Tesla Stripped From Consumer Report’s “Top Pick” List Over Safety

Tesla’s Model 3 sedan, once included in Consumer Reports’ coveted “Top Pick” categories, has been removed. The move comes following Tesla dropping radar now relying only on its camera-based sensors. With radar gone it defeats several advanced safety functions. 

Removing radar dropped the Tesla Model 3 by three points lowering its safety score

A white Tesla Model 3 vehicle is seen at a Tesla flagship store on January 4, 2021 in Shanghai, China
The Tesla Model 3 | Gao Yuwen/VCG via Getty Images

Without those Tesla safety features, the Model 3 lost three points in Consumer Reports’ scoring system. That bounced it out of the Top Pick category. It still gets a “recommended” score but obviously, that has much less clout among Consumer Reports stalwarts. 

The Tesla Model 3 received its first Top Pick rank just last year. Consumer Reports only gives 10 cars, SUVs, and trucks, the rating each year. But some say that losing radar makes the Model 3 safer because radar gives conflicting information. Some think camera imaging works best today. 

Certain safety features don’t appear after April 27 on both the Model 3 and Model Y

Tesla Model Y | Ding Ting/Xinhua via Getty
Tesla Model Y | Ding Ting/Xinhua via Getty

Radar was removed toward the end of April. The NHTSA indicates that certain safety features don’t appear on the list of features after April 27 on both the Model 3 and Model Y. Some of the features dependent on the radar include the automated emergency brakes, forward collision warnings, and lane departure warning systems. 

“If a driver thinks their vehicle has a safety feature and it doesn’t, that fundamentally changes the safety profile of the vehicle,” said David Friedman, vice president of advocacy for Consumer Reports, in a statement. There are other safety features that rely on the radar. But those that could migrate to its Autopilot driver-assistance will do so. 

Autopilot relies on camera vision instead of radar for Tesla safety features. One feature of Autopilot is that there is a camera above the rearview mirror. It detects how alert the driver is. If it determines the driver is getting drowsy, it can release a warning. Owners were advised that this feature has been activated in an over-the-air update.

Cameras for safety systems have limitations that radar does not

Blue Tesla Model 3 on display
Tesla Model 3 compact full electric car on display at the 2019 Concours d’Elegance | Sjoerd van der Wal/Getty Images

But a system of cameras for safety systems has limitations that radar does not. If there is fog, it is raining hard, or extremely dark outside, radar cuts through all of that. Obviously, a camera cannot. 

It is unclear at this point why Tesla chose to remove radar from some of its cars. Especially, because the NHTSA will need to see if the camera system offers the same safety as radar. Since it has been removed it means that the Model 3 and Model Y will have to be retested by the NHTSA. Removing radar was a big enough change to warrant a complete retesting. 

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