Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Elon Musk, Threat or Menace Part 2

Last April I wrote Elon Musk: Threat or Menace? flagging three of his externalities; the carbon footprint of his infatuation with cryptocurrencies, the environmental impact and cost of his infatuation with colonizing Mars, and the threat his infatuation with camera-only autonomy for Teslas posed to innocent bystanders. Last August I followed up with Autonowashing, detailing the incredible "depths of irresponsibility involved in Tesla's marketing".

Josh Wolfe of Lux Capital is a very successful and innovative venture capitalist. Maxwell Strachan interviewed him for The ‘To the Moon’ Crash Is Coming. I think Wolfe captures the essence of the problem:
I think a lot of people took the Elon playbook and basically said, If I just promised the moon, I can get too big to fail, I can just keep raising money as I raise expectations. And if I raise expectations, fundamentals don't matter. The only thing that matters is expectations. And if I can keep leading people—or in some cases misleading them—then it'll keep working if I don't get caught. And if I do get caught, in the case of Theranos or in the case of Nikola [Editor’s note: the electric-truck maker that paid a $125 million after the SEC charged the company’s founder with misleading investors over social media], maybe you pay a fine or you have your day in court, and maybe Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes is found guilty or maybe the zeitgeist of the day surprises and she's not. But so far, there has been really no great penalty for people whose relationship with the truth is less than ideal.
Musk doesn't care about the truth of his statements, or the impact of his companies' policies, because his wealth insulates him from consequences. If regulators or victims come after him he can tie them up in courts until their resources are exhausted or his fan-bois can make them irrelevant. Since Autonowashing I've been collecting illustrations of this attitude, and the time has come to lay out a sample of them below the fold.
There are a lot of examples, so I've organized them as follows:
  • His irresponsible behavior affecting the Stock Market.
  • Tesla's irresponsible behavior around its autonomy technology
  • SpaceX's irresposible behavior around its Starlink satellites, development of its Boca Chica base, and the idea of a Mars colony.
  • The Boring Company's irresponsible marketing of tunnels that simple math shows cannot deliver their claimed benefits.

Stock Market

TSLA 01/19/22
Since late 2019 Tesla stock has been remarkably volatile. Some of this is due to their delivering an impressive number of cars, and even making a profit on them over and above the sale of carbon credits. But that doesn't justify their current valuation of around a trillion dollars on a PE of 333.

As with Musk's interventions in the cryptocurrency market, pumping his HODL-ings of Dogecoin by tweeting, much of this run-up and subsequent volatility is clearly due to rampant speculation driven by Musk's tweets. In The “Tesla Financial Complex”: Financial Times Details Wildly Outsized Speculation in Tesla Options Yves Smith takes off from an article in the Financial Times by Robin Wrigglesworth entitled The ‘Tesla-financial complex’: how carmaker gained influence over the markets. Wrigglesworth starts:
One of Tesla’s oddest quirks is the fuel that has helped power its rocketing stock market value. Although its stock is wildly popular with many ordinary retail investors, the swelling size and hyperactivity of Tesla “options” — popular derivatives contracts that allow investors to bet both on and against a stock and magnify any gains and losses — has also flabbergasted many market veterans.

The nominal trading value of Tesla options has averaged $241bn a day in recent weeks, according to Goldman Sachs. That compares with $138bn a day for Amazon, the second most active single-stock option market, and $112bn a day for the rest of the S&P 500 index combined. This makes Tesla’s stock more prone to whipsaw movements, because of the “leverage” inherent in using options to trade.
In other words, TSLA options trading is half of options trading in the S&P500. Some days it is much more:
Golding estimates that historically the combined trading activity in US equity options has been between 10 and 20 times larger than activity in the biggest individual equity options market. However, there have been days recently where Tesla’s option trading activity has been five-to-six times the rest of the S&P 500 options ecosystem combined.
Yves Smith explains:
Reader HighlySuspect explained how the options trading gooses the stock price:
Market makers gladly sell call options to retail and make a huge profit doing so – it’s complicated but essentially the busy options market means call options are intrinsically overvalued and expensive, so market makers will sell these expensive options, hedge their position by actually buying Tesla stock, pocket the options premium, then sell the Tesla stock when the options position is closed. The market makers hedging by buying Tesla stock is actually one of the biggest factors behind the fast and enormous Tesla rallies – it’s an enormous source of buying.
Pink paper readers disputed a claim in the article, “Ordinary retail investors have been the primary power behind the Tesla options boom.” There is a whale in Tesla, billionaire Leo KoGuan who claimed he had bought nearly 7.2 million shares by early November, mainly though exercising call options. That makes him the third largest Tesla investor after Elon Musk and Larry Ellison.
Given this level of influence on the market, Musk's shoot-from-the-hip tweeting is unnacceptable to the SEC.
Mr Musk agreed a settlement with the SEC last year after the agency sued him for a tweet in which he claimed to have “funding secured” for a buyout of Tesla. The tweet was false, according to the SEC.
Did the settlement change anything?
In February the SEC claimed he violated the settlement, which required Mr Musk to get preapproval for any tweets containing material information about Tesla from an in-house lawyer. The claim followed a tweet by Mr Musk on February 19 about the number of cars Tesla would make in 2019, which he subsequently had to correct.

Last week Mr Musk’s attorneys revealed that none of the tweets about Tesla he had sent between the approval of the settlement and the SEC’s contempt motion had been preapproved.

The Tesla chief executive’s legal team argued that he had decided the tweets did not contain material information, and therefore did not need to be reviewed before publication.
Clearly the market wouldn't be interested in "the number of cars Tesla would make in 2019". The SEC disagreed:
The agency claimed that Mr Musk had shown “a brazen disregard” for the settlement and said his assertion that his February 19 tweet was immaterial “borders on the ridiculous”.

“[Mr] Musk’s shifting justifications suggest that there was never any good faith effort to comply with the court’s order and the Tesla policy,” said the SEC, referencing the settlement and the internal Tesla communications policy it required.

“Rather, [Mr] Musk has simply elected to ignore them,” the SEC said.
Musk has continued to tweet obviously market-moving information, such as this tweet from May 2020.
Chris Isidore's Musk's tweet raises doubt about Hertz's order for 100,000 Teslas is an example:
When Hertz announced plans to buy 100,000 Teslas last week — the largest-ever single order for electric vehicles — it was hailed as a breakthrough moment for the shift to EVs.
...
The "order" was thrown into doubt late Monday by — you guessed it — a tweet from Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who appeared to question the certainty of the deal. "If any of this is based on Hertz, I'd like to emphasize that no contract has been signed yet," Musk tweeted, referring to the recent surge in Tesla shares following the rental car company's announcement.

Shares of Tesla fell around 2% Tuesday morning, improving on a drop of as much as 5% earlier in the day, but still well above where the stock was trading before Hertz announced its purchase plans.
In November, Musk did it again: Jamie Powell was skeptical in Elon tells us nothing new, but the market moves anyway:
The winner, with 57.9 per cent, is “Yes”. Suggesting Elon is set to dump circa 17m shares, some $21bn of stock, in the coming days, weeks or months. Simply because Twitter said he should. Well, that’s the line anyway.
It could be argued that this wasn't news. Powell writes:
Elon said as much in an interview with Silicon Valley frenemy Kara Swisher back in September. Here’s the key line (around 39 minutes):
Just before my stock options expire I’m forced to exercise, and the top marginal tax rate is 53 per cent. I have a bunch of options that are expiring early next year, so a huge block of options will sell in Q4 because I have to or they expire.
So was Elon’s tweet just a smokescreen for an inevitable stock sale? If so the media doesn’t seem to have been able to see through the Musk miasma. Google “Tesla” and you’ll find hundreds of articles repeating the line that Elon is going to sell shares because Twitter told him to. Which is probably a lot more manageable a story for shareholders than the sudden appearance of a SEC Form 4 on its website detailing the sales. The early trading suggests as much, with Tesla’s shares only off 5.4 per cent in pre-market, to $1,157.
Powell asks some good questions:
Was this market moving tweet approved by the SEC mandated “Twitter sitter” that is meant to oversee his communications related to Tesla? What does it say about the state of markets that a tweet with arguably no new information moves the market capitalisation of a company some $60bn? And, in perhaps a wider point, should major shareholders of the world’s largest companies conduct polls about stock sales on a website that is rife with bots, fake accounts and other chicanery?
Senators Ron Wyden and Elizabeth Warren think the answers are "no". Some class action lawyers agree with them, as Mike Leonard's Tesla Hit With Investor Lawsuit Over Musk’s Market-Moving Tweets makes clear:
Elon Musk, fresh off his coronation as Time Magazine’s “person of the year,” is facing more investor scrutiny over his tweets, this time with a Delaware lawsuit filed against Tesla Inc. on Thursday taking aim at a Twitter poll that asked if he should sell millions worth of stock.

The lawsuit, filed in Delaware Chancery Court, accuses Musk of continuing to tweet impulsively and recklessly, in violation of a 2019 agreement with securities regulators that required the company to adopt strict new internal oversight procedures for monitoring his online statements.

“It is unclear who at Tesla, if anyone, is currently reviewing Musk’s tweets” after its last full-time general counsel left in December 2019 and the most recent acting general counsel stepped down in April, the suit says.

Tesla didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday. The suit doesn’t name Musk as a defendant.

In addition to the poll and related tweets—which allegedly sent Tesla shares tumbling 5% on Nov. 5 and another 12% on Nov. 6—the investor suit targets Musk’s recent “Twitter feud with Sen. Elizabeth Warren,” the Massachusetts Democrat, which allegedly drove the stock price down another 9.6% between Dec. 13 and Wednesday.
This isn't the only lawsuit caused by Musk's irresponsible tweeting. Matt Levine's JPMorgan Fights Tesla Over Warrants describes an extremely complex lawsuit centered on warrants hedging Tesla's convertible bonds. The key issue is:
Elon Musk, the chief executive officer and major shareholder and memelord of Tesla, spent a couple of weeks pretending on Twitter that he was going to take Tesla private at $420 per share. If he had taken Tesla private, JPMorgan (and Tesla’s other banks) would definitely have adjusted their warrants and demanded a big payday. He did not do that; it was all pretend. But he did say he would.

And when he said that, in August 2018, JPMorgan said, well, okay, that's an announcement of a merger, we get to adjust the warrants.
And JP Morgan had good reasons to do so. For example:
At the time, Mr. Musk was not only Tesla’s CEO, but also the chair of its board of directors and its largest shareholder. In a Form 8-K filed on November 5, 2013, Tesla had identified Mr. Musk’s personal Twitter account as a source of material public information about the company and encouraged investors to review that account. Because the tweet violated Nasdaq rules requiring at least 10 minutes’ advance notice before a listed corporation publicly disclosed a going-private transaction, Nasdaq temporarily halted trading in Tesla’s stock following Mr. Musk’s tweet, evidencing that the exchange considered the tweet to constitute an announcement by the company itself.

Tesla

It is a sad fact about American capitalism that it cares more about the financial integrity of the stock market that the bodily integrity of the citizens who are at risk from Tesla's fan-bois debugging their cars' software. I wrote Elon Musk: Threat or Menace?" after reading Mack Hogan's article for Road and Track entitled Tesla's "Full Self Driving" Beta Is Just Laughably Bad and Potentially Dangerous:
In short, every Tesla owner who purchases "Full Self-Driving" is serving as an unpaid safety supervisor, conducting research on Tesla's behalf. Perhaps more damning, the company takes no responsibility for its actions and leaves it up to driver discretion to decide when and where to test it out.

That leads to videos like this, where early adopters carry out uncontrolled tests on city streets, with pedestrians, cyclists, and other drivers unaware that they're part of the experiment. If even one of those Tesla drivers slips up, the consequences can be deadly.
Source
Autonowashing was sparked in part by news that the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration was investigating:
11 crashes since 2018 in which Teslas on Autopilot or Traffic Aware Cruise Control have hit vehicles at scenes where first responders have used flashing lights, flares, an illuminated arrow board or cones warning of hazards.
...
The agency has sent investigative teams to 31 crashes involving partially automated driver assist systems since June of 2016. Such systems can keep a vehicle centered in its lane and a safe distance from vehicles in front of it. Of those crashes, 25 involved Tesla Autopilot in which 10 deaths were reported, according to data released by the agency.
Since then, the drumbeat has continued. Matt McFarland's We tried Tesla's 'full self-driving.' Here's what happened is scary:
I'd spent my morning so far in the backseat of the Model 3 using "full self-driving," the system that Tesla says will change the world by enabling safe and reliable autonomous vehicles. I'd watched the software nearly crash into a construction site, try to turn into a stopped truck and attempt to drive down the wrong side of the road. Angry drivers blared their horns as the system hesitated, sometimes right in the middle of an intersection.
Elon Musk's response was, as usual, denial:
I suspect that article was written before the drive even took place,
The cult members response was that "Full Self-Driving" wasn't working well because the driver in the front seat was "inexperienced". According to video demos from Tesla and many examples from fan-bois, "full self-driving" doesn't need a driver, experienced or not — Oh Great, They’re Filming Porn Inside Teslas on Autopilot:
videos like “Tinder Date Cums In Me In A Tesla On Autopilot” and “Sexy Brunette Fucking While The Car is Driving,” where performers squirm and moan in a sticky front seat while whoever’s filming periodically glances at the road, watching other drivers drift by while presumably not also humping.
Tim Stevens isn't impressed with Autopilot. In 2021 Tesla Model Y review: Nearly great, critically flawed he writes:
I can't conclusively say that it's because of the missing radar, but I can say that our Model Y is bad at detecting obstructions ahead. Really, really bad. The big issue is false positives, a problem that has become known as "phantom braking" among Tesla owners. Basically, the car often gets confused and thinks there's an obstacle ahead and engages the automatic emergency braking system. You get an instant, unwanted and often strong application of the brakes. This is not a problem unique to Teslas. I've experienced it on other cars, but very, very rarely. On our Model Y this happens constantly, at least once an hour and sometimes much more often than that. In a single hour of driving I caught five phantom braking incidents on camera, two hard enough to sound the automatic emergency braking chime.
Tesla vehicle in ‘Full Self-Driving’ beta mode ‘severely damaged’ after crash in California by Andrew J. Hawkins quotes the owners report to the NTHSA:
The Vehicle was in FSD Beta mode and while taking a left turn the car went into the wrong lane and I was hit by another driver in the lane next to my lane. the car gave an alert 1/2 way through the turn so I tried to turn the wheel to avoid it from going into the wrong lane but the car by itself took control and forced itself into the incorrect lane creating an unsafe maneuver putting everyone involved at risk. car is severely damaged on the driver side.
Taylor Ogan tweets a video showing another case of "full self-driving" taking the name too literally and refusing to yield control.

Jonathan M. Gitlin reports that Manslaughter charges follow Tesla driver’s Autopilot red light run:
Prosecutors in California have charged a Tesla driver with two counts of manslaughter as a result of a fatal crash in December 2019. According to the Associated Press, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration confirmed that the Autopilot driver-assistance feature was active at the time of the crash. That makes this case notable in that these are the first felony charges to result from a fatal crash involving a partially automated driving system.

The fatal crash took place in Gardena, California, on December 29, 2019. According to reports, the Tesla Model S owned by Kevin Riad exited I-91, failed to stop at a red light, and then collided with a Honda Civic, killing both of that car's occupants, Gilberto Alcazar Lopez and Maria Guadalupe Nieves-Lopez.
Even Tesla acknowledges that "Full Self-Driving" has problems. Keith Laing's Tesla Recalls Full Self-Driving Software After Fixing Bug reports that:
Tesla Inc. recalled more than 11,700 cars after a software update was found to increase the risk its so-called Full Self-Driving system could cause rear-end collisions.
...
NHTSA said in a statement that Tesla uninstalled the faulty version of the Full Self-Driving software “after receiving reports of inadvertent activation of the automatic emergency braking system.” The company informed NHTSA that it has updated and reinstalled the software on the cars, part of a beta release of a feature it hopes will one day enable its vehicles to be self-driving.
...
In September, Tesla drew criticism after it beamed an over-the-air software update to its vehicles aimed at improving how its driver-assistance system Autopilot handles crash scenes without initiating a recall.
Faiz Siddiqui reports that Tesla gives ‘Full Self-Driving’ to a new crop of users, then takes it away after apparent software bugs:
The company had rolled out a new version of its driver-assistance software to an expanded group of users over the weekend, but Musk said that it proved problematic and that the company was working on fixes.
“Seeing some issues with [version] 10.3, so rolling back to 10.2 temporarily,” he wrote in a tweet. “Please note, this is to be expected with beta software. It is impossible to test all hardware configs in all conditions with internal [quality assurance], hence public beta.”
Unlike in September, Tesla actually did notify the NHTSA. Notice the explicit acknowledgement that "Full Self-Driving Beta" is a test program. In California, companies running autonomous driving test programs are required to report to the DMV, but Tesla doesn't. As Russ Mitchell reports in DMV ‘revisiting’ its approach to regulating Tesla’s public self-driving test, California State Senator Lena Gonzalez has understood the dangers to the public of Tesla's fan-bois using the laughably named "Full Self Driving" option on public streets:
Concerned about public safety, Gonzalez asked the DMV in December for its take on Tesla’s Full Self-Driving beta program, under which Tesla owners supervise the operation of cars programmed to autonomously navigate highways, city streets and neighborhood roads, stopping at traffic lights and stop signs as well as making left and right turns into traffic. Those are the same features being tested by other robot car developers that report crashes and disengagements to the DMV, a group that includes Waymo, Cruise, Argo and Zoox. Although their cars occasionally crash, there are few YouTube videos that show them behaving dangerously.
...
For years, Tesla has tested autonomous vehicle technology on public roads without reporting crashes and system failures to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, as other robot car developers are required to do under DMV regulations. But confronted with dozens of viral videos showing Tesla’s Full Self-Driving beta technology driving the car into dangerous situations, and a letter of concern from a key state legislator, the DMV now says it’s reviewing Tesla’s behavior and reassessing its own policies. The agency informed Tesla on Jan. 5 that it is “revisiting” its opinion that the company’s test program doesn’t fall under the department’s autonomous vehicle regulations because it requires a human driver. “Recent software updates, videos showing dangerous use of that technology, open investigations by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the opinions of other experts in this space” prompted the reevaluation
Tesla tells regulators that Autopilot and "Full Self-Driving" are Level 2 driver assistance systems that require the driver to be ready at all times to take over control. Since they are not testing an autonomous driving system, they don't need to file reports. But that's not what Tesla tells the fan-bois taking part in their beta test program, let alone the porn film producers.

Alissa Walker reports from CES in Two of Elon Musk’s Terrible Ideas Both Flopped in Las Vegas This Week:
part of the convention center’s parking lot has been blocked off for an autonomous-vehicle demonstration to show how well various automakers’ pedestrian-detection systems work. A small figure meant to represent a child crossing the street is placed in front of the vehicles, which navigate toward the figure, detect something in the road using their onboard LIDAR systems, and stop. Except the Tesla vehicles, that is, which are not equipped with LIDAR and repeatedly run the kid over. This is a demonstration set up by a LIDAR company, of course, but the sentiment that automated cars should have multiple, redundant detection systems is widely shared by industry safety experts.
Why don't Teslas have "multiple, redundant detection systems" such as LIDAR? In Inside Tesla as Elon Musk Pushed an Unflinching Vision for Self-Driving Cars Cade Metz and Neal E. Boudette explain:
Unlike technologists at almost every other company working on self-driving vehicles, Mr. Musk insisted that autonomy could be achieved solely with cameras tracking their surroundings. But many Tesla engineers questioned whether it was safe enough to rely on cameras without the benefit of other sensing devices — and whether Mr. Musk was promising drivers too much about Autopilot’s capabilities.
Musk's response to all these safety concerns is to attack the regulator on Twitter. Aria Alamalhodaei's Buttigieg defends safety agency appointment after Musk claims ‘bias’ reports:
Musk has taken umbrage with the appointment of Duke University engineering and computer science professor Missy Cummings as a safety adviser at the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA). “Objectively, her track record is extremely biased against Tesla,” he said Tuesday.
...
Tesla supporters, under the banner “Autopilot Users for Progress,” have started a Change.org petition urging President Joe Biden and NHTSA staff to review the appointment for concerns regarding conflict of interest and bias.
Musk using Twitter to rile up his fan-bois to attack critics is a long-standing pattern. The Anger of Tesla Fans Is Becoming a Problem by David Zipper describes it:
A couple of hours after the news broke, Omar Qazi, a Tesla booster with a large online following, tweeted, “If they try and take Autopilot away from us we will riot so hard January 6 will look like a day at Disneyland,” concluding with a laughing emoji. Qazi later deleted the tweet, issuing an apology and claiming it was a joke.

That may be true, but much of the online Tesla community seemed to be having a meltdown (including more than a few people who employed disturbing and misogynistic language). ... Elon Musk himself tweeted, “Objectively, her track record is extremely biased against Tesla,” and then jokingly responded to a fake account created in Cummings’ name. On Thursday evening, after enduring two days of online harassment, Cummings seemingly deleted her Twitter account.
...
If there was ever any doubt, the online firestorm over Cummings’ appointment shows that a federal crackdown on Tesla will meet fierce opposition—much of it coming from the hundreds of thousands of Americans who own one of the company’s vehicles (all Teslas purchased after October 2016 come equipped with Autopilot). And that pushback is likely to be inevitable, despite ample evidence that Tesla’s deployment of Autopilot and Full Self-Driving is endangering road users.

If NHTSA ultimately forces Tesla to remove or constrain the use of Autopilot, thousands of Tesla owners will rebel against being deprived of something they thought they owned. Even though they never should have had access to that something in the first place.
Two "WTF were they thinking" things illustrate Musk's attitude to the legal and safety requirements of a Level 2 driver assistance system, which as Tesla's documentation says:
Autopilot and Full Self-Driving Capability are intended for use with a fully attentive driver, who has their hands on the wheel and is prepared to take over at any moment.
First, A New Tesla Safety Concern: Drivers Can Play Video Games in Moving Cars by Neal Boudette reveals that the "fully attentive driver" can be playing video games on the car's screen:
The automaker added the games in an over-the-air software update that was sent to most of its cars this summer. They can be played by a driver or by a passenger in full view of the driver, raising fresh questions about whether Tesla is compromising safety as it rushes to add new technologies and features in its cars.
Second, Emma Roth's Tesla’s ‘Full Self-Driving’ beta has an ‘assertive’ driving mode that ‘may perform rolling stops’ reveals that the cars are programmed to break the law:
The feature was included in the October 2021 version 10.3 update, which was pulled two days after it started rolling out due to an issue with left turns at traffic lights. Tesla issued version 10.3.1 one day later, which still includes FSD profiles, as shown on the release notes posted on Not a Tesla App. Based on these notes, FSD profiles are described as a way “to control behaviors like rolling stops, speed-based lane changes, following distance and yellow light headway.”
Musk is basically trolling the regulators for laughs, never mind the risks.

SpaceX

“`Space,' it says, `is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.'”
Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Elon Musk agrees with the Guide:
“Space is just extremely enormous, and satellites are very tiny,” Musk said. “This is not some situation where we’re effectively blocking others in any way. We’ve not blocked anyone from doing anything, nor do we expect to.”
Near-Earth space isn't that big. CNBC reports that Elon Musk, SpaceX face online backlash in China after space station near-misses:
Elon Musk and SpaceX faced an online backlash in China this week after a note sent to the United Nations revealed that some of the company's satellites nearly collided with China's space station on two separate occasions in 2021.
...
NASA was forced to abruptly call off a spacewalk at the end of November, citing risks posed by space debris. Musk tweeted in response that some Starlink satellite orbits had been adjusted to reduce the possibility of collisions.
In ESA head says Europe needs to stop facilitating Elon Musk’s ambitions in space, Peggy Hollinger and Clive Cookson report:
Aschbacher said Musk’s Starlink was already so big that it was difficult for regulators or rivals to catch up. “You have one person owning half of the active satellites in the world. That’s quite amazing. De facto, he is making the rules. The rest of the world including Europe... is just not responding quick enough.”
...
The rush to tap the potential of commercial space—made possible by falling launch costs and cheaper, smaller satellites—has fueled concern over the absence of a global space-traffic management system for low Earth orbit, a region of up to 2,000 km above the Earth where most new commercial services are targeted.
Richard Waters' Elon Musk rejects claims his satellites are squeezing out rivals in space describes the response:
Elon Musk has hit back at criticism that his company’s Starlink satellites are hogging too much room in space, and has instead argued there could be room for “tens of billions” of spacecraft in orbits close to Earth.
...
His comments, made in an interview with the Financial Times, came in response to a claim from Josef Aschbacher, head of the European Space Agency, that Musk was “making the rules” for the new commercial space economy. Speaking to the FT earlier this month, Aschbacher warned that Musk’s rush to launch thousands of communications satellites would leave fewer radio frequencies and orbital slots available for everyone else.
There are a number of problems with flooding near-Earth space with "tens of billions" of satellites. John Timmer discusses the first in Astronomers find growing number of Starlink satellite tracks:
How bad is the problem? A team of astronomers has used archival images from a survey telescope to look for Starlink tracks over the past two years. Over that time, the number of images affected rose by a factor of 35, and the researchers estimate that by the time the planned Starlink constellation is complete, pretty much every image from their hardware will have at least one track in it.
The more serious one is the Kessler Syndrome:
a scenario in which the density of objects in low Earth orbit (LEO) due to space pollution is high enough that collisions between objects could cause a cascade in which each collision generates space debris that increases the likelihood of further collisions.In 2009 Kessler wrote that modeling results had concluded that the debris environment was already unstable, "such that any attempt to achieve a growth-free small debris environment by eliminating sources of past debris will likely fail because fragments from future collisions will be generated faster than atmospheric drag will remove them". One implication is that the distribution of debris in orbit could render space activities and the use of satellites in specific orbital ranges difficult for many generations.
Anton Petrov discusses the current situation in this video. In essence, humanity's future access to space depends upon SpaceX flawlessly managing a fleet of satellites vastly bigger than anyone else ever has, indefinitely into the future.

Musk isn't just playing fast and loose with Starlink's regulators. Mark Harris' The mystery of Elon Musk’s missing gas provides another example:
The draft programmatic environmental assessment (PEA) for SpaceX’s Starship and Super Heavy launch vehicles, which Elon Musk hopes will soon be shooting into orbit and then on to Mars, was issued last month by the FAA for public comment. The 142-page document covers construction and daily operations at SpaceX’s Boca Chica facility in Texas, which Musk is hoping to incorporate as a city called Starbase. These include pre-flight operations, rocket tests, launches and landings, as well as fuel, water and electricity supplies.

A new pre-treatment system will purify and cool natural gas into liquid methane fuel for the Starship and Super Heavy rockets. Much more gas will be needed for a new 250-megawatt gas-fired power station. A power plant this big typically serves over 100,000 homes and can cost hundreds of millions of dollars. But while rocket launches get a lot of coverage in the PEA, the new power plant receives only a cursory mention. In particular, it is unclear how the tens of millions of cubic feet of gas required daily will get to SpaceX’s remote facility near the Mexican border.

Failing to mention this in the PEA is unusual, and possibly contravenes the federal National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), says Pat Parenteau, professor of law and senior counsel in the Environmental Advocacy Clinic at Vermont Law School.
Starship and Super Heavy are parts of Musk's plan to colonize Mars to escape from the climate and other dooms facing Earth. George Steer's Do the sums behind Musk’s space colony mission add up? looks at the math. First, Musk's math:
Elon Musk told US podcaster Lex Fridman in December that establishing a “self-sustaining civilisation” on Mars will remain science fiction until the cost of flying goods there falls by a factor of 1,000 from its current level of $1bn to around $1m per ton, or “ideally much less”. A cool million is still pretty expensive, even when the recent surge in the cost of boring old earthbound trade is taken into account. Musk thinks 1m tons of materials would be needed to build the necessary infrastructure on what he admits is “a doer-upper” of a planet. So that adds up to $1tn; a pretty hefty price tag.
Source
He's just pulling numbers out of thin air trying to justify governments funding him, becuase even Musk can't afford to spend $1012 on his Mars dream. Second, the experts' math:
Starship, designed by Musk’s SpaceX to one day carry 100 tons of cargo, consists of a spacecraft fixed atop a reusable rocket. Once in orbit, the spacecraft needs ten rocket trips to refuel. In order for Musk’s sums to work, to carry 1m tons of material to Mars, the rocket would need to launch 100,000 times at an average cost of no more than $10m each trip.

And while a $1tn sounds a lot, it’s not too much more than the annual budget for the US military. “Musk has enough money to send a couple of ships and a few people, enough to make a start,” says Handmer.
This is a "fake it until you make it" strategy. Handmer's chart:
plots the fraction of goods by mass that are locally manufactured against the number of people necessary. His best guess is that it would take 100,000 Martian colonisers, to even get to a level where they could manufacture relatively uncomplicated industrial goods.
But the colony would need over a million population to stand a good chance of surviving a supply chain interruption. A world struggling to survive climate change isn't a good basis for the kind of enormously costly sustained supply chain that Musk's vision requires.

Boring Company

Alissa Walker's Two of Elon Musk’s Terrible Ideas Both Flopped in Las Vegas This Week reports:
In 2019, the Las Vegas Convention Center became the first paying customer of Musk’s tunnel-digging operation, the Boring Company. The city’s tourism agency paid him $50 million to build a pair of one-mile tunnels beneath the recently expanded convention halls, promising to turn a 20-minute walk into a one-minute ride. This week, a one-minute video showed the vehicle stuck in traffic for at least that long, as the driver — a human; more on that in a minute — merges into an underground parking garage, where dozens of people are getting into seemingly ordinary cars, all of them also about to get stuck in seemingly ordinary traffic, except they’re trapped inside what looks like the world’s longest MRI machine.
Walker continues:
Remember that in this particular transportation system of the future, Musk was contractually obligated to deliver a specific daily ridership to the convention center: 4,000 people per hour for 13 hours per day during major trade shows. (The contract also has penalties for failure to meet these numbers: $300,000 per trade show for a maximum of $4.5 million.) ... But it’s plain to any observer that there are not 4,000 people moving through this tunnel per hour, and recent data showed it’s more like 1,300 people per hour — about the capacity of standard (and, often, autonomous) people-movers all over Vegas — meaning the Boring Company has massively shortchanged its client.

Coda

In Dick Moves, Linsey McGoey writes:
Musk whined that Sanders is a ‘taker, not a maker’, delighting the hard-right libertarians who love it when billionaires attack governments. Which is something that Musk does a lot, but he needs the US government too, not least to further his own wealth. For one thing, SpaceX and Tesla have both benefited from government subsidies. But there’s more to it than that. ‘We will coup whoever we want!’ Musk tweeted and deleted in 2020. ‘Deal with it.’

He was responding to criticism of US involvement in the 2019 overthrow of Evo Morales’s government in Bolivia, a country with major reserves of lithium, which is used in the batteries of smartphones and electric cars. After a right-wing, US-backed government assumed office (later jettisoned at the ballot box), Tesla’s stock soared.

39 comments:

David. said...

Jane Wakefield reports on the UK Law Commissions' thoughts in Major legal changes needed for driverless car era (my emphasis):

"In these cars, the driver should be redefined as a "user-in-charge", with very different legal responsibilities, according to the law commissions for England and Wales, and Scotland.

If anything goes wrong, the company behind the driving system would be responsible, rather than the driver.

And a new regime should define whether a vehicle qualifies as self-driving.

In the interim, carmakers must be extremely clear about the difference between self-drive and driver-assist features.

There should be no sliding scale of driverless capabilities - a car is either autonomous or not.

And if any sort of monitoring is required - in extreme weather conditions, for example - it should not be considered autonomous and current driving rules should apply."

And:

"sanctions for carmakers who fail to reveal how their systems work"

David. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David. said...

The regulators aren't amused by Tesla's little joke, as David Shepardson reports in Tesla to recall nearly 54,000 vehicles that may disobey stop signs:

"Tesla Inc will recall 53,822 U.S. vehicles with the company's Full Self-Driving (Beta) software that may allow some models to conduct "rolling stops" and not come to a complete stop at some intersections posing a safety risk.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said the recall covers some 2016-2022 Model S and Model X, 2017-2022 Model 3, and 2020-2022 Model Y vehicles. NHTSA said the feature also known as FSD Beta may allow vehicles to travel through an all-way stop intersection without first coming to a stop.
...
The feature, which appeared to violate state laws that require vehicles to come to a complete stop and required drivers to opt-in for what it dubbed "Assertive" mode, drew attention on social media and prompted NHTSA to raise questions with Tesla."

David. said...

The recall didn't fix the problem, as Faiz Siddiqui and Jeremy B. Merrill report in Tesla drivers report a surge in ‘phantom braking’:

"Teslas are unexpectedly slamming on their brakes in response to imagined hazards — such as oncoming traffic on two-lane roads — which has prompted their terrified owners to lodge a surge of complaints with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration over the past three months, according to a Washington Post analysis of federal auto safety data.

The phenomenon, known as “phantom braking,” has been a persistent issue for Tesla vehicles.
...
In addition to the safety recall in late October, the timing of the complaints coincides with a period in which Tesla has stopped using radar sensors in its vehicles to supplement the suite of cameras that perceive their surroundings. Tesla announced last year that it would stop equipping Tesla Model Y and Model 3 vehicles built in North America with radar beginning in May 2021."

David. said...

Tom Krisher reports that Tesla recalls over 800K vehicles for seat belt chime problem:

"Tesla is recalling more than 817,000 vehicles in the U.S. because the seat belt reminder chimes may not sound when the vehicles are started and the driver hasn't buckled up."

David. said...

Jonathan Gitlin's AAA tests driver-monitoring systems, finds many lacking shows that torque-based systems such as Tesla's are completely inadequate:

"The testers found that it was possible to actively circumvent attention warnings in all four cars. The Subaru was the most resistant to circumvention, but drivers were able to increase the average distraction time to 79.4 seconds. And for the Cadillac, this stretched to 191 seconds. But the indirect driver-monitoring systems in the Hyundai and Tesla were far easier to fool—the distraction times in these cars could be stretched to 334.7 seconds (Hyundai) and 342.2 seconds (Tesla)."

That is almost 6 minutes of distraction before an alert, or nearly 6.2 miles at 65mph.

David. said...

@teslaownersSV asked:

"Elon what’s the eta for the full stack fsd beta"

@elonmusk replied:

"We have to solve a huge part of AI just to make cars drive themselves.

In retrospect, it was inevitable. The road system is designed for cameras (eyes) & neural nets (brains)."

@DerivativeV translated:

"His answer translates as follows:

10-30 years"

David. said...

Laura Kolodny's Tesla cut a steering component from some cars to deal with chip shortage, sources say reveals that:

"Under pressure to hit fourth-quarter sales goals while coping with widespread semiconductor shortages, Tesla decided to remove one of the two electronic control units that are normally included in the steering racks of some made-in-China Model 3 and Model Y cars, according to two employees and internal correspondence seen by CNBC.
...
They also said that the exclusion would not cause safety issues, since the removed part was deemed a secondary electronic control unit, used mainly as a backup."

Redundancy isn't a safety issue, right?

David. said...

The regulators' unhappiness with Tesla's casual attitude to safety continues, as Richard Currie reports in 'Boombox' function sparks Tesla recall:

"An external speaker function in 578,607 Teslas will be disabled by the electric vehicle manufacturer this month after the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it interfered with safety standards."

David. said...

In ‘Full Self-Driving’ clips show owners of Teslas fighting for control, and experts see deep flaws, Faiz Siddiqui and Reed Albergotti:

"selected six videos from a large array posted on YouTube and contacted the people who shot them to confirm their authenticity. The Post then recruited a half-dozen experts to conduct a frame-by-frame analysis."

The conclusion:

"Their analysis suggests that, as currently designed, Full Self-Driving (FSD) could be dangerous on public roadways, according to several of the experts. Some defects appear to plague multiple versions of Tesla’s software, such as inability to recognize light-rail tracks: One video shows a driver shifting into reverse after traveling too far onto the tracks.

“The video [footage] shows different scenarios where the automated driving system was not able to detect and/or cope with relevant features of its Operational Design Domain,” or the conditions under which the system is expected to safely operate, said Nicola Croce, technical program manager at Deepen AI, which helps companies deploy driver-assistance and autonomous-driving systems. Tesla is not one of its clients.

Lapses within the design domain, Croce said, are “considered a failure to follow the safety expectations.”

Tesla did not respond to repeated requests for comment."

The details are fascinating.

David. said...

CNBC has a video featuring three ride-alongs with FSD Beta testers, in Murfreesboro TN, Brooklyn NY, and Dan Francisca CA. The TL;DR is that the system works OK in good weather in suburban Murfreesboro, but ranges from incompetent to dangerous in the urban settings, and can't deal with rain and snow in Murfreesboro. CNBC does a good job of contextualizing the ride-alongs.

David. said...

Jon Shazar's Elon Musk Asks Judge To Let Him Ignore SEC Settlement That He’s Been Ignoring Anyway is subtitled "Any other outcome would amount to intolerable persecution of a billionaire":

"I mean, where does one start? With the fact that commercial speech such as that regulated by the SEC doesn’t enjoy full First Amendment protection? With the fact that no other company has had to hire a social-media babysitter for its chief executive to keep him from violating securities law, rendering any question of “evenhanded” comparison moot? With the fact that Musk agreed to the terms of this legal settlement and has brazenly violated it over and over and over again?"

David. said...

Matt Levine's take on Musk's failure to obey the SEC settlement he signed:

"I did not reckon with the fact that Musk also has a lot of discretionary power and does not like being disrespected, and if he doesn’t like the SEC he can do a lot to wear them down too. He has apparently tried to destroy the careers of the SEC enforcement lawyers who went after him, and he has at least as much power to pester them in court as they do to pester him. Surely the outcome of the Musk/SEC fight is much less “Musk has been deterred from carelessly tweeting material things about Tesla” and much more “the SEC has been deterred from going after Musk.” That’s a kind of legal realism too."

One law for the poor, no law for the rich.

David. said...

Kari Paul reports that Elon Musk and brother under investigation for alleged insider trading:

"The US Securities and Exchange Commission has reportedly opened an investigation into whether recent stock sales by Tesla CEO Elon Musk and his brother Kimbal Musk violated insider trading rules.

The SEC inquiry – first reported by the Wall Street Journal on Thursday – was sparked in part by the Tesla CEO’s own tweets.

It centers on an incident last year when Kimbal – who sits on Tesla’s board of directors – sold $108m of shares in the electric carmaker. The exchange took place just a day before before Musk polled Twitter users asking whether he should offload 10% of his stake in Tesla, sending shares falling."

David. said...

From the "killing the messenger" department comes Jon Brodkin's Tesla fires employee who posted YouTube videos of Full Self-Driving accident:

"Bernal was fired and lost beta access after video review showed a minor collision."

It is OK to post videos of the system succeeding, but not OK to post videos of it failing.

David. said...

The SEC's response to Elon Musk's attempt to wriggle out of the deal he and Tesla signed to monitor his efforts to manipulate the market via Twitter is a fun read:

"In sum, in 2018, to settle the SEC's action against him, Musk agreed to comply with Tesla's mandatory procedures requiring pre-approval of certain of his Tesla-related public communications. Musk cannot now cast off the Amended Final Judgment simply because he has found complying with Tesla's procedures to be less convenient than he had hoped, or because he wishes the SEC would not investigate whether Tesla's disclosure controls and procedures are actually being maintained and followed."

David. said...

Laurie Clarke's How self-driving cars got stuck in the slow lane is a good overview:

"There’s reason to believe that the videos that make their way online are some of the more flattering ones. Not only are the testers Tesla customers, but an army of super-fans acts as an extra deterrent to sharing anything negative. Any reports of FSD behaving badly can trigger a wave of outrage; any critical posts on the Tesla Motors Club, a forum for Tesla drivers, are inevitably greeted by people blaming users for accidents or accusing them of wanting Tesla to fail. “People are terrified that Elon Musk will take away the FSD that they paid for and that people will attack them,” says Ogan.

This helps to shield Tesla from criticism, says Ed Niedermeyer, the author of Ludicrous: The Unvarnished Story of Tesla Motors, who was “bombarded by an online militia” when he started reporting on the company. “Throughout Tesla’s history, this faith and sense of community… has been absolutely critical to Tesla’s survival,” he says. The proof, he adds, is that Musk can claim again and again to be a year from reaching full autonomous driving without losing the trust of fans."

David. said...

Faiz Siddiqui's How auto regulators played mind games with Elon Musk looks at the problem facing regulators:

"The threat of fines — which can add up to nearly $115 million — generally works with traditional companies, the former officials said, but hasn’t proven effective when dealing with Tesla, an extraordinarily valuable company owned by the richest man in the world.
...
Musk’s own attitude was part of the problem with efforts to enforce safety, the officials said. Some experienced personal encounters with Musk that escalated into yelling matches or otherwise proved unproductive because of the CEO’s skepticism about their findings.
...
Since 2016, NHTSA has opened 31 special crash investigation cases involving advanced driver-assistance technology, according to data provided by the agency. Twenty-four have involved Tesla vehicles."

David. said...

The latest candidate for Satoshi Nakamoto-hood is Elon Musk!

David. said...

Jamie Powell reports that Elon Musk becomes Twitter’s largest shareholder:

"Musk’s 9.2 per cent Twitter stake would make him the largest shareholder in the company. Notably it’s more than quadruple the 2.25 per cent position of founder Jack Dorsey."

David. said...

Bryce Elder's Musk’s Twitter play explained in tweets concludes:

"In February, Elon denied passing information that could have hurt Tesla’s stock price to Kimbal after the Wall Street Journal reported that both men have become the subject of an insider trading investigation by US regulators. It’s much too early to say whether trading in the aftermath of the Musk Twitter poll also merits an SEC investigation, but the type and timeline of purchases and disclosures definitely look worthy of attention."

David. said...

Jon Brodkin's Elon Musk given Twitter board seat in return for promising not to buy more of company reports that:

"Elon Musk is joining Twitter's board of directors in a deal that prohibits him from buying more than 14.9 percent of the company's stock, Twitter announced today. The news of Musk joining the board comes one day after the Tesla and SpaceX CEO revealed that he had purchased 9.2 percent of Twitter shares."

Rob Beschizza commented:

"Musk recently suggested that Twitter was failing to embody free speech principles and that he might found a competitor. But Musk also fired an employee for posting something he didn't like on YouTube and falsely accused one critic of being a pedophile. So there are no principles or plans here, just the whims of a man with a budget.

Who, by the way, one is now working for when one posts on Twitter!"

David. said...

Lawsuit: Musk saved $143 million by illegally waiting to disclose Twitter stake by Jon Brodkin reports that:

"Elon Musk is facing a shareholder lawsuit over his failure to reveal his investment in Twitter until 11 days after a deadline set by federal law.

Musk started buying Twitter stock in January and acquired more than 5 percent of all shares by March 14, the lawsuit said. Under US law, "Musk was required to file a Schedule 13 with the SEC within 10 days of passing the 5 percent ownership threshold in Twitter, or March 24, 2022," said the complaint filed yesterday in US District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Twitter's stock rose 27 percent on April 4 when Musk revealed his 9.2 percent stake. This means that investors who sold before April 4 missed out on the gains and that Musk was able to keep buying shares at artificially low prices"

David. said...

Carla Sinclair reports that Man's Tesla froze while speeding down highway at 83 mph:

"A man was stuck behind the wheel of a speeding Tesla as the car's computer froze while driving at 85 mph. The man says all of the controls stopped working — including the turn signal, hazard lights, accelerator, and main screen — while on a highway in Southern California. Thankfully, the one thing that did work was his brake, but he thought using it might put him in danger."

David. said...

Lora Kolodny reports in Elon Musk's tweets about taking Tesla private were false, new court filing says that:

"A court filing out late Friday said a judge ruled Tesla CEO Elon Musk knowingly made false statements when he tweeted about a take-private deal for the company in 2018."

David. said...

Samantha Cole's Watch an Autopiloted Tesla Crash Into a Multimillion-Dollar Jet reports on an expensive oopsie:

"Tesla Model Ys have a feature called “Smart Summon” that, when activated, will call the car to its owner; for example, bring it from the back of a parking lot to the curb of a store where they’re waiting. In this video, the Tesla in question creeps up to a Cirrus Vision jet, collides with its tail, and keeps pushing, moving the more than 1.5-ton jet around in a half-circle before it stops."

David. said...

Erin Woo's In tweets, Musk takes aim at Twitter executives, creating outrage reports:

"On Tuesday night, Mr. Musk began tweeting critically about Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s top lawyer and safety expert, and Jim Baker, the deputy general counsel. Ms. Gadde has been instrumental in building up content policies at Twitter and was involved in last year’s decision to bar former President Donald J. Trump from the platform.

Mr. Musk responded to a tweet on Tuesday criticizing Ms. Gadde’s apparent response to Mr. Musk’s deal to buy Twitter. He also posted a critical comment about Mr. Baker’s past behavior."

The result, of course, was that Musk's cult members piled on to them. Kurt Wagner noted in Musk Is Barred From Disparaging Twitter When Tweeting About Deal:

"Elon Musk isn’t allowed to post tweets about his deal to buy Twitter Inc. if they “disparage the company or any of its representatives,” according to a new securities filing following Monday’s $44 billion takeover agreement.

The stipulation was part of a filing Tuesday with details of the transaction, including a section on “public announcements” that had a limitation on what Musk can tweet.
...
“The equity investor shall be permitted to issue tweets about the merger or the transactions contemplated hereby so long as such tweets do not disparage the company or any of its representatives,” according to the filing. It’s unclear what would happen if Musk violates the agreement."

There will be no consequences because Musk is the richest person in the (Western) world.

If you want to understand what's going on with Musk buying Twitter, I suggest you read Ranjan Roy's Elon's Giant Package. It is really scary.

David. said...

To do Musk justice, David Patrikarakos tweets:

"I want to say one thing: @elonmusk's Starlink is what changed the war in #Ukraine's favour. #Russia went out of its way to blow up all our comms. Now they can't. Starlink works under Katyusha fire, under artillery fire. It even works in Mariupol."

David. said...

Among the investors in Musk's buyout of Twitter are:

HRH Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud $1.9B
Larry Ellison $1B
Sequoia Capital $0.8B
Vy Capital $0.7B (Dubai)
Binance $0.5B
A16Z $0.4B

David. said...

@AiAddict demonstrates the inability of Tesla's FSD to respond correctly to obstacles increasing in size from a plastic bucket to a pickup truck.

David. said...

Craig Trudell and Keith Laing have a detailed update on the glacial pace of NHTSA's investigations in Tesla Autopilot Stirs U.S. Alarm as ‘Disaster Waiting to Happen’:

"NHTSA has repeatedly reminded the public — including in comments provided for this story — that no commercially available vehicle can drive itself. The agency has opened 31 special investigations into crashes involving driver-assistance systems, 24 of which involved Teslas. But the company keeps hawking FSD — and charges $12,000 for it.

There’s growing discomfort with this state of play in Washington.

“I really dislike a lot of what Tesla has done, and at the top of the list in bright, bold letters, is Elon Musk’s habit of making false public claims, and using his podium in a way that creates safety risks,” Heidi King, a deputy and acting administrator of NHTSA during the Trump administration, said in an interview."

David. said...

Erin Marquis' 'Self-Driving' Level 2 Autonomy Systems Still Pretty Crappy: AAA Study reports that:

"AAA’s Automotive Engineering ran a 2021 Subaru Forester with “EyeSight,” a 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe with “Highway Driving Assist” and a 2020 Tesla Model 3 with “Autopilot” through 15 test runs using a foam dummy car and bicyclist. The results weren’t great:

• A head-on collision occurred during all 15 test runs for an oncoming vehicle within the travel lane. Only one test vehicle significantly reduced speed before a crash on each run.

• For a slow lead vehicle moving in the same direction in the lane ahead, no collisions occurred among 15 test runs.

• For a cyclist crossing the travel lane of the test vehicle, a collision occurred for 5 out of 15 test runs, or 33% of the time.

• For a cyclist traveling in the same direction in the lane ahead of the test vehicle, no collisions occurred among 15 test runs."

David. said...

Matt Levine takes Elon Musk to the woodshed in Elon Musk Does Not Care About Spam Bots:

"I think it is important to be clear here that Musk is lying. The spam bots are not why he is backing away from the deal, as you can tell from the fact that the spam bots are why he did the deal. He has produced no evidence at all that Twitter’s estimates are wrong, and certainly not that they are materially wrong or made in bad faith. (Musk can only get out of the deal if Twitter's filings are wrong in a way that would cause a “material adverse effect” on Twitter, which is vanishingly unlikely.) His own supposed methodology for counting spam bots is laughable."

You really need to read the whole thing.

Note Musk just tweeted:

“In the past I voted Democrat, because they were (mostly) the kindness party,” Musk wrote. “But they have become the party of division & hate, so I can no longer support them and will vote Republican. Now, watch their dirty tricks campaign against me unfold ... ”

David. said...

E.W. Niedermeyer's must-read thread nails it.

David. said...

In Elon Musk Completes Transition to Supervillain With Bolsonaro Meeting in Brazil, Kyle Barr reports that:

"There’s a lot of scandals hitting Tesla CEO Elon Musk all at once, but at least he knows he has a friend in Brazil’s deforester-in-chief Jair Bolsonaro, a right-wing demagogue who similarly to Musk, has a very hard time taking any sort of public criticism, and has tried using the power of his office to make sure his conspiracies don’t get deplatformed."

Ian F. Adams said...

As a personal anecdote on "driver assist" tools, even something as relatively straightforward as radar assisted cruise-control can be dodgy. I had my brakes slammed on me at highway speed when my Toyota pickup got confused by entering a tunnel (no traffic in either direction).

On my family's ford escape we promptly disabled all the lane assist stuff as it was garbage and jerking the car somewhat randomly and alarmingly.

The *only* feature I've found at least intermittently useful and not actively dangerous was a lane drift warning that would make some beeping when it thinks you're leaving a lane. But only worked reliably on long freeway stretches. On the rural highway I live off of which is all curves it was more of a nuisance.

David. said...

Russ Mitchell's Company insiders rip Tesla’s stance on safety in hard-hitting Elon Musk doc covers:

"the new documentary “Elon Musk’s Crash Course.”

Premiering Friday on FX and Hulu, the 75-minute fright show spotlights the persistent dangers of Tesla’s automated driving technologies, the company’s lax safety culture, Musk’s P.T. Barnum-style marketing hype and the weak-kneed safety regulators who seem not to care."

Takewaways:

"1. Tesla’s Autopilot feature did not receive adequate testing, ex-employees allege

2. Fully autonomous Teslas are more science-fiction than reality

3. Musk’s fans don’t hold back. Even on camera

4. Regulatory failures are part of the problem"

David. said...

Carla Sinclair reports that At least two Teslas catch fire in separate incidents over the weekend:

1) "One Tesla burst into flames last Friday in Vancouver, Canada. The driver, whose battery suddenly died, got trapped inside his 2021 Tesla Model Y that was filling up with smoke. "The power didn't work, the door didn't open, the window didn't go down," he told YouTube's Storyful. He broke a window to escape, and soon after, the car became engulfed with flames." video

2) "The second fire occurred on Sunday at a Tesla dealership in Mimai [sic], which damaged three cars on the lot". video

David. said...

Brad DeLong on Tesla’s Valuation(s) is a fascinating read:

"Selling all the cars sold in America, and selling each for a profit of $20,000 per car, and getting there very quickly (for money in fifteen years is worth half of money today at standard equity discount rates)—that is what the marginal Tesla shareholder right now is “thinking” about Tesla and its prospects."

Or:

"Five years ago it was valued at 1/10 as much—that would be, if it obtained maturity fifteen years (now ten years out, in 2032), a quarter of the American car market with a profit of $8,000 per car: the equivalent of the old Ford Motor Company in its glory days, in a boom year."