Bearbrass members have a 4% chance of being called “Mike” and owning a Tesla all-electric car. So far two of our 50 have Teslas, namely Mike (Spike) Sparkes in Docklands and Mike Porter in Hawthorn.
They’re fanatics about the Tesla “ultrafast computers on wheels”. Spike’s one-year-old Tesla can drive itself except for right-angle turns, whereas Mike’s one-week old latest version heads off anywhere that Mike tells it while watching and adapting to all vehicles, bikes, walkers, lights and signs. In fact, all Teslas automatically upgrade to latest software roughly fortnightly. Mike says, “While I can just say, ‘Take me to Anglesea’ and off it goes, in fact, hands have to be touching the steering wheel while moving.  Tesla is not claiming for legal reasons to be offering autonomous or self-driving service – but it’s there and works beautifully. With cautions!” 
Neither Mike nor Spike bought their car to save the planet. Spike bought his Tesla Model 3 ($69,000) to placate his inner nerd and create a new experience, and also because he’d had a bad couple of years during his wife Carol’s fatal illness, and his spirits needed a lift. 
Mike on the other hand has just come through a severe cancer episode that left him initially unable to drive his grandkids around because of nerve damage to his hands and feet (peripheral neuropathy from chemo). The Tesla’s self-driving abilities more than offset these weaknesses. He bought the Model 3 August 2020 version, but added the “self-driving package, with all wheel drive, larger battery, long distance and two-motor version taking the final price to about $100,000.  He intends doing a lot of holiday driving within Australia when permitted, in lieu of overseas tourism. 
Each car has an official name – Mike’s is called “White Knight”, and Spike’s is “Benji” after Benjamin Franklin who had something to do with lightning rods, kites and cooking turkeys with electricity.
Both are stunned by their car’s Artificial Intelligence computing. There are two computers in each car – one pink and one blue – and the car won’t do anything unless they both agree (super redundancy). The computers are now 25 times faster than in the car three years ago. 
The big screen up front meshes with both their phone and the internet. It integrates with eight cameras (Spike) or 13 cameras (Mike) for auto-driving and security. If any strange bloke touches the car, he gets filmed and face-recorded. It’s a bit like a plane’s black box. 
Our reporter sat in Spike’s car when he trod the accelerator and it took off like a jet fighter, pressing us hard back in our seats. That’s because the whole power of the battery kicks in from zero speed, instead of a combustion motor needing to be run up to full revs to get full power. Mike says the acceleration apparently exceeds most Ferraris.
Mike’s version was taking him along busy Burwood Road and a confused woman started crossing ahead: “The car noticed before I did and pulled up smoothly because it anticipated danger”. The cameras also study what’s tailgating or happening on both sides – full 360 degrees. It stops itself smoothly without being rear-ended. The July 2020 “self-driving” update reads speed signs and stop lights directly rather than relying on GPS and uses AI to work out what to do at any traffic light, like whether to stop or run the yellow.  “It’s an incredible upgrade”, Mike says. “It notices and responds to pedestrians in relevant view and cyclists are watched and automatically cared for. It’s a very low risk car for insurers – Tesla statistics on accidents kill competitors’ data, not  people” Mike says. “When I traded my small Mazda they found it had hail damage on the roof from a recent Hawthorn hailstorm. No more: this Tesla’s see-through tinted zero UV whole roof is a mix of incredible glass and titanium.”
The two grown-up boys also like the silent engine. But Australian authorities may soon compel artificial engine noise at low speed to alert pedestrians to the now-silent beast’s arrival. Mike says that Elon Musk has included a fart noise coming from any seat which kids and grown-up kids can activate as a joke.    
The only regular maintenance is brakes, tyres and windscreen washing fluid, and battery re-charges for 400km (Benji’s figure) cost either “nothing” (home solar) or under $20. Mike currently has the indignity of having to run a trickle-charging cable out a study window to the car until a speedier charger is installed. 
There is no worry about flat batteries as road-side charging systems are quite adequate. The pair also aren’t worried about eventual battery replacement. The five-year car warranty adds an 8-year battery replacement warranty if it drops below 80% of new holding charge. Tesla founder Elon Musk is forecasting battery costs falling 69% in the next three years, with 13 mega-factories coming on-stream soon. 
Spike lives in a Docklands tower and the other day wanted to wash dust off the car, which was in the tower's pristine car  park. He put a bucket of water and sponges in the boot and drove to nearby Ron Barassi Park. While he was washing it there a police car patrol took an intense interest, trying to figure out what COVID rule he was breaking. They couldn’t think of one and drove off disgruntled. “I was exercising,” Spike explains. #.