Unless you have your head in the sand, it’s hard to ignore the seemingly overnight success of the Fidget spinner. Virtually everywhere you look; kids (and adults too) have a little device whizzing around in their fingertips and these ‘toys’ that come in various materials and a vast array of colours have become the must-have item of the moment.
Wikipedia cites Catherine Hettinger with being the inventor. Following stories of her motivation being both a distraction for kids that threw stones at Israeli police and an aid for playing with her daughter due to her own autoimmune disability. Hettinger filed a patent for a spinning toy in 1993 (see, not overnight) but she herself concedes that there is little resemblance to the latest and most popular version and her original patent.
Regardless of whom and when this alleged little stress reliever came into being, its simple design of ball bearings and spinning ‘blades’ has certainly garnered international attention. Just like this spinning device (but obviously far less basic), you’d be hard pushed to find anyone that didn’t know about a Tesla. Again, despite the Electric vehicles seemingly overnight success (and having Elon Musk as its founder), the Tesla was developed by Silicon Valley brains Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning back in 2003. Again, regardless of its roots, the Telsa has garnered international attention and in many ways ‘cult status’.
Being a relic from the early age of steam, well that’s how I feel sometimes, I have been known to be a little resistant to change. I enjoyed growing up with small, efficient engines that made more noise than power, gears that crunched when changed and a stark lack of need for things like traction control – So please bare with me when I say that when it comes to the Tesla I’m here to tell you, I’m not a gooey eyed fan of this ‘vehicle of the future’ (well not entirely anyway).
All new vehicle sales graphs would have you believe that in the not too distant future we will all be driving around in electric powered SUV’s. And when you throw in the increasingly lackluster desire to drive coupled with the vehement demand for road safety (and saving the planet) – makes it easy to understand why Tesla is a poster child for EV’s. So in an attempt to embrace the future, I picked up the ‘key’ to their Model S P100D.
To me, the sedan’s exterior sits somewhere between a regular looking (but upmarket) conventional vehicle and a futuristic car of sci-fi movies (that face). The interior is somewhat the same. It has conventional instrumentation dials in all the right places, leather seats, Alcantara headlining and dash and even has a steering wheel BUT then it has a mammoth (17”) touch screen that is soo connected it’s unreal and a giant leap towards driver unnecessity.
Tesla are more than happy to talk you through the car’s vast list of features and benefits and I have to tell you, they do it with a beaming smile – there is a lot to be proud of. I did cut the poor chap short a bit though as I wanted to see how intuitive it all was – very I found.
The infotainment has its own sim card, so it’s constantly connected. Like your computer or smartphone (that it is) the Tesla upgrades and refreshes at will and when their tech team has their latest gem of brilliance that needs to be added. The screen is easy to navigate around (and with giant Google maps) easy to navigate from. All controls are touch menus and the descriptions are in layman’s terms and often funny – especially when it comes to air filtration and going fast. The former having a somewhat 99.something filter (that is good for nuclear fallout apparently) and the later having prompts like ‘no I want my Mommy’ dissuading you from Ludicrous Plus utilisation – as if.
Let’s cover this party trick off now. With a long clear straight in front of you (I recommend this), via the driving menu, you move from sports to Ludicrous, then hold that setting for 5 seconds to get into plus. The final prompt has you accept responsibility for your actions (followed by a Star Wars warp speed visual). It seems a bit dramatic but it’s actually warranted. A stamp on the accelerator and you can wave goodbye to your mind and stomach as you leave it in your rearview mirror (if you could look there). The feeling is rollercoaster surreal and even uncomfortable, it’s a sensation that sits between laughter inducing and breakfast revisiting – oh and addictive. 0-100kph speeds of sub 3 seconds have been quoted and I can well believe it and with a traction control that I can’t
Now that we’ve got that out of the way… There is very little need to take the ‘key’ out of your pocket, in fact, none. Walk to the Model S and the door handles come out to meet you – vice versa when you leave – none of that locking/unlocking worry. To start you just put your foot on the brake and select the gear via the steering column stalk. Driving around the streets at a normal pace is all fine and dandy, there is a visual of the car on the instrument panel that lets you know when things are near or around, almost irrelevant when you are in control, or even when in adaptive cruise but in Autopilot mode this brings Tesla’s other similarity with the spinning toy to the fore – it fidgets.
Adaptive Cruise control has (to all intents and purposes) been mastered. On the open road or now even in heavy commuter traffic you can engage this system and relax (relatively). Not so when it comes to Tesla’s Autopilot. Pulling back on the steering stalk twice makes the blue steering icon appear on the instrument panel – the car has semi-autonomous control of the drive – or has it? I tried the system out a couple of times and on the motorway, it works in a very similar vein to Adaptive cruise with the bonus of a motorway lane change feature (but it is constantly making noticeable adjustments – fidgeting). In Autopilot these ‘moves’ are amplified and it’s a little unnerving. It’s worse still on the A/B roads. I found the Tesla struggling to cope with the information it received, corners, fences, road markings and other cars (it braked at odd times and crossed the white lines – not fluid at all) the potential for disaster was huge. I guess with all new boundary pushing technology there are teething troubles but it still needs a lot of work to have it drive you to Wellington while you relax in the back seat. .
In saying all that, I will assume some of the guilt here – feedback from Tesla themselves re-iterates that Autopilot is currently in Beta and consists of Autosteer up to 150km/h, Auto Lane Change, Summon and Automatic Emergency Braking and that Autopilot is designed for use on highways that have clear line markings and not on A/B roads but I needed to know its current limitations.
My overall impression of the Tesla was that it’s very impressive – and it’s actually wooing me. There is soo much going on in terms of ticking all the future automotive boxes it’s not funny. 500km driving range (provided you behave – and have a proper home charge facility), connectivity, space, luxury, straight line speed, ride comfort, I could go on. But, and it’ a big one, I for one won’t be handing my driving license over to it anytime soon (or changing from my 80’s music selection either for that matter). Now, where’s my fidget spinner?
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