Is “the better car experience” the next big tech breakthrough?

That is the question I raise in my new Bloomberg column, here is one excerpt:

Another reality of the contemporary automobile is that Tesla has managed to rethink the entire design. The dashboard and interior are reconfigured, the drive is electric, software is far more prominent and integrated into the design, voice recognition operates many systems, and there are self-driving features, too. Whether or not you think Tesla as a company will succeed, its design work has shown how much room there is for improvement.

You might object that cars have numerous negative features — but that’s where there is much of the potential for major transformation. Cars cause a lot of air pollution, but electric cars (or maybe even hydrogen cars) are on their way, and they will lower noise pollution too, as hybrids already do.

Cars also create traffic congestion, but congestion pricing can ease this problem significantly, as it already has in Singapore. Congestion pricing used to be seen as politically impossible, but the Washington area recently instituted it for one major highway during rush hour. The toll is allowed to rise as high as $40, but on most days it is possible to drive to work for about $10 and home for well under $10, at speeds of at least 50 mph. Manhattan also will move to congestion pricing, for south of 60th Street in Midtown, and the practice will probably spread, both within New York and elsewhere, partly because many municipalities are strapped for cash. As for building new highways, transportation analyst Robert W. Poole Jr. argues in his new book that there is plenty of room for the private-sector toll concession model to grow, leading to more roads and easier commutes.

In other words, the two biggest problems with cars — pollution and traffic congestion — have gone from “impossible to solve” to the verge of manageability.

There is much more at the link, and here is the closer:

Right now there are about 281 million cars registered in the U.S., and they have pretty hefty price tags and demand many hours of time. The basic infrastructures and legal frameworks are already in place. So, despite the current obsessions with robots and gene editing, it should be evident that the biggest tangible changes from technology in the next 20 years are likely to come in a relatively mundane area of life — namely, life on the road.

Comments

Thanks for sharing your inputs.

marginalrevolution.com does it yet again! Quite a perceptive site and a thought-provoking post. Nice work!

They are also testing flying cars!

https://www.aeromobil.com

So the solution to life's problems is to make everything more expensive?

Peak car was in 2005. Like every declining technology, it is doomed to be more expensive.

It would seem to. To quote Singapore as an example of how to manage congestion..... Even to buy a car you need a Certificate of Entitlement which costs say $20K USD for a new Toyota Corolla. Plus annual taxes, etc.

You might find that if you charge everyone $20K just to buy a car, then you will have less congestion, as if by magic.

Clearing the poor people off the road is all part of the Better Car Experience.

In fairness, just clearing them off the rich people's roads is much less intrusive. That's kind of the idea.

It's the European model. Keep the price of driving high to keep the riff raff off the roads.

I am waiting for the highly likely comment of an expert in the field that will explain us that Tesla has not invented anything and just copied someone else's design.

There have definitely been many frauds throughout history. Raphael was one, who simply stole other people's techniques and put them together in a package.

What's fraudulent about that?

I think he was being sarcastic is response to the first posters comment.

'So, despite the current obsessions with robots and gene editing'

What, no mention of 3D printing?

And this is funny - 'Ride-sharing has been the biggest technological boost to my standard of living since the smartphone' considering how having someone else drive and use the smart phone to navigate is really the epitome of an economist searching for lunch.

Though clearly not a complacent one, when viewed against some info from 2016 - 'Now I know how to text, sort of, though I hardly ever do it.' Regarding an iPad - 'I use it very often for directions, book and restaurant reviews, and general life advice. Plus email and keeping current on my Twitter feed. I simply don’t want a screen any smaller than that.'

A few other points - 'I have an iPhone, which I hardly ever use for anything.' And 'Except for the occasional Uber ride, I don”t use apps and hate reading news sites through the apps, I won’t do it.'

Apparently, Prof. Cowen decided to do things the more common way with ridesharing and smartphones, instead of like this - 'Way more iPad and way less texting are I suppose the main ways in which I deviate from the dominant status quo. Come join me in this and we shall conquer the world.' https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2016/08/my-personal-tech-ecosystem-2.html (Can one wonder if it was Android that made the difference to entering this brave new world?)

C_P, thank you, thank you for this completely negative comment sniping at Dr. Cowen for, I'm not sure precisely, but I think not being precisely up to the minute in his technology usage? Plus, it was completely off topic. A masterpiece in the clockwork oeuvre.

Did clockwork_prior achieve orgasm while he was typing this, or after he hit 'submit'?

'but I think not being precisely up to the minute in his technology usage'

Well, in 2016, Prof. Cowen was remarking that he was not really using a smart phone or ridesharing. And of course, I cannot blame you for not reading the linked column, where Prof. Cowen writes this - 'Ride-sharing has been the biggest technological boost to my standard of living since the smartphone....'

What is interesting to see how much his life has changed in just 3 years (assuming you think that what was written then and now was an accurate reflection of circumstances), excellently demonstrating how complacency has no role in some people's lives.

So Tyler wrote in 2016: "'I have an iPhone, which I hardly ever use for anything.' And 'Except for the occasional Uber ride,"

And then he writes in 2019:
"Ride-sharing has been the biggest technological boost to my standard of living since the smartphone' "

There's no contradiction there. You are obsessed and irrational. Seek help.

'There's no contradiction there.'

Of course not - in just three short years, Prof. Cowen went from apparently hardly ever using a smartphone or ridesharing, to using a smartphone, and then using ridesharing, and noting how Tesla is a gamechanger in a way that long time readers might recall 3D printing would be, back when this web site actually mentioned 3D printing.

Though as JMCSF below noted, a few months ago Prof. Cowen wrote something else - it is just a matter of just comparing various posts, or even remembering them.

Thanks for providing a reason to actually find that post from October 2018 - 'That said, most cars in operation today are not that much better than cars from 1969, and they perform more or less the same functions, albeit more safely. Improving car manufacture is not that hard, but improving the usefulness of cars in our daily lives is where the problem lies. So this supports the “the consumer space is already filled out” interpretation of the great stagnation.' https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2018/10/first-man-great-stagnation.html

Maybe Prof. Cowen just bought a Tesla? Though nothing he wrote in Bloomberg actually contradicts his observations about four rubber wheeled vehicles as currently used in daily life, regardless of whether they use an IC or electric motor.

Never change, prior_approval.

Your complete inability to apply logic is an endless source of amusement.

Your epic Siegfried-like kampf against the Mercatus Center continues. Or is it Sisyphean...

Yes, buses or rail in sparsely populated areas make no sense. What I don't understand is how ride-sharing is going to solve the problem. If driving a taxi were good business, someone would already make a nice profit offering the service. What the problem may be is simply poverty. Poor people in depopulating areas can't afford a regular bus service, taxi or ride-sharing. Depopulation has a cause, right?

Next, "Cars also create traffic congestion, but congestion pricing can ease this problem significantly". Of course, if driving becomes more expensive, some people will prefer a cheaper alternative such as a bus, train, or boat.......the precondition is that the transportation alternative must exist and work. Otherwise, congestion pricing is just another tax.

Software contribution to safety is not the future, it's been there since the ABS and ESC (electronic stability control). A few weeks ago Volvo said all their cars will be limited to a max speed of 180 kph (~110 mph). The evil EU comission have required cars to have a GPS controlled speed limiter by 2022. If the digital map and the GPS says you're driving in a speed limited zone, the car won't accelerate over that limit unless the driver overrides the system by pushing harder on the pedal. Of course, that input will be recorded with timedate and coordinates and be available to any investigator.

From the legal + software side, it's becoming standard to check the phone records of drivers involved in accidents. If someone was texting or picked-up the phone at the worst possible time, it's possible to know and establish liability.

'What I don't understand is how ride-sharing is going to solve the problem.'

They are going to make a profit on volume.

'Otherwise, congestion pricing is just another tax.'

Which has the advantage, from the perspective that someone like Prof. Cowen favors in practice, of falling more heavily on the less well off, thus improving life for the wealthy.

I think bus services have a lot more problem with sparse populations than with poverty. Poor people can support a bus system, if they're living in a densely populated place so that it's economically viable to keep busses running regularly. Rich people can't support such a system (other than with lots of taxpayer subsidies) when they're sparsely populated, because then the busses have to either run empty most of the time, or have a long time between pickups.

Well-run public transit gets wealthy people to use it, too. But wealthy people can afford alternatives, so they won't take the bus if it's a two hour wait to ride one.

If you have a sparse population, then your busses run empty. You're paying a driver plus depreciation/capital on a large city bus and it's mostly just wasting gas driving from one empty bus stop to another, maybe with one or two people on it at any time. To be useful, the busses have to keep moving on a route and schedule that doesn't change just because not many people are riding them. Cabs and Uber can be economically viable in that environment--you don't need to pay them to drive unused routes so they'll be available if someone wants to ride them, instead you can allocate your cars/drivers to the people who need rides. As the volume of people traveling this way goes up, busses start making more and more sense--eventually, the busses are usually full and so they make sense to operate.

No, that's all wrong. Congestion pricing functions primarily by getting people to shift their travel time, not their vehicles. And ride-sharing is most notable for side-stepping rent seeking restrictions on supply, so in a world of perfect competition you might be right, but add public choice analysis.

Shift their travel time?

It all depends on the pricing system. The variable price on the Virginia I-66 highway may indeed work like this. The fixed price in London leaves no alternative but change of transportation mode.

>Congestion pricing functions primarily by getting people to shift their travel time, not their vehicles

Time shifting is a cost (tax), too.

If you have to heavily tax people to get them to use the bus, the bus isn't the most efficient solution.

Or humans are not rational. Which is a proven fact.

Or maybe the bus service is inadequate (ie last mile)

Which is where ride sharing and/or driverless cars have a distinct advantage.

I expect self driving cars will at some point take off and have a large effect on traffic. Waymo has racked up an impressive number of miles driven under computer control and they have shown themselves to be safer than human drivers in my country.

Of course, we don't know exactly what hardware will be required for a vehicle to legally self-drive so anyone claiming they can sell you are car now that will be capable of driving itself in the future sounds like a con.

You could in principle do it with vision because that's how people do it. We have an existing proof of concept.

I'm kind of skeptical myself, at least in the short term, but I think the argument for LIDAR is weak.

Gotta agree with you there that vision should do. But it always could be combined with LIDAR or high frequency sonar. Help tell the difference between a plastic bag in the breeze and a dog, that sort of thing.

'and they have shown themselves to be safer than human drivers in my country'

And of course, maintenance of extremely complicated systems has been ignored in typical fashion, one assumes.

Which is not a joke, actually - apparently, replacing a car windshield in a modern high end car involves recalibrating the camera used for systems like parking assistance - or collision avoidance. Or not, depending on how much you decide to pay.

Adding self driving to a car currently increases its cost which will increase the cost of repairs. On the other hand, self driving vehicles will be less likely to smack into things. Eventually I expect self driving ability will cost less than what it costs to add manual controls to a car.

I expect self driving vehicles will suffer from unexpected flaws that will cause problems, but this will be less of a problem than the unexpected flaws in human drivers.

'Eventually I expect self driving ability will cost less than what it costs to add manual controls to a car.'

I understand the point, but don't really agree from a certain perspective. Power steering or brakes do not have much of a manual component at this point, though of course that is a cost that can be avoided. However, the replacement aspect is probably not really cheaper.

'but this will be less of a problem than the unexpected flaws in human drivers'

Boeing would certainly like to have people believe that concept. Nonetheless, what would seem to be a fairly straightforward example of automating something seems to have been very flawed in reality. '“The disagree alert was tied or linked into the angle of attack indicator, which is an optional feature on the MAX. Unless an airline opted for the angle of attack indicator, the disagree alert was not operable,” the company said.

The revelation came hours after Boeing’s chief executive faced pointed questions from investors and reporters in Chicago on Monday. CEO Dennis Muilenburg said the company “owns” responsibility to up safety on the 737 Max but declined to say that it had released the plane with design flaws, reported The Washington Post’s Douglas MacMillan. Instead, he declared the recent crashes the result of a “chain of events,” with Boeing’s malfunctioning sensors and software just one piece of the problem.' (Whisper 'pilot error' who dares, right?) https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/04/30/boeing-says-safety-alert-max-didnt-work-all-planes/?utm_term=.712ed3dd85a4

The article is quite insightful when simply reading what Boeing wrote. On the same topic, this article is not bad either - https://spectrum.ieee.org/aerospace/aviation/how-the-boeing-737-max-disaster-looks-to-a-software-developer There is always a learning curve, but the first step is in understanding that the human component is as relevant to the humans creating the self-driving systems as it is to the humans driving the cars. (In the longer term, reducing the human component for errors is a good idea - displacing it, not so much.)

Getting autonomous cars to work well isn't easy, but at some point we'll have a large scale trial here in Australia and if they can demonstrate they are safer on average than human drivers they will be allowed on the roads. As the technology rapidly improves I expect they will become much safer than human drivers and new cars will be required to have self driving ability or at least some form of autonomous accident avoidance technology. If autonomous cars can't demonstrate they are safer than human drivers then their use will be restricted until they can manage that.

Cowen is restating an old economic maxim: progress is rarely the result of the discovery of a new technology but incremental improvements to existing technology. It's similar to the maximum I was taught early in my legal career: the best source of new business are existing clients. Those who complain about the absence of the discovery of new technology (the end is nigh!) are misguided and, unfortunately, are given a large platform to spread the nonsense. As for the subject of Cowen's lesson, cars, it serves to distract folks from the fact that America, unlike Europe and Asia, doesn't do efficient mass transportation because, ahem, it is public. So cars its was, cars it is, and cars it will always be. By the way, if self-driving cars are what will be, America must either (a) demand that Americans give up their non-autonomous cars or (b) build a separate right of way for the self-driving cars. Of course, bankers aren't going to give up their $1million sports cars any more than they are going to give up their private jets. So separate right of way it will be. Who will pay for it? Wouldn't it be no more costly to build, you know, mass transportation?

I expect my country will allow people to self drive vehicles all they want but all vehicles must come with self driving technology that will take over when the driver messes up. Here I expect a car simply will not be allowed into a city center if it is being self driven, but an alternative would be a congestion charge for self drivers who impede traffic. This would cause the problem to either disappear or those who are inconvenienced will be compensated.

Tesla is like watching a egg roll forward, or "I want, that is to say, I desire; do the will, that is to say, I want, etc. Thus, idea, concept, imagination, do not mark real objects, let alone sensitive beings that can be united with each other." - Du Marsais…..one can say a clock is musical but listening to a clock is not a musical experience such with traffic, though they can have positive effects. Reid's "vulgar" is absurdity and all its monstrous dimples.

It would be nice if the cut-off fiends during rush hour had a large buzzer that went off in their car each time. But if they are relying on cars being safer, and everybody else's car auto braking their cut-off, that sort of thing might get worse.

I am not sure we should call automatic braking and lane following, which are being sold now, a "next" technology.

I put them with IoT, a wave of current development, but yes something that may add up to a lot.

As far as really "next," who has guesses?

Mine: maybe the GMO folks will stop messing around and come up with something weird: raspberry-oranges or garlic-potatoes. Or protein carrots.

The future of self-driving cars, should it even occur, will involve changes other than technical. In the event, it's unlikely that autonomous vehicles will be owned by private individuals. For them to operate efficiently and safely they will be the property of companies that distribute and maintain them. People wishing to use this service will be obliged to sign contracts with regular payments, as they do with cell phone service, to engage with the system. Actual trips with the car will be assessed an additional fee. We don't know what the rider response will be when cars show up with empty beer bottles and used condoms scattered around the interior but it's easy to imagine.

helps people get work done or talk on the phone when they otherwise would have been driving. This canard simply won't die. In genuine ride sharing, in which two or more commuters ride together to a general destination, do the passengers usually "work"? If so, what work is it that they do? In reality, for a large portion of the population, driving to and from work is the most exciting part of an otherwise mundane and meaningless day. It's an opportunity to take advantage of strangers whom are unlikely to ever retaliate in kind. It's an example of self-expression in an otherwise well-regimented society. Alone in a car the driver listens to what they wish on the radio without the bother of boss or family. Self-driving cars will be more like riding a hopefully more sanitary bus.

Ride-sharing has been the biggest technological boost to my standard of living since the smartphone If the meaning of ride-sharing is Uber or Lyft, the technological boost is the smart phone, not the car. This form of commercial ride-sharing is simply an organized form of gypsy cabs, who provided the same service on an independent basis via land line phones.

Actually, Uber is simply a corporate competitor of independent gypsy cabs, which still exist. Americans are more comfortable dealing with a corporate entity that accepts credit cards than paying cash to a visible and possibly unattractive human. The same situation has come about with tickets to concerts and sporting events. Resale of these was once the domain of the country's most dedicated and heroic capitalists, the ticket scalpers. Now creepy corporatists have created StubHub and other resale companies since consumers would rather be taken advantage of by faceless entities rather than bargain with a fellow human on a street corner. Somehow this is taken as progress.

Uber and Lyft have a big advantage when you go to a new town. You can immediately get a ride wherever you want by using the app already on your phone. There's a central record of your ride, which could be bad for privacy in many ways, but which also means that if your driver is planning to drive you to a dark alley and rob you, the police are going to have an easy time figuring out whom to arrest. Similarly, if you call an Uber with plans to rob the driver, you're leaving a permanent record outside your/the driver's control of the call, which will make it easy for the police to figure out whom to start questioning about the robbery.

We don't know what the response of the populace will be when they are left to die as those dependent upon public/government transportation were in New Orleans in the face of Katrina.

Or all the AUVs are recalled when people need to get home from work in a sudden winter storm.

Two comments, in different directions, on the future of cars:

(1) Some cars, and here I’m thinking of the kind of cars people will want to keep around for a long time, should adopt more ageless interiors. Raptors, Mustangs, Corvettes, Porsches, etc. They should ditch the screens. It’s fine to keep the computers and sophistication under the hood, but there should be no visible indication in the car’s interior that will rapidly look obsolete. Bugatti does something close to this, but it should be prevalent in much lower priced vehicles.

(2) Tesla needs to get out of their Southern California mindset and design a Suburban competitor. I get why they’d stay away from hyper-competitive segments like minivans while they mature, where there’s so much that needs to be perfect. But the Model Y “small SUV” was actually a hatchback and left people underwhelmed. They can’t keep making things that look like a 90s Taurus (https://www.carfax.com/vehicle/1FAFP52U3WG222394) in various sizes. People want different functionality.

The big3 (Ford, GM, Chrysler) failed because they were sticked to Suburban kind-of-vehicles. Thing is those cars only sell in the US, whereas Tesla wants to be a global player. Toyota, Hyundai or VW are succesful manufacturers because they think in global models and offer a very limited range of US-specific ones. If you wish Tesla to be less hippiesque-californian then start imagining a kind of Tesla Corolla rather than a Suburban.

Meh. Lots of trends, like increasing wealth, the coming of self-driving cars, and ever-rising expectations for safety are all conspiring to make vehicles bigger.

Much of the drive for bigger vehicles comes from rising wealth and falling energy prices, but also there's no reason to snuggle behind the wheel in something that looks like a fighter cockpit if I'm just lounging around watching a movie or working on my laptop. I'm not predicting this to happen overnight, but look for mainstream vehicles in 2050 to look like the back seat of a Maybach.

The Model 3 is a Tesla Corolla. I get the idea, but yawn. You outgrow it by 30, and the Model X and S are not real grown-up cars.

More precisely, the Model 3 is the Tesla BMW 3 Series. It's no surprise that it's the Germans, with their sedan portfolio, lackluster SUVs, and similar price-points that are feeling its brunt. But the 3 Series is just a nice-experience version of the Corolla. It fits a similar usage case (1 person with a short commute).

Luckily car companies still employ automotive engineers who hate the idea of big SUVs. It would take up a wall of text and a deep dive in physics to explain why - but in the eye of a hardcore engineer, vehicles like the Suburban, Navigator or Escalade are nothing else than huge chunks of junk metal. If it were for the people who can design cars everybody would be forced to drive Lotus 7s, AC Cobras or Jaguar D-Types. Maybe they would make some utility vehicles like pick-up trucks, but in an engineering world there would be no luxury road-going off-road vehicles (it's a double oxymoron anyways).
Of course, business is business and these ideas always come to a compromise with what the market wants, so the average daily drivers (like the Corolla) can be built, but no engineer would find joy in creating a 20 feet long, 8 feet wide SUV-saurus, thus the result would likely be awful (there are however RV comapnies for this purpose).
For some odd reasons (or maybe it's just a coincidence) legislation seems to favour the engineers: downsizing seems to be the winner on the long-run. As of now it is very unlikely that increasing wealth will result in ever-increasing vehicle size.

Clearly humans have homogeneous preferences and all agree the only valid quality metric for cars is a Nurburgring lap time.

It doesn't needs to be all about speed, but about choosing the right tool for the task. You can buy an SUV for commuting, but you don't need it. It's weird that a US mother needs a 5 liter V8 to drive the kids to school, while her Japanese equivalent can do the same task with a 660cc kei car. When an industry is out of innovation (as the title suggest - and with which I agree to some degree) increasing efficiency is always a good way of increasing it's total utility.
Cars already fulfill the preferences of too many buyers, it's time to peel off the unnecesary ones and take a more minimalistic approach - that's the method to get better user experience.

How many Japanese moms have three or more kids, live outside a city, and regularly drive in snow?

Relax and acknowledge that people are not all the same.

A lot of the drive for big cars (SUVs and minivans) in the US has to do with the requirements on carseats for small children. A small car that technically has three seats in the back can't carry three children comfortably if one is in a baby seat and one is in a booster seat, and with that configuration, there's no way an adult or big kid is fitting back there.

> start imagining a kind of Tesla Corolla rather than a Suburban.

Their power plant is comparatively expensive. That doesn't matter as much in the luxury segment or performance segment, but it's going to matter in the volume segments.

I was walking home on a cold Canadian winter day and this young guy drove by in - a car? a scooter? a what?. It was an electric scooter but with an enclosed shell making it look like a car. He was cheerfully smoking away while the music blared away. It was clearly his "car" but I wouldn't have recognized it as such when I was his age.

I think the coming of electric cars is going to allow us to radically redefine what a "car" is. Why do I have to drive to work each day in a vehicle that seats 5? Couldn't my wife and I have a couple of single seat vehicles for the week, while having (or renting) a larger vehicle for weekends? With electric motors mightn't this arrangement be cheaper and better than having 2 large vehicles? Are their other arrangements and options that might open up?

What I do know is that any business that is too dependent on the existing paradigm is going to get steamrollered. (Well, not "steam" of course.)

You don't need no fancy touch-screen to get a better car experience and autonomous driving has too much legal limits anyways. Electric cars are simply superior in terms of ownership experience because you don't need to deal with petrol stations anymore. You get home and plug in your car just like you do it with your smart phone. Can you imagine what it would look like if you always had to go to a charging station whenever your phone's battery is low? It would be a nightmare - that's what inner combustion engine ownership looks like today.
Car sharing models are basically very flexible car rentals: may be a good solution for some, but home ownership is a better experience than rental as well, so I don't think it's the holy grail of the automotive industry.

Excellent until PG&E shuts down the grid for a few days during high winds to avoid wildfire liability. And, of course, it takes hours in a heated garage to charge a Tesla. And then, for me, I'd barely be able to go to the city and back, forget going inter-city.

1) Well, it depends what you mean by going intercity, but in my personal opinion anything above 500+ miles is certainly not car-territory. Been there, done that and I never enjoyed it. The train is more comfortable, the plane is faster and buses are cheaper. Cars are the worst of all for this use - they are slow, traffic is unpredictable and you have to overtake 18 wheelers all day. If you need to carry heavy luggage obviously there is no other option but then I think we are talking of a small truck or car+trailer rather than just a car. It used to be a good alternative sometimes in the past, but the road network got so overcrowded (and other means of traffic better) that you have to be used to long driving like truck drivers to go through an 8-hour trip without any roadrage.
2) I wouldn't charge an EV outside my home either (maybe at workplace, but certainly not at public chargers), but to avoid waiting times nighttime is the best charging time to fill up your EVs battery. Off-peak electricity is cheaper and from 22:00-06:00 you are sleeping anyways, very few people use their cars in this time gap.
3) Last but not least: I wouldn't want to look like an EV-evangelist, but let's not forget that from around ~2007 to ~2013 the average battery life of cell phones dropped from 1 week to about 2 days of a smart phone. Yet people were ditching their old, "long-range" Nokias on a massive scale (not everyone, I still have mine and use it), because electricity is so easily available that it doesn't matters whether the battery lasts 1 week or just a quarter of that. Indeed - just like any other form of energy it can never be taken for granted, but energy security in general increased so much that relying on grid electricity doesn't seems any scarier than relying on petrol stations (just more comfortable).

"You get home and plug in your car just like you do it with your smart phone"

http://joannenova.com.au/2019/04/huge-bang-and-house-burns-to-the-ground-just-an-e-bike-battery-mishap/

Heh heh

This past winter in the Northern Hemisphere, LOTS of folks with nifty-keen electric cars found themselves STUCK once the cold arrived and then stayed: cold temperatures somehow adversely impacted electric cars' batteries' ability to keep precious electric energy stored.

What is the market in 2019 for 1) electric ambulances, 2) electric fire trucks, or 3) electric police cruisers? (Would last week's lethal pile-up in Denver have been much mitigated if all the vehicles involved had been electric vehicles, including the four semis? Less fire and smoke, maybe?)

Conversely: what range do electric cars possess when zipping through 90- and 100-degree temps (with abundant humidity, let's say) while the AC blasts out compensating comfort? Less than 400 miles? Less than 300 miles? Less than 200 miles? (Let's assume, of course, a car filled with a family of four, pets optional, cruise control set at about 5 mph above posted speeds.)

It's possible that the owner of a Tesla, for instance, might not be able to easily get it serviced.

Well denver was certainly an argument for self driving trucks

Actually, electric vehicles are more prone to fire when damaged. And require hours of on-site monitoring by the fire responders to ensure the fire is out, both before and after transport. Once in a storage location, it must be kept 100 ft from buildings and other flammables.

Here's a training video that explains how to handle high-voltage electric vehicle fires
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8n5Wf7TlGrU

"What is the market in 2019 for 1) electric ambulances, 2) electric fire trucks, or 3) electric police cruisers? "

No of course not. Don't be mindless. Plenty of vehicles will continue to use petroleum or maybe some kind of hybrid. But there's no reason 100 million consumer vehicles can't transition to electric usage when that becomes the low cost option.

Another reality of the contemporary automobile is that Tesla has managed to rethink the entire design. The dashboard and interior are reconfigured

Reconfigured distinctly for the worse. Touch-screens are a terrible user interface for autos, requiring drivers to take their eyes off the road and use multiple touches to replace simple, intuitive physical knobs and other physical controls that can be used without shifting eyes or attention. Voice commands may alleviate the problem to a degree, but there is no way that 'Car -- turn up the heat two notches' or 'Car -- recline my seat by 3 degrees' is an improvement over dials and levers to accomplish the same tasks directly. Tesla's automobile UI 'improvements' are clear cases of 'fashion over function'.

Here's a pretty good piece -- adding the additional observation that giant touch screens are distracting even when the driver is not using them for controlling anything.

+1

Having had a series of German vehicles of pretty good repute, my favorite interior is still that of the big ol' pickup I had before I started to get paid. I loved the clunk of the transfer case lever.

I'd pay extra for Apollo program -style switchgear. All tactile and easy to use while looking at the road and driving over potholes.

My theory is that it's not fashion. It's driven by the legal need to fit a display for the backup camera.

Given the distracted driving issue you mention, it might be interesting to measure whether the law helps or hurts safety, on net.

My theory is that it's not fashion. It's driven by the legal need to fit a display for the backup camera.

But backup cameras can be integrated into the rear view mirror (as they were at first), which has the additional advantage that the rear-view mirror can then be made to switch between a reflective view and a camera-based view (useful when the back of the vehicle is full of cargo). I have no idea if this particular one is any good, but it has both front and rear facing camera views as well as recording, and Amazon has it for $79.

But it's also be possible to integrate a small screen into the dash for mapping and backup camera while leaving traditional physical controls for the climate control, radio, and driving related functions. Bottom line -- there's no legal factor leading automakers to stick a giant iPad-sized touch screen onto the dash (as seems to be the current craze).

Why, I wonder, does TC find it impossible to consider a widespread return of equine and equestrian culture as a legitimate alternative to another "big tech breakthrough" to further stimulate automotive transport?

Once the treadmill was invented and mass produced, whose ingenious idea was it to staff them all with human beings? (Do our measurers and monitors of performance have their own battery-assisted treadmills?)

Lol literally just months ago Tyler posted how cars have not made any improvements in the last 50 years.

The most important design element of an automobile is the sheet metal. And with the sole exception of the Tesla Roadster (which was actually a rebadged Lotus), Tesla's design team has not been impressive there. Their product offerings range from nondescript (Model S) to flat out ugly (Model X).

They desperately need an automotive Gwynne Shotwell.

A Tim Cook for Musk's Steve Jobs. Jobs was also a lousy manager. And Cook is a lousy innovator.

So many publicly funded highways to be privatized into toll roads for the wealthy; so little time

Some drivers are more equal than others.

Peak pricing for public services of course completely blows up the ideas of shared sacrifice and public ownership of infrastructure.

But hey why not, the rich can already buy their way out of all our other putatively public systems

You can pay for your use of the road in cash, or in waiting time in a traffic jam. Paying in cash will resolve the shortage of road space (incentivizing people to drive less/at different times), and the people using the road will spend way less time on the road. Almost certainly this makes a lot more people better off than it makes worse off.

Once the "congestion pricing" sensors are everywhere, the most popular auto accessory will be a cloaking device

Frankly most modern cars are integrated with annoying and distracting bells and whistles that chip away at a liberating and focused driving experience. Why do I like driving my 74' Plymouth Gold Duster muscle car? Zero distractions-the only upgrade I have is a loud CD player to go with the loud engine.

The last value added mod was fuel injection in cold climates

Just about everything else is fluff

CD player? Man, for a 74 Duster you need some cassettes!

Cassettes?

You can wrest my 8-Track player from my cold dead hands!

Yeah it would be more authentic to have an 8 track player but those things suck when the fade in and fade out Bohemian Rhapsody!

Tesla is a scam. It survive without government subsidies.

...can't survive...

I guess that would make many farms scams.

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