Robocars Podcast: Hot issues of Jan 2023

I have done an experimental podcast discussion show on the hot future-of-transportation issues so far this year.

You can watch it on YouTube, where I have chapter markers to let you easily find the topics of interest to you, as we spoke for almost one hour and 20 minutes. I was joined by Mario Herger of The Last Driver Licence Holder

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San Francisco Fire Dept. Decided They Should Smash The Window Of A Cruise Robotaxi. Did They Overdo It?

On Jan 21, SF Fire Dept. crews, worried a Cruise robotaxi was about to drive through their fire scene, smashed in its window. They said it wasn't stopping, and back when Cruise first began one of its cars did drive over a fire hose. Digging into the details though, Cruise said it had stopped after trying to pull over, and did what they expected. So what should it do, and does the fact that that Cruise takes the conservative approach in such situations of stopping and waiting for rescue constitute a big safety problem, or just a teething pain as they test and learn.

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They will rent you an EV, but Avis, Hertz, Budget charge fat fees if you don't recharge it. Oops.

Rental car companies are starting to rent EVs, which is great for many rentals. But Hertz and Avis/Budget have a fat fee if you don't return it recharged, and on some rentals that can be a real burden as you can't just "stop by the gas station for 5 minutes on the way to the airport." Though if your hotel has charging, it's even easier to refill than a gas car.

So I examine what all the rental companies do and what the fee means and how they charge the cars in this Forbes.com article.

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MIT/IEEE-Published Study Falsely Imagines Computing In Robocars Will Emit Lots Of Carbon. Relax, It’s Unlikely

An annoying paper argues that self-driving cars will use huge amounts of compute and thus have a giant carbon footprint. The boring way that it's wrong is that the compute load will not grow as they suggest.

The more interesting way that it's wrong is that self-driving EVs will draw most of their power from no-emission generation sources like solar and nuclear, even if they do use a lot of power.

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I Get Back In A Waymo To Ride In San Francisco With A Top Waymo Developer And It’s Good (+Video)

I recently took a ride in a fully autonomous Waymo vehicle in San Francisco. It was my first ride in many years — I had been a member of the early team while it was part of Google. My guide on the ride was Andrew Chatham, whom I had worked with back then. He is now a Distinguished Engineer, managing fleet logistics and many other things, and reporting directly to Waymo’s co-CEO.

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New "Autonomap" maps self-driving services around the world

I have started building a map of all the autonomous services deployed carrying passengers or cargo. The services must be available to the public and out in public or semi-public spaces.

Turns out there are a lot. Contributions are welcome.

More details and info on contributing can be found at the map page

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Teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts (Critical Thinking) to all students

Probably not the teacher, or even somebody impersonating him, but the right idea.

I believe a new course should be added to the curriculum for teens. It would be a course on critical thinking skills, covering all the ways people will try to fool you and tricks of the human mind, to arm students against these traps.

California Law Tries To Force Tesla To Rename ‘FSD’ Product But It May Not Work

California recently passed a law that is obviously aimed at forcing Tesla to stop using the name “Full Self-Driving” to describe the expensive software add-on they sell for their cars which does not, at this time, provide self driving, full or otherwise. The ostensible reason for this is to avoid customer confusion and the potential danger that could come from people thinking they have a self-driving car when they don’t.

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Meet Gatik, Which May Be The Leader In Self-Driving Trucks By Attacking The Middle Mile

Many companies are working on self-driving trucks and delivery. As it became clear that robotaxi required a very large investment, teams looked for a more tractable problem. Most have gone after long-haul trucking on the interstate, but one leader has quietly gone after the “middle mile” while others go after long-haul and last-mile.

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Waymo And Cruise Make Big Boosts In Robotaxi Service

Cruise and Waymo, the clear #2 and #1 (respectively) in the Robotaxi race, have recently expanded their service areas for public access rides and driving with nobody in the vehicle. It’s a continued positive milestone in a year that has seen many setbacks for self-driving projects.

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Elon Musk Gets Booed On Stage In SF - How Much Is That Hurting Tesla Stock?

Musk himself was surprised to see how controversial he had become when he got a lot of booing on stage with Dave Chappelle in San Francisco last night.

Musk has always been somebody who refused to give a crap what other people think, because he can afford it. But now that his personal brand is so tied to the success of both Tesla and Twitter, he has to deal with the fact that personal brand is largely what other people think.

Analysis of this problem, and how it affects the success and stock price of Tesla, is in this new article on the Forbes site:

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Tesla adding Radar, Apple Scales Back, Tesla Semi, Baidu expansion & Swiss power emergency

Here's a digest of some of my recent postings on Forbes.com

Tesla may add radar back

A filing suggests Tesla may be putting a radar back in their cars, but this time a high resolution radar, which is a bit like the LIDAR they swore was a crutch. It would be a good idea.

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Does it make sense to have off-grid solar in parking lots to charge cars?

Generally it doesn't make sense (and isn't that green) to have off-grid solar compared to grid-tied solar. However, a new company sells a self-contained solar EV charging station for parking lots which they claim is cheaper than on-grid, because you can just get it delivered in one day with no permits, planning, wiring or construction.

It's true that all those factors are now the biggest element of charging and solar installations.

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