Tesla S: Welcome to the future

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The impressive Tesla Model S offers an exhilarating drive, while going easy on our planet. It also comes with self- driving technology. Welcome to the future, writes Oliver Haenlein.

The all-electric Model S came to UK shores in June 2014, with CEO Elon Musk delivering five of the cars to London-based drivers to mark the arrival of the right hand drive model.

Next, innovative self-driving technology was introduced to the model. Cars were equipped with hardware to enable autopilot advances: a forward radar, a forward-looking camera, 12 long-range ultrasonic sensors positioned to sense 16 feet around the car in every direction at all speeds, and a high-precision digitally- controlled electric assist braking system. Now software has been created that can be applied to these automated capabilities to make the self-driving experience more complete. “Your Autopilot has arrived,” announced Tesla. The Tesla Version 7.0 software uses four different feedback modules: camera, radar, ultrasonics and GPS; these mean the vehicle can learn and improve, while allowing autopilot mode to steer, change lanes and manage speed. Tesla said: “Digital control of motors, brakes, and steering helps avoid collisions from the front and sides, as well as preventing the car from wandering off the road.Your car can also scan for a parking space, alert you when one is available, and parallel park on command.

“Tesla Autopilot relieves drivers of the most tedious and potentially dangerous aspects of road travel. We’re building Autopilot to give you more confidence behind the wheel, increase your safety on the road, and make highway driving more enjoyable.”

NEED FOR SPEED

Driving an electric car eradicates your emissions, but a common assumption is that a number of sacrifices need to be made. If any do exist, speed and performance are not amongst them.

A gasoline internal combustion engine has numerous separate moving parts, but Tesla’s electric versions have just one: a rotor. This produces a driving experience which is not only smooth and silent, but now incredibly fast. In a Model S, you can hit 60mph in as little as 2.8 seconds. It does this in what is officially called (I joke not) ‘Ludicrous Mode’. Musk announced this upgrade to the highest performing Model S P85D version earlier in the year, and the astonishing advance in electronics puts it firmly in supercar territory.

SUPERCHARGED

Drivers can now access a global network of thousands of ‘Superchargers’ which can give them half a charge in as little as 20 minutes, for free. The chargers, which can be found in convenient spots across four continents, allow free long-distance driving so customers don’t need to rely on their home plug-ins.

They connect the United Kingdom to continental Europe and stretch from the south of France to northern Norway. The Superchargers link major cities along the coast in China and have also now been introduced in Japan and Australia.

SMART COOKIE

Tesla’s software updates mean its cars are constantly improving, becoming smarter and better performing. Added functionality is transferred ‘over- the-air’ in areas like range assurance, navigation and safety. The Range Assurance application, introduced by an update earlier this year, communicates with the Tesla charger network and warns you of the chargers’ statuses, discarding any that are in heavy use or inactive. A map guides you to the most convenient spots, assessing altitude changes and weather to ensure you won’t miss your next charge. Updated safety systems mean automatic emergency breaking in the event of unavoidable collisions, blind spot warnings and side collision warnings.

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