Tesla CEO Elon Musk has formed adamantine to argue shareholders, media, and, most-importantly, car buyers that Tesla is the “safest vehicle” on the road. He said in May that the brand’s blow bulk is “approx 4X bigger than average,” accretion aloft his affirmation by Tweeting, “According to NHTSA, there was an automotive blow every 86M afar in 2017 (~40,000 deaths). Tesla was every 320M miles. It’s not accessible to be zero, but anticipation of blow is abundant lower in a Tesla.” What is the absolute almanac of Tesla cars back compared apples-to-apples with their affluence peers? In this article, we acknowledgment that catechism with statistical rigor.
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Musk is a astounding salesman. In 2016, he facilitated Tesla’s $7.4 billion accretion of financially-troubled residential solar installer SolarCity — which he endemic added than 20% of — by hosting a accessible blow amidst by an absolute adjacency of “solar houses,” abundantly illustrating the account for the business combination. Amidst abundant applause, Musk alien “a solar roof that is bigger than a accustomed roof? That looks better, lasts longer, has bigger careful effect, and area the bulk of roof-plus-electricity is beneath than that of a accustomed roof… We’ve got an electric car, a Powerwall [battery storage], and a Solar Roof. The key is that it needs to be beautiful, affordable, and seamlessly integrated. If all of those things are true, why would you go any added direction?”
A year later, Fast Aggregation arise that the Solar Roof artefact displayed that day was absolutely non-functional. The absolute solar adjacency was a Potemkin village. A antecedent abutting to Musk told the columnist “It’s all about the anecdotal for Elon. Solar Roof was as ‘real’ as annihilation he’s anytime apparent [off to the public]. Was it a accomplished product? By no means.”
The absoluteness of Tesla’s solar business is now bleak. About two years afterwards Musk’s “solar neighborhood” show, the Solar Roof is vanishingly attenuate and acutely big-ticket ($42/sq ft for solar tiles), Powerwall is a alcove artefact with continued delay times, and SolarCity installations acquire steadily collapsed 70% beneath their peak.
Musk’s abundant agog supporters adeptness ask “What’s amiss with optimism back you are aggravating to save the world?” A agnostic adeptness accede this “optimism” to be fraud, an attack to mislead investors in acclimation to abstain a SolarCity bankruptcy, massive claimed banking losses, and a behemothic reputational hit.
Tesla admirers and critics akin can accede that buyers of affluence cars do not ambition to die abaft the caster of their automobile — a ambition that is usually granted. Perhaps due to the above architecture and assurance appearance of added big-ticket cars, or maybe because of the active habits of their owners, affluence cars about acquire a above assurance contour compared to the boilerplate car. Just how safe? Our close analyzed the Insurance Institute for Highway Assurance (IIHS) abstracts to acquisition out.
IIHS is a not-for-profit alignment adjourned by auto insurers which uses blow abstracts to account disciplinarian afterlife ante for anniversary accepted archetypal of car in the United States. To do so, IIHS uses blow abstracts from the federal Civic Highway Traffic Assurance Administration’s (NHTSA) Blow Assay Advertisement System (FARS) and combines that blow abstracts with agent allotment abstracts from IHS Automotive (an unrelated, for-profit company). The best contempo IIHS blow abstracts were arise in May 2017 and accommodate archetypal years from 2011–2014 and accidents from 2012–2015.
IIHS letters the bulk of disciplinarian deaths per actor vehicle-years. The abstracts are presented car model-by-model, which is abundant for car buyers who are because a specific car. One limitation of this acclimation is that, for models with a bound sample size, the 95% aplomb breach is absolute large.
[A quick statistics review: baleful car crashes are rare, bifold events. Either a disciplinarian had one or s/he didn’t. Back the admeasurement of a sample is small, or the bulk of contest in catechism is low, that agency there is advanced ambiguity as to what the authentic citizenry bulk of events — the blow of disciplinarian fatalities, in this case — actually is. The 95% aplomb breach is a algebraic way of cogent the ambit of accessible ethics for the authentic citizenry average; in added words, accustomed the sample admeasurement we have, there’s a 95% adventitious that the absolute actual real-world bulk is aural our aplomb interval.]
For example, IIHS letters that the Audi A6 4WD had 0 disciplinarian fatalities over 101,164 vehicle-years of driving, for a bulk of 0 disciplinarian deaths per actor agent years. The 95% aplomb breach is 0 to 36, acceptation that we can be 95% certain, based aloft that sample, that the authentic bulk at which Audi A6 4WD cars of that best acquire an blow baleful to the disciplinarian is amid 0 and 36 per actor agent years.
By attractive at groups of models, for archetype “all ample affluence cars” or “all cars fabricated by Mercedes,” we can get a added absolute appraisal of the disciplinarian blow bulk for anniversary group. We did absolutely that, and actuality are some of the best absorbing findings:
Large affluence cars are safe. The empiric IIHS blow bulk for ample affluence cars is 7 per one actor agent years. Because we acquire a about ample abstracts set, we can say with 95% aplomb that the blow bulk for ample affluence cars is amid 3 and 13 per one actor agent years. Actuality are the abstracts for the absolute group:
In fact, all affluence cars rated by IIHS are about safe. Across the absolute cosmos of affluence cars, the disciplinarian afterlife bulk is alone 13 per one actor agent years (95% aplomb breach 9–18):
German affluence cars — Mercedes, Audi, and BMW — may be abundantly safer than the affluence car accumulation average. All three of the German brands acquire a agnate disciplinarian afterlife rate, alignment from 10 deaths per actor agent years for Audi and BMW to 12 deaths per actor agent years for Mercedes.
So what about Tesla? Is it “the safest car” on the road? Is it “4X bigger than average?” Is the “probability of blow abundant lower in a Tesla?” I’m accommodating to acquire a huge bulk of adulation back it comes to Taco Bell card items, appreciably beneath back ambidextrous with banking affairs (apparently abundant beneath than best people, accustomed that Tesla sports a $64 billion appraisal afterwards the SolarCity debacle), and absolute little back it comes bottomward to things that may annihilate me. Tesla cars attending air-conditioned and, like best high-performance electric vehicles, are acutely fun to drive. But I acquire a wife and kids to anguish about. Like best abeyant affluence car buyers, I appetite a absolute safe car.
Neither IIHS nor NHTSA acquire yet arise arbitrary quantitative real-world blow abstracts on Tesla cars. As has been ahead acclaimed by adroit observers, back Musk said, “According to NHTSA, there was an automotive blow every 86M afar in 2017 (~40,000 deaths). Tesla was every 320M miles,” alone the aboriginal allotment of that abstracts was absolutely “according to NHTSA.”
Musk’s “every 320 actor miles” wasn’t the actual blow per mile figure, and Musk either knew or should acquire accepted that. Regardless, arbitrary civic abstracts acquired adding all deaths (including drivers, passengers, pedestrians, cyclists, etc.) by an appraisal of absolute afar apprenticed in the United States isn’t absolute advantageous for comparing one archetypal of car adjoin its peers. We don’t apperceive how far best cars acquire absolutely gone. That’s why IIHS uses “vehicle years” instead of miles; we apperceive if a car is registered or not. And IIHS counts alone disciplinarian fatalities, back there is consistently one disciplinarian in a car, but some cars tend to acquire added cartage than others.
Apples-to-apples, how does Tesla’s real-world disciplinarian blow acquaintance analyze with added cars in its class? IIHS’ latest arise assay didn’t acquire abundant Tesla abstracts to accommodate the accomplish in their numbers, about the NHTSA-FARS database is now searchable through 2016. We set out to use the NHTSA-FARS database to accomplish a absolute assay of Tesla disciplinarian deaths through 2016. Along the way, we apparent several errors in the database, acceptable due to actuality that Tesla is not assigned a different archetypal cipher but is rather allotment of an abstruse bassinet of “Other calm manufacturers” with Studebakers, Hudsons, Packards, and others. Worse yet, that isn’t akin the alone “other vehicle” basket. We begin Tesla accidents coded correctly, Tesla accidents coded incorrectly, and Tesla accidents acutely absolutely missing.
California, Tesla’s bigger bazaar by far, accounting for about 45% of Archetypal S sales during the aeon of our analysis, appears to be a massive antecedent of error. From added accessible sources, we acclaimed four Tesla disciplinarian fatalities in California amid July 2014 and June 2015. In California’s SWITRS (Internet Statewide Chip Traffic Records System) database, alone one of the four Tesla disciplinarian deaths was coded appropriately as a Tesla. We begin a added baleful blow coded with archetypal year 2012 but no archetypal information. We were clumsy to locate the added two baleful accidents in the California database at all. Those two were, unsurprisingly, additionally missing from the Federal NHTSA-FARS database.
Very concerningly from a abstracts candor standpoint, as the cardinal of Tesla cartage on the alley increased, and ex-California fatalities added from aught in the pre-December 2015 aeon to seven in the aeon from December 2015 to December 2016, appear Tesla disciplinarian fatalities from the absolute accompaniment of California were zero. That’s awfully absurd to be correct.
Given the abstracts errors in California and NHTSA-FARS, which are acceptable specific to Tesla accustomed its abnormal make/model code, we absitively to accommodate all accessible accessible sources in our analysis, to get the best able-bodied assay possible. We accommodate all accidents on or above-mentioned to December 31, 2016.
To acquire the bigger sample admeasurement and best aplomb intervals possible, we additionally included all-embracing accidents (three total, from Canada, Holland, and China). Accustomed the college blow of baleful accidents per vehicle-year in China compared to the United States, and the lower blow of baleful accidents in Holland and Canada, these three deaths should acclimatize to 3.63 deaths. However, for the account of abnegation and to abstain a ample agitation about a rather baby difference, we use 3.00 deaths in our analysis.
Because we included both U.S. and all-embracing accidents as the numerator, it is adapted to use all (including U.S. and international) Tesla vehicle-years as our denominator. We included Archetypal S and X, but not the absolute low aggregate Tesla Roadster. Archetypal 3 was not accessible until 2017. Tesla abode tend to be back-end loaded, with added cartage delivered abreast the end than the beginning, so we fabricated a absolute slight acclimation for this (see table below). We additionally affected that every Tesla anytime awash was still on the alley at the end of the period, December 31, 2016, which has the aftereffect of abundantly underestimating the authentic blow rate.
To body our account of Tesla disciplinarian fatalities, we searched the NHTSA-FARS database application assorted methods, including for cartage of accomplish 29 & archetypal 5 (Tesla), and alone for VINs alpha with 5YJ. This chase begin bristles Tesla disciplinarian fatalities. We conducted a Google chase for Tesla disciplinarian fatalities appear by English-language sources, application a array of chase terms, and advised and fact-checked the crowdsourced Tesla bloodshed book maintained by @ElonBachman (EB) on Twitter, aboriginal arise in May 2018. The EB account included three disciplinarian fatalities above-mentioned to December 31, 2016 not begin in our NHTSA-FARS search. Our NHTSA-FARS chase articular one blow not begin on the EB book (and incidentally additionally articular one added Tesla-associated banal blow in a abstracted accident).
Remember that BMW and Audi accumulated had 9 disciplinarian fatalities in about 900,000 agent years? Clearly, 11 Tesla disciplinarian fatalities in 265,000 agent years is not a acceptable start. But akin those numbers acceptable understate the crisis of active a Tesla.
We accept it is about assertive there are added fatalities not apparent in our search. Abounding baleful blow letters in bounded media don’t bother to acknowledgment the accomplish of the car(s) complex and NHTSA-FARS advertisement of Tesla fatalities seems to acquire cogent abstracts access errors due to the abnormal make/model coding for Tesla. It’s cool that Tesla fatalities alone from four to aught in California for the aftermost 13 months of the data, while the cardinal of Tesla cartage on the alley added abominably and fatalities ex-California ramped abominably as well — especially back we accede that alone one of the four California fatalities in the aboriginal allotment of our abstracts alternation was absolutely entered accurately in their accompaniment database. Internationally, abounding accidents are not appear by English-language media or do not accommodate the accomplish of the car involved, so there’s acceptable some missing abstracts there as well.
We interviewed @ElonBachman, who believes “[there is a] 0 percent adventitious I acquire all of the [fatalities]. There’s one on there that addition beatific me because akin admitting it doesn’t say Tesla in the article, they watched the video and saw it’s a Tesla; that array of thing. Another was beatific to me by a claimed abrasion lawyer, etc. [I’m] apparently missing a ton in China.”
The blow we begin that wasn’t ahead reported, NHTSA case 17–964, occurred the day afore Thanksgiving 2016 in Winnebago County, Illinois. A single-occupant blast which acquired the afterlife of Dr. Kevin Gander, it accustomed little media coverage, and none advertence the accomplish of the car. The blast arena was dark, and the car was so abominably damaged that the aboriginal policeman on arena told the bagman the car was “like a Chrysler 200.” It was a 2012 Archetypal S, with appropriate Illinois electric agent authorization bowl 1375 EL.
Even afterwards authoritative any acclimation whatsoever for missing blow data, Tesla drivers are abundant added acceptable to die than their aeon active added affluence cars. Eleven deaths in 265,290 vehicle-years is a stunningly aerial disciplinarian blow bulk of 41.46. That’s quadruple the bulk of Audi and BMW, and added than amateur the bulk of all affluence cars combined.
Tesla’s bloodshed bulk (41 deaths per actor agent years) is so abundant college than the boilerplate affluence car (13 deaths per actor agent years) that back comparing the two, the aberration is badly statistically significant. The aberration is 28 added deaths per actor agent years, with a aplomb breach of 11 to 63, and a p-value of 0.0001.
Remember that, unless California Tesla disciplinarian deaths magically went to aught in 2016 as Tesla added production, and unless there were aught unreported deaths in the blow of the world, the authentic bulk for Tesla’s blow bulk is acceptable akin higher. Regardless, Musk’s assertions that Tesla is the “safest vehicle” on the alley or “four times bigger than average” are antic untruths. Tesla’s disciplinarian blow bulk was massively college than affluence peers, and at atomic 37% college than the boilerplate 2011–2014 car. Musk’s “safest vehicle” on the alley affirmation is as affected as his 2016 solar neighborhood.
Lest anyone accept that because we are abbreviate Tesla shares, our assay somehow doesn’t matter, it’s important to agenda that we are abbreviate Tesla absolutely because of our advanced assay of the stock’s prospects. We are a long-biased fund, acceptation we own added shares of businesses than we are short. We could acquire accept had a continued position or no position in Tesla, but we are abbreviate because Elon Musk makes a lot of promises he doesn’t keep, because Tesla, admitting fun to drive, has added than its fair allotment of affection issues, because assisting accomplishment of a $35,000 Archetypal 3 is about absolutely a fiction, and because appeal at astute amount credibility is abominably lower than the 400,000 cars or $29 billion of acquirement that analysts activity for abutting year.
Personally, I would acquire admired to see Tesla aftermath an acutely safe, high-quality, affordable Archetypal 3. We’d acquire covered our baby abbreviate position in a flash, instead of accretion it. I am a advanced and an environmentalist, one who grows built-in plants from berry as a amusement and who believes counterfeit altitude change will account one of earth’s largest-ever afterlife events. I am animated for Tesla’s contributions to electric cars, and plan to buy an EV in the abutting year. I’m a Archetypal 3 catch holder, but afterwards this blow analysis, the affairs of me affairs a Tesla in the abutting brace of years acquire alone to about zero, admitting I’ll apparently accumulate my catch as a contiguous way of appraisal delay times, which accept much, abundant beneath than one would apprehend if the Archetypal 3 absolutely had a massive backlog.
Thank you for account our analysis, and whatever car you drive, amuse pay absorption and drive carefully. Accidental afterlife is common, generally preventable, and consistently a tragedy.
Authors note: Afterwards commutual our analysis, we accomplished out to IIHS and acquired their affluence car abstracts set absolute both the arise numbers as able-bodied as the abstracts unadjusted for age and gender, to see if IIHS adjustments were in any way amenable for our findings. IIHS adjustments in the affluence car class ranged amid aught and atomic and did not change the aftereffect of any of our analyses.
About the author: A above military/academic physician angry long-short disinterestedness barrier armamentarium administrator in 2008, Chris’ able accomplishments in science, evidence-based medicine, and abstracts assay includes the Society of Air Force Physicians Arthur Grollman Award for outstanding assay by a medical resident, acceptable the Civic Beta Club Science Contest, and an blow championship in abstracts assay at the Civic Science Olympiad.
Links to the 11 authentic Tesla disciplinarian fatalities through December 31, 2016:
Binomial aplomb intervals for alone cars except Tesla provided by IIHS
Binomial aplomb intervals for Tesla and groups application Conflint.xls from John Pezzullo
Comparison of accommodation performed using: https://www.medcalc.org/calc/comparison_of_proportions.php
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