Tesla offers $3,750 discount for Model 3, Model Y deliveries in December

Tesla is offering Model 3 and Model Y buyers in the U.S. a $3,750 credit if they have their vehicle delivered in December 2022, according to an update on the company’s inventory page and several posts on Reddit.

Tesla didn’t share the reason for such generosity or publish the news widely — customers received the offer through messages from their dealers. It’s possible the automaker wants owners to take their deliveries before the year is out so it can boost its fourth-quarter sales numbers, which might be dwindling as customers push their delivery times out to 2023 in order to be eligible for the electric vehicle tax credit.

Tesla’s cars haven’t been eligible for an EV tax credit for some time — since the automaker reached the previous cap of 200,000 vehicles sold. But with President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), that cap will be waived by January 1.

Under the new legislation, zero emissions vehicles will be eligible for up to $7,500 in tax credits if automakers can show that their battery components were made or assembled in North America and that a certain percentage of battery critical materials were extracted or processed in countries with which the U.S. has a free trade agreement. If an automaker can only show half, then they’ll only get half of the rebate, which will probably be the case for the next few years, considering most critical materials are still sourced from China.

Which brings us back to the $3,750 discount — the same amount of money a Tesla buyer is expected get back as a rebate next year. But instead of waiting for tax season, Tesla’s offer allows customers to reap the benefits now.

Tesla’s discount also doesn’t discriminate based on income or vehicle manufacturer suggested retail price (MSRP), according to messages received by Tesla customers. Under the IRA’s tax incentive, single tax filers are eligible if their income is below $150,000; heads of households if income is below $225,000; and joint filers’ if income is below $300,000. Additionally new electric cars and SUVs that cost more than $55,000 and $80,000, respectively, don’t qualify for the tax credit.

The Model 3, a compact car, starts at around $47,000 but can easily go over $66,000 depending on model, trim and year. And the 2022 Tesla Model Y starts at $64,990, but a fully loaded performance model can go for more than $80,000.

It’s not common for Tesla to provide discounts — in fact, it’s more like the automaker to increase its price. So the upcoming tax credit might not be the only reason Tesla is dangling discounts. A new report from S&P Global Mobility found that Tesla’s market dominance in the U.S. is waning. The company still dominates the EV sector with its 65% market share, but that’s down from 79% in 2020 and might drop below 20% by 2025. The loss of market share comes as other automakers roll out more affordable EVs.

Tesla offers $3,750 discount for Model 3, Model Y deliveries in December by Rebecca Bellan originally published on TechCrunch

4 indicators to watch for on Tesla Q2 earnings day

Elon Musk has dominated this summer’s headlines beyond the EV business he’s trying to scale.

During the first half of July, the Tesla CEO commanded attention for adding twins to his brood of 10 children, backing out of a $44 billion deal to buy Twitter and going shirtless while yachting on the Aegean. Meanwhile, the far-reaching rounds of layoffs he initiated in the spring after voicing his “super bad feeling” about the economy have led to a spate of wrongful termination lawsuits.

It’s enough to overlook the fact that Tesla’s bread and butter business – electric vehicles – seems to be in a precarious position.

Tesla’s global deliveries fell nearly 18% in the second quarter compared to the first period – the automaker’s first quarter-over-quarter decline in two years amid a supply chain crunch, factory shutdowns and shortage of raw materials to make the batteries that power its vehicles. And while the company’s year-over-year delivery numbers were well in the black, the more recent quarterly decline has some wondering if this is just a blip or signs of what’s to come the rest of the year.

Tesla’s second-quarter financial report — and the call with analysts that will follow — on Wednesday should provide insight into how Tesla is managing these headwinds as well as continuing to develop its Supercharger network and improve its Autopilot software. A call with analysts after the market closes on Wednesday will likely delve into other facets of the business and shed light on Musk’s long-term vision for the company.

What analysts and TechCrunch will be watching out for 

Per data from Yahoo Finance, analysts expect that Tesla generated Q2 2022 revenues of $17.09 billion. For the second quarter of 2021, Tesla reported $11.96 billion in revenue and $1.45 in earnings per share.

1. Production

After a stellar first quarter, Tesla showed that it’s not immune to the macro pressures that have slowed the global automotive industry. The company blamed its disappointing second-quarter production figures on COVID-19 lockdowns in China that shuttered its Gigafactory Shanghai.

The spring openings of Tesla’s $1 billion Gigafactory in Austin and first factory in Europe, the $5 billion Gigafactory Berlin didn’t help Tesla recoup the losses. The automaker’s global deliveries fell 17.9% to 254,695 electric vehicles in the second quarter, down from the 310,048 deliveries reported for the first quarter of the year.

Tesla’s U.S. sales fell 18.3% to 131,449 units in the second quarter, compared with the same period last year, according to Autodata Corp.

The automaker may provide an update Wednesday on its production outlook, as well as the status of its future lineup, which is set to include a Tesla Cyber Truck, Roadster, and Semi.

2. Supercharger network

Last quarter, Tesla announced plans to cut costs and generate revenue at its Supercharger network by extending peak-charging hours at certain Superchargers and charging customers for the Gen 2 Mobile Connector Bundle that was historically included in the purchase price of a new Tesla.

We’ll be tuning in Wednesday for updates on Tesla’s plans to expand its Supercharger network in the U.S. and turn its charging stations into profit centers. A White House memo in July revealed that Tesla plans to begin opening its Supercharger network to other electric vehicles by the end of the year. The rollout could help Tesla attract new buyers while profiting from customers of other EV brands.

The question is how will Tesla manage its existing and loyal customers while bringing new non-Tesla drivers into the fold? We’re hoping Musk addresses that challenge during the call.

3. Software

Tesla’s Autopilot software has made headlines this month as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opens special investigations into a spate of fatal crashes involving Tesla vehicles.

The latest probe, announced Monday, seeks to ascertain whether Autopilot was engaged when a 2021 Tesla Model Y killed a motorcyclist in California. The federal safety agency is looking into several other fatalities involving Tesla vehicles in California and Florida.

Meanwhile, Tesla appears to be disbanding the team developing its Autopilot technology. The automaker said last week that it’s laying off 229 data annotation employees who are part of the company’s larger Autopilot team and is shuttering the San Mateo, California office where they worked. The company announced the following day the departure of Andrej Karpathy, Tesla’s director of AI and leader of its Autopilot vision team.

We’ll be listening for Tesla’s plans to develop its Autopilot software and improve its safety record.

4. Bonus round: Master Plan 3

Musk has not spoken of the Master Plan 3 to scale Tesla to the “extreme” since he teased it in March. At the time, he tweeted that plans to deploy artificial intelligence and scale the automaker’s operations will dominate the next installment in Tesla’s long-term playbook.

“Main Tesla subjects will be scaling to extreme size, which is needed to shift humanity away from fossil fuels, and AI,” Musk tweeted. “But I will also include sections about SpaceX, Tesla and The Boring Company.”

Will talk of the Master Plan 3 resurface during Wednesday’s analyst call, or does the automaker have too much on its plate right now to plan its next act?

NHTSA investigates another Tesla crash involving death of motorcyclist

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is opening yet another special investigation into a Tesla vehicle crash, according to documents viewed by TechCrunch. This time it involves the crash of a 2021 Tesla Model Y that killed a motorcyclist in California earlier this month.

Reuters was the first to report the special investigation.

This is the 38th special investigation of a crash involving a Tesla vehicle since 2016. Of those crashes, 18 were fatal. The latest probe, like most of the others, seeks to ascertain whether or not Autopilot, Tesla’s advanced driver assistance system, was in use at the time of the crash.

Earlier this month, the NHTSA opened an investigation into one such fatal crash in which a pedestrian was killed and involved a 2018 Tesla Model 3 in California. The NHTSA also opened up special probes into another fatal Tesla crash, this one in Florida, which killed a 66-year-old Tesla driver and a 67-year-old passenger. In May, the agency began investigating a crash involving a 2022 Tesla Model S that killed three people.

The NHTSA declined to comment on the case, as it is still open. Local news reported that on July 7, a 48-year-old motorcyclist was killed after a collision on the Riverside Freeway in Riverside. He was riding in the HOV lane and was approached from behind by the Tesla. A crash then occurred that hurled the rider onto the freeway, according to My News LA.

The NHTSA usually opens more than 100 special crash investigations each year that probe emerging technologies.

Tesla cannot be reached for comment because it has disbanded its press office.

Tesla increases prices across lineup, with Model X up as much as $6,000

Tesla has upped its prices again, with some models increasing in price by up to $6,000. The automaker has increased prices of its luxury electric vehicles multiple times this year, including a major price hike twice in the same week in March and a smaller increase on certain Model 3s in April.

Tesla updated its online configurator on Wednesday to represent the increase in prices across its entire lineup, according to Electrek, which has been tracking the price increase. Archived copies of Tesla’s website via Wayback Machine taken as recently as April 23 confirm the difference in price.

As usual, Tesla has not provided an explanation for the increase in prices, but given the similar hikes being made by other automakers, it’s probably safe to assume a combination of inflation, supply chain issues and slowed production in China are all contributing factors.

In April, during Tesla’s first quarter earnings call, CEO Elon Musk said he thought inflation was worse than reported and likely to last all of 2022. He also said global commodities supply constraints could hamper future production.

Here’s a rundown of the increases in Tesla vehicles this time around:

  • Tesla Model X: The dual motor all-wheel drive Long Range Model X increased from $114,990 to $120,990 today. That’s an increase of $6,000 for the electric SUV. The Model X Plaid price at $138,990 has not yet been affected.
  • Tesla Model S: The dual motor all-wheel drive Long Range Model S went from $99,990 to $104,990 on Wednesday, an increase of $5,000. Similarly to the Model X, the Plaid will remain the same price at $135,990.
  • Tesla Model Y: Both versions of the automaker’s most popular model increased. The Long Range went from $62,990 to $65,990 and the Performance went from $67,990 to $69,990, an increase of $3,000 and $2,000, respectively.
  • Tesla Model 3: The Long Range increased from $54,490 to $57,990, an increase of $2,500.

Tesla’s stock is up 5.48% in after hours trading.

Revel to expand EV fast-charging network with backing from BlackRock

Revel, the Brooklyn-based startup that first made a name for itself with its iconic shared blue electric mopeds in New York City, has raised a $126 million Series B in a funding round led by BlackRock Renewable Power.

Toyota Ventures, an existing investor, also participated in the round, along with Goodyear Ventures, Shell Ventures, Broadscale Group, the St Baker Energy Innovation Fund and an account managed by Knighthead Capital Management. The latest investment, following a $34 million Series A last year, brings the company’s total funding to around $165 million.

Representatives from BlackRock and Toyota Ventures will join Revel’s board of directors, according to the company.

Revel plans to use the funds to expand its network of EV fast-charging “Superhubs” throughout 2022. The company wouldn’t share many specifics, but it said it would have 10 to 25 universal DC-fast chargers and sites operating across NYC and potentially other major cities in the U.S., as well.

“This investment is highly complementary to our existing portfolio of investments in the rapidly growing EV charging infrastructure space, which presents an attractive opportunity for our clients as we continue to support the energy transition,” Martin Torres, Head of the Americas for BlackRock, said in a statement.

Revel launched its first — and so far only –Superhub in Brooklyn with 25 charge points last June, and like that one, all of the new hubs will be open to the public 24/7 and accessible to any brand of EV.

“Urban charging infrastructure is the missing piece that’s kept millions of drivers from making the switch to EVs, and with this funding Revel will be able to build it in cities across the country,” CEO and co-founder Frank Reig said in a statement.

While consumer and commercial EV use grows, Revel’s Brooklyn charging station has had guaranteed utilization from the company itself, which launched an all-EV (all-Tesla, no less) ride-hail service in Manhattan last August. There was some initial conflict with NYC’s Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC), which had issued a cap on new taxis from entering the over-saturated market, but Revel was ultimately able to rely on an exemption for electric and wheelchair-accessible vehicles to gain approval to launch. Perhaps the fact that it actually employs its drivers and provides benefits lent a helping hand to the company’s cause.

The TLC did not immediately respond to requests for more information about Revel’s ongoing status as a taxi operator.

While the moped service will continue, Revel is winding down one of its business units – e-bike subscriptions. The company launched a limited service a year ago, but realizes that the market is trending more toward an ownership rather than a subscription model as e-bikes become increasingly affordable.

Revel’s vertical integration of electric vehicle options on top of fast-charging EV Superhubs maximizes both consumer choice and infrastructure utilization,” Jim Adler, founding managing director of Toyota Ventures, said in a statement. “It’s the right strategy to provide accessible transit that lowers city carbon emissions, improves the health of the planet and drives Revel’s success in the most lucrative markets in the world.”

Tesla hosts festival at Berlin gigafactory to announce start of production by December

Tesla CEO Elon Musk threw a rager at the new Berlin gigafactory on Saturday – complete with bright lights, techno music, a Ferris wheel, carousel, arcade and vegetarian food trucks – to announce the start of production at the disputed site that’s faced lawsuits by environmental groups.

“We’re aiming to start production in a few months, basically, November or December, and hopefully deliver our first cars in December,” said Musk at the event to the applause of thousands of fans. “But starting production is kind of the easy part. The hard part is reaching volume production.”

Volume production amounts to 5,000 or “hopefully 10,000” vehicles per week, said Musk. The factory is expected to manufacture Model Y vehicles, in addition to millions of battery cells. Tesla submitted plans to invest around $5.8 billion in a battery plant with 50 GWh capacity next to the 300-hectare site, and Musk promised volume production of battery cells by the end of the year. Volkswagen’s planned factory in Salzgitter is expected to produce 40 GWh capacity.

Construction on the Tesla gigafactory in Berlin-Brandenburg, which was granted two years ago by authorities under an exceptional procedure, is nearly complete, despite opposition from locals who are holding up final approval for the plant due to environmental concerns. Musk’s over-the-top event looks to be an attempt to win over the natives, an almost cartoonish move reminiscent of Stranger ThingsMayor Kline throwing an Independence Day festival to win votes and distract from the Russians he had leased land to in order to open yet another otherworldly portal.

In June, Finnish political party the Green League and the Brandenburg Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union filed suit for an immediate halt to the testing of machines in the paint shop, foundry and press shop at the factory over concerns of chemical leaks and other environmental harm. Last year, work at the site was temporarily suspended when NGOs requested an injunction to protect nearby natural habitat of certain endangered lizards and snakes.

Locals filed more than 800 complaints that are being discussed via an online residents’ consultation process, which is due to close on October 14, according to Bloomberg. Only then will environmental authorities make a final decision on approval.

Despite pushback, Tesla has a 95% chance at gaining factory approval, according to Brandenburg’s economy minister. The Tesla factory, which is currently hiring widely throughout Europe, is in favor with many political parties in the country who see it as a major economic boost for eastern Germany. 

Musk defended the factory against critics saying it used “relatively little” water and that battery production would be “sustainable.”

NHTSA rejects petition for formal investigation into Tesla’s battery management software

The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration rejected a 2019 petition requesting the agency open a formal investigation into Tesla’s battery management software over allegations that an over-the-air update was defective and caused fires in five vehicles.

The agency decided not to open a formal investigation in part because the majority of those incidents occurred outside of the United States, according to a document posted on its website. None of these were related to crashes and most were parked.

As part of its evaluation, NHTSA reviewed 59 complaints out of the total 61,781 Model S and Model X vehicles from 2012 to 2019 included in the petition before it decided to reject it. Out of the 59 complaints, 52 alleged reductions in battery capacity and seven alleged reductions in charging speed after the software was updated. Log data from the vehicles showed that the voltage limiting firmware was enabled in 58% of the complaints, but that subsequent updates restored some or all battery capacity to those vehicles, according to the report summary.

The agency did find that a perfect storm caused two of the fires that occurred in China in 2019. The vehicles had recently completed fast-charging sessions, the batteries were at a high state-of-charge and were parked with the battery cooling systems shut off. The two vehicles also had histories of high-stress usage.

Sources familiar with Tesla’s battery management system say if there were truly a systematic software issue, way more than five cars would have caught fire. The more likely causes of such infrequent issues would be physical defects from manufacturing or physical damage in the course of use, like putting recently Supercharged vehicles under high stress, which NHTSA says is more common in China where those fires occurred.

There were also two fires that occurred in the U.S., but one involved a vehicle with no Supercharging history that was driving at the time of the fire, and another that couldn’t be linked back to the high-voltage battery system. The fifth fire happened in Germany with a vehicle that had been parked at a low state of charge for an extended period of time.

“Given the absence of any incidents in the United States related to fast charging, and the absence of any such incidents globally since May 2019, it is unlikely that an order concerning the notification and remedy of a safety-related defect would be issued due to any investigation opened as a result of granting this petition,” the petition concluded. “Therefore, upon full consideration of the information presented in the petition, and the potential risks to safety, the petition is denied.”

The report did say that the agency would take further action if warranted, despite the denial of this current petition, if future findings identify safety-related defects.

Even as NHTSA rejects this petition, it is still moving forward with a different investigation into Tesla’s Autopilot software after certain cars that had activated the advanced driver assistance system crashed into 12 parked first responder vehicles with flashing lights, resulting in 17 injuries and one death since 2018. Tesla has until October 22 to hand over detailed Autopilot data or face fines up to $115 million, a slap on the wrist, really, considering the company’s second quarter net income of $1.14 billion.

Gravity is launching an indoor charging hub in NYC with plans to scale

Electric vehicle fleet and infrastructure startup Gravity thinks it has cracked the code for urban EV charging infrastructure. 

The company, which was founded in February this year, announced its construction project to convert an indoor parking garage in the middle of Manhattan into a public EV fast charging hub. When the 29-space garage on 42nd Street, which Gravity is leasing from real estate firm Related Companies, opens in within a few weeks, it will be the island’s first dedicated EV charging space. Based on Gravity’s plans to scale, it won’t be the last. 

“We’ll probably see five to ten fast charging sites of different capacity in Manhattan over the next six months or so,” Moshe Cohen, Gravity’s CEO and founder told TechCrunch. “We’ve gone with Con Ed to dozens of sites in the five boroughs. We’ve surveyed the power grid and have plans to scale because it doesn’t work as a one-off. It works with scale, with coverage areas.”

Finding a place to park your car in New York City is a nightmare in and of itself. Finding a park and a charge for your EV is like finding a unicorn, and probably an expensive unicorn at that. Most of NYC’s EV charge points are behind the literal paywalls of parking garages, where you might find one or two Blink or EV Connect chargers nestled into a sea of ICE vehicle parking spaces. With Gravity’s hub, parking is free while cars are being charged. The only cost is that of electricity.

Gravity is not the first to recognize the problem of charging electric vehicles in an urban core. Electric mobility company Revel, first known for its shared e-mopeds around New York City, opened the city’s first public fast charging hub in an outdoor lot in Brooklyn this past June. Con Edison, New York’s electric utility company, has supported both initiatives with its electric vehicle charging incentives and rewards.

For Gravity’s site at Manhattan Plaza, the company worked with Con Ed to pull spare capacity power from two separate utility rooms on 42nd Street and Ninth Avenue, bringing in around 2,400 amps of power, which Cohen says is extremely rare to have condensed in one place in any city, let alone New York.

Cohen said he spent a long time location-scouting before choosing this as Gravity’s first spot, and proximity to power wasn’t the only game changer here. The site has its own dedicated entrance off 42nd Street and falls right between Ninth and Tenth Avenues, which is not only close to Times Square and the heart of the city, but also to the Lincoln Tunnel which provides access to and from New Jersey.

“Our vision is we are bringing infrastructure to all the places that cars are right now, so if you’re in our coverage area, you should never have to worry about charging your vehicle, because it’ll get charged where it’s parked,” said Cohen. “So if you think about dense urban areas like Manhattan or downtown Chicago, where are cars parked? They’re either on a curb or they’re inside parking garages, and they’re very space constrained. And so you have to design different equipment that deals with the space and power constraints in order to have charging happen in all those places.”

Design is a big part of Gravity’s business model, from the design of the space itself to the charging equipment. The company says it’s collaborating with Jasmit Rangr, an architect who is known for integrating his buildings with the landscape, climate and environment, in order to transform garages into attractive and welcoming spaces that house clean electric vehicles. 

“The whole area is for EVs only, so it’s really a chance to showcase an experience around what the world would look like if parking areas for cars had no pollution or oil spills,” said Cohen.

Indeed, the renderings do look pretty flash – not at all the dark, creepy, petrol-smelling caverns that one associates with city parking garages. Gravity says Rangr also integrated interactive touchscreens into the designs of the various spaces the company is building out around NYC. The touchscreens are designed by Gravity to help users adjust and monitor their vehicle’s charging as they wait amongst the light-filled wooden car cubbies and try to decide if the plant decor is real or fake. 

Providing standardized and simplified equipment was a big concern for Cohen, as well. He says the current model for public charging equipment in most cases includes an amalgamation of software, hardware and payment processing that are not very well integrated. Gravity has worked with an unnamed manufacturing partner to consolidate those segments and create a more seamless user experience, and that includes what’s happening on the back end of the charge, according to the company. 

Gravity’s first site will accommodate about 22 fast chargers, three intermediate chargers and a few slow chargers. All of the fast chargers are up to 180kW, which means that even when two vehicles are plugged into one installation, each plug can do 90 kW of energy. Cohen says anything below 80 kW isn’t truly fast charging, and many of the companies that claim they offer fast charging are really only able to put out around 62.5 kW. Cohen also says by sending that current through 400 amp charging cables, even smaller volt batteries like those in Teslas can receive more than 80 kW. 

The intermediate chargers use about 24kW to 30 kW equipment and charge cars within one to three hours. The slow chargers charge overnight or within six to eight hours using 11 kW equipment. 

Many of the parking spots will be taken up by Gravity’s fleet of Tesla Model Y yellow cabs, which will charge overnight, says Cohen. Bringing a fleet of electric taxis to NYC was actually the impetus behind building charging infrastructure. Cohen has a soft spot for the yellow cab as an institution and wanted to come up with a way to give it a Renaissance. He got the greenlight from Tesla to lease the vehicles for this use case and worked with the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) to change the rules so a Tesla could be seen as a taxi before setting out on the harder task of how to charge the fleet. 

“I talked to all the major charging equipment companies, and I quickly realized that there’s no charging equipment that is set up for charging fleets, and I realized the extent of the problem,” said Cohen. “We started thinking about infrastructure because the model just does not work without infrastructure and a yellow taxi using a model Y requires high levels of utilization and scale.”

In May, the TLC approved Gravity’s pilot program, and Cohen said the agency is going to release an MOU to continue the program within the next few weeks. In the meantime, Gravity wants to ramp up installing equipment at scale so that it can then grow its fleet.

“People think of mobility as this drain of cash and nobody has figured it out,” said Cohen. “I actually think that mobility and infrastructure are going to get solved together, and you’ll be able to make margins off utilization that are generous.”

Consumer Reports concerned Tesla uses owners to test unsafe self-driving software

A Tesla in full self-driving mode makes a left turn out of the middle lane on a busy San Francisco street. It jumps in a bus lane where it’s not meant to be. It turns a corner and nearly plows into parked vehicles, causing the driver to lurch for the wheel. These scenes have been captured by car reviewer AI Addict, and other scenarios like it are cropping up on YouTube. One might say that these are all mistakes any human on a cell phone might have made. But we expect more from our AI overlords. 

Earlier this month, Tesla began sending out over-the-air software updates for its Full Self-Driving (FSD) beta version 9 software, an advanced driver assist system that relies only on cameras, rather than cameras and radar like Tesla’s previous ADAS systems.

In reaction to videos displaying unsafe driving behavior, like unprotected left turns, and other reports from Tesla owners, Consumer Reports issued a statement on Tuesday saying the software upgrade does not appear to be safe enough for public roads, and that it would independently test the software update on its Model Y SUV once it receives the necessary software updates. 

The consumer organization said it’s concerned Tesla is using its existing owners and their vehicles as guinea pigs for testing new features. Making their point for them, Tesla CEO Elon Musk did urge drivers not to be complacent while driving because “there will be unknown issues, so please be paranoid.” Many Tesla owners know what they’re getting themselves into because they signed up for Tesla’s Early Access Program that delivers beta software for feedback, but other road users have not given their consent for such trials. 

Tesla’s updates are shipped out to drivers all over the country. The electric vehicle company did not respond to a request for more information about whether or not it takes into account self-driving regulations in specific states — 29 states have enacted laws related to autonomous driving, but they differ wildly depending on the state. Other self-driving technology companies like Cruise, Waymo and Argo AI told CR they either test their software on private tracks or use trained safety drivers as monitors. 

“Car technology is advancing really quickly, and automation has a lot of potential, but policymakers need to step up to get strong, sensible safety rules in place,” says William Wallace, manager of safety policy at CR in a statement. “Otherwise, some companies will just treat our public roads as if they were private proving grounds, with little holding them accountable for safety.”

In June, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a standing general order that requires manufacturers and operators of vehicles with SAE Level 2 ADAS or SAE levels 3, 4 or 5 automated driving systems to report crashes. 

“NHTSA’s core mission is safety. By mandating crash reporting, the agency will have access to critical data that will help quickly identify safety issues that could emerge in these automated systems,” said Dr. Steven Cliff, NHTSA’s acting administrator, in a statement. “In fact, gathering data will help instill public confidence that the federal government is closely overseeing the safety of automated vehicles.” 

The FSD beta 9 software has added features that automates more driving tasks, like navigating intersections and city streets with the driver’s supervision. But with such excellent graphics detailing where the car is in relation to other road users, down to a woman on a scooter passing by, drivers might be more distracted by the tech that’s meant to assist them at crucial moments. 

“Tesla just asking people to pay attention isn’t enough — the system needs to make sure people are engaged when the system is operational,” said Jake Fisher, senior director of CR’s Auto Test Center in a statement. “We already know that testing developing self-driving systems without adequate driver support can — and will — end in fatalities.”

Fisher said Tesla should implement an in-car driver monitoring system to ensure drivers are watching the road to avoid accidents like the one involving Uber’s self-driving test vehicle, which struck and killed a woman in 2018 in Phoenix as she crossed the street. 

Revel launches an all-electric, rideshare service with a fleet of 50 Teslas

Revel started out in 2018 with shared, dockless e-mopeds in Brooklyn, which later expanded to  Queens, Manhattan, the Bronx and a handful of other U.S. cities. This year, the company launched a monthly e-bike subscription in New York City and announced plans to build an electric vehicle charging hub in Bed-Stuy. Now, Revel is introducing an all-electric — and all-Tesla — rideshare service in Manhattan.

What once seemed like a company with an identity crisis dabbling at random with different forms of mobility is starting to come together as a calculated strategy to own the electrification infrastructure of cities, starting with NYC. This has been founder and CEO Frank Reig’s war cry from the start.

“From day one, our mission has been to electrify cities,” Reig told TechCrunch. “We do that by providing electric transportation options needed in cities, as well as building the electric vehicle infrastructure needed to make that happen.”

The new rideshare venture, which will launch in late May with a fleet of 50 Revel-branded Tesla Model Ys, is the natural next step in the process of working towards “electrifying every single trip in a city,” says Reig. Customers will be able to access ride-hailing services with the same app used to book e-mopeds. The launch will begin in a zone below 42nd Street, and will expand to additional neighborhoods based on demand and data from the initial phase, according to the company.

Revel’s rideshare launch is taking a similar approach to its initial moped launch three years ago, starting in a small area and slowly growing towards an overall goal of serving the entire city, according to co-founder Paul Suhey.

The company is still in the application process to become an approved operator with NYC’s Taxi & Limousine Commission. Revel’s initial application was approved, but there are a few more steps to acquiring a fully issued license. 

“I think one reason we’re even coming out with this right now instead of waiting until everything is officially licensed and ready to go is because we’re employing drivers,” Suhey told TechCrunch. “When it comes to employing drivers, we need to get the word out. We need to be able to recruit and retain drivers now.”

Revel’s customer rates will be on par with competitors like Uber and Lyft, Reig says, but rather than relying on gig economy workers, the company intends to hire all of its drivers. 

“For the same price, you’re able to get into a fully electric vehicle with a company that actually employs New Yorkers and doesn’t push all the insurance risk and asset depreciation onto New York City residents just trying to make a living,” said Reig.

Paying workers is not just altruism for Revel. It makes more sense to employ drivers because the company needs to own the Teslas, in large part so they can be built to Revel’s specifications. The Model Ys will be painted “Revel-blue” and will include a touchscreen to control cabin conditions like temperature and music. The front passenger seat of the vehicles will be removed to both adhere to Covid-19 distancing guidelines and to allow riders to stretch their legs. 

But more importantly, Revel learned a valuable lesson from the $200 million PR campaign from the likes of Uber, Lyft and Postmates to lobby Californians to vote for Proposition 22, a ballot initiative which would make the app-based companies exempt from treating workers as employees with benefits. The initiative passed, but Reig is of the opinion that that money could have gone towards attracting and maintaining a solid workforce, rather than constantly trying to fill the funnel of drivers with a disillusioned labor pool.  

“There’s also a safety piece when you’re talking about a fleet,” said Reig. “Because it’s our fleet, we’re able to understand exactly the acceleration, the speed and the braking of the car at all times. Every single driver that we employ and train will be getting safety scores at the end of every shift so they can improve their driving. So now, we’re able to lower insurance costs and liabilities.”

As cities electrify, Revel wants to be the one scaffolding the business models going forward. Offering up a ride-hail is not just about building out a new business line. It’s also about accelerating the production of the company’s charging business. Revel’s trying to establish an electric monopoly while solving for the chicken-and-egg problem of prospective EV buyers who would buy electric if only there were charging stations and planners who would build EV infrastructure if only more people were buying EVs.

“Everything that we do as a company is about trying to drive EV adoption and access to electric mobility in cities,” said Suhey. “People think about that in terms of access to a different mode, whether that’s an electric car, an electric bike, a moped — we’re thinking more broadly about electrification in cities.”