When robocars must be perfect, and when they need not be

A recent Waymo tester has been challenging Waymo cars to pick him up in unusual pickup spots. Some of the times, the problem is probably being solved by a remote human operator giving advice to the car. What many do not understand is that this is not a flaw, but probably the simplest and cheapest way to solve the problem.

Read more at When robocars must be perfect, and when they need not be


Cheap, fast, surprisingly good Covid testing using scratch-n-sniff

It occurred to me, learning that 80% of Covid infected patients lose their sense of smell (Anosmia) that it should be possible to build the cheapest and most effective Covid screener (for use at entrances to schools/airports/buildings/restaurants) with a simple "scratch-n-sniff" card. These cards, which cost pennies, would come with a set of scratch squares, and under each would be boxes with the names of possible scents. A QR code would (encrypted) have the answer. You sniff, check the boxes and then a phone or other device scans your answer.


Mercedes "Automated Valet Parking" disappoints

Promised for years, you can finally do automated valet parking if you have a 2021 Mercedes S class and park in one garage at Stuttgart airport. First demonstrated at Stanford in 2009, this feature is long overdue, and this implementation is quite disappointing, doing little more than save the driver a few minutes of walking.

I go into the details of what robotic parking could and should do, even today in a new article on Forbes.com at:


The Electoral College: Why it is, Why it's hard to fix, and why it's not as big a deal as you think

As we do every 4 years, people are lamenting about the crazy system of the electoral college. It is archaic and should be replaced, but that's far more easily said than done.

Preventing the chaos of super-close elections

When elections are close, they get chaotic. If the flip of a single vote, at the tie-point, can cause a massive change, like who runs a country, things can go nuts. People will do everything, from legal battles all the way up to the supreme court, to voter suppression, to voter fraud, to fake claims of voter fraud, all to move the needle a tiny bit around that tipping point.


Honda to ship "Traffic Jam Pilot" within 5 months -- limited full self-drive in a consumer car

Honda has announced they have approval for, and will ship a "Traffic Jam Pilot" in the Honda Legend by March 2021. This is a big deal because one of the key differences between driver assist (like Tesla "full" self driving) and a robocar is whether the car takes responsibility. While they will call it level 3, level 3 doesn't really exist. This is a self-driving car for a specific problem area - traffic jams.


Gig-drive companies win fight to not make drivers employees -- what does that mean?

While we've all been obsessed with the big elections, some notable news in California, where a corporate sponsored bill to reverse California AB5 on gig-drivers passed. AB5 would have required drivers for companies like Uber to be employees and not contractors.

What would Uber have done if it had not passed, or what can they do if an employee rule passes somewhere else? I discuss these issues in a new story on Forbes.com:


New Waymo data shows superhuman safety -- they're ready

Waymo collision detail.

In what is perhaps the robocar story of the year, Waymo has released a detailed safety report which shows 6.1 million miles of driving with no at-fault accidents and even a low number of not-at-fault ones. It is now past time for them to deploy a real service. In addition, this throws down the gauntlet at all other companies to be transparent with data.


New Chart of Tesla Autopilot Safety record

Tesla released the latest safety numbers for the 3rd quarter. I decided to put all the numbers on a chart, but corrected for the fact that Autopilot is used almost exclusively on freeways, while non-Autopilot use is a 40-60 mix. The result is that Autopilot and non-Autopilot safety are fairly similar, with Autopilot maybe slightly worse.


Self-driving cars can use game theory to generate a better vehicle code and cooperative road

Traffic jams with selfish drivers could become a thing of the past.

The rise of self-driving cars offers the potential for an entirely new way of regulating vehicles. First, because you can get all the "drivers" of self-driving cars in a room, rules of the road can be quickly negotiated and settled directly, and adhered to robotically, rather than writing complex sets of regulations.


Tesla "full" self driving beta is out, I talk about it

Videos how now emerged from the beta of Tesla's "full self driving" (really a city version of Autopilot.)

In this new article I outline various reactions to the limited amount we know about it today, what it means, and whether it's legal.

Read Tesla’s ‘Full Self-Driving’ Is 99.9% There, Just 1,000 Times Further To Go


Tesla network outage reveals challenges of connected vehicles

Recently Tesla had a network outage which caused a very small number of customers to be unable to authenticate payment at superchargers -- and thus be stranded unable to charge. Due to the larger outage, they could not put in a new credit card either. (The system lost their working cards, they did not have bad cards.)

While it seems only a few were affected, it shows the challenge of having anything critical depend on a network that might go down.


Questions for the Judge

If a judge were hearing a case, and the judge were known to have a strong positive bias or strong resentment of a party before the judge, should the judge recuse?

In our justice system, do we allow parties to a case to select which judge will hear their case? Why?

How do we currently assure that parties do not get to pick their judge?

If you learned that in a case that party in a case before a court had been able to somehow pick their judge, should that judge recuse?


AI boosts videoconferencing, and Waymo puts passengers in and takes drivers out

Two new Forbes site articles this week.

AI boosts videoconferencing

NVIDIA showed off their new platform of AI tools to improve video conferencing, including vast decreases in bandwidth, ability to move a person's head so they look at you and much more.

Read AI Applied To Video Conferencing Kicks It Up Several Notches


How the grid will handle all cars being electric

When California announced it will ban the sale of new gasoline cars in 2035, a lot of people wondered how the electric grid would handle all that new electrical demand.

The answer is (almost) "easy-peasy" thanks to solar being cheap if you have storage tech, and cars all have storage.

I outline why in a new Forbes.com article at The grid will handle it