Consumer Reports Downgrades Tesla Models For Missing Safety Feature

Consumer Reports has knocked down ratings on the Model S and Model X due to the prolonged absence of a standard safety feature.

New models of the two electric vehicles produced between late October 2016 and now don’t come with an automatic emergency braking (AEB) system that’s standard on other cars on the market. Consumer Reports is concerned that adding AEB is essential for preventing crashes and reducing injuries.

Tesla had been promising to fix the issue through a software upgrade since late 2016. The electric carmaker promised Consumer Reports it would issue the software upgrade this Thursday.

The Model S is losing its highest-ever rating spot of 87 on the scale down to 85. It now follows the Lexus LS and BMW 7 Series in the ultraluxury car category.

The Model X had already been dinged by the consumer ratings publication for problems with the falcon wing doors and other concerns. Now it’s been dropped from 58 down to 56, placing it near the bottom of the luxury midsized SUV category.

AEB had been standard features on the two Tesla vehicles until October. On Oct. 19, 2016 CEO Elon Musk announced that the company would be equipping all of its vehicles with fully autonomous features on all new vehicles produced starting later that month. It would still need supporting software and approval by safety regulators before being activated in Tesla vehicles, he said.

Musk acknowledged that the new hardware would mean that some basic safety features would be missing for a while. The software would have to be rewritten and validated, he said.

The publication purchased a Model S 60D on Dec. 12 and found that the AEB wasn’t functioning like it had in the previous version. It was equipped with the second-generation Autopilot hardware.

Those testing the Model S 60D had been told by Tesla that AEB would be turned on in just a few weeks along with a few optional safety features. That failed to happen.

“When we purchased our latest test car, we were assured automatic emergency braking would be enabled by the end of 2016,” said Jake Fisher, director of Consumer Reports’ Auto Test Center in Colchester, Conn. “We’ve been waiting for this important safety feature, which is standard equipment on much cheaper cars.”

Musk had promised on November 26 that new software would be released in “about three weeks,” with monthly updates after that.

While the test center received four software updates for its Model S, none of them included the AEB.

More promises were made to Consumer Reports in January and February that failed to come through.

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Pressure mounted last week with the filing of a lawsuit against Tesla for dragging out the AEB software upgrade and other safety technology.

Tesla responded that the suit is “inaccurate and sensationalistic,” and that it is “exactly the kind of misinformation that threatens to harm consumer safety.”

The carmaker committed to upgrade the software by Thursday, April 27, in an e-mailed statement.

“Automatic Emergency Braking and other safety features are a top priority, and we plan to introduce them as soon as they’re ready,” Tesla said in the e-mail. “We believe it would be morally wrong and counterproductive to our goal of improving consumer safety to release features before they’re ready, and we believe our customers appreciate that.”

The consumer advocacy magazine said that once, “Tesla deploys AEB to all owners and starts selling all new vehicles with the feature activated, Consumer Reports will re-evaluate the overall scores.”

Consumer Reports


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