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Tesla Adds Titanium Underbody Shield and Aluminum Deflector Plates to Model S (teslamotors.com)
631 points by austenallred 848 days ago | hide | past | web | 399 comments | favorite

"We believe these changes will also help prevent a fire resulting from an extremely high speed impact that tears the wheels off the car, like the other Model S impact fire, which occurred last year in Mexico. This happened after the vehicle impacted a roundabout at 110 mph, shearing off 15 feet of concrete curbwall and tearing off the left front wheel, then smashing through an eight foot tall buttressed concrete wall on the other side of the road and tearing off the right front wheel, before crashing into a tree. The driver stepped out and walked away with no permanent injuries and a fire, again limited to the front section of the vehicle, started several minutes later. The underbody shields will help prevent a fire even in such a scenario."

This is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard.

Exactly why. They're gently poking fun that Tesla vehicles are extremely safe, especially compared to fires - and then sticking it to critics further by actually announcing improvements to further reduce the already very low numbers of fire and further increase the already highest rating ever for a safety check for a vehicle. Well done Tesla and Elon.

And yet, I can't help but feel they're being very, very defensive over it. I can't blame them, of course, given how something trivial like a car fire (trivial given the average frequency of them) is turned into a national news event.

At the same time, Tesla's attention to quality and perfection and what-have-you will end up in them being heavily scrutinised. It's not that different from Apple in that respect; random mp3 player breaks, no problem. iPod breaks and the torches and pitchforks come into view.

Tesla is very, very defensive over this. This hasn't been stated explicitly, but it is very clear if you read between the lines of their PR initiatives.

According to statements from the company, the media coverage after the fires last year caused a sharp decline in the rate of Model S reservations. It has since recovered, but after these events Tesla started viewing poor public perception as an existential threat. The reasoning is that new and unfamiliar technology (battery propulsion) is scrutinized very, very closely and held to a much higher standard than the status quo. This is evident from the ridiculous headlines every time a Model S is involved in a fire. (Garage fires, house fires from unrelated accidents and the two floorpan fires + the high-speed crash referenced in the article). Poor public perception equals lower sales to an already skeptical public, and perhaps the second demise of the electric car.

A different strategy than the one Tesla is pursuing, would be to not change anything and just repeat the (correct) message that their electric cars are statistically much less likely to catch fire than a gasoline automobile. But this leaves them wide-open to PR attacks from skeptics and the established auto industry the next time an inevitable fire occurs. It's already been firmly established that there is a big PR machinery which will jump on any opportunity to call Tesla's technology into question - and there will be plenty of competition from the incumbent manufacturers. They're playing it safe.

(Tl;dr: Yes.)

They're being responsive, not aggressive or defensive. If someone makes false accusations or in a blown out of proportion way, do you just take it and not react? I know how I feel when I let someone walk over me or is being a bully.

Man are we going to have a difficult time with self-driving cars.

Headline: Is a society where 33% don't believe in evolution and don't understand video aspect ratios ready for computer-driven cars? What Betteridge's law tells you may shock you!

> given how something trivial like a car fire (trivial given the average frequency of them) is turned into a national news event.

This is how media bias works. They take something trivial like a car fire and make it the most important news item of the day. People start to think it's happening everywhere. There are billions of "newsworthy" things happening all the time. The selection of stories and insinuation layered on top of them by the news media can easily drive agendas and influence the public.

Also don't forget the usual thing: News, by definition is stuff that happens rarely (and thus is note- or newsworthy). So in turn it's rarely something that we need to worry about.

Edit: I see, someone else has quoted Schneier exactly on that already: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7487144

I'm surprised no journalists are taking the advantage of the views they will get by writing the opposite story. i.e. write about how many fires per vehicles capita in cars from other manufacturers vs tesla.

I personally would love to see normalized fire figures for other manufacturers like Ford, Chevrolet, Honda, etc.

Yep, people rarely realize this when they talk about media bias but it's a major element of influence. No matter how "balanced" a report is within itself (rarely actually balanced), if all you hear is stories about the IRS targeting specific political groups and the attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi (conservative stations) or anecdotes about how much money Obamacare is saving people and how many local government programs are underfunded (liberal stations), you're going to walk away with a skewed perspective. The choice of stories and tone will tell you everything about a media organization's biases.

Yeah, it's unfortunate. I actually had to explain the reality of the Tesla car fires to my mother (who is usually very good at seeing through media bias). She was under the impression that the Tesla fires were actually indicative of the car being less safe than normal cars...

>It's not that different from Apple in that respect; random mp3 player breaks, no problem. iPod breaks and the torches and pitchforks come into view.

Considering that a "random mp3 player" costs $6 on Amazon and that an Apple iPod costs over $200, I'd say people are totally justified to get upset. They spent the extra money expecting a product whose quality matched its price.

I'd say this is true of cars as well. When your used Ford Escort breaks down, you're hardly going to be surprised. When your exceedingly expensive Tesla breaks down and/or catches fire, you're going to be a tad upset.

That said, I'd say people lose all rights to be upset when they are the cause of the malfunction. You can't be too upset at a broken iPod after you drop it down a flight of stairs, and you can't be too upset at your Tesla catching fire after you ran it into a tree at 110 MPH. (I'm not saying the Tesla driver was upset mind you- I think all the Tesla hate is just coming from frightened car manufactures and the media.)

> I'd say this is true of cars as well. When your used Ford Escort breaks down, you're hardly going to be surprised. When your exceedingly expensive Tesla breaks down and/or catches fire, you're going to be a tad upset.

Actually the doctor who owned one of the Tesla cars that caught fire said the car saved his life. He was happy to have been in a Tesla and was going to buy another one (before Musk actually gave him a replacement).

Teslas aren't exceedingly expensive. They're not cheap, but they're not iPod vs Amazon MP3 expensive.

Compared to what? A Tesla isn't anywhere near my price range (and I drive a C-class).

My Infiniti payment is something like ~$550/month. To go to a Model S would only cost me ~$800 more per month, which is 5 hours of my time from a billable perspective.

Yes, the payment is higher, but I'd have no fuel expenses (currently ~$350/month), so technically its only $450 more a month (3 hours of my time).

If you went with the 60 kWh Model S, your payment would only go up $130, INCLUDING gas. If you're spending $350 a month in gas, you'd actually save money over your Infinity.


Think you just sold me on one. Well done :)

I'm not worried about going with the smaller pack; it only takes 90 seconds to swap it with a new, higher capacity pack down the road.

That just indicates that you make enough money to buy a more expensive car, not that the Tesla is not significantly more expensive (i.e., about double what you are paying).

That's entirely fair. I didn't look at it that way.

What do we consider affordable? I haven't had the time to do this, but you could take US Census data (average/median income per zip code), derive a formula for percentrage of income someone can spend on transportation, and thereby determine what affordable is.

A Model S is definitely a luxury item at this time; on the other hand, if it was self-driving, and could roll into bays to recharge all in software, with access being on-demand (Uber, with no drivers), they wouldn't be expensive. It would be the same as a company buying airplanes and selling seats on said expensive aircraft.

Maybe we're looking at Tesla wrong. They're not selling luxury cars; they're bootstrapping a mobility company by selling to the wealthy.

Maybe we're looking at Tesla wrong. They're not selling luxury cars; they're bootstrapping a mobility company by selling to the wealthy.

I would agree with this statement 100%.

It's the best strategy also because it makes sense to them to produce a car that has a controlled demand, since they're essentially limited by battery production. It also showcases the quality of the brand, associating it with reliability and luxury -- and it's a sedan, which has a smaller power requirement than other luxurious classes.

> and it's a sedan, which has a smaller power requirement than other luxurious classes.

Model S vs the new Corvette Stingray


If you need more power than that, you might as well bolt a turbine engine on your car.

That is actually what Elon Musk has explicitly said: http://www.teslamotors.com/blog/secret-tesla-motors-master-p...

"1. Build sports car

2. Use that money to build an affordable car

3. Use that money to build an even more affordable car"

Yes, but you're assuming those affordable cars are for purchase. If Elon can make them self-driving, you get the benefit of never having all the expenses that go with vehicle ownership, and he makes the spread between an expensive electric transportation appliance and people paying dirt cheap rates to get from A->B (because electric is so much cheaper per mile than petroleum).

What? I'm not assuming anything. All I did was post a link to Elon Musk's own words.

So at 3 hours per month you are talking about 36 hours per year or three to four days of holiday (depending on the length of your work day).

That sounds significant to me. It might be worth it but there are other ways to spend that time and money.

We each value our time differently. 3 hours per month is more than acceptable to me.

They're being defensive because a few fires crushed the stock price (irrationally), evaporating a ton of money. These headlines matter.

Those fires were the best thing to ever happen to my stock portfolio, knowing the real story behind the fires almost felt like insider trading

>crushed the stock price (irrationally)

The high valuation of this company is equally irrational. It's a massive speculative play, so there's a load of volatility.

Plane goes missing and it's the top story of every news cast. It's sad but there are so many other issues in the world right now that outweigh a missing plane. The news can sell that plane though.

>It's sad but there are so many other issues in the world right now that outweigh a missing plan

A plane? How about a plane with 200+ innocent, unsuspecting people on board goes missing, and all are now presumed dead? It's woefully ignorant to think the story is about the plane.

It's sad no doubt but in the grand scheme of things 200 people dying is not much compared to the number of people dying each day. It's just that it scares people more because it could have been us on that plane. Someone I didn't know that works for my company was on that plane, so that hits kind of close to home. How many millions of people day every day because they don't have access to clean water? I'm just saying that the news (especially in the US) will sell whatever can get them the most eyeballs and ignore much bigger issues.

Defensive but addressing a rare issue with a proper solution, free of charge (possession and installation) retroactively. What's not to love.

It's being responsive, perhaps mistaken as aggressive when in fact to me it looks prompt and blunt.

Then again, Apple goes to great lengths to conceal just how often those iPods exploded and turned into molten metal fountains. Most folks were NDA'd the to hilt. They've got quite the white washing operation. With Tesla, it's harder to conceal a several thousand pound ball of flames on a public road, so they've got to fix the problem, no matter how small.

How does Apple convince victims to sign an NDA? Is it attached to a massive cash settlement or something? I'm surprised the cover-ups haven't loudly backfired on them yet.

It's entirely possible they know something we don't - like the results of the investigation into the Tesla fires - and are trying to get this story out ahead of something more negative. It'd certainly be a smart move.

I don't take Elon for a dishonest person.

Elon is always very defensive. Instead of being diplomatic, he reacts with long-winded arguments and makes public spectacles, like the Top Gear controversy, the New York Times controversy, his response to the car fires, and the public and political feuds over car dealerships. Besides that he'll lob casual insults at hybrids and insinuate he should take over all of Detroit's plants, etc. He should just not ever be allowed to talk.

Wow. Long-winded arguments, I assume you're referring to the depth of his explanations that he gives painting a clear picture of situations? Do you rather people give shallow explanations? Most people aren't used to founders and CEOs being so proactive and engaged with the public. I've never heard him "lob" insults (like what you're currently doing and even suggesting censorship of speech?) - he does however state his thoughts when he thinks something is a bad idea or not the best idea.

I think I will disagree. (Although for sure this is a definite matter of opinion it's not a science but an art in determining public perception).

Anyway it's a bit of a Streisand effect. They are focusing on something and making it stand out even more.

When in the minds of the general public it very well would be forgotten. Or not even known about. Not everyone pays attention to what the tech press says, what hackers think, or what Road and Track cares about.

Lastly they are attaching a negative to a positive emotion buying experience. People buy cars on emotion. And the whole idea of discussing safety and accidents in this detail on something that is an emotional purchase doesn't work in my opinion. It's raining on the mind game parade.

> This is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard.

Do you mean ridiculous as in you believe that he is exaggerating, or ridiculous as in it is amazing that the car held up so well? I doubt that he would simply make up verifiable facts concerning a specific, well publicized accident to make his company look better. That said, it is quite clear from these facts that this driver is lucky to be breathing today regardless of what kind of car he was driving. If the guy had died, Elon would be talking about how such an extreme accident wouldn't be survivable in any car.

This being an edge case, it doesn't really sway me either way, but it is undeniable that Tesla automobiles are very safe relative to others. He is justifiably incensed at the negative media attention surrounding a very small number of incidents.

It's ridiculous how much emphasis the media placed on the fire while ignoring the extreme speed and consequently minor injuries involved in the crash.

The standard that the media holds Tesla to will still be a picnic compared to how the media will treat the first self-driving cars. Far safer than human-driven will not be nearly enough; the first high-profile accident will be wall-to-wall "Are Self-Driving Cars Really Ready For Prime Time?"

Breaking News: "Vehicle computer records indicate that the driver took control of the vehicle three minutes prior to the accident."

Even Betteridge's law occasionally has it's exceptions.

Does Betteridge's law have exceptions?


I love the meta-ness of this exchange. I assume it was intentional.

I would bet the first self-driving car accident involves a human driven car as well. Even if it is human error, the media will say the self driving car should have avoided them or something like that.

It already has.


Tesla was handled with kid gloves compared to Toyota.

Remember the unintended acceleration crock?

The Toyota Acceleration issue ranks up there with the McDonald's Coffee lawsuit as one of the most doubly misunderstood corporate events in recent history.

Popular belief has there being an acceleration problem with Toyota cars. Slightly less popular is the correction that in fact it was all just senile old people and floor mats, nothing to do with the computers. Far less common is the correction that there were in fact technical problems with the cars.

Similarly popular belief has the McDonald's coffee lawsuit being absurd, because "everyone knows that coffee is hot and how much damage can it cause anyway?". Slightly less popular is the correction that the burns were in fact horrific and the coffee was stunningly hot, far hotter than industry standard. Far less common is the further correction that in fact McDonald's coffee was being served at an industry standard temperature, where "industry standard" is defined as how other companies also serve their coffee (Starbucks coffee is generally just as hot, and many companies serve hotter coffee than McDonald's was serving.) In fact, since the lawsuit, McDonald's hasn't reduced the temperature that they serve their coffee at. The only change that McDonald's has made since the lawsuit is adding warning labels, the coffee you buy there today can be just as hot as the coffee that burned Stella Liebeck... don't spill it on yourself!


According to NHTSA, there was not a technical problem:

In February 2011 the findings of a 10-month-long study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), aimed to identify the main cause of sudden acceleration in Toyota and Lexus models. The study was requested by the US Congress and "enlisted NASA engineers with expertise in areas such as computer controlled electronic systems, electromagnetic interference and software integrity".[229] The most common problem was drivers hitting the gas when they thought they were hitting the brake, which the NHTSA called "pedal misapplication.”[229] Of the 58 cases reported, 18 were dismissed out of hand. Of the remaining 40, 39 of them were found to have no cause; the remainder being an instance of “pedal entrapment.”

Toyota cars did not fail safe in the event that both the accelerator and the brakes were pressed. Combined with the floor mats, this could create dangerous situations where drivers were unable to stop their cars using the brakes (the standard objections that they should have turned their cars off or shifted out of gear still have some validity of course) The two sibling comments to my above comment address other potential technical problems with Toyota vehicles. Your Wikipedia link does not refute their points.


What the NHTSA believed that they found in 2011 is overshadowed by more recent developments, mainly that Toyota was not being forthcoming with the NHTSA. In 2014, Holder said "Today, we can say for certain that Toyota intentionally concealed information and misled the public about the safety issues behind these recalls," Additionally: "The cover-up is still there on the electronics issue," says Sean Kane, an auto safety expert for Safety Research and Strategies. "This (government penalty) sends an important message, but it's a mixed message." Furthermore it has become clear that Toyota's code was a clusterfuck and that the alleged failure modes were very possible.

My point is that in both the Mcdonalds case and the Toyota case, the issue is not nearly as clear cut as the two most popular points of view present.

Just to add - My '07 Vauxhall Corsa has a throttle cut off - so if you a apply the brake pedal, the car [ecu] ignores any/all throttle inputs when in gear; which I assume is what you meant by fail-safe.

It is as simple as the second most popular theory makes it out to be.

Holder is wrong. This shouldn't be surprising.

If it really were that simple, it would have stopped in 2011. That seems to be when you stopped following the story.

There is really not much more I can say in response to such a substance-less comment, other than telling you that you should research the more recent developments in this situation before misrepresenting it again in the future.

In fact the story is that simple.

It didn't stop in 2011 because there are careers to be made in slamming corporations for even bogus claims.

Corporations are more than willing to settle when the government is willing to take them to court. Guilt and innocence are irrelevant.

It's rather comical that many of the same folks who complain about the criminal justice system hammering individuals into pleading guilty when they are innocent fail to see the parallels with civil suits / government pressure and corporations.

Excellent summary. 5 stars, would read again.

Um, it wasn't crock. They recently settled a huge lawsuit and criminal investigation with the US government to the tune of $1.2B. http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/cars/2014/03/19/toyota-s...

It was a crock: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2009%E2%80%9311_Toyota_vehicle_...

You mean this one? http://embeddedgurus.com/state-space/2014/02/are-we-shooting...

Yes, this one:


Look what they did to Toyota over the Sudden Unrequested Acceleration that never was. $1.6bn fine!


By they I mean the Media.

I guess I should add some substance.


NASA's Toyota Study Released by Dept. of Transportation 02.08.11

WASHINGTON -- The results of a ten-month study by 30 NASA engineers of possible electronic causes of unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles was released today by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).

"NASA found no evidence that a malfunction in electronics caused large unintended accelerations," said Michael Kirsch, principal engineer and team lead of the study from the NASA Engineering and Safety Center (NESC) based at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.

The studies cost over $3 million, including the cost of purchasing the vehicles that have allegedly unintentionally accelerated. Upon completion of the studies, the NHTSA will determine whether a formal investigation into Toyota is necessary.

ABC made a totally fake video demonstrating the alleged phenomena.

"Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington today before the House Appropriations subcommittee on Transportation. LaHood first told the subcommittee that owners of Toyotas should stop driving them, then clarified his statement and told owners to get their cars fixed promptly."

Later LaHood told reporters it was "obviously a misstatement"

Toyota have been abused, IMHO, their "blame no-one else" culture is being rinsed by the US Govt.

I don't know what to believe about this. Wasn't it just all over the news that an embedded software engineer found all sorts of code quality problems with Toyota and could even demonstrate unintended acceleration via various bugs?

And there were some drivetrain software bugs that Toyota did acknowledge and fix (at least partially). My '07 Camry was dangerous to operate for the first few months before a firmware update. Prior to the update, it would accelerate well from 0 to about 15-20, but then almost coast for a few seconds before the speed would increase further. It felt like my 4-cylinder was suffering from severe turbo lag, and it made turning onto busy thoroughfares quite scary when the speed limit was 45 or more.

That's me schooled. I'd not been party to that (not being in the US) I'd missed it.


It sounds like a proper mess. How curious that much is revealed that the NASA people didn't speak of. Maybe because it was ostensibly an investigation at the behest of NIHIST to demonstrate that they hadn't let Toyota off the hook.

It is also somewhat disturbing that these are not Toyota parts but parts sourced from NEC.

I'm still not convinced that Toyota deliberately hid their knowledge of system failure. A software update would have been much simpler than the millions of physical modifications they chose to make, including fetching customers cars on transporters because they owners were too scared to drive them.

Yes their were bugs, but nothing implicstingt actual observed failures.

True. Here's what happens to a Ford Focus that crashes into a concrete wall at ~100mph: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LmRkPyuet_o

That's not really comparable, though, because this video is going straight into a super reinforced wall. The Tesla accident was hitting the roundabout, going on into another wall, then going on into a tree, so each of those is much less of an impact than smack into a reinforced wall.

Ah yes, because a Tesla would leave you unscratched if you collided with the same immovable wall?

Reminded me of a joke I heard a while ago:

"Just released car has amazing safety features that prevent any damage to the vehicle. Amazing advance of technology was made available by near instantaneous braking. Even going 100 mph a car can come to a complete stop instantaneously. After that wipers are deployed automatically to wipe off remains of a driver from windshield."

Any significant change of momentum will harm humans no matter how tough the car is. Newer cars are actually less rigid to provide a cushion to human drivers in case of such collision.

Edit: I meant less rigid in right places. If you observe crash test you could see how neatly car folded around drivers cage. Thanks drglitch for pointing that out.

Newer cars are more rigid in just the right places (e.g. driver cage) - they do have larger/softer crumple zones that permit the damage to be absorbed along a longer time period. By prolonging the total crumple/crash time, the peak energy is decreased, thereby avoiding injuries from force overload during deceleration.

Knowing that, one should also be able to conclude this Focus crash test is meaningless. How it performs vs. an immovable wall at 120mph really doesn't tell you much about how it will perform at 65mph vs. a fence, or a tree, or a guard rail. If it didn't crumple at 120mph, then you'd have cause to worry though.

Reminds me of the saying: "people like to say that speed kills, but really it's a very sudden lack of speed that kills."

I think that might be a Clarksonism...

Also, "No-one ever died from falling. They die from stopping falling."

Also, 'nobody ever died on a motorcycle'.

Not true: plenty of people have died of a heart attack on the way down before they ever hit the ground.

I don't know about Tesla but 120MPH head on collisions like that are in fact survivable without serious injury given the correct car design. People can safely decelerate at 45g's which takes 10.4 feet from 120MPH. Of course in most cases your going to slow down a little before impact and or not hit an immovable wall so cars are generally optimized for lower impact velocity's.

The closest real world example is probably Nascar. Granted, there track design make head on collisions rather difficult but as cars regularly hit 190MPH you do occasionally get near head on collisions at around 120MPH which are often survivable. Best example I could find was: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=QVlj7...

PS: The much more common 60MPH drivers side impact is also survivable which I still find shocking.

Yes, cars can be designed to protect you from a 120mph crash into a brick wall. But that comes at the expense of their ability to protect you from a 65mph crash into a lamp post or other car.

I don't know about you, but I drive near cars & lamp posts much more often than I drive on an Autobahn full of brick walls.

exactly.. I read that and was like... how did I not get that from the original article?

Most normal cars survive "normal" crashes just fine, don't they?

Tesla buyers tend to be sports car buyers who want to drive fast. Whether this means we should expect accidents with more force or that Tesla should anticipate this and design accordingly is debatable.

Do you have a citation for that claim?

I think a lot of people still think of the Tesla Roadster, not the Model S. The Roadster is definitely a sports car, but the Model S is like a BMW 5-series... Yeah, it's fast, but the people who can afford one are generally old/mature enough to know not to drive recklessly on public roads.

...you don't know the same middle aged and affluent people I do.

I know 280 though and Tesla S drivers although they often like to drive fast are generally courteous.

I think it's amazing how any vehicle maker can idiot-proof any vehicle, the general population seems to be suicidal and then blames the manufacturer for not protecting them during their 110mph missile ride.

reddit's /r/Justrolledintotheshop and /r/TalesFromRetail/ makes me wonder how people manage to use any product without killing themselves.

This is written in a semi-sarcastic/ passive aggressive tone to get across the point of how safe their vehicles already are. Very cheeky of Elon and his team.

Let's not forget that Tesla recently issued a recall for 29,000 charging adapters because they would overheat and catch on fire.


GM is currently recalling 1.6M cars which can accidentally turn off while driving: http://www.thewire.com/business/2014/03/gm-recall-mary-barra...

(this has apparently resulted in a number of deaths, as the power steering stops working)

Not only were they aware of the problem, they did the calculus and decided to release a brand new model knowing this issue effected.


"Take the nubmer of vehicles in the field, A, multiply by the probabilty rate of failure, B, multiply by the average ouf-of-court settlement, C. A x B x C = X. If X is less than the cost of a recall, we don't do one."

Cost-benefit analysis, psychopath style.

In all honesty, how would you recommend doing cost benefit analysis for a car manufacturer? There will always be safety risks to the drivers, after all.

Yes, perhaps the law should be more strict , but in any case there is a value -- there is a number which sometime you'll have to assign even implicitly to a customer's life.

But consider the possibility that the law had a loophole (or the law is simply inadequate in light of common expectations from the population) which brought the maximum litigation from crashes to a very low number. Although this simplistic view would suggest a very low cost, that would be unrealistic -- the actual cost should include heavy brand damage from consumer distrust in the products and even brand damage from raw ideological/moral basis. This is way promoting values inside companies makes sense -- you can't neglect humans have personal values and sometimes make non-economic choices to stay aligned with those -- so you have to adjust your "psychopath" economics towards consumer irrationality. In the end I suspect the optimal choice is much closer to Tesla's reaction than GM's.

Are you serious? A non-psychopath might start by assigning a nonzero value to human life.

I see two issues with your comment. First, the quoted formula doesn't assume a zero value for human life. Second, even if you assign an explicit finite value to human life, a lot of people will call that psychopathic.

> First, the quoted formula doesn't assume a zero value for human life.

I suppose technically it could value human life at a million zillion and three, but it's irrelevant because that value appears nowhere in the equation.

> Second, even if you assign an explicit finite value to human life, a lot of people will call that psychopathic.

I said "nonzero," not "finite." I suppose I should have said "positive." Nitpicking aside, the point is that being utterly indifferent to the life or death of innocents, except where it may directly threaten your net worth, is pretty psychopathic.

A similar equation is fine, but 'average settlement' is probably too low. Add 10 million to C before multiplying and you have a better balance, with a margin of error on the side of safety.

It's from Fight Club :)

Corporate American style. You want to guess the number of times an airplane design defect that threatens the life of passengers is allowed to be corrected "over time" -- basically because fixing them ASAP would be too expensive?

That's really comparing apples to oranges.

At the airplane industry it's the government that does this calculation, with a publicly known value of C. Also, airplanes don't have the kind of problem that cause an accident by itself, every issue can be corrected on several levels, and normally when the proper fix isn't instantly applied some other action is done to attenuate the problem.

On any advanced country, around here it calculates nothing, even yelling "Are you insane? Do you know how many hospitals we could build with that kind of money?" won't make they think about numbers.

Which company do you work for?

A major one.

Isn't it true that every car manufacturer will be aware of some level of risk and will have to make decisions based on that? There's always more you can put in a car to make it safer, but at some point you stop and release the car.

Note that I'm not saying this particular case is justified. I'm just saying that it's a continuum, and I'm not sure how we should expect car manufacturers to draw the line on the continuum.

Certainly. Knowing that a car may lose control if it runs over the alternator that fell off another car at highway speeds (as shown in the Tesla video) is one thing. Knowing the car can randomly shut off including airbags at highway speeds is another.

Don't know why this is astonishing; hell, Fight Club devoted a full 2 or 3 minutes explaining this. Big companies are evil, etc.

And the airbags don't go off.


And just to give a sense of the orders of magnitude:


While I agree with the general point this comparison is not fair - if you sell more cars, more cars may be affected.

If you sell more cars, you should be able to invest more in engineering reliability. The cost should be spread out over many more vehicles. This all goes out the window depending on margins, priorities, and presumably other factors, but for the sake of argument: I'd say both numbers on their own aren't fair.

Or you could just report recalls as a percentage of production, and have a meaningful metric to being with...

And they were aware of the problem.

And lets not forget how astonishing that is in light of what many other car manufacturers[0] do when they find issues that effect millions of their cars in a much more dangerous way. The fact that even with that issue, their safety numbers are through the roof and their number of incidents are way under the national average, and they still willingly and transparently issues a recall, I count that as nothing but a plus for Tesla.


Compared to GM that waited recently until 13 people had died before issuing a recall for faulty ignitions? Or how about the 119 deaths from knowingly underinflated tires on Ford Explorers back in 2000? Car companies are reactive and calculating, Tesla is proactive with foresight.

Let's not forget it was a special kind of recall, one where no vehicles were being physically recalled by Tesla.

Did you actually read that article ? Toyota recalled cars and paid damages. Which is exactly what Tesla would have done.

And you're being disingenuous by comparing a single Tesla incident to the entirety of the automobile industry's history.

I did, and I'm not sure what you are trying to say exactly, but the point I was making which others have pointed out as well is that Tesla issued changes not for an issue with their car, but to improve it and make it better. Other car manufacturers waited until there were either deaths, lawsuits, or media outcry to recall cars. They were all reactive purely based on cost-benefit. Tesla decided here that their already incredibly safe cars that have fared better than most, if not all others; could be made even better. What Tesla did is leagues above what any other manufacturer has done in recent memory.

Come on dude, you make it sound like these things we're catching on fire all over the place - "... the number of incidents remains small, and Tesla’s review to date points to the building receptacle or wiring as the primary cause of failed NEMA 14-50 adapters, the company has determined that a voluntary recall is appropriate as a precautionary measure.”

>This is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard.

ridiculously awesome?

I read this in Archer's voice. Have to cut down on cartoons...

Strangely, me too.

Maybe Tesla cars are too safe.

I was just thinking that the evolutionary pressures against ultra-rich...persons who go plowing into traffic at high speeds in high performance cars might be unduly reduced.

Yeah that's crazy. Because in the old Beetle I got, you had to be careful not to push your feet through the floor to the street. So why would car need to be protected from such extreme underbelly damage, it's not normal in any circumstances.

Road debris causing damage, to the underbelly or elsewhere is not uncommon (heck, drivers even have to worry about road debris going through the windshield and impaling them, let alone dangerous damage through the underbelly). I would not have wanted to drive your old Beetle in some parts of the United States, particularly not speeding on a highway.

Here's an article about road debris in a normal car (not even your Beetle, where it would have easily killed you): "a sizeable chunk of angle iron that actually tore through the bottom of the vehicle, found lodged in a portion of the backseat." (https://www.westerndirect.ca/learning-centre/insurance-news-...)

The reason the car "needs" to be protected from such damage is the media attention, not because it's unusually unsafe.

This is why Elon Musk is the man.

I kindof wonder if it's going to cause more deaths on the road when people who think they're important and drive like this are going to do so more confidently.

You can't just take a snipe at that whole thing without explaining what you mean. It's a crazy car crash. Here's the Yahoo news story about it:


What's ridiculous about it?

That it sounds like it was written in Slashdot passive aggressive style: rather than just directly saying it was an extreme scenario, they used list of somewhat-hyperbolic-but-way-more-so-if-you-know-the-jargon descriptors of each element of the crash.

I think Tesla is probably exasperated that a couple Model S cars catching fire is international news while cars from other manufacturers catch fire every day and it's barely even worthy of the local news.

"The very definition of news is something that hardly ever happens. If an incident is in the news, we shouldn't worry about it. It's when something is so common that its no longer news – car crashes, domestic violence – that we should worry."

    -Bruce Schneier

If only this was how the human brain actually worked...

Sounded like a list of facts about the crash to me. What should Tesla have done in this situation? The media was spreading the falsehood that Tesla vehicles are more prone to fires than the average gasoline car. That is provably false. In this article they state that it is false and then give the very unusual sequence of events that led to the unusual outcome.

Media reports leave people thinking, "Electric vehicle? No thanks, too dangerous." Tesla's response leaves people thinking, "Well I have no plans to go 110 MPH through a round-about so I'll probably be OK." The latter is more accurate.

Part of me thinks that they are deliberately passive aggressive, like, "I can't believe people don't believe yet that our vehicles are safe, fine, let's just go all out and shove it in their face."

Only part of you?

Yes, definitely a contender for most ridiculous thing heard.

Edit: Sorry, "ever" heard.

Yup, I really wish there was video footage of it.

Ha, maybe the most dangerous thing about Tesla cars is that they are so safe that the occupant will feel invincible.

Sounds plausible I Guess but I wonder how Tesla in this crash description circumvented Sir Isaac Newton’s laws of motion and the bodily damage the driver should have incurred on negative G's.

The longer something takes to slow down the less acceleration it experiences.

The Model S is a long car compared to the hatchbacks and mini sedans that we're getting used to. Maybe that has something to do with it.

This sounds as though the car took a while to stop, given the list of things it hit. The G forces won't have been that high.

Pfff...Titanium. Wake me up when they start using Mithril.

Or Adamantium

"This is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard."

Agree. I'd love to see what happens to the vehicle and driver if the object (say an alternator) hits the tire instead of the under-body.

Or skips up and hits the windshield.

This is what you get when a company/group/effort/community is lead by a "benevolent dictator" - someone with an absolutely pure vision of what they want their output to look like and the autonomy and strength to make it so no matter what.

I love this... I actually love that it probably pissed off Musk to no end the amount of attention the fires got and out of spite he went totally over the top and added ballistic plating to the bottom of the car as a super-constructive "fuck you" to everyone that bitched about it.

I am picturing this same thing happening at Chrysler or GM and I think 9 out of 10 CEOs would just let the whole non-issue blow over and go back to business - and the 1 CEO that would try and push for a ridiculous over-engineering solution like this would probably get shot down by the board.

That's why I like this, it's going way above and beyond because he can and because he believes in the vision he is selling so firmly that there is no wiggle room: "My cars are the best and goddamnit, I'm going to make them the best."

<standard disclaimers about personal viewpoints and preferences>

Just want to focus on the pursuit of perfection that I find so energizing - to put another way, if you had someone this passionate running each of the major airlines, I wonder what air travel would be like instead of the race-to-the-bottom experience it is now.

I have another hypothesis: "benevolent dictator" leadership leads to higher variance of outcomes -- more huge successes and more huge failures. And you usually don't notice the companies that have been driven into the ground. You notice the ones whose benevolent dictators were exceptionally competent, because those are the ones that stick around and make headlines.

Very good point, I would probably agree with that.

I don't know if that's the case. Perhaps Musk is enabling the media by specifically stating that these reinforcements are for preventing fires. I actually would go so far as to say that a good CEO would not do something like this because it lends credence to the media's claims about the fires - that the fires are an issue that need to be fixed, rather than some rare occurrence that would probably be worse in any other vehicle in the same wreck.

I don't know if I'd go as effusive as the grandparent in my praise for Musk here. It's just PR.

But on that note, I would say it's good PR in light of what's going on with GM. The current story in the media isn't so much the issues with GM's vehicles, but the company's negligence in not owning up to the problems.

So, Tesla is simply getting out in front and contrasting themselves with that story. There is virtually no risk that it will be seen as an admission, and every chance that it will play as a glaring positive differentiation.

BTW, the timing nods to this play. Rumors of fire issues and actual fires have haunted Musk for years now. He usually comes out defensive. But, suddenly, with GM's woes, he is taking these over the top measures. So, not sure that he was so much a visionary in this, as much as a fast learner.

> We believe these changes will also help prevent a fire resulting from an extremely high speed impact that tears the wheels off the car, like the other Model S impact fire, which occurred last year in Mexico. This happened after the vehicle impacted a roundabout at 110 mph, shearing off 15 feet of concrete curbwall and tearing off the left front wheel, then smashing through an eight foot tall buttressed concrete wall on the other side of the road and tearing off the right front wheel, before crashing into a tree. The driver stepped out and walked away with no permanent injuries and a fire, again limited to the front section of the vehicle, started several minutes later. The underbody shields will help prevent a fire even in such a scenario.

That is not just PR. That is damned amazing engineering. That's the kind of description you get out of an episode of Knight Rider, not something in real life.

That's clearly evidence that these cars are designed and built to an amazing level.

>That's the kind of description you get out of an episode of Knight Rider

Well, yeah, it's exactly that: a description, and a fantastic one at that. It makes no guarantees or even assertions about the efficacy of the changes. Instead, it plays up this explosive scenario, then concludes that they hope the changes will help prevent fires.

And, there's a reason it's not written in technical, engineering jargon with test results, etc. Instead, it reads like a Hollywood screenplay. Judging from your comparison to Knight Rider, it appears to be working.

>That is damned amazing engineering

So, I mean what engineering are you hailing as amazing here, with regard to the new announcement that was gushed over higher up in the thread? The part you quoted just briefly references bolting some plates on the undercarriage amidst a lot of hyperbolic crash talk from the pre-plates days.

Sure, there can be great engineering alongside good PR. The auto itself without the newly announced iron man suit is an impressive piece of engineering.

I'm simply saying that I wouldn't gush over the new announcement. The guy walking away without injuries was pre-crash plates and we have no evidence that the plates will actually help or to what extent. Just sensational, cool-sounding descriptions. There are a lot of things for which Musk deserves credit as a visionary, but this bit of PR could have just as easily been the brainchild of a relatively astute PR staffer talking to an engineer over lunch.

That is not just PR. That is damned amazing engineering.

Really? Choosing a high-strength material, turning it into a sheet and bolting it to the bottom of a car is "damned amazing engineering"?

No, but the survivability of the passenger in the story is evidence of such.

You're missing the point. This discussion is about the announcement that is the topic of this thread.

The survivability of the passenger is amazing engineering. That happened pre-announcement.

> But, suddenly, with GM's woes, he is taking these over the top measures.

There are no sudden movements in industry. That shield is probably being developed since the fires happened.

> This is what you get when a company/group/effort/community is lead by a "benevolent dictator" - someone with an absolutely pure vision of what they want their output to look like and the autonomy and strength to make it so no matter what.

Good explanation of Steve Jobs as well IMO

Unfortunately not. Apple's success was many times despite Jobs. He was indeed a visionary, but 'benevolent' is the precise wrong term for him.

Well, not to other people, no. "Benevolent" would be the last word I'd choose to describe him.

But I believe Jobs was "benevolent" to the product itself.

Yup. Benevolent in this case has nothing to do with the person's personal treatment of others, and everything to do with the person being willing to serve the company/state rather than herself. The conventional dictators in failed states simply extract as much value as they can, at the expense of everyone else. A benevolent dictator uses her power to advance the cause. The way she does it might be suspect, even unethical or wrong, but there's no denying that it's to further the cause rather than selfishly extract-and-dump.

> Yup. Benevolent in this case has nothing to do with the person's personal treatment of others, and everything to do with the person being willing to serve the company/state rather than herself

Jobs made billions. Your sentence is subsequently nonsense.

Allow me to clarify. The difference between a failed-state dictator and a benevolent one isn't how much money they have in their banks at the end of it, but how much they grew their nation/state/company/organization/brand in the process. I think it's fine for a CEO to be compensated in the billions if he does it by making his company billions more. It's a question of the relationship the CEO has with wealth- does she help to create it, or is she just siphoning it into her pockets?

It's not always clear, but I think it's an important thing to consider. The size of a CEO's bank account alone is insufficient information for a meaningful answer.

> The difference between a failed-state dictator and a benevolent one isn't how much money they have in their banks at the end of it, but how much they grew their nation/state/company/organization/brand in the process

Are you joking? Is this your serious view of reality? That dictators are fine as long as they make the country as a whole richer?

I'm not making any normative statements about what is fine and what is not fine. I don't claim to have such moral authority.

All I'm saying is that different dictators achieve different things. Some 'dictators' enrich their countries, and some 'dictators' impoverish it. Similarly, some 'democracies' enrich their countries, and some 'democracies' impoverish them.

That's all I'm saying.

I know that it is trendy on HN to hate on Jobs now (ok, that was spiteful, sorry) but I think no-one around here has the insight to judge what Steve Jobs what in the success of Apple.

Apple grew from zero to great; Jobs lead it. This is all the correlation I feel entitled to dare, did reading the biography grant you more? (Again spiteful. Sorry. So this is how aggressive comments are written...)

I didn't downvote you, but I have to wonder why you didn't just edit out your self-described spiteful bits, instead of leaving them in and pointing out that they are spiteful.

Also a good explanation of Singapore under Lee Kuan Yew

ahahah, visakanv, you smart guy! that's a nice comparison.

Capitalism without democracy is what we want!!! /s

Not sure what you're getting at. =\ If you have anything thoughtful to bring up, I'd love to hear it and we could have a constructive discussion.

Ok now I'm not sure anymore you were ironic. Do you really believe that Singapore is a positive example?

Yeah, I wasn't trying to be ironic. I think the comparison is reasonably apt. I think LKY's stewardship of Singapore mirrors Steve Jobs' of Apple and Elon Musk's of Tesla. I think all of them had a clear idea about what needed to be done, and they did it, in a way that could be described as obsessive or pathalogical. I'm trying to be descriptive rather than prescriptive.

I think "positive example" is too vague a term. What do you mean by positive example?

It will be interesting to see how this approach changes when the money is a bit tighter ie the model c. You can't just go and add titanium reinforcing to a 30k$ car whenever something bad happens.

I think something to moderate Musk's thin skin wouldn't be a bad thing but I certainly agree that the absolute power to do what ever he wants coupled to his technical depth has and will continue to see him changing the transport industry.

It won't be as low to the ground most likely, so that won't be as much of a problem is my guess. If you've seen a Tesla, they're very low to the ground

Whether it's a product of how bad the airline experience is, or evidence of their greatness, I find Virgin's flying experience to be worlds away from the status quo.

Seen their safety video they play in lieu of the flight attendants talking? Great job.

I find those videos obnoxious after seeing them the first couple times.

Indeed; the video is a bit grating (it goes on forever, and the guy speaks so slowly). But the terminal experience, the quality of the interior of the planes themselves, the entertainment options are all miles above (pun not intended) the rest.

I agree completely, but I'm not so sure I like the idea of OTA updates... for an embedded system.

I mean, I can understand GP computing devices, but this is a bit concerning. Not just for security reasons, but because it dramatically decreases the control you have over the vehicle.

Maybe I'm beating up a dead horse here, but I'd much rather take my car into the shop and have it updated than have a packet sent out over LTE.

As a Model S owner, the OTA updates are one of the my favorite parts of the vehicle. Going to a shop for service has always a really frustrating experience for me. Ironically, Tesla's service is so amazing that I don't mind it, yet I don't even need to go in!

They just added a feature in the 5.9 update that is pretty important to me (hill assist) and I've n

Do you have the option to be prompted before an update is installed, or is it a completely automated process?

Not a Tesla owner, but I believe it prompts. Lots of owners were not installing a specific update at one point that contained a feature they disliked. Not sure exactly how the "blocking" of the update happens though.

I'm pretty sure most people would rather never take their car into a shop, though.

> I wonder what air travel would be like instead of the race-to-the-bottom experience it is now.

Comparing a niche (expensive) car manufacturer to major airlines isn't really an apt comparison. First, airliners are mass transit. Second, the airliners used to be very much nicer than they are now, it was market pressures that drove them to where they are (combined with the deregulation that was also due to people wanting to pay less).

A better comparison would be to compare Tesla to some of the General Aviation aircraft that are available. The [DA-40](http://www.diamondaircraft.com/aircraft/da40_xls/index.php) would be a reasonable starting point and could likely be afforded by the types of people who can afford a Tesla.

>I am picturing this same thing happening at Chrysler or GM and I think 9 out of 10 CEOs would just let the whole non-issue blow over and go back to business

Of course, because around here we're taught that executives from the Valley are smart, and everyone else are clueless "MBAs".

First, realize that it's a lot easier for Tesla to undertake changes like this, not because they are oh-so-awesome, but because they are operating on a scale a magnitude (or two) smaller than bigger auto companies.

Second, the larger companies do react to such problems, a specific case being the "exploding gas tanks" in the Crown Victoria's. If memory serves me correctly, in the early aughts it was discovered that Ford Crown Vic (and the same-model Mercury Grand Marquis') were exploding due to rear impact collisions. The problem was severely overblown in the media, and the reality was that the significant uptick in real-impact explosions of these models was due to the fact that these were cars used by police around the globe, and hence had a higher probability of being parked on the side of the road and, hence, a higher probability of being impacted from behind at high speed and sometimes exploding due to the gas tank being ruptured.

So, like Tesla, Ford tried to explain, "Look, if you take any car and park it on the side of the road and it gets slammed into, from behind, at high speed, it has a chance of exploding. These cars are parked on the road more often than other cars as emergency service vehicles".

But, nobody wanted to hear that (which I agree with), so Ford set about solving the problem through engineering. They ended up developing some sort of impact resistant gas tank bladder. Case closed.

So, TL;DR: try not to compare the issues that Tesla faces to those of much (much) larger companies. Tesla is not magical.

This is a great fix - they will blow apart the competition, fire past the doubters, burn the naysayers and smoke the market!

"However, to improve things further, we provided an over-the-air software update a few months ago to increase the default ground clearance of the Model S at highway speeds"

I know this is not specific to Tesla, but it's still really cool. :)

I'm sure there are strict security measures and a rigorous testing regime in place, but still the idea of some anonymous engineer being able to push an over-the-air update to my fast moving, two-ton lump of metal makes me a little nervous.

(Tin foil hat mode) Imagine the implications of some malicious third party gaining access to that process.

I've worked in industrial process systems where firmware is pushed out to millions of devices. The process is pretty rigorous - first the engineering team develops a candidate build, they run it through full regression and acceptance. Once it passes all the various code quality tests (coverage, static analysis, etc...), it's signed. Only code which is signed can be run on the production bootloader. The process required to sign a firmware image requires M of N people to come together with their credentials (hardware keys) to have the HSM (Hardware Security Module), sign the firmware.

The actual roll out of the firmware is of course staged - in Tesla's case, they likely roll it out to all of their employees teslas for a period of time, and then to a candidate group, and eventually everyone.

The team that actually pushes the firmware, is completely separate from the team that builds, and signs - they have a fairly detailed set of procedures that ensures a quality push, which is their entire focus.

The likely difference, is that the process I described, usually took 4-6 months after the code was completed, whereas Elon Musk/Tesla can probably spin it around in 4-6 weeks.

I've done the same at smartphone OEMs, and I can tell you, even after all the precautions and testing similar to what you said, there's always a few units that get stuck in a bootloop or fail to update out of millions. That a happening for a car instead of a phone is much more dangerous.

How is it bad for the car? Are Tesla's accepting OTA updates while driving, and updating firmware while the vehicle is moving?

If so then you're right, they've made a terribly unsafe decision.

But if you have to stop the vehicle, put it in park or off, before it actually updates the software, then a bricked car isn't exactly dangerous, just a massive inconvenience and a source of incredible frustration.

I believe they update when the car is parked at home.

Yea, I would be pretty livid if one morning my car is just dead for no good reason.

You might object that a dead battery can cause that. But I take constant preventative measures, can tell when a battery is starting to go, and I can fix a dead battery.

And in 2030 we'll look back and think, yeah, OTA updates are how cars became a subscription service.

Or, god forbid, an advertisement delivery platform.

(Yeah, radios deliver ads, but I don't have to listen to the radio. Can you imagine if your car ran banner ads around the spedometer?)

It would be driving us so we won't be looking at the speedo. Because of the new "free rides while you listen to our adverts" deal. Big red button for "just buy the goddamned product and leave me in peace".

> Big red button for "just buy the goddamned product and leave me in peace".

Finally a business plan where modern advertising makes any sense: Torture based freeware. "Send us money and we'll stop. Here are the products you'll hate today..."

They could even remove products from their list after payment from manufacturers.

I could get behind that process, and I don't doubt that theirs is similarly rigorous. I guess the issue is that, in the long-term, how do we know that it's still being applied consistently and that there are no security holes.

This is a much wider and rather tricky issue (how do I know that my Bitcoin exchange is performing cold storage correctly and consistently?)

You could answer: more regulations and oversight. Doesn't solve the issue.

The counter point to you argument is the number of people who are driving right beside you at highway speeds who have been completely ignoring the TSB recalls or even general vehicle maintenance. Allowing a direct update to something computer related doesn't let these people continue to drive unsafe vehicles.

All you have to do is browse http://www.reddit.com/r/justrolledintotheshop and you'll see so many people are not capable of having general maintenance done. Like this: http://imgur.com/a/VEeR9 the guy wanted to only have the flat tire repaired even though a strut went through his hood! Or this that is supposed to be a brake rotor : http://i.imgur.com/xhz90Bq.jpg

The updates aren't installed while the car's moving. You see a dialog box asking if it's OK to install at 3am (or you can change the time, or wait til later.)

Agreed, what are the chances that there is no vulnerability (say buffer overflow attack) that allows a black hat to get into the system?

Or even an "oops, I pushed that update to production instead of test"

Given the extremely dangerous potentials of such a mix-up, I would very much doubt an "Oops" moment would occur. Quite honestly, the way they run the company, I wouldn't be surprised if the process of pushing an OTA update to the automobiles is akin to launching a nuclear missile.

Fifteen years ago, NASA lost a Mars orbiter because one of their contractors used Imperial measurements when NASA used metric.

Swissair 111 crashed because the operator installed a new entertainment system which overheated.

A lot of serious systems made by serious people still end up with stupid problems.

While that is true, it also means that the 'serious firmware' developed for the car probably has stupid problems.

And it might be safer and cheaper to have the option of fixing problems when you find them, because if you don't have that option, you're forced to weigh the costs of a recall against the risks of the issue for every little thing.

I realize that the suspension isn't unique to Tesla, but over-the-air software updates seem to be. It irks me to no end that I'm told that my Infiniti can't be updated to even work properly with my iPhone, much less the fact that they want to charge for gps map updates that are essentially free from Apple, Google, Microsoft, etc.

Yes. My '13 Prius V MP3 player doesn't properly randomize tracks from my flash drives. Apparently no one at Toyota tested their player with a 64 gig thumb drive with ~840 directories.

I doubt Toyota will ever retro-fix the obvious software flaws. Tesla however sounds like they get it. Although many of us won't be buying an $80K vehicle any time soon, I expect that these kinds of innovations will trickle down to the mass market as people start to become dimly aware of the benefits.

Hey, people might even start to ask why all cars can't be made as survivable as a Tesla S.

My Dodge Ram has an unworkable turd as a head unit also. Built-in MP3 that is painful to use, navigation that is horrible. It will never change, I am sure of it.

Tesla provides a Google Maps interface at no additional charge, even to owners who didn't purchase the Tech and/or Nav options.

If you purchase Nav though, you get GPS turn-by-turn guidance in an additional heads up display on the dashboard. That option is supposed to eventually cost money to update, I think after 5 or 7 years? And it probably won't be cheap. That said, it is really nice that it doesn't get 5 to 7 years stale before you have to pay for an update. I like the model.

Those maps are paid for in many ways, just not one where you have to swipe your card.

I'm pretty sure map data is expensive and those companies license it.

I realize that they license it. I dispute that it's anything but a cash cow for those companies that charge $100-$300 for map updates that many other companies make available for free.

I've purchased licenses for multiple software packages and at the scales that these car distributors work at, it's ridiculous to think that their actual gps data costs aren't nominal (ie, pennies) per vehicle.

The long term contracts with M2M interfaces for OTA updates are generally low bandwidth. Carriers are willing to sell these long term contracts because it consumes very little of their network capacity. If you started pushing out constant multi-gig map updates across them, then the price to operate their OTA infrastructure (their vendor) would massively increase. That's the point we're they'd probably have you download the update online and usb stick it to your car, assuming they were willing to eat the cost of new maps licenses.

They license it and give it away with several hundred dollar gadgets. Seems surprising that an auto manufacturer wouldn't do the same with their tens-or-hundreds-of-thousand dollars products.

Is someone able to explain this more?

"Default ground clearance" means the distance between the ground and underside of the car, yeah? How are they able to control that with software?

Other responders answered well enough, but I'll add some additional info.

Tesla just started pushing out OTA updates to firmware 5.9 this week. One of the big improvements in it is bringing back the option to select a low height mode. When the problems mentioned in the article happened, they pushed out a rapid update that disabled the automatic low suspension setting entirely. Frankly, this upset a few of the vocal owners on the teslamotorsclub.com forums because they understood the risk and felt it was slight enough they preferred it versus the reduced handling and performance at a higher ride height.

The re-introduced low height is enhanced to allow the driver to set the speed at which it will change height. This is satisfying most if not all of those owners.

Driving a car that gets better as you own it instead of worse is a game changing model in my opinion.

All the suspension is electronically controlled for stability and responsiveness. Most expensive cars to that these days.

The software must tell the dampers to ride a bit stiffer stopping the car body being pushed lower at high speeds.

Traditionally with adjustable pneumatic 'springs' (rubber air bags) that inflate or deflate to change ride height, often in response to increased vehicle weight. Not sure if that is approach Tesla takes.

EDIT: Looks like Tesla does indeed use air suspension: http://www.teslamotors.com/de_AT/forum/forums/air-suspension...

Modern luxury/sports cars have active suspension systems that allow for adjustments in firmness, response, and in this case the ground clearance of the vehicle.


The Higher spec Model S' has active suspension that will lower the ride height at high speeds to reduce drag. The active suspension's control system was changed to lower it less.

Also note that some cars (the old Audi allroad) and last two generations of Audi A8 have airbags built into the suspensions at all four wheels that inflate and deflate to change the ride height.

This is different than simply adjusting the characteristics of the electronic suspension - this actually raises and lowers the car non-trivial amounts. I think a D3 A8 can raise up 4-5 inches from highway level to bumpy dirt road level...

I am genuinely curious what the raise/lower range for the tesla is - anyone know offhand ?

The suspension in the Model S is computer controlled, so they just push an update to control it differently!

Digitally controlled suspension

Why would Elon choose to post on Medium and not on the blog of Tesla? It would definitively bring more credence to post it on their official website. Until reading near the end I wasn't sure it was a Tesla employee/official or a third party story (and I use the term story here and not article on purpose because usually on Medium it is more stories than facts).

Kimbal Musk is CEO of Medium and his brother. I guess that is enough to explain why :)

You're thinking of Me.dium, which turned into OneRiot and was then acquired by WalmartLabs. No relationship with Ev Williams's Medium. Also, Kimbal is on Tesla's board, so it's not just a family relationship.

I don't think you are correct. The only connection I can find between Kimbal and Medium is Me.dium.com, referenced on this page:


Official blog: http://www.teslamotors.com/blog/tesla-adds-titanium-underbod...

Maybe Medium's new business plan is to compete with PR Newswire.

Seriously. Its a nice little niche.

Looks like a mod changed the link, which is kind of a bummer.

Until reading near the end I wasn't sure it was a Tesla employee/official or a third party story

But, it says "By Elon Musk" in a large font slap bang in the middle of the screen just under the title of the piece when you open the page. I really think this might be down to your powers of observation rather than any oversight on their part.

Medium is famous for internet drama, and more recently parody articles about Medium and internet drama.

If I read something 'by Elon Musk' on Medium I normally:

- Assume it's not Elon Musk, but rather someone who hates Elon Musk

- Start reading it in an Elon-Musk-Bond-Villain persona

I haven't seen any fake Elon Musk articles on there. Can you show me some of them?

I didn't say any existed. Re-read the comment.

Huh? Are you completely and utterly mental?

You were stating what you normally do when you read something saying that it is by Elon Musk on Medium.

To claim that you have a normal behaviour for a given situation would usually presuppose that it is a situation you have previously encountered, more than once.

The repeated situation is part of "Medium is famous for internet drama, and more recently parody articles about Medium and internet drama."

nailer filled in the template to illustrate the response to the template, not to assert that they had encountered this specific variant before.

The use of 'normally' implies having been in the exact situation, but it's possible to have a default response to a situation without having been in it. In context it is very easy to figure out nailer's meaning. It is ridiculous of you to fall back to 'completely and utterly mental'.


Well this has been the most hilarious sub-thread I've read on HN recently. Thanks nailer and lotsofmangoes.

It is all part of the service. And when I find out which service, I might even return it.

Is that a yes?

I was wondering the same thing, perhaps they're just giving it a go to see if it's a better platform for getting people to read their blog?

Add that to Julie Zhuo (Designer @ Facebook) doing the same thing just a few hours ago and it makes for a very curious confluence, in both cases diminishing the immediate credibility of the articles.

Julie has been posting on Medium for a while though- this is I believe Elons first post on Medium.

Almost got the wording perfect! (under shield vs underbody shield)

1 point by utefan001 175 days ago | link

I am sure it is easier said than done, but it seems like the batteries simply need to be better protected. Something like a carbon fiber or titanium under shield.

Wouldn't carbon fiber shatter in an impact though? It's light, but it doesn't seem like a good material for a skid plate.

It's really difficult to emphasize how excessive this is. As a mechanical engineer, I knew just by reading the title that this is really excessive, because the titanium alloy used is definitely a marketing stunt.

Titanium has unbelievable tensile strength for its weight, but there's no good reason to make an "underbody shield" out of titanium except for publicity. It would make way more sense to use steel (and maybe you could make a case for something ultra light weight, like carbon fiber, but probably not).

What are the characteristics of Titanium regarding corrosion and wear? One thing I have heard from several of the highly technical owners on the forums is that one of the reasons for the design choice of a mostly aluminum body is that there is no structurally weakening corrosion in reasonable use of the vehicle, even in areas that use a lot of salt and such on the roads.

Titanium has good anticorrosion properties. You see it often, for example, in stuff like heat exchangers that run in seawater for long duration. Considerably more stable than aluminum in most environments.

" the shields prevented any damage that could cause a fire or penetrate the existing quarter inch of ballistic grade aluminum armor plate that already protects the battery pack"

Ballistic grade aluminum armor plate... If there is one thing Tesla does well it is publicity. I know there are high strength steels but it seems like they want something that is strong and light. If it sounds like something impenetrable to the average customer that's even better for Tesla.

> Ballistic grade aluminum armor plate...

That's from the same marketing phrase-book as 'aircraft-grade aluminium'.

Lightweight armour ( e.g. personal protection ) uses ceramic plates.

Heavy armour ( e.g. tanks ) still uses steel alloys with composite and plastic layers. There were a few AFVs with aluminium armour, such as the M113 and Sheridan, but ballistic protection was restricted to small-arms and light shrapnel. A Sheridan could be ripped apart by a 12.7mm DhSK.

A quick Google search indicates that it's used commonly in armored cars and military vehicles.

eg: http://www.alcoa.com/global/en/products/product.asp?prod_id=...

Just for giggles, could it be that adding a heavier material such as steel would have a more significant impact on range due to the additional weight? Part of the upgrade pitch is that users only see a 1% decrease in range. With steel, perhaps you see a 3-5% decrease, and range has been the key argument for Tesla against other competitors.

0.1% decrease. Believe it or not, I know several owners who would not be satisfied with even a 1% decrease, especially if it is adding a safety feature that most of them feel is so unlikely to happen, they would have preferred never to have temporarily disabled the low height mode.

exactly my point - this is purely a marketing stunt.

Well the chances of actually penetrating the aluminum shell of the battery pack seem pretty low anyway. They are just answering the media shit storm they get for any little problem with an equally over kill replacement that will lead to media shit storm.

There's no such thing as bad press. As long as Tesla has people looking at them they're going to use the opportunity to push their product.

They were already using a 1/4 inch steel plate as an underbody shield but it wasn't strong enough to prevent piercing and fires in certain situations.

Apparently the people at Tesla calculated that the cost of adding these plates was worth the benefit of improved consumer protection and good publicity.

Weight is not an issue for this part because it actually helps further lower the cars center of gravity.

I wish my car had a titanium underbody, that would simply be badass.

But titanium is less dense than steel, hence preferred when weight is important. For an electric car, weight is paramount, I would think.

Actually, nope!

While it requires more initial force, that extra energy due to added mass is stored in kinetic energy, and contrary to popular belief, it does not affect efficiency. There was actually a myth busters episode about this.

Electric cars would store this added energy in their regenerative breaking, so it shouldn't affect energy consumption.

Also, the added weight of steel over titanium would be negligible, maybe 100 lbs tops.

I would think that 100 extra pounds, coupled with the inherent energy loss from inefficiency, would be a significant factor in the car's range. That's 75% of one extra passenger.

This site (http://www.jurassictest.ch/GR/) lets you plot a course for several EV models and set up some parameters such as weight. Adding a passenger to a Tesla knocks 9 Km off the range, according to them.

I didn't see the Myth Busters episode, but isn't there still a loss due to the inherent inefficiency of the motor and regen breaking?

TO answer everyone's questions below, think about the following example:

You have one car that's 1,000 lbs and one that's 10,000 lbs. When you start each car, it will take a lot more energy to bring the 10k lb car up to the same speed as the 1k lb car, but after that, the effects of drag will weigh more heavily on the lighter car (F=ma, so the rate of deacceleration is a lot higher for a smaller mass), causing constant fluctuations in the motor shutting on and off.

With the the 10k car, the transitions would take much longer. The time in between accelerations would be longer, and the motor would be on for longer spurts. You gain a great deal of efficiency for simply leaving a mechanical system running vs constantly modulating a mechanical system (i.e. shutting it on and off).

This would work in favor of the heavy car being more efficient.

Of course, the heavier your car is the worse your 0-60 split would be, so for a performance car that's a negative.

Also, the heavier car would experience greater bearing resistance + friction. This is really difficult to quantify, and my gut is that it's outweighed by the momentum advantage.

But overall, for a car that ways 2k lbs, a 5% increase in mass is pretty negligible, especially for casual highway and local driving.

> but after that, the effects of drag will weigh more heavily on the lighter car (F=ma, so the rate of deacceleration is a lot higher for a smaller mass), causing constant fluctuations in the motor shutting on and off.

All other things being equal, a heaver car will experience the exact same aerodynamic drag as a lighter car. Only the cross-sectional area and shape of the body come into play when determining how much opposing force air resistance provides. By the same token, the motor must supply a constant amount of torque to the wheels to counteract that force. If the force remains unchanged, so too does the torque required to counteract it. You're right about the rate being different, but as far as I know the motor doesn't cycle on and off like an air conditioner compressor does. It maintains a steady output.

What we're left with is an additional component of drag due to rolling resistance. A heaver car will deform the rubber tires more than a lighter one, and put more normal force into the bearings, causing that rolling resistance to be higher. I'm not sure what fraction of the total drag is due to rolling resistance vs. wind resistance--like you, I bet it's comparatively small, but still significant enough to show up in reduced range.

> Also, the heavier car would experience greater bearing resistance + friction. This is really difficult to quantify, and my gut is that it's outweighed by the momentum advantage.

I may be wrong here, but I don't see having an increased momentum as being an advantage. It takes more energy to build up that increased momentum, and you don't get it all back from regenerative braking

A heavier car may be more efficient, if you calculate efficiency as [Energy used] / [Total mass], but the better way to calculate the real-word efficiency is [Energy used] / [Mass of stupid driver who doesn't deserve this car as much as I do, when do I get to have one?]

Sorry - was away for a while. The drag FORCE will be the same, but the lighter car will deaccel faster as I clearly stated above. F=m*a thus: F/m = a

Think of it like this: it's really easy to push a car that weighs one pound. Much harder to push a car that weighs 1000 pounds.

The momentum advantage was explained in the first point.

Regenerative braking does not capture 100% of the force used to accelerate to that speed. Far from it.

According to this article: http://www.teslamotors.com/blog/magic-tesla-roadster-regener...

The Roadster's regen braking is at most 64% efficient. I'm guessing in real driving scenarios, it will be much less.

In a sense, Teslas are the least safe cars on the road, because I'd kill every single one of you in order to own one.

If you promise not to kill me, I promise to give you a single 15 minute or 5 mile test drive somewhere in the southern NH area, or possibly in some other area that I happen to road trip through.

As a fellow NH-ite, who would almost certainly have bought one already if he still lived in California: how does the battery do on -15˚ mornings?

tl;dr: You'll lose maybe as much as 10% of your charge overnight if not plugged in, and the first 15 to 20 miles would cost double the amount of energy.

Most people charge every night so you always have an 80% full battery whenever you want to go somewhere. If you left it unplugged on a very cold night, you could lose maybe as much as 20 or 30 miles off the rated range due to the car using electricity to run the battery heating system to prevent any damage to the battery.

There are a lot of variables, the most important of which are how far you plan to drive, whether you pre-warm the car while it is on AC power, and how you drive it.

The standard 80% charge for the 85kWh battery is about 230 miles. That range translates to an average consumption of 290 Watt hours per mile. If you jumped into the car on a cold morning and just started driving, you would probably be consuming upwards of 400 to maybe even 500 Wh per mile for the first 15 to 20 miles as both the battery and cabin were heated. After that, things would taper down and you could easily hit 300 Wh per mile for the rest of your trip. A bunch of starting and stopping such as running errands would make that worse because it would take longer to heat due to the cool-downs when parked.

If you had it plugged in overnight and in the morning, you used the smartphone app to turn on the cabin heater though, it would use your AC power to not only heat the cabin but also start warming up the battery. Then, when you actually started driving, you would already be at that 300 Wh or so average.

We have never had any issues with not having enough charge to go somewhere, even on the occasions where we forgot to plug it in overnight. Our typical daily errand trips can be between 15 and 40 miles.

Very helpful, thanks for the detailed response!

I would really love to drive a Model S. I'm not sure if all of the Californians on HN realize how special CA is for seeing awesome cars. I saw cars that I never thought I would see in person (in my lifetime) when I was in CA. Not only that but you would see them a handful at a time. I know of 4-5 Model S' in the Pittsburgh area but rarely see exotics.

Check out the teslamotorsclub.com forums, become part of the community, make some friends, crash^H^H^H^H^H drop in on one of their outings or get-togethers. While it isn't every single owner, a surprising number of them are very happy to give detailed tours of their cars and even test drives. In that aspect, it is a very very different population from other luxury or high-performance vehicle owners.


I've driven it 3 times now and plan to do so again. $25/hour makes for a really fun weekend outing.

That site basically works for CA and Chicago. This just proves my point about CA having awesome cars everywhere. You can rent a Model S for $25!

Really, it's actually quite simple, I clicked "Test Drive" button on their website, week later they called me, I showed up at show room and test-driven it for 30 min. Try it.

The problem with that was that I couldn't get to a showroom. Now that they've expanded the closest one is probably about a 2.5 hour drive. Still doable but for a car that I can't actually afford it's kind of tough to justify. Did sit in one when I was in LA and it was very nice.

Pittsburgh has more interesting cars than I'd expected: I've seen an orange lambo or two, and an Enzo...

Not to mention all the cool stuff that comes out during the Vintage Grand Prix.

Hey Steve, not sure if you remember me from Vivisimo/PGH.RB but nice to see you drop here. I have yet to see an Enzo, I actually can't remember the last Ferrari I saw in the area. There is a GTR parked in front of the building every now and then and that is exciting in PA. In CA that's just an every day sight.


Totally agree about the usual-ness. I see four or five Model Ses a day now.

"An ode to passive/aggressive and hyper defensive writing"

Did this remind anyone else of when the smartest kid in the room was forced to apologize for something and you got the classic non apology apology?

Keep building great cars Elon and changing the world. Understand that we understand that there will be (I almost said bumps in the road) and that no one expected you to be perfect in every way from the very beginning. Trust someone close to you to help write these things.

"When you're doing something as new as we are with Tesla you're going to draw an outsized amount of scrutiny. Even though these fires were both in extreme circumstances, and that fires are sadly a regular occurrence for all vehicle makers, as a brand new concept it's not good enough for us to say 'We're as safe as any other comparable high end vehicle' We have to go a step further. And so today I'm announcing......" I mean I'm just throwing something together quickly but I'm trying to put some substance here vs sounding randomly snarky.

I'd be pretty damn actively aggressive if someone was trying to make me apologize for manufacturing a car that kept its occupant safe in a 110mph crash.

I think that's how he feels. And yet they've decided to add the titanium plate. Which is why maybe someone else should (help) write these.

Who? A PR drone who would say much while communicating nothing, and do so in the most boring, robotic manner possible?

Normal people don't spend their time thinking about how much more they would like it if an executive's statements conformed to the PR industry's self-serving standards.

Why? I think it sounds better directly from him.

The industry is full of non-personal appeals. One that's personal and stays personal even if it's a bit defensive, is just more authentic and appealing.

Besides who reads these? I doubt a large percentage of potential buyers do - mostly likely already fans of Tesla, who probably agree with Musk anyway.

But really, yours doesn't sound as good as his. His made me kinda want to buy a Tesla.

He is one heck of a car salesman.

It sounds like you are jealous of Musk's intelligence, and so you write something that puts down smart people and talks down to them in a patronizing way.

Why else would you lump all smart people together, and claim they have some psychological issues that you (not so smart maybe, but much more mature), can help with?

The error you made is taking "Do you remember that smart kid in school" and reading it as "This is the only way smart people in school ever apologize" Quite different. For the record I am neither jealous or enamored with Musk. Like all people he has his strengths and weaknesses. His are magnified as is common with people who have his drive and impact on the world.

Yes which is childish and pathetic.

Car safety should never, ever be joked about. People's lives are at stake.

John Cleese doesn't agree:

    “Too many people confuse being serious with being solemn.”
He expands:

    Now I suggest to you that a group of us could be sitting around after dinner,
    discussing matters that were extremely serious like the education of our chil-
    dren, or our marriages, or the meaning of life (and I’m not talking about the
    film), and we could be laughing, and that would not make what we were discuss-
    ing one bit less serious.
    Solemnity, on the other hand, I honestly don’t know what it’s for. I mean,
    what is the point of it? The two most beautiful memorial services that I’ve 
    ever attended both had a lot of humor and it freed us all and made the ser-
    vices inspiring and cathartic. But solemnity, it serves pomposity and the self-
    important always know, at some level of their consciousness, that their egotism
    is going to be punctured by humor. That’s why they see it as a threat. 
and as an example:

    “Graham Chapman, co-author of the "Parrot Sketch", is no more. He has ceased 
    to be. Bereft of life, he rests in peace. He's kicked the bucket, hopped the 
    twig, bit the dust, snuffed it, breathed his last, and gone to meet the great 
    Head of Light Entertainment in the sky. And I guess that we're all thinking 
    how sad it is that a man of such talent, of such capability for kindness, of 
    such unusual intelligence, should now so suddenly be spirited away at the age 
    of only forty-eight, before he'd achieved many of the things of which he was 
    capable, and before he'd had enough fun. Well, I feel that I should say: non-
    sense. Good riddance to him, the freeloading bastard, I hope he fries. And the
    reason I feel I should say this is he would never forgive me if I didn't, if
    I threw away this glorious opportunity to shock you all on his behalf. Any-
    thing for him but mindless good taste.
    (He paused, then claimed that Chapman had whispered in his ear while he was 
    writing the speech):
    All right, Cleese. You say you're very proud of being the very first person 
    ever to say 'shit' on British television. If this service is really for me, 
    just for starters, I want you to become the first person ever at a British 
    memorial service to say 'fuck'.”

And here's the video of Cleese reading the eulogy at Chapman's memorial http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CkxCHybM6Ek

People want to test this car to extremes, it is as if they are subjecting it it the coding equivalent of DDOS attack with some sql injection payload of a Stuxnet virus. Let's see what else the media find wrong with this car, e.g.:

'After flying into a cloud of paint and superglue the windscreen wipers failed to work resulting in a dangerous collision'.

(As if that happens every day and as if any other car would do better.)

If the naysayers keep up their petulant trolling then this car will be good for a road trip in Afghanistan some time soon.

Elon is revealing too much hubris in his messaging. You can treat people around you like that, but lining up too many people against you is foolish.

His intent is to PR+burnish the added safety feature. Instead of selling it as an objective demonstration of the leadership tact that Tesla takes in ensuring driver security, he gets passive-aggressive.

Instead of laying out a tremendous history of safety as a foundation for a vision of the future of driving, he lords it as an accomplished achievement... which means the first time someone gets stuck inside the car and is burned alive, all these statements will bite him in the ass. It doesn't matter if that happened 100 times in gas cars the same year. Those manufacturers weren't overselling it.

In aggressively projecting strength, it expresses weakness.

tesla is weak. they are a huge underdog against the other car companies. they are david versus goliath. they are being cocky. that's what the small dog does :-)

there is a risk of a bad accident that could be bad pr. that risk exists with or without the arrogance. elon musk has a high tolerance for calculated risk. that's why he's a billionaire and you and i are 2nd guessing him on hacker news.

"elon musk has a high tolerance for calculated risk"

And perhaps he will be the survivor that is referred to when stories about survivorship bias are passed around. Or maybe he will crash and burn with that calculated risk.

"that's why he's a billionaire and you and i are 2nd guessing him on hacker news."

There are billionaires (or close to it) on hacker news btw.

Of course if one of those "billionaires" went out and said something like that that wouldn't go over to well would it?

Would you like a commenter on HN to say something like "well that's why you are driving a used Yugo and I am driving a brand new Lamborghini that I paid cash for?" as justification for why they know something or are somehow better than you are?

So the first death Tesla ever had will nullify their safety record? Ok.

All the first death will do is have media go nuts, then Musk will make another blog post calling them idiots for making a big deal of 1 death in the history of Tesla, compared to the thousands of every other car manufacturer.

On the website: "Welcome! We noticed that you are in Canada . Would you like to view the Canadian version of the site? Visit the Canadian Site" as a small unobtrusive banner along the bottom of the screen that disappears if I continue to scroll through the article. This is the BEST implementation of this geothing I have ever seen. Especially compared to Newegg's massive grey screen banner that asks me every fucking time and never remembers my answer.

The biggest take away from that article for me is that they are offering the fix for free to current owners. How many other car companies would do that? Unless they where required to by law which is clearly not the case here.

The risk of fire from collision was significantly higher that from conventional ICE. The figures Elon used included fires from electrical and mechanical failures, and even arson. Raising the car mitigated the risks in the short term. This is a long term solution. Kudos.

Here is full statistical analysis of why it was a real problem.


The post doesn't mention the titanium alloy or thickness of the shield, both of which make a significant difference. Pure titanium (Grade 2) isn't especially strong compared to aluminum or steel, but it is less expensive. Heat treated 6Al-4V alloy, AKA Grade 5 on the other hand, is the stuff used in military aircraft and the like.

"This happened after the vehicle impacted a roundabout at 110 mph"

My pity meter regarding the resulting vehicle fire doesn't seem to be moving.

Let me send you an over the air update to your geek control unit. You're supposed to be cackling with joy along with Elon.

Dear Internet, please make a tumblr of Tesla car gifs running over things. Thanks!

Very, very good idea.

Personally I think the ground clearance is still a bit on the low side.

It looks like it lost a bolt or something in the first impact image... oops.

I noticed that too but can't tell whether it's a plastic "rivet". If you look at the plastic fairings on your car, you'll see that many are held to the body with a snap-fit plastic connector. These are also used as blind fittings on many interior panels (such as door panels). They break and detach often enough that my local hardware store carries the more common ones.

Definitely a plastic rivet. It's too pointy to be a bolt, and you can see the thin 'head' separated from the flange which releases it.

Yep, I can confirm, there are hundreds of those throughout the car to connect pieces that are either cosmetic or not tied to the safety or performance of the car. For instance, the plastic shell inside the frunk is connected to the car with them.

It's probably a plastic rivet holding the plastic aeroshield Elon mentions as the first line of impact absorption.

He's making cars which are implausibly high-tech, ridiculously well armoured, have inexplicably low ground clearance, and look rad.

Elon Musk is Batman, and i claim my five pounds.

Lost bolt versus a lost $40k battery pack? I'll take the bolt option, please :)

I assumed that was part of the trailer hitch that was being run over.

You can never be too low! #flush

"With a track record of zero deaths or serious, permanent injuries since our vehicles went into production six years ago, there is no safer car on the road than a Tesla."

I don't doubt that the Tesla Model S is a very safe car as tests have shown. With that said, how many deaths and serious injuries would have been expected considering the same number of miles driven with normal cars? Are Teslas actually substantially safer than other cars or are there just few enough out there that no serious injuries have happened?

Yes, they actually are in the 99th percentile of safety among all cars ever tested in the USA (per the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration). So it's not just that most ppl 2 po'.

What I actually want to know is if you had the same number of other average cars driving the same distance as the Teslas, how many people could you expect to be killed in these cars.

Here is my crude estimation. If we consider that there are 3.2 * 10^-4 people killed in traffic per car per year[1] and that there are 20000 Tesla Model S on the road[2], then we get that there should have been about 6 deaths.

Now most of the Teslas have not been on the road for a whole year probably so I'm not sure how valid this estimation is.

This seems to be some indication that zero deaths is very low for this number of cars but to be sure I think one would need to make a more detailed estimate. Doing some statistical analysis would also be good.

[1] https://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=traffic+deaths+per+car... [2]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tesla_Model_S

Thats a terrible metric if you consider that some cars cost more to insure not because of the vehicle or make but simply because of the kind of people that tend to drive it.

Of course, that's why I said it was a crude estimate.

On the other hand, since the Tesla S is a quite high performance car, you could expect it to get into more accidents than the average car.

food for thought: http://www.teslamotors.com/about/press/releases/tesla-model-...

Always impressed in the companys ability to push things further. They will do to some of the current manufactures what Apple did to Blackberry and Nokia.

I kinda feel Nokia self destructed more than it was destroyed by Apple. It was a sad journey to watch right up the the sale. But reminds me I should see what's the latest with Sailfish and Ubuntu Touch.

As soon as I have funds to do so, I'm buying a Tesla Model S. I'm amazed at the dedication to the process of building a superior product.

You know what I love about Tesla? They continue to innovate and create change in the auto industry, most of all as a company they are powered by transparency.

Similar to other luxury auto companies they facilitate innovation. While luxury car companies strive to create beautiful, seamless and future-forward vehicles at a high cost, they can afford (similar to startups) to bring in new ideas to not only rule out competition but give them a market advantage. For example - recently McLaren came up with a way to introduce sound waves, instead of windshield wipers, wipers are a pain! (Not to say that the device generating the waves wouldn't be) Can you imagine toyota, chrysler, or ford doing something of the sort? Of Course not - it takes probably 20 hours for them to build one of theirs, where it might take Rolls Royce 6-7 months. However there are different profit margins and reputable name sake.

I like to think Elon has engineered his company nicely in between :), he surely got pissed off by the media and had fun adding that ballistic plate to the bottom

I just had a thought that Elon Musk owning both Tesla and SpaceX, the next logical step would be an electric powered airplane or a chopper. It could be an airplane/chopper that would glide down to safety in case of a mechanical failure, or crash land on rough terrain without fear of catching fire. That would disrupt aviation industry like never before.

Musk has spoken about electric aircraft. It's inevitable and just a question of batteries.

> we provided an over-the-air software update a few months ago to increase the default ground clearance of the Model S at highway speeds

Let's just think about how awesome that is for a moment.

I was just about to write this....it's like Gran Turismo in real life!

This is one of those moments when we need to just stop, take a breath, and realize how truly epic and breakthrough this is.

Especially as someone that lives in a developing country...where the vast majority of the cars on the road are at least 10-years old....this is just mind-blowingly-awesome!

However, to improve things further, we provided an over-the-air software update a few months ago to increase the default ground clearance of the Model S at highway speeds, substantially reducing the odds of a severe underbody impact.

This is the most crazy thing about the press release and I feel like it went largely unnoticed. Not that it is a bad thing at all but it really illustrates that we're totally living in a different world than what I grew up with. Cars are now largely defined by software.

Are there any other car manufacturers that have similar levels of clearance? I'd be intrigued to see how they perform in the same test scenarios that the Teslas were run against.

The problem is the expectations for other car manufacturers are much lower in terms of safety. So these companies do not try to push the safety envelope any higher.

The exception would be Volvo.

Yep. Imagine there are plenty of gasoline cars that have the potential for the gas tank to be punctured, and well that seems like it could turn out much worse. The problem is that electric vehicles are scrutinized to the point that Tesla actually has to defend the one of chance that something punctures the battery pack. A lot of gas tanks are visible under a car with a thin layer of steel protecting them. The straps holding the tank in my Ford truck rusted through. I had the optional off road package that includes a skid plat for the gas tank. Without that plate it certainly would have dropped and I can only guess what might happen. However, that recall got nowhere near the media coverage Tesla gets for anything.

GM left bad ignition switches in the cobalt for something like 8 years. People died when the switched locked up.

Actually, in the particular case of an object such as the trailer hitch that can easily pike into the body of the car when struck, it is less likely that it would damage the fuel tank of an ICE than the battery compartment of the Model S because the gas tank on an ICE is at the rear, and the object would likely pike well before getting all the way back there. Since the battery of the Model S extends all the way to the front axle, there is a greater risk.

All that said, there is still the risk of the object striking some critical component in the engine of an ICE which is typically in the front. And the strike could easily damage something like a fuel line which could possibly start a fire.

>The problem is the expectations for other car manufacturers are much lower in terms of safety.

Do you have anything to base this on?

Do you really believe the safety expectations of the Model S are much higher than those placed on companies building millions upon millions of vehicles for everyday people, families, police, ambulances, delivery and public transportation vehicles and race cars?

See GM and the ignition issue.

See Toyota and the $1.2 billion dollar settlement for the acceleration issue.

Both are fairly recent developments.

    "However, to improve things further, we provided an over-
    the-air software update a few months ago to increase the 
    default ground clearance of the Model S at highway speeds, 
    substantially reducing the odds of a severe underbody 
How can a software update impact ground clearance at highway speeds? Is this some special capability of the suspension in a Tesla or are more cars capable of this type of adjustment?

The ground clearance is controlled in software. I'm not sure if it's pneumatic or something else, but it's definitely under the control of some computer system somewhere in the car.

Cause and effect: A statistically insignificant number of fires in Teslas caused a disproportionate amount of news coverage (there was much less news coverage about Tesla's best-ever safety rating). This perception needs to be overcome, even if it means informed consumers having to pay for titanium underneath otherwise safe cars. Tesla is doing their part, but it's a shame to see so many outside factors driving up the cost.

I worry about the effects of this overdoing it on the eventual Gen 3 vehicle. Clearly, at least in general a luxury vehicle that costs $70-100K is going to have more wizbang safety features than a $35K mid-range car. However, if Tesla is advocating this shielding to make electric batteries less likely to catch on fire, and then the Gen 3 skimps on electric-specific safety features they could definitely get PR flak for it. On the other hand, if they want to maintain this super-safe image, it is going to push the price up (and my guess the timeout out) for the more general appeal vehicle.

I'm hoping that my current vehicle lasts just long enough (both in terms of mechanically, and my patience with it getting older) for Tesla to come out with something in my price range.

(there was much less news coverage about Tesla's best-ever safety rating)

Probably because NHTSA told them to cut it out.[1]

[1] http://www.theverge.com/2013/11/23/5135258/nhtsa-tesla-star-...

Nice move on their part. I think while the Tesla may be less fire-prone than other cars, Musk exaggerates it:

"The odds of fire in a Model S, at roughly 1 in 8,000 vehicles, are five times lower than those of an average gasoline car..."

What matters is the miles driven by cars, not the number of cars on the roads. It seems likely that other cars are driven longer distances, and Tesla cars are probably used by many owners as a second car.

What matters is making the appropriate comparison. Which in this case would be with a population of high-end gasoline driven cars of equivalent age.

The population of extant cars contains vehicles that are decades old. It's ought to be unsurprising that they have a higher rate of vehicle fires than the Teslas do. How to the Teslas compare with (say) BMW 5-series cars less than three years old?

Gotta say, I don't know a single Model S owner who uses it as a second car. In a recent thread on the forums asking whether there had been any reported thefts, one person shared the story of how their wife will occasionally come to where his MS is parked and swap it out with her car so she can drive it on her errands. A couple of other owners mentioned this happening to them, and I can attest it has happened both ways with our car.

When you are fortunate enough to own and drive one of these, most people cannot be content ever going back to an ICE.

Exaggeration, perhaps, but the majority of collisions occur on local roads rather than on highways, and as you say, the Tesla is more likely to be used locally than on long highway trips, hence more exposed to drunks running stop signs and so forth.

None of which has anything to do with vehicle fires, which is the topic at hand.

Vehicle fires are a potential result of collisions, no? They don't just occur spontaneously.

Sure they do. Vehicle fires occur spontaneously, due to sabotage (the most common reason), due to various acts of god, due to road debris, and due to collisions.

Anyway, two of the three Tesla fires were on freeways, not local roads. The third was under somewhat mysterious circumstances (Mexico).

Kudos for an engineering led solution. I have no idea what "ballistics grade aluminum" is (since nobody uses ALU for ballistics armour##), but Ti has more inherent toughness# and seems a better fit as a skid-plate.

# elongation and tensile strength.

## The ballistic standard for armour (RHA) is a 1/4 steel plate. Ballistic Alu is roughly 1/2 inch or double the thickness used here, in most applications.

Think tanks not people. Aluminum is far cheaper than what you would put in armor vests but still light and strong. Ceramics are arguably better overall, but combining the two is a net win. Anyway, ballistic grade aluminum actually does refer to something and is probably better for cars which don't have to deal with anti tank rounds.

EX: http://www.cliftonsteel.com/aluminum-armor-plate.html

Yeah, I hear you but 1/4 inch is not bulletproof. Its like saying "ballistics grade sand". Which in sufficient thicknesses, is bulletproof =D.

"MIL-DTL-46027 is supplied as a 5083-H131 product. Ballistic reports are supplied for thicknesses over 0.499" per specification. Our stock range is 0.250" thru 3". Typical stock size is 72" wide x 144" long."

Similar qualification for



For more reference on mil-spec ballistic tests, see


Section 4, figure 4 (p.7)

(since nobody uses ALU for ballistics armour)

The M2-series Bradley IFV uses aluminum armor. You'd think they would have learned from the Vietnam War era M113 APC that aluminum would burn readily.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M2_Bradley http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M113_armored_personnel_carrier

It's probably a reference to the increasingly common use of aluminum plate armor in military vehicles. Aluminum has some distinct weight advantages that make it ideal for light armor.

Tesla will need to continue to fight this PR with the truth and improvements like this; for the big 3, the oil companies, and dealership organizations will continue to try to put them down.

They need us to help spread the truth, as much as we need significant improvements in the automotive/transportation industry.

Did anyone else notice a screw coming detached from the titanium underbody shield after the impact of the three ball tow hitch, you can also see the shield bend on the impact of the concrete block and the hole where the screw was. It would be kind of ironic if this actually made the car less safe.

Plastic rivet, used to hold other plastic pieces to the underside of the car. Probably in this case it's holding on a plastic splash/aero shield, which is what bent. No big deal.

Damn things fall off all the time. Go look under yours, I bet you're missing a few. And you haven't crushed any alternators in the process.

I was actually pretty disappointed to see that--because I hate those things. I guess it was too much to believe that Tesla wouldn't have any of those damned plastic clips. I guess once I get my (rather unlikely) Model S I'll still have a reason to go to AutoZone.

As posted elsewhere it is a plastic snap fastener. Likely a secondary attachment for fit and vibration. No way is it structural or it's absence compromise the structural integrity. Do you honestly think they might have overlooked it if it was critical?

If my car went over a concrete block with nothing more than a dent in the underside I'd be very happy.

There's another side for the story.. Car Dealers Could be “Napsterized”


Assuming the underbody plate is only 2mm thick, the Model S is suddenly accelerating 5% slower. To put it otherwise, every acceleration now takes at least 4% more energy (> 0.01 kWh for an acceleration from from 0 to 65 mph). Sounds great for city driving.

Can we see your calculation and reasoning or did you make the numbers up?

Footprint is 2×5 m. Sheet volume is 2×5×0.002 = 0.02 m³. Titanium density is 4507 kg/m³. That gives 90 kg. Without the aluminium deflector.

Normal Tesla Model S curb weight is 2108 kg according to Wikipedia. Extra 90 kg is 4.2% mass increase => 4.2% more kinetic energy at the same speed => more energy consumption to accelerate. It also means, that the same force applied to the heavier Model S will accelerate it slower (a = F/m).

I appreciate the response.

I'm still skeptical about the actual energy usage. If the % more kinetic energy applies equally to battery energy usage.

"However, to improve things further, we provided an over-the-air software update a few months ago to increase the default ground clearance of the Model S at highway speeds, substantially reducing the odds of a severe underbody impact."

That is just so cool.

Definitely the amount of effort Tesla is devoting to ensure the safety of passengers is highly appreciated. I was awaiting for their Cars to be launched in my country. Definitely I would buy one :) Keep rocking Tesla!

An OTA update to increase the ground clearance at highway speeds. Wow. Just wow. I for one welcome the future and please give this man all the money he wants.

love Musk's posts, esp "peace of mind", free retrofit, and that amazing crash that was walked away from.

but although there's "ballistic" grade alumimium, titanium that's usually found in "military" applications, and the steel "spear" braced in asphalt test, will it survive assault rifle fire? or anti-tank weapons? how about a tactical nuclear strike? i mean, is it really safe?

Yeah I can already see the headlines.

> "Model S catches fire due to direct impact from nuclear missile".

Media goes apeshit and Musk responds by equipping Model S with anti-missile defense system.

"In short, if you ever run over a human head the car is designed to complete decimate it and break it into several pieces." Wow that's harsh.

I'm guessing the actual titanium shield is relatively small, but either way I hope it's welded to the car well, as that stuff is valuable.

Titanium is more expensive than it is valuable. Most of the high cost of titanium products comes from the relatively very expensive purification process and difficulty machining.

"is more expensive than it is valuable" does not makes sense, since the value of something is what people are willing to pay for it. If it is expensive then it has a high value.

Not so. Expensive - how much it costs to make it. Valuable - how much someone else would pay for it.

So, if I was to spent loads on parts to make a relatively useless widget that fills a particular niche in my daily life, it would be expensive, but I wouldn't view it as valuable. It's only as valuable as it is expensive if there are lots of people who want it, which is not the case for custom work.

To expand further with example; a titanium under plate may cost $2000 to install(amort design, testing, manufacturing, etc.). But unless you happen to own a Telsa with a missing under plate it's value is less than $100 as scrap recycling.

until somebody drives Model S in Iraq and hits IED ...

sounds more like a tank

Long live Tesla and Elon Musk! People like him are the hope of humanity that we actually going forward (rather slowly but hey)...

Elon Musk is the heartthrob of our generation, producing electric cars, space rockets, wish I was as successful.

Curious that it doesn't mention battery swaps. Since this is a PR piece I'm assuming from lack of mention that you can no longer swap batteries after having the extra battery shield added.

Battery swap was always a gimmick -- you had to return to the same swap station later to get your same battery back or pay a huge fee. Come on.

It looks like they decided fires are worse PR than this gimmick is good PR.

Stop. You're harshing my myopautopia with all your fact checking. Please reaquire a position within the jerculus circulus.

"With a track record of zero deaths or serious, permanent injuries since our vehicles went into production six years ago, there is no safer car on the road than a Tesla."

I recall one Tesla caused death[1], and I'm sure there have been more. Not that I really think Tesla is any more dangerous than any other car in this regard though.

[1] http://blog.sfgate.com/energy/2014/02/07/tesla-driver-blames...

For those that don't follow the link, this death was a cyclist hit by a Tesla driver. Not a car occupant so I feel the claim is valid as someone hitting a cyclist is largely out of their control until/if they move to driverless models.

Just checking... did you read that article? It says the car's "new car smell" caused the driver to suddenly fall asleep and kill a cyclist.

Not sure if the car was actually at fault there...

It actually says that the driver claimed that it was the reason.

"He told officers that the car had a strong, new-car smell that prompted him to use a baking soda car freshener in it. Jain told authorities that the smell caused him to fall asleep and there were no mechanical problems with the car..."

But you're probably correct that the car was not at fault, the driver was probably just grasping for straws.

There was also this[1] accident where a Tesla utterly destroyed an Accord in a head-on collision. Again, the fatalities were not occupants of the Tesla.

The Model S weighs roughly the same as a midsize SUV. I wonder if the difference in weight distribution makes it more or less dangerous for the other car in an accident.

[1] http://jalopnik.com/tesla-model-s-driver-veers-into-oncoming...

It is a sad truth that there has been at least one traffic accident involving a Tesla Model S that caused two deaths, and I suspect probably several others. The obvious difference is that the deaths weren't people in the Tesla but rather the people in the other vehicles.

The Model S is a frightening concept in a major collision. It has crumple zones and all those wonderful safety features like air bags and such that make it considerably safer on the inside, but on the outside, it is significantly heavier than many other cars on the road, it has a very low center of gravity and a very evenly distributed mass which means no matter what angle of impact, the other car is likely to end up a crumpled heap. :/

If you look at some of the photos on the forums or the web, you can't help but wince and hope that the people in the other car survived, let alone walked away.

I'm sorry but my first reaction is "What a waste". Titanium is ridiculously expensive for various reasons. The best these engineers could come up with is to put a sheet of metal under the car? You got to be kidding me. I see why they have to use Titanium for it, anything else doesn't work, but it shows how far away this car is from reality and from true mass production.

My feelings too. However, as much as I like steel, I find it incredible that most cars use very heavy materials, e.g. steel, instead of aluminium, plastic, carbon fibre and titanium. Such materials are common on bicycles and planes.

Moving a tonne or two of steel around is a real waste, particularly when it rusts. At least with this wondercar the bottom is flat and aerodynamically sound, unlike all of those legacy vehicles out there.

Well, it's not like they can just redesign the entire platform at this point. Slapping some titanium on is probably the best move they can make right now. It should satisfy any government and customer concerns for a problem that was pretty rare to begin with.

As for the other materials we've been using them sparingly in vehicles. The new Ford F150 is using much more aluminum, enough to bring the weight down by about 900 pounds. Yet people are still criticizing aluminum as a material choice. It's not hard to see that aluminum, carbon fiber and other light weight materials are the future of vehicles. Yet some people are still afraid because they associate heavy steal with strength. That aluminum hood is the only part on my old truck that is not rusting through. Lighters, stronger, no rust. Where is the negative?

I think the concerns of the aluminum body panels on the new F-150 is specific to this segment (trucks). Utility vehicles are expected to take more abuse. Getting hit with tools/logs/ladders/etc. isn't uncommon and people are afraid their truck will look like a golf ball after a year.

The main drawback of aluminum body panels is that it's difficult (i.e. expensive) to make them. I would imaging fatigue (from vibrations, for example) is also a larger problem in this application with aluminum than it is with steel.

Citation on difficulties of fabrication (introduction paragraphs): http://www.thefabricator.com/article/stamping/warm-forming-o...

Additional considerations when designing dies for aluminum forming: http://www.schulergroup.com/major/us/technologien/produkte/a...

A list of some cars using aluminum body panels: http://www.paintgages.com/List-of-Car-Manufacturers-who-use-...

Land-Rover have been using aluminium body panels since 1948, and they can deal with untold amounts of abuse and still keep going. You just swap out the panels when they get too dented.

I think that aluminum holds up better against dings like a car door hitting your door.

Titanium alloy sheets are not that expensive. Something like what is shown in the video is probably less than $500. Seems like a pretty good value if it protects the batteries from damage on a $60,000 car.

Also metal under shields are quite common as vehicle upgrades and not as novel as you might think.

What was your second reaction? After you gave them a benfit of doubt and remembered how light titanium is.

Your statements are in conflict with each other and are glued together with an ad hominem argument. You should focus on why you think increasing safety of a car beyond anything we've known thus far is a 'waste' instead of trying to use a simple bias to devalue the work they've put into it.

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