A primer for people who are thinking about buying a Tesla

By Henry Farkas
Tesla's software and monthly updates makes for a unique experience
Tesla's software and monthly updates makes for a unique experience

My Tesla Model 3, unimaginatively named "Blue Tesla," is relatively new. I bought it in June 2020 during the pandemic. Didn't really need it. Not going many places. Bought it anyway. I'd been thinking about buying one for a long time.

Because it was a pandemic, they arranged a touchless buying experience. They called me from the Tesla place when the car arrived. They said it was the blue Model 3 outside the door of the showroom. It just so happens that I live relatively near the Tesla Service Center in Owings Mills, Maryland It looks more like a regular car dealership than most of the Tesla stores.

So I went there, and I couldn't figure out how to get into the car. Remember touchless? Well, there wasn't even a salesperson around. I had gone on a test drive a few months previously, before the pandemic. The salesperson had opened the door for me. I remembered that the model S has a handle that comes out to greet you when you put your hand near it. Not the Model 3. After poking and prodding a bit, I called the number they gave me and spoke to someone inside the showroom. He pointed out that if I pressed in on the back of the handle with my thumb, the front part of the handle will swivel out from the door, and I could grab it with my fingers. It's nice that the handles are flush with the doors. Less drag and less wind noise when driving at highway speeds. But people unfamiliar with the Model 3, including some of the Model S and X owners, won't be able to open the doors of your Model 3.

Then, I sat in the car and signed the papers. I put the papers and the check in the envelope and put it in the slot in the door of the showroom. I gotta say, this was the quickest car buying experience I've ever had, and I've been driving for sixty years. On the other hand, this car has lots of differences, and I didn't get an orientation. Fortunately, YouTube has the orientation. Here's a link to one of them.

Shifting is a bit different than most other cars. The shift lever goes back to a neutral position when you shift so you need to use other cues to know what gear you're in. I was used to this because I used to drive a Prius, and they have the same issue. Here are the clues.

If you're in Park, the picture of your car on the center screen is seen from the left front. The picture of your car, with its original color, is angled towards the left lower corner of the screen. Push down on the steering column mounted gearshift lever for Drive and up for Reverse.

In Reverse, the picture of the car is seen from the top, and you get a big picture from your backup camera with lines showing you where the car is going to go if you back up. That's a really good clue that you're in Reverse gear. Turn the steering wheel, and the lines move.

If you're in drive, the car is pictured as if you're looking at the car from the rear and slightly above. You can see that the car is going to go forward. If you're going less than five mph such as backing out of your driveway, you don't need to stop before shifting to Drive. You don't even need to step on the brake. Just shift to Drive, and the electric motor will stop the car and immediately start it going forward.

That will get you on the road. There are lots of helpful videos on YouTube about the features of the Model 3. Those videos are an excellent way to learn about your new car. Go to YouTube and search on Tesla Model 3.

Tesla Vehicles Spotted With LiDAR: What Do They Use It For?

By Karan Singh
Not a Tesla App

Tesla recently hit the news for purchasing approximately $2M in LiDAR sensors from Luminar, one of Tesla’s long-term suppliers. You’ve probably seen photos of Tesla’s Semi and various Tesla models, including the Model 3 and Model Y sporting LIDAR equipment on the roof. These cars drive around with manufacturer plates scanning streets and highways.

However, many people confuse Tesla’s purpose in purchasing LiDAR equipment with using it for FSD versus testing. So, let’s look at what LiDAR is, and why Tesla uses it on its Fleet Validation Vehicles.

What is LiDAR?

LiDAR stands for Light Detecting and Ranging – essentially using lasers to measure distances. A laser pulse is sent out, and the time it takes to return is measured – providing extremely accurate distance measurements.

Some companies working on self-driving vehicles, including Waymo and BYD, use LiDAR as part of their self-driving suites, but Tesla is one of the few stand-outs that does not. Even Rimac’s “Verne” Robotaxi – which uses self-driving technology from Mobileye, also uses LiDAR.

While LiDAR can produce extremely accurate and high-quality 3D environments, it comes with its downsides as well. Not only is LiDAR costly and requires large gear strapped to a vehicle, but it also can not be used in bad weather and can have interference issues if there are other strong light sources present.

Why Does Tesla Use LiDAR?

A LiDAR rig mounted on a Tesla Semi for testing FSD.
A LiDAR rig mounted on a Tesla Semi for testing FSD.
Not a Tesla App

At Autonomy Day in 2019, Elon Musk mentioned that LiDAR isn’t the solution for self-driving cars – it's just a crutch. Thus, Tesla hasn’t used LiDAR for any production self-driving software.

Instead, Tesla uses it exactly how it's described – they use it to gather ground-truth data. This data is then used to feed Tesla’s Full Self Driving system – which helps validate its vision-only system's accuracy. LiDAR provides very accurate measurements to help ensure that FSD’s perception of space is accurate – and is only used by Tesla to ensure that its AI technology which is the brains of FSD is capable of accurately interpreting depth from just visual data.

Tesla’s vision-only system has been seen to be extremely accurate, with Vision-only Autopark being able to park in even narrower and tighter spaces faster than the previous version that relied on ultrasonic sensors.

We’ll likely continue to see Tesla purchase LiDAR systems, as well as use them for validation well into the future.

Tesla's Upcoming Robotaxi Event in August Delayed, According to Bloomberg

By Karan Singh
Sugar Design

In a report from Bloomberg, it is claimed that Tesla will be delaying its much-anticipated 8/8 Robotaxi event by two months to October 2024.

While sources other than Bloomberg haven't confirmed this report, Bloomberg has a positive track record of reporting on financial decisions. We’ll be sure to update the article if there is confirmation on X from Elon Musk or another Tesla senior official.

Tesla’s stock has dropped nearly 8.5% over the day, ending back-to-back gains over the last two weeks. It closed yesterday at $ 241 after hitting a peak of $270 earlier in the day before the news broke.

Why the Delay?

The delay – of approximately two months – has been communicated internally, but not publicly announced just yet. Bloomberg goes on to mention that the design team was told to rework certain elements of the Cybercab, necessitating the delay.

If Bloomberg’s report is correct, it sounds like Tesla’s unveil event will be largely focused on showing off the vehicle, instead of demoing how it will work. Of course, it could still be both, but given past events, Tesla has always shown off the vehicle years before it hits production.

Rimac recently showed off their version of robotaxi vehicle named Verne, and surprisingly, it could almost pass for Tesla’s own robotaxi. A lot of design cues in Rimac’s version are elements we have already seen or expect to see in Tesla’s autonomous taxi.

A recent Tesla patent revealed that Tesla is incorporating a sanitation system into their robotaxi that will be responsible for analyzing and cleaning the vehicle’s interior, although the delay itself is likely tied more to a physical feature rather than software.

Another element we know almost nothing about is how Tesla plans to charge these robotic taxis. Will they rely on the existing charge port and adapt a solution like the robotic charging arm (video below) we saw almost eight years ago, or will wireless charging or a dock finally become realized?

While the delay for Tesla’s event appears to be related to the vehicle’s design itself and not further development of FSD, Tesla is wasting no time in getting FSD working for the upcoming vehicle. Model 3 vehicles have already been spotted with camera locations that resemble a robotaxi.

Is the Delay Accurate?

We expect that this delay might actually be true – Elon Musk usually takes to X within hours of such news breaking if it's false to refute it and hasn’t done so yet.

Tesla has delayed several of their events in the past, and a delay of a couple of months seems plausible. We should hear from Musk himself soon on whether this report is accurate.

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