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The next generation of mass-market electric cars will have at least double the driving range of today's vehicles, aiming for at least 200 miles between charges. Tesla is currently the front runner, but Ford, Nissan, Volkswagen and General Motors all want to race past 200 miles on a single charge.
The $81,000 Tesla Model S can reach 265 miles on a single charge, but the $81,000 vehicle is clearly out of range for most drivers. Competing vehicles can get anywhere from 75 to 85 miles on a single charge, and it looks like auto buyers suffer from range anxiety. Just 0.4 percent of new vehicles sold in 2014 were electric vehicles, amounting to 67,700 of the 16.5 million new cars and trucks.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk believes the "sweet spot" for range threshold is somewhere around 250 to 350 miles, and 200 miles is still the minimum threshold.
The Model S might be getting the headlines lately, but the super-secret Model X has been spotted out on a highway in Palo Alto, California. You can see the blurry, and very quick video of this below.
The design is unfinished, so we're looking at a prototype that is probably closer to the consumer model than we've seen previously. The next-gen doors look great, reminding me of the DeLorean from Back to the Future. Elon Musk, the real-life Tony Stark, has said that the Model X will be unveiled later this year, and released to consumers in 2016.
More than 86 percent of vehicles will have Internet connectivity by 2017, according to the IHS research group. The trend will only continue in the future, as it's predicted that every vehicle sold in the U.S. will be connected by 2021.
General Motors, Ford, Tesla, Nissan, BMW, and other automakers offer a variety of different connected features, ranging from infotainment systems to streaming radio. In addition, it's becoming easier to sync smartphones and other mobile devices, so hands-free calls, navigation, and other apps can be utilized.
"It's a sign of the times we live in where personal wireless connectivity is kind of a part of life," said Richard Wallace, director at the Transportation System Analysis of the Center for Automotive Research, in a statement to CBS News. "We just want to be able to get such data out of the cloud wherever we are and whenever we want it."
Delphi plans to show off the true potential of autonomous vehicle technology when its driverless car begins a cross-country trip later today, leaving California and heading to New York. A driver will be present to take over in case of an emergency.
The 3,500-mile journey will be used so engineers are able to collect valuable live data that can further enhance the self-driving car technology. The vehicle is able to accurately navigate a 4-way stop, safely pass cyclists, and merge and exit highways on its own.
"Delphi had great success testing its car in California and on the streets of Las Vegas," said Jeff Owens, chief technology officer of Delphi. "now it's time to put our vehicle to the ultimate test by broadening the range of driving conditions. This drive will help us collect invaluable data in our quest to deliver the best automotive grade technologies on the market."
Fully autonomous vehicles could be on the road by 2020, and the technology is developing rapidly, although some researchers note that self-driving vehicles aren't as safe as human drivers just yet.
"It's a highly disruptive technology that's coming on a lot faster than people expect," said Barrie Kirk, exezcutive director of the Canadian Automated Vehicles Centre of Excellence group, in a statement to CBC. "Humans, generally, are poor drivers."
However, researcher Steve Shladover, from the Partners for Advanced Transportation Technology (PATH) program at the University of California, believes it's only a matter of time before a major accident occurs: "Think about things like mobile phones and laptop computers... they don't run nearly that long without failures... but we're expecting a car to now operate that long without a failure in a very complicated environment?"
The Virgin Group could be preparing to battle against Tesla and other automakers currently developing electric vehicles, company CEO Richard Branson recently teased. Until something formal is announced, Virgin Group engineers are working on electric engine developments for its team's Formula E car.
"We have teams of people working on electric cars," Branson recently noted, in a statement published by Bloomberg. "So you never know - you may find Virgin competing with the Tesla in the car business as we do in the space business. We will see what happens."
Automakers have shown more interest in electric cars, helping buyers leave behind traditional gasoline and diesel vehicles. However, electric vehicles are still rather pricey - but Tesla has proven that can electric vehicles can be luxurious and rather fast.
Governor Chris Christie will allow Tesla to sell its vehicles directly to auto buyers in New Jersey, in a move that will likely anger dealerships. The A-3216/S-2098 bill gives Tesla the ability to open up to four direct-sale stores in the Garden State, and can install one service center.
"I said last year that if the Legislature changed the law, I would sign the new legislation put on my desk and that is exactly what I'm doing today," Governor Christie noted in a recent press release. "We're pleased that manufacturers like Tesla will now have the opportunity to establish direct sales operations for consumers in a manner lawfully in New Jersey."
Tesla has had issues in states that force automakers to sell vehicles using third-party dealerships, with New Jersey, Texas, and several other states putting up a fight. However, Tesla CEO Elon Musk hopes that Gov. Christie's decision will persuade other states to create new sales opportunities for his company's cars.
Tesla Motors has just taken the wraps off of its new OTA update that will end "range anxiety" but there's another update that is coming, which is even more exciting: "autopilot".
The new "autopilot" OTA update will be made available for the Model S in the next three to four months, something that will deliver a new automatic steering mode that will be exclusive to highways. It will not work on normal roads for the usual hazards such as pedestrians walking around, but on a highway where there's just cars, the new autopilot will kick in and "go between San Francisco and Seattle without the driver doing anything".
It will require a $4250 "optional tech" package that Tesla offers Model S owners, too.
Elon Musk did promise an announcement later this week for the Model S, where we have a new OTA update that includes a "range assurance" application that will tell drivers when they're about to drive out of charging range. This new OTA software update will float out to Model S owners in around 10 days time.
The electric vehicle will keep a look at just how much battery you have left, where it will be always monitoring just how far you are away from the nearest charging station. The new software for the Model S will relive range anxiety as Musk teased earlier in the week, where the founder of Tesla said that the new update makes it "basically impossible" for Model S owners to run out of charge before finding a charging station.
Better yet, the new software is now "smart" enough to see if nearby charging stations are free to use, or filled up with other Model S owners charging up their electric vehicles. The new software is now also capable of planning trips for Model S owners so that they'll be automatically routed through Tesla's growing network of Superchargers. There are also some new features built into the new OTA software update, including Automatic Emergency Braking and Blind Spot Warning.
Google has an ambitious goal of autonomous vehicles being on the road by 2020, though some have wondered if such an aggressive timeframe is possible. Chris Urmson, director of the self-driving car project at Google, has an 11-year-old son - and doesn't want his son to have to take a driving test.
Automakers are rolling out semi-autonomous features into newer vehicles, trying to win over consumers slowly but surely. However, Google's offering is fully autonomous and doesn't have a steering wheel or traditional automobile controls. It could take a bit more time for the Silicon Valley tech giant to finalize its vehicle, while US laws will also need to catch up, though it appears autonomous vehicles could be here sooner rather than later.
Autonomous vehicle supporters hope self-driving cars are able to reduce injuries and deaths caused by auto accidents. "Some 1.2 million people are killed on the roads around the world each year," Urmson said. "That number is equivalent to a jet falling out of the sky every day."