Two recent stories -- about BMW charging a monthly fee to use the heated seats pre-installed in your car, and Tesla replacing a 60kwh battery with a 90kwh under warranty, but forgetting to software limit it to 60kwh, then finally applying the limit after two resales of the car as an (unknowingly accidental) 90 model, have opened up cans of worms about the question of software enabled and disabled features, and whether they are good or bad for the customer or just good for the company.
Baidu Apollo has released their own custom robotaxi plan. This one looks more like a regular minivan/custom taxi, but its steering wheel, there only for compliance purposes, is designed to be removed when the law allows, and that opens up the interior. They also say they can make it for about $37,000.
For more details see my Forbes.com story at Custom Robotaxi from Baidu
Several instances have taken place where multiple Cruise robotaxis have all frozen as a group, sometimes blocking intersections.
I discuss reasons for that, and why it's not that big a deal, in this new article on the Forbes site.
I have written a guide of useful hints and tricks for doing an EV road trip and barely spending any time charging. I've done over 10,000 miles of EV road trips and you can to, once you get an EV.
Read this at Forbes.com:
I have two other articles on Forbes.com that I didn't publish here in the blog:
Now that we can get good EVs, people are moving to SUVs and trucks, as they did with gasoline. It's better than gasoline of course, and cheaper, but there is a hidden cost in needing all that extra energy, beyond extra cost.
San Francisco Fire complained that a Cruise robotaxi delayed a fire truck (but by less than 25 seconds) when it was stuck behind a stopped garbage truck, and the Cruise couldn't pull over in the oncoming lane enough.
Read the Forbes.com story at Cruise Robotaxi delays SFFD fire truck
Travel around and you will find EV pricing anywhere from free, to up to 60 cents/kwh, or sometimes by the minute, with session fees, flat fees, idle fees and more.
The problem is that unlike gasoline, electrical energy isn't the product. It's charging that is the service with a bit of product. How does it make sense to price it?
Read more on Forbes.com at EV charging prices are all over the map, how should they price it
A recent big announcement says the Cavnue consortium and Michigant will build a "Connected Autonomous Vehicle" corridor on I-94 outside Detroit. It's the classic "smart road" which special infrastructure and cars communicating with it.
But is it that smart, or is a dumb highway smarter in the end?
I outline the reasons in this Forbes site article at Michigan wants a smart highway on I-94. A dumb highway is better
I just did my annual maintenance on my Tesla -- adding wiper fluid and putting air in the tires. That's really it. But last year it was different. I had to replace my tires after only 29,000 miles, in part because I mistakenly never rotated them. But there's more to it than just that mistake, so the tires remain a special source of higher maintenance cost you need to worry about.
For the robotaxi business to be worth it, they must get customers who give up car ownership because of the service, and use it regularly. But since robotaxis will have a limited service area, what will they do to make it happen?
I discuss various strategies, including partnering with competitors and linking services areas in a new Forbes site column at What must robotaxis do to make people give up car ownership?
Elon Musk has now teased that Tesla will build its own custom robotaxi, at low cost. This is at odds with their brilliant plan to turn off-lease Teslas into robotaxis, letting somebody else eat up 40% of the depreciation. Will they do both, or do they have a new plan up their sleeve for a small one-person pod?
Read about this in my new Forbes.com story at Tesla teases a Robotaxi, are they crazy to give up off-lease plan?
In my article last week, I outlined how Texas issued grants to build EV charging almost entirely at gas stations, including a chain of mega gas-stations known as Buc-ee's. Buc-ee's may be a great place for gas, but to understand why it may not be right for charging, you have to understand that for gas cars, gas stations are a destination where you get gasoline, and it is nice if they have amenities. For charging to work in its ideal way, you want to have destinations you were going to stop at anyway, which have charging as an amenity, so charging can take nothing from your day.
I went digging in the numbers behind the Texas grants to pay 70% of the cost of installing Fast charging. All the grants went to gas stations (terrible places to spend 40 minutes) and Tesla's applications for its first stations which charge non-Tesla cars (required by grant) didn't make the cut -- even though they came in at only 1/5th of the price per charger of most of the other applications. In this new article, I discuss the issues around this -- what does it mean for Tesla to open up stations, why is Tesla so ridiculously cheaper, why did Texas make such bad choices and more.
From the earliest days, one of the most common questions was "What happens when the cops want to pull over a robocar or give it a ticket?" We find out a real answer in a video of SFPD stopping an empty Cruise robotaxi on the streets of San Francisco.
It wasn't actually that much of a mystery, and the major teams all have detailed first responder training and plans in place, and it happened here. This was a very rare case where it actually made sense to pull over this car, which was driving at night without its lights on, which is unsafe.
It is common to see plans for EV charging which are still bound up in "gasoline thinking" where people treat an EV like a car with a tank you empty and then fill up while empty, waiting. In fact, if you do EV charging right, you always do it while you are doing something else, so it takes zero time from your day.
Mercedes has been promoting the new Drive Pilot system in high end models. Equipped with LIDAR, it will do the full driving task on freeways in traffic jams in daytime good weather.
In this new article I discuss whether the so-called "level" 3 (or any of the levels) make sense, and what this product means, good and bad.
Dan O'Dowd is the CEO of Green Hills Software. He recently placed a full page ad in the New York Times protesting the poor quality of Tesla FSD, and has started a project to get the world to secure all critical systems, including cars, using his techniques. He makes the bold claim that only he knows how to make software truly secure and bug free, and warns the world it had better listen. He knows that's an extreme claim, but also says he has proof if the secure systems he has designed for aircraft, fighter jets and the FBI. And he's got the money to make a stir.
It may seem minor that Waymo is going to start charging for robotaxi rides. But this starts the process of learning real facts about robotaxi economics and what a ride will cost, and how that changes the world.
Read the Forbes.com story at Waymo can charge for rides, so it gets interesting