Tesla Autopilot

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Tesla Autopilot in operation

Tesla Autopilot is a suite of advanced driver-assistance system (ADAS) features offered by Tesla that amounts to Level 2 vehicle automation. Its features are lane centering, traffic-aware cruise control, automatic lane changes, semi-autonomous navigation on limited access freeways, self-parking, and the ability to summon the car from a garage or parking spot. In all of these features, the driver is responsible and the car requires constant supervision. The company claims the features reduce accidents caused by driver negligence and fatigue from long-term driving.[1][2] In October 2020, Consumer Reports called Tesla Autopilot "a distant second" in driver assistance systems (behind Cadillac's Super Cruise), although it was ranked first in the "Capabilities and Performance" and "Ease of Use" category.[3]

As an upgrade to the base Autopilot capabilities, the company's stated intent is to offer SAE Level 5 (full autonomous driving) at a future time, acknowledging that regulatory and technical hurdles must be overcome to achieve this goal.[4] As of April 2020, most experts believe that Tesla vehicles lack the necessary hardware for fully autonomous driving.[5] In October 2020, Tesla initiated and commissioned customers for a Full Self-Driving beta program in the United States;[6][7] as of May 2021, it is being tested by a couple thousand employees and Tesla owners.[8] Some industry observers criticized Tesla's decision to use untrained consumers to validate the beta software as dangerous and irresponsible.[9][10][11] Similarly, collisions and deaths involving Tesla cars with Autopilot engaged have drawn the attention of the press and government agencies.[12] In May 2021, Tesla was ranked last for both strategy and execution in the autonomous driving sector by Guidehouse Insights.[13] Musk has made inaccurate predictions for when Tesla would achieve SAE Level 5 for years.[14]


Elon Musk first discussed the Tesla Autopilot system publicly in 2013, noting that "Autopilot is a good thing to have in planes, and we should have it in cars."[15]

In October 2014, Tesla offered customers the ability to pre-purchase the Autopilot capability within a "Tech Package" option. At that time Tesla stated Autopilot would include semi-autonomous drive and parking capabilities,[16][17][18] and was not designed for self-driving.[19] Tesla developed initial versions of Autopilot in partnership with the Israeli company Mobileye,[20] but Mobileye ended the partnership in July 2016 because Tesla "was pushing the envelope in terms of safety".[21][22]

All Tesla cars manufactured between September 2014 and October 2016 had the initial hardware (hardware version 1 or HW1) that would support the Autopilot software.[23] Software enabling Autopilot was released in mid-October 2015 as part of Tesla software version 7.0.[24] At that time, Tesla announced its goal to offer autonomous driving.[25] Software version 7.1 then removed some features to discourage customers from engaging in risky behavior.[26]

In August 2016, Musk announced Autopilot 8.0, which processes radar signals to create a coarse point cloud similar to lidar to help navigate in low visibility,[27] and even to "see" in front of the car ahead of the Tesla car.[28] In November 2016, Autopilot 8.0 was updated to have a more noticeable signal to the driver that it is engaged and to require drivers to touch the steering wheel more frequently.[29][30] By November 2016, Autopilot had operated actively on HW1 vehicles for 300 million miles (500 million km) and 1.3 billion miles (2 billion km) in "shadow" (not active) mode.[31]

Tesla stated that as of October 2016, all new vehicles come with the necessary sensors and computing hardware, known as hardware version 2 (HW2), for future Full Self-Driving.[32] Tesla used the term Enhanced Autopilot (EA) to refer to HW2 capabilities that were not available in HW1, which include the ability to automatically change lanes without requiring driver input, to transition from one freeway to another, and to exit the freeway when the destination is near.[33] Autopilot software for HW2 cars came in February 2017. It included traffic-aware cruise control, autosteer on divided highways, and autosteer on 'local roads' up to a speed of 45 mph.[34] Software version 8.1 for HW2 arrived in March 2017, providing HW2 cars software parity with HW1 cars.[35] The following August, Tesla announced hardware version 2.5 (HW2.5).[36]

As early as March 2019, Tesla began manufacturing its cars with a new version of the "full self-driving computer", Hardware version 3 (HW3).[37] To comply with the new United Nations Economic Commission for Europe regulation related to automatically commanded steering function,[38] Tesla provided an updated Autopilot in May limited to Europe.[39] In September, Tesla released software version 10 to Early Access Program (EAP) testers, citing improvements in driving visualization and automatic lane changes.[40]

As of December 28, 2019, Tesla's order page for "Full Self-Driving Capability" stated:

Coming later this year:[41][42]
  • Recognize and respond to traffic lights and stop signs
  • Automatic driving on city streets.

In January 2020, he pushed back his projection to be feature complete to the end of 2020, and added that feature complete "doesn't mean that features are working well."[43]

In September 2020, Tesla reintroduced the term Enhanced Autopilot to designate the subset of features applying to highway travel, parking, and summoning, whereas the Full-Self Driving option adds automation on city roads with traffic lights.[44] Tesla released a "beta" version of its Full Self-Driving software in the United States in October 2020 to EAP testers.[6][7]

Executive turnover[edit]

There has been reportedly high turnover in the role for leading the Autopilot team, with as many as five executives holding the position in a 4-year period.[45]

Starting in 2018, the executives are:

Full Self-Driving[edit]

Full Self-Driving (FSD) is an upgrade package to Autopilot offering additional ADAS features. As of May 2021, the beta FSD software is being tested by a couple thousand employees and customers.[8]


Tesla's approach to try to achieve SAE Level 5 is to train a neural network using the behavior of hundreds of thousands of Tesla drivers[51] using chiefly visible light cameras and information from components used for other purposes in the car (the coarse-grained two-dimensional maps used for navigation; the ultrasonic sensors used for parking, etc.)[52][53] Tesla has made a deliberate decision to not use lidar, which Elon Musk has called "stupid, expensive and unnecessary".[54] This makes Tesla's approach markedly different from that of other companies like Waymo and Cruise which train their neural networks using the behavior of highly trained drivers,[55][56] and are additionally relying on highly detailed (centimeter-scale) three-dimensional maps and lidar in their autonomous vehicles.[53][57][58][59][60]

According to Elon Musk, full autonomy is "really a software limitation: The hardware exists to create full autonomy, so it's really about developing advanced, narrow AI for the car to operate on."[61][62] The Autopilot development focus is on "increasingly sophisticated neural nets that can operate in reasonably sized computers in the car".[61][62] According to Musk, "the car will learn over time", including from other cars.[63]

Tesla's software has been trained based on 3 billion miles driven by Tesla vehicles on public roads, as of April 2020.[64][65] Alongside tens of millions of miles on public roads,[66] competitors have trained their software on tens of billions of miles in computer simulations, as of January 2020.[67] In terms of computing hardware, Tesla designed a self-driving computer chip that has been installed in its cars since March 2019[68] and also developed a neural network training supercomputer;[69][70] other vehicle automation companies such as Waymo regularly use custom chipsets and neural networks as well.[71][72]


Tesla's self-driving strategy has been criticized as dangerous and obsolete as it was abandoned by other companies years ago.[73][74][75] Most experts believe that Tesla's approach of trying to achieve autonomous vehicles by eschewing high-definition maps and lidar is not feasible.[76][77][78] Auto analyst Brad Templeton has criticized Tesla's approach by arguing, "The no-map approach involves forgetting what was learned before and doing it all again."[79] In a May 2021 study by Guidehouse Insights, Tesla was ranked last for both strategy and execution in the autonomous driving sector.[13] Some news reports in 2019 state "practically everyone views [lidar] as an essential ingredient for self-driving cars"[5] and "experts and proponents say it adds depth and vision where camera and radar alone fall short."[80]

An August 2021 study conducted by Missy Cummings et al found three Tesla Model 3 cars exhibited "significant between and within vehicle variation on a number of metrics related to driver monitoring, alerting, and safe operation of the underlying autonomy... suggest[ing] that the performance of the underlying artificial intelligence and computer vision systems was extremely variable."[81]

In July 2020, German authorities ruled that Tesla misled consumers regarding the "abilities of its automated driving systems" and banned it from using certain marketing language implying autonomous driving capabilities.[82]

In September 2021, legal scholars William Widen and Philip Koopman argued that Tesla has misrepresented FSD as SAE Level 2 in order to "avoid regulatory oversight and permitting processes required of more highly automated vehicles".[83] Instead, they argued FSD should be considered a SAE Level 4 technology and urged state Departments of Transportation in the U.S. to classify it as such since publicly available videos show that "beta test drivers operate their vehicles as if to validate SAE Level 4 (high driving automation) features, often revealing dramatically risky situations created by use of the vehicles in this manner."[83]

Predictions and deployment[edit]

In March 2015, speaking at an Nvidia conference, Musk stated:

"I don't think we have to worry about autonomous cars because it's a sort of a narrow form of AI. It's not something I think is very difficult. To do autonomous driving that is to a degree much safer than a person, is much easier than people think."[84] "... I almost view it like a solved problem."[85]

In December 2015, Musk predicted "complete autonomy" by 2018.[86] At the end of 2016, Tesla expected to demonstrate full autonomy by the end of 2017,[87][88] and in April 2017, Musk predicted that in around two years, drivers would be able to sleep in their vehicle while it drives itself.[89] In 2018 Tesla revised the date to demonstrate full autonomy to be by the end of 2019.[90]

In February 2019, Musk stated that Tesla's FSD capability would be "feature complete" by the end of 2019:[91][92]

I think we will be feature complete, full self-driving, this year. Meaning the car will be able to find you in a parking lot, pick you up and take you all the way to your destination without an intervention. This year. I would say I am of certain of that, that is not a question mark. However, people sometimes will extrapolate that to mean now it works with 100% certainty, requiring no observation, perfectly, this is not the case.

In January 2020, Musk claimed the FSD software would be "feature complete" by the end of 2020, adding that feature complete "doesn't mean that features are working well".[93] In August 2020, Musk stated that 200 software engineers, 100 hardware engineers and 500 "labelers" were working on Autopilot and FSD.[94] In early 2021, Musk stated that Tesla would provide SAE Level 5 autonomy by the end of 2021[95][96] and that Tesla plans to release a monthly subscription package for FSD in 2021.[97] An email conversation between Tesla and the California Department of Motor Vehicles retrieved via a Freedom of Information Act request by PlainSite contradicts Musk's forward-looking statement.[98]

FSD Beta[edit]

In October 2020, Tesla released a beta version of its FSD software to EAP testers, a small group of users in the United States.[99][6][7] Musk stated that the testing "[w]ill be extremely slow [and] cautious" and "be limited to a small number of people who are expert & careful drivers".[6] The release of the beta program has renewed concern regarding whether the technology is ready for testing on public roads.[100][101] In January 2021, the number of employees and customers testing the beta FSD software was "nearly 1,000"[102] and in May 2021 a couple thousand employees and customers.[8] In October 2021, Tesla started the wide release of the FSD Beta to about 1,000 more drivers in the US. The beta became accessible to Tesla drivers who achieved a 100 / 100 on a proprietary safety scoring system.[103]

As of November 2021 there were about 11,700 FSD beta testers.[104] There are about 150,000 vehicles using Tesla's safety score system.[105]

Tesla Dojo[edit]

Tesla Dojo (or Project Dojo) is an artificial intelligence (AI) neural network training supercomputer announced by Musk on Tesla's AI Day on August 19, 2021.[106] It had previously been mentioned by Musk in April 2019[107][108] and August 2020.[108] According to Musk, Project Dojo will be operational in 2022.[109]

The Dojo supercomputer will use Tesla D1 chips, designed and produced by Tesla.[110] According to Tesla's senior director of Autopilot hardware, Ganesh Venkataramanan, the chip uses a "7-nanometer manufacturing process, with 362 teraflops of processing power",[111] and "Tesla places 25 of these chips onto a single 'training tile', and 120 of these tiles come together... amounting to over an exaflop [a million teraflops] of power".[111] Tesla claims that Dojo will be the fastest AI-training computer[111] among competing offerings from Intel and Nvidia. As of August 2021, Nvidia says the current Tesla AI-training center uses 720 nodes of eight Nvidia A100 Tensor Core GPUs (5,760 GPUs in total) for up to 1.8 exaflops of performance.[112]

Gartner research vice president Chirag Dekate said, "The Tesla Dojo is an AI-specific supercomputer designed to accelerate machine learning and deep learning activities. Its lower precision focus limits applicability to a broader high-performance computer (HPC) context." He also said that Dojo's reported capabilities don't grant it true HPC status, largely because it hasn't been tested using the same standards as Fugaku and other supercomputers.[113] Dylan Patel from Semi Analysis suggests that while the input/output is impressive, the amount of memory is inadequate, and the two most difficult issues (the software compiler and tile-to-tile interconnects) remain to be solved.[114]

In September 2021, Tesla Dojo whitepaper was released;[115] Elon Musk commented that it is "more important than it may seem".[116]

Driving features[edit]

Tesla's Autopilot is classified as Level 2 under the SAE International six levels (0 to 5) of vehicle automation.[117] At this level, the car can act autonomously, but requires the driver to monitor the driving at all times and be prepared to take control at a moment's notice.[118][119] Tesla's owner's manual states that Autopilot should not be used on city streets or on roads where traffic conditions are constantly changing;[120][121][122] however, some current FSD capabilities ("traffic and stop sign control (beta)"), and future FSD capabilities ("autosteer on city streets") are advertised for city streets.[123]

Hardware Year Function and description[124] Requirements
HW1,2,3 2014 Over-the-air software updates. Autopilot updates received as part of recurring Tesla software updates.
HW1,2,3 2014 Safety features. If Autopilot detects a potential front or side collision with another vehicle, bicycle or pedestrian within a distance of 525 feet (160 m), it sounds a warning.[125] Autopilot also has automatic emergency braking that detects objects that may hit the car and applies the brakes, and the car may also automatically swerve out of the way to prevent a collision.
HW1,2,3 2014 Visualization. Autopilot includes a video display of some of what it sees around it. It displays driving lanes and vehicles in front, behind and on either side of it (in other lanes). It also displays lane markings and speed limits (via its cameras and what it knows from maps). On HW3, it displays stop signs and traffic signals. It distinguishes pedestrians, bicyclists/motorcyclists, small cars, and larger SUVs/trucks.
HW1,2,3 2014[19][126][127] Traffic-aware cruise control.[128] Also known as adaptive cruise control, the ability to maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front of it by accelerating and braking as that vehicle speeds up and slows down. It also slows on tight curves, on interstate ramps, and when another car enters or exits the road in front of the car. It can be enabled at any speed between 0 mph and 90 mph. By default, it sets the limit at the current speed limit plus/minus a driver-specified offset, then adjusts its target speed according to changes in speed limits. If road conditions warrant, Autosteer and cruise control disengage and an audio and visual signal indicate that the driver must assume full control.
HW1,2,3 2014[19][126][127] Autosteer. Steers the car to remain in whatever lane it is in (also known as lane-keeping). It is able to safely change lanes when the driver taps the turn signal stalk.[129] On divided highways, HW2 and HW3 cars limit use of the feature to 90 mph (145 km/h), and on non-divided highways the limit is five miles over the speed limit or 45 mph (72 km/h) if no speed limit is detected.[130] If the driver ignores three audio warnings about controlling the steering wheel within an hour, Autopilot is disabled until a new journey is begun.[131]
HW1,2,3 2014[132][133][134] Lane departure warning
HW1,2,3 2014 Autopilot Maximum speed. In 2017, changed to 90 mph (140 km/h).[135][136]
HW1,2,3 2014 Speed Assist. Front-facing cameras detect speed limit signs and display the current limit on the dashboard or center display. Limits are compared against GPS data if no signs are present or if the vehicle is HW2 or HW2.5.[125]
HW1,2,3 2014[19][126][127] Basic summon. Moves car into and out of a tight space using the Tesla phone app or key fob without the driver in the car.[137][138] EA or FSD
HW1,2,3 2014[139] Forward Collision Warning
HW2,3 2014[140] Automatic lane change. Driver initiates the lane changing signal when safe, then the system does the rest.[141] Autosteer is disabled upon a manual lane change. In 2019, the need for driver initiation was removed (the driver still needs to supervise).[142] EA or FSD
HW1,2,3 2015[143][144][145][126][127] Autopark. Parks the car in perpendicular or parallel parking spaces, with either nose or tail facing outward; driver does not need to be in the car.[146][147] EA or FSD
HW2,3 2016[148][126][149][127] Navigate on Autopilot (Beta). Navigates on-ramp to off-ramp. Initial version suggested lane changes (the driver has to engage the turn signal), navigated freeway interchanges and exited the freeway.[149][150] In 2019, automatic lane changes and automatic moving to a more appropriate lane based on speed were added (the driver still needs to supervise).[140] EA or FSD
HW2,3 2018[151] Obstacle-Aware Acceleration
HW2,3 2019[152] Blind Spot Collision Warning Chime
HW1,2,3 2019[153] Lane Departure Avoidance
HW2,3 2019[153] Emergency Lane Departure Avoidance
HW2,3 2019[154] Smart Summon. Enables supervised 150-foot line-of-sight remote car retrieval on private property (for example, parking lots) using the Tesla phone app; the car will navigate around obstacles.[155][156][157] EA or FSD
HW3 2019[127][126][19] FSD hardware. Tesla has made claims since 2016[158][159][160] that all new HW2 vehicles have the hardware necessary for FSD; however free[161] hardware upgrades have been required.[162] (An upgrade from HW 2 or 2.5 to HW3 is free to those who have purchased FSD.[163][164]) Tesla is claiming that the current software will be upgraded to provide FSD (at an unknown future date, without any need for additional hardware).[165][166]
HW3 2019[167] Traffic light/stop sign recognition FSD
HW3 2020[127][168] Traffic Light and Stop Sign Control (Beta).[127][168] When using Traffic-Aware Cruise Control or Autosteer, this feature will stop for stop signs and all non-green traffic lights.[169] No confirmation may be needed for driving straight through green lights.[170] Chime when traffic light turns green.[171] FSD
HW3 2020[172][170][99] Autosteer on city streets (Beta; currently only for EAP testers) FSD
HW3 2020[172][170][99] FSD (Beta; currently only for EAP testers) FSD



Hardware name Autopilot hardware 1 Enhanced Autopilot hardware 2.0[a] Enhanced Autopilot hardware 2.5[b] Full self-driving computer hardware 3[c]
Initial availability date 2014 October 2016 August 2017 April 2019 May 2021
Platform MobilEye EyeQ3[176] NVIDIA DRIVE PX 2 AI computing platform[177] NVIDIA DRIVE PX 2 with secondary node enabled[174] Two identical Tesla-designed processors
Forward Radar 160 m (525 ft)[124] 170 m (558 ft)[124] Removed[178][d]
Front / Side Camera color filter array N/A RCCC[124] RCCB[124]
Forward Cameras 1 monochrome with unknown range 3:
  • Narrow (35°): 250 m (820 ft)
  • Main (50°): 150 m (490 ft)
  • Wide (120°): 60 m (195 ft)
Forward Looking Side Cameras N/A
  • Left (90°): 80 m (260 ft)
  • Right (90°): 80 m (260 ft)
Rearward Looking Side Cameras N/A
  • Left: 100 m (330 ft)
  • Right: 100 m (330 ft)
Sonars 12 surrounding with 5 m (16 ft) range 12 surrounding with 8 m (26 ft) range
  1. ^ All cars sold after October 2016 are equipped with Hardware 2.0, which includes eight cameras (covering a complete 360° around the car), one forward-facing radar, and twelve sonars (also covering a complete 360°). Buyers may choose an extra-cost option to purchase either the "Enhanced Autopilot" or "Full Self-Driving" to enable features. Front and side collision mitigation features are standard on all cars.[173]
  2. ^ Also known as "Hardware 2.1"; includes added computing and wiring redundancy for improved reliability.[174]
  3. ^ Tesla described the previous computer as a supercomputer capable of full self driving.[175]
  4. ^ Radar hardware is not installed in Model 3 and Model Y vehicles built for the North American market and delivered in May 2021 or later, while Model S and Model X vehicles retain radar hardware.[179] On November 24, 2021 it was reported that Tesla China also removed radar.[180] Vehicles operating with Tesla FSD Beta do not use radar even if vehicle has the hardware.[181]

Hardware 1[edit]

Vehicles manufactured after late September 2014 are equipped with a camera mounted at the top of the windshield, forward looking radar[182][183] in the lower grille and ultrasonic acoustic location sensors in the front and rear bumpers that provide a 360-degree view around the car. The computer is the Mobileye EyeQ3.[184] This equipment allows the Tesla Model S to detect road signs, lane markings, obstacles, and other vehicles.

Auto lane change can be initiated by the driver turning on the lane changing signal when safe (due to ultrasonic 16-foot limited range capability), and then the system completes the lane change.[141] In 2016 the HW1 did not detect pedestrians or cyclists,[185] and while Autopilot detects motorcycles,[186] there have been two instances of HW1 cars rear-ending motorcycles.[187]

Upgrading from Hardware 1 to Hardware 2 is not offered as it would require substantial work and cost.[188]

Hardware 2[edit]

Tesla HW2 camera & radar coverage as shown by the company's website

HW2, included in all vehicles manufactured after October 2016, includes an Nvidia Drive PX 2[189] GPU for CUDA based GPGPU computation.[190][191] Tesla claimed that HW2 provided the necessary equipment to allow FSD capability at SAE Level 5. The hardware includes eight surround cameras and 12 ultrasonic sensors, in addition to forward-facing radar with enhanced processing capabilities.[192] The Autopilot computer is replaceable to allow for future upgrades.[193] The radar is able to observe beneath and ahead of the vehicle in front of the Tesla;[194] the radar can see vehicles through heavy rain, fog or dust.[195] Tesla claimed that the hardware was capable of processing 200 frames per second.[196]

When "Enhanced Autopilot" was enabled in February 2017 by the v8.0 (17.5.36) software update, testing showed the system was limited to using one of the eight onboard cameras—the main forward-facing camera[197] The v8.1 software update released a month later enabled a second camera, the narrow-angle forward-facing camera.[198]

Hardware 2.5[edit]

In August 2017, Tesla announced that HW2.5 included a secondary processor node to provide more computing power and additional wiring redundancy to slightly improve reliability; it also enabled dashcam and sentry mode capabilities.[199][174]

Hardware 3[edit]

According to Tesla's director of Artificial Intelligence Andrej Karpathy, Tesla had as of Q3 2018 trained large neural networks that work but which could not be deployed to Tesla vehicles built up to that time due to their insufficient computational resources. HW3 provides the necessary resources to run these neural networks.[200]

HW3 includes a custom Tesla-designed system on a chip fabricated using 14 nm process by Samsung.[201] Jim Keller and Pete Bannon among other architects lead the project since February 2016 and took over the course of 18 months. Tesla claimed that the new system processes 2,300 frames per second (fps), which is a 21× improvement over the 110 fps image processing capability of HW2.5.[202][203] The firm described it as a "neural network accelerator".[196] Each chip is capable of 36 trillion operations per second, and there are two chips for redundancy.[204] The company claimed that HW3 was necessary for FSD, but not for "enhanced Autopilot" functions.[205]

The first availability of HW3 was April 2019.[206] Customers with HW2 or HW2.5 who purchased the FSD package are eligible for an upgrade to HW3 without cost.[207]

Tesla claims HW3 has 2.5× improved performance over HW2.5 with 1.25× higher power and 0.2× lower cost. HW3 features twelve ARM Cortex-A72 CPUs operating at 2.6 GHz, two Neural Network Accelerators operating at 2 GHz and a Mali GPU operating at 1 GHz.[208]

Tesla Vision[edit]

In late May 2021, Elon Musk posted to Twitter that "Pure vision Autopilot" was starting to be implemented.[209] The system, which Tesla brands "Tesla Vision", eliminates the forward-facing radar from the Autopilot hardware package on Model 3 and Model Y vehicles built for the North American market and delivered in and after May 2021. For vehicles without the forward radar, temporary limitations were applied to certain features such as Autosteer, and other features (Smart Summon and Emergency Lane Departure Avoidance) were disabled, but Tesla promised to restore the features "in the weeks ahead ... via a series of over-the-air software updates".[210] In response, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) rescinded the agency's check marks for forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and dynamic brake support, applicable to Model 3 and Model Y vehicles built on or after April 27, 2021. Consumer Reports delisted the Model 3 from its Top Picks, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) announced plans to delist the Model 3 as a Top Safety Pick+,[211][212] but after further testing, both organizations restored those designations.[213]


  • In 2018, Consumer Reports rated Tesla Autopilot as second best out of four (Cadillac, Tesla, Nissan, Volvo) "partially automated driving systems".[214] Autopilot scored highly for its capabilities and ease of use, but was worse at keeping the driver engaged than the other manufacturers' systems.[214] Consumer Reports also found multiple problems with Autopilot's automatic lane change function, such as cutting too closely in front of other cars and passing on the right.[215]
  • In 2018, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety compared Tesla, BMW, Mercedes and Volvo "advanced driver assistance systems" and stated that the Tesla Model 3 experienced the fewest incidents of crossing over a lane line, touching a lane line, or disengaging.[216]
  • In February 2020, Car and Driver compared Cadillac Super Cruise, Comma.ai and Autopilot.[217] They called Autopilot "one of the best", highlighting its user interface and versatility, but criticizing it for swerving abruptly.
  • In June 2020, Digital Trends compared Cadillac Super Cruise self-driving and Tesla Autopilot.[218] The conclusion: "Super Cruise is more advanced, while Autopilot is more comprehensive."
  • In October 2020, the European New Car Assessment Program gave the Tesla Model 3 Autopilot a score of "moderate".[219]
  • Also in October 2020, Consumer Reports evaluated 17 driver assistance systems, and concluded that Tesla Autopilot was "a distant second" behind Cadillac's Super Cruise, although Autopilot was ranked first in the "Capabilities and Performance" and "Ease of Use" categories.[3][220]
  • In February 2021, a MotorTrend review compared Super Cruise and Autopilot and said Super Cruise was better, primarily due to safety.[221]

Safety concerns[edit]

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) criticized Tesla's lack of system safeguards in a fatal 2018 Autopilot crash in California,[222] and for failing to foresee and prevent "predictable abuse" of Autopilot.[223][224] The Center for Auto Safety and Consumer Watchdog called for federal and state investigations into Autopilot and Tesla's marketing of the technology, which they believe is "dangerously misleading and deceptive", giving consumers the false impression that their vehicles are self-driving or autonomous.[225][226] UK safety experts called Tesla's Autopilot "especially misleading".[227] A 2019 IIHS study showed that the name "Autopilot" causes more drivers to misperceive behaviors such as texting or taking a nap to be safe, versus similar level 2 driver-assistance systems from other car companies.[228] Tesla's Autopilot and FSD features were criticized in a May 2020 report published on ScienceDirect titled "Autonowashing: The Greenwashing of Vehicle Automation".[229]

In June 2021, the NHTSA announced an order requiring automakers to report crashes involving vehicles equipped with ADAS features in the United States.[230] This order came amid increased regulatory scrutiny of such systems, especially Tesla Autopilot.[231] An MIT study published in September 2021 found that Autopilot is not as safe as Tesla claims, and led to drivers becoming inattentive.[232][233]

Driver monitoring[edit]

Drivers have been found sleeping at the wheel, driving under the influence of alcohol, and doing other inappropriate tasks with Autopilot engaged.[234][235] Initially, Tesla decided against using driver monitoring options to limit such activities.[236] It was not until late May 2021 that a new version of the OTA software turned on inside cameras for new Model 3 and Model Y (i.e. the first cars as part of the switch to Tesla Vision) in order to monitor drivers using Autopilot.[237] Model S and Model X cars made before 2021 do not have an inside camera and therefore physically cannot offer such capabilities, although the refreshed versions are expected to have one.[238]

Detecting stationary vehicles at speed[edit]

Autopilot may not detect stationary vehicles; the manual states: "Traffic-Aware Cruise Control cannot detect all objects and may not brake/decelerate for stationary vehicles, especially in situations when you are driving over 50 mph (80 km/h) and a vehicle you are following moves out of your driving path and a stationary vehicle or object is in front of you instead."[239] This has led to numerous crashes with stopped emergency vehicles.[240][241][242][243] This is the same problem that any car equipped with just adaptive cruise control or automated emergency braking has (for example, Volvo Pilot Assist).[239]

Dangerous and unexpected behavior[edit]

In a 2019 Bloomberg survey, hundreds of Tesla owners reported dangerous behaviors with Autopilot, such as phantom braking, veering out of lane, or failing to stop for road hazards.[244] Autopilot users have also reported the software crashing and turning off suddenly, collisions with off ramp barriers, radar failures, unexpected swerving, tailgating, and uneven speed changes.[245]

Ars Technica notes that the brake system tends to initiate later than some drivers expect.[246] One driver claimed that Tesla's Autopilot failed to brake, resulting in collisions, but Tesla pointed out that the driver deactivated the cruise control of the car prior to the crash.[247] Ars Technica also notes that while lane changes may be semi-automatic (if Autopilot is on, and the vehicle detects slow moving cars or if it is required to stay on route, the car may automatically change lanes without any driver input), the driver must show the car that he or she is paying attention by touching the steering wheel before the car makes the change.[248] In 2019, Consumer Reports found that Tesla's automatic lane-change feature is "far less competent than a human driver".[249]


A spokesman for the NHTSA said that "any autonomous vehicle would need to meet applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards" and the NHTSA "will have the appropriate policies and regulations in place to ensure the safety of this type of vehicles".[250] On February 1, 2021, Robert Sumwalt, chair of the NTSB, wrote a letter to NHTSA regarding that agency's "Framework for Automated Driving System Safety", which had been published for comment in December 2020.[251][252][253] In the letter, Sumwalt recommended that NHTSA include user monitoring as part of the safety framework and reiterated that "Tesla's lack of appropriate safeguards and NHTSA's inaction" to act on the NTSB's recommendation "that NHTSA develop a method to verify that manufacturers of vehicles equipped with Level 2 incorporate system safeguards that limit the use of automated vehicle control systems to the conditions for which they were designed" was a contributing cause to a fatal crash of a vehicle in Delray Beach, Florida.[252]: 7 

NHTSA announced Standing General Order 2021-01 on June 29, 2021. Under this General Order, manufacturers and operators of vehicles equipped with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS, SAE J3016 Level 2) or automated driving systems (ADS, SAE Level 3 or higher) are required to report crashes.[230] An amended order was issued and became effective on August 12.[254] Reporting is limited to crashes where the ADAS or ADS was engaged within 30 seconds prior to the crash that involve a injury that requires hospitalization, a fatality, a vehicle being towed from the scene, an air bag deployment, or involving a "vulnerable road user" (e.g., pedestrian or bicyclist); these crashes are required to be reported to NHTSA within one calendar day, and an updated report is required within 10 calendar days.[255]: 13–14 

Court cases[edit]

Tesla's Autopilot was the subject of a class action suit brought in 2017 that claimed the second-generation Enhanced Autopilot system was "dangerously defective".[256] The suit was settled in 2018; owners who had paid US$5,000 (equivalent to $5,392 in 2020) in 2016 and 2017 to equip their cars with the updated Autopilot software were compensated between $20 and $280 for the delay in implementing Autopilot 2.0.[257]

In July 2020, a German court ruled that Tesla made exaggerated promises about its Autopilot technology, and that the "Autopilot" name created the false impression that the car can drive itself.[258]

On 16 August 2021, after reports of 17 injuries and one death in car crashes involving emergency vehicles, the US auto safety regulators opened a formal safety probe into Tesla’s driver assistance system Autopilot.[259]

Safety statistics[edit]

Millions of miles driven between accidents with different levels of Autopilot and active safety features
  Autopilot engaged
  No Autopilot, but active safety features engaged
  No Autopilot and no active safety features

In 2016, data after 47 million miles of driving in Autopilot mode showed the probability of an accident was at least 50% lower when using Autopilot.[260] During the investigation into the fatal crash of May 2016 in Williston, Florida, NHTSA released a preliminary report in January 2017 stating "the Tesla vehicles' crash rate dropped by almost 40 percent after Autosteer installation."[261][262]: 10  Disputing this, in 2019, a private company, Quality Control Systems, released their report analyzing the same data, stating the NHTSA conclusion was "not well-founded".[263] Quality Control Systems' analysis of the data showed the crash rate (measured in the rate of airbag deployments per million miles of travel) actually increased from 0.76 to 1.21 after the installation of Autosteer.[264]: 9 

Tesla accident rates according to its self-published report[2]
Yes No No
Active safety
features used
Year / Quarter (Reported as millions of miles
driven per accident, so higher
numbers imply a lower rate of
2018 Q3 3.34 1.92 2.02
Q4 2.91 1.58 1.25
2019 Q1 2.87 1.76 1.26
Q2 3.27 2.19 1.41
Q3 4.34 2.70 1.82
Q4 3.07 2.10 1.64
2020 Q1 4.68 1.99 1.42
Q2 4.53 2.27 1.56
Q3 4.59 2.42 1.79
Q4 3.45 2.05 1.27
2021 Q1 4.19 2.05 0.98
Q2 4.41 N/A 1.20

In February 2020, Andrej Karpathy, Tesla's head of AI and computer vision, stated that: Tesla cars have driven 3 billion miles on Autopilot, of which 1 billion have been driven using Navigate on Autopilot; Tesla cars have performed 200,000 automated lane changes; and 1.2 million Smart Summon sessions have been initiated with Tesla cars.[265] He also stated that Tesla cars are avoiding pedestrian accidents at a rate of tens to hundreds per day.[266]

NHTSA investigations[edit]

According to a document released in June 2021, the NHTSA has initiated at least 30 investigations into Tesla crashes that were believed to involve the use of Autopilot, with some involving fatalities.[267][268]

In August 2021, the NHTSA Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) opened a preliminary evaluation (PE 21-020) and released a list of eleven crashes involving Tesla vehicles striking emergency vehicles; in each instance, NHTSA confirmed that Autopilot or Traffic Aware Cruise Control were active during the approach to the crashes. Of the eleven crashes, seven resulted in seventeen injuries, and one resulted in one fatality. NHTSA planned to evaluate the Autopilot system, specifically the systems used to monitor and enforce driver engagement.[269] In September, NHTSA added a twelfth accident to the investigation list.[270]

NHTSA sent a request for information relating to PE 21-020 to Tesla's director of field quality on August 31, 2021. The response is due by October 22.[271][272]

List of crashes in NHTSA ODI Preliminary Evaluation (PE) 21-020[269]
Date City/County State Notes/Refs
Jan 22, 2018 Culver City California Tesla struck a stationary fire truck on southbound I-405.[273]
May 29, 2018 Laguna Beach California Tesla struck a stationary patrol vehicle on Laguna Canyon Road at 11:07 AM.[274]
Dec 7, 2019 Norwalk Connecticut Tesla struck a stationary police cruiser with its emergency lights flashing on I-95 near exit 15. Driver stated he had been checking on his dog in the back seat.[275]
Dec 29, 2019 Cloverdale Indiana Tesla struck a stationary fire truck on I-70 near mile marker 38; passenger in Tesla was killed.[276]
Jan 22, 2020 West Bridgewater Massachusetts Tesla struck a stationary patrol vehicle at 10 PM on Route 24. Driver stated that Autopilot was engaged.[277]
Jul 14, 2020 Cochise County Arizona Tesla struck a stationary patrol vehicle at 3 AM on I-10 near Benson, Arizona.[278]
Aug 26, 2020 Charlotte North Carolina Tesla struck a stationary patrol vehicle on I-64W near the border of Nash and Franklin counties. Driver was watching a movie.[279]
Feb 27, 2021 Montgomery County Texas Tesla struck a stationary police cruiser at 1:15 AM on the Eastex Freeway near East River Road.[280]
Mar 17, 2021 Lansing Michigan Tesla struck a stationary patrol car at 1:10 AM on I-96 in Eaton County.[281]
May 19, 2021 Miami Florida Tesla struck a stationary Florida Department of Transportation road ranger truck at 5:30 AM on I-95 near 103rd St.[282]
Jul 10, 2021 San Diego California Tesla struck a stationary patrol car at 1:45 AM on State Route 56.[283]
Aug 28, 2021 Orlando Florida Tesla struck a stationary patrol car at 5 AM on I-4.[284]

Notable crashes[edit]

Fatal crashes[edit]

As of January 2021, there have been ten verified fatalities involving Tesla's Autopilot, though other deadly incidents where Autopilot use was suspected remain outstanding.[285]

Handan, Hebei, China (January 20, 2016)[edit]

On January 20, 2016, the driver of a Tesla Model S in Handan, Hebei province, China, was killed when his car crashed into a stationary truck.[286] The Tesla was following a car in the far left lane of a multi-lane highway; the car in front moved to the right lane to avoid a truck stopped on the left shoulder, and the Tesla, which the driver's father believes was in Autopilot mode, did not slow before colliding with the stopped truck.[287] According to footage captured by a dashboard camera, the stationary street sweeper on the left side of the expressway partially extended into the far left lane, and the driver did not appear to respond to the unexpected obstacle.[288]

In September 2016, the media reported the driver's family had filed a lawsuit in July against the Tesla dealer who sold the car.[289] The family's lawyer stated the suit was intended "to let the public know that self-driving technology has some defects. We are hoping Tesla when marketing its products, will be more cautious. Do not just use self-driving as a selling point for young people."[287] Tesla released a statement which said they "have no way of knowing whether or not Autopilot was engaged at the time of the crash" since the car telemetry could not be retrieved remotely due to damage caused by the crash.[287] In 2018, the lawsuit was stalled because telemetry was recorded locally to a SD card and was not able to be given to Tesla, who provided a decoding key to a third party for independent review. Tesla stated that "while the third-party appraisal is not yet complete, we have no reason to believe that Autopilot on this vehicle ever functioned other than as designed."[290] Chinese media later reported that the family sent the information from that card to Tesla, which admitted autopilot was engaged two minutes before the crash.[291] Tesla since then removed the term "Autopilot" from its Chinese website.[292]

Williston, Florida, USA (May 7, 2016)[edit]

The model S after it was recovered from the crash scene in Williston, Florida

On May 7, 2016, a Tesla driver was killed in a crash with an 18-wheel tractor-trailer in Williston, Florida. By late June 2016, the NHTSA opened a formal investigation into the fatal autonomous accident, working with the Florida Highway Patrol. According to the NHTSA, preliminary reports indicate the crash occurred when the tractor-trailer made a left turn in front of the 2015 Tesla Model S at an intersection on a non-controlled access highway, and the car failed to apply the brakes. The car continued to travel after passing under the truck's trailer.[293][294][295] The Tesla was eastbound in the rightmost lane of US 27, and the westbound tractor-trailer was turning left at the intersection with NE 140th Court, approximately 1 mi (1.6 km) west of Williston; the posted speed limit is 65 mph (105 km/h).[296]

The diagnostic log of the Tesla indicated it was traveling at a speed of 74 mi/h (119 km/h) when it collided with and traveled under the trailer, which was not equipped with a side underrun protection system.[297]: 12  A reconstruction of the accident estimated the driver would have had approximately 10.4 seconds to detect the truck and take evasive action.[298] The underride collision sheared off the Tesla's glasshouse, destroying everything above the beltline, and caused fatal injuries to the driver.[297]: 6–7, 13  In the approximately nine seconds after colliding with the trailer, the Tesla traveled another 886.5 feet (270.2 m) and came to rest after colliding with two chain-link fences and a utility pole.[297]: 7, 12 

Dr. Deb Bruce, head of the NTSB investigation team, announces results to the NTSB on September 12, 2017

The NHTSA's preliminary evaluation was opened to examine the design and performance of any automated driving systems in use at the time of the crash, which involves a population of an estimated 25,000 Model S cars.[299] On July 8, 2016, the NHTSA requested Tesla Inc. to hand over to the agency detailed information about the design, operation and testing of its Autopilot technology. The agency also requested details of all design changes and updates to Autopilot since its introduction, and Tesla's planned updates scheduled for the next four months.[300]

According to Tesla, "neither autopilot nor the driver noticed the white side of the tractor-trailer against a brightly lit sky, so the brake was not applied." The car attempted to drive full speed under the trailer, "with the bottom of the trailer impacting the windshield of the Model S". Tesla also stated that this was Tesla's first known Autopilot-related death in over 130 million miles (208 million km) driven by its customers while Autopilot was activated. According to Tesla there is a fatality every 94 million miles (150 million km) among all type of vehicles in the U.S.[293][294][301] It is estimated that billions of miles will need to be traveled before Tesla Autopilot can claim to be safer than humans with statistical significance. Researchers say that Tesla and others need to release more data on the limitations and performance of automated driving systems if self-driving cars are to become safe and understood enough for mass-market use.[302][303]

The truck's driver told the Associated Press that he could hear a Harry Potter movie playing in the crashed car, and said the car was driving so quickly that "he went so fast through my trailer I didn't see him. [The film] was still playing when he died and snapped a telephone pole a quarter-mile down the road." According to the Florida Highway Patrol, they found in the wreckage an aftermarket portable DVD player. It is not possible to watch videos on the Model S touchscreen display.[295][304] A laptop computer was recovered during the post-crash examination of the wreck, along with an adjustable vehicle laptop mount attached to the front passenger's seat frame. The NHTSA concluded the laptop was probably mounted and the driver may have been distracted at the time of the crash.[297]: 17–19, 21 

Tesla's manufacture of cars equipped with Autopilot preceded NHTSA's issuance of its [Federal Automated Vehicles] Policy [dated September 2016], and that policy applies to SAE Levels 3–5 rather than Level 2 automated vehicles, but Tesla clearly understands the [operational design domain] concept and advised drivers to use the Autopilot systems only on limited-access roadways. Following the crash, Tesla modified its Autopilot firmware to add a preferred road usage constraint, which affects the timing of the hands-off driving alert. But despite these modifications, a Tesla driver can still operate Autopilot on any roads with adequate lane markings.

Collision Between a Car Operating With Automated Vehicle Control Systems and a Tractor-Semitrailer Truck Near Williston, Florida | May 7, 2017 | Accident Report NTSB/HAR-17/02 PB2017-102600[305]: 33 

In January 2017, the NHTSA Office of Defects Investigations (ODI) released a preliminary evaluation, finding that the driver in the crash had seven seconds to see the truck and identifying no defects in the Autopilot system; the ODI also found that the Tesla car crash rate dropped by 40 percent after Autosteer installation,[261][262] but later also clarified that it did not assess the effectiveness of this technology or whether it was engaged in its crash rate comparison.[306] The NHTSA Special Crash Investigation team published its report in January 2018.[297] According to the report, for the drive leading up to the crash, the driver engaged Autopilot for 37 minutes and 26 seconds, and the system provided 13 "hands not detected" alerts, to which the driver responded after an average delay of 16 seconds.[297]: 24  The report concluded "Regardless of the operational status of the Tesla's ADAS technologies, the driver was still responsible for maintaining ultimate control of the vehicle. All evidence and data gathered concluded that the driver neglected to maintain complete control of the Tesla leading up to the crash."[297]: 25 

In July 2016, the NTSB announced it had opened a formal investigation into the fatal accident while Autopilot was engaged. The NTSB is an investigative body that only has the power to make policy recommendations. An agency spokesman said, "It's worth taking a look and seeing what we can learn from that event, so that as that automation is more widely introduced we can do it in the safest way possible." The NTSB opens annually about 25 to 30 highway investigations.[307] In September 2017, the NTSB released its report, determining that "the probable cause of the Williston, Florida, crash was the truck driver's failure to yield the right of way to the car, combined with the car driver's inattention due to overreliance on vehicle automation, which resulted in the car driver's lack of reaction to the presence of the truck. Contributing to the car driver's overreliance on the vehicle automation was its operational design, which permitted his prolonged disengagement from the driving task and his use of the automation in ways inconsistent with guidance and warnings from the manufacturer."[308]

Mountain View, California, USA (March 23, 2018)[edit]

Post-crash scene on US 101 in Mountain View, March 23, 2018

On March 23, 2018, a second U.S. Autopilot fatality occurred in Mountain View, California.[309] The crash occurred just before 9:30 A.M. on southbound US 101 at the carpool lane exit for southbound Highway 85, at a concrete barrier where the left-hand carpool lane offramp separates from 101. After the Model X crashed into the narrow concrete barrier, it was struck by two following vehicles, and then it caught on fire.[310]

Both the NHTSA and NTSB began investigations into the March 2018 crash.[311] Another driver of a Model S demonstrated that Autopilot appeared to be confused by the road surface marking in April 2018. The gore ahead of the barrier is marked by diverging solid white lines (a vee-shape) and the Autosteer feature of the Model S appeared to mistakenly use the left-side white line instead of the right-side white line as the lane marking for the far left lane, which would have led the Model S into the same concrete barrier had the driver not taken control.[312] Ars Technica concluded that "as Autopilot gets better, drivers could become increasingly complacent and pay less and less attention to the road."[313]

In a corporate blog post, Tesla noted the impact attenuator separating the offramp from US 101 had been previously crushed and not replaced prior to the Model X crash on March 23.[309][314] The post also stated that Autopilot was engaged at the time of the crash, and the driver's hands had not been detected manipulating the steering wheel for six seconds before the crash. Vehicle data showed the driver had five seconds and a 150 metres (490 ft) "unobstructed view of the concrete divider, ... but the vehicle logs show that no action was taken."[309] The NTSB investigation had been focused on the damaged impact attenuator and the vehicle fire after the collision, but after it was reported the driver had complained about the Autopilot functionality,[315] the NTSB announced it would also investigate "all aspects of this crash including the driver's previous concerns about the autopilot".[316] A NTSB spokesman stated the organization "is unhappy with the release of investigative information by Tesla".[317] Elon Musk dismissed the criticism, tweeting that NTSB was "an advisory body" and that "Tesla releases critical crash data affecting public safety immediately & always will. To do otherwise would be unsafe."[318] In response, NTSB removed Tesla as a party to the investigation on April 11.[319]

NTSB released a preliminary report on June 7, 2018, which provided the recorded telemetry of the Model X and other factual details. Autopilot was engaged continuously for almost nineteen minutes prior to the crash. In the minute before the crash, the driver's hands were detected on the steering wheel for 34 seconds in total, but his hands were not detected for the six seconds immediately preceding the crash. Seven seconds before the crash, the Tesla began to steer to the left and was following a lead vehicle; four seconds before the crash, the Tesla was no longer following a lead vehicle; and during the three seconds before the crash, the Tesla's speed increased to 70.8 mi/h (113.9 km/h). The driver was wearing a seatbelt and was pulled from the vehicle before it was engulfed in flames.[320]

The crash attenuator had been previously damaged on March 12 and had not been replaced at the time of the Tesla crash.[320] The driver involved in the accident on March 12 collided with the crash attenuator at more than 75 mph (121 km/h) and was treated for minor injuries; in comparison, the driver of the Tesla collided with the collapsed attenuator at a slower speed and died from blunt force trauma. After the accident on March 12, the California Highway Patrol failed to report the collapsed attenuator to Caltrans as required. Caltrans was not aware of the damage until March 20, and the attenuator was not replaced until March 26 because a spare was not immediately available.[321]: 1–4  This specific attenuator had required repair more often than any other crash attenuator in the Bay Area, and maintenance records indicated that repair of this attenuator was delayed by up to three months after being damaged.[321]: 4–5  As a result, the NTSB released a Safety Recommendation Report on September 9, 2019, asking Caltrans to develop and implement a plan to guarantee timely repair of traffic safety hardware.[322]

At a NTSB meeting held on February 25, 2020, the board concluded the crash was caused by a combination of the limitations of the Tesla Autopilot system, the driver's over-reliance on Autopilot, and driver distraction likely from playing a video game on his phone. The vehicle's ineffective monitoring of driver engagement was cited as a contributing factor, and the inoperability of the crash attenuator contributed to the driver's injuries.[323] As an advisory agency, NTSB does not have regulatory power; however, NTSB made several recommendations to two regulatory agencies. The NTSB recommendations to the NHTSA included: expanding the scope of the New Car Assessment Program to include testing of forward collision avoidance systems; determining if "the ability to operate [Tesla Autopilot-equipped vehicles] outside the intended operational design domain pose[s] an unreasonable risk to safety"; and developing driver monitoring system performance standards. The NTSB submitted recommendations to the OSHA relating to distracted driving awareness and regulation. In addition, NTSB issued recommendations to manufacturers of portable electronic devices (to develop lock-out mechanisms to prevent driver-distracting functions) and to Apple (banning the nonemergency use of portable electronic devices while driving).[324]

Several NTSB recommendations previously issued to NHTSA, DOT, and Tesla were reclassified to "Open—Unacceptable Response". These included H-17-41[325] (recommendation to Tesla to incorporate system safeguards that limit the use of automated vehicle control systems to design conditions) and H-17-42[326] (recommendation to Tesla to more effectively sense the driver's level of engagement).[324]

Kanagawa, Japan (April 29, 2018)[edit]

On April 29, 2018, a Tesla Model X operating on Autopilot struck and killed a pedestrian in Kanagawa, Japan, after the driver had fallen asleep.[327] According to a lawsuit filed against Tesla in federal court (N.D. Cal.) in April 2020, the Tesla Model X accelerated from 24 to 38 km/h (15 to 24 mph) after the vehicle in front of it changed lanes; it then crashed into a van, motorcycles, and pedestrians in the far right lane of the expressway, killing a 44-year-old man on the road directing traffic.[328][329]: 2, 9  The original complaint claims the accident occurred due to flaws in Tesla's Autopilot system, such as inadequate monitoring to detect inattentive drivers and an inability to handle traffic situations "that drivers will almost always certainly encounter".[329]: 3–4 [330] In addition, the original complaint claimed this is the first pedestrian fatality to result from the use of Autopilot.[329]: 1 

According to vehicle data logs, the driver of the Tesla had engaged autopilot at 2:11 PM (local time), shortly after entering the Tōmei Expressway.[329]: 11  The driver's hands were detected on the wheel at 2:22 PM.[329]: 11  At some point before 2:49 PM, the driver began to doze off, and at approximately 2:49 PM, the vehicle ahead of the Tesla signaled and moved one lane to the left to avoid the vehicles stopped in the far right lane of the expressway.[329]: 11  While the Tesla was accelerating to resume its preset speed, it struck the man, killing him.[329]: 11  He belonged to a motorcycle riding club which had stopped to render aid to a friend that had been involved in an earlier accident; he specifically had been standing apart from the main group while trying to redirect traffic away from that earlier accident.[329]: 9–10 

The driver of the Tesla was convicted in a Japanese court of criminal negligence and sentenced to three years in prison (suspended for five years).[331] The suit against Tesla in California was dismissed for forum non conveniens by Judge Susan van Keulen in September 2020 after Tesla said it would accept a case brought in Japan.[332] The plaintiffs appealed the dismissal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in February 2021.[328]

Delray Beach, Florida, USA (March 1, 2019)[edit]

At approximately 6:17 AM on the morning of March 1, 2019, a Tesla Model 3 driving southbound on US 441/SR 7 in Delray Beach, Florida struck a semi-trailer truck that was making a left-hand turn to northbound SR 7 out of a private driveway at Pero Family Farms; the Tesla underrode the trailer, and the force of the impact sheared off the greenhouse of the Model 3, resulting in the death of the Tesla driver.[333] The driver of the Tesla had engaged Autopilot approximately 10 seconds before the collision and preliminary telemetry showed the vehicle did not detect the driver's hands on the wheel for the eight seconds immediately preceding the collision.[334] The driver of the semi-trailer truck was not cited.[335] Both the NHTSA and NTSB dispatched investigators to the scene.[336][337]

According to telemetry recorded by the Tesla's restraint control module, the Tesla's cruise control was set to 69 mph (111 km/h) 12.3 seconds prior to the collision and Autopilot was engaged 9.9 seconds prior to the collision; at the moment of impact, the vehicle speed was 68.3 mph (109.9 km/h).[338] After the crash and underride, the Tesla continued southbound on SR 7 for approximately 1,680 ft (510 m) before coming to rest in the median between the northbound and southbound lanes.[339] The car sustained extensive damage to the roof, windshield, and other surfaces above 3 ft 6 in (1.07 m), the clearance under the trailer. Although the airbags did not deploy following the collision, the Tesla's driver remained restrained by his seatbelt; emergency response personnel were able to determine the driver's injuries were incompatible with life upon arriving at the scene.[340]

In May 2019 the NTSB issued a preliminary report that determined that neither the driver of the Tesla or the Autopilot system executed evasive maneuvers.[341] The circumstances of this crash were similar to the fatal underride crash of a Tesla Model S in 2016 near Williston, Florida; in its 2017 report detailing the investigation of that earlier crash, NTSB recommended that Autopilot be used only on limited-access roads (i.e., freeway),[305]: 33  which Tesla did not implement.[342]

The NTSB issued its final report in March 2020.[343] The probable cause of the collision was the truck driver's failure to yield the right of way to the Tesla; however, the report also concluded that "an attentive car driver would have seen the truck in time to take evasive action. At no time before the crash did the car driver brake or initiate an evasive steering action. In addition, no driver-applied steering wheel torque was detected for 7.7 seconds before impact, indicating driver disengagement, likely due to overreliance on the Autopilot system." In addition, the NTSB concluded the operational design of the Tesla Autopilot system "permitted disengagement by the driver" and Tesla failed to "limit the use of the system to the conditions for which it was designed"; the NHTSA also failed to develop a method of verifying that manufacturers had safeguards in place to limit the use of ADAS to design conditions.[339]: 14–15 

Key Largo, Florida, USA (April 25, 2019)[edit]

While driving on Card Sound Road, a 2019 Model S ran through a stop sign and flashing red stop light at the T-intersection with County Road 905, then struck a parked Chevrolet Tahoe which then hit two pedestrians, killing one. A New York Times article later confirmed Autopilot was engaged at the time of the accident.[344] The driver of the Tesla, who was commuting to his home in Key Largo from his office in Boca Raton, told police at the scene that he was driving in "cruise"; he was allowed to leave without receiving a citation.[344][345][346]

Fremont, California, USA (August 24, 2019)[edit]

In Fremont, California on I-880, while driving north of Stevenson Boulevard, a Ford Explorer pickup was rear-ended by a Tesla Model 3 using Autopilot, causing the pickup's driver to lose control. The pickup overturned and a 15-year-old passenger in the Ford, who was not seat-belted, was jettisoned from the pickup and killed.[347][348] The deceased's parents sued Tesla and claimed in their filing that "Autopilot contains defects and failed to react to traffic conditions."[349] In response, a lawyer for Tesla noted the police had cited the driver of the Tesla for inattention and operating the car at an unsafe speed.[350] The incident has not been investigated by the NHTSA.[351]

Cloverdale, Indiana, USA (December 29, 2019)[edit]

An eastbound Tesla Model 3 rear-ended a fire truck parked along I-70 near mile marker 38 in Putnam County, Indiana at approximately 8 AM;[352][353] both the driver and passenger in the Tesla, a married couple, were injured and taken to Terre Haute Regional Hospital, where the passenger later died from her injuries. The driver stated he regularly uses Autopilot mode, but could not recall if it was engaged when the Tesla hit the fire truck.[354] The NHTSA announced it was investigating the crash on January 9[355] and later confirmed the use of Autopilot at the time of the crash.[269]

Their dog, which was also riding in the Tesla with them, escaped after the crash and has not been recovered.[353][356] The couple had acquired their dog as a companion for the wife while the husband was undergoing basic training for the Air Force; the married couple were driving to Maryland after visiting family in Arizona for the holiday season.[357]

Arendal, Norway (May 29, 2020)[edit]

A truck driver parked a semi-trailer on May 29, 2020, partially off E18 near the Torsbuås tunnel outside Arendal; while fixing a strap that was securing the load, he was struck and killed by a passing Tesla.[358] The Tesla's driver has been charged with negligent homicide. Early in the trial, an expert witness testified that the car's computer indicates Autopilot was engaged at the time of the incident.[358] A forensic scientist said the killed man was less visible because he was in the shadow of the trailer.[359] The driver said he had both hands on the wheel,[359] and that he was vigilant.[358] As of May 2021, the Accident Investigation Board Norway is still investigating.[358][360][361]

The Woodlands, Texas, USA (April 17, 2021)[edit]

A Tesla Model S P100D[362] crashed and caught fire in The Woodlands, Texas, a suburb of Houston, at 11:25 PM CDT on April 17, 2021. According to a police spokesperson, the vehicle was traveling at a high speed and after failing to negotiate a curve, departed the roadway, crashed into a tree, and burst into flames; the resulting fire took four hours and more than 30,000 US gal (113,600 l) of water to extinguish.[363] The chief of The Woodlands fire department later clarified the fire had been extinguished within a few minutes of arriving on the scene, but could not perform final extinguishment due to the bodies and it being an investigation/crime scene, so a steady stream of water was required to keep the battery cool.[364][365] The vehicle traveled approximately 550 feet (170 m) westbound on Hammock Dunes Place from the owner's residence before it departed the roadway. After leaving the road and driving over the mountable curb, the car hit a drainage culvert, raised manhole, and tree.[366] The highest recorded speed in the five seconds leading up to the crash was 67 mph (108 km/h).[367] Two men were killed; one was found in the front passenger seat, and the other was in the back seat.[363][368] Security footage from the point of departure at the owner's residence showed that when the car left, one man was in the driver's seat, and the other was in the front passenger seat.[366]

Because neither man was found behind the wheel of the Tesla, authorities were "100 percent certain that no one was in the driver seat driving that vehicle at the time of impact".[363] Authorities also obtained statements from witnesses who said the two men wanted to test drive the vehicle without a driver.[368] Elon Musk stated on Twitter that data logs indicated that Autopilot was not enabled, and the FSD package had not been purchased for that car.[369][370] On a closed course, Consumer Reports demonstrated that Autopilot would stay engaged after a person climbed out of the driver's seat by using a weight to apply torque to the steering wheel and leaving the driver's seatbelt buckled.[371] During an earnings call in April 2021, Tesla's vice president of vehicle engineering pushed back on the news coverage of the incident and added that Tesla representatives had studied the crash and reported the steering wheel was "deformed", which could indicate "someone was in the driver's seat at the time of the crash".[372][373] The same Tesla officer noted a test car's adaptive cruise control had accelerated the car to only 30 mph (48 km/h) at the crash site.[374][375]

Investigators from both NHTSA and NTSB have been dispatched to investigate.[376] The NTSB tested an exemplar car at the site and found that Autosteer was not available on that part of Hammock Dunes.[366] The post-crash fire destroyed the car's onboard telemetry storage; although the restraint control module was damaged by the fire, it is being evaluated at the NTSB's recorder laboratory.[366] In an update published on October 21, the NTSB concluded that both the driver and front passenger seats were occupied at the time of the crash, based on the deformation of the steering wheel and data recovered from the car's event data recorder.[367]

Fontana, California, USA (May 5, 2021)[edit]

At 2:35 A.M. PDT on May 5, 2021, a Tesla Model 3 crashed into an overturned tractor-trailer on the westbound Foothill Freeway (I-210) in Fontana, California. The driver of the Tesla was killed, and a man who had stopped to assist the driver of the truck was struck and injured by the Tesla.[377] California Highway Patrol (CHP) officials announced on May 13 that Autopilot "was engaged" prior to the crash, but added a day later that "a final determination [has not been] made as to what driving mode the Tesla was in or if it was a contributing factor to the crash".[378] The CHP and NHTSA are investigating the crash.[379][380]

Queens, New York, USA (July 26, 2021)[edit]

While his vehicle was parked on the left shoulder of the westbound Long Island Expressway, just east of the College Point Boulevard exit in Flushing, Queens, as he was changing a flat tire, a man was hit and killed by a Tesla Model Y SUV.[381][382] The NHTSA later determined Autopilot was active during the collision and sent a team to further investigate.[383]

Non-fatal crashes[edit]

Culver City, California, USA (January 22, 2018)[edit]

On January 22, 2018, a 2014 Tesla Model S crashed into a fire truck parked on the side of the I-405 freeway in Culver City, California, while traveling at a speed exceeding 50 mph (80 km/h) and the driver survived with no injuries.[384] The driver told the Culver City Fire Department that he was using Autopilot. The fire truck and a California Highway Patrol vehicle were parked diagonally across the left emergency lane and high-occupancy vehicle lane of the southbound 405, blocking off the scene of an earlier accident, with emergency lights flashing.[385]

According to a post-accident interview, the driver stated he was drinking coffee, eating a bagel, and maintaining contact with the steering wheel while resting his hand on his knee.[386]: 3  During the 30-mile (48 km) trip, which lasted 66 minutes, the Autopilot system was engaged for slightly more than 29 minutes; of the 29 minutes, hands were detected on the steering wheel for only 78 seconds in total. Hands were detected applying torque to the steering wheel for only 51 seconds over the nearly 14 minutes immediately preceding the crash.[386]: 9  The Tesla had been following a lead vehicle in the high-occupancy vehicle lane at approximately 21 mph (34 km/h); when the lead vehicle moved to the right to avoid the fire truck, approximately three or four seconds prior to impact, the Tesla's traffic-aware cruise control system began to accelerate the Tesla to its preset speed of 80 mph (130 km/h). When the impact occurred, the Tesla had accelerated to 31 mph (50 km/h).[386]: 10  The Autopilot system issued a forward collision warning half a second before the impact, but did not engage the automatic emergency braking (AEB) system, and the driver did not manually intervene by braking or steering. Because Autopilot requires agreement between the radar and visual cameras to initiate AEB, the system was challenged due to the specific scenario (where a lead vehicle detours around a stationary object) and the limited time available after the forward collision warning.[386]: 11 

Several news outlets started reporting that Autopilot may not detect stationary vehicles at highway speeds and it cannot detect some objects.[387] Raj Rajkumar, who studies autonomous driving systems at Carnegie Mellon University, believes the radars used for Autopilot are designed to detect moving objects, but are "not very good in detecting stationary objects".[388] Both NTSB and NHTSA dispatched teams to investigate the crash.[389] Hod Lipson, director of Columbia University's Creative Machines Lab, faulted the diffusion of responsibility concept: "If you give the same responsibility to two people, they each will feel safe to drop the ball. Nobody has to be 100%, and that's a dangerous thing."[390]

In August 2019, the NTSB released its accident brief for the accident. HAB-19-07 concluded the driver of the Tesla was at fault due to "inattention and overreliance on the vehicle's advanced driver assistance system", but added the design of the Tesla Autopilot system "permitted the driver to disengage from the driving task".[386]: 13–14  After the earlier crash in Williston, the NTSB issued a safety recommendation to "[d]evelop applications to more effectively sense the driver's level of engagement and alert the driver when engagement is lacking while automated vehicle control systems are in use." Among the manufacturers that the recommendation was issued to, only Tesla has failed to issue a response.[386]: 12–13 

South Jordan, Utah, USA (May 11, 2018)[edit]

In the evening of May 11, 2018, a 2016 Tesla Model S with Autopilot engaged crashed into the rear of a fire truck that was stopped in the southbound lane at a red light in South Jordan, Utah, at the intersection of SR-154 and SR-151.[391][392] The Tesla was moving at an estimated 60 mi/h (97 km/h) and did not appear to brake or attempt to avoid the impact, according to witnesses.[393][394] The driver of the Tesla, who survived the impact with a broken foot, admitted she was looking at her phone before the crash.[391][395] The NHTSA dispatched investigators to South Jordan.[396] According to telemetry data recovered after the crash, the driver repeatedly did not touch the wheel, including during the 80 seconds immediately preceding the crash, and only touched the brake pedal "fractions of a second" before the crash. The driver was cited by police for "failure to keep proper lookout".[391][397] The Tesla had slowed to 55 mi/h (89 km/h) to match a vehicle ahead of it, and after that vehicle changed lanes, accelerated to 60 mi/h (97 km/h) in the 3.5 seconds preceding the crash.[398]

Tesla CEO Elon Musk criticized news coverage of the South Jordan crash, tweeting that "a Tesla crash resulting in a broken ankle is front page news and the ~40,000 people who died in US auto accidents alone in [the] past year get almost no coverage", additionally pointing out that "[a]n impact at that speed usually results in severe injury or death", but later conceding that Autopilot "certainly needs to be better & we work to improve it every day".[396] In September 2018, the driver of the Tesla sued the manufacturer, alleging the safety features designed to "ensure the vehicle would stop on its own in the event of an obstacle being present in the path ... failed to engage as advertised."[399] According to the driver, the Tesla failed to provide an audible or visual warning before the crash.[398]

Moscow, Russia (August 10, 2019)[edit]

On the night of August 10, 2019, a Tesla Model 3 driving in the left-hand lane on the Moscow Ring Road in Moscow, Russia crashed into a parked tow truck with a corner protruding into the lane and subsequently burst into flames.[400] According to the driver, the vehicle was traveling at the speed limit of 100 km/h (62 mph) with Autopilot activated; he also claimed his hands were on the wheel, but was not paying attention at the time of the crash. All occupants were able to exit the vehicle before it caught on fire; they were transported to the hospital. Injuries included a broken leg (driver) and bruises (his children).[401][402]

The force of the collision was enough to push the tow truck forward into the central dividing wall, as recorded by a surveillance camera. Passersby also captured several videos of the fire and explosions after the accident, these videos also show the tow truck that the Tesla crashed into had been moved, suggesting the explosions of the Model 3 happened later.[403][404]

Chiayi, Taiwan (June 1, 2020)[edit]

Traffic cameras captured the moment when a Tesla Model 3 slammed into an overturned cargo truck in Taiwan on June 1, 2020.[405] The crash occurred at 6:40 AM National Standard Time on the southbound National Freeway 1 in Chiayi, Taiwan, at approximately the south 268.4 km marker.[406] The truck had been involved in a traffic accident at 6:35 AM and overturned with its roof facing oncoming traffic; the driver of the truck got out to warn other cars away.[407]

The driver of the Tesla was uninjured and told emergency responders that the car was in Autopilot mode,[405] traveling at 110 km/h (68 mph).[407] The driver told authorities that he saw the truck and thought the Tesla would brake automatically upon encountering an obstacle; when he realized it would not, he manually applied the brakes,[407] although it was too late to avoid the crash, which is apparently indicated on the video by a puff of white smoke coming from the tires.[405][408]

Arlington Heights, Washington, USA (May 15, 2021)[edit]

A Tesla Model S crashed into a stopped Snohomish County, Washington sheriff's patrol car at 6:40 PM PDT on May 15, 2021, shortly after the deputy parked it while responding to an earlier crash which had broken a utility pole near the intersection of SR 530 and 103rd Ave NE in Arlington Heights, Washington. The patrol car was parked to partially block the roadway and protect the collision scene, and the patrol car's overhead emergency lights were activated.[409] Neither the deputy nor the driver of the Tesla were injured. The driver of the Tesla assumed his car would slow and move over on its own because it was in "Auto-Pilot mode".[410]

Brea, California, USA (November 3, 2021)

In November 2021, the NHTSA received its first complaint regarding a Tesla participating in FSD Beta. The incident was described as a "severe" crash involving a Tesla Model Y forcing itself into the incorrect lane.[411]

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