Tesla’s in-car touchscreens are getting YouTube support

Tesla has consistently been adding software to its in-car touchscreen infotainment displays – including sometimes things that probably leave a lot of people scratching their heads. During a special Q&A today at annual gaming event E3 in LA, Tesla CEO Elon Musk revealed that Tesla’s in-car display will support YouTube someday soon.

This isn’t the first time that the Tesla CEO has suggested YouTube might one day have a home in the company’s cars: In response to a fan’s question on Twitter last August he noted that ‘version 10’ of the company’s in-car software would provide support for third-party video streaming. The company debuted its ‘Software Version 9.0’ last year.

Musk specifically said YouTube would be coming to cars during the E3 event today, at which he revealed that Bethesda’s Fallout 3 would be coming to the infotainment displays, and unveiled a demo video of Android game Beach Buggy Racer running on a display in a Tesla Model 3.

On a recent podcast, the Tesla CEO also said that the company would consider opening the platform more broadly to third-party developers for both apps and games. The company has done a lot on its own to add software ‘Easter Eggs’ to the dash display, but turning it into a true platform is a much more ambitious vision.

On its face, adding attention-heavy apps like streaming video services to a car definitely seems counterintuitive, but to be fair to Tesla, a large number of drivers today use their phones for in-car navigation and those can also all technically display YouTube at any time. It does seem like a case of Musk’s mind racing ahead to a day when his cars are fully autonomous, something he recently reiterated he expects to happen within the next couple of years.

Tesla completing ‘small acquisition’ which will help launch its insurance product

Tesla CEO Elon Musk says that the company is in the process of completing a “small acquisition” that will help it release its own insurance product, something it said in April that it was only around “a month” away from bringing to market. One month is at least two months when translated from Musk time to rest-of-us time, so that tracks.

Musk made the remark at Tesla’s Annual Shareholders Meeting, adding that the company is “pretty close to being able to release [its insurance product],” and that in addition to this acquisition in progress, Tesla also has “a bit of software to write” to make it ready for market.

Insurance for Tesla vehicles can be expensive when sourced from traditional insurance providers (it ranked 15th highest in the U.S. in a recent third-party survey) but Tesla says it has a key advantage when compared to third-parties that will help it price insurance for its customers correctly – ample and detailed information about their driving habits.

No word yet on who the acquisition target is, but it makes sense that Apple might seek to pick up a small insurer to supplement its own driving and user data, rather than trying to build an insurance business in-house from scratch.

Tesla says solar roof is on its third iteration, currently installing in 8 states

Tesla is currently installing its solar roof product in eight states, according to Elon Musk speaking at the Tesla Annual Shareholders Meeting on Tuesday. The solar roof tile project has had a relatively long genesis, since being first unveiled three years ago in 2016.

In 2017, the company claimed its first ever installations of the Tesla solar roof, after opening up orders for the product in the second quarter of that year. Musk noted during the company’s Q2 2017 earnings call that both himself and Tesla CTO JB Straubel had the tiles installed and operating on their homes

The company also announced last year that it had entered into a partnership with Home Depot to sell its solar panels along with its PowerWall home battery, but that was about its traditional panels specifically, not the new tile product. The tiles are designed to look like high quality home tiles people use currently, with integrated solar panels that are not easily identified from ground level, in order to provide a more aesthetically pleasing solution.

In addition to having installations run in eight states, Musk also said that the solar roof product is currently on version three, and that this version is very exciting to him because it offers a chance of being at cost parity with an equivalent entry-level cheap traditional tile, when you include the cost of utilities you’d be saving by generating your own power instead.

Timelines for wider roll-out of the solar roof products at the costs he anticipates, his own words probably say it best: “I’m sometimes a little optimistic about timeframes – it’s time you knew” he joked at the meeting.

Elon Musk calls it ‘financially insane’ to buy a car that isn’t an EV capable of full self-driving

During the Tesla Annual Shareholder Meeting that took place on Tuesday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk didn’t mince words when he talked about what he thinks of the value proposition of traditional fossil fuel vehicles. He called it “financially insane” to buy any car that isn’t an electric car capable of full autonomy — which, conveniently, currently is the type of vehicle that only Tesla claims to sell.

Musk reiterated a claim he’s made previously about Tesla vehicles, that all of its cars manufactured since October 2016 have everything they need to become fully autonomous — with those built before the release of its new autonomous in-car computer earlier this year needing only a computer swap, replacing the new Tesla-built computer for the Nvidia ones they shipped with.

The Tesla CEO also reiterated his claim from earlier this year that there will be 1 million robotaxis on the road as of next year, noting that it’s easy to arrive at that number if you consider that it includes all Teslas, including Model X, Model S and Model 3 sold between October 2016 and today.

Regarding Tesla’s progress with self-driving, Musk noted that by end of year, Tesla hopes to deliver autonomy such that while you’ll still have to supervise the driving in-car, it’ll get you from your garage to your workplace without intervention. He said that by next year, their goal is the same thing but without requiring supervision, and then some time after that, pending regulatory cooperation, they’ll be able to do full autonomy without anyone on board.

Musk ended this musing with a colorful metaphor, likening buying a car that’s powered by traditional fossil fuel and without any path to self-driving to someone today “riding a horse and using a flip phone.”

Ferrari’s first plug-in hybrid is here. And it’s faster than ever.

Ferrari has finally cracked open the door for electrification. The Italian supercar manufacturer unveiled the SF90 Stradale, its first plug-in hybrid.

Purists might turn their noses up to Stradale’s mere 15.5 miles of all electric range. But it’s a milestone for Ferrari nonetheless and marks a shift in the company’s views and portfolio.

Now, some of the important nuts and bolts. The Stradale has a V8 turbo engine that produces 780 cv (or about 769 horsepower), which the company says is the highest power output of any 8-cylinder Ferraris in its history. Another 216 hp is produced by three electric motors. The motors are located between the engine and 8-speed dual clutch transmission on the rear axle, and two on the front axle.

When combined, the vehicle can travel from 0 to 62 miles per hour in 2.5 seconds.

You can check out the video below to see the supercar in action. Wait — and listen — for the moment when the driver switches to electric power.

The driver can place the Stradale in eDrive mode — Ferrari’s branding for all-electric mode. When the internal combustion engine is turned off, the two independent front motors can deliver a maximum speed of about 83 mph. That’s slow compared to car’s top speed of 211 mph, which is achieved when the combustion engine is activated. Reverse only uses eDrive mode.

The default setting for the Stradale is to run as a hybrid. The vehicle can also has a performance setting, a mode that keeps the internal gas engine running because the priority is more on charging the battery than on efficiency. This mode gives the driver instant and full power.

Then there’s the tech inside the vehicle. The aeronautically cockpit has a head-up display unit that projects information on the front windscreen and in driver’s field of view. Ferrari has adopted a “hands on the wheel” philosphy in its design. The touch controls are on the steering wheel, which includes a small touch pad on the right hand. Voice and cruise controls are on the left-hand spoke of the wheel.

Ferrari has also taken design cues from Formula 1. For instance, the rotary switch for cruise control is a solution derived directly from the Formula 1 car

Ferrari hasn’t released details on the price yet, nor has it provided information on when the Stradale is coming to market.

The all-electric Honda e is bringing its side view mirrors inside

Honda e, the compact electric vehicle that’s coming to market in spring 2020, is bringing its side view mirrors inside. The company confirmed Tuesday that its side camera mirror system, which was on the prototype version, will be a standard feature when the car enters production. 

The side camera mirror system includes two six-inch screens, situated on the left and right sides of the dashboard, provides live images of traffic. Honda argues that the tech reduces aerodynamic drag by 90 percent compared to conventional door mirrors for an overall 3.8 percent improvement for the entire vehicle. This, in turn, can help with the battery’s efficiency and range.

The mirrors also improve visibility, Honda says, adding that the camera unit housings are shaped to prevent water drops on the lens. The lens has a water-repellent coating to prevent residual water build up.

You can check out how it works in the video below.

The driver can choose two views, normal and wide, via the vehicle settings. The two views extends the field of vision and helps reduce blind spots by about 10 percent in normal and about 50 percent when using the wide option, Honda claims.

If the driver, puts the vehicle in reverse, guidelines appear on the side view screens. As lighting conditions change, the brightness levels on the interior displays adjust.

Honda also has confirmed that the pop out door handles will be in the production version.

Honda e Prototype

The automaker has big plans for the Urban EV, officially named the Honda e, and more broadly electric vehicles. The Honda e is expected to have a battery range of more than 124 miles and come equipped with a “fast charge” capability that will provide a 80 percent change in 30 minutes.

Way back in 2017, Honda Motor Co. president and CEO Takahiro Hachigo emphasized that the Urban EV wasn’t some “vision of the distant future.”

Honda plans to bring electrification, which can mean hybrid, plug-in or all-electric, to every new car model launched in Europe. The automaker is aiming for two-thirds of European sales to feature electrified technology by 2025.

The production version of the Honda e will be unveiled later this year.  Customers can make a reservation for priority ordering online in the UK, Germany, France and Norway or register their interest in other European markets on the Honda national websites.

China’s Tesla wannabe Xpeng starts ride-hailing service

There’re a lot of synergies between electric vehicles and ride-hailing. Drivers are able to save more steering an EV compared to a gas vehicle. Environmentally conscious consumers will choose to hire an electric car. And EVs are designed with better compatibility with autonomous driving, which is expected to hit the public road in the coming decades.

Indeed, Tesla is eyeing to launch its first robotaxis in 2020 as part of a broader ride-sharing scheme. Over in China where Tesla has a few disciples, EV startup Xpeng Motors, also known as Xiaopeng, just started offering a ride-hailing app powered by its own electric fleets.

Screenshot of Xpeng’s ride-hailing app ‘Youpeng Chuxing’

The company is the latest in a clutch of carmakers flocking to introduce their own ride-hailing platforms. Didi Chuxing’s massive loss has not deterred their ambitious plans. Rather, this may be a prime time to crack a market long dominated by Didi, which is prioritizing safety over growth following two high-profile incidents and a series of new government regulations.

Xpeng’s ride-hailing app is currently only available in a limited area within Guangzhou where it’s headquartered, shows a test conducted by TechCrunch’s on Thursday.

The company’s coffer is probably large enough to fund its newly minted venture. It’s one of the most-backed EV upstarts alongside rival Nio, which raised $1 billion from a New York initial public offering last year.

Xpeng has to date banked $1.3 billion from Alibaba, IDG Capital, Foxconn, UCAR and other big-name investors, according to disclosed funding data collected by Crunchbase. Founder He Xiaopeng, a serial entrepreneur who made a fortune selling his mobile browser company UCWeb to Alibaba, told CNBC in March that Xpeng may also try an IPO down the road but wants to focus on building the business first.

When it comes to sources of inspiration for the business, Xpeng told local media that it sees Tesla as its “benchmark”. The company has never been shy about its admiration for its American peer. In an interview with Quartz in 2018, He said one of the reasons he founded Xpeng “was because Elon Musk made Tesla’s patents available. It was so exciting.”

But the affection might have gone a little far. In March, Tesla sued an ex-employee for allegedly stealing Autopilot’s proprietary technology before taking a job at Xpeng.

Xpeng started shipping to its first owners in March and was founded five years ago against the backdrop of Beijing’s aggressive electric push in the transportation sector. The sprawling city Shenzhen, just north to Hong Kong, has turned all its public buses and almost all of its taxis electric.

Tesla issues battery software update after Hong Kong vehicle fire

Tesla has started pushing out a software update that will change battery charge and thermal management settings in Model S sedans and Model X SUVs following a fire in a parked vehicle in Hong Kong earlier this week.

The software update, which Tesla says is being done out of “an abundance of caution,” is supposed to “protect the battery and improve its longevity.” The over-the-air software update will not be made to Model 3 vehicles.

Tesla has not yet identified the cause of the fire or found any issues with the battery pack. But the company said it will act if it discovers a problem.

“The safety of our customers is our top priority, and if we do identify an issue, we will do whatever is necessary to address it,” Tesla said in a statement.

Here is the company’s statement in its entirety on the software update:

We currently have well over half a million vehicles on the road, which is more than double the number that we had at the beginning of last year, and Tesla’s team of battery experts uses that data to thoroughly investigate incidents that occur and understand the root cause. Although fire incidents involving Tesla vehicles are already extremely rare and our cars are 10 times less likely to experience a fire than a gas car, we believe the right number of incidents to aspire to is zero.

As we continue our investigation of the root cause, out of an abundance of caution, we are revising charge and thermal management settings on Model S and Model X vehicles via an over-the-air software update that will begin rolling out today, to help further protect the battery and improve battery longevity.

A Tesla Model S caught on fire March 14 while parked near a Hong Kong shopping mall. The vehicle was sitting for about a half an hour before it burst into flames. Three explosions were seen on CCTV footage, Reuters and the Apple Daily newspaper reported at the time.

Tesla was onsite to offer support to our customer and establish the facts of this incident, a Tesla spokesperson said. The investigation is ongoing.

Only a few battery modules were affected on the Model S that caught on fire and the majority of the battery pack is undamaged, according to Tesla.

The company noted that the battery packs are designed so that if “in the very rare instance” a fire does occur  it spread slowly and vents heat away from the cabin. The aim is to give occupants time to exit the vehicle.

The Hong Kong fire followed video footage posted in April that appears to show a Tesla Model S smoking and then exploding while parked in a garage in Shanghai.

Volvo inks multi-billion dollar battery deals with LG Chem and CATL for EVs

Volvo Car Group has inked a massive multi-billion dollar supply deal with the Chinese battery manufacturer, CATL, and Korea’s LG Chem to supply its planned fleet of electric vehicles.

The lithium ion batteries from both suppliers will power the development of Volvo Cars’ electrification strategy for its own brand and the company’s Polestar joint venture with Chinese auto manufacturer Geely.

Deals with the two companies cover the global supply of battery modules for all models on the upcoming SPA2 and CMA modular vehicle platforms, Volvo said in a statement.

Back in 2017, Volvo . committed that all of its new vehicles launched after 2019 would be electrified and this marks a big step in making that commitment a reality, the company said.

Volvo expects 50 percent of its global sales volume from 2025 to be comprised of electric vehicles.

“The future of Volvo Cars is electric and we are firmly committed to moving beyond the internal combustion engine,” said Håkan Samuelsson, president and CEO of Volvo Cars, in a statement. “Today’s agreements with CATL and LG Chem demonstrate how we will reach our ambitious electrification targets.”

Volvo’s got one battery assembly line currently under construction at its manufacturing plant in Ghent, where it expects its first fully-electric XC40 small SUV to be rolling off the assembly line by the end of the year.

Earlier this year, Volvo revealed new electrified powertrain options for its entire model range. The company upgraded its T8 and . T6 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid powertrains and now has plug-in options for every model the company makes.

Just three months ago Volvo unveiled its first all-electric vehicle design for Polestar, its joint venture with Geely. And the Polestar 2 will be the first vehicle to reap the fruits of the battery supply agreement with LG and CATL.

The deals between Polestar and the battery makers cover the supply of lithium ion battery modules for the entire portfolio of Polestar vehicles over the next ten years, starting with its first fully electric car, the Polestar 2, in early 2020.

“With these suppliers in place we have the secure knowledge that our electric performance cars will be powered by high-quality batteries that our customers can rely on,” comments Thomas Ingenlath, Chief Executive Officer of Polestar.

This battery supply agreement comes as roadblocks have emerged to Polestar’s plans to sell its new electric vehicle in the U.S. as a direct competitor to Tesla’s Model 3.

Ingenlath told the Los Angeles Times that if the U.S. trade war with China lengthens, the company may have to scrap plans to sell in the U.S.

“We would embrace free trade as in the interests of the consumer,” Ingenlath told the LA Times in an interview. He said that the company wouldn’t export cars to countries where tariffs would make selling the vehicle impossible because it couldn’t be priced competitively.

Polestar would look to expand or contract its sales presence in the U.S. based on where tariffs land, the executive said. At current levels tariffs on cars manufactured in China are set at 25%.

VW’s new electric hatchback receives 10,000 pre-orders in first 24 hours

Volkswagen opened up pre-orders in Europe at a launch event Wednesday for a special edition of the first model in its new all-electric ID brand. Within 24 hours, the company received more than 10,000 registrations, a result that suggests growing demand for electric vehicles.

VW revealed Wednesday the name, some pricing and range specs for the first model in its multi-billion-dollar effort to produce and sell a portfolio of electric vehicles. This first model, known as the ID.3, is an electric hatchback that will be offered in three battery options, with ranges between 330 and up to 550 kilometers (205 miles to 341 miles) in accordance with WLTP. The WLTP, or Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure, is the European standard to measure energy consumption and emissions.

Customer interest in the special edition “ID.3 1” — which will be limited to 30,000 vehicles — is “significantly exceeding the brand’s expectations, VW said Thursday, adding that the company’s website has struggled to handle the large number of users accessing the system to pre-order the vehicle.

“This leads to long waiting times and interruptions in the registration process in some markets. Volkswagen is working hard to eliminate the hitches,” Volkswagen said in a statement. “Nevertheless, more than 10,000 registrations were received throughout Europe during the first 24 hours.”

volkswagen ID3 pre book event

Production of the ID.3 1 is expected to start at the end of 2019; the first vehicles are to be delivered in mid-2020, VW said.

Initial interest in the ID.3 — as measured by the pre-order figures shared by VW — is reminiscent, albeit on a smaller scale, to those heady days in 2016 when Tesla opened up reservations for its Model 3 sedan. A week after Tesla opened up pre-ordering, the company boasted more than 325,000 customers had made $1,000 deposits for the Model 3. That vehicle wouldn’t come to market until July 2017.

VW customers pay a deposit of €1,000 ($1,122) to pre-order the special edition vehicle. The special edition version of the ID.3 will include free electric charging for the first year, up to a maximum of 2,000 kWh, at all public charging points connected to the Volkswagen charging app WeCharge and using the pan-European rapid charging network IONITY.

The pre-booking special edition, which will cost less than €40,000 ($44,898), before incentives, has an estimated range of 420 km under WLTP (about 260 miles). A base model of the ID.3 will have a smaller battery and will start at less than €30,000 in Germany, according to VW.

Volkswagen has been showing off its ID line of concept electric vehicles for several years. Now, the company is finally starting to prepare some of them for production, beginning with the ID.3. VW aims to sell 100,000 ID.3 vehicles annually.

The ID.3 hatchback is the first model to be built on the automaker’s new Modular Electric Drive Toolkit, or MEB, electric-car architecture. Introduced in 2016, MEB is a flexible modular system — really a matrix of common parts — for producing electric vehicles that VW says makes it more efficient and cost-effective.

Others will soon follow. VW plans to have a portfolio of more than 20 full-electric models. The automaker’s goal is to sell 1 million electric vehicles annually by 2025.