Any big rig is going to require maintenance.
Truckers, much like farmers, expect repairs and breakdowns to come with the complexity of their machinery.
I mention farmers because of their right-to-repair precedent and ongoing litigation.
In that context you’d think the Tesla Semi being observed broken down wouldn’t cause any concern beyond the usual $10-20K annual operating schedule.
Except there’s a giant problem.
Tesla promoted its trucks as far less or even no maintenance, and then required any work be done only by them. Breaking down often (even if it is still less than a diesel) immediately undermines their entire value pitch, especially because it was built on a monopolist cost model (artificial scarcity).
If your truck is towed every month for a $20K repair that you can’t argue with… that’s just a slimy snake-oil subscription model you didn’t sign up for. Tesla right now looks like a dangerous trap.
Indeed, the reported breakdown of at least eight Tesla Semi in just the past couple months is related to dumb, distracting and totally vulnerable “infotainment” systems. What trucker is being trained to work on those? Tesla probably just throws them away and installs new ones they hope will break down soon, depending on a notoriously unreliable foreign supply chain. Everything operational runs on fragile wiring harnesses to a set of low quality screens prone to go blank. Screen failures then cause complete system shutdown until another big repair bill is footed.
Again, breakdown should have been something normalized and modeled for highly distributed field repairs a long time ago. The Tesla Semi was announced in 2017 with fanfare to revolutionize transit by 2019. Instead in 2018 they were… breaking down.
Tesla could have said back then that breakdowns are common and they are working on an “open road” plan so truckers are self-sufficient and unburdened.
Although, let’s be honest, if a trailer full of spare parts can’t help keep the truck running then something really, really stinks. Good thing they don’t build ships.
Instead of opening up more about the issues, Tesla used a top-down centrally planned tone to argue breakdowns aren’t real for them (not asleep at the wheel just driving eyes closed), that electric inherently should be easier to keep running (a lie — most vehicle fires are electrical), and that everything about their repairs has to be a giant, freedom-sucking secret.
Which national security desk is being briefed right now on country-wide Tesla hacks shutting deliveries down for weeks?
And thus, in these crucial first few months of “production” operations, their breakdowns are actually a giant ugly problem. A business and engineering disaster. It’s not really new, either.
They launched three years late, slowly delivering something they said was going to be amazing and worth the loooong wait, yet out of the gate it can’t stay on the road.
On top of truckers pointing out how backwards and stupid a monopolist repair model is for long-hauling (e.g. none of the tow trucks are controlled by Tesla), they also have a huge list of basic complaints.
That giant greenhouse window collecting sun and precipitation yet impossible to shade or clear, inability of greenhouse windows to open fully, door awkwardly shifted behind the seat, mirrors stuck like an afterthought in a position too far to clean, lack of rest space, center seating stupidly buried away from everything, depending on touch screens for everything… the obvious trouble list goes on and on.
Everything I have read so far suggests nobody at Tesla understood Semi driving before designing this. Fun fact? The head of Tesla Semi claims zero experience in the trucking industry. Semi announced 2017 for a 2019 release? Sheltered inside Tesla almost his entire five year career, Semi is his first real project after graduating college (BS 2009), ladies and gentlemen.
I guess this cartoonish thing answers the question of what Stanford teaches?
I’m still looking at those mirrors sticking out awkwardly and thinking about the CEO spreading “no exterior mirrors” disinformation about the future, encouraging owners to break laws by removing them. Tesla often promotes breaking the laws today as their concept of becoming “future proof” for a fantasy world they dream about. If only they had learned why mirror safety isn’t even remotely solved by vulnerable screens that abruptly fail unsafely… they wouldn’t have had to stick those giant ugly bandaids over the problems they created.
Such fantasy games are downright dangerous. The sheer fact that Tesla again created an intentionally deceptive video (refusing to disclose details about Semi) to keep investors hooked on a trucking fantasy should be treated as criminal (e.g. Advanced Fee Fraud). Hello, FTC?
In conclusion, Tesla has created the Pontiac Aztek of trucking. Except it will cost 10X any other truck because of a hidden subscription system that is designed for abuse and exploitation of owners.
Anyone buying into this is clearly not thinking clearly. There’s nothing positive to report about the Tesla Semi. Boasts about it being reliable and efficient not only seem flagrantly untrue, the breakdowns end up being tied to a Stanford-like diabolical profit model that taxes owners just to keep their unstable rig on the road.
Update March 31: Tesla just three months after pushing its years late product to market has issued a recall for its Semi because the brakes fail. Specifically the brake in park doesn’t activate, so the NHTSA warns a Semi can roll away.
Tesla recalls lately have been for the steering wheel, seatbelts and brakes. Just the little things.