Product Holes: Tesla Roadster & iPhone 4

Continuing on the thread from my previous post about the testing of products that fail to find problems that become obvious to (some) users after a very short time, I just read an article (in Swedish) about how the famed Tesla roadster cars behaved when they were confronted with Scandinavian winters.

Basically, they stopped working due to a problem with cooling (!). The roads around here tend to be salted in the Winter. The temperatures also often hover around freezing, with the result that you have roads covered in snow-water slush. This slush clogged up cooling fans for the motors and electronics which are located on the bottom of the cars, around the rear axle.

Putting fans on the bottom of a car where things from the road are quite likely to enter would seem totally silly in hindsight. The root cause is somewhat jokingly referred to as the cars being designed in sunny California. There is probably some truth to that, even though all big automakers make sure to cold-weather test their cars in places like Arvidsjaur. However, that is probably too cold to get much of the slush that caused the issue.

Another issue that has been much more publicized is the Apple iPhone 4 reception problems when holding the phone in certain ways. Also obvious when discovered, but not found in pre-launch testing. Some people speculate that this is due to too much secrecy at Apple preventing a shake-out test with many people using the phones every day in the way they would post-launch.

Once again we see that good testing and destructive creativity is needed during the development of products to make them truly great and avoid embarrassing “obvious” mistakes. Tesla and Apple have great product designers and great products – but you seem to also need great testers to really build solid products.

Sounds like this is turning into a testers lament – and I must confess to never having worked as a professional tester, just as an accidental tester with a knack for breaking things.

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