Tesla has a self-driving strategy other companies abandoned years ago

Tesla Model 3

Enlarge (credit: Jonathan Gitlin)

An overhaul to Tesla’s Autopilot webpage might represent the clearest acknowledgment yet that the company has failed to deliver on Elon Musk’s ambitious vision for a self-driving future.

“You will be able to summon your Tesla from pretty much anywhere,” Musk wrote in July 2016. “Once it picks you up, you will be able to sleep, read or do anything else enroute [sic] to your destination.” Indeed, he predicted, Tesla customers with full self-driving capabilities will be able to have their cars join a ride-hailing network in order to “generate income for you while you’re at work or on vacation.”

In January 2016, Musk predicted that Tesla cars would be able to drive autonomously coast to coast “in ~2 years.”

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Tesla will build new, faster Superchargers and update cars to use them

The plug design will remain the same, but you'll know a V3 Supercharger by its much thicker cable.

Enlarge / The plug design will remain the same, but you’ll know a V3 Supercharger by its much thicker cable. (credit: Tesla)

On Wednesday night, Tesla announced that it has developed a new, faster Supercharger for its electric vehicles. Currently, the company’s almost-13,000 Superchargers top out at 120kW.

This was class-leading when Tesla started building out the network; at the time, the fastest DC Fast charger you could find for CHAdeMO or CCS maxed out at just 50kW. But times change, and companies like ElectrifyAmerica and ChargePoint are rolling out new DC Fast chargers for these standards that are capable of recharging a car at much higher power—350kW in the case of ElectrifyAmerica and 500kW in the case of ChargePoint.

Rather than be left behind, Tesla got busy developing its own solution. It’s called the V3 Supercharger, and it can support up to 250kW per car, from a cabinet that’s rated at 1MW. Tesla says that “[a]t this rate, a Model 3 Long Range operating at peak efficiency can recover up to 75 miles of charge in 5 minutes and charge at rates of up to 1,000 miles per hour.”

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Las Vegas convention authority wants The Boring Company to build 2-mile loop

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Tesla slashes prices for “Full Self-Driving,” won’t refund preorders

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The Tesla Model 3, reviewed (finally)

Tesla Model 3

Enlarge / Elon’s folly, or the best thing since sliced bread? As you might expect, the answer lies somewhere in between. (credit: Jonathan Gitlin)

Few cars have been the subject of as much intense Internet debate as the Tesla Model 3. To Muskophiles, it is quite simply the safest car ever and the best vehicle on sale today from any OEM. To the haters, it’s a four-wheel deathtrap, assembled in a tent and ready to fall apart the minute you drive it in the rain.

As usual, neither of these takes reflects much more than one’s underlying biases. After several days testing a Model 3, it was clear that there’s a lot to like about Tesla’s mass-market electric car. Equally, it was clear that the car has a real underlying design flaw, which will only be exacerbated now that the company has finally announced a $35,000 stripped-out version. For those of you who haven’t rage-quit or gone right to the comments to tell me I’m wrong, there’s plenty to discuss.

When the Model 3 was first announced in 2014, we didn’t know much more beyond that it would cost $35,000, have a range of at least 200 miles, and be 20-percent smaller than a Model S. Two years later, the prototype was revealed to the world—and the world went nuts for it. Tesla was inundated with $1,000 deposits, filling its coffers with hundreds of millions of dollars in preorders from excited customers around the world a year before production (and its associated hell) even began. Despite Tesla’s well-publicized woes, Model 3s began to trickle and then flood out of its factory in Fremont, California, throughout 2017 and 2018, first to customers in North America, more recently to Europe. Just last week, Tesla announced it was ready to start selling the Standard Range version of this car en masse.

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Uber escapes criminal charges for 2018 self-driving death in Arizona

The Uber vehicle after it struck Elaine Herzberg.

Enlarge / The Uber vehicle after it struck Elaine Herzberg. (credit: Tempe Police Department)

A prosecutor in Arizona has decided not to press charges against Uber in the March 2018 death of Elaine Herzberg. One of Uber’s self-driving cars crashed into Herzberg as she crossed a multi-lane road in Tempe, Arizona.

“After a very thorough review of all evidence presented, this office has determined that there is no basis for criminal liability for the Uber corporation,” wrote Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Sullivan Polk in a letter dated Monday.

Tempe is in Maricopa County, not Yavapai County. But Maricopa County once collaborated with Uber on a public safety campaign. So prosecutors referred the case to Yavapai County to avoid any potential for a conflict of interest.

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Tesla says New York incentive for non-proprietary chargers is “discriminatory”

A double charging station.

Enlarge / A double charging station with a “CCS plug” and a “CHAdeMO plug.” (credit: Roland Weihrauch/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Last week, Tesla formally asked the New York Public Service Commission (NYPSC) to reconsider a February 7 order that would give utilities incentives for installing “publicly accessible” electric vehicle (EV) chargers.

The problem, Tesla says, is that NYPSC defined “publicly accessible” chargers as those that have generic plugs for both American- and Asian-made EVs. Tesla’s proprietary charging stations do not qualify for the incentives.

The original order from NYPSC (PDF) offers utilities the ability to charge more favorable rates for electricity and use more favorable classifications for any publicly accessible Direct Current Fast Charging (DCFC) stations that the utilities install. But any chargers they install have to have both a Combined Charging System (CCS) plug and a CHAdeMo plug to be classified in the manner preferred by utilities.

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Mercedes-Benz debuts EQV electric van at the Geneva auto show

The Geneva International Motor Show just got underway in Europe. If, like me, you’re sitting at home, that means waking up to a flood of new car reveals. Audi showed off a smaller e-tron sedan and some plug-in hybrids; I’m still waiting to find out which—if any—are coming to the US. There were a bunch of hand-built hypercars, some from companies you’ve heard of, and some you haven’t. Volkswagen had the new I.D. Buggy we showed you yesterday. And then there was the Mercedes-Benz Concept EQV.

It’s the latest all-electric EQ concept from the automaker. Some of these, like the Smart Vision EQ or the Vision EQ Silver Arrow will remain one-offs, corporate flights of fancy. But others are headed to production. Later this year the EQC battery electric vehicle goes into production, with US sales starting in 2020. Some time around then, the EQV electric van will also go into volume production.

“Mercedes-Benz Vans is consistently advancing the electrification of its product portfolio. With the Concept EQV, we are now taking the next step. The concept offers all of the brand-typical attributes from this segment that Mercedes-Benz customers have come to know, appreciate and accept. From a daily driver for the family, a leisure-time adventurer or a shuttle vehicle with lounge ambience, the combination of these characteristics with a battery-electric drive mean the Concept EQV is a concept car with a future. We are particularly excited that we will soon be able to offer a series-production model on the basis of this concept,” explains Wilfried Porth, Member of the Daimler AG Board of Management for Human Resources and Director of Labor Relations, Mercedes-Benz Vans.

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The VW I.D. Buggy is a bright-green electric smile machine

In a move guaranteed to delight half of you and mortally offend the other half, Volkswagen revealed yet another electric concept car. It’s called the I.D. Buggy, which is a great name because it’s an electric buggy. The inspiration is, of course, the dune buggies of the 1960s, which were built from the ubiquitous VW Beetle. Here, it’s given a futuristic facelift. Instead of the venerable flat-four engine at the back, the Buggy gets VW’s new MEB architecture, which provides the lithium-ion power pack and electric-motor setup.

MEB is the toy box of parts and software that VW will use to create a new range of electric vehicles. Over the past few years, the company has been reinventing itself for life after diesel, doubling down on electrification as the answer. Roadmap E was the answer, which promises 50 new battery EVs from the VW Group as a whole by 2030. Porsche and Audi are working on a separate architecture called PPE, which will show up in larger vehicles like the next Macan SUV. But for anything a bit smaller, MEB is where it’s at.

At VW the brand (not VW Group the corporate overlord), the whole electro-mobility thing is happening under the I.D. banner. The first I.D. production cars will be aerodynamic hatchbacks that go into production in Europe late in 2019. Sadly, those hatchbacks will probably not be available in North America. Here in the United States, VW’s Chattanooga factory in Tennessee will start building a production version of the I.D. Cross crossover in 2020.

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Volvo is introducing a 112mph speed limiter to all its new cars

Outside of Germany, there's nowhere you can legally drive this car at its top speed anyway.

Enlarge / Outside of Germany, there’s nowhere you can legally drive this car at its top speed anyway.

Few automakers have staked the reputation of their brands on safety quite the way Volvo has. Several years ago, Volvo’s President Håkan Samuelsson announced that the company was enacting a plan called Vision 2020—building cars so safe that by 2020 no one is killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo. On Monday, it revealed the latest part of this plan. From next year, all new Volvos (beginning with the 2021 model year) will be limited to 112mph (180km/h).

“Because of our research we know where the problem areas are when it comes to ending serious injuries and fatalities in our cars. And while a speed limitation is not a cure-all, it’s worth doing if we can even save one life,” Samuelsson said in a press release. “We want to start a conversation about whether car makers have the right or maybe even an obligation to install technology in cars that changes their driver’s behaviour, to tackle things like speeding, intoxication or distraction. We don’t have a firm answer to this question, but believe we should take leadership in the discussion and be a pioneer.”

It’s certainly a bold move—and the antithesis of the perennial horsepower war that rages between German luxury carmakers, or even the recent move by Tesla to increase the speed of the Model 3 Performance to 162mph via a software update. But it’s also not unheard of; in fact, most Japanese OEMs have restricted their domestic market vehicles to 112mph for decades.

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