Tesla will begin releasing quarterly Autopilot safety reports to persuade the public and the press that its system is safe. Speaking during a recent earnings call, company co-founder and CEO Elon Musk explained he’s fed up with the “misleading” media coverage Autopilot-related accidents receive.
“People are reading things in the press that causes them to use Autopilot less. And then, that makes it dangerous for our customers, and that’s not cool, that’s why I get upset,” Musk said, according to LeftLaneNews. He added the coverage Autopilot has received has made some Tesla owners believe turning the system on makes their car fully autonomous. It doesn’t; it merely helps when driving becomes tedious or boring.
Most Tesla owners use Autopilot correctly. The company’s statistics show the user base continues to grow but it dips when an accident makes headlines. This happened a few weeks ago when the owner of a Model X died after his crossover crashed into a concrete divider at freeway speeds. He ignored several visual and audible warnings to take the wheel, Tesla concluded after reviewing the car’s computer logs.
The reports Tesla will begin releasing this year will combat the misconception that Autopilot makes driving dangerous, Musk explained.
“It is the opposite case. When there is a serious accident, almost always — in fact, maybe always — the case is that it is an experienced user and the issue is more one of complacency. It’s thinking they know more about Autopilot than they do,” he opined. “The statistics are unequivocal that Autopilot improves safety — no question,” he stressed. He stopped short of revealing the kind of information the quarterly reports will contain.
In defense of its system, Tesla has often cited a study made by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that claims Autopilot-equipped Tesla cars are 40 percent less likely to crash than those driven by humans full-time. The agency recently distanced itself from that claim, according to Reuters. It explained its crash rates comparison didn’t take into account whether the driver engaged the Autosteer function. Tesla hasn’t commented on the report yet.
Musk still plans to release a fleet of fully autonomous Tesla vehicles. It will be “a mix of Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb,” according to The Verge. The first cars will “probably be ready by the end of next year,” he predicted, though whether they will be allowed to operate on public roads in late 2019 is a different story.
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