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Tesla publishes first quarterly Vehicle Safety Report, responding to media coverage of Tesla crashes

Tesla has long complained that media coverage of crashes in Tesla vehicles is overblown. In response to this, the company announced that it would start reporting safety numbers each quarter, detailing the frequency of Tesla crashes, and today Tesla delivered their first report of this kind.

The main numbers are: Tesla vehicles have accidents at about 1/4 the rate of regular vehicles, when being driven in normal non-Autopilot mode.  When in Autopilot mode, Tesla vehicles have accidents at about 1/7 the rate of normal vehicles.

While there are tens of thousands of people who die from auto accidents per year in the US, it is rare that any of them gain national coverage.  However, when even a non-fatal crash happens in a Tesla vehicle, it will often gain national coverage for at least a day or two, because Tesla is a popular brand and headlines with their name in it generate clicks.

Back in May, Tesla CEO Elon Musk criticized the media for the way they cover Tesla crashes, and announced in a tweet that Tesla would start delivering their internal safety numbers on a quarterly basis.

We didn’t get much information about which metrics would be released at the time, so today’s release is our first insight into what Tesla means when they consider the safety of their vehicles when compared to others on the road.  It seems that their primary concern is the frequency of accidents in Tesla vehicles, and how the car’s active and passive safety systems help drivers to avoid those accidents.

Read the full post below:

At Tesla, the safety of our customers is our top priority, which is why it’s critical that we design and build the safest cars in the world. Not only do we conduct extensive in-house testing and simulation to ensure our vehicles achieve top safety performance before they ever reach the road, we are also uniquely positioned to leverage the hundreds of thousands of miles of real-world data our fleet collects every month to continuously improve our vehicles and develop a more complete picture of safety over time.

Because every Tesla is connected, in most instances we are able to learn immediately when a Tesla vehicle has been involved in a crash. Additionally, our non-traditional sales model allows us to have a direct relationship with our customers for the lifecycle of ownership, providing an avenue for us to supplement our records and gain even more insight as needed. In contrast, automakers whose cars aren’t connected and who utilize networks of third-party franchised dealers may never know when a vehicle is involved in an accident. Through traditional channels, it can take months or even years for lawsuits or claims to be filed that provide automakers with insight into an accident that allows them to draw meaningful conclusions and improve safety.

Earlier this year, when we made the decision to begin publishing our safety data on a regular basis, we designed and introduced a completely new telemetry stream for our vehicles to facilitate these reports. This new data stream allows us to gather the most critical fleet-wide statistics from the exact moment a crash-related event is detected by our system. While there are still some unique cases in which crash data may not be available to us through this channel, we believe this system currently provides the best framework for safety reporting on an ongoing basis.

Here’s a look at the data we’re able to report for Q3:

  • Over the past quarter, we’ve registered one accident or crash-like event for every 3.34 million miles driven in which drivers had Autopilot engaged.
  • For those driving without Autopilot, we registered one accident or crash-like event for every 1.92 million miles driven. By comparison, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) most recent data shows that in the United States, there is an automobile crash every 492,000 miles. While NHTSA’s data includes accidents that have occurred, our records include accidents as well as near misses (what we are calling crash-like events).

Moving forward, we will publicly release these accident figures on a quarterly basis.

Given the degree to which accidents can vary in severity and circumstance, we’ve started an additional initiative to create a more complete picture of safety by gathering serious injury data from our customers following an accident. While we have long maintained the practice of calling our customers whenever our system detects a crash in order to see whether they need emergency assistance, we now also use these calls to understand if they sustained an injury in the crash, and if they have feedback on our current safety system. This will help us continue to improve our system and understand the rate of serious injuries over time.

We also encourage our customers to proactively contact Tesla Support if they are ever seriously injured in a Tesla vehicle, or if they have suggestions about improving safety features.

As we are working hard to make our cars the safest and most capable cars on the road in terms of passive safety, active safety, and automated driving, we must continue to encourage driver vigilance on the road – that is, by and large, the best way to prevent traffic accidents. Safety is at the core of everything we do and every decision we make, so we cannot stress this enough. We want our cars to not only lead the way to sustainable energy, but also make driving as safe as possible for everyone, and we are working as quickly as we can to achieve that. We look forward to sharing continued updates with our customers and community, and working together to make our vehicles as safe as possible.

Electrek’s Take

It’s good to see Tesla get around to releasing these numbers, but this definitely seems a bit short for a “report.”  Personally, I’d like to see more than just two numbers.

Part of Musk’s initial complaint was about media coverage of fatalities, and there was no mention of that in this report.  There was some mention of injuries, but no number attached to those.

However, the report does state that Tesla will work on assembling a “more complete picture,” so perhaps as the quarters go on, we’ll see better data in this respect.

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Avatar for Jameson Dow Jameson Dow

Jameson has been driving electric vehicles since 2009, and has been writing about them and about clean energy for since 2016.

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