The future of computer-driven cars and deliverbots
California recently passed a law that is obviously aimed at forcing Tesla to stop using the name “Full Self-Driving” to describe the expensive software add-on they sell for their cars which does not, at this time, provide self driving, full or otherwise. The ostensible reason for this is to avoid customer confusion and the potential danger that could come from people thinking they have a self-driving car when they don’t.
Many companies are working on self-driving trucks and delivery. As it became clear that robotaxi required a very large investment, teams looked for a more tractable problem. Most have gone after long-haul trucking on the interstate, but one leader has quietly gone after the “middle mile” while others go after long-haul and last-mile.
Cruise and Waymo, the clear #2 and #1 (respectively) in the Robotaxi race, have recently expanded their service areas for public access rides and driving with nobody in the vehicle. It’s a continued positive milestone in a year that has seen many setbacks for self-driving projects.
Here's a digest of some of my recent postings on Forbes.com
A filing suggests Tesla may be putting a radar back in their cars, but this time a high resolution radar, which is a bit like the LIDAR they swore was a crutch. It would be a good idea.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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?
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?
Baidu has finally moved to having a paid robotaxi service with no employee in the car. While they have remote monitoring and even driving over 5G this is still a big step and a show of internal confidence in the vehicle.
Read more at Baidu starts paid robotaxi service in China
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: