Tesla Model S: The First Driverless Armored Vehicle?

Lexi Tucker
Posted on January 23, 2017

TORRANCE, Calif. — An aspiration to create the safest cars on the road and eventually prepare for full autonomy is what will set Tesla apart from all others, said Michael Stafford, North America corporate sales manager for Tesla, during a recent press event.

Stafford on Jan. 18 mentioned a crash test video he once saw in which a post was driven into a driver’s door at a rate of 60mph of both a Volvo S60 and Tesla Model S. The S60 had a foot intrusion, while the Model S stopped the intrusion at about six inches. He referred to the video while meeting with editors of LCT and related fleet vehicle magazines at parent company Bobit Business Media’s headquarters in Torrance.

Both the Tesla Model S and X have five-star safety ratings, and the upcoming Model 3 is designed to achieve the same. If one does get into a collision, the large, dense metal battery protects passengers and slows down the impact.

The rollover capacity of the Model S sedan, which has shown up in a few chauffeured vehicle fleets as a premium level vehicle, is enhanced by its structural rigidity.

The company began by testing the vehicle’s own weight (about 4,700 lbs.) on top of it, but saw no result. They doubled and tripled the pressure, and it still didn’t collapse. They would have tried to quadruple it, but the machine couldn’t do it. “We wanted to go for a six star rating, but it doesn’t exist,” Stafford said.

He also mentioned Tesla vehicles have now reached a Level 3 autonomy rating. This means drivers are still necessary, but are able to completely shift "safety-critical functions" to the vehicle, under certain traffic or environmental conditions.

“We are monitoring everyone that has a Tesla,” Stafford said. “We have millions and millions of miles of road tests, whereas Google is out there trying to rack up miles.”

Although this might raise privacy concerns, the data collection isn’t for advertising purposes. “We are looking at it from a standpoint of how the vehicle responds, and we want to use this data to improve our process.”

With companies such as Google, Uber, and Lyft are trying to break into the self-driving vehicle market, LCT asked if Tesla was looking to partner with any Transportation Network Companies. Stafford responded, “We haven’t approached them, and they haven’t approached us.”

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Related Topics: Electric Vehicles, green vehicles, Tesla, Tesla Model S

Lexi Tucker Senior Editor
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