Does This Study Say Tesla Autopilot Is More Dangerous Than Driving Drunk?
Self-driving car tech has had a bad fall. First, GM’s “Cruise” brand caused a fatal accident in San Francisco and the automaker shut down its self-driving taxi project. Then Tesla recalled two million “Autopilot” equipped cars for a mandated software update. Now we’re crunching the numbers on accidents over the past year and it appears that Teslas have been involved in more accidents than any other brand. This includes brands involved in many more speeding and drunk driving incidents. So does this mean “Autopilot” is more dangerous than speeding or driving drunk? Not necessarily.
First of all, let’s get into the numbers. Lending Tree collected tens of millions of insurance quotes, which divulged whether drivers had been involved in an accident, speeding, a DUI, or another citation. The data also shows what brand of vehicle they drive. It broke down the data for incidents between November 2022 to November 2023 by brand.
Tesla drivers reported bing in the most accidents. All told, they were in 23.54 accidents/1,000 drivers. The runner up was Ram with 22.76 accidents/1,000 drivers and Subaru (20.90. Only three of the 30 brands studied came in under 10 accidents/1,000 drivers: Pontiac, Mercury, and Saturn.
Things get even more interesting when you look at some other incident categories. Brands such as Ram and Subaru rank near the top in every category, and this makes sense: driving drunk or speeding should make the chances of getting in an accident or receiving a citation higher. But Tesla was an outlier.
Here’s an example: BMW drivers got many more DUIs than any other brand. BMW drivers had the unsavory distinction of getting 3.13 DUIs/1,000 drivers in 2023. That’s almost twice as many as the runner-up, Ram (1.72). Yet, BMW drivers didn’t get into nearly as many accidents as Tesla drivers.
Tesla drivers do not do the most speeding or get the most DUIs. So you might be tempted to blame the high number of Tesla incidents on Autopilot. You might even call Autopilot more dangerous than driving drunk. But you’d be hasty to say this.
While Ram came in with the highest number of incidents per capita (32.90), Tesla was not far behind. Tesla drivers were involved in 31.13 overall incidents/1,000 drivers. And that puts them near the top of the pack. In fact, Tesla drivers had more incidents per capita than Ram in 11 states.
Of course, 23.54/1,000 of Tesla’s 32.90/1,000 incidents were accidents. But the rest could have been contributing factors such as speeding or DUIs. The data in no way supports the assertion that 100% of Tesla accidents were caused by Autopilot. So we can’t conclusively call Autopilot more dangerous than drunk driving.
Don’t drive drunk. And keep your eyes on the road, even if you have Autopilot turned on.
What will be interesting is how many accidents per capita Teslas have in 2024, after the software recall. You can learn more about the recent Tesla recall in the video below: