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2019 March
of the Month

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Car and Driver: Musk Attributes Falcon Wing Door Debacle to “Hubris,” Says Software Will Fix It

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2016 Tesla Model X P90D

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Surprising no one—except for the considerable number of folks who think Tesla can do no wrong—Tesla has been having trouble with its ambitious, expensive, and complex Model X crossover, especially with its signature Falcon Wing doors. A drumbeat of reports of doors improperly opening and closing, sensors failing, doors bonking into overhangs or not opening at all have prompted a surprisingly candid, if not exactly reassuring, response by Elon Musk himself. At a shareholders’ meeting conducted on June 1, Musk assumed full responsibility for the spate of problems that have plagued the doors, saying that it’s the result of the company “getting overconfident” and that the Model X program in general “has been challenging.”

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“I need to fault myself for a little bit of hubris for putting too much technology all at once into a product,” admitted Musk. “In retrospect the right thing to do with the Model X would have been to take a lot of the really awesome cool things but kind of table them for a future version . . . The software that controls the Model X and the operation of the doors has been incredibly difficult to refine, and getting the complex set of sensors to work well has been incredibly difficult to refine. I think we’re almost there in making the doors useful.

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“It’s a software problem. How do you interpret all the information from the sensors? What should you remember? What shouldn’t you remember? How should you open the door in different circumstances, if you’re in a low ceiling or a narrow situation? If the sensor is giving erroneous feedback, when is the right time to ignore the sensor? Digging ourselves out of the hole has been quite, quite hard.”

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2016 Tesla Model X

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A recent software update was sent over the air to current Model X owners, which now allows them to open and close all four doors simultaneously—a neat driveway trick for sure, but one with that many more chances of thing going wrong, at least until Tesla finally gets the bugs worked out.

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Perhaps the most telling Musk quote of the event came at the beginning of the meeting. “We always try to do the right thing. We really care about that . . . When we make mistakes it’s just because we’re being foolish or stupid or whatever, but it’s really always made with the right motivations. We say the things we believe even when the things we say are delusional.”

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In December, we wrote that the Model X, with its needless complexity, may be “the noose from which Tesla swings.” We shall see if the promised software fix can keep the platform from dropping.

-GytNPNs2Kbs

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