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.
The future of computer-driven cars and deliverbots
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Tesla's "Battery Day" announced a large set of new improvements in battery technology, manufacturing, and car design. Each one is modest but good, together, Tesla says they add up to a 56% improvement in battery cost and range, which is a big deal.
Read about it in my new Forbes site story at:
In the last legal chapter of the Uber fatality, the Uber safety driver, who was watching a streaming video on her phone instead of watching the road when Uber's buggy vehicle killed a woman in March of 18 will now be charged with negligent homicide.
Not a lot of details, but an update on what this means is at Uber Tempe Fatality safety driver changed with negligent homicde
Uber, following Lyft, announced a big push towards electric rides, declaring all rides will be electric by 2030. That's a good goal, but as I outlined earlier, there are reasons your Uber is not usually electric today. They need to find ways for lower-income drivers to own electric cars and a place to charge them overnight, and also briefly during the day, and we have to wait for the cars to get cheap. I outline the issues in this new article on Forbes.com
I'm fairly convinced that soon we'll see ambulances switch to e-VTOL flying machines. So many advantages, hard to see downsides. Nobody is going to complain about noise and privacy issues of an ambulance. This announcement by an e-VTOL company and an air-ambulance company of a collaborative project is thus interesting, if preliminary. However, it's also interesting that they view hydrogen as the fuel. H2 has lost in cars, but has some positive attributes for planes, particularly an ambulance.
With few other travel options available, everybody's taking road trips, and trying to avoid Covid in hotels, camping where they can. Here's a new article from the Forbes site on charging your car while staying at RV parks and other locations so you can tent it and get off the main roads on your trip.
The design of subways goes back to the late 19th century. Tunnels have virtues, but instead of sending a giant train through them every 5 minutes, in the future we could fill the tunnel with smaller electric vans which go nonstop from station to station (changing lines) and even put their stations at or near the surface for quick access and energy efficiency. Imagine a subway like a modern elevator, where you indicate your destination station and it tells you which van to enter to get there in zero to 2 stops.
I've written a lot about the big effects robocars and other tech will have on cities, when they get here. But since you can't be sure of the date they will arrive, how does a city planner deal with making plans they know will be wrong? Here is some advice from the computer industry on how to do that.
People are studying what Robocars will mean for the disabled. I think they will be a tremendous boon, with more and easier access, much better service, and lower prices. I outline how in my new article on the Forbes site:
For some time, Tesla has published numbers to suggest that driving is safer with autopilot than it is without it, in that cars have fewer accidents per mile with autopilot on than with it off. The problem is autopilot is mostly on when on the highway, when driving is safer, so this would naturally be the case.
Some new data suggests that it's actually modestly less safe or at best a wash.
So Waymo is going to now work exclusively with Chrysler to automate light commercial vehicles such as the large Promaster van.
I examine the debate between moving people and moving cargo with self-driving tech, and also the nature of what a "partnership" is in the space.
Read the story on Forbes.com Waymo to Automated Chrysler Delivery Vans -- More work and less riding?