Tesla Adds Non-P 100D Models to Its Lineup, Claims Additional Driving Range

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Without so much as a tweet from Elon Musk or an update to the company blog page, Tesla casually added two new range-extending options to its product offerings: the Model S 100D and the Model X 100D. Notice the distinct lack of a P (for performance) in those names.

Sacrificing performance in the name of range, the Model S 100D boasts a claimed EPA driving range of 335 miles on a single charge from its 100.0-kWh battery. That’s 20 miles more than the P100D and 41 miles better than the 90D, and it pads the Model S’s lead for the longest range of any production battery-electric vehicle. In the 100D configuration, the top speed of 155 mph remains, but Tesla’s claimed zero-to-60-mph time of 4.2 seconds is now level with its claim for the 90D—although both pale in contrast to Tesla’s assertion that its P100D can achieve zero to 60 mph in only 2.5 seconds. In our tests, a P90D got to 60 mph in 2.8 seconds.

At a starting price of $93,700, the new Model S 100D costs $3000 more than the 90D and $42,000 less than the $135,700 P100D.

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The other new darling, the Model X 100D, offers 295 miles of EPA-rated range on a single charge, which is 38 miles better than the 90D and six miles better than the P100D version of the Model X. Tesla claims the Model X 100D scoots to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds, same as the X 90D and 1.9 seconds slower than the X P100D. Like the Model S 100D, the Model X 100D, at $99,700, costs $3000 more than the 90D version but $37,000 less than the maximized-performance Model X P100D.

With its 90D and 100D models so close in price, it will be interesting to see how long Tesla keeps the 90D in its portfolio. Expect deliveries of Model S and Model X 100Ds to begin in March.

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Uber Drivers to Get Paid in $20 Million FTC Settlement

Uber Otto autonomous technology facility Nevada

Ride-sharing giant Uber Technologies has agreed to a $20 million settlement with the Federal Trade Commission to settle claims it misled prospective drivers by making bloated claims about earning potential and ran a deceptive vehicle lending and leasing program. The $20 million settlement will go toward refunding affected drivers, the FTC said in a statement on January 19.

Uber’s mobile-app-based ride-hailing service basically turns anyone who can pass a basic background test into a smartphone-summoned cabdriver. Uber drivers use their own vehicles, however, and those cars and trucks are required to meet certain standards.

Own or Lease on the Cheap

Of course, not everyone owns his or her own ride, let alone one that is clean and in decent working order, so Uber hatched the idea of working with subprime auto lenders and dealers for what it calls a Vehicle Solutions Program. The FTC’s complaint said the Uber program promised to connect car buyers or lessees with cheap loans or leases, and some 5000 drivers signed up for the program from November 2013 to April 2015.

With the program, Uber said, its drivers could own a car for as little as $20 a day or about $140 per week or lease a car for as low as $17 a day or $119 per week. The FTC said the median weekly payment wound up being more than $160 a week for loans and more than $200 per week for leases.

Uber also promised “unlimited mileage” on the vehicles, but the FTC said there was no basis for such a claim and the leases actually carried annual mileage limits of 37,500 and 40,000 miles. In addition, participants in many instances paid interest rates above industry averages, the FTC said.

A spokesperson for Uber told Car and Driver that the company advertised the loans and leases based on what the third-party companies had said would be the terms. Uber ended its relationship with those third-party companies after discrepancies became apparent, the spokesperson said. Uber has since taken the program in-house and currently advertises lease plans for up to 36 months with security deposits “as low as $250” along with unlimited mileage and free basic maintenance.

Inflated Earnings Claims, FTC Said

The FTC’s complaint also says Uber exaggerated how much money people would earn by signing up to be drivers. It says a post on the company’s website, which has since been changed, claimed that uberX drivers earned a median income of more than $90,000 per year in New York and more than $74,000 in San Francisco.

The FTC said the actual median income for uberX drivers had in fact been $29,000 lower than claimed in New York and $21,000 less in San Francisco, when hours were standardized to a 40-hour work week. What’s more, fewer than 10 percent of all drivers in New York and San Francisco made the incomes Uber cited. The FTC also said Uber inflated its drivers’ hourly earnings in job listings on Craigslist and elsewhere.

It is not immediately clear how many drivers in total have been affected or how and when they will receive payments from the settlement. There are currently about 1.5 million Uber drivers globally, including some 600,000 in the United States.

Uber’s settlement with the FTC does not mean that the company admits any wrongdoing.

“We’re pleased to have reached an agreement with the FTC,” the company said in a statement. “We’ve made many improvements to the driver experience over the last year and will continue to focus on ensuring that Uber is the best option for anyone looking to earn money on their own schedule.” This settlement follows an Uber outlay in April of $100 million to resolve employment status issues with drivers in some states.

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2018 Ford Mustang Convertible: Renewed Droptop

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As goes the Ford Mustang coupe, so goes the Mustang convertible. Ford unveiled the updated 2018 Mustang fastback earlier this week, and the company is milking the facelifted pony car’s 15 minutes of fame with the debut of the refreshed 2018 Mustang convertible some three days later. Whereas the tintop car was unveiled with the help of Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson at simultaneous events in Detroit, Los Angeles, and New York City, Ford is pursuing a more low-key approach to the droptop’s debut, opting to show off the car at a handful of regional auto shows in areas such as Kentucky and South Carolina. READ MORE ››

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2018 Ford Mustang Convertible: Renewed Droptop – Official Photos and Info

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Investigation Closed: Feds Take No Action in Fatal Tesla Autopilot Crash

Tesla Autopilot NHTSA

Federal regulators spent the past six months investigating the role of Tesla Motors’ Autopilot feature in a fatal car crash. Their findings reinforce what millions of drivers already know: Despite much hype about “self-driving cars,” human beings remain responsible for understanding the capabilities and limitations of the vehicles they drive and accountable for their safe operation.

Officials from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) closed their probe of Tesla on January 19 without ordering a recall or taking any enforcement action. The examination found no faults within the Autopilot system and determined that it worked as intended during a May 7, 2016, crash that claimed the life of Joshua Brown, the first person killed in a crash attributable to a semi-autonomous feature.

“Not all systems can do all things,” NHTSA spokesman Bryan Thomas said Thursday.

Brown had engaged the Autopilot feature in his 2015 Tesla Model S as he traveled eastward along U.S. Highway 27 in Williston, Florida. Neither he nor the autonomous technology noticed when a tractor trailer made a left turn across the car’s path. The truck should have been visible to the driver for at least seven seconds before the fatal collision occurred, according to NHTSA’s summary of the investigation, enough time to notice that the car was not reacting to the hazard and to take evasive action.

In September, Tesla made changes to its Autopilot feature that emphasize the role of radar and cameras in object detection, improvements that company president Elon Musk said he believed could have prevented Brown’s death by making the car capable of detecting the obstacle ahead of it in time to avoid or mitigate the collision. Tesla’s changes also shortened the period of time during which drivers could remove their hands from the steering wheel. Currently, drivers who do not respond to cues to keep their hands on the wheel three times can lose Autopilot functionality for the remainder of a journey.

But Thomas made clear that—even if Tesla had not upgraded its Autopilot system—no recall would have been ordered for the 43,781 Model S and Model X vehicles that contain Autopilot, because no defects had been found during the investigation.

Employees of NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation reviewed “dozens” of Tesla-involved crashes of Model S or Model X vehicles in which Autopilot was either engaged or had been engaged within the 15 seconds preceding a collision. Only two of these crashes resulted in a death or serious injury, with the latter being a rollover on the Pennsylvania Turnpike on July 1, 2016, in which two people were seriously injured.

“The very name Autopilot creates the impression
-that a Tesla can drive itself. It can’t.”
-– John Simpson, Consumer Watchdog

As NHTSA scrutinizes the role of the technology in these crashes, it was also quick to note the promise of improved safety provided by semi-autonomous systems. The agency says that in reviewing data furnished by Tesla as part of the investigation, it found that vehicles equipped with Autosteer, a component of the Autopilot system, reduced crash rates by 40 percent from their pre-installation levels. Before Autosteer, the vehicles had a rate of 1.3 crashes per million miles of travel; afterward, the rate fell to 0.8 per million miles.

“We appreciate the thoroughness of NHTSA’s report and its conclusion,” a Tesla spokesperson said in a written statement.

The Florida crash and its circumstances encapsulate many thorny issues that industry engineers and government regulators are grappling with both in the near term, as driver-assistance features spread across the nation’s fleet, and further down the road, during a transition toward more highly automated driving. Among those challenges: figuring out how motorists and machines exchange control while avoiding “mode confusion,” and ensuring that motorists understand how these systems work while safeguarding against misuse.

Making History Happen

John Simpson, privacy director at Consumer Watchdog, a California-based nonprofit that advocates for customer rights, says there’s too much blaming of the driver in NHTSA’s findings.

“NHTSA has wrongly accepted Tesla’s line and blamed the human, rather than the ‘Autopilot’ technology and Tesla’s aggressive marketing,” he said. “The very name ‘Autopilot creates the impression that a Tesla can drive itself. It can’t. Some people who apparently believed Tesla’s hype got killed.”

While Thursday’s findings lay the brunt of responsibility on the person behind the wheel, that does not mean automakers are off the hook.

NHTSA, which issued a Federal Automated Vehicles Policy in September, criticized Tesla and other companies for marketing slogans and brand names of features, such as Autopilot, that may misrepresent their systems’ capabilities. Under the agency’s definitions of autonomy, Autopilot is classified as a Level 2 technology, one in which an automated system can conduct some parts of the driving task while humans monitor the broader driving environment and perform remaining driving tasks.

“The department has been leaning forward on automated technologies because we believe they have great potential
-to save lives.” – Bryan Thomas, NHTSA

It’s not enough, Thomas said, for automakers to describe the system operations in an owner’s manual, and NHTSA’s investigation found Tesla’s manual was “not as specific as it could be.” But it’s also not enough for automakers to assume drivers will use features as they’re intended. NHTSA says they must account for how customers could potentially misuse semi-autonomous technology.

Broadly, NHTSA has taken a keen interest in the exchange of control between motorists and semi-autonomous systems.

In October, the agency sent a letter to Comma.ai stating that its aftermarket product would put “the safety of your customers and other road users at risk.,” The company asserted that its Comma One—a device intended to make autonomous-driving features available on cars not originally equipped with such technology—did not remove any human responsibilities from the driving task, but NHTSA said the warning was “insufficient.” The company opted to stop offering the device. In November, the agency cautioned General Motors that its plans to allow its forthcoming Super Cruise feature to stop a vehicle in the middle of roadways might present a danger to motorists and thus be considered a safety defect.

Tesla Update v7.0 Enables Self-driving Test In China

For now, Tesla, the third company with a semi-autonomous system that attracted regulatory scrutiny, has passed muster. But NHTSA will continue to monitor the technology in general, paying particular attention to issues with handoffs of control at Level 2 and Level 3 autonomy.

“The department has been leaning forward on automated technologies because we believe they have great potential to save lives,” Thomas said. “At the same time, the department will aggressively oversee new technologies being put on the road.”

Later, Thomas said, “These are assistance systems that require the driver in the loop at all times . . . These are complicated issues, and we have ongoing research. We are interested in working with the industry in a collaborative way.”

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We Drive the Shell Gordon Murray Concept Car inside Cobo

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Has Gordon Murray fallen? The engineer behind what was once the world’s fastest production car now builds fancy carts for mall cops. A cursory glance at the Shell concept car, a three-cylinder microcar bearing Murray’s logo, could leave the impression of a once famous athlete reduced to living on the streets. After all, Murray made the McLaren F1! What on earth could he want with this?

Ah, but he has been devising “urban mobility solutions” since 2010, seeing a chance to apply his technical expertise to problems that affect the lives of millions of people globally rather than just a few wealthy folks who like to go fast. The canopy of this latest effort cracks open like a pistachio, exposing a carbon-fiber structure that reveals Murray’s underlying genius. This concept employs a lightweight, simplified method of car construction that could become the “biggest revolution in high-volume automotive manufacture since the Model T,” claims the website for Gordon Murray Design. Coming from the man who brought us the world’s first roadgoing carbon-fiber monocoque and set the standard for all hypercars to come, it’s believable. He is just applying similar ideas to something nearly eight inches shorter than a Smart Fortwo.

At 98.4 inches long and 53.1 inches wide, the Shell concept car is claimed to weigh 1210 pounds. An evolution of Murray’s earlier T.25 and T.27 prototypes, this concept represents his template for what he calls iStream, a pared-down assembly process that boasts high strength and safety using the minimum amount of individual parts and tooling. It’s a funny-looking creature with cross-eyed headlights, graced only by polished black 13-inch wheels and Shell’s red-and-gold livery.

A thin-walled tubular steel frame surrounds a composite tub made from recycled carbon fiber and a honeycomb structure made from cardboard. The firewall, cargo shelf, and a portion of the hatch are 3D-printed plastic. The body panels are fiberglass-reinforced plastic. Technically, there are doors that swing up, though they’re conjoined with the roof and windshield, and there’s a central driving position with an undeniably F1-inspired seatback. Those sloped cutouts in the side windows also look to be patterned after the McLaren F1.

Shell shows up for the oil, an experimental OW-12 synthetic sloshing inside this car’s 660-cc Mitsubishi kei engine (the Japan-market gasoline version of the car, the Mitsubishi i, is sold here only as the electric i-MiEV). Such a thin viscosity would tear apart a normal engine. Shell went on a friction-hunting mission, replacing the pistons and valve springs and using diamond-like carbon (DLC), a super hard, smooth, and durable coating used in Formula 1. Shell claims a 30 percent reduction in friction and a 5 percent increase in fuel economy using its oil in this engine. At a steady 45 mph, the concept is claimed to get 107 mpg.

Shell Gordon Murray City Car concept

Unlike our highway test, where we run cars at 75 mph for 200 miles on a public highway, we had only a few thousand square feet of concrete to drive on inside Detroit’s Cobo Center. We made a dozen or so laps—in both directions–and may have hit 15 mph, certainly well short of any encounter with the 90-mph speed governor. The unassisted steering doesn’t self-center but feels direct, light, and full of surface texture. Acceleration happens, sometimes without full intention, since the tiny pedals are narrowly spaced and practically invisible under the dash.

As in any McLaren, a button enables manual shifting and, via steering-wheel paddles, we engaged second with the slightest clunk from the sequential five-speed gearbox. Shell representatives began to take notice when, with our photographer and their engineer pressed against the windows, we whipped through a makeshift skidpad. The engine’s 43 horsepower and 47 lb-ft of torque were not enough to overcome the 145 mm-width tires or the liability waiver we’d signed. The driver’s seat puts your face mere inches from the curviest, most distorted portion of the windshield. The combination of impaired vision with fuel odors trapped within an unventilated convention center made our 10-minute drive feel like a long trip. At this stage, it is not the sort of microcar you’d take through Manhattan.

But as one-off prototypes go, Shell and Gordon Murray aren’t too concerned about how this little runt drives. They’re looking at how the internal-combustion engine will adapt for 2050, by which time they project global energy usage will have doubled over year 2000 figures and there will be two billion vehicles worldwide, twice as many as there are now, according to Shell.

Despite looming bureaucratic demands for electrification, the company expects that automakers will be selling gasoline-powered vehicles for many more decades. To make them more efficient, safer, lighter, and cheaper to produce is everyone’s endgame, no matter the price point. Sure, we’d all like Murray to go back and build another F1. But if the Shell car technologies pan out, he’ll have put smiles on millions of faces instead of a few hundred. (Disclosure: Shell is the official fuel sponsor for Car and Driver.)

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2017 Detroit Auto Show

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We Drive the Shell Gordon Murray Concept Car inside Cobo

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2018 Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid First Drive: Plugging into Performance

In the past, it wasn’t just powertrains that were hybridized in Porsche’s gasoline-electric vehicles—their mission, too, was split between upholding a dynamic pedigree and reducing fuel consumption. But the 918 Spyder hypercar marked a shift in philosophy: Porsche now says hybridization means making kick-ass cars kick more ass, treating the fuel-economy and emissions benefits of electrification as subordinate to boosting performance. (Those other things remain important for regulatory and marketing reasons, of course.) READ MORE ››

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2018 Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid – First Drive Review

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Can a Luxury Sedan Really Feel Like a Sports Car?

The EPA classifies Jaguar’s XJL R as a large car. Which makes sense, considering it’s more than 200 inches long and weighs a tick over 4000 pounds. But, as former TV host Adrian Simpson discovered when he rode shotgun with fellow automotive journalist Bradley Hasemeyer, those numbers only tell half the story; the rest happens when the throttle is completely open. Thanks to a supercharged 5.0-liter V-8 delivering 550 horsepower to the rear wheels, the biggest car in Jaguar’s fleet behaves much more like its two-door brethren. Hit play above to watch.

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