Sunday, July 16, 2017

Tesla Rolls Out Its First Model 3

Elon Musk flipped the switch on the production line, beginning a new era for electric cars. But it’s a long road to mass production.

How far is Tesla going with Autopilot for the launch? Last October, Musk set some wild timelines for full self-driving capabilities in the Tesla fleet. The company upgraded the hardware suite of its full line-up of cars to eight surround cameras, 12 ultrasonic sensors, a forward radar, and a massively powerful new computer. He said it was all the hardware that will be needed for driverless transport. By the end of 2017, Musk said, he hoped to demonstrate a cross-country trip without any driver interaction.

So far, Tesla hasn’t backed off those predictions. For the past nine months, it’s been charging customers an extra $3,000 for an option called “Full Self-Driving Capability”. However, the software still hasn’t been released to make any new features available, and to date, the pricey option adds no additional functionality.

Musk has dropped a number of hints that those features will start rolling out around the launch of the Model 3. In January, I asked him at what point “Full Self-Driving Capability” will depart from the “Enhanced Autopilot” features. His response, via a post on Twitter: “3 months maybe, 6 months definitely”. Six months would coincide with the July launch.

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Tesla has yet to release a detailed list of the Model 3’s specs, features, and pricing, more of which will be revealed at the car’s launch party on July 28. Here’s what has been disclosed so far:
The Model 3 goes from zero to 60 miles per hour in 5.6 seconds, according to a spec sheet Tesla published in May. That’s faster than the base model BMW 3 Series and the Mercedes-Benz C Class, the leading cars in the compact luxury space.

The car will be able to drive at least 215 miles on a single charge, with options to upgrade to a bigger battery. Last year, Musk said the company will push for even greater range.

The roof is an almost continuous sheet of glass that stretches from the front of the car to the rear to give riders a sense of openness. The layered glass is designed to block UV rays and manage heat.

All Model 3s will come equipped with hardware for Tesla’s Autopilot features and high-speed Supercharging. Customers will have to pay to use them, though pricing hasn’t been made public.

The Model 3 will have two trunks with about 14 cubic feet of combined storage space, and the rear seats will fold down to accommodate longer items. That’s comparable to other cars in its class but less than half the storage volume of the Model S sedan.

The body is made of a mix of lightweight aluminum and cheaper steel, primarily the latter.

Tesla’s signature touch-screen control panel will be flipped on its side and shrunk from 17 inches to 15 inches. It handles everything from navigation to speed.

The traditional instrument panel under the dash is gone entirely.

The car is designed to fit five adults comfortably, in part by pushing the front passengers forward to provide more legroom in the back seat.

Rear-wheel drive is standard, with a future option for dual-motor all-wheel drive.

Reservation holders who want all-wheel drive or other delayed options will be able to defer their purchase without entirely losing their place in line.

The number of Tesla’s high-speed charging stations will double by the end of the year to 10,000. Slower destination chargers will jump from 9,000 to 15,000.

The era of the Model 3 has begun. Now it’s time for Tesla to really get to work.


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