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2016 Tesla Model X P90DL
Some Closing Comments
Day 17 - Monday, June 13, 2016

These reports and photos are of a road trip from Anaheim, California, to the 2nd Annual Midwest Tesla Gathering in St. Louis, Missouri. My wife and I are doing this trip in our new red 2016 Tesla Model X P90DL. This particular report is of Day 17, some closing comments.

Note: This report is a rough draft. I have not yet done a spell check or final edits. Since we are driving this road trip right now, devoting time to driving takes priority. As I get time at our stays along the way I'll make final edits and spelling corrections. But for now, please pardon any errors.

Click on any photo on this page for a larger image.


At our vacation house in Anaheim, California,
Model S on the far left, Model X on the far right.

Notice the solar panels on the roof of the house. These solar panels provide more than enough power to charge both Tesla vehicles while we are at our vacation house in Anaheim. At our home in Vancouver, Washington, we belong to a community solar project. We have purchased enough membership in the project that it should deliver enough solar electricity to our home to charge our Tesla vehicles. As of June 2016 this project has not yet started delivering power to us but should start doing so soon.


Our 2015 Tesla Model S P85DL with HPWC mounted on fence.


Our 2016 Tesla Model X P90DL with HPWC mounted on wall.

Autopilot (Adaptive Cruise Control & AutoSteer)

AutoPilot, including both AutoSteer and Adaptive Cruise Control, make it very easy and comfortable to take long road trips in Tesla vehicles. I hope that I will never again have to drive a long distance without these features. My previous two vehicles, a 2012 Toyota Sienna Limited and a 2013 Toyota Plug-In Prius, had Adaptive Cruise Control. I thought Adaptive Cruise Control was a major advance in making long road trips easier, but AutoSteer is a significant leap beyond that.

Adaptive Cruise Control

Almost exactly one year ago I drove round trip in our 2015 Tesla Model S P85D from the west coast to Missouri. At that time Tesla had not yet introduced AutoSteer but our Tesla did have Adaptive Cruise Control. It really helped make that an easy drive by being able to cruise at the speed I selected and not having to worry about manually braking and accelerating based on traffic and the vehicle in front of me. Our Tesla would just automatically keep a safe distance behind the car in front of me automatically slowing down when that car slowed down, and speeding up to the speed I had set whenever that was possible.

The Adaptive Cruise Control in Tesla vehicles gives you not only the option to set an Absolute Speed, but you can optionally set a Relative Speed of so many Miles Per Hour (MPH) above or below the posted speed limit. The Tesla can automatically detect posted speed limit signs along the roads. If you select a Relative Speed, the Tesla will automatically adjust the speed to the relative MPH above or below the speed limit you have selected. For example, I normally have my Tesla set to "+4 MPH" above the posted speed limit. Thus, when the Tesla vehicle senses a 65 MPH posted sign, it will automatically set the speed to 69 MPH. If the speed limit changes and the Tesla vehicles senses a 60 MPH posted sign, it will automatically change the speed to 64 MPH. Naturally if the car in front of me is traveling slower than that, the Tesla will automatically adjust its speed to keep the safe distance that I have selected from that car. I have the ability to adjust the safe distance that I wish to keep behind the car in front of me ranging from 1 to 7. I think this roughly but not exactly relates to car lengths. I usually keep this setting at 7 to keep the maximum safe distance behind the car in front of me.

The best advantage of Adaptive Cruise Control is that it allows me to keep my feet flat on the floor, or to stretch out my legs. I don't have to keep one foot on the accelerator. I rarely have to touch the accelerator or brake pedals at all for hours and hundreds of miles down the highway! The stress of being ready at any time to move between accelerator and brake and back again is completely gone. Of course I had these features in my two Toyota vehicles so I was used to the advantage of this feature.

Oddly, the first Model S that we purchased in 2013 DID NOT have Adaptive Cruise Control. I really missed not having this feature in our first Model S. If I had know that Tesla would be introducing this feature, as well as even far more advanced features, in later versions of the vehicle, I would have waited before purchasing my first Model S. Our first Model S was missing a lot of advanced featues that we had already gotten used to in our two Toyota vehicles. Our 2013 Tesla Model S did not have proximity sensors nor collision avoidance, two additional features that were in both of our Toyota vehicles. At the time we purchased our Tesla we wrongly assumed that Tesla was just going to concentrate on the concept of producing 100% all electric vehicles at the sacrifice of keeping up with the advanced features of new ICE vehicles. Obviously we were very very wrong. Tesla not only caught up with the advanced electronics of new ICE vehicles, but leap frogged over them in technology.

This is what prompted us to sell our 2013 Tesla Model S 85 and to replace it with a 2015 Tesla Model S P85D. We stepped up from an 85 to a P85D as we decided we didn't want to make the mistake again of purchasing a Model S with less features than we might later want. Unfortunately the P90D and then the P90DL with Ludicrous Mode was introduced shortly after we took delivery of our P85D. I did decide to go ahead and add Ludicrous Mode so that we now have a Model S P85DL. Elon Musk recommended to not upgrade the battery from 85 kWh to 90 kWh as Tesla expects to increase battery capacity by at least 5% every year. So we took that advice and will probably not upgrade our battery for a few years until new batteries are available with significantly more capacity than our present battery.

AutoSteer

When I did a similar 3600 mile road trip last year in our 2015 Tesla Model S P85D, I remember wishing that the Tesla could take care of keeping itself within the lane. The vehicle already had Adaptive Cruise Control at that time and automatically took care of controlling the speed of the vehicle. If it could also keep itself within the lane, that would be one less driving chore. A few months after our long road trip I got my wish and Tesla introduced AutoSteer with an "over the air" update.

Like Adaptive Cruise Control, AutoSteer is a driver aid. It DOES NOT make the Tesla a self-driving car! Used as a driver aid, AutoSteer is a completely safe feature. If you expect it to make the Tesla a self-driving car, you are likely to get into trouble.

Using AutoSteer for the purpose it was designed takes one more drudgery out of long road trips. It will keep the vehicle in the lane so that you don't have to expend your attention and energy to that aspect of driving. This can make driving safer. Instad of concentrating on keeping the car in the lane, I countinuously scan the road for potential hazzards. It leaves me free to keep an eye on the other cars on the road, watch for erratic driving, and always have a plan if a nearby car or truck were to have a tire blow-out. Maybe most important is to scan the sides of the road on these long stretches through wilderness for any wildlife that may leap into the road at any moment.

The AutoSteer definitely frees up some of your concentration and allows you to pay more attention to other factors of safe driving. The vast majority of long road trips on interstates is on straight roads or gently curving roads which AutoSteer easily handles. But, it is also important to watch for areas where the road is not so regular, especially in construction areas and mountainous areas where the road my curve more quickly than normal. In these circumstances it is especially important to be alert and ready to take manual control back from the AutoSteer function at a moments notice. Also, when I'm in heavy high speed traffic on the free way, or traveling in a lane that is just inches from a roadside cement barrier, I'll be especially alert and ready to take back control from the AutoSteer function.

Over the 3600 mile road trip there were a few rare circumstances where the AutoSteer did not correctly follow the lane markings and did not sense its own incorrect action. But since I'm always alert and ready to take over from any such incorrect behavior, I just took control. As I mentioned, these incidents were extremely rare. But I would not want to find out what would have happened if I had my hands off the wheel and just allowed the AutoSteer do whatever it was going to do. Maybe nothing would have happened and it would have recovered from its error, but there are definitely times when it is better to take control than to test to see what the AutoSteer will do. Generally the AutoSteer will sense when it does not have enough input to figure out what it should do and it will loudly warn you to Take Over Immediately, but those situations are also very rare.

So, overall, the AutoSteer is a tremendous aid in long distance road trips relieving the driver of expending their attention and effort just keeping the car in the lane. As I mentioned above, the best use of having your attention freed up from this task is to put your attention on continously monitoring other road safety conditions. When Tesla states this is a driver's aide and does not make the Tesla a self-driving car, they mean it. In the few circumstances that have ever been reported with a driver getting into trouble using the AutoSteer function, it has almost always been because the driver delegated the responsibility of safe driving to this function rather than retaining prime safe driving responsibility themselves.

Automatic Lane Changing

The Automatic Lane Changing capability is another feature that takes the stress out of highway driving. When coming up on a slower moving vehicle this makes passing almost effortless. The way this works is very simple. When you want to change lanes, you just use the turn signal as you normally would to change into the lane on either your left or your right. The Tesla vehicle will automatically detect when it is safe to change into that lane and will then change into that lane. It will only do one lane at a time. Thus, if you forget to turn off the turn signal, the Tesla will not attempt to change across multiple lanes. It will only do one lane at a time even if you leave the turn signal on. If you want to change more than one lane, then you have to turn off the turn signal and then turn it on again.

Though this feature checks to make sure your blindspots are clear of any vehicles, I like to be on the safe side and manually make sure there are no cars in the lane I wish to enter before engaging the turn signal. However, it is good knowing that if I missed noticing a vehicle, the Tesla will refuse to change lanes until it is safe to do so.

SiriusXM Radio

Having SiriusXM Radio is great, especially when driving on roads so far from any city that radio signals are weak and cellular internet is non-existent. Our first 2013 Tesla Model S 85 did have SiriusXM Radio. We were surprised when we ordered our 2015 Tesla Model S P85D that we could not have SiriusXM Radio unless we got the sunroof! Evidently Tesla did something strange to the windshield in newer Model S Tesla vehicles that block radio signals from getting through the windshield. Thus, unless you order the sunroof, there is no place to put the SiriusXM antenna. We did not order the sunroof on either of our Tesla Model S vehicles so we were not able to keep SirusXM in our new Tesla Model S.

For some reason, the Tesla Model X does not have this problem. There is a car wash that I use where you can purchase a monthly program where you can get an unlimited number of car washes for one flat monthly price. To implement this they place an RFID sticker in the windshield that the wash senses to let you use it without paying each time. This RFID sticker works fine in the Model X. But, it does not work in the Model S. The person that operates the wash said he has had the same problem with other Model S vehicles. He's tried to place the RFID in various places in the Model S windshield, but it doesn't seem to work anywhere. What Tesla did with the Model S windshield to block radio signals, and why they did this, I'm not sure.

But in any case, we were happy we had SiriusXM on this long road trip in the Model X as we were able to listen to all our favorite stations for the entire trip, even in the most remote areas.

Supercharger Availability

I read news clippings about Tesla vehicles every day. It was almost comical reading news reports about overcrowded Tesla Supercharges along with suggestions of how Tesla should solve this problem. In our 3600 mile road trip we stopped at about 37 different Tesla Supercharing Locations across the nation. Each location had from 4 to more than 12 Superchargers. Only one of those locations had less than 4 Superchargers. At more than 30 of these locations, there was not a single other Tesla charging when we arrived, and no Tesla vehicles came along while we were charging for 20 to 40 minutes. For intercity road trips, the Tesla Supercharging Network appears to be very overbuilt for today's demand on the network.

The main purpose of the Tesla Supercharing Network is so that it is possible for Tesla vehicles to make intercity road trips. When Elon Musk stated that use of Superchargers by Model S and Model X vehicles would be free for the life of the car, I did not take his words literally, But I guess a lot of other people did. When I first heard of Elon's words on the topic, I had this vision of huge lines at Superchargers. I had no expectation or intention of driving my Tesla to a Supercharger near my house to charge up each day. It made sense that Tesla owners would normally charge up overnight at home, but the Supercharger network would be available nationwide for those times when a Tesla owner needed to drive beyond the 250 mile range of the battery.

Personally I think it would have been wise had Elon Musk stated right off the bat that the purpose of the Nationwide, even Worldwide, Tesla Supercharger Network, is ONLY for when a Tesla owner needs to drive somewhere that is beyond the round-trip range of his battery. For that purpose, the existing Supercharging Network already seems sufficient, or at least well on its way to being sufficient.

Unforutnately, a significant number of Tesla owners took Elon Musk literally and even figured "free electricity" into determining whether it was worth buying a Tesla or not for themselves. These are people who stop by the Supercharger near their home or work to charge up every day and clog up the charging spaces making it difficult for long distance drivers to find a space to charge without having to wait their turn. From my report, you can see there is no problem at all with this when driving long distances on interstates through sparcely populated regions of the nation. Which fortunately, is most of the area of the nation.

The problem comes when your long distance trip takes you through heavily populated areas of our nation. Most of the reported problems come from areas where there are a lot of people that own Tesla vehicles. This is particularly a problem in the San Francisco Bay Area, the entire Los Angeles and Southern California region, and problems along much of the Northeast stretching from Washington, DC up to Boston, Massachusetts. With many residents of these areas getting a free charge at their local Tesla Supercharger, it can make it inconvenient for those just driving through these cities on their intercity travels.

The latest reports I have read is that Tesla is adding at least one new Supercharing location every week, doubling the network size every year. When they first started building the nationwide / worldwide Tesla Supercharing Network, they concentrated on just trying to get a Supercharging location every 120 to 150 miles or so just to make it possible for a Tesla to drive various popular routes. Now Tesla is spending more time filling in the network with overlapping locations so that multiple charging locations will be available in areas of heavy use. They have also started providing various free and pay valet services to make better use of busy Tesla Supercharging locations. At some locations, a Tesla Supercharger Attendant will take your key and put it into the charging space for you. This leaves you free to go dine or shop without blocking a charging space. The attendant will move your Tesla out to a non-charging parking space when your Tesla is done charging, and move another Tesla in that may have been waiting to charge. In this way, no Tesla is just left in a charging space that is already done charging. This is a good stop-gap solution. But, I still believe the problem could have been, and can best still be solved by a policy that the Tesla Supercharging locations are only for those who are driving on a trip beyond the round-trip range of their battery. That would tremendously reduce the number of Tesla Superchargers needed.

Charging Breaks

Some drivers who will not consider buying a Tesla state that the range is the #1 drawback for them. The Tesla has about the same driving range on a full charge of the battery as many ICE vehicles have for one tank of gas. But, they state they can refill their gas tank in 5 minutes whereas it can take up to 40 minutes or more to completely charge a Tesla battery.

Well, I'm not a long-haul driver. I would never even begin to consider driving hundreds of miles in a single day with just a 5 minute refuel break every few hours. Stopping for a range of about 20 minutes every 2 hours to 40 minutes every 3 hours is just about right for me! I look forward to a break of that length after that much driving. Actually, by the time we use the restrooms, get a new cup of coffee, and review our next segment of our trip, the battery is about charged and it is time to head back on the road anyway.

So for me, the range and time to charge is no problem. Actually, it has encouraged me to take long road trips in the Tesla which I never have done and never would do in an ICE vehicle. It also doesn't hurt that it doesn't cost even a single penny to take these long road trips! Plus, I know the maintenance cost per mile is far far below what it is for ICE vehicles. These long road trips are not putting wear and tear on thousands of moving parts with limited lifetimes as with an ICE vehicle.

Tire Rotation

There are only 6 items on a Tesla that need routine replacement: the 4 tires and the 2 windshield wipers! The only fluid that a Tesla owner ever needs to worry about refilling is the windshield washer fluid. On Friday I'll be taking in our 2016 Tesla Model X for its first routine service, mostly just to get the tires rotated now that we have returned from this long 3600 miles road trip with more than 6,000 miles on the vehicle.

Problems

A few minor problems came up during this road trip which I will be reporting to the Tesla Service Center. Some of them may have already been fixed by a recent "over-the-air" update. I haven't gone through to see if any of them might still exist.

  • Driver Side Falcon Wing Door
  • Charge Port Open Warning
  • Passenger Window Sometimes Opens By Itself On Door Closure
  • Would Not Charge - Fixed By Reboot
  • Cellular Internet Signal Vanished - Fixed By Reboot
  • No PSI Reading On Car Status Screen
  • Radio Thumbwheel Mute Stopped Working

The Future

I'm not sure when we'll be doing our next major road trip in either of the Tesla vehicles. We drive fairly ofen in the Model X or the Model S between our home in Vancouver, Washington, and our vacation house in Anaheim, California. Usually I don't bother to write a travel report about those trips unless there is something unusual about the trip. When we picked up our new 2016 Tesla Model X P90D in Portland, Oregon, I did write about that drive down the I-5 to Anaheim as that was our very first long trip in that vehicle. Probably I'll post a report and photos whenever I attend a major Tesla event, even if the trip is not as long as our more frequent 1000 mile drives between our home in Vancouver and vacation house in Anaheim.

Click on any photo on this page for a larger image.

Note: This report is a rough draft. I have not yet done a spell check or final edits. Since we are driving this road trip right now, devoting time to driving takes priority. As I get time at our stays along the way I'll make final edits and spelling corrections. But for now, please pardon any errors.

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Previously Featured Stories  Slideshows  My Tesla Story  My Wish List  Facebook  Twitter  Links  About Us  Contact Us 
 Superchargers         Racing Videos      Reports from:  Steve Grande   Carl Morrison      This is a fan site not affiliated or endorsed by Tesla Motors.
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