Tesla Model 3 top safety rating restored by IIHS

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When it comes to safety, Tesla’s camera-based system proved just as effective in avoiding or mitigating crashes in the Tesla Model 3 as its old radar-based system, according to testing conducted by the IIHS. The non-profit agency funded by the insurance industry announced today that it had restored its highest safety accolade of a Top Safety Pick+ to later versions of the 2021 Tesla Model 3.

The safety downgrade occurred late in May when Tesla announced it was transitioning away from camera- and radar-based safety systems to a camera-only system called Tesla Vision. The new system required new hardware installed in vehicles built after April, 2021, and also required Tesla to issue over-the-air updates to set up the new system’s functionality. In the interim before the update, the 2021 Tesla Model 3 compact sedan and its platform mate, the 2021 Tesla Model Y lacked automatic emergency braking and active lane control.

The potential confusion to customers who took delivery of those models as early as May prompted the IIHS, the NHTSA, and Consumer Reports to downgrade what had been stellar safety ratings until that point.  

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With functionality restored and testing completed, the IIHS finds the camera-based system to be just as safe as its radar-based predecessor in the Tesla Model 3. The NHTSA also restored its five-star rating, and Consumer Reports once again called it a Top Pick. 

The standard system earned “Superior” ratings at avoiding collisions with other cars in 12 mph and 25 mph tests, and it earned the same “Advanced” rating in significantly reducing speeds in vehicle-to-pedestrian crash tests. The old radar-based system performed better in avoiding crashes with adult-size dummies walking alongside a road or darting out between parked cars, but the camera-based system performed better at sensing child-sized dummies. 

Integrity of the vehicle’s structure in the event of a crash hasn’t changed, with the Model 3 earning “Good” ratings across the board and “Good” standard headlights.

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The 2021 Tesla Model 3 rejoins at least 62 other vehicles with a 2021 Top Safety Pick+ award. 

The 2021 Model Y has not been tested with the camera-based system. The IIHS says testing will be completed later this summer. 

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