After a Tesla Model X was involved in a fatal accident last Friday in Mountain View, California, a federal investigation was opened by the U.S. NTSB and Tesla stock shares plummeted 8.2%.
In an effort to regain its composure, Tesla released a new blog post today that brought new evidence into the spotlight that showed how its systems were not at fault. This comes from news released last Tuesday that the company did “not yet know what happened in the moments leading up to the crash.”
From the scourging of the vehicle’s data logs, it appears that the driver had enabled the Autopilot feature with the cruise control follow-distance set to a minimum. According to the blog post, the driver also ignored repeated warnings and that “the driver’s hands were not detected on the wheel for six seconds prior to the collision.”
The new blog post provides a further reason for the extent of the damage, which included the Model X catching on fire and two other cars hitting it after the initial crash.
According to investigators, the crash cushion, or the metal barrier that separates the opposite sides of the road, was damaged from an accident a few days earlier, and had not been fully repaired.
Yet in an independent study performed by the U.S. Government more than a year ago, the Tesla Autopilot system had reduced crashes by almost 40%. The second iteration of Autopilot improves that statistic greatly, claims the company. According to Tesla, “If you are driving a Tesla equipped with Autopilot hardware, you are 3.7 times less likely to be involved in a fatal accident.”
Tesla Autopilot does not prevent all accidents – such a standard would be impossible – but it makes them much less likely to occur. It unequivocally makes the world safer for the vehicle occupants, pedestrians and cyclists.
No one knows about the accidents that didn’t happen, only the ones that did. The consequences of the public not using Autopilot, because of an inaccurate belief that it is less safe, would be extremely severe. There are about 1.25 million automotive deaths worldwide. If the current safety level of a Tesla vehicle were to be applied, it would mean about 900,000 lives saved per year. We expect the safety level of autonomous cars to be 10 times safer than non-autonomous cars.
In the past, when we have brought up statistical safety points, we have been criticized for doing so, implying that we lack empathy for the tragedy that just occurred. Nothing could be further from the truth. We care deeply for and feel indebted to those who chose to put their trust in us. However, we must also care about people now and in the future whose lives may be saved if they know that Autopilot improves safety. None of this changes how devastating an event like this is or how much we feel for our customer’s family and friends. We are incredibly sorry for their loss.