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How good a business is running a robotaxi?

Most of the major players want to run a robotaxi business -- Uber style ride service using robocars. Yet some have started to wonder if this is the best business model, or if it's even a good one, while companies invest billions in it.

In this new article on Forbes.com I investigate some of these questions and why the players are investing these sum, and what sort of profits they might make.

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WeRide safety driver caught napping -- why is this still happening? Plus new LIDAR

A video shows a WeRide safety driver apparently sleeping on the job on Highway 85 in San Jose. After Uber's fatality 3 years ago, are some operators still not monitoring driver attention?

I asked WeRide and learned only part of the answer at WeRide safety driver caught napping -- why is this still happening?

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Power line crawling robots become real

I predict and propose many things online. It's nice to note when they become real. In this article from 2006, I describe the value of a robot that could crawl along power lines laying fiber and TIL that Facebook has indeed built such a robot. This week they have released it with the odd name of Bombyx.

Most Self-Driving Demonstrations Are Theater, Here’s How To Make Them More Real

You have probably seen many demonstration videos of self-driving cars navigating the roads with aplomb. They show us a little about what the system can do but as long as they are cherry picked, they don't really tell us how the team is doing.

They could do better if they drive a random road at a pre-announced random time and stream it live, so there can be no cherry picking. Time to start.

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The Lucid Air Dream has over 500 miles of range -- worth it or a giant splurge?

The new high end versions of the Lucid Air luxury electric car -- the Grand Touring and Dream -- report a range of over 500 miles from a 113kwh battery. They do this at a high price -- $130K and $170K! What do you really get for 500 miles of range? It's obviously nice, but is it worth it at this high cost?

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NHTSA investigates Tesla crashes into emergency vehicles, what does it all mean?

NHTSA is investigating 12 crashes by Teslas on Autopilot into emergency vehicles on the side of the road. It's also asking the other companies who make products like Autopilot for their statistics. What can be done to prevent these crashes, and are any number of them acceptable? Is Tesla doing things wrong or doing it better than anybody else? We may learn that and the issues are complex.

I discuss them in this new Forbes.com article:

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Unusual charging on a 5,000 mile electric car road trip

Rounding out my 3 part series on doing a 5,000 mile international road trip in a Tesla, I talk about the times I used slower chargers. The world installed vast numbers of slow chargers at huge expense in a giant waste of money, but they do have virtues on a road trip, and eventually all hotels will have them. On a road trip charge and range become very important and sometimes they save the day.

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Good and bad about using a 12v fridge on a Tesla road trip

On road trips many people like to have a cooler. For my most recent trip I graduated to getting a 12v compressor fridge, a real fridge that, in theory, needs no ice. I presumed that in an electric car, with a giant battery, running the fridge would be no problem (it uses up only about 2 miles worth of range electricity per day.)

That turned out not to be the case due to a bad way the Tesla 12v system is designed. I wrote up this story of the ins and outs of using a fridge in a car, and how to fix the 12v problem in this new story on Forbes.com

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Forget smart cities, you need to make your infrastructure stupid to survive the future

The instinct of many transportation planners is to make "smart infrastructure," and to try to make plans for it going out 30 years. That's impossible, nobody knows what smart will mean in 5 years. The internet solve this problem, and grew by making the infrastructure as stupid as possible, and it revolutionized the world. The internet teaches lessons for how all infrastructure planning must go in the future -- keep the physical as simple as possible, do everything in the virtual, software layer.

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Using electric school buses to power the grid / Remote driving and Starlink

Vehicle to Grid (v2g) to provide power from car batteries is tough. A new venture wants to do it with electric school buses, which follow a fixed schedule and have big batteries. I examine how that would work at:

Electric Schoolbuses and V2G

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Self-Driving Teams Have Always Strived To Measure Safety. What If That’s Not The Hard Thing?

In the robocar world, everybody is safety-obsessed. But what if what's holding things up isn't that, but the fact that focus on safety had delayed the good road citizenship needed to operate a real service. Is good road citizenship even harder than safety? What ways might we measure it and get the trade-off right. I discuss this in a new Forbes site article seen in:

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Aboard the Energy Observer, a French hydrogen/solar/wind powered boat

I got a chance to visit the Energy Observer, a French boat powered by solar and wind with hydrogen energy storage as it visited SF while sailing around the world.

Hydrogen doesn't work so well in cars, but it can make sense in other places like aircraft, trucks and grid. But what about on a boat?

Read my analysis at Aboard the Energy Observer, a French hydrogen/solar/wind powered boat

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Scale Mapping; Pony.AI driving in China; Waymo Pride

Updating a few stories reported before (including Monday) I note that Scale.AI has launched their mapping service, which helps people tag and label maps more efficiently. Pony.AI shows off they are doing taxi tests with no safety driver in China, where roads are more complex than in Fremont, California. And Waymo shows off its Pride.

Read about these in this Forbes.com article Scale Mapping; Pony.AI driving in China; Waymo Pride

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Robocar news round up: Waymo, Pony.AI, Cruise, Baidu, Kodak, Nuro and more.

Last week saw a flurry of robocar news. The most significant was the deployment of no-safety-driver testing by Pony.AI in Fremont, CA, but there's also big funding news for Waymo, Cruise and Kodiak, Deepmap is sold to Nvidia, new taxis for Baidu, deals for Nuro and a collision between a Waymo and a scooter in SF -- in manual mode. Read all about it in my round up at:

Robocar News Roundup

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Summary of interesting headlines from The Information and TechCrunch simultaneous conferences

Two major virtual self-driving conferences scheduled themselves for June 9. So I went to both, of course. Interesting news tidbids came from Argo, Starship, Scale, Chinese robotaxi makers, Zoox and many others. I summarize it here:

Summary of interesting headlines from The Information and TechCrunch simultaneous conferences

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Cruise gets vacant robotaxi test permit for California

Cruise has been granted a permit to begin unmanned robotaxi tests in California. But they aren't allowed to charge, which forbids a lot of useful research, and explains why Waymo hasn't bothered with that permit yet. I discuss why it's so useful to experiment with payment in this Forbes site article at:

Cruise gets vacant robotaxi test permit for California

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Google Meet and others up the video meeting game, what's next?

New in Meet

Recently, Google showed off some new features for Google Meet. The key new feature, with the odd name of "companion mode" addresses a major problem of meetings which have a central meeting room with multiple people, and a variety of people outside "calling in."

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