(CNN) – The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released on Wednesday nine months of crash data from vehicles with driver assistance technologies such as Tesla Autopilot and fully autonomous vehicles such as Waymo’s robotaxis.
NHTSA divided the accident data into two categories based on the level of autonomous systems: driver-assistance systems — which provide speed and steering inputs — and fully autonomous technologies that are expected to one day function safely without human intervention. NHTSA found that there were 367 accidents involving vehicles using these driver assistance technologies in the past nine months. 273 of the incidents involved a Tesla system, either its “fully self-driving” Software or its predecessor, Tesla Autopilot.
There were 130 full throttle crashes automated driving systems, 62 of which were Waymo crashes. Transdev, a shuttle operator, reported 34 crashes, and Cruise, which provides robotic taxis for General Motors in San Francisco, reported 23.
The data lacks critical context such as fleet size or number of kilometers traveled, making it impossible to fairly compare the safety of different technologies. All relevant accidents may not be included in the dataset, the NHTSA said, because accident data recording can vary widely between manufacturers.
“I advise caution before attempting to draw any conclusions based solely on the data we have published. In fact, the data alone can raise more questions than it answers,” NHTSA Administrator Steven Cliff told reporters in a briefing Tuesday.
Two of the technologies with the most reported crashes are also two of the most commonly used systems. Tesla Autopilot, for example, is standard in all of its vehicles, unlike competing driver assistance systems from other automakers. Drivers describe using Autopilot regularly because they say it makes them feel less tired after long drives. Waymo, the other company with the most total accidents, operates the nation’s largest robotaxi service, with offices across much of metropolitan Phoenix, Arizona and San Francisco.
For the first time, automakers and robotaxi operators were required to report data to NHTSA on accidents involving these vehicles. The NHTSA says it will use the data to identify safety issues and intervene if necessary. Pony.ai, which is testing robotic taxis in California, recalled three of its vehicles this year after NHTSA collected data from the process.
Of the total of 497 accidents, 43% occurred in California. The state is home to Silicon Valley, making it a hotspot for testing new technologies.
NHTSA found that of the 367 reported driver assist accidents, there were six fatalities and five serious injuries.
The security risks of these new technologies have drawn attention Security advocate for years. There are no specific regulations for driver assistance systems, leaving automakers free to market and describe the systems as they see fit.
Tesla’s Autopilot and “completely self-driving” software were particularly controversial. The NHTSA investigation into Tesla’s rear first responder vehicles was expanded last week and may result in a recall.
The National Transportation Safety Board has investigated fatal accidents on autopilot and prompted the automaker to make changes, such as Developing technology to more effectively sense driver engagement and alert them when their engagement is lacking.
Tesla has shared data since 2018 claims Autopilot has a lower accident rate per mile than typical driving. However, safety experts warn that Tesla’s analysis is comparing apples to oranges, as most Autopilot trips take place on freeways, where accident rates per mile are much lower than all trips.
Tesla explains that drivers using Autopilot must remain alert and be prepared to take full control of the vehicle at all times. However, drivers using technology like Autopilot risk becoming distracted, experts say.
A 2021 MIT study found that Tesla drivers looked off the road more often when using Autopilot than when driving without ADAS.
NHTSA said its study of Tesla’s rear emergency vehicles using Autopilot found that in 37 of 43 accidents with detailed vehicle log data, drivers had their hands on the wheel for the last second before the collision.
For years, Tesla sensed wheel torque to determine if a driver was engaged. It has started using an in-car camera to detect distractions, which many safety experts say is a superior method because cameras can track eye movements.
Tesla and Waymo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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