Tesla Decided The Software It Was Testing Around You Wasn’t Safe

Image for article titled Tesla Decided The Software It Was Testing On Public Roads Wasn't Safe After All

Illustration: Jason Torchinsky

Ah, the joys of Tesla’s “public beta” of 4,000-pound cars careening around city streets with software that even Elon Musk says has “some issues.” That and more in The Morning Shift for October 25, 2021.

1st Gear: Tesla’s Lucky

…That nobody test-driving its driver-assistance tech has crashed into a school bus full of orphans, or a nunnery. That is to say, there hasn’t been a lot keeping anything like that from happening, just that it hasn’t happened yet.

The newest update to Tesla’s driver-assistance suite, the one that people were ceaselessly looping hundreds of miles of driving to qualify for, just got its first rollback, going from 10.3 back down to 10.2 on Sunday, as Elon himself decreed, with commentary from Jalopnik alum Max Finkel:

What were these issues? They’re all problems with the car not accurately seeing the world around it, as Reuters reports:

“Regression in some left turns at traffic lights found by internal QA in 10.3. Fix in work, probably releasing tomorrow,” he tweeted on Saturday.

The Tesla vehicles with the latest 10.3 software repeatedly provided Forward Collision Warnings when there was no immediate danger, according to video postings of beta users. Some vehicles also automatically applied brakes without reason, users said on social media posts.

Some users said they lost the FSD beta software entirely after having problems with the latest iteration.

This morning, Elon said they were now pushing ahead.

I, for one, feel calm and happy that I could be walking down the street at any time and somebody driving next to me’d be “beta-testing” Tesla software not ready for primetime.

2nd Gear: Europe’s Best-Selling Car In September: The Tesla Model 3

We really shouldn’t be blogging about month-to-month sales reports, because so many little variables swing things one way or another, but this one feels reasonably newsworthy. That the Model 3 is even in contention for Europe’s best-selling car is interesting. From The Guardian:

The Tesla Model 3 was the bestselling car across Europe in September, the first time a battery electric vehicle has topped the monthly sales charts in the region.

Tesla sold 24,600 Model 3 cars during the month, taking a 2.6% market share that meant it outperformed established internal combustion engine models such as Renault’s Clio or Volkswagen’s Golf, according to figures collated by Jato Dynamics, an automotive data company.

The Model 3 may not sustain its chart-topping position because Tesla has previously pushed imports at the end of the quarter. Nevertheless, it represents another milestone in the car industry as it prepares for the end of petrol and diesel sales within the next decade in some markets. That includes a 2035 ban on all internal combustion engines in the UK, where the Model 3 is already the most popular electric vehicle.

When was the last time an American car held this position?

3rd Gear: Volvo’s IPO ‘Stuttering’

Not everybody gets to be Tesla, and Volvo is currently having a hard time getting the sky-high valuation that other hip car company gets to enjoy. At issue is that Volvo isn’t independent, or at least that’s what the Financial Times thinks is the problem:

Volvo Cars is cutting the size of its stock market listing, pricing it at the bottom of its suggested range and delaying it by a day after the Chinese-controlled carmaker struggled to attract investor interest.

The Swedish group said on Monday that it would now list on Friday, a day later than scheduled, at a price of SKr53 a share, which would give it a market capitalisation of about $18bn with the offering now fully backed by investors.

The carmaker is looking to raise SKr20bn ($2.3bn) from the initial public offering in Stockholm, down from its initial expectations of SKr25bn, while its Chinese owner Geely will no longer exercise an option that could have added about a fifth to the share sale.

Volvo’s stuttering IPO, three years after it was forced by a US-Europe-China trade war to pull a previous listing, has underscored the reticent attitude of some investors towards Beijing and traditional carmakers.

Geely had already been forced on Friday to loosen its almost total grip on Volvo by converting its vote-heavy class of shares into normal stock to head off a backlash from Swedish institutional investors. 

I would not want to be in the Geely offices right now.

4th Gear: Panasonic Says It Has A Better Battery For Tesla

Panasonic just showed a prototype of a new battery that it claims is five times as energy dense as the next battery, as Reuters reports:

Panasonic unveiled a more advanced prototype battery that has five times the storage capacity of current ones, with the company’s battery chief saying it will help deepen business ties with U.S. electric-car maker Tesla.

During a media roundtable where Kazuo Tadanobu unveiled the new battery for the first time, he also said Panasonic had no plans to make cheaper Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP) EV batteries.

Panasonic this year established a test line in Japan to make the 4680 format, which is a 46 mm (1.6 inches wide) and 80 mm tall battery cell that Tesla says will store more energy, halve battery costs and drive a 100-fold increase in battery production by 2030.

That Panasonic is talking about deepening ties with Tesla is interesting. Panasonic was just talking about un-deepening (shallowing? narrowing?) ties with Tesla, after Tesla was talking up making its own batteries.

5th Gear: We’re Still Figuring Out How Much It Costs To Charge An EV

There’s no real reason that charging an electric car should cost more than filling up a gas-powered car if you’re charging your EV at home and for free at work. (I guess if you own your own oil derrick, you might have a different story to tell.)

The thing is that EVs are built for different jobs today than even a few years ago. A Porsche Taycan has hundreds of miles of range, good for long-distance road trips, a very different story from a commuter-grade Mitsubishi MiEV or first-generation Nissan Leaf. These road trips require charging at a public station or fast charger, which can run you a decent chunk of change. Add on top of that the cost of hiring an electrician to put in a 240V home charger and an EV can be more expensive than you might think, as the Detroit Free Press reports:

A mid-priced internal combustion car that gets 33 miles per gallon would cost $8.58 in overall costs to drive 100 miles at $2.81 a gallon, [a study from East Lansing-based economic consulting firm Anderson Economic Group] found. But a mid-priced EV, such as Chevrolet Bolt, Nissan Leaf or a Tesla Model 3, would cost $12.95 to drive 100 miles in terms of costs that include recharging the vehicle using mostly a commercial charger.

On a yearly basis, assuming the mid-priced cars traveled 12,000 miles, it would cost $1,030 to drive an internal combustion car and $1,554 to drive an EV.

For luxury cars that get 26 miles per gallon and using premium gas at $3.25 a gallon, the cost to drive an internal combustion car 100 miles is $12.60. The cost to drive a luxury EV, such as a Taycan, Tesla Model S or X or Jaguar I-Pace, is $15.52 to travel 100 miles. That is using mostly commercial chargers.

The CEO of Anderson Economic Group drives a Porsche Taycan, so perhaps we should be taking these estimates of “hey driving an EV costs more than some economy car” with a grain of salt.

Reverse: Government Corruption And Oil? Unthinkable!

Neutral: The Bike Blotter Continues

My bike survived its first loaded trip, a short day ride up and down the Catskills. I got a flat at the bottom of a 40 mph hill, and my tire showered my back with droplets of tubeless sealant for the next couple miles. It made it, though.