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The Week in Tesla News: Fires Spark Action, Panasonic Warns of Battery Shortage, Autopilot Accident Investigation

Tesla Model X

A series of car fires has caused Tesla to release an over-the-air update to its Model S luxury sedan and Model X SUV. The most recent incident occurred in a parking lot in Hong Kong, when a parked Model S inexplicably caught fire. This followed a dramatic blaze caught on video in Shanghai. In the latter video, a white Model S sedan emits smoke from underneath the front of the car; moments later, the car suddenly bursts into flames.

Related: Roomzz Service: VW Debuts Tesla-Fighting Electric SUV Concept in Shanghai

In what should be good news, plans for Tesla to significantly ramp up production with the impending release of the Model Y should be cause for celebration — except that Panasonic, Tesla’s battery supplier, is warning that the planned boost in production could leave cars waiting for batteries.

Finally, an ongoing investigation into a fatal Model 3 crash has shown Autopilot was engaged seconds before the impact. The crash mirrors one several years ago, in which a Model S didn’t register a tractor-trailer turning directly in front of it.

Fires Spark Tesla to Update Model S and Model X

Following a spate of unexplained fires, Tesla is releasing an update to the software used in the Model S and Model X. The two incidents both occurred in China, a market that’s hugely important for Tesla as the Silicon Valley-based automaker looks to expand sales around the world.

The first fire occurred several weeks ago in Shanghai. Video shows smoke starting to build from underneath the front of a white Model S sedan. Suddenly, the entire car is engulfed in flames. In the most recent incident, a Model S caught fire in the parking lot of a shopping mall in Hong Kong. According to Bloomberg, the car had been parked for roughly half an hour before a series of explosions were quickly followed by the car catching fire.

As for the over-the-air updates, Tesla released a statement saying it was taking this step “out of an abundance of caution.” The changes are aimed at the vehicle’s charging and thermal-management settings. There will be no noticeable change in power or performance, and the modifications do not apply to the Model 3 sedan.

Model Y Could Be an EV Missing Its Battery

The Model Y could be minus one critical element when it goes on sale. That’s because Panasonic, Tesla’s battery supplier and partner in the company’s massive Gigafactory complex, has warned sales of the Model Y could outpace battery production.

Speaking to the media, Panasonic’s CEO, Kazuhiro Tsuga, said Model Y sales would cause Tesla’s battery supply to “run out,” according to a Bloomberg report. Tsuga added this sticky situation would be “one of a few topics” that Panasonic intends to discuss with Tesla.

An answer to this problem could come via Tesla’s ongoing expansion in China, where the firm plans to build another factory in the same vein as the current Gigafactory. This would eventually allow Tesla to increase sales, without having to worry its cars will be minus a battery. But with the Model Y set to arrive in 2020, time is running short for Tesla and Panasonic to find a solution.

Fatal Crash Occurred With Autopilot Engaged

A fatal crash involving a Tesla Model 3 in Florida occurred while the vehicle’s Autopilot self-driving system was activated. That’s according to a report by the National Transportation Safety Board, which found Autopilot had been turned on for about 10 seconds before the Model 3 slammed into the side of a tractor trailer. The car’s roof was sheared off and the driver, a 50-year-old man, was killed.

The tragic incident mirrors a crash from May 2016, which involved a Tesla Model S traveling in Autopilot mode and a large truck that turned directly ahead of the car’s direction of travel. Regarding the most recent accident, the NTSB noted the driver of the car did not take any evasive maneuvers or attempt to stop. The vehicle was traveling at about 68 mph, and several reports confirm the driver’s hands were not on the steering wheel during the time when Autopilot was activated.

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Elon Musk’s Twitter Feud Heads to Court

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is heading to court following a nasty Twitter dispute with Vernon Unsworth, a British diver who participated in the rescue of 12 boys and their soccer coach from a submerged cave in Thailand. The July 2018 rescue operation made headlines around the world as rescuers desperately tried to pump water out of the flooded cave and reach the children before more rain arrived.

At the time, Musk proposed building a self-driving submarine to maneuver through the treacherous cave complex. Unsworth, who was on the scene and aiding the rescue firsthand, labeled Musk’s offer as nothing more than a “publicity stunt.”

To this, Musk ignominiously called Unsworth a “pedo guy” via Twitter. While he later apologized for this remark, Musk’s efforts to have a subsequent lawsuit thrown out of court have officially failed. A judge in Los Angeles set a hearing date of Oct. 22. In his lawsuit, Unsworth claims that Musk’s comments were damaging to his reputation and he seeks $75,000 in compensation, along with punitive damages.

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