Are Tesla's Self-Proclaimed 'World's Safest Cars' Actually Among The World’s Deadliest?

Submitted by @ElonBachman

If there’s one thing that Elon Musk likes more than pseudoprofundity, it’s superlatives. Small wonder, then, that the company that brought us the Gigafactory, Superchargers, and Ludicrous Mode has had an easy time convincing its fan base that Tesla makes the “safest car on the road”:

Lurkers on Tesla forums can confirm that these safety superlatives are articles of faith among Tesla’s flock, and apparently this faith is shared by Wall Street: Morgan Stanley’s Adam Jonas recently predicted that Tesla’s Model 3 will be “an order of magnitude” safer than the average car. On May 18, Jonas went even further, claiming that after 7.2 billion miles, Teslas have only been “involved” in five U.S. fatalities.

Wait, what? Observant Twitter users were quick to dispute both Musk and Jonas. Following Jonas’ initial note, pseudonymous poster @ElonBachman crowd-sourced a list over a dozen US fatalities. Jonas was out shortly after with a new note admitting to 15 deaths globally. But the internet doesn’t sleep: as of today, @ElonBachman’s list has grown to include 40 Tesla fatalities globally, including 14 U.S. deaths of Tesla drivers and occupants and a Wile E. Coyote-esque smattering of deaths-by-cliff and deaths-by-swimming-pool. A link to that list, and the sources behind it, is included below the following table:

[link to Google docs here]

What do these numbers mean?

First: they mean that you should not rely on the sell-side for either accuracy or insight. Second: they mean that Musk’s “safest car” claim is bunk. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety lists numerous luxury cars in Tesla’s class that have zero recorded fatalities (link here:, which would seem to disqualify the Model S and Model X (we’ll come back to the Model 3 in a minute).

What of Musk’s “4x safer than average” claim? This is tricky because in road safety statistics, as in Princess Bride, there are different kinds of “death.” Luckily, another Musk tweet gives us clues as to how Tesla calculates its deaths:

The NHTSA “fatality” measure that Musk references includes motorcyclists, cyclists, and pedestrians, as well as drivers and occupants. If we exclude occupants of other cars from the table above, then there have been 28 Tesla fatalities globally—that Twitter knows of, anyway. Dividing 7.2 billion miles by 28 deaths gives 257 million miles per death, notably worse than Musk’s claim of 320 million. Perhaps you are inclined to cut Musk some slack; after all, this is still safer than the average car. But the average car is 11 years old, is small, is driven by a younger and less affluent demographic, and lacks the safety features that come on a $100,000 vehicle. Midsize luxury sedans and SUVs in Tesla’s class have death rates far lower than Tesla’s.

Which brings us to the Model 3, Tesla’s “mass market” car offering Kia-level styling starting at $50,000. Although no Model 3 deaths have yet been reported, multiple crashes have (including this one), and of course as of the end of Q1 2018 Tesla had only shipped around 10,000 of them (just somewhat fewer than the 200,000 or so that Musk originally  predicted would be on the road by then).

If a recent Consumer Reports article is any indication (“The Tesla’s stopping distance of 152 feet from 60 mph was far worse than any contemporary car we’ve tested and about 7 feet longer than the stopping distance of a Ford F-150 full-sized pickup”), Morgan Stanley may have to update its Tesla fatality figures again soon.


A Sentinel revolla Wed, 05/30/2018 - 04:10 Permalink

I’m afraid that I’m compelled into a stat prof position and have to point out that accident number is meaningless without any information about accident rate.

It’s that latter number that would mean something and it’s not there. A comparison to some similar human driven sedan accident RATE would be nice.

Still, that aside: Tesla is doomed and Musk is an accident waiting to be reported.

In reply to by revolla

OccamsCrazor SloMoe Wed, 05/30/2018 - 00:10 Permalink

Its the 21st Century version of a Ford Pinto !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Remember Gas Tanks exploding and bursting the entire car into FLAMES !!!!


The Tesla electric PINTO !   


For $100,000 this car is a piece of CRAP !



In reply to by SloMoe

LetThemEatRand Tue, 05/29/2018 - 22:35 Permalink

See, this is one of the reasons I keep coming back to ZH.  I happen to like the story of the Tesla because it involves an American company building cars in America (until recently only in America) and changing the game.  Yes, he received government money, but so did virtually every big company you've ever heard of including Ford, Chevy, etc (think government purchased vehicles such as police cruisers, FBI vehicles, and Trump/Hillary land yachts, not to mention the defense contractors etc).  But if the numbers in this article are true, Tesla has a problem.  

LetThemEatRand NoDebt Tue, 05/29/2018 - 22:59 Permalink

That's somewhat true, but GM, Ford and Chrysler received quite a bit of taxpayer money during WWII.  In the early days of American automotive companies, there were hundreds of competitors which mostly went away.  Do a little research into the connection between the big three and the government in those companies' early days before you jump to conclusions.


In reply to by NoDebt

LetThemEatRand True Blue Wed, 05/30/2018 - 00:00 Permalink

I could list dozens of cars built by the Big Three that were far more dangerous (Pinto, Explorer Sport, Corsair, Bronco II, Ford Crown Victoria police cruisers that burned alive many police officers, just as the most obvious examples), but it seems I hit the third rail of ZH postings by saying anything good about Tesla.   You know American Musk landed rockets on floating pads in the ocean, right?  While most of America's government funded brain-power was devoted to dumbing down the masses with smart phone technology and social media?  Oh, nevermind.

In reply to by True Blue

deja LetThemEatRand Wed, 05/30/2018 - 00:40 Permalink

Now, that's exactly the problem.  Just how good does an autonomous car have to be in order to be viable?  Is better than the average driver enough?  For some, it won't be adequate unless it's perfect.  The "average" driver is pretty bad in reality so the argument could be made that it would save lives if it were to be adopted at that level. 

In reply to by LetThemEatRand

inhibi deja Wed, 05/30/2018 - 12:34 Permalink

Ha, Muck claimed that Tesla can "update" the cars software on the fly to make it stop in less feet.

Problem is, Muck, you cant make the calipers & brakes larger, you idiot. Worse than a shitty Ford f150? Did they even TEST the car before mass production?

Also, to how good an AUTONOMOUS car needs to be? It's in the fucking title. It needs to be FULLY self driving, in all road conditions.

Anything less, and you have yourself a nice Darwin machine: the idiots who decide to trust the computer will undoubtedly fall asleep, play cards, read their news on the iPhone, etc. and die left and right when the not-fully-autonomous car decides to speed up into a fire engine (must like red a lot).


In reply to by deja

BarkingCat LetThemEatRand Wed, 05/30/2018 - 00:50 Permalink

Rand, I don't know who the ignorant schmucks are that down voted you are but what you wrote is absolutely true.

One of the companies that got completely fucked by the US government was Packard. 

That company made some of the best cars before WW2.

They re-tooled their production for the war effort, as did many others.

After the war,  the government helped some of the manufacturers to reset their production lines back, but completely stiffed others. 

Packard was one of the companies that got stiffed. They never recovered. 

Yes they lasted for a short while after the war but they were pretty much a dead corporation walking. 

In reply to by LetThemEatRand

OccamsCrazor LetThemEatRand Wed, 05/30/2018 - 00:13 Permalink



The only people STUPID ENOUGH TO stay in MUSK's CON GAME, are all the shareholders, and the 400,000 dummy's who still have a deposit for a Model 3 they gave away free to Musk.  

In reply to by LetThemEatRand

LetThemEatRand OccamsCrazor Wed, 05/30/2018 - 00:24 Permalink

"We are raising the price target of Raytheon … reflecting the significant programs wins both domestically and internationally for missile defense and missile systems that puts Raytheon in position for favorable organic growth in 2018 and beyond," Baird analyst Peter Arment wrote in a note to clients Thursday.

"Many of the large defense stocks have already rallied based on expectations for an improved outlook for U.S. defense spending under the Trump administration."

In reply to by OccamsCrazor

Jballsquared LetThemEatRand Wed, 05/30/2018 - 02:02 Permalink

I think Tyler is short Tesla stock and it’s up his collective ass. Seriously 3 stories a day on Tesla crashes. 

I am really happy to sacrifice a few hundred or a few thousand neophiles to work out the bugs on cars that fucking drive themselves. We lose something like 1 in 75 astronauts. Shit happens. Fucking cars that drive themselves!

why can’t you all just be happy to live in such extraordinary times? 

In reply to by LetThemEatRand

LetThemEatRand Oliver Klozoff Tue, 05/29/2018 - 22:43 Permalink

Valid point, but how about if AI can handle 50% more than what the average person can handle?  Because the average person also cannot handle everything thrown at him.  Still useless?

I am not a fan of self-driving cars mostly because I don't like the idea of a computer making life-and-death decisions, but I also understand that there are situations where computers can save lives.  Don't most airliners, for example, take off and land with the help of computers?

In reply to by Oliver Klozoff

Automatic Choke Oliver Klozoff Wed, 05/30/2018 - 00:28 Permalink

We don't automate the driving/piloting of TRAINS for fucks sake, and they run on RAILS.

It is clear from the growing evidence that Tesla - in spite of its numerous sensors - has stupid software that relies far too much on the line markings on the left side of the car.   Anything goes wrong there (obscured, left exit, construction, poor repainting) and all bets are off on where the car goes.

What happens when snow season hits?   How will these things stay in lane with 3" of snow over the road?  Does the car understand the basic speed law, and have a good estimate how much to slow down in snow or rain?


In reply to by Oliver Klozoff

adr LetThemEatRand Tue, 05/29/2018 - 23:51 Permalink

Elon claimed you could fall asleep at the wheel and a Tesla would get you home. That every Tesla contains the hardware to be 100% autonomous.

I don't care if the lawyers added "keep your hands on the wheel". Elon Musk who owns the company claimed the car is 100% autonomous and is the safest car ever made.

If that isn't the case, he should go to jail and Tesla should be sued out of existence. I worked for a company that was put out of business by false claims made by our competitor. We never even said anything untrue about our products, but the judge allowed the case because it was determined that the products were close enough in appearance that a consumer could have been duped into buying our product by the false claims, believing our products performed in that way.

It cost us $2 million to fight the lawsuits and we never recovered, but Elon can make hundreds of false claims about the performance of his cars and get away with it? Not only that but be given a mega multi billion dollar marketcap?

Anyone that defends Tesla deserves to be thrown in the pit with Musk.

In reply to by LetThemEatRand

NiggaPleeze LetThemEatRand Wed, 05/30/2018 - 03:45 Permalink

Don't know why you're hating on lawyers.  Some lawyers do bad things, so do some engineers, scientists, judges, football players, actors, CEOs, waiters, cooks, etc., etc.  Do you hate everyone because someone in their occupation is not ethical?  Is there anyone you don't hate?

Lawyers do a lot of good, too.  In large part the reason products in the US are safe is because of lawyers and lawsuits.  Just spend some time in engineering meetings about safety and learn about what a different it makes.  If it weren't for lawyers anyone could make the most crappy product and call it the safest and best and you couldn't trust anything anyone says.  Would that make you happier?  But you'd still have all those scientists, cooks, and waiters to hate ;).

In reply to by LetThemEatRand

NiggaPleeze LetThemEatRand Wed, 05/30/2018 - 00:05 Permalink

Tesla specifically tells drivers not to rely on auto-pilot and to keep their hands on the wheel etc.

That's the lamest cop-out ever.  If you want the driver responsible, don't turn on the auto-pilot.  What point is there to an auto-pilot if the driver is responsible?  None.  They use that stupid line to try to avoid lawsuits while advertising "hands free driving".  It's actually despicable.

In reply to by LetThemEatRand

NiggaPleeze LetThemEatRand Wed, 05/30/2018 - 03:21 Permalink

I don't think their warning should, or will, act as a defense.  If your autopilot doesn't work, don't install it.  Just like you wouldn't install unreliable brakes and cover your ass by saying "don't drive over 20" when the car is built to drive 120.

Warnings only work if they are reasonable and don't defeat the purpose of what you are warning about.  At least under product liability laws.

In reply to by LetThemEatRand

Citxmech LetThemEatRand Wed, 05/30/2018 - 00:48 Permalink

Regarding autopilot use - it depends on what you're flying. 

Some small regionals (Great Lakes for instance) didn't even have autopilots installed on their Beech 1900s (not sure if that's still the case).  Everything was hand-flown. 

Some big airliners are certified to auto-land in 0/0 (no visibility). 

I'm pretty sure that all the major airlines fly on autopilot once established at altitudes above around 10k/ft.  The pilot dials in the climb/decent rates, headings etc. with knobs. 

At altitude, many jets require a yaw dampener which is a kind of autopilot for the rudder.  Because the air is thinner, the rudder is less effective, and computer inputs are required to keep the thing from fishing around in flight.  


In reply to by LetThemEatRand

pitz Citxmech Wed, 05/30/2018 - 02:04 Permalink

A yaw damper basically uses computers to tune out oscillations.  A human pilot would tend to over-react or simply could not respond fast enough to counteract such periodic movements.  

The whole concept of an 'autopilot' is highly exaggerated.  Even an airliner doesn't really fly itself -- the pilots have to do an awful lot of work managing the "autopilot", and they have to manage the overall systems of the airplane.  Including dealing with fault conditions, etc.  

In reply to by Citxmech

Oliver Klozoff LetThemEatRand Tue, 05/29/2018 - 23:17 Permalink

I see them being tested every day.

There is no way, in any foreseeable future, that these things will ever remotely be road worthy.

Remember these are being made by companies using computers on systems that can't be be run reliably.

Ask any network operator from any of the car co's and they'll tell you it's miraculous their networks run at all.


How in the hell are these autobots supposed to work?

In reply to by LetThemEatRand