I used to be a lot more involved in the annual science fiction Worldcon and the Hugo awards, but have drifted away of late. One of the reasons is that, even more than before, they have become more about politics than science fiction or community. There was a huge controversy over an attempt at bloc voting to change the Hugo awards, which both succeeded and failed, and had somewhat faded into the past. But the intrigues continue.
Mercedez-Benz has announced approval of their “Drive Pilot” system, in Germany. Tesla, on the other hand, doesn't do this because of their focus on the far-off goal of a "full" self-driving product. What does a traffic jam pilot really mean, and what could Tesla be doing if they weren't putting so much focus on the still far-off FSD?
I consider this my my new Forbes site article Mercedes Gets Approval For Traffic Jam Pilot, Where Is Tesla?
How can we tell how far along a robotaxi project is? They don't let us look under the hood, so we have to observe their real bets and milestones.
I've made a list of a rough order for the milestones. Most teams have far to go.
See Milestones of a robotaxi business at Forbes.com
In an earlier article, I noted that Cruise, in demonstrating their first robotaxi rides with no safety driver, did all the pick-up an drop-off by just stopping in the lane (late at night.) This is something many Uber drivers do as well, but it's not technically legal. Cruise is doing things one step at a time, but the SF MTA doesn't like that and filed an opposition to them getting a permit to operate the service with the public (currently they just do employees.)
Here's a Forbes.com article on the issues with doing pick-up and drop-off.
I've tended to downplay the early e-VTOL designs that are essentially big multirotor drones for people, including Volocopter. But the reality is that these designs, while losers in the long run, are winning the early race because they can get approved and in the air sooner. Here's an examination of Volocopter and what may happen long term.
Two big milestones for Cruise this week, with two stories:
First, they started unmanned operations at night in San Francisco, and give their first taxi ride with no safety driver to founder Kyle Vogt. GM employees are now using Cruise vehicles as taxis.
Sometimes people come up to full EV charging stations where cords can reach more than one spot and they unplug an EV that arrived earlier and take over the charger. Sometimes it's evil. Sometimes it's the earlier driver who is bad. How do we make a system to handle the problem?
Read more at Forbes.com in EV Drivers Are Unplugging Other EVs - How Can A System Of Etiquette Arise
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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:
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.
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
Companies are at the stage of announcing real pilot projects for robotaxi service. Now MobilEye announces they will start a robotaxi service in Munich and Tel Aviv by 2022. What are the new metrics of success for a team?
See more at MobilEye announces plans for robotaxis in Munich
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.