TIME Autos

Watch People Freak Out Over Tesla’s New ‘Insane Mode’

The new Tesla's crazy acceleration elicits stomach dropouts, flying iPhones and screams

Tesla’s all-wheel drive Model S P85D was designed as a sports car for the electric age. To convince car buyers that electric vehicles could be quick and powerful, Tesla designed the P85D to accelerate from zero to 60 miles per hour in 3.2 seconds and reach top speeds of 155 mph.

If Tesla founder Elon Musk’s goal was to wow people, he seems to have succeeded. In a video uploaded by Dragtimes, riders experience the car’s rapid acceleration for the first time. It elicits screams, curses, shock, and facial expressions that might be better suited to one of Musk’s SpaceX rocket takeoffs.

The car, which sells new for $104,500, has 691 horsepower (221 hp front, 470 hp in the rear) and features an autopilot mode that uses cameras and ultrasonic sensors to read speed limits, monitor other cars on the road and park automatically.

In the video, driver Brooks Weisblat refers to an “insane” mode button on the car’s display—that’s the name of the option drivers have for a super acceleration. It’s that, or a decelerated “sport” mode. Both sound pretty good.

MONEY space travel

SpaceX Wants to Send You to Mars

The unmanned Falcon 9 rocket launched by SpaceX on a cargo resupply service mission to the International Space Station (ISS), lifts off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida January 10, 2015. An unmanned Space Exploration Technologies mission blasted off on Saturday carrying cargo for the ISS, but efforts to reland the rocket on a sea platform failed, the firm said. The Dragon cargo capsule itself was successfully launched into space and is expected to dock with the space station on Monday.
Mike Brown—Reuters

Elon Musk and his reusable SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets pose a real threat to the economics of Boeing's and Lockheed's orbital satellite space launch franchise.

“I am Elon Musk, CEO/CTO of a rocket company … Zip2, PayPal, SpaceX, Tesla and SolarCity. Started off doing software engineering and now do aerospace & automotive …

Looking forward to your questions.”

With those words began a singular event on the Web, as Elon Musk, CEO of — as he noted — electric car company Tesla TESLA MOTORS INC. TSLA -0.7797% , of solar power lessor SolarCity SOLARCITY CORP COM USD0.0001 SCTY -1.5892% , and private space exploration firm SpaceX as well opened himself up for questions on Reddit earlier this month.

You can imagine what happened next.

Fans swarmed. Bedlam ensued. And over the next several hours, Elon Musk fielded every question his fans could throw at him.

Missing in action

Curiously, while Elon Musk serves as titular head of two publicly traded companies, Tesla and SolarCity, neither of those got much attention in last Tuesday’s Reddit discussion. (Indeed, Musk didn’t mention either one by name, even once). Instead, all the action surrounded the one company that Musk has not yet deigned to IPO to the public: SpaceX.

But what did he have to say about it?

Elon on … spaceplanes

“If you want to get to orbit or beyond, go with pure rockets. It is not like Von Braun and Korolev didn’t know about airplanes and they were really smart dudes.”

There’s been a lot of talk lately about spacecraft that fly into the upper atmosphere and from there release payloads into orbit. DARPA is working on one bird capable of high altitude payload delivery. Stratolaunch Systems has another. Britain’s got a third. But Elon Musk isn’t worried about these competitors at all. In fact, he seems to kind of dismiss them.

Elon on … reusable rockets

“We could make the 2nd stage of Falcon reusable. … There is no meaningful limit [to the number of times Falcon 9R could be refueled and relaunched]. We would have to replace a few parts that experience thermal stress after 40 cycles, but the rest of the engine would be fine.”

Instead of spaceplanes, Elon Musk is placing his big bet on the potential to turn the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket — which already costs less than rockets launched by the United Launch Alliance (ULA) of Lockheed Martin LOCKHEED MARTIN CORPORATION LMT -2.1455% and Boeing BOEING COMPANY BA -1.6308% — into a true ULA-killer.

Key to this effort will be turning Falcon 9 into a “reusable” rocket — one whose first, and potentially even its second stages can descend back to Earth after launch, and land safely for recovery, refueling, and relaunching with a new payload a few days later.

Musk thinks a reusable rocket can potentially save taxpayers $50 billion or more on the cost of satellite launches by the U.S. government. And as we now know from the Reddit discussion, Musk doesn’t see “wear and tear” on a Falcon 9 rocket being a limiting factor in those savings. While there certainly must be some shelf life on how often any single rocket can be reused before it must be replaced (obsolescence alone is probably one such factor), Musk seems to be saying that for all intents and purposes, a properly maintained reusable Falcon 9 will be indefinitely reusable.

The mission to Mars

“Goal is 100 metric tons of useful payload to the surface of Mars. This obviously requires a very big spaceship and booster system. … At first, I was thinking we would just scale up Falcon Heavy, but it looks like … [the] default plan is to have a sea level and vacuum version of Raptor, much like Merlin. … [Raptor will boast] a little over 230 metric tons (~500 klbf) of thrust per engine, but we will have a lot of them :)”

In the short term, Elon Musk and his reusable SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets pose a real threat to the economics of Boeing’s and Lockheed’s orbital satellite space launch franchise. Already, SpaceX is underpricing the competition, and if he succeeds in making Falcon 9 truly reusable, space launch prices will fall even further.

But SpaceX poses an even more existential threat to Boeing and Lockheed in the long term. That is to say, if you believe that the “long-term” future of spaceflight is to actually fly through space — as opposed to just heaving chunks of metal into orbit, there to circle the globe.

SpaceX calls this threat the “Mars Colonial Transport,” or “MCT,” a true spacecraft capable of sending 100 tons of supplies and/or 100 live human passengers, between planets. For comparison, that’s a goal already 25 times bigger than that of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, which Lockheed Martin is building for NASA. And MCT will boast new “Raptor” engines to match.

With a nine-engine configuration similar to that used on the Falcon 9, a first-stage “Raptor 9″ core would boast 4.5 million pounds of force — roughly half the 8.4 million pounds of thrust offered by the Space Launch System that Boeing is developing for NASA. A three-part configuration featuring a core, and two “core-like” booster rockets, though, would provide 50%more thrust than Boeing’s SLS.

In other words, at the same time as ULA is working out the details of its most advanced and most capable space launch system ever, SpaceX is, too. And its spaceship is both bigger and better.

The upshot: After hearing what Elon Musk had to say last week, Boeing and Lockheed Martin should be shaking in their spaceboots.

MONEY Autos

Auto Show’s Most Talked-About Car Is One You Can’t Buy This Year

The Chevrolet Bolt EV concept vehicle
The Chevrolet Bolt EV concept vehicle makes its global debut Monday, January 12, 2015 at the Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan. Jose Juarez—Chevrolet

Probably the most-discussed vehicle at the Detroit Auto Show was the Chevy Bolt, an electric car that can be driven 200 miles on a charge and costs only $30,000. You can't buy one this year, though, or next year either.

The Auto Show kicked off this week with GM’s unveiling of the Chevrolet Bolt, which, despite its “concept car” label is expected to be a reality in the near future—on the market in 2017, most likely. The concept vehicle captured the imagination of many by (theoretically) solving the two big issues that have thus far stopped electric plug-in vehicles from being embraced by the mass market. Today’s plug-ins are either too impractical (driving ranges under 100 miles before the battery needs a charge) or too expensive ($70,000 and up for a Tesla Model S) for the typical household. With a 200-mile range and an asking price anticipated to be around $30,000 (after credits and incentives are factored in), the Bolt has been heralded as a potential mass-market breakthrough.

Here’s what people have been saying about the Bolt:

It’s a game-changer, likely to be a mainstream hit.
“The Bolt EV concept is a game-changing electric vehicle designed for attainability, not exclusivity,” GM CEO Mary Barra said during the model’s unveiling in Detroit this week. “For most people, [the Bolt] can be their everyday drive.”

Some less-biased, non-GM folk seemed to agree that the combination of affordability and expanded driving range before requiring a charge will make the Bolt appealing to the mainstream. “Getting to the 200-mile mark is when you start to see potentially a much wider base of mainstream consumers who aren’t just making short commutes, and don’t just want to be ‘green,'” Kelley Blue Book senior analyst Akshay Anand summed up to the Los Angeles Times. “You are looking at annual sales of 100,000 vehicles,” chimed in John Krafcik of TrueCar.com, a big leap up from the still-niche Nissan Leaf, which at 30,000 units sold in 2014 was America’s best-selling plug-in EV.

Others are more skeptical.
“You have to wonder what the market will be for super-efficient vehicles at a time when oil is around $50 a barrel,” auto industry consultant Jeremy Anwyl said to the Los Angeles Times. The assessment of Wall Street Journal columnist Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., was much rougher, writing that the Bolt is largely the product of automakers being forced by the government to meet fuel-economy mandates down the road, with the result being “cars the public doesn’t want and that can only be sold at a giant loss.”

It’s not very cool looking.
The $70K Tesla Model S became a favorite among auto enthusiasts not because it saves on gas—not only anyway—but because it’s a hot, stylish, high-performance car that’s incredibly fun to drive and show off. The cheaper and more practical Bolt, on the other hand, is expected to drive more like a golf cart, with looks to match. The Associated Press described the bubble-shaped Bolt as looking “like a cross between a Volkswagen Golf and BMW’s electric i3.” “There wasn’t much about it that was fanciful-looking in terms of features and styling,” a Motley Fool post noted.

Tesla doesn’t sound remotely concerned.
Despite headlines presenting the idea that the Bolt would be a “rival” and perhaps “upstage” Elon Musk’s hi-tech plug-in auto brand or even prove to be a “Tesla killer,” Tesla isn’t exactly shaking in its boots. In a released statement that’s the equivalent of a pat on the head of a cute, unthreatening puppy, Musk’s company announced, “Tesla is always supportive of other manufacturers who bring compelling electric vehicles to market … We applaud Chevrolet for introducing the Bolt and are excited to learn more about the product.”

Later, in an Auto Show press conference, Musk said flatly, “I don’t see it as a competitive threat.” The “it” in question is the Bolt, of course. “I’m pleased to see [GM CEO Mary Barra] and GM do it. It seems that [GM] will do something significant with the Bolt, and that’s great.”

Oh, and the name is terrible and might be changed.
Green Car Reports proclaimed that Bolt is a “really terrible name” for Chevy’s new EV. As evidence of the name’s terribleness, the site pointed to quips on social media noting that the name brings to mind the phrase “bucket of bolts,” the unloved old Dodge Colt, and even the 2008 cartoon movie dog named Bolt (voiced by John Travolta). The real problem, however, is that because the letters B and V sound alike when spoken aloud, “Bolt” will be easily confused with its gas-hybrid sister Chevy. “To say that there will be a great deal of confusion at dealerships between the Chevy Bolt and the Chevy Volt would be a gross understatement,” Green Car Reports explained.

The Detroit News reported that while GM likes the idea of linking the electrified Bolt and Volt with names that are alike, the automaker is not committed to keeping it. “The name by itself is very good, but when you put it with Volt you know — is it too confusing for someone? — we’ll find out,” said GM product chief Mark Reuss. “It’s a concept name. End of story.”

MONEY Autos

Why This Might Be the Beginning of the End for the Toyota Prius

Toyota Prius
Toyota Prius Toyota

A decade ago, the Prius was the industry darling, viewed as the hip, smart choice among green celebrities and budget-conscious commuters alike. Yet in 2014, Prius sales plummeted—and cheap gas is only part of the reason why.

When Toyota released its December 2014 results this week, the automaker highlighted how—like most of the industry—sales have been booming. Toyota sales in the U.S. jumped 12.7% compared with the previous December, and they were up 6.2% for the year as a whole. The announcement also played up the fact that Lexus had its best sales month ever in December; that sales for trucks, SUVs, and the Sienna minivan were all soaring; and that the Camry held bragging rights as America’s best-selling car, a title it’s owned for 13 years running.

What’s just as interesting about the announcement is the car model that’s notably absent: Toyota Prius. The world’s best-selling and best-known hybrid vehicle, the pioneering Prius, is not mentioned in one Toyota 2014 sales press release and is downplayed in another, with only a quick line stating “we sold more than 200,000 Prius for the third consecutive year.”

Understandably, Toyota is trying to accentuate the positive in 2014 sales, so let’s turn to the auto resource site WardsAuto, which states explicitly that the Prius’s 207,372 units sold represents a 11.5% decrease from 2013. USA Today recently called on another sales data source to report that through the first 11 months of 2014, Prius sales were down nearly 16% compared with the prior year. What’s more, according to the Detroit Free Press, overall sales of gas-electric hybrids like the Prius were on pace to fall 9% for the year.

In 2013, gas-electric hybrids accounted for 3.2% of all light vehicle sales in the U.S. Last year, that figure dipped to just 2.8%. This isn’t remotely the trajectory most experts anticipated. A J.D. Power forecast made in 2008, when hybrids were 2.2% of U.S. car sales, predicted that the category would constitute 7% of the market by 2015.

What happened? The short answer is: cheap gas prices. Oil prices have plunged since summer and have just kept on falling. The consensus says that the result will be inexpensive prices at the pump for the indefinite future. According to AAA, the national average for a gallon of regular was $2.20 as of Monday, roughly $1.10 cheaper than one year ago.

The plummeting price of gasoline has surely played a big role in hot sales for SUVs and luxury cars on the one hand (Rolls-Royce had record-high sales), and the struggles of the Prius and hybrids on the other. In December, a Businessweek article argued that with $2 gas being commonplace, the Prius is only viewed as a smart financial choice by drivers “who stink at math.” Researchers factored in the upfront costs of the Prius and a similarly equipped gas-powered Chevy Cruze, and then did the math on how long it would take for the pricier Prius to pay off via savings on fuel. The answer was that with $2 gas prices, you’d have to own the Prius for 28 years to break even compared with the overall costs of the Cruze.

But cheap gas is only part of the reason why Prius sales are on the decline. Karl Brauer, senior director of insights for Kelley Blue Book, explained that “the Prius had a good thing going for several years as the ‘official’ vehicle of the environmentally conscious,” a reputation that was solidified during the 2003 Academy Awards, when dozens of celebrities arrived in chauffeur-driven Priuses. The cachet of the Prius has dissipated in the years since because, among other reasons, its fuel efficiency advantage over the competition has shrunk substantially, and Tesla has emerged as the green car of choice that’s not only environmentally friendly, but stylish and a rip-roaring hoot to drive as well.

“A lot of vehicles today get 40+ miles per gallon and you don’t have to make the sacrifices you do with the Prius,” said Brauer, pointing to the fun-to-drive Volkswagen Golf and the surprisingly spacious and practical Honda Fit as appealing, fuel-efficient alternatives to the Prius. “And the Tesla has hurt the Prius as much as anything else.”

What’s especially interesting is that while low gas prices appear to be a factor in declining sales of the Prius and other hybrids, cheap fuel doesn’t seem to be cutting into sales of some purely electric-powered cars, like the Tesla Model S and the Nissan Leaf.

A recent study conducted on the behalf of NACS, a convenience store and retail fuel association, estimates that each 10¢ drop in gas prices correlates to a 1% decrease in consumers who would consider alternative-fuel vehicles. As of November, for instance, 34% of Americans polled said they would be interested in an all-electric vehicle such as the Nissan Leaf, compared with 55% in April, when gas prices were roughly 90¢ per gallon more expensive.

And yet, curiously, while sales of the Prius and other hybrids have suffered hand in hand with falling gas prices, the Nissan Leaf has had a record year. Nissan sold 3,102 Leafs in December and 30,200 Leafs for all of 2014, up from 2,529 and 22,610, respectively, the year before. Likewise, even though the Model S wasn’t new in 2014 and had a high starting price of around $70,000, Tesla sold about as many of the models last year as it did in 2013 when it was the absolute darling of the industry.

One explanation for why sales of pure electric vehicles haven’t slumped like hybrids is that in certain circles EVs are viewed as superior in terms of environmental friendliness and just plain coolness. Then again, it must be pointed out that even as Prius sales decline, it still outsells the Nissan Leaf by a factor of nearly seven.

A 2016 model year Prius is expected to hit the market this year, and Brauer said that, in light of EVs holding the edge in terms of being the green choice, and vastly improved fuel-efficient mainstream vehicles being the smarter economic option in an era of cheap gas, Toyota faces real challenges getting sales back on the upswing. “They have to make the Prius appealing beyond the green car claims,” he said. “The ‘green’ has to be gravy on top of what’s a fun car to own and drive.”

Read next: Sony Is Bringing Back the Walkman With One Huge Surprise

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Gadgets

Top 10 Tech Product Designs of 2014

2014 brought in a slew of sleek tech products, these were the ones that stood out

TIME Autos

Tesla Delays Model X But Turns a Surprise Profit

US-DETROIT-AUTO-SHOW
The Tesla Model X is introduced at the 2013 North American International Auto Show . STAN HONDA—AFP/Getty Images

New SUV won't be delivered until late 2015

Tesla’s upcoming Model X SUV has been delayed again, the company announced in its quarterly earnings report. The new vehicle is now slated for release in Q3 of 2015, a delay of several months.

In a letter to shareholders, CEO Elon Musk wrote that Tesla’s difficulty rolling new products out quickly was a “legitimate criticism” of the company, but said that the car maker’s practices would not change. “We prefer to forgo revenue, rather than bring a product to market that does not delight customers,” Musk wrote. “Doing so negatively affects the short term, but positively affects the long term.”

Tesla’s revenue for the quarter missed analysts’ expectations slightly at $852 million, but was nearly double the same period last year. The company also posted a surprise profit, generating adjusted earnings of two cents per share. Analysts had expected a loss of one cent per share.

The company delivered 7,785 of its flagship Model S vehicles during the quarter. It expects to deliver 33,000 vehicles for all of 2014.

 

TIME Innovation

Elon Musk Warns Artificial Intelligence Is Like ‘Summoning the Demon’

The "biggest existential threat" to mankind

Elon Musk warned in no uncertain terms recently that the invention of artificially intelligent machines could pose the “biggest existential threat” to mankind.

Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, spoke with unusual force about the perils of a technology that could quickly spin out of its inventors’ control during an MIT symposium on Friday, the Washington Post reports. “With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon,” he said.

“In all those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, it’s like yeah he’s sure he can control the demon. Didn’t work out,” he added.

Musk called for an international regulatory framework to oversee advances in the technology. He has previously likened artificial intelligence to nukes on Twitter.

[Washington Post]

TIME cars

Feast Your Eyes on Tesla’s Powerful New Car

The base price is $120,000

HAWTHORNE, Calif. (AP) — Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk unveiled a new version of the luxury electric car maker’s Model S sedan that includes all-wheel drive and self-driving “auto pilot” features.

The open-to-the-public event Thursday night included free alcohol and test rides on an airport tarmac.

With more than 1,000 Tesla fans in the audience, Musk explained that the current Model S is a rear-wheel-drive car with one motor, but a new version will have two motors — one powering the front wheels and one powering the rear wheels.

All-wheel drive helps grip slippery roads and is standard on many luxury sedans. Analysts have said Tesla needed it to boost sales in the Northeast and Midwest, as well as Europe.

The company sold 13,850 cars in the U.S. this year through September, down 3 percent from a year ago, according to Autodata Corp.

Unlike all-wheel-drive systems on gas-powered cars, Tesla’s system improves speed, acceleration and mileage by optimizing which motor is used, Musk said.

The dual motor version of the P85 performance sedan will have a top speed of 155 mph, compared with the current 130 mph. It will accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 3.2 seconds, akin to exotic sports cars.

“This car is nuts. It’s like taking off from a carrier deck,” Musk said at the municipal airport near Los Angeles where another of Musk’s companies — the commercial rocket firm SpaceX — is based. The crowd obliged with cheers and applause.

Tesla is also significantly upgrading its safety features through a combination of radar, image-recognition cameras and sonar.

The Model S will right itself if it wanders from its lane and brake automatically if it is about to hit something. Those features are offered on luxury competitors, as well as mainstream brands such as Ford, Hyundai and Toyota.

But Tesla is going a step further. Its new system will move the car over a lane when the driver uses the turn signal. It will also use cameras to read speed limit signs and decelerate accordingly. Volvo has a system that reads signs and alerts drivers if they are over the limit but does not change the speed.

Musk said “auto pilot” does not mean the car could drive itself — as he put it, a driver cannot “safely fall asleep.”

Pulling together all the driver-assist features impressed Brian A. Johnson, an analyst with Barclay’s. “It’s a year ahead of the timeframe I was expecting,” he said.

Raj Rajkumar, a pioneer of self-driving cars with Carnegie Mellon University, also was impressed but wondered how the “auto-pilot” would perform in different weather and road conditions.

The dual motor will be a $4,000 option on the base and mid-range Model S, which start at $71,000. The base price of the P85 with all-wheel drive — which will be known as P85D — is $120,000.

___

Associated Press Auto Writer Dee-Ann Durbin in Detroit contributed.

TIME Automakers

Tesla Motors’ New ‘D’ Cars Are All-Wheel Drive, Not Self-Drive

US-AUTO-IT-TECHNOLOGY-ENEGY-TESLA
Tesla founder and chief executive Elon Musk unveils a new dual-engine chassis at the Hawthorne Airport in Los Angeles on Oct. 9, 2014 Mark Ralston—AFP/Getty Images

The “D” in Tesla’s big reveal stands not for “self-driving," but for “dual motor”

Tesla Motors on Thursday night disappointed some auto-market watchers’ expectations that it would put out a self-driving car — but the electric car juggernaut did announce the release of a higher tech version of its Model S car, with all-wheel drive and rapid acceleration rivaling that of luxury vehicles, USA Today reports.

The tripped-out new Model S will have all-wheel drive, plus acceleration of 0-60 mph in just 3.2 seconds, says the newspaper. It can also reach a top speed of 155 mph, up from the Model S’s peak velocity of 130 mph.

“This car is nuts. It’s like taking off from a carrier deck,” Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO, told press assembled at Los Angeles’ Hawthorne airport, where his commercial space travel company SpaceX is also based.

The “D” cars will also come with a package of new safety features, including the ability to read speed-limit signs and shift speeds, USA Today says.

Tesla will release three versions of the upgraded car under the “D” designation. The all-wheel drive version without the acceleration boost will be a $4,000 add-on to the basic and mid-level models of the Model S, which starts at $71,000, says the Associated Press. The base price for the all-wheel drive car with boosted acceleration, dubbed the P85D, is $120,000.

The P85D will go on sale in December, while the other versions will go on sale in February, the Associated Press reports.

Musk had fueled speculation about the announcement in Los Angeles with a tweet that the company would roll out something he referred to just as “the D,” plus “something else.” He also tweeted a photo that appeared to be of Tesla’s Model S car.

Some Tesla fans had speculated that the unveiling might be of a ramped-up version of the Model S — but observers had debated if the “D” referred to an automated driving feature, or all-wheel drive.

TIME Autos

What to Expect When Elon Musk’s Tesla ‘Unveils the D’

Elon Musk hinted last week that Tesla would be announcing something big

Elon Musk, CEO of renowned electric car and battery maker Tesla and pronouncer of cryptic hints, tweeted last week that his company would be announcing something enigmatically called “the D” on Thursday. And also, “something else.”

Speculation about what “the D” and “something else” could possibly be has run the gamut, but there are a few salient theories that seem to make sense. Here’s a rundown of the two most likely things we’ll see Musk and Tesla reveal at 7 p.m. PST Thursday:

Tesla Model S with All-Wheel Drive

The vast majority of high-end luxury cars in the price range of the Tesla Model S (which is priced from $71,000 before tax credits or rebates) offer all-wheel drive, something the Model S lacks. Most luxury car shoppers expect all-wheel drive and are willing to pay a premium for it. The Model S is in the prime market for all-wheel drive, and the feature could add sales to its forecasted 35,000 deliveries this year.

Practically speaking, the added feature would be feasible as well: the company’s forthcoming Model X SUV will be all-wheel drive, which means that Tesla knows it’s a feature people want. Plus, there’s physical space in the Model S to fit a second drive unit in the front. Does “D” stand for “dual-motor”? We’ll find out soon.

Driverless Capability

Another rumor is that Tesla will announce some form of automated driving technology for the Model S. In a note to investors, Barclays analyst Brian Johnson said he expects a lane-keeping system for highway driving, and an unnamed source told Automotive News that Tesla will also add cruise control that matches the speed of other vehicles. Tesla doesn’t yet have collision avoidance technologies or pre-collision braking, features that could be added to the already high-tech Model S to make it even safer. And Bloomberg reported last year that Musk was discussing driverless technology with Google.

Like an all-wheel drive function, Tesla is in a pretty good position to add automated driving: “Also, it’s interesting that Tesla has a technical relationship with [Mercedes-Benz parent company] Daimler, which is pretty much on the forefront of autonomous systems,” said Matt DeLorenzo, managing editor of Kelley Blue Book, the LA Times reports.

Both of the Above

After all, it is “The D” and “something else.”

Neither of the Above

The rumors get a little out there, too, which is probably exactly what Musk wants from a marketing perspective. The “D” could stand for “drop top,” as in a convertible, said one analyst to the San Jose Mercury News. Another analyst said it could stand for “delivery,” like a truck for pizza or flower deliveries. Or ice cream!

Stay tuned for the announcement on Thursday at 7 p.m. PST.

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