In June, Cruise had the first crash for an uncrewed robotaxi which caused injuries to 3rd parties, including a passenger and a person in the other vehicle. The Cruise vehicle was partly at fault.
In this article I outline the new details we have learned about the crash, but also discuss what it means for the future, and whether the use of a NHTSA "Recall" for this particular software update is the right idea.
With California mandating all new cars be EVs by 2035, and other places doing the same, EV-skeptics argue the power grid can't handle this. This claim appeared again during the recent California heat wave that came close to overloading the California grid over a false report that the state asked EV drivers not to charge their cars. (In reality it just repeated the everyday policy to avoid charging from 4pm to 9pm on high usage days.)
Tesla announced the price for the FSD software add-on will rise to $15K (from $12K) Sept 5. The price is amazingly high for a prepaid pre-order of a product that doesn't exist yet. Yet people only pay $4K for it in the aftermarket, and the take rate keeps going down as they raise the price, negating revenue gains.
So what does it all mean? One unusual option is that at $15K/head, Tesla could fail at producing the FSD software, but buy another company that does succeed (using LIDAR probably) and retrofit the old cars at a profit. At this price it's hard for them to lose.
Some transit agencies want to be in charge of how self-driving cars are deployed in their cities. Otherwise, they say, robocars will compete with transit, as if that would be bad.
Read more about these issues at Will Transit Agencies Fight Or Yield To The Self-Driving Revolution?
There has been lots of buzz over a video made by Tesla Critic Dan O'Dowd of a Tesla allegedly in FSD mode hitting a dummy in the shape of a child. We've seen Tesla fans duplicate it with their own kids, and Tesla asking the original video be taken down, and NHTSA saying not to use your own kids and more.
But it all misses the point. Of course a prototype fails in ways like this. The question is, are people actually getting hurt, and how do we really test these things to get them working? Is it OK to have customers participate in testing?
Baidu has finally moved to having a paid robotaxi service with no employee in the car. While they have remote monitoring and even driving over 5G this is still a big step and a show of internal confidence in the vehicle.
Read more at Baidu starts paid robotaxi service in China
Two recent stories -- about BMW charging a monthly fee to use the heated seats pre-installed in your car, and Tesla replacing a 60kwh battery with a 90kwh under warranty, but forgetting to software limit it to 60kwh, then finally applying the limit after two resales of the car as an (unknowingly accidental) 90 model, have opened up cans of worms about the question of software enabled and disabled features, and whether they are good or bad for the customer or just good for the company.
Baidu Apollo has released their own custom robotaxi plan. This one looks more like a regular minivan/custom taxi, but its steering wheel, there only for compliance purposes, is designed to be removed when the law allows, and that opens up the interior. They also say they can make it for about $37,000.
For more details see my Forbes.com story at Custom Robotaxi from Baidu
Several instances have taken place where multiple Cruise robotaxis have all frozen as a group, sometimes blocking intersections.
I discuss reasons for that, and why it's not that big a deal, in this new article on the Forbes site.
I have written a guide of useful hints and tricks for doing an EV road trip and barely spending any time charging. I've done over 10,000 miles of EV road trips and you can to, once you get an EV.
Read this at Forbes.com:
I have two other articles on Forbes.com that I didn't publish here in the blog:
Now that we can get good EVs, people are moving to SUVs and trucks, as they did with gasoline. It's better than gasoline of course, and cheaper, but there is a hidden cost in needing all that extra energy, beyond extra cost.
San Francisco Fire complained that a Cruise robotaxi delayed a fire truck (but by less than 25 seconds) when it was stuck behind a stopped garbage truck, and the Cruise couldn't pull over in the oncoming lane enough.
Read the Forbes.com story at Cruise Robotaxi delays SFFD fire truck
Travel around and you will find EV pricing anywhere from free, to up to 60 cents/kwh, or sometimes by the minute, with session fees, flat fees, idle fees and more.
The problem is that unlike gasoline, electrical energy isn't the product. It's charging that is the service with a bit of product. How does it make sense to price it?
Read more on Forbes.com at EV charging prices are all over the map, how should they price it
A recent big announcement says the Cavnue consortium and Michigant will build a "Connected Autonomous Vehicle" corridor on I-94 outside Detroit. It's the classic "smart road" which special infrastructure and cars communicating with it.
But is it that smart, or is a dumb highway smarter in the end?
I outline the reasons in this Forbes site article at Michigan wants a smart highway on I-94. A dumb highway is better
I just did my annual maintenance on my Tesla -- adding wiper fluid and putting air in the tires. That's really it. But last year it was different. I had to replace my tires after only 29,000 miles, in part because I mistakenly never rotated them. But there's more to it than just that mistake, so the tires remain a special source of higher maintenance cost you need to worry about.
For the robotaxi business to be worth it, they must get customers who give up car ownership because of the service, and use it regularly. But since robotaxis will have a limited service area, what will they do to make it happen?
I discuss various strategies, including partnering with competitors and linking services areas in a new Forbes site column at What must robotaxis do to make people give up car ownership?
Elon Musk has now teased that Tesla will build its own custom robotaxi, at low cost. This is at odds with their brilliant plan to turn off-lease Teslas into robotaxis, letting somebody else eat up 40% of the depreciation. Will they do both, or do they have a new plan up their sleeve for a small one-person pod?
Read about this in my new Forbes.com story at Tesla teases a Robotaxi, are they crazy to give up off-lease plan?
In my article last week, I outlined how Texas issued grants to build EV charging almost entirely at gas stations, including a chain of mega gas-stations known as Buc-ee's. Buc-ee's may be a great place for gas, but to understand why it may not be right for charging, you have to understand that for gas cars, gas stations are a destination where you get gasoline, and it is nice if they have amenities. For charging to work in its ideal way, you want to have destinations you were going to stop at anyway, which have charging as an amenity, so charging can take nothing from your day.