Insight Renter Instructions

These instructions for renters have 4 parts: rental basics, efficiency tips, manual transmission operation, and special situations.

Rental Basics

  • Please arrive at your scheduled time or let me know to leave the keys in a lockbox for you if you’re going to be late.
  • Upon arrival, inspect the car for damage and take photos of any pre-existing damage. It’s not that big a deal to me, but it’s helpful for you to look over the car so that you don’t notice a mark later and worry about it.
  • When you get in the car, turn the key to power it up and adjust the mirrors. The left side mirror has a bubble so you can check the C-pillar blind spot during lane changes.
  • Go over the manual transmission operation instructions before driving the car.
  • If you experience mechanical failures or accidents during the trip, please call emergency services first if there are any injuries and call me next to discuss next steps.
  • Because the car is low and has aerodynamic underbody panels, please approach and leave parking lots at an angle to avoid scraping the panels.
  • When returning the car, park in a spot that is legal for at least the next 24 hours. Check for street cleaning signs, for special moving van signs, and other parking restrictions. Then let me know the location if it’s not within a block of my apartment.
  • Take photos of the front bumper from below and the four corners of the car to show that you returned it intact.

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Efficiency Tips

  • Because the car burns so little fuel for propulsion, running the air conditioner creates a noticeable reduction in fuel efficiency. Furthermore, the AC is on by default, which is a stupid design. To turn it off, you have to press the “Econ” button until it explicitly says “AC Off” on the climate control system. If the climate control system is off and you hit “Auto” or any of the fan speed buttons, it will come on with the AC on by default. Hit “Econ” until it turns off, unless you actually want to use the AC.
  • The brake pedal’s first few mm of travel actuate electric regenerative braking when the car is in gear and above 1000 rpm. Maximize regen by staying in gear until rpm drops to 1000 rpm. Then shift to neutral and press the brakes harder to engage mechanical brakes and come to a stop.
  • When the car is stopped and in neutral, it will often “Auto-Stop” the engine, saving idle fuel. Don’t stay in gear at a red light, let it stay auto stopped until the light turns green. The engine will fire up instantly when you press the clutch and shift to first.

Manual Transmission Operation

  • You already know how to drive a manual transmission, but now you’re going to lose any bad habits you’ve developed and also learn to double clutch. Every other manual car you drive will benefit from what you learn in the Insight. I like that it makes a grinding sound when you shift inappropriately, it’s great for learning. The bad habits I see are:
    1. Downshifting to first before the car is stopped. Fully stopped, not just slow.
    2. Holding the clutch pedal down unnecessarily.
    3. Shoving the shift lever instead of being gentle.
    4. Changing gears for no reason.
    5. Resting your hand on the shift lever.
  • The only times you should hold the clutch pedal down are just before moving in first gear, while reversing, or when the car begins to skid or spin. Otherwise, clutch operation should be press and release. The first thing we do when we get in the car, before turning it on, is practice shifting. When I say or write “shift”, perform 3 actions: one: press clutch, two: move shift lever, three: release clutch. We’ll play a game where I say: “shift to neutral” and you press the clutch, move the shift lever to neutral, and release the clutch. When you forget to release the clutch because you think it’s the same thing in neutral, I’ll say: “three, release clutch”. Practice dry shifting until the three motions become sequential and habitual.
  • The next thing we’ll practice is throttle control. Start the car and leave it in neutral. Play with the throttle as you watch the tachometer and try to adjust engine rpm to various levels, 2000 rpm, 4000 rpm, 3000 rpm, quickly up to 5000, let it settle to 2500 and try to catch it and hold it there. The flywheel is heavy because of the integrated motor, so it takes longer than a normal car for rpm to change.
  • Now, you’re ready to double clutch. All it means is that for shifting to 2nd gear, you first shift to neutral (remember to release the clutch), adjust rpm so that it matches vehicle speed (1000 rpm at 10 mph, 2500 rpm at 25 mph, 5000 rpm at 50 mph, etc.), then press the clutch and finish shifting to 2nd. You can take your time to adjust the engine rpm, there’s no rush, watch the road in between glances at the tach. It’s more important to catch the correct engine rpm with the clutch. Moving the lever to 2nd gear can be patient and gentle once the clutch is pressed.
  • Let’s go over three common scenarios: accelerating from a stop, downshifting for a hill or to pass, going back into gear while slowly coasting in neutral.
    1. Accelerating from a stop, shift to first and launch normally. Accelerate rapidly up to 15 – 25 mph. Shift to neutral (press clutch, move shift lever to neutral, release clutch) as you let off the throttle. Let the rpm settle down to 1500 – 2500 rpm (to match your speed) and hit the clutch when it’s at the right spot. It’ll be a 2x drop, so you can just listen for it to drop by an octave if you’re a musician. Then move the shift lever to 2nd, release the clutch. It takes a few dozen tries to get the timing right, but you’ll figure it out the same way you learned clutch operation in the beginning. Also, the timing changes when the AC compressor is on because the engine slows down much more quickly.
    2. To downshift to second on the highway, first make sure you’re travelling at 60 mph or less. Then shift to neutral (and release clutch!). Rev up the engine to the appropriate rpm, like 5000 rpm for 50 mph. Then press the clutch and gently push the shift lever into 2nd, release the clutch.
    3. If the car’s coasting in neutral at less than 5 mph and the engine’s idling (about 1000 rpm), you can shift into 1st. If the car’s coasting in neutral between 5 mph and 10 mph and the engine’s idling, you can shift to 2nd. If the car’s going at 15 mph, you need to stab the throttle to bring it up to 1500 rpm before shifting to 2nd. At 20 mph, rev it to 2000 rpm before pressing the clutch.  Above 20 mph, you can just use 3rd gear or higher.

The best video demonstration on YouTube is until I make one with a GoPro on the pedals, one on the dash, and one on the shift lever.

Special Situations

  • In case of rear tire failure, you’ll have to remove the rear wheel covers. The fasteners are made of soft aluminum and are easily damaged, so try to squeeze the spring steel clips that they screw into as you turn them out. And leave the wheel cover off so that I can carefully reinstall it without damage. It’s best if you call me first so I can help you change the tire or talk to the roadside assistance crew.
  • The car has electric power steering and no alternator, so the only warning of an accessory belt failure is an overheating engine. Because you may not notice the temperature gauge hit red before there is engine damage, the UltraGauge is set to sound an alarm if engine temperature exceeds normal. In the case of overheating, please pull over as soon as practical and shut off the engine, then call me or Turo. I have preemptively installed a new accessory belt, new water pump, new radiator hoses, and new idler pulley to minimize the chances of a cooling system problem.
  • In snow, regenerative braking can cause the car to spin. Priuses are notorious for this problem and they have no clutch to remedy it, but the Insight gives you more control. When driving on extremely slippery surfaces, be ready to depress the clutch to disengage the drive wheels and improve handling of the car.



MP3 Compression or Bad Mastering?

When I heard Jay-Z and Kanye’s “Murder to Excellence” on the radio and internet, the song sounded muffled.  The cymbals aren’t crisp.  The entire song, including the vocals, sounds like it’s coming out of bad speakers.  I figured maybe the spectral range of the song was too broad for mp3 compression and it was losing the high frequency detail.  I wanted to hear the real thing, so I bought the CD to get a good copy of the song.  Here’s what I got.  It’s the WAV file of Murder to Excellence from the Watch the Throne CD.

poorly mastered song

Murder to Excellence WAV file

Continue reading

Avoiding Computer Viruses

The first thing to note when discussing computer viruses is that viruses are just programs, sort of like how spam is just email.  Computer users demand the ability to run any program they want, without restrictions, not have any viruses, and also not be asked any questions before running a program.  That is impossible.  I’m going to discuss four common approaches to dealing with the problem of protecting computers from unwanted programs. Continue reading

HTTPS and Web Certificates

When you go to a website and the address says https instead of http or you see a little lock button in the address bar, it means the data being transmitted back and forth is encrypted.  Any other computer along the way on the internet cannot read the contents of the transmissions.  However, sometimes you get a warning about visiting an encrypted site that says your identity is being phished or that you cannot trust the connection.  I’m going to explain what that means and when you should bypass the warning anyway and when you should not. Continue reading

Dropbox Hashing

If you add a file to your Dropbox folder that already exists on Dropbox’s servers, you don’t have to send the file.  They just mark the existing file as also being owned by you.  In fact, Dropbox works on files in 4 MB chunks, so if you modify a large file and most of it remains unchanged, they only need you to upload any 4 MB chunks that changed and don’t already exist somewhere else on Dropbox.  A lot of people are amazed or confused by this technology.  How can Dropbox’s server and your computer know that two 4 MB chunks are the same without comparing them side-by-side? Continue reading

Dropbox International Performance

I recently attended this:

Dropbox: International Performance

Come hear about several recent and future improvements to Dropbox’s international performance. Dropbox Engineer, Nipunn Koorapati, will talk about the Dropbox server architecture as well as recent optimizations to the client-server protocol for small and large files focused on our high latency international users.

We face international performance challenges at Offroad too, with systems in Switzerland and the US.  We have fairly high bandwidth between the sites, but the high round-trip times (latency) leads to problems. Continue reading