Tesla Safety Report: Number of Human- and Software-Aided Crashes Higher in Q4

The automaker also says that drivers have logged more than 1 billion miles with Autopilot engaged.

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Beginning with Q3 in 2018, Tesla committed to releasing data on accident statistics surrounding its vehicles in an effort to remain transparent and convey the confidence that its semi-autonomous Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), coined Autopilot, is a safer solution than piloting a vehicle manually. Tesla published its second quarterly safety report this week, showing an overall increase in the number of accidents per mile than noted its previous quarter.

During Q4, Tesla says that drivers in control of their vehicles experienced one accident for every 1.58 million miles driven. This figure is up from that of Q3, where Tesla reported a crash every 1.92 million miles, or 18 percent less frequently than Q4. Comparatively, the NHTSA reported that the national average is one accident for every 436,000 miles traveled, an increase of 11.4 percent compared to the regulatory commission's Q3 report.

Thanks to advanced heuristics and Tesla's always-connected approach to vehicle data collection, the automaker is able to gather abstracts about accidents that occur while Autopilot was engaged. Tesla says that this number is far less frequent when compared to the human variable, averaging one accident for every 2.91 million miles in which the ADAS was active. It is important to note that this number has also increased in frequency, up 12.9 percent from Q3's figure of one accident in every 3.34 million miles.

Overall, Tesla's statistics suggest that vehicles with Autopilot engaged that are being driven on supported roadways in ideal conditions are 85 percent less likely to get into an automobile accident than the average driver who is presumably not using any form of ADAS while piloting their vehicle.

Though the data provided by Tesla proposes that a properly vetted ADAS may help to prevent accidents on public roads, correlation does not equal causation. Semi-autonomous driving aids like Autopilot are intended to be augmented extensions of the driving experience and are not fully autonomous solutions as the name may suggest. Tesla's system in its current state is not meant to replace the driver's hands at the wheels, despite entrepreneurial minds inventing numerous ways to fool the fail-safes put in place by the automaker. In October, Tesla even pulled the full self driving option from its menu after CEO Elon Musk admitted that the option "was causing too much confusion."

It's too early to surmise any trends regarding Tesla's safety data given that this release only marks the second iteration of automaker's quarterly report. However, it is refreshing to see a quantifiable number surrounding statistics involving newer ADAS technologies that are designed with the eventual goal of driver and occupant safety in mind. Previous reports on the topic by the NHTSA use limited data which back up Tesla's claims of Autopilot safety; continued follow-ups by the agency would help to provide independent reassurance that this trend is consistent, especially over winter months in Q4 where weather conditions could adversely affect safety statistics.