Tesla’s Autopilot faces criminal probe, Hennessey’s 1200-horse Shelby Mustang, Audi and F1 make it official

Tesla

Reuters: Tesla and its Autopilot under criminal investigation

Intake: According to Reuters, Tesla is under criminal investigation over claims that the company’s electric vehicles can drive themselves, three people familiar with the matter said. The U.S. Department of Justice launched the previously undisclosed case last year after more than a dozen crashes, some fatal, involving Tesla’s Autopilot driver assistance system, which was activated during the accidents, the sources told Reuters. While the company has “explicitly warned drivers that they must keep their hands on the wheel and maintain control of their vehicles while using Autopilot,” Reuters says, Tesla’s marketing claims may come back to haunt them, such as a video posted on the company website that says: “The person in the driver’s seat is only there for legal reasons. He is not doing anything. The car is driving itself.”

Exhaust: If this is true, and the story is admittedly thin on details and named sources, it could negatively affect the self-driving research and development going on at multiple companies. Just this week investors Ford and Volkswagen shuttered self-driving startup Argo, taking billions in losses. This Tesla story merits watching. —Steven Cole Smith

Officially official: Audi, Sauber partner in 2026 F1 entry

Showcar with Audi F1 launch livery
Audi

Intake: Audi’s plans to join the Formula 1 fray in 2026 have finally crystalized. Yesterday, the German brand announced that it would take a stake in the Sauber F1 team and that the partnership would compete as the Audi factory team from 2026 onwards. Audi will handle power unit production at its Motorsport Competence Center in Neuburg an de Donau (as previously announced this summer), and Sauber will handle the development and construction of the rest of the race car at its site in Hinwill, Switzerland. The 2026 season will mark the debut of the new power units that F1 says were integral to courting a new supplier such as Audi. These new power units place an even greater emphasis on efficiency, now deriving nearly 50 percent of their power from the electric drivetrain components. The 1.6-liter single-turbo V-6 engine remains, but it will be tweaked to run on synthetic fuels in the name of sustainability. Audi already has a significant expansion of its Neuberg facility’s personnel and technical infrastructure coming in 2023, much of which will be to support the F1 effort. The first tests of the 2026-regulation power units are planned for 2025—for Audi, it’s time to get down to business.

Exhaust: Audi and Sauber have worked together before. The four-ring brand regularly used Sauber’s high-tech wind tunnel in Hinwill during its successful Le Mans era in the early-2000s, as well as during the creation of its Class 1 car for DTM. Seeing these two back in action together—and more importantly, seeing an Audi factory team back in the highest levels of motorsport—has us quite excited for F1’s new era. The question now is: How serious was Porsche about tying up with Williams? —Nate Petroelje

Hennessey announces Venom 1200 version of the Mustang GT500

Intake: Hennessey Performance, the manufacturer and high-performance vehicle tuner, has confirmed production of its new Venom 1200 Mustang GT500. Based on the most powerful factory-produced Mustang of all time, the Ford Mustang Shelby GT500, the latest Hennessey build will be “one of the most powerful muscle cars Hennessey Performance has ever produced.” Ford’s Shelby GT500 has a hand-built supercharged 5.2-liter V8 rated at 760 horsepower and 625 lb.-ft. of torque. “Yet Ford still leaves much of the vehicle’s potential untapped,” Hennessey says. The upgrades include “a higher capacity 3.8-liter supercharger, a high-flow induction system, new fuel rails and injectors, and an air/oil separation system. In addition, fittings, lines, belts, and tensioners are upgraded, and the dual-clutch transmission is recalibrated for its high-output role.” That and other changes result in 1204 horsepower and 902 lb.-ft. of torque – “an astounding 58 percent increase in horsepower over stock.”

Exhaust: It’s another horsepower monster from the Sealy, Texas-based tuner. Said John Hennessey, company founder and CEO: “The stock Shelby GT500 is an extraordinary muscle car, but we take it to the nth degree with our Venom 1200. Our engineers were able to coax more than 400 additional horsepower out of the engine, which takes performance to supercar levels.” —SCS

Play Outrun for real with Gianni Agnelli’s Ferrari Testarossa Spider

Intake: It used to cost just a quarter a go to get behind the wheel of a Rosso red Ferrari Testarossa Spider at your local arcade, but to do it for real will set someone back over $2 million. That’s the price that a one-off 1990 Special Production Testarossa, built by the Ferrari factory for Fiat Boss Gianni Agnelli, is expected to fetch when it goes to auction at RM Sotheby’s in London on November 5. Despite remaining unregistered from new, and having covered less than 500 km (310 miles), the car has just had $178,000-worth of work done by Pininfarina and Zanasi.

Exhaust: It will take serious coin to own the only factory-built Testarossa Spider ever made, but did you know British Ferrari fan Scott Chivers managed to create his own “Ratarossa” Spider for less than $30,000, much to the horror of Maranello? —Nik Berg

Five vintage Bugattis head home after almost a century away

Bugattis return home
Bugatti

Intake: It took more than two years of negotiations, but Bugatti has persuaded a Swiss collector to part with five of the company’s rarest road and race cars so they can return to its Molsheim base. Hans Matti, registrar of the Bugatti Club Suisse, had dedicated his life to gathering these marvelous machines, and it was only by involving Ettore Bugatti’s granddaughter Caroline that a deal was struck. Now installed in the Bugatti museum are a Type 51 Grand Prix car raced by Achille Varzi, a Type 49 Faux cabriolet owned by Jean Bugatti, a Type 37A, a Type 35B, and a Type 35A. Amazingly all are in original, unrestored condition having been meticulously cared for by Matti. “This collection of cars and the stories that have been gathered around them are absolutely priceless, and we’re honored to have been able to welcome them to home of Bugatti Automobiles,” says Christophe Piochon, President of Bugatti Automobiles.

Exhaust: As they face increasing competition from upstart rivals, luxury carmakers are leaning on their heritage as a point of difference. Buying up historic vehicles to bring their past to life is a sound marketing strategy, and all the better for car fans if these priceless classics are used and displayed more widely than if they were in private collections.—NB

Jay Leno drives the ICON electric 1949 Mercury

Intake: ICON is a California customizer that takes older vehicles, mostly four-wheel-drive, and updates them to modern equipment. One division of the company takes that to extremes: They find a vintage vehicle and leave it alone on the outside, allowing it to wallow in patina, while thoroughly updating it mechanically. One such vehicle is ICON’s 1949 electric Mercury coupe, rusty and faded on the surface but sporting a dual electric motor with “470 lb.-ft. of freight-train torque and the equivalent of 400 horsepower, with no shifts all the way up to the Merc’s 120 mph top speed. A full Tesla Performance 85kWh battery array is strategically fit throughout the vehicle for exceptional weight balance.” TV host and car enthusiast Jay Leno loves patina and going fast, and in this episode, he takes the electric Mercury for a drive with ICON CEO Jonathan Ward.

Exhaust: Ward tells Leno to expect a lot more hot rods like the Mercury with electric powertrains. “I honestly anticipate an 80 to 20 [percent] flip in the next decade in favor of EV builds. I just think it’s a reality of where we’re at in the global crisis. I mean, what more proof do we need?” —SCS

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Comments

    Full “auto pilot” is decades away. Like more than 30 unless some revolutionary new tech rolls out. They should really prosecute the person who approved that dumba$$ steering yoke.

    If you are going to spend $300k on a mustang to make it “like a super car” as the guy from TX says, why not just buy a super car, b/c at the end of the day you are still driving a mustang with a crappy cheap plastic fit and interior finish that is well below the $100k base sticker price. I am not banging on the mustang interior – everybody knows the interior is, well, too much typical ford. Nobody is buying that car for its interior. Would love to know how many people end up getting that over-boosted stang, or who actually asked for it….

    Been saying it all along, and Ford/VW confirmed. Auto makers are not willing to assume the liability associated with ‘autonomous’ vehicles. If an autonomous vehicle kills a pedestrian in a marked crosswalk, the owner of the vehicle is not the one that will be sued.

    Guys like Musk are often too busy coming up with the latest gadgets that are neither practical or safe. And when the poop hits the fan, there is no response or acknowlegement of the consequences.
    Why the obsession with self-driving cars? Don’t want to be involved in the process? Take the bus.

    I have always maintained that there will not be self driving cars legally on the roads unless all are self driving.
    That’s appears to be confirmed with Ford and Volkswagen shuttered self-driving startup Argo, taking billions in losses.

    And then putting them to market before they are ready. His excuse that he said the driver is supposed to keep driving completely defeats the stated purpose of the device! What an absurd response. Pass.

    Tesla is the ONLY car that relies solely on cameras, no other sensors. Everyone else has science involved, and use multiple types of sensors to “see” what is around it. Tesla should have been shut down after the second fatality. The marketing says it all.

    Regarding Tesla, don’t ever put your life in the hands of a computer nor a chip.
    The Bugattis are wonderful.
    The Ferrari is stunning.

    Similar to the Tesla on autopilot that went crashing into the Columbus, Ohio Convention Center at a very high rate of speed not too long ago. Driver still hasn’t faced trial in that case.

    Autopilot? Well it isn’t but Tesla keeps using that term and some stupid Tesla users love to make videos of their stupid behavior. It needs a name change. Pilot assist is more accurate.

    It’s not autopilot but they insist on calling that. Maybe it will be someday but not right now. Pilot assist? Yes. Too many fools in their Tesla’s taking videos of themselves being stupid.

    If you’ve sailed a boat before and used Auotpilot, you’d know the Tesla system is very similar. You’re not steering, but unless you’re an idiot, you’re at the wheel on the lookout for stuff like lobster trap buoys, nets, and other boats that can ruin your day.

    Yes, you’re right in the sense that the Tesla system is different because it makes lane changes and vary speed to avoid obstacles, but getting mad and saying it’s a misnomer says more about your opinion of that company and/or Musk than it does about your experience using other vehicles with “autopilot”.

    Have a blessed day.

    Autopilot cars and transport trucks — the dumbest idea since aiming for all EV vehicles. Nothing but disaster awaits either delusional scheme because both rely on types of infrastructure which are a century away from being ready, if ever. How many times has your sat nav been wrong? How many black outs and brown outs does California have to go through before they get it?

    As far as I know, CA has not had any black outs or brown outs in the last 15 years.

    But yes, full autopilot is not going to happen until EVERYONE has it in EVERY car. Because people are just too random.

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