Tesla Model S Achieves NCAP 5-Star Safety Rating

Nov 06, 2014 09:00 AM EST | Matt Mercuro

The Tesla Model S has received a maximum-possible 5-star safety rating from the European New Car Assessment Program (Euro NCAP).

In doing so, the Model S completed a rare feat: achieving a 5-star safety rating from both Euro NCAP and the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Tesla's flagship vehicle is the only car in 2014 to achieve both 5-star Euro NCAP rating and 5 stars in every NHTSA subcategory, including side, rollover and frontal impact tests.

"The dual 5-star ratings for Model S validate our holistic approach to safety," Tesla said in a statement. "We have been engineering passive and active safety systems in parallel, so the car is structurally sound and is also designed to intelligently anticipate and react to potentially dangerous situations."

The reason only a few vehicle achieve 5-star ratings in both the U.S. and Europe is that each program focuses on different safety aspects during their assessment process.

For example, NHTSA focuses on structural and restraint safety, with an emphasis on how well the vehicle can handle and absorb the energy of an impact while still protecting those inside the vehicle. It is also mainly concerned with how well a vehicle keeps adult occupants safe.

An important part of Euro NCAP's 5-star requirement is active safety. Each year, the European organization raises the standard for a 5-star rating to account for technological advances in the auto world.

"Structurally, Model S has advantages not seen in conventional cars. It has a low center of gravity because its battery pack, the largest mass in the car, is positioned underneath the passenger compartment, making rollover extremely unlikely," Tesla said. "It also has a large front crumple zone because of the lack of an engine, meaning it can absorb more energy from a frontal impact, the most common type of crash resulting in fatalities."

"Its body is reinforced with aluminum extrusions at strategic locations around the car, and the roof can withstand at least 4 g's," the automaker added. "It was for these reasons that Model S achieved 5 stars in every subcategory when tested by NHTSA in 2013."

This quarter Tesla started implementing the Model S active safety system in conjunction with the introduction of new Autopilot hardware, consisting of 12 ultrasonic sensors that are capable of sensing up to 16 feet around the vehicle, a forward radar, a forward-looking camera and a digitally controlled electric brake boost.

Tesla selected this hardware to "accommodate" the progressive introduction of new safety features through software updates over the course of the "next several months."

"Safety has always been Tesla's top priority, and we remain committed to continuously improving Model S to ensure that adults, children, and pedestrians alike receive the best possible protection from the car and its technology," Tesla said in a statement. "In the meantime, Model S owners can be secure in the knowledge that this recognition from Euro NCAP reaffirms their car's outstanding safety qualities."

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