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Earlier this month, many Teslas were given a self-driving mode upgrade , and this makes for a SUPER fun Halloween costume. Unless you have a car costume lying around, you’ll have to make your own (the internet is your friend) . But once it’s done, you can run around anywhere claiming the car is driving itself and you have no control (also a great way to get out of boring conversations and not offend the other person–it’s the car, not you).

The Rise of the Machines has begun—fittingly, via an overnight wireless global “awakening.”

That’s right, owners of Tesla Model S and Model X electric vehicles woke up today to cars suddenly empowered to drive themselves down the road. The company’s software update—Tesla Version 7.0, installed via WiFi—includes its new Autopilot technology, which imparts a degree of autonomy to the sleek, high-tech cars. Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced the update via conference call yesterday, stressing that it was still in beta and that drivers will not be able to completely disengage themselves from the act of driving. “Because the software is still at an early stage, it’s important people exercise caution,” Musk said. “In the long term, drivers will not need to keep their hands on the wheel. Eventually there won’t be wheels or pedals.”

The system uses a suite of sensors installed in cars built beginning in September 2014, including a forward radar, a forward-looking camera, 12 long-range ultrasonic sensors, and braking and steering controls. Coupled with the car’s GPS, the hardware now permits the cars to steer within lanes, change lanes on command—via a tap of the turn signal—and modulate speed relative to vehicles in front of it, including braking to a full stop and automatically re-accelerating. Tesla already has one of the smoothest, most capable automatic cruise control systems on the road, and this enhancement promises a big reduction in driver workload—if not the actual ability to pick up a newspaper and just check out while your car chauffeurs you to the office.

It should be noted, of course, that other manufacturers currently have systems that are very close to Tesla’s autopilot. Mercedes, Acura, Volvo, and Audi can all manage steering down the highway and automatic braking and acceleration, via their lane-centering technology and adaptive cruise control. Driving the most recent Acuras in cruise control require nothing more than keeping light pressure on the wheel. If you let go for more than a few seconds, it will flash an alert and eventually deactivate. Tesla’s system works similarly—if not driver engagement is detected, it will flash an alert and eventually slow to a stop and activate the hazard lights.

Driving is all about managing treacherous, millisecond-long transitions, which we humanoids tend to do automatically.

Another distinction from other semi-autonomous systems is that the cars will collect data about their use, to refine and enhance the systems. That’s critical, because the real challenge for autonomous vehicles won’t be in the basics—cruising down the road and changing lanes on their own—but in the margins, the moments where the systems are challenged or stymied. This can occur with unclear lane markings, inclement weather, or dicey lane changes. What happens, for instance, if your lane is sitting still but the cars next to you are racing by and you want to shoot over? Will the car engage Ludicrous Mode acceleration to rocket you into the next lane, or sit there forever waiting for a gaping hole? Driving is all about managing those treacherous, millisecond-long transitions, which we humanoids tend to do automatically—including appropriately second-guessing ourselves midway through a move, or reacting to other drivers who are similarly tentative, or overzealous.

It will be fun to watch this progression toward seamless interactions between man and machine. Tesla just nudged us a little bit closer to that future.

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Forget Tesla, Uber Could Emerge As The Biggest Autonomous Vehicle Maker

Uber Eats announced a multiyear partnership with Nuro, one of the country’s leading autonomous vehicle manufacturers. Starting this fall, customers in Texas and California can get their food delivered by driverless robots and skip the tips. The companies plan to expand the service to the San Francisco Bay Area after getting their driverless delivery network up and running. The agreement marks the second autonomous delivery partnership for Uber Eats, which launched a similar service with Motional in Santa Monica, California, this past May. Uber Eats has entered into partnerships with other autonomous vehicle service providers as well.  Uber similarly just expanded a partnership with Motional, a third-party delivery platform, to launch autonomous delivery in Santa Monica, Calif. Under that deal, deliveries will be conducted in Motional’s IONIQ 5 vehicles, which are capable of operating autonomously. These deals highlight Uber’s evolving business strategy since the company sold off its in-house autonomous vehicle program a year ago. Following the pandemic, the market for last-mile autonomous delivery of meals, groceries, and other goods is primed for expansion. The Nuro deal signals a deepening commitment by Uber not just to playing in that space, but also to dominating it. “Nuro and Uber share a vision in which technology can make everyday life just a little bit easier,” said Noah Zych, global head of autonomous mobility and delivery at Uber. “Nuro’s distinctive autonomous vehicles are a great match for the Uber platform, and this partnership will bring a compelling combination of innovation alongside the convenience, affordability and reliability our customers and merchants have come to expect.” Uber’s partnership with Nuro is an expansion of the former’s efforts across autonomous mobility and delivery. The first rollouts will take place in Mountain View and Houston.

Uber Eats announced a multiyear partnership with Nuro, one of the country’s leading autonomous vehicle manufacturers. Starting this fall, customers in Texas and California can get their food delivered by driverless robots and skip the tips. The companies plan to expand the service to the San Francisco Bay Area after getting their driverless delivery network up and running. The agreement marks the second autonomous delivery partnership for Uber Eats, which launched a similar service with Motional in Santa Monica, California, this past May. Uber Eats has entered into partnerships with other autonomous vehicle service providers as well. Uber similarly just expanded a partnership with Motional, a third-party delivery platform, to launch autonomous delivery in Santa Monica, Calif. Under that deal, deliveries will be conducted in Motional’s IONIQ 5 vehicles, which are capable of operating autonomously. These deals highlight Uber’s evolving business strategy since the company sold off its in-house autonomous vehicle program a year ago. Following the pandemic, the market for last-mile autonomous delivery of meals, groceries, and other goods is primed for expansion. The Nuro deal signals a deepening commitment by Uber not just to playing in that space, but also to dominating it. “Nuro and Uber share a vision in which technology can make everyday life just a little bit easier,” said Noah Zych, global head of autonomous mobility and delivery at Uber. “Nuro’s distinctive autonomous vehicles are a great match for the Uber platform, and this partnership will bring a compelling combination of innovation alongside the convenience, affordability and reliability our customers and merchants have come to expect.” Uber’s partnership with Nuro is an expansion of the former’s efforts across autonomous mobility and delivery. The first rollouts will take place in Mountain View and Houston. Such developments with Uber can make it the biggest autonomous vehicle maker surpassing Tesla.

This Is The New Tesla Model S

This is the new Tesla Model S

Tesla has redesigned the Model S, its electric sedan, with a new interior and even more range on offer. The upgrade includes new battery modules, battery packs, and drive units, Tesla said today, complete with an entirely new interior. The automaker is also reworking its Model X SUV, it says.

It’s a welcome revamp for what is the oldest EV that Tesla currently sells. The Model S was certainly groundbreaking when Tesla first launched it, and not only for its reliance on all-electric propulsion: its touchscreen-dominated dashboard went on to arguably set expectations for what a modern car interior should look like.

Tesla built on that with the Model 3 and Model Y, its more affordable models, and in comparison to their minimalistic lines the Model S’ interior looked positively fussy. That’s all being upturned today, with the reveal of the new Model S cabin that Tesla says it’s been preparing its Fremont factory to build.

In the center console, meanwhile, there’s a full touchscreen for controlling the infotainment system. As in the Model 3, it’s oriented horizontally, a change from the Model S’ vertical touchscreen. Beneath it there’s cubbies along with a wireless charging pad for phones.

The 17-inch center display has a 2200 x 1300 resolution now, and can be tilted from left to right depending on visibility needs. Tesla says the onboard processing is good for up to 10 teraflops of power, which can be used for in-car gaming. There’ll be support for wireless controllers, too.

Overhead, there’s a full glass roof as standard, which uses infrared and UV blocking to avoid heat and glare. Meanwhile, there’s a 22-speaker, 960 watt audio system for music, with microphones embedded for active noise canceling. Each seat gets heating, as does the steering wheel and the windshield; front seats also get ventilation.

Tri-zone climate control with HEPA air filtration is standard, as is ambient lighting. Custom driver profiles are supported, and the power liftgate and power folding side mirrors are standard too. Wireless and USB-C fast charging is fitted for each passenger. Buyers of the new Model S get a year’s Premium Connectivity bundled, with live traffic, satellite view maps, music streaming, internet browser, and video streaming with access to services like Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and Twitch.

The dashboard as a whole is far cleaner, with Tesla’s invisible air vents system for the HVAC. In the rear, meanwhile, there’s now a second, 8-inch touchscreen display presented at the back of the center console. That’s used to control things like climate control and other settings.

Outside, the changes aren’t quite so dramatic, though it’s still a different look to the Model S we’re familiar with. The big difference is the arrival of the redesigned Model S Plaid, its most potent version of the EV. That, the automaker says, should be capable of doing 0-60 mph in under 2.0 seconds, the quarter mile in under 9.3 seconds, and a top speed of 200 mph. It starts at $119,990 for the Plaid with 390 miles of range, or $139,990 for the Plaid+ with a whopping 520+ miles of range. The new Model S Dual Motor All-Wheel Drive Long Range – which can do 412 miles – starts at $79,990

The changes also help with high-speed quarter-mile runs, Tesla claims, with an apparent 5x improvement in how many can be carried out. The Model S and Model X Performance models have been replaced by the Plaid trim, with its tri-motor configuration. The controversial “Full Self-Driving Capability” package is $10,000.

Production of the new Model S and Model X will resume later in Q1 2023, Tesla says, “and ramp back to full capacity over time.” According to the online order system, new orders should ship from March for the Dual Motor All-Wheel Drive and Plaid, and late 2023 for the Model S Plaid+.

Tesla Could Be Developing Its Own Apple

To recall, speculations surrounding the app store began making the rounds online back in December. Apparently, the rollout of the latest version 11 update of the in-car interface for Tesla cars sparked this rumor. To recall, the popular EV (electric vehicle) maker had even added a customizable icon bar at the touchscreen’s bottom at the time. Last year, CleanTechnica suggested that Tesla would eventually launch an app store in a bid to keep Tesla car owners occupied as their vehicles drive themselves around.

Tesla App Store Could Be In The Works

Some reports indicated that Musk would unveil the app initiative in January, at Tesla’s latest earnings call. However, the 50-year-old business magnate did not shed light on the company’s rumored plan to launch an app store. Nevertheless, a recent tweet from Tesla investor, Sawyer Merritt seems to have reignited rumors around the EV maker’s plan to develop an app store. Merritt, who is reportedly “in the know,” took to Twitter on Sunday to hint at the imminent arrival of the aforesaid app store for Tesla vehicles.

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Elon Musk Is Still Mum On Tesla’s Plan To Launch An App Store

Further in the tweet, Teslascope notes that Musk was expected to shed more light on the App Store at the earnings call. However, the SpaceX founder did mention that 2023 would be the year of “software.” Moreover, Teslascope notes that since the app store was not mentioned at the recently concluded earnings call, there is a possibility that its launch could’ve been pushed back. Nevertheless, the worldwide drivers’ platform claims that the app store has been in development since the debut of V11 UI with the radically overhauled Model S/X.

However, it is worth mentioning here that TheDriven did not find Musk calling 2023 will be the “year of software” in his tweet, or anywhere else. Nevertheless, earlier this month, Musk tweeted that Tesla is not only a software but also a hardware company, in the car as well as in the factory. He noted that a lot of people fail to understand that.

What To Expect?

If Tesla introduces an app store, it will catapult the already pioneering electric brand to skyrocketing popularity. Aside from that, offering an app store would serve as another revenue stream. Moreover, it will be an addition to a slew of other products such as self-driving subscriptions. Moreover, Musk had teased an app store for Tesla on a conference call. He notes that once cars become fully self-driving, drivers are likely to look for some sort of entertainment, as well as productivity options in the cars. He added that via Tesla’s “app store or whatever,” drivers want to work and play games. Furthermore, he noted that they will be adding some games.

Moreover, Volvo and Polestar feature Android Automotive which is integrated into their EVs. As a result, drivers can access vehicle-specific apps through Google Play Store. However, Tesla has already turned down the idea of integrating Android Auto and Car Play into its electric cars. In other words, Tesla may have been gearing up its launch its app store venture for a long time.

New Cars Make Me Feel Old

I’m a 28-year-old gadget nerd. Like many of my generation, I don’t often read instruction manuals. In dealings with parents, relatives and older friends, I’ve often struggled to wrap my head around what it is about technology that so fundamentally baffles members of generations past. Is it a fear of experimentation with the unknown? How can something that feels imprinted on my DNA be so utterly foreign to someone else? It’s a feeling shared by any son or daughter visiting home who, after a quick hug from mom and dad, is led unsubtly by the arm over to the computer desk: “Fix this. Please.”

But recently I’ve had some illuminating moments of empathy. And they’ve all come behind the wheel.

I haven’t owned a car since I was in college (a 1989 Toyota Corolla–White Fang, rest in peace), but being on good terms with Popular Science’s automotive editor comes with the occasional perk: I sometimes find myself with a new car to help test with a run to the grocery store or a quick road trip weekend. My promiscuity with many cars, rather than the reliably monogamous relationship most people have with one or two, has allowed me to frequently recreate the moment of first sitting down in an unfamiliar cockpit. Which means: I am frequently very confused inside an automobile. This confusion can take many forms.

Mild Panic: As I pulled into a moderately skeezy parking spot in Queens in the same Mercedes later that weekend, I unexpectedly found myself unable to lock the door. I pressed the button on the electronic proximity-sensing key fob and heard the doors’ latches lock. But upon pulling the handle to test, the door opened. This charade repeated several times, enough to start thinking that maybe I wouldn’t be able to leave this car unattended. It wasn’t until I gave my companion the key and had her step away from the vehicle that I realized the door was opening because the proximity sensor knew I was holding the key.

Don’t forget your key

Frustration: Like many nicely furnished new cars, a Volkswagen Touareg I recently drove was equipped with another kind of proximity sensor—one that detects objects near your bumpers while the car is traveling at low speeds, beeping and lowering the sound system’s volume if it thinks you’re due for a fender bender. A nice feature. Nice, that is, until you find yourself in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the Whitestone Bridge leaving the Bronx. There, we found our music volume fading out (and, curiously, not returning to its previous level) every few minutes, as the sensors detected the bumpers of our fellow frustrated gridlock victims. Even in standstill traffic, my passenger and I could not coax the touchscreen control panel to turn off this feature.

Helplessness: In a Mitsubishi Outlander driving in a decent rain shower, I fell victim to another smart feature that adjusts the speed of your windshield wipers in relation to how fast the car is moving. Like many drivers, I am particular about the frequency of my wipers—and yet my settings wouldn’t stick. Until I found and switched myself out of Automatic mode on the wiper stem, I was beginning to entertain the idea that I had lost my mind.

Adjust your seat here

Absurdity: Back in the Touareg, my driving companion plugs his iPhone into the audio system via docking cable in the glove box. “Good Thing” by Fine Young Cannibals immediately plays. It turns out, the system auto-plays by default the first song on the first playlist when it detects a connected iPod or iPhone. Needless to say, we became extremely well acquainted with the jangly opening bars of “Good Thing” that weekend.

Before this starts sounding too much like something from the desk of Andy Rooney, let me state plainly that smarter cars are a welcome development in the automotive world. The gadgetification of our cars has happened extremely fast, and it shows no sign of slowing. But my confusion should not be taken as a general cause for worry—I’m sure all of the features that puzzled me initially can be tweaked to suit my needs and tastes, after a bit of stationary fiddling and manual-reading.

And for every confounding new feature, there are those that effortlessly improve the driving experience. The rear-facing backup camera, which I find in just about every new car I drive, makes parallel parking in a modern vehicle one of driving’s most satisfying moments. And blind spot indicator lights in the side view mirrors, like those on a Mazda 6 I drove, are extremely useful when switching lanes in city traffic.

The greater point, then, is that I’m not used to feeling lost inside a new system. Each of the conditions above is unique in the type of resulting road rage, but they all have a common factor: confusion. It’s almost refreshing for someone like me to be reminded of this feeling—one experienced by millions of people as they more frequently encounter technology in their lives in new, unfamiliar places.

But it also poses a challenge to the auto industry: make the increasingly sophisticated technology inside our cars easier to use. Features like blind spot indicators make driving safer, but I’d argue that tapping through a touchscreen to find out why the stereo keeps beeping might cancel out such a gain. Are we safer, then, on aggregate? I would think so, but from my outsider’s perspective on new cars, there are times when it feels like we’re not.

Because behind the wheels of our cars, for safety’s sake, we should all feel like master technophiles.

Apple Adds More Drivers To Its Autonomous Vehicle Program

We have the latest numbers on autonomous vehicle programs from the California DMV. Apple has added 10 drivers to its team. Since our last report in late January, many of the top manufacturers have added drivers to their teams. Some have also added vehicles to their autonomous fleets. A notable exception is Waymo, which has decreased its fleet size and its number of licensed drivers.

Changes since our last report in late January

Mercedes has added 7 more vehicles to its fleet.

Waymo has decreased its driving team by 121 and the number of vehicles in its fleet by 60.

Cruise has made a massive cut to its driving team, cutting it by 307, but has increased its number of vehicles by 18.

Zoox, with the third-largest program behind Waymo and Cruise, has increased its driver team by 84 and its number of vehicles by 15.

Nvidia has increased its number of licensed drivers by 18.

Apple has added 10 drivers to its team.

Pony.ai has added 4 drivers.

Nuro has increased its number of drivers by 4 and fleet size by 19.

Motional has increased its number of drivers by 15 and its number of vehicles by 1.

Fleet volumes from California DMV as of March 25, 2023

Manufacturer NameDriversVehiclesMERC BENZ8944WAYMO1405630TESLA8622CRUISE 757236ZOOX472105NVIDIA 24414APPLE 15869PONY.AI7041TOYOTA 3534NURO13234MOTIONAL4024

Driverless programs

Apple has still not applied for a driverless permit in California. Other than Waymo, those manufacturers that do have a driverless program have kept their fleet volumes the same since our last report in January this year.

Waymo has added 17 cars to its driverless fleet.

Driverless fleet volumes as of March 25, 2023

ManufacturerVehiclesWAYMO71NURO18AUTOX 1ZOOX2CRUISE52APOLLO3WERIDE2PONY.AI0

Driverless deployment

There have been no changes to the lineup of manufacturers who hold a permit for driverless deployment since September 2023. At that time, Cruise and Waymo joined early entrant Nuro to form the current trio of manufacturers who have permission to deploy their driverless vehicles.

Issue DateManufacturerDec 23, 2023NUROSep 30, 2023CRUISESep 30, 2023WAYMO

Collision volumes

As more self-driving vehicles are deployed, we will see more crashes. California requires a special report to be filed whenever a self-driving car is involved in a traffic accident. These collision numbers include accidents of varying severity. The numbers also do not distinguish whether the crash happened in autonomous mode or while a driver was in control. They include both collisions where the autonomous vehicle was at fault and collisions where the other party was at fault.

Although some collisions can be more serious, we know, for example, from the collision reports that Apple’s two collisions that occurred in February were:

In conventional (not autonomous) mode, an Apple test vehicle clipped the side mirror of another vehicle, damaging both vehicles’ side mirror housings.

In conventional mode, an Apple test vehicle ran over road debris that was then kicked up and scratched the side of the test vehicle.

Notable changes since our last report in January:

Waymo has upped its collision number by 41 since January.

Cruise has added 5.

Zoox is up 3 collisions.

Apple has added 3 more collisions to its total.

Collision numbers as of March 25, 2023

ManufacturerCollisionsWAYMO176CRUISE172ZOOX42APPLE11PONY.AI6AURORA4WERIDE4ARGO3MOTIONAL1NISSAN1AIMOTIVE1TOYOTA1

Previous coverage on Apple’s autonomous vehicle program

Early coverage on Apple’s autonomous vehicle program

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