Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Model 3 Premium Audio

Currently all offered Model 3 configuration packages include the Premium Package, but at some point that will become an optional upgrade.  One of the most enticing perks of the package for me was the premium sound system, so inclusion of the premium upgrade being mandatory was not a roadblock for me.  I was not disappointed, the sound system is quite good.  It is not audiophile level, or so I'm told because I'm not an audiophile. I just like good quality sound and the Model 3 delivers.  It's quite good.

For the best audio experience I try to stick with HD radio stations and files from a USB drive, but bluetooth from a 256kbit source can be pretty good as well.  The included streaming audio is nicely integrated, but a bit of a disappointment on quality  at 96kbit.  You can upgrade the quality slightly to 128kbit with a paid Slacker account.  I'd stick with the bluetooth using your mobile if you want to stream which will get you up to 256kbit quality, or dive into the USB drive if you can live with the clunky interface afforded the USB option.  The interface is only software so I'm hoping it gets some love in the future, it's pretty limited with basic artist, album, genre support and folders function as playlists though it's alphabetical by track name with no sorting options, but at least there is a shuffle within a folder so it works for my needs.

Notwithstanding the clunky interface for USB and low quality of the integrated Slacker streaming, I absolutely love listening to music in the Model 3.  This works out well since I also enjoy letting AutoPilot drive me places.  Combine the two and I'm road trip ready for the world!  :D

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Monday, November 26, 2018

Second Model 3 Road Trip

Our second road trip in the Model 3.. this time things get a little dicey!

Last week I drove my mother to stay with her brother, my uncle, for a week.  The visit was long overdue and with the desire to give AutoPilot a good run I offered to chauffeur to and from.  Our trip to drop her off was flawless complete with two stops at Tesla SuperChargers in each direction plus one near my uncle's house to start the return journey with a full charge.  That was a great experience.

This week it was time to return to pick her up, but since we are making the drive any way we worked in a couple days on the coast for some seafood and ocean views.  I don't know if it was the "trip mode" full charge with the car peaked at 310 miles range when I started, external construction or traffic delays, or some other outside factor, but the navigation system sent me on a different path this time around.  My best guess is even though there there was an increase in the distance of the two paths by taking the new path it was able to do the trip stretching the charge thin with only 2 supercharger stops with little power remaining on arrival, instead of the more conservative route with 3 supercharger stops (with a mostly full charge on arrival.  I put faith in the system and took the untraveled path.  Why not? ;)

Why not?!? I didn't really know the impact cold weather can have on battery range, especially at higher speeds, higher speeds like one gets bullied into when traveling on our interstate and freeway system.  I pulled off the freeway for a restroom break and a warning pops up to "Keep speed below 60mph to reach destination" !!!  It seemed the cold zapped the range hard because of the speeds, and the navigation system was already stretching us kind of thin.  These did not mesh well with our navigation path.  At least I presume this was the issue.. I don't see any other cause from my limited experiences thus far and from researching it a bit that does seem the likely culprit along with the higher speeds that already put a heavy burden on the battery.

We went into ultra conservative mode, reduced all our power consumption where possible and kept speeds very conservative, fortunately the last leg of the trip involved more freeway and highway paths that were friendly to lower speeds.  We had originally planned to go to the property and charge in the morning but to save a bit we routed straight to the charger and just arrived pretty late.  This was the only stressful part of our journey, it was scary when the warning popped up on the screen but it was reassuring to see that although we were swapping things around to be conservative to make the charger that was 100 miles away, if I felt more uncomfortable there was another supercharger, the one by my uncle's house, only 50 miles away but it would mean going a little more out of the way.  We could of course have found a 3rd party charger to fill up enough for the journey but after making our consumption reductions and not waiting until morning to charge we were fine with the charger near our destination.

For the route home we picked Mom up and charged nearby while having breakfast, then returned on our original route from the previous week with an incredibly smooth return journey that included some snacks at the Sheetz in Hickory, NC and some shopping while charging in Knoxville,TN.

What can we learn from this?  Weather should be factored in to the navigation.  Given the cold temperatures expected on the path the navigation should have taken the more conservative route instead of trying to push the limits and save me a charge stop on the path.  It's not worth the anxiety to save the last stop.  If this is too narrow then a conservative routing mode or configurable "reserve" amount to not factor into range calculations.  What do you say Elon, can we make it happen? ;)

I didn't really focus on the AutoPilot experience this time as it was on par with last week, SUPERB! 95% or more of the trip was driven on AutoPilot.  The experience was amazing and my only new feedback would be that the "use HOV" option seems to have way too much priority.  When traveling through Atlanta the AutoPilot on Nav crossed 4 empty lanes to get into the HOV, travelled one mile, then back across the 4 most empty lanes to take an exit.. after it did it the second time I realized what was going on and disabled the HOV option.  These things will impove, and if that's my only complaint after a 1400 mile journey, we are pretty much living the dream.  :)

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Tuesday, November 20, 2018

First Model 3 Road Trip

We had our first road trip in the Model 3!  I was a bit nervous as any new electric driver should be about getting to the charge stations, but I can say that the Tesla SuperCharger network is absolutely amazing. :)  The car mostly drove the trip, about 99% on auto pilot as it drove in roughly 3 hour segments between supercharger stops.  We stopped at an 8 stall in Knoxville TN that is a nice shopping area with a couple food options as well, an 8 stall in Hickory TN located at a Sheetz station and then arrived at our destination a few hours later.  The next morning we had breakfast at Cracker Barrel next door to the 16 stall in Fayetteville NC while we charged up prior to making the return journey, visiting the same chargers in Hickory and Knoxville on our way home.

This car continues to amaze me.  I love it.

Monday, November 05, 2018

AutoPilot v9 Impressions

One of the most exciting options with Tesla vehicles is the optional Enhanced AutoPilot functionality.  All cars manufactured include the hardware, so this is a software option to enable the package of driver assist software functions.  This includes traffic aware adaptive cruise control, auto steering controls to maintain your lane, auto lane change with blind spot detection when engaged with your turn signal, auto park both parallel and perpendicular in scenarios that it can detect, and with the most recent update (2018.42.3 as of this posting) limited Navigation on freeway and interstates was added.  There is also limited support to "summon" the car using the app, moving the car in or out of your garage or parking space without someone in the car driving, but this is VERY limited at present and only mildly useful.

I use AutoPilot heavily, keeping it on whenever possible.  This is both for my own benefit and to benefit the fleet learning aspect of Tesla AutoPilot.  I disable the system to handle all stop signs and traffic signals manually, those aren't recognized and handled by the system yet.  This lends itself well to freeway and interstates since there are no stop signs and no traffic signals, but as long as you are monitoring as closely as you should be it's easy to see the upcoming intersections and disable the system until you pass through them.  This manual handling is a small price to pay when the car can handle 90% of the rest of the driving.

The system is not perfect, and in the week and a half of heavy usage I've had a few situations where I didn't feel comfortable and disabled the system.  This is the job of the "co-pilot," the system is NOT ready for prime time self driving and WILL require interventions from time to time.  That said, it's pretty damn good at what it does do and I try to use it as much as possible. :)

AutoPilot is an amazing feature and a MUST HAVE for your new Tesla vehicle.  Go in with reasonable expectations, and know that more will be coming via software updates when you least expect it.  I've had my car a week and a half, and last week it did not have Navigation support with AutoPilot. Now it does.  Simply unheard of in the automotive industry, and I LOVE IT!

Act NOW, grab that mid range 260 mile Model 3 for $46k so you can take delivery by end of year and qualify for the full $7500 tax credit, which more than covers the Enhanced AutoPilot option package. :)

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Tesla Software Updates from 2019

About once a month my car gets a software update that makes it more capable and enjoyable than the month prior.  I've never experi...