The issue has been out for a little while, yet up to now it didn’t really interest me. Cars come and go, some cars have flaws, and others have merely a dent in its design. There are consumer laws and there are legal paths for those buying the wrong product, or better stated a flawed article. Like below, the T7 transporter, a space ship costing 17 million, its manoeuvrability is so bad that an opponent flying something at the cost of 5% of this ship can destroy it without too much hassle.
So why a game reference?
Does it matter what you bought, what it was for or why you bought it in the first place? Cars are like video games to most people; their marketing is about look, about sensation, about satisfaction and about joy. When was the last time that a car was actually marketed or sold to you with only a focus to get you from point A to point B?
So when I saw the article (at https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/jun/21/tesla-whistleblower-sabotage-elon-musk-gigafactory-martin-tripp), with the title ‘Tesla whistleblower claims company is ‘doing everything it can to silence me’‘, I started to wonder what this was actually about. The subtitle gives us “The electric carmaker is suing a former technician for alleged hacking, but he says he’s being scapegoated for leaking concerns“.
So the two parties, is this one side about ‘leaking concerns (whistleblowing)‘ or is this about ‘alleged hacking (industrial espionage)‘. As the Guardian treats us to “By the end of the day, he had been sued by his former employer for alleged hacking and theft, engaged in a hostile email exchange with Elon Musk, come out as a whistleblower, and was being patted down by sheriff’s deputies over allegations that he was threatening to go to his former workplace and “shoot the place up”“, we need to wonder what this is actually about. You see, from my point of view, if there are concerns you take them up with the ‘right’ parties. Those who know me know that I did just that, straight to the CEO and I was not nice about it. I had customers to protect, I had their data to protect and I did just that. The real deal is not now, or was ever the issue to anyone outside the company. That is what a caring employee does. A caring employee does his job to the best ability and to the degree where he sets the proper stage to be able to do this. We see allegations left right and centre and when we see ““I’m a scapegoat because I provided information that is absolutely true,” Tripp told the Guardian on Wednesday evening. “This is obscene … It feels like I have no rights as a whistleblower.”” This is where we get the questions that matters:
- ‘I provided information that is absolutely true‘ yet, who was this information provided to?
- ‘I have no rights as a whistleblower‘, might be right or wrong depending on who you provided the information to.
At times the equation can be that simple. The Washington Post gives us “But Tripp, who says he became a whistleblower after seeing what he called dangerous conditions in the company’s car batteries, told The Washington Post“, gives less valid light to Martin Tripp, depending on the path he took. Any company has its own path to take. Are their emails that Martin Tripp took to the bosses, to his boss, to the legal department of the firm and to the QA division? Even if it was the subtle “Are you out of your effing mind to put such a battery in a car?” Did Martin do any of that?
In opposition the Washington Post gives “The showdown has exposed deep rancor at a tech giant famous for its head-turning cars, high-pressure workloads — and Musk, its unyielding boss. It also marks a new depth of suspicions from Musk, who recently sent companywide emails urging workers to stay vigilant against shadowy “outside forces,” saying, “Only the paranoid survive.”” (at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2018/06/21/saboteur-or-whistleblower-battle-between-elon-musk-and-former-tesla-employee-turns-ugly-exposing-internal-rancor), You see, we might be triggered by ‘high-pressure workloads‘, or ‘stay vigilant against shadowy “outside forces,”‘ in this we need to accept to some degree and realise that all the other brands are petrochemical driven, so any Tesla success will hurt them all. The Dow Jones Index is set by 30 companies, they include Chevron and Exxon, as well as a few financial institutions doing business with those two and as such a success on one site, is in the long term implies diminishment on the other side, so being paranoid is not the worst mindset to have, yet in all this, an unreceptive CEO (or should that be: unperceptive) is never a good thing. In all this it becomes a slight issue that neither side is bringing home the bacon on actual safety concerns or documented interaction other than the emotional one in the Washington Post. The other part we see is “He said he and his family have temporarily vacated their home after their address was posted online.” The question becomes, which person thought that doing that was a good idea ever? The Washington Post does give a link to the Business Insider (which had issues for me). It does give something else, which does not bode well for Martin Tripp. When we see: “Tripp said he tampered with no systems and shared information with the media only after seeing things that alarmed him within the company, including what he says were dangerously punctured batteries used in Tesla’s latest Model 3 sedans“. Here my question becomes, why the Media? Why not openly give this to the authorities? You see, a claim like ‘dangerously punctured batteries used in Tesla’s latest Model 3 sedans‘ implies that there is optionally a federal crime at the very least as production is national, in addition to allegedly endangering lives. So why not go to the FBI? Perhaps that was done, but the articles do not seem to give light to that part.
Yet another Business Insider article (at https://www.businessinsider.com.au/tesla-model-3-production-in-2018-so-far-2018-6), gives us:
- Tesla has completed about 30,000 of its Model 3 sedans in 2018, according to internal documents viewed by Business Insider and two Tesla employees.
- The company is trying to ramp up its output of the car to 5,000 a week, but that effort has been beset by challenges.
- Tesla has made about 6,000 Model 3 cars in June, so far, according to a person familiar with the matter.
There are clearly issues with production, yet is it about managing expectations? Keeping the hype up and adjusting delivery times? Is there a resource issue, which we see with “CEO Elon Musk has called it a “production hell” on more than one occasion! The effort has been beset by bottlenecks, and the company has gone as far as flying equipment from Germany to speed up the process“. There was a news article last week on a battery catching fire, yet this is merely one instance, one instance on thousands of cars made. It does not give light to anything serious, not when it is merely one. This whilst in opposition there are more and more articles given claims that do matter, you see the element is not the car, it is about something entirely different. We see that when we consider the following: “cobalt has been a key ingredient in building high-energy-density lithium-ion batteries, like those used in electric vehicles. In some batteries chemistry, cobalt makes up as much as a third of the chemistry in a lithium-ion battery. Around half of the world’s cobalt production goes into rechargeable batteries, and concerns about supply constraints and the environmental and human impacts of cobalt mining have made it a controversial component of electric vehicles“, then we get “But Tesla CEO Elon Musk dropped a bombshell on the industry earlier this spring when he revealed that the battery cells in the Model 3 use less than 3% cobalt, a fraction of the amount that other state-of-the-art battery chemistries are using” (source: thestreet.com). The issue is not merely the battery; it is the Cobalt in the equation. If that is true in any way shape or form than Tesla is sitting on the hottest tech in decades. Well over 30% of our daily need is dependent on batteries. Your smartphone, your iPad, iPod, torches, compact camera, movie camera’s, Car batteries in general, batteries for motor cycles, so when we see that Cobalt is $42 a pound, and there has been reported lack of supplies, the one solving that problem is sitting on hundreds of billions of IP, and now Martin Tripp does not look so holy, he does not seem to be this concerned citizen. It is like someone publishing the recipe of Coca Cola. Once it is out, it is gone to public domain and in that Elon Musk is very correct to go ‘slightly’ overboard. People have been assassinated for a hell of a lot less.
Yet in opposition of this, we do see from Ars Technica: “I then had to provide numbers to a group of engineers/production every morning and asked several times if anything was being done to rectify the issues. [I] even [had] a few meetings with my HR rep and brought the issues up.” At that point, he began leaking to the press, specifically to Business Insider, which wrote a June 4, 2018 story entitled: “Internal documents reveal Tesla is blowing through an insane amount of raw material and cash to make Model 3s, and production is still a nightmare”“. It is clear that errors were made in action and reaction on both sides, yet, for Martin Tripp the issues should have stopped to some degree after he went to HR, and even if it makes for good ‘publicity’ from a media point of view to report ‘production is still a nightmare‘, as well as ‘Tesla is blowing through an insane amount of raw material and cash‘, they are issues that fall well above the pay grade of a technician, especially whilst we see clarity that this entire matter is being evolved to more and larger plants. A company in motion, no one denied that. Even as we see that there are production issues, they are not for us to opt on (unless we want to sell Elon Musk a solution). In all that I see, I see two parts. The first is that Martin Tripp is not and should not receive whistle blower protection. The second is that if the given presentations are true, Elon Musk is not merely sitting on some electrical car, he is sitting on an optional battery solution that might be the biggest desire for every mobile implementer around the globe. You only need to talk to half a dozen camera men working around the globe for news organisations to realise that their lives revolve around a better battery. Elon Musk might be in a stage where he is on top of a new IP. Sony had the same option in the early 90’s and with their battery (which was loads better than anyone else had) they conquered several battery dependent markets overnight. In a little over 25 years that dependency has only grown and it implies that the better battery can own the market share of whatever opposes it.
So as we saw that the confirmation was for the current batteries to have less than 3% (it was tested to contain only 2.8% cobalt), the claim “Musk recently doubled down, saying on Twitter that Tesla’s next-generation battery will use none of the element” would have an astronomical impact. In this the science is twofold. if less cobalt is an option, yet costs size (not an issue for cars) we see the first, now consider the second setting that with cobalt, the battery is even smaller and more powerful, this in equal measure counts, because when you consider the current players (iPhone 7, Samsung Galaxy 9, Google Pixel 2 XL and Huawei P20), when one of them has that solution now offering the same phone with 5200 MAh, which one would you buy? All same sized, yet one has a battery span 40% longer? What would you do?
Consider the last time you needed a power bank or you were low on battery power, now consider some dumb individual makes that IP public knowledge and that was by right your property, what would you do?
I see no evidence that Martin Tripp is on some holy crusade. Him going to the Business Insider and not to the FBI, NY Times, LA Times or Washington Post gives me that conviction.
Feel free to disagree; this is merely my point of view on the matter.
Have a great weekend (to recharge your own internal battery) everyone!