Tesla Sales Up; Unfortunately, So Is Distracted Driving

16Tesla_Model-X_BW_04.jpg 2016 Tesla Model X | photo by Brian Wong

CARS.COM — It was a good week for Tesla, with the Silicon Valley-based electric car company reporting a near-doubling of sales in the third quarter, compared with the same period in 2015. The future of electric cars and self-driving vehicles also looked rosy at the 2016 Paris Motor Show thanks to futuristic new concepts from manufacturers such as Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen.

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But it turns out we might be trailing intelligent cars and smartphones when it comes to good driving habits. Distracted driving is becoming part of a dangerously normal routine for many drivers.

Tesla Sales Spike

On Sunday, Tesla Motors reported that the company’s third-quarter sales almost doubled compared with the same sales period in 2015. In total, Tesla reported it delivered a total of 24,500 vehicles, with sales split between 15,800 units of the Model S sedan and 8,700 of the new Model X SUV. Tesla has set a combined sales target of 50,000 vehicles for the third and fourth quarter of this year.

Should I care? If you crave a Tesla but balk at the $66,000 base price for the least expensive Model S sedan, then yes. This sales push is helping to fund expansion ahead of next year’s planned release of the $35,000 Model 3 electric sedan. Tesla Motors has set an aggressive sales figure of 500,000 annual deliveries by 2018 once the Model 3 is firmly established in the company’s lineup. To do that, however, the company needs cash from selling more cars right now.

Electric Vehicles and Self-Driving Dominate Paris

No doubt about it, the 2016 Paris Motor Show will be remembered as one where electric cars and self-driving systems firmly grabbed the spotlight. Of particular interest, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen unveiled new zero-emission vehicles that will serve as the first step toward each companies’ rapidly growing portfolio of intelligent EVs.

Should I care? In less than a decade, you might not have a steering wheel in front of you. VW’s I.D. Concept features a self-driving mode that tucks the wheel into the car’s dashboard when in full autonomous mode. Forget about the engineers that ride on board Uber’s self-driving fleet (just in case human intervention is needed). This system, and the prevalence of similar autonomous functionality on a number of Paris concept vehicles, is further proof that car companies are committed to self-driving vehicles — even as the rules surrounding them remain a work in progress. The electric-powered I.D. arrives in 2020, while VW plans for “I.D. Pilot” autonomous driving tech to reach production by 2025.

Smartphones Leading to Dumber Drivers?

Distracted driving is becoming an epidemic and it seems we’re a little too OK about it. As we reported, research has found that today’s driving public is surprisingly blasé when it comes to using phone functions and popular apps while on the road. Sure, we “know using smartphone functions while driving is dangerous,” but this knowledge doesn’t automatically lead to safer and smarter driving routines.

Should I care? If you’re excited about the future of mobility and love the idea of self-driving cars, you might want to make certain you’re actually going to be around for the road ahead. Solutions will require everything from stricter enforcement of driving rules, to less obtrusive software in connected cars, and even the adoption of new “social norms” that dissuade people from playing on their phone when they should be focused on driving.

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