While Tesla Motors focuses the public’s attention on its testing reports claiming that the company’s Autopilot technology avoids possible road accidents and seems to be over 50% more effective than a human driver, some statistical data on former accidents engaging Tesla self-driving cars can be viewed and analyzed by experts.
Thus, Ars Technica points out that the autonomous unit can be rather slow when it comes to emergency braking. But while studying these complaints from customers, Tesla Motors sometimes puts responsibility on drivers themselves, who accidently or not deactivate certain functions of the system interfering into its correct performance. Another aspect is about changing lanes. It occurs that this feature in fact can’t be called completely driverless. The driver still needs to control the vehicle by activating the turn signal, and only after that the car will use its autonomous function.
One thing many experts are consent about is that Tesla self-driving cars are better to be used on highways with limited access, and there were a few situations when the Autopilot system couldn’t avoid the collision in urban conditions.
Fatal Car Crash
Unfortunately, the system is often blamed for one fatal accident that occurred on May 7, 2016. The tragedy happened when a driver in his Tesla car crashed into a huge trailer, which lead to the driver’s death. The investigation was held. The Tesla vehicle didn’t use brakes, when a tractor-trailer in front of it was turning left. The self-driving system manufacturer had to share its documents and information on the autonomous hard and software design with the investigating agency. In the company’s view both the system and the driver didn’t detect the white trailer because its color was almost the same as the sky, so the brakes were not activated. Back then the company announced this fatal accident as the first of this kind involving Teslas, even though more than 130 mln miles were tested by the Autopilot-equipped vehicles.
Tesla Motors claims that even despite of this terrible tragedy the mileage statistics seemed to be pretty positive compared to how many car crashes happen when there is no driverless technology installed. However, critics argue that this comparison is incorrect since Tesla self-driving cars have driven not that much so far. Obviously, to make the technology safer and more trusted, all autonomous vehicle manufacturers need to provide more detailed data on tests, planned updates, etc.
Tesla’s position on this deadly crash of 2016 is pretty clear: the company insists the killed driver had to control its Autopilot since the system was in a beta version. It meant, it could have some malfunctioning, and drivers had been notified to control their cars with hands on their steering wheel. But the driver failed to see the obstacle in front of his car and switch to the manual control, which led to this fatal tragedy.
On March 9, 2017, a new accident with a Tesla car was registered. It took place in China. The autonomous Tesla Model X crashed into Ford Transit involving two more cars into the accident. The Tesla car driver blamed it was his autopilot’s fault, as he had this system working at that moment. Autopilot could not detect Ford’s maneuvers and caused the collision. The road officers also noticed too short distance between the two cars, which turned to be the Tesla driver’s fault.
Earlier an accident with a Tesla car occurred in Switzerland, when in spring 2016 automated Tesla Model S failed to avoid a collision with a minivan that stopped in the left lane. Tesla’s driver told that none of the automated functions worked correctly, which led to the accident.
In summer 2016 the US driver of self-driving Tesla Model X accidently crashed into a trade center building. Back then the car owner insisted the Autopilot got suddenly activated while he was parking making the vehicle drive faster directly into the building.