A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Tesla’s claim that its Autopilot driver-assistance software is safer than a human driver.
After a fatal Autopilot crash last May, the company said the death was the first in 130 million miles of Autopilot driving—and noted that, “among all vehicles, in the U.S., there is a fatality every 94 million miles.”
The clear implication: Autopiloted Teslas are safer than human-piloted cars, and lives would be saved if every car had Autopilot.
But Tesla’s statistics are questionable at best. The small sample size—one crash—makes any calculation of Autopilot fatality rate almost meaningless.
Furthermore, Tesla compared its Autopilot crash rate to the overall U.S. traffic fatality rate—which includes bicyclists, pedestrians, buses, and 18-wheelers. This is not just apples-to-oranges. This is apples-to-aardvarks.
One statistician called Tesla’s comparison “ludicrous on the face of it.”