Tesla Unveils New Model S Supercar and Autopilot Features for Electric Cars

( [email protected] ) Oct 10, 2014 07:15 PM EDT
New all-wheel-drive versions of the Tesla Model S car are lined up for test drives in Hawthorne, California on Oct 9, 2014. (Reuters)

Tesla Motors Inc. unveiled the latest version of its Model S electric sedan on Thursday at a glitzy event in an airport just outside of Los Angeles along with a new automated driving system.

The car, introduced by Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk as "The D," runs on all-wheel-drive and contains one motor in the front and another in the back. Tesla claimed that The D can go from 0 to 60 mph in 3.2 seconds and has a top speed of 155 mph with a 275-mile range.

"This car is nuts," Musk said. "It's like taking off from a carrier deck. It's just bananas."

Musk also mentioned that the most recent cars coming off the Tesla assembly line has been equipped with autopilot technology. According to an article published in Businessweek, the electric car company added radar to sense and avoid objects and tied its GPS into the system to let interesting things happen now and in the future.

"You can step out of the car and have it park itself in the garage," Musk said. "Later, you will be able to summon the car. It will come to wherever you are. There's also something else I would like to do. Many of our engineers will be hearing this in real time. I would like the charge connector to plug itself into the car, sort of like an articulating snake. I think we will probably do something like that."

According to an article posted in the Wall Street Journal, the new autopilot features rely on a combination of radar, sonar and cameras to detect and recognize stop signs, pedestrians and highway barriers. A Huffington Post article noted that the autopilot will also enable the car to park on its own without a driver and monitor its environment to help out the driver, including a computer that reads speed-limit signs and adjusts the car's speed accordingly.

Tesla built The D, a faster version of the Model S, in an all-wheel-drive configuration to allow for better road handling, improved efficiency and boosts in power and acceleration. Huffington Post reports that the top model of the D fleet, the AD P85D, is expected to start shipping this December, while other models will follow suit in February 2015.

However, some people had a few reservations about Tesla's newest supercar. Carter Driscoll, a senior analyst at an investment bank, told Huffington Post that Musk drummed up excitement for the all-wheel drive announcement, considering that overall electric car sales in the United States in 2014 remained stagnant.

"I have heard some people in cooler climates question the handling," said Driscoll.

Driscoll later said that Tesla wanted "to continue to generate buzz about this great vehicle and that it's continuing to move forward," noting that "it's not a stagnant vehicle."

Tesla has set the cost of the Model S around $120,000, according to the Wall Street Journal. Adding a second motor and the autopilot system would cost an extra $14,600 and $4,250 respectively.