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Tesla has received 146,000 reservations to order the Tesla Cybertruck, pulling in some $ 14.6 million in deposits just two days after the company’s CEO Elon Musk unveiled the futuristic and angled vehicle.

Reservations require a $ 100 refundable deposit. How many of those deposits will convert to actual orders for the truck, which is currently priced between $ 39,900 and $ 69,900, is impossible to predict. And there will likely be plenty of speculation over the next two years. Production of the tri-motor variant of the cybertruck is expected to begin in late 2022, Tesla said.

Musk tweeted Saturday that 146,000 Cybertruck orders have been made so far. Of those, 41% picked the most expensive tri-motor option and 42% of future customers chose the dual motor version. The remaining 17% picked the cheapest single-motor model.

The Tesla Cybertruck, which Musk unveiled in dramatic fashion at the Tesla Design Center in Hawthorne, Calif., has been polarizing with skeptics heaping on the criticism and supporters pushing back in kind. Even Tesla fans at the Cybertruck event, which TechCrunch attended, seemed torn with some praising it and others wishing Musk had created something a bit more conventional.

The vehicle made of cold-rolled steel and features armored glass that cracked in one demonstration and an adaptive air suspension.

Tesla said it will offer three variants of the cybertruck. The cheapest version, a single motor and rear-wheel drive model, will cost $ 39,900, have a towing capacity of 7,500 pounds and more than 250 miles of range. The middle version will be a dual-motor all-wheel drive, have a towing capacity of more than 10,000 pounds and be able to travel more than 300 miles on a single charge. The dual motor AWD model is priced at $ 49,900.

The third version will have three electric motors and all-wheel drive, a towing capacity of 14,000 pounds and battery range of more than 500 miles. This version, known as “tri motor,” is priced at $ 69,900.


TechCrunch

Tesla broke national labor laws when it unfairly prevented workers from unionizing, an administrative law judge in California ruled Friday.

The ruling, which will likely be appealed, was first reported by Bloomberg. Tesla has not responded to a request for comment. TechCrunch will update the article if Tesla responds.

The automaker and CEO Elon Musk were ordered by Judge Amita Baman Tracy to take several actions to remedy the violations, including reinstating and giving backpay to a fired pro-union employee. The judge also ordered Musk to hold a public meeting and read aloud the findings to employees at the factory informing them the NLRB concluded the company had broken the law.

From the ruling:

I recommend that Respondent be ordered to convene its employees and have Elon Musk (or, if he is no longer the chief executive officer, a high-ranking management official), in the presence security guards, managers and supervisors, a Board agent and an agent 15 of the Union, if the Region and/or the Union so desire, read the notice aloud to employees, or, at Respondent’s option, permit a Board agent, in the presence Musk, to read the notice to the employees at the Fremont facility only.

The NLRB, while able to determine Tesla violated the law, has a limited reach, Bloomberg noted. The NLRB, for instance, can’t hold executive personally liable, nor can it assess punitive damages.

The ruling, which was published Friday, found that Musk and Tesla had violated the National Labor Relations Act by repressing attempts to organize a union at the company’s Fremont. Calif., factory. The judge determined that Tesla violated labor laws when it created rules that prevented off-duty employees from distributing union organizing leaflets in the Fremont parking lot, fired two workers unfairly and interrogated employees about their union activities. The judge also determined that Musk’s own tweets violated the law when he implied that workers who unionized would have to give up give up company-paid stock options.

 


TechCrunch

A Tesla Model S was in Autopilot mode —the company’s advanced driver assistance system — when it crashed into a fire truck in Southern California last year, according to a preliminary report released Tuesday by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Reuters was the first to the report on the contents of the public documents. A final accident brief, including NTSB’s determination of probable cause, is scheduled to be published Wednesday.

The crash, involving a 2014 Tesla Model S, occurred Jan. 22, 2018 in Culver City, Calif.  The Tesla had Autopilot engaged for nearly 14 minutes when it struck a fire truck that was parked on Interstate 405. The driver was not injured in the crash and the fire truck was unoccupied.

Tesla has not commented on the report. TechCrunch will update if the company provides a statement.

The report found that the driver’s hands were not on the wheel for the vast majority of that time despite receiving numerous alerts. Autopilot was engaged in the final 13 minutes and 48 seconds of the trip and the system detected driver-applied steering wheel torque for only 51 seconds of that time, the NTSB said. Other findings include:

  • The system presented a visual alert regarding hands-off operation of the Autopilot on 4 separate occasions.
  • The system presented a first level auditory warning on one occasion; it occurred following the first visual alert.
  • The longest period during which the system did not detect driver-applied steering wheel torque was 3 minutes and 41 seconds.

In the 2018 crash into a fire truck, the vehicle was operating a “Hardware Version 1” and a firmware version that had been installed via an over-the-air software update on December 28, 2017. The technology provided a number of convenience and safety features, including forward, lane departure and side collision warnings and automatic emergency braking as well as its adaptive cruise control and so-called Autosteer features, which when used together

While the report didn’t find any evidence that the driver was texting or calling in the moments leading up to the crash, a witness told investigators that he was looking down at what appear to be a smartphone. It’s possible that the driver was holding a coffee or bagel at the time of the crash, the report said.

Autopilot has come under scrutiny by the NTSB, notably a 2016 fatal crash in Florida and a more recent one involving a Walter Huang, who died after his Model X crashed into a highway median in California. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also opened an inquiry into the 2016 fatal crash and ultimately found no defects in the Autopilot system. NTSB determined the 2016 fatal crash was caused by a combination of factors that included limitations of the system.

The family of Huang filed in May 2019 a lawsuit against Tesla and the State of California Department of Transportation. The wrongful death lawsuit, filed in California Superior Court, County of Santa Clara, alleges that errors by Tesla’s Autopilot driver assistance system caused the crash.


TechCrunch

Tesla said Wednesday it has launched an insurance product, promising owners of its electric vehicles to deliver rates 20% and even as high as 30% lower than other insurance providers.

For now, the product known as Tesla Insurance, will only be available to owners in California. The business will expand to additional U.S. state in the future, Tesla said without naming where or providing a timeline.

The announcement follows Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s promise back in April that the company would launch an insurance product “in about a month.” At the time, he said it would be “much more compelling than anything else out there.”

The company argues that Tesla Insurance will be able provide insurance at a lower cost by leveraging the “advanced technology, safety, and serviceability of our cars.” In short, Tesla is saying that it deep insight and familiarity with its own vehicles gives it a better understanding of the technology and repair costs. This helps eliminate fees taken by traditional insurance carriers.

Tesla says the cost of each policy will be based on an individual’s driving record and “other factors that can typically impact a person’s insurance rates.” The company says it won’t, however, use or record vehicle data, such as GPS or vehicle camera footage, when pricing insurance.

That policy seems in direct conflict with Musk’s comments during a first-quarter earnings call with analysts in April when he said Tesla has an “information arbitrage opportunity, explaining that it’s able to capture driving data, giving the company direct knowledge of the risk profile of the driver and car.

If customers want to buy Tesla insurance they might have to agree to “not drive the car in a crazy way,” Musk said at the time. He later added that they can drive crazy, they’ll just have a higher insurance rate.

Tesla insurance won’t cover commercial services such as using the vehicle for ride-hailing or car-sharing services.

Owners looking to insure multiple Tesla vehicles may also be eligible for further discounts, the company said,

Existing Tesla customers in California, and eventually owners in other states, are able to purchase a policy through a dedicated webpage. Customers ordering new vehicles can request a quote prior to delivery once a VIN has been assigned to their Tesla Account, according to the company.


TechCrunch

Forget the keycard or phone app, one software engineer is trying out a new way to unlock and start her Tesla Model 3.

Amie DD, who has a background in game simulation and programming, recently released a video showing how she “biohacked” her body. The software engineer removed the RFID chip from the Tesla Model 3 valet card using acetone, then placed it into a biopolymer, which was injected through a hollow needle into her left arm. A professional who specializes in body modifications performed the injection.

You can watch the process below, although folks who don’t like blood should consider skipping it. Amie DD also has a page on Hackaday.io that explains the project and the process.

The video is missing one crucial detail. It doesn’t show whether the method works. TechCrunch will update the post once a new video delivering the news is released.

Amie is not new to biohacking. The original idea was to use the existing RFID implant chip that was already in her hand to be able to start the Model 3. That method, which would have involved taking the Java applet and writing it onto her own chip, didn’t work because of Tesla’s security. So, Amie DD opted for another implant.

Amie DD explains why and how she did this in another, longer video posted below. She also talks a bit about her original implant in her left hand, which she says is used for “access control.” She uses it to unlock the door of her home, for instance.

 

 


TechCrunch

Tesla has withdrawn its request for a court-ordered restraining order against Randeep Hothi, documents submitted to the court where the complaint was filed revealed Friday. Hothi, an individual who is very vocal on social media about his short position in Tesla, had gone to extreme and potentially dangerous lengths in his avid attempts to collect materials to support his vocal criticism, according to the company.

The Alameda County Superior Court actually granted Tesla a temporary injunction in this matter back in April, after Tesla filed a complaint with supporting documents supporting its assertion that Hothi had injured a guard during a hit-and-run incident in February, and that he nearly caused an accident by driving dangerously in pursuit of a Tesla Model 3 undertaking a test driven on April 16.

After granting the temporary injunction based on Tesla’s description of events, supporting materials, and written affidavits submitted by employees, the court asked Tesla to produce both audio and video recordings related to these two incidents pursuant to a hearing. In withdrawing its complaint Friday, Tesla conveyed in documents filed with the court that it considered this requirement unnecessary in light of materials already provided, and an undue imposition on the privacy of their employees, since the recorded conversations regarding the incident contained “its employees’ private and personal conversations” as well as materials relating to the case.

Tesla maintains in its letter to the court that it still believes “a restraining order against Mr. Hothi is necessary and appropriate to protect its employees at their workplace,” it says that faced with the choice between said protection and exposing their employees’ private conversations to further public scrutiny, it will instead opt to pursue the protection of their safety “through other means.”

When contacted about the withdrawal, a Tesla spokesperson told TechCrunch that the company is now confident Hothi should be well aware at this stage that he’s not permitted to enter the company’s property, and that it will pursue legal action should he ever attempt to do so in future.


TechCrunch

Hey, weekend readers. This is Week-in-Review where I get hopped up on caffeine and give a heavy amount of analysis on one story while scouring the rest of the hundreds of stories that emerged on TechCrunch this week to surface my favorites for your reading pleasure.

Last week, I railed on Google’s new Stadia game streaming platform. The injection of competition into the tired PlayStation/Xbox gaming rivalry is certainly welcome, but Google is making such a concerted play into a tight niche that it’s hard to imagine them following through. I got some great emails and DMs with a lot of good back-and-forth, most notably pointing out that I didn’t give Google credit for some of the details they did give on multi-player, I also got some less helpful responses, but hey, I guess I’m the one that asked for the feedback.

On that note, check out my comparison of Stadia with Microsoft’s new xCloud service that they revealed this week.


Alright, onto new things. Actually, let’s dig into my week at the E3 gaming expo. I swear this isn’t only a gaming newsletter, but let’s talk forever franchises…

I spent the past few days on the show floor of the conference checking out what the latest and greatest gaming trends were, what I saw looked pretty familiar though.

Entrenched franchises are a special kind of force in the gaming industry.

Walking around it was wild how so many of these studios are coasting off of 20 or 30-year-old characters and storylines. Sega had a massive booth this year showing off some reskinned Sonic the Hedgehog shit. Watching the Square Enix keynote was a special kind of hell, I admittedly do not have a very religious connection to the studio, but their announcements were all related to reboots, rehashes or remasters. Nintendo, which I dearly love, dug into the success of Breath of the Wild by promising a direct sequel for the title, something that’s a bit unusual for the Zelda series, Jesus, even Animal Crossing is nearly a 20-year franchise at this point! Every large booth dragged gamers’ attention to something derivative.

This obviously isn’t some sort of breaking news, but as the years stretch on from the gaming industry’s conception, it’s fascinating to see how the founding franchises are keeping their shine.

What’s fascinating is how this impacts the boom and bust life cycles of game studios and massive publishers. While larger movie studios need to constantly be vetting new tentpole franchises, once game studios find a hit they join this club of mainstays where the marks of success become more dependent on creative execution rather than creativity itself. This can make life pretty profitable for studios like Rovio that strike gold and can spend a decade milking their former glory and fading out, but it’s still fascinating.

It also makes the introduction of new IP such a nerve-racking, high stakes process. You look at someone like Hideo Kojima and the buzz Sony has been trying to build around Death Stranding and you just realize how insanely complex it is to craft a hit with nothing but marketing and talking head hype. Word of mouth and network effects build these franchises over time, but there’s so much invested beforehand and for new IP, it’s hard to guarantee a winner.

Why does Toy Story fade after a few films but a singular piece of gaming IP can suck hundreds of hours out of a gamer’s life over several releases? I’d imagine being able to hold a role in the progression of a character fosters a closer bond with the user, gameplay can be dozens of hours long but more often than not the storyline is pretty straight-forward leading you to fill in the blanks, which can be powerful. Games are fundamentally more than just stories.

But then, as I walked around and watched gameplay and cinematic trailers, I was left with the takeaway that so much of the dialogue in some of these games is garbage. When are the writers behind the “golden age of TV” going to trickle down into crafting some of these single-player campaigns? But then are more rich and rewarding storylines going to cause these franchises to have shorter shelf lives because we’ll get to know the characters too well? I don’t really know, if you work in the games industry I’d love to pick your brain.

Send me feedback
on Twitter @lucasmtny or email
lucas@techcrunch.com

On to the rest of the week’s news.

(Photo by Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch)

Trends of the week

Here are a few big news items from big companies, with green links to all the sweet, sweet added context.

  • Salesforce buys Tableau
    Marc Benioff is known to signal Salesforce’s future via its M&A, so the company’s largest acquisition to date is probably worth taking a closer look at. Read why Salesforce is spending $ 15.7 billion on Seattle-based Tableau.
  • Samsung gets ready to re-release its Foldy phone
    The Galaxy Fold has had a pretty raucous life in the press and it hasn’t even successfully been released yet. Read more about its coming launch.
  • Musk’s Tesla submarine
    It wouldn’t be a Tesla shareholder meeting if some bizarre headlines didn’t surface. Apparently Musk claims that the company has vehicle designs for a submersible Tesla based on the aquatic car from the James Bond movie. Musk said it’s technically possible to make a functioning version, but added, “I think the market for this would be small — small, but enthusiastic.” Read more here.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg leaving The Merrion Hotel in Dublin

GAFA Gaffes

How did the top tech companies screw up this week? This clearly needs its own section, in order of awfulness:

  1. YouTube CEO serves up an “apology”:
    [YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki addresses hate speech controversy]
  2. Deepf**ked:
    [Facebook will not remove deepfakes of Mark Zuckerberg and others from Instagram]

Extra Crunch

Our premium subscription service had another week of interesting deep dives. TechCrunch’s Sarah Buhr chatted with some venture capitalists that are investing in female fertility startups and tried to get to the bottom of what signals they search for.

What top VCs look for in a women’s fertility startup

“…Longer term, women’s health has a special interest: a new understanding of women’s reproductive health will generate novel insights into other domains, including longevity…”

Here are some of our other top reads this week for premium subscribers. This week TechCrunch writers talked a bit the future of car ownership, and whether people raising venture capital should even bother dealing with associates at the firms…

Want to read some of this stuff, but haven’t signed up? We’ve got a deal going where you can sign up for $ 2 and get two months of Extra Crunch.


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