Robocars

The future of computer-driven cars and deliverbots

NHTSA investigates Tesla crashes into emergency vehicles, what does it all mean?

NHTSA is investigating 12 crashes by Teslas on Autopilot into emergency vehicles on the side of the road. It's also asking the other companies who make products like Autopilot for their statistics. What can be done to prevent these crashes, and are any number of them acceptable? Is Tesla doing things wrong or doing it better than anybody else? We may learn that and the issues are complex.

I discuss them in this new Forbes.com article:

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Forget smart cities, you need to make your infrastructure stupid to survive the future

The instinct of many transportation planners is to make "smart infrastructure," and to try to make plans for it going out 30 years. That's impossible, nobody knows what smart will mean in 5 years. The internet solve this problem, and grew by making the infrastructure as stupid as possible, and it revolutionized the world. The internet teaches lessons for how all infrastructure planning must go in the future -- keep the physical as simple as possible, do everything in the virtual, software layer.

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Using electric school buses to power the grid / Remote driving and Starlink

Vehicle to Grid (v2g) to provide power from car batteries is tough. A new venture wants to do it with electric school buses, which follow a fixed schedule and have big batteries. I examine how that would work at:

Electric Schoolbuses and V2G

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Self-Driving Teams Have Always Strived To Measure Safety. What If That’s Not The Hard Thing?

In the robocar world, everybody is safety-obsessed. But what if what's holding things up isn't that, but the fact that focus on safety had delayed the good road citizenship needed to operate a real service. Is good road citizenship even harder than safety? What ways might we measure it and get the trade-off right. I discuss this in a new Forbes site article seen in:

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Scale Mapping; Pony.AI driving in China; Waymo Pride

Updating a few stories reported before (including Monday) I note that Scale.AI has launched their mapping service, which helps people tag and label maps more efficiently. Pony.AI shows off they are doing taxi tests with no safety driver in China, where roads are more complex than in Fremont, California. And Waymo shows off its Pride.

Read about these in this Forbes.com article Scale Mapping; Pony.AI driving in China; Waymo Pride

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Robocar news round up: Waymo, Pony.AI, Cruise, Baidu, Kodak, Nuro and more.

Last week saw a flurry of robocar news. The most significant was the deployment of no-safety-driver testing by Pony.AI in Fremont, CA, but there's also big funding news for Waymo, Cruise and Kodiak, Deepmap is sold to Nvidia, new taxis for Baidu, deals for Nuro and a collision between a Waymo and a scooter in SF -- in manual mode. Read all about it in my round up at:

Robocar News Roundup

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Summary of interesting headlines from The Information and TechCrunch simultaneous conferences

Two major virtual self-driving conferences scheduled themselves for June 9. So I went to both, of course. Interesting news tidbids came from Argo, Starship, Scale, Chinese robotaxi makers, Zoox and many others. I summarize it here:

Summary of interesting headlines from The Information and TechCrunch simultaneous conferences

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Cruise gets vacant robotaxi test permit for California

Cruise has been granted a permit to begin unmanned robotaxi tests in California. But they aren't allowed to charge, which forbids a lot of useful research, and explains why Waymo hasn't bothered with that permit yet. I discuss why it's so useful to experiment with payment in this Forbes site article at:

Cruise gets vacant robotaxi test permit for California

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Teslas with LIDARs and no radar -- it's not what you think.

Some buzz has arisen due to photos of a Tesla with a LIDAR on it, and hints that Tesla is dropping radar from their cars in a hurry. Is this a major change of heart, par for the course, or a response to the chip shortage.

See analysis of that at this new Forbes site article:

Teslas with LIDARs and no radar -- it's not what you think.

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Waymo Peforms Embarrassingly In Construction Cone Situation

A recently released video shows Waymo having some real problems when it encounters a construction zone it doesn't understand (that's expected) but then the remote ops team gives the wrong instructions and a comedy of errors follows. I discuss it here:

Waymo Peforms Embarrassingly In Construction Cone Situation

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VW will sell you self-driving for $8.50/hour some day. Too high or too low?

A VW executive suggested they might sell you a real self-driving function (when they have it) for around $8.50 per hour, as opposed to paying for it in a lump sum when you buy the car as Tesla plans.

What are the economics like of buying self-driving by the hour?

Read about that in my Forbes.com article at VW will sell you self-driving for $8.50/hour some day. Too high or too low?

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NTSB early report on Tesla crash has just a few more details

The controversial Tesla crash in Texas is probably not so controversial. The NTSB's preliminary report only releases a few tidbits of information, but they point to Autopilot not being involved.

Read NTSB early report on Tesla crash has just a few more details

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Baidu Apollo opens up robotaxi service in Beijing

The new services keep coming, and now Baidu/Apollo has opened up a robotaxi service in outer Beijing, at an industrial park. While they call it fully driverless, they still have an employee in the passenger seat who is told to do nothing. This is in contrast with AutoX's service near Shenzhen and a few others, as we move closer to a true robotaxi service.

Details, and contrast with AutoX are in my new Forbes site article at:

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Tesla reveals more details on fatal Texas crash, it's a locked-room murder mystery

Tesla released some important new details on the Texas crash that everybody's talking about (but probably shouldn't be talking that much about.)

The new details are not enough, though. Information is now contradictory until we learn more. Was there somebody in the driver's seat or not? We've learned that cruise control did play a role, but are told it brought the car to a stop, which it clearly didn't.

Read more details in this piece at:

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Virtues of maps, beyond safety

My client DeepMap asked me to write an article listing various benefits that can come from having good maps, over and above their obvious use in localization, perception and safety.

You can find this post at Here Be Dragons: Surprising benefits of maps

As before, since this is done for a client, I want to disclose that conflict of interest, but what I put under my own byline does represent my views.

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What we know and don't know about the Tesla crash

There has been much coverage about a fatal Tesla crash in Texas because police say the car didn't have anybody in the driver's seat. Elon Musk says Autopilot was not engaged, though of course the dead men may have been trying to pull a stunt hoping they could engage it in an area it isn't supposed to work. It didn't work.

So here's my analysis of what we know and don't know and why there probably is no big new story here.

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Here be Dragons - New Blog post for DeepMap

I've been working as a paid advisor to DeepMap, which builds technology to allow self-driving teams and ADAS-Pilot systems to create the maps which allow them to work and get greater safety.

As part of that project, they have invited me to write some blog posts for them. The first, explaining just what high definitions maps are, how they came to be, and why they are valuable is now available to read.

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