Transportation

Consumer Reports Expects Tesla's Model 3 To Have 'Average Reliability' (cnbc.com) 50

There may be only a few hundred Tesla Model 3s on the street, but Consumer Reports already has an opinion on the new car's dependability. From a report: "We are predicting that the Model 3 should have about average reliability," said Jake Fisher, director of auto testing for Consumer Reports. Average may irritate Tesla fans and the nearly 500,000 people who have reserved a Model 3, but Fisher believes people should understand what Consumer Reports expects from the new car. "We don't go around recommending that people buy cars that are below average, so if it is average or better, that is not a bad thing at all," said Fisher. "But let's be very clear, we are not giving it super high marks. We are saying it is basically par for the course." Consumer Reports has yet to buy a Model 3 and put it through a battery of tests, as the magazine does for dozens of vehicles. In addition, so few Model 3 cars have been delivered that Fisher and his team have yet to get a sense of how owners feel about their new Tesla.
The Courts

Tesla Faces Lawsuit For Racial Harassment In Its Factories (mercurynews.com) 143

Three former Tesla factory workers have filed a lawsuit against the company, claiming they were subject to constant racial discrimination and harassment in the electric car company's factories. "The men, who are African-American, claim in a new complaint filed Monday in state court that Tesla supervisors and workers used racial epithets and drew racist graffiti on cardboard boxes," reports The Mercury News. From the report: The new suit is the second by black employees charging Tesla failed to address racial antagonism at its factory. The electric vehicle maker also has a hearing before the National Labor Relations Board over claims it illegally tried to silence workers promoting a union. The complaints come as the Tesla heads into a crucial ramp-up of Model 3 production, its lower-cost electric vehicle. A Tesla spokesman denied the suit's allegations and said the men never raised the complaints to the company during their brief time at the plant. "Given our size, we recognize that unfortunately at times there will be cases of harassment or discrimination in corners of the company," the spokesman said. "From what we know so far, this does not seem to be such a case." The suit, filed in Alameda County Superior Court, claims Owen Diaz and his son, Demetric, were called the N-word while they worked at the Fremont factory, and supervisors did little to stop it. A third man, Lamar Patterson, also claims he was subjected to insensitive racist remarks.
Businesses

Tesla Employees Detail How They Were Fired, Claim Dismissals Were Not Performance Related (cnbc.com) 247

New submitter joshtops shares a CNBC report: Tesla is trying to disguise layoffs by calling the widespread terminations performance related, allege several current and former employees. On Friday, the San Jose Mercury News first reported that Tesla had dismissed an estimated 400 to 700 employees. That number represents between 1 and 2 percent of its entire workforce. But one former employee, citing internal information shared by a manager, said the total number fired is higher than 700 at this point. Most of the people let go from Tesla so far have been from its motors business, said people familiar with the matter. They were not from other initiatives like Tesla Powerwall, which is helping restore electricity to the residents of Puerto Rico now. The mass firings, which affected Tesla employees across the U.S., had begun by the weekend of Oct. 7 and continued even after the initial news report, sources said. Among those whose jobs were terminated in this phase, some were given severance packages quickly while others are still waiting on separation agreements. Some terminated employees told CNBC they were informed via email or a phone call "without warning," and told not to come into work the next day. The company also dismissed other employees without specifying a given performance issue, according to these people. "Seems like performance has nothing to do with it," one Tesla employee told CNBC under the condition of anonymity. "Those terminated were generally the highest paid in their position," this person said, suggesting that the firings were driven by cost-cutting. That assessment was echoed by several others, including three employees fired from Tesla during this latest wave.
Businesses

Tesla Just Fired Hundreds Of Workers (mercurynews.com) 319

An anonymous reader quotes the Bay Area Newsgroup: Tesla fired hundreds of workers this week, including engineers, managers and factory workers, even as the company struggles to expand its manufacturing and product line... The company said this week's dismissals were the result of a company-wide annual review, and insisted they were not layoffs. Some workers received promotions and bonuses, and the company expects to hire for the "vast majority" of new vacancies, a spokesman said. "As with any company, especially one of over 33,000 employees, performance reviews also occasionally result in employee departures," a spokesman said. "Tesla is continuing to grow and hire new employees around the world."
"Tesla has a hearing before the National Labor Relations Board in November for charges that company supervisors and security guards harassed workers distributing union literature," reports the Bay Area Newsgroup, adding that "Openly pro-union workers were among those fired this week. Some believe they were targeted."

Tesla denies this, and says that they've generally boosted morale this week -- by rewarding higher-performing employees.
Transportation

Richard Branson's Virgin Group Invests in Super-fast Hyperloop One Transport System (cnbc.com) 60

An anonymous reader shares a report: Richard Branson's Virgin Group is investing in Hyperloop One, a company developing the super-fast transport system originally conceptualized up by Elon Musk. Hypleroop One is re-branding itself as Virgin Hyperloop One, and Branson is joining the board, the billionaire British investor and entrepreneur announced Thursday on CNBC from London. Virgin Hyperloop One will focus on a passenger and mixed-use cargo service. Last month, Hypleroop One raised $85 million in new funding, and that includes the investment from Virgin. Branson refused to breakout the numbers. Breaking ground on a commercial hyperloop in two to four years is possible if "governments move quickly," Branson said in a "Squawk Box" interview. So far, no government has approved a plan for a hyperloop system. The Virgin founder also said that building a hyperloop tube above or below ground is "cheaper" and "faster" than a traditional rail network. The idea of the transport system -- conceived in 2013 by Musk, the head of both electric automaker Tesla and SpaceX -- works by propelling pods through tubes using magnets reaching speeds akin to those of airplanes.
Power

CNN Skeptical of Elon Musk's 'Big Promises' (cnn.com) 206

An anonymous reader writes: Tesla's electric semi-truck will be launched three weeks later than planned, CNN reports. It's been bumped to November 16th because Tesla says it's "diverting resources" to address problems with its Model 3 sedan production -- they've produced just 17.3% of the cars they'd planned -- and to make more batteries to send to areas hit by hurricanes. CNN notes Tesla's Model X "didn't start shipping until two years after it was supposed to roll out," and production of its Model S sedan "was also much slower than originally promised." Michelle Krebs, an analyst with Autotrader.com, complains Tesla "may well have far too much on its plate. It should focus and deliver on some key promises."

But Elon Musk "has a history of some pretty pie-in-the-sky promises," complained CNN business anchor Maggie Lake, citing Musk's claim that he had verbal approval for an underground hyperloop connecting New York City to Washington D.C. ("This is news to City Hall," said New York's press secretary at the time, and no actual approval has ever been produced.) Lake also noted Musk's promise to fix South Australia's blackout problems by building the world's largest lithium-ion battery within 100 days back in March. Last Friday Tesla signed a contract to begin the work, so the 100-day countdown has begun.

CNN's report ran under the headline "Elon Musk: Big Dreamer or Monorail Salesman?" -- referencing a satirical 1993 episode of The Simpson's. "Here's a spoiler alert," the segment concludes. "If you haven't seen that episode...the monorail plan doesn't work out too well. Let's put it that way."
Transportation

GM Exec Says Elon Musk's Self-Driving Car Claims Are 'Full of Crap' (smh.com.au) 382

An anonymous reader quotes the Sydney Morning Herald: Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk's claims about the self-driving capabilities of his upcoming Tesla vehicles are "full of crap", General Motors' self-driving Tsar says... "To think you can see everything you need for a level five autonomous car [full self-driving] with cameras and radar, I don't know how you do that"... GM's own solution involves several radar and Lidar sensors, as well as cameras and multiple redundancy systems. Each system costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, and GM are some way away from getting the cost low enough to be commercially viable. "The level of technology and knowing what it takes to do the mission, to say you can be a full level five with just cameras and radars is not physically possible," Mr Miller said.
Power

Elon Musk Says Tesla Could Rebuild Puerto Rico's Power Grid With Batteries, Solar (electrek.co) 337

After Puerto Rico was hit by hurricane Maria, Tesla quickly started shipping hundreds of its Powerwall batteries there to try and get power back on to some houses with solar arrays. Now, Tesla CEO Elon Musk took to Twitter to say that Tesla could rebuild Puerto Rico's power grid with batteries and solar on a bigger scale. Electrek reports: Puerto Rico's electricity rates were already quite high at around $0.20 per kWh and reliant on fossil fuels. After it was pointed out that Puerto Rico's destroyed grid is an opportunity to build a better one, Musk wrote on Twitter: "The Tesla team has done this for many smaller islands around the world, but there is no scalability limit so it can be done for Puerto Rico too. Such a decision would be in the hands of the Puerto Rico government, PUC (Public Utilities Commission), any commercial stakeholders and, most importantly, the people of Puerto Rico."

Musk is referring to solar and battery projects that Tesla recently deployed on other islands, like Tesla's visually stunning Powerpack and solar project in Kauai. Those projects power grids for much smaller populations, but Musk has always said that it's scalable to support much larger islands, like Puerto Rico, and ultimately entire continents, which are just like big islands to a certain degree. The thing is that those systems are still reliant on power lines for larger communities and devices, like solar panels and wind turbines, that are still subject to problems with natural disasters. The advantage of Tesla's solution is that it has the potential to be distributed, which increases the odds of at least some systems staying online or bringing some back online quicker.

Power

Tesla Still On Top In US Electric Vehicle Sales, GM Close Behind (arstechnica.com) 105

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Americans bought more electric vehicles in September than any other month this year. According to Inside EV's monthly sales report, 21,325 battery EVs and plug-in hybrid EVs found homes last month. That's 20 percent more than this time last year and the second highest number ever. 2017 looks like it will be a record year; a total of 159,614 EVs were sold, a figure that should easily be eclipsed by the end of October. Tesla leads the pack, thanks to healthy increases in both Model S and Model X sales this month. Tesla may suffer some good-natured teasing about frequently missed deadlines, but you could set your watch by the regularity of its quarter-ending jump in deliveries. Barring some unforeseen circumstance, the Model S will remain the best-selling EV for the third year running. Like the overall trend, sales for the startup EV maker are up compared to last year, and even if the Model 3 continues to frustrate, we expect it to break the 50,000 car barrier by year-end.

General Motors is the only other company within reach of Tesla, whether we're talking about range or sales volume. The Chevrolet Bolt EV is now on sale in all 50 states and finding traction -- 2,632 sold in September and more than 14,000 on the road in 2017 so far. That still only gets it to fifth overall on the score chart, and there are three months left to go. The Chevy Volt, the Bolt's plug-in hybrid EV stablemate, is still the second-most popular EV among American buyers, but its sales have leveled off for the last few months. Toyota is the only other OEM to make the top five, less than 300 units behind the Volt.

Businesses

Tesla Badly Misses Model 3 Production Goals (wsj.com) 244

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Wall Street Journal (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source): Tesla badly missed its goal of building 1,500 Model 3 cars in the third quarter, the first sign that the production ramp-up for the new sedan isn't going as smoothly as planned. The Silicon Valley electric-car maker built 260 of the Model 3s between July and September, the company said Monday in a statement. In August, the auto maker predicted it would build more than 1,500 Model 3s before cranking up production to 5,000 a week by the end of the fourth quarter. Tesla blamed "production bottlenecks" for the weaker production. "It is important to emphasize that there are no fundamental issues with the Model 3 production or supply chain," Tesla said in a statement. "We understand what needs to be fixed and we are confident of addressing the manufacturing bottleneck issues in the near-term."
Power

Tesla Is Shipping Hundreds of Powerwall Batteries To Puerto Rico (futurism.com) 167

schwit1 quotes a report from Futurism: In a continued streak of goodwill during this year's devastating hurricane season, Tesla has been shipping hundreds of its Powerwall batteries to Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Since the hurricane hit on 20 September, much of the U.S. territory has been left without power -- about 97 percent, as of 27 September -- hampering residents' access to drinkable water, perishable food, and air conditioning. The island's hospitals are struggling to keep generators running as diesel fuel dwindles. Installed by employees in Puerto Rico, Tesla's batteries could be paired with solar panels in order to store electricity for the territory, whose energy grid may need up to six months to be fully repaired. Several power banks have already arrived to the island, and more are en route.
Transportation

Tesla Model 3 Owners Share More Info On Model (arstechnica.com) 177

Owners at the Model 3 Owners Club compiled a list of over 80 different features of the Model 3 they're curious about, including questions about how the car operates (does the card unlock all the doors, where does the UI show you that your turn signals are active), physical aspects of the car (what does the tow hitch attachment look like, how much stuff can you fit in the front and rear cargo areas), and subjective details (how aggressive is the energy regeneration, does that wood trim cause glare). Ars Technica reports: So far, we've learned a few interesting facts. For instance, the windshield wipers are turned on and off by a stalk like just about every other car on the market, but changing the speed (slow/fast/intermittent) is handled by a menu on the touchscreen. The stalk also does double duty turning on the headlights, and there are no rain sensors for the wipers. The touchscreen UI really is the only way to interact with every other function, according to owners, even the rear air vents are controlled from up front (although there are USB ports in the back). Rear seat passengers also won't get seat heaters from what we gather -- unless Tesla plans to activate them in a later software update -- and the steering wheel is not heated either. The two buttons on the steering wheel do not appear to be user-configurable. Instead, the left button primarily deals with audio functions (scroll up and down for volume, left and right to change track) while the other one is for adjusting the mirrors and steering wheel position while in those menus in the UI. Additionally it appears that as of now, there's no way to tab through a different part of the UI without taking your hands off the steering wheel.
The Almighty Buck

Tesla Discontinues Its Most Affordable Model S (engadget.com) 95

Tesla will be discontinuing its cheapest Model S option, the Model S 75, this Sunday. What that means is that the all-wheel-drive version -- the 75D -- will take its place as the low-end Model S sedan, currently listed at a starting price of $74,500. Engadget reports: The move to discontinue the Model S 75 was first announced by Tesla in July after it dropped the price by $5,000 a few months earlier. The removal of the model from Tesla's offerings follows its discontinuation of the Model S 60 and 60D vehicles in April, which at the time were the least expensive Model S options available. As well as streamlining its EV line and making all Model S options all-wheel-drive, knocking off the low-end Model S vehicles is also likely being done to carve out a bigger separation between the Model 3 and Model S lines. Custom orders for the Model S 75 will be taken until Sunday, September 24th and the pre-configured versions will be available for purchase until inventory runs out.
AI

Tesla Is Working With AMD To Develop Its Own AI Chip For Self-Driving Cars (cnbc.com) 50

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: Tesla is getting closer to having its own chip for handling autonomous driving tasks in its cars. The carmaker has received back samples of the first implementation of its processor and is now running tests on it, said a source familiar with the matter. The effort to build its own chip is in line with Tesla's push to be vertically integrated and decrease reliance on other companies. But Tesla isn't completely going it alone in chip development, according to the source, and will build on top of AMD intellectual property. On Wednesday Sanjay Jha, CEO of AMD spin-off GlobalFoundries, said at the company's technology conference in Santa Clara, California, that the company is working directly with Tesla. GlobalFoundries, which fabricates chips, has a wafer supply agreement in place with AMD through 2020. Tesla's silicon project is bounding ahead under the leadership of longtime chip architect Jim Keller, the head of Autopilot hardware and software since the departure of Apple veteran Chris Lattner in June. Keller, 57, joined Tesla in early 2016 following two stints at AMD and one at Apple. Keller arrived at Apple in 2008 through its acquisition of Palo Alto Semiconductor and was the designer of Apple's A4 and A5 iPhone chips, among other things. More than 50 people are working on the initiative under Keller, the source said. Tesla has brought on several AMD veterans after hiring Keller, including director Ganesh Venkataramanan, principal hardware engineer Bill McGee and system circuit design lead Dan Bailey.
Power

Electric Bus Sets Record With 1,101-Mile Trip On a Single Charge (engadget.com) 156

A startup called Proterra has set the world record for the furthest distance any electric vehicle has managed before recharging. The Catalyst E2 Max electric bus drove 1,101.2 miles on a single charge, beating the previous record-holder, a one-seat experimental car nicknamed "Boozer." Engadget reports: Not surprisingly, a bus can hold a much larger battery than just about any regular car. The Catalyst E2 Max carries 660kWh, or nearly nine times the capacity of a 75kWh Tesla Model S. Also, Proterra was driving in optimal conditions, with no passengers, no stops and a gentle test track. It'd be another story with a fully-laden bus wending its way through a city. Even so, that kind of range is very promising. In many cases, it could likely handle a long bus route for several hours -- it might only need to recharge at the end of a driver's shift. While it could take an hour or more to top up even with Proterra's fast charging system, bus drivers are no strangers to changing vehicles. The first E2 series buses are due to reach Los Angeles streets later in 2017, so it might not be long before you can witness this longevity first-hand. The company released a video of the record-setting feat on YouTube.
AI

Google's AI Boss Blasts Musk's Scare Tactics on Machine Takeover (bloomberg.com) 130

Mark Bergen, writing for Bloomberg: Elon Musk is the most-famous Cassandra of artificial intelligence. The Tesla chief routinely drums up the technology's risks in public and on Twitter, where he recently called the global race to develop AI the "most likely cause" of a third world war. Researchers at Google, Facebook and other AI-focused companies find this irritating. John Giannandrea, the head of search and AI at Alphabet's Google, took one of the clearest shots at Musk on Tuesday -- all while carefully leaving him unnamed. "There's a huge amount of unwarranted hype around AI right now," Giannandrea said at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco. "This leap into, 'Somebody is going to produce a superhuman intelligence and then there's going to be all these ethical issues' is unwarranted and borderline irresponsible."
Businesses

Union Power Is Putting Pressure on Silicon Valley's Tech Giants (bloomberg.com) 116

An anonymous reader writes: Organized labor doesn't rack up a lot of wins these days, and Silicon Valley isn't most people's idea of a union hotbed. Nonetheless, in the past three years unions have organized 5,000 people who work on Valley campuses. Among others, they've unionized shuttle drivers at Apple, Tesla, Twitter, LinkedIn, EBay, Salesforce.com, Yahoo!, Cisco, and Facebook; security guards at Adobe, IBM, Cisco, and Facebook; and cafeteria workers at Cisco, Intel, and, earlier this summer, Facebook. The workers aren't technically employed by any of those companies. Like many businesses, Valley giants hire contractors that typically offer much less in the way of pay and benefits than the tech companies' direct employees get. Among other things, such arrangements help companies distance themselves from the way their cafeteria workers and security guards are treated, because somebody else is cutting the checks. Silicon Valley Rising, a coalition of unions and civil rights, community, and clergy groups heading the organizing campaign, says its successes have come largely from puncturing that veneer of plausible deniability. That means directing political pressure, media scrutiny, and protests toward the tech companies themselves. "Everybody knows that the contractors will do what the tech companies say, so we're focused on the big guys," says Ben Field, a co-founder of the coalition who heads the AFL-CIO's South Bay Labor Council. Labor leaders say their efforts have gotten some tech companies to cut ties with an anti-union contractor, intervene with others to ease unionization drives, and subsidize better pay for contract workers. "If you want to get people to buy your product, you don't want them to feel that buying your product is contributing to the evils of the world," says Silicon Valley Rising co-founder Derecka Mehrens, who directs Working Partnerships USA, a California nonprofit that advocates for workers. Tech companies have been image-conscious and closely watched of late, she says, and the coalition is "being opportunistic."
Power

Samsung Unveils New Electric Car Batteries For Up To 430 Miles of Range (electrek.co) 90

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Electrek: At the Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA Cars 2017) this week, Samsung's battery division, Samsung SDI, showcases a new "Multifunctional battery pack" solution to enable more range in electric vehicles as the Korean company tries to carve itself a bigger share of the growing automotive battery market. Most established automakers, like Nissan with the LEAF or even GM with the more recent Chevy Bolt EV, have been using large prismatic cells to build their electric vehicle battery packs. Tesla pioneered a different approach using thousands of individual smaller cylindrical li-ion battery cells in each pack. Earlier this year, Samsung unveiled its own '2170' battery cell to compete with Tesla/Panasonic. Now they are claiming that they can reach an impressive energy density by using those cells in new modules: "'Multifunctional battery pack' of Samsung SDI attracted the most attention. Its users can change the number of modules as they want as if they place books on a shelf. For example, if 20 modules are installed in a premium car, it can go 600 to 700 kilometers. If 10 to 12 modules are mounted on a regular sedan, it can run up to 300 kilometers. This pack is expected to catch the eyes of automakers, because they can design a car whose mileage may vary depending on how many modules of a single pack are installed."
Software

'Operational Limitations' In Tesla Model S Played a 'Major Role' In Autopilot Crash, Says NTSB (reuters.com) 210

Mr D from 63 writes from a report via Reuters: The chairman of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said on Tuesday "operational limitations" in the Tesla Model S played a "major role" in a May 2016 crash that killed a driver using the vehicle's semi-autonomous "Autopilot" system. Reuters reported on Monday that the NTSB is expected to find that the system was a contributing factor because it allows drivers to avoid steering or watching the road for lengthy periods of time. The NTSB is also expected to find that Tesla Inc could have taken additional steps to prevent the system's misuse and will fault the driver for not paying attention. "Today's automation systems augment, rather than replace human drivers. Drivers must always be prepared to take the wheel or apply the brakes," NTSB Chairman Robert Sumalt said. The system could not reliably detect cross traffic and "did little to constrain the use of autopilot to roadways for which it was designed," the board said. Monitoring driver attention by measuring the driver's touching of the steering wheel "was a poor surrogate for monitored driving engagement." At a public hearing Tuesday on the crash involving Brown, NTSB said the truck driver and the Tesla driver "had at least 10 seconds to observe and respond to each other."
Power

Volkswagen To Build Electric Versions of All 300 Models By 2030 (bloomberg.com) 168

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Volkswagen AG Chief Executive Officer Matthias Mueller announced sweeping plans to build electric versions of all 300 models in the group's lineup as the world's largest automaker accelerates the shift away from combustion engines and tries to draw a line under the emissions-cheating scandal. Speaking on the eve of the Frankfurt auto show, the CEO laid out the enormity of the task ahead, vowing to spend 20 billion euros ($24 billion) to develop and bring the models to market by 2030 and promising to plow another 50 billion euros into the batteries needed to power the cars. Volkswagen is throwing the fire power of its 12 brands behind the push, aiming to catch up with the likes of Tesla Inc. and transform from a battery-vehicle laggard into a leader. Underscoring the enormity of the shift taking place in the industry, Mueller said VW will need the equivalent of at least four gigafactories for battery cells by 2025 just to meet its own vehicle production. At 50 billion euros, the CEO announced one of the largest tenders in the industry's history for the procurement of batteries. By 2025, VW aims to have 50 purely battery-powered vehicles and 30 hybrid models in its lineup, with a goal of selling as many as 3 million purely battery-powered cars by then. The transformation will pick up speed after that to reach the 2030 goal as economies of scale and better infrastructure help bring down prices and accelerate sales.

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