Transportation

Inside Faraday Future's Financial House of Cards (theverge.com) 35

Sean O'Kane, reporting for The Verge: When Faraday Future emerged from stealth mode in 2015, it promised to transform the car industry with an American-made luxury electric vehicle that would someday be fully autonomous, maybe even sold through a subscription service. As we learned at CES 2017, the company was taking aim at Tesla with a car -- the FF91 -- that was designed to dazzle, with a 0-60 time of 2.4 seconds as jaw-dropping as the proposed $180,000 price tag. Since then, though, Faraday Future has been more focused on survival than speed. The Verge has learned from multiple sources about the nature of the company's financial plight. While Faraday Future posed as the newest California electric car startup that attracted top auto industry talent, 10 former employees and one person close to the company say the behavior and business practices of its chief investor have brought business to a halt. Also read: Everything wrong with Faraday Future's "Tesla killer"
The Almighty Buck

Insurers Are Rewarding Tesla Owners For Using Autopilot (reuters.com) 140

Britain's largest auto insurance company Direct Line is testing out an idea to let Tesla owners receive a 5% discount for switching on the car's autopilot system, seeking to encourage use of a system it hopes will cut down on accidents. Reuters reports: The move - confirmed by company representatives in response to Reuters' questions - is Tesla's only tie-up in the UK and comes at a time when the company is trying to convince insurers that its internet-connected vehicles are statistically safer. Direct Line said it was too early to say whether the use of the autopilot system produced a safety record that justified lower premiums. It said it was charging less to encourage use of the system and aid research.

"Crash rates across all Tesla models have fallen by 40 percent since the introduction of the autopilot system ... However, when owners seek to insure their Tesla vehicles, this is not reflected in the pricing of premiums," Daniel Pearce, Financial Analyst at GlobalData, said. Direct Line, which is enjoying soaring motor insurance prices in Britain, said it sets premiums for Tesla drivers based on the risk they present, including who is driving, their age, driving experience and claim history.

AI

Elon Musk Says Tesla Is Building Dedicated Chips For Autopilot (theregister.co.uk) 32

Elon Musk says Tesla is developing its own chip to run the Autopilot system in future vehicles from the firm. The news was revealed at a Tesla party that took place at the intelligence conference NIPS. Attendees at the party told The Register that Musk said, "I wanted to make it clear that Tesla is serious about AI, both on the software and hardware fronts. We are developing custom AI hardware chips." From the report: Musk offered no details of his company's plans, but did tell the party that "Jim is developing specialized AI hardware that we think will be the best in the world." "Jim" is Jim Keller, a well-known chip engineer who was lead architect on a range of silicon at AMD and Apple and joined Tesla in 2016. Keller later joined Musk on a panel discussing AI at the Tesla Party alongside Andrej Karpathy, Tesla's Director of AI and chaired by Shivon Zilis, a partner and founding member at Bloomberg Beta, a VC firm. Musk is well known for his optimism about driverless cars and pessimism about whether AI can operate safely. At the party he voiced a belief that "about half of new cars built ten years from now will be autonomous." He added his opinion that artificial general intelligence (AGI) will arrive in about seven or eight years.
Hardware

Nvidia Announces 'Nvidia Titan V' Video Card: GV100 for $3000 (anandtech.com) 51

Nvidia has announced the Titan V, the "world's most powerful PC GPU." It's based on Nvidia's Volta, the same architecture as the Nvidia Tesla V100 GPUs behind Amazon Web Service's recently launched top-end P3 instances, which are dedicated to artificial-intelligence applications. From a report: A mere 7 months after Volta was announced with the Tesla V100 accelerator and the GV100 GPU inside it, Nvidia continues its breakneck pace by releasing the GV100-powered Titan V, available for sale today. Aimed at a decidedly more compute-oriented market than ever before, the 815 mm2 behemoth die that is GV100 is now available to the broader public. [...] The Titan V, by extension, sees the Titan lineup finally switch loyalties and start using Nvidia's high-end compute-focused GPUs, in this case the Volta architecture based V100. The end result is that rather than being Nvidia's top prosumer card, the Titan V is decidedly more focused on compute, particularly due to the combination of the price tag and the unique feature set that comes from using the GV100 GPU. Which isn't to say that you can't do graphics on the card -- this is still very much a video card, outputs and all -- but Nvidia is first and foremost promoting it as a workstation-level AI compute card, and by extension focusing on the GV100 GPU's unique tensor cores and the massive neural networking performance advantages they offer over earlier Nvidia cards.
Businesses

Tesla Could Be Hogging Batteries and Causing a Global Shortage, Says Report (gizmodo.com) 159

According to a report from the Korea news outlet ETNews, Tesla's solution to fixing a manufacturing bottleneck responsible for a $619 million loss last quarter could be causing a global battery shortage. Panasonic reportedly gave most of its cache of batteries in Japan to Tesla so that the automaker and Gigafactory 1 energy-storage company could keep up with its ambitious production schedule. Gizmodo reports: In early October, Tesla struggled with a "production bottleneck," but by the end of the month, Panasonic stated it would increase battery output at the Gigafactory, now that it understood the issues that led to the bottleneck and could automate some of the processes that had been done by hand. But this likely did not help Tesla fix any immediate shortage issues. ETNews claims that Panasonic is coping with the shortage by shipping batteries in from Japan. And many Japanese companies in need of cylinder batteries have turned to other suppliers like LG, Murata, and Samsung -- but those companies have not been able to meet the demands. Reportedly, companies that had contracts before 2017 aren't affected by the shortage, but several other manufacturers have not been able to place orders for batteries, and won't be able to order more batteries until the middle of next year.
Mars

SpaceX Plans To Blast a Tesla Roadster Into Orbit Around Mars (arstechnica.com) 272

An anonymous reader quotes Ars Technica: Previously, SpaceX founder Elon Musk has said he intends to launch the "silliest thing we can imagine" on the maiden launch of the Falcon Heavy. This is partly because the rocket is experimental -- there is a non-trivial chance the rocket will explode on the launch pad, or shortly after launch. It is also partly because Musk is a master showman who knows how to grab attention. On Friday evening, Musk tweeted what that payload would be -- his "midnight cherry Tesla Roadster."

And the car will be playing Space Oddity, by David Bowie; the song which begins, "Ground Control to Major Tom." Oh, and the powerful Falcon Heavy rocket will send the Tesla into orbit around Mars. "Will be in deep space for a billion years or so if it doesn't blow up on ascent," Musk added. Ars was able to confirm Friday night from a company source that this is definitely a legitimate payload. Earlier on Friday, Musk also said the Falcon Heavy launch would come "next month" from Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, meaning in January.

"No private company has ever launched a spacecraft beyond low-Earth orbit, let alone to another planet," according to the article, adding that SpaceX's new rocket "could play a major role in any plans the agency has to send humans to the Moon." In addition, Musk added on Twitter, "Red car for a red planet."

UPDATE (12/2/17): Saturday Elon Musk told The Verge that he "totally made it up" about sending a Tesla Roadster to Mars. Then in "multiple emails" to Ars Technica --- sent Saturday afternoon -- "Musk confirmed that this plan is, indeed, real."
Government

Tesla Proves To Be Too Pricey For Germany, Loses Tax Subsidies (reuters.com) 121

Tesla has been removed from Germany's list of electric cars eligible for subsidies because its Model S sedan is too expensive for the scheme. Tesla customers cannot order the Model S base version without extra features that pushed the car above the 60,000 euro ($71,500) price limit, a spokesman for the German Federal Office for Economic Affairs and Export Controls (BAFA) said on Friday. From the report: Germany last year launched the incentive scheme worth about 1 billion euros, partly financed by the German car industry, to boost electric car usage. A price cap was included to exempt premium models. "This is a completely false accusation. Anyone in Germany can order a Tesla Model S base version without the comfort package, and we have delivered such cars to customers," Tesla said in a statement. The carmaker said the upper price limit was initially set by the German government to exclude Tesla, but later a compromise was reached "that allows Tesla to sell a low option vehicle that qualifies for the incentive and customers can subsequently upgrade if they wish." It said, however, it would investigate whether any car buyers were denied the no-frills version. Under the subsidy scheme, buyers get 4,000 euros off their all-electric vehicle purchase and 3,000 euros off plug-in hybrids.
Australia

Tesla Switches on Giant Battery To Shore Up Australia's Grid (reuters.com) 173

Tesla switched on the world's biggest lithium ion battery on Friday in time to feed Australia's shaky power grid for the first day of summer, meeting a promise by Elon Musk to build it in 100 days or give it free. From a report: "South Australia is now leading the world in dispatchable renewable energy," state Premier Jay Weatherill said at the official launch at the Hornsdale wind farm, owned by private French firm Neoen. Tesla won a bid in July to build the 129-megawatt hour battery for South Australia, which expanded in wind power far quicker than the rest of the country, but has suffered a string of blackouts over the past 18 months. In a politically charged debate, opponents of the state's renewables push have argued that the battery is a "Hollywood solution" in a country that still relies on fossil fuels, mainly coal, for two-thirds of its electricity.
Transportation

Elon Musk's Boring Company Bids On Chicago Airport Transit Link (arstechnica.com) 155

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: On Wednesday, the city of Chicago opened a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for an express train that would take passengers from the city's O'Hare airport to downtown. The system would have to be completely privately funded -- Chicago says no taxpayer money would be used for it. Elon Musk's Boring Company -- a tunneling company that the SpaceX and Tesla CEO started last year -- will respond to the request. Musk hopes to get to the second round when bidding will take place. On Wednesday evening, he tweeted that his company "will compete to fund, build & operate a high-speed Loop connecting Chicago O'Hare Airport to downtown."

Musk's reference to a "Loop" is explained more clearly on The Boring Company's FAQ page: "Loop is a high-speed underground public transportation system in which passengers are transported on autonomous electric skates traveling at 125-150 miles per hour. Electric skates will carry between 8 and 16 passengers (mass transit), or a single passenger vehicle." Unlike Musk's idea for a Hyperloop, a Loop won't draw a vacuum. "For shorter routes, there is no technical need to eliminate air friction," The Boring Company states. The company also clarifies the concept of an "electric skate:" that is "a platform on wheels propelled by multiple electric motors." The platform would operate autonomously without a rail or rails to which the skate would connect. The skate would operate in the tunnel's main artery, and it would enter and exit from side tunnels. With this system, The Boring Company says, the skate's average speed would theoretically be able to operate close to maximum speed.

Power

EPA Confirms Tesla's Model 3 Has a Range of 310 Miles (theverge.com) 282

Tesla's Model 3 has a confirmed range of 310 miles, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. "That figure applies to the long-range version of the Model 3, and echoes the vehicle specs released by Tesla back in July," reports The Verge. "It also makes the Model 3 one of the most efficient passenger electric vehicles on the market." From the report: The EPA's range is used as the advertised figure for electric vehicles that are sold in the US. The 310-mile range is an estimate of the number of miles the vehicle should be able to travel in combined city and highway driving from a full charge. That's 131 miles per gallon gasoline equivalent (MPGe) for city driving, 120 MPGe on the highway, and 126 MPGe combined. You'll have to pay more to get that extended range, though. Tesla said it would be selling a standard version of the Model 3, with just 220 miles of range, for $35,000. The long-range version will start at $44,000, the automaker says. Production on the standard version isn't expected to begin until 2018.
Bitcoin

Tesla Owners Are Mining Bitcoins With Free Power From Charging Stations (vice.com) 141

dmoberhaus writes: Someone claimed to use their Tesla to power a cryptocurrency mine to take advantage of the free energy given to Tesla owners. But even with free energy, does this scheme make sense? Motherboard ran the numbers.

From the report: "...If we assume that each of the GPUs in this rig draws around 150 watts, then the 16 GPUs have a total power draw of 2.4 kilowatts per hour or 57.6 kilowatt hours per day if they ran for a full 24 hours. According to Green Car Reports, a Tesla Model S gets about 3 miles per kilowatt hour, meaning that running this mining rig for a full day is the equivalent of driving nearly 173 miles in the Tesla. According to the Federal Highway Administration, the average American drives around 260 miles a week. In other words, running this cryptocurrency mine out of the trunk of a Tesla for a day and a half would use as much energy as driving that Tesla for a full week, on average. Moreover, drivers who are not a part of Tesla's unlimited free energy program are limited to 400 kilowatt hours of free electricity per year, meaning they could only run their rig for a little over 7 days on free energy.

Okay, but how about the cost? Let's assume that this person is mining Ethereum with their GPUs. Out of the box, an average GPU can do about 20 megahashes per second on the Ethereum network (that is, performing a math problem known as hashing 20 million times per second). This Tesla rig, then, would have a total hashrate of about 320 megahashes. According to the Cryptocompare profitability calculator, if the Tesla rig was used to mine Ethereum using free electricity, it would result in about .05 Ether per day -- equivalent to nearly $23, going by current prices at the time of writing. In a month, this would result in $675 in profit, or about the monthly lease for a Tesla Model S. So the Tesla would pay for itself, assuming the owner never drove it or used it for anything other than mining Ethereum, Ethereum doesn't drop in value below $450, and the Tesla owner gets all of their energy for free."
Motherboard also notes that this conclusion "doesn't take into account the price of each of the mining rigs, which likely cost about $1,000 each, depending on the quality of the GPUs used." TL;DR: Mining cryptocurrency out of your electric car is not worth it.
Bitcoin

Elon Musk Says He Is Not Bitcoin's Satoshi Nakamoto (bloomberg.com) 108

An anonymous reader writes: Not only does Elon Musk deny being the mysterious creator of bitcoin Satoshi Nakamoto, but he's also forgotten where he keeps his cryptocurrency. Musk's assertions came in response to a blog post coursing through digital-currency sites that suggested the PayPal co-founder and Tesla chief executive officer himself is probably the bitcoin originator who used the alias Nakamoto. "Not true," Musk said Tuesday in a tweet. "A friend sent me part of a BTC a few years, but I don't know where it is."
Power

Is Elon Musk Greatly Exaggerating Tesla's Battery Technology? (bloomberg.com) 266

"Tesla's newest promises break the laws of batteries," writes Bloomberg. Long-time Slashdot reader rudy_wayne summarizes their report. "Elon Musk knows how to make promises. Even by his own standards, the promises made last week while introducing two new Tesla vehicles...are monuments of envelope pushing. To deliver, according to close observers of battery technology, Tesla would have to far exceed what is currently thought possible." The Tesla Semi, which Musk claims can haul 80,000 pounds at highway speeds for 500 miles, then recharge 400 miles of range in 30 minutes, would require "a charging system that's 10 times more powerful than one of the fastest battery-charging networks on the road today -- Tesla's own Superchargers."

The Tesla Roadster is promised to be the quickest production car ever built. But that achievement would mean squeezing into its tiny frame a battery twice as powerful as the largest battery currently available in any electric car. These claims are so far beyond current industry standards for electric vehicles that they would require either advances in battery technology or a new understanding of how batteries are put to use, said Sam Jaffe, battery analyst for Cairn Energy Research in Boulder, Colorado.

But Jaffe reaches an interesting conclusion. "I don't think they're lying. I just think they left something out of the public reveal that would have explained how these numbers work."
The Almighty Buck

Tesla's Electric Semi Trucks Are Priced To Compete At $150,000 (theverge.com) 189

Last week, Tesla unveiled its new four-motor electric Semi but left out one key detail -- the price. "Now that's changed: the regular versions of the 300-mile and the 500-mile trucks will cost $150,000 and $180,000 each," reports The Verge. "There is also a 'Founders Series' which will cost $200,000 per truck." Tesla does note that the prices are "expected" leaving the company some wiggle room on the final pricing. From the report: If those prices and specs stick then Tesla has a potentially disruptive offering with Semi. Most long-haul diesel trucks are priced around $120,000 and cost tens of thousands of dollars to operate each year. Tesla claims its all-electric Semi will provide more than $200,000 in fuel savings alone over the lifespan of the truck.
Australia

Tesla Completes World's Largest Battery Project In Half the Time Promised (engadget.com) 150

Rei writes: Tesla announced the completion of the world's largest battery -- a 100 MW/129 MWh wind-power backup system for 30,000 homes in South Australia. Three times more powerful than any other battery on Earth, the $50 million project had garnered press due to Elon Musk's Twitter boast that it would be completed within 100 days of the contract signing or it would be free. In the end, Tesla took it up a notch: the battery was finished 55 days from the date of contract signing and 99 days from the date of Musk's boast itself.
Graphics

Google Cloud Platform Cuts the Price of GPUs By Up To 36 Percent (techcrunch.com) 28

In a blog post, Google's Product Manager, Chris Kleban, announced that the company is cutting the price of using Nvidia's Tesla GPUs through its Compute Engine by up to 36 percent. The older K80 GPUs will now cost $0.45 per hour while the more powerful P100 machines will cost $1.46 per minute (all with per-second billing). TechCrunch reports: The company is also dropping the prices for preemptible local SSDs by almost 40 percent. "Preemptible local SSDs" refers to local SSDs attached to Google's preemptible VMs. You can't attach GPUs to preemptible instances, though, so this is a nice little bonus announcement -- but it isn't going to directly benefit GPU users. As for the new GPU pricing, it's clear that Google is aiming this feature at developers who want to run their own machine learning workloads on its cloud, though there also are a number of other applications -- including physical simulations and molecular modeling -- that greatly benefit from the hundreds of cores that are now available on these GPUs. The P100, which is officially still in beta on the Google Cloud Platform, features 3594 cores, for example. Developers can attach up to four P100 and eight K80 dies to each instance. Like regular VMs, GPU users will also receive sustained-use discounts, though most users probably don't keep their GPUs running for a full month.
Businesses

Walmart Says It's Preordered 15 of Tesla' New Semi Trucks (theverge.com) 179

Soon after Tesla unveiled its new electric Semi Truck and Roadster 2.0, Walmart says it has preordered 15 of the trucks. The Verge notes that the deal was "likely in the works before Tesla unveiled its new truck to the public." From the report: The pilot is planned for the U.S. and Canada. Five of the preordered vehicles will be for Walmart's U.S. business, and 10 will be for its Canadian routes, the company said. Walmart's fleet has about 6,000 trucks. "We have a long history of testing new technology -- including alternative-fuel trucks -- and we are excited to be among the first to pilot this new heavy-duty electric vehicle," the company said in a statement. "We believe we can learn how this technology performs within our supply chain, as well as how it could help us meet some of our long-term sustainability goals, such as lowering emissions." Musk said the truck would enter production in 2019. JB Hunt Transport Services, a 56-year-old company based in Arkansas, also reserved "multiple" new Tesla trucks as well.
Power

Tesla Is Rethinking the Rest Stop For California Road Trips (bloomberg.com) 111

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: In-N-Out Burgers has some new competition for attracting drivers on two heavily traveled stretches of California freeways that help link Los Angeles to Las Vegas and San Francisco: Tesla's biggest Supercharger stations yet. The charging stations in Kettleman City, off Interstate 5, and Baker, near Interstate 15, each have 40 stalls, making them the largest among more than 1,000 in North America, according to an emailed statement Wednesday. If filling up your Tesla takes half an hour, you might as well get comfortable. The Kettleman City station north of Bakersfield has a play wall for kids, a pet relief area and outdoor space for families. It's open round-the-clock, there's wi-fi and there will be food as well. But if you want to stretch your legs, the nearest In-N-Out is just across the street. And there are inevitable Tesla touches at both: solar-covered parking and Tesla Powerpacks.
Transportation

Tesla Unveils 500-Mile Range Semi Truck, 620-Mile Range Roadster 2.0 373

Rei writes: During a live reveal on Thursday, Tesla unveiled its new electric Class 8 Heavy Duty vehicle. As most people familiar with Tesla products would expect, the day cab truck features staggeringly fast acceleration for a vehicle of its size. It can accelerate 0-60 in 5 seconds without a trailer and 20 seconds with a 40-ton gross weight while being able to pull its maximum payload up a 5-degree grade at 65mph (versus a typical maximum of 45mph). The 500-mile range is for the vehicle at full load and highway speeds (80% of U.S. freight routes are 250 miles or less). Tesla also boasts a million mile no-breakdown guarantee; even losing two of its four motors it can out-accelerate a typical diesel truck. The total cost per mile is pegged at 83% of operating a diesel, but when convoying is utilized -- where multiple trucks mirror the action of a lead truck -- the costs drop to 57%, a price cheaper than rail. Tesla went a step further and stole the show from their own event by having the first prototype of the new Tesla Roadster drive out of the back of the truck. With the base model alone boasting a 620 mile range on a 200kWh battery pack with 10kN torque, providing a 1.9 second 0-60, 4.2 second 0-100, and 8.9 second quarter mile, the 2+2-seating convertible will easily be the fastest-accelerating production car in the world. Top speed is not disclosed, but said to be "at least 250mph." The vehicle's release date, however, is not scheduled until 2020.
The Courts

Tesla Is a 'Hotbed For Racist Behavior,' Worker Claims In Lawsuit (bloomberg.com) 300

An African-American employee has filed a lawsuit against Tesla, claiming their production floor is a "hotbed for racist behavior" and that black workers at the electric carmaker suffer severe and pervasive harassment. "The employee says he's one of more than 100 African-American Tesla workers affected and is seeking permission from a judge to sue on behalf of the group," reports Bloomberg. "He's seeking unspecified general and punitive monetary damages as well as an order for Tesla to implement policies to prevent and correct harassment." From the report: "Although Tesla stands out as a groundbreaking company at the forefront of the electric car revolution, its standard operating procedure at the Tesla factory is pre-Civil Rights era race discrimination," the employee said in the complaint, filed Monday in California's Alameda County Superior Court. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Marcus Vaughn, who worked in the Fremont factory from April 23 to Oct. 31. Vaughn alleged that employees and supervisors regularly used the "N word" around him and other black colleagues. Vaughn said he complained in writing to human resources and Musk and was terminated in late October for "not having a positive attitude."

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