The Model 3 Is Further Proof of Tesla’s Asymmetric War Against the Auto Industry

31 Jul

Tesla Asymmetric War

I didn’t attend the Tesla Model 3 launch. Did I have to? Everyone knows my position: If you actually want to #MAGA, Tesla is your company, and Elon Musk is your man. Even if you hate the whole enterprise, even if the Big One destroyed Fremont tomorrow, the world is a different and better place because of what Musk has built at Tesla.

What the Model 3 launch proves is that Tesla’s not going away. Not ever.

Don’t believe me? Let’s study the history of warfare, which is that of business plus death. One would think that with stakes as high as they are, lessons learned from the study of war would guide business more than it does, at least in the auto industry.

The French have always been celebrated for their Champagnes, but their greatest gift to the world is actually a better understanding of war. The Maginot Line — built in the 1930s to repel the German infantry & artillery assaults of 1914-18 — was overrun in 1940 by the German Blitzkrieg, or “lightning war.” It wouldn’t have mattered if the French fortifications had extended to the English Channel, or if they had been fully manned; if it were pierced, armored columns could flow through. Continue reading

Why This $4,000 Renault Is as Disruptive as the Tesla Model 3

18 Jul

Kwid Disruption Tesla

Want to see the future of transportation? Spend 96 hours in India.

What is disruption? Ask the clickbait mills and the sheep who retweet them, and thy name is Tesla. Everyone knows the Tesla story. AutonomyElectrificationSuperchargersMusk! If it weren’t for Tesla, we’d still be waiting for our electric and autonomous future to dawn. The Model 3 will disrupt, just as Tesla has disrupted the entire automotive sector, and now you can own one for only $35,000, plus options. It’s all true, but it’s only half right.

Go to India and Renault will sell the other half of disruption for just under $4,000.

This French-Indian disruptor is called the Kwid, and it’s the opposite of the Tesla Model 3 in almost every way. It lacks any of the technology or performance that earn cars placement on magazine covers. It’s a front-wheel-drive, 3-cylinder, 800-cc, four-door compact crossover (CUV) with plastic cladding. Boxes ticked? None. And yet it is the most important car in the largest segment in what will soon be the third largest car market in the world. Continue reading

The Secret Behind Norway’s EV “Miracle” Isn’t Oil

12 Jul

This is Part 1 of my journey around the world to understand the future of transportation.

I want to believe our electric automotive and autonomous future is around the corner, but with the stench of clickbait fouling most rational discussion, I took a road trip around the world to investigate the narratives most frequently repeated by lazy media and gullible investors.

Let’s start with electric vehicles. Are EVs really about to reach a tipping point?

My first stop was Norway, the most electrified country in the world, where an EV “miracle” has allegedly taken place. The car? A state-of-the-art Tesla Model S P100D, a car I know and love. The route? Eight hundred miles from Oslo to Kristiansund and back, with a detour to drive the legendary Atlantic Road.

As usual, things are not what they seem. Continue reading

When Stanford Roboticists Review Tesla Autopilot, They Don’t Send Their Best

3 Jun

Stanford

The usual storm of clickbait was pierced by a lightning bolt of ignorance this week, when a Stanford roboticist demonstrated a shocking level of misunderstanding of both Tesla Autopilot and the nomenclature around autonomous cars.

Heather Knight, who works at Stanford’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, claims her research is “half social robots, half autonomous driving.” Based on her May 27th post in Medium, “Tesla Autopilot Review: Bikers will die”, she’s contributing to the very problem one would hope she’s trying to solve.

Degrees don’t bestow wisdom, nor an understanding of the tragically power of titles in a world of TL:DR.

Dear Stanford: if Journalism 101 isn’t a PhD requirement, make it one. Also, please discourage clickbait.

You don’t need to be a Stanford brainiac to know that a headline like “Bikers will die” will become the story. Incredibly, Knight actually claimed to like Tesla Autopilot in a comment posted 48 hours after initial publication, but the damage had been done. Whatever analysis of human-machine interfacing (HMI) she hoped to share was buried as the story was widely reposted.

Beyond the title, Knight’s amateurish post has so many errors and omissions it has to be deconstructed line-by-line to comprehend its naïveté. Let’s begin:

“My colleague and I got to take a TESLA Autopilot test drive on highways, curvy California roads, and by the ocean.”

Knight would seem to be off to a good start. California’s highways are the ideal place to use Tesla Autopilot. Curvy roads? Not so much. Does Knight read the news? My 74-year-old mother knows not to “test” Autopilot anywhere but on a highway or in traffic.

Then Knight commits credibility suicide.

Read the rest over at The Drive

Dear Elon Musk: You Need Me For the Self-Driving Tesla Cannonball Run

22 May

Tesla

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

Dear Elon:

Just over 100 years ago, Erwin “Cannonball” Baker drove a Stutz Bearcat from Los Angeles to New York City in 271 hours, ushering in the era of coast-to-coast endurance driving records that still bear his nickname. Although “Cannonballing” is often conflated with reckless driving, Baker’s feat—and his 142 records that followed—was intended to demonstrate the safety and reliability of the internal combustion technology that would transform the 20th century.

With your claim that a Tesla will make the first “full self-driving” cross-country run before the end of 2017, a new era is about to dawn, and with it a new series of records showcasing the electric and autonomous technologies that will transform the 21st.

Among all the potential benefits of self-driving cars, the moral imperative to reduce injuries and deaths caused by human driving towers above all others. Tesla already commands 40% of global press in the automotive sector; combined with the hope, fear and anticipation over the arrival of self-driving cars, the first Level 4 Cannonball Run record will be one of the most important events in the history of transportation, if not human history.

The public spectacle of a Tesla’s safe journey across the United States will likely become the hinge upon which public faith in autonomous driving will swing.

But only if the public believes it.

An edited video isn’t going to cut it. Continue reading

Why Semi-Autonomous Driving Will Never Be As Safe As Augmentation

22 Apr

Augmented Driving

The self-driving car industry is blowin’ it.

The definitions of self-driving—from ADAS to SAE automation levels to the inconsistent nomenclature used by the media—are a semantic disaster concealing a vast opportunity. There is no doubt increasing automation will make driving safer, but the safest possible implementation is one that maximizes human capabilities rather than treating them like a cancer.

Automakers are missing the biggest opportunity to profit from saving lives on what is likely to be a long, gentle ascent to Level 4. It requires tossing the insufficient logic behind L2/L3 semi-autonomy and probably even Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), and deploying the same hardware and software being developed for L4 as a way to augment human driving.

Though augmented driving represents a clear break from the current crop of semi-autonomous systems, it’s not without precedent. Aircraft are being transformed by automation just as profoundly as cars, but because there is no impetus to move toward pilotless airliners, flight automation systems have been developed to enhance rather than replace human pilots. By following the example set by the commercial aviation sector, automakers can replace the risks inherent to semi-autonomy with the comprehensive assistance of augmented driving. Continue reading

Why Radar Detectors Matter More Than Ever

12 Apr

Radar detectors matter more than ever, but you wouldn’t know it from the poorly researched clickbait that was Doug Demuro’s recent article, “Radar Detectors Are Useless Now.”

I like DeMuro. We’ve met. I’ve been reading him since he started at Jalopnik. At his best, Demuro is the Dave Barry of automotive. I laughed out loud at DeMuro’s Plays With Cars. He’s a great entertainer. I also know he’s not an idiot, so I can only assume he was too lazy to Google some basic facts, and willing to sacrifice his readers’ wallets on the altar of alternative facts. Sad!

Why should you trust my opinion? Because I led the team that broke the Cannonball Run record in 2007, driving from New York to Los Angeles in 31 hours and 4 minutes. I also led the teams that set the electric and semi-autonomous records in 2016 (55 hours), the 3-wheeled record (41 hours), the Key West to Seattle record (45 hours, 24 minutes), and similar records across Sweden, Spain and Portugal.

How many tickets did I get? Zero.

If you like speeding tickets, higher insurance premiums, giving your money to the government and trusting people you’ve never met, DeMuro’s your guy. If you don’t, let’s learn why detectors still matter by deconstructing DeMuro’s article line-by-line, starting with the headline:

“Radar Detectors Are Useless Now”

Did DeMuro consult with anyone before his making this sweeping generalization? RDforum.com and RadarDetector.net have tens of thousands of posts from avid detector users. If he needed a second or third opinion on the efficacy of detectors, not only does he have my phone number, he’s friends with Ed Bolian, who broke our Cannonball Run record in 2013 using the same detector I use.

I’ve recently come to a conclusion about radar detectors—an item that many car enthusiasts have considered crucial to avoiding speeding tickets for the last few decades. And my conclusion is: these days, in these modern times, they’re useless. It’s over. There’s simply no point in having a radar detector anymore.

I get emails on a daily basis from car enthusiasts asking what detector to buy. Does DeMuro? Maybe this was his way on cutting down on e-mails and comments he didn’t want to (and couldn’t) answer. That opening paragraph is perfectly constructed to maximize SEO. That last sentence? A beautiful slug complementing the title in Google search results.

Read the rest over at The Drive