Tesla will publish quarterly reports on the safety of its autopilot driver assistance function, CEO Elon Musk said in a phone call with analysts Wednesday. Musk did not elaborate on what the reports will imply, and a Tesla representative refused to add more details. But the move could represent a major change in the way the company handles data related to the autopilot, which is usually closely monitored.
Musk argued in the call that "there is no doubt" that Autopilot reduces the possibility of a driver suffering an accident, something that both he and his company have often claimed in the past. "The statistics are unequivocal that Autopilot improves safety," he said. Publishing these statistics on autopilot performance will allow the public to know "exactly what is the safety of the autopilot [level]," Musk said. "Is it getting better, is it getting worse?"
It has not been easy to determine exactly how much Autopilot improves the safety of the drivers, or even how to measure that in the first place. The most common number used by Tesla and Musk when they make claims about the safety of the autopilot is that "the US government has found it to reduce accident rates by up to 40%." This statistic comes from the report that was presented at the end of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's investigation into the death in 2016 of Joshua Brown, who was using the Autopilot when his Tesla Model S crashed into a trailer. tractor. But the veracity of the statistics has recently been under fire, and today NHTSA distanced itself from the demand. Tesla refused to comment on the news.
Musk announced the plan to increase transparency around Autopilot after repeatedly criticizing press coverage of the company's driver assistance function, something he has already done in the calls of analysts in the past. The autopilot has faced increased scrutiny after a driver of a Model X Tesla died while using the driver assistance function on a California highway in March.
"I think there are 1.2 million car deaths per year, and how many do you read? Basically none of them," Musk said, referring to global statistics. "But if it's an autonomous situation, it's news, and the media does not mention that, in reality, they should not be writing this story, they should be writing a story about how autonomous cars are really safe, but that's not the story where people want to click, so they write incendiary headlines that are fundamentally deceptive to readers. " Musk did not clarify what reports he offended, or if he includes local news coverage of fatalities in his criticism.
The problem, says Musk, is not just that these "incendiary headlines" are "deceptive" to readers. He also argued that it is affecting public policy. "Regulators respond to public pressure and the press," Musk said. "So if the press is chasing the regulators and the public is working on the assumption that autonomy is less secure due to the deceptive press, then this is where I find things, the challenge to predict that it will be very difficult."
The "that" Musk referred to was the deadline for the launch of the shared fleet and Autonomous Teslas to which he referred in the second company "Master Plan" that was launched in 2016. Despite the difficulty of guessing how fast (or slow) regulations will move around autonomous cars in the coming years Musk did say that on the technical side, he believes that a shared fleet of self-contained Teslas, one that he said would be like a mix of "Uber Lyft and AirBnB," "will probably be ready by the end of next year."
However, before Tesla gets there, he still needs to fully deploy. -capable driving lity to the cars that it is and has been doing. While Tesla currently offers customers the ability to pay in advance for full auto-control capability, the current version of Autopilot resembles even more advanced driver assistance systems such as Cadillac's Super Cruise.
Meanwhile, a coast-to-coast demonstration of Tesla's automatic capabilities has been delayed. Musk recently promised that the cross-country campaign will arrive this year, however, and that the same capacity will be available to customers who will pay soon. The cars that Tesla is currently making should be able to handle their full autonomy, Musk said, although he reiterated that the company may need to exchange more powerful computers to handle the processing power required.
Although Tesla tends to be cautious about the number of miles driven using the Autopilot, Musk did say on the call that general use is increasing. For cars equipped with the feature, a third or "maybe half" of the highway miles in "some regions" are now handled using the autopilot, he said.
"But then, of course, when there is negative news in the press, then it falls down," he added. "And then I thought, okay, this is not good, because people are reading things in the press that make them use the autopilot less, and that makes it dangerous for our customers, and that's not great, that's why I get angry. "
Musk has made this argument in the past: that "negative" press coverage of Autopilot could scare people into using the feature less, which in turn could hurt more people. path. But the CEO of Tesla made a new discussion about something that says the press is wrong near the end of the call. Journalists often claim that lack of understanding is to blame for auto-pilot accidents, Musk said, but he believes the opposite is the case.
"When there is a serious accident, almost always, in fact, maybe always, it's an experienced user, and the problem is more of complacency," Musk said. "They just get too used to that." That tends to be more of a problem. It is not a lack of understanding of what Autopilot can do. It is [drivers] thinking they know more about Autopilot than they do. "
Overconfidence in the system seems to be a problem, either in the form of drivers jumping into the passenger seat of a Tesla or, as the company says It happened in the fatal accident in March, when it seems that the driver received and ignored numerous instructions to regain control of the car.
Some experts think that problems like these could be mitigated with driver monitoring systems, such as how Super Cruise looks at drivers' eyes to make sure they are paying attention.In the Model S, X and 3, Tesla only monitors the driver's attention by measuring the resistance on the steering wheel.Although it is believed that a small camera on the Model 3 could one day be used to monitor the controller, has not yet been activated The lack of robust driver monitoring systems was one of the criticisms exposed in the investigation of the National Transportation Security Board about the death of Brown. Back then, the NTSB recommended that Tesla, along with other automakers, find ways to monitor the driver's attention that goes beyond detecting the commitment of the steering wheel.