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Reddit user u/Capital-Pomegranate6 was the first to notice that the new Model 3 does not include a knee airbag for front-seat passengers, as shown in the French owner’s manual. Interestingly, the manual also reveals that the design includes an additional airbag inside the driver’s seat, similar to what was seen in China-built Model Y units last year.
There has been some speculation about whether the absence of the knee airbag is region-based, depending on the airbags available in certain countries. Some users suggested that U.S. regulations may require knee airbags while European countries do not. However, u/Capital-Pomegranate6 clarified that their Model 3 does include knee airbags, while others outside of North America pointed out that theirs did not.
The discrepancy becomes evident when comparing the U.S. owner’s manual with the European one. The pre-refresh Model 3 builds in North America include knee airbags, while the older European-shipped models do not. As of now, it is unclear whether the new Model 3 will include knee airbags in the U.S. or other North American countries, as there are no markets with knee airbags mentioned in their owner’s manuals.
It is possible that Tesla has decided to remove knee airbags in the 2024 Model 3 builds in North America if they are not deemed necessary. The European New Car Assessment Programme (EuroNCAP) conducts thorough safety testing of new cars, so Tesla may prioritize the inner driver’s seat airbag as more critical if it still meets North American safety standards.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) published an article in 2019 stating that knee airbags may have a negligible effect on injury risk and could even make injuries more likely in some cases. According to their study, knee airbags decreased injury risks from 7.9 percent to 7.4 percent, which was not statistically significant. The IIHS suggests that there are other design strategies for protecting against leg and foot injuries that may be just as effective, if not more.
In conclusion, the recent observation of the possible removal of a front-seat airbag in the Tesla Model 3 redesign has sparked discussions about the necessity and effectiveness of knee airbags. While it remains to be seen whether the new Model 3 will include knee airbags in North America, it is clear that Tesla is continuously evaluating and refining the safety features of its vehicles to meet regional regulations and prioritize passenger safety.