By on June 11, 2018

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Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk is correct in asserting just how poorly the media covers his company. We know that because, after he tweeted that Version 9 of the company’s software would allow the firm to begin enabling “fully self-driving features,” numerous outlets started claiming complete driving autonomy was just around the corner. We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that isn’t what’s happening.

To be fair, much of the confusion came via headlines suggesting Musk had explicitly promised a fully self-driving vehicle. While that’s not even close to what he did, we understand that it’s a heading too tempting for many to refuse. We’re betting Elon grasps this concept as well, which is why he chose his wording so carefully. Frankly, the CEO probably comprehends the media far better than the media understands his company, and he regularly uses this to his advantage.

While several outlets clarified that Tesla was actually implementing a software update (with unclear ramifications in the body of their text), plenty glossed over that aspect of the story. Instead, they decided to tack on Musk’s earlier promise that the Tesla Roadster would be offered with a SpaceX package — 10 small rocket thrusters to improve the vehicle’s dynamics. 

We can’t say the rocket car claim is total nonsense; Tesla may eventually build one of those to help market the convertible. However, we’d be shocked if this became a genuine option for consumers. Still, Musk is adamant that the rockets are real. Following the claim, some personal history, and a mild media bashing, he told popular tech reviewer Marques Brownlee he wasn’t kidding.

Okay, that’s the rocket-powered roadster unequivocally confirmed then. But what of the self-driving claims the media is making on Musk’s behalf? In response to come constructive criticism about Autopilot’s inability to register the turn signals of other vehicles (as well as some lane merging mishaps), Elon said those issues would be addressed in Version 9 of Tesla’s software.

“That issue is better in latest Autopilot software rolling out now [and] fully fixed in August update as part of our long-awaited Tesla Version 9,” he said. “To date, Autopilot resources have rightly focused entirely on safety. With V9, we will begin to enable full self-driving features.”

For those who may not recall, Tesla released a Full Self Driving Package in 2016. As an $3,000 option on top of the $5,000 Autopilot feature, the upgrade has remained non-functional since its introduction. The plan was that the automaker would offer the package, which effectively doubles the vehicle’s sensor array, in the hope that Tesla could utilize it to offer full autonomy in a later over-the-air update. Presumably, Version 9 of the company’s software will allow some of those extra sensors to be put to use.

That could mean properly equipped Teslas could gain a self-parking “seek mode,” allowing the vehicle to drop you off before it goes in search of a parking spot, or it could simply become more adept at navigating roadways with less driver involvement. Theoretically, it could also deliver on Tesla’s promise of “short and long distance trips with no action required by the person in the driver’s seat.” But we kind of doubt it.

Tesla has yet to conduct its fabled cross-country road trip with the car doing 100 percent of the work, so the odds of it suddenly delivering fully autonomous vehicles in the coming months are rather slim. Some of us would prefer seeing this instead of a series of incremental updates that continue taking drivers out of the game. But we’ll take whatever we can get in terms of new safety features, as there are an alarming number of videos showing Tesla drivers engaging in absolutely idiotic behavior or dozing off behind the wheel — including one of a possible Tesla employee that surfaced over the weekend.


[Image: Tesla]

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18 Comments on “Musk Is Right About the Media, Rocket-powered Roadsters and Tesla Version 9 Edition...”

  • avatar

    I think the media should adopt an annual “Elon and LeBron-free week”. Just give society a chance to catch it’s breath before resuming the excruciating coverage of these two bores.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes please, and add Trump, Kanye/Kardashian to that list. And it should be monthly. One week a month time out for media prostitutes doesn’t seem unreasonable.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    The problem with Auto-Pilot is conceptual–not technical, and not related to communications problems between Musk, the media, and media consumers.

    Fact is, a system that is 99% effective is also 1% deadly. Human nature will use the 99% factor as a way to lull itself into complacency. Humans will check their twitter feed at that 1% moment…and tragedy ensues.

    There is no way around this fact of human nature. Any autonomous driving feature beyond adaptive cruise control is an invitation to disaster.

    Autonomous technologies will only work when the driving environment is non-integrated—all autonomous vehicles networked…with no unpredictable human elements in the mix. The technology can be used in a closed system–like autonomous shuttles on a college campus…but for a public road system with unlimited variability in vehicles, driver skills, attention, terrain, weather, etc…no effing way.

    • 0 avatar

      @R_Henry: You can get an autonomous system to function in an uncontrolled environment even better than a human, but the technology just isn’t there yet. The problem is that the crappy premature halfazzed tech that’s out there now will scare people away from the future technology that will actually work.

      • 0 avatar

        So…all you have to do is believe? Say, I think you’re borrowing lines from “The Prince Of Egypt.”

        I don’t believe in my car’s ability to drive better than I can, and I’m not going to believe in the half-a**ed tech in the meantime so we can get to the fully-a**ed tech down the road.

      • 0 avatar
        R Henry

        “You can get an autonomous system to function in an uncontrolled environment even better than a human, but the technology just isn’t there yet.”

        –If the tech “isn’t there yet,” how can you claim that it will be there at some indefinite future time? We still can’t cure a common cold, heartbreak, or even understand why it sometimes rains when clear skies were predicted…

        • 0 avatar

          “how can you claim that it will be there at some indefinite future time? ”

          Because we have limited prototypes working now. Proof of concept work. Too slow and takes up too much space now. Still a lot of work to do on the software end and we need some hardware advances too. We’re also hooked into some brain research groups and are trying to see what we can learn from them.

          • 0 avatar


            Then no doubt the later TTAC article today reporting “By next year, both General Motors and Fiat Chrysler could have self-driving vehicles roaming America, earning their companies money” must make you laugh. Or cry. Half-developed systems rushed to market to make money, ready or not.

            It sure makes me wonder who’s in charge of certifying this first generation mediocrity. Nobody. All we have is company assurances they’re leading edge and trust us because we’re so cool.

            Not good enough for me, as your informed comments reinforce in my mind repeatedly. Few people seem to be working on getting it truly right. Half-a*sed commercial implementation is the current imperative. Covering oops exceptions will arrive by update later, if we’re lucky.

  • avatar

    I hope this is the update that allows autopilot to actually see traffic in the traffic lane. That will be something to write about.

  • avatar

    Never mind the autonomous stuff. We need more info about rocket thrusters on a future Tesla. And will flamethrowers be an option?

  • avatar

    I wonder when he’s going to release the “Don’t ram fire trucks and concrete walls” feature.

  • avatar

    Musk is right about the mass media. I’m somewhat knowledgeable about only a few topics. Whenever I see, hear or read something about them, I find significant errors that show the reporter didn’t check his facts. Surely it’s not too much to expect him to verify them with his source. The other thing I notice is faulty grammar and spelling. Journalists are professional wordsmiths. Weren’t they taught those skills in high school and college?

  • avatar

    On another point of interest, with the help of the Tesla Owners Group of Australia, it is now possible to drive the length and breadth of Australia in an electric vehicle. Now all I need is a relatively cheap(!) Tesla. Second hand/pre-owned Model S 2015 P85d is looking at $AUS123,000.00 excluding taxes and fee’s.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      Yes, but, the AUD vs USD, no handouts for EVs will make them more expensive.

      EVs here in Australia have not taken off in any shape or form.

      It shows how much subsidisation is needed to sell them.

      I had a look at that map as well. There are still some big holes, plus how long does it take to recharge? EVs still are not viable, maybe for very expensive daily commutes.

  • avatar

    Meh, another fake news from CNN.

    IMO employing automaton to drive a car is a much better idea than relying on embedded computer. Additional benefit would be access to carpool lanes in CA.

  • avatar

    Unleashing rocket thrusters on city streets with nearby pedestrians.

    What a simply fantastic idea!

    I bet they’re ELECTRIC rocket thrusters. You know, for environmental reasons, and wouldn’t burn any legs. No sir. And they’ll charge in two minutes with a special plug. And Autopilot will be in charge of them, so zero worries.

    The man needs a solid rest and a long chat with people in white coats.

  • avatar

    And this was bad news you say? The less of this idiotic technology that gets poured onto our highways the better. It seems that the old ways of making us guinea pigs for the almightily profits are back in full force with the car companies laughing all the way to the bank.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    As long as this ‘self-driving’ feature remains a Level 2 system, the same rules of driver attentiveness will apply.

    All the talk of self driving is meaningless until someone claims their vehicle meets Level 4 or 5 autonomy. But I believe we won’t see any company make that claim for many years, if ever. The legal liability is just too much.

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