It had all the makings of a Los Angeles party: loud music, an A-list celebrity guest list, and even a broken embargo an hour or so before the big reveal which then mysteriously disappeared from the Internet moments later. Yet this wasn’t a hollywood movie premiere: this was a reveal event for Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA] with the kind of hype you’d normally reserve for Apple.
But it turns out all the hype was worth it, as we confirm that Elon Musk’s highly-anticipated ‘D’ announcement is the introduction of a Dual-Motor, All-Wheel-Drive Tesla Model S, capable of a higher efficiency than current rear-wheel drive Tesla Model S cars, a longer range, and a 0-60 time of just 3.2 seconds. Although the announcement was made less than half an hour ago, the news was leaked earlier this evening on line by USA today, before it was hurriedly taken down thirty minutes or so before the big reveal.
“As you probably learned by the Internet because it’s impossible to keep anything private these days,” joked Musk shortly after joining the stage at the Tesla Hawthorn Design Studio. “The D stands for ‘Dual Motor’.”
With a flourish, Musk then showed a picture of the chassis of the Model S-D, with both electric motors marked.
“But why show you a picture when you can see the real thing?” Musk asked. “Release the titans!”
With that, one of the robots used in Tesla’s factory spring to life, emerging from the floor of the stage carrying a Tesla Model S-D chassis in its jaws, to whoops of delight from the assembled audience.
Unlike most all-wheel drive cars on the market, Musk explained, the Tesla Model S-D benefited from an all-electronic drivetrain system that could instantly shift torque from the front to the rear wheels as required, making it far more sure-footed than other all-wheel-drive models. What’s more, Musk explained, the inclusion of the second motor in the Model S means that overall, the car is far more efficient.
This results in an increased all-electric range without any modifications to the battery pack, up from 265 miles per charge on the Tesla P85 to 275 miles on the Tesla P85 D, while simultaneously decreasing the 0-60 mph time to just 3.2 seconds.
“That’s faster than a McLaren F1 [LM],” joked Musk.
While the Dual Motor Model S was the headline announcement of the evening however, perhaps more interesting for future car fans is the confirmation that Tesla has become the first automaker in the world to release its cars with autonomous driving hardware that makes it possible for a Tesla Model S fitted with it to drive itself — even if it’s currently restricted on public highways due to various legislative restrictions.
Confirming what many, including us, have surmised, each and every Tesla Model S coming off the factory at Tesla’s Fremont facility in California now comes with self-driving technology fitted as standard, paving the way for a future where Tesla cars can take over most of the strain of driving.
As Musk explained on stage, Tesla’s autonomous driving system comes in four distinct parts, all of which work together to ensure that all new Tesla Model S cars can not only keep you safe on the road but avoid other road users, detect everything from small animals and children to cars in your blind spot, and even greet you in the morning like Michael J Knight’s KITT in KnightRider.
“The first [part] is a forward-facing radar,” explained Musk. “It’s able to see through fog, sand…anything.” Located on the lower bumper assembly, the radar helps the Model S keep an appropriate distance from the car in front, as well as ensure it doesn’t hit any unseen obstacles in inclement weather. This is backed up by a camera — located behind the rear-view mirror — which has sophisticated image detection. As well as being able to read road signs, Musk said the camera is capable of detecting and recognising pedestrians and other road users.
“The third system is a 360 degree ultrasonic sonar,” Musk continued. ‘This establishes a protective cocoon around the car. It can see anything: a small child, a dog. And it can operate at any speed.” Explaining the system further, Musk said the ultrasonic sensor means that the Model S will now be capable of detecting anything in your blind spot, a feature that means the car will warn you if you try to change lanes when it isn’t safe, giving tactile feedback via the steering wheel to ensure you’re not involved in a nasty crash.
“The final element involves integrating that [all] with a GPS system,” Musk added. “The car can do almost anything, but it still is an ‘autopilot’ at this stage rather than a fully autonomous car. The level of redundancy isn’t there yet to be fully autonomous.”
From a practical level however, the list of features now available on the Tesla Model S — or rather due to be rolled out in the coming months — is particularly impressive.
In addition to the usual high-end safety features you’d expect of any luxury car like Lane Keep Assist, Active Cruise Control, and Active Emergency Braking, the Tesla Model S will be capable of switching lanes on the freeway simply by activating the turn signal on the Model S.
“It’s like active safety within the limits,” Musk said. “It’s what’s allowed by regulations.”
While the Model S won’t be driving itself down the road just yet however — mainly due to the regulatory mess surrounding autonomous driving technology worldwide — Musk was able to promise those who happen to live on private land a little more freedom.
For example, the Tesla Model S will now park itself. Simply get out of your car on your driveway, and the Model S will park itself, Musk said.
“You’ll be able to park at home and get out of the car, and have the car park itself in your garage…I’d eventually like the car to plug itself in,” joked Musk.
If you’re on private property thought, Musk promised, the Model S would drive to meet you, just like KITT.
“Going a step further, you’ll be able to summon the car if you’re on private property,” Musk said. “It’ll be able to detect small objects even with the ultrasonics. It could go a step beyond that if you have the calendar turned on,” Musk said. “It’ll meet you there…the air conditioning turned on, the music ready… it’ll meet you there.”
In other words, the Model S is now capable of knowing what time you need to leave the house, and automatically be ready for you, without any further interaction. While we’re not sure who unplugs the car, we’ve got to admit that this is one of the coolest features we’ve ever dreamed a car could have.
Sadly, there’s no news of how much the Dual-motor upgrade will cost, but Musk did say the autonomous driving features of the Model S would be rolled out in a series of Tesla over-the-air updates for cars fitted with the autonomous driving sensors. Sadly, if you’ve already got a Tesla Model S, it doesn’t look like Tesla will be offering a retrofit, since the autonomous drive upgrade also comes with a series of electromechanical upgrades — including a brand-new braking system — designed to ensure that the Model S is capable of near 100 per cent autonomy at some point in the near future.
What do you think of the announcements? Do you want a Tesla Model S -D? Or do you think the autonomous driving technology is just what you need to make your mornings go a little bit better?
Leave your thoughts in the Comments below — and let us know if you were there. We’d love to see your live images and thoughts of the Model S-D test drives!
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