Feb 152013

It’s a mess. The NYT wrote a fairly scathing review of the new Tesla roadster, and Tesla fires back (summary here).  Both sides have – or feel that they have – a lot at stake here.  It would appear that there’s simply no way of telling who is telling the truth, since the system that generates the Tesla data is proprietary and who in the hell knows how it was generated.

Looking at Elon Musk’s response (the CEO and founder of tesla)… and while there’s lots of data interpretation, there’s no underlying data; but even if he did supply it there’s simply no way to validate it.

The amount of data you can produce is pretty staggering, obviously.  It strikes me that this presages the advent of black boxes, and you can bet that people will be hacking (in both the pejorative as well as more historical hackery sense) cars as it all comes out (and good luck trying to make a system that will resist attack, given that it’s been amply demonstrated that you have basically complete control of all the components that generate the data.) Do you convict someone of speeding (or even worse, such as vehicular homicide), like a recent politician who was charged at going in excess of 100 mph, if you can compromise the vehicle and change the logs, or at least the systems that generate the logs?

To me the interesting bit in the speeding tale is the big end line, where it says “Black boxes in cars may not be a beloved technology, but they can’t hide the truth” – the faith in technology is disturbing….

Most vehicles built in the past decade carry an event data recorder that captures what’s happening in a car in the seconds before, during and after a crash, including the position of the brake and accelerator pedals, whether the driver was using a seat belt, and how fast the car was traveling.

Privacy advocates have long argued for tougher rules for accessing such data, and about a dozen states have tougher standards. But most states have no such rules, and the data can often be easily accessed after a crash by insurers or investigators. There’s also no way to shut off data recording, which safety systems rely on to decide when to deploy an air bag or take other measures.

In Murray’s case, the data showed he was speeding — going 75 mph on an interstate marked for 65 mph. But in the final few seconds before the crash, Murray pressed the accelerator, and the car’s speed rose to 99 mph; it was traveling 106 mph by the time it hit the rock ledge.

The biggest surprise: Murrary was not wearing a seat belt.

Upon the release of the data today, Massachusetts State Police cited Murray for speeding, crossing lanes and not wearing a seat belt, leveling a $555 fine. Murray — who heretofore had not admitted driving without a seat belt nor falling asleep — said in a statement to Boston media that “I believe that is what caused my accident.” Black boxes in cars may not be a beloved technology, but they can’t hide the truth.

Truth? What’s that? ;)

Nasty stuff.  It’s a blow for tesla, but given what’s at stake they’ll give up easily.  And I think broder is going to be (a) more cautious in the future, esp when writing a negative piece, and (b) not going to capitulate or leave the times voluntarily.  Maybe some additional data will come out to help/hurt things for one or both sides.

Interesting and scary stuff to look forward to.

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