Downgrading to 19″ Wheels

After driving my Model S for four years on 21” wheels, I decided to downgrade the car to 19” wheels.  The decision process took a while, and the saga is a long one.

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New 19″ Slipstream Wheels

Slow Leak

A few months ago I noticed my tire had yet another leak.  The leak was very small and only required pumping up the air about every other week at the most.  Having so much experience with tires, I was not worried about this leak and had either used my electric pump, that I always have in the trunk, or the manual floor mounted bike pump in the garage to add more air.

I had intended to go to my very local service station / auto repair place and have them look at my tire at some point.  I suspected I had a nail in the tire and that the tire could be repaired.  The tires were not very new, so I was hoping I could delay replacing the tire, as that likely meant I needed to replace not just one tire but two.  When the tread is quite low on the tires, they do not want you to drive around with a set (either the front or the rear), where one tire has all its tread and the other is almost worn out.  I suspect this discrepancy could cause excess or unaligned tire wear.

Only an encounter with a Tesla service person on another matter changed the story.

Home or Office Service

I earlier reported that my 12 Volt battery had died and needed service.  The local service center now has one mechanic that goes to your location to repair batteries and tires.  As the ever curious Tesla owner, I watched him change the battery, and talked to him about various Tesla topics.

Somewhere during the conversation, I mentioned that I had a leak in one of my tires.  The service guy offered to look at my tire for no cost.  I had not planned on having Tesla address this leak, but I since it was free and he was already in my garage, I happily agreed.

Tire Inspection

The mobile service guy brought out his jack, and in very little time had the wheel off the car.  No nail was visible, but to my surprise I had a problem I have never seen on any car I have ever owned, my rim was cracked!

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Cracked Rim with Water Test to Show Leak

The rim was visibly cracked with a hairline fracture, and to confirm he added water and you could see the air bubbles.  He explained that if you hit a pothole “just so”, you can crack your rim.  He said I was safe to continue to drive the car with the wheels as long as I slowed down for any pot holes.

Pot Holes

Since I have been plagued by tire issues, I watch for potholes constantly.  I know where the road is worn out locally and steer out of my way to protect my tires.  I have been driving in this manner for 50,000 miles.  Luckily the town I live in has a fair amount of revenue stream and our roads are pristine.

I do remember however driving in the East Bay awhile ago and remembering a badly beat up stretch of payment on 580.  One fun grammatical note:  In Northern California, freeways are referred to by numbers not their names and are never preceded by the word “the”; in Southern California the naming convention is the reverse, which sounds so strange to our ears.  On 580, I distinctly remembered that I had avoided as much as I can any issues in the road pavement, but I know I did hit one pothole with the wheel in question.

Decision Time

I now really did not know what to do.  I knew not only I couldn’t just repair one tire, I had to buy a new rim also, and they cost $500!  I really didn’t want to do either, and this let me open up my thoughts to do something completely different.

Why I bought 21” Wheels in 2013

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Original 19″ Wheels

Before my Model S, I was a very early 1xx Roadster owner.  I got used to zipping around
fast and hugging every curve.  I had initially configured the Model S to have the 19” wheels, but at the last minute a friend convinced me to go with the 21” primarily because they looked so much better.  I was just not particularly fond of look of the original 19” wheels, and Tesla no longer sells them to new buyers.

21” vs. 19” Reliability

Over the years I have talked to many different people associated with Tesla about my wheels.  I am not a particularly talkative person, but I can strike up a conversation with strangers with no qualms, and ask many detailed questions on an interesting subject.

The most interesting conversation about my tires was with a former Tesla Service Manager, whom I met in a very off chance circumstance.  I have heard the following different statements from 3 different Tesla employees that stuck in my brain, and I recalled them when thinking about what to do with my broken rim:

“Those 21s have had a lot of problems.”

“The vast majority of problems are with the 21s, no problems with the 19s.”

“Tesla should have never put such low profile tires on such a heavy car.”

My 21” experience vs. my fellow blogger

My fellow blogger from the East Coast has been very happy with his car and wheels.  He got 50,000 miles on a set of tires! That amount of mileage was and still is only something I can dream about.

Here is a short timeline of my tire experience:

  • March 2014 – four new tires  (mileage 12,500)
  • March 2014 – pothole damage, one new tire (mileage  12,600)
  • Spring 2014 – cross country road trip in Model S
  • June 2014 – four new tires (mileage 26,000)
  • July 2014 – new camber arms
  • October 2014  – nail and tire repair
  • October 2015 – four new tires (mileage 49,000)
  • October 2015 – leaky tire repaired
  • October 2016 – new tire (sidewall damage)
  • April 2017      – cracked rim (65,000 miles)

Tesla has treated me very well during this experience and have done a lot of monitoring of my alignment.  I managed to drive almost 23,000 miles on my third set of tires. My latest set of tires gave me at least 16,000 miles, which is respectable.  All four wheels had a fair to a considerable amount of curb rash.  I haven’t hit a curb in a couple of years, but it took a while to get used to the very wide car.

I was happy with what Tesla and I achieved in terms of tire mileage, but I was tired of how susceptible the tires were to other objects such as small potholes.  I was in a way tired of “living in fear” and having to watch the road excessively.  After the deluge of rain we received in California this winter, we have a lot of potholes in the state in general.

My current mileage was about 65,000.  I definitely had to replace one rim, and my front two tires were due to be replaced very soon, and the rears in short order.  Tesla provided the exact tread depth measurements, which are reported below.

Toe Wear!

I have extensively worked with Tesla over the last few years on my toe wear issues.  Tesla service has done really all they can to fix and monitor my extensive toe wear.  I am very glad my toe wear has improved enough that I can replace my tires closer to 20,000 miles instead of 12,500 miles.

But when looking at the wear report, the Tesla report still shows toe wear.

LF:6/32 6/32 3/32

RF:6/32 6/32 3/32

LR:6/32 6/32 4/32

RR6/32 6/32 4/32

When speaking to the first service person who was not my regular contact, I was told “you must have hit a pothole”.  No, I did not hit four potholes on all four wheels!   The car  still wears out the toe more than it should.

While the car sat in the shop waiting for a battery fix, I contemplated the numbers.  I had a choice.  Instead of sinking more money into a set of wheels that would never be very durable or long lasting for the Model S, I could fork out the cash to get the new 19” rims ($300 each) and tires ($180 each) for $480 each before tax and installation, or I could buy two 21” tires ($375 each), a new rim ($500) and in a few months buy two more new 21” tires.

  • 19” cost : (300 + 180) x4  = $1920
  • 21” cost: 500 + 2x 375  + 2 x 375 = $2000

Although I didn’t need to replace the back tires immediately, I would within 6 months.  So for the same price, I could get longer lasting lower maintenance tires.  The numbers are using Tesla default pricing and there are other options like buying tires through 3rd party places, but these calculations are listed here for simplicity.  So even in the short term, there was no real financial reason to stick with the 21s, and in the long run a very large savings.

Decision

I decided to go with the 19” rims.  I am tired of the hassle of these performance tires.

I had to wait a while because the service center only had two rims in stock, and needed to get the parts shipped in from the warehouse in Lathrop, California.

Selling 21” Wheels on CraigList

I also had another way to make a little money.  I could sell the wheels!  Tesla disposed of the wheel with the cracked rim, but I brought home the other three. I am not much of a seller and generally just donate things, but this was more than a few dollars worth of value.  I first tried the Tesla Motors Forum and got some interest, but I soon got tired of looking at the wheels, even if the garage has a lot of space.

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3 Wheels For Sale!

Using Craigslist, I got interest in the wheels immediately.  I am not much of a negotiator, and just pretty much took the first reasonable offer.

When selling on Craigslist you need to include photos of both the front of the wheels and the tire tread patterns.  Within a couple of hours, I got several questions and responses, and quickly sold the wheels.

treadwear.jpg

Tread Wear Photo of Wheels for Sale

The buyer was a Model X driver who was planning to take the wheels and powder coat them to a new color. He also said that there was a 22” tire that worked with these rims.  I sold all three of them for $450, so in the end I saved money buy buying new rims even in the short term.

Tesla App

The Tesla app for some reason still did not think I had any wheels on it.  The car recognizes the wheels as 19” as the picture had changed on the dashboard.  I knew the tire sensors were still talking to the car, so I knew I would get any low pressure warnings.  But the app picture was still a little ghostly.

 

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The Ghost Car

I ended up pointing this issue out to the service manager, and he fixed it by reprogramming the computer on the car.  He had never seen this issue before.

Squeaky

Right when the process was done my car started to squeak.  The Model S is currently in service to fix this strange noise that occurred right after the wheels were installed and did not go away.  I’ll report on that when I get the car back.

Conclusion

I am very glad I made this decision.  With the new style or rims, I don’t miss the look of the 21s at all, and I will save so much money and hassle in the long run.  I have only noticed a very minor difference when driving, but I have not really gone anywhere recently that is particularly fun to drive.

 

New Battery Connections

This blog post is part 2 of a  3 part series of completely unrelated incidents that just happened in quick succession.

About four miles away from home, my car issued the second warning message of 2017:

AccelerationReduced

Acceleration Reduced  Contact Tesla Service When Convenient

Fortunately, the issue did not require me to stop immediately, and I felt comfortable driving home.  When I contacted Tesla Roadside Assistance, I was transferred to Tesla Service.

When Tesla Service contacted me, a bit to my surprise I was told not to continue driving the car.  Instead of driving the relatively short distance to the closest service center, they wanted to tow my car.  Fortunately in my area, you can have your Tesla towed by appointment.  I decided to delay it a day to a more convenient time.

The local towing operation is now very familiar with Teslas and did the operation quickly and efficiently.  There are only two things unusual about towing a Tesla:  setting the tow mode on the car, and secondly using a two pronged vs one prong cable.

dualattachments

Two Points Required to Tow a Tesla

This problem with my car had to do with the connectors to the main battery.  Within two days, the service department replaced the power switches with the latest generation parts,  replaced the HV Blanket, and removed some corrosion.   The descriptions listed in the invoice are:

“Replaced power switches with latest generation parts as necessary”

“Replaced HV Blanket with updated part”

“Retrofit 2nd Generation Battery Blanket and Remove Corrosion From Battery Cover”

Here is the list of parts that were replaced:

1 BUSBAR,OUTPUT,POS,HVBAT,MDLS (1048113-00-A)

1 BUSBAR,OUTPUT,NEG,HVBAT,MDLS (1048111-00-A)

2 SCREW,M8-1.25X19,HEX,BARSS,PATCH WITH WASHERS (1004392-00-B)

1 FIELD KIT PYRO FUSE PACK 1.0 1.5 (1089619-00-B)

1 FIELD CONTRACTOR KIT W/O FUSE – PACK 1.0 1.5 (1084515-00-B)

1 BLANKET, CERAMIC,HV BATTERY,MDLS (1006466-00-F)

8 TALL HEAD HOLLOW FASTENER FOR BIW MOUNTING SLEEVES WITH VHB SEAL (1018552-00B)

2 SHORT HEAD PACK SPACER FASTENER ASSEMBLY (1018551-00-B)

1 BATTERY RECYCLING WARNING LABEL (1015713-00-B)

In general this issue was not particularly painful, I was unable to drive my car for four days (including over a weekend).  The problem could have been very inconvenient if I was away from home or on a road trip.

The cost was covered by my warranty coverage.  However, I am not sure if the cost was covered by my extended warranty or the battery warranty as the language on the Tesla website is not very detailed.

12 Volt Battery Ranger Service

12V Battery Needs Service

After a period of calm and low mileage driving in recent months, I have unfortunately encountered a few problems with my Tesla.  This blog post will be a 3 part series of completely unrelated incidents that just happened in quick succession.

I was innocently driving along and encountered a warning on my dash:

I have had my battery replaced only once before back in early 2014 when my car was in for service.  The nice part about the 12 Volt Battery replacement is that it is not an urgent matter.  If the car needs to do so, it might shut down some auxiliary electronics, but you can safely drive around for a period of time.

Ranger Service

What was also very nice, is that for no additional charge, if you live within a 10 mile radius of my service center, a ranger will come to your location.

The battery change took about 20 minutes, and just out of curiosity I watched the process.  The process is only a bit slow because there is quite a lot of screws and parts to remove.  I asked the ranger, and he said the Model X is not any more serviceable than the Model S.  Hopefully the model 3 designers will consider serviceability a little more during the design process.

This ranger service also deals with tire issues and door handles, things that can be accomplished easily at remote locations.  This service is a win win for Tesla and the customer base.  Instead of the hassle for the owner to drive to the service center and get a ride to home or work, the ranger can easily just move around town and address any issues at the owners convenience.  I am not sure if this service is available in all locations, but it worked great for replacing the battery after about 45,000 miles and 3 years.

Ranger Replacing the 12V Battery

v8 USB Media Player Bug List

Update 10/25/2016:  Another owner extensively tested the USB media formats and ID3 tagging with v8.  The very detailed report is available on TMC.

The following post was written by a guest blogger, who is known as supratachophobia on on the Tesla Motors Club Forum (TMC) and lead the effort to bring back the NEMA 14-30 adapter.  Working with the direct feedback of dozens of other owners, supratachophobia compiled an extensive and prioritized list of both bugs and enhancements of the media player as it pertains to USB audio. Content compiled, thoughts composed, and article sent in by supratachophobia, edited by Owner, which is my TMC handle.

 

Introduction

First, let me say that v8 is a welcome addition to the ongoing software development process in the S (and soon to be the X). The forums all have positive comments in general on autopilot tweaks, additional features, and the overall (but definitely not all) interface improvements. While the general design of the overhauled media interface is an improvement from v7, it seems to be slanted towards those users who primarily stream their music. As such, many of the functions for USB playback have been partially broken or made more difficult to use, particularly when driving. As a result, there are questions as to whether the testing that was done with v8 had a proper sample of those owners that use USB playback as their primary choice for audio.

The USB audio playback is a very popular feature, especially for audiophiles, because it generally produces the highest quality listening experience. In fact, those that purchased the Ultra High Fidelity Sound package did so knowing that they would be playing a large collection (many thousand tracks in fact) of high-quality/lossless audio formats from USB in order that they be able enjoy the highest possible sound fidelity. Tesla works with a broad range of music formats: from the more common MP3, MP4 and AAC (without DRM), as well as formats such as FLAC, AIFF, WAV, WMA and lossless WMA. (Note – we at TMC are not clear what is officially supported by Tesla and would like some clarification).

Streaming radio uses compressed MP3, and streaming Bluetooth compresses both high bitrate MP3 and FLAC data across the connection. Under some circumstances, iPhone AAC may be able to bypass this compression. But only through USB can the audio be lossless and at its highest quality. Many audiophile owners have very large collections (1k – 10k) of tracks on their USB, and 7.1 worked much better for these large libraries. For me personally, USB audio playback was in my list of top 5 reasons for purchasing 2 of these cars.

TMC Forum Discussions

TMC has four large forum discussions currently active (those are just under Model S, there are more under Model X) with regards to how the car now handles USB audio and the lack of testing this particular functionality in the Media app received in the new v8 rollout. Please note, that many of the concerns cataloged below were features that functioned with little to no issue in v7.

As of this writing, the TMC threads have the following number of posts and views:

250+ Posts / 6,000+ Views: Comprehensive USB Bug List

100+ Posts / 3,400+ Views: Media player in 8.0 actually got worse (for local music)

200+ Posts / 7,200+ Views: 8.0 Music Player Unusable

Main v8 Thread / Over 3,500 posts and 265,000+ views so far, with USB audio problems dominating the discussion: Firmware 8.0

8.0 USB Media Player Bug List

The following is a list of specific bugs that have been detected, with as much detail as our end-user base could glean from real-world usage. We have prioritized the list as best as possible in the order presented below.

  1. The 8.0 Media player no longer includes a letter list from A-Z allowing you to search through song, album or artist lists by the first letter. Now the media player shows everything in one gigantic list. Trying to scroll through a list of thousands of items is very dangerous when driving, and does not actually work in practice, see issue 2.
  2. When scrolling a USB list view with several pages of items, the scrolling feature does not work as expected. Any attempt at repeated scrolling gestures are interpreted as a click into a folder. When you try to back out of that, or any folder, the interface takes you to the top of the previous list, instead of the point in the list where you entered.
  3. Album tracks are being played alphabetically instead of by track number. This playback is unpleasant when listening to an album, but a horrible problem when listening to audiobooks.
  4. “Search Anything” does not search anything, it searches everything except USB media. Please allow search (both via text entry and voice) to include USB media and a priority option to USB playback (if results are found) at the top of the results list. (Rumored to have been resolved in 8.21 – thank you)
  5. When media is paused, the system should note the point in the recording. When resuming play, the system should start from that point. Today, when the driver leaves/returns to the car or resumes playback, the result is unpredictable. Sometimes the track will reset to the beginning, which is especially annoying when listening to an audiobook or podcast. Sometimes when the player is on pause, and the driver re-enters the car, the media turns itself on again.
  6. The shuffle feature “on” is not predictable or persistent and turns off at random times. (Changing between USB sources, and during entry/exit of the vehicle.)
  7. The shuffle feature itself does not properly randomize. The same sets of songs are repeated in the same order when shuffle is engaged/re-engaged.
  8. When looking at a list of items under an artist name or browsing a folder, the list view is a simple alphabetical display of all items intermixed, such as when using a UNIX ‘ls’ command. In v7, the system always had albums, which are folders, at the top of the list followed by any single tracks.
  9. The car needs to maintain Track Title, Disc, Album Artist, and Album Title in all the lists, presentations, and sorts to avoid difficulties with “Greatest Hits”, multi-disc audiobooks, and boxed multi-disc sets.
  10. Some scans take an abnormal amount of time. The forums have no clear conclusion what causes this problem: read speed of USB media, number of tracks, or size of data. The current workaround is to turn off power-saving mode in the car. Some owners report the USB sticks with 6,000 or more tracks now take two hours to get to 80% complete.
  11. Sometimes the Bass, Mid, and Treble settings are not saved overnight. Again, TMC is unsure if the problem is triggered by changing USB audio sources. We were wondering if the intended feature was to allow different equalizer settings for audio types on different USB sources. For example, audiobooks would have a different profile for music. If so, we would welcome this feature, but would like it documented in the release notes.
  12. Spaces in the USB volume name are represented by the ASCII value “\x20” and not a blank space. For example “Fix These Bugs Please” is written as “Fix\x20These\x20\Bugs\x20Please”.
  13. Album Art is still broken for some users. In this area, we would really like some clear documentation of what is supported. Some owners rarely see their album art for unknown reasons. For an album with multiple artists, the media player should display the album art if the song is not populated.

Enhancement Requests

  1. The ability to find new matching music (and add it as the next track in the queue) based upon elements from the current song being played. For example if Michael Jackson’s Thriller is playing the track Billie Jean, you could tap on the ‘artist’. The media player would then find a different track, by Michael Jackson, and make it the next track to play. Now if you pressed the text of the ‘album’ name, Thriller, then the next song to be queued would be from that album. And finally, if something like the song Smooth Criminal was playing, tapping the song title would go and find that song by another artist, for example, the version done by Alien Ant Farm.
  2. The ability to play an entire hierarchical folder. The first entry inside every folder should be a button option to play everything in that folder including loose items and all items in folders within folders. This feature would be very useful for folders that include sub-genres.
  3. The ability to bookmark a set of exact places in an audio track for resuming later. Bookmarking is a critical feature for both podcasts and audiobooks played through USB. Currently it is very challenging to try to find the correct space in an hour long or more podcast to resume listening. This feature would be able to store at minimum of 3-5 bookmarks and be found next to the “Favorites” and “Recent” tabs. The selection of a bookmark would take you not only back to the timestamp, but also to the “album” so that the book could resume at the next track. The shuffle status, on or off, should be restored to what it was as well, when the bookmark was made.
  4. When displaying a set of recently played items, this list should remember the playlist context of that item. For example, playing song 5 from album X, selecting song 5 from the recent list should remember that the person was listening to album X in its entirety. This mechanism should also work when song 5 was part of a playlist entitled “Foggy Morning Drive”, and pick up playing the rest of the music on the playlist “Foggy Morning Drive”.
  5. Some owners would like support for the m3u format, which has always been the most popular playlist format. M3u is currently recognized by every major media player on the market, including almost every other vehicle that does MP3 playback.
  6. The support of gapless playback for lossless audio formats (AAC and FLAC).

8.0 USB Improvements

  1. We generally really like the simplistic aspects of the media interface and see it as an improvement over 7.1.
  2. The album artwork from the ID3 tag is displayed most of the time. But we are curious what the size limitation is here as many owners are having mixed results.
  3. The name of the USB volumes are now recognized and displayed.

Video

I also made a video of my personal likes from the use of an Empeg for 12 years. I found a lot of it’s functions to be invaluable when listening to MP3 audio in the car.

Conclusions

The 8.0 software seems to be a nicer interface for playing music. The dual column scrolling and the Now Playing screen utilize the screen real-estate much better and more completely. But there are several opportunities to improve in the areas where USB playback challenges were left untouched or newly introduced. We hope these will be quickly addressed by Tesla seeing that with the ever-growing ownership base, more and more will come to use USB playback as their primary audio source as well.

8.0 Update

I have a classic Tesla.  A classic Tesla is the euphemism for a Tesla Model S without the autopilot sensors.  The new 8.0 software has three annoying issues for my usage:  reduced USB media support, automatic map zooming, and the challenges to have the camera on all the time.  At times I feel like the Tesla software team does not seem to realize how people use their car and do not implement and test for these situations.  Tesla has eliminated previous functionality with the 8.0 software update.

Camera Disappearance

With 8.0 it is impossible when switching between apps to maintain the camera on.  Each app now has a default position.  Some apps override the top position, others override the bottom position.  The driver cannot configure this behavior or change it.

I always drive with my camera on.  I have since I first got the Tesla 3 1/2 years ago.  The vision through the rear view mirror is so limited because the back window visibility is so small.  When you turn your head, you can’t see much out of the back windows, so the safest way to drive is primarily depending upon the camera and side mirrors.

When I get in the car in a busy parking lot, I always first check the camera for cars, children, and  pedestrians before switching into neutral.  Sometimes I wait a while before the situation clears before moving into reverse, so I want the camera on right when I get into the car in the lower screen.

camerafixed

Calling the Tesla Mothership to Report Camera Issue

I also live in an area that is frequented and at times congested by bicycles.  Unfortunately a few of these bicyclists do not obey the rules of the road, and when driving I need to be very cognizant of their behavior.  I can’t really do that without the camera on, and do not want any app to override the camera.  If I choose to have a full screen app, I may want to override the camera but I rarely want to have a full screen app.  The older software occasionally would override the camera in the lower window, but now I am forced to frequently flip and manipulate windows on a daily basis.

USB Media

I am personally not a big fan of streaming.  I have used it a number of times including a three month trial period.  I find though when listening to a stream, I run into a lot of music I don’t really care for, and then turn it off when it plays something I don’t like.  I have very eclectic tastes, and these algorithms don’t seem to be able to figure out what I might like.  I have the same issue with Netflix suggestions. I also like to go to very remote places where cell service is non-existent, so streaming is often useless.

So I stick with my large collection of music primarily though my USB stick.  As many other Tesla owners have complained about there is no longer a way to find music through an alphabetical sort.  Now all your music is in one gigantic list that you must scroll through.  This feature existed before and was removed with 8.0.

davids

Just a Gigantic List of Artists to Scroll Through

Others have voiced many other complaints about the media player, and some owners are quite upset. My usage model is pretty simple, I just generally play an album in its entirety, listen to an audiobook, listen to a podcast from my phone, or check the news on a NPR station.   I don’t have the time or energy to make playlists or switch music around at any frequency.

Automatic Map Zooming

I really dislike the auto zoom algorithm of the maps.  I have a sixth sense of direction and rarely get lost.  I use maps and navigation for three purposes: find new places I have never been before, estimate the amount of travel time, and watch for traffic problems.  Unlike most people, I do not like turn by turn directions or Waze.  I turn the voice directions off completely, and primarily rely upon the map orientation to find my way around.  So I almost always want the map at a full zoom mode, and adjust it manually to fit my needs.

In 8.0, the map now automatically zooms itself in when it decides to.  Yesterday I was in the East Bay heading north west to a new place close to Berkeley.  I turned on navigation because I had never been to this address and I wanted to choose between the often congested freeway or a scenic route as shown below.

eastbay.jpg

Watching Traffic Through the Busy East Bay

The map before I began driving immediately zoomed into the local street view, that I did not need.

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Please, Please Do Not Needlessly Zoom in on the Map When Not Asked

That information is available on the dashboard, and if I wanted to look at that on the big screen, I can manually zoom in.  I can’t maintain a wider picture of the map; if I zoom out again, it will zoom back in again.

Conclusion

These three issues with 8.0 are not major issues, but they are not minor issues either.  These three issues are just my personal concerns, and other drivers have their own dislikes.  I don’t like the Tesla software is not backward compatible.  They should not be taking away features that the user base has come to rely upon.

I have called in two of the three issues before writing this article.  I wanted to make sure that my facts were accurate, and I also wanted to report to Tesla that these problems to Tesla directly.

Upgrading my Model S?

In the middle of last month I got an unsolicited email from Tesla headquarters asking me if I wanted to upgrade my Model S.  I have not seen much chatter about this on the web and the email was addressed directly to me.  I have a VIN less than 5,000, so hand soliciting owners with less than 5,000 miles is not surprising.  A Bloomberg reports states that Tesla is strongly pushing to show positive cash flow in the third quarter.

The bulk of the email stated the following:

This is X with Tesla Motors Headquarters. Today, I am writing to you to explore upgrading your Model S! 

Our newest release of Autopilot hardware and software will revolutionize your commute and we’d like to offer you an easy path to upgrade your Model S to a vehicle with these new features.  Model S also features new options such as improved seating, Dual Motor All-Wheel Drive, Ludicrous speed, range of over 280 miles, new colors, new fascia and much more.  Above all, we have made the upgrading process simple and convenient.   

We are also excited to share that we have reintroduced the Tesla Referral Program! From now until October 15th you will receive a $1,000 credit towards the purchase price of either a Model S/X.

I had not really looked into upgrading, as I tend to hold onto cars for at least ten years unless there is a compelling reason to upgrade.  But I thought I’d look into how much it would cost to upgrade my Model S.  I had no interest in the Model X.

Possible Configuration

Base Model

There are currently four battery sizes available:  60, 75, 90 or 100 kWh.  The 100kWh only comes configured as a P100D with dual drive.  The 90 is also only available with the dual drive but the 60 and 75 can be configured with rear wheel drive.  My main interest is battery range as I like to take long trips and have the most flexibility on when and where to charge.  The following table shows the four battery options, the EPA mileage estimates, the amount of upfront cash required before sales tax, and the cost per mile.  The 60 and 75 rear wheel drive version and the 90D are in the same ballpark; if you have any interest in a longer range vehicle, you are paying the same proportion in cost for more battery cells up to the 90D.

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The P100D is a $42,500 jump from the 90D.  The 90D goes from 0 to 60 in 4.2 seconds, the P100D goes from 0 to 60 in 2.5 seconds.  If I were to upgrade, I would definitely go with the 90D.  The P100D’s range is not that much more for the extra cost. I live in an area with increasing congestion where it is increasingly difficult to enjoy fast 0 to 60 acceleration.

Options

Autopilot

I’d pay the $3,000 for Autopilot 2.0 hardware.  The primary feature I would be interested in is intelligent cruise control.  I’ve always found traditional cruise control generally more frustrating than anything else because there are always too many cars on the highway to maintain a constant speed.  The rest of the autopilot features don’t interest me all that much.

Smart Air Suspension

I bought the smart air suspension on my Model S in order to improve the efficiency while driving on the freeway.  Unfortunately I have found very little efficiency improvements using the smart air suspension.  For $2,500 and more maintenance issues, I would definitely pass on this option.

Panoramic Roof

I’d definitely configure the car with the Panoramic Roof for $1,500.  I don’t think I have ever bought a car without some sort of sunroof.

Wheels

After so much hassle with my 21” tires, I definitely would choose 19” wheels.  Low profile tires are just too much of a hassle on a wide vehicle.  I am tired of tight parking spaces, curb rash, and the increased vulnerability and wear of low profile tires.

Ultra High Fidelity Sound

For $2,500, I am a sucker for better sounding music in the car even though I don’t listen to it all that much.  I know there are after market options, but that to me is just a hassle.

Premium Upgrade Package

This $3,000 package includes a lot of miscellaneous things.  I would like to have the filtration system to some agricultural smells, and I like having a power liftgate.

Other options

I don’t have any needs for the Sub Zero Weather Package, Rear Facing Seats or the High Amperage Charger.

Aesthetics

Deciding the exact color seat combination would probably be a last minute decision.  I’d probably wait for the grey second generation seats in Mid 2017 that are a $2,500 upgrade.  I’m happy with my black interior, but I’ve always liked grey interiors the best.

Pricing

Tax Credits

I would be unlikely to get my federal tax credit of $7,500.  I did not get the credit on the Roadster, and I did not get all the credit on my Model S.  I am very fortunate to have retired very early in life, and my investments are tuned to only generate enough interest and dividend income to offset property tax and mortgage interest.  Adjusting this even in one tax year is not that simplistic, and definitely hard to do in the last quarter of a year.

The California state tax credit is a bit more complex and caught up in politics.  Right now if you try to apply you will be put on a waitlist.

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For both my Roadster and Model S, the rebate arrived very quickly and the process was painless.  Recently though the California government stopped this incentive for high income earners and increased the incentives for those with low income.  California uses gross annual incomes to determine whether or not you are eligible for the income.

income.jpgI would not count on the $2,500 California rebate if I bought a new Tesla both for political reasons and my personal widely fluctuating income.

Trade In

I have to admit the number one thing I was curious about in this process was the value of my current Model S with 59,000 miles on it.  The process to get a quote took a while but in the end, I would receive $41,000 plus a $1,000 loyalty credit contingent upon an inspection.  I don’t have any scratches on the car but they would likely deduct some curb rash repair fees.

Numbers

The most likely configuration I came up with was a 90D with about half the options for $102,000.    I would need to add in 9% sales tax and then subtract out my $42,000 trade in. I do still have $800 left in credit for an earlier referral but that might be used up to clean up the curb rash on my wheels.  In the end to upgrade my car would cost me around $70,000!

Conclusion

I have no interest in changing my under warranty 59,000 mile Model S for the a very similar car with a small increase in range for $70,000.   In the unlikely occurrence that my Model S was totaled, I might be interested in leasing and switching the cars around till I found the perfect body size for me – even driving an X for a few years then switching to a Model 3.  Upgrading a car to essentially the same car is just not all that interesting.

Autopilot & Self-Driving

Today I spotted what I suspect is a Tesla self-driving test vehicle on the day of the sad news that a Tesla owner died while driving his Tesla autopilot vehicle.  Autopilot is not a fully autonomous self-driving vehicle.  Tesla’s autopilot feature automates more of the driving experience by maintaining the car in the lane and controlling the speed of the vehicle based upon traffic in the front.  If it senses a hazard, the system will do the best to respond, but I doubt any amount of hardware or software will ever completely avoid all collisions.

Tesla’s Self-Driving Test Vehicle

A complete self-driving vehicle would allow the driver essentially to sit in the back seat and be chauffeured around town.  Both Google and Apple have efforts in this area.  Today I saw the first car that I strongly suspect is a Tesla self-driving test vehicle.

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Tesla Self-driving Test Vehicle on Palo Alto Roads Jun 30, 2016

The Tesla self-driving test vehicle is disguised as cleverly as possible.  A giant Stanford logo on the rear windshield and a Stanford license plate frame with a paper plate.  Clearly, Tesla is trying to convince locals that this is part of a Stanford research project.   Although Stanford is a very wealthy university, I doubt they would be using a brand new Model S for experimental purposes.  My suspicions were confirmed that this was a Tesla corporate vehicle when I saw it enter the back parking lot of Tesla headquarters!

The Google test vehicles always have the tell tale device on the top.

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Original Google Self-Driving Vehicle Used a Lexus SUV

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Newer Google Self-Driving Test Vehicle

Autopilot Crash

The Tesla owner died in a collision with a large truck.  Ironically Joshua Brown had earlier posted a dash cam video of how autopilot had avoided a crash on youtube.  Unfortunately, the more recent circumstances were different and explained by Tesla:

What we know is that the vehicle was on a divided highway with Autopilot engaged when a tractor trailer drove across the highway perpendicular to the Model S. Neither Autopilot nor the driver noticed the white side of the tractor trailer against a brightly lit sky, so the brake was not applied. The high ride height of the trailer combined with its positioning across the road and the extremely rare circumstances of the impact caused the Model S to pass under the trailer, with the bottom of the trailer impacting the windshield of the Model S. 

A Model S or X with autopilot is not a self-driving car.  Drivers still need to maintain their hand on the steering wheel and watch their surroundings.  Whether or not this unfortunate incident could have been prevented by a driver or an automation system is not known at this time.

Self-Driving Roads

I’m not super enthusiastic about self-driving cars.  I have test driven autopilot and since I don’t commute in heavy traffic, I don’t find it of much interest in its current state.  Although I only performed the test one day, I found it hard to not pay attention to the road but still be alert.  I think this awkwardness would likely become more natural over time.

I also wonder if we are going in slightly the wrong direction with self-driving vehicles.  We have Tesla, Google and Apple each working on their own technology.  Perhaps a better approach would be to have self-driving roads.  If all cars were self-driving and using the same standard, the road would in a sense drive each car.  The road would control the speed of each car and when you could enter or exit a lane.  The road could be virtual using cell signals between cars or a larger software system in the cloud.  If the road would control the speed and the driver had no control, you would be essentially having your private railway car.  The hard part of this vision would be incorporating all the non self-driving cars in the picture and working very co-operatively.  But Elon is good friends with the Google founders.