Tesla Model Y Regains Top IIHS Top Safety Pick + Status

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In April, Tesla deleted radar from its suite of Autopilot hardware for the Model Y, replacing it with a camera system the company dubbed Pure Vision. At the time, Elon Musk justified the change by saying, “When radar and vision disagree, which one do you believe? Vision has much more precision, so better to double down on vision than do sensor fusion.” Musk (as usual) was sure his way was the correct way, but others were less certain. In particular, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) downgraded its safety rating for the Model Y until it could complete its own tests of the Pure Vision technology. Now it has done just that and concluded the new system actually is better than the prior system, which used a blend of radar and camera sensors. As a result, it has reinstated the Model Y’s Top Safety Pick + rating.

Inside EVs says only Model Ys built after April 2021 get the Top Safety Pick + award. Vehicles built before that date are still recommended, they just don’t have the “Plus” rating.  IIHS says, “Following a conversion to a camera only system, the standard front crash prevention system earns superior ratings in both the vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian tests. The two available headlight systems earn good and acceptable ratings.

“Separately, the standard front crash prevention system on 2021–22 Tesla Model 3 vehicles built after April 2021 also earns a superior rating in both crash avoidance tests, following a software update. Vehicles built earlier earn an advanced rating in the vehicle-to-pedestrian evaluation.”

IIHS still has a few quibbles. It says the headlights on the Model Y are “good” on the Performance version of the Model Y but only “acceptable” on the Long Range version, which happens to be the entry level Model Y at this moment. The rating service also has a quibble about the ease of using the child seat tether arrangement in the Model Y.

Below are two videos from IIHS showing the crash testing it conducted. (Those of you waiting for your own Model Y to arrive, avert your eyes.) Notice that in the small overlap front crash test, the car automatically moves right to avoid the impact as much as possible, leaving the safety cell around the passenger compartment intact.

There were a lot of concerns when Tesla decided to delete radar from its Autopilot suite of sensors, but it seems in this instance, Tesla got its sums right and the new technology really is a step up from the camera-plus-radar arrangement. I was actually a little concerned about this topic when my new Model Y arrived a month ago. Now, after watching the videos and reading the IIHS report, I am feeling reassured. Thank you, Tesla.


IIHS Tesla Model Y Top Safety Pick + Tests

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."

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