Tesla’s Model 3 sedan lost its “Top Pick” status with Consumer Reports.
The change signals the rift between Tesla (ticker: TSLA) CEO Elon Musk and the rest of the auto industry regarding safety features and autonomous driving is widening.
For the auto industry, safety and autonomous driving are the same topics. Advanced safety features such as lane-keeping assistance, blind-spot monitoring, interior driver awareness cameras, and adaptive cruise control will eventually—with the help of a lot of software—result in self-driving cars.
Musk, for his part, is focused on safety software. Regulators and car reviewers are still looking at hardware.
Tesla is pursuing self-driving cars using an approach that only uses optical cameras. The rest of the industry believes cars need cameras as well as other redundant systems, including radar, and lidar, short for laser-based radar.
Musk appears to believe focusing on cameras alone will allow Tesla to improve faster and keep costs low. Tesla recently announced it was removing radar sensors from its vehicles. Tesla bulls believe this means the company’s cameras—and Tesla’s software–are getting better.
Consumer Reports isn’t so sure. The lack of radar and other common features such as forward collision warning, or FCW, and automatic emergency braking, or AEB, were cited by Consumer Reports as reasons for stripping the Model 3’s status as a “Top Pick.”
Tesla didn’t respond to a request for comment about the Consumer Reports rating.
This isn’t the first time that Consumer Reports has raised issues with Tesla. Earlier this year, Consumer Reports showed readers how to get around some of Tesla’s safety features on a test track. Consumer Reports was able to turn on certain features such as autonomous driving with no one in the driver’s seat. The report was significant as it shed light on how a fatal Tesla crash, in which initial reports indicated that no one was driving, could have occurred. Subsequent government-led investigations of the crash revealed a driver was in the driver’s seat, and that Tesla’s driver-assistance functions weren’t to blame. Final crash reports from government investigators are still due.
Musk said on
before the government’s preliminary report was published that Tesla’s safety features weren’t turned on in the vehicle.
Consumer Reports, in one respect, isn’t deciding to remove the “Top Pick” status on its own though. It’s doing so based on cues from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “According to NHTSA, Model 3 and Model Y vehicles built on or after April 27, 2021, will no longer receive the agency’s check mark for FCW, AEB, lane departure warning…and dynamic brake support,” reads the Consumer Reports article. “NHTSA told CR that it rescinded the check marks after Tesla briefed the agency on production changes due to the transition to Tesla Vision from radar.”
A big reason Tesla believes vision-only will work is because of improving software and computer processing power. For now, regulators are still focused on hardware. Tesla investors will have to endure this kind of news until regulators rank safety software. That might take some time.
This content was originally published here.