Elon Musk drives his bizarre Cybertruck to Austin factory where new Tesla will be manufactured

Elon Musk has driven his bizarre Cybertruck around the Texas factory where the new Tesla will be manufactured. 

It marked a rare outing for the electric car which saw its ‘shatterproof’ windows smash during a live demo back in November 2019. 

Pictures show CEO Musk driving the prototype at the Austin Gigafactory site on Friday. He later tweeted: ‘I was just there, driving Cybertruck around the site where it will be built!’

On Saturday two people died after a Tesla Model S smashed into a tree in Harris County, Texas. The car failed to negotiate a bend and burst into flames, killing one occupant found in the front passenger seat and the owner in the back seat.

Musk said on Monday that preliminary data downloaded by Tesla indicate the vehicle was not operating on Autopilot, and was not part of the automaker’s ‘Full Self-Driving’ (FSD) system.

But the accident has triggered two federal safety investigations and raised serious questions over Tesla’s safety and how the car was able to move, let alone at speed, when no one was in the driver’s seat. 

Harris County Constable Precinct 4 said immediately that there was no one driving the car when it crashed, which led to speculation that the pair had engaged the car’s autopilot feature. 

Shares in Tesla fell Monday following the fatal crash; the electric-car maker slid 3.4%. 

The Cybertruck is not yet on the production line. Manufacturing was due to start this year but Musk has said they will be ‘lucky’ to get deliveries out by the end of 2021.   

Elon Musk has driven his bizarre Cybertruck around the Texas factory where the new Tesla will be manufactured

Elon Musk has driven his bizarre Cybertruck around the Texas factory where the new Tesla will be manufactured

Elon Musk has driven his bizarre Cybertruck around the Texas factory where the new Tesla will be manufactured

It marked a rare outing for the electric car which saw its 'shatterproof' windows smash during a live demo back in November 2019

It marked a rare outing for the electric car which saw its 'shatterproof' windows smash during a live demo back in November 2019

It marked a rare outing for the electric car which saw its ‘shatterproof’ windows smash during a live demo back in November 2019

Pictures show CEO Musk driving the prototype at the Austin Gigafactory site on Friday

Pictures show CEO Musk driving the prototype at the Austin Gigafactory site on Friday

Pictures show CEO Musk driving the prototype at the Austin Gigafactory site on Friday

The 'Cybertruck', which looks like an armoured vehicle with a futuristic angular body in gunmetal grey

The 'Cybertruck', which looks like an armoured vehicle with a futuristic angular body in gunmetal grey

The ‘Cybertruck’, which looks like an armoured vehicle with a futuristic angular body in gunmetal grey

The pickup, which Musk said will cost $39,900 (£31,000) and up, will have an estimated battery range of up to 500 miles

The pickup, which Musk said will cost $39,900 (£31,000) and up, will have an estimated battery range of up to 500 miles

The pickup, which Musk said will cost $39,900 (£31,000) and up, will have an estimated battery range of up to 500 miles

Cybertruck specs 

There are three versions available: 

Single motor rear-wheel drive 

  • 250 miles of range
  • 7,500-pound towing capacity
  •  0-60 mph in under 6.5 seconds
  • Costs $39,900

Dual motor all-wheel drive 

  • 300 miles of range
  • 10,000-pound towing capacity
  • 0-60 mph in under 4.5 seconds 
  • Costs $49,900

Triple motor all-wheel drive

  • 500 miles of range 
  • 14,000-pound towing capacity
  • 0-60 mph in under 2.9 seconds 
  • Costs $69,900 

(This version won’t start production until late 2022.)

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In November 2019 Musk was left embarrassed after the glass on his new electric ‘Cybertruck’ was smashed just after he boasted about it being ‘shatterproof’.

During the announcement of the truck  – which looks like a armoured vehicle with angular sides – Tesla design chief Franz von Holshausen tried to prove the glass was ‘shatterproof’ by throwing a heavy metal ball at close range.

Musk was heard muttering ‘oh my f***ing God’ when the glass smashed.  

Musk appeared confused and asked Holzhausen to try another window, which also promptly smashed, but Musk pointed out it ‘didn’t go through’ the glass.

‘Ah not bad,’ the CEO added to laughs from the audience. ‘There’s room for improvement.’

‘We threw wrenches, we threw everything, we even literally threw the kitchen sink at the glass and it didn’t break,’ he said about testing the strength of the windows. ‘For some weird reason it broke now, I don’t know why.

‘We’ll fix it in post.’ 

The ‘Cybertruck’, which looks like an armoured vehicle with a futuristic angular body in gunmetal grey

The pickup, which Musk said will cost $39,900 (£31,000) and up, will have an estimated battery range of up to 500 miles.  

With the launch, Tesla is edging into the most profitable corner of the U.S. auto market, where buyers tend to have fierce brand loyalty.

Many pickup truck buyers stick with the same brand for life, choosing a truck based on what their mom or dad drove or what they decided was the toughest model, said Erik Gordon, a professor at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business.

‘They´re very much creatures of habit,’ Gordon said. Getting a loyal Ford F-150 buyer to consider switching to another brand such as a Chevy Silverado, ‘it´s like asking him to leave his family,’ he said.

Tesla’s pickup is more likely to appeal to weekend warriors who want an electric vehicle that can handle some outdoor adventure. And it could end up cutting into Tesla’s electric vehicle sedan sales instead of winning over traditional pickup truck drivers.

He later tweeted: 'I was just there, driving Cybertruck around the site where it will be built!'

He later tweeted: 'I was just there, driving Cybertruck around the site where it will be built!'

He later tweeted: ‘I was just there, driving Cybertruck around the site where it will be built!’

Tesla CEO Elon Musk stands in front of the shattered windows of the newly unveiled all-electric battery-powered Tesla's Cybertruck at Tesla Design Center in Hawthorne, California in 2019

Tesla CEO Elon Musk stands in front of the shattered windows of the newly unveiled all-electric battery-powered Tesla's Cybertruck at Tesla Design Center in Hawthorne, California in 2019

Tesla CEO Elon Musk stands in front of the shattered windows of the newly unveiled all-electric battery-powered Tesla’s Cybertruck at Tesla Design Center in Hawthorne, California in 2019

Shares in Tesla fell Monday following the fatal crash; the electric-car maker slid 3.4%

Shares in Tesla fell Monday following the fatal crash; the electric-car maker slid 3.4%

Shares in Tesla fell Monday following the fatal crash; the electric-car maker slid 3.4%

‘The needs-based truck buyer, the haulers, the towers at the work sites of the world, that’s going to be a much tougher sell,’ said Akshay Anand, executive analyst at Kelley Blue Book.

However, it will help Musk fill out his portfolio and offer a broader range of electric vehicles.   

One of the victims of a fatal Tesla crash has been named as a 59-year-old anesthesiologist, who friends say wanted to test his Model S autopilot feature when the car crashed at speed into a tree with no one in the driver’s seat. 

Dr. Will T. Varner died on Saturday after his Model S crashed into trees just a few hundred yards from his $2million home in the gated community of Carlton Woods Creekside. 

Dr. Varner was an anesthesiology specialist who worked at Memorial Hermann – Texas Medical Center. He was driving with a 69-year-old friend at it was 11.25pm. 

Shortly after driving out of his driveway on Saturday, the car veered off of the quiet cul-de-sac and plowed into trees then caught fire. 

It took firefighters four hours to put out the blaze because the battery on the electric vehicle kept reigniting. Cops say they even had to phone Tesla to ask them how to put the fire out. 

When they eventually put the flames out, they found Varner in the backseat and the other man, who is yet to be identified, in the passenger seat.  

THE QUESTIONS FOR TESLA AFTER CRASH

HOW MIGHT AUTOPILOT ENGAGE WITH NO ONE AT THE WHEEL? 

To engage Tesla’s autopilot, the car must think someone is at the wheel by detecting the weight of their hands on the steering wheel. 

If it doesn’t, it’ll stop but it can take up to 30 seconds for it to do so.

NO ROAD MARKINGS ON PRIVATE STREET OF CRASH 

The second question is whether or not the men were able to engage autopilot when there are no markings on the private road they were on. Autopilot must detect road markings before it can be enabled, according to Tesla.

SPEED LIMIT  

Thirdly, how – if autopilot was engaged – did the car reach a speed fast enough to crash at the pace police say the men did?

Autopilot, according to Tesla, will never go above the speed limit and on the road in question, that limit is 35mph. 

Investigators have not said how fast the car was going but they have said it was at considerable speed.

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To engage Tesla’s autopilot, the car must think someone is at the wheel by detecting the weight of their hands on the steering wheel. If it doesn’t, it’ll stop but it can take up to 30 seconds for it to do so. 

The second question is whether or not the men were able to engage autopilot when there are no markings on the private road they were on. Autopilot must detect road markings before it can be enabled, according to Tesla. 

Thirdly, how – if autopilot was engaged – did the car reach a speed fast enough to crash at the pace police say the men did?  

Autopilot, according to Tesla, will never go above the speed limit and on the road in question, that limit is 35mph.  Investigators have not said how fast the car was going but they have said it was at considerable speed. Tesla’s shares dipped by 3.4 percent on Monday after the crash. 

Police say that Musk’s tweet claiming to have recovered data from the car was the first they’ve heard of it. 

‘If he is tweeting that out, if he has already pulled the data, he hasn’t told us that. 

‘We will eagerly wait for that data,’ Mark Herman, Harris County Constable Precinct 4 said. 

He says witnesses have told him that the pair were driving on autopilot. 

‘We have witness statements from people that said they left to test drive the vehicle without a driver and to show the friend how it can drive itself,’ he said.  

It’s not clear how Musk’s claims stack up against those of the local police, whose investigators said they were ‘99.9 percent sure’ there was no one behind the wheel of the car. 

Three other people have died in Tesla autopilot-related incidents.

The two men on Sunday were driving along Hammock Dunes Place in Spring, Texas, a street that is just 1,000ft long in a gated community where the average house price on the street is more than $2million. 

Tesla lovers are baffled by the crash because to engage autopilot, the $80,000 car must be able to identify clear road markings (which this street does not have). The men were also driving at night, at 11.25pm. 

After they plowed into a tree just a few hundred yards from the house they left, the vehicle caught fire and for four hours, firefighters battled the blaze while the victims’ relatives watched on in horror. 

They had to call the carmaker and ask how to stop the battery from reigniting. In the end, they used 32,000 gallons of water but the two men were incinerated.

The car did not turn along with the bend in the road and instead plowed straight into trees then caught fire

The car did not turn along with the bend in the road and instead plowed straight into trees then caught fire

The car did not turn along with the bend in the road and instead plowed straight into trees then caught fire 

Police say that the battery in the vehicle kept catching fire which made it impossible for them to put it out for hours

Police say that the battery in the vehicle kept catching fire which made it impossible for them to put it out for hours

Police say that the battery in the vehicle kept catching fire which made it impossible for them to put it out for hours

Elon Musk said on Saturday, just hours before the crash, that the cars were becoming more safe

Elon Musk said on Saturday, just hours before the crash, that the cars were becoming more safe

Elon Musk said on Saturday, just hours before the crash, that the cars were becoming more safe

Both the NTSB (National Transport Safety Board) and the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) are investigating the crash. 

The NHTSA said in a statement: ‘We are actively engaged with local law enforcement and Tesla to learn more about the details of the crash and will take appropriate steps when we have more information.  

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said on Twitter it had dispatched two investigators to the scene, who ‘will focus on the vehicle’s operation and the post-crash fire. 

‘NTSB investigators will arrive in the area later this afternoon.’ Tesla has not commented. 

Mark Herman, Harris County Constable Precinct 4, says neither Tesla nor Elon Musk has given the cops any data

Mark Herman, Harris County Constable Precinct 4, says neither Tesla nor Elon Musk has given the cops any data

Mark Herman, Harris County Constable Precinct 4, says neither Tesla nor Elon Musk has given the cops any data 

On its website, it is vague about what exactly happens if no one is at the wheel when autopilot is engaged.

‘Before enabling Autopilot, the driver first needs to agree to ‘keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times’ and to always ‘maintain control and responsibility for your vehicle.’ 

‘Subsequently, every time the driver engages Autopilot, they are shown a visual reminder to ‘keep your hands on the wheel,” it says.

Saturday’s crash happened hours after Elon Musk tweeted that the autopilot function was becoming ‘ten times safer’.

On YouTube, car enthusiasts have been sharing videos for years about how to trick the steering systems with oranges, weighted bangles or just by simply giving the wheel a nudge. 

Some have wedged water bottles in the steering wheel to trick it too.  After the crash, Tesla’s stock plummeted by 3.32 percent on Monday.  

Hours before Saturday’s crash, Musk tweeted: ‘Tesla with Autopilot engaged now approaching 10 times lower chance of accident than average vehicle.’ 

Varner was identified by the hospital group he worked for. 

‘Dr. Varner was a tremendous human being who personally impacted many throughout our Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center family over the years. 

‘Our thoughts and prayers go out to his entire family, and also to those who had the privilege of working and serving alongside him in various capacities. 

‘He will be dearly missed by so many, they said in a statement.    

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