We reported on a tantalizing tweet from Elon Musk on Monday, in which he wrote, “Tesla press conf at 9am on Thurs. About to end range anxiety … via OTA software update. Affects entire Model S fleet.”
There were some high hopes that it was about extending range quite a bit, even though 200 miles of range is plenty for most drivers. In our weekly EV podcast, Chris DeMorro made a strong argument against that, and was quite convinced it was going to be a navigation thing that simply made it exceedingly clear how much range you needed to get to your destination or the nearest charging station.
Chris nailed it.
I’ll share more details from Tesla in a moment, but first, I think it’s worth writing a little bit about the investor reaction. Basically, the reaction wasn’t huge in either direction, but it was clear that investors were looking for more. The Tesla (TSLA) stock price dropped sharply on Thursday afternoon as the announcement rolled in — falling from a peak of ~$205 to a low of ~$195 on that day. It then recovered a little bit on Friday, closing at $198. Here’s a 5-day view of the stock price:
And here’s a 1-month view:
But, yeah, the news is the improvement for Model S owners. Aside from the neat solutions to “range anxiety” (or range anxiety anxiety), there are some other nifty features included in this latest over-the-air software update. Here’s the Tesla Motors blog post explaining the updates:
Most cars don’t improve over time. By contrast, Model S gets faster, smarter, and better as time passes. With Tesla’s regular over-the-air software updates, Model S actually improves while you sleep. When you wake up, added functionality, enhanced performance, and improved user experience make you feel like you are driving a new car. We want to improve cars in ways most people didn’t imagine possible.
Among other things, the latest update introduces two key applications that ensure you never unintentionally run out of range, giving you peace of mind at all times. Here’s how they work:
The Range Assurance application is always running quietly in the background even when navigation is not in use. In realtime, it communicates with the network of Tesla Superchargers and destination chargers, discarding any that are in heavy use or inactive and warns you before you drive out of range.
The Tesla charging network has grown dramatically over the past few years to the point where virtually the entire US and Canadian population is within range, as well as northern and western Europe. Over the next 12 months, all of Europe and North America (excluding northern Alaska) will be covered, as well as China (apart from low population areas far inland), the Japan main islands and southern Australia.
The navigation system then shows a map of the most convenient charging locations and guides you to the closest one. Moreover, it factors in height changes, like having to climb over a mountain pass, and looks up weather and windspeed from the Internet to determine range with extreme accuracy.
From a user standpoint, all that complexity is taken care of automatically. No need to think ahead or do any calculations. This software update makes it effectively impossible for a Model S driver to run out of charge unintentionally. Your car always takes care of you.
Model S will now automatically navigate you to your destination by integrating the best charging options into your route. As with Range Assurance, your car looks up the charging locations in realtime, so it always has the most updated list and queries the Tesla Superchargers to determine their status. Essentially, it is a big network of cars communicating dynamically with a big network of chargers.
The software then figures out the fastest and most convenient path to your destination, including how long to stop at each location. As soon as your car is ready to go, it will message you via the Tesla phone app. Typical Supercharger times are 20 to 30 minutes long, which works out well when you have been driving for three to four hours, as it matches the time needed to visit the restroom, have a bite to eat or grab a coffee and be on your way.
As always, the Supercharger network provides free long distance travel to Model S owners. You arrive, plug in and it just works.
New Safety Features
As most people know, Model S already has the lowest probability of injury of any car ever tested. We are taking that further by adding important active safety features. This release includes:
Automatic Emergency Braking, which will engage in the event of an unavoidable collision in order to reduce risk of impact
Blind Spot Warning alerts you when drivers behind you are dangerously close
Side Collision Warning (front collision warning is already enabled)
Valet Mode allows you to place Model S into a restricted mode, limiting its speed, locking the glove box and frunk, and hiding your personal information. It conveniently and discreetly protects your Model S when somebody else is behind the wheel.
New audio codec for all cars to improve sound quality, particularly in standard audio
Radio tuning improvements
Active cruise control refinements
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