By David Z. Morris
May 27, 2018

Tesla has begun to issue an over-the-air firmware update that CEO Elon Musk says will improve the car’s braking performance, after Consumer Reports chose not to recommend the car because of issues including emergency stopping distance.

According to a tweet from Musk, the update began rolling out on Friday. He wrote that the update “should improve braking distance by ~20 ft for repeated heavy braking events.”

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Consumer Reports’ tests found that the Model 3 had dramatic problems with emergency braking at high speeds. At 60 mph, the car took 152 feet to stop—7 feet more than a full-sized Ford F-150 pickup.

It’s likely easier to fix the Model 3’s braking with a software adjustment than it would be on some conventional cars, though. That’s because the car’s computer-controlled motor plays a significant role in braking. That also allows braking to recapture some battery power.

The effectiveness of the update will be subject to further high-profile scrutiny, as Consumer Reports has said it would retest the Model 3 if the braking distance were improved. Even if the improvements work, it might not be enough to earn a recommendation from the respected publication, which also cited the car’s confusing controls, stiff ride, and wind noise in withholding its endorsement.

Those issues may be addressable with further software updates or relatively small production tweaks, though, and Consumer Reports also found much to praise. It called the car’s acceleration “blistering,” and its 350-mile range was the highest the publication ever recorded for an electric vehicle.

Getting a Consumer Reports recommendation is likely a high priority for Tesla, and Musk has repeatedly expressed admiration for the organization even in the midst of broader criticisms of the media. Though it has a huge backlog of pre-orders for the Model 3, some reports suggest the company will need to find new financing in the near future, and its stock has been hammered repeatedly since late 2017. If the Model 3 turns to be anything less than a sterling vehicle, the company’s problems could be unstoppable.

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