Weekly Brief: Tesla unveils Model D, launches new autopilot features

Weekly Brief: Tesla unveils Model D, launches new autopilot features

In this week’s Brief: Elon Musk, Tesla Motors, AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, Paris Motor Show, BMW, Coyote, Toyota, Volvo, PSA, Renault, Apple, Google, Allianz, Calypso, Towers Watson, Intelligent Mechatronic Systems, Masternaut, Navdy, VentureBeat, Uber and Lyft.

Elon Musk, the outspoken CEO of Tesla Motors, unveiled the company’s new electric vehicle at a special event in Hawthorne, California. The Model D differentiates itself from the Model S with a dual motor engine that adds 10 miles to the vehicle’s max range of 275 miles and allows it to fly from 0 to 60 in 3.2 seconds — rivaling some of the fastest consumer cars ever.

“This car is nuts,” said Musk. “It’s like taking off from a carrier deck. It’s just bananas.”

Musk’s other big reveal was a hardware package of autonomous driving technologies that will come standard on all new Model Ss and Ds moving forward. Dubbed “autopilot,” the technologies use a combination of forward radar, long-range ultrasonic sensors, a forward-looking camera and a digitally controlled electric assist braking system.

Musk says Tesla is years away from a fully autonomous vehicle; the goal of autopilot is to help drivers avoid collisions, stay in lanes, change lanes with the simple tap of a turn signal and follow the speed limit by automatically reading road signs and using traffic-aware cruise control. Model Ss and Ds will also now self-park with no one behind the wheel.

In other news, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released some worrisome research suggesting that hands-free systems built around voice-based technologies actually increase mental distraction for drivers. The quality of the technology makes a big difference in the distraction levels, however, with low accuracy voice recognition software significantly increasing the rate of distraction. Researchers found that the type of task makes a difference as well: Composing text messages and emails using in-vehicle technologies is more distracting than using these systems to listen to messages, for example.

The research also tested specific carmaker’s hands-free systems for distraction levels; here’s how they panned out from best to worst:

Toyota Entune

Hyundai Blue Link

Chrysler Uconnect


Mercedes COMAND

Chevrolet MyLink

Apple Siri

At the Paris Motor Show, BMW announced that it has integrated automatic over-the-air (OTA) map updating into BMW ConnectedDrive. The free map updates target road closures, latest traffic and changed speed limits and arrive wirelessly courtesy of the vehicle’s built-in SIM card, which also now supports the 4G wireless standard. The BMW 2 Series Convertible will be the first model on the road sporting the improvements come 2015.

Sticking with Paris, Coyote announced that it’s picked up another big name in its attempt to embed its speed camera detection service in a host of top carmaker’s infotainment systems. Toyota has agreed to integrate Coyote into Toyota’s new Touch 2 GO and Touch 2 Go Plus infotainment systems, bringing Coyote’s success list to four (Volvo, PSA and Renault are already on board). Coyote also says it’s in discussions with Apple and Google to integrate the Coyote app into Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

Coyote was busy on the insurance telematics front as well, announcing Coyote Assure, a new usage-based insurance (UBI) program offered in partnership with Allianz’s French subsidiary Calypso. The service will target Coyote’s existing community of speed camera detection users in France and will allow them to tap into a telematics-based insurance service with relatively little hassle. The service will include emergency and breakdown assistance.

Also in UBI, Towers Watson named DriveSync, an aftermarket device from Intelligent Mechatronic Systems (IMS), as one of its preferred providers for powering its DriveAbility UBI program. DriveSync plugs into the on-board diagnostic port and collects data like distance, time of day traveled, and vehicle braking and acceleration patterns that Towers Watson’s DriveAbility platform can then analyze to help insurers designate driving scores.

In fleet news, Masternaut expanded its mobile app offerings for its Masternaut Connect fleet management system with Masternaut Tax & Expense. The new app uses CANbus-based technology to precisely report vehicle odometer readings. Once a journey is complete, drivers can log it as private or business mileage from their iPhones or Androids. The app allows reduces the logging and submitting of mileage data and expenses down to the simple tap of a “submit” button on a smartphone.

Finally, head-up display startup Navdy revealed that it has completed a $6.5-million round of funding. Navdy has coined itself “Google Glass for your car,” harnessing head-up display technology to project images from a smartphone six feet in front of the windshield. Drivers can use basic gestures to control a range of apps, from navigation to phone calls to music to email. VentureBeat reported that the company has already racked up more than 600 email inquiries from car dealerships, carmakers, car rental companies and ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft since opening up its technology to pre-orders in August.

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

Andrew Tolve is a regular TU contributor.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *