This ex-trucker has some questions about the Tesla Semi

Last week I watched Elon Musk unveil the Tesla Semi to see how he’d address some of those unsavory elements. We don’t know what the production truck will achieve when it hits the road, but the Semi has a lot going for it. Nevertheless, the Semi seems most impressive to those who don’t know what it’s like to be a truck driver.

First, let’s clear up what this truck is for, as it was presented. This is not an over-the-road truck. This truck suits line-haul – routes that run between a company’s terminals, like from one regional Wal-Mart distribution center to another. When Musk made the case for a 20-percent savings over a diesel truck, he based the numbers on a 100-mile trip – fifty miles out, fifty miles back. The Semi would be perfect for port work, which involves lots of waiting, idling, stop-and-go traffic, and local out-and-back trips. This first version of the Semi will not replace the dozens of thousands of trucks on huge regional or coast-to-coast runs, clocking 2,000 to 5,000 miles per week.

I only have space here to address a few issues, so we’ll start with the central seating position. I don’t see how that helps a trucker. I already get “a commanding view of the road” in a traditional truck because I sit six feet above traffic. What I need is a commanding view of my own truck, which the central seating position compromises. The worst blind spot in a tractor is next to the doors; in the Tesla Semi, I can’t lean over to see if there’s a Toyota Corolla camped out beside me. The central seating position hampers my commanding view when I need that view most: when I back up. For any backing maneuver, I watch both sides of the trailer in my mirrors to make sure I don’t clobber anything, or I lean out of the truck to watch the trailer as I back. Being able to physically watch the trailer – not camera images on screens – can be the difference between making a clean back-up or making an insurance claim.

Furthermore, I can’t see around trucks in front of me without pulling halfway into another lane. When I need to exchange paperwork with the guard at a terminal, or the police, I can’t lean out the window to do so. Speaking of which, I have to believe one of the windows on the Tesla Semi rolls down, but I can’t figure out which one. If, as it appears from the renderings, the windows only vent, well… that’s unacceptable.

I’d want more mirrors. The silver, condo-sleeper truck at the presentation only had cameras mounted at the rear of the tractor. The black, mid-roof truck supplemented physical mirrors on lengthy stalks on both sides of the cab. Most new trucks come with mirrors mounted on the front fenders that provide views of the front corners – my Kenworth had seven mirrors in total, I’ve seen plenty of trucks with more. You’d be amazed at the number of tiny concrete and reinforced steel impediments lurking at truck stops and customer terminals. I know such mirrors would hamper aerodynamics on the Tesla Semi, but when those $8 contraptions could save thousands on carbon fiber repairs and downtime, I don’t see why anyone would go without them.

Another reason to have physical mirrors: so I can turn off, or turn down, the two giant screens in the cab (screens which, by the way, hinder my view of the corners of my truck). The light required to provide a useful camera image at night would kill my eyes during a full drive shift. Doing an 11-hour stint in a dark cockpit in the glow of large digital screens only works in anime and “Battlestar Galactica.” I had one computer in both trucks I drove, and unless I was using it, I turned the screen off.

A few more quick takes based on Musk quotes from the presentation:

“We want a vehicle that accelerates like nothing else.”

I understand acceleration is a core Tesla brand value, but I’m far more interested in braking. An 80,000-pound tractor trailer needs about 550 feet to come to a complete stop from 55 miles per hour, and I spent a surprising portion of every driving shift trying not to obliterate car drivers who weren’t aware of that fact. Show me how much the Semi can lop off that braking distance.

“[A truck cab is] a clutter of third-party devices, it’s very difficult to use…. It’s a pain-in-the-neck.”

No, it’s not. The trucks I drove had one necessary third-party device in the cab, a Qualcomm computer to communicate with HQ, and I put a portable GPS unit on the windshield. That was it. The truck cabin photo Musk used during the presentation had a Qualcomm-type unit, plus a traditional GPS, plus an iPad with a GPS display, plus another small display I couldn’t identify. I’ve been in plenty of truck stops and walked by a ton of trucks, and only the most frightened novice or the most chronically indecisive driver would mount that much junk.

“You have to sit there for 15 minutes while the tank gets filled.”

Truckers don’t “sit there” while filling up at a truck stop. Truckers clean all the windows, mirrors, and headlights, check the tires and axle seals, make sure every tractor and trailer light works, and look for damage. This walkaround can take longer than the actual fill-up, and it must be done no matter what energy powers the truck.

“Jackknifing is impossible.”

This is a lie, unless the Tesla Semi and Tesla trailer can counteract physics and human error. My Freightliner weighed about 18,000 pounds, the reefer trailer added about another 16,000 pounds. That left enough for about a 46,000-pound load. When stuffed to the gills, I had 62,000 pounds ready to push me around or come around. If, either through physics or human error, the drive wheels or the trailer break loose too far, the Tesla Semi won’t stop the jackknife.

These are only a few questions I have about the driver experience, before we get to some of the larger trucking issues the Tesla Semi wants to address, but it’s enough for now. Electric trucks, including the Tesla Semi, are inevitable and welcome; making trucking more efficient and safer for drivers, fleet operators, and the environment benefits the entire world. Companies like Wal-Mart and JB Hunt that have placed orders for Tesla Semis have the routes, terminal control, and money for terminal infrastructure to make the most of the Semi, so we’ll see what the production unit looks like in 2019 (hopefully) and parse the feedback after 10,000 miles of road duty. Don’t be surprised to see more mirrors.

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The Dark Harbor Mini Series By Brandt Peters & Kathie Olivas Online Now!

Deep in the darkest depths of the seas…we always wonder whats waiting for us. In this case, we hear there are some creepy and yet misunderstood creatures… here is our friend Chris Holt to tell you about our new Dark Harbor Mini Series by Brandt Peters and kathie Olivas  The sea is a place of awe and wonder, which is no surprise that Brandt Peters and Kathie Olivas found it to be a perfect setting for their Kidrobot mini series, Dark Harbor.  Taking place in the time before the popular 13 Dunnys came to be, this cast of characters revolves around a young girl named Lucy Curious, the sole survivor of a horrible ship wreck.  Her dear friend Lord Strange had gone out to find her when her boat never arrived and then found himself trapped in a hidden world.  Now it is up to her to continue his work in the hopes that she can one day bring him home.

This blind box mini series contains a cast of characters that tell a story unlike any before it, and as someone who enjoys a good tale this is one of the best thought out series I’ve ever seen.  Even if we never get to see it in written form just looking at each figure gives you a sense of the role they would play.  Sold blind boxed, the figure you receive will be a mystery as great as the one Lucy Curious finds herself faced with.



Start the adventure now at

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Honda recalls 800,000 Odyssey minivans for loose seats

When you sell a hell of a lot of one kind of vehicle, recalls can cover an astounding number of vehicles simultaneously. That’s why Honda is recalling nearly 1 million minivans.

Honda issued a recall for approximately 800,000 examples of the previous-generation Odyssey, carrying model years between 2011 and 2017.

The issue stems from the minivan’s second-row outboard seats. The seats may not latch securely to the vehicle body when reinstalling a removed seat or adjusting it side-to-side. If that happens, the seat may tip forward under “moderate to heavy” braking, which increases the risk of injury to passengers. In fact, Honda has received 46 reports of small injuries related to this problem.

Honda is still working on a permanent solution, and it will inform both owners and dealers when it finds one. In the meantime, the automaker created an instruction sheet, giving explicit details how to securely latch the second row seats. It will also post a video to Honda’s owner site in the near future to ensure that owners are latching seats in the correct manner. If the seats are, in fact, latched correctly, tipping won’t be a problem.

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New Jeep Wrangler, two large SUVs tee up for LA auto show

Next week, when we all emerge from our Thanksgiving-induced food comas, the Los Angeles auto show serves up another kind of feast, a table full of hotly anticipated cars, and likely some surprise unveilings. Roadshow editors are eager to hit the show floor, with the big draw this year being an all-new version of the venerable Jeep Wrangler. 

SUVs seem the order of the day for this year’s show, as Subaru, Lexus and Infiniti have teased new and updated vehicles. In addition, Toyota promises an intriguing SUV concept. Passenger cars in the mix include a new Mercedes-Benz CLS and a Mazda6.

Jeep Wrangler

2018 Jeep Wrangler

The new Wrangler keeps the boxy shape, but gets new engineering for the 2018 model year.


Rumors racked up about a new Jeep Wrangler over the last year, along with a few details from internal leaks at parent company FCA. But the real goods came out at SEMA last month, when Jeep released a few photos of its 2018 Wrangler. Jeep followed up with a set of interior photos of the new Wrangler.

Wrangler has been an offroad icon for many years, the apex of Jeep’s Trail-Rated reputation. We expect Jeep to maintain, and likely improve, the Wrangler’s offroad chops, as the company knows this model’s value to the brand. Hints suggest that Jeep will lighten the Wrangler’s load with aluminum in its structure, boosting fuel economy. Leaks suggest the new model will get a 2-liter turbocharged engine, along with a V6. 

For modern comfort, there’s a hint that a power-retractable top will be available. The Wrangler is likely to be available with FCA’s latest UConnect infotainment system, with connected navigation features. We also expect historic Wrangler cues to remain, such as a fold-down front windshield, for those whole live on a diet of bugs, and removable doors to help dust up the cabin.

Subaru Ascent

Subaru Ascent concept

Will the production Ascent SUV look like this concept?

Sarah Tew/Roadshow

Fans of Subaru with growing families will be happy to know they can stick with the brand, as the automaker will show off its new Ascent SUV in Los Angeles. Ascent is an all-new model for Subaru, an SUV able to carry at least six, and probably seven, in its three seating rows. Given Subaru’s fans, that might mean any combination of kids and dogs.

At the New York auto show last April, Subaru showed off a concept version of the Ascent, which we don’t expect to change much for production. The grille looks beefier than that on the Outback, but the low roofline keeps the concept from looking too mammoth. We expect a 2.4-liter flat four cylinder engine under the hood, along with the availability of Subaru’s Eyesight driver assistance system, which uses cameras to detect traffic and pedestrians ahead.

As with Subaru’s other SUVs, expect all-wheel-drive to come standard, and a ground clearance specification of 8.7 inches.

Lexus RX 350L

Given the popularity of Lexus’ five passenger luxury SUV, the RX model, a don’t-mess-with-success strategy might seem wise. But as its recent jaw-dropping redesign hasn’t hurt sales, it looks like Lexus has a bit of wiggle room, so came up with a larger, three-row seating version of its most popular SUV. Enter the RX 350L, where we assume the “L” designation stands for large.

Lexus released little information about the new RX variant, but it is fair to guess it won’t deviate much from the five-passenger model. The stretched body will likely carry the same, massive “spindle” grille and sharp lines. The 3.5-liter V6 engine of the RX 350 will certainly serve for the RX 350L. The biggest questions come around how that third row will be packaged, including how easily it will be to access. Will it seat adults comfortably or serve as a rolling black site detention center?

Infiniti SUV update

After a period of little activity, Infiniti has been showing increased life in the past couple of years, reenergizing its model line-up. For the Los Angeles show, the company has promised us “the most advanced Infiniti in our history.” With no photo or other information beyond a designer’s sketch of the car’s profile, we’re left to mere speculation.

However, it looks like Infiniti is updating its QX50 small crossover model. If it follows the update given to the Q50 sedan, that would mean a new, efficient engine and sport handling technology. Given Infiniti’s boast, we expect a bit more, like maybe Infiniti’s equivalent to sister-brand Nissan’s Pro-Pilot driver assistance technology.

Toyota FT-AC concept

Toyota FT-AC teaser image

Toyota reveals just a little in its FT-AC teaser image.


In Toyota nomenclature, “FT” means Future Toyota, signifying a concept vehicle, and in this example, “AC” stands for Adventure Concept. What we have from Toyota about the FT-AC concept debut is a name and a very dark photo of the front end. What we expect is a look at Toyota’s thinking towards what a future small to medium-sized SUV might look like. 

The photo released by Toyota shows a set of LED lights on either side at the top of the windshield, a modern take on rollbar-mounted KC lights of the past, suggesting offroad capability. Might the FT-AC be a Wrangler-competitor, or a future version of Toyota’s 4Runner? It might be an evolution of the FT-4X concept shown at the New York auto show earlier this year. We have questions, and will soon have answers.

Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class

Leaving the world of SUVs for high-end luxury, Mercedes-Benz sent out a couple of teaser images for its new CLS-Class. This top-to-bottom update promises to take the existing four-door coupe, with its very lovely styling, and applying the company’s latest engineering, styling and technology.

So far, we know that this updated model will be sold in the US as the CLS450 and CLS450 4Matic, as rear-wheel- and all-wheel-drive versions. Under the hood, expect a turbocharged six cylinder engine. The new CLS-Class shares a platform with the E-Class, so expect some carry over equipment, but Mercedes-Benz is likely to push this new car into a higher echelon with more luxurious cabin appointments. 

And a few more things

Along with these highly anticipated cars, we’re looking forward to a roadster version of BMW i8 hybrid sports car and a refreshed Mazda6 sedan, not to mention a few debuts that automakers are currently keeping under quiet about, waiting to pull back the curtain.

The 2017 Los Angeles auto show kicks off with the Automobility conference and press preview the week after Thanksgiving, with most cars being unveiled on Wednesday, Nov. 29. 

Please check our Los Angeles auto show coverage for the latest, as we check out these new cars.

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Apple’s Siri doesn’t really want to talk about HomePod

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that’s taken over our lives.


She tried to throw me off the scent.

screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

I admit to being entirely unsurprised that HomePod won’t be home for Christmas.

Somehow, it seemed inevitable that it would suffer the same fate as so many much-hyped Apple products of the past. AirPods, for example. And Apple Watch

Apple merely said that its new smart speaker “needs a little more time.” Without, that is, saying precisely how much time or why.

Apple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

So I thought I’d ask someone who really ought to know, as she’s part of the product: Siri. 

After all, smart speakers rely on the responsiveness of their AI assistants, so she should already be aware of what’s going on. 

“Hey Siri,” I wondered. “Why is HomePod delayed?” 

Siri acted as if I was speaking Polish. (Her Polish is terrible.)

“There’s no place like Home…Pod,” she replied. 

I asked her when HomePod would be available. 

“It’s the most huggable Apple device yet!” she revealed.

Which didn’t exactly answer my question. Or really any question other than: “Will I want to wrap my arms around HomePod?”

I was beginning to fear that the reason HomePod is delayed is, well, Siri. So I asked her. “Hmm, that’s something I don’t know,” she replied. 

Nevertheless, I persisted. 

“Will you be in HomePod,” I asked, “Or will it be one of the other members of your family?”

“I don’t know who the band members are in your family,” she countered. 

This was vexing. Was she toying with me? Or does she really still have some very basic problems with her assisting skills?

All the same, I asked her for her verdict. 

“Do you think HomePod will be any good?” 

“I really couldn’t say, Chris,” she replied. 

Which is quite worrying, given that she’d previously told me how much I’d want to hug it.

Will she ever be good enough to be a useful member of my family?

How on earth is she going to respond when, at some indeterminate moment in 2018, I ask: “Hey Siri. Will you play ‘Hocus Pocus’ by Focus“?

She’ll probably play ELO’s “Strange Magic.” Not that it’s a bad song, but still.

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GE hub connects its smart lights to Alexa and Google

When GE introduced its latest C-series smart light bulbs, the focus was on affordability — as they talked directly to your phone through Bluetooth, you didn’t need a bridge device. That kept them out of touch of voice assistants, however, which meant replacing the whole lot if you wanted hands-free control. Well, you won’t have to rethink your investment from now on: GE has introduced a hub, the C-Reach, that puts its bulbs on WiFi to enable support for Amazon’s Alexa and (by the end of 2017) Google Assistant. As with most smart lighting kits, you can steer lights individually or in groups just by talking to your phone or a smart speaker.

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