In the past few years, there’s been a lot of publicity around Tesla Autopilot, particularly whenever there is an accident involving a vehicle using this technology, since critics of Tesla will seize these events as proof that this technology isn’t ready for the road, regardless of the first-hand accounts to the contrary from Tesla owners around the world.
Not only are these critic wildly off the mark, but its bordering on irresponsible for us to slow-walk the roll-out of Tesla's and other's driver-assistance or autonomous systems any longer than is absolutely necessary to ensure their success.
Every year, over a million people die around the world because of auto accidents, the vast majority of which are caused by human error, distraction, or recklessness, which systems like Tesla's can go a long way towards correcting.
By some estimates, there will be 90% fewer accidents overall, year after year, once autonomous vehicles are fully introduced.
To help speed up this process, I pulled together 5 accounts from Tesla owners who share how Tesla’s Autopilot protected them from a common but potentially fatal automobile accident and hopefully demonstrate just how important it is that we don’t turn our back on this technology.
Preventing Rear-End Collisions
In the case of the above video, Tesla’s autopilot system managed to read far enough ahead so that it saw the rear-end collision coming before anyone else and began to apply the brakes, providing the driver of the Tesla the critical stopping distance necessary to stay out of the accident themselves.
According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), an industry trade group, rear-end collisions in 2015 comprised 33.4% of all accidents that year, totaling just over 2 million in the United States alone.
Most important of all, rear-end collisions in 2015 killed 2,203 people in the United States and injured over half a million others.
They may not seem like it, but rear-end collisions are deadly serious and Tesla’s Autopilot system can prevent tens of thousands of these accidents in the United States alone.
Using Advanced Radar to See Danger Two Cars Ahead
The above video reinforces the importance of taking rear-end collisions seriously and demonstrates what makes Tesla’s Autopilot crash avoidance system so powerful.
As you can see in the video, the Tesla is moving 70 mph (113 km/h), as is the rest of the traffic around it. Considering how close the driver of the Tesla was following the rear car in the accident, had the driver only had his reflexes with which to slam on the brakes, he likely wouldn't have the stopping distance needed to avoid the accident himself.
Fortunately, he got a crucial assist from the cars crash avoidance system which uses an ingenious technique of bouncing radar underneath the car immediately in front of the driver to pick up what the car two cars ahead is doing.
In this way, the radar gives the collision avoidance system the data it needs to predict the accident two full seconds before it actually occurs, which is the earliest the driver would have become aware that there was a dangerous situation.
At 70 mph, the Tesla is covering a little over 100 ft/sec of road, so the cars collision avoidance bought the driver an extra 200 ft of stopping distance, and by the time the driver sees the accident, the Tesla's vehicle was already applying the brakes on its own, ensuring that the driver stays out of the accident entirely.
Neutralizing the Threat of Distracted Driving
According to the Tesla owner posting this footage on the Reddit, "[t]his was on Highway 99 north of Seattle. I set [Tesla Autopilot to drive] a couple mph below the speed limit of 45. Traffic tends to move around 55.
"It's easy to say [that I should have been going slower] in [hindsight], I should be going slower, but traffic tends not to pull out from you in that direction. I was actually watching cars to the right of me, which is the entire reason the car reacted and I didn't."
Watching Your Back to Stop Side-Swipe Collisions
According to the III, there were about 775,000 sideswipe collisions in the US in 2015. These cause 104,000 injuries overall and 824 people involved were killed.
As the above video shows, sideswipes are impossible to see coming unless you are lucky enough to be checking your blind spot at precisely the right moment. Otherwise, we don’t have eyes on the back of our head, we can only look forward.
Fortunately, Tesla’s Autopilot can. It saw the speeding vehicle approaching from behind and swerved the car out of its path, potentially saving the life of someone in one of those cars. The driver clearly believes it saved his.
Spotting Unseen Dangers in Inclement Weather
Threading the needle. Model 3 auto braked and kept from sliding out, avoiding a crash while driving too fast for conditions. from r/TeslaModel3
In this extraordinary video post online last week, nearly everybody involved was driving much too fast for the weather conditions—especially since visibility could be measured in feet, not miles.
The only hint the driver in this video had of the danger they were in was a pair of drifting tail lights obscured by the vigorous snow storm. While humans cannot see through snow like the kind in this video, Tesla’s collision avoidance had picked up the car spinning out in front of it long before it became visible.
According to the driver who posted the video to the Tesla Model 3 subreddit, “[Tesla’s Autopilot] started to brake before the stopped car came into view. When I swerved to right I could feel the Tesla keeping us straight avoiding a spin out like the car in front of us. I felt like I was the best driver in the world threading the needle. But now that I think about it it may have been the Tesla doing the driving.”
Tesla Owners: Tesla's Autopilot System Saves Lives
Automobile deaths in the US for 2015 totaled 32,166, according to III, nearly all of which involved exclusively humans drivers behind the wheel and nearly 30,000 of whom might be alive still had the vehicles involved been using Tesla’s Autopilot. Driver-assistance and autonomous systems will continue their development, but they are already preventing accidents all over the world, as all these videos show.
Tesla’s Autopilot and its crash avoidance system isn’t something to fear but an incredible innovation that will radically change the way we travel for the better. Tesla owners are excited enough about their experiences with Tesla's autopilot that they've responded to the negative press around Tesla crashes by uploading dash cam footage of their car saving their lives in many instances.
As the final compilation video underscores, there are many, many more examples of how this system has protected Tesla owners from all kinds of accidents, and their voices should be heard just as often as, or more than, those who needlessly sensationalize Tesla crashes and sow distrust in these life-saving systems among the public.
The public stands to gain the most from this system, after all, even if they aren't Telsa owners themselves. We all share the roads with Tesla owners, every day, and whether we want to acknowledge it or not, their Autopilot system helps to make the roads safer for all of us.