Walmart sues Tesla for negligence after multiple solar panel fires

Walmart is suing Tesla for breach of contract and gross negligence after rooftop solar panel systems on seven of the retailer’s stores caught fire, according to a filing.

Walmart said the lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday in New York state court, arose from years of gross negligence and failure to live up to industry standards by Tesla and the solar panels it designed, installed and promised to promised to operate and maintain safely on the roofs of hundreds of Walmart stores.”

Bloomberg was the first to report on the court filing. The lawsuit is aimed at Tesla Energy Operations, a division within the clean energy and electric vehicle automaker that was formerly known as SolarCity .

Tesla did not return a request for comment. TechCrunch will update the article with comments from either Walmart or Tesla.

Walmart has asked Tesla to remove solar panels from all 240 locations where they have been installed as well as pay for damages related to fires that the retailer alleges stem from the panels. The lawsuit points to several fires on the retailer’s rooftops that allegedly stem from Tesla solar panels.

The lawsuit states:

To state the obvious, properly designed, installed, inspected, and maintained solar systems do not spontaneously combust, and the occurrence of multiple fires involving Tesla’s solar systems is but one unmistakable sign of negligence by Tesla. To this day, Tesla has not provided Walmart with the complete set of final “root cause” analyses needed to identify the precise defects in its systems that caused all of the fires described above. The number of defects, however, is overwhelming and plainly indicative of systemic, widespread failures by Tesla to meet the standard of care, as set forth in the governing contracts, as to the solar systems installed at Walmart’s stores.

Unsatisfied with Tesla’s actions, Walmart requested in May 2018 that the company disconnect all of the solar panel systems, according to the lawsuit. Tesla complied. However, Walmart alleges that another fire erupted even after the systems were disconnected.

 

The Bugatti Centodieci is a $8.9 million homage to the early 90s EB110 supercar

The Bugatti Centodieci is the French automaker’s most powerful supercar yet — coming in a skosh above the Chiron at 1,600 horsepower. But it’s not just the power — or the $8.9 million price tag — that makes the Centodieci stand out.

The angular supercar, still dotted with the signature Bugatti design elements, tips its hat to the mid-engine EB110 supercar that debuted in 1991 when the company was owned by Romano Artioli.

One look at the Bugatti Centodieci, which had its world debut at the Quail Gathering during Monterey Car Week, and it’s clear that the early 1990s supercar was an inspiration.

bugatti front

The Bugatti Centodieci

But the Centodieci isn’t a copycat of the wedge-shaped, seemingly two-dimensional EB110. Instead, Bugatti designers aimed to bring the EB110 into the modern era.

“Transporting this classic look into the new millennium without copying it was technically complex, to say the least,” Bugatti head designer Achim Anscheidt said in a statement. “We had to create a new way of combining the complex aerothermal requirements of the underlying Chiron technology with a completely different aesthetic appearance.” 

The Centodieci, which means 110 in Italian to commemorate the 110th anniversary of the company’s founding, has a newly developed, deep-seated front spoiler along with three-section air intakes. The iconic Bugatti horseshoe is smaller than its counterparts — a decision made to fit in with the car’s the low-dropping front. The Centodieci also has new, very narrow headlamps with integrated LED daytime running lights and five round air inserts to ensure sufficient air intake for its 16-cylinder engine.

bugatti centodieci

The nod to the 1990s ends inside the Centodieci. In here, it’s all modern-day engineering. The 8.0-liter W16 engine produces 1,600 horsepower and can accelerate from 0 to 62 miles per hour in 2.4 seconds. The top speed has been electronically limited to 236 mph.

Here’s a 360-degree view of the vehicle.

Bugatti will only produce 10 of the Centodieci and they’re already sold, Pierre Rommelfanger, Bugatti’s head of exterior and structure development confirmed to TechCrunch. Typically, supercars such as these can be highly customized to meet the desires of their owners.

And the Bugatti Centodieci will be no different — to a point. “There are limits in order to reduce complexity,” Rommelfanger said.

Deliveries to the first Centodieci customers will begin in 2022. Bugatti has other orders to fill besides the Centodieci. The company is also producing 40 of the Bugatti Divo and just one La Voiture Noire, which is the world’s most expensive new car ever sold at $18.68 million. The company also plans to produce 500 Bugatti Chiron cars.

If president Stephan Winkelmann sticks to his plan to introduce two new products each year, more Bugatti models will soon join the Centodieci, Chiron, Divo and La Voiture Noire.

Tesla pitches a solar rental program to boost its renewable energy business

Tesla is pitching customers on a new rental offering for solar power as a way to revive the flagging fortunes of its renewable energy business.

Once among the largest installers of renewables in the country through SolarCity, Tesla has seen its share of the market decline significantly since its acquisition of SolarCity three years ago. In the second quarter Tesla deployed only 29 megawatts of new solar installations, while the number one and two providers of consumer solar, SunRun and Vivint Solar installed 103 megawatts and 56 megawatts respectively.

That’s likely one reason why Elon Musk took to Twitter early Sunday morning to pitch the new solar rental program.

According to Musk, the new program is “like having a money printer on your roof” for potential customers who live in states with high energy costs. “Still better to buy,” Musk exhorted, “but the rental option makes the economics obvious.”

Unlike SunRun and Vivint, which both used partnerships with homebuilders and retailers like Home Depot, BJ’s Wholesale, Costco and Sam’s Club to acquire customers, Tesla slashed ended door-to-door marketing and abandoned its partnership with Home Depot. The company began relying almost entirely on direct sales to power its solar business and eschewed the no-money-down lease model, which SolarCity had used so effectively.

Under the new system, Telsa is offering customers the option to rent solar systems for anywhere from $65 for a small installation to $195 for its largest installation. Customers only need to pay a fully refundable $100 charge.

Tesla said the contract can be canceled any time, but it would charge users $1,500 to remove the system once it has been installed.

Tesla did not respond to a request for comment at the time of publication.

 

Audi e-tron becomes the first all-electric vehicle to earn IIHS top safety rating

The 2019 Audi e-tron has become the first battery-electric vehicle to earn a top safety rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, an achievement that Tesla and other electric models like the Chevy Bolt have not been able to capture.

Scoring an IIHS top safety award isn’t easy. A vehicle has to earn good ratings in six crashworthiness evaluations, as well as an advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention and a good headlight rating.

IIHS said Wednesday that the e-tron fulfills the criteria to earn a top safety rating with standard equipment. The vehicle performed well in crashworthiness testing, earning good ratings in the driver-side small overlap front, passenger-side small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests, according to IIHS.

The SUV’s standard front crash prevention system rated superior in IIHS track tests. It avoided a collision in the 25-mph test and reduced its impact speed by an average of 11 mph in the 12-mph test. Its forward collision warning component meets National Highway Traffic Safety Administration criteria.

The award provides a much needed boost to the e-tron. There’s a lot riding on the e-tron, the German automaker’s first mass-produced electric vehicle. And while TechCrunch’s Matt Burns found it quick, comfortable and familiar, the vehicle has had a rocky start that included a voluntary recall in the U.S. due to the risk of battery fire.

Tesla has gotten close to the top safety pick designation. A Tesla Model S was tested in 2017 and performed well, but fell short of earning the top score due to poor headlights and an “acceptable” score in the small overlap crash test. The IIHS has never tested the Tesla Model X.

The electric automaker does have another chance. This time, it’s with the Tesla Model 3, which IIHS is currently testing, according to a recent tweet from the organization.

The Model 3 has already achieved an all-around five-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration. Despite the high marks, NHTSA and Tesla have tussled over how the automaker has characterized the rating in an October 7 blog post when it said the Model 3 had achieved the lowest probability of injury of any vehicle the agency ever tested.

Earlier this month, Hyundai hydrogen fuel cell SUV, the Nexo, became the first fuel cell vehicle to be tested and to earn IIHS’s top safety award. 

Porsche packs the power into its newest Cayenne plug-in hybrids

Porsche is upping its plug-in hybrid game with several new vehicles added to its lineup, including a power-packing 2020 Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid.

The plug-in version of this flagship SUV combines a 14.1-kilowatt-hour battery and 134-horsepower electric motor with a 4.0-liter twin turbocharged V8 engine found in the traditional gas-powered Cayenne Turbo. The electric motor is located between the V8 engine and its standard eight-speed transmission.

The upshot is a 670-horsepower plug-in beast that produces 663 pound-feet of torque and can travel from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 3.6 seconds. Not bad for an SUV.

But it’s not all about power. Porsche also increased the energy capacity of its battery, 30% more than the one used in previous generation plug-in hybrid Cayenne models. EPA fuel economy figures have not been released yet, but if it’s like other Porsche plug-in hybrids, the range will be somewhere around 20 or so miles.

The automaker has a number of nifty standard items in the Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid (and two new plug-in variants of the Cayenne Coupé), including a 7.2 kW onboard charger and 21-inch AeroDesign Wheels. The upgraded charger enables a complete recharge of the battery in as little as 2.4 hours when using a 240-volt connection with a 50-amp circuit, according to Porsche.

The plug-in versions of Cayenne Turbo and the Cayenne Turbo Coupé also comes standard with Porsche’s ceramic composite brakes, dynamic chassis control and other bonuses like 18-way adaptive sports seats.

All of this has a price, of course. The base price of the 2020 Porsche Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid is $161,900.

porsche cayenne plgu in

2020 Porsche Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid

Porsche also took the wraps off of two other plug-in variants of its new Cayenne Coupé, a smaller, flashier version of the Cayenne. Both Cayenne Coupé variants feature a fixed spoiler above the rear window with a new adaptive rear spoiler below it that’s designed to enhance aerodynamic stability.

The Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid Coupé has a base price of pricier $164,400, slightly more expensive than its Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid counterpart due to a few additional extras such as 20-inch alloy wheels and a glass panoramic roof.

But the two high-end vehicles share many of the same standard items and stats. Both vehicles can travel from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 3.6 seconds and reach a top speed of 183 miles per hour, which is electronically limited.

Porsche also unveiled a less powerful and cheaper 455-horsepower Cayenne E-Hybrid Coupé that has a V6 engine and a base price of $86,400. This coupé version, which has the same powertrain as the Cayenne E-Hybrid, has a top speed of 157 mph and can travel from 0 to 60 in 4.7 seconds.

Didi Chuxing’s autonomous driving unit is now an independent company

Didi Chuxing’s autonomous driving unit is now an independent company, the Chinese ride-sharing and transportation giant said today. Didi’s autonomous driving team was created in 2016 and now has more than 200 employees in China and the United States. Didi’s announcement comes about a month after The Information reported that Didi was in talks with investors including SoftBank, its largest shareholder, to raise money for the unit.

In its announcement, Didi said the new company “will integrate the resources and technological advantages of Didi’s platform, continue to increase investment in R&D of core innovative technologies, and deepen collaboration with upstream and downstream auto industry partners” and also promote self-driving technology to transportation authorities.

The Financial Times reported last year that Didi had been approved to test self-driving vehicles in California, where it has a research facility in Mountain View. But Didi has to catch up with other companies that have been testing autonomous cars both in the U.S. and China. In California, it was the 53rd company to get a permit to test self-driving vehicles, behind technology rivals like Uber and Waymo.

Didi has already been testing autonomous vehicles, developed in partnership with car manufacturers and suppliers, in China, but its testing lagged far behind Baidu last year, which registered 140,000 kilometers in Beijing, or about 91 percent of the 153,600 miles test-driven by autonomous fleets owned by eight companies, including Didi, Pony.ai, Tencent and automakers NIO, Audi, Daimler AG and BAIC Group.

Aside from being able to license its technology to other transportation and vehicle companies, the launch of robo-taxis may help Didi’s ride-sharing service make up for a shortage in drivers. Stricter screening criteria was put into place after two female passengers were murdered by drivers on Didi’s ride-sharing platform and Didi said last month that it had removed more than 300,000 drivers who didn’t meet its standards since its safety overhaul began last year.

The CEO of the new autonomous driving company will be Zhang Bo, who is also the CTO of Didi. Meng Xing, former executive director of Shunwei China Internet Fund, is its COO, while software engineers Jia Zhaoyin, the head of its technical efforts for Didi’s smart-driving project, and Zheng Jianqiang will head its research and development teams in the U.S. and China.

This $3.5 million new Pagani hypercar got its world debut in a Zynga mobile game

High-priced, handmade boutique sports cars typically make their debut where the well-heeled and the media gather. Pagani took a different approach this time around.

The Italian supercar manufacturer unveiled its new nearly $3.5 million Huayra Roadster BC in CSR2, the mobile game produced by Zynga .

The physical car will eventually get its moment. Pagani will show off the hypercar to the public next month at the Monterey Car Show. In the meantime, Zynga rebuilt the Pagani Huayra Roadster BC in CSR2, giving users a chance to “drive” the supercar.

Pagani HuayraBCRoadsterPB 2019 RaceScreenshot 2

“When Horacio Pagani first began designing cars 44 years ago, it would have been impossible to imagine that a car like the Roadster BC would ever be unveiled to the world in a mobile game,” said Michael Staskin, managing director of Pagani Automobili America, said in a statement. “We chose to partner with CSR2 on the reveal of the Roadster BC because we are both leaders in our respective industries, we both show incredible attention to design and detail and we both continue to disrupt what is considered normal in the automotive industry.”

CSR2 players can enter the 80 race ladder by using a Pagani Huayra Coupé. During the game, players get the chance to add the Pagani Huayra Roadster BC to their collection. Using augmented reality, players can also park their Pagani cars in their real-world driveways and open every panel to study the details close up.

In the real world, the Pagani Huayra Roadster BC gets its power from a 6.0-liter, twin-turbocharged V12 engine built for Pagani by Mercedes-AMG. The result is an engine that produces 800 horsepower at 5900 rpm and 774 pound feet of torque. It boasts a seven-speed, single-clutch automated manual transmission and weighs 2,756 pounds, just a skosh lighter than the regular Huayra Roadster.

As one might expect, the Roadster BC is a fast can-you-handle-how-it-corners beast that accelerates from zero to 60 mph in 2.5 seconds and generate 1.9 of lateral grips through corners.

Sadly, few will get to drive this real-world version. Pagani will make only 40 of Roadster BCs.

Porsche Digital expands U.S. presence beyond Silicon Valley with new Atlanta office

Porsche Digital, the subsidiary of carmaker Porsche, is opening its second U.S. location, after launching its first in 2017 in Silicon Valley. The second North American office for this software and digital product-focused wing of Porsche will open in Atlanta, which is also the seat of Porsche’s North American cars business. Porsche Digital cited proximity to their auto business headquarters as one reason why they picked Atlanta, but also pointed to Atlanta’s “local tech talent” and “robust and constantly growing startup and tech sector” as key factors in its selection.

The need for a second office is specifically about serving the U.S. market, Porsche Digital notes and the company expects to have 45 employees total in the U.S. across both offices within the next year. The subsidiary overall has 120 employees worldwide, with offices in Berlin, Shanghai, and Tel Aviv as well as the U.S.

Porsche Digital does focus on creating software and digital products for the automaker’s customers, but it’s actually probably more valuable to its parent company as a sort of distributed tech talent scouting and business development arm of the company. Its offices definitely occupy global hotspots when it comes to startup tech companies, and having a permanent presence in this locations has got to come in handy when looking to attract engineering talent and potential acquisitions of complimentary early-stage companies.

Tesla will deliver in-car YouTube and Netflix video streaming ‘soon’

Tesla is getting ready to deliver the in-car video streaming services that CEO Elon Musk suggested would eventually come to the automaker’s cars ‘soon.’ Musk shared this (somewhat vague) updated timeline on Twitter over the weekend, after noting earlier in June at E3 that Tesla’s infotainment displays would eventually be getting YouTube and streaming video support.

This is also the first time Musk has specifically said that both YouTube and Netflix would be coming, after previously noting that version 10 of the in-car software would support video streaming generally in reply to a question from a fan on Twitter. Musk added that these would be available to stream video only while the vehicle is stopped – but the plan is to change that once full self-driving becomes a reality.

Once full autonomous driving capabilities are “approved by regulators,” Musk said, the plan is to turn on the ability to stream video in the vehicle while it’s in motion. This plan likely extends to Tesla’s in-car gaming features, too – though that’s a separate level of distraction since you’re actually interacting with what’s happening on the screen, which may not be the best idea for initial roll-out of autonomous features where a driver might be required to take over manual control in case of any incidents.

The Tesla CEO said that the experience of watching video on Netflix and YouTube in a Tesla vehicle is akin to “an old school drive in movie experience, but with much better sound” and that it has an “immersive, cinematic feel” thanks to the surround audio available via the Tesla’s audio system and its “comfy seats.”

It may seem like a weird software update priority for a car, but it’s entirely possible Tesla owners spent so much on their vehicles that they don’t have spare cash for a fixed address, in which case an entertainment system for their tiny apartment actually makes a lot of sense.

Tesla starts rolling out Chess to ‘Tesla Arcade’ in-car gaming app

Tesla is making a new game available to its vehicle owners, with a roll-out starting today. The company started pushing out a new ‘Arcade’ app for its in-car infotainment system back in June at the annual E3 gaming conference, and now it’s adding the most thrilling game around to the mix: Chess.

This isn’t the first time games have been on Tesla’s infotainment screens; its had them available as ‘Easter eggs,’ or hidden software features. Tesla began demoing Arcade in its showrooms back in June, too, so that visitors to their showrooms could come in and give it a try through June 30.

Tesla drivers can either play against their passengers, against their car, or watch the car play against itself. Tesla’s teaser for the release of the Chess game includes a western-themed Tesla driver playing in a field, which is an interesting narrative choice. The promo also notably has the person using this while parked, which is the only way you can actually play the games for obvious reasons.

In addition to the update going out broadly, Tesla also announced that ‘Beach Buggy Racing’, a kart racing game you can control with the Tesla’s steering wheel, gets an update which will let you use two game controllers as once to do local multiplayer with a passenger. Again, not while driving.

Bethesda also revealed at E3 that mobile game Fallout Shelter being played on the in-car display, and Musk has discussed opening up the platform more broadly to developers, so we’ll see if that’s the next step after this rollout of the Arcade app to users.