Tesla navigates through more skepticism over its self-driving systems

(Credit: Tesla)

It is tough being Tesla. In a world where cars are becoming electric, just as the company initially intended when its mission began 18 years ago, Tesla is the top dog at the moment. Every car company in the world is nipping at its heels in an attempt to catch up to Elon Musk’s car company. However, recent developments have inspired me to look at a different kind of competition that Tesla is facing, something that feels somewhat unjust in the grand scheme of things. Unfortunately, it’s not from another car company, it’s from federal investigators and Tesla skeptics who continue to magnify the company’s accidents, all because there is the possibility that a car involved in an accident may have been operating on Autopilot.

Earlier this week, a Model Y was involved in a crash in Michigan. What turned out to be a case of reckless driving was initially blamed on the possibility of Autopilot by mainstream media sources. Unfortunately for them, their credibility regarding Tesla vehicles continues to be chipped away as they sacrifice long-term trustworthiness in the field of electric vehicles for short-term viewership. A Tesla was in fact in an accident in Detroit, and yes, the NHTSA was investigating it. There’s no reason to go any more broad than that.

Unfortunately, Tesla’s rollout of Autopilot and Full Self-Driving has put the company at risk for these types of stories. Anytime a Tesla crashes, the first thing that is planted in people’s minds is the possibility that the car may have been using the semi-autonomous driving functionalities. Why? Human beings are still responsible for operating the car even when the vehicle is utilizing the state-of-the-art technology. It is in no way the car’s fault when the driver is still responsible for the ultimate operation of the vehicle. It’s like blaming a fork for obesity, in my eyes.

While it is unfortunate that there have been deaths due to Autopilot, there are instances where gross negligence from the driver is truly the cause of an accident. For example, in a case where speed and reckless driving is truly the factor, there needs to be an immediate clarification by investigating officers. Perhaps Tesla could provide some clarification to authorities in some kind of system where officers could give the VIN of a vehicle involved, and Tesla could determine immediately whether the car was operating using its driver assistance features. Obviously, there may be a better way. But in the short-term, especially in the early days of the FSD Beta, the credibility of the vehicle’s systems is extremely important for future rollouts.

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Statistically, Tesla vehicles are much safer than human drivers, to begin with. Recent Q4 2020 Safety Report statistics from Tesla show that one accident occurred with Autopilot every 3.45 million miles. The national average is 484,000 miles. Isn’t that enough to prove Autopilot is a better option than human driving? By the way, it only gets more accurate and precise with every mile driven thanks to its Neural Networks that attain new data.

The exposure Tesla receives after one of these tragic accidents is likely what is the most frustrating. Immediately, people jump to conclusions and assume the car was responsible for the issues. It’s interesting though because I can’t ever recall a single instance of media jumping all over an issue with SuperCruise or any of the other numerous driver assistance systems that are out on the market today. I am sure there has been coverage, I just can’t recall any instance where it has been a national headline like Tesla seems to be included in on a regular basis.

In all honesty, it is just extremely frustrating to know that there is so much focus on Tesla’s shortcomings instead of its broad successes. I am a TSLA investor, but I am also extremely critical of the company at times, and I believe it is because of my holdings. There are times I would do things differently. I was vocal about my distaste for not telling any Model Y LR RWD reservation holders that their cars weren’t going to be made. I am upset that there is relatively no communication with Model S Plaid reservation holders regarding their steering wheels. I am not a fan that we’ve been told Semi/Roadster production is imminent on numerous occasions but we are still sitting here with neither of those vehicles. I get the bottlenecks, but I think those things have just frustrated me personally.

However, I am also going to admit when things are just plain unfair, and Tesla is a victim of that on so many occasions. I don’t know if that has to do with oil money lining the pockets of MSM, or it is just an attempt to derail a company that has really disrupted the automotive industry. I won’t speculate. There is, of course, a reason for the investigations that could be beneficial. It could just be an attempt to learn from the mistakes of Tesla and pass them along for future instances. Unfortunately, there will be more accidents with self-driving software, and it will go far beyond Tesla. However, Tesla is the only company with a robust self-driving program, so the microscope almost needs to be on them at times, but that’s where this whole situation really gets sticky.

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I use this newsletter to share my thoughts on what is going on in the Tesla world. If you want to talk to me directly, you can email me or reach me on Twitter. I don’t bite, be sure to reach out!

Tesla navigates through more skepticism over its self-driving systems
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