I WAS amused this week to see footage of a Tesla driving down a perfectly straight motorway in Taiwan.
The weather was good and everything was normal . . . except for the truck on its side in the outside lane.
We, the viewers, could see it. All the other drivers on the motorway could see it too. But the Tesla, bombing along at around 60mph, with its self-drive autopilot system engaged, did NOT see it.
It even went straight past the driver of the overturned truck who was at the side of the road, a good distance from the crash site, frantically warning oncoming motorists to slow down. And then came the impact.
Luckily, no one was hurt. But the accident does serve as a useful reminder about technology. It can make life fun and it can make life convenient. But we’ve not yet reached a point where we can rely on it to behave itself. Take the wifi in your house.
The box sits in a cupboard, I should imagine, where there’s no wind or rain or weather of any kind. It is never bashed or dropped. And yet somehow, once a fortnight, it will suddenly stop working. There is no reason for this.
In my London flat, the windows also serve as radiators. They are designed to come on in October and go off again in April.
But every year, they get it the wrong way round and no one is able to stop them doing this, boiling me in the summer and sitting there in the winter while I slowly die of hypothermia.
My laptop is no better. The last one became critically ill recently, so before it died completely, all of its information was transferred on to the model I’m using now.
And that, about once a day, decides to freeze. Control-Alt-Delete? Forget it. It becomes as receptive as a brick. We have all experienced these things. And we have to believe the owner of that Tesla in Taiwan has as well.
Yet he engaged the car’s self-drive system and sat back, assuming it would be able to see a crashed van directly ahead. Had he not researched the car at all? I know Tesla says its autonomous system is nine times safer than a human. But a quick Google search would suggest that sometimes, like all technology, it isn’t safe at all.
I actually quite like Tesla’s current range of cars. I think they are interesting and fun and I can see why, in lockdown, the Model 3 was the best-selling car in Britain. But I have a word of warning for anyone tempted to buy one and engage its autopilot: Don’t.
Think of it as the tool you get on a Swiss Army knife that can be used for getting stones out of a horse’s hoof. It’s a talking point . . . but you’d never actually use it.
Police not so clued up
IT has been the biggest police manhunt in history. But now, after a multimillion-pound, 13-year search across 101 countries, there appears to be a genuine breakthrough in the search for Madeleine McCann.
That’s great. But what staggers me is that the new chief suspect 'Christian B' was living just a few miles from the Portuguese resort where she was last seen. His phone puts him in the resort itself on the night of the abduction.
He was even interviewed by Plod back in 2008. And it’s not like he was a model citizen. Described as a burglar and a drug dealer, it’s known he was also a paedophile. He’s even doing time in Germany right now for child sex offences. And yet somehow he was never arrested.
It makes me wonder. Will they find Lord Lucan living next door to the house from which he fled in 1974?
And will it turn out that “Mr Herring” who rides around Fulham every day on a horse called Shiregar is actually the mysterious Mr Kipper who is said to have abducted Suzy Lamplugh back in 1986?
Hungary for more
THE Hungarian justice minister Judit Varga responded angrily this week to claims her country had become a dictatorship.
I’m not sure what she said, though. Because apart from the fact she speaks four languages and is a lawyer, she is . . . well, let’s put it this way. She does to me what our Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, does for the girls.
“I don’t care what you’re saying just so long as you keep on saying it.”
DOCTORS warned this week that up to 60 per cent of all advice given on YouTube to back-pain sufferers is wrong.
Right. And what, I’m supposed to be surprised by this?
At a rough guess, I’d say 60 per cent of everything on the internet is wrong.
Isolated Isaac's big idea
WHEN London was brought to its knees by a plague in the 17th century, a young man called Isaac Newton fled to the countryside and while in quarantine, came up with a cure.
Recently unearthed papers show how he figured out the Black Death could be beaten with a medicine made from a powdered toad and some of its vomit.
After it turned out this didn’t work, he went for a sit down in an orchard, where he saw an apple fall from a tree . . .
THE the last-ever 6.75-litre Bentley V8 rolled off the production line this week. Now, I know with race riots and coronavirus and the economy, this doesn’t sound like a big deal. But this engine was first used in 1959, so it’s older than me. No other engine has been made for such a long time.
In the beginning, it was used in the Bentley S2 – a car my grandfather drove – and produced 180hp. Today, the same basic engine in a Mulsanne produces 530hp. And yet emissions have come down by a scarcely believable 99 per cent.
In the Fifties, it was the last word in silent power. And that holds true today. It’s a gentleman giant of a thing and we shall not see its like again.
Sure, the motor in a modern electric car is very quiet and powerful too. But it’s the same sort of thing you get in a Magimix. Whereas Bentley’s old V8? The same sort of thing you got in a Spitfire.
None of us have a clue
SO, to be clear, if you go to Parliament Square in a group of about 1,000, the police will take a knee as a mark of respect. If, however, you go to the pub with a few mates for a couple of pints, you and the man who served you will be arrested.
In other news, you can go to Spain for your summer holiday but you can’t come back. Or maybe you can’t go at all. Or maybe you can . . . but only if you have one other travelling companion and you have a barbecue first.
It’s no wonder we fear the Covid death rate will inch back up. None of us has the first clue what’s allowed any more.
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