Tesla’s New Safety Score can be Unsafe
Within hours of Tesla’s new Safety Score feature, intended to qualify owners for access to the latest version of the company’s Full Self-Driving (FSD) software, some Tesla drivers were discussing on Twitter how they engaged in unsafe driving practices, such as coasting through stop signs or accelerating through yellow lights, to avoid lowering their score from braking too hard.
It is a wonderful idea to seek “gamification” of safe driving, says Kelly Funkhouser of Consumer Reports’ autonomous and connected car testing, but Tesla’s approach may be having the opposite impact.
When we put the function to the test in September with our Model Y, we found that even stopping at a stop sign in ordinary driving might cause the Safety Score threshold for unsafe heavy braking to be surpassed. Our Model Y’s harsh braking threshold was surpassed when we activated Autopilot, Tesla’s driver assistance feature, and drove up to the same stop sign.
To prevent “hard braking,” drivers may cruise through an intersection or fail to come to a complete stop for a pedestrian, according to Funkhouser, who adds that Tesla should enhance how it evaluates drivers in order to promote safer driving.
According to her, Tesla is utilizing the wrong metrics since they look to be outdated. “Tesla’s data collection and scoring might lead to negative incentives without additional context.”
According to Tesla’s own internal research, the Safety Score helps drivers perform better. CEO Zach Kirkhorn stated Tesla’s studies show that drivers who use the Safety Score have a 30% reduced collision risk than those who do not during an investor conference call on Oct. 20.
Five driving parameters gathered from a vehicle’s in-built sensors go towards calculating the safety score. For example, how often a driver brakes hard; how many times forward collision warning is activated; whether or not a driver tailgates; and how often Autopilot—the automaker’s software that controls some steering, braking and acceleration tasks—disengages because a driver has disregarded the warnings to keep their hands on the wheel have all been considered.
To yet, Tesla has not specified the minimum score required to be considered for the award. It is hoped that the score would make Tesla drivers safer on the road. Combined, they “predict the risk that your driving might result in a future collision,” according to the company’s web page that outlines the score”.
However, it’s not clear if drivers who enter the program and maintain a safe driving record for seven days would be barred from using FSD 10.1 if their score drops.
Tesla claims it may remove access to the new FSD software at any time since drivers request it via their vehicle’s touch screen.
To our knowledge, Tesla has not responded to any of our inquiries on the safety rating. While Musk did not specifically mention the score in his tweets, he did mention that it was going to be improved in the future. Quite a beta calculation, in other words. Over time, it will get increasingly accurate at predicting the likelihood of a crash.
Tesla’s harsh braking measure was evaluated by CR using an accelerometer to find out exactly how much force 0.3 g (Tesla’s Safety Score braking threshold) in our Model Y represents.
A driver’s Safety Score can be lowered even when doing routine actions like decreasing from 25 miles per hour to zero while using the vehicle’s regenerative braking system. CR’s specialists point out that a 0.3 g stop does not result in the car screaming to a standstill. This is the type of stop that the most of motorists will come across on the majority of journeys.
Our test drivers didn’t notice a modest braking action until the accelerometer read more than 0.5 g. Those halts were still much below what we consider a safe threshold for a seat-belt-locking emergency halt.
According to Jake Fisher, senior director of CR’s Auto Test Center, the Safety Score highlights two fundamental principles that have the potential to improve safety. To encourage good driving habits, it keeps tabs on how well drivers are behaving on public roadways and offers game-like prizes for doing so, a practice known as “gamification.”
Gamification has been demonstrated to drive people to adopt healthy behaviors, according to research. For example, a wristwatch that awards a “badge” for walking a specific amount of steps per day may be effective for someone who wishes to increase their physical activity. To encourage drivers to save gasoline, automakers typically include a real-time fuel efficiency display on the dashboard. Furthermore, a research conducted in Germany reveals that making safe driving a game might help to prevent distracted driving.
However, there is a bad side to gamification. Students were more willing to cheat to gain incentives when teachers included gamification into the classroom, according to Ohio State University researchers. Tesla’s new safe driving statistic may be pushing drivers to discover other means of achieving a good score, according to Fisher.
“Drivers want access to the so-called Full Self-Driving software that they’ve already paid up to $10,000 for, so they may be willing to game the system to get a score that’s good enough,” he says.
Tesla’s safety specialists at CR urge that the company use additional data that its vehicles gather to better understand a driver’s activities. Even while Tesla automobiles can get more information about a drive than most others (such why a driver slammed the brakes, whether or not a light is going to turn, and the current road conditions), the Safety Score doesn’t take it into account, according to Funkhouser.
According to her, Tesla is in a good position to raise the Safety Score and encourage safe driving habits. For this reason, drivers should expect Teslas to gather even more data about their surroundings when they accelerate and decelerate, such as what sorts of objects they’re attempting to avoid colliding with while they’re going fast.
According to Funkhouser, slamming on the brake to avoid a biker or pedestrian is not a sign of a terrible driver. Additionally, Tesla might keep track of whether the driver is applying the brakes to slow down, or whether the car is utilizing its own regenerative braking system to do it.
According to her, the score should account for whether or not a driver is speeding. According to her, automobiles are now capable of reading speed limit signs and Autopilot may be set to stay inside that limit. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, even going a few miles per hour over the speed limit increases the severity of a collision victim’s injuries.
Fisher believes that an improvement to the Safety Score should go hand in hand with enhanced monitoring of the driver.
Many Tesla models are already equipped with cameras facing the driver, which may be used to evaluate whether or not the driver is paying attention to the road. Tesla’s software might also tell the company how often people are using their phones.
According to Fisher, if Tesla wants to promote safe driving, it should pay attention to whether or not the driver is paying attention.
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