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SAFETY | 9 out of 10
Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has yet crash-tested the 2013 Tesla Model S. In fact, neither group even lists Tesla as an existing carmaker yet. And given the car's relatively low production and sales volumes in its first year or two, it may take a while before one or both groups has anything official to say about the Model S.
Meanwhile, the Model S comes with eight airbags, and the usual suite of expected electronic safety systems, including traction control, anti-lock brakes, and the newly mandatory tire-pressure monitoring system. Outward visibility from the Model S driver's seat is good to the front and sides, but the steeply angled rear window glass offers little more than a slit in the rear-view mirror.
The 2013 Model S does not, however offer any of the extensive array of electronic safety monitoring, warning, and correction systems that line the options lists of its luxury competitors. Those include adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning or correction, and crash-avoidance braking systems.
There's also an unresolved concern with the optional rear-facing sixth and seventh seats, which hold only small children and come with racing-style four-point safety harnesses. Their location in the rear cargo bay--close to the rear bumper, tailgate, and roof--may make rear-impact protection a particular challenge, but we'll have to wait and see.
The 2013 Tesla Model S has earned five stars from the NHTSA, and it comes with the usual complement of airbags and safety systems.