I’m not a car enthusiast that knows motors inside out, unfortunately. But I’m pretty sure everyone that pays attention to social media or news has heard of Tesla if not their CEO, Elon Musk.
Tesla has been in the news for the past year or so in particular to their self driving car feature, which has caused numerous controversial headlines globally. To me, it’s a fascinating feature that I wasn’t quite sure if I was brave enough to venture (or fortunate enough to). Nonetheless, still very fascinating.
A huge thank you to the Kalanick & Camp duo that founded Uber because I was fortunate enough to experience a Model S for half an hour (also credit to my Uber driver; Matthew. An extremely cool guy that had great chat about his purchase and personal venture with the car and his life, some would think a bit too personal as we are complete strangers but perhaps my extremely friendly personality woo’d him eh?). Although it wasn’t the latest model, it was the market model released in early 2016 and my goodness, it was majestic.
Where do I start? Let’s talk about when the ‘beauty’ pulled up and stopped in front of me. In pristine polished black, it revved down the street and halted less than a meter in front of the kerb. No screeching brakes or tyre traction; silence. Confirming it was my uber with a very excited thumbs up, I reacted quickly to a shining reflective panel (in presumption it was a door handle) and reached for it; nothing there, it was a flat surface. Before I could even sift through my state of confusion, I heard the first noise the car made; electronic gears. The reflective panel suddenly began extending out into the most normal looking but prestigious, both at the same time, door handle I have ever seen.
Scared to keep this journey waiting, I pulled open the door and hopped in. Cushioned leather seats that hugged your body just like a Mercedes-Benz would. High end market car seat forms as you would expect in a Aston Martin DB9. Interior kit including mats with Tesla logo just like you would receive if you bought a full model kit with a new car.. and more…
But. The most eye catching thing out of all these seductive and alluring features was the centre dash display where you’d normally see a fit-in radio in a washed up Polo from the 90s. This electronic screen display stretches from the starting point of the dashboard down to gearbox panel; it was probably the same size as my laptop screen (Lenovo G700, 19inch display) if not bigger. The initial display I saw was the car’s parking and movements features which already seemed ridiculously complex but I was shown the top menu and after failing mathematics, I can say this was the most complex thing I have ever witnessed. Lengths and lengths of different feature lines to search through; it would take some serious play time to get used to. Matthew began explaining some fun features after he told me half his life story revolved around this car; there is manual control for height suspension which allows you to change the height for comfort and different terrains (awesome!). There were also very ‘normal’ techy features you can expect in new cars like satnav, parking sensors/cameras etc but as we all know from the news there is only one feature that everyone has been eyeballing; the self driving mode.
Now, unfortunately Matthew said that the full auto-drive mode isn’t featured on this model but they have a very similar feature to cruise control but with a little more auto-motion. The cruise control mode basically self drives but you must always keep your hands on the wheel or else it doesn’t toggle mode activation. Which is totally understandable and seeing his hands on the steering wheel was slightly more comforting to this new experience. So, he switched on the cruise whilst we were on an empty highway and the car done it’s thing; cruising along the highway’s bends whilst abiding religiously to the lane order (better lane discipline than driving instructors) with it’s ridiculously advanced sensor technology without any contribution from Matthew’s guidance. For regular passengers and drivers, you’ll notice the difference in sight and feel when the steering wheel and car moves without any engagement from the driver. It’s definitely a noticeable feeling and experience.
I don’t want to spoil too much about the experience because just like anything in life, experiencing it yourself is definitely the better option.
The best thing of all? It cost me less than a taxi, it was $110 HKD, about £11-12 for a half an hour journey. So if you’re in Hong Kong (I’m sure there are other places that have this same experience but price dependant) sign up to Uber and request the Tesla Ubers; I guarantee it’s well worth it.