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The Week in Tesla News: Teslas to Toot, Smart Summon Side-Eyed, Model 3 Busts Vandal and More

Tesla Model X

“Elon Musk announced via Twitter” should be included as predictive text at this point, given how often the Tesla CEO uses the social media platform to make product announcements. The latest: Custom movement and horn noises are coming to Teslas and those noises will likely include, well, a … fart sound. Sigh.

Related: Which 2019 Electric Cars Have the Greatest Range?

Elsewhere, Tesla’s autonomous Smart Summon feature is under federal scrutiny, the Sentry mode feature may help bring an alleged vehicle vandal to justice, Tesla is making an attempt to change the way car seats are heated and cooled, the automaker celebrated record production and deliveries in the third quarter of 2019, and NASA is getting annoyed with SpaceX.

Silent but Deadly

Musk’s recent series of tweets talk about customizable sounds emanating from the car itself — not the Whoopee Cushion mode available as an Easter egg in existing Teslas — as part of activating the horn or as a “movement noise,” a required feature in quiet-running hybrid and electric cars to make pedestrians aware of an oncoming vehicle.

Besides the fart sound, Musk used a goat and coconut emojis — so goat noises as well as a sound similar to those made by the squires in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” to replicate the sounds of a horse’s hooves. I’ve previously joked about all the easy pop culture references that are baked into Teslas and, well: yeah.

Smart Summon Under Scrutiny

Tesla Smart Summon in action

The Smart Summon feature that rolled out with the V10.0 software update has attracted the attention of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is “aware of reports” regarding the feature.

While the videos of Smart Summon mishaps may be entertaining from an uninvolved-third-party standpoint, they also illustrate some of the dangers of turning a full-sized automobile into a remote-controlled driverless car in areas open to the public.

NHTSA has not yet taken any action, but it’s possible that it could, despite all of Tesla’s warnings and legalese regarding Smart Summon and how to use it. What any action would look like is unclear at this point. NHTSA stated that, “Safety is NHTSA’s top priority and the agency will not hesitate to act if it finds evidence of a safety-related defect.”

Sentry Mode Catches Car Keyer

Tesla Model 3

Tesla’s Sentry mode uses a car’s external cameras to record the environment around a Tesla while it’s parked, and in Colorado that footage helped authorities apprehend a woman they are accusing of keying a Tesla Model 3. The 57-year-old woman is charged with criminal mischief, a Class 6 felony (though the late Vincent Vega might think a more severe punishment is called for).

The Hot — or Cool — Seat

Current seat heating and cooling technology is apparently a bit behind the times in the eyes of Tesla’s engineers. The automaker filed a patent for a liquid-based system for heating and cooling a vehicle’s seats. The single system would use recirculating liquid that is either heated or cooled instead of the two separate systems currently in use in most vehicles with either or both features: one that uses resistors and electric current to heat seat elements, and another that uses fans to cool it — the reason they’re often called ventilated seats.

There’s no indication yet that this system will ever make its way into a vehicle or if Tesla is filing a patent just in case such a liquid-based contraption becomes more sensible than the current methods.

Record Production, Deliveries Celebrated

Tesla Model 3

Tesla reported record third-quarter production and deliveries of 96,155 and 97,000 vehicles, respectively. Model 3 production and deliveries each account for more than 80 percent of those sums, while the balance comprises the combined totals of the Model S and Model X.

“In addition, we achieved record net orders in Q3 and are entering Q4 with an increase in our order backlog,” Tesla stated. “As was also the case in Q2, nearly all of our Model 3 orders were received from customers who did not previously hold a reservation, solidifying the transition to generating strong organic demand. We are continuing to focus on increasing production to meet that demand.”

The automaker noted that deliveries represent only one measure of the company’s financial performance, and that several other measures will factor into overall results.

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NASA Mad at Musk

One of Musk’s other ventures, SpaceX, is currently involved in a spat of its own with NASA, which seems to be annoyed that the Crew Dragon-manned spacecraft is “behind schedule” according to one administrator (and this criticism was tweeted out).

Musk claimed elsewhere that the Crew Dragon could be finished testing in a matter of months. 

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