OPINION: Tesla’s ‘Safety Score’ Beta needs broader terms for factoring your score

Tesla’s “Safety Score” Beta is one of the most impressive ideas to improve driving safety, in my opinion. An article from Model 3 owner and Tesla enthusiast Nick Howard explained that Tesla is essentially gamifying the act of driving, encouraging owners to drive in a manner that would allow their scores to be higher. If you know anything about the Tesla community, you know that it is filled with die-hard fans who are satirically battling it out for the elusive 100 scores. While Tesla has outlined the ways that driving behaviors could affect the score for better or for worse, I believe that other instances may need to be outlined so owners are perfectly clear on how their score could be affected based on their hobbies or driving style. While I disagree with Consumer Reports’ assumption that the Safety Score is a bad idea (which, in reality, makes no real sense to me), I do believe that some owners are confused on what makes their score higher or lower, especially as many owners are attempting to enter the elusive Full Self-Driving Beta program.

If you’ve taken a peek at Tesla’s Support page that outlines the numerous factors that can affect a driver’s Safety Score, it seems pretty straightforward. There are cut and dry behaviors that tend to be recognized universally as “aggressive,” including tailgating, hard braking, and aggressive turning. Additionally, Forward Collision Warnings per 1,000 miles and forced Autopilot disengagements are also included in the behaviors that could affect your score, but these are exclusive to Tesla, of course, due to their use of Forward Collision Warnings and Autopilot disengagement.

It’s very self-explanatory: Drive safely and receive a higher score. But are there not instances where things could get a tad confusing for some drivers, especially those with scores just below the perfect 100 threshold?

One example that I saw over the weekend was from Richard Marrero, a Tesla owner who was curious about taking his vehicle to the local racetrack. While Tesla owners are occasionally hitting the accelerator when a stoplight turns green, it may be understandable for Safety Scores to be affected. However, what if the nature of the driving occurs on a closed circuit? Marrero may drive like a saint on the road but might want to push his vehicle to the limit at a local dragstrip or raceway. After all, why have a high-performance car with face-melting acceleration if you can’t test it from time to time?

There are other examples that could affect a Safety Score that are technically out of the driver’s control. In some instances, it may be an action taken by the driver that is technically safer than other options, yet it could reduce the Safety Score. Tesla Joy, a Model 3 owner, encountered this predicament on October 1, according to a Tweet. Her Safety Score was reduced due to hard braking at a “quick changing yellow light.” I believe nearly everyone who has a driver’s license can attest that some stoplights are slightly more accelerated than others. Quick changing yellow lights are one of the most polarizing events in a daily drive. Some will tell you just to run through it, others will argue that the safer thing to do is just slow down and stop. Whichever way you choose to handle this scenario, you are likely to encounter someone who shares a point of view on how to handle the premature yellow light in a different manner.

However, I don’t necessarily believe that there is a “wrong” way to handle it. While the right way to do it, according to my knowledge as a driver of over 11 years, would require you to slow down and come to a stop, especially since the yellow light is a key indicator of “slow down.” Tesla Joy did it as most Learner’s Permit booklets would describe, yet she was still docked points.

There are undoubtedly more examples of how Tesla could do a better job of explaining what actions are not favorable for the Safety Score system, and I would love to hear your thoughts or examples on things that have occurred that affected your score. Tesla did a wonderful job of outlining the most face-value actions that Safety Scores will be affected by, but there are other questions that need to be confronted so drivers are clear on what other things could hurt their scores. After all, the wider the FSD Beta testing group is, the more data Tesla will obtain through its Neural Network.

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