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Is Tesla’s Autopilot Really Safer Than a Human Driver?

Some interesting statistics could show that Tesla’s Autopilot isn’t safer than a human driver.

The American automaker’s semi-autonomous driving technology has been the center of controversy over the last year, with some questioning if it’s even safe to “beta test” such a feature on public roadways. Tesla has continued to claim that Autopilot is safer than a human driver and following the first Autopilot-related death, it noted that it was the first in 130-million miles of Autopilot driving. The company added to its statement, saying “among all vehicles, in the U.S., there is a fatality every 94 million miles.”

This is, of course, a small sample size with just one fatality and Tesla compared its Autopilot crash to the overall U.S. traffic fatality rate, which includes bicyclists, pedestrians, buses and 18-wheelers.

Green Car Reports did some digging, looking for better statistics to compare Tesla’s sole Autopilot fatality. When compared to the fatality rate for U.S. drivers of cars and light trucks compiled by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the Tesla Autopilot driver fatality rate is nearly four times higher than typical passenger vehicle. But that’s not even a fit comparison, the author of the report David Noland notes.

SEE ALSO: California Asks Tesla to Stop Using the Word ‘Autopilot’ in Ads

So instead, Noland compared the Autopilot Tesla with non-Autopilot Tesla and found there have been a total of seven deaths in the U.S. involving a Tesla Model S. Of that total, only one had Autopilot activated, which leaves six fatalities with human drivers. Last month, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted that cumulative Tesla Autopilot miles stood at 222 million and earlier this year, the American automaker announced that total Tesla miles drive had passed the two-billion-mile mark. At the time, Tesla also published a chart projecting future total mileage.

Based on the chart projection, the total Tesla miles driven through September 2016 were predicted to be around three-billion miles. So roughly speaking, although not entirely accurate since the total miles driven is likely worldwide and we’re only looking at U.S. deaths, a human-piloted Tesla has a fatality every 470-million miles. The sole Autopilot fatality means one in every 220-million miles.

It’s worth nothing with such a small sample size, this isn’t statistically significant. But it might likely be as fair of a comparison as you can get currently. The thing is, this data isn’t entirely relevant until the total number of miles driven on Autopilot is comparable to non-Autopilot miles driven, or another Autopilot-related death surfaces. And even then, one could argue that Autopilot wasn’t the cause of the fatality.

[Source: Green Car Reports]

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