For example, when they say "this flange is larger than necessary", how can they know all the possible reasons it might be necessary? Perhaps it adds stiffness or crash energy absorption, or is used to grasp the part during assembly, or avoids a resonant frequency.
They’ve accumulated a ton of knowledge about How To Cars. Of course it is possible that Tesla is making a bunch of design decisions that M&A thinks are weird because they are optimizing for very different things than most other carmakers; it would be pretty interesting to be a fly on the wall in a discussion between Tesla’s engineers and M&A’s.
It's an interesting question to consider because that was basically what the iPhone was when it launched. It was behind the state of the art at the time in many important ways (not having 3G was a big deal), but it was so incredibly far ahead in several very critical ways (multitouch display, 100% touch-based OS, full fledged browser, next level music player) that it didn't ultimately matter.
Now the question is, does Tesla strike that balance? The second question is, can they iterate rapidly and close the gap (which the iPhone ultimately did)?
So, are you saying Tesla's cars with their design flaws are revolutionary like the first smartphone?
Nor was it the first keyboardless touch-screen phone, that was the LG Prada.
The iPhone was a clever subset of well-polished features very well marketed. The usual Apple approach.
Mass produced viable electric cars, with a mileage of 300 miles.
A bigger revolution than the iPhone.
A question back: would you be happy if Tesla did not kick-start electric car ramp up?
There are potential reasons why the mentioned flange might be oversized, I'm having a hard time imagining how they tested frequency resonance and decided to just fix it by leaving a little extra material near where the welds go though. Or likewise deciding that the extra material in the weld zone increases safety by some margin. Those possibilities seem like they'd require and extremely nuanced and subtle understanding of the car and the whole process, It's possible, I guess. What's far more likely is that they just haven't done a round of cost reduction as they're just struggling to get the initial manufacturing done for the pre-orders.
A previous tear-down was a lot harsher
I don't understand this. So you are saying the reviewer's small team doesn't understand the expertise which might have gone in the car.
But isn't that true for every product review and article out there? Take for example a phone. If a reviewer doubts the CPU benchmark on a phone, are we going to talk about how a single reviewer cannot understand the trade-off a bigger team at Apple/Samsung/Google has put?
Or if a journalist talking about FB's decision on data sharing has the capacity to know the trade-offs made by a much larger technical and business group at FB.
We can only look at the past work. If HN is voting this up then we know these guys have done some good work in the past.
Unless of course we think everyone who doubts Tesla's expertise doesn't understand their genius.
It's really fascinating. For the record, it would be hard to produce a design that Munro couldn't find something to talk about, good or bad. They employ extremely gifted engineers with a ridiculously large amount of experience at doing this exact task.
As a software engineer, I wish there were an equivalent firm in the industry that did teardowns like this so that we could, as an industry, improve over time the way that the automotive industry does.
I feel like it may be one of the factors holding software engineering back from achieving true professional engineering standardization.
I think this thread is a good indicator of why that might never happen. People in software will argue with whatever stuff they can and try to refute a review/teardown - reviewer doesn't understand the design consideration, reviewer don't have numbers, the stuff is revolutionary etc etc.
There are quite a lot of security companies that reverse engineer other software products and publish their findings. It would be good to see that for non-security stuff too.
Because companies will occasionally send in their own product to see if they can squeeze their manufacturers and see what their engineers missed.
How else are we expected to improve? Even when it's thing subject to opinion, I'd like to hear those other opinions.
For the software industry as a whole, the closest thing might be the SEI, but that body of work takes some effort to work through, perhaps suffering a bit from a more adademic roots vs a more industry engineering info exchange approach like M&A. For that you might have specialist areas, for example, the Jepsen tests and blog.
There are far more reputable sources, speaking from someone in the industry. Munro is just trying to get free advertising with this sh*t.
Really? So where do they get their income?
The comment below has some questions for you. This is all information you would have provided if you actually knew what you were talking about. The fact that you didn't leads me to think you are a troller who just likes to say things that make people angry.
I don't know if you're trolling or what, but the truth is interesting. None of the US domestic automakers buy reports from Munro. They sell information to Japanese, Korean, Chinese and European automakers.
The equivalent for the GP's claim would be the reviewer claiming that a phone's CPU is underpowered and that a more powerful one could have been used instead. That assumes a lot of knowledge about the tradeoffs that the phone designer had to consider - technical, logistical, financial, etc.
I don't know anything about Monroe & Associates' expertise, but I agree with the GP that this is a high bar to clear.
Most of the negatives in the article seemed to be of the second kind.
This makes no sense. Yes, if a reviewer doubts it, it means nothing unless they can prove it with numbers.
Is it easier to verify a solution to a problem than it is to produce it?
million dollar question.
For example when you're looking for the fastest route, you're not directly asking "is this the fastest route?" You're asking "Is there a route shorter than length x?" It's a yes or no question, that's easy to verify given a certificate. If the answer is "yes" then the certificate is a route produced that is shorter than length x.
Assuming the existence of an algorithm that can reliably produce a verifiable "yes" with a certificate or "no", you ask "Is there a route shorter than length x?" and if the answer is yes (which you can easily verify), you keep reducing the length of x in the question until the answer to the question is not yes (no certificate can be produced). The certificate of the limiting "yes" is the optimal solution.
Any candidate solution produced would be subjective to the interpreter who is verifying it as to whether it satisfies the requirements of a proof (maybe they want more definitions, less shorthand notation, maybe in french, references in APA style with full names, etc, all of which would effect the length of the proof).
So whereas a candidate solution to your question is difficult to verify, it is not in this P vs NP discussion.
And yeah, an electric motor is going to have vastly different vibration characteristics than an ICE.
Take any gen 1 product apart from an innovative company, I am sure you will find skeletons.
>highlighting areas where Tesla needlessly added weight with things like excess metal flanges and overlapping layers of steel. "This adds weight without value," he said.
it feels rather presumptuous to assume that the added value isn't safety.. which isn't something you can assess in a teardown.
In the next paragraph:
"He was also puzzled by Tesla's unconventional use of multiple welding techniques in close proximity to one another. "I don't get it," he said. "There's a lot of technology [used] here, but what we don't understand is why they used the technology they did."
Not understanding something != bad
a = a xor b; b = a xor b; a = a xor b;
Your example would be more akin to assessing someone's code and pointing out potential flaws without ever executing it.
You've just described a code review, which is standard practice and not controversial. If an expert doesn't understand your code, maybe the criticism is informed by their experience.
Those aliens will be our descendants. And they won't have to excavate. They'll just look up the right shop in Akihabara, or equivalent of the time.
If out descendants become intergalactic spacefarers, then we probably won't ever all leave.
and aliens visit us then?
Those aliens will probably be our descendants. They'll just have to look up the information in their archives. It's not like keeping raw information is going to become so expensive, we have to delete it.
That assumes a future where humans colonize the stars and spread life through the universe. What's more likely for humanity is a future more like the matrix, except instead of being enslaved, we place ourselves there willingly. It seems to me the focus of most of our technology has been to figure out how to poke and prod our pleasure sensors to maximum effect. Forget the stars, we're going to invent our own personal paradises on Earth and just stay here.
Perhaps by then, some very clever entity will have figured out a quantum computer implementation of The Library of Babel. It won't actually store all possible books, but it could be used to very quickly search the space by generating all remotely coherent possible books.
What's more likely for humanity is a future more like the matrix, except instead of being enslaved, we place ourselves there willingly.
I mean, the early S models had drive unit problems and the X hasn't been perfect, but neither have been plagued with major long-term reliability problems. Some established luxury car makers have made far more unreliable vehicles.
High-tech software company?
Tesla is an automaker, not a software company. Sure, Elon comes from the software/tech/payments industry, but putting Zuckerberg in charge of Exxon wouldn't change the fact that Exxon is an energy/oil company.
edit - one of the big 3 automakers
Sounds like a shitty place to work.
With a 5-day week, you're working 45 to 55 hours. That wears on you. It could be OK if the pay is unusually good.
Also, energy companies move slow and still break things like the environment.
Is Apple not a software company because they make phones and give away all their software for those phones for free like Tesla does?
Optimizing structural design is hard. There are plenty of examples of talented young engineers with lots of budget who can make a really clever and strong design, but it will frequently also be overengineered and far over weight or cost for its design purpose. An infamous example would be the Juicero juicer. It takes a lot of experience and knowledge to make a highly optimized frame or structural component.
With Uncle B, any time he gets something wrong (and there are plenty of examples) it's always "I'm just a dude in the shop, having a laugh, etc. etc." But when he's tearing things about it's always, "this design is shit, these engineers suck, they're trying to fuck you over here there and everywhere." There's a huge disconnect in how he presents these critiques as though they're gospel truth, but he won't eat the humble pie. There's the exception here or there, he'll nibble at a particularly big piece, but overall it just doesn't serve the purpose of learning and understanding. He veers into some sort of moralizing about modern manufacturing.
Don't get me wrong, on balance it's great and the juice-squeezer definitely deserved it, but it keeps me wary.
In the same sense, I don't know about that flange. Is it wasteful? Could well be. Or maybe there's a good reason it's there. What I'd like is a good explanation of how they can be sure it's excessive. Tell me why. Maybe they do; I haven't a bit of the autoline video, but I don't see a good writeup.
But yeah. He says it all with virtually no reserve, haha. Take most of it with a grain of salt. He does seem to know a lot about materials, though. Definitely not a dumb guy. His brain is chooching at around 50% at least
And if you don't optimize your competitors will and they'll deliver better value and take your market share.
Over-engineer them when life is on the line.
Overbuild a car and you have mass in all the wrong places. Do it right, and you get passenger protection and crumple zones.
The problems with over engineering are probably more subtle - you want time and money spent effectively.
At one point Munro says that had Tesla outsourced the manufacture and design of of the car to a company like Magna they would have hit every target and even Toyota would be crapping their pants now. If the traditional mechanical parts of the car would have been even decent, Tesla would have mopped the floor with everybody.
This would lead to hitting short-term targets at the expense of never really learning how to perform such tasks well in-house. Being able to design and manufacture cars seems pretty important stuff for a car maker to know how to do.
It would have been better idea to make money from outsourced Model 3 and continue R&D.
His opinion on the suspension design was interesting as well. He was so enthusiastic about it that he said the designer could do an F1 car, but in another part of the interview he mentioned that it was a questionable design for a car that was meant to hit a $37k price point.
He has a sense of humor about the controversy Tesla stuff inevitably engenders online.
Craig Cole (on measured gaps and mechanical tolerances): i3 was the best. Where does the Model 3 fall on that scale? Way at the bottom, is it somewhere in the middle... can you share that?
Sandy Munro: Now, I'm pretty sure there's gonna be Tesla fans here so I really don't know if I wanna say the truth, so, I will give you a nice lie. It's in the lower half.
Reminded me of the model 3. So, I don't have a ton of faith in a single datapoint on Tesla build quality.
The Model 3 at $49k starting price messes up the comparison. A shame the $35k version remains vaporware since that would be a more apt comparison I think. People can and should be pickier for that extra $14k.
This is wrong. At the very least it would be since the 60's and probably later. Seeing as 1963 was the first time CNC was used by the auto industry as far as I can tell. While they have been making cars for over 100 years you really can't include the time before technologies like CAD and CAM. And even those took a while to see widespread usage. Add to that the ability modern CAD software has to model stresses bases on the different forces in play makes a hell of a difference.
Even just going back 12 years and the amount of computing you have access to vastly changes. That was when AWS came out. AWS lets you compute massive amount of engineering data without having to invest into a super computer. (Not to say the auto industry did not have those super computers before then.)
>> This is wrong. At the very least it would be since the 60's and probably later.
If you watch the video on Youtube (that someone else posted here) where Munro is talking about the Model 3, (jump to 36m20s, he gets into it about 15-20s later ), you'll realize that the "complex manufacturing processes that took established automakers more than 100 years to perfect" are not about advances in tooling/tech, but advances in quality control processes. If you don't want to watch the video, the acronyms Munro drops are AIAG, PPS, PPAP and APQP.
Things get even more interesting when someone on the panel asks him what would have happened if Tesla would have subbed out the design and manufacturing to a company like Magna.
With the variety of changes different companies go through (being bought, sold, spun-off, etc), it's certainly an interesting question whether a company retains a given "core competency" or any core competency at a given time.
I know in the case of CNC manufacturing, the devices were essentially programmable lathes and one can talk of a "CNC programmer" but the system was designed to leverage the existing knowledge and population of manual lathe operators and there's no relation to computer programmers and instead the "touch stone" is ordinary lath operation I believe (a CNC programmer makes $22/hour average conveniently). Thus it's reasonable to say manufacturing culture in the US references things earlier than CNC.
You can see a similar thing in the way Photoshop, Illustrator and cousins ape paper and pencil tools - the standards, skills and terminology of layout were carried through the transition (to the point that these industry standard tools have an interface that seems fairly pathological to newbies).
There is a fascinating book "Forces of Production"  that analyzes the history of the development of numerical control in the 1960s that argues exactly the opposite. I read it many years ago, but I will try to summarize it TLDR style below:
Before software ate the world there were two competing approaches to automating machine tools:
- Record and Playback: a skilled machinist makes the part and the motions and operations are recorded. Subsequent parts can be made by playing back the recording on a machine with the assistance of a less skilled worker.
- Numerical Control: A white collar worker in an office writes a script (in G Code ) to control the tool which is then played on the machine attended by a less skilled worker.
This was a hard problem at the time and technically Record and Playback was easier and worked better. However management, particularly at GE, resented the power of the skilled machinists who had effective unions and were not replaceable in the event of a strike. So despite the advantages of Record/Playback they persisted for years to create the NC technology as it let them replace highly skilled union labor with coding monkeys. The parallels with the present day seem obvious but oddly underappreciated.
My guess is that management was conflicted in what it wanted - on the one hand, a drop-in replacement system and on the other hand, a system so simple they could hire people off the street to do it.
So Tesla is a high-tech software company trying to master complex manufacturing processes that took established automakers more than 50 years to perfect? I'm not sure that really changes the implicit argument.
> A Tesla spokesperson said the primary car evaluated by Munro was built in 2017, adding: "We have significantly refined our production processes since then, and while there’s always room for improvement, our data already shows that Model 3 quality is rapidly getting better.”
Sounds like Tesla is agreeing that they sold sub-par vehicles?
You: "So you were poor in 2016 then?"
This is the heart of the question. My understanding is that Tesla Motors, unlike most every other car maker, iterating their manufacturing (hardware) side as quickly as they are iterating on the software side.
For a more concrete example, the initial version of the SpaceX Merlin engine had 76,000 pounds of thrust. That same engine now has 205,000 pounds. I saw an interview last week where an employee at SpaceX said that no two Falcon 9 rockets come off the line exactly the same. Iterative hardware improvements are going on all the time. This is unheard of in aerospace.
This is a huge advantage compared to traditional manufacturing approaches.
It's not an absolute; I've seen good software lose its quality with inappropriate and ill-considered effort put into it, but that's not the norm.
More concretely, each of the previous three Tesla car models have improved steadily over the years.
When Tesla treats their customers as beta tester... It's a good thing?
It’s like apple, every year iphone is the best iohone yet, but that doesn’t imply directly that the previous model was bad.
Car designs are quite modular and individual components and suppliers are revised during manufacture. There are far more intermediate sub-assembly steps and smaller volumes produced in each batch. It is common to see recalls and technical service bulletins that "patch" cars already delivered to gain some of the fixes devised after the car left the line. Sometimes these are direct replacements of parts,and sometimes they are literal patches of the older design, such as applying an extra gasket or some adhesive to resolve a rattle in an interior trim piece which was designed away in its next revision.
While marketing maintains "model years" as a nominally uniform offering of a particular car, it is not uncommon to find odd half-year or worse hybrids which mix together cosmetic and mechanical features of different years. These happen when the manufacturer drains out certain supply chains and integrates unusual combinations of the different modules into specific cars. People focus on the visible parts like cosmetic body trim or interior features, but this also applies to mechanical and electronic parts buried deep inside the car.
Honest question: Is everything below the floor pan designed and built by Panasonic?
The battery modules (a group of cells) and the battery packs (a group of battery modules) are completely engineered by Tesla.
I recommend this series of videos about Tesla's battery modules:
“The parties intend for Panasonic to begin PV cell _and_module_ production at the Buffalo facility in 2017.
Shuuji Okayama, Vice-president, Eco Solutions Company of Panasonic, added, “_Panasonic_PV_cells_and_modules_ boast industry-leading power generation performance, and achieve high quality and reliability.””
That first phrase leaves open that Tesla designed the modules that Panasonic produces, but I can’t read that second statement other than that Panasonic owns the design of the modules, and likely also designed it.
Edit: https://www.tesla.com/presskit#gigafactory says “The Gigafactory is producing a Tesla/Panasonic designed and engineered cell called a “2170 cell,” as the diameter is 21mm in x 70mm in height.”, implicating that Tesla even had a hand in designing the cells. They don’t make it easy to get a clear view of how ownership of the technology is divided between Panasonic and Tesla.
Sure, hardware is hard, but it doesn't seem like differentiating knowledge in the tech industry (while maybe the other car makers are a few years behind in optimisation).
And ultimately, of course, circuit board weight or dimensions are not really a metric worth optimizing for something that goes in a car. If you can make it cheaper by only having 6 layers instead of 18 for a smaller version, auto makers will choose the penny pinching option every time.
Even in high-stress environments, unless I missed something.
You're 100% sure those are the same?
Munro acknowledges that the chips are from NVidia, but claims the board to be unique.
I love tiny business that are the forefront leaders in a small profitable nice.