As you know I’m an Elon worshiper so it is very disappointing to me that I have to write this review. But after renting a Tesla Model S for a day I have decided I’m definitely not buying it.

The verdict, disappointed, disheartened, disillusioned, depressed.

Renting the Car

On Tuesday I decided to rent a Tesla for a day. Before I spent $90k on a car I wanted more than just a 15 minute test drive. And I do have to say that I went into this with very high expectations. After all – this is the best car in the world, and I’m not even going to dispute that. It probably is the best car in the world. So – you might ask – why wouldn’t I want the best car in the world?

I rented the car through relayrides.com. Relay Rides is to car rental what Uber is to taxis. People can rent their cars out through them. This car costs $329 for the day. I picked the car up in Sunnyvale. Even though I had some email exchanges with the owner about why I wanted to rent the car, he didn’t reveal to me until I picked it up that he didn’t get the “tech package”. So I didn’t get to evaluate all the toys.

The car was a 2015 model he bought this year and he said the tech package was $4250 extra. He regretted not getting the tech package and told me a story abut an issue he was having with the rear view mirror. With the tech package the mirror will automatically dim at night, but without it you get a regular mirror with the little angle flip thing cars have had since forever. Except that his car had just a mirror – no night setting.

He told me he contacted customer service and had to wait a month for an appointment. After he finally went in there was nothing they could do. Apparently Tesla doesn’t have regular car mirrors so his rear view mirror was inferior to even the cheapest cars on the market. His story was rather disturbing. Makes me wonder if he was the first person to ever buy a Tesla without the tech package and they didn’t know what to do. My guess is that his mirror is capable of dimming but they had that feature locked out in software.

The car had Google Maps on a nice big screen. But because he didn’t get the tech package navigation was disabled. But I had my Android phone and paired it with the car and everything worked. I could even play my music through the car’s sound system which was, as you would expect, great.

My first passenger

After picking up the car I drove north to the San Bruno Bart Station to pick up my former boss who I had a lunch date with. The car drove great. Even though it was the single motor model the acceleration was awesome. Far more power that I would normally use. However it could come in handy for merging on a ramp or changing lanes where someone is coming up fast and you need to match speeds quickly – or to pass some moron who is going slow in the fast lane. Long story short – the driving experience was great. Just like everyone says it is.

We headed south to Alice’s Restaurant going west on 92 then south on Skyline. Coastal for was heavy and condensing on the redwood trees creating something like rain. And the wipers came on automatically. Very impressive. At that point I was telling my former boss that this ride might cost her 1/4 million because she and her husband are probably going to want one.

After lunch we drove around a little more and then I dropper her off in San Francisco, giving me the chance to see what it was like to drive in the city. I then decided to cross the Bay Bridge and head to Fremont to the Tesla factory to try out the super chargers there.

Super Chargers Full

Got delayed a little in traffic getting to Fremont and where I got there the chargers were all full and there was a line. I think it was 3 cars ahead of me. I had scheduled to meet another friend in Palo Alto and I don’t know how long I would have to wait in line before I even started the charging. So knowing that was too long I had to leave. All of a sudden range because real and personal.

Unlike a gas car it wasn’t like I could just go across the street to another gas station and fill up. I had 80 miles left. So I had to head to Palo Alto – and then head to Gilroy, the next closets super charger. I figured I could make it – but it was going to be close.

So I picked her up a little after 3 and she wanted to take a drive to Santa Cruz. I had to explain to her that we couldn’t do that. We had to go to Gilroy. Santa Cruz didn’t have super chargers. If I had gone to Santa Cruz it might not have made it all the way and if I found a place to charge it would have taken 5+ hours of charge to get anywhere. So we headed to Gilroy pulling into the super charger with just 6 miles of charge to spare.

Plugged it in and went to have dinner at Denny’s across the street. We were gone 55 minutes. There was only one other Tesla charging when we got there so no problem leaving it. I don’t know how long it too to charge but it was full when we returned with 240 miles to go. Left Gilroy and too the scenic roads back to San Jose and drove around for a while before bringing the car back that evening. I had told David I would probably not keep it over night and bring it back in the evening. I emailed him that I was on my way.

The Accident

We were a few blocks away in Sunnyvale. I was in a left turn lane stopped behind another car at a red light. I just got an email from David saying he was home. As I was reading the email my foot slipped off the brake and the car had creep mode on and it creeped into the back of the car in front of me. We pulled over and there was a cop who saw it who also pulled up behind us. Clearly it was my fault.

The damage was minimal, at least I think so. The Tesla had a slightly bent license plate and the other car had a paint scratch from the screws that hold the license plate on the Tesla. Tesla has a creep mode option that was on that emulates the way an automatic transmission torque converter makes the car creep forward when you let off the brake. And it emulated it perfectly imitating a dumb gas powered car.

A Tesla should NOT have hit that car!

As I said in the beginning, my expectations for a Tesla were much higher than a dumb car. I watch all the YouTube videos starting with last fall when the D was revealed, and “something else”. The something else was collision avoidance. Videos were released of Elon driving up to a parked car and the car applying the brakes to avoid the collision. Elon had announced that all Teslas for the last few weeks has these sensors already built in. That was October 2014.

It’s now May 2015, 7 months later. The car I was driving had the sensors. There was a setting set the sensitivity to warn me early, and the sensors worked. Earlier in the day I wanted to test the collision avoidance to see if it worked. I assumed it was active. I was at a light behind someone and did the creep forward to see if the brakes would come on. The dashboard indicated that I was going to hit someone and at 18 inches I hit the brakes. Was baffled that it didn’t work. So I already knew that wasn’t working and that already was an issue.

I had at the time even went into the setting to disable creep mode and the option was grayed out. I couldn’t turn it off for some reason and I remember being annoyed at that. So when it caused an accident – I was not happy.

This is not a dumb gas car. The car knew that there was an object in front of it. And it’s not like I was moving and failed to hit the brakes. I was stopped. The car decided to move from a dead stop to hit a car that the car knew was there. And that’s Tesla’s fault. I was shocked that Tesla released software that was that dumb on a car that they say is the safest car on the road. It might have taken 3 lines of code to fix this. Something like:

if ( object_in_front() ) {
creep_mode_disable=on
}

Just a little code so that if the sensors saw something in front of the car that it disabled creep mode so the car wouldn’t turn on and run into it. I’m a software engineer and I was designing computers since 1971 and the idea that a car with working sensors wouldn’t incorporate this minimal amount of logic was a stunning disappointment. It’s not that it should have hit the brakes – which it should have – but that it should never have started to move in the first place. So I have lost confidence in the software engineering at Tesla and the reality was a very sour feeling to deal with.

Returning the Car

I had to tell the owner what happened and he was not happy. Even though the damage was a bent license place he was somewhat freaked out. This was a Tesla and now it was blemished. And although a slightly bent license plate was no big deal on any other car it inflamed one of my worries. That owning a Tesla is like walking around with a raw egg in your pocket and nothing can ever happen to it. Am I capable of owning something as fine as a Tesla? I don’t think I am.

Contacting Tesla Afterwards

When I finally got home Tuesday night I email Tesla. Actually sent several emails. I think this is a serious bug and if I were Tesla’s software guy I would have fixed the problem immediately and pushed an update the next day. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has had their foot slip off the brake pedal and hit the car in front.

So far I got no meaningful response. And it’s been 3 days. I got one call telling my to email feedback@teslamotors.com – and I did – nothing. I sent an email again this morning telling them I was going to write a review and someone email me and I explained the problem and haven’t heard back. So my experience so far with Tesla support is worse than I would get from my local Honda dealer.

Conclusion

The end result is that I saved a lot of money buying a car that I really didn’t need. I had just paid off my house (don’t tell my ex-wife I have a paid for house in California)  and I was able to afford it. I had even gone to the bank and they approved the loan. So all I had to do was buy it. But I was still struggling with the decision. In my mind I justified maybe 1/3 to 1/2 the price, but the rest was that I just wanted it because it’s a cool toy.

I also have a SolarCity solar system and a second solar collector and I’ve made 1.5 megawatt hours of excess energy that PG&E owes me. That’s enough electricity to drive the Tesla from here to New York City and half way back. And I live 2 miles from the Gilroy super charger and 40 miles from the factory. So it doesn’t get any better than that for owning a Tesla.

But just like I wouldn’t marry a woman without sleeping with her first I’m not going to buy a $90,000 car (what you really pay) without some intimate driving first, and now that I did that – the answer is – definitely not.

And let me say that this is my perspective and everyone’s opinion is different. This car is the world’s best car. I’m not disputing that. So what I’m saying is – it’s not for me. Maybe someday in the future perhaps.

The experience that the owner talked about with poor customer service was confirmed by my experience reporting a serious bug. So the great customer experience that Elon talks about isn’t what either me or the owner experienced.

I don’t like the way Tesla tries to mislead you into thinking the car prices is as low as they quote it. Although most car prices do that somewhat, I think Tesla takes it to a new level. Showing a $55,000 price is an insult to my intelligence.

Although I can get by with a 240 mile range it was unfortunate that when I got to Tesla’s factory that the chargers were full on a Tuesday afternoon and I realized that I had to tell my friend we had to go to Gilroy instead of Santa Cruz because of the car. My current car is a 2012 Honda CR-V and it goes 350 miles on a tank. (400 on fumes). If the Tesla went 350 that would be a huge step forward. Maybe after the next battery breakthrough I might be interested. But 240 isn’t going to do it for me.

The comments from the owner about his mirror are very disturbing. He’s leasing the car. If I were leasing that car I’d take it back and yell them the deal is off until they give me a working rear view mirror. That’s just not right. I’m also disturbed that if earlier in the day when I tried turning creep mode off that I couldn’t. Had that worked it would have prevented the accident.

There are some people who might say that I’m over reacting to the creep mode issue but I’m someone who actually understands in extreme detail into inner workings of both cars, computers, and automation. The level of quality of workmanship in the software department is no where close to acceptable, especially on a car that is the best car in the world and prides itself on state of the art, safety, and quality of workmanship. And it’s not just creep mode. I think the user option are primitive at best. I even emailed Tesla that I would volunteer to give them free software consulting to help them do it right.

And the owner getting all upset over the slightest blemish just made me realize – this car isn’t for me. I’m just not the kind of guy who can take care of something that nice.

Sorry Elon – this is painful. But you should read this and pay attention.

It’s been 6 days and no response from Tesla after numerous email notifications.

It’s been 7 months since this video was posted. The car DOES NOT DO THIS.

Here Elon says the car will stop preventing an accident. (Last 10 seconds of video)

June 1 2015 1:30pm Called Tesla again and still can’t talk to anyone with a brain about this.



  1. Dwight E. Howell says:

    I’m driving a 16 yr old Toyota. It needs a paint job and a few other touches now but I doubt if the wonder car could ever do what its done.

  2. Frank Necrois says:

    The Tesla Model S is designed to accept over the air updates. When I purchased Tesla in December of 2013 it did not have the creep feature. Some owners wanted the car to feel more like an ICE car and creep. So Tesla accommodated them with a Creep feature. The creep feature can be turned on and off only while the car is in park. When turned on it emulates the ICE car and when turned off the car doesn’t move until the accelerator is depressed. Drivers choice. I prefer the Creep feature.
    PERIOD.

    The car has two sensors in front and two sensors in back. It is only capable of warning the driver about large objects in front of it for parking purposes. So as you approach your garage wall the car will play a tone and give a visual warning. When the car reaches about 12 inches from an object the warning intensifies. It is not automated and does not stop itself. How could it possibly with only two sensors in the front bumper? My wife’s infinity has the very same features and it doesn’t stop either.

    The new Model S has an option for Autopilot. The model S vehicles released since April 2015 are all equipped with it. Of course you have to pay extra to turn the feature on, around $5000, but what is that for a car that has the hardware to eventually drive itself ? Tesla builds the car with all the necessary hardware and develops the software to add enable additional features. Just like computer software I’m guessing it undergoes beta testing before being released to the general public. In any case the new tesla will have 16 sensors, forward facing radar and camera.

    ” Autopilot combines a forward looking camera, radar, and 360 degree sonar sensors with real time traffic updates to automatically drive Model S on the open road and in dense stop and go traffic. Changing lanes becomes as simple as a tap of the turn signal. When you arrive at your destination, Model S will both detect a parking spot and automatically park itself. Standard equipment safety features are constantly monitoring stop signs, traffic signals and pedestrians, as well as for unintentional lane changes.

    Autopilot features are progressively enabled over time with software updates. The current software version is 6.2, adding automatic emergency braking and blind spot warning.”

    The point is that you buy/lease the car with the latest hardware and the software is updated for free over time and over wireless network. Dvorak assumed the car he was driving had a set of features that it obviously did not have. That is his fault for not doing his due diligence. His foot “slipped” off the break and he rammed the car in front of him. I suspect it had the hubris to simply take his foot off the brake to try a feature he thought the car had but didn’t. Not a Tesla malfunction. Simply an ignorant driver. Dvorak being so smart he should have realized that with only two front facing sensors no car could do what he expected THAT tesla to do. He owes Elon and the Tesla Corporation a huge apology.

    • noname says:

      Important details, nice reply!

      I get the impression Marc Tesla incident is much like his Wednesday April 29, 2015 Nest Thermostats escapades where his handiwork fried the thermostat.

      I am guessing Marc is hoping Tesla would emulate Nest with great customer service and somehow hook him up with a newer model. After all, it’s “free” internet advertisement.

      Both incidents had a common factor, the “Perkel Error”!

      Marc as a consumer, yes you are entitled to have high expectation, even if unrealistic!

      I am not surprised when down to earth reality disappoints, but; if Marc wants to change his outcomes, maybe he needs to look inwards and not outwards?

      • NewFormatSux says:

        There was a famous Merkel boner 100 years ago. Now we have the sequel.

  3. NewFormatSux says:

    No wonder Marc supports Hillary. He believes that government needs to develop complicated systems to take care of people, who in his experience are too dumb to take care of themselves.

  4. Elon says:

    Marc, try proofreding before you hit post.

  5. ALRUI says:

    Good article (a little proofreading would have been a plus) but while the car has issues with creep mode, etc. ultimately youre behind the wheel and any accident is really your fault – say the accelerator on an old car stuck after you floored it, would you simply plow into everything in your path or would you immediately cut the ignition and forcefully steer and brake to a stop? Bottom line is if you hadnt read the e-mail you would have been paying full attention and if your foot slipped off the brake you could have re-applied it likely in time to no hit the car in front of you. A Tesla in my rural area would suck as the closest charger is likely 2 hours away in Atlanta of Nasheville. Just my 2 cents….

  6. SKINET says:

    The way to go is to bring back the Autotrain. With no fluids the cars can be loaded upright on the train for long distance trips. When you get to your destination you take the car off the train and go. Tesla can take over Amtrak.

  7. Neil says:

    “I’m also disturbed that if earlier in the day when I tried turning creep mode off that I couldn’t. Had that worked it would have prevented the accident.”

    You need the car in Park to turn this feature off. It won’t turn off while the car is in drive.

  8. NewFormatSux says:

    So is arc upset the GPS won’t work if the car is in drive, or is he upset that it works and he sit someone while looking up where the superchargers are?

  9. Ken Esq says:

    How about not reading emails while you’re driving. You’re very lucky it was a car you hit and not someone crossing the intersection.

    • NewFormatSux says:

      He would tell the people he hit that it’s not his fault, it’s Tesla. ‘So it’s Elon’s fault?’ ‘No, the software makers put out something not worthy of Elon.’

  10. Simon says:

    Your foot slipped off the brake (which shouldn’t have happened) while you were reading email (which you shouldn’t have been doing) in a live traffic situation. And its the cars fault. Yeah.

  11. NewFormatSux says:

    So when Marc Perkel appears on the space flight to Mars, which he will be awarded for his slavish devotion to and promotion of Elon, he will be given a third class bunk that amounts to a small cage.
    He will go thru the hallways, crawl through a tunnel, hack two or three doors, and crawl thru another tunnel, then while in the cargo area taking pictures with his Motorola phone, he will accidentally open the airlock. His last thoughts will be how the spaceship should not have let him open the door, and the designers produced a product not worthy of Elon.

  12. scott brown says:

    Dropped by my local Tesla store in La Jolla, CA and made an appointment for a test drive. Received an email on the scheduled day from Amsterdam telling me in Spanish that they don’t sell cars in Spain. I went to the Toyota dealer and bought a Prius.

  13. Harry says:

    Stop using your phone when you are behind the wheel or pull over and put it in park.

    • ALRUI says:

      I agree! As much as I dont like nanny state laws this electronic device activity behind the wheel MUST stop! People are getting killed by this nonsense. I dont care how good a driver you MAY be or THINK you are NOBODY can text/email/or talk without being distracted!

  14. NGL says:

    I have never read such a BS review in my life! You sir are a complete freaking moron. Anyone who can mention 3 different women in one article, sleeping with them and taking them to dinner at Denny’s deserves what he gets. I know why you are divorced………

    • ALRUI says:

      Are you inserting your own thought here? I dont recall reading anything in the article about him sleeping with anyone – WOW!

      • JJ says:

        “Are you inserting your own thought here? I dont recall reading anything in the article about him sleeping with anyone – WOW!”

        @ALRUI This is what happens when you really don’t read the article…

        …quoting directly…

        “But just like I wouldn’t marry a woman without sleeping with her first I’m not going to buy a $90,000 car (what you really pay) without some intimate driving first, and now that I did that – the answer is – definitely not.”

        • ALRUI says:

          I did read the whole article & was referring to the commenters statement “mention 3 different women in one article, sleeping with them and taking them to dinner” not his analogy of why he rented the car!

  15. Mr Ed says:

    Marc, this is a very poorly written article with dozens of misspellings, typos, and bad grammar. Didn’t you proofread it? I give the content a B- and the syntax a D+. Get someone else to proofread for you if you’re so inept.

  16. jamescole says:

    I am giving a speech on social networking sites and need to mention a top blogging site. If someone could mention one for me, I would really appreciate it!.

  17. OmegaMan says:

    I believe the code snippet fix is wholly simplified and as a software developer I see such *pithy*/self serving comments all the time. Comments such as it could have been fixed/software is easy/why didn’t they think of scenario X when developing; I have heard them all.

    I have no doubt that the complexities of the car’s software speak to many variables and design goals, and I would bet that the collision avoidance system is turned off when the car is stopped.

    Why?

    It takes electricity to constantly run sensors, so the overall goal of enhancing range probably took precedence and the sensors/module for collusion avoidance most likely was flagged off.

    Good software for the most part runs in finite state machines (think of a vending machine waiting for coin drops until it hits a certain total, each state is different in what it has to do (refund/cancel/count up etc until done, then start over to state 1).

    If that is the case with the Tesla, then the `state` it was in, it was a non-parked mode that allows for the car to creep forward until maybe 5-10 mph whereas the state changes and in the new state collision avoidance turned on.

    I would love to test it, but counterintuitively if Marc had hit the gas instead, the state change might have turned on the collision avoidance system and stopped the car.

    With that theory, Marc had two choices, gas and brake and he was too late with both of those to make a difference.


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