Alex Davies covers autonomous vehicles and other transport machines for WIRED.
Starting this week, Tesla drivers have access to "Arcade," a set of games that they can play on the center of their car's screen to pass the time when they are plugged in or elsewhere. With Atari classics as pong, these include a special edition of Beach Buggy Racing 2, a Mario Kart– A game similar to that produced by Vector Unit, developer based in the San Francisco Bay Area, allowing its pilots to run on 22 tracks, using the steering wheel and brake pedal to control their avatar (l 39; acceleration is automatic).
Working with Tesla, Vector Unit has loaded this edition of the wink game into electrical driving. Power boosters commonly referred to as a nitrous oxide cylinder are now supercapacitors. The gas cans that usually decorate the tracks are Superchargers in place. Vector unit added to the character "Starman", inspired by the manikin attached to the Roadster this musk pulled into the space last year.
Ralf Knoesel, founder and technical director of Vector Unit, said it was not a lot of work because the company is already producing games for various hardware configurations, from iPhones to consoles. The most important task, he said, was to redefine the user interface for model cars X and S, with vertically oriented displays.
Knoesel and his colleagues are big fans of Tesla. They even did the work for free. "We just think it's really cool," Knoesel said. (They have, of course, got a good bunch of advertising.)
It's this kind of popularity that makes Tesla such an unusual car manufacturer (with its focus on electric propulsion, battles with regulators and on quality control and the application of its autopilot function). Musk has more connections with its owners and with the general public than any leader in the auto industry. And while his high-level tweets have got him legal trouble, he spends most of his time on social networks interacting with fans and Tesla owners, making suggestions, answering questions and exchanging the most silly memes.
Tesla has delivered the game to car owners via an over-the-air software update. Such updates allow the company to add unexpected features such as Beach buggy race, a Whoopee cushion mimic that can annoy the occupant from any seat and "romance mode"Who's showing a crackling fire on the center screen and playing love songs." The question, Musk said at E3, is: "How can we make it as fun as possible?"
Tesla employs tens of thousands of employees who make hundreds of thousands of cars a year and still seeks to become profitable as it tries to compete with its older and more powerful competitors. But the climb has not yet lessened his sense of amusement.
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