Girardi | Keese

Tesla: Autonomous Vehicle Probability of Safety 'Twice as Good' as Average Human Driver

As a follow up to yesterday's story about Tesla's soon-to-be-unveiled electric, self-driving big rigs on California highways, a story in the Verge reports on Tesla's Plan B, provided the automaker cannot follow through on its recent self-driving promises to consumers: that Tesla vehicles get upgraded to all-systems-go on auto mode.

The Verge's headline, however (which sounds as though Tesla might fail), is a bit misleading, as if the world of self-driving cars itself may be at stake. The reality is more benign: Tesla simply may not fulfill those promises as early as it said it would. This is principally because government officials and the driving public remain wary about a world without humans behind the wheel.

But for every person injured or killed in a motor vehicle accident, these promises couldn't be fulfilled soon enough.

Big Promise: Greater Probability of Safety

  • According to Tesla, fully autonomous vehicles have a "probability of safety at least twice as good as the average human driver."

In general, we want to ensure that fully autonomous vehicles are capable of getting around town without crashing into things. People essentially need to trust this technology with their lives. That's why government regulators have been hesitant to allow companies like Tesla, Uber, Google, etc. off the leash. This is understandable and necessary, until we can be confident in the safety of autonomous vehicles.

But for every person cut off by an aggressive or distracted driver - and crash victims especially - the flip side of the product safety argument is Tesla's assertion that self-driving cars will do a superior job. If the probability of safety truly is at least twice as good as the average human driver, as Tesla says, a large network of autonomous vehicles, combined with fewer human drivers on the roads, would presumably reduce the crash rate.

It's hard to argue against that.

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