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Model S Test Mule?

Gear

Member
Jul 14, 2013
620
39
SoCal
I was parked next to this thing today at the Hawthorne SC. Any ideas what's going on? I asked one of the guys driving it what all the sensors were for, but he was understandably pretty vague. I would be too. :)

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Gear

Member
Jul 14, 2013
620
39
SoCal
Sorry, pictures didn't show up for some reason. The tapatalk app doesn't seem to want to attach them. I'll have to add them when I get home in an hour and some change. Sorry!
 

Gear

Member
Jul 14, 2013
620
39
SoCal
I updated the original post to add the photos. Sorry for teasing you guys! As for the photos, you can see all four wheels had some kind of sensor on it and there was wiring kind of running everywhere. I initially thought the thin box up top was a solar setup or something as I was pulling in, but it was just a sheet metal box. On the dash, you can see there's a display mounted to the windshield, presumably displaying the data from the wheel sensors, as well as an industrial looking stop button. In the back seat, there was also something that kind of looked like a big fuel tank seat-belted onto the rear seat, but I can't imagine that would have been what it was. One of the guys who got in the car said they were from the factory (the car had manufacturer plates) and when I asked him what the car was for, he said something about wheel dynamics or something like that, choosing his words very carefully. I made sure to tell him I understand if he can't talk about it, and at the end of the brief conversation, he said something to the effect of "Sorry, I'm just not sure where the line is", in regards to divulging information. I didn't really press him for information as I could tell he was slightly uncomfortable and I certainly wouldn't want anybody to get into trouble. Any thoughts?

PS, I'm not sure what the blue coloring is that showed up in the glass on the pictures. It wasn't actually there in person, obviously. It must have been something weird with the camera on my phone.
 

wts13

Member
Feb 4, 2013
193
6
Bay Area
Standard looking encoders on the wheels. Stop button is curious although I guess they'd have it there for safety even if this is just an AWD mule and not self-piloting.

They could also be testing active cruise control/collision detection...but those comments imply otherwise I suppose.
 

Gizmotoy

Active Member
Sep 16, 2013
3,670
871
Bay Area, CA
The thing on the roof throws me. External battery pack? That wire going down the A-pillar might be large enough, and might run into the frunk's microwave area where they had considered putting additional batteries... might be battery access terminals up there.

There also appears to be a keyed emergency shutoff switch on the dash.

The wheel sensors might be useful for power/speed measurements. I wonder if you've stumbled across a higher power (120kWh?) AWD test mule.

Edit: Nope, the wire on the pillar runs to the wheel sensors. No idea what that is on the roof, then.
 

mike

EVangelist
Dec 28, 2007
45
17
Sacramento, CA
I wonder if it is ballast weight on the roof rack, possibly to simulate increased center of gravity for Model X (along with whatever was mounted in back seats).
They could be evaluating driving dynamics of the AWD system.

Edit: Also looks like the fender lining has been removed, at least for the rear right wheel (third photo)
 

riceuguy

Member
Dec 17, 2012
169
0
Austin, TX
Looks a WHOLE lot like an autonomous driving test bed...emergency red stop button would be the biggest clue (take over manual control), with the large box top containing myriad sensors and the "gas tank" in the back likely a beefy server. Wheel dynamics can be tested in a more controlled track envrionment...
 

Gear

Member
Jul 14, 2013
620
39
SoCal
Also of note: I don't know if you can really tell from the photos, but it seemed to ride higher than either my car or the one on the other side. The wheel and tire diameter looked about the same as mine, but there was a much larger gap between the tire and fender and the roofline looked higher as well (not including the obvious metal box on top).
 

charliestyr

EVangelist
Jul 1, 2012
134
2
UK
I wonder if it is ballast weight on the roof rack, possibly to simulate increased center of gravity for Model X (along with whatever was mounted in back seats).
They could be evaluating driving dynamics of the AWD system.

Edit: Also looks like the fender lining has been removed, at least for the rear right wheel (third photo)

This sounds most plausible to me. It's a Model X mule, the roof rack being their to simulate weight for both range testing and dynamics... But of course who knows really ;-) Exciting whichever way!
 

Elwood

Member
Sep 20, 2013
51
0
Enschede
FWIW..

A while back I saw a Test-mule from Mercedes for autonomic driving. It was a bit of a giggle because our daughters connected with a child in the Mercedes (S-Class) and noticed the driver not holding the wheel. He and his son(?) were goofing around, pretending to our girls they were trapped in the car which was clearly driving without driver input.

Anyway, it had cameras everywhere. Bits, bobs and stuff looking out of all the windows. I'm guessing a combo of camera and radar. This car doesn't show anything. I'm inclined to think this has something to do with driving dynamics as stated before..
 

lolachampcar

Well-Known Member
Nov 26, 2012
5,912
6,445
WPB Florida
I agree that those are wheel torque, speed and position sensors wrapped into one and that you have spotted the (we are not doing) MS AWD test mule. Until certified, Tesla is probably required to have a big red panic button when working on driveline modifications which further bolsters the idea of their being another motor up front. The box is probably a battery to power that motor independently so as to not have to deal with traction battery peak current usage while exploring the limits of four wheel two motor traction events on dry tarmac.

Awesome find and thank you very much for posting pics :)
 
I agree that those are wheel torque, speed and position sensors wrapped into one and that you have spotted the (we are not doing) MS AWD test mule. Until certified, Tesla is probably required to have a big red panic button when working on driveline modifications which further bolsters the idea of their being another motor up front. The box is probably a battery to power that motor independently so as to not have to deal with traction battery peak current usage while exploring the limits of four wheel two motor traction events on dry tarmac.

Awesome find and thank you very much for posting pics :)

There are better places to hide an additional battery pack that would not impact the weight distribution and aerodynamics of the MS. I'm putting my vote in the Model X drivetrain prototype camp. YAY!!! Make it so.

No indication of any autonomous driving hardware visible to me.

Edit:
The more I look at this the more I imagine Dr. Brown driving it. I don't know why....but I think when this thing gets up to 88mph we'll see some serious....
 
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