Weekly Brief: Tesla cars will boast ‘illegal’ driverless capability

Call him brazen, call him bold, call him dangerous or downright irresponsible, there's one thing Elon Musk, the outspoken founder and CEO of Tesla Motor Company, is not and that's boring. The latest surprise up his sleeve: starting in 2017, all Tesla vehicles will trundle off factory lines capable of Level 5 autonomous driving.

If you're not well versed in the argot of self-driving cars, Level 5 means that the car requires zero human intervention other than entering an endpoint for a drive. It doesn't even need accelerator pedals or a steering wheel, although Musk insists that the Model S, Model X and the new Model 3 will remain traditional in that respect for now. Tesla customers will have to pay $8,000 (£6,540) to unlock the fully autonomous features and $5,000 to get enhanced Autopilot.

It's important to keep in mind that this is partly a publicity ploy. While the cars may be capable of Level 5 autonomous driving, this autonomous driving level isn't legal yet anywhere on the planet. Tesla customers are, thus, buying into a technology they can't yet use. Furthermore, jumping the gun on deploying the technology, especially when Autopilot has already led to one fatality on US roads and another in China, calls into question the ethics of Tesla's latest move. Nonetheless, Musk reports that Tesla has already sold out of the Model 3 until mid-2018.

In other news, it was a banner week for new connected car brands. Chinese automaker Geely, in partnership with Volvo, launched Lynk & Co, which it's hailing as “the most connected car” there is. Every Lynk & Co car will come with an electric powertrain and full mobile connectivity as standard. The company is working in partnership with Ericsson and exploring unique routes to market with Alibaba and Microsoft. Additionally, the cars will be built around an open application programming interface (API) so that third party developers can enrich the automotive experience. First in the range will be the LYNK & CO 01, a SUV expected in 2018.

Silicon Valley startup Lucid Motors came out of stealth mode with a leaked image of its first car, a Tesla Model S rival called the Atvus. The photo is dark and grainy and doesn’t reveal much about the exterior but we do know the Atvus will boast self-driving capabilities, an all-digital instrument cluster, natural voice interactions and intuitive user interfaces. Lucid is still hunting for a factory, so don't hold your breath on this one.

More imminent is the long-awaited debut from mystery automaker Faraday Future. The company says that its first production model will debut at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this coming January. Given that Faraday has branded itself as a Tesla slayer from the start, expectations will be running high. Analysts anticipate an all-electric SUV with an LG Chem battery pack to give it one of the best ranges on the road.

Hate red lights? Ford is piloting a technology in the UK so that cars can limit maddening delays. Here’s how it works: The Green Light Optimal Speed Advisory tech receives information on traffic light timings from a roadside unit and uses it to inform the driver the best speed to travel at to get a green light. Ford calls it “riding the green wave.” As an added bonus, less stopping and starting saves money at the pump. The tech is being trialled as part of the UK Autodrive project.

Jaguar Land Rover was busy at UK Autodrive as well, where it tested a pair of connected and autonomous vehicle technologies. With Advanced Highway Assist, the vehicle can overtake vehicles automatically as well as stay in its lane on the motorway without the driver having to touch either the steering wheel or the pedals. Electronic Emergency Brake Light Assist warns drivers when a vehicle ahead brakes severely or unexpectedly.

Finally, Octo Telematics announced that it’s on a mission to offer more customised offerings for insurers and drivers, rather than the one-size-fits-all solutions that are standard fare in the insurance industry these days. These solutions will include Octo GLIMPSE, an entry-level solution that tracks driver behaviour and provides scoring via the policyholder’s smartphone; Octo VANTAGE, a mid-tier offering that pairs the Octo mobile app with an in-vehicle device; and Octo SURROUND, a robust built-in solution that offers the full suite of telematics benefits.

The Weekly Brief is a round-up of the week’s top telematics news, combining TU-Automotive analysis with information from industry press releases.

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