The unusual thing about the Zoox is it is symmetrical -- it drives the same forwards and backwards. Now it's finally out on public roads. That's a good time to discuss whether it would be good for other, traditionally designed robotaxis to drive backwards for short stretches to get out of tight spots, to turn around, and to quickly get out when they discover a fire crew that will otherwise break their widows.
Driving is the hard problem. But doing pick-up and drop-off turns out to have a lot of complications and it was not at the top of the todo list, so some companies are having issues with it with cities. We see some hints of this in Waymo's Superbowl-related service, too.
Read more at Self driving cars have trouble with Pick-up/Drop-off, and for the Superbowl on Forbes.com
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(This story is available temporarily here while a bug on the Forbes site makes it invisible.)
Dave Chappelle called Elon Musk up on stage Sunday during the comedian’s show with Chris Rock at the Chase Center in San Francisco. The audience reacted with a mix of applause and booing for a remarkably long time.
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:
Here's a digest of some of my recent postings on Forbes.com
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.