Tesla: “Model S is the safest car ever tested”

August 21st, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

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.

Model S - White
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.

a Model S with everything removed but the frames, wheels, battery and engine.

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.

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.

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WRITERS ON WRITING; Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle – New York Times

August 21st, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Elmore Leonard, known for writing books that were later adapted to film like Get Shorty, Out of Sight and Rum Punch (which became Jackie Brown), died yesterday at the age of 87. He left us with not only a trove of great literature but some very sound advice for writers. There are ten rules and my favorite is the last.

10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

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Will a fingerprint sensor be Apple’s next hit?

August 20th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

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.

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.

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Intellectual Property Rights at Work

August 19th, 2013 § 1 comment § permalink

Marvin Gaye’s family claims that “Blurred Lines“is too similar to Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up” and is attempting to extort money from Robin Thicke. In a bold move Mr. Thicke has filed a preemptive lawsuit in the hopes that the court will rule in his favor. Take a listen for yourself:

Marvin Gaye:

Robin Thicke:

While one cannot deny that there is a similarity they are clearly different songs. Robin Thicke was almost certainly influenced by the original work but that does not give the Mr. Gaye’s heirs the right exert control over the derivative work. Whether you think this is an isolated case of fair use or you believe, as I do, that Everything is a Remix I don’t see how one can argue that Mr. Thicke owes anything but appreciation. Even if you don’t care for the song surely society is better off when artists can create new material without having to worry about being sued.

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In Europe, Neanderthals Beat Homo Sapiens to Specialized Tools

August 15th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Gemma Tarlach writing for D-brief about the discovery of specialized tools used by Neanderthals 5,000 years before homo sapiens are believed to have arrived in the area.

The Neanderthal lissoirs are a significant find because they could force archeologists to rewrite the chronology of Paleolithic European humans.

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Sagittarius A* is dancing with a Magnetar

August 14th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Until recently studying the black hole found in the center of our galaxy, Sagittarius A*, has been rather difficult. It’s for this reason that astronomers were quite excited about the discovery of pulsar PSR J1745-2900 a mere one light year away from Sgr A*.

Pulsar PSR J1745-2900 Illustration

More from Bill Andrews over at D-Brief:

Even though they’re among the most compelling topics to study, black holes are still mysterious to astronomers. Since its discovery nearly 40 years ago, the black hole at the center of our galaxy has eluded most close scrutiny because (unsurprisingly) black holes emit so little light. Luckily, a recently discovered star near the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy is now helping scientists learn about these cosmic conundrums’ eating habits.

Though it’s unclear why it took so long to find PSR J1745-2900 the fact that it is so close to Sgr A* and happens to be a magnetar make for something of an astronomy lottery win.

When a massive star dies, it can collapse in on itself, resulting in a smaller star made almost entirely of neutrons. When spinning neutron stars emit beams of radiation from their poles, they’re called pulsars (short for pulsating stars) because of the “blinking” appearance of the star in our skies — think of how a lighthouse only appears to light up when the beam hits your eyes. And certain pulsars have extremely strong magnetic fields, about 100,000 billion times stronger than Earth’s field; these are called magnetars. PSR J1745-2900 is a neutron star, and a pulsar, and a magnetar.

Find out more about this magnetar and what they have discovered about a strong magnetic field surrounding Sgt A* over at Nature.

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26 Years of Growth: Shanghai Then and Now

August 14th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

The changes that Shanghai has undergone in the past few decades are staggering and these two pictures taken from the same spot 26 years apart do an amazing job of showing that change.

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Tokyo Tower Gigapixel Panorama

August 14th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

An amazing panorama of the world’s most populous city: Tokyo. Taken from Tokyo Tower the city stretches to the horizon and is filled with an absurd number of very large buildings.

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August 13th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

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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August 13th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Gotta love watching a 75 year old artist do their craft. Bobby Jaber is a former chemistry teacher that wanted to combine science & art and is making some beautiful clay & porcelain figures. I want to learn how to make those carbon molecules!

PORCELAINIA from Dave Altizer on Vimeo.

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