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Brad Ideas
Jun 25, 2019

Figuring out parking for robocars
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesPeople are working hard to get robocars to handle public streets, but they also need to handle private parking lots for parking, pick-up and drop-off. Private lots have all sorts of strange rules, so a system is needed to make it easy to map them and make those maps and rules available to cars. I outline such a system in a new Forbes site article found here:

How Self Driving Cars will figure out Parking



Brad Ideas
Jun 10, 2019

GM/Cruise leaks show them way, way behind Waymo. It's time for better metrics from everybody
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbes Cruise car with sensors all around.

GM's "Cruise" robocar unit is often cited as #2 behind Waymo. Some recent leaks of their internal metrics for progress paint a dim picture; that they aren't nearly as far along as they hoped, which does not bode well for the planned 2019 launch. In fact, they show as an order of magnitude behind where Google/Waymo was back in 2015.

The numbers that get published due to legal requirements tell us almost nothing. The methodology used by Waymo and cruse, the distance between simulated contacts, is a good start, and more teams should use it. And we should also dream up better metrics. (The simulated contact metric means every time the human safety drivers have to intervene, you build the situation in simulator, and you figure out if the car would have hit anything or not.)

In the new article linked below, I outline what this means for Cruise and what better metrics we might use. Measuring the safety of Robocars is now the biggest problem they face. We aren't that good at it yet, and even once you've done it, you have to prove that you've done it.

See

Brad Ideas
Jun 07, 2019

Reflections on 30 years of the dot-com
Topic: AnnouncementsMediaTechnologyTelecomTags: forbes

Tomorrow, June 8, marks the 30th anniversary of my launch of ClariNet.com. In the 1980s, there was a policy forbidding commercial use of the internet backbone, but I wanted to do a business there and found a loophole and got the managers of NSFNet to agree, making ClariNet the first company created to use the internet as a platform, the common meaning of a "dot-com."

Back 20 years ago I wrote a history of those days and the other early internet business ventures:


Today I have released on Forbes.com a new series of reflections of what went right and what went wrong as media moved online in the last 3 decades. I consider the consequences of advertising becoming the vastly dominant mode of funding online business, as well as the decli

Brad Ideas
Jun 06, 2019

How's how robocars might drive in the most chaotic of cities
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbes Some places have driving so chaotic that robots face a challenge

How will robocars drive around the chaotic cities of the world. Not Phoenix but Boston, Rome or Delhi? Here are some ideas. The most radical is to keep track of the drivers who constantly cut people off or drive like you're not there, expecting you to hit the brakes -- and then, very rarely and at random, when it's the jerk's fault, let a gentle but expensive accident or near-impact happen. I suspect they will quickly learn to give other cars more respect, and cooperate rather than defect on the roads.

That and more ideas are spelled out in my Forbes site article found in:




Brad Ideas
Jun 05, 2019

AIs will rule the world by unconsciously manipulating humans, not as robot overlords
Topic: Best Of BlogFuturismGovernanceTags: forbes It's not the Terminator you need to worry about, it's the politicians using AIs to make all decisions who will let AI rule the world.

A lot of folks, myself included, like to wonder about how to make AIs that won't harm us. But today, the issue is not really about good or bad AI. It's what good or bad people will do with AI. This is the real question in AI safety. Long before we worry about a super-intelligent AI overlord, AIs are going to be effectively controlling the world through human beings. They won't be aware, or willful. Rather they will be indispensable tools whose results will control most aspects of policy, economics, government and especially politics. You won't get elected if you don't say what your AI tells you to say, because your opponent's AI will defeat you.

See Don't fear robo

Brad Ideas
Jun 04, 2019

Make Supercharging better by ordering food in advance
Topic: Going GreenTags: forbes Outlet malls are common supercharging sites, and they do not have fine dining.

I've written about how to make Tesla Supercharging work, you try to have a meal while doing that. Here's a proposal to make that work much better: Be able to order food from participating restaurants while on the way to the charger, and have it all timed perfectly to either:

Eat at the restaurant, with food on the table when you walk in Get it delivered to your charging car (along with furniture) Pick up perfectly timed take-out (again with furniture) All in a seamless way that you can do with just one or two clicks in an app or on the car touchscreen.

Read about this in my article about better food at EV charging stations.



Brad Ideas
Jun 03, 2019

AR/VR picks up steam again
Topic: MediaReviewTechnologyTags: forbes The photo is a bit staged to hide the projector, but otherwise they look pretty good.

Last week I went to AWE 2019 to catch up on what's happening in AR/VR. A few glasses and technologies caught my interest, including a retinal resolution display, and a google glass successor you can barely tell is not regular glasses. On the other hand, most of the industry is still limited to very task-specific hardware you only will wear if somebody is paying you to wear it (ie. for your job.) More details in by Forbes.com article VR/AR picks up steam, including new glasses you might wear in public



Brad Ideas
May 30, 2019

In spite of the hype, 5G is not crucial for robocars
Topic: RobocarsTelecomTags: forbesYou've seen the hype and battles over 5G. You may also have seen claims that one of the most important reasons we need 5G is communication with robocars. While more bandwidth and lower latency are never bad things, it's a mistake to presume the cars are doing to depend on them, or that getting 5G is some sort of blocking factor.

I explain the (fairly low) bandwidth needs of cars in a new Forbes.com article:

In spite of the hype, 5G is not crucial for robocars



Brad Ideas
May 28, 2019

New York congestion charging could be much more
Topic: FuturismTransportationTags: forbesLondon has now had congestion charging for many years but it's getting overloaded.

New York City is going to have a "congestion charge" -- a hefty fee for driving in south Manhattan -- to reduce traffic. It's radical in the USA, though comes 45 years after Singapore did it. It's faced political opposition for many years -- are the roads for the rich or for everybody? -- but even egalitarian Sweden did it.

Even so, NYC's version is pretty basic, and in the modern world there is the opportunity to do much more and end congestion almost entirely. I explore this in my new Forbes site article at New York's Congestion charge may bode something much more radical.



Brad Ideas
May 24, 2019

Aurora buys Blackmore -- almost a rebuke to Musk
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesThe Blackmore LIDAR impressed me when I drove around Las Vegas with it earlier this year.

Last Month Elon Musk declared LIDAR was doomed. Yesterday, Aurora (startup formed by leaders from Google/Waymo, Tesla and Uber) which already has a $2B valuation buys Blackmore, a LIDAR company with a super-duper LIDAR which sees far and sees the Doppler (speed) of what it senses. In other words, the two sides of the LIDAR vs. Cameras debate are doubling down on their bets, and the stakes keep going up.

Read about the value of FMCW LIDAR, which sees Doppler, in Aurora buys Blackmore -- almost a rebuke to Musk



Brad Ideas
May 23, 2019

If you buy land that will be covered by rising seas, should the government help you?
Topic: Going GreenGovernance In Venice, Acqua Alta rising seas flood the streets many times each year. They plan expensive inflatable dams.

Evidence mounts that sea level rise can't be avoided now, absent some miracle of geoengineering, and maybe not even with that. Even if you're one of those who insists human pollution isn't the cause, the planet is getting warmer, the ice sheets are melting at extreme rates.

When it comes to sea level rise, it's simple to know who will be affected. We know the height of all the land. We don't know the date the seas will reach that level, and we don't know what level they will finally reach before we fix things, but as time passes, we will get better handles on that.

For the people living on low-lying land, there will be calls for the government to help them, at the expense of those on higher ground. There will be efforts to build levees. Houses will be raised on stilts. There will be emergency funds during floods, and eventual funds to help people move.

What if governments declare today that this is coming. That a deadline approaches. Pick your date, but imagine Jan 1, 2030, a date before serious rise will appear.

Anybody who bought their land after the deadline would no longer be eligible to receive government assistance for problems caused by global warmi

Brad Ideas
May 21, 2019

How might we build an Electric or robotic RV?
Topic: RobocarsBecause of weight and drag, the electric RV doesn't look like this. What does it look like?

At first the idea of an electric RV seems crazy. RVs are gas-guzzlers with limited range. But there is 10KW of charging power in most RV parks, an untapped resource, and once you think about going mostly electric for things we do with propane today, all sorts of things are possible, including long-term off=grid solar camping. In addition, and electric off-road vehicle with no axles and true 4-independent wheel drive could be absolutely astounding. In the article in comment #1, I outline some of the ways we might get to an electric RV.

Plus I tease some more interesting things when the trailer is able to move itself, robocar style.

The Potential New World of the Electric and Robotic RV on Forbes.com



Brad Ideas
May 20, 2019

Tesla also dismisses high-precision maps, again in disagreement with most teams. Here's why.
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesExample HD map from Navteq/Here with all the texture of the road an position of objects in the environment.

After dissing LIDAR, Elon Musk has also declared that high precision maps, as used by most robocar teams are also a "really bad idea." He wants his cars to drive with only a modest map. That's cheaper and, if you can do it, goes more places, but most teams feel that is not the fastest path to safety, and foolish, since a car that can drive without a map is a car that can make a map, and memory of what a road looked like before is a useful thing, as long as you are flexible enough to deal with when it's changed.

In comment #1, see my new Forbes.com essay on the issues in mapping. Elon Musk declares precision maps a "really bad idea"



Brad Ideas
May 17, 2019

Tesla Autopilot repeats fatal crash - do they learn from past mistakes?
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbes Tesla Model 3 with top sheared off by crash with truck

Tesla's had another fatal autopilot crash in Florida, with almost the exact same pattern as their first fatal crash there. What's disturbing is that Tesla's training protocols should have meant that making sure this (not seeing the broadside of an 18 wheeler) didn't happen again should have been on the top of their priority list, and easy to correct. Yet it happened again.

I have more analysis of the accident in the article on Forbes.com: Tesla Autopilot repeats fatal crash - do they learn from past mistakes?



Brad Ideas
May 06, 2019

Elon Musk's war on LIDAR: He hates it, everybody else loves it. Who's right?
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbes Tesla tries to get distance from vision in avoiding LIDAR It wasn't news when Elon Musk declared how much he dislikes LIDAR for robocars at Tesla Autonomy Day last month, but this time he declared it more forcefully and laid out his reasons. Many people are wondering whether Tesla's plan is smart or crazy. In this new article, I outline the two different philosophies and the arguments behind them, to help you figure out who might be first to real robocars on the road.

In short, Tesla feels that self-driving needs superb computer vision to work, and that Tesla will get there first. Once you have superb computer vision, it does all that LIDAR does and you wasted your time. Most other teams feel that you can get to a real robocar faster with not-quite-as-good computer vision combined with the reliable data of LIDAR.

Read about it in my Forbes site post at Elon Musk's war on LIDAR - who is right and why do they think that?



Brad Ideas
May 05, 2019

Tesla's use of the phrase "beta test."
Topic: RobocarsSome of the reaction to the story of the lawsuit against Tesla came from Tesla's declaration that Autopilot is a product in "beta test."

I don't think that's actually true. I think it's a misuse of that phrase by Tesla to communicate something that is true -- "This product isn't finished, expect it to have bugs."

The problem is that almost no software product is ever "finished." And even once finished, they almost always have bugs.

Silicon Valley has gotten into a bad habit which might be called "perpetual beta" because of this. One of the most famous examples was GMail, which declared itself to be in beta even after many years and hundreds of millions of "beta" users. Tons of projects today never reach "version 1.0" which used to mean release and the end of the first beta.

A beta test is normally an attempt to try an almost-finished product on a limited number of real users, to see how they react, and to see what problems they find. It can happen before a product is released, and it also happens on new releases, while most users stay with the "stable" or "release" version, a few users -- usually not paying -- agree to try the unstable beta version with more features and more bugs. They are expected to report promptly any problems they find. People participate in beta tests both to get the software free and to get early access to new features they need.

At least, that's what a beta test used to mean.

Now, it is true that Tesla drivers are part of the testing of Tesla Autopilot, both when they report bugs, and when their cars

Brad Ideas
May 03, 2019

Tesla sued over fatality but probably will prevail, but other issues are exposed.
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbes NTSB diagram of horrific autopilot crash

Tesla was just sued by the family of the driver who was killed at 85&101 while using Autopilot last year. Their lawsuit isn't that well laid out, but it does touch on some other interesting issues, such as whether making driver assist too good causes complacency, even among the informed, and whether cruise control should speed up when you change lanes.

Read about those issues in my new Forbes.com article:

Tesla lawsuit may not win, but it uncovers real issues



Brad Ideas
Apr 30, 2019

Investing in students instead of student loans
Topic: PoliticsRandom IdeasSolve thisThe site of my own education, back when tuition fees were $1200/year

Student loan debt has become a hot election issue. It's immense, has ruined some lives (but also vastly improved others) and is connected to (and possibly even the cause of) the cost of education growing much faster than inflation.

A good education is one of the best investments many people can make in their future, and the ability to borrow money for it allows a lot more people to access it. If it doesn't pan out, it can leave a crippling debt.

There are different types of educations. Some are aimed at increasing your earning power in the future. These are investments and worth borrowing against. Others are not this way, and lead to no career at all, a career in academia, or the more modest benefits that come from the general rather than specific fruits of education. It may not be worth borrowing huge amounts to pay for those. There should, perhaps, be a cap on borrowing for education programs not shown or expected to pay off financially, and instead those programs might be subsidized to permit their continuation as a contribution to our culture.

Here is an old but not widely exploited idea for the more lucrative e

Brad Ideas
Apr 29, 2019

Tesla's "Shadow" driving and how they test Autopilot
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbes Tesla's simulator is not that important to them, they say Continuing my series on Tesla based on their Autonomy day, here's an examination of their approach to the hard problem of testing driving software. Tesla takes advantage of the fleet of 400,000 cars deployed with their choice of sensor suite and all paid for and driven by customers. This allows them to test new software revisions in real world driving situations, though mainly in an instantaneous way.

Read my Forbes site article Tesla's shadow testing offers a useful advantage on the biggest problem in robocars



Brad Ideas
Apr 23, 2019

Tesla's Robotaxi Economics
Topic: RobocarsTesla numbers of robotaxi profit

Following up to yesterday's Tesla autonomy presentation, here is a specific article on the economics and principles of Tesla's proposed "Tesla Network" robotaxi service on Forbes' site.

I've been known for predicting surprisingly cheap numbers in my own article on Robotaxi economics but Musk forecasts a cost of only 18 cents/mile to operate a Tesla in their network, and big profits at a $1/mile retail cost.

Tesla's big numbers for their robotaxi service



Brad Ideas
Apr 22, 2019

Tesla reveals impressive new details on autonomy plans
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbes Elon lays it out at presentation.

I have to hand it to Tesla. Their Autonomy day presentation was very good, and has boosted my estimation of the quality of their program. There is still lots to unpack -- and lots more everybody has to do, but I have the first of what will be several articles up with a summary of what Tesla talked about today, and where they are going.

Tesla bets the farm on autonomy with impressive presentation is on Forbes.com



Brad Ideas
Apr 19, 2019

Podcast featuring the future of cities
Topic: RobocarsI don't do a lot of podcasts, though am curious as to whether people prefer to hear them compared to reading things. They make more sense for debates or being interactive.

Nonetheless, here's one I did recently, hosted by a new organization called Pivot Factory. We covered some history and a lot of my favourite topics, and had a particular focus on the future of the city, which I write about here but haven't done a recent cohesive essay on.

If you like podcasts, go to The Pivot Factory Podcast to listen or download.



Brad Ideas
Apr 18, 2019

Is there safety theatre among robocar developers?
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesA recent essay by Robbie Miller, who blew the whistle at Uber about their bad practices, accuses the industry at large of "safety theater" and driving too many unsafe miles. He's not wrong about some of his accusations, but there does need to be some risk taken. I outline the reasoning in this new Forbes.com article:

Are Robocar teams doing safety theater?



Brad Ideas
Apr 17, 2019

Why should first run movies at home cost $3,000?
Topic: Intellectual PropertyInternetMediaTags: forbesA new service called Red Carpet was announced, which will offer first-run movies in the homes of the very wealthy. You need a $15,000 DRM box and movie rentals are $1,500 to $3,000 per rental. That price is not a typo.

So I wrote an article pondering why that is, and why this could not be done at a price that ordinary people could afford, similar to the price of going to the movies.

It's at Are Red Carpet $3000 first run movies the best future?



Brad Ideas
Apr 16, 2019

Would a rental battery pack be a better choice than a super-long-range electric car?
Topic: Going GreenTransportation When you buy an electric car, you can often choose among various battery sizes. The larger your battery, the more range you have -- and you may get some extra performance -- and the longer your pack lasts, but the extra capacity is very expensive and adds weight to the car. The truth is, most people only need the extra capacity of a long range car when doing road trips. A modest 150 to 200 mile range car is sufficient for driving around a town, depending on the town.

A good answer would be to design the car to allow an additional rental battery pack. This pack could go in a special mounting rack in the existing battery rack, or it could have a place to mount in the rear or front trunk. It would need wiring and cooling tubes.

A 15kwh pack -- good for about 60 miles of extra range -- would weigh about 80 kilograms (175lb) so this has to be a deliberately designed system. Connection might need an authorized service team if you want to be sure it's right. The pack would cost around $3K at today's prices. But you could rent it for a more reasonable rate only when you want to do a road trip. If it's $100 to rent it takes 30 road trips before renting cost you any money, and the value of not carrying that weight the rest of time.

It turns out that getting closer to 300 miles of range does make a difference on long road trips, especially in the west. It opens up more places y

Brad Ideas
Apr 15, 2019

Teslas keep changing prices and frustrating buyers
Topic: Going GreenTransportationTags: forbesWhat price are you today?

There have been ten different prices changes to Tesla Model 3s since I got mine just over 4 months ago. While one expects electric computerized vehicles to go down in price over time, most buyers didn't count on anything like this, and people who rushed out to buy "before the price goes up" are not happy.

Here's a new Forbes.com article on the price changes in Tesla cars and other electric cars.



Brad Ideas
Apr 12, 2019

Tesla's plan for robotaxi service with off-lease cars is brilliant
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesTesla side-announced that people who lease a new Tesla won't be able to buy it at the end of the lease like you normally can. Instead, Tesla will put it into robotaxi service (presuming they are ready to do that in 3 years.)

Tesla at Red Rocks State Park has had its price change many times
This is a clever plan, because they can get lessees to pay for all the early depreciation and run their robotaxi fleet with used cars, saving almost half the cost compared to companies that have to do it with new custom cars.

I write about this in my new Forbes web site column today: Tesla's off-lease robotaxi plan is brilliant



Brad Ideas
Apr 11, 2019

Report from first person to give up their car for a robotaxi
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbes A family riding in a Waymo One Robotaxi I'm back from another electric car road trip -- more later on that -- but here's a story where I provide a report from a Waymo One user on how he sold one of his family's two cars and replaced it with robotaxi service. He's an early adopter, but he helps us examine just what some of the issues are around getting people to do that.

Read my new Forbes article at:

Giving up car ownership for Waymo Robotaxi



Brad Ideas
Apr 04, 2019

Dockless scooters change the economics of downtown parking
Topic: Going GreenTags: forbes Lime and Bird scooters wait in San Jose. I used them when the CC parking lot was full.

Today, parking downtown can cost $10/hour, but that's $2 for the parking and $8 to meet your convenience needs (park very near your destination.) The presence of dockless scooters (Lime/Bird) lets you park anywhere within a mile or so, at the lowest bidder, and get where you're going quickly. It's an early taste of robocar parking, and changes the economics of the business if it can be made reliable.

I have a new Forbes.com article in comment #1 on this.

Read Dockless Scooters from parking lots change the economics of parking



Brad Ideas
Apr 03, 2019

Review of the LG OLEDs -- it's time for a 4K HDR TV, but it still thinks it's a TV
Topic: MediaTags: forbes A decent impression of an impressionist

I recently purchased an LG 4K OLED HDR TV. In spite of the high price, I am pleased with it, and it's made old HDTV look somewhat dull. There is now enough content to upgrade.

Read my review and also my comments on how the TV hasn't yet figured out that many of us just want it for streaming.

Read my Review of the LG 4K OLED TV and using it for streaming



Brad Ideas
Apr 01, 2019

Can phones help older folks enjoy restaurant conversation again?
Topic: InventionsMedia Even outdoors, a big crowd can make it impossible to hear the conversation. Even more in Sicily.

A recent New York Times article on going to restaurants over 50 didn't need to remind me of something almost all of us oldsters already know -- you can't hear people any more except in rare quiet restaurants. If I sit down with a group, at best I might manage a conversation with the people on my left and right, and if I am lucky, those opposite. And my voice will be sore.

So here's the answer, and app I want. An audio conferencing app for people in loud restaurants.

Everybody brings a smartphone and their earbuds, with microphone. If you want to be really fancy have a whole headset, but that looks a little geeky at a social event.

The phones sync up and do a local ad-hoc wifi (or bluetooth) mesh network. You all start the app and swipe an agreed code so people at the next table can't join or decrypt.

Then they share audio for the dinner. Get those earbuds that plug up your ears to block out the rest of the room. Talk in an ordinary voice.

As a fancy feature, you see the faces of the other people on your screen. You can mute out some

Brad Ideas
Mar 28, 2019

Motel charging beats Supercharging for Electric Car Tourism
Topic: Going GreenTransportationTags: forbes

Yesterday, I detailed issues with using superchargers on a Tesla roadtrip.

For part two, I examine the solution we really want, namely charging at hotels. It's not very common yet, but when it is, it will match my rule for electric cars, which is to not treat electricity like gasoline. Charging while you sleep takes no time, so is better than any supercharging. I depict how hotel charging should look, and then touch on the fact that once the cars are robocars, we don't need any of that.

Read For electric car tourism, hotel charging is the answer, not supercharging.



Brad Ideas
Mar 28, 2019

Motel charging beats Supercharging for Electric Road Trips
Topic: Going GreenTransportationTags: forbes

Yesterday, I detailed issues with using superchargers on a Tesla roadtrip.

For part two, I examine the solution we really want, namely charging at hotels. It's not very common yet, but when it is, it will match my rule for electric cars, which is to not treat electricity like gasoline. Charging while you sleep takes no time, so is better than any supercharging. I depict how hotel charging should look, and then touch on the fact that once the cars are robocars, we don't need any of that.

Read For electric road trips, hotel charging is the answer, not supercharging.



Brad Ideas
Mar 27, 2019

Tales of an Electric Car Road Trip and Supercharging strategy
Topic: Going GreenPhotographyTransportation I digitally removed a score of instagrammers trampling these lovely flowers.

This month we took an electric car road trip in the California desert to see the flowers. The idea of a road trip in the desert with an electric car would have been crazy not too long ago. Now it's becoming possible, soon it will be easy, but there's still lots to learn.

Read An Electric Car Road Trip and how to Supercharge



Brad Ideas
Mar 25, 2019

A taxonomy of the many choices in flying cars
Topic: Air TravelTransportationTags: flying carsforbes Hoverbikes are their own special category

There are over 100 companies out there developing small VTOL "flying cars." And they're all making different decisions on several important design choices. I've written a breakdown of the key design decisions and what they mean, which forms a sort of taxonomy.

Check out my taxonomy of flying cars on the Forbes.com site.



Brad Ideas
Mar 21, 2019

Government Testing Labs Can't Certify Robocar Safety
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbes

At Nvidia GTC, the giant European testing lab AVL presented their plan for certifying robocar safety the European way. It is both too much bureaucracy and too little testing and won't work.

Read Government And Independent Testing Labs Aren't The Way To Certify Robocar Safety



Brad Ideas
Mar 20, 2019

Nvidia simulator and Safety Force Field and other news from GTC
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesThis week I am at the Nvidia GPU Technology Conference, which has become a significant conference for machine learning, robots and robocars.

Here is my writeup on a couple of significant announcements form Nvidia -- a new simulation platform and a "safety force field" minder for robocar software, along with radar localization and Volvo parking projects.

News from Nvidia GTC



Brad Ideas
Mar 11, 2019

Putting solar panels on the roof doesn't change emissions from driving an electric car
Topic: Going GreenTransportationTags: forbes Powered by wind and sun, or not?

Earlier, I wrote about what happens when we put renewables on the grid and how complex it is.

Now we get to the question of whether putting solar panels on your roof makes your driving emissions free, or whether having a green generation company does the job. The answer may not please some people, because the panels don't significantly alter the emissions of your driving, while the power company does -- but it shouldn't matter because they are equally good things to do.

Part two can be found at Putting Solar On Your Roof Doesn't Make Your Electric Car Driving Green, But This Might



Brad Ideas
Mar 11, 2019

Putting renewables on the grid to green your electric car is complicated
Topic: Going GreenTags: forbes My car may be charged from these windmills, or is it?

In my Tesla review, I tossed out a line that raised some questions. The power utility here in Silicon Valley provides power only from renewable sources, in my case 80% wind and 20% solar. Does this mean that my electric car driving is zero emissions, and if so, how, since when I charge at night there is no solar and may or may not be enough wind.

So I set off to figure out what happens when I (and thousands of others) plug in cars to charge, and it turns out the answer is far from simple. So I wrote a two part series.

Part one tries to figure out what happens when you add renewables to the grid, either by putting solar panels on your house, or buying your energy from a renewable company. In the long term, it's good, but in the short term, sometimes it will cause some emissions to go up because it shifts the grid from efficient slow-response plants to higher emission fast-response plants.

Part one: Puttin

Brad Ideas
Mar 08, 2019

Making short-range electric cars more useful with staging lots
Topic: Going Green Nissan has turned over a new Leaf, which finally has a long range

Having an electric car with more than 200 miles range makes a huge difference; you generally don't pay much attention to charging in your ordinary urban travel around a fairly large city. But a lot of electric cars have much smaller batteries, with ranges from 70 to 110 miles. Because of the disadvantages, these cars are very cheap right now. You can pick up a used Nissan Leaf that's only 5 or 6 years old for under $7,000!

That Leaf will do you fine for your driving in your immediate area, including most people's commutes or daily errands. But it won't work for the longer trips in your area. Living in Silicon Valley, the issue is the trip to San Francisco, which is around 80 to 100 miles round trip, and up to 120 "EV miles" because high speed highway driving uses up energy faster than average. It's a no go. If you do that sort of trip often, such a car is not for you.

But what if you do it rarely? There are a few options available to you:

In two car households, if the other car is longer range, just make sure that car is available for the person making the longer trip. (Tools to help with this could be valuable.) Transit plus Uber can be an option for many, though it does not compete with private cars for time in many cases. You must travel on its schedule. You

Brad Ideas
Mar 07, 2019

Visit to Lake Berryessa "Glory Hole" spillway gallery
Topic: PhotographyA minor local spot of interest here is the spillway for the Lake Berryessa reservoir. Unlike most spillways, this one drains from the top on the interior of the lake. It is called a "Morning Glory" or "Glory Hole" spillway. From time to time, the lake level gets above that spillway, sometimes far above, and it creates something that looks completely wrong, like a hole in the fabric of space time. So we went up to photograph it.

I have put up a Gallery of Photos of the Lake Berryessa Glory Hole including some panoramas, some videos, and some HDRs in sunlight and shadow.

An HDR of the hole, looking to the dam



Brad Ideas
Mar 06, 2019

No criminal chargers for Uber in fatality
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbes

Yesterday, it was announced the state attorney in Arizona will not press criminal charges against Uber around the fatality a year ago in Tempe. It is still not decided if charges will apply to the safety driver.

I have a Forbes.com piece on the nature of fault in the Uber crash:

No criminal charges for Uber means we learn little



Brad Ideas
Mar 06, 2019

No criminal charges for Uber in fatality
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbes

Yesterday, it was announced the state attorney in Arizona will not press criminal charges against Uber around the fatality a year ago in Tempe. It is still not decided if charges will apply to the safety driver.

I have a Forbes.com piece on the nature of fault in the Uber crash:

No criminal charges for Uber means we learn little



Brad Ideas
Mar 05, 2019

Electric cars should stream TV when they are fast-charging
Topic: Going GreenThe question every electric car buyer asks is how convenient charging will be, and how much will the range limit my travel - known as "range anxiety."

Deserted outlet malls aren't really exciting places to spend some quality time

Once cars get over about 200 miles of range, they tend to eliminate most such anxiety for drives in an urban area. Fast charging, such as Tesla superchargers, fills in the gap for road trips or days with extremely high amounts of driving. In normal use, it's less work and time to plug the car in each night than it is to visit a gas station and fill up once or twice a week the way gasoline drivers do.

Supercharging still takes more time. People tend to spend at least 20 minutes, which can gain them about as much as 120 miles of extra range, though they often spend longer if not in a hurry or on a long trip. Here, it loses to the gasoline fill-up, in that the fill-up only takes about 3 minutes and you usually don't have to go very far out of your way for one, unless you are nuts about price. So people want an activity when supercharging. If it's meal time, there is usually somewhere to eat at the charging stations -- though sometimes the selection can be quite limited, and you usually want a fast meal, not a lingering sit-down restaurant. What shopping there is can be quite variable.

The answer for many is to stare a

Brad Ideas
Mar 04, 2019

Where's my flying car? Coming in for a landing...
Topic: Air TravelRobocarsTags: flying carsforbes Opener predicts the Blackfly will be for sale in 2019

Readers all know I love robocars and write about the tremendous effect they will have on our lives and cities. But a new technology, running about a decade behind but now real, is coming which could have even more dramatic effects, the e-VTOL or "flying car."

I've written a few pieces here before but I felt it was time for a broad article about what's going on, and why I think that this technology is in a similar position to robocars in the mid-2000s: Some core engineering breakthroughs have taken place, it's going to be big and people think it's crazy.

So look up and read Where's my flying car? Coming in for a landing soon on Forbes.com



Brad Ideas
Mar 01, 2019

Autopilot review Update
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesOf course, just after releasing my review of Tesla Autopilot they announced new pricing and features, with some explanation of what "full self drive" is.

For now, it turns out it's still driver assist, but on city streets. It's an interesting question if that's a good idea. I offer some additional analysis and updates.

Read my Update to Tesla Autopilot Review



Brad Ideas
Feb 28, 2019

I still want better luggage solutions
Topic: Air TravelSolve thisThe more you travel the less luggage you want to take. Our world where a laptop and phone can almost do it all, combined with the cloud, is helping. But sometimes you have to bring stuff in checked suitcases.

When you do road trips, especially outside the USA, you learn that most cars don't have the trunk space of North American cars, not even close. You're lucky to get two rigid body suitcases in the typical small car, 3 needs a car with special capacity.

One way to carry more and still fit in the small trunk is to use a fully flexible duffel. You can only put non-fragile things, like clothes in your duffel, though. Usually that's doable, but it often means all the heavy things go in the box style suitcases and they don't get the padding of being packed with clothes.

My idea for the day is a duffel with a frame, possibly of aluminum poles, that can snap or screw together and give it strength. That way when they throw another bag on top of it, they won't crush what's inside. After you land, take apart the poles and your duffel can change shape to fit in your vehicle.

You could also do this with wheeled duffels, but they don't have the flexibility to fit anywhere. The ideal setup is a duffel that can securely go onto your rolling checked bag for easy transport to the rental car.

Other luggage thoughts What's with the spinners? I am surprised to see that 4 wheel "spinner" luggage has almost entirely taken over the bag m

Brad Ideas
Feb 27, 2019

The robocars.com review of the Tesla Autopilot
Topic: Robocars Autopilot in action, showing you cars around yours

There are many reviews of the Tesla Autopilot, and when I reviewed the Model 3 I left off Autopilot for a more thorough review.

Since then, though, Elon Musk made declarations that he was "certain" that Tesla would release "full self driving" in a "feature complete" mode this year, and that you would be able to fall asleep next year, regulators willing.

So now I offer not simply a review of Autopilot, which is pretty good as a driver assist product, but the robocar developer's view of whether it's good enough to make such bold predictions.

The TL;DR answer -- it's not. Not even close.

Note to subscribers: Because I am doing half of my articles on Forbes.com right now, if you subscribe to my RSS feed, you might want to instead subscribe to the Forbes feed and a new sub feed which contains all the blog posts except those tagged with forbes. So you won't see these pointer articles in this feed.

See why and read my new Forbes.com Robocar specialist's review of the Tesla Autopilot



Brad Ideas
Feb 25, 2019

We need a world where open source robocars are possible
Topic: Robocars An early student robocar at Stanford

We all love open source. But the usual rules of open source break down if every vehicle deployed on the road has to have gone through a complex and expensive safety certification process. You can't just download, patch and go.

So we need other solutions to allow the world of the tinkerer/hacker and the innovation and superior function it can provide.

That's the subject of my new Forbes.com article:

Tinkering is essential for Robocars, but how do we get open source?



Brad Ideas
Feb 22, 2019

Now that we can, what if we don't wipe out the disease-spreading mosquito?
Topic: FuturismHealth Few would miss these bloodsuckers, but does that blind us?

For several years, one of the hottest ethical questions in biotechnology was whether it would be a good idea to wipe out the disease-spreading mosquito species using a radical technique known as a gene drive. It's been a hypothetical debate, until the recent announcement that the technique has been tested in the lab and could be ready for use soon.

Now that it's almost ready, the debate is no longer hypothetical, and we must add a question to it, "Is it ethical not to wipe out these mosquitos, as soon as possible."

Naturally, everybody is very wary of wiping out a species using genetic engineering. The way this gene drive works, altering the term line of creatures so that they only have male offspring, and those males only have male offspring as well, is downright creepy. It conjures up all sorts of fears of "meddling with forces we don't understand" and "tampering with the very nature of life itself" -- the two credos of every good mad scientist. It's easy to wonder what could go wrong, and ask, "what's the worst that could happen?" i

Brad Ideas
Feb 21, 2019

Ethics professors solve the "Trolley Problem" by debating switching tracks to kill 1 person vs. 5. Engineers solve it by fixing the brakes.
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesSince the famous Trolley Problem has come up again recently thanks to the MIT Moral Machine, it's time for what seems to be an annual debunking of the notion.

This time, to illustrate the pithy headline above, I tell the story of why the hypothetical situation is even rarer than people imagine because of the way braking and steering systems are designed on robocars, and how their driving patterns will be designed to minimize risk.

Read all about it in my new Forbes.com article Robocar engineers prefer to solve the runaway trolley problem by fixing the brakes on the trolley



Brad Ideas
Feb 20, 2019

Waymo shows off how it obeys a cop redirecting traffic.
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesFor years, the most common slide in a skeptical talk on robocars would show a cop directing traffic, and ask how the cars will ever handle that.

Here's a video from Waymo showing off that ability.

I have a New article on my Forbes.com page outlining how they did this and what it means.



Brad Ideas
Feb 19, 2019

What's the true incremental cost of driving a car?
Topic: RobocarsTransportation Taxis wear out by the mile, not by the year

What is the incremental cost of operating a car? It's not very well understood and here I hope to, together with readers, come to some better understanding of it.

Many sites calculate the "total cost of ownership" for cars. You can go to sites like Edmunds True Cost to Own or Kelly Blue Book Total Cost and they will calculate the total cost of owning a car for its first five years, not including parking. The cost drops as the car gets older, and these sites use average figures, so if you are a good driver, your insurance will probably be less. They tend to base it on driving the car 15,000 miles per year, though the average is only 12,000. (Newer cars, however, tend to get driven more in the early part of their life and less later on.)

You may also like the AAA cost analysis for different classes of cars, which calculated a cost of 59.2 cents for the average sedan, and much more for an SUV.

But it's tricky. While you'll spend that much per mile on owning a car,

Brad Ideas
Feb 15, 2019

The end of the A380 and California HSR teach us smaller is better
Topic: Going GreenRobocarsTransportationTags: forbes It was just too big to succeed

ZZI have written often about the new economies in transportation that future technology like robocars provide. In my research I've learned something that seems to not be well known in the transportation world -- that often, smaller is better and more energy efficient.

This gelled strongly this week with the end of both the Airbus A380 and the California High Speed Rail -- two giant transportation systems that violated this rule, and tried to be too big.

The normal wisdom is that the more mass your mass transit is, the more efficient it will be. Instead, while transportation does get more efficient as the vehicle size grows at first, as you make the vehicles bigger you create more burdens for the passengers, and they stop riding, and the efficiency and economic viability start going down, even though the physics says they should go up.

It leads to the surprising conclusion that the train and bus may be becoming obsolete, in part tha

Brad Ideas
Feb 14, 2019

Does your robocar come home after it takes you to work?
Topic: Robocars Does your car come back here after it takes you to work? This week we've looked at two issues regarding robocars in the city:

How to handle the "pick up rush" when thousands want to leave a place (like work, movies, schools, stadia or airports) at the same time How we should manage the street parking and free parking in a city Now let's consider another common question. Will owners of private robocars send their car home after the commute to park, or serve other members of the family, particularly as an alternative to having 2 cars?

I see a lot of debate over whether people will own private robocars at all. Many people imagine the robotaxi proposition -- Uber style service at a price that matches or beats the overall cost of private car ownership -- is so compelling that they can't fathom why anybody would own a car still.

The proposition is compelling. Eventually use of robotaxis will be superior in almost every way, from a purely rational business. At the same time, some forces will push people into ownership

Living or working in an area (such as rural areas) where fast robotaxi service is not available Ability to keep a variety of things in the car, not just between stops, but always. (I admi

Brad Ideas
Feb 13, 2019

What do California disengagement reports tell us?
Topic: RobocarsCalifornia has released the disengagement reports the law requires companies to file and it's a lot of data. Also worth noting is Waymo's own blog post on their report where they report their miles per disengagement has improved from 5,600 to 11,000.

Fortunately some hard-working redditors and others have done some summation of the data. including this one from Last Driver's Licence Holder. Most notable are an absolutely ridiculous number from Apple, and that only Waymo and Cruise have number suggesting real capability, with Zoox coming in from behind.

The problem, of course, is that "disengagements" is a messy statistic. Different teams report different things. Different disengagements have different importance. And it matters how complex the road you are driving is. (Cruise likes to make a big point of that.)

Safety drivers are trained to disengage if they feel at all uncomfortable. This means that they will often disengage when it is not actually needed. So it's important to do what Waymo does, namely to play back the situation in simulator to see what would have happened if the driver had not taken over. That playback can reveal if it was

Paranoia (as expected) from th

Brad Ideas
Feb 12, 2019

Replacing street parking with smartphone managed parking
Topic: Transportation Looking for parking in Herzegovina Research suggests that a significant number of cars in busy parts of the city are searching for parking -- a base of 8% and as much as 30%. Everybody craves free parking, but people even drive around a fair bit to find metered parking. Street parking is convenient, and many parking lots charge a lot for their early hours, or a flat fee, making them expensive choices for certain parking stays. Hunting for parking has an immense cost in congestion, wasted fuel, and wasted time.

I think we can do it better, and not just with robocars. We're approaching the era where almost every car on the streets is equipped with a smartphone. That opens a lot of opportunities. It's not at 100%, so solutions can't be 100% phone based, but new options are available.

The first thing we need to do is get rid of free parking. As Donald Shoup argues in The high cost of free parking there is no such thing as free parking, and we all pay for it in other ways. I don't support all of Shoup's conclusions but one way we pay is it creates parking shortages, a tragedy of the commons, as people don't value what they don't pay for.

Let's imagine a system for managing city owned parking (streets and l

Brad Ideas
Feb 11, 2019

Will Robocars fight break-ins by moving or fighting back?
Topic: Robocars

Earlier, I had a break-in in my new car. There's been a rash of them with Teslas. The burglars break the small quarter window at the back so they can reach in and lower the rear seats to check out the trunk. Thieves are bad, but Tesla also could do a better job, particularly in keeping parts on hand, since they told me it would be 4-6 weeks to get a replacement. I found another.

This inspired two articles. The main one, on the Forbes website today, discusses how robocars and other cars of the future might fight car break-ins, in some cases literally. As robots, they can do more than sound alarms, they can move. They can try to escape, or even more, though most of what they might do probably isn't legal.

Read Can Cars Of The Future Fight Back Against Burglary By Moving? on Forbes.com

In addition, I wrote a sidebar on what Tesla could have done a lot better to resolve this problem for their customers



Brad Ideas
Feb 08, 2019

Handling the pick-up "rush" when everybody leaves at once
Topic: Robocars Taxi line at a (sucky) airport

The discussion on cars circling to avoid parking fees (short-answer, they won't) leads to a few other interesting issues I want to cover.

How to handle the "pick up rush" when thousands want to leave a place (like work, movies, stadia or airports) at the same time Whether people will have their private cars go back home to park or serve other family members after doing the commute How we should manage the street parking and free parking in a city Today, I want to talk about the pick up rush. Earlier, I covered what should happen with Lyft and Uber at airports to parallel what happens with taxi lines. Let's look at the evening rush hour and related situations.

As the work day ends, everybody wants to get home at roughly the same time. Some will do it in regular cars or on transit like today. Some will want robotaxi service. Some will want to take their private robocar home. And others will be open to self-driving transit forms which could come at a much reduced cost.

If we look at those in private robocars, robotaxis and regular taxis, we face the problem that there may not be enough

Brad Ideas
Feb 07, 2019

No, cars won't circle around in traffic to avoid paying for parking
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesFor many years, people have wondered if people might tell their robocars to just drive continuously around the block rather than pay for parking. I've written before about how that doesn't make sense, but a recent paper from Adam Millard-Ball of UC Santa Cruz tries to make a real case that it could make economic sense, even if it's antisocial.

Stanford showed off robocar valet parking in 2009

I think the paper makes 4 errors, any of which are enough to eliminate the problem.

He believes a car could drive super slowly (less than 2mph net speed.) That's illegal and challenging He believes a car going that slowly would incur costs less than 50 cents per hour of operation. It's probably quite a bit more. He does not account for how the cost of parking a robocar will be much less than parking a regular car -- possibly even less than the 50 cents/hour he estimates He does not account for how it's much easier to make things illegal in a robocar, because you enforce on a dozen companies, not on a million drivers. I've written up

Brad Ideas
Feb 06, 2019

New Forbes.com post: The in car experience of the robocar will be quite minimalist
Topic: RobocarsI have started doing some of my posts on forbes.com. They invited me to contribute and I felt it is worth finding out if it extends my reach. For now, I will link to posts here, and eventually I will perhaps build a special RSS feed to combine the posts I do there with the ones here to make it easy for readers.

This is what everybody does today when they travel.

For my first one, I talk about the "in car experience" of the robocar. A lot of people think it's going to be very fancy, and expensive, and they're going to make it. I think the reality is it's going to be minimalist and mostly people will stare at the phones (or have their phones control a screen or speakers.) This is what I see everywhere you see people travel who aren't driving.

Click through for The minimalist in car experience of the robocar



Brad Ideas
Feb 04, 2019

When snow or bugs shut down an entire robotaxi fleet
Topic: Robocars Even bicycles can suffer a shutdown The goal of a successful robotaxi fleet is to offer a service that works as a "car replacement." You need to get people to give up car ownership to attain the brass ring. If they still own a car, they are motivated to use the expensive vehicle they already paid for rather than use your service. Most commonly in the early years, this will mean convincing people to switch from 2 cars in a family to 1, and use the service for all times 2 or more people need to travel.

If you have a great robotaxi service, with low costs, short wait times, and a wide service area, it should be easy to win such customers. You may even win them with special subscription plans which mirror the cost patterns of car ownership, but at a lower cost and the pleasure of not having to drive.

One thing that might scare them away would be the service becoming unavailable. Once people decide to depend on a service to commute or do other vital trips, they won't tolerate it being down with any frequency.

In particular, I want to consider these problem areas:

The vehicles are not rated for certain weather conditions, like a certain amount of snow, and they all stop service when this happens Some major fault in the fleet management system makes it impossible to summon cars. (Airlines have shut down fairly often due to this.) A safety pro

Brad Ideas
Jan 29, 2019

TSA "Security Theatre" might have some merits, but how to do it better?
Topic: Air TravelPrivacy Security, innovation, privacy -- pick one? I'm often critical of the way that we get subjected to pointless and ineffective security measures, particularly at places like TSA checkpoints. My friend Bruce Schneier is the high priest of this criticism, and calls it "Security Theatre." Sometimes, TSA folks will sort of admit this, as this former one does in the Atlantic.

The TSA knows what it does is often fruitless, so why do they do it? Is it political pressure? Is it the need we all have to keep up the appearance of doing something? Are they just morons who don't realize their techniques are of limited use and cause great disruption to air travel? Or do they have a more reasonable purpose?

Security theatre, like at the TSA, is not a counter-terrorist tool. It's a counter-terror tool While there is much to debate about the goal of terrorists, one thing that is clear is that their goal is not to blow up planes or kill random people. For them, those are means to a larger goal, striking terror in their enemies, and thus disrupting them or bending their politics.

Terrorists don't so much want to make flying dangerous. They want to make it sc

Brad Ideas
Jan 28, 2019

German mega-partnership, Apple layoffs and Waymo factory
Topic: Robocars

Various announcements and rumors suggest the major German automakers, including VW/Audi, Daimler and BMW might be planning a real alliance on robocars.

When I say a real alliance, it's cause almost all the announcements of "alliances" in this (and most) businesses are just PR noise -- there to get attention and to give the appearance of progress when there is not much. This suggests something else, in particular because it is getting advanced leaks.

Is this a good or bad move for the German auto industry. In the early days, the Germans took the lead, among automakers, in robocar development, but have gotten bogged down with teams that are too large and too ADAS oriented. Several companies announced teams of thousands of engineers working on the problem. Put that in contrast with Google, which had around 17 engineers on the project when they reached 100,000 miles of real world driving in 2010. Sure, the Google team was top people, but Silicon Valley people aren't that much smarter than Germans. It's the approach that matters.

BMW, Audi and Daimler are rivals to be sure, but in the new global market, the threats are Waymo, Tesla (on powertrain and car design more than on automation) and the Chinese.

At the same ti

Brad Ideas
Jan 25, 2019

Longwave LIDAR burns out camera sensor -- a big problem in the making?
Topic: PhotographyRobocars Jit Ray Chowdhury's camera image detail after shooting AEye LIDAR A bit of a stir was caused at CES when a robocar developer and photographer (Jit Ray Chowdhury) shooting the demo car of AEye LIDAR found their camera sensor was damaged. People wondered many things, including if this said anything about eye safety, and also what it means or cameras in streets crowded with robocars. I worked briefly with Jit when advising Auro Robotics, now a part of Ridecell.

I asked the folks at AEye about it, and they said they suspected the photographer might have put his camera right up close to the LIDAR, but the images taken by Jit are from a reasonable distance. I do know that I and thousands of other photographers have made photos of operating 1.5 micron LIDARs without this damage, so it appears to be a rare event, at least for now.

1.5 micron and 900nm bands LIDARs work in 2 main infrared bands. The 900nm band -- commonly 905nm -- is similar to visible light, but not visible to the eye. It can be picked up by silicon chip sensors, which is why people use it, since silicon sensors are a very well understood and cheap technology. Even at 905nm (and worse at 990) w

Brad Ideas
Jan 22, 2019

Fast car charger economics
Topic: Going Green It always looks this idyllic As you might guess, my recent switch to an electric car is revealing a variety of things to me, so you will be seeing more on that in the coming period.

Electric cars have always been criticised for their range, the slow speed of charging, and the difficulty in finding places to charge. An early joke about the original Leaf was "it has a 2 gallon gas tank that takes 4 hours to fill and there are hardly any stations." Pretty hard to make electric powertrain sound good when described that way.

Update to today, where Teslas, the Chevy Bolt, the upcoming Leaf and several other cars have ranges over 200 miles. Tesla pioneered this and there is indeed a magic number. These cars can handle all your day to day driving in a city with no anxiety. The range is only an issue when you want to do a road trip or have a rare day of particularly long driving.

With a suitable charging station at home, you can simply recharge the car every night. It doesn't matter if it takes 8 hours. There is a solid case that just plugging and unplugging each night is less work and inconvenience than finding and filling up at a gas station once a week. It's also cheaper and more pleasant. In fact, with 200 or more miles of range, you actually have range for almost a week on a single charge, considering the average car in the USA averages only 40 miles/d

Brad Ideas
Jan 21, 2019

I got an electric car. My electric bill went down
Topic: Going GreenHere's a moderately surprising result of switching to an electric car. Here in California, my electric bill went down. Just by a little, but in essence the (green) energy for my car is coming for free.

On my recent bill I used 900kwh and paid $168. 2 months ago I used 700kwh and paid $178. I drove around 900 miles. A small amount of my car electricity came from Tesla superchargers or other charging stations. Most was from my house. Yes, I use an above average amount of electricity already.

Why this this happen?

California has very expensive electricity delivery. The electricity is tolerably priced, but the delivery by PG&E, the former monopoly provider in much of the state, costs as much as 3 times as much as the electricity. (And PG&E just filed for bankruptcy.)

Ordinary customers get 300kwh at a total rate of 21 cents/kwh, and pay 28.4 cents for the next 900kwh. They pay 44 cents over that. The national average is about 11 cents.

If, and only if, you buy an electric car, you are allowed to switch to a "time of use" plan that charges you more for on-peak electricity (2pm to 9pm) and much less for off-peak electricity (11pm to 7am weeknights, 7pm to 3pm weekend-nights.) It's large -- in the summer peak power is 3.5 times the price of off-peak. Again, much of this is in the distribution charges.

If you switch to time-of-use and have constant loads (like my always on computers) the TOU price is very slightly cheaper. But if you can move loads to the night, you save a lot. I charge my car alm

Brad Ideas
Jan 18, 2019

Photo Gallery from CES 2019
Topic: RobocarsTechnologyHere is my gallery of photos and notes of interesting or silly products from CES 2019.

Mercedes concept shuttle

As I wrote earlier CES had much less new stuff than we usually like to see. It was CES 2018 plus a year, rather than the herald of a new age. I don't regret going, but wonder about the lull.

Each year I make a gallery of photos I took. There is a caption on each with my comments on it, so be sure to type "i" or the info button to see those. On mobile, slide the photo up to see captions.


I also have more coverage coming on LIDAR. In spite of the lack of news, I spent 3 days mostly talking to companies, and never even made it to the largest halls.



Brad Ideas
Jan 17, 2019

Rules for choosing a Presidential nominee
Topic: Politics Former senators almost never get to live here

As we enter election season, people wonder who the right candidate for the Democrats (or never-Trumpers) to stand against Trump is.

There are many factors, but let me start with some generic factors for the Democrats at any time.

The candidate should not have been a member of congress, like a Senator or House rep. Ideally they would be a sitting or former governor, if possible from a large red state or Rustbelt swing state, and able to deliver that state. If not a governor, other possible backgrounds include a successful business or top-brass military career, or a cabinet post running a major department. They must be simultaneously liberal enough to energize high turnout among the left, and centrist enough to attract voters on the center, and not overly frighten voters on the right. Voters must feel the candidate can understand and respect them. Charisma is also key to both energizing the base and attracting the center. In the special case of 2020, against Trump, if the candidate comes from business, their record there must be inarguably superior to Trump's.

Racism and sexism will play a role in the election if it is close. Normally, principles should be defended, and it is long past time when race, sex, religion or other factors should play a role in sele

Brad Ideas
Jan 16, 2019

EVSEs (car chargers) should be designed to do pass-through on dryer plugs
Topic: Going Green You probably have this (or the 4-pin version) in your laundry area As an update to my proposal for a special circuit breaker to assist in managing home power I thought I would propose a much simpler alternative for those who have a dryer plug in their garage.

The proposal is a small modification of existing portable EVSE designs (the proper name for what is often called an electric car "charger") many of which come with the ability to plug into a dryer plug -- by unplugging the existing dryer.

The idea is simply to have a special dryer plug which has a pass-through dryer socket on it, so the dryer can be plugged into it. The EVSE would include current monitoring lines on the dryer socket, to know how much current is going to the dryer.

Any time the current to the dyer is more than tiny, the EVSE would alter its "pilot wave" -- the signal that tells the car how much power is available -- to reduce the amps it reports. Normally on a dryer plug it will report 24 amps, which is 80% of the 30 amp rating of the plug. If the dryer starts to draw 2 amps, it would reduce the available power to 22 amps.

If the dryer starts to draw more, it could either continue this, or simply shut down the power to the car entirely to be on the safe side. Truth is, few dry their clothes in the middle of the night, and even if they do, missing out on an hour at 24

Brad Ideas
Jan 15, 2019

Big OEMs wouldn't mind a robocar slowdown one bit
Topic: Robocars

We continue to see lots of reports of a "pull back" on robocars, a "winter" of sorts. It is often presented as "the problem was harder than people expected" I discussed some of this in the prelude to my 2018 year in review.

As I indicated, reading these reports it seems like this issues is about 60% due to unrealistic public expectations now facing a reality the industry has already known and mostly been honest about, and the rest a mix of the very common delays in any common software technology, and only a small portion of the "it's harder than we expected" that people are reporting.

The public's expectations were and are due to a number of factors. Elon Musk, with his predictions of "soon, you will summon your car from New York" and general feeling that Tesla is close to having a full self driving car play a big role. Until recently, Tesla even took money from people for "full self drive" to be delivered later as a software update. They no longer offer that on the web site and warn you if you insist on ordering it. As I and many others predicted, it will need hardware upgrades. I think serious hardware upgrades.

There is one factor not being talked about in the idea of a pull-back. Namely that the big car companies would not mind a slowdown at all, and so will happily confirm this narrative, whether it is true or

Brad Ideas
Jan 14, 2019

Let passengers reserve space in the overhead bins
Topic: Air Travel Usually there's more space on the widebody planes Airlines should let passengers reserve overhead bin space. Today, the overhead bin is hotly competed for. People want to board first to make sure they get it. If you don't, they gate-check your bag, adding delays, lack of access to your stuff, and risk of damage -- I had some very important equipment damaged that way once and never let them gate check that sort of thing any more.

In addition, most people put their "personal item" up there too -- I will admit to doing this myself -- rather than under the seat. This uses up more space and pushes some people into gate check. Often you find space, but nowhere near your seat, and there's a crazy squeeze to get things at the end. As airlines started charging more for checked luggage, people started bringing more carry-ons, slowing down security. Airlines have started charging for carry-ons now, including creating special fares that don't allow a carry-on bag.

How would reservation work? To reserve space, you would have to provide true dimensions for any carry-on you wish to put up there. You would get allocated a space as close to your seat as possible.

The airline would put a coloured addressable LED strip along the luggage bins, as well as small panels able to display numbers or seat numbers. You would put your bag in the marked slot. If it

Brad Ideas
Jan 11, 2019

The news from CES is there wasn't much news from CES
Topic: RobocarsTechnology The Bell Helicopter tiltrotor, ducted fan hybrid aircraft had a giant crowd when the hall was open.

My feet are aching, as usual, after 3 days on the CES show floor, and the question people always ask others there is "what have you seen that was interesting?"

I won't say I didn't see anything interesting, and I had a large number of rewarding conversations with all sorts of companies, making the trip very worthwhile, but I will say I saw less that was new and exciting than ever before. This may be a result of the show's constant growth that meant in 3 days I still did not manage to get to 3 1/2 major rooms of the show, putting my focus on cars as I usually do.

A larger fraction of CES is not even remotely consumer electronics. In fact, the reason I go is largely the robocar related companies, none of whom are selling to consumers at this time, and most of which never plan to. And yes, the amazing new TVs from Samsung, LG and others are always a draw -- LG always creates an astonishing video wall, and all companies were now displaying 8K TVs as a real product (even if a very expensive one for which no video sources are available, but which will be fantastic for still photos.)

My favourite part of the show, Eureka Park, even disappointed even though I gave it most of a day

Brad Ideas
Jan 07, 2019

Tesla in autopilot whacks a robot at CES
Topic: RobocarsI'm on my way to CES tonight, and am surprised to have not seen much robocar news yet from there. I'll publish some reports of what I see.

But I just got a release from a company called Promobot, complaining that a driver in a Tesla using Autopilot hit one of the their robots. The robot was not supposed to be in the road, it was part of a group being moved and it "missed its way" and was standing on the side of the road. The Tesla driver, George Caldera wanted to try out Autopilot on the seemingly empty road. The car hits the robot with its left side. The robot is fragile and takes enough damage to make it non-operable for the trade show.

Tesla Autopilot is not a robocar system, it is a driver assist system. This driver was negligent and not paying attention to the road. It was his job to notice the humanoid figure (even if you don't expect a robot) and take control.

It is interesting, though, why the Autopilot did not stop. A neural network classifier trained on human pedestrians might well not identify a humanoid robot. But there should be some general object detection systems which notice that there is an obstacle in front of the car, even if it doesn't know what it is. This is one of the challenges of the non-LIDAR approach advanced by Tesla. Vision systems only identify what they know. However, motion parallax or stereo should still ha

Brad Ideas
Jan 07, 2019

Tesla in autopilot whacks a robot at CES (or does it?)
Topic: RobocarsI'm on my way to CES tonight, and am surprised to have not seen much robocar news yet from there. I'll publish some reports of what I see. The first modest announcement is the creation of a public education collective called PAVE which is the first consortium to have almost all the major players.

But I just got a release from a company called Promobot, claiming that a driver in a Tesla using "Full self drive" hit one of the their robots. The robot was not supposed to be in the road, the release says it was part of a group being moved and it "missed its way" and was standing on the side of the road. The Tesla driver, George Caldera, wanted to try out Autopilot on the seemingly empty road. The car hits the robot with its left side, but it's not clear that it really hits, and the robot does not fall in a way that matches being hit. The robot is supposedly fragile and takes enough damage to make it non-operable for the trade show. Or so they say.

More study strongly suggests this is a PR stunt. The "Police" visit is not a police car but a security car. The reported source and the company have not responded to inquiries. Promobot has been accused in the past of doing PR stunts with their robot. The release claims the Tesla was in full self drive, not autopilot, something that does not exist.

It was inte

Brad Ideas
Jan 04, 2019

If you're a computer nerd, buy the Tesla model 3
Topic: Going GreenRobocars The new blue Tesla Model 3 on delivery As I posted earlier I purchased a Tesla Model 3, the mid-range version with one motor and autopilot.

There are many reviews of this car out there, so I will go quickly over the common issues to get to areas I can give a special perspective on.

The Tesla (all of them) is unlike other cars. It's a car designed by silicon valley computer nerds, to some extent for silicon valley computer nerds. Since that's me, it was an obvious car choice for me. If that's you, I suspect this is the obvious choice for you as well. But it's also good for many other people.

As many have said, this car is half computer and half car, and in the 3 weeks I've owned it there have already been two software updates, and many more are to come. This was another key factor in buying it -- if the car is doing something wrong, the odds are excellent that it will get fixed later if it can be fixed in software. As such I am more forgiving of some of the issues I will outline here.

The driving, acceleration and handling are delicious. The low center of gravity and the powerful electric motor provide a driving experience unmatched in this cost range. This and other advantages of electric cars are quite larg

Brad Ideas
Jan 03, 2019

If Tesla wants to show off advanced summon, it could start at their superchargers
Topic: Going GreenRobocars Even when slots are empty, you still must move.

Elon Musk has bragged that soon the "Summon" mode in Tesla's will let you summon the car from across the country. They are a very long way from that, but there is a summoning application which they could implement which would actually be useful and solve a problem electric cars have, namely the sharing of charging stations -- particularly the supercharger.

Valet parking was one of the earliest robocar demonstrations. I first proposed it 10 years ago and Stanford and Audi did demos. It was actually the very first Cruise business plan. Except for the issue of pedestrians in the lot, it's one of the easiest problems to solve, and it can be done with just cameras because it's all low speed.

With low speed chargers, the problem is cars park there for hours, sometimes all day, and stay there after they are full. Some charging stations toss on a low charge like $2/hour to hog the station, but if you parked some distance from your destination, that's not much of a solution.

With the superchargers, there are two problems. Sometimes the superchargers are all full, and people sit in their car waiting. Once the supercharging is done, Tesla charg

Brad Ideas
Dec 30, 2018

Robocar Year in Review for 2018
Topic: Robocars

In spite of what most are writing, it was a year of much progress. A number of other summaries of 2018 in robocars have called it a bad year, the year it all went south, even the year the public realized that robocars will never come.

In fact, 2018 was the year the field reached a new level of maturity, as its warts began to show, and we saw the first missteps (minor and major) and the long anticipated popping of some of the hype.

As predicted by Gartner's famous "hype cycle" any highly-hyped technology goes through a "trough of disillusionment" after the initial surge. I see several reasons why the trough is happening now:

The public is starting to understand some realities which have not been very well conveyed to them, though they were known by the major teams: This is a very hard task It is geographic in nature, due to the need of mapping and local driving rules, and so it begins in limited areas and grows from there. The amount of QA needed to get to unmanned operation is immense, and if you have money, there is no reason to remove safety drivers until you're quite sure. The so called "level 5" isn't on any serious roadmap, and may never happen Cars showed up at the peak of Gartner's very own chart a couple of years ago, so it's just about time in their rulebook It's very typica

Brad Ideas
Dec 20, 2018

The utilitarian math overwhelming says we should be aggressive in robocar development. How do we do that?
Topic: RobocarsA frequent theme of mine has been my identification of "proving you have done it" as the greatest challenge in producing a safe robocar.

This accident was caused by a human driver. Like 12M others/year in the USA

Others have gone further, such as the Rand study which incorrectly claims you need to drive billions of miles to prove it.

Today I want to discuss a theoretical evaluation that most would not advocate, but which helps illustrate some of the issues, and discussions the social and philosophical angles of this new thing that the robocar is -- a major life-saving technology which involves risk in its deployment and testing, but which improves faster the more risk you take.

People often begin with purely "utilitarian" terms -- what provides the greatest good for the greatest number. The utilitarian value of robocars to safety can be simply measured in how they affect the total count of accidents, in particular fatalities. The insurance industry gives us a very utilitarian metric by turning the cost of accidents into a concrete dollar figure -- about 6 cents/mile. NHTSA calculated economic costs of $277B, with social costs

Brad Ideas
Dec 19, 2018

Can we have self-regulation of customer satisfaction surveys?
Topic: Brad's RantInternetSolve thisSpamI've ranted a few times about the flood of customer satisfaction surveys we get. It seems you can't buy a tube of toothpaste without being pushed to fill out a survey on it.

This is driven both by how easy it is in the e-world to implement such a survey, and by the need of marketing people to feel they are doing something. They are told they must measure, so they do, without thinking. Without realizing that doing too much surveying makes the survey useless. I, and probably most people, now delete surveys on sight unless I am angry. All the validity is gone. When people send me reminders to leave feedback on eBay or other sites, that's the surest way to get negative feedback.

It's a tragedy of the commons, too. Even a company that follows better procedure, only surveying randomly to a small subset of the population, and pushing to increase participation within only that small subset -- they will find themselves lost in a sea of surveys from bad companies that mail everybody.

So the marketing industry needs to set up some sort of industry body. That body needs to lay out some rules on how to do surveying. The rules would enforce proper statistical procedure, and they wou

Brad Ideas
Dec 18, 2018

Anthony Levandowski, Jiajun Zhu and Dave Furguson, all formerly of Google Car, make big announcements
Topic: RobocarsBy coincidence we see two significant announcements today from people who were former leaders on the Google car project, now in their own companies.

A Nuro drives on a public street

The more significant is Nuro's automated delivery service which uses their unmanned road robots. The post claims it is the first unmanned delivery service, which is quite false, since robots from Starship (in which I am involved) as well as competitors like Kiwi, Robby, Marble and others have been running delivery service on sidewalks for some time now.

However, it is the first unmanned road based service of any kind, pending some details, which is much more significant. However, while they say the robots are monitored by remote operators (which they should be, and will be to some extent even when they are much more advanced) it is unclear if they are monitored by people in chase cars. If there are chase cars, this makes this announcement a little less significant, since that's only modestly different from having safety drivers, and simply a necessity caused by having a vehicle which can't carry a person.

Deliverbots present an easier problem than passenger robocars. They can limit themselves to easier and slower roads. Their cargo is no anxious or in the type of hurry humans

Brad Ideas
Dec 14, 2018

Will AI bias be that hard to correct for?
Topic: New DemocracyPrivacy Lots of crime on Pennsylvania Avenue these days I recently went to a showing of the film Bias and met the filmmaker Robin Hauser. Most of the film discusses our unconscious biases as revealed by the Implicit Association Test which extracts bias information by having you quickly make associations between words and concepts and testing your error rate.

The producer of the film took the test, and was bothered by the biases it revealed in her, but also bothered by the fact that no amount of conscious effort to correct the bias worked. You could take the test again and again, trying not to have the bias, but it doesn't work. It did make her more aware of the biases in more low speed decision making and she hopes she's improved.

A smaller section at the end of the film dealt with the way that human biases in training data have produced "AI" tools which incorporate those biases. For example, if you take data about criminal activity, the much higher arrest and incarceration rates for black people will cause the resulting network to be trained to evaluate black individuals as more likely to be criminal. This has resulted in them being denied parole just for the colour of their

Brad Ideas
Dec 12, 2018

Scooters are so efficient we should fix them, not ban them
Topic: Going GreenTransportationScooters from Lime and Bird have been causing a stir as they move quickly into cities. There's been blowback, because riders travel recklessly, often on sidewalks, and they also leave scooters just lying on the sidewalk, blocking things, because as dockless scooters you can drop them anywhere. Riders are also getting hurt, these are not the safest things to ride.

So cities are striking back, trying to stop, regulate or collect money from these scooter operators.

We can understand why, but cities should be very cautious in how they do this. Because these scooters are absolutely amazing when it comes to three of the big transportation problems -- emissions, congestion and parking.

Scooters are amazingly efficient Let's start with emissions. These electric scooters use from 16 to 20 watt-hours per mile. That's astoundingly good. That's mind-bogglingly good. To give you some numbers in comparison for other electric vehicles:

Chart of watt-hours used per passenger mile for various transport modes

Where do these disturbingly poor numbers for the transit systems come? In most cases from American Public Transportation Association Fact Book --

Brad Ideas
Dec 07, 2018

Re-examining Bitcoin price collapses
Topic: InternetTags: bitcoinChart of the Bitcoin mining capacity for the last 2 years

Some years ago, when Bitcoin had a price collapse to $150, I advanced a theory about the danger of such a sudden drop and examined it a bit more last year. My predictions were wrong, but it's not yet entirely clear why they were wrong, and more people have started advancing similar theories.

In short, as Bitcoin (or other coins) mature, mining them should be a modestly profitable industry. If it gets too profitable, more people start mining, which bumps the difficulty and it becomes modestly profitable again. This works as it grows.

If it drops suddenly, though, all the marginally profitable miners (with older equipment) are suddenly unprofitable. By rational reasons they should turn off. If a whole lot of miners turn off quickly, the mining power (hashrate) drops suddenly, and the whole network slows down. It can take up to 2,000

Brad Ideas
Dec 06, 2018

Uber dares to return, Senate pushes law, and query about recharging scooters
Topic: Going GreenRobocarsSome news items, and then some analysis of the energy needed to reposition and charge all the dockless scooters from Lime and Bird.

Uber coming back? The New York Times reports that Uber will begin autonomous testing again but just on a one mile fixed route between their facilities and at 25mph or less. They know that if they have even the slightest incident they are toast, so they need to keep it to this fairly low utility level of testing. But they do seem to want to come back. Even so, the Times story includes internal sources saying they have problems and shouldn't do even this. As their earlier safety documents show, they plan to do it with the obvious things fixed.

But can anybody operate in an environment where no mistake can be forgiven? Uber used up all the slack the public might have offered them.

Senate tries self-driving bill Earlier, the house passed a self-driving bill unanimously, but the Senate version got stalled. It offers an clause forcing disputes to arbitration which has bothered several groups, not without reason. I sort of agree with the concept, but think it's a little early to implement it.

Perhaps the greatest remaining legal risk for robocars in the USA is the chance that they might have fewer accidents than humans, but each accident will cost many t

Brad Ideas
Dec 05, 2018

Waymo soft launches in Phoenix, but...
Topic: Robocars Waymo car drives in Tempe

Waymo announced today they will begin commercial operations in the Phoenix area under the name "Waymo One." Waymo has promised that it would happen this year, and it is a huge milestone, but I can't avoid a small bit of disappointment.

Regular readers will know I am a huge booster of Waymo, not simply because I worked on that team in its early years, but because it is clearly the best by every metric we know. However, this pilot rollout is also quite a step down from what was anticipated, though for sensible reasons.

At first, it is only available to the early rider program members. In fact, it's not clear that this is any different from what they had before, other than it is more polished and there is a commercial charging structure (not yet published.) Vehicles will continue to operate with safety drivers. Other companies -- including Waymo, Uber, Lyft and several others -- have offered limited taxi services with safety drivers. This service is mainly different in its polish and level of development -- or at least that's all we have been told. They only say they "hope" to expand it to people outside the early rider program soon.

They have loosened it a bit -- the riders no longer need to sign an NDA, and they can even bring

Brad Ideas
Dec 04, 2018

A circuit breaker designed for electric cars to lower costs
Topic: Going GreenInventionsTransportation A shiny new Tesla, with 15 miles on it

While I was watching a rocket lifting some of my friend's satellites into space from my driveway yesterday, my new electric Tesla car was delivered to that driveway.

Now that's a sentence that says you're truly in the 21st century. The SpaceX Falcon9 was launching 64 different micro satellites, some of which were from my friends at Planet Labs. What used to be the province of countries is now done by the guy down the street. And it was just an extreme coincidence that the Elon Musk Tesla arrived at the exact same minute as the Elon Musk SpaceX launch. You do have to hand it to Elon, even with the differences of opinions we have on LIDAR and other issues.

So you'll see more posts from me about electric cars in the near future, I'm sure, so let's start about the question of home charging. In the robocar world, cars will be able to drive off to find charging when they are low, so you won't need to install home charging, but today you want it.

This means having some sort of "charger" with the big car charging plug. We call it a charger, but in fact the charger is in the car, the home unit is just an interface be

Brad Ideas
Nov 27, 2018

To discuss transportation, we must agree on what the goals of a transport system are
Topic: Transportation Busy Argentine bus stop People love mass transit. By this, I mean there are a lot of people who, either for historical or emotional reasons, love transit as a good in itself, rather than a means to various ends.

As The Onion put it so brilliantly, 98 Percent of U.S. Commuters Favor Public Transportation for Others. The satire is funny, but also true.

To really discuss the future of public transit (and in particular mass transit) in the face of a technological revolution in mobility, it is vital to look not at Transit, but the goals we have for it, as well as the general goals we have for all our transportation.

This is a foundational article, to be the basis for future articles on where transportation is going. It does not try to make too many points, but rather lays the ground rules. I welcome input on improvements to these goal lists.

Some of those goals are the goals of the traveller. Others are goals of the city or society. Sometimes those come into conflict.

The Traveller's Goals Short and predictable travel times, with minimal waiting Safety Flexible departure times Reliability Low cost Pleasant travel: Comfortable, smooth, seated, peaceful, priv

Brad Ideas
Nov 26, 2018

Flying cars, robocars and more will rewrite the rural landscape, for good and ill
Topic: RobocarsTransportationTags: flying carsHow and where we live is governed most by transportation, and all the new mobility technologies are poised to cause big changes. Today, I want to look at the following technologies and how they will affect life outside the city. In many case, they will come last to the country, but in other cases, they may come first.

Flying Cars -- access to everywhere with a clearing Walking pack robots -- to carry cargo and even people through rough terrain Robocars -- widely varied vehicles on demand, plus off-road and simple road ability Automated high speed aviation -- offering quick travel to other locations Cheap solar -- power almost anywhere. Cheap batteries -- the other half of power everywhere Water purification -- water in many more places Universal Online Shipping -- buy anything with short delivery times at low cost Robot Delivery (drone and road) -- get anything (small) to any location. Satellite, balloon and low cost wireless data links -- be on the net, connected to society, anywhere Telepresence -- engage more fully in activities at remote locations Hyperloop -- much more speculative, but with interesting potential to make c

Brad Ideas
Nov 23, 2018

Brad Ideas
Brad Templeton is Chairman Emeritus of the EFF, Singularity U founding computing faculty, software architect and internet entrepreneur, robotic car strategist, futurist lecturer, photographer and Burning Man artist. This is an "ideas" blog rather than a "cool thing I saw today" blog. Many of the items are not topical. If you like what you read, I recommend you also browse back in the archives, starting with the best of blog section. It also has various "topic" and "tag" sections (see menu on right) and some are sub blogs like Robocars, photography and Going Green. Try my home page for more info and contact data.

Brad Ideas
Nov 21, 2018

Uber's quest for a "smoother ride" brought them down
Topic: Robocars One of Uber's Volvos, if they ever get back on the road

A detailed new report on Uber by Business Insider contains a variety of leaked quotes from insiders confirming much of what we had heard or feared about Uber's technical failure, with a few important new details.

I will reiterate that the Uber insiders who sought to blame their terrible safety driver, who was watching a TV show instead of the road, for the incident are partly right. Since all prototypes will make mistakes which could lead to dangerous accidents on a regular basis, it the primary fault lies in not having a good safety driver protocol and a good safety driver. That said, the worse your car's software is, the more chances there are that a safety driver failure will lead to doom, and so the secondary causes, the technical ones, are of interest. But even with much blame on the safety driver herself, the decisions which put her in that chair, alone, are the fault of Uber's protocols and management. The attempt to put blame on the victim described in the article is not valid, and simply the result of panic and inability to accept blame one's self.

Smooth Ride The most interesting new detail is that the team h

Brad Ideas
Nov 19, 2018

Where's a fireproof rescue vehicle?
Topic: RobocarsTags: flying cars Everybody here is in shock over the destruction and death from the recent California fires, and I, like many, have even fled the coast for the mountains as the air in the San Francisco Bay area remains unsafe. Videos of people escaping down burning streets send chills into those who watch them.

It should be possible to build a rescue vehicle which can withstand a great amount of fire for a short time. As a vehicle, it would not stay in fire, but would drive through burning and dangerous areas quickly. It would have air tanks, filters and everything else you would need. Some might have tracks to go down debris filled streets, but in these cases we've seen streets that could be driven if not for the burning all around. Some military vehicles, such as APCs, might already be suitable with modest modification.

There are 3 options for such vehicles. They could be crewed, remote piloted, or autonomous.

Crewed vehicles of course are flexible and the crew can help rescue people from buildings and search for them. Many of the deaths are elderly people who could not get out of homes on their own. The crew take up seats, however, and also put their lives at risk to enter the fire zone.

Remote control or autonomous could make sense when a specific trapped v

Brad Ideas
Nov 15, 2018

Nice summary of LIDAR technologies -- is it a "crutch?"
Topic: Robocars Lidar report details all the players

Earlier this year this nice summary of LIDAR companies was published. While it misses a few projects, I recommend it as a nice visual overview of the many LIDAR technologies in production and under development.

This should make a stronger case on the question of the role of LIDAR. Almost all teams are using and planning to use LIDAR, expecting some of the companies in this report to deliver production quality, reasonably priced LIDAR around 2020-2021. A number of teams, namely several startups and Tesla, are trying to work without LIDAR. As I have written before, this is an error, because it is usually done with the goal of saving money -- cameras are much cheaper, especially when you want to look in all directions. Now is not the time to be cheap.

Elon Musk makes one of the few counter-arguments, claiming that "LIDAR is a crutch." That it is just letting teams get away with not making their vision systems sufficiently good. He feels it is making teams chase a "local maximum" though he may have mostly been critical of approaches that rely almost entirely on LIDAR with minimal use of vision. That is not the approach of any major team today I am aware of.

Tesla's lack of LIDAR has a more mundane explanation -

Brad Ideas
Nov 14, 2018

A plan to end the disproportionate power of small U.S. states by buying them out
Topic: New DemocracyPolitics Time to rebuild this body After elections, American's lament about the current structure of the Senate (and electoral college) because they are based on legacy, and do not follow the principle of one person one vote.

Here, I propose a way to fix that by using the much larger economic and political power of the large states to "buy out" the small states in a deal that corrects the legacy imbalance.

This inequity was deliberate, of course. When the Union was formed, a deal was struck to recruit all the colonies to join. The small colonies were justifiably afraid that the large colonies would dominate them in any one-person-one-vote system. (Or rather, one white male landowner plus 3/5ths of his slaves, one vote.) So they were offered the Senate, where all the new states would have equal power, regardless of population. They took the deal and it was extended to all the new states that joined.

Today, the complaint goes, it is way out of proportion. And it is. The 18 smallest states have about the same population as California, and those people elect 36 Senators, and get 38 more electoral votes, while California gets 2. The deal has definitely come out to favour those small (in population) states beyond the way the founders intended.

But even if

Brad Ideas
Nov 12, 2018

Sex in your robotaxi
Topic: RobocarsI decided not to use a photo with this articleA Washington Post article suggests robotaxis may become popular for sex on wheels. In my talks I have often made the joke that while the auto industry quests for "Vision Zero" -- no automotive fatalities -- the robocar is the only technology that could result in people actually being created while driving.

People have had sex in cars probably as long as there have been cars. I am sure while the cars are a novelty that this will have an upswing, though in time the novelty will die down. The WP suggests that robocars, especially sleeper cars with beds, might even become brothels on wheels, or a popular, low cost private space that delivers itself to you.

I have written before about how to maintain privacy in the robotaxi and other privacy issues. Among my proposals is the idea that while robotaxi operators will want a camera that lets them inspect the interior (to spot when riders have damaged or soiled the vehicle, to bill them and send the car to a service depot for cleaning) that we will still want our privacy, and as such that camera should come with a physical shutter which you close to start the ride and open to end the ride.

If use for sex is a big issue, the camera can even shoot in the ult

Brad Ideas
Nov 06, 2018

Notes on Uber's "Please take us back" safety plan
Topic: Robocars Uber tech at work on car fleet reported earlier, Uber released a series of documents detailing safety strategy. It's their effort to restore their image in the world and get back on the road.

Most of this document is effectively a "How to build a robocar 101" without special relevance to Uber. It's what other teams are doing to, and most of it is fairly obvious. In the important section on safety drivers, they do concede they made an error going to just one, and describe how they are fixing that and how they are now screening applicants. They don't want to say "mea culpa" too much, so in only a few cases do they identify a change in policy, including:

Sticking with two safety drivers Upgrading the type of person hired to be a safety driver (mission specialist) and having a stricter hiring process Putting in attention monitoring on the "pilot" driver behind the wheel, and warning them -- and alerting HQ -- if they don't pay attention. Lower latency in the processing pipeline, and higher priority for more important obstacles detected Internal and External safety audit, and new safety advisory board Stronger internal safety culture and regular safety standups, briefings and training for all staff Always on automatic emergency braking through an external system. This mi

Brad Ideas
Nov 05, 2018

Uber declares itself devoted to safety
Topic: RobocarsThis weekend, Uber released a long and detailed "safety report" with some of their learnings and new plans after their fatal error. I have not had time to read it all yet due to travel, and will offer more detailed comments later. You can read the comments of the Washington post and many others online.

Even without reading it, I am sure the document will be contrite and declare a dedication to safety. And I am even confident that Uber will become much more dedicated to safety than before, since they have had more of a wake-up call that any other team.

They go into more details on the technical flaws they want to improve, including the latency in their perception system and of course the need for better emergency braking ability.

But even without reading it, I want to reiterate a point from before. Uber's failure came from two very different components, and both were bad but only one was the true failure. That was the failure to have good safety driving -- both in terms of Uber's protocol of managing and training safety drivers, and the performance of the particular safety driver they hired.

While Uber's technical systems performed particularly badly, because not seeing a pedestrian alone on an empty road is an unacceptable level of

Brad Ideas
Nov 01, 2018

Study claims robocars increase polution; they could not be more wrong
Topic: Going GreenRobocars Less of this in the robotaxi world

A recently published article on robocar pollution with associated paper from Boston University warns of robocars increasing pollution by increasing vehicle miles combined with the emissions of some sections of the U.S. energy grid.

The study has several serious flaws, since I believe robocars offer great potential to actually reduce emissions.

The premise that VMT increases is a reasonable one, especially outside the US, where car travel becomes more popular as you make it more convenient and cheaper. But the paper presumes vehicles and fleets like we have today, and a grid like we have today.

There is strong evidence the grid will improve and go solar, especially in sunny places. In sunny places, solar is now the cheapest method of building a new power plant. (Running existing NG and coal plants is still slightly cheaper but this may not be that way for long.) Of course, electric cars don't charge too much from solar because they are on the roads during the day, so storage is still needed.

The main issue though is the fleet. 80% of tri

Brad Ideas
Oct 31, 2018

Nutonomy President says "let's not compete on safety" since any crash hurts the whole industry
Topic: Robocars If you have fatalities, will people ride with you?

In a talk earlier this year Karl Iagnemma, from Nutonomy/Aptiv discusses public perception of robocars. In particular, he puts a focus on the difference between perception and reality, and the risks that presents. He then suggests that because the failure of any one company at safety (like Uber's fatality) affects all other companies, and thus companies should work together to improve each other's safety.

There are many different errors of perception, in both directions.

Many polls released say that a large fraction of people are afraid of self-driving cars, though they are answering questions about a technology they have not experienced or which even exists. People who get in the cars trust them very quickly, even more quickly than they should. People attribute errors of one project (like Uber) to the others, or confuse a driver assist car (like the Tesla) with a robocar. No matter what the misperception, though, Iagnemma is right when he suggests the problems of one player reflect on all the players. This is particularly true with the Uber fatality, which caused increases in the fraction of people who (prejudging) declare they would be afraid of riding in or even having rob

Brad Ideas
Oct 29, 2018

Waymo is first, but is Cruise second, and how can you tell?
Topic: Robocars Cruise's spartan interior -- if they deploy on time

A recent Reuters story suggests Cruise is well behind schedule with one insider saying "nothing is on schedule" and various reports of problems not yet handled. This puts doubt into GM's announced plan to have a commercial pilot without safety drivers in operation in San Francisco in 2019.

The problem for me, and everybody else, is that it's very hard to judge the progress of a project from outside. This is because it's "easy" to get a basic car together and do demo runs on various streets. Teams usually have something like that up and running within a year. Just 2 years in, Google had logged 100,000 miles on 1,000 different miles of road. Today, it's even easier.

As such, you can see lots of miles logged, and you can take a test ride where nothing eventful happens, and be impressed, but learn very little.

You learn more if you can get detailed statistics, but even there it's difficult. Only the people on the team in charge of measuring quality have a really good sense of it, and sometimes not even them. Even high quality vehicles will be having minor problems from time to time, temporarily not perceiving things, or being too conservative in their driving. Aft

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