10 Things You May Not Know About Tesla Motors

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Since the introduction of the Tesla Roadster in 2008, fans of performance and green technology alike have flocked to Tesla Motors’ electric cars. Here a few things you may not know about the pricey, innovative rides.

1. ELON MUSK IS NOT AN ORIGINAL TESLA FOUNDER.


Scott Olson/Getty Images

Although Musk has become synonymous with Tesla Motors as the company’s CEO and product architect, the venture existed before he got involved. Founders Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning started Tesla in 2003 in an attempt to "solve a real problem": dependence on oil. The pair decided to build what Gigaom called a “beautiful, but expensive ‘aspirational’ vehicle” to improve green cars’ image and ease them into the mainstream. The Tesla team spent three years developing the product and seeking new capital. That quest for a cash infusion kicked into overdrive in 2004 when Tesla hit its first major milestone: a driveable Tesla.

2. BUT HE HAS BEEN WITH THE COMPANY SINCE 2004.

That’s where Musk came in. He led the company’s first investment round in 2004 and chaired the company’s board of directors. He also was the controlling investor, personally funding the majority of Series A capital investment with $7.5 million. As Musk became the face of the increasingly popular Tesla, his relationship with Eberhard soured and eventually sparked a legal battle that was settled out of court.

3. CHOOSING THE TESLA NAME TOOK LONGER THAN YOU MIGHT THINK.


Win McNamee/Getty Images

The company was named in honor of Nikola Tesla (1856-1943), the Serbian inventor and engineer who developed the first modern alternating current (AC) motor. On an early version of the Tesla Motors website, the company leaders stated: “Without Tesla's vision and brilliance, our car wouldn't be possible.” Co-founder Eberhard selected the name after months of struggling for an idea that his then-girlfriend thought sounded appropriate. When the two went to dinner at the Blue Bayou in Disneyland, he suggested Tesla as the company name. She approved, as did Tarpenning, who immediately secured the domain name TeslaMotors.com. The company incorporated on July 1, 2003.

4. THE BATTERIES MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE.

There are several electric vehicles (EVs) on the market today, ranging from the Nissan Leaf to the Mercedes Benz B Class—but Tesla won fans over with its unique blend of power (one gets zero to 60 in 3.1 seconds) and range (up to 270 miles per charge, according to the EPA). The reason: Other manufacturers use specialized, large format lithium ion cells. Tesla’s battery pack is made up of thousands of inexpensive commodity cells that are similar to the ones in your laptop, only more refined. There are over a billion of these cells produced a year for all sorts of industries, which means their design and performance is subject to the fierce competitive pressures that are a signature characteristic of the computer and consumer electronics industries.

5. LONG ROAD TRIPS ACROSS THE COUNTRY AREN'T A PROBLEM.

Tesla charging station
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Driving an EV can be convenient, but when it’s time to plug in the car, urban apartment dwellers or those that rely on their EVs for long road trips can’t just slip into their garages to recharge. Tesla has tried to sidestep this problem by strategically placing 1332 stations equipped with more than 10,000 superchargers around the world. The cost of using these stations is incorporated into the purchase price of the car, which is convenient. The company offers a map so travelers can find where to recharge.

6. SCHEDULED MAINTENANCE IS SIMPLE.

Getty Images

They may not be able to refuel at a gas station, but Tesla owners don’t lose much time to oil changes. Only the tires and wiper blades need regular replacement on a Tesla vehicle. The battery and coolants should be checked periodically, but thanks to the clever braking system—the car slows mostly by reversing the electrical motor instead of applying friction (which also charges the battery)—a Tesla won’t need new brake pads anytime soon, if ever. There’s no oil to change, fan belts, air filters, spark plugs, or other parts needed in traditional cars.

7. ANOTHER DESIGN ADVANTAGE MAKES THE TESLA EXTREMELY SAFE.

The Tesla vehicles are good for more than just the environment; they're also potential lifesavers for drivers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has consistently given the cars high marks when it comes to safety ratings.

In fact, at one point, the Model S achieved the best safety rating of any car in history. How tough was the Tesla? It actually broke one of the machines used for testing.

“Of note, during validation of Model S roof crush protection at an independent commercial facility, the testing machine failed at just above 4 Gs,” the company reported. “While the exact number is uncertain due to Model S breaking the testing machine, what this means is that at least four additional fully loaded Model S vehicles could be placed on top of an owner's car without the roof caving in.” This strength stems from a solid structure and the Model S’s electric drivetrain and low-mounted battery. These components allowed engineers to leave more “sacrificial space” between passengers and an impact and increase overall rigidity.

8. ONE OF THE MODEL S OPTION PACKAGES IS DOWNRIGHT LUDICROUS.

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Buyers of the top-of-the-line Model S, the P85D, may opt for a battery-and-electronics package called "Ludicrous Mode." The upgrade powers the car from zero to 60 mph in less than 2.3 seconds, zippier than the current figure of 3.1 seconds. The boost comes from a “smart fuse” with its own electronics and a tiny lithium-ion battery. Basically, the mechanism constantly monitors battery output down to the millisecond, allowing the software to run the car’s battery at close to its absolute limit. Price tag: $10,000, plus $3000 for the 90-kWh battery upgrade.

An even speedier option: Tesla's sports car, the Roadster, can make the move from zero to 60 mph in an impressive 1.9 seconds.

9. THE COMPANY HAS ALSO VENTURED INTO SUVS.

Tesla’s mid-size SUV, Model X, is a seven-passenger vehicle with three rows of seats and gullwing-style doors (“falcon doors” in Tesla lingo) that allow plentiful access to rear seats. Cons include limited cargo space and a low-end price tag expected to be at least $70,000.

10. THERE'S AN "EASTER EGG" ON MODEL S.

The Model S has a hidden feature in the diagnostics mode on the center console. Punch in 0-0-7 and the car will make “nautically themed adjustments” that show the car morphing into a sea-worthy shape.

Apple iPhone Users Should Be Wary of This Convincing Phishing Scam

iStock.com/Onfokus
iStock.com/Onfokus

Anticipating or identifying telephone phishing scams can resemble a game of Whac-a-Mole. Just when you’ve gotten wise to one fraudulent approach, several more spring up in its place.

The latest attempt to grab your private information should be on your radar because of how convincing it is. Users of Apple’s iPhone are reporting calls that appear to be coming directly from Apple itself, according to Business Insider.

Here’s how it works: Users receive an incoming call from a number that appears to originate with Apple’s help line. If the scammer is successful in replicating that (genuine) number, it will appear to be legitimate on phone screens because the help line comes pre-loaded into the phones. Rather than showing an unrecognized number, iPhones will display the Apple logo, giving the call the appearance of being authentic. Scammers will then explain that Apple servers have been "compromised" and that the users should dial a second number for more details.

Of course, the report is false and the number connects you to criminals. Scammers are hoping the veneer of the call being from Apple will prompt users to lower their guard and give out personal information such as passwords or credit card numbers.

To avoid being victimized by these efforts, it’s important to remember that callers can present, or “spoof,” any number they want, including official company extensions. Don’t presume an Apple logo is any guarantee of the call being genuine. Also bear in mind that Apple’s support division never makes outgoing calls to consumers unsolicited.

If you’re on the fence about whether Apple or any other company is trying to reach you, it’s best to disconnect incoming calls and dial them yourself. Before giving out any secure information, make sure you’re the one who initiated the call.

[h/t Business Insider]

George Mason University Becomes First College to Include Food Delivery Robots in Its Meal Plan

Starship Technologies, Sodexo
Starship Technologies, Sodexo

Students at George Mason University will now be able to buy fuel for their study sessions without trekking to the dining hall. As of Tuesday, January 22, the college is offering a robot food delivery service on its Fairfax, Virginia campus.

The new system, a collaboration between Sodexo and Starship Technologies, is the first of its kind to be integrated into a college meal plan. To use it, students must first download the Starship Deliveries app for Android or iOS, and from there they will be able to order food and drinks from a handful of locations, including Blaze Pizza, Starbucks, Dunkin', and the on-campus grocery store. Deliveries cost $1.99 per trip, and usually take about 15 minutes to complete.

The service is made possible by the school's fleet of more than 25 delivery robots. Reaching about knee-height, the boxy vehicles can hold 20 pounds each, or roughly three shopping bags of food. They navigate the campus autonomously, updating users on the journey in real-time via an interactive map in the Starship app, and when they arrive, users can unlock the hatch from their phones.

Food delivery robot outdoors.
Starship Technologies, Sodexo

"With the hectic schedules students lead, there is a convenience for students to have their food, groceries, and packages delivered," Ryan Tuohy, SVP of business development at Starship Technologies, said in statement. "Our goal is to make life a little bit easier for students, whether that means skipping the line, eating lunch on the lawn rather than in the cafe, or finding the time to eat better when studying for exams."

George Mason University is the latest place to experiment with delivering food via robot. Domino's rolled out similar autonomous vehicles in New Zealand in 2016, and 2017, the robotics company ZMP and the food delivery service Ride On Express debuted sushi delivery robots in Japan.

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