Tesla’s Computer-on-Wheels

Categories: Lifestyle,
March 27, 2015,

By Sallie W. Boyles

Photo courtesy of Tesla Motors

Just over two years ago, Tesla’s Model S energized the pages of VIE as the first electric vehicle (EV) to arrive in a luxury sedan. Oh, and did it arrive!

Earning numerous “car of the year” awards for technical innovation and design, the Model S granted an unforgettably smooth, speedy, responsive and quiet ride that seemingly left every other EV in the dust, while also outclassing its luxury competitors. Skeptics and critics, including diehard (gas-only) Maserati fans, had to acknowledge Tesla’s revolutionary concept: a gorgeous, comfortable, fun-as-all-get-out, entirely electric “computer on wheels.” Remarkably, too, like other computers, the car would receive automatic system tune-ups via online software updates.

Searching for defects in the Model S and mostly spinning their wheels in the process, naysayers primarily fueled a common EV concern—range anxiety! Notably, unlike a hybrid that could switch to gas, Tesla depended solely on battery power.

Range Assurance

Surpassing the norm, the Model S averaged 300 miles at 55 mph on a single charge, but certain factors—cold, for instance—weakened the battery’s capacity. Thus, while rolling out the company’s Supercharger stations with free battery charges to Tesla owners across the country, Elon Musk, Tesla’s founder and CEO, put a positive spin on the issue by presenting a challenge: a prize to the first Model S owner who could reach 400 miles on one charge. Several succeeded, including the winning father-son team, who drove their Model S a grand total of 423.5 miles.

Assured that daily commutes and shorter trips posed no worries, Tesla owners, who could recharge every night at home, still faced long-distance limitations—until now.

Utilizing the brains of their driving machines to grant peace of mind and safety, Tesla developers say Software Update 6.2 delivers Trip Planner navigation options plus enhanced Range Assurance to steer drivers to active charging stations and provide timely battery alerts. Additionally, thanks to a growing network of Tesla Supercharger stations and Destination Chargers (at hotels, resorts and restaurants), 96 percent of the US is currently within 175 miles of a charge.

Driver Assistance

The latest software updates also address personal safety. Owners will soon benefit from the Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS), which has heightened sensor technology to avoid collisions. Other improvements, currently underway in test mode by owners, are Automatic Emergency Braking (collision avoidance), Blind Spot Warning (lane-changing assistance), and Valet Mode (security that prohibits third parties from accessing the owner’s private information stored in the car).

Coming Next: The Model X

Launching this summer, the Model X—Tesla’s crossover sports utility vehicle—features auto-steering capabilities that, in testing, demonstrated an operator could take a Tesla from San Francisco to Seattle without ever placing a hand on the steering wheel!

Down the Road

Considering the unpredictability of drivers, some, like Elon Musk, believe that within the next 20 years, safety mandates will require cars to operate with minimal human control. For the time being, however, Tesla Motors is proceeding with caution. Both the Model S and Model X systems prevent drivers from running in a hands-off mode for an entire trip. Also, when activated in either Tesla model, automated steering works only on highways and at low speeds on private property.

With companies like Tesla advancing automotive technology so rapidly, owning a computer on wheels that makes virtually all driving decisions probably won’t be too far down the road!

To read more about the Tesla, simply flip to “Dave Rauschkalb—Super Fly and Super Charged” on page 46 of the January/February 2013 Issue of VIE HERE.



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