Tesla’s crash rate has dropped nearly 40 percent after the company installed its semi-autonomous Autopilot software, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report about the May 2016 fatal accident that involved a Tesla Model S.
The NHTSA report, which you can read in its entirety below, analyzed mileage and airbag deployment data supplied by Tesla for all 2014-2016 Model S and 2016 Model X vehicles equipped with Autopilot. And the findings seemingly bolster Tesla’s claims about the safety of semi-autonomous features in its electric vehicles.
In fact, the government has exonerated Tesla for the accident that killed Joshua Brown, and won’t be ordering any recalls.
Joshua Brown, 40, was killed in Florida on May 7th, 2016 when his Model S slammed into a tractor trailer at a highway intersection. Tesla said the car’s sensor system failed to distinguish a large white 18-wheel truck and trailer crossing the highway due to the sun. The truck driver claimed Brown was watching a movie at the time of the accident.
“While ADAS technologies are continually improving in performance in larger percentages of crash types, a driver should never wait for automatic braking to occur when a collision threat is perceived,” the NHTSA writes.
The NHTSA didn’t let Tesla off without taking a little shot. “Although perhaps not as specific as it could be, Tesla has provided information about system limitations in the owner’s manuals, user interface and associated warnings/alerts, as well as a driver monitoring system that is intended to aid the driver in remaining engaged in the driving task at all times. Drivers should read all instructions and warnings provided in owner’s manuals for ADAS technologies and be aware of system limitations.”
Here are some other interesting findings from the NHTSA report:
The driver in fatal accident had 7 seconds to react
“NHTSA’s crash reconstruction indicates that the tractor trailer should have been visible to the Tesla driver for at least seven seconds prior to impact. On June 28, 2016, NHTSA opened PE16-007 to “examine the design and performance of any automated driving systems in use at the time of the crash.”
“An attentive driver has superior situational awareness in most of these types of events, particularly when coupled with the ability of an experienced driver to anticipate the actions of other drivers. Tesla has changed its driver monitoring strategy to promote driver attention to the driving environment.”
Tesla knew drivers would stop paying attention when Autopilot was engaged
“It appears that over the course of researching and developing Autopilot, Tesla considered the possibility that drivers could misuse the system in a variety of ways, including those identified above – i.e., through mode confusion, distracted driving, and use of the system outside preferred environments and conditions.”
Report highlight: “The data show that the Tesla vehicles crash rate dropped by almost 40 percent after Autosteer installation.”
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 19, 2017
“The potential for driver misuse was evaluated as part of Tesla’s design process and solutions were tested, validated, and incorporated into the wide release of the product. It appears that Tesla’s evaluation of driver misuse and its resulting actions addressed the unreasonable risk to safety that may be presented by such misuse.”
Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) systems not designed for this type of crash
“NHTSA’s examination did not identify any defects in the design or performance of the AEB or Autopilot systems of the subject vehicles nor any incidents in which the systems did not perform as designed. AEB systems used in the automotive industry through MY 2016 are rear-end collision avoidance technologies that are not designed to reliably perform in all crash modes, including crossing path collisions.”