Don’t Bring BS to a Data Fight
Thanks to a heads-up from our Frozen Tundra correspondent, Jamie Arlen, I got to read this really awesome response by Elon Musk of Tesla refuting the findings of a NYT car reviewer, A Most Peculiar Test Drive.
After a negative experience several years ago with Top Gear, a popular automotive show, where they pretended that our car ran out of energy and had to be pushed back to the garage, we always carefully data log media drives. While the vast majority of journalists are honest, some believe the facts shouldn’t get in the way of a salacious story.
The logs show again that our Model S never had a chance with John Broder.
Logs? Oh crap. You think the reviewer realized Tesla would be logging everything? Uh, probably not. Then Musk goes through all the negative claims and pretty much shows the reviewer to be either not very bright (to drive past a charging station when the car clearly said it needed a charge) or deliberately trying to prove his point, regardless of the facts.
I should probably just use Jamie’s words, as they are much better than mine. So courtesy of Jamie Arlen:
It’s one of those William Gibson moments. You know, where “the future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed yet.” As more “things in the world” get smart and connected, Moore’s Law type interactions occur. The technology necessary to keep a Tesla car running and optimized requires significant monitoring and logging of all control systems, which has an unpleasant side effect for the reviewer.
The kicker (for me) in all of this is the example that the NYT writer makes of himself: Sorry dude, the nerds have in-fact inherited the earth – if you want to play a game with someone who excels in the world of high-performance cars and orbital launch systems simultaneously, you need to be at least as smart as your opponent. Mr. Broder – you’ve cast yourself as Vizzini and yes, Elon does make a dashing Dread Pirate Roberts.
Vizzini. Well played, Mr. Arlen. Well played. But Jamie’s point is right on the money – these sophisticated vehicle control systems may be intended to make sure the systems are running as they should. But clearly a lot can be done with the data after something happens. How about placing a car at the scene of a crime? Yeah, the possibilities are endless, but I’ll leave those discussions to Captain Privacy. I’m just happy data won over opinion in this case.
UPDATE: It looks like we will get to to have a little he said/she said drama here, as Rebecca Greenfield tells Broder’s side of the story in this Atlantic Wire post. As you can imagine, the truth probably is somewhere in the middle.
—Mike Rothman,James Arlen