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Why Tesla Model S is the safest car ever built

July 27, 2015

Tesla Model S all-electric vehicle
Tesla Model S Exterior

The Tesla Model S is one of just a few cars to have ever achieved a 5-star safety rating from both Euro NCAP and the US NHTSA. Since 2011, the all-electric Model S is one of only 3 cars to have achieved both a 5-star Euro NCAP rating and 5 stars in every NHTSA subcategory, including frontal impact, side impact, and rollover.

The reason so few models achieve 5-star ratings in both Europe and the U.S. is that each program places emphasis on different safety aspects in the assessment process. NHTSA emphasizes structural and restraint safety, with a deep focus on how well the vehicle can withstand and absorb the energy of an impact while protecting its occupants. It is also primarily concerned with adult occupants. On the other hand, Euro NCAP assesses a wider range of scenarios, including tests for child and pedestrian safety. Unlike for NHTSA, active safety is also an important part of Euro NCAP’s 5-star requirement. Every year, the European organization raises the standard for a 5-star rating to account for technological advances in the industry.

The dual 5-star ratings for Model S validate Tesla’s holistic approach to safety. Structurally, the Model S has advantages not seen in conventional cars. It has a low centre of gravity because its battery pack, the largest mass in the car, is positioned underneath the passenger compartment, making rollover extremely unlikely. It also has a large front crumple zone because of the lack of an engine, meaning it can absorb more energy from a frontal impact which is the most common type of crash resulting in fatalities. Its body is reinforced with aluminium extrusions at strategic locations around the car, and the roof can withstand at least 4 g’s.

Tesla Model S all-electric vehicle
Tesla Model S Interior

While the features already pushed to the Model S fleet such as Lane Departure Warning and Speed Limit Warning – have proven sufficient to merit a 5-star NCAP rating, Tesla continues further with active safety systems.

In 2015 Tesla started implementing the Model S active safety system in conjunction with the introduction of new Autopilot hardware, consisting of 12 ultrasonic sensors that sense up to 16 feet around the car, a forward-looking camera, a forward radar, and a digitally controlled, high-precision electric brake boost.

Other features coming soon include Forward and Side Collision Warning and Avoidance, Blind Spot Warning, and Automatic Emergency Braking.

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