That has been the opinion of pretty much every expert whose paycheck is not dependent on selling the still distant technology:
Ford CEO Jim Hackett scaled back hopes about the company’s plans for self-driving cars this week, admitting that the first vehicles will have limits. “We overestimated the arrival of autonomous vehicles,” said Hackett, who once headed the company’s autonomous vehicle division, at a Detroit Economic Club event on Tuesday. While Ford still plans on launching its self-driving car fleet in 2021, Hackett added that “its applications will be narrow, what we call geo-fenced, because the problem is so complex.”
Hackett’s announcement comes nearly six months after its CEO of autonomous vehicles, Sherif Markaby, detailed plans for the company’s self-driving car service in a Medium post. The company has invested over $4 billion in the technology’s development through 2023, including over $1 billion in Argo AI, an artificial intelligence company that is creating a virtual driver system. Ford is currently testing its self-driving vehicles in Miami, Washington, D.C. and Detroit.
Driving cars is literally the most difficult things that people do on a routine basis, and it is made all the more complex because it involves incredibly complex interactions with other human beings who do not truly understand the limits of the 1½+ ton death machines.
People who suggest that this is just around the corner are deluded or liars, or both.
Honestly, I don’t think that Tesla was impressed either, as they set the deposit at only $100.00, as opposed to the $2500.00 deposit required for the Tesla Model Y, and $1,000 for the Model 3.
Its skin is made from 3mm (.118 in) thick 301 stainless steel skin which Musks refers to an an “Exoskeleton”, which means either that it is a unit body (skin is not a part of the structure, also called semi-monocoque), or a monocoque (skin is a part of the structure).
According to Musk, this is literally bullet proof, being able to stop a 9mm round at 10 meters. (The numbers work out for this)
Most trucks, by comparison, are body on frame, where there is a structure , typically a ladder frame, upon which the body is mounted.
This is one reason for the gradual taper behind the passenger cab, it’s needed for a stiff body.
Unit body is typically lighter than body on frame, and monocoque is lighter still than unit body, but significantly more difficult to manufacture, which is why it unit body is far more common in mass produced automobiles.
Also unit body makes implementing changes in the body of the car easier, since the skin merely needs to mate to the frame.
In aircraft, where weight is more significant, a full monocoque is typically used.
In any case, the skin is about 4 times thicker than that of a P-51 Mustang, which was aluminum which is about 2½ less dense than steel, so this is HEAVY.
Based on the pictures shown, and the thickness of the skin, the weight of the just skin is in the 4000 lb range.
When you add in windows, tires, motors, a 500 mile battery, tailgate, seats, electronics, lights, etc. I do not see the weight of the vehicle being any less than 8,000 pounds, and it might very well exceed 10,000 pounds.
By comparison, a Ford F-150 is about 5,500 pounds.
As such, not only will the car be expensive to operate, more weight means higher power consumption, but the handling is likely problematic, particularly in off road mode, where getting stuck in the mud is a thing.
The angular appearance of the truck may be driven by the choice of material and thickness, as 300 series stainless work hardens a lot, and at 3mm thick, it could be difficult to put complex curves in it.
Also, I’m not sure how it would corner at that weight. I’m thinking that it’s in the, “Looks like a fish, moves like a fish, steers like a cow,” category.
I am not sure how they can do this, this waiver is written into the Clean Air Act, but when has the law ever stopped Trump and Evil Minions™:
The New York Times reports that the Trump administration will use a meeting at the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday to announce the revocation of California’s ability to set its own air pollution standards. The state’s authority was granted by a waiver that allows it to set pollution limits that are stricter than the federal government’s, which is now threatening the administration’s ability to roll back Obama-era standards for automobile fuel economy. This move has been rumored to be under consideration for months and sets up a legal showdown that will pit the federal government against California and the 13 states that plan to follow its lead.
During the initial implementation of the Clean Air Act, the Golden State was suffering from extensive smog problems and was granted a waiver that allowed it to set stricter pollution standards than those under the Clean Air Act. The waiver has since given the state significant leverage in negotiations regarding national automotive pollution controls, a position enhanced by the decision of a number of states to adopt whatever standards California sets. Due to the vast size of these states’ collective economies, car companies are compelled to meet its pollution standards or generate two different products: one for California and one for the rest of the country. Most have found it easier to simply involve California in negotiations from the start.
All of which would explain why the Trump administration would be interested in revoking the state’s waiver and why it’s already laid out arguments to justify doing so. The Times reports that this isn’t an indication that the EPA has decided what the new standards should be yet, simply that the agency is clearing the way to impose the standards when they’re ready.
But the Clean Air Act waiver mechanics are set up so that the EPA administrator must grant a waiver to any state wanting stricter standards unless the state is acting in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner or its standards don’t address “compelling and extraordinary conditions.” California would certainly have compelling arguments that climate change represents a compelling and extraordinary condition. And it’s near certain that the state would be willing to test those arguments in court.
Unfortunately, it will be a very close thing in the Supreme Court, because there are now a majority of right wing hypocrite hacks on the bench there.
GM has responded by threatening to sue the labor union:
The Canadian trade union Unifor is pissed that GM is shutting down the Oshawa Assembly Plant, which has a long and rich history spanning over 100 years. GM says on its website that the facility—which now builds the Cadillac XTS, Chevy Impala, Chevy Silverado, and GMC Sierra—has been open since 1953, but that before that, it built McLaughlin Buicks and Chevrolets prior to The Bowtie merging with GM in 1918. Despite all of that history, in 2018, GM announced plans to close the historic manufacturing site. Shortly thereafter, workers walked out in protest, and the president of Unifor, the trade union representing the plant workers, voiced his displeasure, saying “They are not closing our damn plant without one hell of a fight,” per CTV News. But last night, during the Super Bowl, the battle between Unifor and GM got heated, with the former unleashing this commercial in Canada:
The commercial is scathing, mentioning how Canada helped GM with the bailout last decade, and criticizing the company’s expansion into Mexico. “GM, you may have forgotten our generosity,” the commercial concludes, “but we’ll never forget your greed. If you want to sell here, build here.” According to the Detroit News, GM wasn’t thrilled, and even threatened legal action:
Who knew that the automobile manufacturer was such a bunch of beautiful cinnamon rolls who are too good for this world?
On September 12th, GM’s director of global digital transformation Saejin Park gave a presentation to the Association of National Advertisers in which he described how the company had secretly gathered data on the radio-listening habits of 90,000 GM owners in LA and Chicago for three months in 2017, tracking what stations they listened to and for how long, and where they were at the time; this data was covertly exfiltrated from the cars by means of their built-in wifi.
The company says it never sold this data, but the presentation to the advertising execs was clearly designed to elicit bids for it. Toyota has promised not to gather and sell telematics data, but GM seems poised to create a market in data gathered by your car, which can listen to you, follow you, take pictures of you and your surroundings, and even gather data on which passengers are in the car at different times by tracking Bluetooth beacons from mobile devices.
This is unbelievably creepy, and the fact that no one is going to jail over this is even worse.
The house of Saud may not be the sharpest tack in the drawer, but taking Tesla private at a 30% premium when their best case PE ratio in the next decade is something north of 100:1 is foolish even by the standards of inbred oil-wealth.
My guess is that there were some very preliminary talks, and Musk wants to use this as a cover for his attempt to hurt the short-sellers.
I hope that there is a full investigation:
Elon Musk, Tesla’s chief executive, said on Monday that he had held meetings with representatives of a Saudi sovereign wealth fund who expressed an eagerness to help him take the electric-car maker private.
Writing in a post on Tesla’s corporate blog, Mr. Musk offered his fullest explanation yet for what he said were the circumstances behind his Aug. 7 message on Twitter that he was “considering taking Tesla private at $420” and had “funding secured.” The post sent Wall Street scrambling for more information.
In the blog post, Mr. Musk said the Saudi fund had approached him several times about taking the company private as part of the country’s efforts to diversify its economy beyond oil.
Mr. Musk said that after several meetings that began in early 2017, he had left talks with the fund’s managing director on July 31 “with no question” that a deal could be closed and “that it was just a matter of getting the process moving.”
Yeah, sure, and if you believe that, I have a bridge in Riyadh you might be interested in buying.
I’m really not sure how much value the stock options would be to the shop floor workers, they will be locked up well past when they are worthless, much as it happened in the Dot Com bust, but still his threat is a direct violation of the NLRA, which prohibits penalizing workers for exercising their labor organizing rights:
The United Auto Workers has been Elon Musk’s target for days of derision on Twitter, and his posts may open Tesla Inc. up to trouble with U.S. labor regulators. ……… The UAW, which is actively trying to organize Tesla’s California assembly plant, has fired back with tweets of its own. But the more consequential outcome from the spat on the social-networking service may come in the form of unfair labor practice allegations made to the National Labor Relations Board, according to Wilma Liebman, who led the agency during the early years of the Obama administration. Musk posted earlier this week that nothing was stopping Tesla employees in Fremont, California, from voting to join a union. But, he wrote, “Why pay union dues & give up stock options for nothing?” Liebman read this as a warning that the company would take away workers’ stock options if they succeeded in organizing the factory.
Nothing stopping Tesla team at our car plant from voting union. Could do so tmrw if they wanted. But why pay union dues & give up stock options for nothing? Our safety record is 2X better than when plant was UAW & everybody already gets healthcare.
“If you threaten to take away benefits because people unionize, that’s an out-and-out violation of the labor law,” Liebman, who’s done legal work for the UAW in the past, said in an interview.
This, is, as the saying goes, black letter law, and, if the expected complaint is filed, I would expect the NLRB to take some sort of action.
Ironically enough Trump’s NLRB might be more likely to take action than the Obama’s, because the Trump administration is less enamored with Silicon Valley than was the Obama administration, though I would not expect much beyond a stern warning.
Sounds like the, “Small cars equal small profits,” mentality that nearly destroyed auto makers in the 1970s and again in the 1990s, after oil prices spiked:
Ford Motor Co. said Wednesday it will stop investing in sedans in North America, bowing to U.S. drivers’ seemingly never-ending zest for crossovers and pickup trucks. Ford shifted focus on “building a winning portfolio” of vehicles, by which it meant no more of its slow-selling sedans at least for North America. U.S. drivers have gravitated to SUVs and pickup trucks for years, thanks in part to these vehicles’ relative fuel economy improvements and price drops. Many car buyers also report enjoying the high-riding seating position of an SUV or pickup truck. “Ford realized it can’t be everything to everyone, and in today’s market that could be OK,” said Jessica Caldwell, an analyst with Edmunds. “The key to success is focusing on where your customers are and where your strengths lie, and for Ford doubling down on trucks and SUVs could be just what the brand needs.” The move isn’t without risk, however. Ford is willingly alienating some of its car owners and conceding market share in segments that, while declining, are still relevant to some buyers, she said.
When, and it’s always when, gasoline prices spike again, those people trading in Ford trucks and SUVs for more efficient vehicles will not be able to find those new vehicles at their Ford dealer, and so loyal customers will go somewhere else.
They are repeat their historical mistakes, over, and over, and over, and over again.
The National Transportation Safety Board told Tesla Inc. on Wednesday that the carmaker was being removed from the investigation of a fatal accident, prior to the company announcing it had withdrawn from it, according to a person familiar with the discussion. NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt relayed the decision in a call to Tesla’s Elon Musk that was described as tense by the person because the chief executive officer was unhappy with the safety board’s action. NTSB is expected to make a formal announcement in a release later Thursday, said the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The unusual move followed public statements by the company blaming the driver of a Tesla Model X who died in a March collision, in apparent violation of agency protocols. The NTSB guards the integrity of its investigations closely, demanding that participants adhere to rules about what information they can release and their expected cooperation. These so-called parties to investigations must sign legal agreements laying out their responsibilities. ……… Companies that no longer have formal status as a party to an NTSB investigation can lose access to information uncovered in the probe and the ability to shape the official record of the incident, said Peter Goelz, a former managing director at the NTSB who is now senior vice president at O’Neill & Associates, a Washington lobbying and public relations firm. ……… The safety board has in some cases thrown airlines, aircraft manufacturers and unions off of investigations in cases where they were either making unauthorized statements or not producing information the NTSB expected of them. ……… NTSB rules don’t in fact prohibit participants in investigations from releasing general information about their products. The agency’s oft-repeated rule of thumb is that factual information that could have been released before an accident can be put out afterward as well. What the NTSB prohibits is the release of information related to the accident itself. In December 2010, the safety board removed American Airlines, now part of American Airlines Group Inc., from an investigation into a runway accident in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. American had taken one of the plane’s two crash-proof recorders and downloaded its contents prior to turning the device over to the agency. In 2014, it kicked United Parcel Service Inc. and its pilots’ union off of a probe into a cargo-jet crash that killed two people in Alabama. The safety board said then that the company and union “took actions prejudicial to the investigation by issuing comments and analyzing findings before the NTSB had met to determine a cause.”
This is no surprise.
Tesla, despite the fact that it makes cars, is still a dotcom company at its core, and ignoring regulators, and ignoring basic common decency, is at the core of its ethos.
It’s why I have no interest in owning a Tesla, to quote Richard Feynman, “Nature cannot be fooled.”
The author draws analogies to the bad old days of the US auto industry, where shipping was more important than shipping it right:
The idea that Silicon Valley could reinvent the auto sector the way Apple reinvented mobile phones is an appealing one, and by some metrics Tesla has done just that. The Silicon Valley automaker’s distinctive product features — blistering performance, long-range batteries and slick touchscreen interfaces –have beguiled legions of fans and investors, giving the impression that the future of the auto industry had suddenly arrived.
But recent reports call that glowing future into question. After 15 years, it’s increasingly clear that Tesla has nothing to offer in the area that, as the tech analyst Horace Dediu puts it, is where “almost all meaningful innovation occurs”: the production system.
Throughout its history, Tesla has been plagued by poor manufacturing quality and missed production deadlines. And now, CNBC’s Lora Kolodny has the scoop on Tesla operations tasked with “reworking” and “remanufacturing” poor quality cars and parts, illustrating a deeper problem than the poor quality itself. By reworking vehicles after they come off the line at its Fremont, California, assembly plant at a dedicated remanufacturing facility in nearby Lathrop — and even reportedly in its service centers — Tesla is taking automotive manufacturing back to dark ages.
Once upon a time, this was the standard practice for Detroit’s automakers. Driven by logic derived from Henry Ford’s manufacturing system, U.S. automakers kept production cranking in order to maximize efficiencies of scale, and then repaired defective cars after they rolled off the line. Though many factors contributed to the decline of the Big Three in the 1970s and 80s, the inefficiency and apathy entrenched in company culture by this approach to quality was one of the most important.
In contrast, Toyota’s cars may not have had the dramatic, chrome-draped designs or V8 performance of American competitors, but the legendary Toyota Production System (also known as TPS, or “lean”) did away with rework, and its dependable, high-quality cars eviscerated Detroit’s market share. By systematically eliminating all forms of waste — “muda” — from its manufacturing, Toyota found that both capital efficiency and quality benefited enormously from building cars right the first time.
Tesla seems either uninterested in or oblivious to the historical lesson here. On last quarter’s earnings call, chief executive Elon Musk told analysts that Tesla doesn’t see TPS as a model for his company, even as he reiterated his goal of “productizing” Tesla’s factories.
Manufacturers have learned that it’s better to get it right the first time over the past few decades, computer programmers, not so much.
Hence we see the bloated software that is as full of bugs as it is full of new features that no one really needs.
Rinse, lather, and repeat, and we have Elon Musk’s Tesla.
Picture this: You’re driving home from work, contemplating what to make for dinner, and as you idle at a red light near your neighborhood pizzeria, an ad offering $5 off a pepperoni pie pops up on your dashboard screen.
Are you annoyed that your car’s trying to sell you something, or pleasantly persuaded? Telenav Inc., a company developing in-car advertising software, is betting you won’t mind much. Car companies—looking to earn some extra money—hope so, too.
Automakers have been installing wireless connections in vehicles and collecting data for decades. But the sheer volume of software and sensors in new vehicles, combined with artificial intelligence that can sift through data at ever-quickening speeds, means new services and revenue streams are quickly emerging. The big question for automakers now is whether they can profit off all the driver data they’re capable of collecting without alienating consumers or risking backlash from Washington.
“Carmakers recognize they’re fighting a war over customer data,” said Roger Lanctot, who works with automakers on data monetization as a consultant for Strategy Analytics. “Your driving behavior, location, has monetary value, not unlike your search activity.”
I just want an off switch for the car’s connectivity features, because, in addition to eschewing the aforementioned advertisements, I don’t want some script kiddie turning off my anti-lock brakes.
Diesel engines have been getting a lot of bad news recently, but there is a another form of compression ignition that has been lurking in the laboratory for years.
A diesel compresses the air, and then squirts in fuel, which ignites in the hot air.
The other form of compression ignition compresses a fuel air mixture until it all ignites simultaneously.
Theoretically, this could result in superior fuel economy and low levels of pollution.
This is a tremendously difficult thing to do since things like this, since the line between ignition and nothing is a very fine line, and things like ambient temperature, barometric pressure, etc. can cause premature ignition, i.e. pinging, which hits the inside of an engine like a hammer.
Nissan has come up with an innovative way to fix the timing, they have added a spark assist so that they can control the timing.
As opposed to a conventional spark ignited engine, where the flame front progresses from the spark, in their “Skyactive X®” technology, and the initial local ignition kicks up the pressure and temperature enough for the compression ignition to kick in.
Despite rumors to the contrary, the internal combustion engine is far from dead. Recently we’ve seen several technological advances that will significantly boost the efficiency of gasoline-powered engines. One of these, first reported back in August 2017, is Mazda’s breakthrough with compression ignition. On Tuesday, Mazda invited us to its R&D facility in California to learn more about this clever new Skyactiv-X engine, but more importantly we actually got to drive it on the road.
The idea behind Skyactiv-X is to be able to run the engine with as lean a fuel-air mixture (known as λ) as possible. Because very lean combustion is cooler than a stoichiometric reaction (where λ=1 and there is exactly enough air to completely burn each molecule of fuel but no more), less energy is wasted as heat. What’s more, the exhaust gases contain fewer nasty nitrogen oxides, and the unused air gets put to work. It absorbs the combustion heat and then expands and pushes down on the piston. The result is a cleaner, more efficient, and more powerful engine. And Skyactiv-X uses a very lean mix: a λ up to 2.5.
This is known as homogeneous charge compression ignition, or HCCI, an idea that Kyle Niemeyer covered in depth for us back in 2012. HCCI has some other advantages, too. On top of burning cooler and with fewer pollutants, the combustion event happens faster, with a higher pressure peak, so you get more work out of the same energy. All of that sounds pretty wonderful, so you’re probably asking yourself why every gasoline engine on the road doesn’t just use HCCI.
Unfortunately, it has been one of those ideas that worked in the lab but couldn’t ever quite be translated into a production engine. The biggest problem has always been controlling exactly when during the engine cycle compression ignition occurred, something that you want as close to top-dead center as possible.
Obviously, this wasn’t without challenges. The fuel:air mix needs to be a little richer near the spark for it to ignite than you want it to be throughout the rest of the cylinder. These need to be distinct regions to avoid λ dropping to 2 or below (which won’t undergo compression ignition). That’s achieved by swirling the air inside the cylinder and generating a vortex effect, where the calm center has a low enough λ to ignite by spark, surrounded by a high λ region that then undergoes compression ignition.
Mazda’s next challenge was to prevent pre-ignition, or knock. Higher compression ratios increase the potential for knock, which is why higher compression ratio engines usually also require more expensive, higher octane fuel that is knock-resistant. Now, technically, compression ignition is knock, but if it occurs before you want it to—at top dead center—bad things can happen, because a combustion event will exert downward pressure on the piston as it’s moving up on a compression stroke.
The solution here was to use less time to heat the fuel:air mix. There’s a small initial injection of fuel at first, then the bulk of the fuel is introduced into the cylinder as late as possible during the compression stroke. This is done using multiple orifice injectors to increase atomization and mixing of fuel and air.
If all that wasn’t enough, there’s the added problem of keeping track of compression ignition. In the past, this has been one of the hardest problems for HCCI engines to solve. Ideally you want combustion to happen at the same point in the engine cycle each time—about four degrees after top dead center. But as ambient conditions change—a cold day in Denver versus a hot one in Houston—the time needed for the fireball to reach sufficient pressure also changes. So the engine ought to be able to change spark timing to keep the peak pressure at the right spot.
It’s basically an ingenious use of the stratified charge engine to create an HCCI engine.
Tech blogs went crazy over the weekend after a new self-driving car was seen rolling around Arlington, Virginia. Unlike vehicles from GoogleWaymo, Uber and others, the car didn’t have any obvious signs of a Lidar array, the chunky imaging technology most autonomous vehicles use to gauge the state of the road ahead. Instead, it had just a small bar mounted on the dashboard, which blinked red when it was at a stop light and green once the cost was clear. Even more intriguingly, the car appeared to be genuinely autonomous: there was no-one sitting in the driver’s seat. Typically, a human overseer is required in the testing phase to make sure that the car doesn’t go wild and run over a marching band, but somehow this car had managed to find a loophole. ……… But still a question remained. Who was behind this breakthrough new technology? How were they solving the problems that had stymied even the mighty Alphabet/Google/Waymo megacorp? You’ve read the headline. You know the answer: it was a bloke dressed up as a car seat. ……… But one aspect of the rumour mill was correct: the guy really was associated with Virginia Tech. According to the university’s transportation institute, he was engaged in research about autonomous vehicles, likely gathering data about the reaction of normal drivers to sharing road space with a self-driving car.
I’m not sure if this was a real study, or just an excuse for some researcher to f%$# with fellow drivers.