Automobile News From Around the Web
Below are some automobile-related links I’ve accumulated over the last few months.
Arizona has since built upon the governor’s action to become a favored partner for the tech industry, turning itself into a live laboratory for self-driving vehicles. Over the past two years, Arizona deliberately cultivated a rules-free environment for driverless cars, unlike dozens of other states that have enacted autonomous vehicle regulations over safety, taxes and insurance.
Too much regulation leads to stifled innovation, but too little regulation can lead to more dangerous roads for us humans. It sounds like Arizona is closer to the latter scenario.
Because you can leave your hands by your sides, the system uses an infrared camera mounted on the steering column to make sure you’re still ready to take over if things go south. It tracks your eyes, nose, mouth and ears and figures out where you’re looking. If you’re looking forward out the windshield or checking your mirrors, you’re fine. But let’s say you start staring out the side window or worse, at your phone, the car prompts you to start paying attention by flashing the green steering wheel light. If you ignore that, the flashing light on the wheel and accompanying audible warning for too long, the car will slow down, stop, turn on the flashers and call the authorities via OnStar.
We’re still in the awkward phase of autonomous vehicles. Roberto Baldwin notes in the link above that even though you still have to actively pay attention, being completely hands-free did drop his stress levels and fatigue. So while it’s not full autonomy, it’s progress.
Since last spring, Tesla vehicles purchased with a 60kWh battery option have actually come with a 75kWh battery. The company’s software electronically limited the range to 60kWh, though it gave drivers the option to upgrade to full capacity at any time—for several thousand dollars.
On Saturday, the blog Electrek reported that some drivers of 60kWh Teslas in Florida suddenly found their cars showing 75kWh of range, even though they hadn’t paid any more money. A Tesla spokesperson confirmed to Electrek’s Fred Lambert that the company had unlocked the batteries’ remaining capacity remotely, via software update. That would give them about 30 miles of additional driving on a single charge. The move reportedly came in response to a request from at least one Florida driver who needed the extra range to get out of danger.
Telsa is walking a fine line here. What are their guidelines on what are acceptable situations for unlocking additional range on their vehicles? This feels a little too much like a puppet master pulling strings.