Robocars

The future of computer-driven cars and deliverbots

Cities stuck in last mile, Stupid Cities, Scooters and the future of Hydrogen

Two articles this week from 3 conferences I attended.

First look at How Cities are Stuck in the "last mile" and other observations from a conferences on cities and new mobility. I examine how scooter companies are working with cities, and how self-driving car tech is mapping cities by keeping the infrastructure dumb.

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Recharging in 10 minutes is less exciting than you think

Lots of folks were forwarding a story about a battery lab at Penn State that has shown a battery that can be recharged in 10 minutes. This is good (and many other labs and companies have demonstrated other ways to do that. But my key reaction is that those who think it's a huge deal are still thinking of electric cars like gasoline cars that you fill up at filing stations. They aren't. With a recent EV, not on a road trip, you charge only at home while you sleep, which takes zero time. Fast charging is not of value there. An article about this can be found in

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Tesla "full" self-driving will jump to $7,000 tomorrow

Elon has tweeted that the price to pay today to get future self-drive features will rise to $7,000 tomorrow. I write some more analysis of this offering and its price in light of this increase. If Tesla really pulls off a full self driving product ahead of everybody else, might it be better to just buy the stock and spend some of the profits on the higher price in the future?

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Waymo unmanned vehicle has debatable encounter with erratic videographer

Watching a 3rd party video of a Waymo minivan operating entirely vacant, I was a bit surprised (at 1:05 in the video) when the van did not pause after the video-shooting driver of the other car pulled up next to it by going into the oncoming lane, and then it cut left in front of that car. All very slow and not dangerous, but not what I expected. In the article in comment #1 I link in the video and muse on the issues of handling situations like this.

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Tesla 3Q numbers are good but still have odd wording

Tesla released their latest Autopilot safety numbers, and they show a good improvement over the previous quarter.

At the same time, they continue to use strange wording in the report and refuse to answer questions about what their wording means or give the clear statistics that would let us evaluate what the stats really mean.

I get into the numbers in my new article Tesla 3Q numbers are good but still have odd wording

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Tesla smart summon is a self-inflicted wound

I tried out smart summon on my Tesla yesterday. Both times it got confused and stuck for so long it blocked parking lot traffic and I had to run into it to move it. Videos have surfaced of the cars (gently) hitting things. Even if there it's working well for many people, these results erode confidence in the capability of Tesla's systems. Tesla has driven over its own foot releasing this product in this state, and for nothing, since it's not at all useful.

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Uber drivers as employees, competing with robotaxis

With a new California law threatening to classify Uber drivers as employees, I examine if a law like that could really work or Uber can get around it, and also what happens if this makes drivers cost more -- and leads them to a tougher battle against their real competitor, the robotaxi.

Read more in my Forbes.com article If Uber drivers become employees, can uber escape that, plus how they compete with robotaxis

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Uber drivers as employees, competing with robotaxis

With a new California law threatening to classify Uber drivers as employees, I examine if a law like that could really work or Uber can get around it, and also what happens if this makes drivers cost more -- and leads them to a tougher battle against their real competitor, the robotaxi.

Read more in my Forbes.com article If Uber drivers become employees, can uber escape that, plus how they compete with robotaxis

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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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