Tesla's autopilot feature is giving us a glimpse into a future without car crashes.
At a Norway conference on the future of transportation, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said Tesla drivers are 50% less likely to get into an accident when autopilot is on, according to Electrek. He made the remark during a one-on-one conversation with Norway Transport and Communications Minister Ketil Solvik-Olsen:
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.
Tesla first released autopilot in October. The feature allows cars to move within a lane, change lanes, moderate speed in the context of traffic and alert drivers to potential hazards. For instance, Tesla driver Joshua Brown said he was recently able to avoid an accident when his Tesla sensed a truck shifting into his lane. The Tesla moved over and directed Brown to take control of the vehicle, preventing a collision.
While the feature may be twice as good at navigating highways as humans are, it's not ready to replace human driving — at least not yet. The carmaker is collecting lots of data to make its autopilot feature more robust, so the cars can eventually drive themselves. The future of self-driving cars isn't far off: Musk told Fortune in December that fully autonomous vehicles were just two years away.
Car crashes are a huge killer in the U.S., so any way to curb that risk is a welcome one. In 2013, nearly 34,000 people died as a result of car crashes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They were the second-leading cause of injury-related death that year, the CDC reported.