NHTSA upgrades Autopilot investigation affecting 800k Teslas to 'Engineering Analysis'

By Gabe Rodriguez Morrison
NHTSA upgraded its investigation involving Autopilot
NHTSA upgraded its investigation involving Autopilot
ABCnews.com

Earlier this year, The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) launched an investigation into Tesla's “phantom braking” issue, which occurs when the vehicle slows down suddenly.

In February, the NHTSA stated that “the rapid deceleration can occur without warning, at random, and often repeatedly in a single drive cycle.” The issue is particularly concerning on highways where sudden braking could result in a rear-end collision.

Since then, the NHTSA has formally upgraded its preliminary investigation to an “Engineering Analysis,” which is conducted before the agency determines a recall. Regulators will assess 830,000 vehicles after several of the automaker’s cars collided with stopped emergency vehicles while autopilot was engaged.

Tesla’s autopilot feature is designed to help drivers navigate roads using a combination of cameras and artificial intelligence to detect other vehicles, pedestrians, stop lights, and more. Tesla instructs drivers to pay attention to the road and keep their hands on the steering wheel while using Autopilot.

Over the past four years, 16 Autopilot-engaged Teslas have crashed into parked first-responder vehicles, resulting in 15 injuries and one death. According to forensic data, most drivers had their hands on the steering wheel before impact, in compliance with Tesla's instructions.

In this investigation, regulators will determine whether or not Tesla's Autopilot feature undermines “the effectiveness of driver’s supervision.”

“The investigation will assess the technologies and methods used to monitor, assist, and enforce the driver’s engagement with the dynamic driving task during Autopilot operation,” the NHTSA said.

This investigation affects about 830,000 Tesla vehicles which were built after 2014. Tesla launched its Autopilot feature that year and later transitioned to its own Autopilot hardware in 2016 after ending its partnership with MobileEye.

Tesla has yet to respond to the escalated investigation into its autopilot feature.

Tesla to reward Powerwall customers in California who opt-in to virtual power plant program

By Lennon Cihak
Tesla to launch new virtual power plant program
Tesla to launch new virtual power plant program

Tesla’s new partnership with gas and electric company PG&E in California will give Powerwall owners the opportunity to earn money while giving energy back to the grid.

The virtual power plant (VPP) is a connection of distributed energy storage systems that work in tandem to give energy back to the grid to avoid dirty and costly peaker power plants. Essentially, when the grid is being strained, then the VPP can kick in and draw power from Powerwall owners enrolled in the program, and other distributed energy storage system owners, to use clean energy and avoid brownouts across the state.

Here are some of the advantages with this new VPP with PG&E:

Stabilize California’s Grid: The extra capacity your Powerwall provides could help avoid or reduce blackouts in a severe emergency. This way, Powerwall can keep the lights on for both you and your community.

Clean the Grid: Tesla will dispatch your Powerwall when the grid is in critical need of additional power. That is when the least efficient generators would typically come online.

Unite as a Tesla Community: Team up with other Powerwall owners who are accelerating the world’s transition to sustainable energy and help form the largest distributed battery in the world - potentially over 50,000 Powerwalls. As part of the VPP, your Powerwall will have an outsized positive impact on the grid over traditional demand response programs.

Maintain Your Energy Security: Powerwall will discharge during VPP events but won’t discharge below your Backup Reserve. Adjust your Backup Reserve to control your contribution while maintaining backup energy for outages.

Earn Compensation: Through the ELRP pilot, you will receive $2 for every additional kWh your Powerwall provides during an event. You don’t have to change your energy usage behavior to participate.

In 2021, Tesla piloted a test VPP program in California for Powerwall owners to voluntarily opt-in without compensation. The test VPP program would then pull energy from the Powerwalls when the grids needed it.

“Become a part of the largest distributed battery in the world and help keep California’s energy clean and reliable,” reads a statement from Tesla. “Opt-in to the Tesla Virtual Power Plant (VPP) with PG&E and your Powerwall will be dispatched when the grid needs emergency support. Through the Emergency Load Reduction Program (ELRP) pilot, you will receive $2 for every additional kWh your Powerwall delivers during an event. Adjust your Backup Reserve to set your contribution, while maintaining backup energy for outages.”

With Tesla and PG&E’s new VPP program owners will receive $2/kWh, which is quite significant. For comparison, where I live in Southern California, Tesla charges $0.58/kWh for supercharging during peak hours.

According to Electrek, “they could earn anywhere from $10 to $60 per event or more for bigger systems.” 

Tesla stated that they have roughly 50,000 Powerwalls that may be eligible for this new program.

Tesla Cybertruck design finalized; to enter production mid-2023: Elon Musk [Video]

By Gabe Rodriguez Morrison
Tesla Cybertruck
ksbw.com

In an interview with Tesla Owners Silicon Valley, Tesla CEO Elon Musk revealed that the Cybertruck design has now been finalized. Musk didn’t get into details about the design, but gave a rough timeline for production of the Cybertruck.

With the design now "locked", he estimates production will begin “the middle of next year, roughly 12-months’ish” which would put the first Cybertruck deliveries in the second half of 2023.

Musk did not say when the final design will be revealed, but recent sightings of the alpha builds give us many hints as to what to expect.

When discussing the Cybertruck design Elon said they “got too carried with the…,” before pausing, hinting that they have added a number of new features not included on the original prototype.

While it's not clear what additional features Elon was about to mention, we have an idea of what is to come.

One of the most controversial additions has been the side mirrors, which are required by law, although Musk has said that they will be easily removable by owners.

Another controversial feature of the Cybertruck is the windshield wiper. While we have only seen the large single wiper, Musk did say that the final design would be different than what has been seen on recent builds.

Tesla did patent a laser beam windshield wiper, but we'll likely see something more traditional on the Cybertruck.

Another feature we could see on the final build are doors with no handles. At the Cyber Rodeo, Elon opened the Cybertruck door by pushing a button on the side of the truck. The doors also seemingly open and lock depending on proximity to the vehicle.

You can watch the full interview below.

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