NHTSA investigates Tesla crashes into emergency vehicles, what does it all mean?


NHTSA is investigating 12 crashes by Teslas on Autopilot into emergency vehicles on the side of the road. It's also asking the other companies who make products like Autopilot for their statistics. What can be done to prevent these crashes, and are any number of them acceptable? Is Tesla doing things wrong or doing it better than anybody else? We may learn that and the issues are complex.

I discuss them in this new Forbes.com article:

Teslas Are Crashing Into Emergency Vehicles Too Much, So NHTSA Asks Other Car Companies About It


Very nice job concisely stating the issues involved. Additional oversight from NHTSA is probably not welcome by any company but hopefully will push Tesla to improve their driver monitoring.

The MIT study is better than nothing (ie, the data Tesla releases) but suffers from significant flaws.

1. No update since 2019, to the best of my knowledge & no readily available public data. This means it misses significant improvements to non-interstate Autopilot: improved lane centering, auto lane change, and traffic light & stop sign control. Anecdotally, the last has significantly increased my usage of Autopilot off the highway.
2. A focus on Boston highway commuters. Again, better than nothing but a poor stand-in for the US Tesla driver population.
3. Driving patterns may have shifted during the pandemic, particularly for the income brackets that purchase Tesla vehicles.

With all this said - if the data Tesla possesses shows a clear slam dunk win for Autopilot surely they would release it instead of leaning on flawed comparisons. Better studies need to be done.

Actually there was a new study (of different things) issued this week. Tesla knows precisely how many miles Autopilot drives on highways and on city streets. It knows how many airbag deployments happen on each type of road with autopilot on or off. It knows this is a very relevant piece of data to understand their record, and has been asked many times to provide that data.

It doesn't, so we got on what we have. Including Tesla's own declaration that Autopilot should only be used on highways, though we know people do it more than that.

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