Hard to believe, but the lease on my Tesla Model S 90D ended today. The 30,000 mile lease finished with 25,774 miles. I chose the lease option because of likely updates to the technology, which turned out to be true. The new lease started today and will also go for three years for the same reason. A Model S redesign is anticipated in about three years. In addition to the switch from Metallic Blue to Midnight Silver, there is a large number of changes. I will describe what I consider some of the more important ones. A few pictures of the S are here.
The biggest changes are the “eyes and ears” and the onboard computer processing power. The upgraded model has forward radar, eight cameras, and twelve ultrasonic sensors. The Tesla Model S was the first car to use ultrasound for long range sensing. Elon Musk, South African-born Canadian-American business magnate, investor, engineer, and inventor, said the Tesla ultrasound system is, “long-range, offers 360-degree coverage, and establishes a protective cocoon around the car. It can see anything: a small child, a dog. And, it can operate at any speed.”
The surround cameras provide 360 degrees of visibility around the car at up to 750 feet of range. The twelve updated ultrasonic sensors complement this vision, allowing for detection of both hard and soft objects at nearly twice the distance of the prior system. A forward-facing radar with enhanced processing provides additional data about what it is able to see, through heavy rain, fog, dust and even the car ahead.
To make sense of all of this data, a new onboard computer with more than 40 times the computing power of the previous Model S runs the new Tesla-developed artificial intelligence neural net for vision, sonar and radar processing. The combination of all these enhanced features gives the new Model S a view of the world that a driver alone cannot access, seeing in every direction simultaneously, and on wavelengths that go far beyond the human senses.
All Tesla vehicles, including the new Model 3, have the hardware needed for full self-driving capability at a safety level at least double that of a human driver. Although the hardware is now in place, the software validation and regulatory approvals are not. The auto-pilot feature is available and is great for driving on highways. You have to keep your hand on the wheel, but the Tesla does the steering. The updated and enhanced Autopilot adds new capabilities to the driving experience. With the new Tesla Vision cameras, sensors and computing power, the Tesla navigates tighter turns and more complex roads. I can tell the difference already. The Tesla will match speed to traffic conditions, keep within a lane, automatically change lanes without requiring driver input, transition from one freeway to another, exit the freeway when your destination is near, self-park when near a parking spot, and be summoned to and from your garage. Once the regulatory approvals are in place, you will be able to get in the Tesla and tell it where to go. If you don’t say anything, the car will look at your calendar and take you there as the assumed destination. The Tesla will figure out the optimal route, navigating urban streets, complex intersections and freeways. But not yet.
The other big change is moving from 90D to 100D. The D means dual AC induction motors, which provide all-wheel drive. The 100 means the battery cells provide 100,000 watts of microprocessor-controlled power. The rated distance on one charge is 335 miles compared to 290 on the prior Model S 90D. I drove to the Danbury Fair Mall today and backed into one of the ten Superchargers. In 50 minutes it charged up from about 250 miles to 335 miles. See pictures. My old Model S never charged beyond 274 miles. The 335 is enough to get you anywhere you want to go and with more flexibility in where to stop for a charge. The EPA rates the equivalent fuel economy at 102 miles per gallon. The upgrade to the new Model S entitles me to lifetime free charging on the road at Tesla Superchargers. Tesla Says 99% of the U.S. population lives within 150 Miles of a Supercharger.
Another innovative feature of the new Model S is the Smart Air Suspension. When the car has the body in a low position, it looks more sleek and is more aerodynamic. However, if you have a steep driveway or a garage with a drop or encounter a road with a lot of potholes or rough terrain, you want the suspension to raise the car much higher. I have encountered situations like these and it is no fun to feel the bottom of the car scraping the ground. The Model S has four positions for the suspension: low, standard, high, very high. If you encounter one of the bad situations I mentioned, you can stop and select high or very high. The car will remember your exact location where you did that and, in the future it will automatically adjust the suspension when you get near there. Once you then reach higher speed, the suspension will automatically adjust to standard.
The press has continuously criticized Tesla for its Model 3 production numbers. If you have any doubts about how real Tesla production is, just visit one of its 250 service centers. Connecticut, where I live this time of year, has no delivery centers because the politicians are protecting the traditional dealerships who don’t want to see more efficient dealerships owned by the manufacturer. They listen to the lobbyists, not to the consumers. I arrived at Mt. Kisco, NY, about 20 miles away, on Saturday morning at 10 AM. The showroom was packed like an Apple store. The Tesla employees are enthusiastic. There is nothing traditional about the delivery process. A young man removed the license plate from the old Model S, I signed the paperwork (yes, it will eventually all be done through paperless blockchain technology), I was escorted to a Model X, and driven five miles to a huge parking lot full of Teslas, models S, X, and 3. Employees there briefed new owners on how to use the car, and they wiped off any smudges the cars might have. The schedule for Saturday was to deliver five Model S and twenty Model 3 cars. You got the feeling the employees were as happy as the new owners.
My first step was to pair the iPhone to the Model S. The 17-inch touchscreen almost immediately displayed my calendar, contacts, and calling history. When I got home I found an enthusiastic email with a PDF attached containing all the documents I had signed. The next step was to remove the front license plate bracket since Florida does not require a front plate. I then installed the E-Z Pass transponder under the front nose. I am looking forward to the end of the lease and getting an even more amazing model S.