2021 Year in Review for Robocars


Here's my annual countdown of the biggest stories in self-driving for 2021. This year I have a summary of my text stories, and also made a video countdown because there's lots of nice background video to use.

You can read the text version on the Forbes site at:

Robocars 2021 year in review


I wonder if Tesla do find vision only, with strong input from the NHTSA, is not good enough. Maybe they will end up purchasing a LIDAR company to catch up and skip RADAR?

Tesla has charged hundreds of thousands of customer $10K to provide FSD. If they need a major hardware retrofit it's a loser. There is nowhere to easily put a LIDAR on Tesla cars with their glass roof, though there are some that go into the headlamps or in the rearview mirror but that makes it more difficult.

Fair call, although as I understand vision systems they can have a weakness in understanding the distance to stationary objects against the background. Even a basic forward looking LIDAR (or Radar) could give a last few seconds warning of a serious failure. I guess there are huge costs either in introducing it or not having it. Probably one for both Tesla the NHTSA to sort out.

No top-hats and skateboards for you.

Have you read David Twohig's opinion A Skateboard ain't a Platform.

The OEMs will defend their turf given the bruises from Tesla.

Most of his points are valid, though not all can't be solved. Certainly networking and power are done in more modern ways where they can be divided. But yes, the vehicle will need to be designed for strength as a whole, and the frame of the top hat won't just be quickly bolted on the base, I suspect the bases will be designed with a variety of structural bodies meant to be "on top of" (really structurally a part of) and the rest hung on that.

The skateboard companies want to be the big guys, who call the shots on their product and on what can be done with it. So you're not going to just buy it and screw something on top of it. If you're also big you can demand things you need in the skateboard, otherwise you take what you are given.

Or it might never work, as he says. That's the situation with Waymo and Geely. Waymo is doing overall high level design, Geely making the full structure of the vehicle, but leaving places on it for Waymo to bolt on sensors. I suspect Geely will run the wiring to Waymo's spec, or just leave conduits for them to do that. Waymo will want to do only what they feel they must do, which is sensors, networking, internal screen. They will be happy to leave the rest to Geely. Waymo is a big enough customer that many aspects of the vehicle will be Waymo's design though. And I suspect Waymo will own the VIN, not that it matters because nobody will ever buy the vehicle.

responses always appreciated.

The VIN implication is a good addition to the analysis. This is for liability reasons mostly?

A modern car is made by many different supplies. Big car OEMs may make almost none of their car, but they design it and sell it, using contract manufacturers. But they "own the vin" which makes them responsible for liabilities on it. Or sometimes they do the final assembly, or rarely they make everything important in it.

But in a vehicle that will never be sold, just used as a taxi, that does not matter as much.

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