Monday, July 11, 2016

Milking the Tesla S auto-pilot accident

Fortune Magazine recently published an article accusing Tesla Inc. of hiding material information in its $2 Billion stock offering dated May 18th, 2016. The article suggests that by failing to disclose the adverse affects of the fatal accident dated May 7th, Tesla Inc. may have misguided buyers about the future of the company.

 Elon Musk' reacted angrily to by calling the article BS.

This less than amicable exchange was mentioned in an article published by my local (Swiss) newspaper. This article, like many others, seemed to focus on Tesla's follow up on the accident and the future of auto-pilot, while ignoring salient facts about the circumstances of the accident. More specifically, the fact that Mr. Frank Baressi, the driver of the tractor trailer, cut the path of the Tesla S driven by the late Joshua Brown on a separated high-way, is mentioned only fleetingly. Cutting the path of traffic in a separated highway is a high-risk maneuver. While auto-pilot may share some of the blame, automatically exonerating both Mr. Frank Baressi and the late Joshua Brown from any responsibility in the accident seems disingenuous.

As for the $2 Billion stock offering, for a company bleeding cash at the rate of $500 million per trimester, nothing seems more natural than raising cash for future investments. Fortune magazine must know this.

The press seems to think that articles on reactions to articles published in some other paper is somehow newsworthy. The signal to noise ratio of the numerous articles published by Fortune magazine on Tesla seems very low and on par with click-bait internet pages we all love to hate. It looks like Fortune magazine, like many other papers and magazines, are merely milking the Tesla phenomenon.

Elon Musk took a risk in integrating auto-pilot before other car manufactures. He paved the way for auto-pilot technology to enter mainstream. Some may call this being brave.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Impatiently awaiting the unconditional surrender of the human driver

In recent days, much was written about the fatal traffic accident involving a Tesla S in auto-pilot mode. In an ironic twist, the deceased driver, Joshua Brown, 40, of Ohio, published several fascinating videos about the auto-pilot mode of his beloved car.

It appears that the car's camera did not detect the trailer crossing the road due direct glare from the sun. The long range radar of the vehicle apparently also failed to detect the crane due to its hollow shape. There are some indications that Mr. Brown's Tesla was moving very fast. This would explain why Frank Baressi, age 62, the driver of the tractor trailer, did not see the Tesla and cut its path.

With full details of the accident still missing, one can reasonably conjecture that, cut off by a large vehicle with no warning, the accident would have occurred even in the presence of a fully alert human driver.

Notwithstanding the dozens of articles about the accident, the responsibility of Frank Baressi, the driver of the tractor trailer, is rarely, if ever, mentioned. Had the accident involved two human drivers without auto-pilot, we would have instinctively assigned some of the blame on Mr. Barressi. With auto-pilot in the picture, we tend to focus on the technology. Thus, we seem to set a higher bar of safety for auto-pilot, a technology in its infancy, than we do for human drivers.

In my mind, by focusing on the technology, we implicitly admit that humans can be (are?) bad drivers. We get impatient; we get tired; we get old; we drive under the influence of substances. The machine will never get tired, old, impatient or drunk. It will never overtake before a turn, succumb to road rage or cut the path of a bicycle. There is little doubt that after initial kinks solved, auto-pilot will significantly reduce road fatalities throughout the world, avoiding injuries and saving millions of lives. As such, I am impatiently awaiting the unconditional surrender of the human driver.