Nvidia simulator and Safety Force Field and other news from GTC

This week I am at the Nvidia GPU Technology Conference, which has become a significant conference for machine learning, robots and robocars.

Here is my writeup on a couple of significant announcements from Nvidia -- a new simulation platform and a "safety force field" minder for robocar software, along with radar localization and Volvo parking projects.

News from Nvidia GTC


Visit to Lake Berryessa "Glory Hole" spillway gallery

A minor local spot of interest here is the spillway for the Lake Berryessa reservoir. Unlike most spillways, this one drains from the top on the interior of the lake. It is called a "Morning Glory" or "Glory Hole" spillway. From time to time, the lake level gets above that spillway, sometimes far above, and it creates something that looks completely wrong, like a hole in the fabric of space time. So we went up to photograph it.


Where's my flying car? Coming in for a landing...

Opener predicts the Blackfly will be for sale in 2019

Readers all know I love robocars and write about the tremendous effect they will have on our lives and cities. But a new technology, running about a decade behind but now real, is coming which could have even more dramatic effects, the e-VTOL or "flying car."

Autopilot review Update

Of course, just after releasing my review of Tesla Autopilot they announced new pricing and features, with some explanation of what "full self drive" is.

For now, it turns out it's still driver assist, but on city streets. It's an interesting question if that's a good idea. I offer some additional analysis and updates.

Read my Update to Tesla Autopilot Review


I still want better luggage solutions

The more you travel the less luggage you want to take. Our world where a laptop and phone can almost do it all, combined with the cloud, is helping. But sometimes you have to bring stuff in checked suitcases.

When you do road trips, especially outside the USA, you learn that most cars don't have the trunk space of North American cars, not even close. You're lucky to get two rigid body suitcases in the typical small car, 3 needs a car with special capacity.

We need a world where open source robocars are possible

An early student robocar at Stanford

We all love open source. But the usual rules of open source break down if every vehicle deployed on the road has to have gone through a complex and expensive safety certification process. You can't just download, patch and go.

So we need other solutions to allow the world of the tinkerer/hacker and the innovation and superior function it can provide.


Ethics professors solve the "Trolley Problem" by debating switching tracks to kill 1 person vs. 5. Engineers solve it by fixing the brakes.

Since the famous Trolley Problem has come up again recently thanks to the MIT Moral Machine, it's time for what seems to be an annual debunking of the notion.

This time, to illustrate the pithy headline above, I tell the story of why the hypothetical situation is even rarer than people imagine because of the way braking and steering systems are designed on robocars, and how their driving patterns will be designed to minimize risk.


The end of the A380 and California HSR teach us smaller is better

It was just too big to succeed

I have written often about the new economies in transportation that future technology like robocars provide. In my research I've learned something that seems to not be well known in the transportation world -- that often, smaller is better and more energy efficient.