Even in a relatively dry news day, Tesla still finds a way to be relevant

Tesla’s issues with a number of U.S. states regarding the sales of its vehicles are well-documented. It’s had problems in New Jersey and Arizona in the past and it’s got a pending case in Utah that has gone all the way to the Supreme Court. Now the California-based electric car maker can add Missouri among its headaches after getting shut out on a license renewal for selling new vehicles in the state.

Tesla’s woes in Missouri stems from a lawsuit filed by the Missouri Auto Dealers Association back in 2015 against the state’s revenue department. The suit alleged that the Tesla’s unique direct-to-consumer sales model violated state laws. Cole County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Green then ruled in MADA’s favor back in August 2016, calling for the Missouri Department of Revenue to not renew its motor vehicle dealer license since the company itself is the owner of the models it sells and not a franchisee.

According to Electrek, Tesla is planning to appeal the decision but after getting denied a motion to stay or temporarily halt the ruling in the course of the appeals process, the company is now being forced to shut sales operations of its stores in Kansas City and Universal City.

The decision is understandably frustrating for Tesla as it now faces the unenviable task of closing sales operations while the Court of Appeals decides on the issue. In the meantime though, it appears that the automaker has its hands tied on the matter and, as such, will be forced to make some very difficult decision regarding its employees in the state.

In more positive news, Tesla’s new Autopilot hardware system is about go live on a handful of Tesla models as the automaker has begun enabling some of the self-driving features that were disabled back in October. The installation of new equipment – cameras, sensors, and radar – that support fully autonomous driving was touted as one of the significant reasons behind the decision to shut down these features temporarily. But now that the first 1,000 Tesla models have been installed with the new hardware, the automaker has begun enabling features like Traffic Aware Cruise Control, Forward Collision Warning, and Autosteer on these models.

The decision to start enabling these features is part of a long-arching plan by Tesla to slowly bring back the old features that were used in the previous-generation Autopilot system. “These features operate on a new hardware and software platform,” the company said in a statement. “Their rollout will be measured and cautious until we have generated confidence across several hundred million miles of real-world usage. Enhanced Autopilot will become better over time as this experience is gained and corner cases are addressed.”

Continue after the jump to read the full story.

Leave it to Tesla to stay in the headlines

It’s a bittersweet start of the year for Tesla, and I’m not even referring to the first customer complaint of “unintended acceleration” involving a Tesla Model X. These two developments take precedence though because of their importance relative to Tesla’s business.

The issue in Missouri is a problem the company doesn’t want to have, especially at a time when its legal team presumably has its hands full dealing with similar issues in other states, namely Utah. Having another state close its doors on the company to prevent it from selling its models in the direct-to-consumer method it uses needs to be addressed and resolved quickly or it could open a whole can of worms that could lead to even bigger headaches for the automaker.

Fortunately, not everything is gloom and doom over at Tesla. The return of a number of self-driving features for vehicles that already have the latest Autopilot hardware is good news for the automaker and owners of both Model S and Model X units. At least these people can now look forward to seeing what improvements the new hardware has to offer relative to its older version. Granted, customers have been advised to tread carefully and remain vigilant in controlling their Teslas when using these driver assistance features, but it is exciting to see how the next evolution of the Autopilot hardware translates on the road when being driven by car owners, even if the features themselves are only available at low speeds and are still in their beta phase for the time being.

Steady improvements, right? Soon enough, other self-driving functions – new and old – will go live every few months as Tesla finally sets its sights on having its models achieve full autonomy. The road towards that goal is now in sight.

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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