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Thursday, 12 March 2020


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Ah, the Ctein Dye Transfermobile sounds terrific! (Pun intended...they don't "sound" at all. A number of my neighbors have them.)

Good to see you having fun with a new gadget. If I was ever to buy a car (never) this would unquestionably be among the top three candidates. (Or maybe Mike would suggest I try ..."five or six of the leading contenders." [G])

So now that the wiring harness isn't blocking the camera any more, how about reviewing the camera :-)

Oh boy how envious I am. The ideal car for a physicist, as I am, and if I remember well Ctein too.

All this to get you from A to B?

Ctien, the Tesla X is cool, but has some quirks - Part 1. I'll post a couple I covered in my book "Delusional Management" regarding a trip I took with a business acquaintance in his Tesla X:
However, we did run into a couple of problems with his Tesla. The meeting was 40 miles away and 4,000 feet up into the mountains. By the time we got there, the Tesla was in need of recharging if he was going to get home. There was no charging station available in this small mountain town, but since it was downhill all the way, he figured we could make it to a SuperCharger charging station on the way home. We did.
When we arrived at the SuperCharger, it was in a shopping center parking garage on the third floor. He pulled into the parking garage where it was located and backed into a space to plug in. We got out to go have lunch while it recharged. Well, actually, they got out. I tried to get out, but I couldn’t.
The Tesla has gull-wing doors in the back – the ones that caused so much trouble when the car was new. The parking garage had a low ceiling and the doors had a sensor that would prevent them opening fully and hitting the garage ceiling. That left me trapped in the rear of the Tesla. The only way I could get out was to get on my hands and knees and crawl out onto the floor. I was not amused. Did Tesla never park the prototypes in a parking garage?

Ctien, the Tesla X is cool, but has some quirks - part 2 - beware of Autopilot. Also from my book "Delusional Management"

It has been widely reported that several Tesla accidents involved a Model S running into the back of a stopped vehicle (including two which involved fire trucks responding to emergencies!) in a traffic lane at full speed. I have a theory about these accidents and some experiences that seem to verify it. For the accidents involving running into stopped vehicles, I suspect the Tesla was following another vehicle on Autopilot when the vehicle in front swerved to avoid the stopped vehicle and the Tesla plowed into the stopped vehicle. In several cases the Tesla actually speeded up after the vehicle in front of it swerved out of the lane and before ramming the stopped vehicle.
We’ve seen two examples of what we think was happening there ourselves. We had a rental car with adaptive cruise control that would speed up when a vehicle in front of us pulled over to another lane to pass a truck. When our vehicle got close to the truck, it would slow down to the speed of the truck. If the timing was right, it would get close to the truck and brake hard to avoid it. One supposes the Tesla’s reaction time was slower, perhaps because of their equipment that measures distance to an object in front of the vehicle or the driver was following the car ahead to closely.
Another example was part of an experiment we ran on a freeway. We were in the carpool lane going a “normal speed” for the lane (about ten over the limit here in California) when a Tesla pulled up behind us and began following us a bit too close for our comfort – maybe three car lengths – assumedly on “Autopilot.”. We tried speeding up and slowing down and it stayed exactly in formation. Then we started speeding up more and more. The Tesla stayed at exactly the same distance off our bumper until we reached a speed that I won’t admit to but was way faster than any sane human would drive on a LA freeway. Doesn’t Autopilot have a speed limiter? What would have happened if I moved over to pass a slower vehicle. At that speed it could have been a spectacular crash.

I'm surprised Ctein didn't comment about single pedal driving. For me it is the second most interesting and useful feature (after all the instant torque) of electric cars.

A fine car.

Dear Bill,

For a near-to-$100,000 camera, it's got unusually low resolution and exposure range, as well as a fixed lens with excessive barrel distortion. Also, the battery pack and camera body are serious overkill -- no one needs to be able to make millions of exposures on a single charge!

OTOH, a tripod is entirely unnecessary.

Still, for less (well, slightly less) money, you can get a Leica S3 system with a decent complement of lenses, which is arguably more capable. Although you'll have to buy a tripod as well.

pax / Ctein

Wimp indeed! However ... Mike may have noticed that yesterday, at our lunch meet (which I THOROUGHLY ENJOYED - THANKS!) I kept my hat on. Not because I’m trying to be hip, but because I easily get chilled, and one’s head is a huge radiator of heat. I wear a hat or toque around the house, even when the temps are mild. And most of the time I wear a sweater or hoodie with layers. This from a guy who has overheated easily. Mon dieu.

One of the greatest Easter Eggs on Google Street View is to find Ctien standing in the window of his house looking like a wizard with a parrot on his arm. It had to be planned. Am I right?

(Mike feel free to delete this comment if it's too creepy. Don't want to look like a stalker. It's just such a cool street view that I had to mention it. I know the neighborhood. My dad and step-mom winter in Pacifica, just down the road from Ctien, and when I stay at their place I ride a bike up the big hill to Ctien's dead end street for excerise and then coast back down. There's a nice ocean view at the end of the road. My pic from Ctien's street: https://www.instagram.com/p/BjaHcCxAvxs/ )

Dear empty,

The Leaf Plus has 60% of the range of the long-range Model X. It was one reason we didn't even have it on our e-car list (we have a neighbor who has a Leaf and justifiably loves it.) If one actually got "official" range at California freeway speeds, it would be one thing, but an under-200 mile real range just wouldn't cut it for us. San Francisco Bay area driving distances are simply insane (it's the thing I hate most about living here).

We wanted a car where we would almost never exceed the round-trip range. That was the point of buying a car with an "official" range in the mid-300s. Twice a month I'm doing drives that would push that uncomfortably hard. My straight round trip to Santa Cruz is almost 160 miles. I've had one weekend since buying the car where I absolutely pushed against the Tesla's range limit (and stopped to Supercharge, because why take chances).

Personally, I'd be fine taking the Model X on long trips, in fact one of the things that convinced us to buy it was talking to owners who have, under pretty extreme conditions. But not to everyone's taste. I don't get any range anxiety with the Model X, but one DOES have to pay attention more than one would with an ICE.

Regarding the sound system, please note that I was comparing it to my 5+'s, which are the "bookshelf" speakers Mike recommended some years back. They are excellent speakers for what they are, but it's not like owning a super high-end sound system.

The luxury Teslas used to come with a very mediocre sound system for the price. When I test-drove a Model S in mid-2015 (what got me hooked), the sound wasn't up to snuff. Tesla sold a premium sound package as an add-on. Somewhere between then and now, they decided to make it standard. This car actually cost me less than it would have if I'd bought it five years ago; they made all the things I wanted that were extra options back then standard.

I'm no sound expert, I don't even have Mike's ear. But Sandy says it's a damn good sound system and she's been a professional sound engineer for over half a century, so I know I'm not entirely crazy.

Well, no, I probably am entirely crazy, just not about this.

- pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. Dragon Dictate in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery. http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations. http://photo-repair.com 

Dear s.,

Welp, that's pretty much what a car does— gets you from A to B.


Dear JimH,

That story about the gull wing doors in the parking lot made me laugh out loud. It is a common complaint that the car is overly paranoid about opening those doors. Seeing as it measures everything else in proximity to the body accurately to a fraction of an inch, I'd brand it a design oversight. There should be an override switch that says "Open as far as you safely can, REALLY!"

A design weakness is the frunk hood latch. It's a two-stage safety latch like you'd find on the front of any car but both stages are purely mechanical. Why they did that, I don't know, because the door and trunk latches are motorized grab-and-secure. There are safety reasons for the primary stage to be mechanical, but making both mechanical means you have to push down hard on the hood to secure the second latch. The hood is made of very thin, compound-curved aluminum. If you push it down at what would seem to be the obvious point, you can dent it. No kidding!

This is such a well-known design bug that it is called out in the user manual with pictures to show you exactly where it is and isn't safe to push down the hood, and the customer rep demonstrates this and warns you about it before you take delivery on the car.

I can understand the problem existing in the rev.1 models, but I don't understand why it wasn't redesigned years ago. They've made lots of changes and revisions to the body. Adding another grab-and-secure motor is entirely doable; it's an easy mod.

Life isn't perfect. Sadly, the Model X mirrors life. ("But 100K *should* buy me perfection, it really should! He whined.)

- pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. Dragon Dictate in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery. http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations. http://photo-repair.com 

Dear Speed,

I know other drivers who are totally enamored of the single-pedal thing. My reaction to it is that it's mildly amusing and nothing more. Different strokes for different folks. The majority of my driving is longer-distance freeway, so that may be a factor. On the other hand, I am completely in love with adaptive cruise control.

In reading the Tesla fora, I find it very interesting how differently we different drivers react to features and the behavior of the car. There was a very intelligent post from someone who found the "Autopilot" close to useless, and he explained clearly what the deficiencies were that made it so for him. I've observed exactly those same deficiencies; our objective experiences seem identical. Yet for me, it's a very valuable set of functions. Strokes, folks.

- pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. Dragon Dictate in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery. http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations. http://photo-repair.com 

If I couldn't trust any self-driving feature such as Autopilot 100% in every situation, I wouldn't trust it for everyday use. It would be like riding with an untrustworthy driver. Your analogy of a horse is a good one. Consider the speed that horses travel, vs. freeway speeds. And the lack of distraction for a horse rider. They have to concentrate just to remain "in the vehicle!" In your Tesla's cozy, quiet isolation chamber, could I sense a steering problem and take over instantly, doing the right thing in one crisp maneuver? Only if I was anxiously gripping the wheel, frightened for my life every moment. Which I would be.

Before traffic and pollution, we used to take a Sunday drive to relax and unwind. We might had wound up at an amusement park, where we'd abandon personal agency and get sped through the guts of a roller coaster, moving fast and out of control. Autonomous driving, even at its best, would be like the second example.

Dear JimH,

I'm writing a separate reply to your second post, because I think this discussion is a serious enough matter to be worthy of its own thread.

The problem with running into entirely stopped vehicles when the car in front swerves out of the way is not quite what you think it is. All anti-collision systems (not just "self driving" ones) start with the premise that stationary objects are to be ignored, that the default state of the roadway is to be clear. If they didn't, they would be completely overwhelmed by data from the stationary world they are driving past.

The hard part is then teaching them what NOT to ignore. The "sudden, stationary obstacle in the middle-of-the-road" is hardly a rare cause of accidents. Getting systems to parse a real hazard out of all the other stationary data seems to be a difficult problem. My *guess* is that when the Tesla engineers try to force the correct answer to that particular error on the neural network, others errors are cropping up that are even worse. Machine learning can be weird that way.

This is a very different case from the "slow moving vehicle" one. Anti-collision systems can do well with that, because that data gets through even if you filter out all stationary data. How adroitly they respond depends on how well the software is written, but it's not a detection problem. While you are unhappy with how your rental vehicle responded to the truck, it did not cause a collision. It just made you very nervous.

You didn't say what model and year of car it was. That can matter. Laura and I had a rental Toyota Corolla on a vacation about four years back. The adaptive cruise control and anti-collision braking on that car made us nervous. Even at the greatest separation setting it followed too close for our comfort and it braked too suddenly. We don't know that it was unsafe, but it felt unsafe. I had occasion to rent the same model, but a 2019 car, on a trip last year. It kept a decent separation at the intermediate distance setting, and its braking and accelerating were smooth and relaxing. I learned later there'd been one of the regular major revisions of the Corolla in between.

Regarding the Tesla that was following you, oh yeah, that sounds like the adaptive cruise control at work (it may not have been on full autopilot — you can engage the acc without engaging the steering control). There are many user-configurable settings for that. One is the following distance. A setting of 1 is good for stop and go traffic. I found that 3 is good for freeways. It goes all away up to 7, which I would presume is for bad weather conditions; I can't imagine needing anything higher than 3 on a dry road with good visibility.

This is easily adjustable on the fly by the driver, by twisting the acc/autopilot lever. More than once I've gotten on the freeway and not realized I had it set for 1. So it's possible the driver wasn't being an intentional jerk. The other thing is that the Tesla has insanely powerful braking and far faster reflexes than a human being. It doesn't need to stay as far back as a normal human-driven car. Which doesn't mean you shouldn't. As a courtesy. Vis, my passing someone at 98 mph. Just because one can doesn't mean one should.

The acc has several kinds of speed limiters. You can implement an absolute speed limit (which by default is set to 90 mph but is changeable), or you can set it relative to the local road speed limit, which the Tesla determines by a combination of factors — the mapped speed limit, roadside MPH signs (sometimes), and whether you are on a curve (at least in autopilot mode). Yes, it'll slow itself down on curves! It's actually more conservative on average about curves than I (and most drivers) would be. My biggest complaint about autopilot is that it is too timid. As I said, it lacks common sense and behaves like a student driver.

I can tell you with confidence that if you had pulled over to pass a slower moving vehicle, it is very unlikely the Tesla would've crashed. Although when it slammed on the brakes, someone might've crashed into it!

Or... y'know, the driver behind you simply could have been an ass! Like regular acc's, the Tesla's doesn't prevent a driver from stepping on the accelerator and going even faster than what cruise control is set for. In which case, they would have crashed!

- pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. Dragon Dictate in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery. http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations. http://photo-repair.com 

Tesla markets this thing as an SUV, but if you've ever driven behind one you realize it has the ground clearance of a two-seater roadster, i.e., next to none. Maybe it's the apotheosis of citified pseudo-SUVs.

On the head losing so much heat. It is a myth. It loses no more body heat than any other uncovered body part of similar size in exposure to air. A hat or scarf will help keep you warm but the myth of just how much heat one loses without it is just that - a myth.

I'll take a 911 flat6, air-or-water-cooled, any day over a golf cart freedom killer. I wouldn't take a Taycan either which is far better made than a Tesla.

Dear David R,

COOL!!! I thought this hadn't happened!

Back story. I often hold Elmo up to the front window in the morning so he can look out, especially when it's a nice and sunny day. On one day when I was doing that, the Google mapping car drove by. Believe me, it was not planned!

But when I checked back at Google Maps after they had done the street view update, the window was entirely blanked out. I figured it was one of their privacy measures, like the way they blank out license plates in peoples faces.

It was disappointing, But, you know, that's life. I never went back to check.

Thank you so much for alerting me to this. Elmo can now be famous on the Internet.

He will be so pleased.

pax / Ctein

Dear Tim,

Resale values are surprisingly high. Five year old cars sell for more than half of new, ogres in excellent condition with low miles go for more like 75%.


Dear Gary,

The Tesla automatically adjusts ground clearance with speed and road condition. One option, which is on by default is to have it lower the car at freeway speeds for better handing and aerodynamics.

Or your can set this stuff manually.

pax / Ctein

Given the current situation (pandemic, economic uncertainty, etc.) I thought this review of the $100,000 car to be in questionable taste.

[That's on me. It was an email from Ctein filling me in personally, and I asked him if I could publish it. He reviewed it to make sure it disclosed no overly personal information, and gave me permission.

However, I could not disagree more with you. Last year we passed the FORTIETH anniversary of the first World Climate Conference, and scientists were sounding the alarm (calmly, with confidence that governments would respond) in the 1970s. We should all have been driving electric cars—powered by solar—for decades at this point. Teslas (and Priuses and other hybrids) are baby steps, but the trend is tragically late and cannot possibly be encouraged too much. --Mike]

Dear Jim,

Misspelling my name once... or even twice... is understandable. Three times suggests you're not paying enough attention. [grin]

pax / whatshisface

Have a dear friend who owned an S Tesla but sold it for a loss after a few years of use;it never met expectations for mileage and it died a few times on short trips. He spent almost $100k plus electrical upgrades for home charging station- Now claims there isn't an extension cord long enough to get him to purchase another.

In my few years working in auto insurance claims, I found that the largest group of owners who were difficult to deal with (read: delusions of entitlement) were Tesla owners. Note I'm talking about the proportion of bad customers, not the population of Tesla owners. It usually manifested as a sense that they belonged to a special cohort that deserved more than what was agreed in their policy. Next biggest were the BMW owners, then the S-Class Mercedes owners. Leaseholders were bad regardless of marque.

One thing to be aware when buying a Tesla is the difficulty working with the aluminum body parts, as well as Tesla's slow delivery of same in many cases.


I just can't get my head around spending $100K on a car that will most likely depreciate as fast as a laptop computer and eventually be disposed of because of obsolescence.

Dear Howard,

I'm very sorry to hear about your friend's experience, but I love his parting shot. I'm going to steal it!

Where does he live, by the way?

Something prospective eV owners have to think about is that the mileage characteristics of eV's are very different from ICE's. eV's just love stop-and-go/slow-and go driving. They use almost no juice when stopped, and regenerative braking is very efficient under those conditions. The best mileage I ever got was going to the East Bay in annoyingly heavy traffic conditions, 25% better than "official" rating. That'd be 400 miles on a charge.

Conversely, they hate cold weather, because both the battery packs and the passengers have to be kept warm to stay functional. Heat is not free in an eV the way it is with an ICE. In severe winter conditions, the real range may be half of official, especially if one doesn't preheat the car while plugged into a high power charger.

I've seen quite a few Teslas in Minneapolis in the winter. In fact, I have a friend there who owns a Model S. At the worst times of year, he can't be getting much more than 130 miles of range. On the other hand, we're talking about a city where people think 10 miles is a long drive — heck, the distance from westernmost Minneapolis to easternmost St. Paul is less than 20 miles.

People who haven't driven these cars worry all the time about "range anxiety." By and large, people who drive them don't. To some extent, we are a self-selecting group, but it's also about buying the car that actually fits your needs. I'm sure there are people here in the Bay Area for whom even my 260-mile real "75 MPH" range would leave them begging for electrons. And others, like our neighbor, for whom a Leaf is entirely adequate.

- pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. Dragon Dictate in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery. http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations. http://photo-repair.com 

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