August 21st, 2013 § §
A pretty bold claim by what I consider to be the preeminent car manufacturer but they have some impressive numbers to back it up. Only 1% of all cars tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) achieve 5 stars and the Model S actually broke one of the machines used to test the car.
Of note, during validation of Model S roof crush protection at an independent commercial facility, the testing machine failed at just above 4 g’s. While the exact number is uncertain due to Model S breaking the testing machine, what this means is that at least four additional fully loaded Model S vehicles could be placed on top of an owner’s car without the roof caving in. This is achieved primarily through a center (B) pillar reinforcement attached via aerospace grade bolts.
Since the Model S uses a rather innovative battery pack they are able to mount it below the floor pan giving it a very low center of gravity. As a result the independent testing facility had to use non-standard means to even get it to roll over.
The Model S was also substantially better in rollover risk, with the other top vehicles being approximately 50 percent worse.
Tesla is quick to point out that it’s quite possible to game the testing score by strengthening the car in the locations used by the machines.
After verifying through internal testing that the Model S would achieve a NHTSA 5-star rating, Tesla then analyzed the Model S to determine the weakest points in the car and retested at those locations until the car achieved 5 stars no matter how the test equipment was configured.
The press release also contains some pretty interesting details about crumple zones and the side pole intrusion test which, according to Tesla, is considered one of the most difficult to pass. Here is footage of a 2012 Jeep Liberty failing it.
[T]he Model S was the only car in the “good” category among the other top one percent of vehicles tested. Compared to the Volvo S60, which is also 5-star rated in all categories, the Model S preserved 63.5 percent of driver residual space vs. 7.8 percent for the Volvo. Tesla achieved this outcome by nesting multiple deep aluminum extrusions in the side rail of the car that absorb the impact energy (a similar approach was used by the Apollo Lunar Lander) and transfer load to the rest of the vehicle. This causes the pole to be either sheared off or to stop the car before the pole hits an occupant.
Much like the recent Hyperloop Alpha proposal it’s clear that Mr. Musk, who found SpaceX and is currently head of product design at Tesla, is willing to ignore accepted standards to create what he believes is a better product. Writing for MIT Technology Review Kevin Bullis shines a light on what sets the Model S battery apart from the rest of it’s competition.
Tesla’s choice of these small lithium-ion batteries is, arguably, one of its most important strategic gambles. Established automakers have chosen larger battery cells—they make engineering a battery pack simpler, since you need fewer of them. But the larger cells, because they contain more energy, are also more dangerous. So automakers use less energy-dense battery materials that are more resistant to catching fire. Trying to offset the lower energy density, automakers chose flat cells because they pack together more densely, but such cells cost more to manufacture.
Tesla Model S with everything removed but the frames, wheels, battery and engine.
Not only are the smaller cells cheaper, thanks in no small part to the mobile computing industry, but they have better energy density. It’s not as good as gasoline yet but they are ahead of the pack. Lastly these cells have a safety benefit as well.
Choosing the smaller, cylindrical cells also gave Tesla more flexibility in packaging the cells. Large, flat cells will deform in a collision and possibly catch fire, so other automakers have had to find places within the car where the battery would be out of the way in a crash. That meant using up some passenger or cargo space.
Which takes us back to the Tesla Press Release.
The Model S lithium-ion battery did not catch fire at any time before, during or after the NHTSA testing. It is worth mentioning that no production Tesla lithium-ion battery has ever caught fire in the Model S or Roadster, despite several high speed impacts. While this is statistically unlikely to remain the case long term, Tesla is unaware of any Model S or Roadster occupant fatalities in any car ever.
I’m sure Tesla has cherry picked some of numbers to make the car look as good as possible, it’s a press release after all, but it’s hard to argue with the overall results.
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Of all vehicles tested, including every major make and model approved for sale in the United States, the Model S set a new record for the lowest likelihood of injury to occupants. While the Model S is a sedan, it also exceeded the safety score of all SUVs and minivans.
August 20th, 2013 § §
Geppy Parziale, who pioneered an innovated touchless fingerprint recognition technology, has a great post explaining the various types of fingerprint sensors and lays out why we haven’t seen them implemented in widespread use. It’s detailed yet engaging and I recommend checking it out. For the tldr; crowd here is the conclusion.
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Unfortunately there is no existing solution to this. Manufacturers can only try to make the fingerprint sensor last longer, but sooner or later that device will stop working properly. This is also why Apple cannot provide a fingerprint sensor for payments. And if they do, they are making a huge mistake, because the surface destruction process explained above introduces the most dangerous problem in fingerprint recognition: false acceptance, when after a while somebody else can be granted access to your device.
August 13th, 2013 § §
Lets say you have a piece of (most likely Windows) software that:
- Slows your computer
- Pops up annoying windows at seemingly random intervals
- Asks you to provide a credit card to stop aforementioned popups and promises to clean your computer in the process
- Disables and prevents you from installing legitimate software
- Generally gets in your way when you are trying to get shit done
Does this describe software created by a Russian hacker or McAfee? Dammed if I can tell the difference.
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June 27th, 2013 § §
Most of the major internet companies have been releasing statements playing down their involvement in the NSA Prism scandal that broke couple weeks ago. For their part I think these companies would like nothing more than to not be involved with the NSA but since warrants are involved they don’t really have much choice. This has lead to some non-denial denials saying that they have not given the NSA unfettered access to their servers. If the scale of access ranges from zero to complete we are left hoping it was closer to zero but we will probably never know.
The problem, in my opinion, is not how much access these companies gave to the NSA. The problem is the fact that they store the data in the first place. Companies that make their money from advertisers (Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter, basically any company that provides “free” web services) have no choice because the more personal data they have about their users the more they can charge advertisers. Their users are the commodity and advertisers are the customer. Contrast this with a company who’s users are also their customers and you have a very refreshing statement about the NSA’s spying program.
An excerpt Apple’s commitment to customer privacy:
For example, conversations which take place over iMessage and FaceTime are protected by end-to-end encryption so no one but the sender and receiver can see or read them. Apple cannot decrypt that data. Similarly, we do not store data related to customers’ location, Map searches or Siri requests in any identifiable form.
Apple is not doing this because they are morally superior to the Googles of the world. They are not doing it because of some mealymouthed corporate tagline about not doing “evil”. They are doing it because it’s in the best interest of their customers just as Google is storing massive amounts of personal data in the interest of their customers.
Marco Arment had a great analogy for how he treats a customer’s personal data. He was talking about accessing a user’s contact book from Instapaper and he compared it to his grandmother’s underwear drawer. To paraphrase Marco
Imagine your grandmother is in the hospital and she needs you to get an important document from her house. The only problem is that it’s stored in her underwear drawer. You are, of course, going to do what your grandmother asks but you are going to do it as quickly as possible. Open the drawer remove the document and, if possible, leave the rest of the contents untouched.
He made this comment in the wake of the Path address book controversy but I think it should be an attitude shared by all developers. Apple doesn’t store your iMessages because they don’t want the liability. Google reads your jabber messages so they can get a better sense of who you are and what ads you are more likely to click on. To abuse the analogy they would be happy to catalog your grandmother’s underwear drawer for you. BTW, she might like this special offer from JC Penney’s.
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June 21st, 2013 § §
Luddite claims that technology is destroying our culture/humanity are far from new.
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June 18th, 2013 § §
As a security guy Rich Mogull was perplexed by his invite to attend the recent WWDC keynote. With the announcement of Keychain and Activation Lock he understood why he was invited and is impressed by Apple’s approach to tackling real world security problems.
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The consistent thread through all these advances is Apple attempting, wherever possible, to use security to improve the user experience and make common security problems simply go away. By focusing so much on design, Apple increases the odds users will adopt these technologies and, so, stay safer.
June 12th, 2013 § §
Marco Arment thinks iOS 7 is the most disruptive thing to come to the platform since the launch of the app store.
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I don’t think most developers of mature, non-trivial apps are going to have an easy time migrating them well to iOS 7. Even if they overcome the technical barriers, the resulting apps just won’t look and feel right. They won’t fool anyone.
This is great news.
Apple has set fire to iOS. Everything’s in flux. Those with the least to lose have the most to gain, because this fall, hundreds of millions of people will start demanding apps for a platform with thousands of old, stale players and not many new, nimble alternatives.
June 11th, 2013 § §
A great overview of what happened yesterday at the WWDC keynote. Even though I caught most of the keynote I still found it informative. The author also doesn’t digress into opinion beyond a few NBD (no big deal) comments.
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June 4th, 2013 § §
Some great news from the EFF regarding the ongoing battle against patent trolls. The White House has waded into the fight with some legislative ideas as well as five executive actions. Julie Samuels sums them up for the EFF:
- Tighten functional claiming: requiring patent applicants to explain their inventions better and to limit those inventions to a specific way of accomplishing a task, as opposed to all ways of accomplishing a task. This is an important (and obvious) fix that should help stem the tide of overbroad software patents and increase patent quality.
Fix transparency: requiring patent owners to update records at the Patent Office with the patent’s real owner. Taking away secrecy takes away one of the patent troll’s favorite weapons.
Empower downstream users: ending the abuse associated with targeting end users, such as small businesses, startups, and even individuals who find themselves facing lawsuit threats and licensing demands for simply using everyday products. As the White House puts it: “End-users should not be subject to lawsuits for simply using a product as intended, and need an easier way to know their rights before entering into costly litigation or settlement.” We couldn’t agree more.
Expand dedicated outreach and study: working with members of the community, including third-party stakeholders, to address flaws in the system. This would include increasing scholarly programs at the Patent Office, something that if done right could have a direct positive effect on patent quality by bringing in big thinkers to address systemic problems at that office.
Strengthen enforcement of exclusion orders: streamlining procedures for imported goods that are found to infringe U.S. patents.
This sounds like a great stop gap while we debate the merits of software patents. These things take time after all.
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May 17th, 2013 § §
Using a vaguely described 3-D structure researches have developed a micro battery that they claim out powers even the best super-capacitors.
With so much power, the batteries could enable sensors or radio signals that broadcast 30 times farther, or devices 30 times smaller. The batteries are rechargeable and can charge 1,000 times faster than competing technologies — imagine juicing up a credit-card-thin phone in less than a second.
No mention of the cost to produce these batteries or whether it’s even feasible to manufacture them in bulk but that’s really besides the point. The battery revolution is coming and it’s going to change everything.
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Ions flow between 3-D micro-electrodes in a lithium ion battery.