Credits: Steve Hanley

Last week, Consumer Reports lowered their rating of the Tesla Model S and Model X. The reason? Neither car offered drivers automatic emergency braking, a safety feature the company said would be rolled out before the end of 2016. It is also a feature that every Tesla with the first generation of Autopilot sensors already has.

Tesla Model S Consumer Reports

Automatic emergency braking is a big deal for Consumer Reports. In a statement posted on its website on Friday, it said, “Consumer Reports awards bonus points as part of its Overall Score to car models that have forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking as standard across a vehicle’s model line; models with low-speed AEB systems get a lower bonus than high-speed AEB systems.”

Lowered ratings
Tesla has been promising owners of cars built after October 19, 2016 that it would add AEB soon, but like many promises by the company, the time kept getting rolled back. Consumer Reports, which purchases its test vehicles rather then accepting loaners from manufacturers, simply grew tired of waiting for the upgrade to arrive. Last Wednesday, it downgraded the Model S to third position on its premium luxury car rankings, behind the Mercedes S Class and BMW 7 Series. It also dropped the Model X to near the bottom of its midsize sport utility vehicle ratings.

Over the air update
Stung by the move, Tesla rolled out an over the air update to the blue Model S 60D in the CR test fleet on Thursday, but that did not completely satisfy Consumer Reports. “We appreciate that Tesla has started to roll out standard automatic emergency braking on these vehicles,” said Jake Fisher, director of Auto Testing. But the update only works up to 28 mph. CR noted that Tesla often takes up to 9 days before it completes updating all eligible cars. It said it would wait until it was sure the update was fully implemented before re-evaluating its ratings.

In a statement, Tesla said, “The first step was meeting the IIHS requirements, which are 45 km/h (28 mph),” the company said. “Over the next several weeks, we will increase AEB speed activation until it is the most capable of any vehicle in the world.” CR says it will conduct a review of the system’s performance after each update.

AEB obsession? 
Why is Consumer Reports so fixated on automatic emergency braking? “AEB is an important safety feature,” it statement says. “According to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, vehicles equipped with forward collision warning and automatic braking see incidents of rear-end collisions reduced by 40 percent, with bodily injury claims cut by 30 percent. CR believes that AEB should be standard on all new vehicles.”

Amen to that. We don’t need fully autonomous cars to reduce accidents and injuries. Currently available technology can do a lot to help make driving safer. Automatic emergency braking is available on the Toyota Corolla. That it is just now becoming available on the Tesla Model S and Model X is inexplicable.

Source and photo credit: Consumer Reports