Robocars

The future of computer-driven cars and deliverbots

What happens if self-driving cars don't arrive this decade?

As a companion to yesterday's article about why the death of self-driving has been exaggerated here is an article asking what happens if the doomsayers are right, if people can't pull off a usable robcar and robotaxi for a decade more more.

There are lots of easier, more tractable opportunities out there, and I list a number of them.

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Reports Of The Death Of Self-Driving Cars Are Greatly Exaggerated

This past month, especially with the shutdown of Argo.AI, have seen a number of declarations of the death of robocars. Thank to markets and expected consolidation, there definitely is a rough patch, but here's the argument that the field is hardly pining for the fjords and some things are going gangbusters, and not a decade or more away.

Read it on Forbes at Reports Of The Death Of Self-Driving Cars Are Greatly Exaggerated

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Zoox gets more different with thermal cameras

Amazon's robotaxi company, Zoox, has always worked to be different, with its own custom vehicle designed from the ground up. They have added thermal cameras to it for night vision and detection of people and animals. I look at what that does and other factors about the normally low-profile company in this new Forbes.com article.

Zoox gets more different with thermal cameras

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Tesla removes ultrasonic sensors and disables parking features, something only Tesla could do

Tesla announced that new model 3 and Y vehicles delivered will no longer have the 12 ultrasonic sensors in the bumpers. They also disabled park assist and auto-park along with summon and the useless smart summon in these new cars, but promise those features will return soon as they work out how to do them with the cameras and software.

That's a remarkable move that no other auto OEM would do. Why have they done it and will it work? Read about it in a new Forbes site column at

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Cruise ‘Recalls’ Robotaxis After Crash, But The Recall Is The Wrong Mechanism

In June, Cruise had the first crash for an uncrewed robotaxi which caused injuries to 3rd parties, including a passenger and a person in the other vehicle. The Cruise vehicle was partly at fault.

In this article I outline the new details we have learned about the crash, but also discuss what it means for the future, and whether the use of a NHTSA "Recall" for this particular software update is the right idea.

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Tesla raises FSD price to $15K. Could it mean they might buy a way out?

Tesla announced the price for the FSD software add-on will rise to $15K (from $12K) Sept 5. The price is amazingly high for a prepaid pre-order of a product that doesn't exist yet. Yet people only pay $4K for it in the aftermarket, and the take rate keeps going down as they raise the price, negating revenue gains.

So what does it all mean? One unusual option is that at $15K/head, Tesla could fail at producing the FSD software, but buy another company that does succeed (using LIDAR probably) and retrofit the old cars at a profit. At this price it's hard for them to lose.

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Will Transit Agencies Fight Or Yield To The Self-Driving Revolution?

Some transit agencies want to be in charge of how self-driving cars are deployed in their cities. Otherwise, they say, robocars will compete with transit, as if that would be bad.

Read more about these issues at Will Transit Agencies Fight Or Yield To The Self-Driving Revolution?

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The Argument Over Whether Tesla FSD Will Run Over A Child Or Dummy Child Misses The Point

There has been lots of buzz over a video made by Tesla Critic Dan O'Dowd of a Tesla allegedly in FSD mode hitting a dummy in the shape of a child. We've seen Tesla fans duplicate it with their own kids, and Tesla asking the original video be taken down, and NHTSA saying not to use your own kids and more.

But it all misses the point. Of course a prototype fails in ways like this. The question is, are people actually getting hurt, and how do we really test these things to get them working? Is it OK to have customers participate in testing?

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Custom Robotaxi from Baidu

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

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All you need for a great EV road trip

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:

All you need for a great EV road trip

I have two other articles on Forbes.com that I didn't publish here in the blog:

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Michigan wants a smart highway on I-94. A dumb highway is better

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

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What must robotaxis do to make people give up car ownership?

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?

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Tesla teases a Robotaxi, are they crazy to give up off-lease plan?

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?

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We find out what happens when SF Police pull over an unmanned Cruise robocar

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.

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