Month: February 2016

On Tesla & Indiana

We forget that Indianapolis could have been the world’s automotive hub instead of Detroit. There were car manufacturers–including the Marmon Motor Car company, which won the first Indianapolis 500 with Ray Harroun–who made their home in the Circle City.

Indianapolis is a city defined by automobiles; auto racing is our biggest export. Hell, the first appearance of the rearview mirror was at the Indy 500. Unfortunately, those in charge of the state do not realize how automotive innovation built its capital.

Indiana legislators want to ban the automakers from directly selling vehicles to their customers, requiring a dealership intermediary. This would prevent Elon Musk’s Tesla brand of electric cars from being sold in the state.

Electric cars are the future, and there is no getting around it. Automakers are beginning to realize that now. Consumers who once bought hybrids like the Toyota Prius and Nissan Leaf are now buying electric vehicles to automotive industry outsiders Tesla.

As Tesla sees its sales increase, the traditional automakers are scrambling to get an electric car together, while Tesla marches forward toward its goal of the $35,000 electric car. That’s not good for folks like General Motors.

On February 2, the Indiana House of Representatives passed House Bill 1254, which would ban the direct sale of vehicles. The bill will bypass study committees, in order to enact the law by 2018. Tesla currently sells its cars out of its shop at the Keystone Fashion Mall in Indianapolis.

The bill has the backing, not surprisingly, from General Motors, the parent company of Chevrolet, whose electric vehicles are just now beginning to gain traction in the market.

The spirit of this law is not only anti-competition, but anti-innovation. Tesla took the floundering electric car market and turned into a viable business model. They are attempting to perfect things, such as vehicular autonomy, on which no other manufacturer has scratched the surface.

Indiana is synonymous with automotive innovation, but perhaps we shouldn’t be anymore. As they bow to the Old Gods of industry, our legislation curtails and discourages the growth of the industry’s much-needed new blood, and that isn’t the spirit of Indiana or its residents.

 

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On the iPhone, Encryption, & Our Right to Privacy

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I paid my credit card bill on Monday using my iPhone. On Sunday, I filed my taxes from my iPhone. Smartphones are now ubiquitous hubs of shopping, banking, and finance for even the most non-tech savvy users. We are able to do this securely and safely through encryption, which protects data from theft, surveillance, and other nefarious deeds.

On Tuesday evening, word came out that a judge in the San Bernardino terrorist attacks demanded that Apple unlock the iPhone 5c of a shooting suspect. This comes after Apple steadfastly refused to put a backdoor of any sorts into its devices, fearing the same method used by authorities could be used by hackers and other data thieves.

In response, Apple CEO Tim Cook released a open letter on the company’s website, not unlike what his predecessor, Steve Jobs, did in April 2010. Cook explains in his response the need for encryption, while simultaneous recognizing the tragedy in San Bernardino.

Cook warns encryption skeptics of the dangerous consequences that a backdoor into iOS devices could cause. Cook wrote:

The government would have us remove security features and add new capabilities to the operating system, allowing a passcode to be input electronically. This would make it easier to unlock an iPhone by “brute force,” trying thousands or millions of combinations with the speed of a modern computer.

Even though technology advocates and experts recognize the utility and importance of encryption, the people who regulate the laws on which we must abide are simply ignorant. As Cook said, the FBI’s intentions are mostly likely in the right place, but are nonetheless ill-advised.

Possibly the most damaging aspect of this controversy is who and how the conversation of encryption is being brought to the public eye. We’ve reached the point where quasi-influential political figures (read: presidential candidates) have come out in favor of disabling encryption.

GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump openly sided with the abolishment of full encryption like Apple does during Fox & Friends interview, saying “Who do (Apple) think they are? They have to open it up.”

For people outside of the tech bubble, comments like Trump’s will be their first exposure to encryption. They will make the false conclusion that supporting encryption is equivalent to supporting ISIS. They will believe encryption is anti-American. They will take all of this asinine talk for truth as their privacy and digital security goes by the wayside.

It doesn’t matter whether you love Apple or hate them at the moment. This isn’t about preferences for Apple, Windows, Android, or whatever operating platform. This is about all of us and our security, and protect it, Apple and the rest of Silicon Valley must fight the good fight.