EarthX 2018 event

EarthX (formerly Earth Day Dallas) has a tradition of inviting North Texas Tesla Owners to exhibit their cars at the expo. This year was no exception and I was privileged enough to join in. What better way to educate people about the benefits of electric vehicles and promote a future of sustainable transport than letting them experience the cars up close and hear directly from us, the owners.

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For many of the visitors it was also the first chance to set a foot in a Tesla. Just seeing the excitement and a big grin on their faces was a big reward in itself.

It’s not just about Teslas – the Fiat 500e featured below, owned by a lovely couple who had to search for it in California, definitely attracted attention of passers by.

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The liquid sun pouring from the sky (aka rain) provided some time to check out the exhibition halls, where I found some other cars on display. Most of them were gasoline models, but I’ve spotted a handful of EVs: redesigned Nissan Leaf, BMW i3 or Hyundai Kona*. Of course, I could not resits to take a picture of the gorgeous Model 3 in blue!

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* – the one on the display was gasoline powered, unfortunately. Sigh…

Some other noteworthy sightings included:

  • electric bicycles (available for test rides, too)
  • hybrid vehicle that are part of energy provider’s maintenance fleet
  • another hybrid belonging to a logistics company

Events such as this are also a great occasion to meet other EV owners and enthusiasts, to share the knowledge, experience and passion. There’s always a chance to make new friends, too (did I mention the owners of the Fiat?).

Despite the inclement weather I was stoked to see how many people actually showed up. It is truly heart-warming to see the interest in renewable energy, recycling or eco-friendly living. Being a part of this event was definitely a great experience and fun. I haven’t realized how much fun I had answering the questions until I woke up the next morning with a soar throat. Oh, the small sacrifices for a greater good. 🙂

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Autopilot changes in firmware 2018.10.4

One thing (among the others) that differentiate Tesla from other automakers is the software updates. We are so used to receiving them frequently and regularly that when there’s a short period of “drought” we feel like something must be amiss and conspiracy theories abound as to why this is happening.

The release notes for each update usually capture the general user functionality improvements, missing out a lot of other things that are being quietly updated “under the hood”. For example, this particular software only mentions the ability to open frunk/trunk from the Tesla app – it completely misses out that there has been a lot of work done around Autopilot. I have seen a number of reports from people who received this update before me that this is one major improvement. No surprise then that I wanted to test it for myself as soon as the update was installed on my car. Now, you might have remembered me cautioning about blindly entrusting your fate in the “hands” of Autopilot. To find out if the changes were as good as people claim to be, I hit my favorite road again.

I must say, it is impressive. None of the previous issues I have observed seem to persist anymore. The car behaves as if it was on rails, following the road with confidence-aspiring precision. Here’s a video to compare:

One of the other improvements (and potential pitfalls) I have noticed is the ability to handle wide lanes (such as parkways or on-/off-ramps) – the car recognizes it and automatically centers itself:IMG_3697

It is definitely better than in the past (the “ping-pong” effect is mostly gone), but in some cases, it might appear that we are trying to be a jerk and block the whole width of the lane, as if to prevent the person just joining the highway from potentially overtaking us in the process. I’ve also had one encounter when driving at night that could easily turn into a dangerous situation. I was following the driver ahead of me on a stretch of the divided highway where lane markings were amiss – my car decided that it must be a lane merge and quickly centered itself as it was a single lane!  This is exactly the same road I travel on daily and have used Autopilot numerous times- the only difference is that it was during the night and with a vehicle ahead of me, so the lane marking detection might have been obstructed (we just resumed the travel from a traffic light, so my distance to the leading vehicle was closer than the preset value of 5 seconds). Another evidence that one has to stay focused and not to rely on convenience features to replace our common sense.

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After the recent fatal accident involving Model X on California’s highway, Tesla has issued number of statements as the investigation was ongoing. While it was not certain at first, it was concluded that Autopilot has been involved after all. This should serve as a reminder to everyone that the feature is there to assist the driver and by no means to replace one – we are ultimately responsible and in charge of the vehicle. Tesla has also updated its Autopilot page by adding the following line:

“Every driver is responsible for remaining alert and active when using Autopilot, and must be prepared to take action at any time.”

Ditto.