Least Revolutionary Thing About the Cybertruck: Bigger, Heavier, and Deadlier
Much has been written about Tesla’s latest creation: the Cybertruck. Its divisive looks are a bold new direction for automotive design. The engineering that underpins it forges ahead with technologies that have long stifled Detroit. But the least revolutionary thing about the Cybertruck may be, unfortunately, the danger it poses to pedestrians and other motorists. While this Tesla is bigger and faster than almost anything else on the road, it is just the latest in a long line of irresponsibly bloated vehicles. Its construction, however, may set it apart.
Writing about the Tesla Cybertruck, NBC News laid out the facts: Traffic deaths are falling in the rest of the developing world, but rising in the U.S. Worse yet, skyrocketing pedestrian deaths in the U.S. hit a 40-year high this year.
What’s going on here? Heavier vehicles (i.e. trucks and SUVs) have more momentum, even at low speeds. Powerful new engines mean they can accelerate quickly, but drivers have less time to react. Increased weight and raked windshields mean they must have beefier A-Pillars (between the front windows and windshield) and they have bigger blindspots.
It gets worse: Tall grilles, high hoods, and factory lift kits are in fashion. This fashion is killing pedestrian. Why? It has become more common for pedestrians (especially children) to be struck in the head and fall beneath a moving vehicle. This is much more likely to kill you than rolling up on the hood of a lower vehicle.
“When you increase the weight and acceleration of any car, you’re increasing the probability of a crash due to the nature of speed, and you’re increasing the lethality of any crash that does happen.”Isabella Chu, associate director of the data core at the Stanford Center for Population Health Sciences
The Cybertruck “Cyberbeast” trim tips the scales at 6,843 pounds. It also rockets to 60 mph in 2.6 seconds. As cool as that all sounds, it gives it a lot more momentum in your average pedestrian strike than an F-150 which starts at 4,000 pounds and takes 5.5 seconds to get to 60 mph.
Elon Musk wrote, “We are highly confident that Cybertruck will be much safer per mile than other trucks, both for occupants and pedestrians.”
He may be referring to safety aid software, such as automatic emergency braking. And I can only hope he’s right. But other automakers have been putting this in pickup trucks for years (they agreed to make it standard by 2023), and deaths are still rising. Tesla’s software has had deadly glitches, such as Teslas on “Autopilot” killing first responders. Again, I just hope Tesla proves me wrong, but I’m not holding my breath.
Lithium-ion batteries make EVs heavy. Electric pickup trucks will, for the time being, be heavier than ICE versions. And Tesla has little control over this. But Tesla does have control over the design of its Cybertruck. The new vehicle’s tall front end, steel construction, and angular shape all make it especially deadly to pedestrians–according to industry experts.
Tesla has been unable to deliver any Cybertrucks in Europe. The reason may be that Europe has stricter laws than the U.S. about vehicle shape, intended to protect pedestrians. European vehicle safety expert Stefan Teller is concerned about Cybertruck’s shape and materials. He said “the basic concept of Tesla contradicts the common European security philosophy.” (Muscle Cars and Trucks).
Experts in the NBC article made the point that one cause of rising pedestrian deaths may be how much looser U.S. safety standards are than places such as Europe. Perhaps the Cybertruck is just the “checkmate” that the auto industry needs to change.
Next, see how the engineering behind the Tesla Cybertruck will change other pickups, or learn more about its crash tests in the video below: