Road & Track: Leave Tesla alone!

Tesla Model S (C) ChargedEVs

There was a time when the car guys of the automotive press heaped scorn and ridicule on electric vehicles. Today, as ever-more-advanced EVs appear on the roads and the racetracks, those days are long gone. Motor Trend has honored two EVs with its Car of the Year designation (the Volt in 2011, and Model S in 2013), and Road & Track has called Model S “the most important car in America’s history.” Even the snarky and snide autotainment show Top Gear recently gave Model X a rave review.

However, as Tesla has gone from triumph to triumph, “there’s a cottage industry springing up of people who are trying to make a name, or a living, disparaging Tesla and its products.”

That’s what Jack Baruth writes in his latest Avoidable Contact column in Road & Track. “These individuals are assisted in their quest by a media that long ago decided that it was completely okay with killing the society on which it parasitically feeds. Every potential flaw in a Tesla, every customer complaint, and every perceived shortfall from perfection in the product, the company, or its people is endlessly chewed into pulp by the mandibles of these filthy dung beetles.”

The latest barrage of anti-Tesla bloggage has of course been triggered by the tragic death of Joshua Brown, who was driving a Model S in Autopilot mode. “You can quibble about whether Autopilot was released too early or irresponsibly, but I tend to fall in the camp that believes people should be responsible for their own actions,” writes Baruth. “And you can also quibble on whether Autopilot is safer than, say, a 30-year-old female librarian with excellent vision and impeccable impulse control. But what you cannot argue is the fact that the safety record of Autopilot is at least in the same ballpark with that of human drivers on the highway.”

Baruth cites some statistics from NHTSA: In 2014, there were 1.08 fatalities per 100 million miles driven on US roads. In 1994, the rate was 1.73, so driving is far safer than it was 20 years ago. The fatality rate for Teslas in Autopilot mode stands at 0.76. Granted, “the conditions under which Autopilot will operate are, by definition, some of the safest and most predictable situations possible.”

Baruth ranges beyond the current Tesla controversy to make a couple of good points about our “everybody’s an expert” media culture. “In any even remotely sane universe, Americans would be as proud of the Tesla Model S as we used to be about the moon landing or about winning the Cold War,” he writes. “The entire auto industry would be working night and day to make a car that could beat Tesla at its own game.”

“The harshest critics of Tesla and its products are not affiliated with Nissan, GM, BMW, or Ford. Instead, they are gadflies who rarely have any industry experience whatsoever. In any sane world nobody would pay any attention to the opinions of completely unqualified individuals on any given topic.”

“The Tesla Model S, with or without Autopilot, is a genuine advance in human history. It’s far from perfect…but it is a towering achievement brought to us by people who really do care about making the future happen in the real world instead of on a phone screen.”

Baruth’s concluding advice to “the wannabes and self-styled analysts” (which is, alas, unlikely to be heeded): “Leave Tesla alone!”

 

Source: Road & Track