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Sat, July 24th



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Brad Ideas
Jul 15, 2021

Using electric school buses to power the grid / Remote driving and Starlink
Topic: Going GreenRobocarsTags: forbesVehicle to Grid (v2g) to provide power from car batteries is tough. A new venture wants to do it with electric school buses, which follow a fixed schedule and have big batteries. I examine how that would work at:

Electric Schoolbuses and V2G

Previously, I reported on Halo, a new service providing a car delivered to you via remote driving. You drive it yourself, a form of what I called a whistlecar many years ago. I discuss the advantages of that and debate if a network like Starlink could enable remote driving.

Halo Uses Remote Operations To Offer Summoned Carshare; Might Tesla Do It With Starlink?

Brad Ideas
Jul 08, 2021

Self-Driving Teams Have Always Strived To Measure Safety. What If That's Not The Hard Thing?
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesIn the robocar world, everybody is safety-obsessed. But what if what's holding things up isn't that, but the fact that focus on safety had delayed the good road citizenship needed to operate a real service. Is good road citizenship even harder than safety? What ways might we measure it and get the trade-off right. I discuss this in a new Forbes site article seen in:

Self-Driving Teams Have Always Strived To Measure Safety. What If That's Not The Hard Thing?

Brad Ideas
Jul 06, 2021

Aboard the Energy Observer, a French hydrogen/solar/wind powered boat
Topic: Going GreenTransportationTags: forbesI got a chance to visit the Energy Observer, a French boat powered by solar and wind with hydrogen energy storage as it visited SF while sailing around the world.

Hydrogen doesn't work so well in cars, but it can make sense in other places like aircraft, trucks and grid. But what about on a boat?

Read my analysis at Aboard the Energy Observer, a French hydrogen/solar/wind powered boat

Brad Ideas
Jun 22, 2021

Scale Mapping; Pony.AI driving in China; Waymo Pride
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesUpdating a few stories reported before (including Monday) I note that Scale.AI has launched their mapping service, which helps people tag and label maps more efficiently. Pony.AI shows off they are doing taxi tests with no safety driver in China, where roads are more complex than in Fremont, California. And Waymo shows off its Pride.

Read about these in this Forbes.com article Scale Mapping; Pony.AI driving in China; Waymo Pride

Brad Ideas
Jun 21, 2021

Robocar news round up: Waymo, Pony.AI, Cruise, Baidu, Kodak, Nuro and more.
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesLast week saw a flurry of robocar news. The most significant was the deployment of no-safety-driver testing by Pony.AI in Fremont, CA, but there's also big funding news for Waymo, Cruise and Kodiak, Deepmap is sold to Nvidia, new taxis for Baidu, deals for Nuro and a collision between a Waymo and a scooter in SF -- in manual mode. Read all about it in my round up at:

Robocar News Roundup

Brad Ideas
Jun 10, 2021

Summary of interesting headlines from The Information and TechCrunch simultaneous conferences
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesTwo major virtual self-driving conferences scheduled themselves for June 9. So I went to both, of course. Interesting news tidbids came from Argo, Starship, Scale, Chinese robotaxi makers, Zoox and many others. I summarize it here:

Summary of interesting headlines from The Information and TechCrunch simultaneous conferences

Brad Ideas
Jun 06, 2021

Cruise gets vacant robotaxi test permit for California
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesCruise has been granted a permit to begin unmanned robotaxi tests in California. But they aren't allowed to charge, which forbids a lot of useful research, and explains why Waymo hasn't bothered with that permit yet. I discuss why it's so useful to experiment with payment in this Forbes site article at:

Cruise gets vacant robotaxi test permit for California

Brad Ideas
Jun 02, 2021

Solar pool pumping makes even more sense
Topic: Going Green8 years ago, I proposed that pool pumps really should be designed to make use of solar (or wind) power. We have now seen used solar panels show up at the ridiculous price of $50 for 250 peak watts.

What this means is a solar powered pool pump could do most of the pumping with solar for what it costs for just a few months of electricity. These are not high quality panels. They are so cheap that it would reasonable to hand them on the north fence of the pool area even though vertical hanging is less efficient, though the roof would be great. (Hanging on a south facing fence means getting only 60-70% of what you get from optimal tilt on a roof, but at this cost it could be a win, though sadly performance is worst in summer.)

With solar this cheap, and getting cheaper, we face the problem that the other costs of solar (mounting, labour, wiring, permits, inverters, grid-tie) now dwarf the cost of the panels. At 20 cents per peak watt, the other costs are now an order of magnitude greater. The big opportunity comes in finding ways to eliminate these costs with easy self-install or basic contractor install.

This means you want loads you can power without grid-tie. As soon as you grid-tie you immediately need a whole level of special gear and permits. You are playing with dangerous stuff.

You also want loads that can deal with intermittent power. Pool filtering is ideal for that. You

Brad Ideas
Jun 01, 2021

Google Meet and others up the video meeting game, what's next?
Topic: MediaTechnologyNew in Meet Recently, Google showed off some new features for Google Meet. The key new feature, with the odd name of "companion mode" addresses a major problem of meetings which have a central meeting room with multiple people, and a variety of people outside "calling in."

Such meetings, the most common use of corporate video meeting tools, have always treated the remotes as 2nd class members of the meeting, almost as much as audio conference systems have done so. I have always railed against that, because today, every person in the meeting room tends to have a phone or laptop, which include a microphone and camera, right in front of them. But instead there is usually a meeting room system with speaker-phone and big screen monitor and camera showing the whole room.

That sucks. The audio always has issues. The view of the room shows small people and you often can't see some of them except in rare systems where remotes can point the camera. But if you have people in the meeting room join the conference on their own device, it doesn't work because the tools don't understand this, and the audio will fail entirely with microphones and speakers in the same room.

Companion mode presumably solves this, obviously not sending your audio to anybody in the same room as you, and possibly doing some smart audio filtering to only send the audio from the microphone closest to you. (Or maybe it just mutes all personal audio and relies only on the main system

Brad Ideas
May 28, 2021

Tesla activates driver watching camera
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesFor a long time, Tesla refused to implement driver gaze monitoring with Autopilot. Now, quietly, the new release does it, though with no other changes as yet.

But it's quite a shift in their actions.

See the details at this Forbes.com story at

Tesla activates driver watching camera

Brad Ideas
May 25, 2021

Teslas with LIDARs and no radar -- it's not what you think.
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesSome buzz has arisen due to photos of a Tesla with a LIDAR on it, and hints that Tesla is dropping radar from their cars in a hurry. Is this a major change of heart, par for the course, or a response to the chip shortage.

See analysis of that at this new Forbes site article:

[https://www.forbes.com/sites/bradtempleton/2021/05/25/teslas-with-lidars-and-no-radars---its-not-what-you-think/](Teslas with LIDARs and no radar -- it's not what you think.)

Brad Ideas
May 24, 2021

Washington State vetoes all-EV law due to road usage requirement, but it's not so hard
Topic: Going GreenTags: forbesGovernor Inslee of Washington has refused to sign a bill he says he supports, which bans new fossil cars by 2030. He refused to sign it because it ties it to creating a road use tax system for EVs, which he says he also supports, but not in the same bill.

He might be right, but the reality is that having a road use tax system is a pretty trivial thing for the cars of 2030. In fact the Teslas of 2018 could do it with a software update.

Read Washington State vetoes all-EV law due to road usage requirement, but it's not so hard

Brad Ideas
May 14, 2021

Waymo Peforms Embarrassingly In Construction Cone Situation
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesA recently released video shows Waymo having some real problems when it encounters a construction zone it doesn't understand (that's expected) but then the remote ops team gives the wrong instructions and a comedy of errors follows. I discuss it here:

Waymo Peforms Embarrassingly In Construction Cone Situation

Brad Ideas
May 11, 2021

VW will sell you self-driving for $8.50/hour some day. Too high or too low?
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesA VW executive suggested they might sell you a real self-driving function (when they have it) for around $8.50 per hour, as opposed to paying for it in a lump sum when you buy the car as Tesla plans.

What are the economics like of buying self-driving by the hour?

Read about that in my Forbes.com article at VW will sell you self-driving for $8.50/hour some day. Too high or too low?

Brad Ideas
May 10, 2021

Mapping the private driving spaces of the world
Topic: RobocarsFor the blog series of my client DeepMap, here is an article about issues with mapping the private spaces of the world -- parking lots, garages, driveways, pick-up/drop-off zones and more.

Mapping the private driving spaces of the world

Brad Ideas
May 10, 2021

NTSB early report on Tesla crash has just a few more details
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesThe controversial Tesla crash in Texas is probably not so controversial. The NTSB's preliminary report only releases a few tidbits of information, but they point to Autopilot not being involved.

Read NTSB early report on Tesla crash has just a few more details

Brad Ideas
May 06, 2021

Doing virtual conferences right
Topic: Air TravelMediaTelecomTags: forbesFor the past year, we've had nothing but virtual conferences. Soon, we'll get out of that, but there are a lot of lessons about how to do virtual events right, which I summarize in a new Forbes site article at:

How to do a virtual conference right

Brad Ideas
Apr 30, 2021

Baidu Apollo opens up robotaxi service in Beijing
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesThe new services keep coming, and now Baidu/Apollo has opened up a robotaxi service in outer Beijing, at an industrial park. While they call it fully driverless, they still have an employee in the passenger seat who is told to do nothing. This is in contrast with AutoX's service near Shenzhen and a few others, as we move closer to a true robotaxi service.

Details, and contrast with AutoX are in my new Forbes site article at:

Baidu Apollo opens up robotaxi service in Beijing

Brad Ideas
Apr 28, 2021

Tesla reveals more details on fatal Texas crash, it's a locked-room murder mystery
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesTesla released some important new details on the Texas crash that everybody's talking about (but probably shouldn't be talking that much about.)

The new details are not enough, though. Information is now contradictory until we learn more. Was there somebody in the driver's seat or not? We've learned that cruise control did play a role, but are told it brought the car to a stop, which it clearly didn't.

Read more details in this piece at:

Tesla reveals more details on fatal Texas crash, it's a locked-room murder mystery

Brad Ideas
Apr 23, 2021

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

You can find this post at [Here Be Dragons: Surprising benefits of maps][https://medium.com/deepmap-blog/here-be-dragons-part-2-c88cd3c47d0e)

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

Brad Ideas
Apr 22, 2021

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

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

See What we know and don't know about the Tesla crash at Forbes.com

Brad Ideas
Apr 15, 2021

Here be Dragons - New Blog post for DeepMap
Topic: RobocarsI've been working as a paid advisor to DeepMap, which builds technology to allow self-driving teams and ADAS-Pilot systems to create the maps which allow them to work and get greater safety.

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

The name "Here be Dragons" derives from the fact that old maps would sometimes say that to describe the unknown area beyond the map. This is where the interesting issues in mapping will lie. One of the dragons, though, is the question of conflict of interest.

I care about bias in my writing and conflicts of interest. Nonetheless I have put my own byline on this article because it reflects my views on maps, most of which I have expressed prior to having any financial interest. (The graphics and captions are added by DeepMap which naturally wants to inform people about its products.) Paid writing will never be 100% unbiased -- which is why it should always be disclosed -- but it can be 95% unbiased. I don't like maps because they compensate me, they compensate me because they want somebody who likes maps. The main bias comes from the fact that I am not likely to send them a post critical of their products, and arguably less likely even to do it on my own blog, though I work hard to not shy away from that. Even though I want to maintain a friendly relationship with Google/Way

Brad Ideas
Apr 13, 2021

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

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

Brad Ideas
Apr 12, 2021

The Biden EV infrastructure plan can be done for cheap
Topic: Going GreenTags: forbesPresident Biden has proposed massive spending on electric vehicle infrastructure, including 500,000 charging stations. Yet the first 100,000 stations were deployed for the wrong reasons, and many sit mostly unused. We do want lots of charging stations, but they don't need to be very expensive at all. I outline how in this new Forbes site article at:

Infrastructure Plan Calls For 500,000 New Charging Stations. Let's Not Screw It Up Like The First 80,000

Brad Ideas
Apr 07, 2021

NFTs are not just hype, they may be the essence of art sale
Topic: FuturismIntellectual PropertyEverydays: The First 5000 days sold for $69M as an NFT

Huge buzz has arisen over NFTs -- non-fungible-tokens -- due to the purchase of a token representing a piece of digital art by "Beeple" for over $69 million. Is it a craze, or does it make sense?

The Beeple sale may have some artificial nature to it, as it was done with crypto-wealth not for the artwork but because the buyer felt the first big NFT would be of special value -- ie. the idea of NFTs was paid for as much as the art. At the same time, reports suggest over $500M has been spent on the tokens.

NFTs are just special recordings on a blockchain, such as the Bitcoin blockchain. Bitcoin supporters say that bitcoins are "fungible" -- they are all alike and you can trade any one for any other -- but that's not actually true. Each bitcoin transaction (which is what gives you "some bitcoin") is unique. It is only convention that makes people happily trade them as fungible items with value equal only to how much bitcoin they represent. They are even more unique than dollar bills with serial numbers.

Because of that, you can make a special transaction that includes some text declaring it represents something, like a certificate of sole ownership something, like a piece of art or even a di

Brad Ideas
Apr 07, 2021

NFTs are not just type, they may be the essence of art sale
Topic: FuturismIntellectual PropertyEverydays: The First 5000 days sold for $69M as an NFT

Huge buzz has arisen over NFTs -- non-fungible-tokens -- due to the purchase of a token representing a piece of digital art by "Beeple" for over $69 million. Is it a craze, or does it make sense?

The Beeple sale may have some artificial nature to it, as it was done with crypto-wealth not for the artwork but because the buyer felt the first big NFT would be of special value -- ie. the idea of NFTs was paid for as much as the art. At the same time, reports suggest over $500M has been spent on the tokens.

NFTs are just special recordings on a blockchain, such as the Bitcoin blockchain. Bitcoin supporters say that bitcoins are "fungible" -- they are all alike and you can trade any one for any other -- but that's not actually true. Each bitcoin transaction (which is what gives you "some bitcoin") is unique. It is only convention that makes people happily trade them as fungible items with value equal only to how much bitcoin they represent. They are even more unique than dollar bills with serial numbers.

Because of that, you can make a special transaction that includes some text declaring it represents something, like a certificate of sole ownership something, like a piece of art or even a di

Brad Ideas
Apr 02, 2021

Waymo CEO Krafcik Steps Down; New Co-CEOs Come From Tech, Not Auto
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesWaymo self-driving's CEO, John Krafcik, has stepped down. More interesting is the two new co-CEOs appointed from inside (one from the original founding team that I worked with) have no automotive industry background. Having worked at Waymo and followed it more closely than almost anybody, I have some thoughts on the shift in this Forbes site column:

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

Brad Ideas
Apr 01, 2021

Business association pushes for new $30/hour minimum wage
Topic: ComedyPolitics Boston Dynamics products demonstrate their dancing ability

San Francisco, CA, Apr 1 (UPI) The International Business Alliance, a new global lobbying association of companies, announced this morning their support for a major rise in the U.S. minimum wage -- to at least $30/hour, nationwide. They explained that while some businesses oppose an increase in the minimum wage, they feel it is important that U.S. workers receive a "living wage" for what they do.

Association leader, Martha Jones, public affairs coordinator of Boston Dynamics, makers of the famous Spot and Atlas robots featured in the "mash potato" dance said they have long paid most of their staff an excellent living wage and will raise that of their non-engineering employees should this policy come into effect.

"It's time to raise that wage," said Jones. She was joined by leaders from Nuro delivery robots, Fetch Robotics, 6 river systems, Locus Robotics, Geek , IBM and several others.

Also joining the call were Databricks, Tibco, Mathworks and Microsoft Azure. When questioned if all the companies were in robotics or AI, but Jones replied that no, they had many other members, pointing to Foxconn, Quanta, Pegatron, ASE Technology and several others. "In fact, almost every major Chinese manufacturer is with us in this

Brad Ideas
Mar 31, 2021

Safety Pool Announces 100,000 Self-Driving Test Scenarios Ready For Download
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesOver a decade ago I started advocating for having a large public library of simulation scenarios to test self-driving cars. Today, Deepen.AI, a company I am an investor/advisor to announces it has built such a library, in cooperation with the World Economic Forum and WMG University of Warwick and with involvement from many companies and government agencies. In the Safety Pool, people can build and contribute test scenarios, and in return get back manyfold from the contributions of other members. It's a win for everybody, and making all your competitors safer is actually good for your business -- an incident hurts the whole industry.

The Pool kicks off with 100,000 different scenarios you can run your self-driving car through in simulation to see that it handles them all, and fix the ones it doesn't. In time, it will grow to let you virtually test a car through any dangerous or complex situation anybody has ever seen or dreamed of.

More details in my Forbes site article:

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

Brad Ideas
Mar 30, 2021

Will It Be Hard Or Easy For Self-Driving Cars To Expand Their Territory?
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesRight now Waymo One only serves suburban Phoenix. How hard is it going to be for self-driving companies to expand to new cities, new countries, new conditions and new rules of the road? Some think very hard -- and it's not trivial. But it's likely they can afford it just fine. I explore why is this new article on Forbes.com:

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

Brad Ideas
Mar 29, 2021

On Day One of the Pandemic, they Should have named a "Data Czar"
Topic: GovernanceHealthPoliticsPrivacy

At the start of the pandemic, we had poor information. Many of the choices made in many countries were wrong. I held heart, though, that because good data about the virus would be worth billions, even trillions, that we would quickly move to get it, and have a coordinated plan to get it. We didn't. Even a year later, there are so many things we don't know about how the virus is transmitted, what the best steps are to stop transmission and many other questions. We know a bit more about how to treat it, but we've learned that very slowly and still are far behind where we could be.

The consequences are dire. Not just in lives lost, but in economic ruin because we aren't able to more finely tune our policies on things like masks, lockdowns, workplace activity and more. Some people have lost their livelihood who perhaps didn't need to, other businesses have kept operating when it was dangerous to do so.

In addition, we've developed tremendous pandemic fatigue, where the public is no longer willing to follow good policies, and our crazy political times made medical decisions about pandemic fighting into political issues and badges of tribal

Brad Ideas
Mar 25, 2021

Waymo Lets You Make Multiple Stops On A Robotaxi Trip, But Not Leave Your Stuff
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesA modest change at Waymo -- allowing you to do multi-stop trips where the vehicle waits around for you (physically or virtually) at no charge gives us a taste of the different economics of robotaxis compared to Uber, since no driver has to be paid. I discuss these changes in a new Forbes site article at:

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

Brad Ideas
Mar 09, 2021

Foolish California Bill demands a robocars be electric by 2025
Topic: Going GreenRobocarsTags: forbesA proposed California bill would require all robocars to be zero emission in under 4 years. As good as going electric is, the government should not be picking the power train so soon, especially when there is no sign that the existing players are bad actors. I detail more in my Forbes site article at

Foolish California Bill demands a robocars be electric by 2025

Brad Ideas
Mar 08, 2021

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

In other words, once you get a fleet of robocars out on the road, not only will they reduce accidents by not causing them, they will also prevent other people from causing accidents.

Read about it in my new Forbes site piece at Waymo study says cars would be good at avoiding accidents

Brad Ideas
Mar 03, 2021

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

It's not a great solution because it's gasoline thinking. EV owners who have garages charge at home and almost never charge elsewhere, so swap gets them nothing except on long road trips. But Ample is correctly aimed at fleets -- Uber drivers, delivery vans -- for whom gasoline thinking can make sense. It's quite expensive, though.

Read my detailed analysis of all the factors in a new Forbes site article at: "Ample" Launches New Battery Swap For EVs That Could Avoid The Failures Of Previous Ventures

Brad Ideas
Mar 02, 2021

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

Read about it at Can your self-driving ride be comfortable

Brad Ideas
Feb 16, 2021

What sort of car would Apple make?
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesRumours swirl constantly about an Apple Car. Here is my Forbes site piece on what sort of car Apple would make: Expensive but superior, non-standard, well-designed, electric but charges itself when you're not using it, self-driving and surprising. For details see:

What sort of car would Apple make?

Brad Ideas
Feb 12, 2021

Zoom impeachment hearing: Trump lawyer forgets to turn off Cat filter on webcam
Topic: ComedyPolitics Turns out the actual cat filter used by the Texas lawyer is 11 year old software that only runs on Dell webcams, so I used another.

Brad Ideas
Feb 09, 2021

California Disengagement Reports reveal tidbits
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesThe California Robocar disengagement reports. They don't tell us a great deal but here is some analysis with tidbits learned from them, and a discussion of why Tesla is missing.

California Disengagement Reports show tidbits on the players

Brad Ideas
Feb 05, 2021

Semi-Secret Ballot could be good for impeachment votes
Topic: New DemocracyPoliticsMost votes in legislatures are done by open ballot, often by calling of the rolls. Everybody's vote is very public. Since legislators work for us, it is important we know how they vote.

At the same time, secret ballots have a lot of virtues. People can vote their true intention, without fear of reprisals for their vote. Legislators are supposed to fear reprisal from their own voters, but not from other entities such as other legislators, political parties, donors etc. Many a time it's been the case that there was a result that was actually supported by the majority (sometimes a big majority) if you poll them in private, but which most are afraid to support in public.

To deal with that, in 2006 I proposed the use of cryptographic techniques to test secretly popular ideas which has many applications in legislatures and beyond. It's possible to create a mathematically secure system where people cast votes, but the votes can only be decrypted after a majority of the voters have voted "aye." Thus you could have a vote on legalizing marijuana (which most support in secret) and once a majority were in favour, it would be revealed and simultaneously become law, with no shame in having voted for it since now you're in the majority. People are afraid to be in the minority but they could fear it less.

A non-cryptographic way Here's a way to do this without crypto. Pass out paper

Brad Ideas
Feb 04, 2021

Didi makes a profit, Uber doesn't, can Robotaxis
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesIn the study of how much profit Robotaxis can make it's interesting to note that even in the Pandemic year, Didi will make a billion dollar profit from ride hail, while Uber continues to lose money and make people wonder if it can ever be profitable.

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

Didi Makes $1 Billion Profit While Uber Bleeds — Good News For Robotaxis

Brad Ideas
Jan 27, 2021

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

More details at AutoX opens robotaxi service to the public

Brad Ideas
Jan 26, 2021

Starship announces one million deliveries, tops in the robotic transport world
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesA Starship robot waits for an order at a market in England

Readers will know that I was involved with Starship Delivery Robots since the start. I'm not compensated there any more, but as a stockholder I have a bias of course, but their recent announcement of one million deliveries is a real milestone by any objective standard. That also means 1.6 million miles and over 600,000 hours of unmanned commercial operation. The only other company with any significant record of unmanned operation is Waymo -- but theirs are fewer, but of a much harder problem. Nobody else is even close, not when it comes to operating with nobody inside and doing service for real paying customers.

Here is my new article on Starship's milestone at Forbes:

Starship reaches one million deliveries.

Brad Ideas
Jan 25, 2021

Can EV charging be a business?
Topic: Going GreenTransportationTags: forbesGas stations are a business -- they sell gasoline at a profit. But EV charging isn't like that, and almost no EV charging stations are run with the primary goal of selling electricity at a profit to customers.

Some want the business, but will it work? Is this a temporary or permanent situation?

I explore that in my new Forbes site article at Can EV charging be a business?

Brad Ideas
Jan 19, 2021

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

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

Brad Ideas
Jan 05, 2021

Aptera's new car is incredibly efficient, but the solar panel on it is convenient, not green
Topic: Going GreenTransportationTags: forbes Aptera, which has been trying for many years to make a successful efficient electric car, is now taking orders for a vehicle which uses only 100 watt-hours/mile to travel, compared with 250 for a Tesla Model 3 and more for others. That's a big deal.

They also have put solar panels on it, and have made a marketing pitch of calling it "Never Charge" since in theory the panels can generate enough electricity for around 10,000 miles of driving a year, which is just a bit below average usage. This can add a lot of convenience if you can't charge at home or the office, though it won't quite be "never." On the other hand, many people think that makes the car green, but it doesn't. If you are paying for solar panels, it's much greener to put them on your roof or in a solar farm than to put them on a car.

I outline all the reasons in my new Forbes site story at:

Aptera Electric Car Is Incr

Brad Ideas
Dec 27, 2020

Robocars 2020 year in review (Video and Story)
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesIt was a much bigger year for Robocars than anybody expected. At the start of the year everybody felt we were in a "robocar winter" with things slowing down and pulling back. Instead, the year showed big milestones and huge valuations.

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

The text version is at Forbes.com:

Robocars 2020 in review

Brad Ideas
Dec 20, 2020

Go out soon to see Jupiter and Saturn
Topic: Photography

Here's an image I shot last night of the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, the closest they have been in 800 years. Because Jupiter and Saturn are two of the most interesting telescopic objects (particular to sky newbies) the chance to see them both in the same view is remarkable, and short of a total eclipse, is one of the most impressive telescope sights. The good news is you can see it with almost any telescope -- even cheap ones -- and from inside the city. You just need clear skies and a view to the SW at dusk, about 40 minutes after sunset. (The longer you wait the darker it gets but the lower they sink in the sky.)

You do need a telescope. To the eye you will just see some pretty points together, and you will barely see the moons of Jupiter and the rings in good binoculars - worth it, but they get in binocular range every 20 years.

Here you see Jupiter with some bands, Saturn with well tilted rings, and the 4 brightest moons of Jupiter all lined up to the side. Sunday night in North America you will see all 4 again. Monday night is slightly closer but Ganymede will be hidden behind Jupiter. Not visible is Titan, the giant moon of Saturn, which is too dim.

This is an HDR shot combining three images, and each of the 3 images is the result of stacking hundreds of ordinary images with modern digital techniques. A regular camera

Brad Ideas
Dec 14, 2020

Zoox reveals their secret vehicle
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesA Zoox

Ever since Zoox was founded, they have kept mostly secret their effort to design the vehicle of the future from the ground up, rather than just working on a self-driving system like almost everybody else.

Today they showed off their design. Since I knew their original plan, having met extensively with Zoox's founder in its early days, nothing greatly surprised me, but there are quite a few nice touches.

Ready my examination of what's new in Zoox's thinking at this new Forbes site article.

Zoox reveals their secret vehicle

Brad Ideas
Dec 09, 2020

The biggest week in Robocar history
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbes While I will still do my year in review later this month, most of it will be based on this week which featured:

AutoX no-driver service in Shenzen Waymo opening up taxi service to the general public near Phoenix Cruise does first test rides with no safety driver in San Francisco Aurora merging with/acquiring Uber's ATG self-driving unit Some no-driver tests by Baidu

Brad Ideas
Dec 08, 2020

Waymo Vs. Uber Vs. Tesla Vs. Amazon Vs. Others: Who Will Sell You Your Robotaxi Ride?
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesSo which app will you open to call a ride in the robotaxi world? Uber now will link with Aurora -- but is Uber's position in the ride-selling world unassailable? Will Waymo/Google, Cruise, Amazon/Zoox, Tesla or others win the day? I look at competitive factors in the race to replace selling cars with selling rides.

Read some examination of how they compete at Waymo Vs. Uber Vs. Tesla Vs. Amazon Vs. Others: Who Will Sell You Your Robotaxi Ride?

Brad Ideas
Dec 07, 2020

Uber ATG And Aurora Merge To Staggering $10B Valuation
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesUber's self-driving unit (ATG) has been merged/sold to Aurora, a high flying startup with a combined valuation of $10B, but a big drop for Uber and climb for Aurora. I outline the odd nature of the deal in this new article as the robocar news just keeps on coming. It's not winter any more.

See a new Forbes site article at Uber ATG And Aurora Merge To Staggering $10B Valuation

Brad Ideas
Dec 07, 2020

Amazon/Zoox Custom Vehicle Design Revealed Early And Leaks Some Details
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesReddit user Lakailb87 caught the new Zoox vehicle on the streets of San Francisco

Zoox (now a unit of Amazon) has been secretive about their custom vehicle design, with a reveal set for Dec 12. It was photographed out in the wild yesterday, though, so I have written a new Forbes site column about their design -- similar to a few others, but with diferent LIDAR design and other goodies.

See Amazon/Zoox Custom Vehicle Design Revealed Early And Leaks Some Details for more details.

Brad Ideas
Dec 05, 2020

We should rethink the ethics of vaccine challenge tests to be more like those of a battle
Topic: Health

As vaccine approval nears, you've no doubt heard proposals to speed up vaccine testing with what is known as a "challenge" trial, where you deliberately infect volunteers with the virus. This approach is controversial, but has been around for some time. There are already organizations collecting volunteers, and tens of thousands have signed up.

It is suspected this may have been done in China and Russia to speed deployment of their vaccines, which came out much sooner. What's also clear, in hindsight, is that challenge testing would have been a huge success on the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines -- had they been given to 1,000 volunteers, about 50 would have gotten mild cases from which they would have recovered quickly, and in just a few weeks we would have had solid data on their high efficacy. It's less clear this would have happened with some of the other candidates. The vaccines would have been deployed months sooner, and due to the recent winter surge (which many felt was coming) many tens of thousands of lives would have been saved.

We didn't do it, because naturally, this sort of practice is normally anathema in ethical medical research. It cuts to the core of "First, do no harm." I evokes many unethical practices of the past. Deliberately putting people at risk to do research just isn't done.

In spite of this, the movement g

Brad Ideas
Dec 03, 2020

AutoX begins no-safety-driver taxi pilot in Shenzen
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesIt's only with special guests and staff, but AutoX has followed Waymo in starting a robotaxi service with no safety drivers on board, with all 25 of their vehicles in Shenzen. It means they are getting very confident in their system.

Read more details in a new Forbes site piece at AutoX begins no-safety-driver taxi pilot in Shenzen

Brad Ideas
Dec 01, 2020

How to end gerrymandering - but why it won't do as much as you hope
Topic: Politics How some districts in Texas were redrawn to reduce Democratic house seats It is possible to end Gerrymandering, the nasty process where political districts (mostly in the USA) are drawn by partisans to allocate voters and increase the probability their party will win seats in congress, state legislatures and other bodies. It's cheating, but all attempts to stop it so far have failed. It got worse in 2010 with the Republican Party's "Operation Redmap" where they put a special effort on winning state governments to give them redistricting power. It has been described as "Instead of voters picking their representatives, the representatives pick their voters."

It's been hard for the supreme court to fix this, even though they have said they wish to. It's not their job to write districting rules, they can only tell you if the rules you wrote fit the constitution and the law. Little hope remains there.

Here's how to fix it, with a special multi-state "agreement." I write agreement in quotes because while it would be best to do this as a binding interstate compact, that requires the consent of congress, including the Republican Senate, and may not be feasible. But it's possible to do it without such consent in a different way.

States joining the pact would agree to:

Draw their districts in an algorithmic and non-partisan manner. There's software

Brad Ideas
Nov 30, 2020

When robocars must be perfect, and when they need not be
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesA recent Waymo tester has been challenging Waymo cars to pick him up in unusual pickup spots. Some of the times, the problem is probably being solved by a remote human operator giving advice to the car. What many do not understand is that this is not a flaw, but probably the simplest and cheapest way to solve the problem.

Read more at When robocars must be perfect, and when they need not be

Brad Ideas
Nov 25, 2020

Cheap, fast, surprisingly good Covid testing using scratch-n-sniff
Topic: HealthIt occurred to me, learning that 80% of Covid infected patients lose their sense of smell (Anosmia) that it should be possible to build the cheapest and most effective Covid screener (for use at entrances to schools/airports/buildings/restaurants) with a simple "scratch-n-sniff" card. These cards, which cost pennies, would come with a set of scratch squares, and under each would be boxes with the names of possible scents. A QR code would (encrypted) have the answer. You sniff, check the boxes and then a phone or other device scans your answer. Much more effective than a thermometer, since probably under 20% of Covid patients have a fever. No close contact with anybody needed. Takes longer but faster to process so no waiting in line. Could even be automated but somebody has to be able to tell the people who fail they can't come in.

A bit of research would discover how many scratches you need for a reliable number. An alternate trick would be to have two rows of the same scents in different orders, draw lines between the matches. Something would work. However:

This is a limited utility home test, since 20% false negative -- but then some of the rapid tests are not a lot better. Once you get it, anosmia persists long after the infection, so you need a different test to tell you are clean. You would need to get a card to bypass any anosmia checkpoint. A few people already have anosmia, though it's pretty rare. A more expensive rapid test can be used for them. At home, it's easy to test yourself with anything around t

Brad Ideas
Nov 23, 2020

Mercedes "Automated Valet Parking" disappoints
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesPromised for years, you can finally do automated valet parking if you have a 2021 Mercedes S class and park in one garage at Stuttgart airport. First demonstrated at Stanford in 2009, this feature is long overdue, and this implementation is quite disappointing, doing little more than save the driver a few minutes of walking.

I go into the details of what robotic parking could and should do, even today in a new article on Forbes.com at:

Mercedes "Automated Valet Parking" disappoints

Brad Ideas
Nov 14, 2020

The Electoral College: Why it is, Why it's hard to fix, and why it's not as big a deal as you think
Topic: New DemocracyPolitics

As we do every 4 years, people are lamenting about the crazy system of the electoral college. It is archaic and should be replaced, but that's far more easily said than done.

Everybody knows that because all but 2 states vote as blocs in the college, it turns the election into a battle of swing states, and it's happened a few times that the winner of the college did not win what people like to call the "popular vote" -- the number you get when newspapers add up the vote counts in each individual state race.

Because it currently biases the results slightly to the Republicans, most calls to eliminate it come from the Democrats. The situation is a bit more complex than it seems, though, when we consider the following:

It's written pretty strongly into the constitution, which makes changing it there almost impossible. There is an effort to reverse its effects with an "interstate compact" which has 16 blue states signed up for it, but hat also faces challenges. The bias introduced by the college is small, but appears much larger than it is If we did get rid of the college, it would only change things a little bit Having the winner of more states beat the winner of the popular vote w

Brad Ideas
Nov 13, 2020

Preventing the chaos of super-close elections
Topic: Politics

When elections are close, they get chaotic. If the flip of a single vote, at the tie-point, can cause a massive change, like who runs a country, things can go nuts. People will do everything, from legal battles all the way up to the supreme court, to voter suppression, to voter fraud, to fake claims of voter fraud, all to move the needle a tiny bit around that tipping point.

It's a major flaw in many voting systems. After the 2000 election in Florida, I proposed a simple fix to the problem of that election. States like to hand over their electoral votes on a "winner takes all" (WTA) basis, which magnifies the chaos at the tipping point. Instead, they can still use WTA if the election is not close, but if it is close enough for a recount, say 0.5% difference between the contenders, they should instead allocate the votes one at a time, depending on where the result fits in the range from -0.5% to 0.5% for the winning candidate.

In other words, if a candidate wins 50.5% to 49.5% they get all the votes, and the loser nothing. This encourages the candidates to pay tons of attention to the state and offer it goodies, the reason states like WTA. In between, it's proportional.

In most states, this turns out to about 3,000 votes in the difference between the two candidates (which means one wins 1500 and the other loses 1500) to gain one more electoral vo

Brad Ideas
Nov 11, 2020

Honda to ship "Traffic Jam Pilot" within 5 months -- limited full self-drive in a consumer car
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesHonda has announced they have approval for, and will ship a "Traffic Jam Pilot" in the Honda Legend by March 2021. This is a big deal because one of the key differences between driver assist (like Tesla "full" self driving) and a robocar is whether the car takes responsibility. While they will call it level 3, level 3 doesn't really exist. This is a self-driving car for a specific problem area - traffic jams.

Read more in my article on Forbes.com at Honda to ship "Traffic Jam Pilot" within 5 months -- limited full self-drive in a consumer car

Brad Ideas
Nov 06, 2020

Gig-drive companies win fight to not make drivers employees -- what does tha tmean?
Topic: TransportationTags: forbesWhile we've all been obsessed with the big elections, some notable news in California, where a corporate sponsored bill to reverse California AB5 on gig-drivers passed. AB5 would have required drivers for companies like Uber to be employees and not contractors.

What would Uber have done if it had not passed, or what can they do if an employee rule passes somewhere else? I discuss these issues in a new story on Forbes.com:

Uber drivers will remain contractors -- is it good?

Important note: Forbes is putting up a paywall if you read more than 5 stories there per month. I am working to see what a good solution is for that. I am allowed to post my Forbes stories here 5 days later under the terms of my agreement with them, and I could put a tag on them so RSS readers do or don't see them. (I already have an RSS feed for people who want to avoid these link stories.)

Brad Ideas
Nov 06, 2020

Gig-drive companies win fight to not make drivers employees -- what does that mean?
Topic: TransportationTags: forbesWhile we've all been obsessed with the big elections, some notable news in California, where a corporate sponsored bill to reverse California AB5 on gig-drivers passed. AB5 would have required drivers for companies like Uber to be employees and not contractors.

What would Uber have done if it had not passed, or what can they do if an employee rule passes somewhere else? I discuss these issues in a new story on Forbes.com:

Uber drivers will remain contractors -- is it good?

Important note: Forbes is putting up a paywall if you read more than 5 stories there per month. I am working to see what a good solution is for that. I am allowed to post my Forbes stories here 5 days later under the terms of my agreement with them, and I could put a tag on them so RSS readers do or don't see them. (I already have an RSS feed for people who want to avoid these link stories.)

Brad Ideas
Oct 30, 2020

New Waymo data shows superhuman safety -- they're ready
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesWaymo collision detail.

In what is perhaps the robocar story of the year, Waymo has released a detailed safety report which shows 6.1 million miles of driving with no at-fault accidents and even a low number of not-at-fault ones. It is now past time for them to deploy a real service. In addition, this throws down the gauntlet at all other companies to be transparent with data.

Read about it in Waymo Data Shows Superhuman Safety Record. They Should Deploy Today

Brad Ideas
Oct 28, 2020

New Chart of Tesla Autopilot Safety record
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbes

Tesla released the latest safety numbers for the 3rd quarter. I decided to put all the numbers on a chart, but corrected for the fact that Autopilot is used almost exclusively on freeways, while non-Autopilot use is a 40-60 mix. The result is that Autopilot and non-Autopilot safety are fairly similar, with Autopilot maybe slightly worse.

Also a new review from Consumer Reports rates GM Super Cruise higher than Autopilot, but only because it has more driver monitoring and blocks off-freeway use.

Read the story on Forbes.com at New Tesla Autopilot Statistics Show It's Almost As Safe Driving With It As Without

Brad Ideas
Oct 27, 2020

Self-driving cars can use game theory to generate a better vehicle code and cooperative road
Topic: Robocars Traffic jams with selfish drivers could become a thing of the past.

The rise of self-driving cars offers the potential for an entirely new way of regulating vehicles. First, because you can get all the "drivers" of self-driving cars in a room, rules of the road can be quickly negotiated and settled directly, and adhered to robotically, rather than writing complex sets of regulations.

There is a bigger potential though for a new type of self-regulation which would permit much more than can be done with legal regulation. That is to consider all the robocars -- and eventually the human drivers, as players in a version of the famous "Prisoner's Dilemma" game using the "tit for tat" approach which strongly encourages not just compliance with rules, but active cooperation -- you yield to me and others will yield to you so everybody wins.

I discuss this is a new article at Self-Driving Cars Can Also Self-Design A Whole New Traffic Code

Brad Ideas
Oct 23, 2020

Tesla "full" self driving beta is out, I talk about it
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesVideos how now emerged from the beta of Tesla's "full self driving" (really a city version of Autopilot.)

In this new article I outline various reactions to the limited amount we know about it today, what it means, and whether it's legal.

Read Tesla's ‘Full Self-Driving' Is 99.9% There, Just 1,000 Times Further To Go

Brad Ideas
Oct 20, 2020

It's crazy that the US has lines to vote. It doesn't have to.
Topic: Politics U.S. voters often vote on digital machines

It always shocks me to see the long lines for voting at some polling stations in the USA. As a Canadian, where elections are so simple that it rarely takes more than a couple of minutes and lines are very rare, the complexity of US ballots and machines results sometimes in hours of wait. Obviously this doesn't happen everywhere, or turnout would be lower than it is, but every time it happens, it's a disenfranchisement. Nobody counts how many people see the long line and turn away.

Lines don't have to exist, at least not for voters who are willing to take some simple steps to avoid them. The problem is that some voting officials don't mind long lines. The disenfranchisement helps their party, so why do anything about it?

But it some cases the lines exist simply because people don't know what steps to take. Here are some steps that could eliminate most lines, except in unusual situations like voting machine breakdown or major poll-worker shortages.

Sadly though, much of this won't happen -- sometimes because it's become an adversarial system, where one party or another won't adopt obviously good steps because it might help the other side -- and also just because voting in the US is managed by a mishmash of local authorities who don't get together on much at all.

Step one -- Appointments Voter

Brad Ideas
Oct 19, 2020

Tesla network outage reveals challenges of connected vehicles
Topic: Going GreenRobocarsTags: forbesRecently Tesla had a network outage which caused a very small number of customers to be unable to authenticate payment at superchargers -- and thus be stranded unable to charge. Due to the larger outage, they could not put in a new credit card either. (The system lost their working cards, they did not have bad cards.)

While it seems only a few were affected, it shows the challenge of having anything critical depend on a network that might go down.

I provide more details at Tesla's Network Goes Out And Shows A Design Flaw

Brad Ideas
Oct 13, 2020

We need apps that could prevent ballot mistakes and spoilage
Topic: Politics

As the USA moves to more mail-in voting -- and more efforts at voter suppression by strict enforcement of ballot spoilage rules rather than lax enforcement when the intent of the voter is clear, it seems that some apps and tools could do things to reduce that.

It's too late to do this for the current election at this point (though some of these things do exist) but Here are a few ways to address some of the problems likely to be caused by the major influx of mail-in ballots, particularly in the states which don't allow them to be processed until election day. One existing app is My Vote Counts which has some of this information. You can also do a web search for your state's official list or map of ballot drop locations and information. It will usually be an official site of the state government.

Fairly distribute poll-worker effort You have so many election workers, at polling stations and at county offices who count mail-in ballots as well as personally cast ballots. Normally, because counting and summing in-person ballots is easier, with no need to verify signatures on each one, that often gets done first.

Instead, locations friendly to a more even count could set a rule allocating poll labour, and have them take turns doing each type of ballot to keep it even. So in the first round, count 10% of th

Brad Ideas
Oct 12, 2020

Did the plastics and oil companies just seal their doom?
Topic: Going Green These men live in these shacks along with all the plastic they recycle in India.

So documentation has emerged that plastics companies knew all along that plastic recycling would not work and was a sham, and they promoted it and put "recycle" logos on all their products to make people feel better about buying single use plastics, since they were starting to resist it.

We've known for a few years that recycling wasn't happening. This became clear when east Asian countries started refusing to accept the recycling we were sending them -- now we know it was all a lie to begin with. And it's recorded on tape.

So why doesn't every city that had an expensive recycling program sue the plastics industry over this? Look at the immense costs:

The cost of the plastic recycling programs in every city and commercial building The effort by every citizen to sort plastic and in many cases to clean it before recycling Extra fees paid by waste customers to the pickup companies to handled sorted bins All those CRV and other deposits aimed at recycling. (They are also aimed at preventing litter which remains worthwhile.) Now apparently clear plastic water bottles can be and are recycled, but almost none of the

Brad Ideas
Oct 12, 2020

Questions for the Judge
Topic: PoliticsIf a judge were hearing a case, and the judge were known to have a strong positive bias or strong resentment of a party before the judge, should the judge recuse?

In our justice system, do we allow parties to a case to select which judge will hear their case? Why?

How do we currently assure that parties do not get to pick their judge?

If you learned that in a case that party in a case before a court had been able to somehow pick their judge, should that judge recuse?

Do you believe that recusal, should be done to avoid the appearance of impropriety, bias or conflict of interest even if the judge in question may not be himself or herself demonstrably biased?

If a judge were to hear a case involving a private citizen who, in their role as a public official, had appointed the judge to the court, should they recuse?

If the private citizen had declared, before appointing the judge to the court in their public role, that he or she was making the appointment with a particular goal of having that judge hear an anticipated case involving the private citizen, would this be a reason for the judge to recuse?

If not, what is the significant difference between that and any other method by which a party to a case might arrange to select their judge?

Brad Ideas
Oct 09, 2020

AI boosts videoconferencing, and Waymo puts passengers in and takes drivers out
Topic: RobocarsTechnologyTelecomTags: forbesTwo new Forbes site articles this week.

AI boosts videoconferencing NVIDIA showed off their new platform of AI tools to improve video conferencing, including vast decreases in bandwidth, ability to move a person's head so they look at you and much more.

Read AI Applied To Video Conferencing Kicks It Up Several Notches

Waymo drivers out, riders in Waymo has resumed giving rides, this time with all rides having no safety driver in the vehicle. That's temporary though, as they are putting in protection screens to let them have the drivers again, without virus issues.

They also say they are going to start letting more people in the program, and eventually the public will be able to use it. But not today.

Read Waymo One to restart rides and take more users

Brad Ideas
Oct 02, 2020

Lifehack: Keeping the pool full with a smart watering timer
Topic: Inventions This is similar to the filler I bought which eventually leaked. In dry California, with no rain from May to October, we don't just get fires. If you have a pool, you have to add water to it regularly.

By some measure, the easiest way to do this is with an automatic pool filler, which uses a float (not too unlike a toilet tank) to keep the water at constant level. This is very straightforward, and costs around $60 to $100. However, when mine started leaking, I considered another option, namely the computer timed water valves people use to control sprinklers.

The simple mechanical nature of a float switch seems like an obvious win. It adjusts to rain, evaporation and other water loss automatically. It uses no electricity. But it comes with some downsides:

As noted, you can get leaks, in fact that's pretty easy to get, at the hose interface or inside the unit. You need a mount to keep it steady on the size of the pool, so it is somewhat large You must keep a rubber hose at pressure (though you don't need full pressure) all the time, which also eventually can lead to failures. When you swim, waves bob the float up and down, and it makes noise, sending bursts of water into the pool on every wave. You don't get a sense of how much water you are putting in the pool, so if you get a leak, you just add more, which is goo

Brad Ideas
Sep 28, 2020

How the grid will handle all cars being electric
Topic: Going GreenRobocarsTags: forbesWhen California announced it will ban the sale of new gasoline cars in 2035, a lot of people wondered how the electric grid would handle all that new electrical demand.

The answer is (almost) "easy-peasy" thanks to solar being cheap if you have storage tech, and cars all have storage.

I outline why in a new Forbes.com article at The grid will handle it

Brad Ideas
Sep 26, 2020

My new music parody video to "Hamilton" about Justin Trudeau
Topic: Comedy For 12 years I was part of a theatre company that wrote and produced our own comedy shows with lots of songs. We still get together, and this year I wrote a parody song about Justin Trudeau using the opening song from "Hamilton."

Foolishly, I decided to make a "distributed choir" video with 10 singers performing the song. While we got a great result with lots of harmonies and other fun, boy was it a lot of work to direct and edit this. That said, here it is -- I hope you enjoy it, and even share it if you do.

It's 720p so consider playing it on Youtube at full size

Brad Ideas
Sep 22, 2020

Tesla Battery Day adds up to big cost improvements in cars and batteries
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesTesla's "Battery Day" announced a large set of new improvements in battery technology, manufacturing, and car design. Each one is modest but good, together, Tesla says they add up to a 56% improvement in battery cost and range, which is a big deal.

Read about it in my new Forbes site story at:

Tesla Battery Day promies 56% reduction in cost and more

Brad Ideas
Sep 16, 2020

Uber Tempe Fatality safety driver changed with negligent homicde
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesIn the last legal chapter of the Uber fatality, the Uber safety driver, who was watching a streaming video on her phone instead of watching the road when Uber's buggy vehicle killed a woman in March of 18 will now be charged with negligent homicide.

Not a lot of details, but an update on what this means is at Uber Tempe Fatality safety driver changed with negligent homicde

Brad Ideas
Sep 15, 2020

Distributed protests in Chile may teach a lesson for modern marches
Topic: PoliticsIn October, I was was in Santiago de Chile as massive protests began against inequality. The protesters at first massed downtown, and damaged subway stations. This resulted in a shutdown of the transit systems. Because the poorer classes in Chile don't own so many cars, this made it much harder for them to do large marches. Instead, they took to standing on the street corners. Every street corner. Sometimes just 3 people on a corner, sometimes 100. All taking pots and pans and banging out a simple protest rhythm. For rich tourists like me with cars, it was astonishing to drive through the city, corner after corner after corner, everywhere. It was powerful but could not easily turn violent.

Here's a video (with narration starting 15 seconds in) I made of what such a protest looked like, and a plan for what we might learn from it.

We could do one better with our technology. We could do distributed marches where people gather on the corners but upload their video streams. Technology could amalgamate those videos to make a video "zooming out" to show hundreds of thousands in simultaneous protest. People could see the giant crowd they are a part of, but there would be few opportunities to loot or pick fights or go in armed. Indeed, if any corner got too large, it would send people to the next. Tools could show whi

Brad Ideas
Sep 14, 2020

Uber and Lyft will go all electric, but a lot has to change first
Topic: Going GreenRobocarsTransportationTags: forbesUber, following Lyft, announced a big push towards electric rides, declaring all rides will be electric by 2030. That's a good goal, but as I outlined earlier, there are reasons your Uber is not usually electric today. They need to find ways for lower-income drivers to own electric cars and a place to charge them overnight, and also briefly during the day, and we have to wait for the cars to get cheap. I outline the issues in this new article on Forbes.com

Uber and Lyft will go all electric, but a lot has to change first

Brad Ideas
Sep 08, 2020

Make virtual conferences live, not pre-recorded
Topic: MediaTags: forbesThere is a disturbing trend in virtual conferences. Due to the tempting technical advantages, many of them are switching to using pre-recorded talks rather than live ones to prevent technical glitches. It's obvious why organizers like it, but it sucks the soul out of the event. Nobody would imagine going to a physical conference to watch pre-recorded video of the speakers. Here's some advice on how to resist the temptation.

Read the new Forbes site article at Just because your conference is virtual, don't do it pre-recorded

Brad Ideas
Aug 26, 2020

The Ambulance of the future will fly, but will it use hydrogen?
Topic: Air TravelRobocarsTransportationTags: forbesI'm fairly convinced that soon we'll see ambulances switch to e-VTOL flying machines. So many advantages, hard to see downsides. Nobody is going to complain about noise and privacy issues of an ambulance. This announcement by an e-VTOL company and an air-ambulance company of a collaborative project is thus interesting, if preliminary. However, it's also interesting that they view hydrogen as the fuel. H2 has lost in cars, but has some positive attributes for planes, particularly an ambulance.

Read today's Forbes site column on this project at The Ambulance of the future will fly, but will it use hydrogen?

Brad Ideas
Aug 25, 2020

A guide to camping road trips with a Tesla or other EV
Topic: Going GreenRobocarsTags: forbesWith few other travel options available, everybody's taking road trips, and trying to avoid Covid in hotels, camping where they can. Here's a new article from the Forbes site on charging your car while staying at RV parks and other locations so you can tent it and get off the main roads on your trip.

Read Your guide to a camping road trip in a Tesla or other EV

Brad Ideas
Aug 24, 2020

Red Mask vigilantes promote self-defense of right to life by shooting people who are maskless in public
Topic: Comedy Red Mask recruits salute the flag in this doctored photo

Pinedale, Wyoming: Groups of armed vigilantes threatening to shoot anybody not wearing a mask have caused a marked change in this sleepy Wyoming town in the days of the coronavirus. As a result, test numbers are down and in spite of the violence, some people are feeling optimistic.

The change began 2 weeks ago when a small group of 2nd amendment advocates known as the "Red Masks" started patrolling streets of Boyd Skinner park south of the the town's main street. The Red Masks, dressed similarly and sporting handguns and semi-automatic rifles under the state's "open carry" law, accosted any party they saw not wearing a medical mask to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. They reportedly would growl and shout at any party not wearing a mask, brandish weapons and shout, "If you don't put on a mask now, I'm going to shoot you in self defense. Don't make me do that." They would then drop a mask in a sealed bag on the ground, back away quickly and start counting down from 25.

In 3 cases, Red Masks allegedly fired shots in the air above the heads of non-maskers. No person was hit or injured. They would then dash down the street.

The Times interviewed a Red Mask organizer, who would only give his name as "Kemosahbee," a reference to the masked radio character "The Lone Ranger." (The Ranger wore a

Brad Ideas
Aug 20, 2020

Virtual meeting tools need to interoperate
Topic: InternetMediaTags: forbesThere are many tools now being used to replace physical conferences and meetings -- not just Zoom. And no one system is complete, or even best-of-breed in all the various functions it provides. It's time for these tools to develop a way to interoperate, so people can build an event mixing and matching tools, but allowing attendees to flow smoothly between the tools without needing to create different accounts, re-authenticate or have a large learning curve.

In Virtual meeting tools need to interoperate I outline what the tools are and what they need to do.

Brad Ideas
Aug 17, 2020

The subway of the future puts stations at or near the surface
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesThe design of subways goes back to the late 19th century. Tunnels have virtues, but instead of sending a giant train through them every 5 minutes, in the future we could fill the tunnel with smaller electric vans which go nonstop from station to station (changing lines) and even put their stations at or near the surface for quick access and energy efficiency. Imagine a subway like a modern elevator, where you indicate your destination station and it tells you which van to enter to get there in zero to 2 stops. And let the vans go past the end of the line on surface streets to serve more areas. You can actually have more capacity, comfort, speed and convenience, plus much lower cost.

Read how this can happen in a new Forbes article at The subway of the future puts stations at or near the surface

Brad Ideas
Aug 16, 2020

Wanted -- webcams embedded in small screens for perfect eye contact
Topic: InternetInventionsTelecom A 7" screen like this one, only $45 and meant for Raspberry Pi and other computers, could be modified with a small hole at the blue dot where a webcam would be mounted, powering it all with USB 3.

We're all doing lots of video-calling, and we're going to continue to do it, even after the pandemic ends. Because of that, every decent quality webcam has been sold out or doubled in price for months. There are apps that will let you use your smartphone as a webcam, and many people have an old phone which they could even devote to this task.

The reality though, is that 99% of webcam use is for video calling. And video calling really is improved a lot if you make eye contact with the other person. It's an important part of human communication, and some theorize it plays a large role in the fatigue we get when video calling.

As such, what we want is a "webcam/screen combination." This would be a small screen, the size of a phone or tablet, with a small hole in the right place of the screen where the webcam lens would be inserted. Thanks to the mobile phone industry, screens of these size are quite inexpensive. And of course, every smartphone has a camera and scre

Brad Ideas
Aug 12, 2020

How can a city plan for the future when we don't know when Robocars will come
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesI've written a lot about the big effects robocars and other tech will have on cities, when they get here. But since you can't be sure of the date they will arrive, how does a city planner deal with making plans they know will be wrong? Here is some advice from the computer industry on how to do that.

Read Memo to city planners contemplating robocars

Brad Ideas
Aug 08, 2020

Fix the coming US election peril by splitting complex ballots to allow Canadian style voting, spending more and letting people wait in virtual lines.
Topic: New DemocracyPolitics U.S. voters often vote on digital machines

Covid-19 is going to create a massive crisis in the U.S. voting systems as many people fear. Fear of poling places has called for a switch to vote-by-mail. That's a good answer, but the problem is many states are simply not used to having most of their election take place by mail. Early examples demonstrate that while experienced locations (like Oregon) can do vote-by-mail well, inexperienced jurisdictions are likely to have major problems, and there is no way to create instant experience.

The issue has also become political. Different groups of people are more and less likely to vote under different voting systems. Politicians support systems that more of their voters will use, oppose ones that will be popular with people who vote otherwise. Donald Trump has even gone so far as to support vote by mail in states where it will help him while simultaneously fighting it in places where it may not.

If the President can use FUD on a system as well established as vote-by-mail, other new systems are in even more trouble. There are major problems with electronic voting systems (in person and especially remote) but it doesn't even matter if the problems are real. If fear can be raised, and the fear is slightly credible, the syste

Brad Ideas
Aug 05, 2020

Self driving cars a boon for those with disabilities
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesPeople are studying what Robocars will mean for the disabled. I think they will be a tremendous boon, with more and easier access, much better service, and lower prices. I outline how in my new article on the Forbes site:

Self driving cars a boon for those with disabilities

Brad Ideas
Jul 31, 2020

Really remote school should continue, partially, forever
Topic: FuturismTelecom Maybe we should't go fully back to to physical classrooms

The virus has forced many schools to close and students to go to online learning. There are a lot of different approaches. Some schools have gone for Kahn academy style learning, with students watching videos of top teachers and using their time with their teacher for more one on one teaching. Some schools have fairly full days, others have the students in virtual class a small fraction of what they did in school.

As the push comes to open up, but greatly reduce class size in order to allow sitting far apart in class, some have proposed having students not go to physical school every day. You might go just 2 days out of 5, rotating with other students to keep the class unpacked.

They say never waste a good crisis, and this one might present some opportunities to rethink education, even after the virus goes away.

Students all learn at different levels, but in most schools it is necessary to put students of many different levels and abilities together in one class. It's not like the days of old rural schools, where everybody from grade 1-6 was in the same classroom with the same teacher, but it's not the best thing for all students. More advanced students have to put up with a pace that bores them or doesn't challe

Brad Ideas
Jul 29, 2020

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
Jul 28, 2020

Teslas probably aren't safer when on Autopilot, so do they need driver monitoring?
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesFor some time, Tesla has published numbers to suggest that driving is safer with autopilot than it is without it, in that cars have fewer accidents per mile with autopilot on than with it off. The problem is autopilot is mostly on when on the highway, when driving is safer, so this would naturally be the case.

Some new data suggests that it's actually modestly less safe or at best a wash.

Driver monitoring would probably change that, but Tesla resists that. I discuss the issues in a new Forbes.com article at Teslas probably aren't safer when on Autopilot, so do they need driver monitoring?

Brad Ideas
Jul 22, 2020

Waymo to Automated Chrysler Delivery Vans -- More work and less riding?
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesSo Waymo is going to now work exclusively with Chrysler to automate light commercial vehicles such as the large Promaster van.

I examine the debate between moving people and moving cargo with self-driving tech, and also the nature of what a "partnership" is in the space.

Read the story on Forbes.com Waymo to Automated Chrysler Delivery Vans -- More work and less riding?

Brad Ideas
Jul 16, 2020

Self-Driving Car Debate 5: "Amazoox" Monday July 20, 11am PDT
Topic: AnnouncementsRobocarsJoin myself and our panel of "sharks" for an online debate triggered by the recent acquisition of Amazon.com. Some of those issues are:

What does this mean for the battle between tech giants, auto giants and start-ups? What are the reasons for the down-turn and who else might fall to it? What was the Zoox vision and will Amazon truly follow it, or was this an acquihire? What happens if Amazon automates delivery and logistics? Can other retailers compete? The debate takes place on Zoom, at 11am PDT, 2pm EDT on Monday.

You can register for free at Driving the Debate.

Brad Ideas
Jul 13, 2020

The NYT's Seen A "Future Without Cars" But What About 21st Century Cars?
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesLast week the NYT ran an piece on imagining Manhattan as a "city without cars." Definitely it would be more pleasant, but people also very much want personal transportation, and so closing or narrowing all the streets may not present a great solution and not beyond New York in any event. The problem is that planners still think about 20th century cars, with all their problems and downsides and without the new abilities the 21st century offers for traffic management using smartphones, self-driving and more.

I explore where we can really go in a city with the 21st century car in The future without cars changes with 21st century cars

Brad Ideas
Jul 09, 2020

Slower chargers (2KW and 50KW) might be better for EVs than 7KW and 250KW
Topic: Going GreenTransportationTags: forbesIn EV charging, there's a big contest to see who can be the fastest, with 250KW and 350KW chargers competing with Tesla's superchargers. But charge-really-fast is "gasoline" thinking and it's much more expensive. For the same money, for example, a corporate parking lot would be better served with 40 Level 1 (2KW) chargers and 4 Level 2 (7KW) than 15 Level 2. And a new generation of cheaper 50KW chargers in places we stop for an hour could make more sense than 250kw ones.

Read the analysis in my article on Forbes.com at The future of EV charging may be at 50kw

Brad Ideas
Jul 04, 2020

The wonder of "Hamilton" and the future of the filmed musical
Topic: MediaReviewfigure class=blogpic

Miranda in a close-up from Hamilton that perhaps shouldn't happen

Lin-Manuel Miranda's "Hamilton" is surely the greatest musical of the 21st century, and one of the best of all time. Michelle Obama gave it even greater praise than that. Miranda may not quite reach the level, but he deserves comparisons to Shakespeare -- presuming Shakespeare also set his plays to music he wrote and arranged, and played the lead role. While every aspect of the creation shines, it is as a lyricist that Miranda is unmatched in this history of the musical theatre.

I experienced Hamilton first by several listens of the cast album, then live on stage (which remains hard to do) and on Friday in the release of the Hamilton stage-movie on Disney Plus. While I still recommend this movie wholeheartedly, it disappointed me moderately in some of its technology, decisions and imperfections.

The big question revolves around the question of how you film a play. In the earliest days of cinema, movies were made by just filming a play with a fixed camera. Soon, they switched to shooting different angles and scenes, with close-ups and multiple takes and the way we make movies today. Movies of stage performances are more rarely done, but they are done in a way that loses the stage experience, because older tech did not have th

Brad Ideas
Jun 26, 2020

Amazon agrees to buy Zoox
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesRumoured for a few weeks, Amazon has now announced it will buy Zoox. The rumoured price is just $1.2B -- a major down-round for Zoox, but still a large investment for Amazon. Amaon says they plan to continue Zoox's robotaxi vision, but I have to suspect they will also do robotic delivery.

The implications are huge. The robotaxi business is bigger than Amazon's retail business. And making their logistics business more robotic -- both long haul and local delivery -- should scare the others involved in traditional retail and delivery.

Read my updated analysis at Amazon buys Zoox

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