Robocars

The future of computer-driven cars and deliverbots

Virtues of maps, beyond safety

My client DeepMap asked me to write an article listing various benefits that can come from having good maps, over and above their obvious use in localization, perception and safety.

You can find this post at Here Be Dragons: Surprising benefits of maps

As before, since this is done for a client, I want to disclose that conflict of interest, but what I put under my own byline does represent my views.

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What we know and don't know about the Tesla crash

There has been much coverage about a fatal Tesla crash in Texas because police say the car didn't have anybody in the driver's seat. Elon Musk says Autopilot was not engaged, though of course the dead men may have been trying to pull a stunt hoping they could engage it in an area it isn't supposed to work. It didn't work.

So here's my analysis of what we know and don't know and why there probably is no big new story here.

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Here be Dragons - New Blog post for DeepMap

I've been working as a paid advisor to DeepMap, which builds technology to allow self-driving teams and ADAS-Pilot systems to create the maps which allow them to work and get greater safety.

As part of that project, they have invited me to write some blog posts for them. The first, explaining just what high definitions maps are, how they came to be, and why they are valuable is now available to read.

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MobilEye and GM/Cruise announce production ship dates in 2022 and 2023

Some announcements of hard ship dates for robotic vehicle deployments -- 2022 in Israel for shuttles, 2023 in USA for delivery vans using MobilEye and 2023 in Dubai for GM/Cruise Origin shuttle.

A few more details in new Forbes site post at MobilEye and GM/Cruise announce production ship dates in 2022 and 2023

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Waymo CEO Krafcik Steps Down; New Co-CEOs Come From Tech, Not Auto

Waymo self-driving's CEO, John Krafcik, has stepped down. More interesting is the two new co-CEOs appointed from inside (one from the original founding team that I worked with) have no automotive industry background. Having worked at Waymo and followed it more closely than almost anybody, I have some thoughts on the shift in this Forbes site column:

Read Waymo CEO Krafcik Steps Down; New Co-CEOs Come From Tech, Not Auto

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Safety Pool Announces 100,000 Self-Driving Test Scenarios Ready For Download

Over a decade ago I started advocating for having a large public library of simulation scenarios to test self-driving cars. Today, Deepen.AI, a company I am an investor/advisor to announces it has built such a library, in cooperation with the World Economic Forum and WMG University of Warwick and with involvement from many companies and government agencies. In the Safety Pool, people can build and contribute test scenarios, and in return get back manyfold from the contributions of other members.

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Will It Be Hard Or Easy For Self-Driving Cars To Expand Their Territory?

Right now Waymo One only serves suburban Phoenix. How hard is it going to be for self-driving companies to expand to new cities, new countries, new conditions and new rules of the road? Some think very hard -- and it's not trivial. But it's likely they can afford it just fine. I explore why is this new article on Forbes.com:

Will It Be Hard Or Easy For Self-Driving Cars To Expand Their Territory?

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Waymo Lets You Make Multiple Stops On A Robotaxi Trip, But Not Leave Your Stuff

A modest change at Waymo -- allowing you to do multi-stop trips where the vehicle waits around for you (physically or virtually) at no charge gives us a taste of the different economics of robotaxis compared to Uber, since no driver has to be paid. I discuss these changes in a new Forbes site article at:

Waymo Lets You Make Multiple Stops On A Robotaxi Trip, But Not Leave Your Stuff

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Foolish California Bill demands a robocars be electric by 2025

A proposed California bill would require all robocars to be zero emission in under 4 years. As good as going electric is, the government should not be picking the power train so soon, especially when there is no sign that the existing players are bad actors. I detail more in my Forbes site article at

Foolish California Bill demands a robocars be electric by 2025

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Waymo simulations suggest they will be good at avoiding accidents caused by others

Everybody is working on making robocars drive more safely and cause fewer accidents. Waymo recently released a paper outlining how they ran a large number of accidents in simulation, and tested what happens if the Waymo system is driving the primary car (which caused the accident) or the secondary car (which didn't) in 2-car collisions. No surprise that they prevented the accidents when being the primary car. More interesting is they prevented almost all the accidents when being the second car.

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Does new battery swap company "Ample" finally get it right?

A new company offering battery swap for EVs launches today. They convert the car's battery pack to use standardize 2.5kwh modules, and cheap robotic stations swap them out. Battery swap has a number of useful advantages, but it's failed before because it's not actually that great a solution for private car owners, and it standardizes the most important area of EV innovation.

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Making your self-driving ride better with sound

In 2008, I wondered what we could do to help you avoid getting motion sick as a passenger in a self-driving car. I wondered if you could make audio cues to warn the mind of upcoming turns, or just alert you to look up. Researchers with Volvo recently experimented with similar ideas, and the answer was yes, it helps. Here's my article about this and other comfort issues on future robocars, which may produce a ride that's almost like sitting still.

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Didi makes a profit, Uber doesn't, can Robotaxis

In the study of how much profit Robotaxis can make it's interesting to note that even in the Pandemic year, Didi will make a billion dollar profit from ride hail, while Uber continues to lose money and make people wonder if it can ever be profitable.

Didi's profit suggests the path to robotaxi profitability is attainable. Some more data is at this Forbes site article:

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AutoX opens full robotaxi service in Shenzen suburb

Earlier, AutoX started doing limited tests with staff of a robotaxi service with no safety driver on board in Pingshan, a suburb of Shenzen. Now, this service is available to the general public. No numbers yet, but it shows they have the confidence.

More details at AutoX opens robotaxi service to the public

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MobilEye details their unusual strategy.

People don't talk as much about MobilEye (Intel) in the self-driving race, but their strategy is different and interesting, and they are the most established in working with automakers. I have an article discussing some elements of their strategy include a very different approach to sensor fusion and mapping, among other things.

Read my new Forbes site column at MobilEye's strategy to win self driving

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Robocars 2020 year in review (Video and Story)

It was a much bigger year for Robocars than anybody expected. At the start of the year everybody felt we were in a "robocar winter" with things slowing down and pulling back. Instead, the year showed big milestones and huge valuations.

This year, in addition to my traditional text review, I have done it as a video for those who prefer that. The video can be seen below on Youtube:

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