Yesterday, during a Senate Commerce Committee hearing, senators criticized Tesla for errors in the security protocol in his autopilot and Full Self-driving functions. Massachusetts Democratic Senator Ed Markey said, that Tesla should turn off the Autopilot feature until the company implements precautions that reduce the likelihood that drivers will use the system to sleep while operating their vehicle. The senator cited a YouTube video and news reports of falling asleep drivers when an autopilot controlled a vehicle while it was running. “That’s not safe. Somebody is going to die because they can go to YouTube as a driver - find a way to (get around safety requirements). We can’t entrust the lives of our drivers and everyone else on the road to a water bottle,” he added.
Now let's look at the facts. In April, Tesla released the results of its vehicle safety report for the Q1 of 2019. According to the report, Tesla cars without autopilot got into one accident for every 1.76 million miles. At the same time, the same report showed that vehicles using the autopilot functions had an accident after every 2.87 million miles.
“In the 1st quarter, we registered one accident for every 2.87 million miles driven in which drivers had Autopilot engaged. For those driving without Autopilot, we registered one accident for every 1.76 million miles driven. By comparison, NHTSA’s most recent data shows that in the United States there is an automobile crash every 436,000 miles.”
Let's look at the numbers published in the Tesla Q4 of 2018 report on vehicle safety. One accident at 2.91 million miles with autopilot and one at 1.58 million miles without autopilot.
These are crushing statistics. So why do elected people who represent the interests of their constituents deny the facts and want to stop the development of technologies that really save lives?
What is behind this? Fear, worries or something else? With its appearance and development, Tesla turned the world order (although it would probably be right to call it disorder) upside down. The company entered the battle with major automakers and dealerships, and declared war on the oil and gas tycoons. Therefore, it is not surprising that Tesla has so many opponents. With the new order, car makers and oil moguls can no longer make as much money as before. And of course it makes them angry.
Autopilot technology has been developed (and continues to improve) for people and for the good of people. Very often we encounter situations where a person driving a car for some reason does not cope with the management, resulting in accidents. Among these accidents are also those when drivers fall asleep while driving. In such a situation, the result is always sad, because there are no functions to prevent an accident.
Tesla provides the opportunity to drive their vehicles much safer in comparison with other cars. Thanks to the possibilities of autopilot, everyone who is in the car during its movement is much more protected. And even if the driver falls asleep while driving, after several warnings, the car will stop gently and turn off emergency lights.
"Before using Autopilot, please read your Owner's Manual for instructions and more safety information. While using Autopilot, it is your responsibility to stay alert, keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times and maintain control of your car...Before enabling Autopilot, the driver first needs to agree to “keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times” and to always “maintain control and responsibility for your vehicle.” Subsequently, every time the driver engages Autopilot, they are shown a visual reminder to “keep your hands on the wheel."
Let's face it, no sane person will buy third-party chip and install it on their car in order to be able to sleep in the car while the autopilot function is activated. Therefore, this should not become a reason to prohibit the use of the autopilot function.
In the United States, there are 120 firearms per 100 people, with 30% of Americans owning at least one unit, but most of them own several units. According to the Pew Research Center, two-thirds of owners have more than one firearm, and 29% own five or more firearms.
More than 33,000 people die from firearms in the United States every year, but so far weapons have not been banned!
At the same time, according to data published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 36,600 people died on American roads in 2018. These numbers reflect the human-pilot in action.
Dear senators, chairmen, and elected people responsible for their voters, please stop to justify your actions with minor doubts at a time when there are statistics showing us that we have long been in need of autopilot. It is the presence of autopilot that will significantly reduce the number of deaths on the roads. On the contrary, you need to stimulate companies for the fastest development and high-quality implementation of the autopilot system. There is no need to deceive people that the autopilot is unsafe at a time when you really are not doing anything in order to reduce the number of deaths of American citizens on the roads or from firearms.
Let's watch a video of Tesla Model 3 owners trying to drive in Autopilot and not keep their hands on the steering wheel.
Featured image: @EvaFoxU/Twitter
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About the Author
Eva Fox joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover breaking news as an automotive journalist. The main topics that she covers are clean energy and electric vehicles. As a journalist, Eva is specialized in Tesla and topics related to the work and development of the company.