Tesla’s Continuing Self-Driving Safety Issues

Recently the U.S. safety regulator stated that they are reviewing the consumer complaints about Tesla vehicles that are braking unnecessarily. This is just one item on a long list of recent issues being scrutinized by regulators about Tesla’s vehicle safety.

Elon Musk, this past May, stated that subtracting a radar sensor from the partially automated driving system would fix the phantom braking issue, an issue Tesla owners have been long complaining about.

According to the Washington Post Tesla owners who are reporting the phantom braking issue to the Highway Traffic Safety Administration hiked to 107 complaints in the past three months. Which is way up from the 34 complaints they received in the 22 months preceding this one.

The NHTSA stated that they are aware of the complaints about the problems with forward collision avoidance and they are reviewing the issue through their risk-based assessment process. The also stated that if the data warrants it, they will take immediate action.

This past October Tesla recalled almost 12,000 vehicles over beta software that caused unneeded braking and false collision warnings. The NHTSA also has been investigating the company’s driving assistant system over crashes with emergency vehicles and the option which allowed games to be played on the infotainment screen while the vehicle was driving. Tesla later subtracted this feature.

More recently Tesla recalled 53,822 vehicles in the US over concerns with the full self-driving beta software.

 

Employee Dies at Tesla’s Fremont, California Plant

A Tesla employee died while at work at the company’s factory located in Fremont, California. Their death occurred on 19 January 2022. California authorities have determined that the death happened due to a personal medical issue rather than it being any kind of work-related incident.

KTVU, local news station, broke the story of the employee’s death. The employee was working on the powertrain line. The worker has not yet been identified.

KTVU reported that the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration is now investigating the circumstances surrounding the Tesla employee’s death. Tesla notified Cal/OSHA about the fatality on 19 January in Fremont. They reported that an employee collapsed while working on the powertrain line. Cal/OSHA is gathering more evidence while trying to determine if the incident was work related in any fashion, if at all, and whether or not to conduct an inspection.

Cal/OSHA ultimately decided to not investigate the incident as they found the death was only related to a personal medical issue and was not work related.

The same plant at Fremont was in the spotlight late last year when two employees fought on the job, which resulted in the shooting death of one of the employees later that day. The gunman was charged with murder.

 

Tesla’s Fremont, CA Plant Experiences Another in a Series of Fires

Fremont Fire Dept. firefighters responded to a “working fire” at the Fremont, CA Tesla plant according to a statement by the Department.

No civilians or firefighters were injured according to the Fremont Fire Department.

The report stated the fire occurred in an area of the factory under construction. This is Tesla’s primary assembly plant in the U.S. although they are building a second in Austin, TX.

While the plant had recently shot down for at least two days due to parts shortages, this is just the first in a series of costly fires at the plant. Including multiple fires in its paint shop.

The factory is known to have received “notices of violation from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. The EPA is also reviewing the factory for possible violations of the Clean Air Act.

This time the fire was contained to vehicle manufacturing stamping machine. The cause of the fire was determined to be “molten aluminum and hydraulic fluid.”

 

The New Tesla Model S Won’t Have a Shifter?

Tesla and fonder Elon Musk have announced that the new Model S will have no shifter as the car will “guess” which direction the driver wants to go based on what it sees with its sensors, its navigation map and the context of the data. Basically, the Model S is making an educated guess on whether to go forward or backwards.

Electrek reported that the car will use its Autopilot sensors to decide, intelligently and automatically, the intention of the driver and chose a drive mode for the vehicle. As an example, if the Model S is facing a garage wall the computer will detect this and automatically shift to reverse once the driver presses the break.

According to Musk drivers will be able to manually override this feature and shift the car themselves from the main touchscreen. Though Musk stated he believes after a few days of driving people won’t want to go back to having to use a shifter.

Tesla no longer keeps a communication or PR department so these details cannot be confirmed.

One big change to the new model is a yoke-style steering wheel. It was originally though this new steering wheel was part of the new AI shifting system but that now does not seem to be the case.

 

Xpeng Motors Gears Up New OS Updates to Challenge Tesla

Xpeng Motors, Chinese electric carmaker, has begun to release their new highway driving features for their autonomous cars to eligible customers as they set their eyes on challenging Tesla for control of the self-driving market.

The new electric vehicle announced its new NGP (Navigation Guided Pilot) this month. The feature lets drivers allow the car to change lanes, speed up, slow down and overtake other vehicles as well as entering and exiting highways.

This is a part of their next series of Xpeng’s XPILOT 3.0, which is their advanced driver-assistance system. Customers who bought the option on Xpeng’s P7 sedan which they can download while connected to WiFi.

This is part of a broader, over-the-air update that owners download on WiFi. The process is like updating a smartphone.

Tesla Models Under Investigation by NHTSA for Front Suspension Failure

Tesla Auto Maker owned by eccentric billionaire Elon Musk is under investigation by the United States National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration know otherwise as the NHTSA. They are looking into 115 thousand some Tesla vehicles that have front suspension safety issues.

The United States National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration said it was opening a preliminary evaluation into the 115, 000 Model S vehicles from 2015-2017 and Model X vehicles from 2016-2017. This comes after they received 43 complaints that claimed there was a failure in the right or left front suspension fore forks.

Tesla made an announcement about the possible issue in a service bulletin that discussed a manufacturing condition that they said could result in a front suspension link failures, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration said.

 

Multiple Tesla Models Get Upgrades

Tesla has been busy updating several of its models. The Model 3 gets a grab bag of small changes while the Long Range Plus versions of the S and X will hit the UK.

The exterior of the Model 3 gets a few revisions like stain black trim for the door handles, window trim and side repeaters. Buyers can now get sport wheels in 18” and 19”. There is also a Uberturbine 20” wheel option meant to increase efficiency.

The Model 3 interior. The gloss black on the center console and dash was replaced with a matte finish. Other changes include satin black sill plates, metalized scroll wheels on the steering wheel, and graphite seat controls.

The center console makes room for two wireless smartphone charging pads. The visors are now magnetic. The glove box gets two more USB-C ports and one extra USB-A. Borrowing the new HVAC pump from the Model Y with other tweaks—which Tesla claims now makes it the most efficient mass-production car. The range was pushed from 254 miles to 267 miles. The long range variant jumps from 347 miles to 360 miles. The performance model goes from 329 miles to 360 miles.

 

Auto Start-Up Lucid’s “Air” Might be a Tesla-Killer

Lucid, an EV star-up, is calling its all-electric Air sedan more efficient, faster and more spacious than Tesla’s Model S.

The company claims it has a “breakthrough” in EVs and that it isn’t just batteries but lots of “big picture thinking” that has added up to their Tesla killer, the Air.

Lucid says that the Air is an impressive 17% more energy efficient than any Tesla model which allows great range with fewer cells.

The Air looks much like the 2016 concept Lucid released with some changes to the exterior including larger side mirrors and curved screens in the interior.

The EPA-rated range of the Air is 517 miles on a single charge according to third-party testing. If true on release this would dwarf Tesla’s industry-topping 402 miles its Model S is rated at. The Air also claims to take the Model S in speed; the Air takes a quarter mile in 9.9 seconds where as Tesla’s fastest quarter mile is 10.4 seconds.

The company claims its 900-volt architecture can charge 300 miles in 20 minutes, with its higher rate is 2 miles per minute.

Standard Air models will start $80,000 all the way up to a limited “Dream Edition” that would cost $169,000. The GT version of the Air with a 517 mile range will sell for $139,000 and a Touring version of the sedan with a 406 mile range will sell for $95,000.

The higher end models are expected to be available in the second quarter of 2021. The lower priced models will role out in the fourth quarter of 2022.

 

How to Tune Up a Tesla: The New Custom Car Fad

To some, driving clubs for electric cars and owners wanting to “sup them up,” are foredrawn conclusions of the electric vehicle era. To others, perhaps not. However, both are a growing trend.  

But where does one go and what does one do to “sup up” an EV? The Tesla model S can already do 60MPH in 2.4 seconds which is faster than most other vehicles regardless of their energy source.  

Where is answered by a company called Unplugged Performance which is coincidently right next door to the Tesla headquarters in Hawthorne, CA. Their guarantee? That their modifications to your EV wills have seconds off your best times.  

Up until recently electric vehicles have been off the radar of aftermarket improvements, but with the growing popularity of racing EVs making them faster seems a natural evolution.  

Ben Schaffer, company co-founder, came from a career wherein he modified popular Japanese cars like the Nissan GT-R and others. While Unplugged isn’t the only name in the game, they are best known. They also run a group for Tesla owners, and they organize track days for Tesla drivers all over the country.  

But how do you tune an electric vehicle? Modifications do not include adjusting engine settings. The modifications often have to do with weight or aerodynamics and include items like carbon fiber parts, new wheels, sports tires, performance breaks, shocks, suspension and more. These kinds of modifications give racers an edge over a stock car, though not in the manner of a tuned gasoline engine.  

 

Smart Cars, Dumb Drivers

If you weren’t already aware Tesla has been working on a feature they’ve dubbed “Smart Summon.” This feature allows Tesla’s to navigate a parking lot to an owner’s location totally unmanned. Which might immediately sound like a scary idea to some, while anyone who has every forgotten whether they parked in area Blue 7 or Pink 9 of a giant amusement park lot might look at it as a godsend.

Not without a shade of irony and probably not to the surprise of some, people have already started doing some really stupid things with “Smart Summon” (which isn’t even out of beta yet).

One YouTube user “Dirty Tesla” (who is a Model 3 owner) uploaded a video in which he tries to walk in front of the vehicle while the Smart Summon feature is engaged. Luckily, the Model 3 is smarter than this particular owner and its cameras see Dirty Tesla before it runs him over. However, on the second try the vehicle looks as if it is going to roll over its owner’s toes as he comes at the car from a blind spot.

Undoubtedly this is not the kind of beta testing Tesla is encouraging. And does it need to be said that this is a terrible, awful idea? (Just in case, this is a really bad idea!)
Tesla’s own release notes on their Version 10 upgrade (the one featuring Smart Summon) states specifically that the owner is responsible for the vehicle at all times and should keep it in their line of site as it may not see all obstacles.

Even drivers using the Smart Summon feature responsibly have had minor accidents using the new Smart Summon. One Twitter user, David Guajardo, reported someone dinged his Model 3’s bumper while he was trying to test Smart Summon.