Weekly Brief: Tesla’s ‘dodgem’ for the masses

The wait is over as an ‘affordable’ Tesla electric car comes to market. Andrew Tolve reports.

When Elon Musk founded Tesla 14 years ago, he promised to usher in a new era of mobility with an all-electric vehicle that most anyone could afford and that everyone would want to drive. Last week he made good on that promise, as Tesla moved its new Model 3 into production. The car costs $35,000 (£26,632) with a $7,500 federal rebate and claims to travel 215 miles on a single charge. That makes it roughly equivalent in range and price to the Chevrolet Bolt.

The car is perhaps most remarkable for what it lacks. There's no key, just an app for your smartphone. Also, much like a fairground dodgem or bumper-car, Model 3 drivers will have to adjust to single pedal driving: push the pedal down and the vehicle accelerates; release pressure and the vehicle brakes – so kiss goodbye to brake induced rear-wheel steering! Even less like a ‘real’ car, there's no speedometer, no gauges and no air vents in the dashboard.

Hundreds of thousands of drivers have already put down a $1,000 deposit for this experiment in electrification. The ‘luckiest’ of them will start receiving their vehicles any day now. Others will have to wait until the end of 2018 and perhaps even longer given Tesla's perennial problems with meeting production goals.

In other news, BMW followed Volvo's commitment toward a fully electrified future. The company announced a new architecture that will allow drivers to purchase any BMW brand or model series with a full-electric or plug-in hybrid drivetrain. As part of the announcement, the company revealed plans to build an electric MINI that will go into production in 2019. It also will build additional electrified models with the goal of EVs accounting for between 15% and 25% of sales by 2025.

Japanese telecoms firm SoftBank helped pump $2Bn in financing into Southeast Asia's leading ridesharing platform Grab. China's leading ridesharing firm Didi Chuxing also partook in the funding round. Meanwhile news surfaced that SoftBank had offered to take on a multi-billion-dollar stake in Uber. No word yet on how warm Uber is to the offer but if the deal does go through SoftBank would have a significant share of Grab, Uber and India's leading ridesharing firm Ola. The long and the short of it is expect for 2018 to be the year that ridesharing mergers pick up steam.

HERE launched the new generation of its real-time traffic service that has the distinction of being the first global service on the market to integrate live vehicle sensor data. Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz vehicles are all contributing traffic probe information to provide drivers with a clearer picture of traffic flow and upcoming accidents. The service is available in more than 60 countries and is available to all current and future customers.   

Google added Waze to Android Auto. The popular crowd-sourced navigation app will now be accessible via the in-dash screen of any Android Auto compatible vehicle. Drivers will be able to control the app with voice commands through OK Google.

Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corporation (MFTBC) started production of the world’s first all?electric light-duty truck, the Fuso eCanter. Fuso is a brand of Daimler Trucks Asia but eCanter is being manufactured out of Portugal and is set to come to market for the first time this September in New York City. The zero-emission, zero-noise truck is built for inner-city distribution. It has six lithium ion batteries in its powertrain and has a claimed range of 62 miles and a load capacity of two to three tons.

Finally, Honolulu, Hawaii's biggest city, passed an ordinance that makes it illegal for pedestrians to walk across a street while using a mobile phone. Honolulu has some of the highest pedestrian death rates in the US even though Hawaii has implemented some of the most stringent distracted driving laws, with all hand-held phones use prohibited behind the wheel and all mobile phone use prohibited for teenage and novice drivers. Smartphone wielding pedestrians will be fined between $15 and $99 per offense depending on the number of times they look at their phones in the crosswalk.

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

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