Tesla

Polestar unveils its all-electric response to the Tesla Model 3

Posted by | Android, automotive, car sharing, China, electric vehicles, Environmental Protection Agency, Europe, Geely, Google, linux, Polestar, sensus, Tesla, tesla model 3, Transportation, Volvo Cars | No Comments

Volvo’s standalone electric performance brand Polestar introduced Wednesday its first all-electric vehicle — a five-door fastback that is gunning for the Tesla Model 3.

In the past few years, every time an electric vehicle — concept, prototype or production version — has been unveiled, the term “Tesla killer” has been tossed about regardless of whether that car will ever even come to market.

In the case of Polestar 2, it’s unclear if it will be the “Tesla killer.” It’s possible that an entirely new group of customers will be attracted to the vehicle. What is clear: The Polestar 2 was designed to compete with the Tesla Model 3 in the U.S., Europe and China. 

You can watch the reveal on Polestar’s YouTube channel.

The specs

The Polestar 2 is meant to be a performance electric vehicle. It’s equipped with two electric motors and a 78 kilowatt-hour battery pack that has an estimated EPA range of about 275 miles.

The Polestar 2’s all-wheel drive electric powertrain produces 300 kW (an equivalent of 408 horsepower) and 487 lb-ft of torque. This is above the rear-wheel (and currently cheapest) version of the Model 3. It’s just a skosh under the dual-motor performance version of the Model 3, which has an output of 450 horsepower and 471 lb-ft of torque.

The Polestar 2 accelerates from 0 to 100km (about 62 mph) in less than five seconds — again, a stat that puts it right above the mid-range Model 3 and below the performance version.

Polestar 2-Exterior-Front

Android inside

In 2017, Volvo announced plans to incorporate a version of its Android operating system into its car infotainment systems. A year later, the company said it would embed voice-controlled Google Assistant, Google Play Store, Google Maps and other Google services into its next-generation Sensus infotainment system.

Polestar has followed Volvo. The Polestar 2’s infotainment system will be powered by Android OS and, as a result, bring into the car embedded Google services such as Google Assistant, Google Maps and the Google Play Store.

This shouldn’t be confused with Android Auto, which is a secondary interface that lies on top of an operating system. Android OS is modeled after its open-source mobile operating system that runs on Linux. But instead of running smartphones and tablets, Google modified it so it could be used in cars.

The Polestar 2 will also have so-called “Phone-As-Key technology,” which basically means customers will have the ability to unlock their car remotely using their smartphones. This capability opens the door — literally and figuratively — for owners to rent their vehicle out via car sharing or use a delivery service to drop off items in the vehicle.

The feature also allows Polestar 2 to sense the driver upon approach. 

Polestar 2-Interior

Market plans

The base price of Polestar 2 is €39,900 ($45,389), the company says. However, for the first year of production the pricier “launch edition” will only be available at €59,900, or about $68,000. (The prices are listed before any federal or state incentives might be applied.)

The launch edition is essentially a base car with two packages, its advanced driver assistance system called Pilot Assist and Plus Pack.

Production of the Polestar 2 will begin in early 2020 at its Chengdu, China factory. The company is initially targeting sales in China, the U.S., Canada and a handful of European countries that include Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the U.K.

Polestar, like its potential rival Tesla, is also ditching the dealership. Polestar will only sell its vehicles online and will offer customers subscriptions to the vehicle. Subscription pricing will be revealed at a later date, Polestar said.

The automaker is also opening “Polestar Spaces,” a showroom where customers can interact with the product and schedule test drives. These spaces will be standalone facilities and not within existing Volvo retailer showrooms. Polestar is planning to have 60 of these spaces open by 2020, including Oslo, Los Angeles and Shanghai.

Polestar was once a high-performance brand under Volvo Cars. In 2017, the company was recast as an electric performance brand aimed at producing exciting and fun-to-drive electric vehicles — a niche that Tesla was the first to fill and has dominated ever since. Polestar is jointly owned by Volvo Car Group and Zhejiang Geely Holding of China. Volvo was acquired by Geely in 2010.

The company’s first vehicle, the Polestar 1, was unveiled in September. The Polestar 1 is not a pure electric vehicle; it’s a plug-in hybrid with two electrical motors powered by three 34 kilowatt-hour battery packs and a turbo and supercharged gas inline 4 up front.

Polestar said Wednesday that its next vehicle, the Polestar 3, will be an all-electric “performance SUV.” The company didn’t provide any additional details about the Polestar 3.

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The new era in mobile

Posted by | Apple, autonomous vehicles, Column, Google, Mobile, TC, Tesla | No Comments
Joe Apprendi
Contributor

Joe Apprendi is a general partner at Revel Partners.
More posts by this contributor

A future dominated by autonomous vehicles (AVs) is, for many experts, a foregone conclusion. Declarations that the automobile will become the next living room are almost as common — but, they are imprecise. In our inevitable driverless future, the more apt comparison is to the mobile device. As with smartphones, operating systems will go a long way toward determining what autonomous vehicles are and what they could be. For mobile app companies trying to seize on the coming AV opportunity, their future depends on how the OS landscape shapes up.

By most measures, the mobile app economy is still growing, yet the time people spend using their apps is actually starting to dip. A recent study reported that overall app session activity grew only 6 percent in 2017, down from the 11 percent growth it reported in 2016. This trend suggests users are reaching a saturation point in terms of how much time they can devote to apps. The AV industry could reverse that. But just how mobile apps will penetrate this market and who will hold the keys in this new era of mobility is still very much in doubt.

When it comes to a driverless future, multiple factors are now converging. Over the last few years, while app usage showed signs of stagnation, the push for driverless vehicles has only intensified. More cities are live-testing driverless software than ever, and investments in autonomous vehicle technology and software by tech giants like Google and Uber (measured in the billions) are starting to mature. And, after some reluctance, automakers have now embraced this idea of a driverless future. Expectations from all sides point to a “passenger economy” of mobility-as-a-service, which, by some estimates, may be worth as much as $7 trillion by 2050.

For mobile app companies this suggests several interesting questions: Will smart cars, like smartphones before them, be forced to go “exclusive” with a single OS of record (Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon/AGL), or will they be able to offer multiple OS/platforms of record based on app maturity or functionality? Or, will automakers simply step in to create their own closed loop operating systems, fragmenting the market completely?

Automakers and tech companies clearly recognize the importance of “connected mobility.”

Complicating the picture even further is the potential significance of an OS’s ability to support multiple Digital Assistants of Record (independent of the OS), as we see with Google Assistant now working on iOS. Obviously, voice NLP/U will be even more critical for smart car applications as compared to smart speakers and phones. Even in those established arenas the battle for OS dominance is only just beginning. Opening a new front in driverless vehicles could have a fascinating impact. Either way, the implications for mobile app companies are significant.

Looking at the driverless landscape today there are several indications as to which direction the OSes in AVs will ultimately go. For example, after some initial inroads developing their own fleet of autonomous vehicles, Google has now focused almost all its efforts on autonomous driving software while striking numerous partnership deals with traditional automakers. Some automakers, however, are moving forward developing their own OSes. Volkswagen, for instance, announced that vw.OS will be introduced in VW brand electric cars from 2020 onward, with an eye toward autonomous driving functions. (VW also plans to launch a fleet of autonomous cars in 2019 to rival Uber.) Tesla, a leader in AV, is building its own unified hardware-software stack. Companies like Udacity, however, are building an “open-source” self-driving car tech. Mobileye and Baidu have a partnership in place to provide software for automobile manufacturers.

Clearly, most smartphone apps would benefit from native integration, but there are several categories beyond music, voice and navigation that require significant hardware investment to natively integrate. Will automakers be interested in the Tesla model? If not, how will smart cars and apps (independent of OS/voice assistant) partner up? Given the hardware requirements necessary to enable native app functionality and optimal user experience, how will this force smart car manufacturers to work more seamlessly with platforms like AGL to ensure competitive advantage and differentiation? And, will this commoditize the OS dominance we see in smartphones today?

It’s clearly still early days and — at least in the near term — multiple OS solutions will likely be employed until preferred solutions rise to the top. Regardless, automakers and tech companies clearly recognize the importance of “connected mobility.” Connectivity and vehicular mobility will very likely replace traditional auto values like speed, comfort and power. The combination of Wi-Fi hotspot and autonomous vehicles (let alone consumer/business choice of on-demand vehicles) will propel instant conversion/personalization of smart car environments to passenger preferences. And, while questions remain around the how and the who in this new era in mobile, it’s not hard to see the why.

Americans already spend an average of 293 hours per year inside a car, and the average commute time has jumped around 20 percent since 1980. In a recent survey (conducted by Ipsos/GenPop) researchers found that in a driverless future people would spend roughly a third of the time communicating with friends and family or for business and online shopping. By 2030, it’s estimated the autonomous cars “will free up a mind-blowing 1.9 trillion minutes for passengers.” Another analysis suggested that even with just 10 percent adoption, driverless cars could account for $250 billion in driver productivity alone.

Productivity in this sense extends well beyond personal entertainment and commerce and into the realm of business productivity. Use of integrated display (screen and heads-up) and voice will enable business multi-tasking from video conferencing, search, messaging, scheduling, travel booking, e-commerce and navigation. First-mover advantage goes to the mobile app companies that first bundle into a single compelling package information density, content access and mobility. An app company that can claim 10 to 15 percent of this market will be a significant player.

For now, investors are throwing lots of money at possible winners in the autonomous automotive race, who, in turn, are beginning to define the shape of the mobile app landscape in a driverless future. In fact, what we’re seeing now looks a lot like the early days of smartphones with companies like Tesla, for example, applying an Apple -esque strategy for smart car versus smartphone. Will these OS/app marketplaces be dominated by a Tesla — or Google (for that matter) — and command a 30 percent revenue share from apps, or will auto manufacturers with proprietary platforms capitalize on this opportunity? Questions like these — while at the same time wondering just who the winners and losers in AV will be — mean investment and entrepreneurship in the mobile app sector is an extremely lucrative but risky gamble.

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Comma.ai’s George Hotz ousts George Hotz as CEO

Posted by | Android, automotive, Comma.ai, George Hotz, GitHub, Personnel, Tesla, Transportation, waze | No Comments

Comma.ai’s board, of which founder George Hotz is the only member, is making changes at the autonomous driving startup: Hotz is no longer CEO of the company.

A new CEO, who Hotz declined to name, is expected to be announced Friday via the company’s Medium blog. He confirmed that the CEO is indeed a human and a “very talented one,” Hotz told TechCrunch.

Hotz, who gained worldwide fame under the hacker alias “geohot” when he cracked the iPhone and PlayStation 3 as a teenager, isn’t leaving the company he founded. Instead, Hotz and two others are part of a new division called Comma.ai research that will focus on building out behavioral models that can drive cars.

Comma.ai found the “right product market fit” during his three-year tenure as CEO, Hotz said.

“We have very good growth numbers, now it’s time to get the slope on growth even higher,” said Hotz, who is the company’s majority shareholder. “It’s much more of an execution problem now than a vision problem. And perhaps I’m not the best executor.”

Hotz said the company needed someone to scale the team from the 15 people who are there now to the “50 required to put out a real consumer product,” as well as work on reducing cost of the product and deal with regulators.

Hotz may be out as CEO, but he insists the fundamental ethos of the company won’t change.

“We’ve always been the North Korea of self-driving companies; we are driven by nobody else’s agenda,” he said. “That’s not going to change.”

And he’s still interested in self-driving cars.

“Eventually, what I want to do with my life is I want to solve AI,” Hotz said. “And I think that self-driving cars are still the coolest applied AI problem today.”

Comma.ai initially aimed to sell a $999 aftermarket self-driving car kit that would give certain vehicle models highway-driving assistance abilities similar to Tesla’s Autopilot feature. Hotz canceled those plans in October 2016 after receiving a letter from the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration.

Five weeks later, Comma.ai released its self-driving software to the world. All of the code, as well as plans for the hardware, was posted on GitHub.

Today, Comma.ai has an ecosystem of products — the Eon, Panda and Giraffe — all aimed at bringing semi-autonomous driving capabilities to cars. Drivers who buy and install them in their cars can bypass the driver-assistance systems in specific vehicles — right now late-model Hondas and Toyotas — and run Comma.ai’s open-source driving software instead.

The Eon is a dashcam dev kit based on Android that can run Waze, Spotify and Comma.ai’s open-source dashcam app chffrplus, which lets car owners record and review their drives. The Panda is a $99 universal car interface that plugs into a vehicle’s OBD-II port and gives users access to the internal communications networks (known as a vehicle bus) that interconnects components in a vehicle.

The Giraffe is an adapter board that gives users access to other CAN buses not exposed on the main OBD-II connector. This allows commands to be issued to the car via software.

Pull all of these together and a vehicle has Comma.ai’s version of lane-keeping and adaptive cruise control. TechCrunch rode in one of these Comma.ai-equipped vehicles in July.

More than 500 cars are now using either open pilot or chffr, Hotz said, adding that this fleet is sending data back to Comma.ai. The company has collected more than 5 million miles of driving data.

“We’re using all of that data to create behavioral models of human driving,” Hotz said. “We’re now very good at localizing that driving data, figuring out exactly where the car actually went. So from that and the data, how do we actually train models to drive like humans.”

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Tesla’s sleek wireless smartphone charger will soon be available again

Posted by | Gadgets, Tesla | No Comments

Last month Tesla introduced a limited edition smartphone charger. Even though it was overpriced and slow, the charger quickly sold out. Now Tesla says the charger will soon be available again and at a lower price.

The charger features 6,000mAh of juice and 5W of wireless output charging and 7.5W through USB. The first time around, the charger was $65 but now it will cost $50. Still, as The Verge points out even at the lower cost, similar wireless chargers can be had for less money and often sport a larger battery. But they don’t say Tesla.

This charger is the latest in Tesla’s small electronic lifestyle items. They’ve long sold USB chargers designed to mimic the design and appeal of its Supercharger line. This latest version looks like the Tesla Powerwall battery — but as awesome as the Powerwall is, it cannot wireless charge a smartphone.

@verge tipline @nickstatt check out the cut in cost and refunds for Tesla’s phone charger. Still not an Anker, but pretty sweet move pic.twitter.com/n9WG6xHPIs

— Jᴀʀᴇᴅ Hᴀssᴏɴ (@JaredEzz) September 10, 2018

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Atari games are coming to Teslas via software update

Posted by | Atari, Gaming, Tesla, Transportation | No Comments

Here’s some unexpected fun, courtesy of the man himself. Elon Musk announced via Twitter today that Teslas will be getting a handful of classic Atari titles in the next four weeks, courtesy of a software update.

Along with already announced self-driving features, Version 9.0 of the electric vehicles’ software update will include “some of the best” old games as an “Easter Egg.” The eccentric CEO appears to be soliciting suggestions via social media at the moment, including Pole Position, Tempest and Missile command, among others.

Tesla has relied pretty heavily on software updates to help push features. Sure, this one is in good fun, but an update arriving late last year brought the fairly necessary addition of FM radio and a tripometer to the Model 3 — both pretty glaring omissions.

Some of best classic @Atari games coming as Easter eggs in Tesla V9.0 release in about 4 weeks. Thanks @Atari!

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 1, 2018

The games will likely be playable on the cars’ massive center display tablet, which is positioned in portrait mode on the Model S and X and in landscape on the Model 3. One presumes that the titles will only be playable when the vehicle is parked, so as to avoid having to explain to the officer that you crashed your car because you were playing Frogger.

Speaking of not going anywhere, Pole Position will apparently use the steering wheel as an input — again, when the vehicle is fully parked. Indeed, $49,000 is an admittedly steep starting price for a new Atari console, but at least you can drive the thing around when you’re done with Missile Command. 

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Tesla adds autonomous parking mode to Model 3

Posted by | automotive industry, autonomous car, driver, Gadgets, model, Model 3, Tesla, Tesla Model S, Tesla Model x, transport | No Comments

The Model 3 can now park itself. Called Summon, the feature is now available on the company’s new sedan.

It’s a clever feature that takes advantage of the vehicle’s connectivity and autonomous driving capabilities. With Summon owners can command their Model 3 to pull into a parking spot and power down. It can even control garage doors — all without a driver behind the wheel or controlling the vehicle remotely. Tesla added the feature to Model S and Model X vehicles last year.

Note, no one is in the car or controlling remotely. Car is driving entirely by itself. https://t.co/xSG2Mmy756

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 5, 2018

This is the latest feature Tesla added to the Model 3 after its launch. The company is in a frenzy to keep up with production goals and the nature of the Model 3’s connected platform allows the company to added features to already-built vehicles.

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Tesla updates user interface, web browser in older Model S and Model X vehicles

Posted by | automotive, Elon Musk, Gadgets, musk, nvidia, tegra, Tesla, Tesla Model S, Tesla Model x | No Comments

A recent update is bringing an improved user interface to older Tesla vehicles. According to this report citing forum users, the v8.1 (2018.14) update improves the speed and capability in Model S and Model X vehicles equipped with an Nvidia Tegra 3-powered MCU. This was expected; Elon Musk stated in late December 2017 that Tesla was working to improve the browser for all its vehicles.

Users discovered the browser speed is dramatically faster, able to download at an average of more than 5 Mbps. HTML5 capabilities also improved. This is just the latest in Tesla’s ongoing mission to improve its vehicles after customers buy them.

Tesla launched the Model S with the Tegra 3 SoC and ran with it until late 2017, when the company switched to new x86_64-powered MCUs. Last month, Elon Musk confirmed through Twitter that it was possible to retrofit older vehicles with new MCUs.

Yes, you can upgrade hardware, although we also wrote software to accelerate rendering on old MCU. Coming out soon & makes a big diff.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 27, 2018

Though possible to upgrade older vehicles, it’s better for the consumer, and likely for the company, to upgrade existing hardware than make drivers bring in vehicles for a hardware upgrade.

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Elon Musk says Tesla will be profitable in Q3 and Q4

Posted by | Elon Musk, Mobile, Tesla | No Comments

Tesla is one of the more interesting companies for Wall Street that had an interesting couple of months this year — and it seems even tweets from Elon Musk, who said that the company will be profitable in the back half of the year, may be enough to swing its stock.

The Tesla and SpaceX founder sent a tweet very early this morning that the company would be profitable and cash-flow positive in the third and fourth quarter this year. Tesla is known for setting ambitious targets and forecasts, especially as it looks to ramp up Model 3 production to around 2,500 vehicles per week. Musk said he took direct control of Model 3 production earlier this month in a note to employees, also sent out at around 3 a.m. pacific time. Tesla’s shares were up slightly, gaining around 2% in trading today.

The Economist used to be boring, but smart with a wicked dry wit. Now it’s just boring (sigh). Tesla will be profitable & cash flow+ in Q3 & Q4, so obv no need to raise money.

Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 13, 2018

Tesla saw a small bump in its stock throughout the day. While it could be for a variety of reasons, Musk’s data point may have offered a small amount of clarity (and optimism) around whether the company will be able to eventually turn a profit. The tweet was fired off as a response to a story by The Economist that said the company may have to raise additional capital at some point, according to banking firm Jeffries. (It was also quite snarky.)

On Tesla’s last call to discuss the company’s quarterly results with Wall Street analysts, Musk said that the company would begin generating “positive quarterly operating income on a sustained basis,” and said he was “cautiously optimistic” that the company would be GAAP profitable. Musk said the company wanted to hit a production target of 5,000 Model 3 vehicles per week at some point in 2018, though did not give a specific time frame. The tweet, while fired off as a response to a story by The Economist, appears to offer another small data point as to when it might happen.

Earlier this month, Tesla fell back behind Ford in terms of its market cap as some pressure has hit the stock. Tesla has had to address a fatal crash involving its autopilot, in addition to a voluntary recall of 123,000 Model S vehicles. There is some skepticism around whether Tesla will hit its production targets from Wall Street (making cars is hard, it seems).

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Elon Musk’s pretty good week keeps rolling as Tesla slides through Q4 with same production targets

Posted by | automotive, Earnings, Finance, Fundings & Exits, Gadgets, Mobile, TC, Tesla | No Comments

 Tesla CEO Elon Musk managed to send his Tesla Roadster into space — because why not? — earlier this week, and it looks like his week (and Tesla’s) is still looking up for now following the company’s fourth-quarter results. The company slightly beat Wall Street’s expectations on the financial front, and said it’s still targeting producing 2,500 Model 3… Read More

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Tesla files patent for mobile battery swapping rig

Posted by | business, charging stations, Elon Musk, Gadgets, Tesla, Tesla Model S, transport | No Comments

 Tesla is still exploring options to make swapping vehicle battery packs easier and faster. This patent filed in May reveals one option that would allow technicians to change out packs in less than 15 minutes. This isn’t the first of such ideas. Back in 2014 Tesla briefly played with an automated system that swapped Model S battery packs in less than 90 seconds. That idea seemed to be… Read More

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