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Tesla Model 3, Model Y Downgraded in Consumer Reports and IIHS' Safety Testing

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【Summary】With Tesla cutting features as it moves to a camera-only safety system, a few organizations have decided to take awards away from the brand’s two most affordable models.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    May 31, 2021 7:25 AM PT
Tesla Model 3, Model Y Downgraded in Consumer Reports and IIHS' Safety Testing

Earlier this week, Tesla made a major announcement. Instead of using sensors, the automaker would be moving toward a fully camera-based setup for its Tesla Vision system, which is a fancy name for its driver-assist features. Unfortunately, that decision is already having some pretty serious consequences, as the automaker will be losing a few awards.

Features Are Disappearing

Tesla's rollout of its camera-based Tesla Vision system includes the automaker's decision to cut some safety features from its vehicles. The Tesla Model 3 and Model Y will be the first two vehicles to make the switch to the new system and those are the two that have already been affected by the decision.

In a report from Consumers Reports, the Model 3 and Model Y are losing the organization's Top Pick award. The outlet also claims that the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) will be removing the Model 3's Top Safety Pick Plus status. Lastly, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been updated to reflect Tesla's changes.

The issue for all three organizations is that Tesla is cutting out features from these two vehicles as it makes the switch. Currently, the Model 3 and Model Y rely on sensors for a lot of their driver-assist features. Without the sensors, Tesla is going to try to take it slowly by gathering data from owners on how its cameras are working before reintroducing the safety features. All three organizations are downgrading the vehicles as a knee-jerk reaction to the changes. Since Tesla is capable of pushing out more features through over-the-air updates, there's a good chance that the organizations will test the vehicles again in the future and the scores will go back to their original position.

What Features Are Missing

At the moment, automatic emergency braking and forward collision warning appear to be the only two safety features that could either be unavailable or limited when the new models go on sale. Additionally, Autosteer will be limited to a max speed of 75 mph, while Smart Summon and Emergency Lane Departure Avoidance could be missing at the launch of the vehicles.

"Will the system fueled by vision data alone have an equal or better performance than what has been produced with a radar?" asked Bryan Remier, a research scientist at MIT. "If performance is not greater in the new system, we are taking a step backwards in efficacy and consumer transparency, negatively impacting safety."

As Consumer Reports points out, this isn't the first time Tesla has cut features from a vehicle. In 2016, a few Model X SUVs were sold without active automatic emergency braking. Then, Tesla took six months to rectify the issue with an update. This also brings up another issue of how Tesla uses consumers as beta testers. The electric brand will be relying on consumers for feedback and data to improve its camera system.

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