Tesla has stopped posting its Autopilot safety figures online. Why?

Like clockwork, Tesla has been reporting Autopilot safety statistics once a quarter since 2018. These reports were discontinued last year.

Around the same time, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the nation’s top auto safety agency, began requiring accident reports from automakers selling so-called advanced driver assistance systems like Autopilot. It started in June with the publication of these figures. And those numbers don’t look good for Autopilot.

Tesla won’t say why it stopped releasing its safety statistics, which measure accident rates per kilometer driven. The company does not employ a press office. A tweet sent to Tesla CEO Elon Musk inviting him to comment went unanswered.

However, Tesla critics are happy to comment on the situation. Taylor Ogan, chief executive of fund management company Snow Bull Capital, held a Twitter Spaces event on Thursday to offer his own interpretation of Tesla’s safety numbers. He thinks he knows why the company stopped reporting its safety record: “Because it’s gotten a lot worse.”

Also on Thursday, NHTSA announced that it had added two more accidents to the dozens of Tesla automated driving incidents it is already investigating. One involved eight vehicles, including a Tesla Model S, on the San Francisco Bay Bridge on Thanksgiving Day. By Friday’s close, Tesla stock has lost 65% of its value this year.

Using NHTSA crash statistics, Tesla’s previous reports, sales figures and other records, Ogan concluded that the number of reported Tesla crashes on US roads has grown much faster than Tesla’s sales growth. The average monthly growth in new Teslas since NHTSA issued its standing order was 6%, while comparable accident statistics were up 21%.

Tesla Autopilot’s crash numbers far exceed those of similar driver assistance systems from General Motors and Ford. Tesla has reported 516 accidents from July 2021 to November 2022, while Ford has reported seven and GM two.

To be sure, Tesla has far more vehicles equipped with driver-assistance systems than its competitors — an estimated 1 million, Ogan said, about 10 times as many as Ford. All other things being equal, that would mean that Tesla should have an NHTSA-reported accident rate of 70 as of last summer , to be comparable to that of Ford. Instead, Tesla reported 516 crashes.

Tesla’s quarterly safety reports have always been controversial. They put Tesla Autopilot in a good light: For the fourth quarter of 2021, Tesla reported one accident per 4.31 million miles driven in Autopilot-equipped cars. The company compared this to government statistics showing one accident for every 484,000 miles driven on the country’s roads for all vehicles and all drivers.

But statisticians have pointed out serious analytical flaws, including the fact that Tesla stats include newer cars being driven on freeways. The general government statistics include cars of all ages on freeways, country roads and neighborhood streets. In other words, the comparison is apples and oranges.

None of the stats, Tesla’s or the government’s, separate Autopilot from the company’s controversial Full Self-Driving capability. FSD is a $15,000 option that’s more ambitious than its name suggests: no car sold today is fully autonomous, including those with FSD.

Autopilot combines adaptive cruise control with lane keeping and lane changing systems on highways. FSD is marketed as an advanced artificial intelligence technology that can drive on neighborhood streets, stop and start at traffic lights, make turns on busy streets, and generally behave as if the car were driving itself. However, the fine print makes it clear that the human driver must be in full control and legally liable for accidents – including those resulting in injury and death.

The internet is full of videos of FSD misbehaving – turning into oncoming traffic, mistaking railroad tracks for roads, running red lights and more.

The number of autopilot and FSD-related injuries and fatalities is unknown — except maybe Tesla. Publicly available safety statistics on autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles are rare. Meanwhile, the accident reporting system in the US is rooted in 1960s methodology, and no serious attempt to update it for the digital world seems to be in the works at NHTSA or elsewhere.

Enacted in 2021, the NHTSA Assisted Driver Accident Statistics Collection Order is dependent on automakers for accurate and complete reporting. (Musk has misrepresented FSD’s safety record in the past, including claiming that the technology has not been involved in any accidents, despite public records making this clear.)

Not all information sent to NHTSA is available to the public.

Ogan, who drives an FSD-equipped Tesla, said more public information would allow for much more transparency about robotic car safety at Tesla and other automakers. Tesla once reported its Autopilot utilization rate, but no longer does so. “I’m looking at the only data available,” he said.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles has been investigating whether Tesla is violating its rule to market vehicles as fully autonomous when they aren’t. Musk has clearly stated that the company plans to develop FSD to create a fully autonomous robotaxi that Tesla owners could rent out for extra money. He had promised to have 1 million of these on the road by 2020, but that date has come and gone and there is no such thing as a fully autonomous Tesla. The DMV declined to comment.

FSD’s security and capabilities are, by Musk’s own admission, of vital importance — especially as Tesla stock continues to be bombed. In a June Interview with Axiohe said that “solving” FSD “is really the difference between Tesla, which is worth a lot of money and is basically worth zero.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *