So which app will you open to call a ride in the robotaxi world? Uber now will link with Aurora -- but is Uber's position in the ride-selling world unassailable? Will Waymo/Google, Cruise, Amazon/Zoox, Tesla or others win the day? I look at competitive factors in the race to replace selling cars with selling rides.
Uber's self-driving unit (ATG) has been merged/sold to Aurora, a high flying startup with a combined valuation of $10B, but a big drop for Uber and climb for Aurora. I outline the odd nature of the deal in this new article as the robocar news just keeps on coming. It's not winter any more.
See a new Forbes site article at Uber ATG And Aurora Merge To Staggering $10B Valuation
Zoox (now a unit of Amazon) has been secretive about their custom vehicle design, with a reveal set for Dec 12. It was photographed out in the wild yesterday, though, so I have written a new Forbes site column about their design -- similar to a few others, but with diferent LIDAR design and other goodies.
As vaccine approval nears, you've no doubt heard proposals to speed up vaccine testing with what is known as a "challenge" trial, where you deliberately infect volunteers with the virus. This approach is controversial, but has been around for some time. There are already organizations collecting volunteers, and tens of thousands have signed up.
It's only with special guests and staff, but AutoX has followed Waymo in starting a robotaxi service with no safety drivers on board, with all 25 of their vehicles in Shenzen. It means they are getting very confident in their system.
Read more details in a new Forbes site piece at AutoX begins no-safety-driver taxi pilot in Shenzen
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.
It occurred to me, learning that 80% of Covid infected patients lose their sense of smell (Anosmia) that it should be possible to build the cheapest and most effective Covid screener (for use at entrances to schools/airports/buildings/restaurants) with a simple "scratch-n-sniff" card. These cards, which cost pennies, would come with a set of scratch squares, and under each would be boxes with the names of possible scents. A QR code would (encrypted) have the answer. You sniff, check the boxes and then a phone or other device scans your answer.
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:
When elections are close, they get chaotic. If the flip of a single vote, at the tie-point, can cause a massive change, like who runs a country, things can go nuts. People will do everything, from legal battles all the way up to the supreme court, to voter suppression, to voter fraud, to fake claims of voter fraud, all to move the needle a tiny bit around that tipping point.
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.
While we've all been obsessed with the big elections, some notable news in California, where a corporate sponsored bill to reverse California AB5 on gig-drivers passed. AB5 would have required drivers for companies like Uber to be employees and not contractors.
What would Uber have done if it had not passed, or what can they do if an employee rule passes somewhere else? I discuss these issues in a new story on Forbes.com:
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.
As the USA moves to more mail-in voting -- and more efforts at voter suppression by strict enforcement of ballot spoilage rules rather than lax enforcement when the intent of the voter is clear, it seems that some apps and tools could do things to reduce that.