A car made by the automaker Tesla, a 2021 Model 3 sedan, is connected to a charger where Tesla vehicles are sold on June 27, 2021, in Littleton, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
A U.S. highway safety agency says Wednesday that automakers reported nearly 400 crashes of vehicles with driver-assist systems. Of those accidents, 273 involved vehicles from Tesla.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, said the numbers should not be used to compare automakers. The agency said it did not measure them by the number of vehicles from each manufacturer that uses the systems, or how many kilometers those vehicles traveled.
Automakers reported crashes from July of last year through May 15 under an order from the agency. It is examining such crashes overall for the first time.
Steven Cliff is head of the agency. He said, “As we gather more data, NHTSA will be able to better identify any emerging risks or trends and learn more about how these technologies are performing in the real world.”
Tesla’s crashes happened while vehicles were using driver-assist systems that have some control over speed and steering. The company has about 830,000 vehicles with the systems on the road.
The next closest of the more than ten automakers that reported crashes was Honda, with 90. Honda says it has about six million vehicles on U.S. roads with such systems. The automaker Subaru followed with 10, and all other automakers reported five or fewer.
In a June 2021 order, NHTSA told more than 100 automakers and automated vehicle tech companies to report serious crashes within one day of learning about them. They also told them to share information about less-serious crashes by the 15th day of the following month. The agency is examining how the systems perform and whether new measures may be needed.
NHTSA also said that six people were killed in the crashes involving driver-assist systems, and five were seriously hurt.
Of the deaths, five occurred in Teslas and one was reported by Ford. Three of the serious injuries were in Teslas, while Honda and Ford each reported one.
Tesla’s crash number may appear higher because it uses technology to follow its vehicles and gets real-time crash reports. Other makers do not have such systems, so their reports may come slower, or crashes may not be reported at all, NHTSA said.
Tesla has not answered a message from The Associated Press seeking comment.
Although Tesla calls it driver-assist systems “Autopilot” and “Full Self-Driving,” the company says the vehicles cannot drive themselves and the drivers must always be ready to take over.
Manufacturers were not required to report how many vehicles they have on the road that have the systems, NHTSA said. The agency added they do not have to report how far those vehicles traveled, or when the systems are in use. An agency official said at present, those numbers are not known.
However, NHTSA may seek such information later. In the meantime, the new data has enabled it to find out about crashes much faster than before. At present, it is using the crash data to look for trends and discuss them with the companies, the agency said.
Already, NHTSA has used the data to seek a recall, open investigations and provide information for existing studies, officials said. Also, they said it is difficult to find out how many drivers actually use the technology.
The Alliance for Automotive Innovation represents most automakers. It said the data collected by NHTSA is not enough by itself to evaluate the safety of automated vehicle systems.
NHTSA’s order also covered companies that are running fully automated driving systems. Vehicles with fully automated driving systems are only running in limited areas. And they are not available for purchase.
Alphabet’s self-driving car unit Waymo reported 62 crashes involving vehicles with fully automated driving systems. And General Motors' Cruise had 23. Overall, the companies reported 130 crashes involving their fully automated vehicles.
In 108 of the crashes involving such vehicles, no injuries were reported, and there was only one serious injury. In most of the crashes, vehicles were hit from behind.
Words in This Story
automate – v. to run or operate (something, such as a factory or system) by using machines or computers instead of people to do the work
emerging – adj. newly created or noticed and growing in strength or popularity: becoming widely known or established
trend – n. a general direction of change: a way of behaving or proceeding that is developing and becoming more common
steer – v. to control the direction in which something (such as a ship, car, or airplane) moves
recall – v. to ask people to return (a product with a defect or problem)