The New York Times has been caught lying in a recent review of the Tesla Model S, outed by Tesla CEO Elon Musk (Musk was quite diplomatic about this and just laid out the facts, never accusing the Times of outright lying, but I’m not diplomatic and I call it as I see it). Even before Mush presented this evidence, he tweeted about the test to which the reporter replied, “It happened just the way I described it” (link).
So, who do you believe? The reporter, John Broder, is no fan of electric cars and an earlier article indicates a clear bias. The thing is, after the TV entertainment show Top Gear created a misleading and negative review of the Tesla Roadster, Tesla Motors got smart and started equipping press cars with, well, let’s just call it the ‘Special Reviewer Option Pack A’, or to describe it briefly, data logging to capture information about the car throughout the review. It’s that information that Musk is using to contradict Broder’s story. He never fully charged the car, and even left his final charging station when the car was saying it could only go half the distance he planned. Even then, the car exceeded that estimated range before it finally ran out of juice (well done, Model S!).
The data is difficult to ignore, and Elon Musk’s blog post will probably lead to John Broder’s firing (or if it doesn’t, I’ll lose all respect for the New York Times). But this focus on the data got me thinking…what if the data could be falsified? I do not believe that was done so, I fully believe in Tesla’s data…but as a society, we’re placing more and more reliance in data, in pictures, in videos…all of which can be falsified. We’re entering a new world where to defend yourself, your word alone will not be enough…you’ll need your own set of data to back up your claims. This is where wearable computing may come in…imagine a personal datalogger that just works in the background, until those times you need it. You wouldn’t need to capture all the data your accusers did…just enough data to cast doubt on that evidence.
It used to be one person’s word against the other’s in court…and to win, you attack the credibility of the other witness. There’s a new witness in court…it’s data. Better have your own to defend you.
UPDATE – one of the New York Times editors has posted a reply here, basically saying that there were “Problems With Precision and Judgment, but Not Integrity, in Tesla Test.” A fair look into the issue…it helps restore my confidence in that newspaper.