NHTSA Targets Tesla Again Over Hidden 'Elon Mode'

By Kevin Armstrong
The NHTSA wants more information on Tesla's 'Elon Mode'
The NHTSA wants more information on Tesla's 'Elon Mode'
MKBHD/Twitter

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is again focusing on Tesla, demanding extensive data on the company's driver assistance and monitoring systems, focusing on a previously undisclosed configuration known as 'Elon Mode.'

What is 'Elon Mode'?

We first told you about Elon Mode after Tesla hacker @greentheonly discovered it and let the world know about it on Twitter - yes, it was still called Twitter back then. This special, hidden configuration in Tesla's software eliminates the alerts or 'nags' prompting drivers to apply torque to the steering wheel.

NHTSA's Concerns

According to Reuters and CNBC, the NHTSA has expressed concerns about the potential safety implications of this configuration and has issued a special order to Tesla, demanding detailed information about this mode and the number of drivers who have access to it. NHTSA fears that the relaxation of controls designed to ensure driver engagement could lead to greater driver inattention and failure to supervise Autopilot properly.

This is not the first time the NHTSA has raised concerns about Tesla's 'nag.' In January, Musk responded to a tweet from @WholeMarsBlog asking users with more than 10,000 FSD miles driven to have the option to disable the “tedious steering wheel nag.” Musk responded, "Agreed, update coming in Jan."

That didn't sit well with the acting head of the NHTSA, Ann Carlson, who told reporters, “A very extensive investigation ongoing... We are in conversations with Tesla about this latest communication."

Earlier this week, Carlson announced that the findings of an intensive two-year probe into Tesla's Autopilot system would be public "relatively soon." The NHTSA's ongoing investigation focuses on more than a dozen crashes involving stationary emergency vehicles. Carlson spoke about driver assistance systems in general, "It's really important that drivers pay attention. It's also really important that driver monitoring systems take into account that humans over-trust technology."

Moving Forward

While Tesla has complied with NHTSA's request for information, the response has been granted confidential treatment and is not publicly available. As the investigation continues, it remains to be seen how Tesla will address these concerns and what actions will be taken to ensure the safety of its driver assistance systems.

Tesla has been in talks with the NHTSA and is hopeful for an agreement that satisfies both parties. Transitioning to better driver monitoring by leveraging their cabin camera and machine learning could be a way forward, reducing the need to 'nag' drivers while improving monitoring.

Tesla to Add ‘Avoid Highways’ Option to Navigation

By Karan Singh
Not a Tesla App

Elon Musk recently confirmed on a livestream that Tesla will add a feature to avoid highways in its navigation options.

Avoid Highways has been an often-requested feature from Tesla owners, as most other navigation services, including Google and Apple Maps, and 3rd party GPS devices, include such an option.

Avoid Highways

The avoid highways feature will be useful for many drivers, who prefer to take inner-city or country roads to their destinations. This option will most likely sit right next to the current “Avoid Tolls” option that’s already available in the navigation settings.

Tesla leverages various Google APIs for their navigation system, including map tiles, satellite imagery, traffic and points of interest. However, routing is developed in-house so that Tesla can choose energy efficient routes, as well as account for charging stops.

Tesla’s navigation system typically chooses highway routes due to being the fastest route, however, Tesla does show up to two alternate routes when a new destination is entered.

Owners have previously used workarounds like adding secondary stops off-highway or planning their route through a third-party interface like Google Maps to ensure they’re not on highways.

Avoiding highways can also help drivers find scenic, new, or unique routes that would otherwise be missing. This is an excellent option for semi-rural areas as well, where highways often run side-by-side or in the same general direction as country roads, minus the scenic features. Additionally, many young or old drivers are often uncomfortable with merging on and off highways for short trips.

Release Date

This feature is probably a little while away given that Elon Musk only confirmed it recently and Tesla needs to develop it themselves instead of just turning using it in Google’s API.

In the meantime, you can add stops along your route to force a path you’d like to take or use Google or Apple Maps on your phone.

Tesla’s Forgotten Market – Canada

By Karan Singh
Ian M | LinkedIn

Tesla’s primary market is North America, with China close behind. One could argue that their primary market is actually the United States – not so much all of North America.

Canada sits as the forgotten red-headed stepchild of Tesla’s North American market. Let’s shine some light on the maple leaf for a moment and see what’s missing or what they have missed out on.

Subscriptions and FSD

Subscriptions have been a big one for Canada. Only recently, in April – was Canada allowed to Subscribe to FSD for the first time. The Canadian price equivalent for FSD at the time was $18,000 CAD before tax – nearly $21,000 CAD after tax. This was after the initial $3,000 CAD price drop in 2023.

With FSD becoming a subscription, it became massively more accessible for Canadians. But Canada did get one win on that front. The price for FSD Subscription in Canada isn’t at US-price equivalent – it’s $99 CAD, which is approximately $72 USD! A small victory for not having access to FSD subscriptions since its introduction in the U.S. in 2021.

Even FSD beta itself wasn’t initially available to Canadians – despite NHTSA, USDOT, Transport Canada, and CANDOT having many of the same regulations for homologation. FSD Beta only came to Canada in 2022, a full year after the American release. Even then, access was primarily restricted to early access testers and influences. The full Canadian rollout began in late 2022.

But that’s not all. If Canadians want to use Tesla’s Premium Connectivity – for now they must still subscribe month-to-month. There is no yearly subscription (which is available in the US, with a slight discount). A small gripe, but just another odd example of the lack of standardization.

Cybertruck

Cybertruck still isn’t available to Canadian pre-order holders. Much of this has been attributed to regulatory issues in getting Cybertruck approved by Transport Canada to be on Canadian roads.

Tesla Cybertruck Program Manager Siddhant Awasthi mentioned on X that as Tesla gets confidence in estimated delivery dates to Canada, they intend to open up the configurator like they did in the US. However, he didn’t provide any estimate in terms of timelines or anything else.

We believe the delays to be regulatory – there is no regulation or standardization for vehicles with steer-by-wire in Canada. It’s worth noting that when Tesla filed its patent for steer-by-wire in the US and Canada, Canada did not begin regulatory processes to approve it. Of interest is the fact that Transport Canada has generally shown to be faster than NHTSA in approving new technologies – adaptive high beams and headlights rules have been available in Canada since early 2018.

Transport Canada vehicle approvals require hand-over-hand maneuvers, which currently isn’t available on the Cybertruck since it leverages a steer-by-wire system that automatically adjusts the steering ratio depending on speed. However, a software update could likely make it compliant in Canada, although it would lose one of the biggest advantages of a steer-by-wire system. It’s possible Transport Canada could also make an exception to changing its ruling.

Models S and X – the Luxury Tax

The Model S and X, and in the future, the Cybertruck – cost over $100,000 CAD. This means that they’re impacted by Canada’s Luxury Vehicle Tax. The luxury tax adds the lesser amount of two values, either the amount over $100,000 of the list price multiplied by 20% or the total list price multiplied by 10%.

In the case of the Long Range Model X, with no additions, this is an additional $2,000 CAD. If you were to add in FSD and a non-standard paint color, it would be $4,860 CAD. The Plaid Model X tops it off with a brutal $9,060 CAD tax on the final purchase price. This is all without changing the default seats, wheels, and yoke/steering wheel.

At one point, for a short period of three weeks, Tesla offered the Model S and Model X in a Standard Range+ package. This package was listed at just below the $100,000 mark, even if you added in a different color. Tesla then offered a post-sale software upgrade to unlock the vehicle to the regular Long Range version for any customers interested.

Once again, Canadians would love to see the SR+ variants return to Canada, even if it was just to dodge the Luxury Vehicles Tax. It’s a pretty sizeable amount for even the base Model S or Model X, and this could open up the market to people not wanting to get impacted by the tax.

Discounts and Offerings

Tesla has recently offered quite a few inventory discounts, direct price discounts, and even favorable financing for both purchases and leasing. Sadly, very few of these demand levers have been pulled in the Canadian market, leaving Canadians bewildered as to why the “Tesla North America” account on X promotes these deals.

As of the first week of June, the Tesla account started mentioning that these benefits are US-only. Sometimes inventory discounts and direct price changes do make their way to Canada, but they’re usually several weeks late, and last for only as long as the US promotion. In one specific case, a Canadian inventory price reduction lasted for under 72 hours, as the US one began nearly two weeks earlier, and ended on its third week.

We’d love to see Tesla improve its offerings in Canada – especially ensuring to match vehicle pricing changes in both markets and hopefully also begin offering favorable financing terms alongside them. Canada’s interest rates are in lockstep with the United States for the most part – so some Canadian consumers are considering EV alternatives that have been providing better financing recently.

Tesla Insurance

Just like many US states, Tesla Insurance has no presence in Canada yet. However, unlike the United States, the Tesla Insurance link in Canada just throws an error. It used to link to Aviva Insurance’s Tesla Insurance program in 2023, but that is no longer the case.

Tesla has recently made moves in the Insurance space, picking up an Ex-GEICO executive to expand and revitalize the Tesla Insurance program. Hopefully, we will see an expansion into Canada with Tesla insurance sometimes making a big difference in the total cost of the vehicle.

Powerwall 3 and Solar Roof

This one is a bit of an oddball, as we’ve reached out to a few folks in different places in Canada and received different responses. Some Canadian submarkets are receiving Powerwall 3’s for installs, but other markets are still only receiving Powerwall 2’s, including Ontario and Quebec.

We’d like to see some standardization regarding product offerings in Canada – if you want a Powerwall 2, you should be able to get one at a cheaper price than a Powerwall 3 if available – but make sure to offer the 3 when it’s available throughout the United States without restrictions.

Solar Roof is completely unavailable in Canada. It is possible to have an American installer quote you, ship the materials, and install – but it’s obscenely expensive and a regulatory hassle in comparison to just using regular solar panels.

Service Centers and Superchargers

Tesla’s expansion of Service Centers into Canada has been an ongoing issue – with many major cities being several hours away from the nearest service center. There has been a lot of progress on this front, with smaller service centers being opened around the country – but there are only two major collision centers in Canada, one in BC, and one (coming soon), in Ontario.

Given that Tesla sold 45,000 vehicles in 2022, and nearly 55,000 in 2023, and makes up nearly 75% of the EV market, they’re the largest player in the Canadian market. Of course, those numbers pale in comparison to US-sales, with annual Canadian sales accounting for a single month’s worth of sales.

The Supercharger situation is quite similar. Canada has drastically fewer Superchargers than the US – its capital, Ottawa, is serviced by just three Supercharger sites, for a population of over 1 million people. And one of these sites is a paid parking garage.

You can use the spectacular Supercharging highway that exists to get from province to province, but going places in those provinces can be fraught with difficulties. There are also vast areas of Canada that are inaccessible to Tesla vehicles not wanting to brave CCS or L2 charging – which can be sporadic and unreliable at best.

Accessing Thunder Bay, Ontario – one of the largest ports on the Great Lakes, still requires careful planning. In Alberta, the trip from Calgary to Edmonton in the winter can be difficult – the two largest cities in the province. There are still major improvements needed between major Canadian population centers before range-conscious first-time buyers take the leap into EVs.

Canada has been ignored by Tesla for some issues, with some simple offerings like FSD subscription just becoming available in 2024, while others are still completely unavailable.

We’d love to see Tesla continue to work to bring their entire suite of offerings and features to Canada in the future, as many Canadians are already loyal Tesla fans.

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