Teslas are the safest cars in the world, despite this disturbing pile-up

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Elon Musk announced a few weeks ago that FSD (Full-Self Driving) autonomous driving was available to all US customers of the brand who purchased the option. The problem is that this announcement came at the same time as a spectacular accident involving a Tesla Model S. Video of the accident has just been posted online. But beware, there is not necessarily a causal link and we will explain why.

Until recently, the function ” Automated driving in the city of Tesla (also called FSD pour Fully autonomous driving) was only available in the US, for select customers. Elon Musk announced on his account Twitter on November 24, 2022 that the feature would now be available to all customers who paid for the option. Coincidence of the calendar, it was the same day that an accident occurred in which a Tesla Model S was involved a priori in semi-autonomous driving.

Autonomous driving in Tesla

Currently on sale for $15,000, the FSD allows Teslas (Model 3, Model Y, Model S, and Model X) to drive fully autonomously, ferrying the driver and passengers from point A to point A. The car then makes all the driving decisions., and it is quite impressive when you see the videos across the Atlantic of 100% autonomous trips. Please like the following video.

But the system is not legally recognized as fully autonomous, as it is level 2 autonomous driving. And not level 3, like Mercedes’ Drive Pilot system, which is less advanced than Tesla’s.

The consequence is that The driver of a Tesla is still responsible for driving his car, so you should keep watching the road and its surroundings. That is, in the event of an accident, the person responsible is the driver and not the manufacturer. In Mercedes, it is the opposite if the Drive Pilot is activated.

The accident of November 24, 2022

And speaking of accident, Elon Musk’s announcement comes at a delicate time. Indeed, on November 24, 2022, a traffic accident occurred in which a Tesla Model S was involved, at first glance in autonomous driving mode. The video of this accident has just been published by the media the interception.

We then see a white Tesla Model S activate its indicator, change lanes into the leftmost lane, and then slam on the brakes. Go on a multi-car crash involving a total of eight carsand causing some injuries.

According to the police report citing the driver, the Tesla was in “ Full autonomous driving mode“. The problem is that a priori, at the scene of the accident (the San Francisco Bay Bridge), it is not possible to activate the FSD according to the twitter account of The entire catalog of Mars. A regular user of FSD in Los Angeles. Instead, only the mode Autopilot available.

The user even thinks he knows why the Tesla would have slowed down so much in this precise place. The car’s GPS reportedly misidentified speed limits in the leftmost lane of the bridge, causing the car to slow to 25 MPH (about 40 km/h). At issue: the presence of an outlet upstream of the accident, as can be seen in the second angle shown in the second video. The car could then believe that it is on the exit ramp and not in the tunnel, in the absence of an accurate GPS signal.

No accident for Tesla’s FSD?

Anyway, the most important fact to remember is the fact that the car was not, a priori, in FSD mode, but in Autopilot mode. And the difference matters, as Tesla’s Autopilot is “simple” adaptive cruise control coupled with lane keeping assist. However, in the United States, and unlike in Europe, Teslas can make the decision to pass on their own in autopilot mode.

Whether in FSD or Autopilot, the driver reacted poorly to this braking, which can be called phantom braking. This is when the car thinks it sees an obstacle and brakes to avoid it. In this type of situation, much studied by the NHTSA (American road safety), the first reflex to have is to step on the accelerator pedal. This cancels the phantom braking.

In the video, we see the driver completely let go of the car and come to a stop, after being hit by another car. The driver should have accelerated at the first signs of phantom braking. Since as we can see in the video, no car bothered him in front of him.

A Tesla-specific problem?

This accident very well could have happened to a different make of car, as phantom braking occurs with many manufacturers, as recent American highway safety surveys show. On the other hand, this accident risks slowing Tesla down on autonomous driving, because Elon Musk wanted to be able to remove the obligation for drivers to hold the steering wheel with their hands when activating the FSD. Instead, to make sure the driver is still conscious, the Tesla would only use the in-cab camera, present toward the center rearview mirror.

This solution also seems safer than sensors on the steering wheel. These can be easily fooled, and there is no evidence that a driver holding the wheel in his hands is actively monitoring the road. On the contrary, by analyzing the driver’s gaze, Tesla can more easily tell if the driver is still aware of the driver’s surroundings.

Tesla: the safest cars in the world?

Yet another calendar coincidence: The video posted by The Intercept was accompanied by two major announcements from Tesla related to road safety. The first comes from Euro NCAP: the European crash test organization awards numerous awards to Tesla’s Model S and Model X, thanks to their very good crash scores, but also to the on-board technologies to prevent the latter.

Tesla’s other announcement is the publication of accident figures for the American brand’s fleet of electric cars. This makes it possible to compare the accident rate of three types of models: Tesla with Autopilot activated, those without this feature and finally the rest of the cars in the American fleet. As with previous studies on the subject, Teslas are safer than other models on America’s highways, and much safer when on autopilot.

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