Tesla Gets Partial Credit from Consumer Reports for Partial Automatic Braking

The magazine gives Tesla back one of the two safety points it took away.

Investigation Continues Into Tesla Driver's Death While In Autopilot Mode
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After losing Consumer Reports' top safety rating when automatic emergency braking (AEB) became unavailable on cars built after October 2016, Tesla deployed an update to return some of this lost functionality to new cars. Since then, Consumer Reports has retested the Model S and Model X, and scored them higher than before—but still not high enough win the top rating. The reintroduced AEB system only works at speeds up to 28 mph, rather than up to 90 mph as earlier vehicles did. By no coincidence, 28 mph is the speed required to meet IIHS standards, which is why Tesla chose this threshold as a stepping stone. 

“Over the next several weeks, we will increase AEB speed activation until it is the most capable of any vehicle in the world,” Tesla told Consumer Reports. 

Tesla rolled out AEB's original implementation capabilities in incremental stages, and the ability to download updates directly to the cars allows them to increase these capabilities as Tesla deems each threshold safe for general use. The carmaker gives no specific timeline as to when this will actually happen. Similarly, Consumer Reports has said—and proven—that they are willing to retest updated cars to validate their capabilities and change their ratings, for better or worse.

The issue started when Tesla switched to different hardware last October that will eventually allow cars so equipped to drive autonomously. Unfortunately, a rewrite of the AEB code was required to utilize the new hardware, making new cars less capable than older ones. 

"It's uncommon for a newer vehicle to be less capable than an older vehicle, especially when it comes to safety," Jake Fisher, director of automotive testing at Consumer Reports, said in a phone interview with Automotive News

Tesla's plan had reportedly always been to reintroduce full AEB capability up to 90 mph, just like the original AEB system. It's just taking more time and testing than expected to get to that point. Once fully implemented, it's likely that Consumer Reports will test the Model S and Model X yet again and, upon validation, likely restore Tesla's top safety rating.