Does this alarming gathering call into question the title of the world’s safest car?

Elon Musk announced a few weeks ago that FSD (Full-Self Driving) is available to all US customers of the brand who have purchased the autonomous driving option. The thing is, this announcement came at the same time as a spectacular accident involving a Tesla Model S. The video of the accident has just been posted on the Internet. But be careful, cause and effect relationship is not absolute and we will explain why.

Until recently, the feature ” Automated city driving Tesla (also called FSD for Full Self-Driving) was only available to select customers in the US. Elon Musk reported this on his account Twitter November 24, 2022 This feature will now be available to all customers who pay for the option. Coincidentally, on the same day a semi-autonomous driving accident occurred with a Tesla Model S a priori.

Autonomous driving in Tesla

Currently selling for $15,000, the FSD allows Teslas (Model 3, Model Y, Model S and Model X) to drive fully autonomously, transporting the driver and passengers from point A to point A. The car then makes all the driving decisions, and when you watch videos of 100% autonomous journeys across the Atlantic Ocean, it’s pretty impressive. Like the video below.

But the system isn’t legally recognized as fully autonomous because it’s Level 2 autonomous driving and not Level 3 like Mercedes’ less advanced Drive Pilot system from Tesla.

The result is this The Tesla driver is responsible for driving his car, and therefore must continue to monitor the road and its surroundings. That is, when an accident occurs, the driver, not the manufacturer, is responsible. In Mercedes, the opposite happens when Driver Pilot is activated.

November 24, 2022 accident

And speaking of the crash, Elon Musk’s announcement comes at a sensitive time. Indeed, on November 24, 2022, a road accident occurred with the first-ever Tesla Model S in autonomous driving mode. The video of this accident has just been released in the media The Intercept.

Then we see a white Tesla Model S activate its indicator, change lanes to get into the far left lane, then brake suddenly. It follows a gathering involving a total of eight carsand causing several injuries.

According to the police, citing the driver, the Tesla ” Full self-driving mode“. The problem is that, a priori, at the scene of the accident ( San Francisco Bay Bridge), cannot enable FSD according to the Twitter account The entire Mars Catalogue. Regular FSD user in Los Angeles. Instead, only mode Autopilot is available.

The user even thinks he knows why the Tesla is slowing down so much at that exact spot. The car’s GPS reportedly misidentified the speed limit in the leftmost lane of the bridge, causing the car to slow to 25 mph (about 40 km/h). Question: the presence of an exit at the top of the crash as seen in the second angle shown in the second video. The vehicle may then believe it is on the exit ramp rather than in the tunnel when it does not have an accurate GPS signal.

No crash for Tesla’s FSD?

In any case, the most important information to remember is that the car is not a priori in FSD mode, but in Autopilot mode. The difference is huge, because Tesla’s Autopilot is “simple” adaptive cruise control combined with lane-keeping assist. Unlike in the US and Europe, Teslas can decide to overtake on their own in autopilot mode.

In both FSD and Autopilot, the driver reacted badly to this braking, which can be called phantom braking. At this time, the car thinks it sees an obstacle and brakes to avoid it. In such a situation, which is closely investigated by the NHTSA (American highway safety), the first reflex is to press the gas pedal. This cancels the phantom brake.

In the video, we see that the driver completely let go of the car after being hit by another car and stopped. The driver had to speed up at the first sign of phantom braking. As we can see in the video, no car in front of him bothered him.

A Tesla-specific problem?

This accident could have happened to a car of another brand, as recent American road safety surveys show that phantom braking occurs in many manufacturers. On the other hand, this accident is likely to delay Tesla’s autonomous driving, as Elon Musk wanted to be able to eliminate the obligation of drivers to keep the steering wheel in their hands while activating FSD. Instead, Teslas would only use a cabin camera facing the center rearview mirror to ensure the driver is still aware.

This solution also seems to be safer than sensors on the steering wheel. These are easily fooled and there is no evidence that the driver behind the wheel is actively controlling the road. Conversely, by analyzing the driver’s gaze, Tesla can more easily tell if the driver is still aware of their surroundings.

Tesla: the safest cars in the world?

Another coincidence of the calendar: The video released by The Intercept was accompanied by two major road safety announcements from Tesla. The first comes from Euro NCAP: the European crash test organization awards Tesla’s Model S and Model X numerous awards thanks to their very good crash scores and on-board technologies to prevent the latter.

Another announcement by Tesla is the posting of accident figures for the American brand’s electric car fleet. This allows us to compare the accident rates of three types of models: Teslas with Autopilot enabled, those without this feature, and finally the rest of the American fleet. As with previous studies on the subject, the Tesla is safer than other models on the road in the US, and safer with Autopilot enabled.

Tesla: real hands-free driving is coming very soon, but not for everyone

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