Power

Can Tesla's Batteries Power Puerto Rico? (electrek.co) 74

An anonymous reader quotes Electrek: Almost 1 million ratepayers of the Puerto Rican Electric Power Authority on the island of Puerto Rico were reportedly without power Wednesday during an island-wide blackout. But a few hundred locations with Tesla Energy storage systems were able to keep the lights on, according to CEO Elon Musk... Some of those locations include very critical services. For example, Tesla deployed a series of Powerpack systems on the Puerto Rican islands of Vieques and Culebra for a sanitary sewer treatment plant, the Arcadia water pumping station, the Ciudad Dorada elderly community, the Susan Centeno hospital, and the Boys and Girls Club of Vieques. Furthermore, the automaker's energy division also deployed a solar+battery system at a hospital in Puerto Rico...

It was also reported that the Puerto Rican government was considering Tesla's plan for a series of microgrids to help bring back power on a larger scale. The government has confirmed that they "presented several projects in remote areas that would allow entire communities to be more independent" and they also "presented a proposal to the Authority for Public-Private Partnerships for the deployment of a large-scale battery system designed to help stabilize the entire Puerto Rico electricity network."

The proposal, involving de-centralized local solar farms, "should prove more resilient to natural disaster," Electrek reported earlier, adding " and of course, it would be a lot cleaner than their currently mostly fossil fuel-based power generation." Already Tesla batteries are "live and delivering power" at 662 locations, Elon Musk tweeted Wednesday.

Meanwhile, CNN reports that one Puerto Rico resident spent three weeks building his own solar power system using $7,500 in parts -- which will ultimately prove cheaper than the $350 a month he was spending to run a gas generator (and waiting as long as six hours in the long gas lines).

They're not revealing his name "because he's concerned someone may try to steal his new system."
Technology

Elon Musk's Alleged Email To Employees on Tesla's Big Picture (jalopnik.com) 185

An email allegedly sent by Elon Musk to Tesla staff has announced that the Model 3, which has faced a number of production issues, will go into "24/7" production by June, resulting in 6,000 Model 3 units made per week. But apart from this update, in the email, Elon Musk sheds light on how much he values precision in his cars. An excerpt: Most of the design tolerances of the Model 3 are already better than any other car in the world. Soon, they will all be better. This is not enough. We will keep going until the Model 3 build precision is a factor of ten better than any other car in the world. I am not kidding.

Our car needs to be designed and built with such accuracy and precision that, if an owner measures dimensions, panel gaps and flushness, and their measurements don't match the Model 3 specs, it just means that their measuring tape is wrong.

Some parts suppliers will be unwilling or unable to achieve this level of precision. I understand that this will be considered an unreasonable request by some. That's ok, there are lots of other car companies with much lower standards. They just can't work with Tesla.

Transportation

Selling Full Autonomy Before It's Ready Could Backfire For Tesla (arstechnica.com) 189

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Tesla has an Autopilot problem, and it goes far beyond the fallout from last month's deadly crash in Mountain View, California. Tesla charges $5,000 for Autopilot's lane-keeping and advanced cruise control features. On top of that, customers can pay $3,000 for what Tesla describes as "Full Self-Driving Capability." "All you will need to do is get in and tell your car where to go," Tesla's ordering page says. "Your Tesla will figure out the optimal route, navigate urban streets (even without lane markings), manage complex intersections with traffic lights, stop signs and roundabouts, and handle densely packed freeways with cars moving at high speed." None of these "full self-driving" capabilities are available yet. "Self-Driving functionality is dependent upon extensive software validation and regulatory approval, which may vary widely by jurisdiction," the page says. "It is not possible to know exactly when each element of the functionality described above will be available, as this is highly dependent on local regulatory approval."

But the big reason full self-driving isn't available yet has nothing to do with "regulatory approval." The problem is that Tesla hasn't created the technology yet. Indeed, the company could be years away from completing work on it, and some experts doubt it will ever be possible to achieve full self-driving capabilities with the hardware installed on today's Tesla vehicles. "It's a vastly more difficult problem than most people realize," said Sam Abuelsamid, an analyst at Navigant Research and a former auto industry engineer. Tesla has a history of pre-selling products based on optimistic delivery schedules. This approach has served the company pretty well in the past, as customers ultimately loved their cars once they ultimately showed up. But that strategy could backfire hugely when it comes to Autopilot.

Transportation

Tesla Temporarily Stops Model 3 Production Line (theverge.com) 145

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Tesla is temporarily stopping production of its Model 3 electric car, amid a long waiting list and several missed targets. The company, however, says the shutdown is intended to resolve some of the problems that have contributed to the numerous delays in getting the cars to hundreds of thousands of reservation holders. The automaker said Monday it would halt production of the Model 3 sedan for 4-5 days at its Fremont, California assembly plant, BuzzFeed reported. Tesla, however, says this is part of a planned period of downtime that was similar to another shutdown in February, and it isn't intended to have an affect on the company's current production targets for the car. "Our Model 3 production plan includes periods of planned downtime in both Fremont and Gigafactory 1," a Tesla spokesperson told The Verge. "These periods are used to improve automation and systematically address bottlenecks in order to increase production rates. This is not unusual and is in fact common in production ramps like this."
Businesses

Can We Build Indoor 'Vertical Farms' Near The World's Major Cities? (vox.com) 254

Vox reports on the hot new "vertical farming" startup Plenty: The company's goal is to build an indoor farm outside of every city in the world of more than 1 million residents -- around 500 in all. It claims it can build a farm in 30 days and pay investors back in three to five years (versus 20 to 40 for traditional farms). With scale, it says, it can get costs down to competitive with traditional produce (for a presumably more desirable product that could command a price premium)... It has enormous expansion plans and a bank account full of fresh investor funding, but most excitingly, it is building a 100,000 square foot vertical-farming warehouse in Kent, Washington, just outside of Seattle... It recently got a huge round of funding ($200 million in July, the largest ag-tech investment in history), including some through Jeff Bezos's investment firm, so it has the capital to scale...; heck, it even lured away the director of battery technology at Tesla, Kurt Kelty, to be executive of operations and development...

The plants receive no sunlight, just light from hanging LED lamps. There are thousands of infrared cameras and sensors covering everything, taking fine measurements of temperature, moisture, and plant growth; the data is used by agronomists and artificial intelligence nerds to fine-tune the system... There are virtually no pests in a controlled indoor environment, so Plenty doesn't have to use any pesticides or herbicides; it gets by with a few ladybugs... Relative to conventional agriculture, Plenty says that it can get as much as 350 times the produce out of a given acre of land, using 1 percent as much water.

Though it may use less water and power, to be competitive with traditional farms companies like Plenty will also have to be "even better at reducing the need for human planters and harvesters," the article warns.

"In other words, to compete, it's going to have to create as few jobs as possible."
Robotics

Tesla Relied On Too Many Robots To Build the Model 3, Elon Musk Says (theverge.com) 103

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Elon Musk says Tesla relied on too many robots to build the Model 3, which is partly to blame for the delays in manufacturing the crucial mass-market electric car. In an interview with CBS Good Morning, Musk agreed with Tesla's critics that there was over-reliance on automation and too few human assembly line workers building the Model 3. Earlier this month, Tesla announced that it had officially missed its goal of making 2,500 Model 3 vehicles a week by the end of the first financial quarter of this year. It will start the second quarter making just 2,000 Model 3s per week, but the company says it still believes it can get to a rate of 5,000 Model 3s per week at the midway point of 2018. Previously, Tesla has blamed bottlenecks in the production of the Model 3's batteries at the company's Gigafactory for the delays. But in a wide-ranging (and largely positive) interview with CBS's Gayle King, Musk also admits it was Tesla's over-reliance on robots in the production. Musk then said the company needs more people working in the factory and that automation slowed the Model 3 production process. He alluded to a "crazy, complex network of conveyor belts" the company had previously used and said the company eliminated it after it became clear it wasn't working.
Transportation

NTSB Boots Tesla From Investigation Into Fatal Autopilot Crash (theverge.com) 160

The National Transportation Safety Board has removed Tesla from the investigation into a fatal Autopilot accident that occurred in March. The NTSB says it took the action because Tesla had released "investigative information before it was vetted and confirmed by" the agency. "Such releases of incomplete information often lead to speculation and incorrect assumptions about the probable cause of a crash, which does a disservice to the investigative process and the traveling public," the agency writes. The Verge reports: The NTSB's account contradicts Tesla's version of the story. In a statement, the automaker says it decided to remove itself from the investigation on Tuesday because of the NTSB was restricting it from sharing information before the probe ends. The company also accuses the NTSB of being duplicitous, arguing that the agency has released statements about the crash at the same time that it told Tesla not to. "It's been clear in our conversations with the NTSB that they're more concerned with press headlines than actually promoting safety," a spokesperson for the company says. "Among other things, they repeatedly released partial bits of incomplete information to the media in violation of their own rules, at the same time that they were trying to prevent us from telling all the facts. We don't believe this is right and we will be making an official complaint to Congress." The company also said it will issue "a Freedom Of Information Act request to understand the reasoning behind their focus on the safest cars in America while they ignore the cars that are the least safe." The full letter send to Musk from the NTSB can be seen here.
Transportation

Tesla Issues Strongest Statement Yet Blaming Driver For Deadly Autopilot Crash (abc7news.com) 466

Tesla has released its strongest statement yet blaming the driver of a Tesla Model X that crashed on Autopilot almost three weeks ago. The driver, Walter Huang, died March 23rd in Mountain View when his Model X on Autopilot crashed headfirst into the safety barrier section of a divider that separates the carpool lane from the off-ramp to the left. Huang was an Apple engineer and former EA Games employee. ABC7News reports: Tesla confirmed its data shows Walter Huang was using Autopilot at the time of the crash, but that his hands were off the wheel for six seconds right before impact. Tesla sent Dan Noyes a statement Tuesday night that reads in part, "Autopilot requires the driver to be alert and have hands on the wheel... the crash happened on a clear day with several hundred feet of visibility ahead, which means that the only way for this accident to have occurred is if Mr. Huang was not paying attention to the road." The family's lawyer believes Tesla is blaming Huang to distract from the family's concern about the car's Autopilot.
Transportation

Dual-Motor Tesla Model 3 Possibly Coming In July (electrek.co) 71

According to Elon Musk, the dual-motor Tesla Model 3 is expected to be released in July. "Musk linked the release of the new Model 3 powertrain with the automaker achieving a production rate of 5,000 Model 3 vehicles per week," reports Electrek. From the report: Earlier this year, we reported on Tesla registering 19 Model 3 VINs with dual motor powertrain with NHTSA in the latest batch of new VINs. It happened right after the Tesla Model 3 dual motor powertrain design leaked in the latest design studio update. Then in February, Tesla registered a new batch of Model 3 VINs, including two dozen Model 3 VINs with the dual motor powertrain. It raised Model 3 reservation holders' hope that the new configuration could soon become available, but now Musk confirmed that it is still a few months away in a series of tweets last night. The CEO also linked the timing with the release of the Model 3 white interior. Tesla currently only offers a single interior option with black upholstery. The dual motor Model 3 is expected to deliver a slightly longer range and offer a quicker acceleration than the current single motor rear-wheel-drive version.
Transportation

There's Growing Evidence Tesla's Autopilot Handles Lane Dividers Poorly (arstechnica.com) 238

An anonymous reader writes: Within the past week, two Tesla crashes have been reported while Autopilot was engaged, and both involved a Tesla vehicle slamming into a highway divider. One of the crashes resulted in the death of Walter Huang, a Tesla customer with a Model X. The other crash resulted in minor injuries to the driver, thanks largely to a working highway safety barrier in front of the concrete divider. Ars Technica reports on the growing evidence that Tesla's Autopilot handles lane dividers poorly: "The September crash isn't the only evidence that has emerged that Tesla's Autopilot feature doesn't deal well with highway lane dividers. At least two people have uploaded videos to YouTube showing their Tesla vehicles steering toward concrete barriers. One driver grabbed the wheel to prevent a collision, while the other slammed on the brakes. Tesla argues that this issue doesn't necessarily mean that Autopilot is unsafe. 'Autopilot is intended for use only with a fully attentive driver,' a Tesla spokesperson told KGO-TV. Tesla argues that Autopilot can't prevent all accidents but that it makes accidents less likely. There's some data to back this up. A 2017 study by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that the rate of accidents dropped by 40 percent after the introduction of Autopilot. And Tesla argues that Autopilot-equipped Tesla cars have gone 320 million miles per fatality, much better than the 86 million miles for the average car. These figures don't necessarily settle the debate. That NHTSA figure doesn't break down the severity of crashes -- it's possible that Autopilot prevents relatively minor crashes but is less effective at preventing the most serious crashes. And as some Ars commenters have pointed out, luxury cars generally have fewer fatalities than the average vehicle. So it's possible that Tesla cars' low crash rates have more to do with its wealthy customer base than its Autopilot technology. What we can say, at a minimum, is that there's little evidence that Autopilot makes Tesla drivers less safe. And we can expect Tesla to steadily improve the car's capabilities over time."
Transportation

Tesla Is Making Over 2,000 Model 3s a Week, Falling Just Short of Its Goal (theverge.com) 233

According to an email from Elon Musk, Tesla has increased its production of its mass-market electric Model 3 to over 2,000 units per week. "It's an impressive ramp up of production, but it still falls short of Musk's goal of 2,500 Model 3s per week by the end of the first quarter of 2018," reports The Verge. From the report: In the companywide email (which was obtained by Jalopnik, Electrek, and Autonocast host Ed Niedermeyer), Musk sounds a celebratory note on the 2,000-vehicle per week benchmark, while ignoring the larger issue of missed deadlines: "It has been extremely difficult to pass the 2,000 cars per week rate for Model 3, but we are finally there. If things go as planned today, we will comfortably exceed that number over a seven-day period! Moreover, the whole Tesla production system is now on a firm foundation for that output, which means we should be able to exceed a combined Model S, X, and 3 production rate of 4,000 vehicles per week and climbing rapidly. This is already double the pace of 2017! By the end of this year, I believe we will be producing vehicles at least four times faster than last year." With Q1 now behind us, we can expect to see Tesla report its official production numbers to investors sometime this week.
Businesses

Open Source RISC V Processor Gets Support From Google, Samsung, Qualcomm, and Tesla (seekingalpha.com) 135

An anonymous reader writes: Google, Qualcomm, and Samsung "are among 80 tech companies joining forces to develop a new open-source chip design for new technologies like self-driving vehicles," writes Seeking Alpha, citing a (pay-walled) report on The Information. "Western Digital and Nvidia also plan to use the new chip design for some of their products," while Tesla "has joined the RISC-V Foundation and is considering using the tech in its new chip efforts."

MIT Technology Review adds that while Arm had hoped to bring their low-power/high performance processors to AI and self-driving cars, "The company that masterminded the processor inside your smartphone may find that a set of free-to-use alternative designs erode some of its future success."

Transportation

Tesla Says Autopilot Was Engaged During Fatal Model X Crash (theverge.com) 422

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Tesla says Autopilot was engaged at the time of a deadly Model X crash that occurred March 23rd in Mountain View, California. The company posted a statement online late Friday, after local news reported that the victim had made several complaints to Tesla about the vehicle's Autopilot technology prior to the crash in which he died. After recovering the logs from the crash site, Tesla acknowledged that Autopilot was on, with the adaptive cruise control follow distance set to a minimum. The company also said that the driver, identified as Apple engineer Wei "Walter" Huang, had his hands off the steering wheel and was not responding to warnings to re-take control. Tesla said in a statement: "The driver had received several visual and one audible hands-on warning earlier in the drive and the driver's hands were not detected on the wheel for six seconds prior to the collision. The driver had about five seconds and 150 meters of unobstructed view of the concrete divider with the crushed crash attenuator, but the vehicle logs show that no action was taken."

According to Mercury News, the driver of the car was headed southbound on California's Route 101 when his Model X crashed headfirst into the safety barrier section of a divider that separates the carpool lane from the off-ramp to the left. "The front end of his SUV was ripped apart, the vehicle caught fire, and two other cars crashed into the rear end. [The driver] was removed from the vehicle by rescuers and brought to Stanford Hospital, where he died from injuries sustained in the crash."
Transportation

Tesla Issues Its Largest Recall Ever Voluntarily Over Faulty Model S Steering (theverge.com) 131

Tesla announced today that it is recalling 123,000 Model S vehicles around the world over a power steering issue. The company said via an email that it was a proactive move and none of the company's other vehicles are affected. The Verge reports: The automaker said 123,000 Model S vehicles built before April 2016 were affected. No injuries or crashes have been reported in connection with the problem. In the email, Tesla said it had, "observed excessive corrosion in the power steering bolts," but that the problem was most prevalent in colder climates where road salt is used. "If the bolts fail, the driver is still able to steer the car, but increased force is required due to loss or reduction of power assist," Tesla wrote in the email to customers. "This primarily makes the car harder to drive at low speeds and for parallel parking, but does not materially affect control at high speed, where only small steering wheel force is needed." Tesla said owners do not need to stop driving their cars if they haven't experienced any problems. The company said it would inform Model S owners when a retrofit, which is estimated to take an hour to install, is ready in their area.
AI

NVIDIA Unveils 2 Petaflop DGX-2 AI Supercomputer With 32GB Tesla V100, NVSwitch Tech 41

bigwophh writes from a report via HotHardware: NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang took to the stage at GTC today to unveil a number of GPU-powered innovations for machine learning, including a new AI supercomputer and an updated version of the company's powerful Tesla V100 GPU that now sports a hefty 32GB of on-board HBM2 memory. A follow-on to last year's DGX-1 AI supercomputer, the new NVIDIA DGX-2 can be equipped with double the number of Tesla V100 processing modules for double the GPU horsepower. The DGX-2 can also have four times the available memory space, thanks to the updated Tesla V100's larger 32GB of memory. NVIDIA's new NVSwitch technology is a fully crossbar GPU interconnect fabric that allows NVIDIA's platform to scale to up to 16 GPUs and utilize their memory space contiguously, where the previous DGX-1 NVIDIA platform was limited to 8 total GPU complexes and associated memory. NVIDIA claims NVSwitch is five times faster than the fastest PCI Express switch and offers an aggregate 2.4TB per second of bandwidth. A new Quadro card was also announced. Called the Quadro GV100, it too is being powered by Volta. The Quadro GV100 packs 32GB of memory and supports NVIDIA's recently announced RTX real-time ray tracing technology.
Transportation

Elon Musk Slows Tesla Deliveries On 'Dangerous' Trucks (electrek.co) 129

An anonymous reader quotes Electrek: Tesla is always very busy in Norway, its biggest market per capita, but it has recently been difficult for the automaker to deliver its vehicles as its shipments keep being taken off the road for using transporters with "dangerous" trucks that do not conform to the rules. The California-based automaker generally ships its vehicles to Norway through the port of Drammen, but it is experiencing capacity issues so they are instead going through Gothenburg port and having to use more trucks to move the cars to its stores and service centers.

According to several media reports in Norway, over half a dozen of those trucks have been stopped by the authorities for a variety of safety reasons during inspections and one of the trucks that wasn't stopped ended up in an accident. Two Model S vehicles were crushed on the trailer involved in the accident. Tesla says that it is having difficulties finding competent transporters that comply to Norway's road requirements. On top of the safety issues, Tesla is also using transporters operating Euro 3 class trucks, which are more polluting.

Elon Musk tweeted in response to the article that "I have just asked our team to slow down deliveries.

"It is clear that we are exceeding the local logistics capacity due to batch build and delivery. Customer happiness & safety matter more than a few extra cars this quarter."
Facebook

'What's Facebook?', Elon Musk Asks, As He Deletes SpaceX and Tesla Facebook Pages 237

It is unlikely that Facebook will see a significant drop in its mammoth userbase following the Cambridge Analytica scandal. But on Friday, the #DeleteFacebook campaign, which is seeing an increasingly growing number of people call it quits on the world's largest social network, found its biggest backer: Elon Musk. Responding to WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton's "#DeleteFacebook" tweet, Musk asked "What's Facebook?" That was the beginning of a tweetstorm, which saw journalists asking Musk why his companies -- SpaceX and Tesla -- maintained their Facebook pages. Shouldn't Musk, they asked, delete them? Musk agreed. As of this writing, the official Facebook pages of SpaceX and Tesla, both of which had more than two million followers, are nowhere to be found. The Facebook page of SolarCity is gone too, if you were wondering.

The move comes months after Musk said Zuckerberg's understanding of AI was limited.
Transportation

Tesla Employees Say Automaker Is Churning Out a High Volume of Flawed Parts (cnbc.com) 150

Several current and former employees of Tesla said that the automaker is manufacturing a surprisingly high ratio of flawed parts and vehicles, leading to more rework and repairs than can be contained at its factory in Fremont, California. CNBC reports: One current Tesla engineer estimated that 40 percent of the parts made or received at its Fremont factory require rework. The need for reviews of parts coming off the line, and rework, has contributed to Model 3 delays, the engineer said. Another current employee from Tesla's Fremont factory said the company's defect rate is so high that it's hard to hit production targets. Inability to hit the numbers is in turn hurting employee morale. To deal with a backlog of flawed parts and vehicles, said these current and former employees, Tesla has brought in teams of technicians and engineers from its service centers and remanufacturing lines to help with rework and repairs on site in Fremont. They also said that sometimes the luxury EV maker has taken the unusual measure of sending flawed or damaged parts from Fremont to its remanufacturing facility in Lathrop, California, about 50 miles away, instead of fixing those parts "in-line." Tesla flatly denies that its remanufacturing teams engage in rework. "Our remanufacturing team does not 'rework' cars," a spokesperson said. The company said the employees might be conflating rework and remanufacturing. It also said every vehicle is subjected to rigorous quality control involving more than 500 inspections and tests. The report from CNBC has caused Tesla's stock to tumble today. You can read Tesla's full statement about the CNBC report here.
Power

Tesla Raises Prices At Its Supercharger Stations 167

Tesla is increasing the cost of the paid Supercharger access, but a spokesperson for the company says that it "will never be a profit center." Electrek reports: When introducing the program, Tesla said that it aimed to still make the cost of Supercharging cheaper than gasoline and that it doesn't aim to make its Supercharger network a profit center. Instead, they want to use the money to keep growing the network which now consists of over 1,180 stations and close to 9,000 Superchargers. But this week, the rates were updated across the U.S. Some states saw massive increases of as much as 100 percent -- though most regions saw their rates increase by 20 to 40 percent. For example, Oregon saw an increase of $0.12 to $0.24 per kWh, while California, Tesla's biggest market in the U.S., got an increase from $0.20 to $0.26 kWh and New York's rate went from $0.19 to $0.24 per kWh. A spokesperson for Tesla said in a statement: "We occasionally adjust rates to reflect current local electricity and usage. The overriding principle is that Supercharging will always remain significantly cheaper than gasoline, as we only aim to recover a portion of our costs while setting up a fair system for everyone. This will never be a profit center for Tesla."
AI

Elon Musk: The Danger of AI is Much Greater Than Nuclear Warheads. We Need Regulatory Oversight Of AI Development. (youtube.com) 322

Elon Musk has been vocal about the need for regulation for AI in the past. At SXSW on Sunday, Musk, 46, elaborated his thoughts. We're very close to seeing cutting edge technologies in AI, Musk said. "It scares the hell out of me," the Tesla and SpaceX showrunner said. He cited the example of AlphaGo and AlphaZero, and the rate of advancements they have shown to illustrate his point. He said: Alpha Zero can read the rules of any game and beat the human. For any game. Nobody expected that rate of improvement. If you ask those same experts who think AI is not progressing at the rate that I'm saying, I think you will find their betting average for things like Go and other AI advancements, is very weak. It's not good.

We will also see this with self driving. Probably by next year, self driving will encompass all forms of driving. By the end of next year, it will be at least 100 percent safer than humans. [...] The rate of improvements is really dramatic and we have to figure out some way to ensure that the advent of digital super intelligence is symbiotic with humanity. I think that's the single biggest existential crisis we face, and the most pressing one. I'm not generally an advocate of regulation -- I'm actually usually on the side of minimizing those things. But this is a case, where you have a very serious danger to the public. There needs to be a public body that has insight and oversight to ensure that everyone is developing AI safely. This is extremely important. The danger of AI is much greater than danger of nuclear warheads. By a lot.

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