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This is the Kodak Moment for the Auto Industry. Electric vehicles are here to stay. Their market acceptance and growth will continue....

Friday, January 12, 2018

When Will Tesla Hit 200,000 Sales in the U.S.? [Q4 2017 Update]

2017 was an exciting year for electric vehicles. Among the many milestones, there are two
(or three) relevant to this discussion: one, the US Federal Tax Credit survived the political budget process; two, the Tesla Model 3 began shipping to Tesla employees in July and (3) to non-employees in December.

Now that Model 3 is shipping, I (and thousands of others) are patiently (or not so patiently) awaiting our delivery and (if we're in the US) we want to know if we'll get the EV tax credit for our new Tesla!

Tesla released their 2017 delivery numbers, so we can update our prediction model and see where it forecasts the incentive phase out to begin and how many more Tesla vehicles can qualify for the full $7500 amount.

Tesla's 2017 Deliveries

Tesla delivered just over 50,000 cars to the US market in 2017 with ~15,000 of those in Q4. This brings the total US delivery number up to ~160,000 cars. Remember the incentive starts its phase out 3 to 6 months after a manufacturer hits 200,000 deliveries. So Tesla only has ~40,000 cars to go before the trigger number is hit and the countdown starts to reduce the incentive.

Tesla Model 3 Options

If you want to get your Model 3 sooner, you can get the First Production version. This is rear-wheel drive with the long-range battery and premium upgrades. If you want the cheaper standard range version or the all-wheel drive, you can see an example of how this will impact your potential delivery below:

For the example schedule above the First Production vehicle could be delivered in just four weeks from the time the configure button is clicked. The more affordable $35,000 car could be delivered a few months later, and finally, the Dual Motor All-Wheel Drive in seven to nine months after the First Production would be in your driveway. There is still no official word on the white interior or the performance version of Model 3 yet. If those are on your desired feature list, keep your fingers crossed that they roll out with the model variants above.

If your car were on this example schedule and you waited for the Dual Motor AWD car, would you receive the full $7500 tax credit?

Tax Credit Cut Off

We've been tracking Tesla's US sales for over a year now. About a year, back then we predicted that Tesla would cross the 200,000 mark in Q2 of 2018. The Tesla superfans thought this was crazy late because Tesla would be making 5.000 Model 3s per week by the end of 2017. While I hoped they were right, the data said otherwise. Rather, we looked at all the hurdles that needed to be overcome and said that Tesla would ship a few thousand Model 3s in 2017. Musk's own warning statements (not his bold predictions) were used to support this forecast. As the 2017 production numbers rolled in each quarter, our prediction continued to come into focus as you can see here, here, and here.

With 160,000 Tesla's on US roads and a current delivery rate of 15,000 per quarter (and increasing), unless there is a major disruption, Tesla certainly will hit the 200,000 number at some point this year. So, let's look at the data:

Just as it has for more than a year, our model predicts the 200,000th US Tesla car will be delivered in Q2 of 2018. This is not the hyped expectation nor the pessimistic one; each of which have their following, but a realistic prediction that, so far, has proven to hold up over one year's worth of additional car deliveries.

If this model is correct and the 200,000th car is delivered in Q2 of 2018, here's how the incentive would phase out.

That means the example delivery schedule given at the beginning of this article, could wait for the standard battery in "Early 2018" or the dual motor AWD in Q3 and still receive the full incentive.

Maximize The Incentive

Looking at the prediction model in more detail, since it shows 200,000th delivery in June (late in Q2), Tesla may opt to stockpile some and/or divert some Model S and X deliveries to Norway or China so that the 200,000 mark is crossed in July rather than June. Delivering the milestone vehicle early in the 3rd quarter would allow Tesla to maximize the number of deliveries that fall under the full incentive. This is likely to be a decision that is made as late as possible so they will have the most certainty possible.

If Tesla cannot deliver the 200,000th car in April of 2018, they will likely delay the delivery until July.


Sunday, January 7, 2018

Tesla: What to Expect in 2018

What does Tesla have in store for us in 2018?

Following Tesla, there are always surprises. You never know when Elon Musk is going to launch a car into space or tweet about drilling tunnels, selling flamethrowers, or building a 50s style diner with food delivery on roller skates.

A few things that we should expect might see in 2018:
  • Ramping Model 3 production to 5,000 per week
  • Standard range Model 3 deliveries
  • Dual motor Model 3
  • Announcing locations and perhaps even breaking ground on one or two new Gigafactory locations
  • Coast to coast autonomous drive 
  • Solar roof tile deliveries 
  • Megacharger location deployments
  • Sneak peaks of the Roadster 2020 and Semi as they start road testing
  • New Tesla mobile app with several new features
By July of 2018, we can expect Tesla to be the first automaker to cross the 200,000 US vehicle delivery mark. This starts the countdown to phase out the US federal incentive for Tesla's vehicles.

A few more things we might see:
  • A reveal event for Model Y 
  • More info about Tesla Pickup Truck (what is the game-changing feature?)
  • Performance version of Model 3
  • Model S and X interior redesign to bring it up to snuff with the Model 3 minimalism 
  • Model S and X moving to the 2170 cell. This is certainly possible, but given the desire to ramp Model 3 as fast as possible, it may be a good idea to keep S & X on the unconstrained 18650 for another year.
  • 120kWh Model S / X: if these vehicles move to the 2170, a range upgrade would be a nice add-on
  • Improved voice commands that reduce the need to use the touchscreen for many settings
  • TeslaTunes streaming music service
  • Tesla Network ridesharing service
  • Surprises that we could never predict
What surprises do you expect from Tesla in 2018?

====== UPDATE ======

A few updates from readers:
  • Stop sign \ stop light recognition
  • Navigation route following
  • Full-self driving 
  • HUD 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Trolley Problem and Murder Hospital


  • The Trolly Problem might be a philosophical construct that won't happen in the real-world, but the press around it will mean that some variant of it will be in autonomous car simulators
  • The _ethical_ case for hitting 5 people, rather than 1 is presented

Full Story:
If you've talked about (or read about) autonomous cars, then you've heard of "The Trolley Problem." If you haven't encountered this, count yourself lucky.

To briefly recap, here's how The Trolley Problem goes:
There's a runaway trolley car is barreling down the tracks. There's no way for you to stop it. Ahead, on the tracks, there are 5 people tied down, unable to move. The trolley is headed straight for them. You're standing next to a track lever. If you pull the lever, the trolley will divert to a different track and the 5 will be safe. However, there's 1 person tied to the other track. What do you do?

Each time I've encountered it, I thought, "Who cares? In the real-world, it will never come up. It is just a philosophical debate of no consequence." Chatting with a friend, the topic again came up and after my "This doesn't matter" objections, we agreed that, if for no other reason than the press around the topic, some variation of the trolley problem will be put into the training simulators for self-driving cars and the cars will have to do something, the system will have to make a choice. What should it be?

You have two standard options:
1) Do nothing, and the trolley kills the 5 people
2) Pull the lever, diverting the trolley, where it kills 1 person

You can save five lives by sacrificing one. Would you do it?

Assuming you know nothing about the people, the utilitarian answer seems to be: Pull the lever because 5 is greater than 1. You've saved a net-sum of 4 lives.

Let’s continue that reasoning. If you were sitting on a bridge above the tracks, and you saw the trolley heading towards 5 people, and you knew that you could shove the person next to you off the bridge, thereby derailing the trolley and saving 5, should you do it?

In this second case, most people now say 'No' because murder.

The results are the same in each case, 1 person dies to save 5 based on your actions; yet, these two feel very different. I propose that the response in the 2nd case (the bridge), of doing nothing, is the right one for both situations.

In both cases, the 5 are the ones that are in danger (by who knows what cause) and the 1 has not put themselves in danger (they were off the active track…). So the 5 must be the ones to suffer the consequences of their circumstances and it is wrong to force anyone else to suffer on their behalf.

Let's look at one more example, Murder Hospital, to make this point. If there were a national organ registry and they analyzed it periodically. During this analysis, if they found out that you could save 5 or more people by having your organs harvested, then they would round you up for harvesting.

My guess is that you would not like to live in a world with that system. Even if they told you that you would save 5 lives, plus your skin will be used for graphs to help burn victims and your eyes will be used to restore sight for someone. Your blood will go to help people in an ER. You will help more than a dozen people in very positive ways. Saving lives and restoring sight, you should be honored that you’ve been selected. And as part of the package, your family gets a lottery-sized check and will be taken care of for life. One life seems like a small price to pay to bring life and joy to so many.

So we should implement forced organ harvesting immediately, right? Of course not! You might feel sympathy for these sick people and you may donate money to their causes or volunteer time to their organizations, but sacrificing your life for people that you don't know is asking too much. In the end, the tragic situations of their lives are theirs to deal with; reasonable help and support are all that should be expected.

These life and death choices are not made by the simple utility of the outcome. They have to be based on the fairness of the situation. As Murder Hospital demonstrates, sacrificing an uninvolved bystander without their consent is wrong, even if it saves the greater number of people.

The ethical case for an autonomous car to run over five people instead of one

Applying this to autonomous cars, it means that the car doesn’t swerve into the smaller crowd, to avoid the larger one. If the car cannot avoid the accident (avoidance is, of course, always preferred), then it does all they can (such as braking) to mitigate the damage to what is right in front of them and then just lets fate take its course.

This has several advantages:
  1. This action is "more human." In the midst of an accident, no one is going to go through the ethical debate of which way to swerve. It is far more likely that they would just hit the brakes.
  2. It is easier to program. Look for a clear path, if one cannot be found, then brake.
  3. You won’t have bystander video footage of a car flying off the road and hitting innocent pedestrians.
Advantages aside, self-driving cars should act this way because it is the right thing to do. I assert that self-driving cars should act to minimize involvement (rather than simple utilitarian harm). When there's an imminent accident, the people, be they pedestrians crossing the street or in an oncoming car, are already involved. They voluntarily entered the arena where cars traverse. In doing so, they took on some measure of risk and responsibility.

So my answer to The Trolley Problem is to stay on the straight tracks. In a car, however, there are no tracks. Cars will have many more options. They can dodge, skid, brake, drift, and more. Autonomous cars will, at some point, have thousands of years of driving experience and skills beyond any human. These cars will be controlled by powerful AIs that do this one thing (driving) really really well. With these skills, they will likely find a way to avoid hitting anyone. Which all brings me back to the start: The Trolley Problem, won't be a problem.