Waymo (Google) has announced a pilot project in Phoenix offering a full ride service in their new minivans. Members of the public can sign up — the link is sure to be overwhelmed with applicants, but it has videos and more details — and some families are already participating.
Today, I want to look at some implications of Tesla’s Master Plan, Part Deux which caused some buzz this week. The one part of the plan that I have trouble with is the idea of combining solar generation with battery storage.
Brad Templeton describes Tesla’s Autopilot as a ‘distant cousin of a real robocar’ that primarily uses a MobilEye EyeQ3 camera combined with radars and ultrasonic sensors. Unlike robocar sensors, Tesla doesn’t have a lidar or use a map to help it understand the road and environment.
In this article, Brad Templeton provides a rundown of different approaches for validation of self-driving and driver assist systems, a recommendation to Tesla and others to have countermeasures to detect drivers not watching the road, and permanently disable their Autopilot if they show a pattern of inattention.
Reports from Tesla suggest they are gathering massive amounts of driving data from logs in their cars — 780 million miles of driving, and as much as 100 million miles in autopilot mode. This contrasts with the 1.6 million miles of test operations at Google. Huge numbers, but what do they mean now, and in the future?
We know electric cars are getting better and likely to get popular even when driven by humans. Tesla, at its core, is a battery technology company as much as it’s a car company, and it is sometimes joked that the $85,000 Telsa with a $40,000 battery is like buying a battery with a car wrapped around it.
An interesting article in last week’s Wall Street Journal spawned a series of unfortunate headlines (in a variety of publications) suggesting that Tesla had somehow “solved” the “problem” of “liability” by requiring that human drivers manually instruct the company’s autopilot to complete otherwise-automated lane changes.
(I have not asked Tesla what specifically it plans for its autopilot or what technical and legal analyses underlie its design decisions. The initial report may not and should not be the full story.)