What is it about the Tesla Model Y that makes it so safe? Explaining the Devil’s Slide crash. [All survived. No fire.]

Screenshot of crash site from California Highway Patrol video, shot from rescue helicopter courtesy: CHP Golden Gate Division Air Ops

All week long I’ve been asked the question, did you hear about the Tesla that flew over the cliff and everybody in it survived? 

I’m sure you heard about the 4 people surviving when a Tesla Model Y flew over the edge of a 250-foot cliff and landed safely without even a fire occuring. It’s like something out of a James Bond movie! And it’s actually related to hard-core engineering and principles of physics. This article will take a quick look at why the Model Y is so safe. Special guest writer Whole Mars Catalog shares the story here with details on the engineering of the vehicle.

  • How high is 250 feet? I compare the 250-foot Devil’s Slide to several spots in Austin. 
  • What is so special about the way the Model Y is made? Whole Mars explains.
  • Why there was no fire. Tesla battery is made to protect occupants.
  • Where is the Y made and how can I get one?

UPDATE: Franz von Holzhausen, Chief Designer at Tesla stated in an interview with Ryan McCaffrey dated January 15,

“Even when somebody wasn’t looking out for their family, Tesla was.”
Franz von Holzhausen

HOW HIGH IS 250 FEET?

I often share pictures of the view from the cliffs by Austin’s Pennybacker Bridge on my Twitter account.  The bridge is only 100 feet above the water. The cliffs are closer to 250 feet, similar to Devil’s Slide.  Austin’s Shore Condos are 257 feet tall. Imagine a car flying off the top of that!

Special guest writer Omar Qazi of Whole Mars Catalog shares the Devil’s Slide story here with details on the engineering of the vehicle

Crashes along Devil's Slide in California rarely end with survivors. So when Dharmesh A. Patel allegedly attempted a murder/suicide by driving off the cliff with a woman, 4-year-old girl, 9-year-old boy, few had hope. 
Just one problem with Patel's plan: He was in a Tesla.
Brian Pottenger, battalion chief for Cal Fire, had this to say about the rescue: "We go there all the time for cars over the cliff and they never live. This was an absolute miracle.” 
As they arrived at the scene, other firefighters watching the sedan through binoculars suddenly noticed movement - a sign that at least one person was still alive. 
"Every one of us was shocked when we saw movement out of the front windshield" — Pottenger 
"The incident turned from what had been likely a recovery of bodies to a rescue operation that took several hours amid constant rain, heavy winds, slick roads and crashing waves" — ABC 7
"Crews pulled the kids out of the back window and brought them up the cliff by hand in a rescue basket using the rope system. They were rushed to the hospital by ambulance with musculoskeletal injuries. They were more scared than they were hurt," Pottenger said.
All four passengers were fully conscious when they were retrieved. How? 
This wasn't just a miracle. It was the result of endless work and effort by the Tesla team to build the world's safest car. 
A car that lets you walk away from even the most horrible situation. 
It starts with the structural design of the vehicle. In traditional combustion engine (ICE) cars, the front of the vehicle is filled with an engine that gets pushed in towards the cabin in the event of a crash. 
EVs like Teslas don't have engines. So the front is a storage & crumple zone.
Essentially the front of a Tesla works as a giant metal trampoline, cushioning the passengers from impact.
But it doesn't stop with just the structural design of the vehicle. Software and over-the-air updates are a big part of what makes Tesla safer than other cars. One example is the computer vision-based automatic seatbelt pretensioner. More about that here.
Using the same vision system that drives the car, the seat belt pre-tensioner can detect that a crash is about to happen and automatically pre-tighten the seat belt ahead of time to protect occupants — like the kids & adults in the Devil's Slide crash. 
Most car companies are done crash testing once they sell the car to you. Not at Tesla. They continuously review data from real crashes to optimize airbags and crash response even AFTER you've picked up the car through continuous over-the-air software updates.

And that's just the beginning. I could go on and on. So as $TSLA faced it's worst single-day performance in history for delivering 15,000 fewer cars than expected (only a record 405,000!), remember this. The lives saved. The murders prevented. That is Tesla. 

Tesla has some of the most brilliant engineers in the world working tirelessly to keep us safe. Even after a 70% drawdown in the last year, I'm proud to own a piece of this company. They're working on things that are important for all of us, and that amaze me every day. Miracles. Brought to you by the Tesla Engineering team.   - Whole Mars Catalog (Omar Qazi)


WHY THERE WAS NO FIRE, TESLA BATTERY PROTECTS OCCUPANTS

Tesla batteries are designed to prevent fires and protect the occupants. In this crash down Devil’s Slide there was no fire. You can read the Tesla vehicle safety report, which states,

“Model S, Model 3, Model X and Model Y have achieved among the lowest overall probability of injury of any vehicles ever tested by the U.S. government’s New Car Assessment Program. Much of this has to do with the rigid, fortified structure of the battery pack that is mounted to the car’s floor, which provides a vehicle with exceptional strength, large crumple zones, and a uniquely low center of gravity. Because of their strength, Tesla’s battery packs rarely incur serious damage in accidents. And, in the extremely unlikely event that a fire occurs, the state-of-the-art design of our battery packs ensures that its safety system works as intended and isolates a fire to select areas within the battery while simultaneously venting heat away from the passenger cabin and the vehicle.”

WHERE IS THE MODEL Y MADE AND HOW CAN I GET ONE?

Tesla Model Y won first place for most American-made car in 2022. That’s because Model Y is made in the USA with the majority of parts also made in the USA.

Model Y is also made in Berlin, Germany and Shanghai China. So, depending on where you live, your Y would be made in the factory closest to you. Here’s a link to the official Tesla website where you can purchase a Y www.tesla.com/modely

CONCLUSION

  • Devil’s slide’s 250 foot drop is extreme. I compared it to the distance from the top of the cliffs at Pennybacker Bridge down to the water, or the top of the shore condos down to the ground. 
  • Model Y is intentionally engineered to be safer than govt requirements. Whole Mars Catalog shares the details of the crash and the engineering that make up the Y. 
  • Model Y is made in the USA in California and Texas. It’s also made to the same high standards in Berlin and Shanghai.
Hike & Bike Trail of East Austin, Colorado River, Courtesy CVSherman
Hike & Bike Trail of East Austin, Colorado River, Courtesy CVSherman

Love to read about Model Y and FSD? Here are more articles…

Model Y: Big Road Trip Advantages Any Tesla is great to take on a road trip because Autopilot makes the journey much easier. But Model Y has two distinct advantages!

If You Haven’t Used Autopilot Yet, Why Not? (3 Essentials) This article is for everyone who has ever thought, “I love my Tesla, but I will never do Autopilot, it’s too scary.”  I am with you, it can be scary. This article covers 3 areas,

  1. Tesla Autopilot is safer than a human driving
  2. Enabling Autopilot during a drive is easy
  3. You can use Autopilot on your daily drives and disable it anytime during a drive

Enjoying Tesla Autonomy What makes a road trip more fun? Tesla Autopilot definitely does! Freeway driving is also safer when there are eight cameras looking out for your family’s safety.

Gail Alfar, author. Exclusive to What’s Up Tesla – January 8, 2023. All Rights Reserved. My goal as an author is to support Tesla (the most American vehicle manufacturer) and Elon Musk in both making life better on earth for humans and becoming a space-fairing civilization. Updated on January 15 and January 20, 2023.

Whole Mars Catalog (Omar Qazi), guest author. Published with exclusive permission for What’s Up Tesla.

Tesla Blessed us with the best video ever! Behind the scenes with the engineers at Tesla Winter Proving grounds! 

July Winter Testing | New Zealand Photo Courtesy Tesla, Inc.
July Winter Testing | New Zealand Photo Courtesy Tesla, Inc.

A few days ago I was out with my daughter and she said, ‘Have you seen this?’  We were in Starbucks sipping hot chocolate and it was freezing outside she turned on YouTube and we sat and watched the new video released by Tesla of the cars being tested in the snow in New Zealand.

This is a dream come true to me because my favorite kind of Tesla videos is the ones with the cars drifting in the snow. So this article is going to feature some images from that and hopefully, you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.

Snowy Tesla Proving Grounds | July in New Zealand

When it’s hot in Texas it’s freezing in New Zealand and Tesla tests software updates that are created in part by the team in the USA and are uploaded to the cars in New Zealand for testing.

Tesla shared a wide shot of the proving grounds, and they are magnificent in the below photo!

July Winter Testing | New Zealand Photo Courtesy Tesla, Inc.
July Winter Testing | New Zealand Photo Courtesy Tesla, Inc.

This Looks Fun, I Want to do it!

July Winter Testing | New Zealand Photo Courtesy Tesla, Inc.
July Winter Testing | New Zealand Photo Courtesy Tesla, Inc.

Not so fast.  Well, maybe you could do it.  And Tesla engineers in the video were shown shoveling snow, getting up early in the dark, installing tires in the snow, driving in rain and snow, analyzing performance, cleaning dirt and ice off tires and explaining that they do everything, from driving the car to writing the code to calibration to “improve the software using a super quick feedback loop.” 

One Tesla engineer explains that he gets up at 5 am, works 12 hours, and is pretty much busy the whole time.   I know what that’s like.  Registered Nurses have a similar 12-hour schedule, and it is hard work.  These Tesla employees know they are doing work that will save lives and they were willing to share their thoughts in the video.  Here are a few of their comments,

“Where else are you going to find snow in July and August?  It’s crazy! It’s confusing for the body and it’s always been that way. But it puts a smile on your face every single day.  No matter how many weeks you’re working here!” – Tesla engineer in a Texas Buc-ee’s shirt 

“A day in New Zealand starts at 5 am. You wake up. You go go go as soon as you get here, we’re usually here from 7-7 and we’ll drive back with the data, compare the build to the next day and hopefully grab some dinner.” – Tesla engineers

“Obviously fun and important work” – Tesla engineer

“We go all over to test the cars to the extreme so that no matter where the customer takes the car the vehicles are going to be stable.” – Tesla engineer

“It’s super cool to talk to people in California, send that update halfway across the world, you go on top of a mountain and you test that update. That’s something that I’ve never experienced before.” -Tesla engineer 

July Winter Testing | New Zealand Photo Courtesy Tesla, Inc.
July Winter Testing | New Zealand Photo Courtesy Tesla, Inc.

Here are some of the projects that Tesla worked on in July! 

  • Model Y track mode. A new development for the Y performance package that enables wild maneuvers and drifting
  • Winter TESLA improvements for all four S3XY cars
  • thousands of runs and extreme conditions to test each new software before it’s released

UPDATE: On January 11, 2023 Tesla shared a video of Model Y drifting in snow, enjoy it!

CONCLUSION

Tesla shared a rare behind-the-scenes look at how they test and improve vehicle performance in winter conditions.  Tesla engineers also shared their personal experiences and spoke about what it is like to do this kind of work.  I would say the best part about their job is taking the Model Y onto the proving grounds on a sunny day and having to test track mode on the snow hundreds of times!  Enjoy the video!  

Love to read more on other topics? 

Read Miss Go Electric’s live Twitter thread on her experience traveling in severe winter weather here.

Check out Drive Tesla Canada’s Tweet about success in freezing weather in a Model 3 here.

Tesla Cold Weather Travel: Travel Better with Safety Tips from Tesla and an RN Read a brief overview of my recommendations, many based on what Tesla also recommends. 

TESLA ELECTRIC IS HERE TO STAY Read how Tesla has unveiled Tesla Electric in Texas. Tesla Electric is a new product offering. Just like you can buy a Tesla vehicle or purchase Tesla solar + Powerwalls, now many people in the state of Texas can purchase their electricity exclusively from Tesla Electric. 

Gail Alfar, author. Exclusive to What’s Up Tesla – December 24, 2022. All Rights Reserved. My goal as an author is to support Tesla and Elon Musk in both making life better on earth for humans and becoming a space-fairing civilization. Header image Courtesy Tesla, Inc.

How Far Away are we from Full Autonomy in a Tesla?

Today, over a cup of hot Texas Pecan coffee, I began thinking about how great my Tesla is running on FSD beta, and I was wondering just how far away we all are from a Tesla Robotaxi. 

My Tesla seems almost fully autonomous, so I wanted to find out about other peoples’ experiences.  I did a little searching and came to find out there are many people all over the USA driving in many conditions with zero disengagements when they use FSD beta.  I found out Tesla’s first concern is safety and that no other vehicle companies are doing it like Tesla.  Let’s look further into these details, and come up with a smart estimate of how far away we are from full Tesla autonomy.

Three Tesla drivers (including me) experience near-autonomous driving on busy challenging roads 

On a typical street in the suburbs in front of a typical Austin house, I got ready to do errands I put the Tesla in FSD beta mode –always remember that when you use FSD beta, your eyes must be constantly on the road and your hands on the steering wheel– and sat back and monitored the car’s driving as it began to wind around Austin streets, up and down hills and to a busy intersection where it made a right on red and merged quickly onto the 183.  After a smooth change onto busy Mopac, the car exited onto a two-lane access road and a half mile down it slowed and turned onto a private drive and took us past parked cars, and stopped at the front doors of a medical clinic.  

Several hours later, I was back in the Tesla. Tesla maps have a tab that says “hungry.”  I used this to find a new place to get food and then pressed FSD beta and the car was off. We came to a 4 lane unprotected left turn –kinda an anxiety provoker for me– and the software found a break in the traffic and moved to the middle divider.  After several cars, it made the left turn, moved over 2 more lanes, and then made a quick right.  Taking a street I had never been on before, the car turned into a parking lot and stopped in front of the restaurant. We had a GREAT meal and talked about, you guessed it, Tesla!

People across the country, from California to Texas to New York, are essentially already experiencing supervised and safe autonomy on complex unmarked roads with turns, construction, and more. 

Around the same time, in San Francisco, Omar Qazi of Whole Mars Blog, was testing FSD beta in his Tesla, he explains, “If you went and gave a few Uber rides using FSD Beta, the vast majority of the passengers would not notice that the car is being driven by software. Some people didn’t believe me so I ran an experiment… “ The first passenger had no clue at all that the car was driving itself, and when she found out she laughed with delight and called it cool! 

The second passenger didn’t notice at first but then later noticed the car was stopping when Omar did not have his feet on the brakes, He said, “so this is like a driverless car?” He was clearly delighted and also thought it was awesome.

Meanwhile, in New York state, a similar scenario was playing out.  Corey Aronson wrote, “Just did three Uber rides in a row. All zero takeover. All passengers on all rides had zero clue the car was driving itself. I can’t drive better than FSD Beta anymore, almost ever. Everyone is just on their phone getting driven by the robot.”  Corey told me the most common things people ask first about FSD beta are if it “Works without the yellow road lines?” and “Will it put the blinker on?” Of course, the answer is YES to both!

What more is needed for full Tesla autonomy?

To try to answer this, I listened carefully to what Elon Musk said during the Tesla, Q3 2022 earnings call,

“The safety that we are seeing, when the car is in FSD mode is actually significantly greater than the safety that we are seeing when it is not, which a key threshold for going to wide beta.”  – Elon Musk

Elon Musk explained that in Q4 2022, we should expect Tesla will release FSD beta to every single person that has purchased FSD. 

This means that before we see full autonomy, more people need to use FSD beta, in order to contribute valuable data to Tesla’s AI team.  The more use cases there are, the better! 

Why is Tesla leading in this area and what’s the difference between what Tesla does and what other vehicle companies are doing for autonomy?

Tesla AI team has some of the best artificial intelligence researchers in the world, so the software evolves into sharper accuracy and greater safety over a short time.  Elon Musk spoke about the great interest in Tesla AI at the Q3 2022 earnings call,

 “Our goal with that AI Day was to push recruiting, and we’ve seen a massive influx of world class artificial intelligence engineers and scientists.  It generated a tremendous amount of interest from some of the best AI researchers in the world. 

I can’t emphasize the importance of this enough.  Because I think, finally, it has become clear to the smartest AI technologists in the world, that Tesla is among the very best!” – Elon Musk

No other companies that aim to produce vehicles are like Tesla because they are relying on outdated, overpriced, and unreliable technology like Lidar and radar. 

Elon Musk has stated before that Tesla will offer their autonomous capabilities to others. Thus far, I have not found any other vehicle manufacturer outside of China to be seriously mass-manufacturing electric vehicles.

No other carmaker in the world has scaled the production of EVs like Tesla has. Tesla aims to mass-produce autonomous-capable cars.  Other manufacturers appear to be content with creating cars based on assembly techniques better suited to combustion cars and to employ “driverless systems” that are expensive, limited in speed, limited to where they are used, and cannot be scaled.

CONCLUSION

As shown in this article, Tesla vehicles are already capable of a high degree of autonomy in challenging situations including where there are no lane markings.  If you define autonomy in the high-quality way that Tesla does, Tesla is so far ahead of any other company, and when they offer Robotaxi, it’s going to apply to every situation, and it will not be limited.

It’s hard to say if autonomy will be solved for Tesla in 2023 or beyond, but I do think that the larger the fleet of vehicles are, the closer we are to it.

As a Registered Nurse, I always advocate for maximum safety for humans, and this coincides with Tesla’s mission!

  • Currently, there has to be a driver in the seat supervising because the system still needs to be safer. When the driver detects an unsafe situation, that driver takes over and that data can be sent to Tesla
  • Tesla’s AI Team, the best of its kind in the world, strives to increase safety all the time.  The smartest AI technologists in the world like to work for Tesla!
  • As safety reaches a point where it is above or equal to what the best human driver could do, we will start to see local regulatory agencies open the door to allowing Tesla to test Robotaxis on complex roads.

Austin Skyline by Christofer Sherman.

Want to read more excellent articles? I suggest…

Who Will Benefit Once Tesla Autonomy is Solved? I believe a world where autonomy is the norm is closer than we realize.  This article attempts to answer the question, who will benefit once Tesla autonomy is solved? 

If You Haven’t Used Autopilot Yet, Why Not? (3 Essentials) This article covers 3 areas,

  1. Tesla Autopilot is safer than a human driving
  2. Enabling Autopilot during a drive is easy
  3. You can use Autopilot on your daily drives and disable it anytime during a drive

Images in this article of the Model Y Midnight Cherry Red are Courtesy of Tesla, Inc.

Article Exclusive to What’s Up Tesla – October 29, 2022. All Rights Reserved. “My goal as an author is to support Tesla and Elon Musk in both making lives better on earth for humans and becoming a space-faring civilization.” – Gail Alfar

If You Haven’t Used Autopilot Yet, Why Not? (3 Essentials)

Tesla vehicles using Autopilot, credit Tesla

I’ve been using Tesla Autopilot with every drive since 2019, and testing Full Self Driving beta (FSD beta) daily since June 2022.

This article is for everyone who has ever thought, “I love my Tesla, but I will never do Autopilot, it’s too scary.”  I am with you, it can be scary. 

This article covers 3 areas,

  1. Tesla Autopilot is safer than a human driving
  2. Enabling Autopilot during a drive is easy
  3. You can use Autopilot on your daily drives and disable it anytime during a drive

Tesla Autopilot is safer than a human driving

Elon Musk had a conversation on the Lex Fridman podcast about the processes that happen when a human drives,

"When you drive down the road, and try to think about what your brain is actually doing, consciously, it’s like, you’ll see a car, because you don’t have cameras, you don’t have eyes in the back of your head, or the side, so you say like, you’re basically, your head is like a, you basically have like two cameras on a slow gimbal.  
And eyesight is not that great, okay? 
Human eyes are… and people are constantly distracted and thinking about things and texting and doing all sorts of things they shouldn’t do in a car or changing the radio station, having arguments, haha. 
Like, when’s the last time you looked right and left?  Or rearward? Or even diagonally forward to actually refresh your vector space? 
So, you’re glancing around and what your mind is doing is trying to distill the relevant vectors, basically objects with a position in motion, and then editing that down to the least amount that’s necessary for you to drive."  Elon Musk

When Tesla Autopilot is engaged, all 8 cameras on the vehicle measure the surroudings without any distractions and use pure vision to drive as safe as possible. Looking into the future, Elon continues his conversation with Lex and says,

"The cars will maneuver with super human ability and reaction time, much faster than a human.
I think, over time, the Autopilot, Full Self Driving will be capable of maneuvers that are far more than what James Bond could do in like the best movie type of thing. It’s like, impossible maneuvers that a human couldn’t do." Elon Musk

The Tesla 2021 Impact Report emphasizes how much safer Autopilot is,

“Tesla vehicles are engineered for safety and when Autopilot is engaged safety is enhanced. 
 In 2021, we recorded 0.22 crashes for every million miles driven in which drivers were using Autopilot technology (Autosteer and active safety features). 
For drivers who were not using Autopilot technology (no Autosteer and active safety features), we recorded 0.77 crashes for every million miles driven. 
By comparison, NHTSA’s most recent data shows that in the United States there are 1.81 automobile crashes for every million miles driven.”

Avoiding serious accidents when car is in Autopilot: 2 examples

In these 2 examples, major accidents were avoided because Tesla’s cameras and software slowed down the vehicle to avoid hitting cars that ran red lights. In both examples, the drivers did not notice the problem as quickly as Autopilot did.

Tesla’s software reacted quickly to avoid an accident at an intersection. credit @parzar1 on twitter who is testing FSD beta. Autopilot should react similar in this scenario.
Watch this video as Tesla vehicle slows down to avoid an accident.
I am sharing a personal experience with you.  After picking up a friend, I engaged Autopilot and we were waiting at a red light.  
As the light turned green, my Tesla moved into the intersection and my car suddenly made a warning sound and came to a stop.  
We did not see why until a Nissan zoomed right in front of us.  
My Tesla resumed moving as if nothing at all had happened.
We were shook, but the vehicle was not, and Autopilot got us safely home.  
My dashcam footage below shows the car pulling into the intersection while the light was red for them.  
You can see the Nissan running the red light below. 
Tesla’s software saw a car run a red light before the driver did, avoiding a major crash. credit, the author.
This chart created by Tesla for their 2021 Impact Report shows how much safer Autopilot is.

Enabling Autopilot during a drive is easy

Now that you may be considering using your car’s Autopilot, here are my simple suggestions for your Model Y or 3

  1. Start driving and then press down TWICE rapidly on the stalk.  Take your foot off the gas pedal and keep your hands on the wheel enough so the wheel FEELS slight torque.
  2. Practice also DISENGAGING the Autopilot by tugging on the steering wheel until you are comfortable with toggling between using it and not using it.  
  3. Use Autopilot as much as possible.  You will get better at using it with practice. Like any new technology, it will soon become second nature to you and you will master it before you know it.  
  4. I recommend watching the Tesla videos that explain it, here. And always, pay attention and be prepared to take over when using Autopilot or testing FSD beta.
Tesla Youtube explains how to engage Autopilot by pressing down TWICE rapidly on the stalk.

Let’s go back to my example above where we avoided getting T-boned in an intersection. It is important to engage Autopilot as much as possible when crossing through any intersections.  Accidents commonly happen in intersections so we all need maximum safety enabled. 

There were 35,766 fatalities and 1,593,390 injuries from crashes in 2020.
T-bone (angle) crashes led to 6,432 deaths in 2020.  
There were a total of 5,982 pedestrian fatalities from being struck by a car, NHTSA reported in their Overview of Motor Vehicle Crashes 2020.
NHTSA reported a staggering 42,915 fatalities from crashes in 2021 in their September 2022 report.*

Having Autopilot engaged will protect pedestrians from harm.  The 8 cameras on your Tesla capture images and weave them together to tell the computer the safest way to navigate when people are seen. Both pedestrian and T-bone type crashes cause the most deaths, and Autopilot helps us avoid these tragedies.

In my article, “Who Will Benefit Once Tesla Autonomy is Solved?”, I wrote about how Tesla expects the safety level of autonomous cars to be 10 times safer than non-autonomous cars.

As you master Autopilot you will enjoy a higher level of safety.

CONCLUSION

  • Tesla Autopilot may seem scary at first, and it is worth getting over that fear. This is because if you drive a Tesla without using Autopilot, there are 0.77 crashes recorded for every million miles driven. But if you drive your Tesla with Autopilot engaged, there are only 0.22 crashes for every million miles driven.
  • To enable Autopilot, just press down twice rapidly on the stalk. I am thankful I did this before passing through an intersection where I was almost T-boned by a car who ran a red light.
  • In time, you will master using Autopilot as you learn to master any new technology. Toggling in and out of Autopilot is worth learning so that you can enjoy the highest level of safety for you, your family, friends and pedestrians around you.
Austin Texas by Christofer Sherman photography prints.

Want to read more excellent articles? I suggest…

Who Will Benefit Once Tesla Autonomy is Solved? I believe a world where autonomy is the norm is closer than we realize.  This article attempts to answer the question, who will benefit once Tesla autonomy is solved? 

5 Takeaways from Tesla’s 2022 Shareholder Meeting This article features highlights of what Elon Musk said about Tesla Gigafactories, AI, Cybertruck, Optimus robot, how we can help support the mission, and more.

Reasons Why Tesla Has the Best Factory Safety in the Industry This article will bring you along with me as we look into how Tesla has become a leader in job site safety in manufacturing. Our focus will be on statements about workplace safety from Elon Musk at the 2022 Shareholder’s meeting and the Tesla 2021 Impact Report. 

Meet the author, Gail Alfar. Taken at Giga Texas Cyber Roundup, August 4, 2022.

Gail Alfar, author, with editing by Abraham Alfar. Thank you to Chuck Cook for consultation on this article. Exclusive to What’s Up Tesla – September 24, 2022 this article was revised on September 25. –  All Rights Reserved. * NHTSA September 2022 report can be found at https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/813376

Reasons Why Tesla Has the Best Factory Safety in the Industry 

This article will bring you along with me as we look into how Tesla has become a leader in job site safety in manufacturing.  Our focus will be on statements about workplace safety from Elon Musk at the 2022 Shareholder’s meeting and the Tesla 2021 Impact Report.  You’ll look at Tesla’s approach to software as a way to improve safety. Finally, we’ll see how Tesla is making an extraordinary effort to protect over 5000 contractors. 

For fun, I share what it was like walking through Tesla’s employee cafeteria, where Elon says, “Everyone eats same food, uses same restrooms, etc – no executive chef or other ivory tower stuff.” You’ll see 2 rare pictures of the cafeteria area at the end of the article.

“In 2021, our focus remained on protecting people, the planet, our property and products.”

Tesla 2021 Impact Report

Elon Musk Spoke about Factory Safety on August 4th at the 2022 Shareholder’s Meeting

Elon Musk at Shareholder’s Day, credit: Tesla

While sharing a chart titled “Safety Records Continue to Improve,” Elon said,

“We’ve also made a lot of improvement with factory safety, so I believe we now have the best factory safety in the industry.

We are excited to have very good safety, and getting better, and a bunch of this is driven by just encouraging people in the factory to submit ideas for safety improvement.

We have passed our goal of three suggestions per employee this year.  This really is a game changer for improving safety.”

Elon Musk

“Safety Records Continue To Improve” credit: Tesla 2022 Shareholder’s Meeting

Tesla featured employee Sherry Ihrig in the 2021 Impact Report. Sherry made over 1,800 improvement suggestions using the “Take Charge” software.  Her suggestions were to safety, processes, cost-savings, and more since the program’s start in early 2021. Sherry stated,

“The Take Charge program encourages associates to increase their awareness of the work environment. 

When these and other potential safety hazards are noticed and resolved, it allows associates to improve their overall work performance.” 

“Driven by Increasing Employee Engagement” credit: Tesla 2022 Shareholder’s Meeting

Giant Cybernetic Collective Where Everyone is a Worker

I think the most important aspect of humans working alongside big machines is safety.  Software should be designed to improve processes and ensure safety instead of stagnating.  Elon Musk likens his factories to giant cybernetic collectives,

“You can think of the factory as a giant cybernetic collective.

So the factory is just an enormous cybernetic collective of humans and machines and software, and the better that software is, the better that cybernetic collective works.

I don’t think other OEMs think like that, but that’s what it is!”

Elon Musk, 2022 Shareholders Meeting

I think safety processes can improve when all workers operate at the same level.  On June 2, Elon Musk described this in a tweet,

“Everyone eats same food, uses same restrooms, etc – no executive chef or other ivory tower stuff.

There shouldn’t be this workers vs management two-class system. Everyone is a worker.”

Elon Musk

When I visited Gigafactory Texas on August 4th for the Shareholder’s Meeting, all participants got to walk through the employee coffee shop/cafeteria, food truck area, and use the company restrooms and it is true, there are no special areas for any executives, including Elon himself.

Tesla Builds New Software to Improve Safety

In Early 2021, Tesla developed new software to help workers build capacity to ensure safeguards are in place and functioning. 

“In order to build capacity and allow our workers to fail safely, we needed a more dynamic approach to how we collect and manage data that allows us to make decisions that reduce risk.

In response to that need, we developed an internal Environmental, Health Safety & Security [EHS&S] tool named MyEHS to help drive execution and improve outcomes by allowing the intake and visualization of data globally.

We designed and deployed 11 modules in 2021, allowing us to better manage our EHS&S information, identify emerging risks and take action to implement improvements suggested by our employees. 

Foremost in this effort was our improvement suggestion module — Take Charge.

Combined with Action Tracker, this module allows workers to submit improvement suggestions in various categories, including environment, health, safety, security, people and accuracy, while connecting with their supervisors and other work groups to identify and implement solutions to improve the presence of safeguards.” – Tesla 2021 Impact Report, p.48

Tesla Extends Safety Protection to over 5000 Contractors

Solar Roof Install credit: Tesla 

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the civilian occupations with the highest rates of fatalities include roofers and construction trade helpers.  Tesla employs solar roof installers and construction workers and contracts with over 5000 contractors.  Tesla is making an extraordinary effort to protect contractors and keep them safe through a new program they developed called ‘Constructing Our Future’ led by 87 Tesla Responsible Persons [TRP] and Contractor Responsible Persons who are all trained in the new process that includes meeting a TRP and EHS&S professional at the location of work to complete a Pre-Work Risk Assessment.

“We are on schedule to release the new and improved supplier and contractor onboarding and management system, Workforce Management, in the second quarter of 2022.

This simple, scalable, centralized system will build on the efficiencies of the interim onboarding process and provide better visibility for managers and engineers to track performance.

We will report our contractor injury rates in the 2022 Impact Report.”

Tesla 2021 Impact Report, p.54

CONCLUSION

Elon Musk called Tesla’s new improvement suggestion module, Take Charge, a “game changer for improving safety.”

One employee said Take Charge “encourages associates to increase their awareness of the work environment.”

When I toured Gigafactory Texas, it was easy to see why Elon Musk referred to it as an “enormous cybernetic collective.”  Within this gigantic space, Elon stated “Everyone eats same food, uses same restrooms, etc – no executive chef or other ivory tower stuff. There shouldn’t be this workers vs management two-class system. Everyone is a worker.”  

Safety is an integral part of this collective because it is based on humans and machines and software all working in symphony, and that includes Tesla’s over 5000 contractors.  In fact, Tesla will include contractor injury rates in the 2022 Impact Report. 

FUN FACT:  

At the Tesla 2022 Shareholder’s Meeting, all participants got to walk through the employee coffee shop/cafeteria area and it is true, there is no executive chef area, not even for Elon Musk.

The cafeteria was stunning with a beautiful clean white design featuring floor-to-ceiling glass on both sides. One side has a view of the City of Austin in the distance and the other side overlooks Model Y production. Also featured near the Coffee Bar were Model Y seats mounted on a structural battery pack, Model Y frame with castings, and a drive train!

Tesla Coffee Bar, credit: the author
Model Y structural frame by Coffee Bar at Tesla Giga Texas Cafeteria by glass overlooking Model Y production. credit: the author.

Article by Gail Alfar. Exclusive to What’s Up Tesla – All Rights Reserved. August 14, 2022. Featured banner photo, credit: Tesla Media