Why I Plan to Reassess the Mercedes-Benz DrivePilot System

10 Aug

DrivePilot

I’ll give Mercedes-Benz credit: I didn’t expect to hear from them after my recent story comparing their DrivePilot to Tesla’s Autopilot. I took a flamethrower to Stuttgart’s latest semi-autonomous driving technology, calling it a disaster—and, worse, potentially unsafe. In a world where manufacturers regularly attempt to sidestep bad press, Mercedes could easily have stayed silent.

Then, six days after Musk gloatingly retweeted the story, my phone rang.

I should note that it’s rare for a blatantly negative review to appear in the mainstream media for any consumer product, let alone about a juggernaut brand whose tagline is “The Best or Nothing.” When one does show up, it’s generally centered around criteria with little real-world impact—things like design, or zero-to-sixty times. Criticizing a major manufacturer for a perceived issue at the heart of their latest safety technology is basically unheard of.

Read the rest over at The Drive

It’s Not Just Tesla Autopilot—Everything Is in Beta

3 Aug

Everything Is In Beta

I remember my first real girlfriend. We were eleven; promises were made. My first car? I was going to keep it forever. My parents were together, until they weren’t. I remember the girl I wanted to marry—the first girl and the third. I remember my father’s voice from the next room. Then on an answering machine, which stopped working, then on a voicemail, which I lost when I switched to T-Mobile. Then, only in my memory.

Nothing is static. The world, with all of us in it, is in a constant state of change. Everything is in beta, and anyone who says otherwise is selling you something.

Love or hate Elon Musk, his greatest societal contribution isn’t “Premium Electric Vehicles” or reusable rockets. It might just be his use of language—specifically that phrase, “in beta.” Did you think that term means “not ready,” “incomplete,” or “needs testing”? It can, and it does, but now, it also means something else: In the world of automotive technology, especially autonomy, “in beta” now means: We have to move faster.

Read the rest over at The Drive

Why The FTC SHOULD Investigate Mercedes’ ‘Misleading’ Self-Driving Car Ads

28 Jul

Mercedes Self-Driving Car

The 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-class may be amazing, but it is not a self-driving car. Not even close. But their early ads say it is, in exactly that language. This is how people get killed, and now Consumer Reports is rightfully calling on the FTC to investigate what they call a “misleading” campaign.

Consumer Reports specifically called out a Mercedes TV ad called “The Future,” in which a narrator’s voice-over says, “Is the world truly ready for a vehicle that can drive itself? An autonomous-thinking automobile that protects those inside and outside. Ready or not, the future is here.”

Stuttgart, we have problem.

Read the rest of my article over @The/Drive

The War For Autonomous Driving: 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class VS. 2017 Tesla Model S

27 Jul

Drive Pilot

Looking for a comparison of the 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class and the 2016 Tesla Model S? This is not that. Both are brilliant, gorgeous cars—best-of-breed luxury sedans in the war between internal combustion and electricity—but who cares?

The future belongs to Autonomous Driving.

The 2017 E-Class is the first Mercedes-Benz available with Drive Pilot—the brand name for their latest semi-Autonomous Driving (AD) suite—and is the first direct assault on Tesla’s Autopilot, which has captured the public’s imagination, for better or worse, since its release in 2015.

What is AD? It’s what happens when you combine Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Automatic Steering, and then a car begins to drive itself. How long, how well and how safely it does this is the difference between today and tomorrow, between semi-Autonomous and truly Self-Driving Cars.

Does Mercedes’ Drive Pilot deliver what it calls The Best or Nothing? Or is Autopilot—despite recent controversy—still the state-of-the-semi-Autonomous-art?

That depends on your expectations.

Read the rest over at The/Drive

Can The Vanderhall Laguna Cure Automotive Cancer?

21 Jul

Vanderhall Laguna

“It’s cancer,” said Mr. Sardonic, “with a key.”

He wasn’t talking about the Vanderhall Laguna. He was talking about the Lamborghini Espada, and I knew exactly what he meant. The two would appear to have nothing in common, but don’t be fooled. They are inextricably linked by illness. The Espada is one of its clearest symptoms, and the Laguna seeks to be its cure.

Mr. Sardonic, like myself and countless others, suffers from an acute case of Petrolicious-itis. It starts with a lust for Fourth Cars — which are cars you don’t need because you’ve got three others — and frequent visits to Petrolicious. The most common risk factors are spare time and disposable income. Combine Nostalgia for the Dream Cars of Youth and Chronic Desire To Be Different, and the diagnosis is guaranteed. I should know. I own or have owned all the most unreliable supercars of the past. OK, maybe not supercars. A Porsche 928 GT. With a stick. An E24 BMW M6. A Citroen SM. Cars that were very expensive new, and whose running costs make them — even after decades of depreciation — a bargain by no measure.

Read the rest over at TheDrive.com…

Tesla Is Right. Consumer Reports Is Wrong. And Trying To Kill You.

16 Jul

Tesla Is Right. Consumer Reports Is Wrong. And Trying To Kill You.

Consumer Reports is trying to kill you. It’s true: The non-profit my parents trusted for advice on washing machines, coffee makers and sunscreen has crossed the line. CR, an organization claiming to serve consumers through unbiased product testing has chosen to enter the debate over Tesla’s Autopilot in the most ill-informed and irresponsible way possible. In doing so, the brand is putting additional lives at risk.

No company has done more to bring autonomous driving (AD) to market than Tesla, and yet they are now the target of a misinformation campaign rapidly coalescing around a single message: Tesla Autopilot is dangerous.

This is nonsense.

Read the rest of over at The/Drive.com

In Defense of Tesla’s Autopilot, Part 1

8 Jul

Tesla Autopilot Accident

Before Joshua Brown was killed in his Tesla Model S while watching a movie on Autopilot, I had a conversation with my friend, Comms. “The first person to kill someone in a Tesla on Autopilot,” Comms said, “is going to be responsible for 340,000 deaths.”

Comms is an old friend working in communications for a major automotive manufacturer. He’d just spent an hour failing to convince me Elon Musk was the modern Preston Tucker, but I couldn’t argue with his newest line of reasoning.

“Nonsense,” I said. “It’s great. I know its limitations.” Continue reading

Can George Hotz “Win” Self-Driving Cars?

2 Jun

George Hotz

“Hotz wants two,” said The Spaniard, my new spy friend. I knew he was a spy. He knew I knew. I knew he knew I knew. But I knew he knew I knew first, so he respected me, and now I had a friend with more technical knowledge of Autonomous Driving than I, which made us the perfect duo to walk and talk our way through the broiling pits at SelfRacingCars—the World’s First Autonomous Track Day—at Thunderhill in Willows, California.

“Two hundred million?” I said.

“No,” he shook his head. “Two billion.”

“You know something, Spaniard? If some kid from New Jersey can get a fucking Acura to drive itself around Thunderhill without crashing, he deserves the money.”

In fifteen minutes we’d find out if the kid is worth the money, because George Hotz, a 26-year-old from New Jersey with matted hair and the comic timing of the Upright Citizens Brigade, was here to “win” Self-Driving Cars.

Read the rest over at TheDrive.com

How Not to Flee When You Crash Your Expensive Rental Car in Italy

28 May

Morgan Mille MIglia

“We all need to get the fuck out of Italy,” is what I should have said.

But I didn’t. I was being well paid by The Drive to find out whether the Mille Miglia—the legendary Italian road race—was just the Old Man’s Gumball, with a better publicist. You don’t need to be Nostradamus to know that where there are men, money and cars—sex, drugs and crashes must follow.

Now that our supercharged, wood-framed, 1,857-pound, 350+ horsepower, 1999 Morgan +8 rental car was lying in a ditch outside the third-rate Italian village of Sassocorvaro, all I had to do was find the sex and drugs.

“I don’t know about you guys,” I said to my teammates, the shame-ridden Mr. Horn, the sanguine Mr. Glass and the fake-blogger-with-a-press-pass The Tall Man, “but I’m staying.”

Read the rest over at The Drive…