Europe gives Tesla driver-assist sky-high safety rating despite fatal crashes

Meanwhile, the U.S. has 39 open investigations into Autopilot's failures.

Wierden, Twente, Overijssel, Netherlands, june 11th 2022, close-up of a Dutch 2020 electric Tesla Mo...
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European safety regulators have given Tesla’s Model Y “safety assist” system the highest ranking of any automaker in the world, a rare vote of confidence for Tesla’s driver-assist program. The Euro New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP) gave the 2022 Tesla Model Y a score of 98 percent in the “safety assist” category — higher than similar offerings from companies like Volvo and Mercedes-Benz.

Overall, the Model Y received a five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP, outperforming other automakers in most individual categories. Of the four categories tested, the Model Y received its lowest score in safety for “vulnerable road users,” which measures how the vehicle interacts with pedestrians.

That super-high rating for the Model Y’s “safety assist” features may come as a surprise to those of us in the U.S. who have been following the National Highway Traffic Safety Association’s (NHTSA) intense scrutiny over the safety of Tesla’s Autopilot program. As of last month, there were 39 open investigations into crashes involving Autopilot in the U.S.

Top marks all around — The Euro NCAP’s safety assessment is abundantly clear in its messaging: the Model Y is a very safe vehicle. The safety rating covers four areas: adult occupants, child occupants, vulnerable road users, and safety assist. The new Model Y scored above 80 percent in every category.

This is pretty much par for the course for Tesla. Past iterations of the Model Y, Model X, and Model 3 have all received five-star ratings from Euro NCAP. And the same is true in the U.S., for that matter — Tesla’s entire lineup has five-star ratings from the NHTSA.

There’s a catch, of course — Here’s the thing: none of these safety rankings actually evaluate the efficacy of the full suite of Autopilot features. Euro NCAP’s “safety assist” rating only looks at the Model Y’s automatic emergency braking system and lane-assist feature. That’s it. Autopilot as a whole is not mentioned in the rating assessment.

Given just how popular Autopilot is, it’s certainly time to begin including all of its features in safety ratings. At the very least, it’s unfortunate that Euro NCAP hasn’t even warned the public that Autopilot isn’t technically part of its evaluation. There’s certainly a false sense of security enabled by the omission of this fact.

The Full Self-Driving beta is not yet available in Europe, but that, too, will need to be considered in future safety ratings.