Tesla, Software and Disruption →

September 3, 2018 · 11:40

Benedict Evans:

When Nokia people looked at the first iPhone, they saw a not-great phone with some cool features that they were going to build too, being produced at a small fraction of the volumes they were selling. They shrugged. “No 3G, and just look at the camera!”

When many car company people look at a Tesla, they see a not-great car with some cool features that they’re going to build too, being produced at a small fraction of the volumes they’re selling. “Look at the fit and finish, and the panel gaps, and the tent!”

The Nokia people were terribly, terribly wrong. Are the car people wrong? We hear that a Tesla is ‘the new iPhone’ – what would that mean?

One of Tesla’s advantages is pushing data about roads that cars have travelled to the cars that didn’t, which allows Autopilot to know the specifics of that road. So when one takes his or her Tesla into new territories, the car will be already aware of its surroundings. Mercedes PR once mentioned clients would get new and updated data for their autonomous systems once every year (during maintenance) or when they buy a new car. This sounds ludicrous (pun intended).


124,000 Electric and PHEV Cars From VW, Audi and Porsche Could Be Recalled Due to Poisonous Cadmium →

August 8, 2018 · 10:51

Fred Lambert, for Electrek:

The Volkswagen group confirmed that it might have to recall as many as 124,000 electric and hybrid cars from its VW, Audi and Porsche brands due to poisonous cadmium finding its way into a charger component.

First #dieselgate and now this. I have been driving solely German cars for the past 21 years and I am seriously considering not supporting their industry anymore.


The Man Who Invented the Self-Driving Car (In 1986) →

July 26, 2018 · 10:07

Janosch Delcker, writing for Politico:

The other drivers wouldn’t have noticed anything unusual as the two sleek limousines with German license plates joined the traffic on France’s Autoroute 1.

But what they were witnessing — on that sunny, fall day in 1994 — was something many of them would have dismissed as just plain crazy.

It had taken a few phone calls from the German car lobby to get the French authorities to give the go-ahead. But here they were: two gray Mercedes 500 SELs, accelerating up to 130 kilometers per hour, changing lanes and reacting to other cars — autonomously, with an onboard computer system controlling the steering wheel, the gas pedal and the brakes.

Decades before Google, Tesla and Uber got into the self-driving car business, a team of German engineers led by a scientist named Ernst Dickmanns had developed a car that could navigate French commuter traffic on its own.

I did not know this! Just the lack of computational power in those days was a major hurdle but creativity (cutting corners?) still made it possible. I wonder what would have happened if Daimler had continued to invest in that technology. I assume we would already have truly self-driving cars on sale today.


Teslas – (In)Secure by Design →

June 13, 2018 · 14:47

Tomasz Konieczny, on XSolve’s blog:

Tesla has become synonymous for a new trend in the automotive industry. Elon Musk’s electric car is on the lips of the whole world – or even the whole solar system after SpaceX shot it into space. That’s why it’s so shocking that a more “earthly” matter – the security of Tesla software – is far below modern standards.

While I have driven Teslas before, I never owned one, so I didn’t have a reason to bother with the security of the app, the website account or anything related. Quite frankly, I expected much more from Elon’s company, especially since cars from “traditional” manufacturers are known to be insecure for years now and his background would suggest that Tesla would be best equipped to handle security in a satisfactory manner.

P.S. I can’t even play enjoy the full functionality of my Steam games if they’re not secured by 2FA.


Tesla & Nissan Battery Degradation →

April 15, 2018 · 12:17

Fred Lambert, writing for Electrek:

Battery degradation is one of the biggest concerns for electric car owners and potential buyers, but data from Tesla battery packs have been very reassuring so far.

Now the latest data shows less than 10% degradation of the energy capacity after over 160,000 miles on Tesla’s battery packs […]

The data clearly shows that for the first 50,000 miles (100,000 km), most Tesla battery packs will lose about 5% of their capacity, but after the 50,000-mile mark, the capacity levels off and it looks like it could be difficult to make a pack degrade by another 5%.

The trend line currently suggests that the average battery pack could cycle through over 300,000 km (186,000) before coming close to 90% capacity […]

Meanwhile, Nissan has issues with the Leaf:

A recent study shows that with the original 24 kWh pack loses about 20% of their capacity over 5 years and Nissan’s more recent 30 kWh battery pack loses capacity more quickly than the older pack […]

The next few years will be interesting for car buyers. We haven’t had to worry about engines as much so far — they’re more or less reliable enough and don’t lose much power over the years — but battery packs directly influence the usability of an electric car. I privately wanted a Leaf as a city car, but if its pack degrades as quickly as the study above shows, then I will have to reconsider it as an option.


Steve Jobs’ 2000 BMW Z8 →

October 30, 2017 · 16:50

RM Sotheby’s are auctioning off a BMW Z8, whose original owner was Steve Jobs:

While not known to be a car enthusiast per se, Steve Jobs did have a penchant for German automobiles and design, owning BMW motorcycles, as well as Mercedes-Benz SLs. According to legend, Jobs was convinced to buy the Z8 by Larry Ellison the iconoclastic CEO of Oracle, who enthused to Jobs that the car was a paragon of modern automotive engineering and ergonomics, reflective of Steve’s own products and psyche […]

This is a tidbit I have never yet heard of. In my mind, the Z8 should indeed appeal more to Steve’s tastes than an SL.

Jobs’ Z8 was well suited to his signature, minimalist style, finished in Titanium over a Black leather interior. With a production date of April 1, 2000, this early example was delivered to him on October 6th of that year. Within the recorded production of Z8s, this makes his car the 85th Z8 produced for the first year of U.S.-specification production and the 67th customer car. Jobs’ ownership is documented through several service invoices accompanying the car, as well as a copy of the all-important California “pink slip” registration in his name and at his personal residence. This is significant because Jobs famously rarely registered his cars to protect his anonymity (and also perhaps because of his anti-authoritarian streak!).

The car comes with a plethora of important accessories, including its proper hardtop and hardtop stand, car cover, owner’s and service manuals, service records, two keys, navigation CDs, and – most significantly, its original BMW-branded Motorola flip-phone. Interestingly enough, and perhaps unsurprisingly, Jobs was known to have hated the Motorola phone…

I don’t like the fact that they created that license plate for the car… but it is a beauty. BMW could probably sell that car today (they should perhaps just update the infotainment system and include larger rims) and it wouldn’t look out-of-place. It’s a beautiful machine and despite its age, the cheapest used example I could find is still north of 150 thousand euros.


The VW Bus Is Back, and It’s Electric →

August 21, 2017 · 18:00

VW Newsroom:

Driven by popular demand, Volkswagen announced today it is planning on selling a production version of the award-winning I.D. Buzz concept electric vehicle in 2022 for the United States, Europe and China.

While VW still has to prove it can bring back its retro icons — they failed with the Beetle — this is the first VW I am genuinely interested in.


May 3, 2017 · 23:04

I’ve been paying more and more attention recently to the elegant and beautiful Alfa Romeo Giulia and Stelvio. Alfa is finally doing what’s right and what I’ve always wanted in a car — great style and rear wheel drive (AWD optionally).


The Tesla Model S Is Not Comparable to an Audi A8, BMW 7-Series, or Mercedes S-Class →

October 14, 2016 · 07:30

Fred Lambert:

Tesla shocked the industry earlier this year when it confirmed having delivered 25,202 Model S sedans in the U.S. in 2015, which gave the company a 25% market share in the premium sedan market. For the first time, Tesla had surpassed market leaders like BMW and Mercedes. Furthermore, every single other large luxury sedan has seen its sales decrease during the same period.

Now the electric automaker is increasing its lead on the US luxury sedan market to such a point that the Model S is now twice as popular as the Mercedes S-Class or the BMW 7-Series. Tesla is literally selling more all-electric sedans in the US than Mercedes and BMW are selling S-Class and 7-Series combined.

The Model S Tesla is not an Audi A8, BMW 7-series, nor Mercedes S-class competitor. It’s on par with the A6, 5-series, and E-class. I still don’t understand why it’s being compared to the luxury segment, especially since it’s nowhere near any of the cars listed above in terms of build quality.


Shifting From Apple Car to CarOS with Accessories? →

September 10, 2016 · 17:27

Daisuke Wakabayashi and Brian X. Chen:

In a retrenchment of one of its most ambitious initiatives, Apple has shuttered parts of its self-driving car project and laid off dozens of employees, according to three people briefed on the move who were not allowed to speak about it publicly.

The job cuts are the latest sign of trouble with Apple’s car initiative. The company has added resources to the project — code-named Titan — over the last two years, but it has struggled to make progress. And in July, the company brought in Bob Mansfield, a highly regarded Apple veteran, to take over the effort.


The War for Autonomous Driving: Mercedes-Benz E-Class vs. Tesla Model S →

August 3, 2016 · 20:22

Alex Roy:

The only good thing about Drive Pilot is that your Mercedes will protect you from it. Did I trust it? Only at a crawl. Did I understand it? I don’t understand how Mercedes-Benz could release this to the public. I hated literally everything about it. It drove like a drunk ten year old, fighting for the wheel with a drunk fourteen year old. It was, in most conditions, dangerous.

This is one very important area where Tesla seems to have a huge advantage over the competition.


Tesla Model S Finally Gets a Facelift →

April 13, 2016 · 11:50

Alex Kierstein:

From an aesthetic standpoint, the front fascia will be the most obvious and consequential change to the consumer. It brings the styling inline with the Model X, and likely the production version of the Model 3. The headlights also adopt a Model X look. Inside, there are two new woods available to trim the interior: one that Tesla calls “Figured Ash”, and the other simply a dark ash. That rounds out the changes this time around, although Tesla would like you to remember that over-the-air software updates may bring other changes as soon as they’re available.

Love the new look, much prettier than the old one.


A Nerd’s Review of the Tesla Model S — My Comments →

April 5, 2016 · 12:26

I have had my reservations about electric cars for many years now, and for many reasons. David Smith chose to write about his experience, and I’m happy he chose to:

The only real analogy I can think of to describe how different this feels is to compare it to SSD hard-drives. SSD hard drives when they came out were ‘worse’ than traditional spinning disks in a wide variety of ways. They were smaller capacity, sometimes had lower maximum throughput and were considerably more expensive. But, from the moment you first used one it completely ruined computers for you. Going back to spinning disks once you have tasted instantaneous delivery feels broken.

It is the same with driving a Tesla. There is essentially no latency in your driving interaction with the car. I’ve often heard car fanatics (especially those who love manual transmissions) describe the feeling of being ‘connected’ to their car as they drive it. That their desire and the car’s ability to deliver it become closely and completely linked. Tesla delivers that experience but without all the training and skill needed to dance with a transmission.

That’s a unique way of looking at it, and I understood what David’s trying to convey instantly.

However, there are a few things I love about cars, being an enthusiast myself:

  • I love the sound of a good engine (NA V8s especially) and a decent exhaust (here’s mine in quiet mode).
  • I praise low weight in cars — the heavier a car, the worse it handles.
  • I don’t much care for outright speed (despite having a quick car) — cornering is much more important. This is what does it for me.
  • I actually prefer older cars to what the market now offers, apart from a few models which have caught my interest. The Mazda MX-5 RF is the newest addition to my wish list.

Perhaps most remarkable is how having regenerative braking changes things. Whenever I slide my foot slightly backward on the accelerator the car immediately begins to slow. The subtle difference between having to pull my foot all the way off the accelerator and then depress the brake makes a huge difference in how responsive the car feels to my desires.

I spent a day driving a BMW i3 — the regenerative braking experience was probably the only thing that really spoke to me, and which I got the hang of in just a few minutes. I do have one issue with this however — I used this method of braking to actually stop the car at lights, etc, but if you use regenerative braking to stop or slow down an electric car, the rear stop lights don’t light up. This could potentially be very dangerous if someone behind you isn’t paying attention.


Owning an electric car in my country is currently only for the extremely brave — there are hardly any charging stations and zero Superchargers. While I could see myself owning a Model S or 3, it would be relegated to being driven only in the city. One of my Twitter followers calculated that a 400 kilometre drive that I take regularly every few weeks, most of which is at 140-150 km/h speeds on the motorway, would take at least 7 hours, instead of the 3.5 it does now. No Superchargers, no fun.


Top Gear Announces Presenters; New Season Starts in May 2016 →

February 11, 2016 · 09:44

Top Gear:

People of the world, may we present the brand new Top Gear TV team!

We are very proud to announce that racing driver Sabine Schmitz, YouTube star Chris Harris, F1 pundit Eddie Jordan and motoring journalist Rory Reid will join Chris Evans, Matt LeBlanc and of course, The Stig, when the show returns in May.

I’ll say it flat out: I don’t much like Sabine as a host, but she is one impressive driver. Chris Harris is of course awesome, and I like Eddie, but I have my reservations about the rest of the team — I guess I’ll just have to watch the ‘first’ season with the new crew to make up my mind.

via @mikeyziel


Meet the New Porsche 718 Boxster and Boxster S →

January 27, 2016 · 16:00

Alex Kierstein:

The rumors were mostly true. Porsche had already confirmed that the Boxster and Caymans would receive a “718” appended to their badges, in honor of their famous mid-engined racecar of the 1950s and ’60s, but the mechanical details were left up in the air. We were almost certain both would be powered by turbocharged flat-fours of a couple of displacements and outputs, and now we can confirm that this is the case. Porsche has revealed the official specs for the 718 Boxster, which will go on sale in Europe this April

Finally a beautiful car, and I don’t even mind the 4 pots. I’m still so disappointed about what they did to the 911 (991), that the Boxster/Cayman models are actually more attractive now.


Geohotz Built a Self-Driving Car in His Garage →

December 17, 2015 · 09:51

Ashlee Vance:

With Hotz still holding the wheel, the Acura’s lidar paints a pixelated image on the dash screen of everything around us, including the freeway walls and other cars. A blue line charts the path the car is taking, and a green line shows the path the self-driving software recommends. The two match up pretty well, which means the technology is working. After a couple miles, Hotz lets go of the wheel and pulls the trigger on the joystick, kicking the car into self-driving mode. He does this as we head into an S curve at 65 miles per hour. I say a silent prayer. Hotz shouts, “You got this, car! You got this!”

The car does, more or less, have it. It stays true around the first bend. Near the end of the second, the Acura suddenly veers near an SUV to the right; I think of my soon-to-be-fatherless children; the car corrects itself. Amazed, I ask Hotz what it felt like the first time he got the car to work.

“Dude,” he says, “the first time it worked was this morning.”

George Hotz. The misfit. The rebel.


Porsche Boxster and Cayman to Be Renamed to ‘718’ →

December 10, 2015 · 09:00

Steven J. Ewing:

Officially, the cars will be called 718 Boxster and 718 Cayman, and Porsche says the two models “will share more similarities than ever before,” both visually and mechanically. What’s more, Porsche confirms the 718 Boxster will carry a higher price tag than the 718 Cayman, which is a switch from the company’s current pricing strategy – right now, a base Cayman costs $500 more than a standard Boxster.

Finally — I never fancied the ‘Boxster’ and ‘Cayman’ names. Wonder if the engines will be any good.


Porsche Opening Classic Centres to Service Older Models →

November 29, 2015 · 17:06

Noah Joseph for Autoblog:

Opening this week in Gelderland – a city on the outskirts of Arnhem in the Netherlands – the first dedicated Porsche Classic Center is designed to support older vehicles from Zuffenhausen’s history. That means undertaking service and maintenance, installing original parts, partially or completely overhauling of vintage vehicles – even selling classic Porsches certified by the factory. The company reports that over 70 percent of the vehicles it has ever produced are still running. That rather impressive statistic speaks to the quality of the vehicles in the first place, but also the dedication of their owners to keep them running, and the necessity for proper service and maintenance.

Perhaps it’s time to start thinking about my dream 964 or 356.


Car UI by Dr. Drang →

April 6, 2015 · 09:58

Dr. Drang:

It’s common for Apple users to say they wish Apple could take over their car’s user interface because the auto manufacturers do such a bad job of it. This is typically a comment on the electronic user interface, as many cars now have a little computer screen in the center of the dashboard with poorly laid out buttons and displays. I agree and take it further: I wish Apple (or anyone who thinks carefully about design for use) would have a go at the physical controls, too.

User interfaces in cars used to be all buttons and have recently been upgraded with screens and even touch screens. Tesla has gone a step further than anyone else. The problem with touchscreens is that they do not provide physical feedback nor can they be operated without looking at the screen. This is both good and bad and unfortunately the bad can cause you to die in a fiery crash. I still recall Auto Motor Und Sports car infotainment driver attention test from a few years back, just when BMW’s iDrive, Mercedes’ COMMAND and Audi’s MMI were becoming popular—drivers unfamiliar with these systems were timed at performing various basic tasks while driving. The data was compared against an old Mercedes 190 which had a button-only interface. The results were staggering–the new systems required over two minutes of attention for tasks that took a few seconds in the old Merc.

Perhaps voice is the future, but it will need to get better quickly. Neither Siri nor Google Now is even close.

Dr. Drang also mentions his windshield wiper stalk:

My pet peeve on my Toyota Camry is its windshield wiper stalk. It grows out of the right side of the steering column and has a variety of controls. The stalk as a whole can move up and down into one of five positions shown in the little graphic near the left side of the photos below. From the off position, you can move it down into the intermittent position, the low speed position, and the high speed position—the heavier the rain, the further down you move the stalk.

 

Audi windshield wiper stalk

VW, BMW and Audi have done this the other way around. One swipe down (stalk returns to OFF position) just wipes the windshield. One position up from OFF is intermittent mode, then low speed and high speed. The interval control in the middle of the stalk controls and length of the pauses between wipes—down is long and going up decreases their length. I’ve had this system in all the german cars that I’ve driven in (perhaps apart from Mercedes and Opel, they might have a different system if I recall correctly) and it’s always been intuitive. Intermittent mode is also aided by the rain sensor if the car has one and this works perfectly on my Audi at least (and a 2000 BMW 3-series too).