Tesla's Model 3 Turns 5 Years-Old

By Kevin Armstrong
Tesla's Model 3 HVAC UI in 2017
Tesla's Model 3 HVAC UI in 2017

Happy Birthday to Tesla’s Model 3. It’s hard to believe that five years ago, just 30 Model 3’s had rolled off the assembly line and been delivered. Now Tesla’s answer to a more affordable vehicle is the best-selling electric vehicle in the world, has been named car of the year, is considered one of the safest vehicles on the planet and has a long waiting list of eager buyers.

It’s a birthday, so we should reminisce about the early days. While this iconic car first appeared on the road in 2017, it was on Elon Musk’s to-do list for over a decade.

Elon Musk talks to Wired Science about the Model 3 in 2006

Years later, as it became more of a reality, the car was given the code name BlueStar. It was to be named the Model E, but Ford had already trademarked the wording. Then Musk turned the E into a 3, but he didn’t want the number; he envisioned 3 lines, similar to the current E in Tesla. But Adidas quashed that, arguing it was too close to that brand’s three stripes. So that’s how the 3 was named.

The Model 3 was supposed to be the smaller, stripped-down version of the Model S to invite more buyers into Tesla and EVs. However, this more affordable, entry-level Tesla holds its own against luxury sedans and even its big sister, the Model S. Tesla has been rolling out several updates throughout the Model 3’s existence, allowing the vehicles to keep up and even pass the Joneses.

In 2019 the Model 3 received a significant software boost when the beta versions of Navigate on Autopilot and Smart Summon were added. Voice commands, a voice keyboard and new language supports were also implemented along with the popular Camp Mode. Once owners posted photos and videos of comfortable beds in the Model 3 with the backseat down, Tesla had to add climate control and a camp fire to complete the experience.

Tesla introduced Dog Mode in Teslas in 2019. In fact, the manufacturer used a Model 3 to unveil the feature to the world. With the help of a sleepy Husky and an excited German Shepherd, Dog Mode was demonstrated to the world on all of Tesla’s social media channels. This made Tesla a must-have for any dog lover!

Also included with the Model 3 in late 2019 and early 2020 was Sentry Mode. This all-encompassing security system records and notifies the owner if anything is happening around or to the Tesla. It’s arguably the most advanced stock vehicle alarm system on the market.

In 2020 the Tesla Toybox was overhauled and updated in all Model 3s. Emissions, sketchpad and many more favorites were revised and made even more fun. But it wasn’t just the games that have been updated; although plenty of games were added over time, Tesla improved it’s maps and dashcam. Later in the year, the Beta version of Full Self Driving was added to all Teslas, including the Model 3. While FSD is still a work in progress, for the system to be available in even the entry-level Model 3 was a big attraction.

A crowd pleaser is the Boombox. This was another addition in 2020 to all models. With the car in park, the boombox blasts music or sound effects through an external speaker. You can even add your own sounds through a USB drive. Perhaps the Boombox should be used by all Model 3 owners to wish their Tesla a happy 5th Birthday!

Everything we know about Optimus, the Tesla Robot

By Kevin Armstrong
Optimus carrying a package using Tesla Vision
Optimus carrying a package using Tesla Vision
Tesla (Edited by Not a Tesla App)

Elon Musk started Tesla's AI Day 2022 by saying, "I want to set some expectations with respect to our Optimus Robot," just before the doors opened behind him. A robot walked out, waved at the audience, and did a little dance. Admittedly a humble beginning, he explained, "the Robot can actually do a lot more than what we just showed you. We just didn't want it to fall on its face." Musk's vision for the Tesla Robot, "Optimus is going to be incredible in five years, ten years mind-blowing." The CEO said other technologies that have changed the world have plateaued; the Robot is just starting.

Tesla's CEO envisions Optimus eventually being like Commander Data, the android from Star Trek the Next Generation, except it "would be programmed to be less robot-like and more friendly." Undoubtedly there is a long way to go to achieve what Doctor Noonien Soong created in Star Trek TNG. What was demonstrated onstage wasn't at that level, but several videos throughout the presentation highlighted what the Robot is capable of at its very early stage in development. The audience watched the Robot pick up boxes, deliver packages, water plants and work at a station at the Tesla factory in Fremont.

Development over 8 Months

The breakdown of some of the systems of the Tesla Robot
The breakdown of some of the systems of the Tesla Robot
Tesla (Edited by Not a Tesla App)

The first Robot to take the stage at AI Day was not Optimus, but Bumble C, another acknowledgement to The Transformers, as Bumble Bee played a significant role in that franchise. However, Bumble C is far less advanced than Optimus, who did appear later but was on a cart.

Several Tesla engineers took turns on the microphone describing some of the most complex elements of the project that was first announced one year ago. Perhaps the best description of the project was the company moving from building a robot on wheels to a robot on legs. However, that may be oversimplifying. For example, the car has two motors, and the Robot has 28 actuators.

Overall Design and Battery Life

Tesla's brightest demonstrated how the production has come to life over the past eight months. It seems this group of computer masterminds had to become anatomist experts as Tesla took hints from the human body to create a humanoid robot. That is an essential factor in creating Optimus. Everything people interact with is made usable by a human, with two legs, two arms, ten fingers etc. If the Robot differed from what the world is already designed for, everything would have to change. However, recreating the human body and its countless movements would take far too long, so Tesla has stripped it down to less than 30 core movements, not including the hand.

Like the human torso contains the heart, the Robot's chest holds the battery. It's projected that a single charge would provide enough for a full day's work with a 2.3-kilowatt-hour battery. All the battery electronics are integrated into a single printed circuit board within the pack. That technology keeps charge management and power distribution all in one place. Tesla used lessons learned from vehicle and energy production to create the battery allowing for streamlined manufacturing and simple and effective cooling methods.

Autopilot Technology

Tesla showed what the Robot sees, and it looked very familiar. That's because the neural networks are pulling directly from Autopilot. Training data had to be collected to show indoor settings and other products not used with the car. Engineers have trained neural networks to identify high-frequency features and key points within the Robot's camera streams, such as a charging station. Tesla has also been using the Autopilot simulator but has integrated it for use with the Robot programming.

Tesla shows off what the Optimus robot sees
Tesla shows off what the Optimus robot sees
Tesla (Edited by Not a Tesla App)

The torso also contains the centralized computer that Tesla says will do everything a human brain does, such as processing vision data, making split-second decisions based on multi-sensory inputs and supporting communications. In addition, the Robot is equipped with wireless connectivity and audio support. Yes, the Robot is going to have conversations, "we really want to have fun, be utilitarian and also be a friend and hang out with you," said Musk.

Motors Mimic Joints

The 28 actuators throughout the Robot's frame are placed where many joints are in the human body. Just one of those actuators was shown lifting a half-tonne nine-foot concert grand piano. There have been thousands of test models run to show how each motor works with the other and how to effectively operate the most relevant actuators for a task. Even the act of walking takes several calculations that the Robot must make in real-time, not only to perform but also appear natural. The robots will be programmed with a locomotion code; the desired path goes to the locomotion planner, which uses trajectories to state estimations, very similar to the human vestibular system.

Human hands can move 300 degrees per second and have tens of thousands of tactile sensors. Hands can manipulate anything in our daily lives, from bulky, heavy items to something delicate. Now Tesla is recreating that with Optimus. Six actuators and 11 degrees of freedom are incorporated into the robot hand. It has an in-hand controller that drives the fingers and receives sensory feedback. The fingers have metallic tendons to allow for flexibility and strength. The hands are being created to allow for a precision grip of small parts and tools.

Responsible Robot Safety

Musk wanted to start AI day with the epic opening scene from Terminator when a robot crushed a skull. He has heard the fears and people warning, "don't go down the terminator path," but the CEO said safety is a top priority. There are safeguards in place, including designs for a localized control ROM that would not be connected to the internet that can turn the Robot off. He sees this as a stop button or remote control.

Musk said the development of Optimus may broaden Tesla's mission statement to include "making the future awesome." He believes the potential is not recognized by most, and it "really boggles the mind." Musk said, "this means a future of abundance. There is no poverty. You can have whatever you want in terms of products and services. It really is a fundamental transformation of civilization as we know it." All of this at a price predicted to be less than $20,000 USD.

Tesla Shows Off its First Robot at AI Day 2

Watch Tesla's AI Day 2 event on demand

By Nuno Cristovao
Tesla to show off its Tesla bot, Optimus tonight
Tesla to show off its Tesla bot, Optimus tonight
Tesla

Tesla is hosting its recruiting event, AI Day 2 tonight in Palo Alto, California.

Elon Musk said to expect a lot of technical detail and "cool" hardware demos. We don't know which demos exactly, although Elon did say the event will be focused on AI and robotics.

Elon also talked about how these events are specifically aimed at showing off the exciting things Tesla is working on to attract more talent.

We can expect Tesla to show off its new Tesla bot, Optimus, talk about FSD and AI and possibly share some details on FSD hardware 4.0 and its upcoming Steam integration.

Start Time

The event took place in Palo Alto, CA on September 30th at 6:15 pm PT.

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You can watch the event on demand below:

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Although we share official Tesla release notes, we are not affiliated with Tesla Motors. We are Tesla fans and supporters.

Tesla News

Upcoming Release

View the release notes for the upcoming version 2022.36.

Confirmed by Elon

Take a look at features that Elon Musk has said will be coming soon.

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