“Self” Driving: Not Easy

Mostly to automate long- and short-distance delivery driving (i.e., to further reduce labor costs), the overclass is sponsoring a huge and massively hyped research project, in hopes of coming up with robo-trucks and robo-taxis. So, imagine a triple trailer running on “AI” as you watch this video of a Tesla driver saving at least two cars full of people from “autopilot” catastrophe:

Turns out that successfully driving automobiles — and success kills 40,000 a year in the USA and 1.25 million worldwide — is extremely complex.

Lemon Update

Actual use of Tesla’s $90,000 jalopy has apparently changed Consumer Reports‘ views.  Per Automotive News:

Consumer Reports, which last year gave top marks to electric carmaker Tesla Motors Inc.’s Model S sedan, now says the car it owns has had “more than its share of problems.”

Consumer Reports, which anonymously buys the vehicles it tests from auto dealerships, said Monday the Model S it owns now has traveled nearly 16,000 miles. Its 2013 Model S was purchased for $89,650 in January of that year.

“Just before the car went in for its annual service, at a little over 12,000 miles, the center screen went blank, eliminating access to just about every function of the car,” the magazine said in its statement.

Tesla fixed the issues on the magazine’s Model S under warranty. The repairs included a “hard reset” to restore the car’s functions after its center screen went blank and problems with the automatic retracting door handles, which were occasionally reluctant to emerge.

CR isn’t the only one:

The issues highlighted by Consumer Reports follow a report by Edmunds.com, an automotive data and pricing company in Santa Monica, Calif. It reported problems last month with its Model S that included replacing the main battery pack after incidents in which the car stalled; a frozen touchscreen; a creaky steering wheel and difficulties opening the car’s sunroof.

As always, Elon Musk responds to these reports like the petulant six-year-old who just broke the family lamp:

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said last month the company continues to review customer reports to ensure all known flaws with the car are fixed.

“We definitely had some quality issues in the beginning for the early serial number cars, because we were just basically figuring out how to make the Model S. I think we’ve addressed almost all of those for current production cars,” Musk told analysts on a July 31 conference call. “Every week I have a product excellence meeting which is a cross-functional group, so we’ve got engineering, service and production and we go over all the issues that customers are reporting with the car and the action items that have to be addressed to get the car ultimately to the platonic ideal of the perfect car.”

Clooney v. Musk

Clooney: “I had a Tesla. I was one of the first cats with a Tesla. But I’m telling you, I’ve been on the side of the road a while in that thing. And I said to them, ‘Look, guys, why am I always stuck on the side of the f**king road? Make it work, one way or another.’”

Musk: “In other news, George Clooney reports that his iPhone 1 had a bug back in ’07.”

This Elon fellow is one of the easier targets around. His ego must be immense, as he clearly can’t hear himself pratfalling. A bug? A bug is an annoyance in an otherwise functional product. A $100,000 car that repeatedly leaves you physically stranded is a bit more than a bug. And need we remind that “electric” cars are not new inventions? Quite the contrary.

And, then, of course, there’s that other bug:

Telsa Model S automobile destroyed by a fire is seen in a handout picture from the Tennessee Highway Patrol

 

 

 

 

 

 

Musk tries to excuse this one by pointing out that gas cars also catch fire. Of course, the average gas car that catches fire is over a decade old and worth about 1/100th of these Tesla bombs.

Tesla Fire

As we continue to await Elon Musk’s ten-minute battery charge, it seems that his $70,000 boondoggles are liable to to be entirely destroyed by running over “large metal objects” in the road:

Love the excuses from Tesla’s damage-control department:

Yesterday, a Model S collided with a large metallic object in the middle of the road, causing significant damage to the vehicle. The car’s alert system signaled a problem and instructed the driver to pull over safely, which he did. No one was injured, and the sole occupant had sufficient time to exit the vehicle safely and call the authorities. Subsequently, a fire caused by the substantial damage sustained during the collision was contained to the front of the vehicle thanks to the design and construction of the vehicle and battery pack. All indications are that the fire never entered the interior cabin of the car.

The real story, of course, is that a commonplace under-car impact that would have caused little or no damage to a conventional gasoline-burning automobile totaled a $70,000 Tesla and put both its occupant(s) and fire fighters in severe danger, while creating a huge traffic jam, all thanks to the design and construction of the vehicle and battery pack.

Reality Swap

lemon A few weeks ago, the publicly maintained scam artist Elon Musk promised that, on June 20, he’d announce a way his rolling boondoggles could be refueled in the same time frame as a gasoline-burning automobile. At the time, DbC felt it should post a prediction that Musk was once again weaseling with facts. Alas, DbC chickened out. (This may speak to the power of the culture’s sponsored insistence on cars-first transportation’s underlying mythologies, among which the cornucopian assumption that Earth’s resources are unlimited and infinitely malleable is not the least.)

In any event, yesterday was June 20, and, as always, Musk was indeed lying. Physics continues to dictate that charging batteries will always be far slower than spraying liquids into a holding tank.

What Musk announced was not some breakthrough charging solution. It was robotic battery-swapping for “$60-$80”!

One cheerleading “tech” blogger describes the process:

Once a Model S owner parks the car on a designated spot, a platform raises from the ground to disconnect and grab hold of the depleted battery. The platform then descends back into the ground, dumps the battery, retrieves a fresh one, and rises once more to connect it to the car.

Yeah, nothing could go wrong there, could it?

Frenzied drivers will still have to do some work though — they’ll have to drop off the battery on the return leg of their journey and pay an unspecified “transport fee”, though they can also choose to keep the battery and pony up the difference between the price between of the old and new batteries.

Outfitting each of those stations with the ability to quickly replace batteries and get motorists back on the road presents quite a logistics problem. There’s the cost to consider — Tesla expects each battery swap station to cost about $500,000 to build, to say nothing of the maintenance and infrastructure costs that will come now that someone presumably has stop by each station and replace worn-down batteries.

Rube Goldberg was an amateur.

NYT Throws Broder Under the Tesla

corpnews As any experience with the MSM confirms in spades, automobiles, despite the times, remain the #1 source of advertising revenue. They are also the keystone commodity in the overall operation of corporate capitalism. Hence, is it any surprise the The New York Times has publicly scolded John M. Broder for daring to do an actual report, rather than a standard MSM advertorial “car review” — on the experience of using a $74,200 “electric” car?

As DbC noted in our last post, Broder took delivery of his Tesla S and used it to see if Tesla had indeed fulfilled its promise of creating an infrastructure that would facilitate “a speedy electric-car road trip between here [Washington D.C.] and Boston.” As Broder reported, this promise remains a huge lie. The actual trip required long waits for charges and repeatedly refraining from normal use of the car.

Readers can read the charges and answers for themselves. The main digs against Broder are 1) that he failed to leave his test car plugged in overnight, and 2) that he didn’t stay around for a full charge (which would have taken several hours) on an emergency charging stop imposed by the lack of charge after a cold, unplugged overnight stay in Groton, Connecticut.

Of course, Broder’s mission was to test the Tesla promise of easy travel based on its East Coast “Supercharger” stations, not to see if his trip was possible by any means whatsoever, or with a dozen footnotes.

After getting flak from Tesla “Chairman, Product Architect & CEO” Elon Musk, in the form of special pleading and attempts to change Broder’s question, here is the final verdict of The TimesFlak Catcher Public Editor, Margaret Sullivan:

Did he [Broder] use good judgment along the way? Not especially.

Wow! That is not a small rebuke in such a form from such a boss in such a trade. One hopes Mr. Broder knows some good employment lawyers…

Meanwhile, Sullivan’s weighing of this issue confirms, once again, the importance of the filters that operate in MSM journalism. In explaining her attack on Broder, Sullivan admits the special lengths to which she felt compelled to go on on one particular side of this question:

I’ve also had a number of talks with my brother, a physician, car aficionado and Tesla fan, who has helped me balance what might have been a tendency to unconsciously side with a seasoned and respected journalist – my own “confirmation bias.”

Funny, that: Her self-described “bias” is to trust a seasoned and respected journalist. Her professional, deeeply considered “corrective” is to give great weight to an over-privileged pro-car, pro-Tesla ideologue!

One might wonder how many anti-car activists Ms. Sullivan drew into her consideration here…

Musk Rat

ev-lemon The recent New York Times report on the profound defectiveness of Tesla’s $72,400 lemon has provoked Tesla’s “Chairman, Product Architect & CEO” Elon Musk to try to defend his rolling turd.  Among the pathetic excuses is this one:

For his first recharge, he [the NYT reporter] charged the car to 90%. During the second Supercharge, despite almost running out of energy on the prior leg, he deliberately stopped charging at 72%. On the third leg, where he claimed the car ran out of energy, he stopped charging at 28%. Despite narrowly making each leg, he charged less and less each time. Why would anyone do that?

Musk, of course, knows the answer full well: People would do that because, even using his “Supercharger,” he’s talking about spending an hour-and-a-half each time waiting for his lemon to draw its coal-derived fuel. People would stop waiting because they have lives, and means of transportation are supposed to exist in order to facilitate, not devour, those lives.

Musk has the chutzpah to conclude with this line: “[W}hat is at stake for sustainable transport is simply too important to the world to ignore.”

Of course, the electric car is to sustainable transport what the potato peeler is to ditch digging.