Tesla has already saved many YouTubers from accidents with help from its semi-autonomous Autopilot feature. But according to CEO Elon Musk, YouTubers are not the only one it has saved as Autopilot has reduced crashes by 50% in a few months.
Tesla Autopilot: a sure success
“The probability of having an accident is 50% lower if you have Autopilot on. Even with our first version. So we can see basically what’s the average number of kilometers to an accident – accident defined by airbag deployment. Even with this early version, it’s almost twice as good as a person,” said Musk during a recent government-hosted conference in Norway. Electrek was the first to spot the comments the CEO made last week in Norway.
Not every accident involves deploying an airbag, and the sample size is limited; hence, there can be some obvious mistakes with the data.
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“I think it’s going to be important in term of satisfying regulators and the public to show statistically with a large amount of data – with billions of kilometers of driving – to say that the safety level is definitively better, by a meaningful margin, if it’s autonomous versus non-autonomous,” Musk said.
Tesla is still far away from hitting billions of kilometers of data. Earlier this month, the EV firm revealed that Autopilot has covered over 47 million miles since its launch in October 2015. The data is expected to grow exponentially with growth in Tesla’s vehicles every quarter.
Numbers doubtful but still impressive
Also it is not known how Musk arrived at this 50% number. Tesla’s Autopilot is supposed to be engaged only on divided highways, and if one is comparing simple highway driving in good conditions to all other driving conditions (including driving in poor visibility around town), then it is going to skew the numbers.
Nevertheless, this 50% figure does look impressive, no matter how you are looking at it. It looks even better considering this is only Tesla’s first-gen Autopilot system using more basic algorithms and a limited suite of sensors. Musk expects the second generation to be considerably safer and fully autonomous.
About 32,000 people die every year on U.S. roads, and more than double this number are injured in accidents, so if Tesla’s Autopilot system can even reduce the number of crashes 25%, it will be a huge achievement. Tesla’s fully autonomous Autopilot system is expected to be ready in the next couple of years, but how much time the regulatory process will take is not known for now.