Nearly 400 accidents involving vehicles with activated driver assistance systems have been reported to the US road safety agency NHTSA since July 2021 – 70% of them attributable to Tesla. Elon Musk’s electric car company was involved by far in the largest number of accidents in this category (273), followed by Honda with 90 accidents. Of the six victims, five were linked to a Tesla.
As the data collection is not standardized, the figures are comparable only to a limited extent. The fact that Tesla is so advanced is likely due to the fact that the company has sold hundreds of thousands of vehicles with the “Autopilot” system. But the competition also has driver assistants to keep them on track.
Not complete, but an overview
The data collection is based on an order from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which required the reporting of incidents involving driver assistance systems. This is to determine their safety. The authority has broken down the figures now presented: all accidents involving level 2 attendants are collected in the larger dataset, while accidents involving level 3 and 5 test vehicles have their own relationship.
The latter is not yet available in the US and Mercedes was the first automaker to announce the sale of a Level 3 assistance system. The person behind the wheel can use this to temporarily transfer responsibility in an exactly described scenario. With other systems, you need to be able to take control at any time.
Data on accidents involving level 2 systems also show that in most accidents with them no information is known about possible personal injury. The object the vehicles collided with is also unknown in 146 cases, followed by stationary objects (78) and other vehicles, mainly cars. More than a third of the accidents occurred in the more populous US state of California. It is also surprising that the vehicles were mostly (in 124 cases) damaged in the front, so the vehicles allegedly hit something.
In the case of accidents with (partly) autonomous cars (levels 3-5), however, the situation is different, here the damage to the rear dominates. By far the majority of the accidents here can be traced back to the test vehicles of the Alphabet Waymo branch (62), ahead of Transdev (34) and Cruise (23). In one case there were serious injuries in this category, but in the vast majority of cases no injuries were reported. Other cars were involved in more than half of the accidents involving (partially) autonomous vehicles. A total of 130 are listed.
While the datasets aren’t complete, they are important for road safety, explains the NHTSA. This gives you an overview of incidents where a driver assistance system was active in the 30 seconds prior to the accident. Since the data cannot be compared with the total kilometers traveled, they do not allow comparisons between producers, explains the authority.
Publishing data is part of the self-commitment to transparency, adds Steven Cliff. The data would allow NHTSA to identify emerging risks early and learn more about how these technologies work in the real world. For example, it appears that vehicles equipped with telematics technology would provide reliable data more quickly.