How We Broke The Electric & Semi-Autonomous Cannonball Run Records

23 Sep

Cannonball Run

Two days ago, Franz Aliquo, Warren “Mr. X” Ahner, and I announced that we broke both the electric and autonomous vehicle Cannonball Run records, covering 2,877 miles from Redondo Beach, California to the Red Ball Garage in 55 hours—97.7 percent of that time with Tesla’s Autopilot in operation. A lot of people asked about how we did it.

This is the first part of that story.

Why do this?

Who doesn’t want to? California is the finish line of the Western world. It’s part of the American mythos, going back to the settlers. “Go west” is both exhortation and rallying cry, and I’ve done it dozens of times. After breaking the old Cannonball record in 2006 in 31 hours and 4 minutes, I thought “Cannonballing” was over; I was wrong. Regular gas cars don’t have a lot of room for improvement, but with electric and self-driving cars, the sky’s the limit. The next 20 years are going to see a lot more of this—done more safely—than ever before.

Read the rest over at The Drive

Alex Roy Tests Tesla’s Autopilot 8, Part 1

22 Sep

Autopilot 8

Tesla Autopilot 8 is finally here. I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek at the world’s most famous Beta software and test it around New York City, and my first impressions suggest my earlier predictions were fairly spot-on. Autopilot 8 is a modest step forward in user interface and functionality, but a major step forward in safety and effectiveness.

The obvious changes are cosmetic, but the biggest change—improved radar signal processing—won’t become apparent for weeks or months, after which the breadth of improvements should be incontrovertible.

Fleet Learning Is Everything

The release of Autopilot 8 within 48 hours of the DOT’s new guidelineshighlights the growing chasm between Tesla’s Level 2 semi-Autonomous suite and rivals’ deliberate pause at Advanced Driver Assistance Systems, or ADAS.

While legacy OEMs hope to reach, via localized testing, Level 4 autonomy within 3 to 5 years, Tesla’s combination of Fleet Learning and OTA updates has yielded more (and more significant) software improvements in the 11 months since Autopilot’s initial release than most manufacturers achieve in a traditional 3-5 year model cycle.

Read the rest over at The Drive

Teslas Can Use Chargepoint, But Non-Teslas Can’t Use Superchargers, Ergo…

20 Sep

Chargepoint

Last week Forbes published one of the shoddiest articles I’ve ever read in that once-vaunted publication. Noted Tesla foe Bertell Schmitt — former VW insider whose whose coverage of Dieselgate got my attention — showed an outrageous lack of intellectual honesty in his story “Who Has The World’s Biggest Charging Network? Trigger Warning: It’s Ain’t Tesla.”

His claim? That Tesla’s 4,359 Superchargers are outnumbered by Chargepoint’s 30,200 charging locations.

That’s still like calling water fountains and waterfalls equivalent as water sources. Tesla Superchargers charge at up to 120kW, or up to 170 miles of range within 30 minutes. Chargepoint “Fast Chargers” charge at up to 50kW, or less than half that of Tesla’s. Once Tesla’s “Destination Chargers” were factored in, the Tesla network comes to 9,659, of which slightly less than half are Superchargers, but the story doesn’t end there.

Read the rest over at The Drive

How George Hotz’s $999 Comma One Actually Works

19 Sep

George Hotz

Last week George Hotz—iPhone and Playstation hacker, self-driving car wunderkind and the man who called Mobileye “a failing company”—finally unveiled the Comma One, his $999 aftermarket semi-autonomous driving (AD) system.

Hotz revealed some details at TechCrunch Disrupt SF, and was kind enough to share with me additional exclusive details that I—along with virtually everyone in the automotive world—have been dying to know since last week.

There’s a lot of ingenuity and a lot of surprises, that’s for sure.

Read the rest over at The Drive

Why The Tesla/Mobileye Fight Defines An Industry-Wide Schism

16 Sep

Tesla

Mobileye and Tesla have begun trading barbs illuminating the real reason behind their split. These attacks mask an as-yet undiscussed schism in the sector that transcends their public statements.

“[Tesla’s Autopilot] is not designed to cover all possible crash situations in a safe manner,” said Amnon Shashua, Chairman and CTO of Mobileye, the Israel-based maker of collision detection and driver assistance systems. “[Tesla] was pushing the envelope in terms of safety.”

Tesla’s response? “When Tesla refused to cancel its own vision development activities and plans for deployment, Mobileye discontinued hardware support for future platforms and released public statements implying that this discontinuance was motivated by safety concerns.”

These statements highlight a distinct but unspoken truth in the burgeoning self-driving car sector. Mobileye—the company whose technology underlies the majority of ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) and semi-autonomous driving suites on the market, may not be at the cutting edge of the technology on which they’ve built their reputation.

Read the rest over at The Drive

Why The Forbes Article About Tesla & Chargepoint is Nonsense

15 Sep

Chargepoint

This is a free country, which means everyone’s entitled to an opinion. I have mine. You have yours. I hold journalists — or at least certain publications — to a higher standard than I do the swill overflowing Facebook. There are even journalists with whom I disagree that I still hold in high regard, for it is their interpretation of data that differs from mine, not the skillful gathering of information, which is the lifeblood of honest intellectual pursuit.

And then you have the utter nonsense published in Forbes, an outlet I’ve long associated with intellectual honesty.

Those days are over.

Read the rest over at The Drive

First Look: How Tesla’s Autopilot Camera Captures Accident Video

13 Sep

What’s the difference between a dashcam and the Mobileye camera in your semi-autonomous car? Not much.

Infamous Telsa hacker and P85D owner Jason Hughes was able to pull eight frames of video from a salvaged Model S, depicting the final seconds before it collided with an Acura:

Autopilot Crash

Read the rest over at The Drive…

Tesla’s Autopilot 8 Update Could Have Saved Joshua Brown’s Life

12 Sep

Autopilot 8

Autopilot 8—the second generation of Tesla’s semi-Autonomous Driving suite—is two weeks away, and Elon Musk claims the latest round of improvements might have saved Joshua Brown’s life.

“Perfect safety is an impossible goal,” Musk said in a conference call on Sunday, “there won’t ever be zero fatalities. The world is a very big place. It’s about minimizing the probability of death.”

Critics have suggested Autopilot—whose capabilities fall somewhere between what NHTSA calls Level 2 & 3 automation—doesn’t live up to its name, but Musk was confident in both the data underlying Autopilot’s safety record and the promise of version 8’s myriad functional improvements.

“The Model S and the X are by far the safest cars on the road,” said Musk, “by several orders of magnitude. These improvements aren’t about going from bad to good . . . but from good to great.”

The two big changes?

Read the rest over at The Drive

7 Predictions For Tesla’s Autopilot 8

7 Sep

Autopilot 8

Any minute now, Elon Musk will reveal details of the biggest update to Tesla’s Autopilot suite since its release in October of 2015. He was supposed to do this last Wednesday, then, when that didn’t come to pass, over the weekend. I’m sure he had bigger fish to fry, which gave me more time to digest the lessons of my most recent Tesla cross-country drive, and contemplate what we can expect to see in Autopilot 8.

Without further ado…read the rest over at The Drive.

Is Tesla Autopilot Actually an Autopilot?

31 Aug

Tesla Autopilot

Tesla presumably named its semi-autonomous driving suite “Autopilot” for a reason. After all, it’s not a made-up bit of marketing jargon—it’s the commonly-used term for the self-piloting technology found in aircraft.

In fact, let’s take a look at one definition of an autopilot system, from Wikipedia:

“…[A] system used to control the trajectory of a vehicle without constant ‘hands-on’ control by a human operator being required. Autopilots do not replace a human operator, but assist them in controlling the vehicle, allowing them to focus on broader aspects of operation…”

Now, let’s look at Tesla’s own description of Autopilot:

“[The system] allows [the] Model S to steer within a lane, change lanes with the simple tap of a turn signal, and manage speed…[and] while truly driverless cars are still a few years away, Tesla Autopilot functions like the systems that airplane pilots use when conditions are clear. The driver is still responsible for, and ultimately in control of, the car. What’s more, you always have intuitive access to the information your car is using to inform its actions.”

So, is Tesla Autopilot actually an Autopilot?

Read the rest over at The Drive