The Tesla Model three could be the safest car on the road — and that’s bad news for every other automaker

Safety has been a preoccupation of consumers and carmakers for the past few decades, with some companies — like Volvo — making it their key selling point.

Automobiles are already far safer now than ever before, but advances in technologyВ keep raising the bar for what consumers expect. AndВ Morgan Stanley auto analyst Adam Jonas thinks the forthcoming Tesla Model Three, priced at $35,000 and expected to launch later this year, will lead the way in dramatic style.

Inbetween 30,000 and 40,000 people are killed in car accidents every year in the US alone, so the stakes for drastically improved safety are high.

Linking two key ideas

Jonas is linking two key components of his overall thesis about the transformation of mobility. Very first, Tesla’s capability to gather data and apply advanced safety features with its growing fleet if vehicles has the potential to greatly improve safety and, frankly, embarrass traditional carmakers who haven’t yet flipped out challenging technologies.В

2nd, Jonas has been predicting some problems in the used-car market for some time. Recently, he’s been noting that what we might call “pre-transformative-tech” vehicles — those lacking much in the way of advanced driver-assist features — will not just be less valuable than fresh cars that have the tech, they’ll be unwanted and possibly even illegal.

You can see how this sets up.

The analogy is to emissions technologies that became prevalent in the 1970s. The vast majority of fresh vehicles sold are now required to have the systems needed to pass emissions tests. A similar broad requirement could be applied to semi-self-driving-type technologies.

The major issue here is of course that if older vehicles are deemed significantly less safe than newer ones, the used car market could collapse. This wouldn’t be a dire situation for older cars, whose values have fallen a long way and are no longer financed by their owners. But it would be catastrophic forВ newer used cars that lack Model 3-lever technology.

Bolt-on tech?

A used-car apocalypse could be upon us. Justin Sullivan/Getty

Why not just bolt on the newer tech to older cars, you might ask?В

Because it doesn’t work. A tech solution for, say, a used Volkswagen Jetta might not get along with a used Chevy Cruze. Automakers have learned over the last two years that self-driving and driver-assist features need to be engineered into vehicles before they hit theВ assembly lines.

There is a possible upside for automakers that aren’t Tesla. Elon Musk’s company can’t sate request for seventeen million fresh cars and trucks each year in the US, so if older vehicles have to be rapidly retired, automakers will have the chance to sell many newer, safer ones. Think back to the 1990s, when everybody who had a vast vinyl record collection converted to CDs and the music business eyed arguably its best times.

We won’t know how this all plays out until the Model three launches and starts to become more prevalent on the road. But Jonas is anticipating something very big and very far-reaching.

Get the latest Tesla stock price here.

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