Tesla Vehicle Safety Report Q1 2021: Accidents On Autopilot Worsening

Tesla Vehicle Safety Report Q1 2021: Accidents On Autopilot Worsening

04/18/2021

No signs of improvements (year-over-year) in the last quarter.

Tesla Vehicle Safety Report for the first quarter of 2021 reveals that the average distance per accident while driving on Autopilot is not improving significantly year-over-year, but rather has recently decreased.

After a minor growth of 5.8% year-over-year in Q3 2020, and by 12.4% year-over-year in Q4 2020, in Q1 2021 the average distance per accident is actually down by 10.5% year-over-year to 4.19 million miles.

It’s not a bad result, but it seems that despite ongoing work on the software, the stats are not improving like in the past.

The company registered:

  • Autopilot on: one accident for every 4.19 million miles driven (down 10.5% year-over-year)
  • Autopilot off, active safety features on: one accident for every 2.05 million miles driven (up 3.0% year-over-year)
  • Autopilot off, active safety features off: one accident for every 978 thousand miles driven (down 31.1% year-over-year)

Moreover, we can see a big 31.1% drop in the average distance per accident with Autopilot off and active safety features off. It was down by 22.6% also in Q4 2020. At 978,000 miles it actually never was so low. The brief data prevents us from drawing any conclusion about the reason for that.

It’s important to note that the results are comparable only for a particular category, not between the categories as the input data might be widely different. In other words, we can only see whether the active safety systems are improving over time (and it’s also only a rough comparison), but can’t compare Autopilot to non-Autopilot driving.

We assume that the proper use of Autopilot improves safety, but Tesla’s report does not allow us to evaluate the difference.

Tesla Safety Report – Q1 2021

“In the 1st quarter, we registered one accident for every 4.19 million miles driven in which drivers had Autopilot engaged. For those driving without Autopilot but with our active safety features, we registered one accident for every 2.05 million miles driven. For those driving without Autopilot and without our active safety features, we registered one accident for every 978 thousand miles driven. By comparison, NHTSA’s most recent data shows that in the United States there is an automobile crash every 484,000 miles.”

Meanwhile, Tesla’s Elon Musk noted that “Tesla with Autopilot engaged now approaching 10 times lower chance of accident than average vehicle”.

It’s actually quite funny, because aside from the dip in Q4, the recent results are further away from the goal than in Q1-Q3 2020. Well, maybe next time.

Autopilot on VS U.S. average (NHTSA data):

  • Q1 2020: 8.77 (record)
  • Q2 2020: 8.46
  • Q3 2020: 8.58
  • Q4 2020: 6.13 (but up from 5.41 in Q4 2019)
  • Q1 2021: 7.66

Important factors:

  • data for each setting might be collected at different driving scenarios (like simple highway driving or complex city driving), which makes the results incomparable between the categories
  • we don’t know the methodology of registering accidents
  • assuming the methodology was not changed, we can see how each category improves over time
  • NHTSA average for the U.S. (updated rarely) includes all cars, also old
  • results might be affected by various factors, including seasonality (reduced daylight, weather conditions), less driving during COVID-19 lockdown


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