Millions of simulations pays off.
We talk a lot about Tesla's crashing, mostly having to do with its full self-driving/autopilot features, although once in a while someone uses it to stop a crime, but we can't deny that Elon Musk's lineup of sedans and crossovers is pretty safe. The Model S is five stars overall from NHTSA and the 3, X and Y are top safety picks from IIHS.
Today we're peeking inside Tesla's crash lab where engineers are touting its extra safety tests the company does beyond what either of the national safety agencies do. In this test it's investigating an extremely small overlap with a large pickup (ahem, Chevy Silverado).
"Previously the best way to design a safe car was for industry standard crash testing," says Dan, safety engineer for Tesla. "And those crash tests are like a few grains of sand. Those grains of sand are meant to represent the beach. But in reality the beach is infinitely complex and every crash is different."
With new tech, and a huge fleet of cars gathering petaflops of data, Tesla has information on every one of its crashes in the wild. In addition to that it can simulate millions more. It says it can make its cars safer by adding protection for these edge cases.
"Once we found the gap, between what the legal testing required and the types of crashes that we saw from our fleet data," said Mubeen, crash simulation engineer, "we decided to use our very detailed simulation models to run impacts in different locations. And we use this to really tune, down to the millimeter and mile per hour, the threshold at which you need airbags or don't need airbags. We use that to tune the seatbelts and airbags for optimal safety."
It's basically figuring out the right amount of restraint for every situation. The video wraps up with a violent Tesla Model Y/Silverado crash that spins the EV like a top. The airbags deployed as necessary and the "passengers" seemed to be in good shape.