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After Tesla was banned from selling vehicles in Michigan, there has been growing amazement why the company continues to focus on direct sales instead of working with car dealerships. It doesn't appear the automaker is interested in working with existing franchise owners, or bother working with new dealership owners, and wants to sell its luxury vehicles directly to customers - entirely cutting out the middleman.
"I think Elon wants to have full control of having the cars retailed through a system has total say over," said Karl Brauer, Kelley Blue Book analyst. "And, two, I think he enjoys the concept of upsetting the apple cart; he enjoys knowing that he's breaking existing conventions on every level."
Musk wants his company to have complete control of sales, rather than handing over control to dealerships, allowing the company to handle customer service problems quickly and efficiently. This ensures potential customers don't have a sour experience trying to work with a dealership looking to potentially strong-arm car buyers.
As expected, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has signed a controversial bill that will ban the sale of Tesla vehicles in the state. Michigan isn't a major target for Tesla at the moment, but the company has ambitious nationwide growth plans through 2020, providing less potential future customers.
"This bill does not, as some have claimed, prevent auto manufacturers from selling automobiles directly to consumers at retail in Michigan - because this is already prohibited under Michigan law," Snyder said to lawmakers.
Not surprisingly, GM was in favor of the anti-Tesla bill, as Michigan joins Texas and North Carolina, shutting Tesla out in the cold. Due to the state's current laws, along with major influence from Michigan automakers, it seems unlikely that the bill would be overturned anytime soon.
Carmaker Audi has successfully tested the 560-horsepower RS 7 at the Hockenheimring race track, with the autonomous car reaching a top speed of 149 miles per hour. In fact, it became the fastest autonomous vehicle to be tested, offering a glimpse into the future of high-end vehicles. Audi has worked on its autonomous technology for more than 10 years, and while driving on a racetrack is one thing, the ultimate test will be when these types of vehicles are tested on busy suburban and city streets.
The Audi RS 7 was able to reach full throttle on the track straightaways, and successfully braked before entering the corners - with 1.3 g of force reached, according to Audi.
Tesla, Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and other high-end carmakers believe autonomous driving is the future, and have invested a large amount of resources into developing the technology.
Tesla showed us all the D last week, unveiling their dual-motor AWD Model S vehicle, but now its founder is talking about the future of autonomous vehicles, where he says that a full autonomous vehicle isn't that far away.
Elon Musk, the Tony Stark of the real-world, has said "That will be the case at some point in the future. Like maybe five or six years from now I think we'll be able to achieve true autonomous driving where you could literally get in the car, go to sleep and wake up at your destination". He did add that it would be a few more years after that before regulators, governments and red tape can be cut before these things will be driving us around autonomously.
When it comes to a self-driving car, Musk reiterated that Tesla's autopilot system is not the same as a fully self-driving car. Tesla's autopilot system uses radar, ultrasonic sensing and cameras, where it creates a kind of super-smart cruise control, obstacle avoidance and lane-keeping system - but, it's not a self-driving car, not yet. Musk continued "Autopilot is what we have in airplanes. For example we use the same term that is in airplanes where there is still an expectation that there will be a pilot. So the onus is on the pilot to make sure that the autopilot is doing the right thing".
Toyota continues to develop hydrogen fuel cell technology, and the company has already invested 20 years to help develop it for widespread development. The Japanese automaker received praise for its plug-in Prius, and its 2015 FCV (fuel cell vehicle) has a range of 300 miles and only needs up to five minutes to refuel.
Details about the FCV will be revealed later down the road, as the real name of the vehicle, production volume, pricing, and interior specifications haven't been disclosed.
"We really see this as the technology for the future," said Jana Hartline, Toyota environmental communications manager. "The scalability of fuel cells is such that it's not only appropriate for passenger cars, but buses and heavy duty commercial applications, with zero emissions."
Not everyone is happy with the FAA's decision to allow use of personal electronic devices during flights, with news that on behalf of the flight attendant's union, a lawyer has filed a case in U.S. Court of Appeals raising safety concerns.
The Federal Aviation Administration gave a nod to 31 US airline operators to allow its passengers to use small electronic devices like tablets, smartphones, etc. during the flight, especially when taking off and landing. Smartphones and cellphones however need to be in airplane mode. It is also claimed that the FAA disregarded the Federal Administrative Procedure Act. According to the union, passengers are not interested to listen the safety announcements and these devices can become dangerous projectiles.
Elon Musk has officially unveiled the new dual-motor equipped P85D, which is an all-wheel drive (AWD) version of its popular Model S. The top-of-the-line vehicle has a measured 0-60 time of just 3.2 seconds, which should have performance fans pleased.
Not only has Tesla provided an all-wheel drive Model S, but the new vehicle has driver assist features, too. We have lane keeping and self-adjusting cruise control, which are similar features to what Mercedes and Lexus have been doing lately, with the new Tesla vehicles capable of reading speed limit signs, and adjusting the speed of the Model S accordingly. Continuing with the driver assist features, the new vehicle can even change lanes for you, all you have to do is activate the turn signal.
All of this is powered by 12 sensors that allow the AWD Model S to see around the car, but there's no details on how much these additions to the car will cost.
It looks like Mercedes Benz will be shining the spotlight on self-driving cars at CES 2015 next year, with company CEO Dr. Dieter Zetsche to deliver a keynote about autonomous vehicle technology, and its greater impact.
The CEO will also be unveiling a new concept vehicle, which I'm sure will have everyone talking. The company has recently shown off a semi-truck that has an auto-pilot system, so we should expect the tease of its upcoming vehicle with some impressive autonomous abilities. Come 8pm Pacific, January 5, 2015, we will see what Mercedes has on offer.
As new technologies continue to roll out in new vehicles, distracted driving is still a major hazard, including the use of Siri and other voice-activated technologies. Using voice-activated services on a smartphone and in-car infotainment systems can be fun, but studies indicate participants struggled to safely and effectively complete cognitive tasks.
Despite many U.S. states adopting hands-free laws - or considering future legislation - conversations and a growing number of other tasks are becoming common place. Automakers are following increased demand from drivers to boost in-car technology, despite the threat of distracted driving.
"Infotainment systems are unregulated," said Deborah Hersman, National Safety Council president, when speaking of in-vehicle technology. "It is like the Wild West, where the most critical safety feature in the vehicle - the driver - is being treated like a guinea pig in human trials with new technologies."
German luxury automaker Mercedes-Benz is expanding its autonomous driving program from the Autobahn to the United States. Mercedes recently announced plans to test self-driving technology at the Concord Naval Weapons Station in the San Francisco Bay Area. This is perfect timing for Mercedes, able to use the old military base before it is turned over to the city for redevelopment.
Mercedes will conduct simulation tests with autonomous vehicles using the base's 20 miles of paved roads, including technology that allows vehicles to communicate with one another and traffic lights.
"There's very limited connected infrastructure right now, and that's what we're trying to bring and expand throughout the country," said Jack Hall, Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA) program manager, in an interview with local media. "The goal is to not have cars idling at stoplights, to reduce congestion and (achieve) the vision of zero automobile fatalities."