Tesla’s $200,000 Roadster will need more than record-breaking speed

Tesla’s new Roadster has some impressive numbers. But with a price on par with a Bentley or Aston Martin, the question is, can it deliver on the kind of luxury and drivability those buyers expect? That’s going to take a lot more than just sternum-cracking acceleration.

Prices for the Roadster will start at $200,000, with a required deposit of $50,000. A limited edition Founders Series of the car will cost $250,000 and will have to be paid for up front and in full.

At these prices, someone could buy an Aston Martin DB9 or a Bentley Continental GT. Those cars can’t match the Roadster’s advertised performance figures — but there’s a lot more to a sports car than just speed.

The Roadster’s ability to go from zero to 60 in under two seconds is unprecedented, and would make this the quickest production car ever. It can run the quarter mile in 8.8 seconds. That’s faster than a Dodge Challenger Demon, an 840-horsepower single-seat car designed especially for drag racing.

And its top speed of over 250 miles an hour puts it in the same league as the $3 million Bugatti Chiron. That figure is especially surprising, given that top speed is not an area in which electric cars tend to excel. (High speeds mean much more battery-draining wind resistance.)

Anyone who can afford to spend a quarter million dollars on a car is used to high level of quality of craftsmanship. That means Tesla needs to overcome the production issues it is currently having with the far simpler Model 3, as well as the sort of quality issues it’s been having with the complex Model X.

Sports cars also need to corner well and give the driver a sense of confidence and control. Tesla’s original Roadster, produced from 2008 to 2012, was built on the skeleton of a British Lotus sports car. Lotus is legendary for how well its cars handled, and for an obsession with light weight, which also helps with cornering and control. For a company building a high-end sports car, there could hardly be a better place to start. This Roadster will presumably be all Tesla.

Electric drive does provide some advantages for a sports car. First, most sports cars have an engine that concentrates weight somewhere in the car. A lot of sports car design is about how to carry that big block of metal through turns at high speeds. Engineers and designers work hard to position the engine as low as possible in the car, and in a place that will give the car stable, controllable and predictable cornering characteristics.

In an electric car, the weight is concentrated in battery packs, but those batteries don’t need to be all together. In Tesla’s other vehicles, they’re spread out under the floor of the car, giving them a very low center of gravity and weight that’s evenly balanced.

But, batteries are heavy and weight is still a problem, no matter where it is. That’s why electric cars are, generally speaking, heavier than gasoline powered cars. Tesla engineers will still have to overcome, or minimize, the sheer weight that will come with that level of range and performance.

Still, based on Tesla’s claims, the Roadster certainly the potential to be a big winner for Tesla that could help generate the profits it so badly needs and even more buzz.

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Tesla board member denies harassment claims

Prominent tech investor Steve Jurvetson is denying the misconduct allegations against him.

In a lengthy Facebook post, Jurvetson said the reason for his departure from the venture capital firm he co-founded on Monday had nothing to do with “sexual predation” or “workplace harassment.”

“How does one respond to accusations so serious that being innocent is not a good enough defense?” he wrote. “Let me be clear: no such allegations are true.”

Jurvetson, 50, was a partner at prominent VC firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson. He is also a board member and investor at Tesla and SpaceX, but as of Monday, he’s currently on leave.

According to Jurvetson, he left the firm “because of interpersonal dynamics with my partners” and “stress.”

In October, DFJ said it became aware of “indirect and second-hand allegations” about Jurvetson. The company launched an independent investigation, but it did not provide details on the allegations of misconduct.

“It is excruciating to learn just how quickly, in one news cycle, people conclude that because I have left DFJ there must be some credence to vicious and wholly false allegations about sexual predation and workplace harassment,” wrote Jurvetson.

He clarified that the DFJ investigation “began not with a complaint, but with unsubstantiated rumors.”

Jurvetson’s departure comes on the heels of other investor resignations over misconduct allegations. 500 Startups cofounder Dave McClure and Binary Capital cofounder Justin Caldbeck left their respective firms this summer after multiple women came forward with allegations of workplace sexual harassment. Both men have issued apologies for their behavior.

While the women made their claims public about McClure and Caldbeck, there are no public claims against Jurvetson.

“The three-month investigation, that has yet to conclude (and I welcome the results whenever that takes place), broke down a normal team dynamic into factions that isolate communications and defer to the advice of lawyers,” Jurvetson added.

“Add a modicum of stress (such as implied allegations in the press) and deadlines (our annual LP meeting is today), and people show a different side of their personality. I did. So did my partners. It’s incredibly sad to see how things broke down, and the acrimony that arose between us.”

Jurvetson also alluded to a “personal relationship (one that doesn’t involve employees, or prospective employees, or others in the workplace)” as a contributing factor to his stress.

“I have also learned that an ill-advised relationship, where the other person is left feeling hurt, angry or scorned, can have far reaching consequences in the digital age,” he wrote. “It is inaccurate and unfair to describe any of this as harassment or predation.”

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Lawyer to Uber: Turn over data on rape, assault reports

A new lawsuit is again calling into question Uber’s background check policies and how it monitors its drivers.

On Tuesday, two anonymous women filed a complaint in California against Uber claiming the ridesharing company had falsely presented its service as safe to passengers. Both women say they were raped by drivers. They state that they ordered the service after a couple of drinks, believing it to be safe.

“Uber’s advertising campaigns make the assertion that it provides the best option for a safe ride home after a night of drinking,” the suit alleges. “(But) what happened to Ms. Does 1 and 2 is happening to women across the U.S. Shockingly, it is happening with greater frequency.”

The new suit is seeking class action status to include individuals who have alleged or reported “rape, sexual assault or gender-motivated violence or harassment” by Uber drivers in the past four year. The lawsuit claims that “thousands of female passengers have endured unlawful conduct by their Uber drivers” over the past seven years.

In a statement, Uber said it “received this complaint today and we are in the process of reviewing it. These allegations are important to us and we take them very seriously.”

Attorney Jeanne Christensen from employment law firm Wigdor LLP, who brought the case, is calling on Uber to release data that proves to customers that it is, in fact, statistically safe to ride in an Uber. “They should be forced to report, on some kind of periodic level, how many reports [of assault, rape] they’ve had. And based on the reports, were there investigations that actually resulted in the termination of a driver?” Christensen said in a call with CNN Tech.

Her firm has been following the issue of alleged rape and assault by Uber drivers since 2014, when it filed the New Delhi driver rape case. “I’m not asking for anything crazy. It’s not crazy. If they don’t have an issue, then they should be waving that data around.”

The suit asks for an injunction that would direct the company to make changes to its screening process, as well as implement new monitoring of drivers to protect riders from rape, assault, and gender-based harassment.

Uber has in the past shunned the idea of fingerprint-based background tests in most markets, saying the checks can be costly and slow, and impact the company’s ability to constantly bring on new drivers.

Questions about how the company screens its drivers were raised again earlier this month after the suspect in a terror attack in Manhattan was revealed to be a driver for both Uber and Lyft.

Uber said it was quickly and aggressively reviewing Sayfullo Saipov’s history with the company but hadn’t found any safety reports that raised concerns. Lyft also didn’t find any red flags associated with his account, the company said. Both Uber and Lyft said they were in contact with law enforcement authorities over the New York attack.

The 58-page complaint filed Tuesday details 17 safety measures that the company could implement to make riders safer. Those include requiring drivers to install GPS tracking systems in their cars rather than relying on the app which can be turned off, as well as performing criminal background checks every six months.

In general, Uber says it searches records for the past seven years. But according to the suit, for drivers who moved to the U.S. less than seven years ago, the company doesn’t seek to obtain records in their previous country of residence.

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Ford workers are testing out exoskeletons

Ford factory workers are getting a lift — literally.

The automaker is testing out new exoskeletons at two Michigan assembly plants, designed to help employees avoid fatigue and injuries while working on the line.

The devices, which cost about $6,000 apiece, provide upper-body support for overhead work. They aren’t electrically powered — instead, they help shift the body’s weight to make repetitive tasks more comfortable.

Superhero fans should note that the exoskeletons aren’t Iron Man suits. They “aren’t designed to make you stronger,” said Marty Smets, senior ergonomics engineer with Ford.

Instead, Smets said, they move some weight to a worker’s legs, relieving pressure on the shoulders.

“The shoulder is an inherently weak joint,” Smets said. Plus, he added, fixing shoulder injuries gets incredibly expensive.

The United Automobile Workers union is in support of the new initiative, and the group subsidized the purchase of the first few exoskeletons, according to Ford.

“The health and safety of our membership has always been our highest priority,” UAW-Ford Vice President Jimmy Settles said in a statement. “With the proven success at the piloted locations, we look forward to expanding this technology to our other UAW-Ford manufacturing facilities.”

The move is the latest effort by Ford to reduce workplace injuries. Incidents in North America that resulted in time away from the job have fallen 83% since 2005. Its 2016 incident rate — 1.55 incidents per 100 full-time North American employees — was a record low, according to the company.

The 2016 rate for private employers in the U.S. is 2.9 cases per 100 full-time workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Follow this story

Ford workers are testing out exoskeletons

Ford factory workers are getting a lift — literally.

The automaker is testing out new exoskeletons at two Michigan assembly plants, designed to help employees avoid fatigue and injuries while working on the line.

The devices, which cost about $6,000 apiece, provide upper-body support for overhead work. They aren’t electrically powered — instead, they help shift the body’s weight to make repetitive tasks more comfortable.

Superhero fans should note that the exoskeletons aren’t Iron Man suits. They “aren’t designed to make you stronger,” said Marty Smets, senior ergonomics engineer with Ford.

Instead, Smets said, they move some weight to a worker’s legs, relieving pressure on the shoulders.

“The shoulder is an inherently weak joint,” Smets said. Plus, he added, fixing shoulder injuries gets incredibly expensive.

The United Automobile Workers union is in support of the new initiative, and the group subsidized the purchase of the first few exoskeletons, according to Ford.

“The health and safety of our membership has always been our highest priority,” UAW-Ford Vice President Jimmy Settles said in a statement. “With the proven success at the piloted locations, we look forward to expanding this technology to our other UAW-Ford manufacturing facilities.”

The move is the latest effort by Ford to reduce workplace injuries. Incidents in North America that resulted in time away from the job have fallen 83% since 2005. Its 2016 incident rate — 1.55 incidents per 100 full-time North American employees — was a record low, according to the company.

The 2016 rate for private employers in the U.S. is 2.9 cases per 100 full-time workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Follow this story