Europe’s New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) has released its second series of assisted driving grades, and despite having the best technology, Tesla’s Model 3 came away with a mediocre score. The reason? Driver engagement is a key factor and Tesla’s Autopilot system “encourages the driver to relinquish too much control,” according to the testers (via RoadShow).
The results from the test don’t show that Tesla’s systems are bad, in fact far from it. Tesla had the top score in vehicle assistance, meaning its automatic braking, lane-keeping and other systems all work well together. It also beat all rivals in the “safety backup” section, as it can handle things like a system failure, unresponsive driver and collision avoidance with aplomb — as we’ve seen before in viral Tesla videos.
According to NCAP, however, the problems lie within a category called “driver engagement.” Testers said that the marketing materials don’t line up with the vehicle manual and could lead drivers to believe that the Model 3 does more than just driver assistance.
“Many aspects of the Model 3 are exemplary; its vehicle assistance is the best we saw in testing and it also aced the safety back up element,” wrote Thatcham Research, an independent group that carried out the trials. “However, it achieves a ‘moderate’ rating for poor driver engagement, with a design philosophy that is very much about the vehicle doing the driving. That would be appropriate for an automated vehicle — but this [testing is for] vehicle assistance.”
Mercedes’ GLE, the BMW 3 Series and Audi’s Q8 came out on top of the ratings. While they couldn’t match the Model 3’s level of technology, they achieved “a good balance between offering a high level of driving assistance but keeping the driver engaged and in control of the driving task,” according to the group.
The Model 3 placed sixth out of ten, above the Nissan Juke but below Volkswagen’s Passat. In this case, the NCAP is reinforcing what other safety bodies have said before: Tesla’s self-driving systems and even the name “Autopilot” could give consumers the wrong impression about its capabilities. That could be why we we’re still seeing idiots hurtling down the road at 65 mph with no one in the driver’s seat.