A new company offering battery swap for EVs launches today. They convert the car's battery pack to use standardize 2.5kwh modules, and cheap robotic stations swap them out. Battery swap has a number of useful advantages, but it's failed before because it's not actually that great a solution for private car owners, and it standardizes the most important area of EV innovation.
The future of computer-driven cars and deliverbots
In 2008, I wondered what we could do to help you avoid getting motion sick as a passenger in a self-driving car. I wondered if you could make audio cues to warn the mind of upcoming turns, or just alert you to look up. Researchers with Volvo recently experimented with similar ideas, and the answer was yes, it helps. Here's my article about this and other comfort issues on future robocars, which may produce a ride that's almost like sitting still.
Rumours swirl constantly about an Apple Car. Here is my Forbes site piece on what sort of car Apple would make: Expensive but superior, non-standard, well-designed, electric but charges itself when you're not using it, self-driving and surprising. For details see:
The California Robocar disengagement reports. They don't tell us a great deal but here is some analysis with tidbits learned from them, and a discussion of why Tesla is missing.
In the study of how much profit Robotaxis can make it's interesting to note that even in the Pandemic year, Didi will make a billion dollar profit from ride hail, while Uber continues to lose money and make people wonder if it can ever be profitable.
Didi's profit suggests the path to robotaxi profitability is attainable. Some more data is at this Forbes site article:
Earlier, AutoX started doing limited tests with staff of a robotaxi service with no safety driver on board in Pingshan, a suburb of Shenzen. Now, this service is available to the general public. No numbers yet, but it shows they have the confidence.
More details at AutoX opens robotaxi service to the public
People don't talk as much about MobilEye (Intel) in the self-driving race, but their strategy is different and interesting, and they are the most established in working with automakers. I have an article discussing some elements of their strategy include a very different approach to sensor fusion and mapping, among other things.
Read my new Forbes site column at MobilEye's strategy to win self driving
It was a much bigger year for Robocars than anybody expected. At the start of the year everybody felt we were in a "robocar winter" with things slowing down and pulling back. Instead, the year showed big milestones and huge valuations.
This year, in addition to my traditional text review, I have done it as a video for those who prefer that. The video can be seen below on Youtube:
So which app will you open to call a ride in the robotaxi world? Uber now will link with Aurora -- but is Uber's position in the ride-selling world unassailable? Will Waymo/Google, Cruise, Amazon/Zoox, Tesla or others win the day? I look at competitive factors in the race to replace selling cars with selling rides.
Uber's self-driving unit (ATG) has been merged/sold to Aurora, a high flying startup with a combined valuation of $10B, but a big drop for Uber and climb for Aurora. I outline the odd nature of the deal in this new article as the robocar news just keeps on coming. It's not winter any more.
See a new Forbes site article at Uber ATG And Aurora Merge To Staggering $10B Valuation
Zoox (now a unit of Amazon) has been secretive about their custom vehicle design, with a reveal set for Dec 12. It was photographed out in the wild yesterday, though, so I have written a new Forbes site column about their design -- similar to a few others, but with diferent LIDAR design and other goodies.
It's only with special guests and staff, but AutoX has followed Waymo in starting a robotaxi service with no safety drivers on board, with all 25 of their vehicles in Shenzen. It means they are getting very confident in their system.
Read more details in a new Forbes site piece at AutoX begins no-safety-driver taxi pilot in Shenzen
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.