Posts By: Dan Wallach

By on May 18, 2017

Android Auto in Volvo

Over spring break, my family went skiing in Breckenridge. We flew into Denver and drove the rest of the way to get there, saving a bunch of money and giving me the exciting chance to pilot a top-of-the-line Cadillac Escalade. The first thing I did after getting into the car was connect my phone so I could hijack the big touchscreen and have my own Google Maps for navigation.

Switching back and forth from Android Auto to the native Cadillac Cue experience could best be described as jarring. Two different worldviews of design, coexisting poorly. Different icons. Different visual styles. Different everything. You may enjoy my Strangelovian rant from 2014 when Google first introduced Android Auto.

With that in mind, Google I/O, Google’s annual developer conference at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, is in full swing.

So what’s new with respect to Android Auto? Customization.

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By on January 11, 2017

SYNC 3 AppLink now automatically discovers smartphone apps including Spotify, Pandora, Stitcher, and displays their unique graphics and branding, Image: Ford

Ford, Mazda, Toyota, Subaru, PSA (Peugeot, etc.), and Suzuki are now part of an automotive alliance concerning your dashboard. The SmartDeviceLink Consortium, as they’re styling it, is apparently all about muscling around Google and Apple’s forays into the automobile, and is based on Ford’s existing “AppLink” software project, which has been around for several years.

I’ve written about smart dashboards before for TTAC. Particularly, in 2013 after Apple’s original announcement, I was amazed automakers were willing to cede so much control over the precious dashboard real estate. I later noted people are likely to be more loyal to their phones than cars and to make buying decisions around what cars support their phones “properly,” especially because Apple and Google fundamentally know a lot more about you and can do a much better job of knowing what you want to listen to and where you want to go.

But what exactly is the SmartDeviceLink Consortium all about? You might think it sounds like it’s a rejection of your smartphone driving the screen in your car, as with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Curious as to what was really going on, I then dug into the giant pile of software and specifications they’ve posted on Github. What’s really going on here isn’t as much in opposition to what Google and Apple are up to as it’s an attempt to standardize it and refactor it.

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By on August 10, 2016

Tesla Model 3 Unveil, Image: Tesla Motors

In his Master Plan, Part Deux, some of Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s visions make a lot of sense, like a compact SUV based on the Model 3 platform, and a pickup truck, which will presumably have more than enough torque to haul around a big load (and plenty of space for a big battery pack).

That’s not at all what I want to talk about. Instead, I want to talk about some of the more speculative parts of the Musk vision: the self-driving vision. (I first wrote about some of the dystopian aspects of self-driving cars for TTAC in 2010.)

Musk wants you, the owner of a Tesla, to click a button and have your self-driving car go off and Uber itself during the day while you’re at work, earning you money. It will come back to you at the end of the day, ready for you to use again. This vision is going to have a very harsh collision with reality. (Read More…)

By on May 25, 2016

Lexus Enform Website Graphic, Image: Lexus

My email address is dwallach@gmail.com, and this XKCD comic is a very real part of my life. Others confuse me for all sorts of other Wallachs out there in the world. I’ve been invited to bachelorette parties in New York, received electronic court filings from Florida, and recently I got something new: an email welcoming me to my new Lexus that invited me to take part in exclusive consumer surveys.

Of course, I didn’t recently purchase a Lexus, and there was no “hey, wrong email address” button anywhere to be found. So what did I do? I “forgot” my password, logged in to someone else’s Lexus account, and figured out who actually owned the Lexus. After all, they’d probably want to know.

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By on May 17, 2016

Tesla Model 3 Unveil, Image: Tesla Motors

As the owner of a 2013 Tesla Model S P85 and occasional TTAC writer, I have my opinions on the Model 3. Many commenters thought Tesla’s business model of starting at the high-end and working its way down market was crazy, but Elon Musk had the right idea: use the cash flow from high-end car manufacturing to ramp up your engineering chops and supplier relationships so you can push prices down to eventually make a mainstream product.

That’s exactly what Tesla is doing and the plan seems to be working brilliantly — but there’s a catch: managing the engineering “complexity budget.”

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By on May 28, 2015

Tesla Model S

We’ve owned our 2013 P85 Tesla Model S since December, putting maybe 3,000 miles on it, so I thought TTAC readers would appreciate a long-term update.

Overall it’s still the grin-inducing ride that all owners like to be smug about. That said, there have been more than a few unusual experiences. To that end, I thought it would be useful to present this update as a series of individual stories, or vignettes, of the Tesla ownership experience. (Read More…)

By on March 9, 2015

Obligatory XKCD

You’d think that, after all these years, I’d have a tougher skin for people who say stupid things on the Internet. And I’m pretty good about that, but now that I own a Tesla, it strangely gets under my skin when people write ill-informed drivel about the car. Here at TTAC, we’re all about well-informed drivel. It’s a subtle distinction, but we’re proud of it. Anyway, here’s a bit of unfortunately typical writing, found on a random Internet chat board (not TTAC, because the B&B would never stoop to this). All grammar and spelling have been left untouched.

Tesla interior is junk far away from luxury. BMW 335i has better interior design, and 550i in whole different league. Road noise, cheap panels, flimsy speaker grille, seat comfort, ceiling height, sound quality (premium sound!!) all materials that tesla uses belong to 20$K Honda. So rest of money goes into battery price.

Let’s break this down, shall we?

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By on February 10, 2015

I’ve got a buddy who was once a titan of industry, a computer geek in the C-suite who never forgot his roots. Let’s call him Professor Zorkmid. He never needs to work another day in his life, but he enjoys hanging out with students, telling grand tales of his adventures in the Great Underground Empire, […]

By on December 10, 2014

Three years ago, I posed the question of what you’d do if your car was consumed in a natural disaster and your insurance settlement allowed you to get a brand new version of the same car. Back then, the question was about whether I’d replace our 2005 Acura TL with a 2012 edition. Now, the […]

By on July 29, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 11.00.15 AM

In a few weeks, at WOOT (the USENIX Workshop on Offensive Technologies — an academic conference where security researchers demonstrate broken stuff), a team from the University of Michigan will be presenting a lovely paper, Green Lights Forever: Analyzing the Security of Traffic Infrastructure. It’s a short and fun read. In summary, it’s common for traffic light controllers to speak to each other over a 5.8GHz wireless channel (much like WiFi, but a dedicated frequency) with no cryptography, default usernames and passwords, and well-known and exploitable bugs. Oh boy. And what can we do with that?

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By on June 27, 2014

tumblr_m9hum9gnmd1rsen2io1_500At yesterday’s Google I/O keynote speech, Google laid out its vision for Android Auto (reported here yesterday), which is quite similar to Apple’s CarPlay. I’ve ranted here before about Apple’s CarPlay when it was first announced and after more details came out last March. Both have the idea that your phone can hijack the screen in your car. What’s newsworthy from Google is that we have an enlarged list of vendors who are playing along. (Wired has the full list. Suffice to say that you’ll have plenty of choices if you want a car that goes both ways, if you know what I mean. Most interesting factoid: Tesla isn’t playing with either Apple or Google. Hear that? It’s the sounds of thousands of alpha-nerd Tesla owners crying out in terror.)

Today, I want to address why you should stop worrying and learn to love having your phone in charge of your car’s telematics display.

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By on April 28, 2014

sentra-exterior

Last month, I took two business trips where I had to rent a car: one to Boston and one to Los Angeles. I rolled the Hertz dice and ended up with a Chrysler 200 in Boston and a Nissan Versa SV at LAX. Each was a 24-hour rental, but the prices were remarkably different. The Chrysler: $61.59 for one day. The Nissan? $116.31 for one day. If the street price to buy one of these cars was anything in relation to the difference in rental price, everybody would be buying the Chrysler. Boston Strong!

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By on March 3, 2014

carplay

Last year, Apple announced iOS in the Car, which was revolutionary in that the car companies were ceding an important amount of control of the in-car experience to an external company. Now, Apple has released more details and a new name: CarPlay, which will initially work only with newer iPhone 5’s (anything with the Lightning connector) and with announced support for cars from Ferrari, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar, Mercedes, and Volvo in 2014 and several more in 2015. Notably absent from the list are VW/Audi, Chrysler/Fiat, and Tesla.

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By on January 24, 2014

camaro-egg-door

My rental car got egged! This was a new one for me. It all began when …

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By on November 12, 2013

tesla-vs-jaguar-front

A colleague and friend of mine just bought himself a Tesla Model S (the fast P85 edition). I’d been wanting to find a suitable car to compare it against, so I approached a major European car vendor’s media relations people, asking for a loaner so I could do a head-to-head comparison.

The response: “Unfortunately, Mr. Large And In Charge [not his actual name] isn’t interested in a comparison against the Tesla, Dan.” Knowing I’d never have the pull of Top Gear to get the gear I wanted in hand, I resolved that I’d do it some other way.

Recently, I received a card in the mail, inviting me to a Jaguar ALIVE Driving Experience. I’ve been to things like this before. They feed you mini-muffins, they let you tear around a mini-autocross track, you leave with a baseball cap, a mini-grin on your face, and mini-spam in your email box for months to come. I decided to invite my Tesla buddy along and see if I could get an expensive Jag in one side of my brain and compare it to the expensive Tesla in the other side of my brain. Here’s what happened.

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Recent Comments

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