Radar sensors were its Achilles' heel.
One key Tesla Model 3 ingredient - a lack of radar - prevented the EV from retaining its "Top Safety Pick+" status from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and a Consumer Reports' "Top Pick."
This was because the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) determined last May that the car (along with the Model Y) no longer had forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and emergency brake support.
These important safety systems were removed because the cars were no longer being equipped with radar sensors. Today, both CR and the IIHS have reissued their respective ratings for the Model 3 following testing of its new camera-based system for automatic emergency braking and forward-collision warning.
The IIHS made the announcement via Twitter and CR was soon to follow. "Given the IIHS' recent evaluations of Tesla's new camera-based system on its Model 3 and consistent with CR's integration of IIHS ratings into our recommendations, CR is restoring the car's Top Pick status."
Not long ago, Tesla opted to ditch the radar sensors in favor of cameras, a system it calls Tesla Vision. The company says vehicles equipped with the technology utilize machine learning software in order to retain some previous radar-based functions. Tesla Vision-equipped vehicles are new to the market and CR believes it's possible a number of early examples were shipped without FCW or AEB.
Tesla didn't answer a request for comment, which isn't surprising because it lacks a PR department. However, the Model 3 the IIHS tested not only had Tesla Vision but also FCW and AEB, hence why it regained its top safety status.
Over the years, Tesla has been the subject of a number of safety-related issues, specifically its controversial Autopilot system and, more recently, Full Self-Driving beta testing. In reality, FSD is nothing more than Level 2 self-driving, the same rating as Autopilot. Tesla is still testing more advanced lidar sensors but there's no indication at this time whether the tech will reach production.