Tesla Motors has been so close to an Australian launch of its Model S all-electric sedan for so long. We've been keeping track of every little update, but we know for sure that it's only a matter of days until the Model S officially launches onto Aussie roads. Further to that, Tesla boss Elon Musk teased a big announcement — and we think we know what it is.
A week ago, Musk tweeted a darkened photo and a cryptic message, teasing not one but two announcements.
About time to unveil the D and something else pic.twitter.com/qp23yi59i6
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 2, 2014
The smart money says that the 'D' is a dual electric motor Model S P85D, bringing an all-wheel-drive option to the Model S roughly around the same time as the Model X SUV is launched (presumably with the same all-wheel-drive system, being a bigger and more versatile vehicle). The extra mass of a second electric motor would be far outweighed by its extra instantaneous power, giving Tesla a new super-performance model.
But the second announcement is for "something else" — something a lot more secretive than a new Model S variant, and something potentially more important. We think it's about the future of autonomous driving, about your future car doing almost all of the driving for you, and about the methods by which Tesla is planning to achieve that goal.
This information comes to us from a couple of future Tesla Model S owners, patiently waiting for their pre-ordered cars and for general availability to open up to potential purchasers. We've learned that there are over a dozen Model S sedans, including the top-spec Signature models destined to the earliest of adopters, finally in Australia at the moment, but they're not in customers' hands just yet. Why not? Because they're all being upgraded.
Each and every one of the cars is being retrofitted with a new top-of-the-line sensor package, the same that all new Model S shells being produced at Tesla's factory in California are being built with. That package includes and enables driving technologies like lane departure warning, blind spot detection, and automatic cruise control, and we think all of those improvements to the Australian cars point to a more holistic assisted driving announcement in the next few days.
Musk could announce that the Model S, and future Tesla cars, will be capable of 90 per cent autonomous driving — that's everything from starting, navigating, accelerating, and braking, to stopping, steering, indicating, changing lanes, and reading traffic lights.
Cars have, up until now, always needed an attentive driver at the wheel, concentrating on traffic and navigation and obeying road rules all while actually operating the vehicle itself. Semi-autonomous driving may not seem like the most attractive or alluring technology for driving enjoyment, but when it comes to driver safety, and the safety of everyone else on the roads, advanced sensors and software are demonstrably superior to fallible humans. If this is the "something else", it's a pretty big deal.
The announcement is imminent, Tesla's first Australian deliveries are imminent. More Model S cars are probably making their way to Australia on a freighter right now. There are a lot of patiently waiting customers, and potential customers, around the country, waiting to see what Tesla does next. If it's assisted driving, the American electric car company could have by far the world's most advanced passenger car on the roads, and on Australian roads, very soon.