Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Why the Tesla Model X changes cars forever.

Obviously I'm biased.

I picked up my Model X about a week ago and it's been an impressive experience so far.

There's lots of reviews out there and most of them are from enthusiasts who have mostly minor, though some major, complaints... but overall think the car is the most amazing thing ever.

I'm one of those people, but for slightly different reasons.

WHAT MAKES THE MODEL X SO GREAT

I'm not going to talk about how falcon wing doors make putting kids in and out of the car super easy.

I'm not going to talk about how the car has insane speed, handling, acceleration, etc. to the point where you can blow away Ferraris on your way to picking your kids up at school.

I'm not going to talk about how the interface and design of the car are on par with anything Apple has done.

I'm not even going to talk about how it's an EV and therefore sets up the possibility for being completely 0-carbon footprint (with the exception of the materials used to make the car, of course).


OK, SO WHAT THEN

#1: The Model X is a Platform
A brother-in-law of mine put it perfectly. He commented that Tesla has created a PLATFORM and not just a car. Unlike any other car (except the S) the Model X can be constantly updated. And it is. Regular software updates add significant functionality. I'm relatively sure that I will be able to use my Model X to drive completely automatically in the next few years. I won't need to buy a new car or get a bunch of hardware... it'll happen through software only, at night, while I'm sleeping in my bed.

Things like safety improvements, preferences, driving quality, even engine and battery performance can be improved via software updates. I suspect that some things WILL require hardware updates, but I bet that the same car I have out in my garage today can be continuously improved and tweaked for many, many years; providing me with huge value.

No other car has ever done that, or even tried.


#2: Crowdsourced Energy
I happen to be in a bit of an outside EV area right now (Inland Empire) and the nearest supercharger is about 40 miles away. I also am staying at my in-laws and thus don't have a high speed charger at home. If you use PlugShare, it has a feature that lets you search for individuals who share their chargers with people. Some of them charge, most of them don't. Many people bring a bottle of wine or case of beer to share while waiting for a charge. There are numerous stories about people being in a strange town, unable to find a commercial charger and they share a charge with a stranger.

I think this is awesome and is a completely different way of thinking about how we power our transportation. I can easily see an AirBnB type situation popping up where there is no need for huge "electric" stations and instead people just rent out their chargers for $0.35/KWh or just ask for a cup of Starbucks in return.

One of the big concerns with EVs is that there's no charging infrastructure... well... maybe that problem is already solving itself.


#3: Self-Driving (I mean driving assistance)
Ok. This feature gets a lot of coverage, but I have to list it. I was AMAZED at how easy and reliable this was and also how long it took me to get used to it (about 5 minutes).

I use it all the time, even on bigger local roads and especially at night.

On my first day driving  I was able to get an In N Out Burger (hey! you have to Christen it, right?) and eat the burger with BOTH hands while sitting in stop and go traffic on the 91. It was AWESOME. I am positive that all cars will be adding this over the next decade or so and there will be huge reductions in commuter accidents, stress levels and energy use.

I know other companies are working on it and I know Google has prototypes running around, but I literally did a double click and boom... the car was driving itself. There's a few situations it didn't deal with well, but generally speaking it was better at commuting than I was... and not by a little bit.

It's ironic that the coolest feature about this car is that you DON'T drive it.


#4: Display
I don't mean the giant screen... that's cool... but I don't look at it that much while driving. Why? Because the HUD is amazing. Why other cars haven't solved these problems is beyond me.

The X gives you a real time collision map while you're parking in your garage so you can see EXACTLY how far you are from all that random crap lying in your garage. Not only is it useful, it's also really cool looking.

The GPS being integrated on the left side of the HUD is fantastic and it's completely natural to use. It also flips seamlessly between GPS and other informational needs based on driving conditions. Everything from climate to music choice is intuitively shown in a minimalistic, easy to read display.


#5: It learns from you
I've had 2 or 3 incidents in the last week where the car tells me something.
It asked me to link it to my home network so it could get updates faster.
It noticed that I was in a certain location a lot so it asked if that was my home (and added it to my list).

This kind of slow onboarding and responsiveness is not something I used to having a car do. Cars are supposed to be dumb pieces of aluminum that do what we say. This is an entirely different way of thinking about what a car should be.


FINAL WORDS
I believe that what makes products successful is when they meet one of two criteria
1) They solve a fundamental problem that hasn't been solved before (or as well).
2) They provide an experience that is meaningfully better than what was there before.

Few products do both. the iPhone was one, the Model X is another. I simply can't imagine driving another car after a week in my X, and I suspect when the 3 comes out many hundreds of thousands (and potentially millions) of people will have a very similar feeling.

I was already pretty lazy and with the X I can be even lazier... so thanks for that!

I suspect the rest of the auto industry has noticed and they will have to substantially up their game. This will provide huge benefits in terms of safety, energy use and quality of life for many millions of people around the world in the years to come.

Well done.




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