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Uber might sell its robocar division, Nuro opens first delivery pilot in Scottsdale

Uber might sell self-drive division

The newsletter The Information reports Uber's investors are pushing Uber to sell its self-drive division to some other large player. The division has, of course, been nothing but trouble for Uber, and as I have noted several times, Uber is one of the few large players in this space that doesn't have to build their own tech. They have the #1 brand in selling rides, and selling rides is what the robotaxi business is all about.

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"Grand Science Fiction" -- a proposed description of the best in SF

There have been many efforts (none much of a success) to define Science Fiction and the related genres of fantasy, alternate history and speculative fiction. It might be more useful to examine why the genre exists, and why people come to it, and thus what may (to some) define greatness within it.

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The Spot Market in Parking

There are a lot of parking apps out there. There are apps that:

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Calculating all the externalities of driving

I and many others feel the best way to set urban and transportation policy is to properly price in the "externalities" into our travel, and to remove all other penalties and subsidies. If you can do this, then everybody is incentivized to improve the public good. In particular, entrepreneurs and companies are motivated this way, and it's their job to think of the new things nobody else thought of.

Generic drugs are cheaper than your insurance copay in many cases

In the health care debate, a major complaint is the cost of drugs in the USA compared to other countries. This is normally blamed on the pharma companies or patents, but I've learned that the pharmacies can be a giant part.

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Recent Waymo announcements are slightly underwhelming

Waymo recently announced two new partnerships for their fleet of robotaxis.

The first was with Walmart. Walmart has installed special parking spots in their lots, and will offer people free rides to Walmart to pick up online orders. Only some of the 400 Waymo "Early Riders" will participate, at first.

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The wonderful no-security airport terminal

Recently the TSA indicated it is once again considering having no security on planes under 60 seats at small airports. This is controversial, of course, but many security experts think it is the right course for a number of reasons:

I wish Uber pickup at the airport were instant, like the taxi line

When I get off planes in San Francisco and summon a Lyft or Uber, I usually have to wait 8 to 10 minutes. That's because the airport has forced these companies to force drivers to wait in the "cell phone waiting lot" which is quite far from the terminal. When I don't have checked bags, it's OK because I know this and I summon the car while walking out of the gate, but with bags I have to wait for my bag before I can summon.

Tesla makes a custom neural network chip, is that wise?

Tesla announced it has built its own custom neural network processor to use in Autopilot 3.0 in 2019.

Tesla started mainly using MobilEye's vision chip, but that relationship ended after the first fatality. They have since been using NVIDA GPUs in Autopilot 2.0 and now plan to use their own ASIC.

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Sharing the ride: Less sharing is better for transit, more sharing better for cars

The idea that sharing rides is good has become almost axiomatic in transportation discussions. At conferences I have seen people declare that robocars are pointless if they are not shared -- ie. people who are not travelling together ride together in them. The positive of sharing is so axiomatic that public transit is seen almost as a good in and of itself, rather than a means towards real goals like energy efficiency, low cost, and higher road utilization.

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Will you need geeky glasses to avoid motion sickness in your robocar?

For a lot of people, being a passenger in a car can easily lead to motion sickness, particularly if they try to do something like looking down to read a book or stare at a phone. Not everybody gets this, but it's enough to be a big issue for the robocar world. Drivers usually don't feel this much, but in the robocar world, everybody's a passenger.

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How do we get robotaxi rides down to 30 cents/mile while Uber/Lyft charge 50 cents/mile for just connecting you?

In discussion of the eventual cost of a robotaxi ride, I and others have forecast costs similar to the all-in cost of car ownership. Today that's 40 to 60 cents/mile (plus parking) and for a one person electric "city car" it can be under 20 cents. Note that in building these costs I am looking at the full retail cost today including:

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Is BRT the best answer for bewildered city planners?

I was asked by the New York Times to comment on what future city transportation plans should look like. In a short piece, they could not repeat all I said, so I will expand a bit here.

My main advice to cities is that nobody, including myself, has the exact answer on how transportation will look in 2030 or beyond. (They are making plans for 2030 and even 2040 now.) Because we can't know, my advice is to design to be flexible. Design to be able to change your mind.

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Tips for having a car-cooler on a road trip

When doing a road trip, I like to have a cooler in the back of the car. This lets you have cold drinks and snacks, and also means you can shop for things that need refrigeration, particularly things like cheese in Europe. You can buy groceries at any convenient time, even if you won't get to your hotel until later in the day.

Another big plus, when you stay in hotels that have no fridge, is that you get an in-room (literal) icebox.

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The road trip robocar and tourist robocar

Yesterday I wrote about the future of group tourism and made reference to the tourist robocar.

Banishing tour groups with Uber and AI

I hate tour groups. I hate the very rare times I am part of one, and I hate encountering them at tourist locations. And with few exceptions, I suspect most people also hate several aspects of them, other than perhaps when it's a group of family or friends. Like so much of the tourist world, I think there is immense room for improvement thanks to new communications and transportation technology.

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