goal of zero fatality before putting their fully autonomous cars on the road. Technology is advancing every day, but advancements should not be limited to the laboratory and tech companies like Tesla should improve their efforts to conduct real life testing before thinking about making a profit that may cost the lives of not only their consumers but also other road users.