NHTSA Releases Driver-Assist Car Crash Data for First Time, Admits it Lacks Context

Tesla vehicles have accounted for almost 70 percent of reported crashes with driver-assist systems engaged since last June, as detailed in new traffic figures shared on Wednesday.

However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says Tesla’s reports may not be as complete as the company would like us to think, according to CNBC.

The NHTSA has warned that Tesla’s driver-assist crash data lacks context and isn’t intended to show which automaker has the best driver-assistance systems — instead, it’s meant to help drivers identify potential defects and determine if these systems are actually improving safety.

During a media event, NHTSA Administrator Steven Cliff said, “I would advise caution before attempting to draw conclusions based only on the data that we’re releasing. In fact, the data alone may raise more questions than they answer.”

Since reporting began around a year ago, Tesla’s vehicles represented 273 accidents while driver-assist systems, like its Autopilot and Full Self-Driving (FSD) beta, were engaged and in use.

In sum, 11 automakers together reported a total of 392 accidents between June 2021 and May 15.

Honda followed Tesla with 90 accidents reported, while Subaru and Ford were next with 10 and five accidents, respectively.

“This is an unprecedented effort to gather nearly real time safety data involving these advanced technologies,” Cliff said. “Understanding the story that the data tell will take time as most of NHTSA’s work does but it’s a story we need to hear.”

By the sheer numbers of Tesla vehicles on the road equipped with Autopilot, pegged at 830,000 dating back to 2014 model year cars, it’s clear the automaker would lead in terms of accidents, versus other companies. Tesla is also able to obtain real-time data and report crashes faster than other automakers.

GM for example, is said to have about 34,000 cars with its Super Cruise driver-assist feature that only works on designated highways.

Tesla’s latest Vehicle Safety Report data from Q4 2021, saw “one crash for every 4.31 million miles driven in which drivers were using Autopilot technology (Autosteer and active safety features).”

“For drivers who were not using Autopilot technology (no Autosteer and active safety features), we recorded one crash for every 1.59 million miles driven. By comparison, NHTSA’s most recent data shows that in the United States there is an automobile crash every 484,000 miles,” explained Tesla.

The NHTSA also released crash data from fully-automated driving systems that do no require human control. From June 2021 to May 15, 2022, Alphabet’s Waymo led with 62 crashes, followed by Transdev Alternative Services at 32 and GM-backed Cruise at 23.

Last week, the NHTSA announced it would widen the scope of its current probe into Tesla’s Autopilot accidents with first responder vehicles.