Tesla Model 3 agile car development framework

When I wrote about the Tesla Model 3 I focused on design , infotainment system and its pre-order success. Today indeed I write about the production approach that, reading the recent news about skipping the beta testing, is going to be assimilated to the agile software development framework.

In the last days I read many articles about the Model 3 pre-production beta testing skipping. This news was so curious that I needed to retrieve the source, so link after link I landed on the Anton Wahlman articles on Seeking Alpha “The Secret Tesla Investor Call To Which You Were Not Invited” and “Tesla Selling Model 3 Test Cars: Accounting Questions“. Considering that at the moment none knows how these “test cars” will be sold, which quality level they will have and what kind of refinement will be done by the testers/customers, I’ll focus on what I define the Tesla’s agile car development framework.

First, what does agile software development is? Wikipedia says:

Agile software development describes a set of principles for software development under which requirements and solutions evolve through the collaborative effort of self-organizing cross-functional teams. It advocates adaptive planning, evolutionary development, early delivery, and continuous improvement, and it encourages rapid and flexible response to change.

For understanding how this applies to Tesla and Model 3, you don’t need to be a Software Engineer or a Digital Product Manager like me. Read just the words that I put in bold and then think how normal is buying a videogame or a smartphone and immediately update it online. Is it possible for a Tesla? The answer is yes, but why?

Tesla isn’t a traditional carmaker, not only for the charismatic presence of Elon Musk and not only because its investors are continuing putting money in. Tesla actually is the unique car producer that together with a car produces a software Operative System that, thanks to the car’s hardware, can manage remotely things that any other carmaker couldn’t control neither at its official assistance network. The most impressive Tesla OS back-end updates are: the battery capacity, the engine power and the self-driving functions.

Whatch this overview video where the deep hardware and software integration is demonstrated.

Reading the Tesla OS official page is easy to understand that the Musk’s car are disrupting the automotive industry because they shifted the core of their products from mechanics to software development. It doesn’t mean that the Teslas hardware (chassis, shocks, body, glasses etc) aren’t good enough the other carmakers or that they didn’t need the same R&D and pre-production tests. What Musk said is that the knowledge-base that they have accumulated from the development of the Model S and Model X will give them the opportunity to jump directly to the production lines skipping the beta test and leaving the “final testing” to the first users (read this Wahlman article for in-depth analysis).

Skipping the beta testing for a traditional car-maker is a sort of suicide, but if you are Tesla it is the first application of its agile car development framework approach. The Tesla’s cars are really different from the other cars. Its engines, chassis, interiors and all the other components are a way simpler from the other cars so, once tested and standardized, they don’t need to be tested again for all the models. I suppose that the electric engines and the batteries can be scaled in a easiest way than the combustion engines, and that the chassis architectures simpler and less stressed than traditional cars. Moreover the Tesla Model 3 will be really more simple than the Model S like this official press release states and the dashboard (absence!) suggests.

Above this, for sure Tesla has other three big advantages. The first one is the big amount of real usage data that users need to share with the company for having the OS updates; the second is the capacity to absorb a lot of physical/software recall/updates thank to its low volume production, its dealers network and its over the air OS updates; the third is the customers base that is composed by engaged and motivated fans that are healthy, techies, early-adopters, green contingent and sports car lovers (read “Elon Musk and the cult of Tesla” by Hope Reese).

So the Model 3 beta test skipping shouldn’t be interpreted like a dangerous move for accelerating the mass production and keeping the investors happy (during the investors call Musk admitted a delay in the mass production plan). It is more like an iteration of a product with the most important hardware parts already tested, while the easily replaceable components and the less critical front-end functions are still in development.
To be simple.
Tesla is like Facebook launching its new app. The core is always the same but the design improves fast and in an iterative way. For this reaason Tesla presented the Model 3 as the next company model, not as a concept car.

Tesla has commoditized the cars hardware focusing on user experience, green technology, autonomous driving, products distribution and customers engagement.

That’s agile, but it is even a strategic move for conquering the electric vehicle supremacy and restarting, in 5 or 7 years, the traditional research and the tests for a real new product.

Photo credits: A2design, BGR, Carscoops.

The biggest problem of the level 3 self-driving cars are the drivers

I’m following the evolution of the self-driving technologies with a lot of interest. Many automotive companies say that by 2020/2022 they will commercialize autonomous cars that will reach the level 4 or 5 of the SAE International Automated Driving standards.
Below the table that is commonly adopted by all the automotive industry.


Download the pdf here.

Wired points the level 3 human problem in a very clear way: humans are not capable to maintain their attention if they are not interested or required to. For simplifying, a crash in self-driving mode cannot be avoided thanks to the intervention of the driver that in the meanwhile could be reading a newspaper or watching a video. Humans are just too slow and in that case even too distracted for recognizing the risk and avoiding a crush.

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What kind of car Generation Z will buy?

A research conducted by Cox Automotive for two of the biggest car shopping and research websites in the US, Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book, describes the purchasing intention of the Generation Z.

Generation Z is composed by young that are actually between 12 and 17 years old. For the automotive industry they are evaluated 3.2 trillion of dollars by 2020, so it’s really interesting to understand what they will look into their future cars.

The most important insights that I read are:

  • 92% wants to own a car
  • they don’t care a lot about style and design
  • they remind some old-fashioned brands like Ford, Chevrolet and Honda for their solidity
  • they care more about saving money (in the purchase and running costs) than in saving the environment
  • they care more about safety than infotainment
  • they’d like to have autonomous vehicles for increasing security, but they don’t trust in that technology at all
  • they’ll buy a car in a car dealer, not online

Looking with attention the slide where the generations are described, I found some new interpretative keys of the Gen Z’s purchase intentions.

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Drivin’ – Car Pooling and Neighbourhood social platform

Drivin‘ is a Car Pooling and Neighbourhood social platform that I designed almost three years ago for sharing car’s rides with people that have similar transportation needs, and for creating a trusted network for empowering the local sharing economy.

I presented the project many times to many developers and Startup events but as usual, being just an idea, nobody cared about it. Actually I abandoned the desire of developing the service because the concept was realized by many many other startups, plus some big companies like Lyft with its Lift Lyne. I sincerely don’t know if these apps are having the success that a service like this should merit. The Instant Car Pooling (or ride sharing) is the real alternative to the private car and to the public transportation but the security issues, the business model and the critical mass needed for creating a real instant service are really big challenges.

By the way, I’m proud that a 3 years old project is still actual and has a lot of potential. All the world’s Transportation Authorities together with the car manufacturer (and Google and Apple) are looking forward for creating the mobility pattern of the future. Not only because of the pollution or the metropolitan congestion, but because cities and citizens have changed their concept of mobility. Because thank to the social networks we have lost anonymity and we trust more one to each other (we know that we are monitored). Because we don’t like to lose time and money for daily commutes. Because we trust that technology could do things that we don’t like to do.

Following the slides of the Drivin’ project that I posted on Slideshare. On YouTube the pitch that I did on May 2013.

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Details from EICMA 2015

Ducati XDiavel

Last November I visited EICMA 2015, the International two wheels exhibition in Milan.

As usual it was really amazing for the quantity of motorcycles and accessories exposed. There were almost all the manufacturers that presented some new models, but the bikes that impressed me more were: the Ducati Xdiavel, the Moto Guzzi V9, the MV Brutale, the SWM Gran Milano, the Suzuki SV 650, the new Honda CBs and NCs lines, the Husqvarna 701, the Yamaha XSR 900 and the Triumph Bonnevilles.

During my visit instead of taking pictures of the entire bikes, I decided to take pictures of the most fascinating details that I caught in the middle of that confusion (there were thousands of visitors!).
Following my most interesting shots.

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