2018 Tesla Model 3 – driving for Lyft for fun

This post is kind of lenghty, but I think well worth reading. I split it into subsections:

Introduction, Model 3 on Lyft, Lyft driving in general and the conclusion. 

Introduction

I am no stranger to teslas performance and autopilot, we replaced our last gas car end of May 2016 with a Tesla Model X, after the last time teslas stock was recovering from being artificially suppressed by lots of ‘creative news’ about car fires (despite gas cars having more such), or about how they are never going to build model x etc, and I had just kept buying on the downturns including some options. So in a way you could say tesla shorts paid for my Model X, which I also justified as a means to validate my investment.

You gotta live with it to really know its potential. And so after being wowed by owning the Model X, and my mind blown by Elon’s presentation of the Model 3, I had the hopeful expectation when I reserved my Model 3 that this still holds true, even at half the cost of a comparable model S. But I have to admit I was somewhat concerned that the economy ‘model e’ would have sacrifized some of its tesla appeal in order to get to that price point.

I can now confirm, the ride in the Model 3 is legendary and no downgrade, especially if you like dynamic, sporty driving.

So when I got my Model 3 in January, I did expect it to be more fun than the 2015 VW eGolf it replaced, but I had no idea how much more fun. I ended up putting more than 6000 miles on the car in just a few months and found myself tooling around in the mountains and playing with cornering, hugging the apex, learning how to use autopilot driver assist to my advantage in dynamic driving, enjoying different seat settings while in stop and go traffic etc, loving the streaming of about anything in highest audio quality. Autopilot is really a god-sent in stop and go traffic, turns a commute nightmare into a relaxation opportunity. Check out this small video from my commute: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4aB_uGz_6gI

And eventually I realized, I am spending an hour before work each day just having fun driving around, which seemed like a waste somehow. So I was ready for my next adventure: Signing up to drive for Lyft. 

           

Obviously this pays a lot less per hour than my day-job, but the idea is to do this only for fun and when doing unproductive car fun-time anyways. If I am already spending extra time in the car, I might as well pick people up and bring them to where they need to be.

It took me about 3 days from the idea to giving my first ride, which is pretty amazing IMHO, the longest wait was for DMV and background check, which took about a day to show up checkmarked in the app.

Since I drive this car so much, its uniquenesses seems normal to me now, but to have passengers that mostly never have seen one before is an interesting way to look at it with fresh eyes.

Model 3 on Lyft

I love how I can just put my personal belongings into the frunk and have an empty clean trunk for my riders,  most important when picking up from the airport.

The door handles and controls however are definitely not intuitive for a first time rider.

Almost every single passenger is confused at first about how to open the door, both from the outside as well as from the inside, there was exactly one that just figured it out right away.

My quick intro is ‘push the bigger piece of the handle with your thumb’ and then they say ‘oh wow, cool’ and it works.

When they want to get out, there is confusion again. I tell them ‘push the little switch with that white line’ and point to it. Again you would think that would be annoying as an experience, but somehow they find it amazing again, they somehow like how the door pops open and they just push it out. And maybe also because of the rest of the experience.

Another point of confusion is the window control. Nobody opened the door yet by accident, but especially when driving in the dark it is not obvious at first on how to control your window, and I often just do it for them. I learned how to turn on the lights in the back for them from my screen, and that helps.

A definite plus however is performance, looks, quality of the music streaming and voice control.

I usually ask them if they want to listen to music, and if they have a favorite artist, then use voice control to start for example like ‘play phantogram’. 

Often they say: ‘I listen to anything’ and so I challenge them a bit with bassnectar, and let them know they can change their mind anytime. Turns out they more often than not actually like it.

Also I get to listen to cool music I didnt know about before, and get delighted responses like somebody asking for coldplay and it happens to pick their favorite song. I get comments from audiophiles how unexpectedly excellent the sound quality is.

My favorite new song I am super grateful for learning about is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98bi0dxJGGc 

People are generally wowed by the quality of the ride:

‘I must have gotten a silent upgrade, normally its priuses or something’

‘this car really has pickup’ 

‘this feels more like riding in a train, I mean the road bumps you still feel but there is no vibrating and shaking, its like gliding really’

‘wow, I didnt notice that all-glass roof until now’

So far have been able to maintain a clean 5.0 driver rating, probably in part because of the unexpectedly awesome car  🙂

LR Range is more than enough for me, since I don’t drive all day, and the car is super efficient since I drive a lot more conservative and mindful about comfort when I have passengers.

I end up using less than 220 Wh/mile on my rides. When I have fun between rides I can consume closer to 270Wh/m 🙂

One sunday night I wanted to see how far I get with a full charge, filled it up to 310 mile range, and started driving at 8:30pm. By 1:30am and 11 rides later I had enough fun, and still 180 mile range left, and headed home, parking with 144 mile range in my garage, having driven 134 miles and consumed 36kWh of energy, which thanks to home solar I can recharge for free, but at the californian supecharger this would cost me $9.36

Lyft driving in general

People are generally very friendly and reasonable. Most don’t tip. The ones that do surprise you.

Driving late at night means driving more drunk people which carries the risk of soiling your car, but also results in more interesting stories to tell at parties (no names mentioned obviously) but so far so good. Driving before work is better than driving at night.

I now also always carry some water with me, that people are really thankful for, i.e. when they come from a long sunny day in the city and are all dehydrated.

Lyfts driver app has a red overlay of areas with surge pricing in effect. I spent a few hours taking screenshots every now and then to log when they start showing up and going away. 

Chasing the red (surge rate areas) was often not useful for me, typically evaporated before I arrived, and I get reasonable amounts of rides wherever I am in the SF bay area. I talked to another new driver and he had a similar experience. 

I don’t think I average more than $20/h, especially factoring in driving to pickups etc, last sunday night I did average $26/h thanks to more tips and surge pricing than usual.

I usually use destination mode on my way to work. It’s rare that something comes out of it. The controls for it are not easy to use, and if you correct it too often then they lock you out of using the feature with ‘you used it six times today, try again tomorrow’.   One time when returning from a Palo Alto trip back into the city with destination mode it routed me through the airport to pick up a family with luggage. He said he also has a Model 3 on order and was thrilled to be in the front passenger seat. 

By default the app is set to NOT use the bluetooth for the traffic dirctions, but still tunes out the music on bluetooth you are playing from your phone, then only announces its directions on the internal phone speaker which means you can’t hear it very well. I changed it in the app settings, but the voice quality is a lot less pleasant than the tesla one, so I am considering turning it off and asking people for the destination address and put that in with ‘navigate to’ voice command to demo the capabilities better.

Also a pity that the app is not integrated into the big screen, it is kind of annoying to look far down below the screen where the phone dock is. I wish tesla would get us a webbrowser like in the model S/X, maybe the touchscreen web interface of lyft driver would be sufficiently supported that way. It appears the app is halfway a webapp anyways, i.e. when I switch to the dashboard. I ended up buying a hands-free magnetic phone holder to have it higher up at the b-pillar so as not to block my view, but am concerned that it may be in the path of an airbag in case of a bad accident. Have to find out more about this.

Conclusion

I am super thankful for this opportunity to help people get to where they want to be while getting them interested in electric driving (if they ask). I love meeting all those different types of people, having good conversations, learning about new music and seeing the excitement when they get their first ride in a tesla. They give a consistent 5.0 rating and positive feedback all around.

Share the Love – if you want to sign up too, consider using my referral code https://www.lyft.com/drivers/WILL53406 and get the same bonus as me ($1.55 for every ride you do in first 60 days, capped at $775)

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iOS 7 flat design – WTF?

iOS 7 flat design is a disaster to me. Did they fire the QA / PM’s and just not rehire?

The main difference for me is not ‘getting rid of skeuomorphism’, that is just a buzzword everybody throws around, the big difference is decline in usability, because an apparent original goal ‘minimize effort to get to needed information’ has been compromised:

1. stock market display in notification area and in standard app – you can barely read the grey on red/green, what formerly was easy to see at one glance now requires a lot more focus to decipher. Much harder to use than before. I have no idea how they could get that past QA.

2. you can barely tell anymore if a phone is charging, the tiny arrow attached to it is barely visible.

3. I had to google it to find out how to get the input field for searching (swipe down in home screen) which is consistent with email search now at least, but was a pain to find out initially as well. But there is no reason why that input field should not be already shown in the sliding current apps view that you get to by double clicking your home button, thus minimizing the path to finding. The space above the app-screenshots is empty. Am I the only one to whom that is obvious?

4. double clicking home button now shows a sliding view of the icons plus screenshot of current apps instead of paging icons, which means that I now take longer and have to focus more to navigate to the specific one I had in mind. Before I could just page through and click on the fixed spot it was at. I knew exactly what icon I am looking for as that is how I started it originally, the screenshots are cute but don’t really help finding the app.

Now I have to make it flow by swiping until it shows up and then get back to it until I can hit it. A lot more mental processing and back and forth is necessary.

5. here comes the ugliest part: the drop-downs in safari web dialogs like bart.gov schedule are no longer drop downs in the page but have this ridiculously large carousel view with dark grey on medium dark grey below some weird less/greater sign next to a done-button. The text is more distorted for the lines below and above the current selection, more unreadable the more far away from currently selected item. It is incredibly hard to read, and swiping up and down does not allow for a precise selection. Then clicking on what you have selected actually does nothing, instead you have to navigate your finger over to the done-button, again an unnecessary extra step. Just a complete failure in usability.

6. inconsistencies – the first time I tried to share a contact it took me a while to figure out that I had to scroll down the actual contact to find a ‘share’ link on the bottom, I was looking for the funky share icon that is used everywhere else and would be immediately in view on the bottom without scrolling. Its there for photos, notes, maps, but its missing from calendar entries, and contacts.

Of course there are other things about iOS that I like. But none are related to look and feel. I like the flashlight app, and sharing contacts through airdrop, and the fingerprint sensor of the 5s almost makes me want to upgrade the hardware too as I can see how it would streamline use of the phone (unlocking and app installation)

Aesthetically the redesigned icon colors are not as appealing to me as before, and the flatness just looks boring. I gave it some time to get used to, but honestly, its November 7th now and I still hate it. I take this especially hard since I come from an Android background and have hoped to never have a reason again to go back to android. But this is  really pushing it.

I really hope some day a PM at Apple is reading this and claiming some of these thoughts as his own and pushes for fixing the issues, today we are on 7.0.3 and nothing has improved from the list above, and I don’t have high hopes that 7.0.4 would be any different.

iphone5 review – verizon LTE rocks

I finally switched from Android to the apple iPhone5 with iOS6, and I am loving it. I was eyeing the iphone 4s for a while but it’s internet speed was just so ridiculously slow compared to a state of the art android phones that it was out of the question. Well that concern has been lifted with the iPhone5, I got 30Mbit down and 10Mbit upload on Verizon the other day. Of course that means I burn through my shared 6G dataplan quickly if I don’t watch it, i.e. uploading 150 birthday party photos in one swoop to facebook 🙂

Battery life is excellent, especially compared to my my HTC G2 and my wifes myTouch. This morning I intentially let the iphone run to 1% after not charging it for 1 day and 8 hours, with 8 hours talktime. A friend of mine had issues with short battery life and identified the google voice application as the culprit. I have not been using that so I am fine, even with intense facebook / email / web browsing. Maybe because at home as well as at work I am close to a wifi network, unless I want to leverage the LTE speeds for downloading or uploading large amounts of data in a short time. 

The maps problems I have not run into yet, maybe living in California makes that easier to be accurate. 

Siri is excellent, I use it all the time from dictating SMS’s while in the car to starting music, navigation, initiating FaceTime… facetime is fun, like skype but better quality and easier to get going. Also it does not use the voice network, so it does not interrupt data on the verizon network.

Video recording and picture taking is awesome, I so hated it on my G2 that by the time I got the photo app going and pressed the button to the time that the shutter action actually got executed, the subject already walked away.  Or all the mafunctioning moments.  On the iphone it’s so perfect and so immediate, that I am actually able to use it happily rather than just try and hate.  

And the screen is fantastic too, colors are true, unlike the Samsung S3 that I had toyed with before the iphone5 came out – I am surprised that not more people seem to care, but when I tried it in the t-mobile store, photo and video on the S3 had way wrong colors, even watching a movie on netflix would be affected. I guess the specs are great but the color representation makes it look broken to my eyes.

And the apps are just awesome, and they are the same I am having on my ipad already, without extra effort they just got synced on and work. 

Airplay of my music to the living-room stereo while making breakfast in the kitchen is another highlight of how I enjoy it. 

 

So what do I not like? 

Email notification does not seem as immediate as I am used to from Android. I miss swype as a keyboard method, but not as much as I thought I would, since the predictive correction method is actually highly effective on the iPhone). I slightly but not really miss USB mounting the phone SD card as a usb drive. Since I use itunes on a macbook I am actually happy about the ease with which I get to carry my recent music with me via syncing rather than having to manage files or deal with the offline/online google music stuff.

Really trying hard to think here, but I guess one downside to the great games and apps is that my kids constantly ask for it 🙂

Software patents are anti-competitive – wake up !

This has been going on for too long – when will software patents and their misuse finally be abolished?

– android mobile phone customers pay $5 per mobile phone to microsoft because of software patents they bought. Microsoft has their own windows mobile system and has contributed NOTHING to the android infrastructure, yet we have to pay them when we decide against their product?
– microsoft was at least temporarily stopped from selling microsoft word because of XML patents. XML is an industry standard. How could you possibly punish them for finally using standards instead of proprietary methods that keep competitors out more?
– patent cartell buys nortels patents for billions of dollars, smaller competitors that are not in on the cartel will suffer. What does the SEC have to say about that? Apparantly nothing. http://www.marketwatch.com/story/nortel-announces-the-winning-bidder-of-its-patent-portfolio-for-a-purchase-price-of-us45-billion-2011-06-30
– study shows that software patents are detrimental to the industry as a whole. What a surprise.
http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1868979#%23 with similar results already expected in 2008: http://researchoninnovation.org/dopatentswork/

And still I get ‘software patents are necessary to incentivice innovation’. No, they are just a means to keep smaller inventors from succeeding and feed a multi billion dollar litigation and cartel building machine. Software patents need to be abolished.

t-mobile G2 review – first impressions

 

G2 has arrived

 

The good:

– super fast delivery from t-mobile. I ordered it on the 4th and was able to select it for a plan upgrade. It arrived on the evening of the 5th. This time t-mobile got the launch process right, perfect user experience.

– compared to the G1 its very fast – feels like the Nexus One, but with a physical keyboard.

– android 2.2 with gmail supporting more than one google account is a plus, but a nicer mail app comparable to what apple does could be better…

– H instead of 3G is noticably faster. According to speedtest.net I get about 2Mbps download, and 1Mbps upload on average. That is more than my $40/month AT&T DSL… mhm… maybe I’ll cancel AT&T’s DSL, add a line to keep using my G1 as a phone and leave the G2 at home as an internet hotspot? But I’d miss the speed on the road then…

– did I already say it was fast? 🙂 So not just from a network standpoint, but also from a cpu standpoint, working with the web browser, firing up navigation etc does no longer invoke a half a minute wait as on the G1…

picture quality is actually better than I first thought! See photo below…

The bad:

– keyboard does not have number row and stuff in non-qwerty places, and so it is a lot more cumbersome to type on that the G1 that had a real qwerty keyboard.

– While it is real cool that the gallery on the phone now includes photos from picasa and other sources (I really like that actually) it also appears to be much slower to bring up a picture in full resolution than expected?

The ugly:

– in-call volume is very low. I was able to make phone calls directly from the handset with the G1 that I cannot make anymore with the G2, i.e. from a bus or car… with the speaker it is fine.

I’ll post more as I use it more 🙂

Mobile application development middleware?

I am the author of an ExtJS based cluster management web-application (Scyld IMF at Penguin Computing) that allows controlling a high performance compute cluster from any web-browser, be it from your desktop or from a mobile device. This works fairly well already even without writing a special view for the mobile devices as current smartphones (iphone, android) come essentially with a full blown javascript capable web-browsers and lots of processing power. However performance still could be better by having a native app that uses the same data sources / api as the full blown web-application (javascript app running on the browser being the client to the webservice-api on the server side), but implementing the view natively.

After hacking up a proof of concept for the iphone (thanks John for your awesome iphone JSON flickr tutorial and xcode example for download) and thinking of how to do the same for android without duplicating effort, I realized that it would be nice to be able to have some kind of middleware that allows me to create and populate native gui components without code duplication.

One such middleware is phonegap which requires you to write your application in javascript and html, and allows accessing phone specific features through javascript calling the middleware. It then is bundled as a native application that can be submitted to the app store for purchase and can run completely offline once downloaded, unless the programmer chooses to access remote resources. Their initial focus seems to have been allowing access to smartphone specific features like the address book, vibrate and sound, gps location and such, but there also is code in there to use native gui components as well.

I have two problems with the approach:

1. development of javascript – while palm pre developers might tout this as an advantage, I find javascript development and debugging rather tedious and would prefer writing my code in java or objective-c and be able to run it through a full control debugger on my desktop before deploying it to the simulator. I know about and am actively using firebug, the javascript debugger for firefox, but a lot of the bugs I had to deal with were incredibly hard to hunt down and rather than the debugger it was the forums and interacting with developers on #extjs chat, as well as using jslint and manually analyzing code, that helped me figure out a root-cause, workaround or fix.

2. performance – developers report that the phonegap version of their app appears to consume more resources rather than less compared to a remotely hosted javascript app, accessed through the mobile devices web-browser. Apart from the overhead of having to parse javascript at runtime, developers sometimes need platform specific knowledge and implement different than for a web-application, i.e. iphone onclick events being much slower from the touchscreen than ontouch events.

The advantage on the other hand appears to be that it is relatively easy to add new mobile platforms to phonegap. So far they appear to have iphone, android, blackberry and some nokia platforms covered, with palm pre being on the horizon to be added beginning of next year.

And according to phonegaps website, there are already several real-world phonegap powered apps in the marketplaces of both the iphone and android.

Thoughts?

G1 android phone app ShopSavvy saves me money

I was shopping for wireless pci cards at best buys and narrowed it down to a netgear marked $59. Out of curiosity I scanned it with shopsavvy and it listed several local alternatives starting at $35 at walmart. After clicking on that it offered to call the store or get directions.

Wow if this happens more often I will save the cost of the phone in no time…

I wonder if once this is more common stores will cover barcodes for products on the shelves, but I guess then we can just type in model numbers…

PS: posted from my G1 with wptogo application 🙂