Tesla’s safety record and Autopilot defended by longtime TSLA analyst

(Credit: Justin Wegner)

Being one of the most notable advanced-driver assist systems in the market today, Tesla’s Autopilot is subjected to a lot of scrutiny. This became particularly evident recently amid three crashes involving Teslas. Investigations are still ongoing, though one of the vehicles’ drivers had claimed that Autopilot was engaged when the crash happened. 

Longtime Tesla analyst and bull Gene Munster of Loup Ventures has shared his two cents on the fresh scrutiny surrounding the company’s Autopilot and Full Self-Driving software. According to Munster, scrutiny or not, the fact remains that if one looks at the big picture, Teslas are still safer. This could be seen in Tesla’s safety reports, which have shown that Autopilot is getting steadily better. 

Despite being a system that is still a work in progress, Tesla has reported one accident for every 3.7 million miles driven while Autopilot is engaged. That’s an improvement of 18% compared to the system’s scores over the past two years. In comparison, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has reported one accident for every ~475,000 miles driven for all US vehicles. 

Teslas are equipped with a robust set of safety features, most of which are standard. For example, active Safety Features like Blind Spot Monitoring, Automatic Emergency Braking, and Front Collision Warning are included in all of the company’s cars. Autopilot, which includes Traffic-Aware Cruise Control and Autosteer, has been standard in Teslas since April 2019. Only the Full Self-Driving system, which includes Navigate on Autopilot, Auto Lane Change, Autopark, and Smart Summon, is a paid upgrade at $10,000. 

Ultimately, Munster remarked that numbers do not lie. Compared with the national data, Teslas are safer, and with Autopilot, even more so. This is despite Autopilot and Tesla’s advanced FSD features still being in their early days. The Loup Ventures Managing Partner explained that it would likely take some time for people to be comfortable with technologies like Autopilot, and there will be accidents from time to time. However, Munster emphasized that Autopilot could save even more lives than seat belts once the system is fully matured. 

“That said, we believe autonomous systems will drastically reduce the number of vehicle fatalities, similar as seatbelts did in the ’70s but on a greater scale. For perspective, there are still around 35k-40k vehicle fatalities every year in the US, around the top 10 causes of death. This equates to 11 fatalities per 100k people, compared to 25 per 100k in 1970,” Munster wrote. 

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Simon Alvarez: Simon is a reporter with a passion for electric cars and clean energy. Fascinated by the world envisioned by Elon Musk, he hopes to make it to Mars (at least as a tourist) someday.
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