One silly thing I see on social media from time to time are “Humanpilot” posts. They all follow this same basic recipe:
- Find a video of someone doing something incredibly stupid with a car
- Share the video, or add it into a social media post
- Say something about how dangerous “Humanpilot” is, how it needs more work, etc.
Here’s an example:
— Sam Albuquerque ❌️ (@OfficialABQ) February 20, 2020
The idea behind the posts is that people can be pretty sucky drivers, so it doesn’t make a lot of sense to make a giant production out of every time Autopilot or the FSD beta is involved in an accident. Tesla’s data bears out that even today’s semi-automated driving features that still require the driver to pay attention are safer, on average, than the average driver.
“In the 1st quarter, we registered one accident for every 4.19 million miles driven in which drivers had Autopilot engaged. For those driving without Autopilot but with our active safety features, we registered one accident for every 2.05 million miles driven. For those driving without Autopilot and without our active safety features, we registered one accident for every 978 thousand miles driven. By comparison, NHTSA’s most recent data shows that in the United States there is an automobile crash every 484,000 miles.”
In other words, Teslas have a lower crash risk than other cars. Teslas with safety features like auto emergency braking, lane keep assist, etc., are more than twice as safe. Teslas running Autopilot are 4 times less likely than a Tesla without Autopilot engaged to get into an accident, and apparently almost 8 times less likely than the average car and driver to get in an accident.
To be fair, Autopilot is used a lot on highways, which I’ve seen estimated to be 2.5× safer than the surface streets (Freakonomics goes into detail on highway vs. surface street safety here), so it might not be a very fair comparison, but Tesla’s active safety features are active all the time on all roads, so there’s still plenty of proof that the assist features do make driving safer.
With this safety data in mind, it sounds a lot dumber when a politician, journalist, or safety advocate of some type or other calls for Tesla’s Autopilot to be banned because a handful of people have died while the system was activated (several of which were blatantly abusing it). It makes even less sense when morons like this guy are calling for “answers” after it’s pretty clear that Autopilot wasn’t even in use during the crash.
We need answers. https://t.co/e3TQTRv72Z
— Kevin Brady (@RepKevinBrady) April 28, 2021
So, in sum, I totally get the sentiment. There’s a lot of dishonesty and stupidity floating around about Autopilot when it’s generally a very safe system when used properly. It’s even surprisingly safe when people abuse it (but don’t do this at home, kids).
Posting “Humanpilot” videos is a funny way to clap back at these Helen Lovejoy types. If Autopilot must be banned for the few accidents it’s been involved with, including the ones that were obviously the owner’s fault, then human drivers are a lot higher up the list, as they get involved in a lot more accidents and cause a lot more death and destruction.
There’s a Man in the Phoenix Metro Who Rivals Autopilot’s Safety Record
Until recently, Paul Scott was the safest driver in the UPS fleet. The only thing that ruined his perfect record was that he retired, and thus is no longer in the fleet. He drove for the company for 45 years, and racked up over 4 million miles, with zero accidents, or even traffic incidents.
“I wanted to make it to four million and I did,” he told Fox 10. “I like round numbers. If I have a bill and I write a tip, I write a round number.”
His record was so good that the company gave him its highest award (25 years with no accidents) two decades ago, and didn’t have any higher awards to give. At 74 years old, even his advancing age didn’t mess him up.
“From 68–75 was in packages, and 75 on, I’ve been driving what we call feeders, or semi-trucks,” Scott told 12news.com.
They show how obsessed with safety he is. He even has rules for getting in and out of the truck in the safest way to prevent slipping and getting injured, and wanted the news crew to know the rules before any of them climbed into his truck. “Always have either two feet and one hand, or one foot and two hands … if you don’t do that, you’re gonna slip,” he told the crew.
He religiously counts a number of safety steps and has been doing that every time he drives, without exception, even over four decades.
He told Fox 10 that he racked up many of these miles on the route from Phoenix to El Paso, and back, and that’s a drive I’ve taken a good number of times in everything from a small Pontiac Fiero to medium-duty trucks. Some stretches, especially in New Mexico, can get pretty boring and I’ve seen a lot of morons along the way that look like they’re trying to get in wrecks.
Paul Scott doesn’t mind it, though. He told Fox 10 that he never gets bored along the route.
Scott is not a normal driver. To drive a semi truck professionally, you have to get a commercial driver’s license (CDL). While many states have no training requirement at all for adults to get a regular driver’s license, the CDL process is much stricter.
To get one, you have to pass a medical exam, get training, and pass a much tougher test, among other things. That doesn’t mean CDL drivers are all great drivers, but it does mean they aren’t a random sample among the overall population of people who drive.
On top of the filtering effect of getting a CDL, commercial drivers drive a lot more than most people do. That means they tend to have a lot more real-world driving experience, and that they are always a lot more practiced than the average commuter or person who only drives 12,000 miles per year. That makes a big difference.
We could be a lot smarter about driver training and who gets to keep driving. When autonomous vehicles become common, people who shouldn’t be driving won’t take a huge economic hit if they hang up the keys or lose their license from being a poor driver. Tightening that up a little would be a lot more possible if there are other decent options for those who can’t make the cut.
Featured photo provided by UPS.
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