Tesla recently released a new update to its Vehicle Safety Report, revealing data for all four quarters of 2023.
The voluntarily published quarterly reports include the number of miles driven per accident registered when using Autopilot technology, not using Autopilot technology, and the U.S. average (the most recent data available from NHTSA and FHWA for calendar year 2022).
The data gives us glimpses of how Autopilot improves vehicle safety, but it has some limitations (more on that at the bottom of this post) due to the methodology. For example, Tesla counts all accidents, regardless of the cause, despite the fact that more than 35 percent of all Autopilot crashes occur when the Tesla vehicle is rear-ended by another vehicle, the company says.
Get Fully Charged
Tesla EV safety
Tesla aspires to be one of the world’s safest car brands. Its Autopilot driver assist system is promised to offer a significant improvement of safety, compared to conventional driving.
According to Tesla, the number of miles driven per accident registered in 2023, when using Autopilot technology, varied from 5.18 to 6.18 million miles driven.
The results are mixed—21% worse than a year ago in Q1, 21% better in Q2, 6% worse in Q3 and 11% better in Q4. In other words, we can’t really say that there is a clear, consistent, and noticeable improvement.
Without using Autopilot technology, Tesla vehicles statistically note more accidents—from 1.00 to 1.52 million miles driven per accident registered.
Not only that, the results were worse than in 2022 in each of the four quarters of 2023 (Q1 down 9%, Q2 down 5%, Q3 down 11%, and Q4 down 29% year-over-year).
There is a significant difference between the two modes of driving (with or without Autopilot) and the difference continues to increase. However, we must note that the two data sets should not be compared against each other, aside from providing us with some idea of the numbers.
It’s important to note that the results are comparable only within a particular category (Autopilot or without Autopilot), not between the categories as the input data might be widely different (like simple highway driving or complex city driving). 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 we 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.
Below we attached a full chart with all numbers provided by the manufacturer plus NHTSA and FHWA data about the average distance between an automobile crash in the United States.
The difference is pretty huge, but once again, we shouldn’t compare the numbers directly. The U.S. average includes a much older vehicle fleet (with fewer safety systems), which alone is a big factor. The U.S. average is 0.670 million miles (as of 2022 since there is no info for 2023 yet).
Tesla has its own version of the chart:
- 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
- results might be affected by various factors, including seasonality (reduced daylight, weather conditions), less driving during lockdown
- NHTSA and FHWA average for the U.S. (updated rarely) includes all cars, also old
- Tesla’s info about the methodology of registering accidents:
“We collect the amount of miles traveled by each vehicle with Autopilot active or in manual driving, based on available data we receive from the fleet, and do so without identifying specific vehicles to protect privacy. We also receive a crash alert anytime a crash is reported to us from the fleet, which may include data about whether Autopilot was active at the time of impact. To ensure our statistics are conservative, we count any crash in which Autopilot was deactivated within 5 seconds before impact, and we count all crashes in which the incident alert indicated an airbag or other active restraint deployed. (Our crash statistics are not based on sample data sets or estimates.) In practice, this correlates to nearly any crash at about 12 mph (20 kph) or above, depending on the crash forces generated. We do not differentiate based on the type of crash or fault (For example, more than 35% of all Autopilot crashes occur when the Tesla vehicle is rear-ended by another vehicle). In this way, we are confident that the statistics we share unquestionably show the benefits of Autopilot.”
- assuming the methodology was not changed, we can see how each category improves over time