Tesla Model S, Model X Lose Top Consumer Reports Rating Over Lack of Automatic Braking

CR lowered the ratings of the Tesla models because Tesla has not enabled an autonomous stopping feature on newer cars.

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Consumer Reports lowered its ratings for the Tesla Model S and Model X because of a lack of availability of autonomous emergency braking on cars built since October 2016.

Autonomous emergency braking that was available on previous versions of the two Tesla electric cars is not available on these new cars, and the removal of that feature led to the decision to lower their ratings, Consumer Reports explained. Tesla told the magazine that a software update enabling this feature should come this Thursday. Consumer Reports said it would reevaluate the ratings once automatic emergency braking becomes available.

The issue stems from Tesla's decision to switch to a new sensor suite for its Autopilot and other driver-assist systems. The new setup, known as "Hardware 2," includes more sensors than the previous "Hardware 1" suite, and Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said it could enable fully-autonomous driving. But Hardware 2 cars were built without the software that enabled many of the features available on previous Hardware 1 cars. Tesla released a software update that restored some of these features in December to a limited number of cars, and is working on a larger-scale rollout.

Consumer Reports adds points to its ratings for vehicles that offer autonomous emergency braking as standard equipment, as it wants to encourage use of the technology for safety reasons. The original higher scores were based on earlier versions of the Model S and Model X that had autonomous emergency braking enabled.

The Model S had its scored knocked from 87 points to 85, dropping it out of the top spot in Consumer Reports's"ultra luxury" category. The Tesla is now in third place, behind the BMW 7 Series and Lexus LS. The Model X dropped from 58 points to 56, putting it near the bottom in its category.

Consumer Reports' relationship with Tesla can best be described as "love hate." In 2014, it declared the Model S P85D to be the best car it ever tested. But the Model S has not faired well in the magazine's reliability rankings, and the Model X was roundly criticized when Consumer Reports first tested it. The magazine has also taken issue with Tesla's Autopilot system, even calling on Tesla to disable it. Nonetheless, Tesla topped Consumer Reports' 2016 customer satisfaction rankings.

Tesla's practice of making running changes to cars instead of adhering to the traditional model-year cycle has won praise for the way it allows Tesla to push new features faster. But in the case of the Hardware 2 cars, consumers have been left waiting for features that were already available on older cars, which puts Tesla in a somewhat awkward situation.

UPDATE: A Tesla spokesperson contacted The Drive with the following statement:

Tesla's over-the-air rollout of automatic emergency braking began yesterday.