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Robocars

The future of computer-driven cars and deliverbots

Tesla makes a custom neural network chip, is that wise?

Tesla announced it has built its own custom neural network processor to use in Autopilot 3.0 in 2019.

Tesla started mainly using MobilEye's vision chip, but that relationship ended after the first fatality. They have since been using NVIDA GPUs in Autopilot 2.0 and now plan to use their own ASIC.

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Sharing the ride: Less sharing is better for transit, more sharing better for cars

The idea that sharing rides is good has become almost axiomatic in transportation discussions. At conferences I have seen people declare that robocars are pointless if they are not shared -- ie. people who are not travelling together ride together in them. The positive of sharing is so axiomatic that public transit is seen almost as a good in and of itself, rather than a means towards real goals like energy efficiency, low cost, and higher road utilization.

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Will you need geeky glasses to avoid motion sickness in your robocar?

For a lot of people, being a passenger in a car can easily lead to motion sickness, particularly if they try to do something like looking down to read a book or stare at a phone. Not everybody gets this, but it's enough to be a big issue for the robocar world. Drivers usually don't feel this much, but in the robocar world, everybody's a passenger.

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How do we get robotaxi rides down to 30 cents/mile while Uber/Lyft charge 50 cents/mile for just connecting you?

In discussion of the eventual cost of a robotaxi ride, I and others have forecast costs similar to the all-in cost of car ownership. Today that's 40 to 60 cents/mile (plus parking) and for a one person electric "city car" it can be under 20 cents. Note that in building these costs I am looking at the full retail cost today including:

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Is BRT the best answer for bewildered city planners?

I was asked by the New York Times to comment on what future city transportation plans should look like. In a short piece, they could not repeat all I said, so I will expand a bit here.

My main advice to cities is that nobody, including myself, has the exact answer on how transportation will look in 2030 or beyond. (They are making plans for 2030 and even 2040 now.) Because we can't know, my advice is to design to be flexible. Design to be able to change your mind.

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Banishing tour groups with Uber and AI

I hate tour groups. I hate the very rare times I am part of one, and I hate encountering them at tourist locations. And with few exceptions, I suspect most people also hate several aspects of them, other than perhaps when it's a group of family or friends. Like so much of the tourist world, I think there is immense room for improvement thanks to new communications and transportation technology.

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Robocar "Shark Tank" issues: Cheap rides, vandalism, jobs, dystopia and more

For the second year at the Automated Vehicles Summit, we held a "Shark Tank" where there were 4 pitches on controversial ideas in robocars, and the 4 sharks (including myself) and the audience debated them. While these breakout sessions are on Chatham House Rules, I can certainly outline my own views.

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Day 2 of AVS -- Future Boston, Ethics, Jobs and new NHTSA director

Day two of AUVSI/TRB Automated Vehicle Summit

WEF studies Boston

Simulation and other studies were done by Boston Consulting Group for the World Economic Forum. Their study contains some interesting conclusions about shifts in urban traffic in several cities.

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Can you survey customer opinion of a product that doesn't exist?

The AUVSI/TRB "Automated Vehicles Summit" kicked off this morning with a report from JD Power on consumer attitudes. I am very skeptical of all such surveys. They seem as useful as a survey from 2005 about what people would do with the iPhone after it comes out in 2 years. Such a survey would surely have reported almost nobody planned to get one or would use it in the ways people actually do.

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Don't watch TV while safety driving

The Tempe police released a detailed report on their investigation of Uber's fatality. I am on the road and have not had time to read it, but the big point, reported in many press was that the safety driver was, according to logs from her phone accounts, watching the show "The Voice" via Hulu on her phone just shortly before the incident.

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Did Uber really botch the switch to one driver and a timeline of the failure

Yesterday I examined some of the details released by the NTSB about the Uber fatality. Now I want to dig deeper with speculation as to the why. Of course, speculation is risky, though I can claim a pretty good track record. When I outlined various possible causes of the incident just after it, I put 4 at the top. I figured that only one might be true, but it turned out that two were (Misclassification as a bicycle, and the car wanting to stop but being unable to actuate the brakes) though I did not suspect Uber deliberately blocked the car from doing hard stops. So I'll try my luck at speculating again.

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NTSB Report implies serious fault for Uber in fatality

The NTSB has released its preliminary report on the fatality involving the Uber prototype self driving car. The NTSB does not attempt to assign blame, but there are some damning facts in the report.

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No, ads won't pay for your robotaxi ride -- but your employer might, and that has big consequences

Most of the press reported a research report from UBS securities claiming Waymo is now worth $75B to Google because it is poised to dominate the robotaxi business. In addition to this, it claimed that business would be $1.2 trillion by 2030, with an additional $472 billion for "in car monetization." (Total Google revenue was $110 billion in 2017.)

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Safety Drivers for Robocars -- the issues and rationale

The wake of Tesla's incident has caused a lot more questions about the concept of testing prototype robocars on public roads supervised by "safety drivers." Is it putting the public at risk for corporate benefit? Are you a guinea pig in somebody's experiment against your will? Is it safe enough? Is there another way?

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Uber reported to have made an error tuning perception system

The newsletter "The Information" has reported a leak from Uber about their fatal accident. You can read the article but it is behind a very expensive paywall. The relevant quote:

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Waymo has a crash in Chandler, but is not at fault.

A crash today with a Waymo van is getting attention coming in the same area just a short time after the Uber fatality, but Waymo will not be assigned fault -- the driver of the car that hit the Waymo van veered out of his lane into oncoming traffic because of somebody else who was incurring on the intersection. Only minor injuries, but higher energy than prior crashes for Waymo.

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