Robocars

The future of computer-driven cars and deliverbots

Falling asleep with Autopilot on -- does it explain Tesla's numbers?

If you fall asleep while driving with Autopilot, it's not a good idea, but you're much safer than falling asleep in a car that doesn't have it. Since a lot of accidents are caused by falling asleep, could this be the reason for Tesla's claim that driving with Autopilot is much safer than not? Or is that claim itself even valid? I outline the logic and math in my new Forbes site article at:

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Tesla battery guru and new super-lifetime cell

Tesla's "battery guru" from Halifax, NS released a paper on some new battery cells they have been testing in his lab and getting 6,000 cycles from 0 to 100% on. That's a lot better than today's cells which offer 2000 cycles from 20% to 80% if you are lucky. This could be very big for electric cars, grid storage and it is suggested even robotaxis -- but their needs turn out to be more straightforward than originally thought. But it does bring down the cost.

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NTSB lets us look inside a new Tesla accident, what does it tell us?

Because Tesla Autopilot is driving tons of miles it's having accidents, and the NTSB in investigating them. That gives us a window we would not have into what's happening. The NTSB report on a non-injury Autopilot accident came out recently, and let's just learn what Tesla's autopilot didn't perceive.

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Ford's sensor cleaner and handling sensor failure in robocars

A recent Ford article on how they clean bug splatter off their LIDAR prompted me to write about how you do redundancy in robocars to deal with the inevitable failure of sensors and other components. It's a software way of thinking, not a "make the hardware more reliable" approach.

Read it at Ford's sensor cleaner keeps it seeing, but how do we handle failures?

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Ford's sensor cleaner and handling sensor failure in robocars

A recent Ford article on how they clean bug splatter off their LIDAR prompted me to write about how you do redundancy in robocars to deal with the inevitable failure of sensors and other components. It's a software way of thinking, not a "make the hardware more reliable" approach.

Read it at Ford's sensor cleaner keeps it seeing, but how do we handle failures?

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Will networked self driving cars become a surveillance nightmare?

As I've written earlier, Tesla has the ability to load special "search" neural networks into the cars to hunt for things they want to use to train with. In this article on Forbes, I hypothesize the day when there's an Amber Alert, and police ask to load networks to search for the car and people involved, and it quickly works. And then police get a taste for this, not just in the USA but China and other places. Where does it lead and can we stop it?

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Is Waymo's 70% satisfaction score bad news or good news

Some customer satisfaction scores leaked from Waymo and were posted by "The Information." The story depicts the 70% 5-star rating as very much a glass-half-empty story, worrying about the problem rides. I think that's actually a very impressive score, and a sign of great things to come, which I detail in the new Forbes site story at:

Waymo's poor 70% satisfaction rate is actuall

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Tesla Autopilot alleged failure makes you wonder about how they train it

Another Tesla car crash, allegedly on autopilot, teaches us something about how well (or not well) Tesla is doing with its claimed ability to use its fleet of cars to quickly learn to identify unusual obstacles and situations. Here, a Tesla on autopilot crashes into a tow truck sticking out into the right lane (injuring the Tesla driver.) The driver says it was on Autopilot but that he was distracted for a few seconds.

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How to not waste most of the public EV charging infrastructure

Over 60,000 EV charging stations have been installed in the US. But a huge number of them see fairly light use because they are not in the right place for the current generation of electric cars, and not for the coming self-driving ones.

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We need to stop talking about "car sharing" because it means two different things

At the Automated Vehicle Summit, and in may other places, one of the watchwords is "sharing." Everything is going to be great because robocar technology enables "sharing." Yet people use it to mean two different things -- taxi hailing and riding in groups -- and they don't really understand the real consequences of both.

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New evolution in safety thinking

I'm back from the AUVSI/TRB "Automated Vehicles Summit," this year in Orlando, Florida.

The opening session, kicked off by Chris Urmson of Aurora, was about current approaches to safety. In the various presentations, I noticed an evolution in thinking about safety, which I describe in this Forbes site article. We've moving away from incidents and miles and functional safety to operational safety and risk management.

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Cruise admits it will not deploy in 2019 -- is the "hard city first" strategy right?

It's not a big surprise, but Cruise has announced they will not meet their goal of deploying in 2019. Cruise says deploying in San Francisco is 40x harder than a place like Phoenix where Waymo is deploying, but that once they solve this harder problem, they will be the leader.

Is that the right strategy? I examine this in a new Forbes site article:

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Figuring out parking for robocars

People are working hard to get robocars to handle public streets, but they also need to handle private parking lots for parking, pick-up and drop-off. Private lots have all sorts of strange rules, so a system is needed to make it easy to map them and make those maps and rules available to cars. I outline such a system in a new Forbes site article found here:

How Self Driving Cars will figure out Parking

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GM/Cruise leaks show them way, way behind Waymo. It's time for better metrics from everybody

Cruise car with sensors all around.

GM's "Cruise" robocar unit is often cited as #2 behind Waymo. Some recent leaks of their internal metrics for progress paint a dim picture; that they aren't nearly as far along as they hoped, which does not bode well for the planned 2019 launch. In fact, they show as an order of magnitude behind where Google/Waymo was back in 2015.

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In spite of the hype, 5G is not crucial for robocars

You've seen the hype and battles over 5G. You may also have seen claims that one of the most important reasons we need 5G is communication with robocars. While more bandwidth and lower latency are never bad things, it's a mistake to presume the cars are doing to depend on them, or that getting 5G is some sort of blocking factor.

I explain the (fairly low) bandwidth needs of cars in a new Forbes.com article:

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