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  1. Tesla allowed to cut down trees for fourth gigafactory Earlier this week, it was announced that Tesla had been ordered to halt work on its gigafactory in Germany over environmental factors. A court has now said it can continue cutting down trees on forest land that it owns in order to build the new factory. Tesla had been ordered by a court to halt work clearing forest land for its new factory thanks to a legal challenge by the Green League. With today’s update, the court that oversees the region threw out the injunction meaning Tesla can continue to fell trees in the 910,000 square metre area (91 hectares). According to Berlin.de, which first reported the news, the court has said that the decision is final; making it difficult for environmentalists to do anything else about it. In a statement on its website, Tesla attempts to address concerns, saying: “We are committed to improving the natural environment near the factory and in the wider state of Brandenburg. We aim to replant an area three times the factory plot, with mixed trees native to their habitat and the potential to become an old growth forest, while working with environmental and other expert groups for the best possible outcome.” Once the factory is open in 2021, it will employ around 12,000 people and produce up to 500,000 cars per year. This will allow the firm to ship vehicles to European customers more easily and cheaply, those savings may be passed on to customers to make the vehicles more appealing. Tesla has used its Chinese gigafactory to get around U.S.-China tariffs that have been applied as a result of the ongoing trade war. Source: Tesla allowed to cut down trees for fourth gigafactory (Neowin)
  2. Tesla ordered by court to halt work on German gigafactory Tesla has been ordered by a court to halt work on its fourth gigafactory that’s set to be built in Germany. An alliance of environmentalists, called the Green League, won a court injunction yesterday against the firm which has been clearing forest land to make room for the new factory. The Green League said that it is a threat to local wildlife and water supplies. While the construction is on hold at the moment, work may resume soon as the injunction is only temporary and subject to more hearings that could take place as soon as this week. According to the BBC, the firm has been clearing 91 hectares of forest in Grünheide to make way for the factory. The electric car maker cannot say it wasn’t warned about protests because the only permission it has had from the German government was via the environment ministry which said the firm could begin site preparations “at its own risk”. While one could argue the case of hypocrisy against Tesla, a supposedly environmentally-friendly firm, for cutting down trees, it should be noted that Tesla does own the land that it’s working on. It purchased 300 hectares from the state of Brandenburg to build Gigafactory 4. Once the site opens in 2021, it will employ 12,000 people and produce up to 500,000 cars per year at the site. The court put out a statement after its decision to temporarily suspend work saying that: “It should not be assumed that the motion seeking legal protection brought by the Green League lacks any chance of succeeding.” With a statement like that, it’s unclear where things will go next. Should Tesla’s Germany plans fall through, it could turn its attention to Texas. Source: BBC News Source: Tesla ordered by court to halt work on German gigafactory (Neowin) [ Earlier related news post by our friend @dufus ... https://www.nsaneforums.com/topic/362926-tesla-is-cutting-down-thousands-of-trees-to-put-up-its-german-gigafactory-4 ]
  3. “I was just shaking”—new documents reveal details of fatal Tesla crash Autopilot didn't slow down in seconds before deadly Tesla crash. Enlarge / The trailer sheared off the roof of Jeremy Banner's car, killing him instantly. "It really looked like I had plenty of time to go across," an anguished Florida truck driver said in an interview transcript released by the National Transportation Safety Board this week. Unfortunately, he was wrong. Richard Wood was driving a semi truck on the morning of Friday, March 1, 2019. He pulled onto Florida's SR 7 from a driveway, intending to make a left turn. But as he crossed to the opposite lane, a Tesla Model 3 belonging to Jeremy Banner crashed into the side of the truck. Banner's Tesla went under Wood's trailer, shearing off the roof and killing Banner. The case attracted wide attention because Banner had engaged Tesla's Autopilot technology. Not only that, the circumstances of Banner's death were almost identical to the first Autopilot-related death in the United States: the death of Josh Brown in 2016. Brown was also killed when Autopilot failed to stop for a semi truck crossing in front of him on a Florida highway. The truck driver's interview transcript was one of many documents the NTSB released this week related to two fatal crashes involving Tesla's Autopilot. I hope to go through documents related to the other crash, Walter Huang's 2018 death, in the coming days. "That dude didn't make it" The documents about Banner's case provide a lot of new information about the circumstances of his death. Based on video footage, the NTSB estimates that the truck entered the roadway in front of Banner's car about 4.5 seconds before the crash. Banner was traveling at almost 70 miles per hour; the truck was traveling about 10 miles per hour. Neither vehicle slowed down or took other evasive actions during those 4.5 seconds. In fact, Wood says that initially he didn't even realize that a fatal crash had occurred. "I was going to take the left-hand lane and proceed on going north," Wood said in an interview with authorities last March. "It's a very busy intersection... It's one of them intersections where you wonder why there isn't a traffic light. But I've done it a dozen times. I clearly thought I had plenty of time." The crash happened just before the sun came up. Wood says he saw two pairs of headlights approaching, but believed they were far enough away that he could get across the intersection easily. "It was dark and the cars looked like they was back further than what they was," Wood said. Then Wood says he "felt a push against my trailer." He got out of his truck and "looked at my trailer and I seen debris stuck in the side of the trailer and it had a scuff mark down the side of the trailer." It was still dark, he said. "I thought I had been involved in a hit and run." In reality, the momentum of Banner's Model 3 carried the vehicle far down the road—apparently so far that Wood didn't see it when he got out of his truck. Wood says it was only a few minutes later, as he saw the lights of emergency vehicles in the distance, that he realized the awful truth. "This guy in this pickup truck come up and goes, 'Are you the guy that drives this tractor?' I said 'yeah.' And he goes, 'That dude didn't make it.' I said, 'What are you talking about?' He goes, 'That guy—it sheared the whole roof off his car.'" It was only then, Wood says, that the reality of the situation fully hit him. "I went and got in the truck and I sit there until the cops got there because I was just shaking," he told authorities. No obvious distractions Driver distraction is frequently a factor in situations like this, but the NTSB hasn't identified any obvious factors impairing either driver. Wood says that he didn't use his cell phone during that morning's drive—a claim that seems to be backed up by cell phone records. He told investigators that he hasn't had a drop of alcohol since 2014. Nor did investigators find evidence Banner was impaired or distracted. "Phone records indicate that the Tesla driver was not engaged in a phone conversation and was not texting at the time of the crash," an NTSB investigator writes. "The records also indicate that the driver did not use his phone to text or call during the three mornings prior to the date of the crash." Data from Tesla indicates that Banner activated Autopilot's traffic-aware cruise control feature 12.3 seconds before the fatal crash. He then activated Tesla's Autosteer feature 9.9 seconds before impact. "Sensors in the Tesla did not detect the driver’s hands on the steering wheel 7.7 seconds before the crash," the NTSB reports. It's a safe bet that Banner wasn't looking at the road ahead of the vehicle in the last few seconds of his life. If he had, he surely would have noticed a truck pulling out in front of his vehicle. Even if he couldn't have fully stopped his car in the 4.5 seconds the car was pulling in front of him, Banner certainly could have slowed the vehicle down. Yet telemetry shows that the vehicle didn't slow down at all—suggesting that neither Banner nor the Autopilot software realized that a crash was imminent. Investigations into the 2016 Josh Brown crash revealed that (as my colleague Jonathan Gitlin wrote) "The machine learning algorithms that underpin AEB systems have only been trained to recognize the rear of other vehicles, not profiles or other aspects." Meanwhile, some driver-assistance systems are designed to ignore stationary objects at high speeds, in part because radar-based systems have trouble distinguishing objects in the road from objects that are merely near the road. There have been multiple cases where Autopilot has steered Teslas into parked vehicles in broad daylight. It's not clear if these issues were a factor in Banner's death, but we may learn more when the NTSB publishes its final report. One thing driver-assistance systems can do is to force drivers to keep their eyes on the road. Cadillac's Super Cruise technology does just that, using a driver-facing camera to observe where a driver is looking. If Banner's Model 3 had had this feature, he might have noticed the truck crossing in front of his path and stopped in time to save his life. Source: “I was just shaking”—new documents reveal details of fatal Tesla crash (Ars Technica)
  4. Up and to the right — Tesla stock gains 20 percent for second day in a row Tesla's latest share price values the company at more than $170 billion. Enlarge Aurich Lawson / Duncan Hull / Getty The price of Tesla stock soared by 21 percent on Tuesday, rising above $940 for the first time. Tesla's value has more than doubled since the start of the year—and quadrupled since last September. What's driving the dramatic rise in Tesla's share price is not clear. Last week, Tesla reported solid but unspectacular profits of $105 million for the fourth quarter of 2019. A number of Wall Street analysts have upgraded their share price targets for Tesla in recent weeks, but Tesla's value is now far above most analysts' estimates. Tesla's latest share price values the company at more than $170 billion—a stunning figure given how few cars Tesla sells. Tesla delivered 367,500 vehicles in calendar year 2019. GM sold about 20 times as many cars last year, yet Wall Street currently values GM around $50 billion—a third of Tesla's market capitalization. Tesla is also worth more than Ford, Volkswagen, and a number of other major automakers. Factoring in the firms' debt changes the picture only modestly; Tesla is valued far more highly, relative to its sales or profits, than other automakers. The reason, of course, is that investors think Tesla is going to grow a lot faster than other carmakers—and possibly enjoy higher profit margins as well. Tesla currently commands a large share of the tiny market for electric cars. Tesla bulls are betting that the electric car market as a whole will grow rapidly, while Tesla will hold on to a significant share. That could easily lead to Tesla selling millions of cars annually before the end of the decade. Only time will tell if this bet is right. Meanwhile, the soaring stock has set Musk up to receive some generous stock options. Under a massive performance-based pay package negotiated in 2018, Musk is supposed to receive stock options representing 1 percent of Tesla shares if the company's market value rises above $100 billion—something it did last month. He'll get another 1 percent if the stock rises above $150 billion—a milestone it reached on Tuesday. Musk will only get his awards if the stock price stays high—specifically, the average stock price must be above these levels over a six-month period. Musk also has to hit specified revenue and profit targets, but the company has said it has already reached those milestones. The options have a strike price of $350 per share, so if Tesla's stock price stays above $900, the two stock option awards will have a combined value of more than $1 billion. Musk is also Tesla's largest shareholder, so his wealth has already grown by billions of dollars thanks to Tesla's rising share price. Forbes now estimates that Musk is worth more than $40 billion. Correction: This article inaccurately said that electric vehicle sales were down in 2019. Source: Tesla stock gains 20 percent for second day in a row (Ars Technica)
  5. Nvidia’s next Tesla GPUs could be 75% faster – good news for future GeForce cards Big Red 200 supercomputer upgrade hints at equally big things for consumer GPUs (Image credit: TechRadar) Big Red 200, a new supercomputer at Indiana University, is now up and running, and later this year will be upgraded to make use of Nvidia’s next-gen GPUs, which will potentially be up to 75% faster than current Tesla graphics solutions. This is according to a report from The Next Platform, which spoke to Brad Wheeler, VP for IT and CIO at Indiana University, airing the claim that Nvidia’s next-gen Tesla graphics solutions – which will be deployed as a ‘phase two’ upgrade for Big Red 200 in the summer – will be around 70% to 75% faster than current offerings. That’s a huge leap in performance, of course, and while you might think that it’s not particularly relevant to the average PC user – with these being heavyweight GPUs in a massive supercomputer – remember that the technology Nvidia uses here could trickle down to its consumer GeForce offerings. And an (up to) 75% performance increase in Tesla lends more credence to the (admittedly fairly wild) previous rumor that has been floated, which contends that Nvidia’s next-gen GeForce graphics cards could benefit from a 50% performance uplift (albeit this could, potentially, only pertain to ray tracing scenarios – although this is all just up-in-the-air theorizing, of course). Speculation has it that Nvidia’s next-gen Tesla GPUs might be unveiled at the firm’s GPU Technology Conference in March (this isn’t the first time we’ve heard that Ampere graphics cards will be revealed at GTC in San Jose – although other corners of the rumor mill seem to believe that this could mean a consumer GeForce card, rather than a data center offering). An unveiling at GTC in March might be ahead of a summer launch for the new heavyweight cards, which would line up with the proposed Big Red 200 upgrade time frame as mentioned. As ever, we have to treat any speculation with a great deal of caution, but nonetheless, this represents a potentially exciting glimpse of how powerful Nvidia’s next-gen graphics tech could be in terms of heavyweight computing – hinting at similar things for consumer GPUs. Epyc beast Big Red 200 is a Cray Shasta supercomputer, and it launched with 672 dual-socket nodes carrying AMD’s Epyc 7742 (2nd-gen server) 64-core processors. In the phase two upgrade, further Epyc chips will be added to the machine, along with the aforementioned next-gen Tesla GPUs. The University decided to take this two-stage deployment approach when it discovered that if it waited a bit longer, it could benefit from Nvidia’s next-gen products, rather than going with Nvidia V100 GPUs as was originally planned. With those V100 cards, Big Red 200 would have been capable of a peak performance level in the order of 5.9 petaflops, but using the newer GPUs, the supercomputer should instead see performance up to 8 petaflops. Source: Nvidia’s next Tesla GPUs could be 75% faster – good news for future GeForce cards (TechRadar)
  6. Tesla made $105 million profit in Q4 2019 after record deliveries Tesla shares soar in aftermarket trading as a result. Enlarge / Earlier in January, Tesla began delivering the first Chinese-made Model 3 battery electric vehicles. Xinhua/Ding Ting via Getty Images On Wednesday, Tesla released its financial results for the fourth quarter of 2019. For the final three months of the year, Tesla brought in $6.4 billion in automotive revenues, a 1 percent increase on Q4 2018. Total revenues for the company during the quarter were $7.4 billion, a 2 percent rise from the same period the year before. Total revenues for the year were $24.6 billion, an increase of 14 percent compared to 2018. Once generally accepted accounting principles were applied, that translates to a quarterly profit of $105 million, a 25-percent decline from Q4 2018. (Regulatory credits brought in $133 million in Q4 2019.) Free cash flow increased by 11 percent compared to the same time period the year before to just over $1 billion. The results come on the back of record deliveries of the Model 3 sedan. Between September and December of last year, the company built 86,958 Model 3s and delivered 92,620, a year-on-year increase of 42 percent and 46 percent, respectively. Tesla is also keeping less inventory on hand; globally, the company was at 11 days of sales for Q4 2019, a drop of 42 percent year on year. However, Tesla noted in a letter to investors that gross profits "were essentially flat" as volume growth and manufacturing efficiency and cost reductions were offset by a decrease in average sales price and more leased cars. Deliveries of the Models S and X continue to decline year on year, falling by 29 percent. 54MW of solar panels were installed in Q4 2019 (a drop of 26 percent year on year), and a hefty 530MWh of battery storage were deployed, a massive 136-percent increase compared to Q4 2018. Despite February's kerfuffle over closing stores, the company ends 2019 with 429 stores and service centers (an increase of 13 percent year on year). And there are more supercharger stations than ever before—1,821 compared to 1,421 at the end of 2018. What’s next? Tesla says it is ahead of schedule with the Model Y crossover. It says that the production ramp for this vehicle began at the Fremont, California, factory in January of this year and that deliveries will begin by the end of Q1 2020. In Shanghai, production of battery packs has begun ramping up. In 2020, Tesla says total vehicle deliveries "should comfortably exceed 500,000 units," but that production will outpace deliveries. The company also promises to grow solar and storage by 50 percent. Tesla also says it should be profitable going forward, although new model launches may affect that. All of this is extremely good news for CEO Elon Musk, who signed a lucrative new contract in 2018. The share price, which was already soaring, has now brought the company's market cap well above the $100 billion threshold. As long as annual revenues remain above $20 billion, he will be awarded another 1 percent of the company. Source: Tesla made $105 million profit in Q4 2019 after record deliveries (Ars Technica)
  7. How a $300 projector can fool Tesla’s Autopilot Semi-autonomous driving systems don't understand projected images. Enlarge / This image, taken from the interior of a Tesla Model X, shows a projected image of a car in front of the Model X. The inset in the bottom right, created by Nassi from the Model X's logs, shows the Model X detecting the projection as a real car. Ben Nassi Six months ago, Ben Nassi, a PhD student at Ben-Gurion University advised by Professor Yuval Elovici, carried off a set of successful spoofing attacks against a Mobileye 630 Pro Driver Assist System using inexpensive drones and battery-powered projectors. Since then, he has expanded the technique to experiment—also successfully—with confusing a Tesla Model X and will be presenting his findings at the Cybertech Israel conference in Tel Aviv. The spoofing attacks largely rely on the difference between human and AI image recognition. For the most part, the images Nassi and his team projected to troll the Tesla would not fool a typical human driver—in fact, some of the spoofing attacks were nearly steganographic, relying on the differences in perception not only to make spoofing attempts successful but also to hide them from human observers. First image of article image gallery. Please visit the source link to see all 3 images. Nassi created a video outlining what he sees as the danger of these spoofing attacks, which he called "Phantom of the ADAS," and a small website offering the video, an abstract outlining his work, and the full reference paper itself. We don't necessarily agree with the spin Nassi puts on his work—for the most part, it looks to us like the Tesla responds pretty reasonably and well to these deliberate attempts to confuse its sensors. We do think this kind of work is important, however, as it demonstrates the need for defensive design of semi-autonomous driving systems. Nassi and his team's spoofing of the Model X was carried out with a human assistant holding a projector, due to drone laws in the country where the experiments were carried out. But the spoof could have also been carried out by drone, as his earlier spoofing attacks on a Mobileye driver-assistance system were. From a security perspective, the interesting angle here is that the attacker never has to be at the scene of the attack and doesn't need to leave any evidence behind—and the attacker doesn't need much technical expertise. A teenager with a $400 drone and a battery-powered projector could reasonably pull this off with no more know-how than "hey, it'd be hilarious to troll cars down at the highway, right?" The equipment doesn't need to be expensive or fancy—Nassi's team used several $200-$300 projectors successfully, one of which was rated for only 854x480 resolution and 100 lumens. This is the full "Phantom of the ADAS" video. The effect of projected lane markers on a Model X in Autopilot mode, at 2:02, are particularly interesting. Of course, nobody should be letting a Tesla drive itself unsupervised in the first place—Autopilot is a Level 2 Driver Assistance System, not the controller for a fully autonomous vehicle. Although Tesla did not respond to requests for comment on the record, the company's press kit describes Autopilot very clearly (emphasis ours): Autopilot is intended for use only with a fully attentive driver who has their hands on the wheel and is prepared to take over at any time. While Autopilot is designed to become more capable over time, in its current form, it is not a self-driving system, it does not turn a Tesla into an autonomous vehicle, and it does not allow the driver to abdicate responsibility. When used properly, Autopilot reduces a driver's overall workload, and the redundancy of eight external cameras, radar and 12 ultrasonic sensors provides an additional layer of safety that two eyes alone would not have. Even the name "Autopilot" itself isn't as inappropriate as many people assume—at least, not if one understands the reality of modern aviation and maritime autopilot systems in the first place. Wikipedia references the FAA's Advanced Avionics Handbook when it defines autopilots as "systems that do not replace human operators, [but] instead assist them in controlling the vehicle." On the first page of the Advanced Avionics Handbook's chapter on automated flight control, it states: "In addition to learning how to use the autopilot, you must also learn when to use it and when not to use it." Within these constraints, even the worst of the responses demonstrated in Nassi's video—that of the Model X swerving to follow fake lane markers on the road—doesn't seem so bad. In fact, that clip demonstrates exactly what should happen: the owner of the Model X—concerned about what the heck his or her expensive car might do—hit the brakes and took control manually after Autopilot went in an unsafe direction. The problem is, there's good reason to believe that far too many drivers don't believe they really need to pay attention. A 2019 survey demonstrated that nearly half of the drivers polled believed it was safe to take their hands off the wheel while Autopilot is on, and six percent even thought it was OK to take a nap. More recently, Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) called for Tesla to improve the clarity of its marketing and documentation, and Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang went hands-free in a campaign ad—just as Elon Musk did before him, in a 2018 60 Minutes segment. The time may have come to consider legislation about drones and projectors specifically, in much the same way laser pointers were regulated after they became popular and cheap. Some of the techniques used in the spoofing attacks carried out here could also confuse human drivers. And although human drivers are at least theoretically available, alert, and ready to take over for any confused AI system today, that won't be the case forever. It would be a good idea to start work on regulations prohibiting spoofing of vehicle sensors before we no longer have humans backing them up. Source: How a $300 projector can fool Tesla’s Autopilot (Ars Technica) (To view the article's image gallery, please visit the above link)
  8. Tesla needs to fix Autopilot safety flaws, demands Senator Markey It should be renamed and fitted with a real driver-monitoring system, he says. Enlarge / Tesla says that Autopilot users should always keep both hands on the steering wheel. CBS On Friday, Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) called on Tesla to adopt "common sense recommendations" in its Autopilot driver assist to "guarantee the safety of its technology." Specifically, he's asking the automaker to stop implying that the system is capable of self-driving and also asks Tesla to fit a proper driver-monitoring system. The senator began his investigation into the company's driver-assist package following multiple reports of drivers circumventing the cars' rudimentary safety controls. From the senator's website: Autopilot is a flawed system, but I believe its dangers can be overcome... I have been proud to work with Tesla on advancing cleaner, more sustainable transportation technologies. But these achievements should not come at the expense of safety. That's why I'm calling on Tesla to use its resources and expertise to better protect drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and all other users of the road. I urge Tesla to adopt my common sense recommendations for fixing Autopilot, which include rebranding and remarketing the system to reduce misuse, as well as building backup driver monitoring tools that will make sure no one falls asleep at the wheel. Tesla can and must do more to guarantee the safety of its technology. This is not the first time that the name Autopilot has come under fire. In 2016, the German transport minister told the company "to no longer use the misleading term for the driver-assistance system of the car." In 2018, two US consumer safety groups asked the Federal Trade Commission to address Autopilot's "deceptive and misleading" branding. In 2019, we discovered that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration told the company to stop making "misleading statements" when it comes to safety, and the company repeatedly made claims about the safety of Autopilot that were not supported by fact. (The data showed that Autosteer—a component of the Autopilot suite of assists—actually increased crashes by 59 percent.) A survey conducted in 2019 showed that nearly 50 percent of drivers thought Autopilot was safe to use hands-free. Tesla has repeatedly stated that drivers have to keep their hands on the wheel at all times, although the company's CEO famously flouted this advice in a lengthy interview shown on CBS' 60 Minutes in 2018. In a December 2019 letter to Sen. Markey, Tesla wrote that it believes "that many of these videos are fake and intended to capture media attention." Markey's second safety request is for Tesla to fit its vehicles with an effective driver-monitoring system (DMS). He's not alone—in 2019, in response to yet another video of someone asleep in the driver's seat of a moving Tesla, my colleague Tim Lee laid out a case for why a steering wheel torque sensor is inadequate compared to a proper DMS like the kind used by Cadillac or Subaru, which use eye-tracking cameras to ensure the driver has their attention on the road ahead. This is not the first time that Markey has turned his attention to new car technology. In 2015, his office released a report on the lack of security measures to prevent connected cars from being hacked. Tesla did not respond when contacted by Ars for its comment on Sen. Markey's requests. Source: Tesla needs to fix Autopilot safety flaws, demands Senator Markey (Ars Technica)
  9. Tesla has issued a statement denying recent claims that some of its electric vehicles have accelerated unexpectedly. The issue, the company says, is a familiar one: accidentally pressing the accelerator. The company says that its explanation is backed up by data from cars, explaining how the sensors in its vehicles help work to prevent these types of accidents; in some cases, even preventing ones that would result from accidentally hitting the accelerator. Last week, the NHTSA revealed that it has received a petition from a Tesla vehicle owner who seeks an investigation into claims that some Tesla EVs may experience ‘unintended acceleration.’ Reports of this alleged issue vary, with some saying it happened while pulling into a parking space, a garage, and — in one case — supposedly happening when there wasn’t a driver in the vehicle. In a statement published on Monday, Tesla directly said that there is “no ‘unintended acceleration’ in” its vehicles. The company goes on to claim that “this petition is completely false and was brought on by a Tesla short-seller.” The company says that it investigates every report it gets from a driver claiming that their car ‘accelerated contrary to their input.’ In every case in which there is vehicle data available, according to Tesla, its investigation finds that ‘the car operated as designed.’ Put simply, Tesla says that its cars will only accelerate if the driver tells it to. Beyond that, the company explains that it put two independent sensors on the Model S/X/3 accelerators and that any error will cause the system to cut off the motor torque. Beyond that, hitting the brake pedal in a Tesla will stop the car even if the accelerator is also pressed. Furthermore, Tesla explains, its Autopilot sensor suite can help the car determine whether the driver has accidentally pressed the accelerator in order to cut off the motor torque and help prevent an accident. source
  10. Tesla is now worth more than Ford and GM—combined Elon Musk will be eligible for a big stock award if shares rise above $553. Enlarge / Elon Musk celebrates the opening of a new Tesla factory in Shanghai, China. Qilai Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images Less than a month after Tesla's stock first rose above $400, the company's shares have now soared past $500 per share. As I write this, one share of Tesla stock is worth $516, which means the company as a whole is worth more than $93 billion. The latest rally was sparked by a new report from Colin Rusch, an analyst at the Wall Street firm of Oppenheimer & Co. He revised his Tesla price target upward from $385 to $612. But more fundamentally, the rising stock price reflects the fact that, after a couple years of near-constant chaos, the company seems to finally be executing smoothly. Tesla delivered 112,000 cars in the fourth quarter of 2019 and 367,500 for the full year. Both were new records for the company; Tesla barely achieved its goal to deliver at least 360,000 cars for the year. And the company is poised for continued growth. Tesla opened its new factory in China earlier this month, just a year after breaking ground on the new facility. The electric carmaker plans to build a third major car factory in Germany. Tesla's rising stock price has put Elon Musk within striking distance of winning the first of 12 performance-based stock grants he negotiated in his 2018 compensation package. To win an award of 1 percent of the company's stock—worth around $1 billion—Musk must pass two milestones. First, Tesla stock must be worth more than $100 billion—it's $93 billion now. Second, Tesla must hit specified targets for revenues and earnings—for example, $20 billion in annual revenue. Tesla said in an October regulatory filing that the company has already hit this $20 billion revenue figure. That clears the way for Musk to collect his stock award if Tesla's share price rises above $553 in the coming months. Why Wall Street is so bullish about Tesla Tesla is now by far the most valuable car company in America. As I write this on Monday afternoon, Tesla's market capitalization is $93 billion, compared to $50 billion for General Motors and $37 billion for Ford. That's especially remarkable because GM sold around 20 times as many cars as Tesla in 2019, while Ford sold more than six times as many. So what explains Tesla's astronomical stock price? You can never be sure what Wall Street is thinking, but two factors likely contribute to investor bullishness about Tesla. One is growth. The global car market overall is pretty saturated, but many experts expect electric vehicles to be a growth market over the next decade. Governments around the world have created incentives for people to buy electric vehicles. Meanwhile, battery costs have been falling rapidly over the last decade and are expected to continue falling in the 2020s. That should mean falling electric car prices, which should expand the market for electric vehicles in the coming years. And while most major carmakers are working on their own electric vehicles, Tesla's rivals have struggled to design vehicles that can capture the public imagination the way Tesla's cars do. The Model 3 was by far the most popular all-electric car in the United States in 2019, with substantial sales overseas as well. If Tesla can maintain its share of the electric vehicle market as the overall electric car market grows, Tesla could wind up being one of the world's leading automakers. The other factor that could justify Tesla's high valuation is the potential for high margins. Right now, Tesla is not an especially profitable company. But things could improve dramatically over time. Declining battery prices will improve Tesla's margins. As a young and inexperienced carmaker, Tesla may have greater room to improve the efficiency of its manufacturing. At the same time, Tesla has something no other carmaker can match: a loyal, enthusiastic, and growing customer base. Like Apple I'm not the first person to compare Tesla to Apple, but I think the comparison makes sense. Apple only has 15 to 20 percent of the global smartphone market, well below Google's Android. But the distinctiveness of the iPhone platform combined with the loyalty of the Apple customer base means that Apple can charge a premium for the iPhone. As a result, Apple's share of smartphone industry profits is much larger than its share of unit shipments or revenue. We don't know what the electric car marketplace will look like a decade from now. But it's not hard to imagine that marketplace evolving in a similar direction, with Tesla becoming the Apple of transportation. People will be willing to pay a few thousand dollars extra for the prestige and unique features of a Tesla—just as they're willing to pay a few hundred extra dollars for an iPhone. And in the ruthlessly competitive car industry, even a small difference in price can translate into a big difference in profits. Source: Tesla is now worth more than Ford and GM—combined (Ars Technica)
  11. Elon Musk: ‘Teslas will soon talk to people if you want. This is real’ ‘Well don’t just stand there staring, hop in’ Elon Musk says that Tesla cars will “soon” be able to talk to nearby pedestrians. In a tweet announcing the functionality, the CEO shared a short clip of a Model 3 driving past while its speaker plays a clip saying “Well don’t just stand there staring, hop in.” In his Tweet, Musk says, “Teslas will soon talk to people if you want. This is real.” We already knew that Tesla has begun adding external speakers to its cars in order to comply with new safety regulations that require electric cars to produce artificial noise. Now it seems these speakers could be used for much more. In a follow-up tweet, Musk indicated that the newly-announced functionality could work with the car’s existing sentry mode alarm system which already uses the car’s internal sound system to deter would-be thieves. Alternatively, he said that you could just have your car fart in people’s general direction. The specific audio message played in the clip brings to mind Musk’s master plan of eventually having all of Tesla’s cars operate as an autonomous taxi fleet, earning money for their owners when they’re not driving them. In an autonomous state, with no driver to invite passengers into the taxi, the car itself could be left to tell people to “hop in.” Musk’s tweet says to expect the new functionality “soon,” but you might want to take this promise with a pinch of salt. The CEO previously said that Tesla’s “customized horn and movement sounds” were coming “soon” back in October and they’re still yet to arrive, and we’re still waiting to see a Tesla complete the autonomous Los Angeles to New York journey that was promised back in 2016 (the plans were put on hold in 2018). Source: Elon Musk: ‘Teslas will soon talk to people if you want. This is real’ (The Verge)
  12. Tesla gets $1.29 billion loan from Chinese banks for its Shanghai car plant Tesla has announced that it has secured $1.29 billion (9 billion yuan) from Chinese banks to assist with construction and production at its Shanghai factory. The China-based Gigafactory 3 will be crucial to Tesla’s operations in the country, where 3,000 Model 3 vehicles will be produced weekly for sale in the biggest electric car market on the planet. With the new factory, Tesla will also be able to sidestep tariffs that are appearing due to the U.S.-China trade war. The firms lending the money to Tesla include China Construction Bank Corp, Agricultural Bank of China, Shanghai Pudong Development Bank, and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. Aside from the 9 billion yuan loan, Tesla has also signed agreements for an unsecured revolving loan facility of up to 2.25 billion yuan, which will also be spent on the new Gigafactory 3. According to Reuters, Tesla may also use some of the loan to pay off 3.5 billion yuan in debt that is due for repayment by March 4, 2020. This will leave just under 8 billion yuan to invest in work at the factory. According to Tesla’s Q3 2019 report, Gigafactory 3 was built in 10 months and is ready for production. The firm said that the factory was around 65% less expensive to build than its Model 3 production system in the U.S. Source: Tesla gets $1.29 billion loan from Chinese banks for its Shanghai car plant (Neowin)
  13. Electric truck startup Rivian raises $1.3 billion more to challenge Tesla Rivian has raised almost $3 billion in 2019 as it prepares to begin production. Enlarge / The R1T interior. Rivian Electric truck startup Rivian has raised another $1.3 billion from investors, the company announced on Monday. Rivian had already announced three fundraising rounds this year worth more than $1.5 billion in total. A number of companies have tried to follow in Tesla's footsteps in recent years, and some of them have struggled. At this point, Rivian looks like one of the most credible entrants in the electric vehicle business. We declared Rivian's truck the best of the New York Auto Show in April and named Rivian itself the star of the show. Rivian's truck, the R1T, starts at $69,000 (before a $7,500 federal tax credit for American customers). Rivian says its trucks can accelerate from 0 to 60mph in under three seconds. The entry-level truck has a 105kWh battery that will offer 230 miles (370km) of range, while the most expensive model has a 180kWh battery with 400 miles (640km) of range. Rivian needs to raise billions of dollars because automobile manufacturing is an extremely expensive business. Tesla, for example, has raised more than $20 billion in equity and debt financing over the last decade. Rivian wants to start selling at least three different vehicle designs—a pickup truck, an SUV, and a delivery van for Amazon—over the next two years. For comparison, Tesla has launched three new vehicles over the last decade. The latest fundraising round was led by T. Rowe Price. Amazon, Ford, and Blackrock also participated. Amazon led the year's first Rivian investment round, which yielded $700 million, back in February, and Ford invested $500 million in April. Cox Automotive invested $350 million in Rivian in September. Rivian considers Amazon, Ford, and Cox to be strategic partners. Ford has agreed to build a battery-electric pickup truck based on Rivian's technology. Amazon ordered 100,000 delivery vans from Rivian in September. Cox has experience in fleet logistics and automotive retail operations; Rivian hopes that Cox can help deliver an excellent experience to customers needing service and support. Source: Electric truck startup Rivian raises $1.3 billion more to challenge Tesla (Ars Technica)
  14. Karlston

    How Tesla proved the haters wrong

    How Tesla proved the haters wrong The 2020s could be even better for Tesla than the 2010s. Enlarge / Tesla CEO Elon Musk. FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images On Thursday, Tesla stock rose above $400 for the first time in the company's history. The record price caps a year—and a decade—when Tesla proved its doubters wrong. At the start of 2010, Tesla had produced fewer than 1,000 units of the high-priced Roadster. The Model S was years away. The firm's finances were still precarious, having narrowly escaped bankruptcy in the final days of 2008. Few would have guessed that Tesla was poised to become a major automaker. Indeed, over the last decade, people repeatedly predicted that the company would run out of money and be unable to raise more. They doubted that Tesla could deliver new car models on time—or at all. They said that quality problems and missed deadlines would sour customers on the Tesla brand. But Tesla has proved these critics wrong. It's true that the company has repeatedly missed deadlines and has sometimes shipped cars with quality problems. But those setbacks have had little impact on its customers' enthusiasm for the company. Compelling features like instant acceleration, over-the-air software updates, and Tesla's vast supercharger network have been enough to convince hundreds of thousands of fans to overlook the company's flaws and open their wallets. As the 2010s draw to a close, Tesla may be in its strongest position ever. The company recently began production at its second major car factory in Shanghai, and it has begun work on its third car factory near Berlin. Tesla made a small profit in the most recent quarter despite falling government subsidies. Tesla still faces plenty of challenges. The company is supposed to start shipping three new vehicles—the Model Y SUV, the Semi, the New Roadster—just in 2020. That doesn't seem like a realistic timetable for a company that has launched only three new vehicles in the last decade and has never launched a vehicle on time. But Tesla does eventually ship its products. And so far, customers have always loved them. Rumors of Tesla’s bankruptcy were greatly exaggerated Car manufacturing is a hugely capital-intensive business. Tesla has had to raise billions of dollars as it shifted from selling a niche sports car at the start of the decade to selling the mass-market Model 3 in recent years. Meanwhile, the company's stock soared from a 2010 IPO price of $17 to more than $100 in late 2013 to more than $400 today. That has made Tesla a favorite target of short sellers—investors who try to make money by betting a stock will go down. "It's an overpriced car company," said Jim Chanos, a short seller who made his name predicting the demise of Enron, in an October 2015 interview. At the time, Tesla's stock was selling for around $220. Yet Tesla continued to borrow heavily as it developed the Model X and then the Model 3. And despite the negative cashflow, the company's stock kept going up. Pessimism about Tesla's financial viability may have reached its peak in April 2018, when Bloomberg published a feature called "Tesla doesn't burn fuel, it burns cash." The article was accompanied by a crude animation of Tesla head honcho Elon Musk throwing a stream of dollar bills into a pair of flamethrowers. At that point, Tesla was burning more than a billion dollars in cash every quarter as it ramped up production of the Model 3. People wondered if Tesla—which had only seen a handful of quarters with positive cashflow since its 2010 IPO—was on the verge of bankruptcy. This was also the time period when Musk tweeted that he had "funding secured" for a deal to take Tesla private at $420 per share—something that turned out not to be true and got him in hot water with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Around this same time, people started to compile long lists of senior Tesla executives who had left the company in recent months. One September 2018 tally from CNBC counted 41 executives who had quit since the start of the year. All of which caused many people to suspect that Tesla was in serious financial trouble. But that turned out to be untrue. Tesla turned a profit in both the third and fourth quarters of 2018. Tesla lost money again in the first two quarters of 2019, but Wall Street was unconcerned. Tesla had no trouble raising an extra $2 billion in a May 2019 stock sale. That fundraising round helped to put Tesla on a firm financial footing going into 2020. Why I’m bullish about Tesla in the 2020s Enlarge Critics have focused on Tesla's negative cash flow over the last decade—but many seem to miss the larger picture. Car companies have to spend billions of dollars in design and factory construction costs before the first car comes off the assembly line. That's exactly what we've seen for each of Tesla's last three vehicle launches: big losses in the months before the start of manufacturing, turning to modest profits once volume production is underway. Of course, skeptics (including my colleague Jonathan Gitlin) point out that there's a ton of red ink on this chart and comparatively modest profits. And Tesla has juiced its profits by selling zero-emission tax credits to other automakers—a revenue source it may not be able to rely on in the future. Still, Tesla's losses are largely a reflection of the company's rapid growth. If the company had decided to rest on its laurels after launching the Model S, it likely could have enjoyed years of small but steady profits selling that vehicle. Similarly, if Tesla hadn't launched the Model 3, the Model S and X would have generated healthy profits over the last five years. It's Tesla's decision to start production on a new car as soon as the old one starts turning a profit that has produced a decade of almost continuous losses. Not only that, but Tesla has been shifting from low-volume cars to high-volume ones. High-volume cars have much higher up-front capital costs. So it's not surprising that Tesla's Model S and Model X profits got drowned in a sea of red ink from the ramp-up of Model 3 manufacturing. But there's a method to the madness here. While a mass-market car like the Model 3 has higher upfront costs and lower margins, it also has potential for big profits thanks to economies of scale. The Model 3 is cheap enough that millions of people can afford to buy them. And if they do, Tesla will easily make a healthy return on the billions of dollars it spent setting up its Model 3 factory. Falling battery costs and a strong brand bode well for the 2020s Early Tesla cars were expensive because the company wanted to offer ranges comparable to conventional gasoline-powered cars. That took a lot of batteries, and batteries were expensive. But battery prices have been falling, and they are likely to continue falling. The research company BloombergNEF published its annual report on battery prices earlier this month. In 2010, batteries cost more than $1,100 per kWh. That figure fell to $373 by 2015 and $156 in 2019. The Model 3 ships with between 54kWh and 75kWh of battery capacity, which means that Tesla is likely spending $8,000 to $10,000 on batteries for every Model 3 it sells. BloombergNEF estimates that battery prices will fall below $100 per kWh by 2023. If that happens, it will slash thousands of dollars off of Tesla's manufacturing costs for every vehicle. That will lead to a big improvement in Tesla's profit margins without Tesla having to make any other improvements to either its cars or manufacturing processes. The obvious rejoinder is that other carmakers are working on battery-powered vehicles of their own and will enjoy the same savings. But Tesla's scale and years of experience may give the company a sustainable advantage here. Tesla may enjoy a sustainable advantage in other areas, too. No other company offers a charging solution comparable to Tesla's supercharging network. Tesla regularly pushes new software updates out to its vehicles that deliver better performance and new features. No other car company has really mastered this technique. Tesla has also refined its motors over time to squeeze out a bit more power and range from a given amount of battery power. Those innovations may not be easy for rivals to replicate. And then there's the customer-loyalty factor. Tesla ownership has a cachet that no other car company has been able to match. Even if other car makers can duplicate most of the technical features of Tesla vehicles, a fair number of people may still be willing to pay a premium so they can say they own a Tesla. The oft-cited analogy to Apple seems apt here. The prestige of the Apple brand, combined with dozens of small refinements to the design of the iPhone and its software, is enough to induce consumers to pay a substantial premium. That premium has endured even though Android phone makers have succeeded in duplicating—and in some cases exceeding—the iPhone's technical capabilities. Tesla vehicles may benefit from a similar halo effect for years to come. Source: How Tesla proved the haters wrong (Ars Technica)
  15. WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. auto safety agency said Friday it will investigate a 12th Tesla crash that may be tied to the vehicle’s advanced Autopilot driver assistance system after a Tesla Model 3 rear-ended a parked police car in Connecticut on Saturday. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration special crash investigation program will investigate the Dec. 7 crash of a 2018 Tesla Model 3 on Interstate 95 in Norwalk, Connecticut, the agency confirmed. Autopilot has been engaged in at least three fatal U.S. Tesla crashes since 2016. The agency’s special crash investigation team has inspected 12 crashes involving Tesla vehicles where it was believed Autopilot was engaged at the time of the incident. To date, the agency has completed reports on two of them: a 2016 fatal crash in Florida in which Autopilot was engaged and a prior crash where Autopilot was ruled out as a factor. Source
  16. Tesla wants to reinvent the pickup with the $39,900 Cybertruck The wedge-shaped vehicle looks like no pickup you've ever seen before. First image of article image gallery. Please visit the source link to see all images. On Thursday night, Tesla CEO Elon Musk revealed his company's take on that most quintessentially American of automobiles, the pickup truck. "Trucks have been basically the same for 100 years. We want to do something different," Musk told a rapturous audience. He wasn't underselling things. It's called the Cybertruck, and it looks like a cross between the Aston Martin Bulldog, a wedge-shaped concept from the early 1980s, and that cool APC you remember from Aliens. "We moved the mass to the outside," Musk said, referring to the fact that the Cybertruck has a stainless steel monocoque construction, like the Model 3. Criticizing the body-on-frame construction technique used for almost heavy trucks on sale, Musk told attendees that "the body and the bed don't do anything useful," before launching into a lengthy demonstration of people hitting or shooting body panels and glass from the Cybertruck to prove the toughness of the exterior. The shape is highly unconventional, but the size could have been picked by a focus group—almost exactly as wide and tall as a Ford F-150, and about exactly as long as some of the four-seat versions of America's favorite pickup. At the rear, the 6.5-foot (2m) bed—called the Cybertruck Vault here, has a lockable aerodynamic cover that gives the vehicle 100 cubic feet (2,831L) of protected cargo storage. The Vault will also support loads of up to 3,500lbs (1,588kg). Some of the Cybertruck's other features suggest that Musk might be paying attention to Bollinger, which is working on a very UnTesla-like range of boutique battery EV off-roaders. A Bollinger will have 15-inches of ground clearance via its air suspension, so the Cybertruck will have 16 inches, Musk revealed. Like the Bollinger, the Cybertruck will also offer 110V and 220V AC outlets, so the vehicle can act as a power source on remote job sites. There will be three versions of the Cybertruck. The single (rear) motor configuration will have a range of 250 miles (400km) with a towing capacity of 7,500lbs (3,402kg) for $39,900. For an extra $10,000, there's a dual motor (all-wheel drive) variant, which ups the towing capacity to 10,000lbs (4,536kg) and drops the 0-60mph time by two seconds. A trimotor Cybertruck—presumably with one front motor and two rear motors—will cost $69,900, and is tow-rated for 14,000lbs (6,350kg), but you get 500 miles (800km) of range. Tesla is now accepting $100 refundable deposits for the Cybertruck, which the order page says will go into production in late 2021, with the three motor version following a year later. Listing image by Tesla Source: Tesla wants to reinvent the pickup with the $39,900 Cybertruck (Ars Technica) (To view the article's image gallery, please visit the above link)
  17. Tesla shows off Chinese-made Model 3s ahead of Shanghai factory start Tesla broke ground on its Chinese factory in January. First image of article image gallery. Please visit the source link to see all images. Tesla is famous for missing deadlines, but the company's Shanghai factory, dubbed Gigafactory 3, seems to be on schedule. Tesla broke ground on the facility in January. Now media reports indicate that work is just about finished, and the company is weeks away from beginning large-scale manufacturing. According to Bloomberg, Tesla chairman Robyn Denholm said last week that Tesla is waiting for manufacturing certification from local government. The company hopes that will happen before the end of the year. Tesla recently posted images of some of the first Chinese-made Model 3s on Weibo, a Chinese social media platform similar to Twitter. Tesla allowed Chinese reporters to take additional photos of the vehicle. There are a couple of obvious differences from the American model. The back of the car has Chinese characters on the left and "Model 3" on the right. Like the cars Tesla is currently shipping to China, these new Model 3s also sport dual charging ports. One port is for the European Type 2 charging standard, while the other is for a Chinese charging standard. Tesla will initially use batteries from Panasonic in its Chinese-made cars, just as it does in the United States. Bloomberg recently reported that Tesla is negotiating a deal to start using batteries from Chinese battery maker CATL starting next year. Tesla is aiming to produce at least 1,000 vehicles per week at its Chinese factory before the end of the year. That could help Tesla achieve its overall goal to deliver at least 360,000 vehicles for the calendar year. Tesla delivered 255,200 vehicles in the first nine months of 2019, so the company will need to deliver 104,800 vehicles in the fourth quarter. Tesla delivered 97,000 vehicles in the third quarter, so it will need to step up its game a bit in the current quarter. A few thousand Chinese vehicles could be enough to push the company over the top. Listing image by Tesla Source: Tesla shows off Chinese-made Model 3s ahead of Shanghai factory start (Ars Technica) (To view the article's image gallery, please visit the above link)
  18. Tesla will unveil its ‘Cybertruck’ electric pickup on November 21st Elon Musk has called the supposedly Blade Runner design ‘heart-stopping’ Tesla will finally unveil its long-awaited electric pickup truck on November 21st, Elon Musk tweeted on Wednesday. The truck, which Musk has dubbed “Cybertruck,” is supposed to look like something straight out of Blade Runner, the CEO has said. The truck will be unveiled at Tesla’s design studio in Los Angeles, California, which sits on the same lot as SpaceX’s headquarters. Musk originally planned to reveal the pickup truck earlier this year, but he announced in September that he was pushing the event back to November. Musk has said the forthcoming pickup truck has a “heart-stopping” design, with better utility than a Ford F-150 and superior performance to a basic Porsche 911. The idea of a Tesla pickup truck has been kicked around since 2013 when Musk mentioned his desire to take on the F-150s of the world onstage at an event. The billionaire entrepreneur has spent the last six years teasing the truck without offering too many concrete specifics. He’s said the truck will seat six, start at around $50,000, and offer 400 to 500 miles of range in the highest price variant. Musk has also suggested the top-end version will be powered by a dual-motor setup, with a ludicrous towing capacity of 300,000 pounds. As for what the truck will look like, Musk hasn’t offered much beyond a bunch of references to its “cyberpunk” aesthetic, and he has only released one very dark and indiscernible teaser image (seen above). This has resulted in a constant flood of fan renders, many of which border on the ridiculous. The date announced on Wednesday means the Tesla pickup truck will be revealed at the same time as — but separate from — the Los Angeles Auto Show where Ford is expected to unveil a Mustang-inspired SUV, its first mass-market electric vehicle. (Tesla has a long history of skipping traditional auto shows in favor of putting on its own events.) Electric cars are slowly growing in popularity around the world, but they still only make up about 1 to 2 percent of the market, depending on the region. At the same time, pickup truck sales have shot through the roof in the last few years (alongside SUV sales), meaning there may be a great opportunity for the first companies to ship a viable electric truck. There’s no release date for Tesla’s electric pickup just yet, but in the next two to three years, an all-electric Ford F-150, an electric pickup from GM, and another electric pickup from EV startup Rivian are slated to hit the market. Source: Tesla will unveil its ‘Cybertruck’ electric pickup on November 21st (The Verge)
  19. Customers rave about Model 3 in new Bloomberg survey More than 90% of customers say Autopilot makes them safer. Enlarge / A truck full of Model 3 cars. Andrei Stanescu / Getty An impressive 99.6% of Tesla Model 3 customers describe the vehicle as a pleasure to drive, Bloomberg reports in a new survey. The first three installments of Bloomberg's four-part survey have been published in recent days. Bloomberg talked to almost 5,000 customers about their experiences owning the Model 3. Many customers reported having specific problems with their cars—minor manufacturing defects, long wait times for repairs, mistakes by Tesla's Autopilot software. Some of these problems related to the ramp-up of Model 3 production over the last two years. In 2018, Tesla struggled to manufacture the Model 3 in volume and without defects. More recently, the company has struggling to provide timely service as the number of Tesla cars on the road swelled. Yet these experiences don't seem to have made a big impression on customers, who overwhelmingly gave the automaker high marks. Most customers believe Autopilot makes them safer More than 90% of survey respondents told Bloomberg they believed that Tesla's Autopilot technology has made them safer. This is despite the fact that some of those same drivers said the driver-assistance system had put them in a dangerous situation. "Autopilot saw an emergency braking event two cars ahead of me," a Tesla owner in Texas told Bloomberg. Autopilot's radar is able to see "through" cars, allowing it to apply the brakes before a human driver would have been able to. Sometimes Autopilot gets overzealous, however. "The forward collision-avoidance function is very twitchy with a lot of false alarms," a Virginia owner told Bloomberg. One such false alarm almost caused a crash from the car behind. Autopilot also makes more serious errors. "Navigate on Autopilot tried to steer the car into a concrete wall along an exit ramp," an owner from California wrote. "This keeps happening at the same spot multiple times." In 2018, another California Tesla owner, Walter Huang, died under similar circumstances. Federal investigators concluded that Autopilot steered his vehicle into a concrete lane divider. But many owners also said Autopilot had prevented crashes. "A deer jumped in front of me on a dark road at night. By the time my foot moved to the brake pedal, it was already pressed to the floor," a colourado customer told Bloomberg. Overall, 28% of drivers said Autopilot had saved them from a dangerous situation, more than double the 13% who said that Autopilot had put them in a dangerous situation. Tesla owners were less positive about Smart Summon, Tesla's recently released technology for driverless operation in parking lots. Seventy percent of Tesla owners said it was useful, while just 41% described it as safe enough for the average driver. Improved manufacturing leads to growing pains at service centers Bloomberg's data shows that Tesla has dramatically improved the quality of its vehicle manufacturing over the course of 2019. Tesla's manufacturing problems peaked in February 2019, with slightly more than 100 defects for every 100 Model 3 vehicles sold. By September, the rate was down to 35 defects for every 100 sales. While Tesla seems to have hit its stride with manufacturing the Model 3 at scale, soaring sales have strained Tesla's network of repair centers. More than 20% of customers said they were dissatisfied with the timeliness of Tesla's repairs, and a similar number were unsatisfied with repair adequacy. Elon Musk made improving the Tesla repair process a top priority in 2019, and the company has made progress on some dimensions. The company moved parts from regional warehouses into repair centers, which meant less time spent waiting for necessary parts. But a third of customers in the third quarter of 2019 reported having to wait for 10 days or longer for an appointment at a Tesla service center. Bloomberg's data shows that it took about a month, on average, for a car to be repaired after a crash. That's an improvement over early 2018, when it took more than two months for the average customer to have a working car after a crash. This is significant because it's harder to find an independent mechanic qualified to service Tesla's electric vehicles than a conventional gasoline-powered car. One final bit of interesting data from the Bloomberg survey: the Model 3's battery seems to maintain its capacity better than those of earlier models. All batteries suffer from declining capacity after many charge cycles. But Bloomberg's data shows that the average Model 3 loses only 2.5% of its rated capacity after 40,000 miles on the road. A typical Model S sold in 2014 lost more than 4% of its charge after driving the same distance. Source: Customers rave about Model 3 in new Bloomberg survey (Ars Technica)
  20. FRANKFURT/ZWICKAU (Reuters) - Volkswagen AG is ramping up production of electric cars to around 1 million vehicles by end of 2022, according to manufacturing plans seen by Reuters, enabling the German carmaker to leapfrog Tesla Inc and making China the key battleground. Volkswagen is readying two Chinese factories to build electric cars next year. The Chinese plants will have a production capacity of 600,000 vehicles, according to Volkswagen’s plans, which have not been previously reported - revealing VW’s ability to industrialise production faster than other pioneers in the electric vehicle market. Tesla is still trying to reach its goal of making more than 500,000 cars a year by building a new factory in Shanghai, China, while VW can rely on an established workforce in two of its plants in Anting and Foshun to build zero-emission cars. The scale and speed of VW’s electrification push marks a shift in favour of established manufacturers that can use existing factories and profit from combustion-engined sport utility vehicles (SUVs) to scale up faster than startups. “The truth is barriers to entry in autos remain high,” said Max Warburton, an analyst at Bernstein Research. “Making cars is hard. The move to electric vehicles will be expensive, but will probably be led by traditional manufacturers.” VW is leveraging its large infrastructure of suppliers, factories and workers, long a handicap to its profitability, more aggressively than rivals BMW, Renault SA, General Motors Co and Tesla, which were all quicker to sell a custom-designed electric car. Rather than adjusting production gradually, and using multi-powertrain platforms, Volkswagen is making a massive bet on a dedicated electric vehicle architecture, known as MEB, in the hope of increasing economies of scale sufficiently to push down the price of electric cars to around 20,000 euros ($22,262). The Wolfsburg, Germany-based carmaker is retooling eight plants across the globe by 2022 to specialise in manufacturing electric cars, and license its electric MEB platform to rivals, senior VW executives told Reuters, putting it on track to become the world’s largest maker of zero-emission vehicles. Tesla has emerged as a serious competitor with a credible car, its Model 3, Volkswagen Chief Executive Herbert Diess told Reuters last week. But startups have a hard time entering mass production without sufficient production facilities, he said. “The question is, can you expand your production quickly enough? The capital intensity is increasing,” Diess said. To fund its own electrification shift, the German carmaker aims to increase sales of VW SUVs, with combustion engines, to 40% of overall sales by 2020 from 23% in 2018. The powerstation that supplies energy for VW’s flagship e-vehicle factory in Zwickau, Germany, marked by two tall chimneys, was built to power production of the combustion-engined Volkswagen Golf. Now Zwickau can piggyback off this infrastructure to ramp up production to 330,000 VW ID electric cars by 2021. Volkswagen Group will increase economies of scale by rolling out electric vehicle platforms to its Audi, Skoda and Seat and Porsche brands. Volkswagen Group will be in a position to build 22 million electric cars by 2028, of which 11.6 million could come out of Chinese factories, VW said. For a graphic version of story "Global automakers invest in electric vehicles", click: here PRODUCTION PAIN VW’s expansion push comes at a time when investors have started to question businesses delivering growth without real profit, a change in sentiment that is crippling the ability of several electric car pioneers to raise more cash. Back in 2016, Tesla said it wanted to build more than 500,000 Model 3 cars by 2018, a goal it has failed to meet. This year it expects to deliver 360,000 to 400,000 cars, a target that includes selling all models. Tesla’s struggles have dampened optimism about how easy it is to enter the car business, making it harder for China’s NIO, backed by internet company Tencent Holdings Ltd, as well as others like Faraday Future and Byton Ltd, to fund the next stage of growth: capital-intensive volume production and sales. “So much respect for those doing high volume manufacturing, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted earlier this month. “It’s insanely hard, but you make a real thing that people value. My hat is off to you.” After starting trial production runs at its factory in Shanghai, Tesla now hopes to reach its 500,000-vehicle target in the 12-month period ending June 30, 2020. Tesla is also looking for a site to start production in Europe. Volkswagen is converting two German plants, Hanover and Zwickau, to build electric vehicles and will retool other factories including plants in China: Foshan which VW runs together with its joint-venture partner FAW-Volkswagen, and another in Anting, which VW runs together with SAIC. It will retool plants in Emden and Dresden in Germany, Mlada Boleslav in the Czech Republic, and Chattanooga, Tennessee, in United States, as part of a 30 billion-euro ($33.24 billion)investment push into e-mobility by 2023. As a result, Volkswagen Group will be the No. 1 electric vehicle producer globally by 2025, while Tesla is likely to remain a niche player, according to UBS autos analyst Patrick Hummel. TECHNOLOGY INTERLOPERS The cutthroat rivalry between automakers and software companies started when Alphabet Inc’s Google presented a prototype autonomous vehicle in 2012, leading analysts and industry executives to fear a so-called Nokia moment. This occurs when a new player from the tech sector unveils a superior design, in the way that Apple Inc presented the iPhone in 2007, ending Nokia’s dominance of the mobile handset business. Today, Tesla’s cars are generally perceived as cutting-edge and potentially more sophisticated than VW’s. Volkswagen’s ID.3, which starts production this year, has an operating range of between 330 and 550 kilometers (205 to 341 miles), below the 560 km long-range Model 3 version offered by Tesla. That is because Tesla has a sophisticated software algorithm to control how much electricity goes to the electric motor, air conditioning, seat heaters, in-car infotainment, and cooling system. Volkswagen’s edge is more blunt: price and massive economies of scale. The ID.3 has a starting price of under 30,000 euros ($33,363) in Germany. By contrast, Tesla’s Model 3 had an average selling price of $50,000 in the second quarter. The long-range version retails for 52,390 euros in Germany. The VW vehicle’s lower price comes from the carmaker’s ability to place large orders which, by nature of their size, help drive down the price. Volkswagen is investing 50 billion euros ($55.5 billion) to buy battery cells and will also license its MEB electric car platform to rival carmakers to further increase economies of scale. That is, Volkswagen will make that huge investment if suppliers can keep up. “There is a lot of investment,” Stefan Sommer, Volkswagen Group’s board member responsible for procurement, told Reuters last month. “But even the big companies like Samsung, CATL, LG Chem, the big guys, SK, they hesitate to take so much money and invest because they are not seeing the market on the other side.” “We are now seeing the first battery plants, LG in Poland, CATL in Germany, they don’t have the skilled workforce. That will be the bottleneck,” Sommer said. “It’s a learning curve everybody has to work through. This will cause some lags in supply. We have no other choice.” VW plans to license its electric MEB vehicle platform to rival Ford Motor Co, which will give VW $10 billion in revenue over the next six years. Thomas Ulbrich, Volkswagen’s member of the board who oversees production of electric vehicles, told Reuters, “Ford and Volkswagen’s agreement will be a blueprint for further licensing deals.” In the short term, Volkswagen and its Chinese joint venture partners will invest 15 billion euros to produce 15 different electric cars for China alone by 2025. “The first MEB-based vehicle is an SUV model,” Volkswagen said about its China push. Source
  21. Tesla made a profit of $143 million in Q3 2019 on record deliveries It didn't lose money by selling more vehicles, which is good. But did FCA help? Enlarge / Workers on cranes install the Tesla logo at the new Gigafactory in Shanghai, China. VCG | Getty Images Between June and September 2019, Tesla delivered 97,000 electric vehicles to customers. That's a new record for the decade-old carmaker and a strong performance for its Model 3 sedan; around 6,000 cars per week found new homes during the quarter. But sales of the higher-margin Models S and X have dropped precipitously this year, and ever since the early October deliveries news, speculation has been rampant as to what that means for the company's bottom line. Now we have that answer. On Wednesday afternoon, Tesla announced that it made a profit of $143 million during the third quarter of 2019. The other headline figures from Q3 2019 are that, at the end of September, the company had $5.3 billion in cash and cash equivalents and $371 million in operating cash. For comparison, Tesla lost $408 million in Q2 2019, which followed even heavier losses in Q1 2019. In a presentation to investors ahead of a conference call this afternoon, Tesla stated that this newfound profitability "was possible by removing substantial cost from our business." Despite the fact that average sale prices have decreased (as consumers buy many more, cheaper Model 3 variants and many fewer Model 3 Performance or Models S or X), Tesla says its automotive gross margin is now 22.8%. That's higher than it's been previously in 2019. The Shanghai Gigafactory is ready Additionally, Tesla has kept to its promise to get its Chinese operation ready for production before year's end. Tesla says that it was built for 65% less per unit of capacity than the "US Model 3 production system." Originally, head honcho Elon Musk had touted an "alien dreadnought" that would move faster than they eye could see, but that ended up mired in "production hell" instead. Tesla says that the Shanghai Gigafactory is producing test vehicles already and that it is in the process of getting the various necessary licenses and approvals from the Chinese government before it can begin producing Model 3s en masse. Tesla's factory in Fremont, California, is currently receiving its Model Y production equipment. Tesla says it has learned from its experience in Shanghai and that capital expenditure spending should be 50% lower per Model Y than was the case for US-built Model 3s. Tesla has increased its capex spending for Q3 (from $250 million to $385 million), but levels are still far below where they were in Q3 2018. (The Chinese Gigafactory was financed with Chinese debt.) In past quarters, emissions credits have often played a significant role when Tesla has made a profit. As we reported recently, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Tesla have entered into a partnership that will allow FCA to count Tesla's EVs as its own for next year's punitive European Union carbon emissions regulations. However, we'll have to wait for the release of Tesla's 10-Q document in the coming weeks to determine what FCA's contribution has been to this set of results. Similarly, although Tesla says that it has recognized some of the revenue related to Smart Summon, it does not elaborate on exactly how much this or "other non-recurring items" actually contributed to the bottom line. That will have to wait for the 10-Q as well. Source: Tesla made a profit of $143 million in Q3 2019 on record deliveries (Ars Technica)
  22. Model S and X owners claim the batteries are defective. Tesla's software updates normally bring a host of improvements, but some owners are less than thrilled with the implications for their cars' performance and safety. The NHTSA is reviewing a petition asserting that Tesla should have recalled 2,000 Model S and Model X units after a battery safety update arrived in May. The automaker allegedly knew the cars' batteries were defective and decided that it would rather push an update that reduced range, performance and charging speed than replace batteries under warranty. We've asked Tesla for comment. It previously said that it delivered the May update out of an "abundance of caution" and that its EVs were "10 times less likely" to catch fire than gas-powered cars. Its statement at the time made clear that the software would affect charge and thermal management settings. The update had been prompted by a Model S bursting into flames in Hong Kong, although there have been multiple seemingly spontaneous fires over the past several years. Much as with the lithium-ion batteries in your mobile devices, there's a chance that overheating or charging issues could trigger chemical reactions that set the EVs' batteries ablaze. There's no certainty that the NHTSA's review will lead to a formal investigation or recall request. Nonetheless, the case illustrates the virtues and vices of over-the-air software updates for cars. They can mitigate or eliminate problems that previously would have required a dealership visit, if one was even possible -- how many cars can receive brake performance tweaks through a patch? At the same time, there is a concern that car companies might use software to avoid dealing with deep-seated hardware issues. Source
  23. Tesla produced a record-breaking 96,155 cars last quarter Vehicle production has steadily improved over the course of 2019. Enlarge / An aerial view of the construction site of Tesla's manufacturing facility is seen on April 8, 2019 in Shanghai. The factory is expected to begin production before the end of 2019, which could help Tesla meet its goal to deliver at least 360,000 vehicles for the year. Zhang Hengwei/China News Service/Visual China Group via Getty Images Tesla set new records for both production and delivery of vehicles in the third quarter of 2019, the company announced on Wednesday. Tesla produced 96,155 vehicles and delivered slightly more—97,000. It's a modest improvement over the 95,200 cars Tesla delivered in the second quarter. But Wall Street wasn't impressed by the new figures, with Tesla stock falling about 4% in after-hours trading. One of the most significant trends in Tesla's vehicle deliveries this year has been the sharp decline in sales of Tesla's pricier Model S and Model X models. Tesla enjoyed combined S and X sales of almost 100,000 vehicles in 2018—or nearly 25,000 per quarter. Then sales of the Model S and X plunged to 12,100 in the first quarter of 2019. This was a painful shift given the higher margins on these vehicles. Tesla delivered 17,650 of the high-end vehicles in the second quarter but then backslid (slightly) to 17,400 in Q3. That's not going to be good for Tesla's profit figures, which are expected out later this month. On the other hand, Tesla continued to enjoy steady growth in Model 3 deliveries. Tesla delivered 79,600 of the more-affordable vehicle in Q3, compared to 77,550 in Q2. That works out to more than 6,000 vehicles per week. The latest delivery figures mean that Tesla will have to work hard to meet its overall 2019 goal to deliver between 360,000 and 400,000 vehicles for the year. Tesla has delivered 255,200 vehicles so far, so it needs to deliver at least 104,800 vehicles in the final three months of the year to meet the target. That won't be easy, but it might be doable. Tesla says that it "achieved record net orders in Q3" and is "entering Q4 with an increase in our order backlog." Tesla has enjoyed steady growth in production during the year—from 77,1000 in Q1 to 87,000 in Q2 and 96,155 in Q3. Tesla is also poised to begin manufacturing in October at its new facility in Shanghai. Reuters notes that Tesla is aiming to produce at a rate of 1,000 cars per week from the factory by year's end. So it's not hard to imagine Tesla delivering well more than 100,000 vehicles in the year's final quarter. Source: Tesla produced a record-breaking 96,155 cars last quarter (Ars Technica)
  24. SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Tesla Inc’s China factory aims to start production this month but it is unclear when it will meet year-end production targets due to uncertainties around orders, labor and suppliers, sources with knowledge of the matter said. The U.S. electric vehicle maker aims to produce at least 1,000 Model 3s a week from the new factory by the end of this year, the centerpiece of its ambitions to boost sales in the world’s biggest auto market and avoid higher import tariffs imposed on U.S. cars. The plant’s mass production schedule is crucial for Tesla’s hopes of reaching its total production rate at an annualized 500,000 vehicles by the end of this year. The $2 billion factory - Tesla’s first car manufacturing site overseas - gained key government approvals last month and is on schedule to start production in October, the sources said. “We aim to start some production in October, but the actual production volume depends on many factors including car orders we received, performance of newly hired workers, supply chain and so on,” a Tesla source told Reuters. “It’s unclear when we can reach the 1,000-2,000 units per week target,” the person said, declining to be named as he was not allowed to speak to media. Tesla did not respond to requests for comment. The factory is kicking into gear amid the U.S.-China trade war and weakness in China’s auto market. Sales of new energy vehicles contracted for a second month in a row in August, and are likely to grow at a slower pace this year to 1.5 million vehicles, down from a previous forecast of 1.6 million, according to an industry association. Tesla has fared better, with China sales rising 98% in the first seven months of this year thanks to strong demand for Model 3, according to research firm LMC Automotive. NEW PHASE Tesla has embarked on a new phase of construction work at the factory in a sign of confidence in its China strategy. The new facilities will include battery pack production units, according to a company source and documents. The so-called 1.5-phase works, which have not previously been reported, include a production workshop and an energy center, construction documents showed. Construction is scheduled for completion by around the end of this year. Tesla also is looking to hire battery-related production engineers in Shanghai, according to its job advertisements. The plant, which Tesla says will be simplified and more cost-effective than its existing Model 3 line, will have 500,000 units of annual capacity when the second phase is completed, doubling from initial phase capacity of 250,000 vehicles. The factory, China’s first fully foreign-owned car plant, is a reflection of Beijing’s broader shift to open up its car market. Shanghai authorities have offered assistance to speed up construction, and China excluded Tesla models from a 10% car purchase tax on Aug. 30. State partners of the Tesla project include Shanghai Construction Group China Construction Industrial & Energy Engineering Group, State Grid , Power Construction Corporation of China , and MinMetals’ Shanghai unit Baoye, according to multiple sources involved in the construction project. Source
  25. Tesla’s Smart Summon feature is already causing chaos in parking lots across America Is Smart Summon ready for prime time? Photo by James Bareham / The Verge Tesla’s new “Smart Summon” feature is already causing confusion — and some minor fender benders. It’s another example of the real-world complications that arise from Tesla’s willingness to beta test features using customers. Smart Summon is the new name for Tesla’s autonomous parking feature, which enables a Tesla vehicle to leave a parking space and navigate around obstacles to its owner. Tesla owners who purchased the Full Self-Driving option on their car received it as part of the version 10 software update that went out last week. Using just a smartphone, you can “summon” your car to you from a maximum distance of 200 feet, as long as the car is within your line of sight. Videos of Tesla owners testing the new feature have already began popping up on social media over the weekend, and wouldn’t you know it, it’s kind of a mess. One Tesla owner tweeted about “front bumper damage,” while another claimed their Model 3 “ran into the side of [a] garage.” A video of a near collision with a speeding SUV left the owner feeling their test of Smart Summon “didn’t go so well.” Another Tesla was filmed seemingly confused by pedestrians and other cars as it tried to make its way across a Walmart parking lot. Tesla warns owners to be careful with using Smart Summon because it’s not a fully autonomous feature. “You are still responsible for your car and must monitor it and its surroundings at all times and be within your line of sight because it may not detect all obstacles,” the fine print on Tesla’s website reads. “Be especially careful around quick moving people, bicycles and cars.” Of course, the Smart Summon tweets and videos are already subject to fierce debate among supporters and short sellers of Tesla’s stock alike. Supporters accuse the Tesla owners of misusing the feature — they’re “doing some dumb things with it,” according to Electrek — or even lying about what actually happened, while the shorts have their own theories about how all this could possibly relate to the company’s upcoming earnings report. This feels like a tiny glimpse of the chaotic future. Amid flagging auto sales, car companies are introducing more and more futuristic-seeming functions in their production vehicles. This includes advanced driver assist systems, like Tesla’s Autopilot and GM’s Super Cruise, and other features that take advantage of the suite of cameras and sensors that come embedded in practically every modern car today. Tesla is obviously ahead of the pack. Their competitors are rushing to keep up. The result will be a messy scrum of “smart” and “dumb” cars interacting with each other in ways that are both hilarious and potentially dangerous — especially when the smart cars aren’t as smart as advertised. Either way, these interactions are tailor-made to go viral. This weekend’s video bonanza is just the beginning — and they’re likely to shape some of the public’s perception of autonomous vehicles as janky and prone to mistakes. You could place them in the same category as the “Tesla driver sleeping while driving on the highway” genre of YouTube videos that have been circulating for years now. The takeaway is that the more people get to experience autonomy in their real lives, the less plausible it seems. Source: Tesla’s Smart Summon feature is already causing chaos in parking lots across America (The Verge)
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