This week brings the 2014 World Congress on Intelligent Transport Systems. The “intelligent systems” in question? Cars!
Meanwhile, as they try ever more elaborate tricks to perpetuate the suicidal but necessary-to-capitalists cars-first transportation order of the United States, the challenges and costs are predictably piling up.
As reported by Automotive News, here’s what they’re learning — and like Captain Renault, they are shocked — about the realities of robot cars:
Stepper said once the technology is perfected, proving that it works perfectly and safely in every driving situation will be a massive challenge. Said Stepper: “The validation will have to be that your system will not have one single failure.”
Dellenback compared the cost of developing the software to control self-driving cars to that of writing software for a manned space flight.
He said, “The cost of each line of software is incredible.”
Oh, yes, there’s this, too: Robot cars don’t work in the rain or snow!
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.”
Google has announced it is working on a driverless car. As usual, mainstream journalists, always breathless and brainless about “tech” stories, are reporting on the project as if it is somehow a portent of major change in our wildly expensive and unsustainable transportation order. Google co-founder Sergey Brin, naturally, eggs them on, speaking of the project as if it’s somehow “in keeping with our mission of being transformative.”
The reality? As reported by Automotive News, GCars “will be electronically limited to 25 mph and will never go on highways. They will be designed as ‘neighborhood’ vehicles.”
In other words, GCars, if they are ever actually viable, will be GTaxis. As such, they will be taking riders away from existing, driver-employing public transit systems and taxi businesses, as well as further stymieing cyclists and pedestrians in the nation’s most walkable and rideable places.
Not quite transformative, is it?
When Tesla starts its fires, its execs always leap out and issue indignant denials of any inherent problems.
For those keeping track, this is what happens next.
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:
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.
They have the chutzpah to say this: “We have been in contact with the driver, who was not injured and believes the car saved his life.”
Yes, it saved his life — from itself!
More evidence of the wisdom of moving a half-ton/14 cubic feet of advanced batteries around at highway speeds in order to power cars with coal:
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.
“The i3 will tilt our image more toward innovation and sustainability.”
— Ludwig Willisch, CEO of BMW of North America