Although there are a lot of companies out there testing autonomous vehicle features like lane assist and smart cruise control, Tesla was the first to provide a near-fully driverless motorway option to Model S owners. While it's had some hiccups, CEO of Tesla Elon Musk, has announced that it has halved the number of crashes for regular drivers.
Made available to Model S owners at the tail end of 2015, Tesla's autopilot feature combines automated braking, lane assist and smart cruise control features, to make it possible to drive stretches of motorway without touching the wheel. Tests have shown it performing well for the most part, though there have been a few incidents that forced Tesla to call it semi-autonomous, rather than completely so.
However in recent months, as more people gain access to the feature and its usage becomes more common, we've seen videos of it reacting very quickly to avoid collisions, potentially saving lives in the process.[yframe url='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9I5rraWJq6E']
While some of these potential crashes would no doubt have been avoided by a human driver also, by the numbers, the autopilot mode has made Model S owners 50 per cent less likely to get into a crash than without it. This number was announced by Tesla founder and CEO, Elon Musk, himself last week at a Norwegian government conference.
“The probability of having an accident is 50% lower if you have Autopilot on. Even with our first version. So we can see basically what’s the average number of kilometers to an accident – accident defined by airbag deployment. Even with this early version, it’s almost twice as good as a person.”
Most impressive is that the Model S wasn't built with this in mind. Just imagine what a purpose-built autonomous car could do.
As Gizmodo points out, this number is likely inflated by best-case-scenario usage, the fact that the sample size is quite small and that motorway driving is traditionally not the most accident-prone of roadways. But even if it's a few per cent points, that's still a major achievement. Autonomous driving is making people less likely to crash and that's a very good thing.
Now we just need the Model 3 to launch and we can all begin enjoying these fancy future features.
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KitGuru Says: As much as I'm sure we'll all miss some aspects of driving one day, considering how much time is spent being impeded by other drivers, I doubt I'll be that unhappy to cede control of my car to the robots of the future.