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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 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 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

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

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 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 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

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 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 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 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 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

Brad Ideas
Jun 25, 2020

Mercedes & BMW drop partnership and other Robocar News of the week
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesMany people may not have been aware that Mercedes and BMW planned to pool their self-driving efforts, which made sense as they were pulling back from trying to win that race. Now that deal is off and other deals are on. Read about that, along with news in LIDAR, testing and acquisitions in this Forbes site article:

Robocar News Roundup

Brad Ideas
Jun 25, 2020

Tesla scores dead last in JD Power new car survey -- because it's a computer
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesFans of Teslas were surprised to see the brand score dead last in JD Power's new survey of the number of problems people had with their cars.

The biggest reason, perhaps, is that a Tesla is more a computer than a car. And how many computers have you bought that didn't have many software and configuration problems?

Read it in JD Power Report Scores Tesla a Dismal Last

Brad Ideas
Jun 18, 2020

Why you need to restrict your freedom and stay at home
Topic: GovernanceHealthProtesters declare it's about tyranny vs. freedom.

As the lockdown wears on, people are bristling and trying to wonder why they should stay home. After all, aren't virus deaths on the decline? Isn't the risk very low for younger people, and from things like outdoor activities? Aren't people suffering great economic harm? Don't we have a free society where people have the right to decide for themselves what risks they want to take?

I have made a Covid song parody (a popular pastime) about the need to stay at home.

All these are true, but...

You're not staying at home to protect yourself. It's to protect others by not letting yourself be a virus-breeding vector Yes, the odds of death for young people are low enough that we wouldn't lock down the economy to prevent it. The problem is, while you do have the right to take on risks for yourself (or more questionably, for your family and house-mates) you don't have the right to put others at risk. Every risky activity increases the viruses chances to breed, and to move through you to other people. This is an epide

Brad Ideas
Jun 15, 2020

What we knew we should have done about Covid, and we didn't
Topic: GovernanceHealth Why did it take so long to figure out whether to wear masks?

3 months into lockdown, and more into the pandemic, the front page article in the San Jose Merc described 8 things we got wrong at first Some of the list is right, and a few of them are dangerously wrong, but I want to focus on something else, namely the things we got wrong even though we (or at least many of us) knew better. Things we have little excuse for getting wrong, particularly because others got them right.

Not putting immense effort into testing The most obvious and deadly error was not putting all effort into producing tests and distributing them as widely as possible as quickly as possible. Other countries cut off their outbreaks quickly doing this. Some of the things that went wrong were:

At first, all testing had to be done at the CDC. Almost no tests were done. Even after that ended, tests were rare enough that only people who met a very high bar -- contact with people from Wuhan, strong symptoms got tests. The lack of testing caused both under-reporting of extant cases, and a poor estimate of the case fatality rate. Even later, as better tests were dev

Brad Ideas
Jun 09, 2020

IIHS is wrong in claim that only 1/3rd of crashes can be prevented
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesThe IIHS (Insurance Institute) released a study claiming that in spite of claims that self-driving cars could prevent 90% of accidents (the ones where the driver is at fault) the number was only 1/3rd, namely the perception errors and impairment cases. I am not sure they could have got it more wrong, and outline this in a new article:

IIHS is wrong in claim that only 1/3rd of crashes can be prevented

Brad Ideas
Jun 02, 2020

Tesla Autopilot slams into truck; this one is strange
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesSo, yesterday in Taiwan a Tesla, claimed to be on Autopilot, smashed in broad daylight on a mostly empty road into a truck lying on its side, almost hitting the driver standing in front of it. While Tesla Autopilot is just driver assist, and not meant to catch everything, it's not great to miss a giant truck and a human. I explore why in my new Forbes site article found in at

Brad Ideas
May 31, 2020

Another Zoom Tank on Connected Car issues Tuesday, 11am PDT/2pm EDT
Topic: AnnouncementsRobocars

Coming up Tuesday 11am PDT, another self-driving car debate, this time on the issues around "connected" cars and the politics and technology of them. Those of you who have read my essay "The disconnected car" will know my views. Again, I'll be one of the sharks that tears into the arguments and proposals. It's free, and we get a pretty decent audience of 200-300 (which means, in spite of my last post, they do use Webinar mode but try to encourage audience to raise hand and come in.)

Register at The zoom tank page

Brad Ideas
May 29, 2020

Tricks for using Zoom to have a more human connection in large meetings
Topic: MediaTechnologyTags: forbes Allison hosting a Foresight Hivemind the way I set it up to see everything at once.

We're all doing tons of Zoom events and conferences, though often in the terrible "Webinar" mode that isolates the speakers from the audience, and the audience from each other. Zoom has some hidden tricks you can use to avoid Webinar and have a much better experience -- especially if your computer has two monitors, even though it doesn't strictly need them both. I have written up a guide on how to do it on Forbes' site, read:

Your Guide To Feeling A Human Connection With The Group In Zoom Meetings

Brad Ideas
May 27, 2020

Zoox saga continues -- Amazon may be in neogitations
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesI reported last week about Zoox shopping for a buyer. Now reports have surfaced that Amazon is in negotiations. It's a strange matchup but would still have big consequences. A big push into self-driving by Amazon could upend logistics and retail, but Zoox's efforts at a vehicle custom designed for taxi service might be wasted.

Read about it on at Match and Mismatch of Amazon buying Zoox

Brad Ideas
May 21, 2020

MobilEye reaffirms prediction of robotaxi service by 2022
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesIn a year when several other companies have slowed development and plans for full robocars, MobilEye's CEO this week indicated they were on track to deploy Robotaxi service in Israel in early 2022, and will follow on with France, Korea and China.

Analysis is at MobilEye reaffirms prediction of robotaxi service by 2022

Brad Ideas
May 19, 2020

Bitcoin reward cut in half again, with much less effect than one should expect
Topic: TechnologyTags: bitcoin Chart of the last year of Bitcoin hashrate

On May 11, a major event took place in the bitcoin world, yet it had no negative effect on the price of the coin and much less effect on mining than it would seem it should. This event is known as the "halving," and it means the reward for mining bitcoins was suddenly cut in half.

This happens about every 4 years, and is the reason that the total number of bitcoins mined in the future, and thus the lifetime supply, is constrained. It was designed in from the start to attain this goal.

To understand what this is all about, you do need to understand some of the complexities of bitcoin mining. Bitcoin transactions are recorded into the immutable ledger that is known as the "blockchain" by machines (and their owners) called miners. These miners need to be super-high-performance computing hardware, and they are expensive to buy and they need a lot of electricity to run.

If you run one, spending that money, then you (or rather the pool of fellow miners you join) will win at mining a block with some predictable regularity. Each time your group mines a block, it g

Brad Ideas
May 17, 2020

Monday 2pm EDT, Zoom Tank on future of Public Roadway Transit
Topic: RobocarsI didn't pick the topic, in spite of having written a bunch on in yesterday, but tomorrow we will do another debate in our "Zoom Tank" on the topic of the good and bad news for roadway public transit.

The main debaters are Jarrett Walker from Human Transit, and Randal O'Toole, the "antiplanner" from Cato Institute who is always full of amazing data.

After the short debate, the four sharks, including yours truly, tear into the debaters and their arguments, and then the audience has a go.

Pre-register at Zoom Tank and there should also be a link available to watch the stream on YouTube without participating.

Brad Ideas
May 15, 2020

EasyMile develops plan to get back in operation using seatbelts. But is the whole idea of transit stops the mistake?
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesEarlier I wrote about how EasyMile had to stop operations after a sudden stop in one of their vehicles gave minor injuries to a passenger.

Today they announced their plan to resume operations. It includes seatbelts and education. It's a start, but I wonder if the whole idea of "stops" is the problem. Stops are inherent in the 20th century thinking that surrounds public transit. Big vehicles need to make lots of stops picking up and dropping off passengers. But that's a problem if you expect the vehicle not to start until everybody has their seatbelt on!

Smaller vehicles can do public transportation with very few intermediate stops. They were already the best choice for efficiency, comfort, speed and more, but it turns out they are the right choice for safety.

Read my new Forbes site article at EasyMile adds seatbelts to get back in operation

Brad Ideas
May 13, 2020

Waymo and others resume robocar testing
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesEverybody shut down testing during the Covid crisis. It's not over but now Waymo and others are getting back on the road, testing vehicles with nobody inside, with one safety driver, and sometimes with two. Yes, delivery and rides are essential services, but what are the issues around this?

Read some thoughts at Forbes's site in Waymo and others resume testing

Brad Ideas
May 08, 2020

Custom robocar startup Zoox shops for a buyer
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesI've known Zoox since before it began and their vision has always been bold. In a possible hiccup, the downturn has led them to shop around for a potential buyer if they can't get more investment.

I analyse what this means in my story Zoos searches for a buyer on the Forbes site.

Brad Ideas
May 07, 2020

Justifying lockdowns from a standpoint of defending individual rights
Topic: GovernanceHealth Entrance of new Apple Computer HQ, one of the world's largest office buildings, at 5pm

Many people opposed to lockdowns feel they are an improper state interference with our liberty. Possibly an unconstitutional one, particularly in the case of religious gatherings.

For people who believe in a strong state, the lockdowns don't need much justification. For those who believe in limited government, it's a harder question.

Even the most libertarian people tend to feel the state has a legitimate role in protecting the lives and safety of the people. It has a monopoly on force, operating police, courts and the military to protect people, which is its legitimate role.

Here I explore some theories of lockdown justification based on principles of individual rights and small government.

If you breed and foster viruses, you are a threat A person with an infectious fatal disease is a dangerous threat. They expose those they come into contact with to great, even mortal risk. Society lets people expose others to risks, but we don't tend to accept high mortal risk. We have a right to defend ourselves against it, or in particular to expect the government to act in our defence.

The personal right to life is the first of the individual rights, and you don't have the right

Brad Ideas
May 04, 2020

Zoox shows an hour live driving video, impressive and unimpressive
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesZoox is the $1B funded startup trying to build a radical design self-driving car. Last week they released a video of an hour long drive through Las Vegas, going through pick-up zones in hotels and the airport. The car does a number of impressive things, but at the same time, showing these things and an hour of driving are only the tip of the iceberg of what you need to do, making the video unimpressive at the same time.

In this new article, I go into what goes on in the video, and what it means.

Read Zoox shows an hour live driving video, impressive and unimpressive

Brad Ideas
Apr 30, 2020

Would you cruise across the Atlantic rather than fly?
Topic: Air TravelTags: forbesReady to get on a 10 hour overseas flight, wearing an N95 mask, sharing bathrooms, in the middle seat between two coughing passengers? I didn't think so. With all the idle cruise ships out there, would you sail across the ocean like your grandparents in a private cabin if they followed good virus procedure? 4 days stuck in a room (kinda like now) to prove that your virus test is accurate to the country you're heading to.

I discuss the potential in my new Forbes site article Will you fly across the ocean or will the transatlantic cruise return?

Brad Ideas
Apr 28, 2020

Will Covid-19 sound the death knell for old school public transit?
Topic: FuturismRobocarsTags: forbes Ready to get into a packed Tokyo subway car soon?

Current public transit is based on century-old ideas, and was already under threat from 21st century technology. Now, in the Covid-19 era, we have to wonder how long it will be before people are willing to pack tightly on crowded buses and subways -- the only thing that gave transit any shot at being efficient. Will the virus sound the death knell for old-school public transit?

I discuss this in a new Forbes site article at Will Covid-19 sound the death knell for old school public transit?

Brad Ideas
Apr 22, 2020

Tesla "reverse summon" won't be very exciting, but the eventual consequences are
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesLast year Tesla released "smart summon" which let you (very slowly) call your car to you from across a parking lot. It was cute but a bit of a dud, as it's not just very useful. Now Elon Musk promises "reverse summon" that will valet park your car for you. But if you have to watch it, it's not going to be very useful either.

Eventually, though, we'll get a robotic valet park that works without supervision. That will be very useful, allowing cheaper parking and better charging. Even today, the basic summon could allow slightly denser parking for cars that have it.

Read about this in my new Forbes site article at Tesla auto-park might someday be better than useless

Brad Ideas
Apr 22, 2020

Online self-driving debate and lively panel (including me) Apr 27, 11am PDT
Topic: Announcements

Next Monday, we will be doing an online version of a popular panel session we have done every year at the "Automated Vehicle Summit" -- the oldest self-driving car conference.

In this session we have a speaker propose a controversial idea, and then, a bit like a "shark tank" our panel (myself included) tear into the concepts and discuss them, and the audience asks questions too.

This time we're going to start off with a debate on whether self-driving cars will be the best of times or worst of times. It features Princeton professor Alain Kornhauser (normally one of the Sharks) and Sven Beiker, a silicon valley consultant.

The shark panel includes myself, VC Jim Scheinman, TRB and TRI top researcher Jane Lappin and Michael Sena of "The Dispatcher" newsletter, moderated by Richard Mudge.

It should be lively and fun, and interactive -- and it's free with no risk of Covid-19.

Go to Zoom Tank to learn more and sign up.

I didn't pick the use of Driverless in the title -- Alain loves that term, though he uses it in a different way from everybody else, to mean "more than self-driving."

Brad Ideas
Apr 20, 2020

Car Companies Are Making Ventilators, But Ventilator Companies, Hackers And CPAP Companies Are Working Harder
Topic: HealthTransportationTags: forbesIf you read my earlier report on efforts to convert CPAP machines into ventilators with new firmwware]( the good news is that the feared massive ventilator shortage seems (for now) to have been avoided.

I got a chance to talk with the CMO of ResMed, one of the world's leading CPAP companies, which also makes ventilators, to get their take on the shortage and efforts to convert their machines for this purpose. They get asked this hundreds of times a day, he says, but so far the demand has not been there from hospitals, and so they have kept their priority on their more advanced machines.

Read Car Companies Are Making Ventilators, But Ventilator Companies, Hackers And CPAP Companies Are Working Harder

Brad Ideas
Apr 17, 2020

Even if 2020 hindsight reveals the lockdown wasn't right, it was still the right choice at the time
Topic: HealthPolitics Highway 280 near Apple is not normally like this

A frequent question I've seen these days is, "Is the lockdown worse than the disease?" The lockdowns are hugely expensive, and there are even many arguments that they will also result in large numbers of deaths. Some even advance that the death toll of the lockdowns will be higher than the toll of the virus. The economic cost is high and not evenly distributed. In addition, other diseases with similar death-tolls are survived without lockdowns.

Some also speculate that the virus will turn out to be not as fatal as predicted, or more or less virulent.

There's lots of debate on these points, but I want to sidestep that, and stipulate, for the purpose of argument, that this theory is correct. Let's presume that we learn, when it all winds down, that the lockdown was a big mistake.

The question becomes, was it a mistake to do them back in March, when we knew less than we know today? It might be possible for the lockdowns become wrong in hindsight, but nonetheless still correct, because you have to examine the question of decision making with imperfect information.

In February and March, we had many conflicting pieces of information. We saw what happened in China, and had some data from cruise ships. Italy's horror was

Brad Ideas
Apr 14, 2020

Does pseduo-LIDAR help Tesla or its competitors more?
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesTesla doesn't want to use LIDAR. So they are hoping for success in a technique known as pseudo-LIDAR, where you train neural networks to look at images and calculate the distance to everything in the scene, as though you had a LIDAR. It's not here yet, but an interesting question is, should this succeed, is it better for Tesla or for their LIDAR using competitors who already have tons of experience using 3D point clouds?

Read about that at Does pseduo-LIDAR help Tesla or its competitors more?

Brad Ideas
Apr 13, 2020

How do Robotaxis deal with a pandemic?
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesUber, Lyft, Scooters and Transit have all cratered in ridership. Will people be more likely to ride in self-driving taxis if they had them during a pandemic crisis? I discuss some of the Covid-19 issues around robotaxis in this new article.

It's found at Can robotaxis survive a pandemic?

Brad Ideas
Apr 07, 2020

What happens after lockdowns diminish Covid-19? What next?
Topic: ObservationsPrivacyTechnology Empty shelves during the Covid-19 panic We're all sitting in lockdown in much of the world. Lockdown should reduce the famous R0 number for the virus to less than one -- which means that each patient who gets it infects less than one person. An R0 of more than 1 means a virus spreads. More than 2 means it spreads like wildfire. Less than one means it dies out. Much less than one means it dies out fast. That's what they did in Wuhan.

There's a problem not being spoken of as much, namely what happens then. Unless you wipe out the disease completely in a region, once you end the lockdown measures, it will come back, and you need to lockdown again. This cycle of waves has been called "The hammer and the dance" and it's better than the horror of unchecked growth, but it's a very long slog.

If you can wipe it out completely in a town, you can open up again, but not to the outside world. You need to build a border around your virus-free-zone and don't allow anybody in without highly accurate testing and isolation. If your region is an island or country, this may be doable. Even so, air travel becomes highly minimal until the vaccine.

Completely wiping it out is hard, though

Brad Ideas
Apr 03, 2020

Covid deaths could change election results: Do more Republican voters die than Democrats?
Topic: PoliticsThe projected deaths for Covid-19 in the USA are horrific -- 100,000 to 240,000. Let's hope it's not nearly that bad, but those numbers are enough that they actually could alter the election. Not simply because Covid-19 will be the top issue in the election, but because voters will die.

While right now most deaths are in "blue states" like New York, California and the like, it won't affect their votes. As always, it revolves around the swing states: FL, PA, MI, NC, WI, AZ. Especially Florida and Pennyslvania. By definition these states have evenly balanced numbers of Trump supporters and Biden supporters.

Covid-19 overwhelmingly kills those over 65. It kills a few younger people but far fewer. Older people vote much more than younger people. Seniors favoured Trump 52% to 45% in 2016, Twentysomethings favoured Clinton 55% to 36%.

Covid-19 also kills 50% more men than women. Men favoured Trump 52 to 41 in 2016, women favoured Clinton 54 to 41.

There is speculation Covid will strike lower income people more for a variety of reasons. This is as yet unproven, but they favoured Clinton 53 to 41, while those over $50K in income slightly favoured Trump, 48 to 47. Lower income people are less able to self-isolate and give up work and have less health care access.

At present, Covid-19 is more present in cities. It is unknown if this will persist as it spreads. In theory it should not, but since it began in cities, and slows down after lockdown, it might stay mostly in cities. Urban voters favour Democrats over GOP by

Brad Ideas
Apr 02, 2020

Starsky Robotics is very open about why their robotruck company died
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesRecently, Stefan Seltz-Axmacher, the founder of Starsky Robotics -- a startup doing self-driving and remove-driven transport trucks that I advised before they started going -- wrote a detailed and complex blog post about why he feels his company had to shut down. He goes into several issues, including failures of Deep Learning to meet hype, VC desires, strangeness of the trucking industry and lack of love for safety.

In my new article for the Forbes site, I dig into those reasons and whether he's right that nobody else will succeed soon, either.

Read Starsky Robotics Shuts Down And Worries Everybody Else Will Also Fail In Robotic Trucks.

Brad Ideas
Mar 31, 2020

Guide to having a good ZOOM video meeting
Topic: InternetTechnologyTelecom A Zoom 9 person meeting with smiling attractive people professionally lit and not wearing headsets.

People are doing huge amounts of videoconferencing during the Covid crisis. The tools keep improving, but there's a great deal that individual participants can do to make the meetings better. They take some effort but it's worth it.

TL;DR: Be a participant, not a lurker, and wear a headset

Be a participant, not a lurker In the past, you would have driven or flown to a meeting and given most of your attention while in the meeting or session. Don't take the online meeting as an excuse to be barely there.

Turn on your video, even just to watch. Let people see you. Yes, this takes bandwidth. Yes, it's harder for you to goof off without people noticing. That's part of the point. Today, people are going all day without seeing anybody. Don't let that happen.

Zoom has two modes, which you toggle with a button in the upper right corner. "Speaker view" shows the current speaker large, and 4-5 others at the top. It's good to get a closer look at the speaker but it's less social.

The other mode, "Gallery View" will show you up to 20 other participants. Even when

Brad Ideas
Mar 25, 2020

ExoWorld conference on the future of the world with rapidly changing technology comes April 14-16
Topic: AnnouncementsGoing GreenHealthInternetRobocarsTechnologyTransportation

Pretty much every conference around the globe has vanished, so a group of colleagues is putting on a new virtual conference starting April 14 on the world's future with the exponential technologies (Computing, Digital Bio, Energy, Medicine and much more.) It includes the great team of speakers I worked with regularly at Singularity University, and a star-studded array of great speakers and attendees. The virtual conference software will allow some approximation of "hallway" conversations and breakouts as well. I will be speaking on the future of mobility and cities, expanding from robocars to the sidewalks, scooters and flying.

We'll cover not just that but AI, medicine (including virus updates,) digital biology, digital manufacturing, crime and security, neuroscience, governance, energy and much more with over 100 speakers, including folks like former President of Mexico Vicente Fox

Brad Ideas
Mar 23, 2020

Creating a plan to reprogram smart CPAP machines to become emergency ventilators
NOTE: This is a draft plan, and many areas of it are still being researched and confirmed. It may not work at all.

This $600 CPAP machine has a computer controlled blower, humidifier, data connection and other ingredients, if given new firmware, of creating a ventilator.

As I'm sure, you've heard about the need that many Covid-19 patients have for ventilators which keep them breathing when their lungs fail, as they do during the "ARDS" (acute respiratory distress syndrome) phase of Covid-19 which is the thing that kills you. The problem is that there are at most around 200,000 ventilators (including tapping older models sitting in storage, a government strategic reserve and a military reserve.) It is feared that as many as 900,000 could be needed if the worst projections are true. Around the world, many more.

Companies that make ventilators are ramping up manufacturing as fast as they can. It still won't be enough. That's even true if one applies a special technique devised years ago to put 2, 4 and even 9 patients on the same machine, if the patients can be matched so they need the same pressures, airflow and oxygen. This technique was tested under fire during the Las Vegas massacre and saved hundreds of lives, but it's still only barely tested for something like this -- ARDS patients may need to be on the ventilator for up to a month, if they live.

One tragedy for the ventilator makers -- if they are able to produce hundreds of thousands of their FDA approved modern ventilators, they will save many lives -- but then no hospital, anywhere in the world, will need to buy a new ventilator f

Brad Ideas
Mar 22, 2020

Will the Covid crisis sink Trump?
Topic: PoliticsIn some discussion, I have seen it become almost an assumption that the economic meltdown and the Covid crisis will erode confidence in the President and settle the election, presuming things continue to November as they likely will. Historical patterns suggest that Presidents with good economies and stock markets get elected, those without them don't. We're seeing economic meltdown, high unemployment, fear and more.

However, we don't see this in the data yet. While I normally advise you to disregard all national polls (and I still do -- Clinton has great national poll numbers in 2016 after all) you can look at wide trends in them. I plotted all Biden vs. Trump polls from pollsters rated A/B or better on 538.

Here we see that Biden's margins over Trump, while always positive, have not been improving and possibly are in decline, including into March when we start seeing the effect of the crisis. Presidential Approval polls, also national and thus low value, show only a slight decline of about 0.7% in March. A large fraction of polled voters state they approve of how well Trump is handling the virus crisis.

As always, we must look to swing state polls for the real data, though again they only talk about what happens if the election is held today. And for that,

Brad Ideas
Mar 19, 2020

Delivery robots could have saved the day if the virus had come a bit later
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbes

I've been involved with delivery robots for a long time, and on my walk through empty streets yesterday, I noticed a certain irony. We have a desperate need for more delivery capacity, especially without humans handling packages, and teams have been working hard to make deliverbots safe enough to drive on our streets.

Now, when we need them, our streets are almost empty, and the robots could be safe, but there was no reason to aim for that goal, and they are not yet available at scale.

I muse some more about this in my new article at Delivery robots could have saved the day if the virus had come a bit later on

Brad Ideas
Mar 18, 2020

A triple-tie that results in President Pelosi on Jan 20 is not impossible -- plus cancelling elections
Topic: Politics Of course, sometimes a tie is resolved in the courts, not congress

It is possible if, among the swing states, Trump wins Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and the Nebraska 2nd (Omaha), while Biden wins Michigan, Arizona and Wisconsin. This is not one of the most likely scenarios, because Arizona and Wisconsin are currently more on Trump's side than Biden's, but it's possible.

This would result in a tie, or rather, no candidate getting a majority. That means the newly elected 117th House picks between them, and the Senate picks the VP, in what is called a Contingent Election.

The House votes by state, not by member. 26 state delegations are needed to win. Right now Republicans control 26 house delegations, and 2 are tied, and 22 are Democratic. That House would elect Trump. But if any weakly red delegation such as Florida or Wisconsin were to flip blue in the new congress, the house would deadlock.

It doesn't say in the constitution how a state decides its vote -- the decision is to be made immediately, though. One presumes the members of the state delegation themselves hold a sub vote -- more on that below.

If there is a deadlock, the new VP becomes acting President until the House comes to a decision. Who is the

Brad Ideas
Mar 16, 2020

Michigan now "Swing" -- swing polls spreadsheet updated
Topic: Politics maintains a map of which states analysts think are safe or swing.

I have updated my spreadsheet showing the Trump vs. Biden and Trump vs. Sanders polls in the five -- now six swing states. These polls, particularly Trump vs Biden, are the only polls that you should pay attention to. National polls are highly misleading. There are only 538 people who vote in a Presidential election, and that must never be forgotten.

The picture remains mixed, particularly when you factor in how much Trump surprised compared to the polls in 2016. I believe there is as much as 5 points of advantage for Trump not shown in the polls, so to be comfortable of Trump losing, you want him down by that much. All the swing states show mixed results -- that's why they are called swing states.

At present, Democrats must capture 38 votes from the swing states. In practice that means, of the six swing states:

Florida plus any of the other five, or Almost any 3 of the other five (AZ WI NC fails, and AZ NC MI wins only if Omaha, Nebraska's second, is won.) Unfortunately, Florida does not currently look great. Here's my rough judgment:

Florida: Low Pennsylvania: Decent chance for Bide

Brad Ideas
Mar 13, 2020

Home delivery when shopping stops in a virus shutdown
Topic: TransportationTags: forbesIf we shut down public areas, we're going to need a lot of online shopping and home delivery. How can we do that in a virus-infected world? Here's some plans for how to make it happen even with gig workers (who aren't driving Uber and Lyft much any more.)

I outline some of the ways to make it work in this article.

Brad Ideas
Mar 11, 2020

Could a working health care system be built by industry under the threat of the current industry's destruction?
Topic: PoliticsTechnology Making any phone or tablet able to read the vital signs is the sort of innovation that could bring down healthcare costs

Several former Democratic contenders have promoted single payer health care under the name "Medicare for All." While I'm not old enough for Medicare, I have lived for several decades under the Canadian system and several decades under the U.S. system. In addition, I spend 2-3 months/year in Europe and have had to make access as a tourist to the systems in the UK, Germany and France. The attraction of the single payer systems, with their much lower costs per citizen and equal or superior health outcome scores, are hard to resist. At the same time, many voters are concerned at having a government agency run their health care, or elimination of the free market system which works so well in so many areas. The current US system is deeply broken, and does not much resemble a free market system, if it ever did. So the political push for a single payer system has become stronger.

It's not going to happen soon. Biden has won the nomination (though only Sanders seems not to know it), and even if he somehow won, most analysts expect it's pretty unlikely the Democrats would win control of the Senate in 2020. If they do win control of the White House, the historic

Brad Ideas
Mar 08, 2020

LAX pushes Uber pickups to a remote lot. It's the wrong direction
Topic: Air TravelAs LAX and other airports push ride-hail to remote lots (which you have to take a shuttle to in the case of LAX-it) I examine why that's a crazy decision in my new article at In the article I also touch on how we can eventually move to being picked up, not at the curb, but at the plane, in an airport with lots of robocar pods.

LAX won't let Uber pick you up at the curb. It should be at your plane

In the article I also state that there are much better ways to manage pickup that could eliminate congestion even in the smartphone world. Below is a sidebar you can read after reading the main article on the details of that.

Sidebar on managing airport pick-up (and drop-off) Ideally you do this not with a line of cars, but a long row of perpendicular, rather than parallel stopping spots. Cars only enter the airport when such spots are free, and immediately drive and stop in a free spot or even a spot they were assigned which their phone speaks and displays to them.

Cars coming in use an app or website (for Uber drivers it is of course their Uber app) as do passengers. On approach to their desired terminal they will be told to either come in or go to the holding lot until they get the word to come in. Once they come in, there will be an open spot for them to drive to directly, with no congestion. If they are picking up a passenger, the passe

Brad Ideas
Mar 03, 2020

Summary of swing state poll results, Democrat vs. Trump
Topic: PoliticsI have built a spreadsheet summarizing the recent poll results in head to head polls of a Democratic candidate and President Trump. These are the only polls that matter. Do not look at or cite national polls. Results and pollster quality ratings come via 538.

I have added some subjective content. Because of my handicap estimates I have highlighted results where the candidate has a 5 point advantage over Trump, and thus a win becomes more probable. If they are even or worse I score a loss as highly risky and use a red number.

Here is the spreadsheet

Brad Ideas
Mar 03, 2020

EasyMile Self-Driving Shuttle Banned After Sudden Stop Hurts Passenger — Are Seatbelts Needed?
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesAn EasyMile made a sudden stop from 7mph and a seated passenger fell off her seat to minor injuries. Now NHTSA has ordered EasyMile to stop testing with passengers.

Transit shuttles don't usually have seatbelts, but maybe EasyMile needs them during the testing phase. But can it ever take them out?

Read the issues in my new article on at EasyMile Self-Driving Shuttle Banned After Sudden Stop Hurts Passenger — Are Seatbelts Needed?

Brad Ideas
Mar 02, 2020

Nobody wins the GoFly Prize, but personal flight is coming
Topic: FuturismTags: forbesThis weekend I went to the finals of the GoFly prize, a Boeing sponsored contest for personal VTOL flying machines. Sadly, nobody was able to build one that could meet all the requirements in the rules, and only a few of the contestants could even fly. That was disappointing, but then so was the first Darpa Grand Challenge.

My summary of the demo day is in my new Forbes article at

Brad Ideas
Feb 28, 2020

Internet, AR, genomic and robotic technologies could make a pandemic much less disasterous
Topic: HealthInternetRobocars These masks don't help the uninfected very much, except stopping you from touching your face.

Back in 2005 during the H5N1 flu, I outlined a number of potential technological solutions to dealing with urban shutdowns due to an epidemic. Sad to say, we don't seem to have done them. We may try some of them in the next (or current) epidemic but some of them needed some simple planning.

A summary of the plans included:

*Plans for much more telecommuting and videoconferencing to facilitate working from home *Plans for video services (using spare TV channels and internet) to allow teachers to convene and teach class to students staying at home. * Plans to improve online shopping, including optimized grocery delivery for those sheltering at home, using delivery people with proper training, or who have received prioritized vaccines, or who are recovered victims with immunity. *In general, making the best use of recovered victims with immunity at all critical infrastructure.

At the time, the internet was not as widespread. I underestimated how quickly small amounts of vaccine can be generated -- it is possible to generate them, but takes many months to test them for

Brad Ideas
Feb 27, 2020

California Disengagement Reports aren't too engaging
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesThe California robocar disengagement reports are out. And everybody is now pointing out that they're not very useful because everybody uses different methods. So I have an article about what we do learn from the data, little as it is.

Read California Disengagement Reports aren't too engaging at

Brad Ideas
Feb 26, 2020

NTSB comes down hard on Tesla, Driver Monitoring, AEB
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesYesterday's NTSB hearings contained much stronger criticism of Tesla Autopilot than ever before. In particular the NTSB made recommendations:

To Tesla: Improve emergency braking to detect more stationary objects To Tesla: Improve driver monitoring to prevent driver distraction To Tesla: Don't permit Autopilot to be used on unapproved roads To Apple/Google: Lock phones while driving to forbid distracting apps To NHTSA: Start making regulations to force the above You can read my analysis of their findings in my new Forbes article at NTSB Report On Tesla Autopilot Fatality Comes Down Hard On Tesla, Driver Monitoring And Distraction

Brad Ideas
Feb 24, 2020

Researchers fool an old Tesla into misreading a speed limit sign; that fools the public into panic
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesMany of the media were keen to pick up on a report from McAfee researchers about how they were able to simply modify a speed limit sign to cause the MobilEye in old Teslas to misread it and speed up. We get spooked when AI software acts like an idiot. But in reality, this isn't the sort of attack that is likely to be done in the wild, and it's also unlikely to cause any danger.

I outline the reasons in this new Forbes site article at Exaggerated Stories About Simple Sign Modifications Fooling Old Teslas Fool Humans Into Panic

Brad Ideas
Feb 19, 2020

Panorama of Silicon Valley from Mt. Umunhum and a story of fraud and corruption
Topic: GovernancePhotographyRecently, we had a day of extremely clear air here in Silicon Valley, so we made our first trip up to Mount Umunhum, the high peak to the south of San Jose, and the former site of a SAGE radar station. Recently it was opened to the public. Close as it seems, it's an hour drive, but fun in the Tesla.

Up there I shot a high resolution panorama of the whole South Bay. I have shot many panoramas of the Bay Area so I add this one to the list.

Click on the thumbnail for a "zoom" viewer, then in the viewer click full screen, and wander around using your scroll wheel to zoom and your arrow keys or mouse.

I was reminded at the top of the campaign by my friend Les Earnest, who worked on Sage, to make it a monument to government waste. Sage cost the taxpayaers an immense amount of money, and never worked, and they knew it didn't work.

He tells the story in his essay here.

His story opens up an interesting question. After spending billions to detect Soviet bombers, they "decided" that the fact that it doesn't work should be classified. This silenced critics, but in theory, it was done because the real purpose of such a system is

Brad Ideas
Feb 18, 2020

$16 billion spending on robocars is a drop in the bucket compared to the trillions to be made
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesRecent coverage summed up robocar spending as about $16 billion to-date. Many have wondered how this can be worth it, since nobody is shipping. When you look at other analysis of how much the winners stand to gain, it's a drop in the bucket. I analyse the numbers in a new article on the Forbes site:

Companies Have Spent Over $16B On Robocars. It's A Drop In The Bucket

Brad Ideas
Feb 14, 2020

How should we handicap the political polls?
Topic: Politics

As I have written before, the US Presidential election will be decided solely by the voters in a small number of states. Florida and Pennsylvania are the most important, and Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina and Wisconsin also play a role. In particular it will be decided there by the "weakly faithful" voters, the ones who don't vote reliably for their party, and in particular who sometimes don't vote at all. The party faithful, the "base," are already in the bag and these voters are all that counts.

(Sadly, the primary process is designed to choose the nominee based on the views of party faithful voters, mostly in safe states, with particular emphasis on Iowa and New Hampshire, but this is hard to fix.)

As such, national polls are dangerous and misleading. A lot of Democrats regularly take solace in the fact that Clinton won the press-tabulated national vote in 2016, because they wish that were the real election. It is not, and that wishful thinking should not let people get distracted by doing national polls. Because you have to poll 6 times as many people to poll the swing states with a large enough sample, we see a lot of these misleading national polls.

There are only a few swing state polls, and we should see more. They usually poll either registered voters or likely voters, and they don't put enough focus on the core question of "If th

Brad Ideas
Feb 13, 2020

NTSB report on Tesla Autopilot Silicon Valley Fatality is out
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesThe NTSB has released their docket on the fatal crash of a Tesla on Autopilot in Silicon Valley in 2018. In this article, I examine what they learned about the cause of the accident and the few new details and wrinkles found in the latest report. The full hearing will be Feb 25.

Read it at NTSB report on Tesla Autopilot Silicon Valley Fatality is out

Brad Ideas
Feb 11, 2020

Top 17 surprises from a year of driving a Tesla EV
Topic: Going GreenTags: forbesBefore I bought an electric car, I knew it would be different and I was ready for it. Even so, here is my list of 17 things that I didn't quite expect, that I only realized after driving one for a while.

See the list at my Forbes site article Top 17 surprises from the first year of a Tesla

Brad Ideas
Feb 04, 2020

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for average people to imagine they can control and use it
Topic: Politics We often repeat the misattributed quote that "for evil to triumph, it is only necessary that good men do nothing." We also often cite father Niemoeller's poem about how "First, they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out -- Because I was not a socialist... Then they came for the Jews ... Then they came for me."

These lines remind us to resist the forces of evil, and to do it early. And we definitely should.

But the real thing that enables the triumph of evil is not simply the lack of opposition by good people. The fascists did not rise in Germany and Italy because the left didn't protest enough. The problem was that the average people -- not particularly good and not specifically evil -- enabled the dark forces because they felt they could be useful tools that they could control.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for average people to imagine they can control and use it.

In Germany, Hitler's NSDAP in 1930 got only 18.3% of the vote and 107 seats. Through machinations they worked their way up and in November 1932 they had 33% of the seats, becoming the largest party but far from a majority. The conservatives had already partnered with him. Then Hitler convinced President von Hindenburg and former Chancellor Papen to agree to make him Chancellor. Both men, and the conservatives in general, thought they could tame and use Hitler. They were wrong. Hitler used the power he got, along with violence, illegal tricks and of course, the Reichstag fire, to quic

Brad Ideas
Feb 03, 2020

Everybody's focused on "sharing" -- is it actually the right first path?
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesI wrote earlier about Cruise's "Origin" which they say is a vehicle devoted to shared rides. Many other companies also are hoping to make vehicles for shared rides -- it's treated as almost a received wisdom. But the reality is that sharing rides isn't all that it's cracked up to be, and to work what you really need is frictionless instant mode transfers so nobody goes out of their way. And for that you need automated single person pods, not big shared vehicles. In fact, the cost of a human driver, per passenger, isn't that bad on shared riding -- it's in the last mile that the cost is too high.

Read my analysis on at Shared ride vehicles may get it backwards

Brad Ideas
Jan 28, 2020

Early leaks and reports on Uber weren't too long on the truth
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesWith the story of the Uber fatality now behind us, I thought I would do a review of the various leaks and early releases that we saw about the incident, and how well they scored once the final NTSB report came out. The score is not at all good.

Read my report on at Early leaks and reports on Uber weren't too long on the truth

Brad Ideas
Jan 27, 2020

GM/Cruise releases a plan for a future custom designed robotaxi -- and it reminds me of Zoox
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesRecently, Cruise, the unit of GM (and partner of Honda) did a splash release of a new vehicle design which they say is "not a concept." It's a custom-designed robotaxi, and it reminds me a lot of the plan of Zoox, the $billion funded startup that I advised when it was just getting going.

I've written an article about the risks and benefits of making your own custom vehicle, and whether it's smart or crazy. You can find that at:

Cruise's new robotaxi presages a battle with Zoox on

Brad Ideas
Jan 15, 2020

LIDARS for robocars are everywhere at CES
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesI'm back from CES and my first report concerns the trends in the LIDAR industry I saw from the 43 LIDAR companies exhibiting there. I talked to most of them. Those trends include lowered cost, more robust instruments and scores of paths to victory. There is also much more attention on LIDAR for the ADAS market. Bosch even said it would make a LIDAR, but said nothing about it.

Read LIDARS for robocars are everywhere at CES on

Brad Ideas
Jan 02, 2020

Robocars 2019 Year In Review
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesHere is a summary of the Robocar stories from 2019 that were the most significant. It was actually not a year of very big change. Waymo is still the distant leader, in spite of having slipped a bit on their goals. I talk about the trough of the hype cycle and the challenges going ahead for the 2020s. If you skipped most of my coverage in the year, these are the selected ones to read.

Read the year in review at Robocars 2019 in review

Brad Ideas
Dec 28, 2019

California regulations are no cause for panic but they show "gasoline thinking"
Topic: Going GreenTags: forbesIf you read stories that California just put in new regulations that will change all the per-minute chargers and Tesla superchargers, don't worry, the changes are not that big and don't apply to chargers for some time. But it is worth examining how the regulations, such as they are, exhibit 20th century "gasoline thinking" by imagining that the same rules that apply to gas pumps should apply to electric charging stations. See about it in my Forbes site article:

California EV regs don't forbid per minute, but are still dumb gasoline thinking

Brad Ideas
Dec 20, 2019

The Dems may have chosen the two wrong articles of impeachment
Topic: PoliticsOne has to be impressed in a perverse way at the fact that no Republican broke ranks on Donald Trump in the impeachment vote. Some even defended their votes with passion. I've often felt that since we know several of them loathe Trump that they were just acting out of party loyalty and a sense of self-preservation within their party.

But I start to wonder that some serious number of them, and their voters, don't think Trump's actions are that big a deal. Here's why:

The first article is really about Trump using his office to help him cheat a bit in the upcoming election. Politicians don't think cheating in elections is wrong when it's done by their side. The second article is about obstruction. It's a fairly common attitude among non-jurists that obstruction isn't very wrong if the thing you're being investigated for isn't wrong. Together, they may be legitimately wondering why this was the crime that Democrats planted their flag on. They often remarked about how many Democrats have wanted, at some level, to impeach Trump since day one, and they're not wrong. These two articles cover just one incident in a long line of transgression by Trump, including those that predate his election, such as his call to Russia to get Clinton's e-mails and things outlined in the Mueller report meshed with his own statements about how it's OK to accept help from Russia as long as you don't ask for it. The Democrats have been itching, but at the same time

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