Teslas that uses driver assistance systems have been involved in 273 accidents over the past nine months, according to NHTSA.

NHTSA divided collision data into two categories based on the level of autonomous systems: driver assistance systems — which provide speed and steering inputs — and fully autonomous technologies, which are intended to operate safely one day without human intervention. NHTSA It found that there have been 367 accidents in the past nine months involving vehicles that were using these driver assistance technologies. 273 of the Tesla system-related accidents are either ‘completely self-driving’ program or its predecessor, the Tesla Autopilot.

There have been 130 crashes including fully Automated driving systems, 62 of which were Waymo accidents. Transdev, a shuttle operator, has reported 34 accidents, and Cruise, which provides an automated hub to General Motors in San Francisco, has reported 23.

The data lacks critical context such as fleet size or mileage, making it impossible to make a fair comparison between the security of the different technologies. NHTSA said that not all relevant crashes may be included in the dataset, because recording of crash data may vary widely between manufacturers.

“I advise caution before trying to draw conclusions based solely on the data we release. In fact, the data alone may raise more questions than it answers,” NHTSA Director Stephen Cliff told reporters in a Tuesday briefing.

Two of the most frequently reported technologies in crashes are also some of the most widely used. For example, the Tesla Autopilot comes standard on all of its vehicles, unlike competing driver assistance systems from other automakers. Drivers describe using Autopilot regularly because they say it can make them feel less tired after long drives. Waymo, the other company with the highest number of accidents, operates the most comprehensive taxi service in the country, with operations in much of Phoenix, Arizona and San Francisco.

For the first time, automakers and robotics operators had to provide NHTSA data on accidents involving these vehicles. The NHTSA says it will use the data to identify safety issues and intervene as necessary. Pony.ai, which tests robotics in California, recalled three of its vehicles this year after NHTSA data collected from the operation.

Of the total of 497 accidents, 43% occurred in California. The state is the home of Silicon Valley, making it a hotspot for testing new technologies.

The NHTSA found that of the 367 driver assistance accidents reported, there were six deaths and five serious injuries.

The safety risks of these new technologies have attracted the attention of safety advocates for years. There are no specific regulations for driver assistance systems, leaving automakers to market and prescribe the systems as they choose.
Tesla’s autopilot and “fully self-driving” program have been particularly controversial. An NHTSA investigation into first responder cars from rear Teslas was expanded last week and could lead to a subpoena.
The National Transportation Safety Board has investigated fatal accidents involving autopilot and called on the automaker to make changes, such as developing technology to more effectively sense a driver’s level of participation and alert them when their participation is lacking.
Tesla has released data since 2018 claiming that autopilot has a lower crash rate per mile than normal driving. But safety experts caution that Tesla’s analysis compares apples to oranges, since most automated driving takes place on highways, where collision rates per mile are much lower than all driving.

Tesla states that drivers using autopilot must remain alert and be ready to take full control of the vehicle at any moment. However, experts say drivers who use technologies like autopilot risk getting distracted.

Waymo says it sees value in standardized and nationwide crash reporting with the development of autonomous driving.
A 2021 study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that Tesla drivers look away from the road more frequently while using autopilot compared to driving without the driver assistance system.

The NHTSA said its investigation of Teslas rear emergency vehicles while on autopilot found that in 37 of 43 accidents with detailed vehicle log data available, drivers had their hands on the steering wheel in the last second before impact.

For years, Tesla has detected torque on the steering wheel to determine if the driver is busy. I’ve started using an in-vehicle camera to detect distraction, which many safety experts say is an excellent way, as cameras can track eye movement.

“We see value in having standardized, nationally standardized reports of crashes during this early stage of the development and deployment of autonomous driving technology, and there is a public benefit in the NHTSA sharing its findings,” Waymo said in response to the data. Tesla did not respond to a request for comment.

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