Last month, I wrote this article comparing Tesla’s Q3 2021 accident data with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) report Early Estimate of Motor Vehicle Traffic Fatalities for the First Half (January-June) of 2021. I also discussed that report here. It should be noted that the NHTSA’s report focused more on casualties per million miles driven while Tesla’s focuses on crashes per million miles driven.
Tesla just released its Q4 2021 accident data, and now we can add to that comparison. (See editor’s note about the scientific usefulness of these comparisons on the bottom of this article.*)
“In the 4th quarter, we recorded one crash for every 4.31 million miles driven in which drivers were using Autopilot technology (Autosteer and active safety features). For drivers who were not using Autopilot technology (no Autosteer and active safety features), we recorded one crash for every 1.59 million miles driven. By comparison, NHTSA’s most recent data shows that in the United States there is an automobile crash every 484,000 miles.”
Tesla added the following note to this report:
“Seasonality can affect crash rates from quarter to quarter, particularly in quarters where reduced daylight and inclement or wintry weather conditions are more common. To minimize seasonality as a variable, compare a quarter to the same quarter in prior years.”
The note makes sense, as Q4 is the height of the holiday traveling season in the US. Also, we should take into account that the fall and winter months have fewer daylight hours than the spring and summer months. Plus, there’s all that dangerous winter weather. All of these affect the data, and this is what Tesla is pointing out in that second statement.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 15, 2022
To recap, here is what Tesla recorded for each quarter of 2021:
- 1 accident for every 4.19 million miles driven with Autopilot engaged.
- 1 accident for every 2.05 million miles without Autopilot but with Tesla’s active safety features engaged.
- 1 accident for every 978 thousand miles without Autopilot or any active safety features.
- 1 accident for every 4.41 million miles driven with Autopilot engaged.
- 1 accident for every 1.2million miles without Autopilot or Tesla’s safety features.
- 1 accident for every 4.97 million miles driven with Autopilot engaged.
- 1 accident for every 1.6 million miles without Autopilot or Tesla’s safety features.
- 1 accident for every 4.31 million miles driven with Autopilot engaged.
- 1 accident for every 1.59 million miles without Autopilot or Tesla’s safety features.
The data, in my opinion, speaks for itself. It reflects Tesla’s focus on safety as its primary objective and shows that Autopilot is clearly safe to use.
*Editor’s note: There are some reasons why these comparisons are not very scientifically sound. For one, Autopilot is used in places/situations where driving is safer. You can’t actually turn it on in places/situations where driving is more dangerous. Additionally, it is a costly feature that is inherently going to be bought and used by people with more money, which is also a factor determining where people live, what road conditions are like in their area, and when and where they drive. In terms of comparing to the larger population of cars, these Tesla vehicles are, on average, much newer than the average vehicle fleet — which just heightens all sorts of demographic differences and tech differences. So, in the end, the comparison is truly too simplistic to be useful. A more rigorous scientific comparison that looked at cars of similar age and cost as well as controlling for demographics, urban environment, and other factors would be necessary to make any genuine conclusions about vehicle safety.
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