NHTSA: Nearly 400 Automated Tech Vehicle Crashes Reported, Most With Teslas

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DETROIT — Automakers reported nearly 400 crashes over a 10-month period involving vehicles equipped with partially automated driver assistance systems, including 273 with Teslas, according to new statistics from U.S. safety regulators.

But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has cautioned against using the numbers to compare carmakers, saying it doesn’t weigh them by how many vehicles from each maker use the systems or how many miles they’ve traveled. by these vehicles.

Automakers reported crashes from July 2021 through May 15 on orders from the agency, which is reviewing such crashes for the first time.

Tesla’s crashes occurred while the vehicles were using Autopilot, “fully self-driving,” traffic-aware cruise control, or other driver assistance systems that have some control over speed and The direction. The company has approximately 830,000 vehicles with the systems on the road.

The next closest of a dozen automakers to report crashes was Honda, with 90. Honda says it has about six million vehicles on US roads with such systems. Subaru was next with 10. All other automakers reported five or less.

In a June 2021 order, NHTSA asked more than 100 automakers and automated vehicle technology companies to report serious crashes within a day of discovery and to disclose less serious crashes by the 15th day of the following month. The agency assesses how the systems are working and whether new regulations are needed.

Six people were killed in the crashes involving driver assistance systems and five seriously injured, NHTSA said. Of the deaths, five occurred at Teslas. One was reported by Ford. Three of the seriously injured were at Teslas. Honda and Ford each reported one.

Tesla’s accident count may seem somewhat high because it uses telematics to monitor its vehicles and get real-time accident reports. Other automakers don’t have such a capability, so their reporting could be slower or crashes might not be reported at all, according to NHTSA.

Tesla representatives did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Tesla crashes accounted for nearly 70% of the 392 reported by the dozen automakers. Although the Austin, Texas automaker calls its systems Autopilot and “Full Self-Driving,” it says the vehicles cannot drive themselves and drivers must be ready to intervene at all times.

Automobile safety advocates say driver assistance and self-driving systems have the potential to save lives, but not until NHTSA sets minimum performance standards and mandates improvements safety to protect all road users.

“It’s clear that American road users are unwittingly participating in beta testing of automated driving technology,” said Cathy Chase, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.

U.S. Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., said that while the NHTSA data has limitations, it’s not isolated evidence that Tesla ignored regulations and put the public at risk. There has been “an endless parade of reports” of Teslas of automated technology systems driving through stop signs or braking for no reason, he said. NHTSA is also investigating Teslas crashing into parked emergency vehicles.

“As today’s data suggests, this disregard for auto safety laws has real consequences,” Markey said, urging NHTSA to take enforcement action.

Manufacturers were not required to report the number of vehicles equipped with these systems on the road, nor report the distance traveled by these vehicles or when the systems are used, NHTSA said. So, at this time, those numbers are not quantifiable, an agency official said.

But NHTSA may look up that information later. Meanwhile, the new data allowed him to discover accidents much faster than before. NHTSA used the data to request a recall, open investigations and provide information for existing investigations, officials said.

A stumbling block: it’s hard to know how many drivers actually use the technology.

Honda noted that the reports to NHTSA were based on unverified customer statements about whether any automated systems were operating at the time of an accident.

NHTSA’s order also covered companies operating fully autonomous vehicles, and 25 reported a total of 130 crashes. Google spin-off Waymo led with 62. Transdev Alternative Services had 34 and General Motors-controlled Cruise LLC had 23.

Waymo, the self-driving vehicle unit of Alphabet Inc., said it has more than 700 self-driving vehicles in its fleet. It runs a fully self-driving transportation service in Arizona and is testing one in California.

He said all of the crashes happened at low speeds, with airbags inflating in just two of them.

In 108 of the crashes involving fully autonomous vehicles, no injuries were reported and there was only one serious injury. In most accidents, vehicles were struck from behind.

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