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Tesla Adds Titanium Underbody Shield and Aluminum Deflector Plates to Model S (teslamotors.com)
631 points by austenallred 1332 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.

http://www.teslamotors.com/true-cost-of-ownership


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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=VOqW...

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?


No.


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.



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!

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liebeck_v._McDonald's_Restauran...)


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.

Reiterated:

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...





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

EDIT:

By they I mean the Media.

I guess I should add some substance.

http://www.nasa.gov/topics/nasalife/features/nesc-toyota-stu...

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.

http://www.viva64.com/en/a/0083/

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.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/15/automobiles/citing-chargin...


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.

http://consumerist.com/2014/03/25/gm-knew-chevy-cobalt-ignit...


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

    1,600,000
       29,000


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.

[0]http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB1000142412788732466910...


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:

http://autos.yahoo.com/blogs/motoramic/second-tesla-model-fi...


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.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Active_suspension


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:

http://www.techstars.com/program/mentors/kmusk/



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.

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