The design of subways goes back to the late 19th century. Tunnels have virtues, but instead of sending a giant train through them every 5 minutes, in the future we could fill the tunnel with smaller electric vans which go nonstop from station to station (changing lines) and even put their stations at or near the surface for quick access and energy efficiency. Imagine a subway like a modern elevator, where you indicate your destination station and it tells you which van to enter to get there in zero to 2 stops.
I've written a lot about the big effects robocars and other tech will have on cities, when they get here. But since you can't be sure of the date they will arrive, how does a city planner deal with making plans they know will be wrong? Here is some advice from the computer industry on how to do that.
People are studying what Robocars will mean for the disabled. I think they will be a tremendous boon, with more and easier access, much better service, and lower prices. I outline how in my new article on the Forbes site:
For some time, Tesla has published numbers to suggest that driving is safer with autopilot than it is without it, in that cars have fewer accidents per mile with autopilot on than with it off. The problem is autopilot is mostly on when on the highway, when driving is safer, so this would naturally be the case.
Some new data suggests that it's actually modestly less safe or at best a wash.
So Waymo is going to now work exclusively with Chrysler to automate light commercial vehicles such as the large Promaster van.
I examine the debate between moving people and moving cargo with self-driving tech, and also the nature of what a "partnership" is in the space.
Read the story on Forbes.com Waymo to Automated Chrysler Delivery Vans -- More work and less riding?
Last week the NYT ran an piece on imagining Manhattan as a "city without cars." Definitely it would be more pleasant, but people also very much want personal transportation, and so closing or narrowing all the streets may not present a great solution and not beyond New York in any event. The problem is that planners still think about 20th century cars, with all their problems and downsides and without the new abilities the 21st century offers for traffic management using smartphones, self-driving and more.
In EV charging, there's a big contest to see who can be the fastest, with 250KW and 350KW chargers competing with Tesla's superchargers. But charge-really-fast is "gasoline" thinking and it's much more expensive. For the same money, for example, a corporate parking lot would be better served with 40 Level 1 (2KW) chargers and 4 Level 2 (7KW) than 15 Level 2. And a new generation of cheaper 50KW chargers in places we stop for an hour could make more sense than 250kw ones.
Rumoured for a few weeks, Amazon has now announced it will buy Zoox. The rumoured price is just $1.2B -- a major down-round for Zoox, but still a large investment for Amazon. Amaon says they plan to continue Zoox's robotaxi vision, but I have to suspect they will also do robotic delivery.
The implications are huge. The robotaxi business is bigger than Amazon's retail business. And making their logistics business more robotic -- both long haul and local delivery -- should scare the others involved in traditional retail and delivery.
Many people may not have been aware that Mercedes and BMW planned to pool their self-driving efforts, which made sense as they were pulling back from trying to win that race. Now that deal is off and other deals are on. Read about that, along with news in LIDAR, testing and acquisitions in this Forbes site article:
Fans of Teslas were surprised to see the brand score dead last in JD Power's new survey of the number of problems people had with their cars.
The biggest reason, perhaps, is that a Tesla is more a computer than a car. And how many computers have you bought that didn't have many software and configuration problems?
Read it in JD Power Report Scores Tesla a Dismal Last
The IIHS (Insurance Institute) released a study claiming that in spite of claims that self-driving cars could prevent 90% of accidents (the ones where the driver is at fault) the number was only 1/3rd, namely the perception errors and impairment cases. I am not sure they could have got it more wrong, and outline this in a new Forbes.com article:
So, yesterday in Taiwan a Tesla, claimed to be on Autopilot, smashed in broad daylight on a mostly empty road into a truck lying on its side, almost hitting the driver standing in front of it. While Tesla Autopilot is just driver assist, and not meant to catch everything, it's not great to miss a giant truck and a human. I explore why in my new Forbes site article found in at Tesla in Taiwan crashes
I reported last week about Zoox shopping for a buyer. Now reports have surfaced that Amazon is in negotiations. It's a strange matchup but would still have big consequences. A big push into self-driving by Amazon could upend logistics and retail, but Zoox's efforts at a vehicle custom designed for taxi service might be wasted.
Read about it on Forbes.com at Match and Mismatch of Amazon buying Zoox
In a year when several other companies have slowed development and plans for full robocars, MobilEye's CEO this week indicated they were on track to deploy Robotaxi service in Israel in early 2022, and will follow on with France, Korea and China.
Analysis is at MobilEye reaffirms prediction of robotaxi service by 2022
Earlier I wrote about how EasyMile had to stop operations after a sudden stop in one of their vehicles gave minor injuries to a passenger.
Today they announced their plan to resume operations. It includes seatbelts and education. It's a start, but I wonder if the whole idea of "stops" is the problem. Stops are inherent in the 20th century thinking that surrounds public transit. Big vehicles need to make lots of stops picking up and dropping off passengers. But that's a problem if you expect the vehicle not to start until everybody has their seatbelt on!
Everybody shut down testing during the Covid crisis. It's not over but now Waymo and others are getting back on the road, testing vehicles with nobody inside, with one safety driver, and sometimes with two. Yes, delivery and rides are essential services, but what are the issues around this?
Read some thoughts at Forbes's site in Waymo and others resume testing
I've known Zoox since before it began and their vision has always been bold. In a possible hiccup, the downturn has led them to shop around for a potential buyer if they can't get more investment.
I analyse what this means in my story Zoox searches for a buyer on the Forbes site.
Zoox is the $1B funded startup trying to build a radical design self-driving car. Last week they released a video of an hour long drive through Las Vegas, going through pick-up zones in hotels and the airport. The car does a number of impressive things, but at the same time, showing these things and an hour of driving are only the tip of the iceberg of what you need to do, making the video unimpressive at the same time.
In this new article, I go into what goes on in the video, and what it means.
Ready to get on a 10 hour overseas flight, wearing an N95 mask, sharing bathrooms, in the middle seat between two coughing passengers? I didn't think so. With all the idle cruise ships out there, would you sail across the ocean like your grandparents in a private cabin if they followed good virus procedure? 4 days stuck in a room (kinda like now) to prove that your virus test is accurate to the country you're heading to.