Teslas Sold in Europe Have an "Active Hood" to Protect Pedestrians. American Pedestrians? Look Both Ways.

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©. Tesla

The Tesla Model S is among the safest cars on the road, but it is even safer in Europe, especially for pedestrians.

They care a lot about pedestrian safety in Europe. It's different in America, where they just blame the pedestrian for texting and jaywalking, and worry about style. As one expert noted in Automotive News,

"Pedestrian protection is one of the last frontiers of vehicle safety," said Clarence Ditlow, executive director for the Center for Auto Safety in Washington. But he added: "NHTSA [National Highway Traffic Safety Administration] has been reluctant to regulate it because it so closely relates to styling."

But as more and more American cars are sold in the international market, they are being designed to those tough Euro NCAP standards, which usually mean that they have higher hood lines, to provide space between the hood and the engine, with the hood engineered to flex when a head hits it. The bumpers are lower and the front is softer, lessening the likelihood of broken legs.

active bonnet

Euro NCAP Active Bonnet/Public Domain

That makes it harder to get a low, dramatic front end like on a Tesla Model S, so Tesla takes another approach: the “active hood” or as they call it in Europe, the “Active bonnet.” The video shows it in operation on a Citroen a few years ago:

Kyle writes in Teslarati that Teslas exported to Europe or Australia have the active bonnet, and quotes the manual exported with the car:

Model S features a pyrotechnically-assisted pedestrian protection system that reduces head injuries to pedestrians and cyclists in a frontal collision. If the sensors in the front bumper detect an impact with a pedestrian when Model S is moving between 19 and 53 km/h, the rear portion of the hood automatically raises approximately 80 mm. This creates space between the relatively soft hood and the hard components beneath to absorb some of the impact energy in a collision.

Unfortunately they don’t install this system in cars sold in North America, because they don’t have to; there is a different attitude here toward mowing down pedestrians. Even the commenters on Automotive News suggest that a better strategy is “How about this: pedestrians should look both ways before crossing a street?”

Tesla 3


But the launch of the Model 3 raises some questions. According to Fred Lampert in Electrek, an analyst predicts that “Tesla Model 3 will give ‘superhuman’ safety to driver.”

“We think the Model 3 will feature hardware and software that provide a level of active safety that could significantly lead all other cars on sale today and could, if the company achieves its goal, be an order of magnitude (i.e. 10x) safer than the average car on the road. According to nearly every OEM we talk to, safety is the number 1 determinant of car purchases. Look for safety to be the “ah-hah!” moment for this car due to launch this year.”
Tesla Model 3

Tesla Model 3/ teslarati/via

Which brings us to the Tesla Model 3 front end. Does it meet the Euro NCAP standard? Unless it is made of foam or some other squishy material, that boaty front end looks like it is designed to slice a pedestrian at the thigh level. There will be active systems to prevent collisions; Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas is quoted on CNBC:

Jonas said the Model 3 could have at least 19 sensors, collecting information that "will be analyzed by a liquid cooled [Nvidia] supercomputer that is 40x more powerful than the original Autopilot system. "In our opinion," he continued, "Tesla may be downplaying the role of the all-new hardware architecture of the Model 3 in terms of improved occupant and pedestrian safety to avoid cannibalization of demand of the other models (i.e. S and X) that do not have the new hardware architecture."

But it will still have to pass the Euro NCAP test with bouncing heads and breaking legs, as seen on the video at about 1:18.

The real scandal here is that North American cars do not have to meet these standards; Tesla should take the lead and supply the active hood everywhere. But I suppose it will always be cheaper to blame the pedestrian for texting or not looking both ways.