Consumer Reports Suggests Tesla’s New “Safety Score” Actually Encourages Dangerous Driving

Tesla is at it again. However, Tesla’s new Safety Score System drama isn’t really their fault this time. Consumer Reports is worried that many Tesla drivers simply can’t help themselves from misusing Tesla features, no matter how useful or silly they may be. Within hours of Tesla’s Safety Score system, Twitter was alight with owners claiming their driving got worse to appease the new system. 

A red 2021 Tesla Model S driving down a road.
2021 Tesla Model S | Tesla

What is Tesla Safety Score? 

The Tesla safety Score System is meant to be used for Tesla owners to qualify for access to the latest version of Tesla’s “Full-Self-Driving” software. As Consumer Reports puts it, Tesla is basically “gamifying” safe driving to urge drivers to stop – well – killing themselves and others by misusing the misleading “autonomous” driving mode. 

This system allows the car to monitor a driver’s habits and judge their ability to be responsible and pay attention. One of the main things that users and Consumer Reports says is a major sticking point is braking. Even stopping too abruptly for a red light or a stop sign can can’t negatively toward a driver’s score. 

Why is Tesla’s Safety Score Making people drive worse? 

Kelly Funkhouser, Consumer Reports’ Head of automated and connected vehicle testing, said that although the “Gamification” of safe driving can be good, it might be having the opposite effect. Games tend to imply winning and losing. If there is a carrot for winning Tesla’s safe driving “game,” then there is a stick for losing. 

When Consumer Reports tested their Tesla Model Y with this new program, normal braking for stop signs crossed the acceptable boundaries for the system. When CR put the Model Y in the “Full-Self-Driving” Mode, the Model Y also braked too hard for the stop sign. 

The assumption is that since any hard braking triggers the Tesla Safety Score to drop, then drivers might be encouraged to cheat by rolling through stop signs, running red lights, and taking corners too quickly to avoid hard braking of any kind. 

A swing and a miss

“The problem is that Tesla appears to be using some of the wrong metrics,” Funkhouser says. “Without more context, the data Tesla is collecting, and scoring could create bad incentives.”

Aside from the game aspect, Tesla’s “Full-Self-Driving” (FSD) Mode has become a real point of interest for many Tesla buyers. So when Tesla announced last Saturday that drivers would have to pass a seven-day trial period with Safety Score to access the newest version of the software, drivers might be encouraged to drive more dangerously to appease the program and get their carrot. 

Other than braking, what is the program looking for? 

According to Consumer Reports, Tesla’s Safety Score takes into account five driving metrics; hard braking, how often a driver turns aggressively, how many times forward collision warning is activated, whether a driver tailgates, and how often Autopilot—Tesla’s software that can control some steering, braking, and acceleration tasks—disengages because a driver has ignored warnings to keep their hands on the wheel.

While these are all great aspects of driving to pay attention to, Consumer Reports worries that these may over gamify driving, ultimately making Tesla drivers more dangerous. 

For some reason, Tesla still has yet to announce what a good enough driving score is. Tesla’s webpage simply states that “These are combined to estimate the likelihood that your driving could result in a future collision.”

It is also unclear whether drivers who pass the course can have their FSD privileges taken away later down the road if they are deemed unsafe by the system. But, According to CR, Tesla has said that it can revoke FSD at any time and for any reason. 

Are Teslas actually safe cars? 

The question of Tesla safety seems to elude us continually. These technologies seem great on paper, but have they actually made driving safer? I guess more time and more data will need to pass and be reviewed before we can say for sure. 

Although, with Tesla, there is always something, isn’t there? Maybe this tech is great, and we just haven’t caught up to it yet. Or maybe the entire idea is folly, and we are chasing the wind. No matter what Elon Musk or an auto journalist says, it seems like no one knows yet. 

RELATED: Consumer Reports Worried About Tesla Using Customers To Test Dangerous ‘Full-Self Driving’ Mode on Public Roads