Category Archives: General

Tesla: Endgame

I know, I know. I’ve been writing about Tesla an awful lot lately. I promise and unless something interesting comes up, this will be the last time I do so for a bit.

First off, I’ve mentioned before that it seems Elon Musk and the Tesla company are one of those love ’em or hate ’em propositions. There are those who are absolutely enamored with both the man and his company, just as there are those who hate, hate, hate both. There are also a few, granted, who may love or at least be curious of the product but aren’t thrilled with Mr. Musk and his personality.

I’m basically somewhere there. I think the hatred directed at Mr. Musk is overblown even though I do believe he should tamper down some of the tweets (he’s nowhere near the obnoxious level of Donald Trump, though). As an owner of a Tesla Model 3, I’m also firmly in the camp of “love” with regard to the product.

After posting yesterday’s thoughts on Tesla’s losses, I found myself thinking about not only the company, but the future of cars in general. As I was thinking about that, something occurred to me and I figured I’d present it for what it’s worth, and all due apologies to a certain highly anticipated Marvel movie opening this week.

Tesla, and Mr. Musk’s, Endgame

In a nutshell: The self-driving feature.

As the cliched expression goes, car companies, and the public at large, are playing checkers while Mr. Musk is playing three-dimensional chess.

To be very blunt, when Tesla perfects the self-driving feature, I think its going to be game over for the auto industry as we know it and, just maybe, Tesla will become the one and only car company.

Sounds ominous?

How about this: I suspect Mr. Musk and Tesla’s goal is to eliminate the need for people to buy and own cars, period. At least in all medium to large cities.

Sounds… paradoxical? Perhaps nutty?

A car company that wants to eliminate the need for people to buy cars?

Envision this: If the self-driving feature is perfected and used exclusively in Tesla vehicles, then the company can create its own version of Uber/Lyft, with electric vehicles moving about in big cities picking people up and dropping them off wherever they need to go, then picking them up later on to return them to their home.

Because we’re dealing with an electric self-driving vehicle, we already cut two major bills down: The need for a driver and the need to pay for gas. Therefore, Uber/Lyft will be undercut, price-wise, and we know people who use either service will go to the cheaper self-driving Tesla vehicles.

But wait, there’s more!

With prices so low to be picked up and driven to wherever you need to go, why bother buying your own pricey vehicle? Why bother paying insurance on said vehicle?

Oh, and by the way, did you notice the news that Tesla plans to create their own insurance? (read about it here)

Coincidence?

I think not.

What Musk is doing with Tesla is essentially the same thing Steve Jobs did with Apple: Create a self-contained system, only in this case for vehicles.

Let’s return to the scenario I presented above:

You’re a youngish person who lives in an apartment/house and pays your rent/mortgage. You may be single, you may be married. You may have kids.

You’ve got bills and, at least now, one of them is a car. You buy/lease a car, you have to pay for gas, oil changes, general maintenance, and insurance. In the mornings, you and/or your spouse rush out to work. Or feed the kids and get them to the bus. Or rush out a little earlier to drive the kids to school before you go to work.

Now picture a future with Tesla’s self-driving cars roaming around your city.

You wake up not quite as frenzied. You get yourself/your spouse/the kids up and ready. You reach for the Tesla app and call a vehicle to come pick up and take your kids to school. You then us that same Tesla app to call another vehicle to take you/your spouse to work.

The cost to use the Tesla self-driving vehicle services wind up being less per month compared to paying your lease/loan on your vehicle along with the maintenance and gas. You’re no longer as rushed.

As you take the ride to work, you read a book or listen to music or read the latest news and don’t have to worry about focusing on your drive.

You get to work. Your kids get to school, the Tesla self-driving vehicle is on its way to the next client it needs to pick up. Or, if its battery is low, it heads to the Tesla center to get re-charged and, afterwards, is once again on the streets getting new clients.

By the end of the day, your kids can summon a Tesla self-driving vehicle to take them back home. At the end of the work-day, you can summon your own car to take you to work.

On weekends, you can summon a Tesla self-driving vehicle to take you to the mall. Or perhaps the beach. Or to the grocery store. When you’re done, you summon another Tesla self-driving vehicle to take you back home.

The costs, again, are far less to use this service than buying a car. They’re far less than using Uber/Lyft. And there’s little hassle. The cars on the road are increasingly/exclusively Tesla vehicles (though there will be “real” drivers out there, at least for a few years upon implementation of this system).

And Tesla will make buckets and buckets of money without having to sell even a single one of their vehicles.

Does that sound possible? Does that sound likely?

Perhaps not in the next couple of years, but how about five years from now? Ten years?

Is this indeed Tesla’s Endgame?

Tesla… pro and con…

At the risk of beating a dead horse (I suppose it could be worse, I could be getting into politics), humor me as I again delve into the whole electric car/Tesla topic. Specifically, those for the car and those against.

Yesterday it was reported that Tesla lost a considerable amount of money in the first quarter of the year (Erik Shilling at jalopnik.com writes about this here).

I couldn’t help but comment (if you look around the commentary you’ll find some of my musings) when someone pointed out that there are those who are tap dancing to this news. A person on the commentary board wondered why there are those who have such invective for this company.

However, even the most neutral of fans must wonder, based on last quarter’s losses, whether Tesla is in trouble.

I suspect not, even if this quarter’s losses were indeed grim. The technology and the product are so good, IMHO, and it appears the company/Musk are focusing on getting the car out to the world and having success getting other countries interested in it, that I suspect we’ll see the company stabilize and make money, especially when it releases the Model Y, the Semi, and their upcoming new Roadster model and Pickup Trucks (the later might well turn some heads but, as with so much else, we’ll see).

Humor me a second while I put on my Tesla fan hat: What is there to hate about the cars?

I can totally understand people being unhappy/uncomfortable with some of Musk’s antics. I can totally see people asking why they should spend their hard earned money on a company with Mr. Musk as its head.

Which again leads me to the product itself: The cars.

Henry Ford, the man who founded the Ford Motor Company, was anti-semitic and worked with Germany’s Nazi government prior to World War II (you can read about that here). While it may be unfair to compare Ford with Musk given the different epochs in which they lived, can you seriously feel the sometimes silly things Musk has done are in any way comparable with Ford?

And again I return to the main point: The Product.

Ultimately, Tesla will sink or swim based on how good its product is and how potential buyers react to it.

So far, reviews of the various models of their cars have been almost uniformly positive and, as I’ve mentioned, I love my Model 3 and feel it may well be the best car I’ve ever had (and I’ve been driving for many years now).

I suspect many people out there don’t know much about Tesla cars other than seeing them here and there on the streets. They may also know about Musk and some of his antics but otherwise don’t have a strong opinion of the company and its head one way or another.

Yet there clearly are those who are aware of the company and Musk and hate, hate, hate them. Frankly, I can’t get my head around why there is such animus. While I know there are investors out there who are betting on Tesla failing, other than these folks why do so many others hate Musk/Tesla? Are they leery of the idea of moving from a gas to electric vehicle? Are they gas fanatics? Are they so personally repulsed by Musk that they can’t stomach even seeing these vehicles?

I don’t know.

If you have no skin in the game, why do you hate Musk/Tesla so much? Why have you taken this so personally?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again to those who hate Tesla: If you can, try to put aside those negative feelings and take a test drive of one of their vehicles.

If you come away still hating Tesla and its vehicles, then at least you gave them a try and legitimately found they weren’t for you.

But I suspect, strongly, that even the biggest Tesla haters, if they give the car a test drive, will come away realizing the vehicle is incredibly good and, yes, worthy of all the positive opinions given by so many.

A little more on Tesla Self-Driving…

The other day Elon Musk had one of those promo things with audiences/the media regarding Tesla’s self-driving function. A video was played (and which is available on YouTube) showing the “full self-driving” as it will soon appear…

Color me impressed.

I’ve written before about my own Tesla and how I like using the current auto-pilot even though I know it has plenty of limitations. Where I live, the roads are generally very straight, so the auto-pilot as it currently exists works quite well for my area. However, you should always, especially if you live/drive in areas with plenty of hills or curves, use the autopilot feature with the greatest of care. You need to be very cognizant of what goes on around you as the autopilot feature may lose track of the road and/or other drivers might try to merge into your lane and could hit your vehicle.

Don’t think that just because the autopilot feature exists, its perfect.

Returning to the above video, this is clearly an updated autopilot that can either “read” or already knows about the locations of stop signs and traffic lights, which the current version of autopilot (at least the one I have) does not. Seeing this makes me optimistic in time we will have some form of this type of full self-driving, at least through Tesla vehicles.

But one should also note that the ride presented in this video is in relatively light traffic. Yes, the trip is long and the car goes through off ramps and encounters traffic lights and stop signs but at least in this video the car handles them magnificently.

But because this is a promo video, even a fan of Tesla cars (and, trust me, I’m a HUGE fan of them) has to be leery of what they’re seeing.

I’m not saying Tesla is somehow “cheating” with this video, but clearly the car has far more information on the trip than your regular Tesla vehicle has.

So as much as I want to jump up and down and as much as I hope that I’ll be seeing this “full self-driving” software update arrive to my vehicle (I paid for the advanced full driving option when I ordered my Tesla), I suspect one must remain patient.

I drive in location X, you drive in location Y. Still others will be in A, B, C, D, etc. etc. etc. To have a “full self-driving” software installed and functioning in your car, I suspect one’s car (Tesla or whatever) will require plenty of new data. Perhaps even as full up-to-the-minute data on all traffic lights and stop signs in the general area one drives in as well as road conditions. One’s vehicle, I’m certain, will “see” and interpret things through its many cameras just as the additional data will allow the car to understand/“see” the traffic lights and stop signs.

Easy enough to say, right?

This of course means mountains and mountains of traffic/road data. Given that most people live/drive in certain areas most of the week, each vehicle doesn’t need a complete entire United States roadmap with all that information downloaded into their vehicle, only the relevant areas usually traveled. This will, obviously, change as better and better computers/chips are developed and the vehicle can store and use more and more information.

I know all that I’ve written above is me thinking out loud, but I’ll repeat: I remain very impressed with the forward thinking of Tesla/Musk with regard to their vehicles and hope that what we’ve seen in the above video does indeed translate into something usable by everyone.

Unlike me, there remain a contingent of people out there who are very leery about and/or hate Musk and feel whatever pronouncement/announcement he makes amounts to snake oil salesmanship. To them, I would again say: Why don’t you take a Tesla for a test drive?

Seriously.

If Musk/Tesla are nothing more than smoke and mirrors, explain the good reviews the vehicles get from both critics and owners. And while you’re at it, explain my own joy each time I get behind the wheel of my Model 3. Explain the grin on my face when this past weekend my wife and I traveled some 50-60 miles of highway using nothing but the current autopilot… without any issues at all.

Yeah, I know. Changing other’s opinions is a difficult thing, especially if one is set in one’s ways.

Me? I’m curious to see what’s next.

Tesla’s Self-Driving…

Given that Tesla’s main claim to fame is that their vehicles are electric -no gasoline use at all- one can be forgiven for forgetting another very big element in their arsenal: Their self-driving feature.

I must admit, when I did the test drive of the Model 3, the Tesla employee showed me how to use the self-driving feature and for a very, very short time I clicked it on before clicking it right back off.

It’s an unnerving thing to try this technology!

The Tesla employee assured me the self-driving feature was quite good, that he uses it to make long treks, but I was rather skeptical.

Welp, I’m not so skeptical anymore.

I will say this: The autopilot currently available in my car -and all Teslas which have that function- is far from something one should completely trust, especially when driving in the city. It doesn’t recognize traffic lights or stop signs and essentially “follows” street lines as well as the cars in and around your vehicle.

In other words, it senses the lines on the road around you and, if there are cars to your side, behind you, and especially in front of you, it will allow distance between you and them while maintaining safe speed limits. You are able, by the way, to manually increase the speed beyond the speed limit.

I find the best use of the auto-pilot is when you’re on the highway. No traffic lights to deal with and only the other traffic for your car to deal with. Further, no pedestrians!

Having said that, I’ve used it within the city as well but here you must be far more cautious. Again, the current software doesn’t “see” traffic lights or stop signs. If you’re behind a few cars and they come to a stop before a red light, the autopilot will stop -safely!- well behind them. However, if you’re traveling with no car before you and you see the upcoming light turn yellow, prepare to hit the breaks because the car will continue through the intersection, at least at this point and with the software I have in my vehicle.

Also, be careful about pedestrians. The other day I was on autopilot and a couple were making their way across the street. The Tesla “saw” them but when they stopped -waiting to see if I’d let them cross- the car would have gone on and, given the pedestrians and I made eye contact, they assumed I was going to stop and let them through, so they were inching forward. I hit the brakes and motioned for them to cross but the autopilot would have gone on.

So if you’re using the autopilot feature, please please please note that while its quite good in many ways, this is still a more rudimentary version of the autopilot and requires the driver keep their hands on the wheel and are alert to anything that happens around you.

I’ve seen video of people sleeping in their seat while allowing their Tesla to move on the highway and this is alarming as hell.

I suspect in a couple more years the self-driving software will become better refined and far more “sensitive” to things like traffic lights and stop signs as well as pedestrians.

But it isn’t quite there yet.

Will it ever end…?!

POLITICS!

BEWARE!!!

Today, the Mueller Report will be sorta/kinda released.

From the look of things, William Barr, the recently installed Attorney General, is trying to put his thumb on the scales, first releasing a very positive summary of the Mueller Report, which he subsequently said wasn’t a summary, to today releasing a redacted version of the same but not before coming before the cameras (in approximately 30 minutes) and, many suspect, trying to put a positive spin on the findings before, hours later, actually releasing the same.

Huh?

Here’s the thing: I’m getting vibes of the whole “drip… drip… drip” of the release of information that will stretch out way beyond today.

In other words: If you’re releasing only some of the stuff, do you really expect people to be happy with that? Do you expect all questions to stop at that point?

This much I’m certain: It won’t end today.

Holy cow…

It’s been two full weeks and finally –finally!– I’m feeling like my old self.

How debilitating this illness was!

A flu? Strep throat (as I thought originally)? A severe cold?

I was prescribed anti-biotics but they didn’t seem to do much of anything so it was up to the ol’ body to take on this illness with the help of Advil and some cold medicine I had.

The symptoms were plenty of phlegm, bronchial/sinus issues, and, at times, fever.

The first week of the illness was easily the worst, including two days where I literally felt I couldn’t do anything and mostly stayed in bed feeling miserable.

The second week, the recovery week, I felt better but still had coughing fits/phlegm to deal with.

When I started to feel better and took my new car out for a spin, I suddenly realized I had gotten the car and almost immediately got so ill I couldn’t use it. So I got to use it more and more and enjoy it for truly the first time this past week.

Now that I’m feeling much better, its back to the grind.

Time to work on that next novel!

The Lost Week… so far…

It’s been a hell of a long time since I caught something like what I’m currently battling. A flu… a virus… some kind of bacteria… who knows.

Last weekend, I started to feel a scratchy/painful throat. It felt unusually painfully, moreso than when I usually catch a cold. For me, colds work like this: I get a scratchy throat followed by general low energy, then possibly fevers, then it moves to my sinus and there’s plenty of yummy phlegm to deal with but the throat problem, simultaneously, leaves as it moves to the sinus.

I’ll feel bad for a few days but by the time I’m dealing with a runny nose and coughing up mucus, I’m on the way to recovery.

Which is why by Sunday of last week I knew something else was brewing. The pains in my throat simply weren’t getting better and I feared, as I mentioned in the previous post, that I might have contacted Strep Throat.

One week to this day, last Monday, I headed to an Urgent Care Unit nearby and was seen there. They examined me, noted there was an infection in my throat and sinus but the Strep exam came back negative. The Doctor told me this was not terribly unusual if the infection is in its early stages and gave me a prescription for anti-biotics and sent me on my way.

With anti-biotics, it usually takes a couple of days for them to start working, so while I was miserable Monday, Tuesday, and into Wednesday, my hope was that good times were right around the corner.

Not so.

Thursday I was at my absolute low. I felt horrible and seriously considered taking myself to the ER. My throat continued to be in incredible pain and I was coughing like crazy without moving any phlegm from my system. My sides and stomach ached from the coughing and there was little I could do.

The next day, Friday, I felt a little better. My wife had an appointment with our regular Doctor and I considered going with her so he could see me as well. Ultimately I decided not to. As bad as Thursday was, and it was mighty bad, Friday I felt better.

Perhaps the anti-biotics were finally kicking in?

Saturday morning comes and I feel even better. So much so I’m optimistic I’ve finally turned the corner.

Not so.

By the afternoon, I’m feeling whatever has me in its grips is staging a comeback. I’m coughing like crazy, this time more productively (ie, with plenty of phlegm) but, frankly, I’m feeling pretty down and out… even if not quite as bad as I felt on Thursday.

Sunday, the bad -but still not quite as bad as Thursday’s- feeling continue. I’m coughing and spitting up all kinds of garbage, though the phlegm is becoming clearer and the infection, I was hoping was now dying out.

Still, the weekend was no picnic.

So here we are, Monday morning, one full week since I went to Urgent Care to get checked up and was given the anti-biotics. I’m still feeling low but, unquestionably, this virus -or whatever it is!- is on its way out. Slowly, but certainly.

I hope so.

It feels like I’ve lost so much time not being able to do what I need to do!

More on the Tesla…

First, though, its been a tough few days. Caught some kind of bug and its laid me pretty low. Suspect its strep throat -I had it twice many years ago while in High School- and its feeling about the same. Went to a nearby urgent care and am now on anti-biotics (the strep test came in negative but the doctor said that’s not unusual in the early stages of the disease. He also noted there was definitely something going on in my throat and sinus).

Alas, I only started the anti-biotics yesterday so until maybe tomorrow I’m still feeling pretty grim. Last night I woke up to my teeth chattering so badly I was afraid I’d cut my tongue in two.

Hope that’s the worst of it!

But returning to the topic on hand (and which I labeled this post): My Tesla 3.

Today marks a week since I got the vehicle and it continues to impress the hell out of me. Driving in a car without the sound of a combustion engine is incredibly tranquil and the music played through your radio is incredibly clear. Humorously, there have been times when I was stopped by a light and the sound of the engines of other cars around me were so damn noisy compared to what you experience driving an electric car.

Yesterday the electrician finally installed a 240 volt plug near where I park my car. Until yesterday, I was using a regular 120 volt plug and the difference is mindboggling.

My Tesla has a range, if 100% fully charged, of approximately 320 miles. However, it is recommended one charge the battery to around 80-90% unless you’re about to take a long trip, upon which you should fully charge your vehicle.

It may sound complicated but Tesla’s app lays all this information out very easily when you’re charging the car. Thing is, using a 120 volt plug gave me a mere 5 miles for every hour charging it. Thus, if I had a full charge and brought the car’s range down to, say, 200 miles, it meant there was roughly 80 miles worth of charging to do. Which meant that when I was using the 120 volt plug, I had to keep the card plugged for 16 hours to get the car to that 80% charge.

Naturally, I didn’t bring the car’s charge down too far. If I had, for example, used up some 179 miles, leaving roughly 100 miles, that would have required me to charge the damn thing at 120 volts for a mind-boggling 35 plus hours before getting the thing up to where it needed to be.

But by having a 240 volt plug, I’m not getting some 30 miles of distance per hour of charge, ie six times the amount of the old 120 volt plug.

So now, if I drain the battery as described above and need to “fill up” some 179 miles, it will take the 240 volt plug about 6 hours to reach that point versus the absolutely crazy 35.

The point is this: If you’re considering an electric car, research the charge times. The fact of the matter is that regular 120 plugs, while good for slow overnight charging, may require too much time if you’re driving more than, say, 40 miles each day. Unless, of course, you don’t mind charging the car each night.

If you’re able to, absolutely get yourself a 240 plug (these are the types used by electric ovens and driers).

Of course, you can always use one of Tesla’s superchargers. They are found in many places and the onboard navigation system will point them out to you, if you need a very, very quick charge. There’s also the PlugShare app which offers community exchanges of information regarding all chargers, Tesla included, available in your area.

Next thing: For the first time on Saturday I tried the Tesla “autopilot” feature.

It was nerve wracking, to say the least!

I was on a stretch of highway that didn’t have too many vehicles on it and turned it on and… I’ll be damned if it didn’t work perfectly fine!

Yeah, I had a severe case of the nerves each time we reached some curved section of the highway, but the car sensed and took these turns well. If I wanted to switch lanes, I simple hit the indicator and the car did this on its own.

Truly, we are living in the future!

A week driving and I’m more convinced than before that I made the right choice. I know there are those who are cynical of Tesla and, especially, Elon Musk.

To you guys I would again say: Forget about all that ancillary crap and go to a Tesla dealership and take a test drive.

I can’t help but think you will be impressed.

Not to brag…

For the past few years and if you know me personally, the subject of electric vehicles has come up.

Around these parts I’ve made my feeling known about the so-called “ICE” vehicles -those which have “internal combustion engines”- and my feelings they are a technology society should have done away with many years ago.

ICE vehicles pollute the air and are incredibly inefficient. There are those that argue electric vehicles and the batteries they use are also “dirty”, but few argue they are dirtier than the use of gasoline. Regardless, to my mind still using ICE vehicles is akin to buying a computer and settling for some 1980’s/90’s tech instead of the latest tech.

Over the past few years I’ve been reading up with great curiosity about the rise of Elon Musk’s Tesla. The reviews of their vehicles, in general, have been incredibly positive and, its fair to say, this has gotten the attention of the big car companies. Today and as I write this, almost all of major car manufacturers are now working on or have released their versions of an electric vehicle.

As fascinated as I was about electric vehicles, as much as I salivated for the opportunity to drive one, it wasn’t until just shy of two weeks ago I finally did.

That’s when things really changed.

Intrigued as I was about EV vehicles and Tesla in particular, I was unsure when/if I’d get it. That test drive, along with the fact that Tesla was having a sorta/kinda end of the quarter sale, sealed the proverbial deal.

Now I know there are those who are suspicious/weary of Tesla and, especially, CEO Elon Musk. He’s gone off the wall at times with some oddball tweets. And yeah it is scary to spend a bunch of money on a car that uses a whole new technology versus the tried and true gasoline.

But I’ll tell you this: If the driving population of not only the United States but the world itself goes to a Tesla dealership and asks to test drive the car, I suspect a good 80+ percent of them that give it a fair shot will come away sold on the idea that the Tesla vehicles are very much worthy of all the attention they’ve gotten.

So impressed was I with the test drive -along with the previous research I did on the vehicle- that I took the plunge. I paid the $2500 deposit and ordered my Tesla 3. Yesterday, I got her…


Driving home was my first extended trip in the Model 3 and it was as delightful as the test drive. When we got there, my wife had her first drive and she was every bit as impressed with it as I was.

Again, I do not intend to brag. I am extremely fortunate to have the means to pick up this vehicle, though in all fairness the version I bought was hardly the most expensive model I could have gotten (I wouldn’t have been able to afford the very top end options, anyway!). Having said that, I strongly urge everyone out there to give the Tesla a try.

Perhaps you won’t come away from the experience as impressed as I. Perhaps you won’t feel it is truly the next generation vehicle I believe it is.

But if you do give it a shot, it might clear much of the haze surrounding Musk and Tesla and the fanboy mentality of many out there while allowing you to focus on the vehicle itself.

A vehicle which deserves, IMHO, many of its kudos.

More shocking news…

A while back, lawyer Michael Avenatti made something of a splash as one of President Donald Trump’s most visible antagonists.

Image result for michael avenatti

The above photograph shows Mr. Avenatti with his most famous client, porn star Stormy Daniels. For a while last year he worked very hard to get Trump to admit having made payments to keep her quiet about an affair and the non-disclosure agreement made by her at the behest of her previous lawyer, who may well have colluded with Mr. Trump’s team to get her out of the way while the election was going on.

Even now I find it difficult to believe all those shenanigans happened and this man is President!

Yeesh.

Anyway, the situation was sordid to say the least yet I had to give Mr. Avenatti credit: During his TV appearances he looked sharp and was a witty talker who seemed at times to strike blood.

Welp, things started to go bad for Mr. Avenatti. A while back Stormy Daniels let him go and he no longer is her lawyer, though to be fair it seems he helped the case along and got her freed up to say everything about the affair (I think!). Further, there were odd rumblings of things amiss with his career and personal life.

Then the following incredible news broke. Written by Hayley Miller and presented on Huffingtonpost.com, it appears Mr. Avenatti’s world is coming crashing down:

Michael Avenatti charged with with embezzlement, trying to extort $20 million from Nike

The details can be found in the link provided above and they present a very sordid story. It would appear Mr. Avenatti is facing considerable serious legal jeopardy .

Ah well. So much for the figure that created, for a little while anyway, this image of the striving lawyer representing a David and going after the corrupt Goliath/President.

Is there no one involved in politics, directly or indirectly, who is clean?!