After a spate of crashes involving drivers using Tesla's Autopilot system, the press is awash in speculation about its effectiveness.
Now the IIHS, which rates accident avoidance systems across many automakers, has given the Tesla Model 3 its highest rating of "Superior" in its front crash prevention tests.
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The IIHS gives three ratings for forward collision avoidance systems:
- It verifies whether car has a forward collision warning system that meets the standards of the NHTSA, with an adequate alert to the driver when the crash is imminent. Cars that meet the requirement get one point.
- It tests the car's automatic emergency braking system in a 12-mph crash scenario, where the car approaches a stationary target at 12 mph. If the system stops the car before hitting the target, or reduces its speed by at least 5 mph, the IIHS awards another point. If it reduces the speed by 10 mph or more it awards two points.
- Then it repeats the second test at 25 mph and awards an additional three points if the car avoids a collision or reduces the impact speed by 22 mph or more, two points for 10 to 21 mph, or one point for 5 to 9 mph.
A score of one point earns a rating of "Basic" for the front crash prevention test, a score of 2 to 4 points rates "Advanced," and a score of five or six rates "Superior."
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The Model 3 received the maximum of six points in the three tests, earning the system a "Superior" rating, or, among the best of such systems.
The fatal Autopilot crashes occurred at significantly higher speeds than the IIHS tests are designed to simulate.
UPDATE: This story has been corrected to remove references to IIHS testing Autopilot. All Teslas come standard with automatic emergency braking, which is what IIHS tested, along with forward collision warning. Tesla's optional $5,000 Autopilot system adds active lane control and adaptive cruise control to its cars.