One of the most exciting aspects of Tesla’s 2021 annual meeting this week was Elon Musk’s continued focus on security. I think it’s safe to even call it an obsession.
It’s very ironic. The biggest myths and concerns in the media and among the general public about Tesla are misguided safety concerns. They are often genuine concerns, not fabricated attacks, but they are wrong nonetheless. I’ll come back to these concerns in a moment, but let’s start with the highlights from the annual meeting.
Tesla factory safety is 18% better than average, the goal is to have the safest factory
First, Elon Musk noted that Tesla’s factory security has improved considerably as Tesla has grown and matured as a company. He noted that Tesla’s factory safety was 18% higher than the auto industry average. In other words, the workers at the Tesla factory get hurt less.
Also, Elon said that I believe for the first time that Tesla aims to have the safest factory in the world. A fan of superlatives, he doesn’t want Tesla to be good or above average; he wants Tesla to get another number one under his belt. This time around, though, it’s not about the fastest car, the best-selling car, the longest-range electric car, or anything else in the “bragging rights for customers” category. No. Elon really wants to have and be able to say they have the safest factory in the industry.
Elon mentioned that they are trying to design and develop the safest ATV (four-wheeler). ATVs aren’t very safe, but Elon is looking for ways to really improve their safety.
Johnna already wrote about this. Once again, however, it caught my eye during the annual meeting and is one of the things that prompted this article. It’s such a strange focus area. The ATV itself is not that remarkable to me. But the fact that with such a sporty, limited-impact product, Tesla is putting safety above all else, well, just jump in and convey that Elon Musk and Tesla are hyper-focused on safety.
Tesla Autopilot and Total Autonomous Driving
This is the biggest. Why does Elon focus so much on the autopilot and the “total autonomous driving” package *? Because he is obsessed with saving lives and preventing accidents. This is the point of Autopilot and Full Self-Driving (FSD). (* This doesn’t offer fully autonomous cars yet, but aims to make existing cars 100% autonomous through software updates over time.)
So far, we don’t have a good, statistically sound analysis to determine whether Autopilot or FSD Beta are saving lives or preventing accidents. The statistics used in the following graph do not have an adequate control group. They indicate that Tesla’s autopilot features help prevent accidents and fatalities, but be careful not to come to a firm conclusion on that as: where is the autopilot used, what kinds of cars have similar characteristics, and other qualities of Tesla vehicles on autopilot and the people who drive them may be the most important factors influencing accident rates.
However, I use the autopilot every day and I am convinced that it increases safety significantly. That is certainly the goal.
The irony here is that there is a lot of fear about Tesla Autopilot and Tesla FSD Beta. Tesla is doing everything it can to prevent accidents, but critics are attacking FSD Beta’s methods for doing so without any real evidence that Tesla’s methods aren’t working.
The hype surrounding possible battery fires has come and gone routinely since I started covering Tesla 9 years ago. For whatever reason, it is very easy for ordinary people to worry about a small possibility of electric vehicle battery fires and not think twice about the highly flammable containers that we all carry with us throughout the day.
It doesn’t help that the national media covers the 3 or more Tesla battery fires a year, but completely ignores the tens of thousands of gasoline tank fires. This tremendous imbalance leads to an imbalance in public perception.
Ironically, Tesla has built some of the safest and most reliable batteries in the industry. But what else could you expect from Tesla? Your obsession with security is real and really useful.
Tesla safety score
I wrote extensively about this the other day, so I’ll just direct you to that article in case you missed it: I bet Tesla’s “safety score” has increased safe driving significantly.
Perhaps the best known of all these points is what is represented in the table at the top of the article. When Model 3 came out, Model 3, Model S, and Model X had the lowest “probability of injury” scores ever recorded by NHTSA. Elon has said that safety is his number one priority when designing cars, and that has apparently been confirmed by record ratings. For more information on Tesla vehicle safety, see: “Why the Tesla Model 3 is the safest car on the planet (video). “
Overall, from factories to cars to insurance and more, Tesla has a strong safety record. In fact, it has such a strong track record that it seems like security is a company obsession.
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