Tesla has just released its Vehicle Safety Report for the second quarter of 2021, for which we were waiting exceptionally long. The results, as we guessed, are worse than a year ago.

UPDATE: After publishing the article, we noticed that Tesla switched to a new category, which might make some of the data incomparable to the previous periods. We are not entirely sure.

Tesla reports one crash for every 4.41 million miles driven in which drivers were using "Autopilot technology (Autosteer and active safety features)". That appears to be a different category than the previous one, in which "drivers had Autopilot engaged", especially if only the active safety features would be enough to include it in the stats. Anyway, it's 2.6% down compared to the Autopilot number in Q2 2020.

This time there is no data for driving without Autopilot but with active safety features.

Driving without Autopilot and without active safety features resulted in one crash for every 1.2 million miles driven - down 23.1% year-over-year.

In brief:

  • Autopilot technology (Autosteer and active safety features): one accident for every 4.41 million miles driven
  • Autopilot on: no data
  • Autopilot off, active safety features on: no data
  • Autopilot off, active safety features off: one accident for every 1.2 million miles driven (down 23.1% year-over-year)

As Tesla is hard at work on automated driving, we would expect to see improvements year-over-year. Maybe the move away from radar or seasonality overshadowed the general software improvements?

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 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.

Tesla Vehicle Safety Report – Q2 2021

"In the 2nd quarter, we recorded one crash for every 4.41 million miles driven in which drivers were using Autopilot technology (Autosteer and active safety features). For drivers who were not using Autopilot technology (no Autosteer and active safety features), we recorded one crash for every 1.2 million miles driven. By comparison, NHTSA’s most recent data shows that in the United States there is an automobile crash every 484,000 miles."


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
  • Q1 2021: 7.66
  • Q2 2021: 8.11 (new "Autopilot technology" category)

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
  • 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. On the other hand, police-reported crashes from government databases are notoriously under-reported, by some estimates as much as 50%, in large part because most minor crashes (like “fender benders”) are not investigated. We also 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
  • 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

Hat Tip to Tyler!!!

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