If the Cybertruck is deadly to pedestrians, it’s because all big trucks are

The Tesla Cybertruck has been out for just over a week and people are already ready to declare it a safety nightmare.

“Guidless missile” and “death machine” are some of the loaded phrases being thrown around. Safety experts are “raising concerns” about truck crumple zones (or lack thereof). TikTok and other social platforms are full of videos highlighting the poor sight lines and lack of visibility for drivers and passengers.

But if the Cybertruck is particularly deadly for pedestrians, cyclists and other vulnerable road users, it is because it is a large truck in America in 2023. We have a lot of data showing that America’s favorite type of vehicle is also one of the most popular. deadly. We have very little data on the Cybertruck in particular, as it has only been on the market for a few weeks and in extremely limited quantities.

But if the Cybertruck is particularly deadly for pedestrians, cyclists and other vulnerable road users, it is because it is a large truck in America in 2023.

We need more data – and testing – before we know more about the specific dangers posed by this sharp-angled stainless steel device. And at this time, neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) – two independent agencies that test new vehicles – have plans to conduct crash safety testing of the Cybertruck.

But based on the specs we know, we can certainly draw some conclusions about the Cybertruck. Like other trucks in its segment, the Cybertruck is heavy, tall, very fast and likely extremely deadly for anyone unlucky enough to stumble in its path.

Last month, IIHS published a study that confirmed much of what we already know: Trucks and SUVs with long, flat fronts and high hoods are more deadly to pedestrians than more compact vehicles.

“High front ends increase risk,” said Raul Arbelaez, VP of the IIHS Vehicle Research Center. “For medium height vehicles, blocky or blunt front ends also increase the risk. A higher impact point increases the risk for cyclists.”

These features are not unique to the Cybertruck. Trucks from Ford, GM, Toyota, Ram and others are also extremely deadly to pedestrians. EV trucks in particular are more deadly due to the greater weight of the battery. And yet for some reason you don’t see that many media stories shouting out, say, the F-150 Lightning or Rivian R1T or Chevy Silverado EV.

“The vehicle weight in our fleet has continued to increase over the past twenty years,” says Arbelaez. “Electrification takes weight gain to another level, which will lead to dangerous results.”

Despite these conclusions, Arbelaez and other security experts are taking a wait-and-see approach to the Cybertruck. “We haven’t had the opportunity to measure the front of the Cybertruck yet, so we don’t know how it will compare to other pickups or SUVs,” he says.

A spokesperson for Consumer Reports says the same: “We’re going to wait for more data,” citing the need for independent testing data from NHTSA and IIHS.

Tesla conducted its own crash tests of the Cybertruck in-house, videos of which were shown at its delivery event last month. But NHTSA has yet to do its own implementation. In the US, car companies self-certify that their vehicles meet federal safety standards that require everything from side mirrors to airbags and automatic emergency braking. There is no ‘pre-approval’ before an automaker can sell its cars to the public.

“We are waiting for more data.”

This allows Tesla to sell cars with driver assistance systems that safety experts say endanger drivers and pedestrians. And it makes it possible to sell a truck made of stainless steel and without rounded edges. According to the NHTSA website, the Cybertruck “meets performance criteria” for standards such as lane departure warnings and dynamic braking assistance. But there is no five-star safety rating and the Cybertruck was not included in the agency’s list of vehicles to be crash-tested in 2024.

So far, the aforementioned crash test videos that Tesla showed at its delivery event have been the focus of most questions, with many focusing on the truck’s crumple zones, or lack thereof.

The crumple zone is the area of ​​a vehicle that is designed to crush or crumple in a crash. The crumple zone is often located at the front of a vehicle and absorbs some of the impact of a crash, protecting the driver and other occupants.

By absorbing and dissipating energy, crumple zones help prevent or reduce injuries to vehicle occupants during a crash. A stiffer vehicle, perhaps made of stainless steel, could complicate this process.

There are even more design choices that make the Cybertruck an unsettling addition to our roads.

There are even more design choices that make the Cybertruck an unsettling addition to our roads. With the hood angled, the blind spots in the corners look dangerous. Tesla has added cameras to compensate for these blind spots, but it’s unclear what a driver can actually see. The steering is digital and not mechanical (“steering by wire”), side mirrors are removable and there is no rear view mirror at all – the only way to see what’s to the side or rear is via the center console screen, which is also the instrument is panel, GPS maps, Bluetooth controls and radio. The exterior is made of “bulletproof” steel with hardened Gorilla glass windows.

But again, all we have are a few videos. What we need is data, independently verified, before we can definitively say this truck will cause mass death and destruction. Security experts quoted by Reuters Recognize that there may be a shock-absorbing mechanism that compensates for the apparent lack of crumple zones. We just don’t know yet.

Elon Musk does “very confident” that the Cybertruck will be safer than other trucks on the road for occupants and pedestrians. Tesla has historically achieved high safety ratings thanks to its underlying architecture, which makes the car stiffer and better protects passengers. The location of the battery in the floor of the vehicle also gives the Model Y and other Tesla vehicles a lower center of gravity, which improves handling and reduces the chance of rollover. All four of Tesla’s vehicles, the Model S, X, 3 and Y, have received five-star ratings from Euro NCAP.

But the Cybertruck is a truck, and trucks have historically been a pedestrian safety nightmare. The same goes for every Ford, GMC, Hummer and Ram truck on the road today. The underlying issues of weight, height and size have contributed to the current pedestrian safety crisis, with more people dying on the road than at any time in the last four decades.

The Cybertruck is unlikely to be sold in Europe, where the bar for pedestrian safety is much higher than in the US. One of Tesla’s chief designers said this in an interview with Top Gear Netherlandsblaming the rigid stainless steel exterior.

There is no such rule here in the US. Our vehicle safety rating system only considers the people inside the car, not outside it. The production and sale of aggressive, gigantic machines adept at killing us is depressingly legal and will likely remain so until something changes.

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