Tesla Model 3 software update earns Consumer Reports' approval

SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk | AP

"I've never seen a vehicle that could improve its track performance with an over-the-air update", said Jake Fisher, the director of auto testing at Consumer Reports.

Musk had acknowledged the brake issue last week, saying that the magazine's tests had used two early versions of the vehicle and that a firmware update could improve braking distance beyond initial specs.

Last week, after CR's road test was published, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted that the firm would fix the issue "within days".

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Indeed according to Consumer Reports, post-update the Model 3 has cut almost 20 feet from its braking distance. But Consumer Reports said the stopping distance was not class leading and the further updates may be necessary.

Last week, Consumer Reports said it couldn't recommend the Model 3 because when it tested the vehicle, it had a stopping distance of 152 feet when traveling at 60 miles an hour.

The improved braking raised the car's score high enough for it to be a recommended buy. But Consumer Reports still has concerns over wind noise, a stiff ride, and the touch-screen controls that could distract a driver. Musk has told Consumer Reports that Tesla has already made changes to its production line to address those issues. Musk also suggested the car's 15-inch touchscreen display could receive an over-the-air update to make it easier to use. "I've been at CR for 19 years and tested more than 1,000 cars", Jake Fisher, director of auto testing at the organization said of the change, "and I've never seen a vehicle that could improve its track performance with an over-the-air update". Musk said in his tweet that user interface improvements are "coming via remote software update later this month".

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Despite the thumb's up from Consumer Reports, Tesla remains under scrutiny for a number of accidents involving its vehicles' "Autopilot" system. Improved windshield for aero noise & suspension for ride comfort are major ops. And it comes at a critical time for Tesla, which has struggled to ramp up production of the Model 3 and is facing pressure from unhappy activist investor groups to bring on more independent board members.

"Looks like this can be fixed with a firmware update", Musk said. "Tesla has always been clear that Autopilot doesn't make the auto impervious to all accidents, and before a driver can use Autopilot, they must accept a dialogue box which states that 'Autopilot is designed for use on highways that have a center divider and clear lane markings", the company said.

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