Tesla gets green light to start producing EVs in China

China’s industry ministry has add Tesla to a government list of approved automotive manufacturers, a designation that allows the electric automaker to begin producing vehicles in the country.

Tesla’s inclusion on the list published by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology was reported by Reuters. A Chinese tech site also reported the news and provided a screenshot of MIIT’s approved automakers. Tesla is the first automaker listed.

TechCrunch has reached out to Tesla and will update when the company responds.

Tesla is building a $2 billion factory in Shanghai, its first manufacturing facility outside the United States.

In July, Tesla wrote in its quarterly earnings letter to shareholders that Model 3 production was on track to begin at its Shanghai factory by the end of the year. Starting production by November would be a critical milestone for the automaker if it hopes to continue to increase sales and avoid the high cost of shipping and tariffs.

Tesla wrote at the time that machinery was moved into the factory during the second quarter in preparation for the first phase of production.

The company also said in July that “depending on the timing of the Gigafactory Shanghai ramp, we continue to target production of over 500,000 vehicles globally in the 12-month period ending June 30, 2020.”

Tesla has said the production line at the factory in China will have a capacity of 150,000 units annually and will be a simplified, more cost-effective version of the Model 3 line at its Fremont, Calif. factory. Tesla has also said this second-generation Model 3 line will be at least 50% cheaper per unit of capacity than its Model 3-related lines in Fremont and at its Gigafactory in Sparks, Nev.

The Station: A new self-driving car startup, Inside Tesla’s V10 software, Lilium’s big round

If you haven’t heard, TechCrunch has officially launched a weekly newsletter dedicated to all the ways people and goods move from Point A to Point B — today and in the future — whether it’s by bike, bus, scooter, car, train, truck, flying car, robotaxi or rocket. Heck, maybe even via hyperloop.

Earlier this year, we piloted a weekly transportation newsletter. Now, we’re back with a new name and a format that will be delivered into your inbox every Saturday morning. We’re calling it The Station, your hub of all things transportation. I’m your host, senior transportation reporter Kirsten Korosec.

Portions of the newsletter will be published as an article on the main site after it has been emailed to subscribers (that’s what you’re reading now). To get everything, you have to sign up. And it’s free. To subscribe, go to our newsletters page and click on The Station.

This isn’t a solo effort. Expect analysis and insight from senior reporter Megan Rose Dickey, who has been covering micromobility. TechCrunch reporter Jake Bright will occasionally provide insight into electric motorcycles, racing and the startup scene in Africa. And then of course, there are other TechCrunch staffers who will weigh in from their stations in the U.S., Europe and Asia.

We love the reader feedback. Keep it coming. Email me at [email protected] to share thoughts, opinions or tips or send a direct message to @kirstenkorosec.

A new autonomous vehicle company on the scene

the station autonomous vehicles1

Deeproute.ai is the newest company to receive a permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles to test autonomous vehicles on public roads.

Here is what we know so far. The Chinese startup just raised $50 million in a pre-Series A funding round led by Fozun RZ Capital, the Beijing-based venture capital arm of Chinese conglomerate Fosun International. The company has research centers in Shenzhen, Beijing and Silicon Valley and is aiming to build a full self-driving stack that can handle Level 4 automation, a designation by the SAE that means the vehicle can handle all aspects of driving in certain conditions without human intervention.

Deeproute.ai is also a supplier for China’s second-largest automaker Dongfeng Motor, according to TechNode. The startup plans to offer robotaxi services in partnership with Dongfeng Motor for the Military World Games in the city of Wuhan next month.

Snapshot: Tesla Smart Summon

the station electric vehicles1Remember way back in September when Tesla started rolling out its V10 software update? The software release was highly anticipated in large part because it included Smart Summon, an autonomous parking feature that allows owners to use their app to summon their vehicles from a parking space.

We have some insight into the rollout, courtesy of TezLab, a Brooklyn-based startup that developed a free app that’s like a Fitbit for a Tesla vehicle. Tesla owners who download the app can track their efficiency, total trip miles and use it to control certain functions of the vehicle, such as locking and unlocking the doors, and heating and air conditioning. TezLab, which has 20,000 active users and logs more than 1 million events a day, has become a massive repository of Tesla data.

TezLab shared the data set below that shows the ebb and flow of Tesla’s software updates. The X axis shows the date (of every other bar) and a timestamp of midnight. (Because this is a screenshot, you can’t toggle over it to see the time.)

Screen Shot 2019 10 11 at 3.52.53 PM

This data shows when Tesla started pushing out the V10 software as well as when it held it back. The upshot? Notice the pop on September 27. That’s when the public rollout began in earnest, then dipped, then spiked again on October 3 and then dropped for almost a week. That lull followed a slew of social media postings demonstrating and complaining about the Smart Summon feature, suggesting that Tesla slowed the software release.

A geofencing bright spot

Speaking of Smart Summon, you might have seen the Consumer Reports review of the feature. In short, the consumer advocacy group called it “glitchy” and wondered if it offered any benefits to customers. I spoke to CR and learned a bit more. CR notes that Tesla is clear in its manual about the limitations of this beta product. The organization’s criticism is that people don’t have insight into these limitations when they buy the “Full Self-Driving” feature, which costs thousands of dollars. (CEO Elon Musk just announced the price will go up another $1,000 on November 1.)

One encouraging sign is that CR determined that the Smart Summon feature was able (most of the time) to recognize when it was on a public road. Smart Summon is only supposed to be used in private areas. “This is the first we’ve seen Tesla geofence this technology and that is a bright spot,” CR told me.

Deal of the week

money the station

There were plenty of deals in the past week, but the one that stood out — for a variety of reasons — involved German urban air mobility startup Lilium . Editor Ingrid Lunden had the scoop that Lilium has been talking to investors to raise between $400 million and $500 million. The size of this yet-to-be-closed round and who might be investing is what got our attention.

Lilium has already raised more than $100 million in financing from investors, including WeChat owner and Chinese internet giant Tencent, Atomico, which was founded by Skype co-founder Niklas Zennström, and Obvious Ventures, the early-stage VC fund co-founded by Twitter’s Ev Williams. International private banking and asset management group LGT and Freigeist (formerly called e42) are also investors.

TechCrunch is still hunting down details about who might be investing, as well as Lilium’s valuation. (You can always reach out with a tip.)

Lunden was able to ferret out a few important nuggets from sources, including that Tencent is apparently in this latest round and the startup has been pitching new investors since at least this spring. The round has yet to close. Lilium isn’t the only urban air mobility — aka flying cars — startup that been shaking the investor trees for money the past six months. Lilium’s challenge is attempting to raise a bigger round than others in an unproven market.

A little bird

blinky cat bird green

We hear a lot. But we’re not selfish. Let’s share. For the unfamiliar, a little bird is where we pass along insider tips and what we’re hearing or finding from reliable, informed sources in the industry. This isn’t a place for unfounded gossip. Sometimes, like this week, we’re just helping to connect the dots to determine where a company is headed.

Aurora, an autonomous vehicle startup backed by Sequoia Capital and Amazon, published a blog post that lay outs its plans to integrate its self-driving stack into multiple vehicle platforms. Those plans now include long-haul trucks.

Self-driving trucks are so very hot right now. Aurora is banking on its recent acquisition of lidar company Blackmore to give it an edge. Aurora has integrated into a Class 8 truck its self-driving stack known as “Aurora Driver.” We hear that Aurora isn’t announcing any partnerships — at least not now — but it’s signaling a plan to push into this market.

Got a tip or overheard something in the world of transportation? Email me at [email protected] to share thoughts, opinions or tips or send a direct message to @kirstenkorosec.

Keep (self) truckin’

the station semi truck

Ike, the autonomous trucking startup founded by veterans of Apple, Google and Uber Advanced Technologies Group’s self-driving truck program, has always cast itself as the cautious-we’ve-been-around-the-block-already company.

That hasn’t changed. Last week, Ike released a lengthy safety report and accompanying blog post. It’s beefy. But here are a few of the important takeaways. Ike is choosing not to test on public roads after a year of development, unlike most others in the space. Ike has a fleet of four Class 8 trucks outfitted with its self-driving stack as well as a Toyota Prius used for mapping and data collection. The trucks are driven manually, (a second engineer always in the passenger seat) on public roads. The automation system is then tested on a track.

There are strong incentives to demonstrate rapid progress with autonomous vehicle technology, and testing on public roads has been part of that playbook. And Ike’s founders are taking a different path; and we hear that the approach was embraced, not rejected, by investors. 

Screen Shot 2019 10 12 at 7.56.36 AM

In the next issue of the newsletter, check out snippets from an interview with Randol Aikin, the head of systems engineering at Ike. We dig into the company’s approach, which is based on a methodology developed at MIT called Systems Theoretic Process Analysis (STPA) as the foundation for Ike’s product development.

In other AV truck-related news, Kodiak Robotics just hired Jamie Hoffacker as its head of hardware. Hoffacker came from Lyft’s Level 5 self-driving vehicle initiative and also worked on Google’s Street View vehicles. The company tells me that Hoffacker is key to its aim of building a product that can be manufactured, not just a prototype. Check out Hoffacker’s blog post to get his perspective.

Nos vemos la próxima vez.

Tesla delivers a record 97,000 electric vehicles in third quarter

Tesla said Wednesday it delivered a record 97,000 electric vehicles in the third quarter, a nearly 2% increase from the previous period, but still short of analysts’ expectations.

Tesla shares fell nearly 6% in after market trading on the news.

The company reported Wednesday that it produced 96,155 vehicles in the third quarter, a 10% increase from the previous period. Tesla has shown steady improvement in its production numbers over the past several quarters. Tesla produced 86,555 vehicles in the fourth quarter of 2018 and then dropped to 77,100 in the first period of the year. Numbers rebounded to 87,048 vehicles in the second quarter of 2019.

Analysts expected Tesla to deliver 99,000 vehicles during the third quarter, according to estimates compiled by FactSet.

Despite hitting record numbers and showing the ability to push production higher, the numbers still weren’t able to meet CEO Elon Musk’s lofty targets. Musk had said in a leaked email that the company could produce 100,000 vehicles in the third quarter.

Tesla said Wednesday it received record net orders in the third quarter and is entering the fourth quarter with an increase in its order backlog. Tesla added that all of their Model 3 orders were received from customers who did not hold a reservation.

Here’s a look back at the past several quarters of deliveries.

Tesla delivered 95,200 vehicles in the second quarter, a dramatic pop from the company’s first-quarter delivery numbers when it reported deliveries of 63,000 vehicles, nearly a one-third drop from the previous period. The low first-quarter delivery numbers signaled what was to come: wider-than-expected loss of $702 million driven by disappointing delivery numbers, costs and pricing adjustments to its vehicles.

Demand for Porsche Taycan prompts automaker to add 500 more jobs

Demand for the all-electric Porsche Taycan sports car has prompted the German automaker to add 500 more jobs at its headquarters in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen.

The move, which will boost jobs dedicated to the Taycan by one third to 2,000, is designed to give Porsche the flexibility it might need to boost production.

“With the Taycan, we are showing that e-mobility is by no means a job killer,” Andreas Haffner, a Porsche board member in charge of human resources, said in a statement. “Rather, we are underlining its future viability, especially in the sports car segment.”

Porsche has poured more than $1 billion into the development of the Taycan, its first all-electric vehicle. And that bet appears to be paying off, if initial numbers hold up. Even before the Taycan was revealed in September, the company reported strong demand for the vehicle, which it measured through the number of people who had made deposits to order the four-door sports car. Reservations required a €2,500 deposit ($2,785).

Porsche initially targeted 20,000 Taycans for the first year of production, although at full capacity the line can produce up to 40,000 of these electric vehicles.

The company has received more than 32,000 applications for the Taycan, Haffner said.

Porsche plans to increase its workforce dedicated to the Taycan by the end of the second quarter of 2020.

The Porsche Taycan wasn’t just a big bet by the automaker; the company’s workers also made a gamble. Workers and executives agreed to cost-cutting measures, including giving up a percentage of their scheduled wage increases through 2025, to guarantee that the vehicle would be built in Zuffenhausen, and not in another plant where the cars could be produced more cheaply.

Tesla acquires computer vision startup DeepScale in push toward robotaxis

Tesla has acquired DeepScale, a Silicon Valley startup that uses low-wattage processors to power more accurate computer vision, in a bid to improve its Autopilot driver assistance system and deliver on CEO Elon Musk’s vision to turn its electric vehicles into robotaxis.

CNBC was the first to report the acquisition. TechCrunch independently confirmed the deal with two unnamed sources, although neither one would provide more information on the financial terms of the deal. 

Tesla vehicles are not considered fully autonomous, or Level 4, a designation by SAE that means the car can handle all aspects of driving in certain conditions without human intervention.

Instead, Tesla vehicles are “Level 2,” and its Autopilot feature is a more advanced driver assistance system than most other vehicles on the road today. Musk has promised that the advanced driver assistance capabilities on Tesla vehicles will continue to improve until eventually reaching that full automation high-water mark.

Earlier this year, Musk said Tesla would launch an autonomous ridesharing network by 2020. DeepScale, a four-year-old startup based in Mountain View, Calif., appears to be part of that plan. The acquisition also brings much needed talent to Tesla’s Autopilot team, which has suffered from a number of departures in the past year, The Information reported in July.

DeepScale has developed a way to use efficient deep neural networks on small, low-cost, automotive-grade sensors and processors to improve the accuracy of perception systems. These perception systems, which use sensors, mapping, planning and control systems to interpret and classify data in real time, are essential to the operation of autonomous vehicles. In short, these systems allow vehicles to understand the world around them.

The company argued that its method of using low-wattage and low-cost sensors and processors allowed it to deliver driver assistance and autonomous driving to vehicles at all price points.

The company had raised more than $18 million — in $3 million seed and $156 million Series A rounds — from investors that included Autotech VC, Bessemer, Greylock and Trucks VC.

On Monday, DeepScale’s co-founder Forrest Iandola posted an announcement on Twitter and updated his LinkedIn account. The Twitter message read “I joined the @Tesla #Autopilot team this week. I am looking forward to working with some of the brightest minds in #deeplearning and #autonomousdriving.”

In Tesla’s push toward “full self-driving,” it developed a new custom chip designed to those capabilities. This chip is now in all new Model 3, X and S vehicles. Musk has said that Tesla vehicles being produced now have the hardware necessary — computer and otherwise — for full self-driving. “All you need to do is improve the software,” Musk said in April at the company’s Autonomy Day.

Others in the industry have balked at those claims. Tesla and Musk have maintained the “improve software” line, and have continued to roll out improvements to the capability of Autopilot. Earlier this month, Tesla released a software update that adds new features to its cars. The update included Smart Summon, an autonomous parking feature that allows owners to use their app to summon their vehicles from a parking space.

Tesla V10.0 car software update adds Smart Summon, Netflix/YouTube, Spotify, karaoke and more

Tesla is rolling out a new software update that adds a slew of new features to its cars. These include the new ‘Smart Summon’ feature which will allow cars equipped with the optional $5,000 full-self driving package to automatically drive themselves from a parking spot to collect you in a parking spot.

This is one of the most advanced semi self-driving features that Tesla has yet released to the general public, and the company still says you should use it only in lots and when you have a clear view of your car. The company also notes that you’re ultimately responsible for the vehicle, so definitely be aware of what’s going on with the car and its surroundings if you’re planning to use this one – and you can stop the car remotely should you feel the need to. Smart Summon has been out in a limited preview beta for some customers, but now it’s going to be rolling out to all vehicles that have purchased the FSD option

Other new features included in this update include the much-requested native Spotify support, which is available to all Spotify Premium account-holders across all markets where it’s available. That should go a long way towards satisfying Tesla owners who have been less than satisfied with playing audio via Bluetooth from this extremely popular streaming music option. In China, Tesla is also rolling out Ximalaya, a podcast and audiobook streaming service.

Tesla Theater Mode, also new in version 10.0, connects your infotainment system to your Netflix, YouTube and Hulu/Hulu+ (including Live TV if you’re subscribed to that feature) accounts, giving you access to streaming video from all these platforms while the car is safely in park. In China, the automaker is also adding IQiyi and Tencent Video, and it says it’ll be adding more options globally “over time” to supplement these offerings. The new Theater Mode will also provide access to Tesla vehicle tutorials for owners to watch in-car, again only while parked.

A lot of these updates focus on entertainment options, including the new “Car-aoke” mode, which, as you might have guessed, adds an in-car karaoke experience that includes a “massive” library of music and lyrics, Tesla says, with multiple languages supported. Singing along on road-trips has long gotten by with low-tech options only, but official support might encourage more amateur James Cordens.

Last but not least for new entertainment features, there’s the launch of the Cuphead port on Tesla Arcade, the in-car gaming software Tesla launched earlier this year. Cuphead is a cult smash hit indie game, with an iconic art style reminiscent of early Disney animation, and this is definitely a nod to Tesla’s core geek audience (and probably a treat for the Musk man himself). Again, this is only available while parked in case you were worried about distracted driving.

Tesla also added some new navigation features that suggest interesting restaurants and sightseeing opportunities along your way, w which could result in some more interesting spontaneous adventures. There’s also a new file system tweak that separates videos captured by the car’s camera when in Dashcam and Sentry Mode to make it easier for users to find them, and they’ll be auto-deleted when there’s a need to free up storage.

This is a big ol’ update packed with new features, and it’s going to be rolling out over-the-air to vehicles beginning this week. As mentioned a couple of places above, you might see some slight differences region to region but Tesla says you can also check out the updates in-store at its showrooms if you want a sneak preview.

Tesla V10.0 car software update adds Smart Summon, Netflix/YouTube, Spotify, karaoke and more

Tesla is rolling out a new software update that adds a slew of new features to its cars. These include the new ‘Smart Summon’ feature which will allow cars equipped with the optional $5,000 full-self driving package to automatically drive themselves from a parking spot to collect you in a parking spot.

This is one of the most advanced semi self-driving features that Tesla has yet released to the general public, and the company still says you should use it only in lots and when you have a clear view of your car. The company also notes that you’re ultimately responsible for the vehicle, so definitely be aware of what’s going on with the car and its surroundings if you’re planning to use this one – and you can stop the car remotely should you feel the need to. Smart Summon has been out in a limited preview beta for some customers, but now it’s going to be rolling out to all vehicles that have purchased the FSD option

Other new features included in this update include the much-requested native Spotify support, which is available to all Spotify Premium account-holders across all markets where it’s available. That should go a long way towards satisfying Tesla owners who have been less than satisfied with playing audio via Bluetooth from this extremely popular streaming music option. In China, Tesla is also rolling out Ximalaya, a podcast and audiobook streaming service.

Tesla Theater Mode, also new in version 10.0, connects your infotainment system to your Netflix, YouTube and Hulu/Hulu+ (including Live TV if you’re subscribed to that feature) accounts, giving you access to streaming video from all these platforms while the car is safely in park. In China, the automaker is also adding IQiyi and Tencent Video, and it says it’ll be adding more options globally “over time” to supplement these offerings. The new Theater Mode will also provide access to Tesla vehicle tutorials for owners to watch in-car, again only while parked.

A lot of these updates focus on entertainment options, including the new “Car-aoke” mode, which, as you might have guessed, adds an in-car karaoke experience that includes a “massive” library of music and lyrics, Tesla says, with multiple languages supported. Singing along on road-trips has long gotten by with low-tech options only, but official support might encourage more amateur James Cordens.

Last but not least for new entertainment features, there’s the launch of the Cuphead port on Tesla Arcade, the in-car gaming software Tesla launched earlier this year. Cuphead is a cult smash hit indie game, with an iconic art style reminiscent of early Disney animation, and this is definitely a nod to Tesla’s core geek audience (and probably a treat for the Musk man himself). Again, this is only available while parked in case you were worried about distracted driving.

Tesla also added some new navigation features that suggest interesting restaurants and sightseeing opportunities along your way, w which could result in some more interesting spontaneous adventures. There’s also a new file system tweak that separates videos captured by the car’s camera when in Dashcam and Sentry Mode to make it easier for users to find them, and they’ll be auto-deleted when there’s a need to free up storage.

This is a big ol’ update packed with new features, and it’s going to be rolling out over-the-air to vehicles beginning this week. As mentioned a couple of places above, you might see some slight differences region to region but Tesla says you can also check out the updates in-store at its showrooms if you want a sneak preview.

With the 2020 Cadillac CT4, GM begins to expand its hands-free Super Cruise driving system

GM’s high-end brand unveiled Thursday the 2020 Cadillac CT4, a sporty and small sedan that is designed and priced to attract younger buyers looking to enter into the luxury car market.

The vehicle’s debut also marks an important expansion for GM’s hands-free driver assistance system, Super Cruise. The hands-free driving system has been lauded for its capabilities; it’s also been criticized because of its severe limitations. Today, Super Cruise is available in just one Cadillac model, the full-size CT6 sedan. And even in the CT6, the system is restricted to certain highways.

Super Cruise uses a combination of lidar map data, high-precision GPS, cameras and radar sensors, as well as a driver attention system, which monitors the person behind the wheel to ensure they’re paying attention. Unlike Tesla’s Autopilot driver assistance system, users of Super Cruise do not need to have their hands on the wheel. However, their eyes must remain directed straight ahead.

GM is finally starting to expand where the system can be used and bringing it to more models. Earlier this year, the company said it will add another 70,000 miles of compatible divided highways in the United States and Canada to the existing system via a software update. By the end of the year, Super Cruise will be available on more than 200,000 miles of highways.

The automaker plans to bring SuperCruise to other GM brands such as Chevrolet, GMC and Buick after 2020.

The expansion follows other improvements rolled out in 2018, including adding a dynamic lane offset so that a CT6 with Super Cruise activated can adjust slightly over in its lane for driver comfort when passing large vehicles. Gauge cluster messages were also added, to inform drivers why Super Cruise may not be available in certain instances.

Super Cruise isn’t the only feature of note in the 2020 Cadillac CT4 model. Cadillac is offering the CT4 in a few trim levels, all of which will have turbo engines. The standard version will have a an eight-speed transmission and a 2.0 turbo-4 engine that generates 237 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque.

The CT4-V, and the premium luxury version the CT4, have a 2.7-liter turbo-4 engine with a 10-speed automatic transmission.

The CT4 will come with unique grilles and bright exterior accents to distinguish the CT4 luxury and premium luxury models. The Sport and V-Series models are differentiated by darker accents and “performance-inspired” details, including unique grilles, fascias, rocker extensions, rear spoiler and exclusive performance design wheels, Cadillac said.

Every version of the CT4 will have LED exterior lighting including headlamps, tail lamps and signature vertical lights at all four corners.

Cadillac 2020 CT4 Sport 023

The interior of the 2020 Cadillac CT4.

Inside the car, drivers will find an 8-inch touchscreen that is mounted prominently in the center of the instrument panel. GM’s new digital platform, which can handle over-the-air software updates, is integrated into the CT4 as well.

“We developed CT4 to appeal to youthful buyers in the luxury market who may be new to the Cadillac brand,” said Andrew Smith, executive director of global Cadillac design. “The vehicle was intended to draw attention, using a combination of great proportions, taught surfacing and Cadillac family details that hint at the athletic driving experience this vehicle offers.”

Fair acquires Canvas from Ford to expand its on-demand vehicle subscription business

Fair, the $1.2 billion startup backed by SoftBank that has built a smartphone-based car leasing platform that lets people takes cars for as little as one month, is making another acquisition in the ongoing consolidation of the short-term car rental market. It’s picking up Canvas, another platform for leasing cars, from its owner Ford Motor Credit, a division of the car giant Ford Motor Company that provides leasing and financing to dealers and customers.

The price and other financial details were not disclosed, but we have confirmed with Fair’s co-founder Scott Painter that it will give Ford an equity stake in his startup, so there are at least some shares involved. Canvas is a similar kind of business to Fair’s but significantly smaller.

Fair has about 45,000 subscribers currently in the U.S., with 3.2 million downloads across 30 markets, while Canvas has only around one-tenth of that (3,800 to be exact: one possible reason that Ford decided not to hold on to it) across San Francisco, Los Angeles and Dallas. While Canvas offered leases starting at three months, Fair’s start at one month, although Painter said that the average they have found are that consumers take cars for about 18 months, while those leasing for ridesharing use them on average for 12.

The Canvas business will continue to operate, but it will gradually switch over to the Fair brand in the coming months. Those who are currently on Canvas contracts will be given the option to switch over to Fair as those deals come up for renewal.

We have confirmed that Ford is not investing further into Fair with this acquisition — not yet, at least. “This is an opportunity to build a relationship,” he said.

While equity funding is always something that Fair is looking at, he added, the company more immediately is planning to announced further debt funding next week, he said. Fair raised hundreds of millions in debt and equity to date to expand to new cities and buy in more vehicles.

Fair is picking Canvas’s employees, technology and business in the deal, Painter said. The team will stay in San Francisco, where they are currently based, to help Fair expand its operations in the Bay Area and continue hiring. “It’s an important market for us for engineers and developers,” he added. This is Fair’s third acquisition, following Xchange Leasing, the leasing business of Uber, for about $400 million; and of rental car service Skurt, for about $50 million.

The move to Fair will be Canvas’s third home under its third brand.

The company was originally founded as ZephyrCar to tap the opportunity of providing cars to Uber and Lyft drivers among other lease markets. It then rebranded as Breeze to double down on ridesharing. Then, as those rideshare companies explored other options for leasing (including Uber’s own unprofitable foray into Xchange Leasing), it shut down, at which point the team and other assets were picked up by Ford and rebranded as Canvas. At that point, the company shifted to a more specific consumer focus to lease Ford, Lincoln, and eventually other makes of cars.

Over that time, it’s amassed a lot of knowledge and data about car leasing and building that into more efficient, on-demand services, a contrast with many of the traditional leasing services in the market today.

“Canvas’ mission is to provide customers with flexible access to the vehicle of their choice for an affordable monthly payment,” said Ned Ryan, CEO of Canvas, in a statement. “Our strong synergies with Fair make this a natural fit.”

Ford’s move was part of the automaker’s efforts to explore the future of transportation: we’re in the middle of a tectonic shift in the automotive industry where new innovations like ridesharing and autonomous vehicles, along with changing consumer demands, have changed the game when it comes to simply making and selling vehicles.

As Painter characterizes it, Ford’s ownership of Canvas was partly about exploring all of that — something that it will now continue to do as a shareholder of Fair.

“Canvas built an impressive business and we learned a lot about subscription services, fleet management and the technology that underlies both,” said Sam Smith, executive vice president of strategy and future products at Ford Credit, in a statement. “We are proud of the work that was done in support of Canvas and we wish the entire team the best of luck.”

Ford’s competitors — including GM, Daimler and more — have also made big investments and acquisitions in an effort to better understand the shifts, and to hopefully keep a sizeable business alive in the future, a pattern that is likely to continue.

“I think if you’re a carmaker today, you have to think about how the world is changing and how to serve consumers given the rise of smartphones and the changing business models of the automotive industry,” said Painter.

Elon Musk promises to take Tesla Model S to ‘Plaid’ with new powertrain

Tesla CEO Elon Musk promised a more powerful powertrain option in future Model S, Model X and the next-generation Roadster sports car that will push acceleration and speed beyond the current high bar known as Ludicrous mode.

Musk tweeted Wednesday evening “the only thing beyond Ludicrous is Plaid,” a teaser to a higher performing vehicle and a nod to the movie Spaceballs.

 

These new higher performing versions of the Model S, Model X, and Roadster will contain what Musk describes as a Plaid powertrain and is still about a year away from production. This new powertrain will have three motors, one more than the dual motor system found in today’s Model S and X.

This Plaid powertrain has already seen some action. Tesla revealed Wednesday that a Model S equipped with a Plaid powertrain and chassis prototype had lapped Laguna Seca racetrack in 1:36:555, a second faster than the record for a four-door sedan.

 

The “Plaid” powertrain will not be offered in the lower cost Model 3 or Model Y, which isn’t expected to go into production until late 2020. Musk also promised that this plaid powertrain will cost more than “current offerings, but will be less than competitors” without explaining what that means.

Cclose followers of the automaker might recall hints of a three motor powertrain in the past.

When Tesla unveiled a new Roadster prototype in November 2017, Musk said it would have three motors and be able to travel a whopping 0 to 60 miles per hour in 1.9 seconds and a top speed of 250 mph or even more. The Roadster isn’t expected to go into production until 2020.

What is new are Tesla’s plans to make this more powerful three-motor powertrain available in the Model S and Model X. And it stands to be an important option, if it does in fact materialize. The Model S has been around since 2012 and since the introduction the cheaper Model 3, sales have dipped.

And yet, Musk has said the X and S won’t be getting a major refresh. If Tesla hopes to maintain demand for either of its higher margin luxury vehicles, new trims like this plaid powertrain will be essential.

Tesla first announced Ludicrous mode in its Model S vehicles way back in July 2015. As shareholders and customers awaited the Model X to arrive, Musk unveiled several options for the company’s Model S sedan, including a lower priced version, longer battery range and “Ludicrous mode” for even faster acceleration.

Ludicrous mode, which improved acceleration by 10% to let drivers go from 0 to 60 mph in 2.8 seconds, came about as a result of an improved battery fuse. This new fuse, Musk explained in a blog post at the time, has its own electronics and a tiny lithium-ion battery that monitors current and protects against excessive current.

Tesla also upgraded the main pack contactor with a high-temperature space-grade superalloy instead of steel. This enabled the battery pack to remain “springy” under the heat of heavy current. In the end, the max pack output increased from 1300 to 1500 Amps.

Ludicrous was a $10,000 add on for new buyers. Tesla did reduce the price for existing Model S P85 owners for the first six months following the announcement and sold them the pack electronics upgrade needed for Ludicrous Mode for $5,000.

Musk joked in this 2015 blog post that there is “one speed faster than ludicrous, but that is reserved for the next generation Roadster in 4 years: maximum plaid.”