When announcing Tesla’s new Autopilot hardware suite that will soon allow all Tesla vehicles to become fully autonomous, CEO Elon Musk went on an epic rant scolding the media about the coverage of Autopilot crashes.
It’s not the first time that Musk voiced is disappointment with the media about the international coverage that the few Autopilot crashes have received, but Musk went a step further this time.
He said that journalists writing negative articles about self-driving cars can dissuade people from using them which could ultimately kill people.
Here’s the relevant part from the conference call with journalists today:
“One thing I should mention here that frankly has been quite disturbing to me is the degree of media coverage of Autopilot crashes – which are basically almost none – relative to the scarcity of media coverage of the 1.2 million people that die every year manual crashes.
It’s something that I think does not reflect well upon the media. It really doesn’t. You need to thread carefully about this because if in writing some article that is negative you are effectively dissuading people from using autonomous vehicles, you are killing people.
His tone when saying “next question” said it all. He was seriously unhappy.
To be fair, the question was about insurance coverage in case of a fully-autonomous crash and whether or not Tesla would cover it. He briefly answered before trailing off on media coverage:
“I think it will be up to the individual’s insurance. If there was a crash because of our design, we would certainly take our responsibility. But I think you need to view autonomous cars like an elevator in a building. Do elevator makers provide insurance for their elevators around the world? No, they don’t.”
After over 230 million miles driven on Autopilot, there’s only one confirmed death in a Tesla while the system was activated (with possibly a second though it’s unconfirmed). To be clear, it doesn’t mean that the system caused the accident, which is what a lot of media reported and probably what Musk finds “disturbing”. It only means that the feature was on when the crash happened.
It compares to one person dying on US roads for every 89 million miles driven, which statistically makes the Tesla Autopilot twice safer than manual driving. And Tesla’s current Autopilot is only what is called ‘level 2’ semi-autonomous.
The new Autopilot hardware suite introduced in Tesla’s vehicles today will enable through gradual software updates level 3, level 4, and eventually level 5 fully autonomous driving, which the company expects to be several times safer than the current system.