Tesla's Model 3 has lost the coveted "Top Pick" status from Consumer Reports after the automaker decided to no longer equip Model 3 and Model Y vehicles with radar sensors.
Without the radar sensors, "vehicles may lack some key advanced safety features, including forward collision warning (FCW) and automatic emergency braking (AEB)", according to Consumer Reports. This has caused these models to lose critical performance designations from testing organizations like the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
David Friedman, VP of advocacy for Consumer Reports and a former acting administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, commented: “If a driver thinks their vehicle has a safety feature and it doesn’t, that fundamentally changes the safety profile of the vehicle. It might not be there when they think it would save their lives.”
Vehicles built on or after April 27, 2021 are no longer going to receive the NHTSA's "check mark" for FCW and AEB. The agency rescinded the check marks "after Tesla briefed the agency on production changes due to the transition to Tesla Vision from radar."
"Because of the change, Consumer Reports no longer lists the Model 3 as a Top Pick, and IIHS plans to remove the Model 3’s Top Safety Pick+ designation," CR wrote.
Jake Fisher, senior director of CR’s Auto Test Center, said: “It is extremely rare for an automaker to remove safety features from a vehicle during a production run, even temporarily, but this isn’t the first time that Tesla has done this.”
He continued: “With over-the-air updates, Tesla can add and remove features on their vehicles over time. We update our scores when key features are added or removed.”
Recall, we noted days ago when Tesla said it was ditching radar in favor of cameras. The company said it is going to do away with radar in favor of using a "camera-focused Autopilot system" and that the change is going to apply to both Model 3 and Model Y vehicles in North America, starting this month.
The move comes as scrutiny of both "Autopilot" and "Full Self Driving" - two features that clearly don't live up to their name the way they are labeled - has intensified. Additionally, as CNBC noted, "radar sensors are relatively expensive" and this could be yet another cost for Tesla to try and cut.
“Pure vision Autopilot is now rolling out in North America,” Tesla CEO Elon Musk said on Twitter, referring to the change, earlier this week. Recall, Tesla had to quickly shelve its last Full Self Driving beta after numerous humiliating videos surfaced of the software having repeated issues and quickly went viral. The Full Self Driving beta v8.2 was thrashed by critics like Road and Track who called it "laughably bad" and "potentially dangerous".
"If you think we're anywhere near fully autonomous cars, this video might convince you otherwise," Road and Track wrote about Tesla's Full Self Driving feature. The article referred to the feature as "morally dubious, technologically limited, and potentially dangerous".
Tesla's blog on its website said:
We are continuing the transition to Tesla Vision, our camera-based Autopilot system. Beginning with deliveries in May 2021, Model 3 and Model Y vehicles built for the North American market will no longer be equipped with radar. Instead, these will be the first Tesla vehicles to rely on camera vision and neural net processing to deliver Autopilot, Full-Self Driving and certain active safety features. Customers who ordered before May 2021 and are matched to a car with Tesla Vision will be notified of the change through their Tesla Accounts prior to delivery.
For a short period during this transition, cars with Tesla Vision may be delivered with some features temporarily limited or inactive, including:
- Autosteer will be limited to a maximum speed of 75 mph and a longer minimum following distance.
- Smart Summon (if equipped) and Emergency Lane Departure Avoidance may be disabled at delivery.
In the weeks ahead, we’ll start restoring these features via a series of over-the-air software updates. All other available Autopilot and Full Self-Driving features will be active at delivery, depending on order configuration.
We look forward to Musk lashing out at Consumer Reports, as he has been known to do, upon receiving critical reviews.