Tesla Model 3's Quiet Design Refresh Earns a Higher Safety Rating

The Tesla Model 3 received a quiet design refresh over the summer, and it greatly improved the safety of its headlights. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety announced this week that it has updated its rating for the electric vehicle, changing the headlight rating from “acceptable” to “good” following a June 2018 refresh.

The refresh, which Tesla did not widely publicize, coincides with a large boost in manufacturing. The car is the company’s first vehicle aimed at a mass market, with an advertised starting price of $35,000. When it entered production in July 2017, the firm had a backlog of nearly half a million reservations to fulfill, which it planned to complete using an automated factory CEO Elon Musk dubbed the “alien dreadnought.” Tesla’s overreliance on automation meant it only produced just over 200 cars in the fourth quarter of 2017, well below the 5,000 per week projected at the production start. The company finally reached this figure in June.

Old headlights versus new headlights.
Old headlights versus new headlights.

See more: Elon Musk Images Show How Tesla Model 3 Gears Look After a Million Miles

The agency noted several key changes between the two models, like how the low beams on the first version “created some glare” and offered “inadequate [visibility] on the right side” with straightaways. The new version offered “good [straightaway visibility] on both sides of the road,” while it “never exceeded glare limits.” The new version does, however, offer “inadequate” visibility on gradual left curves despite improvements on other curves, where the original offered “fair” visibility on all four tests. The altered rating comes just three months after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the car a perfect score across the board for crash performance.

It’s perhaps little surprise that Tesla didn’t advertise this change. Musk wrote in October 2018 that at Tesla there is “no such thing as a ‘full refresh’…or even a model year. Our cars are partially upgraded every month as soon as a new subsystem is ready for production. There is no cadence.”

With high scores from the IIHT and NHTSA, the pressure is on for Tesla to provide similarly high levels of safety when it introduces the Model Y sports utility vehicle next year.

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