Yesterday I test-drove the Tesla Model S.
The Tesla Model 3 costs $35,000 compared to over $75,000 for the the Tesla Model S. It will likely be available in 2018; and it will have the same operating system as the Model S.
The Model 3 may also create a new standard for cars, computers, driver safety, environmental safety, and public heath.
This is because Tesla is a computer rather than a car, meaning that the Tesla computer operates the car.
Yesterday I experienced the Tesla Model S as a computer in the following ways:
1) Autopilot: with autopilot you essentially have a self-driving car!!!
For people like me, who aren't naturally awesome drivers, this can be life saving.
You can tell Tesla's computer, "Drive me to San Francisco."
The computer will then drive you to San Francisco autonomously, with the requirement that you apply pressure, intermittently, to the wheel to demonstrate that you are awake and monitoring.
Functionally, the car drives you. And it does it well. It changes lanes for you if you decide you'd like to switch lanes by using 1 of its 8 cameras. The camera makes the rear view mirror systems potentially unnecessary. It shows a full view of the road, the cars next to you, and the cars behind you.
The total cost for the base Tesla 3 is $35,000; if you add autopilot, it costs an additional $5,000. The progression from "autopilot" (= 95% self-driving) to self-driving (= 100% self-driving) will likely occur within the next year.
2) The car parks (parallel or easier types of parking) for you, and you don't have to be in the car. You can give it commands from your phone. The same is true for getting out of parking spaces.
3) If you fall asleep at the wheel, the computer figures this out because when it queries you to test if you're awake/monitoring on autopilot, if you don't respond by applying pressure to the wheel, the car turns on all 4 emergency lights, slows down, and pulls over to a safe place.
4) No gas. Tesla charging stations are currently free. It takes approximately 20 minutes (partial charge) to 60 minutes (full charge) to restore electricity. When you tell the car, drive me to San Francisco, the car calculates the electricity needed and navigates you to charging stations along the way if you don't have enough electricity.
If you can afford a $35,000 car, purchasing Tesla's model 3 car = computer may help to protect our environment and increase public safety.
David Soskin, MD