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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

Brad Ideas
Dec 19, 2019

EV fast charging connector battles and standards wars might be OK
Topic: Going GreenTags: forbesIt's a common lament that because there are so many EV charging plugs (including the 4 fast-charging systems -- Tesla, Chademo, US-CCS and Euro-CCS) that we need a universal standard, so that we can get the goal everybody wants of being able to charge any car anywhere.

That's a great goal, but standards slow down innovation. Tesla's proprietary connector is markedly superior to the two competing "standards" and there is yet more innovation to happen. What's better is to expect things to be different, and make it possible to build adapters, and stock them at the charging stations. Tesla has a Chademo to Tesla adapter, but even though there are perhaps only 200 places it would be useful to have it, they sell it to owners for $450 rather than just putting it in those 200 places.

Here's a rundown of the charging plug standards and the fight among them at:

Cometing Electric Car Charging Standards Can Be Fixed

Brad Ideas
Dec 12, 2019

Trolleys, Risk and Consequences: A Model For Understanding Robocar Morality
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesOne of the most contentious issues in robocars are the moral issues involved in testing and deploying them. We hope they will prevent many crashes and save many lives, but know that due to imperfection, they also create a risk of causing other crashes, both in deployment, and during deployment. People regularly wonder if they should be out there tested on city streets, or ever deployed. Even with numbers that are perhaps the most overwhelmingly positive from a utilitarian standpoint, we remain uncertain.

I've written much on this over the years, have now prepared a fairly detailed analysis of why we think the way we think, both as individuals and a society, and offer a path to better understanding, by understanding the different and sometimes contradictory moral theories that exist simultaneously within ourselves, and searching for a path to reconciliation by looking at vast amounts of microrisk instead of tragedies.

With some irony, I even refer to the "trolley problem." Not the vexing and dangerous misapplication of that problem to robocars deciding "who to kill" that I have often railed against, but rather the original trolley problem, the philosophy class exercise built to help us understand our own moral thinking on issues involving machines, death and human action.

Bear with me -- this is not a short essay

Brad Ideas
Dec 11, 2019

How to save a lot of money when installing electric vehicle charging in your home
Topic: Going GreenTags: forbesOften when you attempt to install an EV charging station in an older home, you find that the old 100 amp service on your panel is not enough, and the electrician may quite a very large price to replace the panel and upgrade the service.

There are ways to avoid paying thousands of dollars by putting in a modestly smaller circuit, and you may find it charges you just fine. Here is a guide to how to get away with less than a 50 amp plug and save many thousands.

See Don't spend a fortune installing charging at the Forbes site.

Brad Ideas
Dec 10, 2019

In car navigation needs to learn to shut up
Topic: TechnologyTransportationTags: forbesI think driving navigation is a great thing, but the UI is all wrong. It needs to work to understand me, to see the routes I have driven with it 100 times, and only tell me when there is something unusual I need to know, not where to turn to get to my house (or telling me "You have arrived at your destination" at my driveway.) The ideal navigation system, on a commute, won't even say a word to me unless there is traffic that means I should not take my standard route. How do we make it smarter?

I explore these issues in a new Forbes site article In car navigation needs to learn to shut up

Brad Ideas
Dec 06, 2019

California Is Collecting the 2019 Robocar Disengagement Reports. It Should Stop
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesCalifornia is now collecting the 2019 "disengagement reports" for robocars, which always get lots of attention. But in fact, they are measuring the wrong thing -- it is the safety of testing they should measure in the public interest, not the quality of the prototypes -- and they are measuring it wrong, and pushing companies to do things that may be unsafe in order to meet their wrong and useless metric.

See my new article at California Is Collecting the 2019 Robocar Disengagement Reports. It Should Stop

Brad Ideas
Dec 05, 2019

Battery, ICE, Hybrid: What About Temporary Mixes?
Topic: Going GreenTags: forbesI was thinking about all the different variants of battery powered and hybrid cars, and thinking about the BMW i3 REX, which is a medium range PHEV that uses a small, cheap motorcycle engine to drive a generator. I think there might be two new types of semi-hybrid cars with this approach, so I wrote up a summary of all the types, and where the new modes fit it, particularly a plan to make cars with a receiver in which a temporary generator module can be placed.

See my article at Battery, ICE, Hybrid: What About Temporary Mixes?

Brad Ideas
Dec 01, 2019

Managing a Tesla charging line
Topic: Going Green Only one spot left -- grab it quick!

Apropos of my Thanksgiving article on EV charging shortages on peak travel days there have indeed been reports of very long waits of an hour or more at some chargers in California, though they may be partly attributed to road closures on I-5 in Southern California (or "The 5" as it is known down there) bunching up the cars. At one station with a very long wait (San Luis Obispo) Tesla brought in a portable supercharging station on a trailer, which had 8 chargers and a megapack battery. But it was gone by the time of the long wait](, possibly to get recharged itself.

So, whatever the cause of the long wait, here are some thoughts on ways it might be made a bunch shorter, some of which would be controversial.

They would all start with Tesla managing the line, rather than having drivers queue up. This is to say that when you approached the station, Tesla would put in you a digital line, manage your place in the line, and alert you which charging station to go charge at when the time came. You could only charge at that station, and nobody else could and signs would clearly say that. Tesla knows where all cars are, and what their state of charge is, and even in most cases where they are going next. Cars are already told to

Brad Ideas
Nov 28, 2019

Can An Electric Car World Handle Thanksgiving Travel?
Topic: Going GreenTags: forbesIf the world switches to mostly electric cars, how will they handle the charging on peak travel days like Thanksgiving? I wrote an article on some thoughts for that, and on evacuations as well.

Read about it at Can An Electric Car World Handle Thanksgiving Travel?

Brad Ideas
Nov 25, 2019

EV Electric cost goes up 25%, nobody blinks, plus why your Uber isn't electric
Topic: Going GreenTags: forbesHere are two recent articles on the economics of electric vehicles.

On Nov 1, PG&E, probably the most common power company for electric vehicle owners, raised the cost of their EV off-peak rate by about 25% in exchange for making the off-peak period last longer. Nobody even noticed, even though a 25% rise in gas prices would be a major calamity in the eyes of many. I look into that math and why nobody cared in:

PG&E raises EV costs by 25% and nobody blinks

Why your Uber/Lyft is not an EV (yet) Second, the math now says that if you want to buy a new car to drive Uber/Lyft full time, some of the electrics are a clear win. Yet very rarely do you see this. I wrote an article going over the math, and outlining some of the reasons which get in the way (particularly the fact that Uber/Lyft drivers may not be homeowners who can put in charging, and that new cars are not the best choice for TNC and a few others.)

Read about that in Why isn't your Uber an electric car?

Brad Ideas
Nov 21, 2019

FCC starts to take the DSRC spectrum back for unlicenced
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesThe FCC has finally declared it intends to take 45mhz of the DSRC spectrum and make it unlicenced instead, though they are still leaving 20mhz for C-V2X (Qualcomm's LTE based replacement for DSRC that is mostly similar with 10mhz still to be figured out. Getting rid of DSRC and the silly idea of vehicle to vehicle communications is a good idea, but they should go even further -- and solve the V2V problem far better -- but making it all unlicenced and doing V2V in phones, not cars.

Read all about it in my new article at -- FCC chairman proposes making most of V2V band free for the people

Brad Ideas
Nov 19, 2019

NTSB holds hearing on Uber Fatality -- pedestrian out of crosswalk issue didn't play a role.
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbes Robert Sumwalt, NTSB chairman

NTSB is holding its live hearings on the Uber robocar fatality. I have detailed live coverage (found in comment #1) which I am updating. Lots of new details, including the fact that what was previously reported --- that Uber's car could not identify pedestrians outside of crosswalks -- turns out to be wrong and played no role in the accident. We also learn that the victim was very high and more.

Read my live coverage and updates in my Forbes article at NTSB hearing blames humans, software and policy

Brad Ideas
Nov 18, 2019

Traffic doesn't go up 85%, and we can solve congestion
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesA recently released tiny study from UC Berkeley gave 13 people personal chauffeurs for a week to see how their travel habits changed. They found their car miles going up 85%, but in most cases it was for silly reasons that would not actually happen. Still, miles will go up with robotaxis -- but congestion doesn't have to increase at all.

See my article at Study suggests Robocars increase congestion for details of the flaws in the study and how we can have almost zero congestion if we're willing.

Brad Ideas
Nov 15, 2019

Daimler Makes Risky Bet Pulling Back From Robotaxi Business
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesDaimler's CEO has said they plan to "scale back" and "rightsize" their robotaxi efforts and focus on Trucking. Trucking is a good field for them, but this is a big bet.

Bet right and the company avoids wasting some money on being too early to the self driving game. Bet wrong and there may be no Daimler.

Read about it at Daimler Makes Risky Bet Pulling Back From Robotaxi Business

Brad Ideas
Nov 12, 2019

Cities stuck in last mile, Stupid Cities, Scooters and the future of Hydrogen
Topic: Going GreenRobocarsTags: forbesTwo articles this week from 3 conferences I attended.

First look at How Cities are Stuck in the "last mile" and other observations from a conferences on cities and new mobility. I examine how scooter companies are working with cities, and how self-driving car tech is mapping cities by keeping the infrastructure dumb.

Today, I write about the future of Hydrogen in transportation -- it's lost the battle for cars, but might have applications in electric flying cars, and in storage for the grid.

Brad Ideas
Nov 06, 2019

New NTSB report is out -- with damning information on Uber's fatal robocar crash
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbes 508 ringtmp$

In advance of the full hearing, an early NTSB report on the fatal Uber robocar crash last year is out. It contains some important new details, including the fact that the Uber system did not consider the possibility of pedestrians outside of crosswalks, and also kept throwing away past trajectory data on obstacles every time it reclassified them. Not able to classify Elaine Herzberg as a pedestrian, it constantly reclassified her and thus failed to track her, thus not realizing the problem until it was too late.

I have a new and very detailed analysis of the accident on the Forbes site, you can read it at:

New NTSB reports reveal major errors by Uber

Brad Ideas
Nov 05, 2019

Recharging in 10 minutes is less exciting than you think
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesLots of folks were forwarding a story about a battery lab at Penn State that has shown a battery that can be recharged in 10 minutes. This is good (and many other labs and companies have demonstrated other ways to do that. But my key reaction is that those who think it's a huge deal are still thinking of electric cars like gasoline cars that you fill up at filing stations. They aren't. With a recent EV, not on a road trip, you charge only at home while you sleep, which takes zero time. Fast charging is not of value there. An article about this can be found in

Read more in my Forbes article Recharging in 10 minutes is less exciting than you think

Brad Ideas
Oct 30, 2019

Twitter and FB shouldn't ban political ads. They should give them away to registered candidates
Topic: MediaNew DemocracyPoliticsTwitter's decision to no longer take political advertising is causing a stir, and people are calling on Facebook to do the same. Political advertising isn't just an issue now that we've learned that Russians are doing it to screw with elections. It's the sink for almost all the money spent by campaigns, and thus all the money they raise from donors. The reason that people in office spend more than half their time fundraising is they feel they have no choice.

Today, most of that money goes to old school media, like TV. We're on the cusp of the switch, where it moves over to online media. For many years, I have written on the opportunities that gives us to change the role of money in politics. I tried to get the leaders of sites like Google and others to early on decide to give away political advertising instead of selling it. It's much easier to give up billions of revenue before you get them, after all.

This is a tricky issue. Political speech is the most protected of speech, considered perhaps the core reason we have free speech at all. We want to be wary of how even private parties regulate it -- we have forbidden the government from doing so.

My New Democracy series included this article on fixing money in politics

Brad Ideas
Oct 30, 2019

Tesla "full" self-driving will jump to $7,000 tomorrow
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesElon has tweeted that the price to pay today to get future self-drive features will rise to $7,000 tomorrow. I write some more analysis of this offering and its price in light of this increase. If Tesla really pulls off a full self driving product ahead of everybody else, might it be better to just buy the stock and spend some of the profits on the higher price in the future?

Read about it at Tesla full self driving price goes up

Brad Ideas
Oct 29, 2019

How Peter Theil almost ruined TechDirt and the peril of the selective information attack
Topic: InternetPoliticsPrivacyNick Denton was a sleazebag. I knew that within one minute of meeting him, as he described the new web site he was planning, called "Valleywag." He was proud he had learned the name of Larry Page's girlfriend and he could break that story, as if who Larry was dating was worthy news of some kind.

Many years later, Denton met his downfall and few shed tears for him, for he published many far less newsworthy stories in his Gawker network of sites. Some of the sites (like io9) were worthwhile, others were not. His downfall came when he outed Peter Theil, and pissed off a billionaire. While Peter's sexual orientation was not, as far as I knew, a secret or something that anybody cared about in the San Francisco circles that we ran in, Theil's battle with Denton led to some consequences with ramifications for core principles of free speech.

Peter could not sue directly over this, but he didn't need to. Instead, he offered to fund anybody who had a claim against Denton. It wasn't hard to find them, and the big fish was wrestler Hulk Hogan. Gawker had disclosed a sex tape involving Hogan. The resulting lawsuit netted enough money to bankrupt Gawker.

So a sleazy gossip publisher was taken down for invading privacy he should not have invaded. Do we cheer along with Peter?

Theil funded other attacks on Gawker, some of them more dubious. He funded the

Brad Ideas
Oct 29, 2019

How Peter Thiel almost ruined TechDirt and the peril of the selective information attack
Topic: InternetPoliticsPrivacyNick Denton was a sleazebag. I knew that within one minute of meeting him, as he described the new web site he was planning, called "Valleywag." He was proud he had learned the name of Larry Page's girlfriend and he could break that story, as if who Larry was dating was worthy news of some kind.

Many years later, Denton met his downfall and few shed tears for him, for he published many far less newsworthy stories in his Gawker network of sites. Some of the sites (like io9) were worthwhile, others were not. His downfall came when he outed Peter Thiel, and pissed off a billionaire. While Peter's sexual orientation was not, as far as I knew, a secret or something that anybody cared about in the San Francisco circles that we ran in, Thiel's battle with Denton led to some consequences with ramifications for core principles of free speech.

Peter could not sue directly over this, but he didn't need to. Instead, he offered to fund anybody who had a claim against Denton. It wasn't hard to find them, and the big fish was wrestler Hulk Hogan. Gawker had disclosed a sex tape involving Hogan. The resulting lawsuit netted enough money to bankrupt Gawker.

So a sleazy gossip publisher was taken down for invading privacy he should not have invaded. Do we cheer along with Peter?

Thiel funded other attacks on Gawker, some of them more dubious. He funded the

Brad Ideas
Oct 28, 2019

Waymo unmanned vehicle has debatable encounter with erratic videographer
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesWatching a 3rd party video of a Waymo minivan operating entirely vacant, I was a bit surprised (at 1:05 in the video) when the van did not pause after the video-shooting driver of the other car pulled up next to it by going into the oncoming lane, and then it cut left in front of that car. All very slow and not dangerous, but not what I expected. In the article in comment #1 I link in the video and muse on the issues of handling situations like this.

Read about it at in Waymo operates vacant but makes potential misstep

You can also watch the Youtube Video

Brad Ideas
Oct 25, 2019

Tesla 3Q numbers are good but still have odd wording
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesTesla released their latest Autopilot safety numbers, and they show a good improvement over the previous quarter.

At the same time, they continue to use strange wording in the report and refuse to answer questions about what their wording means or give the clear statistics that would let us evaluate what the stats really mean.

I get into the numbers in my new article Tesla 3Q numbers are good but still have odd wording

Brad Ideas
Oct 22, 2019

What would the popular vote be in Canada?
Topic: Politics Preliminary results from Wikipedia

In yesterday's election, there's been a lot of talk of the popular vote totals. In particular, in the totals, made by incorrectly summing up the totals for each riding by party, Liberals (which will form a minority government with 157 seats (needing 170 for majority) took 31.1% while Conservatives get 121 seats with slightly more "popular" vote at 34.4%. Most robbed perhaps are the NDP with 15.9% of the "popular" vote but only 24 seats, compared to the BQ with less than half the "popular" votes and 32 seats.

As I've noted in US elections, there is no popular vote in Canada or the US Presidential election. Rather, there are 338 popular vote elections, conducted under the plurality rule called "first past the post." The media then sum these elections up to make a popular vote, even though that's misleading and statistically invalid.

It's invalid because only 60-70 of the 338 ridings are "in play." The rest are generally safe, though elections in Canada swing a lot more than in the USA, so it's a little harder to determine this number. The elections in those swing ridings are hard fought, and the federal parties spend real money there, and the leaders often come to visit. In Canada, even though the actual election is only for your local MP, in most, but certainly not all ridings this MP is seen as just a proxy for the

Brad Ideas
Oct 22, 2019

Report from Santiago protests and thoughts on mass protest in a robocar world
Topic: PoliticsRobocarsTags: forbes Street fire lit by protesters in Santiago, Chile

I just got back from Santiago, Chile, which was brought to a standstill this weekend by mass protests over economic conditions. Once out, I started thinking how mass protest (and even riots) might change in a world where robocars are providing the transportation, instead of the private cars and transit systems which were central in these protests.

It's a very mixed bag, with good and bad for both the city and the protesters. At some levels, a highly distributed transportation system can be more robust, but the nature of robots means it could be very easily to choke most of the streets quickly.

Read my new article Santiago Protests Shut Down Transit - what happens in the robocar world?

I am curious as to reader views on these issues, and what solutions might exist to them.

Brad Ideas
Oct 11, 2019

Tesla smart summon is a self-inflicted wound
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesI tried out smart summon on my Tesla yesterday. Both times it got confused and stuck for so long it blocked parking lot traffic and I had to run into it to move it. Videos have surfaced of the cars (gently) hitting things. Even if there it's working well for many people, these results erode confidence in the capability of Tesla's systems. Tesla has driven over its own foot releasing this product in this state, and for nothing, since it's not at all useful.

See story: Tesla rolls over own feet with pointless smart summon

Brad Ideas
Sep 24, 2019

Tabletop Augmented Reality (Tilt5) kickstarter begins today
Topic: AnnouncementsMediaI'm pleased to announce that Tilt5, an augmented reality company for which I am an investor and advisor, has gone live with its kickstarter today.

Tilt5's approach to AR is quite different from the others you've seen. The glasses require you place an inexpensive sheet of retroreflector on a surface (table, wall or stand) and it can display anything in 3D where that surface is. Real world objects can then be placed on the table and mix with the virtual ones. This may seem quite limiting, it doesn't try to paint things on top of the arbitrary world like Magic Leap, but it has some big advantages because of this method:

The image is quite bright and vivid You can cover a much larger field of view. (Other glasses tend to do only 30 to 50 degrees due to their waveguides and the illusion of reality is broken all the time.) The glasses are light, large and have big lenses, so you can actually see the eyes of the person wearing them. This allows for social interaction with other wearers. The first focus is on tabletop games. You get a magic table which can turn into anything, and you can place gam

Brad Ideas
Sep 17, 2019

Uber drivers as employees, competing with robotaxis
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesWith a new California law threatening to classify Uber drivers as employees, I examine if a law like that could really work or Uber can get around it, and also what happens if this makes drivers cost more -- and leads them to a tougher battle against their real competitor, the robotaxi.

Read more in my article If Uber drivers become employees, can uber escape that, plus how they compete with robotaxis

Brad Ideas
Sep 13, 2019

Falling asleep with Autopilot on -- does it explain Tesla's numbers?
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesIf you fall asleep while driving with Autopilot, it's not a good idea, but you're much safer than falling asleep in a car that doesn't have it. Since a lot of accidents are caused by falling asleep, could this be the reason for Tesla's claim that driving with Autopilot is much safer than not? Or is that claim itself even valid? I outline the logic and math in my new Forbes site article at:

Sleeping with Tesla Autopilot may explain some of Tesla's numbers

Brad Ideas
Sep 09, 2019

Tesla battery guru and new super-lifetime cell
Topic: Going GreenRobocarsTags: forbesTesla's "battery guru" from Halifax, NS released a paper on some new battery cells they have been testing in his lab and getting 6,000 cycles from 0 to 100% on. That's a lot better than today's cells which offer 2000 cycles from 20% to 80% if you are lucky. This could be very big for electric cars, grid storage and it is suggested even robotaxis -- but their needs turn out to be more straightforward than originally thought. But it does bring down the cost.

See my analysis of what longer lasting batteries mean at in Tesla battery guru describes a new cell with massive lifetime

Brad Ideas
Sep 06, 2019

NTSB lets us look inside a new Tesla accident, what does it tell us?
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesBecause Tesla Autopilot is driving tons of miles it's having accidents, and the NTSB in investigating them. That gives us a window we would not have into what's happening. The NTSB report on a non-injury Autopilot accident came out recently, and let's just learn what Tesla's autopilot didn't perceive.

I have some analysis in a new Forbes site article Tesla autopilot accident shows what's inside -- and it's not pretty for full self drive

Brad Ideas
Sep 05, 2019

Ford's sensor cleaner and handling sensor failure in robocars
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesA recent Ford article on how they clean bug splatter off their LIDAR prompted me to write about how you do redundancy in robocars to deal with the inevitable failure of sensors and other components. It's a software way of thinking, not a "make the hardware more reliable" approach.

Read it at Ford's sensor cleaner keeps it seeing, but how do we handle failures?

Brad Ideas
Sep 04, 2019

How to pick which range of Tesla or other EV to buy
Topic: Going GreenTags: forbesA big question for most EV buyers is how much range they need. It depends on your commute, your driving area and how much you want to take long road trips, and where you want to take them, but most people will be pretty happy with the 200-250 mile range cars that are starting to come out. But do you want to pay extra for more than 300 miles of range and get that long range Tesla?

Here's an article where I outline how to make that decision:

How to choose what range Tesla or other EV to buy

Brad Ideas
Aug 29, 2019

Will networked self driving cars become a surveillance nightmare?
Topic: PrivacyRobocarsTags: forbesAs I've written earlier, Tesla has the ability to load special "search" neural networks into the cars to hunt for things they want to use to train with. In this article on Forbes, I hypothesize the day when there's an Amber Alert, and police ask to load networks to search for the car and people involved, and it quickly works. And then police get a taste for this, not just in the USA but China and other places. Where does it lead and can we stop it?

Read Will networked self driving cars become a surveillance nightmare?

Brad Ideas
Aug 26, 2019

Is Waymo's 70% satisfaction score bad news or good news
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesSome customer satisfaction scores leaked from Waymo and were posted by "The Information." The story depicts the 70% 5-star rating as very much a glass-half-empty story, worrying about the problem rides. I think that's actually a very impressive score, and a sign of great things to come, which I detail in the new Forbes site story at:

Waymo's poor 70% satisfaction rate is actuall

Other Waymo news You may also be interested in my coverage of Waymo's release (for academic use only) of a large corpus of training data.

Waymo gives away free self driving data

Brad Ideas
Aug 26, 2019

A solar panel on an electric car is probably false green
Topic: Going GreenTransportationTags: forbesHyundai has put a solar panel on an electric car. Turns out that's "false green" and may end up using a lot of the solar energy to cool down the car after you park it in the sun. What do the economics on solar panels in cars look like?

See Hyundai puts a solar panel on an EV but it's probably false green

Brad Ideas
Aug 13, 2019

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
Aug 12, 2019

Tesla Autopilot alleged failure makes you wonder about how they train it
Topic: Going GreenRobocarsTags: forbesAnother Tesla car crash, allegedly on autopilot, teaches us something about how well (or not well) Tesla is doing with its claimed ability to use its fleet of cars to quickly learn to identify unusual obstacles and situations. Here, a Tesla on autopilot crashes into a tow truck sticking out into the right lane (injuring the Tesla driver.) The driver says it was on Autopilot but that he was distracted for a few seconds. Driver's fault, but why did the Tesla, whose Autopilot is supposedly just months from turning into "feature complete full self driving" miss this sort of thing, when this has happened before, and Tesla has great tools to understand things that have happened before. New Forbes article in comment #1

Plus I look into new things about an old Tesla accident, where it seems the driver was completely abusing Autopilot, treating it like self-driving, and just wiggling the wheel every few minutes to keep Autopilot going, but missed and it was off when he probably thought he had kept it on.

Read some analysis at this Forbes site article Alleged Tesla Autopilot failure raises questions on how they train

Brad Ideas
Aug 12, 2019

It's not just micromobility -- minimobility is where the action is
Topic: Going GreenRobocarsTransportationTags: forbes

With all the excitement about micromobility (scooters) I want to talk more about "minimobility" where is where I think the action will be in short-haul urban transportation. Narrow, small short-range cars for 1-2 people, enclosed and self driving. Half the energy and road space of cars, 1/5th the parking space and many other things to love. Few buy these today because they are too special purpose, but most should be willing to ride in them as self-driving taxis.

More details are in this Forbes site article Between cars and micromobility there is a revolution in minimobility

Brad Ideas
Aug 08, 2019

Tesla and NHTSA fight over what safety scores mean
Topic: Going GreenTransportationTags: forbesTesla advertised that the Model 3 is the safest car ever based on NHTSA's tests. NHTSA wrote them a letter saying, "stop saying that, you can't compare these scores across different weight classes."

Here's some analysis of who is right and why Tesla wins in the end at NHTSA and Tesla spar over safety claims

Brad Ideas
Aug 07, 2019

How RV Parks can exploit a new market of EV road trippers
Topic: Going GreenTransportationTags: forbesRV parks already have the infrastructure for charging electric vehicles on road trips. They just need somewhere decent for the road trippers to sleep and they can exploit a whole new market. Some already rent little cabins. If they add glamping tents they can serve customers at a low cost and could quickly fill out the many gaps in the EV trip network. In my new Forbes site article, I outline the things they could do, and give some advice to drivers too.

Read How RV Parks can prepare for the new market of EV road trippers

Brad Ideas
Aug 06, 2019

Carpool lanes don't work, and carpool cheaters might be helping your lane go faster
Topic: TransportationTags: forbesEver watched solo "cheaters" go by in the carpool lane and been angry? Turns out carpool lanes don't really work and often make congestion and throughput worse, which is why they are converting them to "HOT" (carpool toll) lanes where they can, to let enough solo drivers in to properly use capacity.

Turns out carpool cheaters create a similar result, and if the fines and enforcement are tuned, they can pay a similar amount.

Learn about the reality of carpool lanes and cheating in my new Forbes site article on Carpool lanes are failing and cheats may be helping fix it

(Regular readers will know I have an electric car with carpool access stickers, so I have no personal motivation to support cheaters.)

Brad Ideas
Jul 31, 2019

Guide to buying Tesla Full Self Driving package today
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbes

For some time Tesla has sold a "Full Self Driving" add on for their cars, from $3K to $6K. In the past it gave you nothing -- just the promise that when Tesla had full self driving you would get it for no extra. Over time, the price has varied quite a bit, and now buying it gets you auto-parking and some other minor features that used to come with the $5K Enhanced Autopilot, and a few glimpses of "coming soon" extra features like advanced parking lot summon and traffic signal detection.

Then Tesla bumped the price $1K and said they would keep doing it as time went on, with a "buy while it's still cheap" implication. But should you buy software before it's written? Tesla owners are debating the $6K package ($3K for those who paid more for Enhanced Autopilot before February.) Is it worth it? I have written an evaluation of the features you get and might get in comment #1.

Read Your guide to whether you should buy Tesla Full Self Driving today at

Brad Ideas
Jul 30, 2019

San Diego Scooter Impound battle offers ideas for improving scooter hygiene
Topic: Going GreenTransportationTags: forbes

A fun battle is underway in San Diego between Bird and Lime and a "Repo Man" who is impounding scooters left on private property. Lots of nasty accusations on both sides, but this is an interesting idea in the quest to make the parking of micromobility scooters nicer. In this article, I outline some of the issues in doing that, particularly when there will be fraud and sabotage and cheating from all parties, and even 3rd party "haters" who today try to interfere/sabotage scooters for non-business reasons. Is there a way to make it work?

Read all about in in my article Scooter Impound Battle in San Diego May Help Improve Scooters.

Brad Ideas
Jul 29, 2019

Navya will stop making shuttles. Is "last mile" robo shuttle actually a good idea?
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbes

Navya (formerly Navia) was the real pioneer of the robocar business, over 5 years ago they started actually selling their low speed shuttles, with no brakes or steering wheel, for campus use. They've been doing a lot of experiments since then as a "last mile" shuttle as well. But they announced this week they don't think they will get regulatory approval any time soon -- their shuttles still run with a human monitor with a kill switch -- and will get out of trying to sell physical shuttles and into selling the design and software stack.

In this new article, I talk about this and examine the question of whether autonomous shuttles on fixed routes, especially "last mile to transit" shuttles, where ever a good idea. They just eliminate a driver and save some money, and they don't even save money yet.

Read Navya pulls back on robo-shuttles, but were they a good idea?

Brad Ideas
Jul 28, 2019

How to not waste most of the public EV charging infrastructure
Topic: Going GreenRobocarsTags: forbes

Over 60,000 EV charging stations have been installed in the US. But a huge number of them see fairly light use because they are not in the right place for the current generation of electric cars, and not for the coming self-driving ones.

When we have cars that can go all day without a charge, and charging at home, we don't really have much demand for local charging around town. Superchargers for long trips (like Tesla makes) are the only other chargers needed most of the time. It changes again when the cars able able to drive themselves slowly on empty roads to charging at night (which happens before they can drive people around during the day.) But most thinking about charging infrastructure is stuck in the world of 90 mile range Leafs that need to charge any chance they can get.

I offer some analysis of this and how to think about in my new Forbes site article: Most EV charging infrastructure is wasted

Brad Ideas
Jul 26, 2019

We need to stop talking about "car sharing" because it means two different things
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbes

At the Automated Vehicle Summit, and in may other places, one of the watchwords is "sharing." Everything is going to be great because robocar technology enables "sharing." Yet people use it to mean two different things -- taxi hailing and riding in groups -- and they don't really understand the real consequences of both.

Read Sharing is not caring on the Forbes site.

Brad Ideas
Jul 25, 2019

New evolution in safety thinking
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbesI'm back from the AUVSI/TRB "Automated Vehicles Summit," this year in Orlando, Florida.

The opening session, kicked off by Chris Urmson of Aurora, was about current approaches to safety. In the various presentations, I noticed an evolution in thinking about safety, which I describe in this Forbes site article. We've moving away from incidents and miles and functional safety to operational safety and risk management.

Read the full story at Views on safety are evolving

Brad Ideas
Jul 24, 2019

Cruise admits it will not deploy in 2019 -- is the "hard city first" strategy right?
Topic: RobocarsTags: forbes

It's not a big surprise, but Cruise has announced they will not meet their goal of deploying in 2019. Cruise says deploying in San Francisco is 40x harder than a place like Phoenix where Waymo is deploying, but that once they solve this harder problem, they will be the leader.

Is that the right strategy? I examine this in a new Forbes site article:

Cruise Officially Delays -- is this the trough of disappoitment

And yes, I'm back, after a lovely month in France. Just about anything sounds better when you say, "... in France" at the end of it.

Brad Ideas
Jun 25, 2019

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

How Self Driving Cars will figure out Parking

Brad Ideas
Jun 10, 2019

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

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

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

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


Brad Ideas
Jun 07, 2019

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

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

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

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

Brad Ideas
Jun 06, 2019

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

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

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

Brad Ideas
Jun 05, 2019

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

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

See Don't fear robo

Brad Ideas
Jun 04, 2019

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

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

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

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

Brad Ideas
Jun 03, 2019

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

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

Brad Ideas
May 30, 2019

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

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

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

Brad Ideas
May 28, 2019

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

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

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

Brad Ideas
May 24, 2019

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

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

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

Brad Ideas
May 23, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brad Ideas
May 21, 2019

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

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

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

The Potential New World of the Electric and Robotic RV on

Brad Ideas
May 20, 2019

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

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

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

Brad Ideas
May 17, 2019

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

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

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

Brad Ideas
May 06, 2019

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

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

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

Brad Ideas
May 05, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brad Ideas
May 03, 2019

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

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

Read about those issues in my new article:

Tesla lawsuit may not win, but it uncovers real issues

Brad Ideas
Apr 30, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Brad Ideas
Apr 29, 2019

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

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

Brad Ideas
Apr 23, 2019

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

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

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

Tesla's big numbers for their robotaxi service

Brad Ideas
Apr 22, 2019

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

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

Tesla bets the farm on autonomy with impressive presentation is on

Brad Ideas
Apr 19, 2019

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

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

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

Brad Ideas
Apr 18, 2019

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

Are Robocar teams doing safety theater?

Brad Ideas
Apr 17, 2019

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

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

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

Brad Ideas
Apr 16, 2019

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

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

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

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

Brad Ideas
Apr 15, 2019

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

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

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

Brad Ideas
Apr 12, 2019

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

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

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

Brad Ideas
Apr 11, 2019

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

Read my new Forbes article at:

Giving up car ownership for Waymo Robotaxi

Brad Ideas
Apr 04, 2019

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

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

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

Read Dockless Scooters from parking lots change the economics of parking

Brad Ideas
Apr 03, 2019

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

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

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

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

Brad Ideas
Apr 01, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brad Ideas
Mar 28, 2019

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

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

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

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

Brad Ideas
Mar 28, 2019

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

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

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

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

Brad Ideas
Mar 27, 2019

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

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

Read An Electric Car Road Trip and how to Supercharge

Brad Ideas
Mar 25, 2019

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

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

Check out my taxonomy of flying cars on the site.

Brad Ideas
Mar 21, 2019

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

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

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

Brad Ideas
Mar 20, 2019

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

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

News from Nvidia GTC

Brad Ideas
Mar 11, 2019

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

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

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

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

Brad Ideas
Mar 11, 2019

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

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

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

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

Part one: Puttin

Brad Ideas
Mar 08, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Brad Ideas
Mar 07, 2019

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

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

An HDR of the hole, looking to the dam

Brad Ideas
Mar 06, 2019

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

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

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

No criminal charges for Uber means we learn little

Brad Ideas
Mar 06, 2019

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

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

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

No criminal charges for Uber means we learn little

Brad Ideas
Mar 05, 2019

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

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

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

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

The answer for many is to stare a

Brad Ideas
Mar 04, 2019

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

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

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

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

Brad Ideas
Mar 01, 2019

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

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

Read my Update to Tesla Autopilot Review

Brad Ideas
Feb 28, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brad Ideas
Feb 27, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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