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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

Brad Ideas
Feb 25, 2019

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

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

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

That's the subject of my new article:

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

Brad Ideas
Feb 22, 2019

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

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

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

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

Brad Ideas
Feb 21, 2019

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

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

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

Brad Ideas
Feb 20, 2019

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

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

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

Brad Ideas
Feb 19, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Brad Ideas
Feb 15, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Brad Ideas
Feb 14, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Brad Ideas
Feb 13, 2019

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

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

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

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

Paranoia (as expected) from th

Brad Ideas
Feb 12, 2019

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

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

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

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

Brad Ideas
Feb 11, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Brad Ideas
Feb 08, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Brad Ideas
Feb 07, 2019

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

Stanford showed off robocar valet parking in 2009

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

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

Brad Ideas
Feb 06, 2019

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

This is what everybody does today when they travel.

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

Click through for The minimalist in car experience of the robocar

Brad Ideas
Feb 04, 2019

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

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

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

In particular, I want to consider these problem areas:

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

Brad Ideas
Jan 29, 2019

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

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

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

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

Brad Ideas
Jan 28, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

At the same ti

Brad Ideas
Jan 25, 2019

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

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

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

Brad Ideas
Jan 22, 2019

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

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

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

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

Brad Ideas
Jan 21, 2019

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

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

Why this this happen?

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

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

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

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

Brad Ideas
Jan 18, 2019

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

Mercedes concept shuttle

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

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

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

Brad Ideas
Jan 17, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Brad Ideas
Jan 16, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Brad Ideas
Jan 15, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Brad Ideas
Jan 14, 2019

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

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

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

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

Brad Ideas
Jan 11, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Brad Ideas
Jan 07, 2019

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

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

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

It was inte

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