Self-Driving Car Accidents - How Common Are They

According to the US Department of Transportation, there were over 600 crashes involving advanced driver assistance systems from 2021 to 2022. Nearly three-quarters, or 474, of those accidents, involved Teslas.

Tesla is one of the leading global pioneers of driverless vehicle technology. Their vehicles include features like “Autopilot” and a “Full-Self Driving Mode” currently being tested. Autopilot allows the driver more slack, while full-self-driving mode won’t require a driver. Despite driver assistance and driverless cars on the market, Tesla still advises drivers to stay vigilant and attentive while driving and using autopilot. Furthermore, they recommend that all drivers keep their hands on the wheel and be prepared to take over if the car technology fails. As such, drivers still have a duty of care to safely operate their vehicles, regardless of whether or not they are using autopilot.

With the technology of cars rapidly evolving and the emergence of “driverless” cars, liability becomes a tricky issue after an accident. Who is responsible for a self-driving accident, the car owner, the manufacturing company, or both?

This article will discuss the prevalence of self-driving car accidents and some relevant issues.

What are the features of Tesla’s Self-Driving Cars?

Tesla and other electric vehicles have features that assist drivers. Tesla intends to have a completely driverless, Full-self driving vehicle soon. They report making continual and incremental changes to their software to improve their self-driving capabilities. As of now, all Teslas are equipped with the following features:

  • Navigation assistance – the navigation assistance suggests lane changes, optimal routes, and traffic efficiency.
  • Auto-steering – advanced sensors and cameras that help with steering, acceleration, and auto-brakes
  • “Smart summon” – helps drivers navigate tight spaces like parking lots, driveways, and other familiar and predictable areas. Smart summon is not intended for use on public roads.

Do Teslas Crash More Than Regular Cars?

Research shows traditional gas-generated cars are less likely to crash than electric vehicles. The reason is that electric vehicles have higher torque output from the motor, making the car more volatile. Unlike regular cars, electric cars can reach maximum torque instantly without revving up the motor. If you’ve ever heard an electric car driver raving about their lightning-quick acceleration, they’re talking about torque power. It takes an electric car about three seconds to reach 60mph. Traditional gas-powered cars take much longer to reach high speeds, so the driver has more time to react before a fatal collision.

Note, however, that does not account for human error that causes collisions with regular cars. Negligence is still the leading cause of most motor vehicle collisions.

We know that regular car accidents happen for various reasons, from distracted to drunk or drowsy driving. But why do Teslas account for such a large majority (nearly 75%) of all crashes involving driver assistance or the autopilot? Perhaps because Tesla is one of the biggest manufacturers and accounts for most of the electric vehicles on the roadways.

Another study showed that Tesla owners with experience driving electric cars are less likely to be distracted while driving. Teslas can also crash from faulty vehicle technology rather than driver negligence alone.

Tesla’s Vehicle Safety Reports

Every year Tesla publishes a Vehicle Safety Report that shows how many accidents occurred with autopilot. However, the reports don’t show exact numbers. Instead, they measure accidents per mile driven. That makes it virtually impossible to know exactly how many accidents are occurring. Rather, we know a relative ratio of accidents to miles traveled.

For instance, in 2018, Tesla’s Vehicle Safety Report showed an average of one crash per 3.1 million miles driven by Tesla users. That’s significantly less than the National Highway Transport Administration’s (NHTSA) statistics on regular car accidents. According to their data, regular cars have an accident for every 492,000 miles.

Tesla has released few crashes per million miles each year since 2018:

  • In 2021, they reported one accident per 4.47 million miles
  • In 2020, they reported one accident for 4.31 million miles
  • In 2019, one for every 3.38 million miles
  • And in 2019, one for every 3.1 million miles

Do Teslas Crash More Than Other Electric Vehicles?

According to data from the NHTSA, Teslas accounted for most of the self-driving accidents from 2021-2022. One possible explanation is that Teslas have a faster reporting system than other automakers. While other car tech companies take months to formulate reports, Tesla reports accidents soon after the incident.

For comparative measure, GM only reported three vehicle crashes with its automated car system, “Super Cruise,” whereas Tesla reported 98 in 2022. Likewise, Nissan reports zero crashes that resulted from their driver-assisted features. Finally, Ford also reported zero crashes regarding the “Blue Cruise” feature.

Tesla Accidents in the US from 2022 to 2023

Here are some figures that reflect Tesla accidents in recent years:

  • 2023 – 5 crashes in the US
  • 2022 – 74 crashes in the US (does not include the crashes in other countries like Australia, Netherlands, Mexico, China, UK, Finland, and Germany)

Tesla accident cases in the past several years in the US include:

  • January 2023 – A speeding Tesla hit and killed a pedestrian in Philadelphia, PA. The pedestrian was found suffering from head trauma and later pronounced dead on the scene.
  • January 2023 – A woman died after crashing her Tesla into a residential swimming pool. The Tesla veered through a fence and into the pool. Officials are still investigating the accident to determine if the autopilot was engaged.
  • January 2023 – A Tesla driver died after crashing into the back of a semi-truck in California. The Tesla got lodged underneath the truck, lifting the rear tire of the semi-truck off the ground.
  • May 2022 – A Tesla stopped in the middle of a Missouri highway, causing a three-car crash. Investigators believe that the car stopped due to mechanical issues.

What Are the Most Common Causes of Self-Driving Crashes?

Even with autopilot and self-driving features, careless driving still causes accidents. For example, countless videos have been publicly released showing Tesla passengers reading a newspaper or book or even sitting in the back seat while the car is driving. In some regard, this could be considered negligence.

Here are a few other common reasons why Tesla accidents occur:

  • Driver distractions, like phone use, eating, or reading, while using autopilot.
  • Failure of driver assists features like brakes. Brakes that fail at high speed can cause deadly crashes
  • In one accident case, the Tesla Model S safety system failed
  • Tesla’s autopilot can crash if any stationary objects are blocking a lane.
  • Tesla’s autopilot has had a software glitch where it was unable to make a left turn or freeway exits.
  • Autopilot reportedly does not work well on construction lanes.
  • Using autopilot during cross traffic or a busy intersection has led to accidents.
  • Some camera glitches, such as being unable to sense when an object abruptly comes in front of the lane.

Contact a Florida Car Accident Lawyer Today

If you or a loved one was seriously injured in an accident with a Tesla, you might have grounds for a personal injury claim. If your loved one died in the accident, you might be able to pursue a wrongful death claim. We can help you determine which parties are liable and hold them accountable.

Don’t hesitate to contact us today. We offer a free initial case review, so you have nothing to lose.