Never Stop Driving #34: New Corvette and Tesla’s fake video

This week, Reuters reported that a Tesla video produced to showcase the company’s autonomous driving technology was faked. This nugget came from Tesla’s director of Autopilot Software, Ashok Elluswamy, who testified last summer. In 2018 Apple engineer Walter Huang was killed while driving a Tesla that had the Autopilot system engaged. His family sued, and that’s how Elluswamy found himself under oath.

I’ve said many times that I think Tesla’s use of the words “Autopilot” and “full self driving” for its system is at least overpromising and at worst dangerously reckless. When these systems make a mistake, the driver must intervene, immediately. How likely is it that a driver can do so after he or she has been lulled into being a passenger? The answer is “not very.” The deposition transcript also raised the eyebrows of several software engineers—neutral observers who don’t work for Tesla—who used Twitter to explain what else Tesla got wrong and to share copies of the transcript.

Five days before the Reuters article, Tesla significantly dropped its prices. There was handwringing over this, especially from understandably disgruntled buyers who purchased their cars just before the drop. Car companies, by the way, play games with prices all the time. They’re just better at hiding those moves in incentives. While most of the Tesla models are a few years old, the price drops mean some are eligible for the $7500 federal tax credit. You can buy a Model 3 for about 37 grand, including the credit. That’s a solid deal, especially when you factor in the Tesla charging network.

Tesla-Model-3-winter-weather front three quarter driving action
Tesla

I’m all mixed up over this Tesla stuff. I remain awed by what Musk achieved, namely launching a car company that now sells over a million cars a year, not to mention another company, SpaceX, that can land a rocket on a floating barge. The dude is also never boring. Does that mean we excuse some of his flaws for greatness … or? Let me know what you think.

Wired, the magazine that covers Silicon Valley, published an article on the state of the trucking industry that posed an interesting question: Why is there a shortage of workers, truck drivers, who allegedly face obsolescence by robot drivers? Short answer: No one knows when fully autonomous trucks will be available. Also, Apple filed a patent application for a self-adjusting headlight, another hint that it is making a car.

GM revealed the first electric hybrid Corvette on January 17, the seventieth anniversary of the Corvette’s 1953 unveiling.

A Pontiac GTO sold for over a million dollars, Tony Angelo installed an old-school supercharger on a vintage Firebird, and we published a fun piece on a gangster-built, bulletproof Cadillac that somehow ended up in New Zealand. I’ve never owned a Cadillac, which is one of many reasons I might bid on this 1978 Sedan deVille offered on Hagerty Marketplace.

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    The dude is also never boring. Does that mean we excuse some of his flaws for greatness….or?

    This is a slippery question. On one hand accountability is surmount, especially when it comes to the difference between life and death. On the other hand, his greatness is because he is constantly attempting new ideas, which in itself, leads to many more failures than the average person will ever see in a lifetime. In addition, as he is in the public eye daily, his failures are personified.

    He is the head of his business, which means he is ultimately responsible for the end product. That being said, he also must place his trust in his minions. In this case his minions either oversold their software abilities to keep their jobs, OR Musk oversold it to the public. In either instance, we may never know the truth.

    Lastly, we all have a love-hate relationship with people like Elon. We love that he is pushing the limits and disrupting industries that were monopolies for decades. We hate him for these sort of circumstances where someone was killed as a result of his business. Lastly, love-hate can be disguised as envy. The envy that we all wish we were Elon Musk!

    I may well own a Tesla at some point. No room in the stable for now. My fear is that Musk is so distracted by so many of his other cool things that his leading-edge cars are going to fall behind. New cars from Kia, Cadillac, Lucid, and many others are moving up fast.

    For me, it is the charging network. Tesla has done that very well. That is the reason to buy a Tesla, for now anyway.

    As a retired automotive engineer I have seen so many great ideas fail due to unforeseen real world scenarios, and, in my experience, the introduction of computers and software has only exacerbated this reality. Back in the 70s the FMEA (failure modes and effects analysis) was devised as a tool for us to logically and thoroughly examine as many possibilities as we could imagine to a point where we could try to either design out serious (especially safety) problems or make them far less likely. As long as we were dealing with primarily mechanical systems, the combinations and permutations for dangerous failures could at least be managed. Adding digital controls and sensors which might be affected by (literally) unseen real world conditions makes assurance that everything can be done to the same standard of safety unlikely.

    People who are pushing autonomous vehicles are not living in the real world and are more likely to be the lawyers and hangers on that will continue to take the joy out driving. To us who embrace the title of your essays, autonomous driving will only be a disaster.

    We have two Tesla Model 3’s, and we love them. But that doesn’t mean they are perfect. We don’t use the Autopilot as it is too annoying to have to tug on the steering wheel every few seconds. In lieu of paying the outlandish price for the Full Self Driving option, I opted to lease FSD for one month so I could try it out. I didn’t like it either and dropped the lease after that first month. The other annoying thing is that, when you have cruise activated, it brakes for cross traffic way too often and too early. The lawyer signing off on the cruise must be one of the most cautious drivers in the world!

    All that being said, the pluses far outweigh the negatives. The ease of charging at home or on the road is a huge plus. One of our M3’s is the dual motor long range with the “Boost” option, while the other is the Performance version. I have a C8 Corvette that is theoretically faster than the performance model to 60 mph. However, to achieve that performance in the Corvette, one must be in the Track mode, then Competition mode so you can enter launch control. One doesn’t typically have time to do all of that at a stoplight. The instant torque and AWD means either car would wax the Corvette at said stop light!! I will admit the Corvette will easily win the best sound award!

    Both Tesla’s have outstanding acceleration combined with a smoothness that you just don’t get in other cars. While the regenerative braking allows for one pedal driving, during spirited driving the brakes are excellent.

    I have owned Porsches since the seventies, did track days when I was younger, and I count many other European sedans that have passed through my hands. The roadholding of the Tesla’s is on a par with the best of those sedans. The seats are comfortable, while the HVAC is easy to operate and works very well. All the while, one is traveling down the road in a very quiet manner. My daughter recently went to lunch with my wife and I, where she commented about how easy it was to hold a conversation with the rear passenger. And we are old and hard of hearing!!

    All in all, we feel that we are driving one of the best overall cars in the world. The issues with FSD and Autopilot should not detract from that fact. Nor should it prevent someone from buying a Tesla.

    I like the M3 as well, especially the user interface, which is far and away easier to navigate than most. That said, the knobs and dials on my Ram 1500 are even better. Touchscreens are not always the answer.

    I’ve never owned a Tesla, haven’t had the inclination. I know better than to let one drive for me, so why didn’t an Apple Engineer know this? People will invent new ways to kill themselves, they always have. If you need a driver take a bus, cab, train, plane, Lyft, Uber etc.

    Tesla never should have marketed the car as self driving, neither should any oof the other manufacturers but they do.

    Musk is an interesting person, he has certainly accomplished more than any of us keyboard warriors, some is good and some is bad in my opinion. For that I do have a certain amount oof respect for his accomplishments, even if I am not a fan of all of them.

    Larry, stop thinking of him as Jobs, and start making your comparison to Billy Durant. A stock-manipulator with little-to-no fear, who got lucky thanks to good engineers… right up until his braggadocio got the better of him and an Adult was put in charge by Dupont.

    Fraud is fraud. We need to stop softening the blow because Americans didn’t believe Americans could build things until some Millionaire South African reminded us we could.

    Electric cars were a novelty….. may soon become a must in NY and CA (and the world) where the green group (or privileged few) want to electrify everything and totally eliminate fossil fuels. We Americans love our cars and the hot rod and classic car group love internal combustion engines.
    So what is next solar or wind powered cars….oh yea that won’t work…….neither will eliminating fossil fuels!
    If the masses (and I don’t believe the masses feel this way)… if they really want to do this ……we need at least a 50 year plan to develop the technology.

    Right – has anything on this scale ever had a 50 year development plan? Please, we can’t even imagine the tech that will be available in 10 years, let alone 50. In 1973, did they have a plan to have one quarter the tech cars do today? No, because they couldn’t even fathom what that tech would look like.
    EVs are objectively better in almost every way, across the vast majority of use cases, when compared to ICE vehicles. And that’s only 15 years removed from the point at which they, arguably, became available to own on the mass market.

    And you do realize that solar and wind don’t actually *power* EVs any more than crude oil powers ICE cars, yes? Solar and wind provide sources of energy (just like crude) that can then be transferred to the car (as electricity) to make it run. Except that with solar and wind, you can put production literally on top of your house, in which case they’re vastly superior (in almost every way) to the entire drill/refine/ship/pump process that gasoline has to go through.

    How is mine with slave labor in some other country/refine/ship/manufacture into a battery that has end of life problems, charge with mostly coal, sit at home on Labor Day weekend with the thermostat at 78 when it is hotter then Hades and don’t charge your car like California was told to do “Vastly Superior”. When you need new solar panels, where do the old ones go? Again see California’s problems.

    If electric cars were or when they do become superior they will not have to be “mandated” by politicians because everybody will want one. My way right now is gasoline, I do not begrudge those who do want an electric vehicle now, just like i do not feel that my way is somehow superior to Diesel or Hydrogen for that matter. So why does the pro electric crowd always so condescending with the our way is superior virtue signaling B.S.

    What about the roads. Gas and diesel tax is collected at the pumps, the more you use the more you pay. Electric cars and trucks are far heavier than their IC counterparts and exact a commensurately greater toll on the roads that they drive on tax free and sometimes with a tax break. How does this make sense?

    Imagine if the amount of money being spent on electrifying and autonomy for our vehicle fleet was spent on IC to make it cleaner, alternate fuels, hydrogen, non battery powered light rail, a train system like Europe, driver certifying/education, cancer, homelessness, a cure for the common cold, whatever your pet cause may be. Or maybe, just maybe if we are going to mandate the spending of all this money lets just send the money to the countries that produce most of our goods and 75% of the worlds emissions to bring them up to our emissions standards and fix the actual problem at the source?

    What is the impact of refurbishing an existing auto and using it vs buying a new EV that requires building a new plant for an EV, building a new battery plant for the EV, building a recycling facility to support EVs?

    Who asked and answered all of these questions and provided the answers to everyone, should be easy enough to do with the technology we have right now and that would prove what is most effective and people would be more likely to buy in when presented with a clear winner.

    Such a can of worms! Musk is one thing, autonomous cars are quite another. First we lose our manuals, then our internal combustion engines, now, the ability to control a few tons of mass hurtling down the road under whose control? The dumbing down of an entire generation of “drivers”. It’s been proven that the more “safety features” a car has (looking at you ABS) the more careless drivers become, because they become emboldened or rely too much on the tech to save their sorry butts. Here is perhaps the biggest challenge, and it’s not technical, it’s legal… When a crash happens, who gets sued? The “driver”? The car company? The software engineers? The other driver in a perhaps “non-autonomous” vehicle? When the insurance actuaries get their brains around this, they could literally put autonomous insurance premiums out of reach. Talk about un-intended consequences!!

    Is your “no reserve” podcast coming back? I just found it this week and I’m shocked I wasn’t aware of it sooner since I visit Hagerty Media daily. It’s by far the best auction analysis podcast out there.

    Musk is a weirdo who bought his way into luck. Credit to him for getting the EV sector into a higher gear, but that’s about it. He’s always been more about space exploration than anything – as if we needed it.

    Musk is great at big ideas and the sell.

    Little details don’t get discussed enough.

    Plug in EV at home is fine. 2 is problematic because of the service draw, so you have to get into fancy stuff so too much draw isn’t pulled at once (and you better have a 200 amp panel). But if you have multiple driving adults at said house (multi-generational, teenagers that drive to work/school, etc.) now that system needs to prioritize the charging. This is doable, the tech exists but it is a cost no one seems to talk about.

    Apartment buildings and condos you multiply this hassle and cost exponentially. Many urban areas rely on street parking…

    “Just go to a charging station” works better when only a few rich people are using said network. Charging times have to get way faster too. [The comparison to Toyota’s hydrogen pilot is laughable –if more money was helping that infrastructure happen it seems far more feasible and controlled by a democratic government… just sayin’].

    Letting Tesla have a unique charging interface was a legislative mistake… should be universal across North America for all things we want to charge this way. One of the car magazines stated years ago that it was the charging network monopoly (not the EV business) that was the real endgame $$$ Musk was mining. The rest was just part of the sales pitch. Seems more true now?

    I watch all of this with great interest. I can’t recommend to anyone that they buy a new EV unless they intend to ditch in within 6 years. I think the last thing a person wants to be holding is the EV made obsolete by the promised-tech-actually-realized (like having a 3 generation old iPhone). I think the Toyota president pointing out that the vast majority of driver’s needs and driving could be done on EV mode in their existing hybrid lineup is a point that is being under-reported and ignored.

    WRT Elon, we are talking about an individual who both invented the electric car business (not the car, but the business itself) and simultaneously commercialized private space travel. I don’t think we should expect him to be “normal”. Normal people like you and me simply don’t accomplish these kind of things.

    Have you looked into the use of manufactured carbon neutral gasoline ( hydrocarbon fuels) that are made from captured CO2 and water. Being done now on limited scale.
    -can use ALL present internal combustion engines.
    -pollution free (no sulfur, lead etc.)
    -High octane.
    – Use CARBON NEUTRAL gasoline (natural gas, diesel,etc.) as a way to store HIGH DENSITY energy from wind, solar, and nuclear without polluting dirty batteries or high pressure storage tanks especially when there is excess electricity being produced (use all the power that can be generated even in off peak periods.)
    -Use all the present infrastructure.
    – This being done now and US navy is looking into making jet fuel on the carriers from the air and water with power from reactors. Jet fuel is higher in energy that normal jet fuel, no impurities ( increased engine life and lower maintenance) and eliminates 2 tankers operating for each carrier, as well as making them completely self sufficient for energy.
    – Sure would be great for our classic cars.

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