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Autonomous Cars: Move Over Tesla, Here Comes Everybody


It’s been about a year since our last Tesla® report card. And, wow, how the landscape has changed. For most of the year, Tesla has stumbled and bumbled through about a dozen updates. With each one, Tesla’s resident cheerleader, Electrek, has proclaimed that self-driving autonomy was "just around the corner." We’re still waiting although we’re writing this only because last month’s update finally achieved the milestone of being able to navigate the interstate highway in our own hometown without darting into another lane of traffic. In other news, Tesla lost its third head of the AutoPilot project in less than a year. Yet, in 2018, Tesla’s Model S continues to rank as the #1 selling luxury car worldwide by a large margin despite being awarded an "F" by the Better Business Bureau.



While things may have improved in our hometown, that was not the case in California where a Tesla had a romantic encounter with the back end of a fire truck and another driver recently was killed while using AutoPilot when his car rammed into a barrier. Not to be outdone, another Tesla owner decided to recreate the event and almost suffered the same fate. See video below. Despite the accidents, Elon Musk continues to assert that Tesla vehicles are safer than any other cars on the road. That assertion now has been refuted by the NHTSA, and this Ars Technica article explains why.



In the meantime, autonomous driving has spread to a whole host of other companies. Uber was going great guns with their self-driving vehicles until one of their vehicles killed a pedestrian last month with an Uber driver reportedly sitting behind the wheel. On the General Motors front, the 2018 Cadillac CT6 introduced SuperCruise which performs hands-free driving on interstate highways in the U.S. as long as the driver keeps his or her eyes on the road. As CNBC opined, "If General Motors deploys it to other vehicles besides the CT6 it could instantly become the unrivaled leader in semi-autonomy."

You may recall that Tesla originally used Mobileye® technology for its AutoPilot offering until the two companies parted ways after a driver was blindsided by an 18-wheeler and killed. Each company blamed the other, but it seems fair to conclude that Elon Musk overhyped the capabilities of AutoPilot, and that made Mobileye nervous because their technology at the time was clearly not capable of performing the feats that Elon was touting. Subsequently, Intel® acquired Mobileye in a deal valued at over $15 billion.

UPDATE: Tesla now has admitted it overhyped AutoPilot in a proposed $5 million settlement of a class action lawsuit. Details here.

Mobileye hasn’t stood still. With over 15 years of development work behind its EyeQ® software-on-chip (SoC), it now provides the "brains" for Audi’s new A8 Traffic Jam Pilot and Nissan’s ProPilot Assist in the latest Leaf and Rogue vehicles. EyeQ interprets raw data from a forward-facing camera, enabling vehicles to "see" the road and objects ahead, and plot a safe path forward. In contrast to GM’s HD mapping approach, both Tesla’s AutoPilot and Mobileye’s EyeQ SOC could best be described as follow-the-dotted-line technology.



Nissan’s self-driving technology with EyeQ has barely been mentioned in the automotive reviews of Nissan’s new 2018 vehicles even though the technology press, except Electrek, had promising reviews. We were especially curious about the two Nissan vehicles and went for test drives in both of them. Suffice it to say, we were so impressed that we now own a 2018 Nissan Rogue, and we can provide a first-hand comparison to our Tesla whose price tag was roughly quadruple that of the Rogue. Comparing interiors, you would think the price tags should be the other way around. My family would be the first to tell you that what’s missing is a hood ornament that says Mercedes or BMW. Aside from that, for all-around use, the Nissan Rogue is our 2018 Car of the Year by any objective measure. If you’re looking for an in-town vehicle for daily commuting, the new Nissan Leaf fits the bill perfectly although the lack of a suitable charging network in many areas makes all-purpose use difficult with the 150-mile range limitation. Next year’s model with a range of 225 miles could be a different story. It took Tesla 15 months to navigate the I-26 curves in self-driving mode. The Rogue and Leaf did it on the first day out of the showroom. There’s more.



Tesla and Nissan have taken two very different approaches to autonomous driving. With Tesla’s AutoPilot, it’s an all-or-nothing deal. Either AutoPilot is steering or you are, but never both. With Nissan’s ProPilot Assist, it’s much like the Driver’s Ed car with two steering wheels. Either you or ProPilot can make steering adjustments without disabling ProPilot. When you switch lanes on a city street in AutoPilot mode on the Tesla, you physically have to wrestle the steering wheel away from AutoPilot, and the AP2 functionality then is permanently disabled until you manually reenable it. On the Rogue, you change lanes and make steering adjustments just as you would in any other car with no noticeable resistance from the ProPilot Assist hardware. The Rogue only disables ProPilot if it loses lane markings. Once it again identifies clear lane markings, it automatically reengages and you continue on your way. Having used both systems, anyone would conclude that the Nissan approach is better for a couple of reasons: it’s more intuitive in emulating what ordinary drivers do on the road and it’s fully automatic as a driver assistance tool.

The Tesla still has an advantage on poorly marked roads. In addition to following the dotted lines, the Tesla will also track a vehicle in front of you without disabling autopilot. ProPilot Assist can’t do that and will issue a chime when it disables self-driving mode. But, as noted earlier, when ProPilot Assist can once again identify clear lane markings, it will reengage automatically. In contrast, when the Tesla loses tracking and beeps to alert you that autopilot has been disabled, it remains disabled until you watch the dash for an indication that the Tesla has once again identified clear lane markings. Then you have to manually reenable it. Especially on many city streets, this is a regular occurrence so our tip of the hat again goes to the Nissan approach.

Do yourself a favor and go test drive one of the new Nissan vehicles equipped with ProPilot Assist. We’re betting you’ll drive home with a new vehicle. And, if you really want to spruce up your new vehicle, check out the new $50 Amazon Alexa offering from Anker. It’s awesome!



We’ll leave you with a sneak peek at some of our favorites from the Cars on Kiawah show last weekend. Just click on the image below to open the slide show.

Originally published: Saturday, April 28, 2018




 

Special Thanks to Our Generous Sponsors


FULL DISCLOSURE: ClearlyIP, Skyetel, Vitelity, DigitalOcean, Vultr, VoIP.ms, 3CX, Sangoma, TelecomsXchange and VitalPBX have provided financial support to Nerd Vittles and our open source projects through advertising, referral revenue, and/or merchandise. As an Amazon Associate and Best Buy Affiliate, we also earn from qualifying purchases. We’ve chosen these providers not the other way around. Our decisions are based upon their corporate reputation and the quality of their offerings and pricing. Our recommendations regarding technology are reached without regard to financial compensation except in situations in which comparable products at comparable pricing are available from multiple sources. In this limited case, we support our sponsors because our sponsors support us.

BOGO Bonaza: Enjoy state-of-the-art VoIP service with a $10 credit and half-price SIP service on up to $500 of Skyetel trunking with free number porting when you fund your Skyetel account. No limits on number of simultaneous calls. Quadruple data center redundancy. $25 monthly minimum spend required. Tutorial and sign up details are here.

The lynchpin of Incredible PBX 2020 and beyond is ClearlyIP components which bring management of FreePBX modules and SIP phone integration to a level never before available with any other Asterisk distribution. And now you can configure and reconfigure your new Incredible PBX phones from the convenience of the Incredible PBX GUI.

VitalPBX is perhaps the fastest-growing PBX offering based upon Asterisk with an installed presence in more than 100 countries worldwide. VitalPBX has generously provided a customized White Label version of Incredible PBX tailored for use with all Incredible PBX and VitalPBX custom applications. Follow this link for a free test drive!
 

Special Thanks to Vitelity. Vitelity is now Voyant Communications and has halted new registrations for the time being. Our special thanks to Vitelity for their unwavering financial support over many years and to the many Nerd Vittles readers who continue to enjoy the benefits of their service offerings. We will keep everyone posted on further developments.
 



The Autonomous Car: Tesla and the Yellow Brick Road

Today marks the six month anniversary since we picked up our second generation Tesla Model S. If you’ve followed our adventure, you already know that the road has been a bumpy one even giving Elon Musk credit for the best of intentions. As one new owner remarked, "The difference in a salesman and a marketer is the marketer knows he is lying." We haven’t quite decided which pigeon hole best describes Elon, but there certainly was optimistic puffing of the Tesla feature set to put it charitably. And the time to begin sale of Model 3’s is just around the corner with a half million people already waiting in line.

Having owned a couple dozen cars, we decided it might be a good opportunity to weigh the pro’s and con’s of buying a Tesla, any Tesla. On the plus side, receiving over-the-air software updates every month is one of the greatest advancements in the history of the automobile industry. A Tesla is essentially a supercomputer on wheels so these updates offer a monthly opportunity for Tesla to radically improve your driving experience… at no cost to you! Compare that to Cadillac which will give you a new GPS map once a year for about $300. Since we accepted delivery of the Tesla, the updates have added a five-range equalizer with Dolby Surround Sound, automatic emergency braking, side collision avoidance, auto-dimming headlights, self-parking, auto-summon for vehicle retrieval, and multiple upgrades to the traffic-aware cruise control and autopilot systems. During a 600-mile road trip to Atlanta, we stopped once in each direction for a 45-minute battery refill using Tesla’s free superchargers. By the way, they won’t be free to new owners unless you take advantage of an existing owner’s coupon to purchase a Model S or X at a $1,000 discount which also includes free lifetime usage of Tesla’s supercharger network. That saves you about ten cents per mile. Here’s our referral link if you need one. As with most referral links, we get something, too: a mini-Tesla for our new grandson. 🙂

And speaking of road trips, let us offer some tips on using Tesla’s Supercharger network. A one-hour charge will typically buy you about 150-200 miles depending upon the current state of your battery. If there are other Teslas at the site, be sure you choose a numbered supercharger that is different from the other vehicles. Otherwise, your charging rate is cut in half. Some locations are better than others, and we’ve pretty much covered the southeastern United States at this juncture. The Augusta, Georgia site is a 5-minute walk from Denny’s which makes it an excellent site around meal time if you’re heading east or west on I-20. For those traveling on I-85 or I-40 through North Carolina, the Burlington Supercharger is a definite must with a rich collection of restaurants as well as a terrific grocery store within one block. Charlotte and Greenville are pretty much in the middle of nowhere so pick up some fast food before you arrive if you plan to stay for an hour. The Atlanta Supercharger in the Level 2 garage of Atlantic Station downtown is a shopper’s paradise with dozens of shops and restaurants to keep you entertained. For those on the east coast heading south, there’s now a supercharger in Myrtle Beach at the Coastal Grand Mall which also provides lots of restaurants and shopping distractions. Another one is located in the Savannah, Georgia airport with two free hours of parking. The wrinkle is that there’s only one restaurant in the airport, and it’s lousy so bring food with you if you are stopping there for an extended charge. From Charleston, we typically do a restroom break there which takes about 20 minutes including the time to get on and off I-95. A 10-minute charge gets you about 55 extra miles. Then you can make it to the Kingsland, Georgia which is right at the Florida border with lots of restaurants within easy walking distance. From there, you can make it to St. Augustine, Florida where you’ll land right in the middle of all the "interstate hotels" with lots of fast food restaurants nearby. Another don’t miss site is Port Orange which has a large mall and lots of restaurants. From there you can easily make it to Orlando or Port St. Lucie. On our recent 1,100 mile trip to Virginia and Atlanta and our 900 mile trip to Florida, we saw a grand total of two other Teslas in all of the supercharger locations we used. That may change once the Model 3’s start rolling off the assembly line. We would estimate that we spent less than an hour at supercharger locations traveling in each direction. We typically try to stay at Hilton Hotels which have free overnight charging at many of their sites. Make a phone call to verify destination charging before booking. EVTripPlanner is also a handy web site when planning your travels. It includes most Superchargers and Destination Chargers and can show you the most convenient stops.

So that’s the good news. The rest of the story is mostly about Tesla’s marketing tactics. For us, they promised considerably more than they delivered when we received the car. That leaves a bad taste in your mouth for a very long time, particularly with vehicles costing $70,000 to $170,000. The disappointing part is that we would have bought the car even if Tesla had honestly described what was available with delivery and what could be expected down the road. Looking back, Tesla’s developments on the autopilot front have been nothing short of miraculous. Tesla has delivered in six months what it took Mobileye almost ten years to develop. That’s not to say it’s not still dangerous. It is. To the guy that chooses to drive with your hands off the wheel, make sure your affairs are in order and your will is up to date. And there are some other rough edges which are reported regularly. An owner last week posted that his headlights abruptly turned off in the middle of the night while he was cruising along at highway speeds. Should this happen to you, remember you can pull the turn signal stalk to instantly turn on your bright lights which will at least let you guide the car to a safe stop. Yet another reason to follow the Tesla Motors Forum should you buy a Tesla.

Will Tesla get there? I think so. But self-driving technology is still evolving, and it probably will be for the next several years. If you’re not in a hurry, you might consider waiting another year or two and compare other options. But, for now, Tesla is the only game in town, and it’s finally usable on most interstates and major thoroughfares. The other downside of a Tesla is service center locations. While we were lucky and received an almost perfect car, others have not been so lucky. If there’s not a service center close to you, that is a real problem. If you have a flat tire, there is no spare and that, too, can be problematic depending upon where you live. The good news is that AAA offers a plan for under $100 that includes free towing up to 200 miles once a year. If you travel a good bit, sign up!

Finally, a word about options. The S75 base model of the Model S is under $70,000 with federal tax credit. The Model X SUV is about $10,000 more. You can future-proof the cars for $8,000 to lock in full self-driving capability for down the road. For short road trips and in-town driving, the 249 mile range of the S75 is more than adequate. In most areas of the U.S., superchargers are located every 150 miles or less. Many of the Tesla showrooms now have new and used vehicles for immediate sale. The advantage is you can see what you’ll be getting before you spend a dime. Because of the pace of technology developments in both electric vehicles and self-driving technology, we would lease the vehicle if we had it to do over again. So what are you waiting for? Come join the party!

Continue reading…

The Autonomous Car: Tesla & The Winding Road (January 9, 2017)

The Autonomous Car: A Hands-Free Drive with Tesla’s HW2 (January 23, 2017)

The Autonomous Car: Navigating Tesla’s Slippery Slope to the Promised Land (3/13/2017)

The Autonomous Car: Move Over Tesla, Here Comes Cadillac (April 17, 2017)

Published: Monday, June 19, 2017


 

Special Thanks to Our Generous Sponsors


FULL DISCLOSURE: ClearlyIP, Skyetel, Vitelity, DigitalOcean, Vultr, VoIP.ms, 3CX, Sangoma, TelecomsXchange and VitalPBX have provided financial support to Nerd Vittles and our open source projects through advertising, referral revenue, and/or merchandise. As an Amazon Associate and Best Buy Affiliate, we also earn from qualifying purchases. We’ve chosen these providers not the other way around. Our decisions are based upon their corporate reputation and the quality of their offerings and pricing. Our recommendations regarding technology are reached without regard to financial compensation except in situations in which comparable products at comparable pricing are available from multiple sources. In this limited case, we support our sponsors because our sponsors support us.

BOGO Bonaza: Enjoy state-of-the-art VoIP service with a $10 credit and half-price SIP service on up to $500 of Skyetel trunking with free number porting when you fund your Skyetel account. No limits on number of simultaneous calls. Quadruple data center redundancy. $25 monthly minimum spend required. Tutorial and sign up details are here.

The lynchpin of Incredible PBX 2020 and beyond is ClearlyIP components which bring management of FreePBX modules and SIP phone integration to a level never before available with any other Asterisk distribution. And now you can configure and reconfigure your new Incredible PBX phones from the convenience of the Incredible PBX GUI.

VitalPBX is perhaps the fastest-growing PBX offering based upon Asterisk with an installed presence in more than 100 countries worldwide. VitalPBX has generously provided a customized White Label version of Incredible PBX tailored for use with all Incredible PBX and VitalPBX custom applications. Follow this link for a free test drive!
 

Special Thanks to Vitelity. Vitelity is now Voyant Communications and has halted new registrations for the time being. Our special thanks to Vitelity for their unwavering financial support over many years and to the many Nerd Vittles readers who continue to enjoy the benefits of their service offerings. We will keep everyone posted on further developments.
 



Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

The Autonomous Car: Move Over Tesla, Here Comes Cadillac



It’s been six months since Elon Musk announced the new Tesla HW2 models with what he proclaimed would be the world’s first fully autonomous, self-driving automobiles. And, guess what? Tesla is not perceptibly closer to a fully autonomous car today than they were six months ago. In fact, the last six months have been consumed playing catchup to the first generation Tesla with its Mobileye technology which Tesla quietly dropped while Intel spent $15.3 billion last month acquiring the company and its technology. In ditching Mobileye, Tesla basically threw the baby out with the bath water leaving them with fancy new autopilot hardware and no code. To make matters worse, their top two guys in the autonomous driving division abruptly left the company. And then along comes the Cadillac Easter Bunny last week to announce the fall availability of Super Cruise, a fully self-driving automobile for 160,000 miles of U.S. interstate highways.


Having just returned from an 1,100 mile Interstate journey through Florida in our four-month-old Tesla, I thought it might be helpful to document the progress that has been made toward realizing Elon’s "I Have a Dream" speech from last October in which he, too, promised a hands-free coast-to-coast drive in a Tesla by the end of 2017.

Spoiler Alert: Don’t be misled by our license plate. It’s not gonna happen this year!

If you’ve been following along in our Autonomous Car series of articles, you already know that there have been some hiccups in the Tesla saga. But there’s some good news today. Our Florida trip confirmed that Tesla vehicles with AutoPilot 2 technology are close to achieving parity with the first generation Tesla automobiles. That’s not to suggest that you would ever want to take your hands off the steering wheel unless you have a death wish. There were at least a half dozen incidents where your wish would have been realized during our trip. What is particularly disturbing is that Tesla apparently has made a conscious design decision to automatically turn off AP2 whenever it encounters a situation it can’t handle. One can only assume this has been done to afford the company deniability when you and your passengers are lying face down in a ditch somewhere because AP2 did something stupid while your car was barreling down the road at 70+ miles per hour. Your Tesla’s log would show that AP2 was not engaged at the moment of your untimely demise. Never mind that it might have caused it and then turned itself off. But keep in mind that Tesla has warned you not to take your hands off the wheel, and that’s what they’ll tell the jury. In the meantime, Cadillac will actually be deploying hands-free cars to its customers.

By design, AP2 is not a system that gives you even a second’s warning that your autonomous vehicle is about to come unglued. In fact, you get no warning other than a beep signifying that AP2 is no longer functioning. Meanwhile, cruise control takes over and keeps your Tesla zipping along at your previous AP2 speed regardless of the direction in which your Tesla may be headed. Tesla AP2 also has an uncanny ability to abruptly veer left whenever AP2 fails. Your only salvation is two hands firmly locking down the steering wheel to assure that the car can’t dart into another lane of traffic, a retaining wall, or a ditch on the side of the road. While we’d give the Tesla a solid A on 99% of our 1,100 mile adventure, that wouldn’t have been good enough to keep you out of the hospital or mortuary if you had elected to make the trip a hands-free adventure. You’ve been warned!

The good news is that we didn’t experience a single incident where the Tesla slammed on the brakes after detecting an overhead sign that it believed was sitting in the roadway. Nor did the Tesla try to take every interstate exit it passed. These were marked improvements from the first few months with AP2 when both were regular occurrences. The other good news is that, during 1,100 miles of use, we only encountered a handful of incidents where AP2 failed, and most of those were predictable if you were paying full attention to driving. Keep in mind that AP2 still cannot handle anything more complicated than a very minor curve in the highway, and there is little to no reliance upon map data in the current AP2 design. This is "follow-the-dotted-line" technology on straight roads, and nothing more. We’ve documented this on the I-26 interstate around Charleston where we live:




As this Google Map of the roadway makes clear, we are not talking about sharp curves in the highway. These are sections of interstate which do not even warrant a curve warning.


What’s still missing from the Tesla AP2 self-driving methodology is any reliance upon maps, cameras, radar, or sonar to detect or inhibit collisions with objects, merging vehicles, or vehicles traveling anywhere except directly in front of your vehicle. Watch the video above again and count the tenths of a second that elapsed between the time AP2 disengaged itself while the Tesla veered left until the car immediately beside us passes our Tesla in the left lane. You will note there was no driver alert of any kind that the car was there nor did our Tesla feel shy about veering directly into the other car’s path. We’ve documented the current state of AP2 development primarily to warn would-be Tesla drivers to be extremely careful. As we’ve noted before, drive a Tesla with AP2 enabled using the same care you would use if holding a toddler in your lap with their hands on your steering wheel. AP2 has roughly the same driving acumen as that toddler.

And that brings us to Cadillac and why last week’s announcement is especially newsworthy. Cadillac is poised to snatch the crown of the first truly self-driving vehicle from the hands of Tesla. Cadillac, like many other car manufacturers, is headed in a very different direction with autonomous driving. It’s roughly the same map-driven autonomous driving technology that Elon Musk demonstrated in his infamous Tesla self-driving video from last October. Make no mistake. The current Tesla AP2 design has no similarities to either the Cadillac technology shown above or the Tesla vaporware shown in the following video clip:



Maybe some day but, absent a miracle and not just a sales pitch, it won’t be this year for Tesla. In the meantime, Tesla is about to become part of a very crowded field. They will have not only Cadillac but also Mercedes, BMW, Audi, and the Japanese cars to contend with not to mention some add-on hardware from Google and perhaps Apple, Delphi, or perhaps a $999 add-on from George Hotz that will work with current generation vehicles. One thing’s for sure. It’s going to be exciting!

There is a silver lining to our Tesla story. We made the whole 1,100 mile journey at the same pace as any other automobile without spending a nickel on fuel of any kind. That in itself is quite a feat and a testament to Elon Musk’s EV vision. For those headed down I-95 to Florida in a Tesla, here are a few tips. The hands-down winner for Worst Supercharger goes to the Savannah, Georgia airport. Charging time was about 100 miles in an hour with a single (lousy & overpriced) restaurant inside the airport. You can get your parking pass stamped at the Information Desk in the terminal to get out of the airport for free. Don’t miss the Supercharger in Kingsland, Georgia and Malson’s BBQ. And no Supercharger can top the Port Orange, Florida specs of 300 miles in under an hour while dining at any of more than a dozen terrific restaurants. Positioned next to the Tesla superchargers in Port Orange was an RV exhibition with dozens of Class A (6-9 MPG) motorhomes including $400,000+ Winnebagos from LaMesaRV. And look whose Collision Avoidance System Winnebago is using. 🙂 Thanks, Philip Mascioli, for the great tour.



Published: Monday, April 17, 2017


BREAKING NEWS: Not the best week for Tesla…



 

Special Thanks to Our Generous Sponsors


FULL DISCLOSURE: ClearlyIP, Skyetel, Vitelity, DigitalOcean, Vultr, VoIP.ms, 3CX, Sangoma, TelecomsXchange and VitalPBX have provided financial support to Nerd Vittles and our open source projects through advertising, referral revenue, and/or merchandise. As an Amazon Associate and Best Buy Affiliate, we also earn from qualifying purchases. We’ve chosen these providers not the other way around. Our decisions are based upon their corporate reputation and the quality of their offerings and pricing. Our recommendations regarding technology are reached without regard to financial compensation except in situations in which comparable products at comparable pricing are available from multiple sources. In this limited case, we support our sponsors because our sponsors support us.

BOGO Bonaza: Enjoy state-of-the-art VoIP service with a $10 credit and half-price SIP service on up to $500 of Skyetel trunking with free number porting when you fund your Skyetel account. No limits on number of simultaneous calls. Quadruple data center redundancy. $25 monthly minimum spend required. Tutorial and sign up details are here.

The lynchpin of Incredible PBX 2020 and beyond is ClearlyIP components which bring management of FreePBX modules and SIP phone integration to a level never before available with any other Asterisk distribution. And now you can configure and reconfigure your new Incredible PBX phones from the convenience of the Incredible PBX GUI.

VitalPBX is perhaps the fastest-growing PBX offering based upon Asterisk with an installed presence in more than 100 countries worldwide. VitalPBX has generously provided a customized White Label version of Incredible PBX tailored for use with all Incredible PBX and VitalPBX custom applications. Follow this link for a free test drive!
 

Special Thanks to Vitelity. Vitelity is now Voyant Communications and has halted new registrations for the time being. Our special thanks to Vitelity for their unwavering financial support over many years and to the many Nerd Vittles readers who continue to enjoy the benefits of their service offerings. We will keep everyone posted on further developments.
 



Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

The Autonomous Car: Navigating Tesla’s Slippery Slope to the Promised Land

We continue our Autonomous Car series today with a report card on our first quarter results with the new Tesla Vision autopilot and a cautionary note to would-be Tesla owners. Since the new Tesla hardware was rolled out to vehicles manufactured in the last couple months of 2016, Tesla has had a bumpy ride and, in no small part, it has been due to self-inflicted wounds. The Tesla executive heading up the autopilot project abruptly quit and allegedly walked out the door with Tesla’s crown jewels. Then it became apparent that Tesla had misled fourth quarter buyers by promising autopilot software that was anything but ready for prime time. In fact, it barely existed. To make matters worse, Elon Musk finally acknowledged a couple weeks ago that their first generation autopilot hardware and software powered by Mobileye was nowhere to be found in the new vehicles. This was a careful way of admitting that Tesla was basically starting over with Tesla Vision. The alarming reports from new Tesla owners (685+ posts) confirmed that fairly quickly. For a glimpse at the complexity of autonomous driving, take a look at this in-depth review.

The Joke’s On You: What You Saw Ain’t What You Get

To make matters worse, Tesla had sold the vehicles by overpromising features which were nowhere near ready. BestRadar, one of the frequent contributors to TMC’s Tesla Motors Forum, recently posted some interesting comparisons of Tesla’s representations to buyers in October, 2016 to demonstrate the morphing which occurred after the first of the year. Using a tool called Copyscape he compared Tesla’s autopilot offering (AP2) from late 2016 to the revised text in early 2017. The actual before and after web pages are available as well. Here’s the Enhanced AutoPilot feature, a pricey $6,000 upgrade, that has caused fourth quarter 2016 buyers the most heartburn:

Here’s the Standard Safety Features offering also promised for delivery in December 2016:

Let’s compare features promised to buyers by December 2016 to what has been delivered:

  1. Match Speed to Traffic Conditions (90% TACC; 55MPH on Interstate w/ AP2)
  2. Keep Vehicle Within a Lane (Curve-free with lane markings, minimal car following)
  3. Automatically Change Lanes w/o Driver Input (NO)
  4. Transition from One Freeway to Another (NO)
  5. Exit Freeway When Destination is Near (NO)
  6. Self-Park When Near a Parking Spot (20%)
  7. Summon Vehicle To/From Garage (NO)
  8. Collision Avoidance (NO)
  9. Automatic Emergency Breaking (NO)
  10. Side Collision Alerts (Worthless)
  11. Front Collision Warning (YES)
  12. Auto High Beams (NO)
  13. Auto Windshield Wipers (NO)

    Keep in mind that those who purchased Tesla AP2 vehicles in the fourth quarter of 2016 had never seen an actual AP2 Tesla because they were not yet available. So the entire purchasing decision was based upon Tesla’s and Musk’s representations that the new Teslas were far superior to earlier vehicles both in terms of hardware and software. This was reinforced in the video contemporaneously released by Tesla (below) demonstrating Tesla Vision (AP2) as a fully autonomous driving experience. Only months later when California released its disengagement report for 2016 did we learn that the making of that video apparently resulted in traveling about 500 miles and logging 177 disengagement reports with the state over the 3-day filming period. A "disengagement" is defined as an autonomous driving event that forces a driver to take control of the vehicle. And never mind the video’s opening assertion that the entire trip was hands-free with the driver doing nothing. It further appears that, following production of the Tesla video, further self-driving experimentation with Tesla Vision was completely halted. Details here.

    Beware the Ides of March

    We haven’t mentioned SAFETY yet but you’ll want to read this if you’re considering a new Tesla. If you’ve ever driven a car with a toddler sitting in your lap holding the steering wheel with you, then you’ll appreciate the amount of care and attention you need to focus on a Tesla while AP2 is activated. It’s that dangerous. Forum reports of vehicles veering toward guard rails and ditches are common as are reports of Tesla vehicles swerving out of their lane in search of a lane divider while 18-wheelers are within six feet of your car. As one forum member observed, autopilot in a car differs dramatically from autopilot on a plane where a pilot who is alerted to take control has 5 minutes or more to react before a plane can descend from 30,000 feet. With a car, you’re talking about a fraction of a second when autopilot does something stupid and veers into another lane of traffic. This also isn’t a case of your Tesla relying upon Mobileye with a decade of self-driving experience under its belt. We’re talking about brand new, half-baked software. Labeling it as "beta" suggests you really must be a Tesla shareholder.

    I chose the image at the top of this article because it literally sent shivers down my spine thinking some poor fool might actually try using AP2 on this road. Look at the margin of error available with your $100,000+ autonomous vehicle.



    Dangerous software is only part of the problem. The other half is Tesla’s complete failure to document for its drivers what works and what doesn’t. It’s one thing to do something stupid after you’ve been warned not to do it. It’s quite another to have to discover all of the mines in the minefield for yourself. It’s worth recalling that, in selling the $6,000 Enhanced Autopilot feature, Tesla represented that the software was "expected to complete validation" by the end of December, 2016. In the English language, that certainly suggests that the software is all but ready and just needs a bit more testing to validate that all of the promised features are safe before uploading it to Tesla vehicles. Remember that Tesla was still saying the same thing at the end of December and even into the middle of January. Truth be told, we’re not sure large chunks of the deliverable software have even been written yet. We’re not talking about "puffing." Take a look at the list above and where we stand today. Then compare that to what Tesla was promising in sales contracts and actually showcasing in videos four to five months ago:



    Deep Neural Networks and Machine Learning

    For the technically curious, it’s worth mentioning the complexity of the Tesla autopilot approach and how primitive it remains today. Keep in mind that Tesla’s AP1 vehicles had the luxury of Mobileye technology with 10 years of machine learning to identify dangerous and safe objects using cameras. To fully appreciate the enormity of the AP2 problem, take a look at Tesla’s explanation of its new radar-centric approach. Then enjoy a fascinating introduction to Machine Learning 101. In a nutshell, Tesla has got to create a "map" whitelisting every stationary object in the world and determining with 99.99% accuracy whether it is unlikely to pose a collision risk to a Tesla vehicle. The reason is because radar can have a difficult time distinguishing an overhead sign 25 feet in the air and an overhead sign that has fallen onto the highway. You obviously want the car to slam on the brakes for the latter one but not for every overhead sign you encounter while traveling down an interstate highway. We haven’t yet considered electronic highway signs where the messaging on the sign constantly changes. To your Tesla, every change in the sign message looks like a new sign. Here’s another example at the neighborhood level. We have two 90 degree turns in the street near our home. To date, our Tesla vehicle with AP2 proceeds at full speed into both locations. Without manual intervention, the AP2 result would either land your Tesla in the water or it would plow into a wall. Now let’s multiply those situations by a hundred million, and you’ll appreciate the complexity of the task at hand and better understand how deceptive the Tesla video really was.

    Dear Elon: We Still Love You, Warts and All

    Don’t take our observations the wrong way. We love our Tesla vehicle and appreciate everything Elon Musk is trying to do both in terms of electric vehicles and autonomous driving. But, as we have observed previously, Elon can morph from Steve Jobs visionary into used car salesman with a single tweet. And he often does, particularly when Tesla earnings reports are at stake. We’ve been in the technology business for more than 30 years and we’ve owned 25 different automobiles. When it comes to software development or car purchases, there’s not much we haven’t witnessed first hand. But Tesla’s approach of overselling and underdelivering functionality is novel. And we believe it is precarious if not downright dangerous from both a legal and safety standpoint. That’s unfortunate because a class action lawsuit or serious accident involving a Tesla with AP2 which, unlike the earlier vehicles, has no track record of safety could set back not only Tesla but all autonomous driving projects by years. It also would prompt federal and state regulators to take a very hard look at the types of vehicles which are being unleashed on public highways.



    Our plea to Elon is please clean up your act before releasing Model 3 vehicles to 400,000 unsuspecting owners. People are accustomed to purchasing vehicles with the expectation that the features they’ve purchased will actually work and will do so in a SAFE manner. They also expect to be able to get their cars repaired. Read this nightmare scenario from a fender bender. Stop overpromising and overhyping what new Tesla vehicles can actually do and level with buyers on the very real limitations of the current vehicles. Drivers need to understand what works and what doesn’t before they set foot in a new Tesla. A simple disclaimer that the software is experimental really doesn’t cut it. As it stands today, autopilot using AP2 is little more than a wish and a prayer much like our license plate. Here’s hoping we all make it through this Magic Carpet Ride alive.

    Finally, a word about the Tesla Model 3. We’ve commented before that customers will be hard-pressed to purchase a Tesla Model 3 for $35,000. Guess what? Here’s a price list formulated by one industrious user based upon estimates of feature costs derived from current Tesla vehicles. While it is not an official Tesla document, it provides a fairly accurate estimate of the pricing that Tesla Model 3 buyers can expect to see:


Move Over Tesla: Competition Coming on April 1

Tesla will no longer be the only option starting April 1. @Lloyd shared a sneak peek at Google’s surprise. Production looks eerily similar to Tesla’s self-driving video. 😉



Published: Monday, March 13, 2017


 

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FULL DISCLOSURE: ClearlyIP, Skyetel, Vitelity, DigitalOcean, Vultr, VoIP.ms, 3CX, Sangoma, TelecomsXchange and VitalPBX have provided financial support to Nerd Vittles and our open source projects through advertising, referral revenue, and/or merchandise. As an Amazon Associate and Best Buy Affiliate, we also earn from qualifying purchases. We’ve chosen these providers not the other way around. Our decisions are based upon their corporate reputation and the quality of their offerings and pricing. Our recommendations regarding technology are reached without regard to financial compensation except in situations in which comparable products at comparable pricing are available from multiple sources. In this limited case, we support our sponsors because our sponsors support us.

BOGO Bonaza: Enjoy state-of-the-art VoIP service with a $10 credit and half-price SIP service on up to $500 of Skyetel trunking with free number porting when you fund your Skyetel account. No limits on number of simultaneous calls. Quadruple data center redundancy. $25 monthly minimum spend required. Tutorial and sign up details are here.

The lynchpin of Incredible PBX 2020 and beyond is ClearlyIP components which bring management of FreePBX modules and SIP phone integration to a level never before available with any other Asterisk distribution. And now you can configure and reconfigure your new Incredible PBX phones from the convenience of the Incredible PBX GUI.

VitalPBX is perhaps the fastest-growing PBX offering based upon Asterisk with an installed presence in more than 100 countries worldwide. VitalPBX has generously provided a customized White Label version of Incredible PBX tailored for use with all Incredible PBX and VitalPBX custom applications. Follow this link for a free test drive!
 

Special Thanks to Vitelity. Vitelity is now Voyant Communications and has halted new registrations for the time being. Our special thanks to Vitelity for their unwavering financial support over many years and to the many Nerd Vittles readers who continue to enjoy the benefits of their service offerings. We will keep everyone posted on further developments.
 



Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

The Autonomous Car: A Hands-Free Drive with Tesla’s HW2

It’s been about a month since we took delivery of a new, second-generation Tesla lovingly referred to as an HW2 vehicle.1 During that time, Tesla has provided an over-the-air map update and four firmware updates. The latest one this past weekend enabled Traffic-Aware Cruise Control (TACC) and limited AutoSteer capabilities for the entire fleet of next-generation HW2 Tesla vehicles. This includes all cars manufactured since October 19, 2016 that feature a new state-of-the-art supercomputer (pictured below) capable of 8 trillion deep learning operations per second plus eight cameras, radar, and loads of sonar sensors.




The latest software update follows last week’s vindication of Tesla in the fatal crash of a Tesla vehicle with an 18-wheeler and a fluff piece published two weeks ago by The Verge extolling the virtues of a yet-to-be-seen Mercedes S-Class. It was hailed as a better self-driving vehicle when compared with Tesla’s 3-year-old first generation model. As one infamous commenter observed:


The fact is that every car manufacturer is working on autonomous vehicles now. The difference is that nobody except Tesla delivers over-the-air software updates to their vehicles and nobody comes close to Tesla’s billion+ miles of real-world autonomous driving data. So ask yourself this simple question. If your life and that of your family depended upon the reliability of self-driving software, where would you prefer to ride and how would you prefer to see mission-critical vehicle updates distributed? Make no mistake. This isn’t just about self-driving software. It’s also about propping up an automobile dealer network that sees Tesla threatening its entire business model including both sales and service. It’s also about companies like Uber that see Tesla encroaching quickly on its turf and its autonomous vehicle future. But we digress. Here’s what really matters:



So back to our story. Yesterday at 5 a.m. a message arrived on the Tesla dashboard indicating that the long-awaited self-driving update was ready for installation. By 6 a.m. we were on the road in a torrential thunderstorm (yes, it’s January in Charleston) headed to the closest interstate, I-526, a circumferential freeway that goes about halfway around the Charleston metropolitan area and includes one of only two bridges in and out of Charleston County. Why an Interstate? Because this first release of AutoPilot requires a freeway which, on the east coast of the United States, means an interstate highway.



The only additional wrinkle with this first software iteration is that self-driving speed is limited to 45 miles per hour, a 10 MPH improvement from the original version released only to California vehicles. Whooda thunk we’d be wishing for rush hour traffic just so we could try out AutoPilot. As it turned out, with the heavy rainstorm, 45 MPH was just about right. And we wanted to test AutoSteer in bad weather and darkness anyway. The good news is we’re still among the living. The great news is the software performed almost flawlessly. The only wrinkle was approaching exits in the right lane. Tesla currently gives precedence to the solid line on the right side of your vehicle rather than the dotted line marker on the left. If you’re driving in the right lane, it means your car tries to take every exit rather than continuing straight. Disabling and reenabling AutoSteer at every exit would become tedious quickly in a busy metropolitan area. This version also requires that you keep your hands on the wheel and too little pressure prompted alarms and flashing lights within 15 seconds alerting the driver to grab the steering wheel immediately or face banishment from AutoPilot until the car is restarted. This is in sharp contrast to the 4+ minute interval shown in the HW1 AutoPilot demo below. We grabbed harder and soon learned the correct pressure that our Tesla overlords expected. Like all terrific first dates, it had us wishing for more, and Elon promises that the speed and freeway limitations will be relaxed gradually. Having had a taste of the Kool-Aid®, we’re believers now and are looking forward to the next release. Stay tuned!



Feb. 24 Update:


To celebrate our maiden voyage, we are pleased to introduce for fellow Tesla owners our first of several new products using the Tesla API. This one offers a command-line interface to the entire Tesla API using PHP on any LAMP (Linux+Apache+MySQL+PHP) server. If you don’t have a LAMP server, our previous tutorial will walk you through setting one up in the cloud for a one-time cost of less than $20. Once your LAMP server is in place, log into the server as root and issue the following commands to install the Tesla Management Portal:

cd /root
git clone https://github.com/wardmundy/php-api-tesla.git
chmod 775 /root
cd php-api-tesla
chmod +x *.php
nano -w config.php
# set install directory, Tesla credentials and desired valet and web PINs
# plus the desired temperature settings for your Tesla
# save your changes: Ctrl-X, y, then press ENTER key
./token.php
./vehicle.php

Now you’re ready to explore the Tesla API by running the various scripts for three months. After that, you’ll need to refresh the OAuth tokens by running the token.php and vehicle.php scripts again. Six of the remaining scripts extract all the various settings in your vehicle:

charge_state.php
climate_state.php
drive_state.php
gui_settings.php
vehicle.php
vehicle_state.php

The remaining "set" scripts allow you to make changes to various settings in your Tesla. These include locking and unlocking car doors, setting and controlling the HVAC in your vehicle, setting and configuring valet mode, setting the charge limit for your vehicle, and waking your car from sleep mode.

Coming Soon: The Tesla Management Portal web interface…



Published: Monday, January 23, 2017


 

Special Thanks to Our Generous Sponsors


FULL DISCLOSURE: ClearlyIP, Skyetel, Vitelity, DigitalOcean, Vultr, VoIP.ms, 3CX, Sangoma, TelecomsXchange and VitalPBX have provided financial support to Nerd Vittles and our open source projects through advertising, referral revenue, and/or merchandise. As an Amazon Associate and Best Buy Affiliate, we also earn from qualifying purchases. We’ve chosen these providers not the other way around. Our decisions are based upon their corporate reputation and the quality of their offerings and pricing. Our recommendations regarding technology are reached without regard to financial compensation except in situations in which comparable products at comparable pricing are available from multiple sources. In this limited case, we support our sponsors because our sponsors support us.

BOGO Bonaza: Enjoy state-of-the-art VoIP service with a $10 credit and half-price SIP service on up to $500 of Skyetel trunking with free number porting when you fund your Skyetel account. No limits on number of simultaneous calls. Quadruple data center redundancy. $25 monthly minimum spend required. Tutorial and sign up details are here.

The lynchpin of Incredible PBX 2020 and beyond is ClearlyIP components which bring management of FreePBX modules and SIP phone integration to a level never before available with any other Asterisk distribution. And now you can configure and reconfigure your new Incredible PBX phones from the convenience of the Incredible PBX GUI.

VitalPBX is perhaps the fastest-growing PBX offering based upon Asterisk with an installed presence in more than 100 countries worldwide. VitalPBX has generously provided a customized White Label version of Incredible PBX tailored for use with all Incredible PBX and VitalPBX custom applications. Follow this link for a free test drive!
 

Special Thanks to Vitelity. Vitelity is now Voyant Communications and has halted new registrations for the time being. Our special thanks to Vitelity for their unwavering financial support over many years and to the many Nerd Vittles readers who continue to enjoy the benefits of their service offerings. We will keep everyone posted on further developments.
 



Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

  1. In Tesla lingo, a P90D Model S signifies a Performance model with a 90kWh battery and all-wheel Drive. According to Wikipedia, the P90D has dual motors with a front axle power of 259 horsepower (193 kW) and rear axle power of 503 horsepower (375 kW) for a total of 762 horsepower (568 kW) and a 0–60 MPH time of 2.8 sec. The acceleration of the P90D can reach 1.1g, described by Tesla as "faster than falling". []

The Autonomous Car: Tesla & The Winding Road



We kick off 2017 with a new series on autonomous vehicles and, for the short term at least, the focus will be on Tesla simply because they’ve moved the needle the quickest and have a billion+ driver-tested miles under their belt already. I’m reminded of a quip from a pilot friend who said, "Anybody can fly a plane at 30,000 feet with autopilot. What separates the living from the dead is what you do when something goes wrong." A recent example here.

A few of you may be reading about autonomous cars for the first time so let’s start with the basics. We’re talking about vehicles that can drive themselves without user intervention. The latest Tesla vehicles are basically Linux computers on wheels with one or more 500 horsepower electric motors. This Tesla magic is performed using lots of state-of-the-art hardware including a supercomputer capable of 8 trillion deep learning operations per second, 8 cameras, radar, and ultrasonic sensors plus loads of software. The car must have current maps, must know the rules of the road, must obey speed limits and stop signs, and hopefully won’t run over pedestrians or bicyclists. It also must learn in realtime from driver interactions and make adjustments on the fly. The design must work on sunny days in the Arizona desert and frigid days with two feet of snow in Buffalo and rainy days in Seattle.

The hard part comes when a child runs into the street from behind parked cars and the only two choices are killing the child or swerving into another lane of traffic where an 18-wheeler is barreling towards you at an excessive rate of speed. What would you do? Do you know what your autonomous car would do? Will the manufacturer tell you? With that introduction, let’s begin with this Tesla video and the Elon Musk sales pitch from Twitter:


With the expiration of our lease last month on a surprisingly good Cadillac ELR, we swapped vehicles. So you’ll be following the Tesla adventure in realtime from behind the wheel of a second-generation Tesla Model S P90D. This Tesla has all the latest and greatest autopilot and self-driving hardware that money can buy. What Tesla barely mentioned was that none of it works. It gets worse. The windshield wipers don’t turn on when it rains, and the lights don’t turn on in the dark. In short, as delivered last month and putting aside the electric motors, it had about the same technology advancements as my 1968 Pontiac GTO.


The good news is Tesla pushes updates to the cars regularly using AT&T’s 4G/LTE network or even WiFi if you happen to have it in your garage. That’s the primary reason we bought a Tesla. And, by the way, the Tesla phones home regularly with a detailed report about your whereabouts and your car’s status. Divorce lawyers will have a field day with Tesla data.



The other thing Tesla didn’t mention was that, with the second generation Tesla’s (also known as AP2 or HW2), Tesla engineers are basically starting over even with the autopilot software. Minutes before the 2017 New Year, Tesla released a firmware update to 1,000 vehicles (all in California) that enabled minimal self-driving functionality between speeds of 17 and 35 miles per hour on highways only. If you were one of the lucky ones and happen to live near a nursing home with nothing but elderly drivers on the freeway, this was great news. For a sobering experience, read the early feedback posted on the Tesla Forum. Scary!

I think it would be fair to say that 2017 is starting off a little bumpy for Tesla. Not only are some owners that shelled out over $100,000 fuming over misrepresentations from Tesla sales staff, but there also are about a half million people that forked over $1,000 deposits on the so-called affordable Tesla, the Model 3. As you can see from the Self-Driving and Autopilot software price tags above, nobody is going to get a Tesla Model 3 for $35,000. If that was your plan, apply for your refund now. We, of course, expected a fun ride as a Tesla pioneer, and Tesla is giving every indication that it will be a very wild and sometimes frustrating adventure. The great news is that a Tesla API already is available and has an enthusiastic group of developers and fellow Tesla owners. The API will tell you almost anything you want to know about your car including its location. You can even control your Tesla using an Amazon Echo. Start reading and stay tuned. 2017 is going to be fun! In our next chapter, we’ll walk you through using the impressive API feature set with PHP. Enjoy!



Published: Monday, January 9, 2017



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FULL DISCLOSURE: ClearlyIP, Skyetel, Vitelity, DigitalOcean, Vultr, VoIP.ms, 3CX, Sangoma, TelecomsXchange and VitalPBX have provided financial support to Nerd Vittles and our open source projects through advertising, referral revenue, and/or merchandise. As an Amazon Associate and Best Buy Affiliate, we also earn from qualifying purchases. We’ve chosen these providers not the other way around. Our decisions are based upon their corporate reputation and the quality of their offerings and pricing. Our recommendations regarding technology are reached without regard to financial compensation except in situations in which comparable products at comparable pricing are available from multiple sources. In this limited case, we support our sponsors because our sponsors support us.

BOGO Bonaza: Enjoy state-of-the-art VoIP service with a $10 credit and half-price SIP service on up to $500 of Skyetel trunking with free number porting when you fund your Skyetel account. No limits on number of simultaneous calls. Quadruple data center redundancy. $25 monthly minimum spend required. Tutorial and sign up details are here.

The lynchpin of Incredible PBX 2020 and beyond is ClearlyIP components which bring management of FreePBX modules and SIP phone integration to a level never before available with any other Asterisk distribution. And now you can configure and reconfigure your new Incredible PBX phones from the convenience of the Incredible PBX GUI.

VitalPBX is perhaps the fastest-growing PBX offering based upon Asterisk with an installed presence in more than 100 countries worldwide. VitalPBX has generously provided a customized White Label version of Incredible PBX tailored for use with all Incredible PBX and VitalPBX custom applications. Follow this link for a free test drive!
 

Special Thanks to Vitelity. Vitelity is now Voyant Communications and has halted new registrations for the time being. Our special thanks to Vitelity for their unwavering financial support over many years and to the many Nerd Vittles readers who continue to enjoy the benefits of their service offerings. We will keep everyone posted on further developments.
 



Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

Happy Fourth: Our Gift to You — 17+ Years of Nerd Vittles


Originally published: Monday, July 4, 2022



Need help with Asterisk? Visit the VoIP-info Forum.


 

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FULL DISCLOSURE: ClearlyIP, Skyetel, Vitelity, DigitalOcean, Vultr, VoIP.ms, 3CX, Sangoma, TelecomsXchange and VitalPBX have provided financial support to Nerd Vittles and our open source projects through advertising, referral revenue, and/or merchandise. As an Amazon Associate and Best Buy Affiliate, we also earn from qualifying purchases. We’ve chosen these providers not the other way around. Our decisions are based upon their corporate reputation and the quality of their offerings and pricing. Our recommendations regarding technology are reached without regard to financial compensation except in situations in which comparable products at comparable pricing are available from multiple sources. In this limited case, we support our sponsors because our sponsors support us.

BOGO Bonaza: Enjoy state-of-the-art VoIP service with a $10 credit and half-price SIP service on up to $500 of Skyetel trunking with free number porting when you fund your Skyetel account. No limits on number of simultaneous calls. Quadruple data center redundancy. $25 monthly minimum spend required. Tutorial and sign up details are here.

The lynchpin of Incredible PBX 2020 and beyond is ClearlyIP components which bring management of FreePBX modules and SIP phone integration to a level never before available with any other Asterisk distribution. And now you can configure and reconfigure your new Incredible PBX phones from the convenience of the Incredible PBX GUI.

VitalPBX is perhaps the fastest-growing PBX offering based upon Asterisk with an installed presence in more than 100 countries worldwide. VitalPBX has generously provided a customized White Label version of Incredible PBX tailored for use with all Incredible PBX and VitalPBX custom applications. Follow this link for a free test drive!
 

Special Thanks to Vitelity. Vitelity is now Voyant Communications and has halted new registrations for the time being. Our special thanks to Vitelity for their unwavering financial support over many years and to the many Nerd Vittles readers who continue to enjoy the benefits of their service offerings. We will keep everyone posted on further developments.
 



Road Warrior’s Advice: Before You Buy a Tesla…

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but we also have a thousand final words to share about our two-year Tesla experience. Let me preface this by saying that overall our Tesla adventure was fun, but we’ve always enjoyed being a pioneer. If you don’t, look elsewhere. We got our Tesla just after Elon Musk released his full self-driving (FSD) video in late 2016. While Elon is certainly a visionary, he’s also a snake oil salesman and the FSD video was as close to pure fiction as you can come without turning production over to DreamWorks. For those that don’t know the background, Elon had touted his AutoPilot software for a couple previous years relying almost exclusively on Mobileye, an Israeli firm with almost ten years of self-driving development under its belt. It now is a subsidiary of Intel Corporation. As Elon is wont to do, he touted self-driving capabilities that far exceeded Mobileye’s capabilities, and the two companies parted ways shortly after a Tesla driver was blind-sided and killed by an 18-wheeler. That left Tesla with virtually no autonomous driving hardware or software in late 2016 when we bought one of the first AutoPilot 2 (AP2) vehicles. The next year was as close to a train wreck as any company could come without going out of business. Thanks largely to an enthusiastic fan base (with AP1 vehicles) and Elon’s promises about the future including pipe dreams of Tesla owners sending their autonomous vehicles out on Uber-like FSD drives during the day while owners sat back cashing checks, Tesla survived.




 
After tremendous turnover in the Tesla development staff, year two of AP2 software development finally looked promising. AP2 vehicles finally could match what AP1 vehicles could do. On a straight road with good lane markings, a Tesla could drive from point A to point B without swerving into a ditch or hitting a vehicle in an adjacent lane. You still needed both hands on the wheel, and I often remarked that driving a Tesla with AP2 required the same attention and driving skills as venturing down the highway with a toddler positioned in your lap pretending to drive your car. Safe, not at all. Fun, absolutely. My wife coined the phrase "Lane Darts" because of the Tesla’s propensity to swerve into another lane without any sort of warning. And then there were the slammed on brakes when Tesla spotted an overhead tree or road sign that it couldn’t distinguish from an actual hazard sitting in the road. Curiously, despite the unwelcome braking events from these false positives, Teslas seemed to have a blind spot when it came to rear ending fire trucks. These were all part of the daily adventure for Tesla AP2 drivers. Having said that, we made several trips of hundreds of miles on well-marked interstate highways in the southeast where the car performed admirably and handled 99% of the driving drudgery without incident. Buyer Beware: YMMV!

There’s a certain amount of naiveté that accompanies almost anything that you really enjoy doing. And we’re as guilty as the next person of ignoring some of the risks. So let me tick off a few of them before you set out in your Tesla on a cross country adventure. First, range anxiety in an all-electric vehicle is real. Before you begin any trip, make sure there is a reliable fast charging site at least every 125 miles or so. That assures that, even if your next stop is out of order, you can make it to the next one without worrying about being stranded on the side of the road. Second, Tesla vehicles have no spare tire. You are well advised to acquire a jack, a tire plugging kit, and an air pump to get you through emergencies. Cars do get flat tires, and many towing companies are reluctant to deal with Teslas on site because of the risk of fire from a punctured battery. Third, Teslas also break down. While you’re figuring out your charging station scenario, you also better plot out the nearest Tesla service centers since Tesla doesn’t have a local dealer network. If you typically have a car full of passengers and pets, here’s our advice. Don’t ever take a Tesla on a trip out of town. If you really must, then invest in the AAA Premier Plan that includes a free 200-mile tow each year and plan for the possibility of spending a few cozy nights in a motel enjoying your family and furry friends.


And that brings us to the tow truck photo at the top of the article. We were near Myrtle Beach and decided to try an early bird special at one of our favorite (and very busy) restaurants. The restaurant sits on Murrells Inlet with a narrow road behind it with perpendicular parking spots. As we pulled into the driveway and positioned the car to back into a parking space, we got alarms that over a dozen systems in the vehicle had failed. In addition to the notifications shown above on the main console, the Tesla’s dashboard lights looked like you’d hit the million dollar jackpot: flat tire light, brake failure, parking brake locked, and many more. Worse yet, we were sitting in the middle of the road with a vehicle stuck in reverse that wouldn’t move. To add insult to injury, a little old lady driving her car with a handicap sign is shaking her fist complaining that we’re blocking the road. Fun times. We got out of the car to call Tesla thinking that exiting the vehicle might shut down the vehicle. Wrong again. It locked all of the doors and even Tesla’s whiz kids in California couldn’t unlock them. Luckily, within about 10 minutes, the car magically unlocked, and we were able to pull into a parking spot and place the car in park. To its credit, Tesla paid to tow the car 200+ miles to Charlotte, paid for an Uber ride back to our house, and paid for a rental car… for the next three weeks that it took to diagnose the problem with the car. It turned out to be a bent pin on the master control unit that had been replaced several months before. Will that happen to you and your Tesla? Probably not. But it reinforces how precarious the maintenance situation is with Tesla vehicles. We sold the car with a clean bill of health the same day it was available for pickup from the Charlotte Service Center. The buyer actually met us at the service center and got to hear the repair story first hand. What we found most troubling was the lack of adequate diagnostic tools to identify a problem of this severity on a $140,000 vehicle. While it turned out to be a simple fix, it didn’t make you want to buy a round-trip ticket on one of Elon’s adventures to Mars. Would we buy another Tesla? Not without a local service center.

So What’s Next? Here’s a Sneak Peek…




 
Continue reading the Tesla saga…

The Autonomous Car: Tesla & The Winding Road (January 9, 2017)

The Autonomous Car: A Hands-Free Drive with Tesla’s HW2 (January 23, 2017)

The Autonomous Car: Navigating Tesla’s Slippery Slope to the Promised Land (3/13/2017)

The Autonomous Car: Move Over Tesla, Here Comes Cadillac (April 17, 2017)

The Autonomous Car: Move Over Tesla, Here Comes Everybody (April 28, 2018)

Originally published: Thursday, November 8, 2018


Special Thanks to Our Generous Sponsors


FULL DISCLOSURE: ClearlyIP, Skyetel, Vitelity, DigitalOcean, Vultr, VoIP.ms, 3CX, Sangoma, TelecomsXchange and VitalPBX have provided financial support to Nerd Vittles and our open source projects through advertising, referral revenue, and/or merchandise. As an Amazon Associate and Best Buy Affiliate, we also earn from qualifying purchases. We’ve chosen these providers not the other way around. Our decisions are based upon their corporate reputation and the quality of their offerings and pricing. Our recommendations regarding technology are reached without regard to financial compensation except in situations in which comparable products at comparable pricing are available from multiple sources. In this limited case, we support our sponsors because our sponsors support us.

BOGO Bonaza: Enjoy state-of-the-art VoIP service with a $10 credit and half-price SIP service on up to $500 of Skyetel trunking with free number porting when you fund your Skyetel account. No limits on number of simultaneous calls. Quadruple data center redundancy. $25 monthly minimum spend required. Tutorial and sign up details are here.

The lynchpin of Incredible PBX 2020 and beyond is ClearlyIP components which bring management of FreePBX modules and SIP phone integration to a level never before available with any other Asterisk distribution. And now you can configure and reconfigure your new Incredible PBX phones from the convenience of the Incredible PBX GUI.

VitalPBX is perhaps the fastest-growing PBX offering based upon Asterisk with an installed presence in more than 100 countries worldwide. VitalPBX has generously provided a customized White Label version of Incredible PBX tailored for use with all Incredible PBX and VitalPBX custom applications. Follow this link for a free test drive!
 

Special Thanks to Vitelity. Vitelity is now Voyant Communications and has halted new registrations for the time being. Our special thanks to Vitelity for their unwavering financial support over many years and to the many Nerd Vittles readers who continue to enjoy the benefits of their service offerings. We will keep everyone posted on further developments.