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Tesla's Autopilot report has little data to back up its claims

Drivers in New York may be familiar with the various criticisms of Tesla's Autopilot program. One significant claim is that Autopilot, which uses adaptive cruise control and steering assistance, makes drivers too complacent. While Tesla's vehicles have always done well in crash testing, they have also been involved in several crashes, at least two of them fatal.

In response to these concerns, Tesla has published its first voluntary Vehicle Safety Report on the Autopilot program. Between July and September 2018, the Autopilot feature registered one accident or crash-like event for every 3.34 million miles that drivers had it engaged. Those who did not engage the feature saw one accident or crash-like event for every 1.92 million miles.

By way of contrast, the report states that there is an auto accident every 492,000 miles (using data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration). This means Tesla's Autopilot could reduce car crashes by 700 percent.

However, some analysts say the data is too vague to be useful. There is no accounting for vehicle types, driver demographics, daytime versus nighttime driving, weather, etc. Furthermore, the report says nothing on the cause or severity of "crash-like events." The fact that Autopilot is mainly for freeways, which are free of intersections, pedestrians and other complicating factors, also skews the data. Drivers without Autopilot may, after all, be dealing precisely with such complicating factors.

While experts believe that Tesla's report leaves much to be desired, drivers in the meanwhile must continue to exercise caution when Autopilot is engaged. Otherwise, they could cause a car accident out of negligence. The victim of such an accident can file a claim against the defendant's auto insurance company. To help ensure a fair settlement, the victim may want to hire a lawyer with experience in negotiation.

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