Buried in the new NHTSA report, the one that exonerates AutoPilot, is a reference to Tesla’s new software initiatives aimed at mitigating some common parking lot disasters.
TeslaMondo is pleased that Tesla is displeased with its super-intelligent cars driving face-first into signs, pools and walls. Remember this post, wherein TeslaMondo decries scenes of super-smart Teslas behaving no better than 1970s Datsuns when it comes to the parking lot pedal dance that trips up so many club-footed Americans?
The only problem with the Tesla initiatives is that their names just aren’t wordy enough. The world needs MORE complex names for software initiatives. How ’bout:
“You see it’s a crazed job bringing up the rock generation.
It’s my motivation to avoid the nauseation frustration
When I need some lubrication, baby.” — Ted Nugent, Tesla software engineer
Here’s a video of the attention-seeking customer showing off his allegedly shoddy Tesla suspension component. Tesla’s good will gesture, helping him with his out-of-warranty claim, obviously was wasted on him.
And to further prove that no good deed goes unpunished, Tesla now has to suffer an attention-seeking journalist. Yes, another one. It seems they will never stop baiting Tesla, if only to rattle the easily-rattled CEO and thereby bring the clicks. Musk is making it too easy for the Ed Niedermeyers of the world to get satisfaction.
TeslaMondo has read Niedermeyer’s stuff since he was editor of The Truth About Cars. He has no flagrant biases except a Love Jones for Toyota, disgust for Detroit and a mistrust of electric cars. He predicted the Volt would bomb, calling it an electric lemon. He wasn’t totally wrong. He also predicted Tesla would prove to be nothing but a niche, not a revolution. He’s looking wronger by the year on that count, as Tesla devours high-buck market share and drags other automakers, kicking and screaming, into the EV market.
Also, TTAC ran the Tesla Death Watch series under his purview. Whether he started or ended it matters not at all. Perhaps Tesla’s reference to it during the shareholder meeting made Niedermeyer uncomfy. He’s used to playing offense, not defense. Last year he posted an undercover vid from the bushes near a Tesla Supercharger, showing a diesel generator acting as a temporary backup power source. He likes to irk auto companies and then bask in any attention he gets from company brass. So one could say his agenda revolves around the promotion of . . . Ed Niedermeyer.
UPDATE. The ill will has polluted the NHTSA’s easily-polluted database of complaints, according to Musk on Twitter. The vast majority of suspension complaints are phony. And the agency does not want any more info from Tesla, he added, so it’s a dead issue anyway.
Let’s hope these tweets don’t bring a brush-back from the NHTSA. Musk has mischaracterized NHTSA positions before, at least according to the agency. He once claimed Tesla requested a full investigation of Model S fires (The agency said that never happened). He claimed Model S got a 5.4 crash test rating (The agency said there’s no such rating). He also ruffled feathers when he proclaimed there would “definitely” be no Model S recall for fires caused by highway debris striking the battery-laden underbelly (The agency was still investigating.) Telsa did end up installing a titanium shield to douse the issue instantly.
Something fishy going on here with these fake suspension complaints? A conspiracy? No, probably just someone trying to build a case against Tesla in some yet-unnamed legal action, or trying to pressure Tesla into more good will repairs. Crying “conspiracy,” or even implying it, just makes you look paranoid, even if you turn out to be correct. And paranoia, you know, is the hobgoblin of cult leaders. Tesla needs to shed the cult image, not embrace it.
UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: Looks like the suspension problem depicted on the NHTSA website comes down to one loose nut — of the human variety. Some guy from Australia spreads ill will about Tesla in the form of false NHTSA complaints. He’s also convinced SpaceX fakes its rocket landings. So now, in the public mind, Niedermeyer is aligned with this looney-tune. Hey, that’s what happens when you go fishing for bad news. Sometimes you hook something you wish you hadn’t.
Assuming Tesla vanguards “autopilot” and ever-purer autonomous driving using V2V technology, Tesla may find itself on the front lines of yet another battle — this time from people who fear government tracking, terrorist hacking and myriad health hazards from radio-frequency overload.
The NHTSA is very bullish on V2V, and has just issued a big, thick, meaty update all about its efforts to bring it to market smoothly. It’s available here. Scroll down and click just below the big, yellow comment button. As with most government docs, even the executive summary needs a summary, so here is TeslaMondo’s summary of the NHTSA summary. We’ll get into the paranoia afterward.
1. This stuff could save your life. Just two of the myriad V2V components, Intersection Movement Assist and Left Turn Assist, would prevent 25,000 to 592,000 crashes and save 49 to 1,083 lives annually, if every vehicle had those features.
2. Cost? About $341 to $350 per vehicle in 2020, decreasing to $209 to $227 by 2058, as manufacturers gain experience producing this equipment (learning curve).
3. Experiments using SAE and IEEE protocols showed both were too vague, so new communication protocols are needed to ensure vehicles don’t get their signals crossed. GPS surely can help too, but exactly how is TBD.
4. Safety systems that focus on one particular scenario, such as left-turn assist, need to be better-tailored for that exact scenario. For example, current left-turn assist systems activate only when the driver uses the turn signal. What if he doesn’t?
5. The NHTSA does have the authority to mandate some V2V systems in new light vehicles but could also require they be retrofitted into commercial vehicles already in service.
6. Wi-Fi, cordless phones and V2V would share the same 5.8-5.9 GHz frequency. The FCC would have to get involved to make sure we’re not headed for a mess there.
7. The NHTSA has a lot of work to do in making sure every company offering V2V technology complies with a universal standard, or else some cars might not talk to each other properly.
8. What about end-of-life issues? Electronics do get old and die, and so older cars might not have a properly-functioning V2V system.
9. Tight security needs to govern every V2V transmission to ensure accuracy and protect from outside influence. Will a private entity step into this space? Probably, but “private entities have not committed to doing so to date.”
10. Lawyers. Remember them? Automakers are worried about increased liability. But the NHTSA can kick that can down the road a bit because the systems currently under consideration involve only warning the driver, not taking over the vehicle. Baby steps . . .
11. Privacy concerns. TeslaMondo had better post this one verbatim: “At the outset, readers should understand some very important points about the V2V system as currently contemplated by NHTSA. The system will not collect or store any data identifying individuals or individual vehicles, nor will it enable the government to do so. There is no data in the safety messages exchanged by vehicles or collected by the V2V system that could be used by law enforcement or private entities to personally identify a speeding or erratic driver. The system—operated by private entities—will not enable tracking through space and time of vehicles linked to specific owners or drivers. Third parties attempting to use the system to track a vehicle would find it extremely difficult to do so, particularly in light of far simpler and cheaper means available for that purpose. The system will not collect financial information, personal communications, or other information linked to individuals. The system will enroll V2V enabled vehicles automatically, without collecting any information that identifies specific vehicles or owners. The system will not provide a ‘pipe’ into the vehicle for extracting data. The system will enable NHTSA and motor vehicle manufacturers to find lots or production runs of potentially defective V2V equipment without use of VIN numbers or other information that could identify specific drivers or vehicles. Our research to date suggests that drivers may be concerned about the possibility that the government or a private entity could use V2V communications to track their daily activities and whereabouts. However, as designed, NHTSA is confident that the V2V system both achieves the agency’s safety goals and protects consumer privacy appropriately.”
12. Consumer acceptance. If people reject V2V, or don’t get system updates — and those might be MANDATED — we’re in trouble. Ergo, “The agency is exploring ways to make such downloads automatic, but more research is needed to understand this issue fully.”
13. Malicious attacks. “NHTSA acknowledges that privacy and system security are current and relevant areas of discussion and that some may have concerns about the vulnerability of this system to malicious attack. We understand those concerns and intend to explore the risks and safeguards fully in our in-depth analysis of system security. Recently, for example, we have been in contact with DARPA bout possible protections against software vulnerabilities.” DARPA stands for Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
Now, back to the problem. The NHTSA has a brand new comment section for V2V technology. So far, almost every commenter is scared of it. Are we seeing a mere vocal minority, or the start of a bigger backlash over motorist civil liberties etc., with Tesla stuck in the middle — clowns to the left and jokers to the right? A quick Google search will yield all manner of nail-biting over V2V in the blogosphere. Again, just a fringe crew, or is this the start of big turbulence?
Or is Tesla developing something totally proprietary, akin to its Supercharging network, and therefore outside the scope of any brewing pushback against the feds? But If so, wouldn’t that pose an “island” problem, given the need for consistency as stressed by the NHTSA? We’ll soon find out. If you consider three years “soon.”
Also, have you ever driven in Manhattan? Ever merged into the Holland Tunnel from NJ? TeslaMondo will hereby declare that V2V technology would cause paralysis in some situations, so it needs to be user-defeatable. Sometimes you have to use YOUR OWN JUDGEMENT or else you’ll never get home. And we’re just talking about the USA. What about V2V in other nations? Say, India for example. See that GIF? Some driving is best left to the human brain.