Goodbye to Facebook

Recently, Facebook has been front-and-center in the news, concerning the data they collect on their subscribers.  It was reported that, during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, a company connected with the Trump campaign was allowed access to a huge amount of personal data maintained by Facebook.

This Facebook news got me thinking about what Facebook was saving about me.  I started looking at my own Facebook account to see what was there.  I discovered that I had joined Facebook 8 years ago in 2010.  That was so long ago, I had forgotten how long I have been on Facebook.  I started digging around my account and found that I had hundreds of photos that were visible to anyone who went to my account online.  I also had thousands upon thousands of posts, likes, shares, tags, and so on.  These individual items spanned all the way back to 2010.  Like many Facebook users, I didn’t consider the fact that everything I was doing on Facebook was being saved, and I mean everything.

I had considered purging what wasn’t relevant to what is going on today.  I discovered that it wasn’t that simple.  Facebook clearly doesn’t want you to delete stuff.  There was no setting allowing the bulk deletion of individual activity items.  Over about 2 hours, I began systematically deleting photos, clearing search histories and location histories.  Yes, every time I checked in somewhere, all the way back to 2010, there was a notation of that in my Facebook account.

This morning, there was a segment on the Today Show on NBC about this topic.  After watching the segment, I learned that there is no way to delete things in the Activity Log unless they are delete one-by-one.  That was discouraging.  The report stated Facebook issued a statement that they would be making it easier for users to delete their content.  My question is, why did they make so difficult to delete content in the first place?

Ultimately, after reading a number of articles online, I came to the conclusion that the only way to delete stuff was to completely delete my account.  It felt a little odd contemplating the complete deletion of my Facebook account.  After all, I had been using Facebook for 8 years and there are people I maintain contact with through Facebook.  However, when I looked at the totality of all of the people listed as friends on my account, I came to the conclusion that most of the people listed as “friends” were people I hadn’t had contact with in years.  Many were people I had worked with during my working career.  Most of them were people who likely don’t hold the same political views as I hold.  I could not come up with a good reason to continue my Facebook account.

When you tell Facebook to delete, it doesn’t delete stuff right away.  Photos are deleted in 90 days.  When the command is sent to Facebook to delete an entire account, a notice advises you that your account will still be there for 2 weeks and that you can go back in and reactivate it, should you choose to do so.  Well, hopefully, in 2 weeks, I will be gone from Facebook.  I already feel a sense of relief.  Now, when I go some place, I won’t feel the conflict of whether or not to check-in on Facebook.  Freedom feels pretty good.

Residential Solar Installers Will Likely Kill Solar Themselves

In 2003, I purchased a photo voltaic system for my house at a cost of $27,000.  The system consisted of a 2.5 kW grid-tied inverter and 18 – 135 watt solar panels, along with the mounting hardware and installation.  At the time, there was a tax incentive which paid $8,000 of the cost of the system, leaving me with paying $19,000.

In 2003, my local power utility had a time-of-use metering schedule that charged me much higher rates during the day when my PV system was generating the most power.  I was sending most of the power I generated to the grid and I was able to draw electricity at a much lower cost during darkness.  For about 10 years, my electric bill amounted to $200-$300 per year.  I had a good feeling about being able to generate a good portion of the electricity I was using from the sun.  At the time my system was installed, I never considered the actual cost of materials provided to me by the solar company that did my installation.

About 3 years ago, my local power utility company changed the rules of the solar generation game.  They moved peak time farther into the afternoon, so that I was generating very little electricity during half of the peak period.  My cost for electricity from the utility skyrocketed to about $1,000 per year.  Apparently, the electric utility, with all of the residential solar installations, wasn’t making enough money because they didn’t have to sell as much.

The time-of-use schedule I was given was workable.  I just had to account for the higher cost of electricity.  Unfortunately, the rate I was given was not available to new solar generators.  Anyone buying a new solar installation would have their peak time start at 3:00 PM, a time when the sun is on its way down and solar power is generally low.  As much as electric utilities say they are proponents of renewable energy,  they are only interested in how much money they can make from their customers.  The closed rate schedule I’m on will phase out in 6 years.  At that time, I will be forced into the 3:00 PM peak time schedule, which will make grid-tied residential solar of no financial benefit to homeowners.

A couple of weeks ago, I walked into my garage first thing in the morning and checked my PV inverter as I do each morning.  On that particular morning, the inverter had some bad news for me.  It was on, but it was not generating any electricity.  The inverter display showed there was a ground fault in my solar array.  I did a quick search on the Internet and decided it would be prudent to just call the solar company and have them troubleshoot the problem.

I expected that I might have to wait several days for a technician to come out, but I was surprised when I was told that a technician would be out by the end of the day.  Late afternoon, the technician arrived and began looking at my system.  His first comment was that he didn’t realize my inverter was such an old one.  It was over 15 years old.  The technician didn’t look much older than my inverter.

The technician ended up calling the company that made the inverter.  They talked him through some diagnostics and decided that the problem was with the solar array.  At the time this troubleshooting was going on, there was a steady rain falling.  The technician reluctantly said that he would need to go up on the roof to check the array.  I suggested that going up on the roof could be saved for another day when it wasn’t raining.  The technician packed up and left.  I called the solar company and made an appointment for a return visit the following week.

When you have a solar electric system and it’s not working, it feels a bit like not having your cellphone with you.  I kept thinking of all the electricity I wasn’t generating.  Nearly a week after the first service visit, the same technician came back and went up on the roof to check my array.  He was up there for about a half hour, then came down and reported that there was no short circuit in the solar array.  The inverter was still reporting a ground fault in the array.  The technician was beside himself.  He clearly had no clue as to what to do next.  His last comment to me was that he would need to go back to the office and call the inverter company again.  It was obvious that he didn’t know what to do and just wanted to leave.  I let him leave and then I went back to the Internet.

I did some searches for less than an hour and ended up with the exact cause of my inverter failure.  It seems that a number of people, with the same inverter, had experienced the ground fault error when there was no actual ground fault.  The culprit was a solid-state module in the ground fault detection circuit.  I found that I could order the module from sellers in Hong Kong and China for about $18, but it would take 30 days to ship the part to the United States.

About 4 months before my inverter failed, I had contacted the solar company and asked for a quote for a new inverter and to add 3 additional solar panels to my array.  The quote from the solar company was not itemized.  It listed the inverter they proposed to install and said they would add 3 additional panels for a total cost of $4,900.  Initially, when I got the quote, my thought was that it was more money than I was willing to spend and I had set the quote aside.  Because of my inverter failure, I started researching the cost of new inverters.

In the grand scheme of things, I found that inverters are not very expensive.  The inverter that the solar company had proposed as an upgrade retailed for $1,100.  The 3 additional solar panels would cost $750.  So, the total retail cost for the equipment for my system upgrade was $1,850.  With the solar company quoting $4,900 to do the upgrade, I wondered how it could cost over $3,000 in labor to install a new inverter and 3 new panels?

I called the solar company and spoke to the sales person, who had written the quote I’d received.  I questioned why the quote was not itemized and if I was correct in my observation that his company wanted to charge me more than $3,000 in labor to upgrade my system.  The sales person was very vague, just saying that the $4,900 was for equipment, installation, insurance, warranty, etc, etc, etc.  I said thank you and hung up.

I contacted another local solar company and asked for a quote to install a new inverter and 3 additional solar panels.  I was shocked at the quote I got from this second company.  They wanted $7,890 to install a new inverter and add 3 panels to my existing array.  I said thank you, but no thank you.

I set to work searching the Internet for a solar equipment distributor where I could buy my own equipment.  I found a company that seemed like just the ticket, EcoDirect.com.  I was able to purchase all of the equipment I needed to get my system back up, better than it was before for a total cost of $3,375.  After watching a number of DIY YouTube videos, I installed my new equipment and my solar electric system is again generating power for me.  As a side note, after a week and a half from the time the technician from the first solar company last departed from my house, I have not heard a word from them.  That’s a bit surprising, but it is a good thing because I didn’t need them after all.

This experience clarified something for me.  It is obvious that solar companies charge huge premiums to install solar equipment.  Going solar would be much more affordable for homeowners if the companies doing the installation weren’t expecting such huge profits.  Both of the solar companies I contacted about upgrading my system lost out on my business because of what they expected me to pay them.

Power utility companies have made solar to be less of a financial benefit to homeowners.  However, solar installation companies are going to lose in the end because, with their high prices for installation, along with the power companies wanting more money, the solar installers will ultimately kill solar for residential themselves.

My test drive of the Tesla Model 3

model3If you have read any of my previous posts, you know that I am a strong proponent of renewable energy. More than 10 years ago, I wanted to own a car that did not use gasoline, but technology was not ready for a mainstream electric vehicle back then.

Tesla turned that around several years ago by announcing that they would ultimately produce a mass-market electric vehicle. That vehicle, the Model 3, is a reality today. I watched, live, online, on March 31, 2016, when Elon Musk introduced the Model 3 and Tesla began taking reservations for the new car. After pondering for a day whether I should pay $1,000 to reserve a Model 3, I placed my reservation on April 2, 2016. That began my long wait for an electric car.

Although Tesla started production of the Model 3 in July 2017, to date, the only people who have taken delivery of the Model 3 are people who currently own a Tesla or who are employed by Tesla. I am waiting, along with several hundreds of thousands of want-to-be first-time Tesla owners, looking forward to the opportunity to order and take delivery of a Model 3. Tesla has had some issues getting their battery pack assembly line working. All indications now suggest that, by the end of March, the assembly lines will be up and running at good speed.

For each person, who has reserved a Model 3, the online Tesla account shows a delivery date estimation. When the estimation first appeared on my account toward the end of last year, my delivery estimate was February-April 2018. Around December 2017, my delivery window slipped by a month to March-May 2018. A little over a week ago, the delivery window slipped again, but by 3 months this time, to June-August 2018. The latest 3-month delay caused me a lot of frustration. Since Tesla basically delayed all current non-owners by 3 months, at least I was not alone.

The most difficult part of the waiting for delivery of this car has been the anticipation of what it’s like to experience and drive the car. There are a large number of videos on the Internet from people, who have taken delivery of the Model 3 or who have gained access to a Model 3. Watching something on video is fine to a point, but it does not replace hands-on experience. The reviews so far are mostly positive. Most of the negative comments I’ve seen are non-issues for me. What I needed was a personal, hands-on experience, so I could be sure that the amount of money I will be spending for this car is worth the wait.

Last year, when it was clear that Model 3 was going to be a reality, I started saving the monthly amount I expected would equal my Model 3 monthly loan payment. I have saved a sizable down payment. With the most recent delivery delay, I calculated that I would have over $2,000 more than I had planned for my down payment. I decided to make use of some of this extra cash.

Several current Model 3 owners have chosen to offer their cars for rent on a service known as Turo. I decided that, if I had to wait until about July for my car, I would try to find a Model 3 that I could rent and conduct a test drive. After a bit of searching on Turo, I found one Model 3 that was offered for rent in Santa Barbara, CA. It was the closest location to where I live.

Renting a Model 3 is not an inexpensive proposition. You cannot rent a Model 3 for less than about $250 per day. Turo rents by the day, not by the hour. A 2-day rental will result in less than 48 hours with the car. The Model 3 I chose to rent was $295 per day and I could not justify paying more than $600 for a test drive, so I got the Model 3 for about 30 hours total.  My pick-up time was 9:00 am on a Saturday and I scheduled to return the car by 3:00 pm the next day.

I met with the car’s owner at the Santa Barbara Airport. The airport was the only place in Santa Barbara where I was comfortable with parking overnight. The Model 3’s owner charged me $10 each way in order to deliver the car to the airport. It was a convenient exchange point and worth the $20 to the owner and the $21 for parking.

Seeing the Model 3 drive up to our meeting was a surreal experience. I had only once before seen a Model 3 in the flesh, which was during my stay in Anacortes, WA last Christmas. I happened to see a white Model 3 drive past me on Commercial Ave. It is such a distinctive car that you can’t miss it when you see it. My rental Model 3 was the second one I had seen in person, and it was the same color I want for my car, Midnight Silver Metallic.

model3interiorMy first couple of impressions getting into the driver’s seat were, I couldn’t believe I was actually sitting in a Model 3 and the central display screen didn’t seem as big as it looks in videos. The owner gave me a quick run-down of the car’s systems. This really wasn’t necessary because I was already familiar with what he was describing. We agreed on my return time and I was on my way.

I started being a little self-conscious. This was a Model 3 I was driving. I wondered if anyone was noticing the rare sight. I left the parking lot, drove to Highway 101, and headed north toward home.

The Model 3 felt very solid. There were no rattles, no squeaks. After having driven a Model S and now a Model 3, there was no question in my mind that a Model S, for me, would be second-best. The Model 3 has more interior space than my Prius, but not as much as the Model S. The space is just right for me. The owner had the steering set to Sport. The 2 other options are Standard and Comfort. I had imagined that Standard would be my preferred setting and I was correct. Comfort is too loose and Sport is too tight. The Model 3 is every inch a Tesla. I pushed down the accelerator and I was pushed back in my seat. There is more than enough power, just like the Model S, and the power is instantaneous. I can’t imagine anyone wanting a car that is faster.

California roads can be rough, and Highway 101 between Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo is no exception. I have seen a number of video reviews where reviewers have talked down about the ride of the Model 3 as being too firm. The ride is exactly what I would expect from a sedan that is as sporty as the Model 3. If the ride was too soft, you would loose the feel of the roadway that I want in a sport sedan.

The faux leather seats look just like leather to me, and they are very comfortable. The six-way adjustable seat allowed me to pick a seated position that was just right. The steering wheel is the right size and I like that it is fatter than the steering wheel in my Prius. I had seen comments about poor visibility out the back of the Model 3. I disagree. The visibility out the back is not a picture window, but I had no trouble seeing what I needed to see. The visibility is superior to what I see out the back of my Prius. If I feel I can’t see well, I can always turn on the rear-view camera, which can be activated at will.

I have been amazed by the number of people, who have made negative comments about the single center display in the Model 3. Actually, if I see another video where someone says that they feel like they’re being distracted by having to look to the center screen, I think I will scream!  Why are people, who don’t like the idea of only a single center display, still buying this car?  Among all the other unique qualities of the Model 3, the single touch-screen in the middle of the dash has me the most excited. When I drove the Model S, I didn’t like the huge portrait touch-screen. In my opinion, it’s too much. This highlights how product reviews are very much a subjective endeavor. I’m sure there are plenty of people who would disagree with me about the Model S.

I had absolutely no difficulty getting accustomed to the speedometer on the left side of the center display. For those people, who claim that Model 3 is lacking a heads-up display or a binnacle, I say not so. I had no trouble seeing the information on any part of the screen while driving. I’ve heard comments that the navigation directions are too far away as they are displayed on the right side of the map. I thoroughly enjoyed the large map display and I had no problem seeing the right side of the screen. Perhaps the people, who didn’t like this part of the navigation system, need eyesight correction. Again, a lot of this is personal preference and I like what Tesla has done in the Model 3.

The Model 3 premium package includes a glass roof panel, which is tinted. Some people are concerned that having the sun shine through the roof glass would be too hot. It was bright and sunny during both days that I drove the Model 3. I could see the sun through the roof, but I didn’t feel any heat. The tint is very effective at blocking the heat.

The Model 3 began production with what people have called Alcantara for the headliner.  Alcantara is a type of suede material.  Apparently, since this material has been used a lot in the Model S and X, some Tesla fans believe that this material should be a premium material in all of the Tesla cars.  The Model 3 I rented had the Alcantara headliner.  The Model 3’s being produced now have a different type of fabric for the headliner.  I am glad that my Model 3 will not have the Alcantara headliner.  To me, suede doesn’t look right as a headliner in the Model 3.

The audio system sounds great.  I have a classic rock radio station I listen to a lot on Tune In Radio.  Tesla has Tune In included in the audio system.  I found my station, selected it, and rocked out all the way home.  The sound system sounds premium and it will work very well for me.  I didn’t test a USB drive that holds my music collection, but all indications are that it will play just fine.  As a side note, the audio system does not seem to have an off setting.  Off is achieved by tapping on pause for what you are playing.  The problem with using pause on a live stream is that tapping play resumes where you left off.  If you pause for 30 minutes, your playback will be out of sync by 30 minutes.  My resolution for this was to select another radio station.  Once the alternate station started streaming, I selected my station again and I found I was back to live.  Unless you are a major audiophile, you will love the premium audio system.

Another first for me with this test drive was experiencing EAP (Enhanced Auto Pilot). I absolutely love the traffic-aware cruise control. Cruise control can be activated without the Autosteer function. The cruise control kept the car at a constant speed, it slowed when the car in front of me slowed, it even slows when entering a curve at a speed it considers to be too fast. From the time I got onto the freeway until I got off, I didn’t have to touch the accelerator or brake. I also tested the Autosteer. It did a good job of staying in the lane and I only had to intervene a couple of times. What I found, though, was that I felt like I had to pay more attention when Autosteer was active than I did when I was steering. I imagine this was due to my unfamiliarity with using Autosteer. I just don’t trust it enough to be able to relax. I’m sure it would be of great use when driving long distances on mostly straight roads.

It is interesting to me that so many people, at least on YouTube, will use Autosteer in situations that would make me quite uncomfortable. Autosteer is not supposed to be used on undivided roads, yet I’ve seen a number of people do just that. I’m not ready to relinquish my control of an automobile, carrying me, traveling at 70 MPH. Perhaps I will feel differently when Elon Musk perfects autonomous driving.

There was only one negative that I could muster from my experience with the Model 3. This is a negative that is inherent with any touch-screen display. While driving, with the motion of the car, it is sometimes difficult to direct a finger to a touch point on a touch-screen and be able to accurately hit the mark. I have the same problem with my cellphone while driving. I had the same problem when I drove the Model S. Since Elon Musk has eluded to the fact that Model 3 will ultimately have voice control for many commands, this will become a non-issue when voice commands become standard. In the meantime, it’s a minor annoyance that I am happy to endure.

When I arrived at my house, I backed the Model 3 into my garage and did my next test. Last October, I installed a Tesla wall connector in my garage, in preparation for my Model 3. I did the installation myself. With the exception of the successful self-test with the wall connector after installation, I had never charged a car with it. I switched the circuit breaker for the wall connector to on, grabbed the cable, put the charge plug near the Model 3 charge port, pushed the button on the plug and the charge port door opened. I plugged into the Model 3 charge port, heard a relay click on my wall connected, and the “T” light on the Model 3 charge port started flashing green. It worked! I watched the center display screen in the Model 3 and the power gradually edged up until it showed it was accepting 40 amps at 238 volts.

model3garage

chargingI imagine my next experience was similar to any EV newbie. I have solar electric panels on my house, and when I plugged in the Model 3, I was generating about 2,400 watts of electricity from the sun. I checked the power meter on my circuit breaker panel and I got a shock. It said I was drawing 8,000 watts. I don’t have anything at the house that draws anywhere near 8,000 watts. My air conditioning system draws 3,500 watts and I thought that was a lot. When I sat down at my desk and did the calculations, I figured out that the car was actually drawing a little over 9.5 kW. The total time I charged at my house was about 6-1/2 hours in 2 sessions for a total of a little over 61 kWh. Even though that seemed like a long charging time, the total cost of electricity for the 2 charging sessions was only about $12. On my charging system, the Model 3 charges at 37 miles per hour. With my average driving habits, I will only need to charge every 2 or 3 days and the extra electricity cost will be minimal. So, my garage really is ready for my Model 3’s arrival.

hpwcAs much as I hated to give back the Model 3 rental, I wasn’t as depressed as I thought I would be. I know I will be getting my Model 3, hopefully by mid-summer this year. One of the hardest parts of waiting had been that I had never driven or really seen a Model 3 up close. Now that I have been able to live with the car for over a day, it’s not so hard having to wait for my car. I have no doubt that waiting for my Model 3 is the right choice.

It is possible to say goodbye to Microsoft Windows

Shortly after the start of 2018, my Windows 10 computer had trouble with an automatic update pushed out by Microsoft.  Unfortunately, my system would not accept the update and the computer began an endless series of download, update attempt, update failure, and system restore.  I wrote about how I was able to turn off Windows Update in a previous blog post.  Getting the computer to stop trying to update itself was helpful.  However, it didn’t resolve the problem of not being able to update the operating system to the current version of Windows 10.

Many years ago, I had a similarly frustrating experience with Microsoft Windows.  It seems like, every few years, Windows just doesn’t want to play nicely with my computer hardware.  On that previous occasion, I experimented with another operating system.  The alternative operating system was Ubuntu, which was a version of Linux.  I had a lot of fun trying to get Ubuntu to work as a primary operating system.  Unfortunately, at the time, Ubuntu and Linux were still no match for Windows.  It took a lot of work to get Ubuntu to do some of the things I do on a computer.  After about a month, I decided that there were too many things I needed to do on my computer that Ubuntu wasn’t capable of doing.

After my latest issue with Windows, I did some research and found that Ubuntu was still alive and well.  After so many years of being away from Ubuntu, I was pleasantly surprised at how the operating system has matured.  I decided it was time to give Linux another go.

There are many versions of the Linux operating system.  All of them are open-source and free.  While I was bringing myself back up to speed with Linux, I discovered another version that is based on Ubuntu.  After reviewing my options, I settled on testing Linux Mint.

I downloaded the installation package for Linux Mint and burned the image file to a DVD.  At about the same time that I was doing my research, I ordered a new 2 TB hard drive.  I had a secondary hard drive on my system that I swapped out for the new drive.  I installed Linux Mint on the new drive and then instructed my computer to boot from the secondary drive.

For the past 2 weeks, I have been having a grand time with Linux Mint.  Since I am somewhat familiar with Linux, it took me very little time to get the operating system configured for my computer.  My biggest hurdles were getting my Brother laser printer and my Epson document scanner to work properly.  There was no comparison between my current experience with Linux Mint and what my experience was like with Ubuntu years ago.

When I finished my configuration of Linux Mint, it would be difficult to see any major differences from Windows.  I found that my document scanner works better now on Linux than it did on Windows.  I ended up with only 2 applications that I could not duplicate on Linux; one is H&R Block tax software, and the other is a computer sailing simulator, Sailaway.  Unfortunately, neither of these applications have Linux versions.  If not for these 2 hold-outs, I could wipe my Windows drive clean and be done with it.

So, if you have ever felt so frustrated with Microsoft Windows that you almost felt like switching to a Mac (I said almost), consider giving Linux a try.  I wrote this blog post on Opera, my favorite web browser, through the WordPress web interface running Linux Mint.  I’ve noticed that I occasionally forget that I’m not still using Windows.  It truly is possible to say goodbye to Microsoft Windows.

In case you haven’t been paying attention: Tesla’s Autopilot has never been fully autonomous

tesla-model-s-95d_1On Monday, January 22nd, at about 8:30 am, a Tesla Model S, which was reportedly being driven using Autopilot, crashed into the rear of a fire truck on Interstate 405 in Culver City, California.  An article from Reuters quoted a tweet from the fire department, which stated “Amazingly there were no injuries.”   The Tesla’s driver blamed the autopilot for the accident.  The fire truck was stopped in the roadway helping another motorist at the time the accident occurred.

The Model S was reportedly traveling at around 65 MPH when it stuck the parked fire truck, completely demolishing the front end of the Model S.  One fact, which was not highlighted in most of the news articles about this accident, was that the driver walked away from the crash with no injuries.  How likely would it have been that the driver, in any other make of vehicle, would have been uninjured in a similar crash?  I believe it’s not likely.

It was also reported that federal investigators will be looking into the crash.  Why are federal investigators looking into a crash in which it seems obvious that the driver was not paying attention to his driving as he should have been?  If the vehicle had been a Toyota or Subaru and the driver had been using traffic-aware cruise control before the accident, would these articles still have the same tone and would federal investigators be investigating the vehicle manufacturer?  Again, I say not likely.

Since Tesla is way ahead of any other automobile manufacturer, in terms of self-driving technology that is available right now to automobile owners, many are quick to condemn Tesla for not putting enough safeguards on this technology.  I suggest the problem is that some drivers are not serious about their responsibility to safely operate a motor vehicle.

For those not familiar with Tesla’s Autopilot, it is a driver-assist feature that steers the vehicle within a traffic lane and controls the vehicle speed, while considering factors of driver-set speed and the movement of other vehicles traveling in the same direction.  It is not an autonomous driving system, meaning that the driver is still responsible for the safe operation of the vehicle.

It is easy to search YouTube for videos of people driving Tesla vehicles while using Autopilot.  In many a video, I have seen drivers using Autopilot under circumstances that would make me feel very uncomfortable.  Proper operation of a vehicle using Autopilot requires the presence of some common sense, something that a few Tesla drivers seem to be lacking.

Earlier today, I drove my mother to a doctor’s appointment in Los Angeles.  We used her car, which is an ICE SUV, equipped with traffic-aware cruise control.  The cruise control on her car is similar to the Tesla Autopilot, without the car doing the steering.  When the cruise control was activated, the car traveled at the speed I selected and would slow or brake if a vehicle I was following would slow or brake.  I was aware of the Tesla accident before I drove to Los Angeles.  I didn’t think much about that accident until I had an unsettling experience with the operation of the traffic-aware cruise control.

I was traveling on a 5-lane freeway in lane number 4 at around 65 MPH.  I had the traffic-aware cruise control set to a maximum speed of 70 MPH, but the car was traveling at about 65 MPH because that was the speed of the car directly in front of me.  At some point, the car in front made an abrupt lane change to the left.  The reason for this quick movement was now visible in front of me.  There was a semi-trailer directly ahead of me, which was traveling much slower than 65 MPH.  I waited for the traffic-aware cruise control to slow my car, but it didn’t.  I had to apply the brakes myself to avoid crashing into the back of the trailer.  Had I not taken control to slow my car, we would have crashed into the back of the semi-trailer.  The cruise control didn’t seem to recognize the trailer as an obstacle since its speed was so much slower than the car that had been between us.

So, if I had not been fully in control of my vehicle, and I had crashed into the back of the semi-trailer, would I be able to claim that the accident was the fault of the traffic-aware cruise control and not my fault?  Using a driver-assist function that is not fully autonomous does not relieve the driver of their responsibility to be in control of their vehicle at all times.  It’s a pretty simple concept.