Tesla highlights how its cars are Built for Safety
Anti-Tesla headlines are a staple of the popular press, and many of these aim to give the impression that Tesla’s Autopilot system is unsafe. A humorous (or exasperating) recent example: a Florida Fox News affiliate ran a story with the following headline: “Sheriff: Tesla on autopilot backs into Florida deputy’s patrol car.” The facts of the story emerged a day later: Two teenage girls took a borrowed Tesla on an illicit trip. When they got pulled over, the underage driver slipped into the back seat and claimed that she hadn’t been driving—the car was on Autopilot. (The police officer was not fooled, his car was undamaged, and the unlicensed young adventuress was given a citation and held until her parents arrived. The TV station has not retracted its deceitful headline.)
Above: Vehicles from Tesla are engineered for maximum safety (Source: Tesla)
Of course, this is just one entertaining example of the tall tales purveyed by the press on a daily basis. For editors, Tesla equals clicks, so seemingly every minor fender-bender involving a Tesla is trumpeted under headlines that mention Autopilot, and the articles seldom mention context such as the automaker’s stellar safety ratings or its comparatively low rate of accidents and injuries.
In order to articulate its side of the story, Tesla has added a new section to its web site, called Built for Safety. The new page highlights the steps Tesla takes to make its vehicles as safe as possible, and also describes some of the inherent features of electric vehicles that make them safer in some ways than legacy vehicles (among other things, the lower center of gravity reduces the risk of rollovers, and the lack of an engine in the front provides a larger crumple zone in frontal collisions).
CleanTechnica’s Jennifer Sensiba described Tesla’s new Built for Safety page in a recent article, which includes links to several other recent pieces in which she debunked some of the FUD extolled by what she calls the Church of Automotive Safety (so named because they expect online souls to take their anti-Tesla assertions on faith, without providing any facts to back them up).
The new section includes detailed descriptions of Tesla’s various safety features. A hardware and software suite, including an array of cameras and ultrasonic sensors, gives the vehicle’s central computer a picture of its surroundings, which enables active safety features such as automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, blind spot warning and lane departure avoidance. Over-the-air software updates allow Tesla to improve its safety features over time, and to introduce new ones.
Above: A look at Tesla's in-house crash lab (Source: Tesla)
The Built for Safety page helpfully points out that every one of Tesla’s current vehicles has earned a 5-Star Safety Rating (both overall and in every individual category) from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Also available on the site is a detailed Vehicle Safety Report, which includes quarterly statistics about accidents and fires. For example, Tesla’s summary of safety-related incidents for the fourth quarter of 2020 reads:
In the 4th quarter, we registered one accident for every 3.45 million miles driven in which drivers had Autopilot engaged. For those driving without Autopilot but with our active safety features, we registered one accident for every 2.05 million miles driven. For those driving without Autopilot and without our active safety features, we registered one accident for every 1.27 million miles driven. By comparison, NHTSA’s most recent data shows that in the United States there is an automobile crash every 484,000 miles.
Of course, all vehicles can crash, and reasonable minds may disagree about whether self-driving automobiles will be safer—Tesla’s figures certainly support the assertion that its existing autonomy features increase safety, but the debate won’t truly be resolved until there are a lot more self-driving vehicles on the road.