US Democratic Senators Richard Blumenthal and Ed Markey recently sent a letter to Tesla pointing out their "significant concerns" related to the company's advanced driver-assist systems: Tesla Autopilot and Full Self-Driving Beta Capability. Like many others keeping a close watch on Tesla and CEO Elon Musk, the senators point to Tesla's "troubling safety record" and "deadly crashes" as grounds for their concerns.
Of course, Tesla has responded to the letter defending the systems' safety and overall value offered to consumers. Tesla continues to assert that its safety systems are saving lives, and they only stand to improve significantly over time.
The brand has made it clear that cars with Autopilot engaged experience many fewer collisions than those without it, and that at least 60,000 Tesla owners are out testing FSD Beta on public roads, with almost no notable issues. The lack of issues is likely more due in part to driver intervention than the current success of the technology, but still, FSD Beta isn't actively injuring or killing people as some skeptics continue to suggest.
In fact, Tesla also went on to reiterate that its driver-assistance technologies require “constant monitoring and attention of the driver.” So, unless the driver is not following the rules or making unsafe choices, the technology should work to help keep people safer.
Humans drive cars every day, and there's a very high chance of error. Advanced driver-assist systems work to assist when a driver makes an error, as well as reduce the chances of a serious collision. This is precisely why the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety factors a car's collision avoidance systems into its vehicle safety ratings.
While many disagree with Tesla's choice to test its technology with everyday drivers on public roads, Tesla insists that this is the only way to truly improve the technology. Moreover, it's assumed that the vast majority of Tesla owners don't want to lose the privilege to use the technology, much less destroy their expensive electric car and become the focal point of more negative news against the brand. Not to mention the potential of spending some time behind bars for being responsible for causing an injury or death.
According to Tesla's senior director of public policy and business development Rohan Patel, Autopilot and FSD Beta allows drivers to proceed more safely than the average US driver. While there's no way to prove this with 100-percent certainty, it is clear that there are tens of thousands of car crashes in the US every day, and they're typically attributed to driver error.
Tesla hasn't yet reported a notable crash where FSD Beta was involved, and while there have been a handful of tragic crashes seemingly involving Tesla Autopilot, while devastating and very sad, they arguably don't prove that the system is faulty and will eventually lead to a massive death toll. Instead, in cases aside from the few exceptions, it appears based on Tesla's extensive safety reports that Autopilot is being used properly and potentially reducing accidents.
After receiving Tesla's letter, Blumenthal and Markey told Reuters that it was simply "more evasion and deflection from Tesla. Despite its troubling safety track record and deadly crashes, the company seemingly wants to carry on with business as usual.”
That said, the two lawmakers didn't provide data showing Tesla's "troubling safety track record." Information about the "deadly crashes" is available to the public, and it has been proven that while many were blamed on Autopilot at the onset of the investigation, the blame changed to driver error after all details were revealed. It's important to note that there are some "Autopilot" crashes still under investigation.
What do you think? Should Tesla be forced to give up on Autopilot and FSD Beta development and deployment, or at least make changes to the way it's rolling out the technology? Is Autopilot actually capable of saving lives? Will further issues and future crashes put an end to Tesla's advanced driver-assist systems, or will regulators determine that the technology is improving overall safety in many more ways than it's hindering it?