Why Tesla modified cars just before crash tests in the lab

We recently reported on the unique code Tesla added to its vehicles to identify the region’s crash test site (and you can see the latest on that here).

Upon examining this additional code, we uncovered evidence that Tesla updated the firmware of vehicles intended for crash testing after they left the factory and before they were crash tested by the crash test organization.

Twitter user greenKnown for revealing upcoming Tesla features exclusively based on code provided in vehicle over-the-air updates, discovered this anomaly after receiving a set of computers from crash-tested vehicles with unique development code.

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Speaking exclusively to CarExpert, Green tells us that the development code is not something you would find on any vehicle owned by a member of the public.

delivered Recognition: car expert

“In the devices I got there seem to have some firmware that is rarely or even not present in the public search. While it is not always possible to say that these are development firmware, those that do not appear in various firmware aggregators such as Teslascope and Teslafi are at least so rare that none of the cars participating in these services and no one online ever see them mentioned or a full range of ‘special/one-off builds,'” Green said.

How does Green know that Tesla uploaded development firmware into the vehicles destined for crash testing and safety assistance testing? They actually stumbled upon a number of Model X and Model 3 computers that were removed from wrecked crash test vehicles and then sold on the open market in Europe.

When they disassembled the firmware, they discovered recordings from the computers showing the crash tests taking place. This footage matches the public footage of the crash tests published by Euro NCAP. These computers with this footage then received development firmware that was never used in public Tesla vehicles.

This development firmware was found on one of the 2019 crash tested Tesla Model X vehicles and on a 2019 crash tested Model 3. There were even some computers that came from the same source that showed evidence of modified firmware.

“Some other computers didn’t crash as far as I can see, but they came from the same source that provided those with recorded crash tests [on video] and they shared several common characteristics with the definitively crash tested computers, such as:

Crash tested Tesla Model X computer with developer firmware Recognition: car expert

Green acknowledged that modifying a vehicle’s firmware, while not affecting a physical crash test, has the potential to change the vehicle’s performance during a safety assistance test.

“Additionally, I would like to point out that the firmware version on a crash-tested vehicle does not matter as long as the crash-tested vehicle has not been used for other tests prior to the crash test. This is because the cars are not driving under their own power during crash tests and all crash-side sensors are covered as part of the protocol, so the firmware should not affect the outcome of these tests. Where firmware can affect the result is in various ADAS test scenarios like emergency braking for cars and pedestrians and the like,” said Green.

We wanted to better understand why this was happening and how modified vehicles were representative of a vehicle a customer could purchase. And the answers surprised us. Following our questions, Euro NCAP launched an investigation and provided the requested answers.

delivered Recognition: car expert

“Until today this one [investigations] We have focused primarily on correlating Tesla’s software updates with the known histories of the test vehicles, the publication of reviews and the agreements made with Tesla prior to conducting the tests,” said Aled Williams, program director of Euro NCAP.

“Euro NCAP allows manufacturers to update their vehicles to the point where they were tested. For the benefit of car buyers, manufacturers should try to offer them the most advanced and powerful systems available. However, Euro NCAP requires that the cars tested are identical to those in production at the time the safety rating is published.”

Under Euro NCAP, a vehicle rating is only applied to vehicles that conform to one of the software or hardware revisions made by a manufacturer prior to testing, and a VIN is often provided on the Euro NCAP website to indicate how and when the rating was applied.

delivered Recognition: car expert

In the case of Tesla and vehicles with upgradable software, any software updates affecting safety tests that can be retrospectively applied to a vehicle allow for the granting of this safety rating.

We asked Euro NCAP to specifically confirm whether the updates Tesla made to its vehicles to achieve high test scores actually made it into customer cars as part of an evaluation.

According to Euro NCAP Program Director Aled Williams, this is how the sequence of events unfolded.

“To date, Euro NCAP has been able to align the chronology of software updates with vehicle selection, testing and the release of Model 3, Model X and Model Y ratings. Generally speaking, the ‘cadence’ for all of the cars was the same and is as follows… and Euro NCAP can confirm that the software updates made by Tesla are in line with the established schedule:

delivered Recognition: car expert
  • Cars are in production and made available to customers
  • Cars will be produced from which Euro NCAP will randomly select test vehicles
  • The software on these cars, like all other vehicles, is updated at the end of the production line. This is standard production practice to ensure cars leaving the assembly line have the latest software installed.
  • Euro NCAP selects cars for testing. This happens randomly from the selection of cars offered by Tesla. At the time of selection, Tesla does not yet know which car will be used for which test.
  • Concurrent with the above, Tesla continues to conduct its own testing to refine and optimize vehicle performance in upcoming Euro NCAP “official” tests. Euro NCAP is not involved in Tesla’s own development testing.
  • The software is “frozen” just before the start of the official Euro NCAP tests. Tesla begins rolling out OTA’s new software to customers’ vehicles, a process that may take a few weeks (due to the number of cars to be updated).
  • Around the same time, Euro NCAP’s test vehicles will also be updated with the same software.
  • Based on the results of these tests, official tests are conducted and an assessment is made.
  • Testing can take several weeks, and post-test review and follow-up also take time. It can take about three months from the start of the exam to the publication of the result.
  • Before the results are published, Tesla will roll out the new software in production cars. The cars that were produced before the update is in production will be updated by OTA.
  • Euro NCAP releases its rating after testing cars using the same software used in production vehicles, which has been retrospectively applied to previously built vehicles.”

So it appears that Tesla is actually using crash body testing to further improve the vehicles that customers have purchased and are rolling out these updates to customers for free as over-the-air updates.

While Euro NCAP admits it couldn’t verify what the development code contained in the test vehicles, Tesla assures them that the elements of the development code related to safety were provided to customers as part of over-the-air updates.

According to Williams, Euro NCAP hopes to release tested software versions in the future to better align features and software for customers.

Our previous story related to Tesla being found by a green Twitter user who added an additional code to vehicles that indicated the local inspection body – i.e. “Euroncap”, “Ancap” etc. – You can learn more about why this one code was added and what effect it had on vehicles in our original story.

https://7news.com.au/lifestyle/motoring/why-tesla-modified-cars-just-prior-to-lab-based-crash-tests-c-8532414 Why Tesla modified cars just before crash tests in the lab

James Brien

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