Image: Kristen Lee
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The Tesla Model 3 is changing short-sellers’ minds, GM’s Cruise is lagging behind, and the DOT is getting fidgety about self-driving car safety. All this and more in The Morning Shift for Wednesday, October 24, 2018.

1st Gear: Tesla Short-Seller Walking Tall

Citron Research, long-time Tesla short-seller firm led by Andrew Left and one of the many suing over potential fraud for Elon Musk backing out of taking Tesla private, has now reversed its short position, now betting on the stock to rise, according to Reuters.

What changed Citron Research’s mind? The Tesla Model 3 and Tesla moving its earnings report up a week earlier. Here’s more from Reuters:

The firm said in a research note that Tesla’s Model 3 sedan is a “proven hit” and serious competition from other automakers for the plug-in car market has not materialized, marking a sharp reversal from its previous stance.

Tesla will release third-quarter earnings after the market close on Wednesday, a week earlier than it has typically reported.

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Speaking to Bloomberg, Left claimed Musk’s very public antics were distracting from a company that was experiencing a big turnaround toward profitability. Here’s the quote from Bloomberg:

“Elon Musk has made such a sideshow of himself that people started to forget about — including myself — the underlying business,” Left said on Bloomberg TV. “It’s a revolution that I actually underestimated — the way people are buying these cars.”

Left claims Tesla, particularly the Model 3, are pulling customers away from traditional automakers like BMW, Mercedes and Toyota, which have failed to manifest serious competition against Tesla’s electric cars.

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But since Tesla moving its earnings report up early is likely a sign that Tesla has good news on its quest to ramp up Model 3 production while finally achieving stable profitability, it seems more like Left just wants to seem to be on the right side of the money.

2nd Gear: Speaking of the Tesla Model 3...

Do you remember last week, when Tesla opened orders for a $45,000 Model 3 as a mid-range model as the company tried to push more and more buyers away from the delayed production of its entry level car, which was promised to be around $35,000?

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Well just kidding, the $45,000 Model 3 costs $46,000 now. Get over it.

Tesla didn’t say what the reason for the small price hike was on the rear-wheel drive Model 3, it just updated the website. I’m just curious if the people who ordered in the week it was just $45,000 got away with it. Update: Tesla will.

3rd Gear: Bumpy Road Ahead for GM’s Self-Driving Cars

Cruise, the self-driving spin-off company of General Motors, was aiming to have self-driving taxis available to the ride-sharing public of San Francisco by the end of the next year, but things aren’t looking good according to Reuters:

Reuters has learned that the driverless Cruise cars still struggle to identify whether objects on the road are moving or stationary, according to one current and three former Cruise employees who have witnessed the problem. The result is that the vehicles hesitate and stop while passing a row of parked motorcycles or bicycles, they said.

At times, the software has failed to recognize pedestrians, and has mistakenly seen phantom bicycles, causing the cars to brake erratically, according to two of the sources. And Cruise does not yet have a data-sharing collaboration with the San Francisco Fire Department, a necessary step to train the cars to respond to fire truck sirens, according to a fire department spokesman.

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Reuters also reports that ten people involved with Cruise claim the current software used in its self-driving cars slows the messages between the car’s sensors and computers, which could be an issue.

Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt claims his company is on track to reach its 2019 goals with the help of a $5 billion investment this year from SoftBank Group and Honda.

While San Francisco is its own challenge—I’m not sure I’m prepared to let a robot go jump the hilly streets Bullitt-style just yet—Google’s rival self-driving company Waymo plans expanding a small public self-driving taxi service in Arizona by the end of this year, but has yet to confirm exactly when and what is happening just yet.

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4th Gear: And Speaking of Self-Driving Cars...

Derek Kan, undersecretary for policy at the U.S. Department of Transportation, is worried that the current metrics of safety the government requires self-driving car companies to report isn’t enough to gauge the safety of the systems, according to Automotive News.

The metrics Kan mentioned are the number of miles driven and frequency of human intervention, which are the most widely used. Here’s what he had to say about them, via Autonews:

Both of those metrics have flaws, Kan said. For one, all miles aren’t created equal. Navigating the complex streets of Manhattan is far more challenging than, say, cruising on an empty highway. Disengagements — or instances when an engineer takes over from a self-driving system — can be influenced by driving and engineering choices, and “don’t provide a very rich data set,” Kan said.

“We are now at that point where we’re saying ‘help us think through the right metrics,”’ to prove that a car driven by artificial intelligence is at least as safe as a human driver, Kan said at the conference, which was organized by the tech company Nvidia Corp., which makes high-performance processors used in artificial intelligence applications, including self-driving cars.

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Kan claims the government is now seeking input from companies on improved methods and metrics for measuring the public safety of self-driving programs.

The government is also looking into lifting certain existing safety requirements concerning driver controls, like pedals and steering wheels, to open up opportunity for unique self-driving car designs, and is seeking guidance for a new series of self-driving test projects that would minimize restrictions for self-driving car testing.

It sounds terrifying.

5th Gear: Headlines From the Future-Present: Hyperloop Construction Starting Next Year

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Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, the 750 mph near-vacuum-tube magnet magic train company that isn’t the other one, has announced plans to build its first commercial loop in Abu Dhabi, according to Reuters.

HyperloopTT got a big, undisclosed investment from engineering firm Al-Handasah, which will take design leadership of the project. The track will be just over six miles long near the border with Dubai, which also has plans to build its own hyperloop through Virgin Hyperloop One.

Construction should begin in the third quarter of next year as a proposed replacement to rail, and will be integrated into Abu Dhabi’s existing transportation network.

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Reverse: The Concorde Is Dead, Long Live the Concorde

Neutral: Would you rather take a trip in a self-driving car or go for a loop of the hyper variety?

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Is it strange that I’d rather go 750 mph in a closed tube than take a self-driving cab ride through San Francisco?