By David Shepardson and Hyunjoo Jin
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Tesla’s decision to drop radar sensors from two of its U.S. vehicles has cost it top safety ratings from a widely followed insurance industry group and the influential Consumer Reports magazine.
The move came a day after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said Wednesday Tesla Model 3 and Model Y vehicles built after April 27 will no longer be labeled as having some advanced safety features after the automaker said it would transition to a camera-based Autopilot system.
Consumer Reports cited NHTSA’s decision in no longer listing the Model 3 as a Top Pick.
“It is extremely rare for an automaker to remove safety features from a vehicle during a production run, even temporarily, but this isn’t the first time that Tesla has done this,” Jake Fisher, a senior director of Consumer Reports, said in a statement.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also plans to remove its highest safety designation for the Model 3 vehicles built after April 27, a spokesman said, adding it plans to evaluate Tesla’s new system.
Tesla, which said on Tuesday it will drop a radar sensor in favour of a camera-focused Autopilot system for its Model 3 and Model Y vehicles in North America starting this month, did not respond to requests for comment on Thursday.
Tesla said its decision to ditch radar may lead to the limitation of some features such as lane-centering and parking assistance, but that software updates “in the weeks ahead” would restore these functions.
Meanwhile, photos of a Tesla message posted by a Twitter user indicate Tesla has introduced a driver monitoring system based on cameras for its new models, after recent accidents rekindled concerns about misuse of the Autopilot system.
Tesla currently alerts drivers when they keep their hands off the wheel for a period of time, but regulators and consumer groups have said that is not enough to ensure drivers pay attention.
Under the heading “Cabin Camera Updates”, a message from Tesla shown on a vehicle’s dashboard said: “The cabin camera above your rearview mirror can now detect and alert driver inattentiveness while Autopilot is engaged,” according to a photo in a Tweet by Kevin Smith, who identified himself as software engineer.
Tesla said the camera data cannot be saved or transmitted unless data sharing is enabled.
Tesla did not respond to a request for comment about the driver monitoring system.
(Reporting by David Shepardson and Hyunjoo Jin Editing by Karishma Singh and Richard Pullin)