Autonomous Cars with Marc Hoag
By Marc Hoag
Copyright © 2022 Marc Hoag. All Rights Reserved.
Autonomous Cars with Marc HoagMar 10, 2020
A quick, belated farewell, and an invitation to subscribe to my newsletter Future Perfect covering AI, AVs/EVs, and climate tech. You can give it a read and subscribe over at http://futureperfect.news
Also, for the lawyers amongst you, I'm thrilled to announce the Law Practice of Marc E. Hoag, focused on all things AI and tech including US Copyright law. You can find me at http://marchoaglaw.com
Thank you so much for making Autonomous Cars with Marc Hoag the first organic result on Google for "autonomous cars podcasts," now let's do the same for my Future Perfect newsletter.
#199-Sven Kopacz, Keysight Technologies (formerly Agilent, formerly HP)
Today's episode is the second installment in my two-part series on Keysight Technologies. Last time I was joined by Henrik Liebau where we discussed a bit of a teaser on Keysight's upcoming autonomous vehicle sensor testing suite in anticipation of their big reveal at CES 2022; today I'm joined by a colleague of Henrik's, Sven Kopacz, where we finally get to unpack and discuss in great detail everything about their incredible new Radar Scene Emulator (learn more and Keysight.com and here).
The RSE is an incredible bit of kit: a technology- and vendor-agnostic platform that enables high quality testing of autonomous vehicle sensor tech including lidar and radar to enable a faster and more cost efficient way for technology suppliers and OEMs to test, validate, and get their AV tech on the roads.
But beyond this big product announcement, Sven and I had a fantastically engaging, wildly meandering talk about all things AV -- and even EV -- as we discussed the challenges, promises, hopes, risks, and needs for the safer future we're all working towards.
On a personal note, a huge thank you to Sven for making this symbolic episode #199 such a special one for me; it's hard to believe we're fast approaching the 4-year mark with this podcast next month with episode #200. If you're a fan, please be sure to drop me 5 stars on Apple Podcasts and help me reach 100 ratings. Thanks very much!
#198-Henrik Liebau, Keysight Technologies (formerly Agilent, formerly HP)
Keysight Technologies is arguably the leader in electronic design and testing equipment. Spun out of Agilent Technologies, itself spun out of HP -- yes, that HP -- and manufacturing everything from oscilloscopes to digital multimeters, from signal generators to AC and DC power sources; from bit error ratio testers to 5G OTA chambers, not to mention their exhaustive suite of testing and and monitoring software, Keysight provides all the necessary hardware and software testing for OEMs and tier 1 suppliers to develop their equipment reliably, quickly, affordably, and safely. Though they've dipped into the automotive space from many angles including 5G and V2X, battery and charging testing for EVs, and much more besides, their latest foray into the AVs specifically is perhaps their most ambitious to date, and Henrik joined me to tell me all about it... sort of. It turns out their next big thing -- something to do with rapid, high quality, technology agnostic testing -- is officially launching on Wednesday -- i.e., tomorrow -- so we weren't allowed to dive into a lot of detail just yet; so, consider this a bit of a teaser to whet your appetite. I've been promised a full rundown post-CES2022 for a follow-up episode with all sorts of juicy details, stories, and more. But what we did discuss -- for a solid one hour! -- was a fascinating look into the necessities of robust simulation testing; the current challenges facing the nascent AV industry as a whole, and of course, Keysight's role in helping to fast track things, all while zooming out and looking at the bigger picture of an AV future generally. It was a fantastic conversation with Henrik, and, as I write this, I realize it may be the longest episode yet! So I hope you're sitting comfortably -- at home or driving to work -- because Episode 198, Henrik Liebau, Solution Project Manager at Keysight Technologies... begins now. Make sure to check out Wednesday's big reveal at 10am PST by registering here to watch live: https://connectlp.keysight.com/WW-RSE-Launch-Webinar
#197-I got and tested Tesla FSD beta (10.3.1)
So I finally got it. I finally got the (in)famous Tesla Full Self-Driving beta, otherwise known as FSD beta, v10.3.1 to be precise. This is my personal account of testing across three different days in New England, about 40 minutes north of Boston. Day One was a biblical, torrential rain; but days Two and Three were pristinely beautiful and sunny. All three days left me with the same conclusion.
FYI: I'm putting together a video of my FSD beta test; it should be available on my YouTube channel at YouTube.com/AutonomousCarsWithMarcHoag.
#196-Tesla FSD Transfer
Today, I discuss the potential legal issue surrounding Tesla's FSD, specifically, whether it can -- or can't -- be transferred to a future Tesla vehicle, especially considering that none of us have received the very thing we paid for.
#195-Pouria Paknejad, More on Tesla FSD Beta, etc.
Today: Pouria Paknejad, More on Tesla FSD Beta, etc.
In today’s third installment in the ongoing discussion on Tesla’s imminent, infamous FSD beta deployment, I’m joined by Motiv Mobility advisor, fellow attorney, all-around tech and automotive nerd and guru, and dear friend, Pouria Paknejad, as we thoroughly discuss, dissect, debate, and devour all there is surrounding this polarizing experiment by Team Elon and Co.
Have a listen, and be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen; and don’t forget to follow me on all social media @AutonomousHoag and on YouTube, too.
#194-Tesla's FSD Beta request deployment, Part II
Today: Tesla’s FSD Beta request deployment
So picking up where we left off last time, I unpack the five metrics Tesla is using to calculate your “Safety Score” to determine whether you’re lucky enough to get access to Tesla’s Full Self Driving beta. I also dive into a few questions and concerns, and try to cover as much as ground as possible.
Have a listen, and be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen; and don’t forget to follow me on all social media @AutonomousHoag and on YouTube, too.
#193-Tesla's FSD Beta request deployment
Today: Tesla’s FSD Beta request deployment!
Tesla’s (supposedly) about to finally deploy its infamous Tesla FSD Beta to a wider audience… sort of. Tonight. Maybe. And it’s not really a full deployment, rather it’s a “Request” button which will enable those of us, like yours truly, who already purchased FSD, to — you guessed it — to “request” FSD Beta.
After requesting, Tesla’s insurance system will analyze your last seven consecutive days of driving to determine whether you “qualify” for FSD Beta.
I unpack the ins and outs of what this all means, whether it’s fair — or even legal — and the big elephant in the room question, whether this is a smart thing to do, not to mention, whether it’s safe.
Have a listen, and be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen; and don’t forget to follow me on all social media @AutonomousHoag and on YouTube, too.
#192-VW's AV plans, Germany's AV legislation, Tesla's FSD beta v9
Today: VW’s impressive AV plans, Germany’s AV regulation, and Tesla’s FSD beta v9. All this... right now.
VW’s AV plans
VW has pivoted from being the leader is diesel fuel, to a potential leader in the EV space; and now it’s doing the same with its AV initiatives with everything from a software platform to its co-ownership with Ford of Argo.ai.
Germany’s AV legislation
Germany seems poised to pass legislation allowing for driverless Level 4 autonomous vehicle driving on its roads come 2022, provided certain rules are adhered to, including and especially the use of remote backup drivers and assumption of all liability by the operators.
Tesla FSD beta 9
Tesla FSD beta 9 is here and I … discuss it. A bit. Sort of.
#191-7/11 charging stations; Cruise passenger rides; Volvo XC90 with Level 4 Lidar
Today: 7/11 installs EV charging stations; Cruise starts driverless passenger rides; Volvo announces a Lidar-equipped Level 4 XC90 for 2022. All this... right now.
They're not quite Super Gulp Slurpies -- or whatever 7/11 calls its diabetes-inducing ambrosia these days -- but 7/11 is indeed moving forward with a plan to install some 500 chargers at their various stores across the US. This is a pretty great idea if only to entice folks to stop and buy up more junk food from their stores, except for one problem: the chargers are likely supplied by ChargePoint, which means fairly meager speeds; and considering the average stop at a 7/11 is perhaps five minutes or so, the actual value to an EV owner is next to none, so I'm not sure how this is going to play out for 7/11 down the road.
Cruise starts driverless passenger rides
Cruise has finally received the appropriate permits to start passenger rides with its driverless test vehicles, but crucially, the rides cannot yet be for revenue service until their receive yet additional permits. In contrast, for instance, Nuro is able to do for-revenue deliveries with its little delivery bots, but this is because they're transporting packages and food, not human passengers. Still, this is a great and exciting next step for Cruise.
Volvo's L4 Lidar-equipped 2022 XC90
I've been a fan of Volvo and its impressive Vision2020 mission to eliminate human death or serious injury in all Volvo vehicles, not to mention Volvo's push towards an electric, autonomous future; the next-gen XC90 aims to be their first big step in this direction. The 2022 XC90 SUV will come with Lidar as standard -- a first in the industry, and a really big deal -- and be capable of Level 4 autonomous driving on highways (regulation permitting, and with a software update to activate).
#190-Cruise in Dubai; Tesla's vision-only FSD v9.0; Mercedes EQS
1. Cruise in Dubai: Cruise becomes the exclusive partner to launch a robotaxi service in Dubai from 2023 to 2030, with the aim of getting 4000 Cruise Origins on Dubai's roads.
2. Tesla's vision-only FSD v9.0: Elon announces that a soon-to-be-released version of Full Self Driving beta, v9.0, will be "vision-only," meaning no radar, and of course, still no lidar, i.e., it will be camera-based only.
3. Mercedes EQS: The new electric S-Klasse, the EQS, is a technological and aesthetic marvel, but it falls short on offering any truly revolutionary semi-autonomous driving technology.
#189-Xpeng; Insurance; The Safety Pool
1. The conclusion for Xpeng's cross-China AV trek
2. The auto insurance industry in an autonomous future
3. A huge AV simulation testing service
#188-Xpeng, BMW, Cruise & Voyage
1. Xpeng starts a six day autonomous trek across China
2. BMW's larger, curvier iDrive suggests revolutionary AV capabilities
3. Cruise does indeed acquire Voyage, but I'm not entirely pleased with the implications
All this... right now.
#187-Allen Witters, CEO, T4L
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My guest today is Allen Witters, the CEO of T4L -- that's Transportation for Life -- a brand-agnostic electric vehicle subscription service that already has over $3M in pre-orders, and is already eyeing an IPO; they've also got a WeFunder page.
If that sounds a bit much, a bit too sudden, a bit too everything to be true, that's because the T4L team are determined to do their part to expedite the world to an electric vehicle future by removing every obstacle, road block, and hindrance to EV ownership along the way.
First off, T4L is not a car sharing platform; it's a car subscription platform. Second, in case this brings back memories of GM's failed Maven service, say, or Mercedes' recently pulled plug on their subscription service, too, remember that both Volvo and Porsche are still pushing strongly with their respective subscription services. Third, this is an altogether different sort of subscription model more akin to a cell phone purchase.
While there are several subscription tiers available (including a "for life" plan), it's the decidedly cell phone-type plan that I think is most intriguing, wherein you pay for a fixed number of miles and time, and you either use it all or you don't.
What's more interesting is the interplay with third party subscriptions: residential condominiums, or corporate clients, for example, can subscribe to T4L's services and then provide the vehicles to their tenants or employees. To use a somewhat less extravagant analogy, think of hotels that provide bicycles for their guests.
What's most astonishing, though, is that T4L even provides life time electric vehicle charging and will even install the appropriate chargers onsite if needed. And if that's not enough, they're even developing so-called EV experience centers for people to hang out, browse various EVs, and even get a coffee.
There's a lot to unpack here, so fortunately I got about 40 minutes with Allen discussing all the ins and outs of of T4L and their mission, so I hope you're sitting comfortably, because Episode 187 with Allen Witters, CEO of T4L, begins now.
#186-Noel Marshall, Senior Account Executive, Schaeffler
My guest today is Noel Marshall of the drive-by-wire team over at Schaeffler's US offices. We discuss everything from their Indy Autonomous Challenge; the SAM Car Project; the USDOT inclusive design challenge; and tackle some of the much broader issues surrounding autonomous vehicles, society, and much more besides.
#185-More on AVs being EVs; teleops shouldn't be AV; Argo.ai's Munich Airport test track
1. I explain further why AVs need to be EVs, and talk about Cruise's huge new charging station in SF
2. I explain why teleoperations should be considered as an alternative to AVs
3. Argo.ai has partnered up with LabCampus at Munich Airport to develop an AV test track
#184-AVs must be EVs in CA; delivery bots are pedestrians; Tesla's California DMV FSD beta submission
1. All AVs must be EVs in California by 2025
2. Pennsylvania recognizes delivery bots as "pedestrians"
3. I debate the notion that Tesla's FSD beta is nothing more than a glorified L2 system
#183-Didi & AutoX; Honda's L3 Legend; Cruise Buys Voyage?
1. We reflect on Didi and AutoX's progress on autonomous ride sharing in China; their remote control center; and the validation of AVs in a covid world
2. Honda surprises the world with the first publicly available L3 vehicle
3. Cruise may have just bought Voyage
#182-NHTSA's final rule for AVs; GM's new AV test track; Baidu in California
NHTSA: Final barriers to be removed thanks to NHTSA's final rule on AVs
GM: The new circular test track offers 4 lanes and 62 mph AV testing
Baidu: They get ready for numerous deployments in China and become the 6th company in California to get a driverless testing permit
#181-Volkswagen & Microsoft; UK embraces AV; Germany close to passing L4 legislation
1. Volkswagen and Microsoft partner up to deploy an automotive cloud solution for OTA updates and AV capabilities
2. UK values AVs at £42B by 2035
3. Germany gets closer to allowing L4 vehicles on public roads
#180-Apple buys lidar; Lucid gets SPAC'd; Volvo's solution for motion sickness
Apple buys lidar: Apple is off shopping for lidar. I theorize that they're likely going after solid state lidar.
Lucid gets SPAC'd: First Faraday, and now, as I predicted, so has Lucid, to the tune of $4.4B.
Volvo's solution for motion sickness: Volvo is using predictive data to solve motion sickness with audio queues.
#179-Faraday Future; Aurora & Toyota; Apple Car
Faraday Future: FF just went public via a SPAC valuing the troubled EV automaker at $3.4B
Aurora & Toyota: The AV technology company partners up with Toyota to utilize their Sienna minivan for ride hailing fleets
Apple Car: Apple's long-rumored Apple Car is apparently not happening with Hyundai-Kia; so what's going on?
#178-Season 6 Premiere-Jessica Uguccioni, Lead Lawyer at the Law Commission of England and Wales
Guest: Jessica Uguccioni, Automated Vehicles Review - Lead Lawyer, at Law Commission of England and Wales
Topics: The Law Commission of England and Wales' review of the UK's regulatory framework for AVs on behalf of the UK Government's Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV)
#177-SEASON 5 FINALE: My (HUGE!) Model Y Review, the Holiday Special 2020
Watch this review on my YouTube channel: YouTube.com/AutonomousCarsWithMarcHoag
So I know this review has been a long time coming; those of you who listen to my podcast will remember that my wife and I took delivery of our white-on-white Tesla Model Y Long Range All Wheel Drive in June of this year; based on a delivery tracking site, I think it’s safe to say we were one of the first in California to take possession of that particular configuration. And now, after already hitting just over 16,000 km (10,000 mi) as of this writing, I feel confident that I can finally give a properly objective review of this undeniably astonishing, if flawed, machine.
By now, however, you’ve all read and watched enough superlative-laden reviews about all Teslas’ face-distorting teleportation-like acceleration — suffice to say the Model Y is for all intents and purposes nearly as quick as the Model 3, if admittedly a bit less agile, as expected — so this review will focus instead on four main areas: design; flaws; my thoughts on the latest build of Autopilot, because of course; and charging.
So let’s dive in, Episode 177, the Season 5 finale and Holiday Special for 2020, begins now….
#176-Richard Goebelt, Director Automotive & Mobility, TÜV
I was introduced to Richard Goebelt through my H+C partner Martin Adler. The Director for Automotive & Mobility of the TÜV — the Technischer Überwachungsverein — Richard’s primary field of work, not to mention his passion and interests, rests entirely on the safety and regulatory landscape of all things automotive and mobility generally, with, of course, a focus on autonomous vehicles.
Unsurprisingly, then, our conversation spanned the gamut from his thoughts about Tesla; a brief history of TÜV and Germany’s impressive grasp on automotive safety; the social impacts of autonomous vehicles especially on matters of equality, or lack thereof; and much more besides.
This episode should be especially interesting to listeners in the US since we don’t really have anything like the TÜV. I suppose a loose analogy might be local agencies that require smog checks every few years. At a minimum, the TÜV requires certification of compliance to validate roadworthiness of all vehicles, including everything from turn signals to suspension; engines and emissions; headlight alignment; and anything else besides, and certain of these certifications are required every two years.
#175-Ramon Marrades, Director Placemaking Europe & John Rossant, ChairmanNewCities.org, CEO CoMotion
Our guest today is Ramon Marrades, the Director for Placemaking Europe, and he's joining return guest (#170) John Rossant, the Chairman of NewCities.org; CEO of CoMotion; and advisory board member of Neom.
As an urban economist, a writer, and activist, Ramon has a real passion for people and places, and crucially, how people interact with places. Prior to Placemaking Europe, Ramon was the Chief Strategy and Finance Officer at La Marina de València, a waterfront development agency for the Spanish city, and a board member of the Worldwide Network of Part Cities (AIVP). Ramon is the co-editor of the book "Our City? Countering Exclusion in Public Space (2019) and the host and curator of Placemaking Week Europe 2019. Today, his work focuses primarily on the interface between public space and economic development.
Today's conversation was a fascinating and totally open-ended dialogue between John and Ramon. As experts in their related and overlapping fields of urban design and development, it was an eye-opening look at the interplay between future mobility initiatives around the world and city design, ranging from practical to social issues and everything in between.
#174-Phillip Wilcox, Author, "The Future is Autonomous"
"What Phillip Wilcox has accomplished with The Future is Autonomous is nothing short of remarkable. The scope and depth of this book is simply staggering, while remaining an incredibly fast and easy, conversational read. From technology to society; from a micro view of individual companies to a macro, holistic look at the global AV industry; from legal issues to policy matters and everything in between, Wilcox somehow manages to cover the entire spectrum of the burgeoning autonomous vehicle industry and provides a distilled, unbiased crash course on a crash-free autonomous future."
That was my preliminary review of Phillip’s book, available now for Amazon Kindle and paperback. Having now finished the book — in one 3.5 hour sitting, mind you — I summarized it thus:
“Wilcox’s book is an astonishing crash course (pun not intended) on AV tech and law; a deep dive into US and China AV companies; the trade and security issues between the two countries that could determine the future of AV deployment; and so much more.”
First, if it isn’t yet abundantly clear from my praise above, this book is simply astonishing; a wonderfully cohesive package that will bring anybody up to speed on the present state of the autonomous vehicle industry.
On a personal note is the astonishing backstory that inspired Wilcox down this journey of research and writing, something that Wilcox shares as best he can remember. Suffice to say, it involved tremendous, life-threatening injuries; it’s incredible he lived to write this book in the first place.
What makes the book especially rich in its discussion of the autonomous vehicle landscape generally is Wilcox’s deep dive into the very essence, the very fabric of Chinese culture in order to understand and explain the different approach to this autonomous future.
But Wilcox doesn’t come at this from a distant vantage point; on the contrary, he’s lived and travelled throughout China, and even speaks and still studies Mandarin. So a mere superficial analysis from some distant point of view this is not; rather, it’s an incredibly nuanced, yet easily approachable discussion on the intricacies of culture and business in China, complete with analogies to other industries like the search engine space.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough, so go grab your copy now, and enjoy the next hour with Phillip Wilcox, author, “The Future is Autonomous.”
#173-Noam Arkind, Arbe Robotics
My guest today is Noam Arkind, the CTO at Israel-based Arbe Robotics (@Arbe_Robotics). Noam holds a PhD in Applied Math from the Robotics Lab at the Weizmann Institute of Science, so it’s no surprise that we did a fantastic one hour deep dive into all the fascinating technology behind their 4D high-resolution imaging radar solution.
What struck me most about Arbe — and it took me until maybe half-way into our discussion to realize it — isn’t just their full development kit that includes both the hardware and software; it wasn’t just the cost competitiveness over alternative solutions like lidar for instance; but rather, it was the recognition that Arbe is quite literally shaping up to be a better lidar than lidar, from virtually every metric.
Where computer vision cameras are limited by today’s AI and ML capabilities; where traditional radar is limited, at a minimum, by resolution; where lidar is limited by cost, inclement weather, and potentially resolution too, Arbe solves all those issues by effectively producing a 2K radar solution they claim is “100 times more detailed than any other radar on the market, suited for every level of autonomy or class.”
And that last point is what’s most exciting, I think, about Arbe: their solution isn’t designed for future L4 and L5 vehicles some five to 15 years hence; on the contrary, if only because the physical hardware is the same form factor as existing ADAS-equipped vehicles’ radar kit, Arbe can easily be used to augment or fully replace existing automakers’ ADAS solutions and get safer vehicles on the roads today.
Arbe has raised $55M to date, and is based in Tel Aviv with offices in Plano, Texas and Beijing.
#172-Brett Bavar, rideOS.ai
I first connected with Brett via my good high school friend Bill Chen, one of the first team members of rideOS, and we agreed it made sense to do an episode together on the fascinating work they've been up to which, frankly, is fairly unique in the AV landscape.
Simply put -- though of course I leave it to Brett to explain more fully -- rideOS is a sort of routing optimization layer between any autonomous vehicle -- defined quite broadly -- and optimal navigation and prioritization routes for any thing that has mappable paths between A and B.
It's a fascinating conversation spanning some 40 minutes in length, so I hope you're sitting comfortably to learn all about Brett and his work with the rideOS team.
#171-Uber selling ATG; Motional in Vegas; Honda reaches Level 3
1. Uber selling ATG
News is circulating that Uber is prepping a sale of its self-driving car division Uber ATG -- Advanced Technologies Group -- to Aurora. Once worth over $7B, this sale would come almost three years after Uber's autonomous driving ambitions were stalled following the tragic accident in which an Uber test vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona. But is this really game over for Uber's self-driving car plans? I think not.
2. Motional in Vegas
Two episodes back we talked about Motional -- the joint venture between Hyundai and Aptiv which recently partnered up with shuttle service Via -- and now there's news that Motional will itself begin driverless car testing in Las Vegas. This news comes right on the heels of Cruise's recent announcement that it too had been granted a driverless testing permit in San Francisco.
3. Honda reaches L3
Despite Audi's claim not long ago that it had achieved a Level 3 vehicle with its Audi A8, Honda says its 2021 Legend will be the first widely available consumer vehicle with Level 3 technology enabling so-called "traffic jam assist" functionality. Like the Audi, this means that in traffic jams, meaning slow traffic speeds, presumably with cars in front and behind, and with clear lane indications, the driver will be able to take its eyes off the road unless and until the car alerts the driver the intervene. This is different from a Tesla and its impressive Autopilot system which requires human attention at all times, thereby qualifying it as a Level 2 system.
#170-John Rossant, NewCities.org, CoMotion, & Neom City
Today’s guest is John Rossant, the Chairman of NewCities.org and CEO of CoMotion. John also sits on the advisory board of Saudi Arabia’s impressive Neom City, a 150 sq-mi (388 sq-km) planned smart city powered fully by renewable energy, and eschewing conventional transportation methods for autonomous vehicles, both land-based and air-based.
During our 40-minute conversation, John shares his fascinating insight on Neom, while touching on his global experiences derived from his time at NewCities and CoMotion.
#169-Motional, Daimler, Ghost
Today: Hyundai and Aptive do a thing; I make a mistake; and ghosts learn to drive cars. All this, right now…
1. Hyundai and Aptive
About a year ago, we discussed the new partnership as between Hyundai and Aptiv which saw the two companies forming some sort of unknown venture. This venture was apparently a company called Motional, and Motional has just partnered up with Via, a shuttle-van ride service that partners up with municipalities. The idea is for Motional to give Via driverless capabilities.
2. I make a mistake (about Daimler)
Special thanks to Oscar Slotosch (Episode #142) for pointing out that I missed the recent announcement about Daimler’s partnership with Waymo to provide L4 trucking. Thing is though, it still seems that Daimler is focusing only on commercial trucking for now, so I try to go deeper than the last episode in an attempt to figure out (or at least guess) what’s going on.
Comma.ai has a friendly competitor driven by ghosts. Ghost is a plug-and-play hardware/software solution that, for $3500 and $100/month will AV-ify most 2012 cars with Level 3 capabilities.
#168-Mercedes gives up on AVs; AV design; AV timelines
Today: Mercedes-Benz announces they're giving up on AVs; we talk AV design and what it really means; and, we unpack the true meaning of AV timelines. All this, right now....
1. Mercedes-Benz gives up on AVs
In a bizarre bit of PR non-hype, Mercedes-Benz announced to the world that they are giving up on AVs; this includes their (long since forgotten) partnership with BMW in which the Bavarian heavyweights were meant to co-produce AV software together, never mind the fact that neither company possesses such expertise. What's curious about this announcement is that it raises the question of what happens to Mercedes' ongoing development and improvement of their existing ADAS systems. Also, I make a fairly bold prediction, namely, that Mercedes will acquire an AV company in the next one to three years.
2. AV design
The question of AV design often misses the bigger picture question: it's not so much a matter of how will today's passenger vehicles look, but rather, how will existing automobile companies' product lines change, and by change, I mean, how will they grow. Companies will soon branch out into both human-driven and autonomous vehicles in the same way they currently have, say, passenger vehicles and camper vans.
3. AV timelines
In a recent AV roundtable-type discussion in which I participated, 2038 was pegged as "the year" that Level 5 AVs become a thing. And while I agree with that prediction -- I've often said that L5 vehicles should start to become a part of our lives in the mid- to late-30s -- I think this binary view of AV timelines sort of misses the point, i.e., it misses the crucially important interim years for businesses to ramp up in preparation for an AV future, not least of all, insurance companies.
#167-Tesla FSD beta
So this is a big, hugely polarizing deal: Tesla has just unleashed the beta version of its so-called “full self-driving” or “FSD” for short.
Released only to an extremely small, but unknown number of so-called “early adopter program” (“EAP”) customers, this software update — 2020.40.8.10 — unleashes the full suite of long promised “self driving” features in an admittedly risky package; so risky, in fact, that the release notes warn that “[i]t may do the wrong thing at the worst time.”
And the Internet has lost its collective minds: on one side of the ever-widening rift are the usual Tesla fanatics praising Elon for this extraordinary (non-?)achievement; on the other are naysayers criticizing him for his blatant ambivalence for, and risk with, human safety.
I argue several points:
First, the data needs to speak: if in fact this proves to be safe, then it should be continue.
Second, we need to do anything we can — yes, even take more risks — if it means reducing the number of people killed every day.
#166-Cruise goes driverless; Caterpillar ramps up AV tech; Ollie 2.0
Today: Cruise to start driverless testing in California; Caterpillar grows its AV division; Local Motors plans to test its new Ollie 2.0 in Toronto. All this… right now.
I’ve been a big fan of GM’s Cruise (formerly Cruise Automation) pretty much since ever. But I didn’t agree with their announcement in 2019 that they would release to the world a true driverless car — sans steering wheel, mind — onto the chaotic streets of San Francisco by year’s end.
First, I said it was an unlikely goal to achieve, which of course they didn’t. Alternatively, even if they did achieve it… so what? What really matters is not so much the marketing hype of demonstrating to the world that you have an L5-capable vehicle, but rather that consumers are actually using it, like Waymo is doing in Arizona.
Now GM has become the fifth company in California to receive from the California Department of Motor Vehicles a driverless testing permit for their Cruise vehicle on the streets of California. But they still aren’t testing them; at least not yet. More to the point, I still say “so what” in the sense that it would be vastly cooler to get paying customers in their cars on limited roads across San Francisco.
Caterpillar’s Heavy Metal AV
While COVID-19 has obviously caused a bit of a slump in the real estate and construction sector, reflected by a sales dip in heavy metal machinery like Caterpillar’s tractors and earth movers, their AV division is seeing a marked up-tick. Have a listen to find out why.
Local Motors has signed a deal to start testing its Ollie 2.0 autonomous shuttle pods on the streets of Toronto starting in Spring 2021. But with seating for up to 8 passengers, I question their viability during these times of COVID, and suggest that something like driverless car rides like Waymo and (eventually) Cruise are vastly more relevant immediate solution.
#165-Jonah Bliss, Curbivore
You've likely heard of Harry Campbell, otherwise known as "The Rideshare Guy," and chances are, if you are a driver for services like Uber or Lyft, you listen to his podcast religiously; and if you don't, well, do.
So Harry recently emailed me to invite me to an event that he's putting on next week, with the impossibly awesome name Curbivore. It's bringing together thought leaders from the intersection of the food industry and mobility tech, to discuss these unprecedented challenges imposed by COVID-19.
Curbivore is being produced with a colleague of his, Jonah Bliss. Jonah was formerly part of the original team at Turo, so suffice to say, he knows a thing or two about the mobility industry generally. Harry thought Jonah and I should have a chat about what's going on in this particular slice of the mobility space. So I agreed.
What's especially interesting about Curbivore -- and why I agreed to do this admittedly very promotional episode despite that I've received zero compensation for it of any kind; this is not a sponsored episode -- is the lineup of speakers which promises an impressive cross-section of people from the food and tech industries, and crucially, public/municipal organizations as well.
Registration is free so you should probably register: Curbivore.co
#164-EU's safest vehicle; when do we ban human drivers; EVs as a roadmap for AVs
Today: We discuss the results of a study by Thatcham Research and Euro NCAP to crown Europe's safest vehicle (spoiler alert: it's not Tesla); when do we ban human driven vehicles; and we consider the path to EVs as a roadmap for AVs. All this... right now.
Europe's safest vehicle
A recent study was just published from Thatcham Research and Euro NCAP that sought to determine the safest vehicle you can buy for public roads. Somewhat surprisingly (or not?), the winner was not a Tesla. In fact, while Tesla scored highest in two categories, it scored abysmally low in one category, and the crown ultimately went to...
When do we ban human drivers?
The first question is whether we need to ban human drivers; and when you consider the appalling loss of human life around the world -- 1.25 million deaths caused by vehicle accidents, 94% of which are cause by human error -- it seems inconceivable not to ban them. But still, the question becomes when, and how do we do so.
EVs as a roadmap for AVs
The recent ban on ICE vehicles by 2035 announced by California's Governor Gavin Newsom may offer a sort of roadmap, suggests American University Professorial Lecturer Selika Josiah Talbott, closely echoing what I've often suggested as well, that EV production and market penetration will serve as an extremely meaningful proxy for AVs.
- Ten years on from the blogpost that triggered the AV revolution, by Nick Reed, PhD
- Are autonomous vehicles safer than manually operated vehicles?, by Jeffrey Everson, PhD
#163-Waymo One launches driverless rides for the public
In a surprise move that came seemingly out of nowhere, Waymo has just opened up its Waymo One autonomous vehicle taxi services to the general public in its testing grounds just outside of Phoenix, Arizona; crucially however, these vehicles aren't just autonomous, they're driverless autonomous vehicles; i.e., Level 5 AVs.
Until now, Waymo had been testing its autonomous Chrysler Pacifica minivans with a human backup driver in a 100 square mile (160 square kilometer) region of the suburbs of Phoenix. Now, however, they've removed the human backup driver and shrunk the geofenced region to 50 square miles (80 square kilometers).
Although the plan is to eventually re-introduce backups drivers and further broaden the coverage area, the current decision to remove the driver -- while surprising -- makes perfectly good sense during this era of the COVID pandemic. As I've often argued numerous times in the past, COVID should encourage, rather than discourage, driverless autonomous vehicles if only to maximize human safety: getting in a car with no driver is going to be safer than getting into a car with a driver.
#162-California to ban sale of new ICE vehicles in 2035
California recently announced a ban on the sale of new internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles in 2035. This is an incredible decision but one which has been met with a surprising -- or not -- amount of resistance. I'm going to explain why everybody who disagrees with this is wrong.
The first argument I've heard is people complaining that they should be allowed to buy ICE vehicles. This is not a ban on the sale of all ICE vehicles; only new ones.
The second argument I've heard is that this will unfairly burden low income families. First, everything in the US unfairly burdens low income families thanks to our woefully inept social safety net. Second, low income families tend to buy used cars, not new cars (never mind the fact that most people in general tend to buy used cars), so this won't actually change anything.
Third, and as a follow-up to the previous point, it needs to be pointed out that we're talking about something 15 years in the future; that's about as long as Tesla has been around (17 years), and look what it's accomplished in that time. Come 2035, not only Tesla, but countless other auto-makers will offer EVs in the $20K price range ($30K assuming 3% inflation rates); and countless used EVs will be available by then in the $10K-$20K range, if not cheaper.
Finally, the simple fact is that this sort of change must happen; it cannot not happen. The mathematically certain risks due to climate mandate that we make such drastic changes, or the harm caused by inaction will be far greater than the secondary harm caused by action.
Have a listen to hear me ramble on in a not dispassionate way about why this ban absolutely needs to happen, and why, if you disagree with me, you're wrong.
#161 - Andreas Herrmann and Maximilian Richter
On their research to classify cities into 5 archetypes to determine the optimal future mobility solution for each city
Hoag+Co. associate Maximilian Richter and Andreas Herrmann, researchers at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland, have joined me to talk about their latest multi-year study. If you remember, an often-discussed topic on this podcast has been a 2018 study by BCG and the World Economic Forum on the impact on traffic in an autonomous vehicle future sans car sharing. Spoiler alert: it doesn't go well.
Now, a new study -- effectively the sequel -- has just been released and Maximilian and Andreas are here to talk about it. What they've done is to classify cities from around the world into five archetypes based on myriad different qualities, in an effort to understand the future mobility technology best suited to that type of city.
Simply put, there's no one shoe fits all solution for the cities of the world: a future mobility solution for Los Angeles will not work in San Francisco; what's optimal for Paris is decidedly suboptimal for, say, Cairo.
If you'd like to see the report Maximilian and Andreas produced with BCG, head over to hoagandco.com/bcg2 and you can download the PDF there to view while listening to our conversation; I highly recommend you do this as we reference graphs and figures several times during the conversation.
#160-Anna Kleissner, PhD & Michael Semmer
Austria's Magna Steyr and its imminent ICE to EV transition, and how it syncs up with an AV future
I know I often say this about many guests on my show, but today’s discussion with Anna Kleissner, PhD and Michael Semmer, MS, was absolutely fascinating; easily one of my all-time favorite discussions.
It was engaging; it was at times entertaining; and it was incredibly thought provoking and educational.
To cut to the chase: it turns out that if Austria doesn’t successfully orchestrate a transition of its roughly 314,000-strong automotive sector employees from ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicle production to EV production within about 10 years, it stands to suffer a whopping 5.8% reduction in GDP.
In plainer terms, Austria risks losing its entire automotive manufacturing industry if it doesn't fully embrace electric vehicles within 10 years.
If this sounds at all familiar, it’s because it bears as striking similarity to what happened in the UK: in the post-war years, manufacturing (of which automotive was a considerable sector) made up some 48% of the country’s economy. By 2013, manufacturing had shrunk to a mere 13%.
Similarly, the fate of once-great American cities Pittsburgh and Detroit offer an extreme look at what can happen if a local economy doesn’t act nimbly to change with the times.
Regardless, the clock is ticking for Austria where the future of one of Europe’s largest automotive manufacturing companies, Magna Steyr, hangs precariously on the edge as it struggles to transition from an ICE to an EV future.
If Austria — or any other country, for that matter — can manage the transformation wisely, not just at a private level, but indeed at a national level, then it will not only sustain the roughly 314,000 jobs than hang in the balance, but also provide new jobs for generations to come.
#159-Frantz Saintellemy, LeddarTech
A year and a half ago — January 2019 — I was invited to CES 2019 by the good folks over at HERE Technologies to moderate three days worth of talks. (Here’s the episode I did and a brief video.) Apart from getting seriously sick for those three days — a weird, hugely unpleasant thing for someone who, knock on wood, never gets sick — it was an otherwise fantastic experience.
During those several days, I had been invited to some surprisingly fun afterparties; and it was on the last night of my three-day stint in Vegas, at just such a party, that I happened to meet some of the LeddarTech team from Montréal.
It’s been far too long for me to remember now, but LinkedIn reminds me that I met with their Product Line Manager, Pier-Olivier Hamel; so you can imagine my pleasant surprise when LeddarTech reached out to me for a conversation with none other than their President & COO, Frantz Saintellemy.
What had most intrigued me about LeddarTech when I’d met with Pier-Oliver back in January 2019 was the decidedly novel approach they seemed to take in their pursuit of automotive lidar: a buffet-like platform which enabled other companies to pick and choose components to build their optimal lidar kit.
And, oh yeah, it was solid state lidar. Only. This was true then, and it’s still true today. And when I say automotive lidar, I don’t just mean, say, the hardware stack; it’s the entire end-to-end solution, hardware and software alike; sensor fusion; image recognition; the works. All of it.
I genuinely don’t know of any other company which is attempting to do this — so obviously, as always, if I’m wrong, please make the appropriate intros — so suffice to say, I was more than thrilled to have the conversation with Frantz today (well, recorded yesterday).
Besides the fact that Frantz is one of the most wonderful people I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with in this space, his robust academic and professional engineering background made for an incredibly fascinating discussion, and I think you’re going to love our chat.
Hope you’re sitting comfortably, one hour with Frantz Saintellemy, the President and COO of LeddarTech, coming at you from Québec, Canada, begins now.
#158-Ryan Shaw, Ryan Shaw Tech
If you have even a passing interest in Teslas — including and especially their recently-released Model Y, which I call “the most important vehicle since Henry Ford’s Model T some 112 years ago — then chances are you know Ryan Shaw and love his deeply informative, highly objective and sincere videos.
I’ve come to admire Ryan because, like me, he’s undeniably a fan of Tesla and Elon Musk, while at the same time keeping his enthusiasm and support in check: while he has no reservations about gushing his praise for their vehicles and technology generally, he’s quick to enumerate all faults, critiques, and criticisms as appropriate.
Just before the COVID-mandated shut down of Tesla’s Fremont factory went into effect back in March, Ryan and I were in the queue for our respective Model Y orders; it was a patient game of waiting to see who would take delivery first, a game that he won after a clever last minute order configuration change.
Since then, he’s produced numerous videos highlighting his experiences with his Model Y — the good as well as the decidedly not-so-good — so if you haven’t yet discovered Ryan’s YouTube channel with a whopping 30,000 subscribers nearly, then you’d do well to do so.
After a few months of back-and-forth Twitter exchanges with Ryan, it occurred to me to just invite him to my podcast so we could share our thoughts and experiences on the Model Y generally, while also diving into a great conversation on Tesla’s anticipated robot-taxi fleet and all things autonomous vehicles generally.
#157-Amazon buys Zoox; Nvidia & Mercedes; Volvo & Waymo
Boom! Amazon buys Zoox for $1.2B; Nvidia and Mercedes partner up for AV tech in Mercedes vehicles from 2024; and Volvo and Waymo partner up, with Volvo getting lidar kit from Luminar.
Dmitry is the Founder & President of Tortoise, an autonomous/teleoperation e-scooter company.
#155-James Wu, DeepMap.ai
Dr. James Wu
Dr. James Wu is Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer at DeepMap. Prior to founding DeepMap, James built his career at Baidu, Apple, and Google. At Baidu, James served as Principal Architect for the self-driving team. At Google, James was a core member of Google Earth and Google Maps team. James earned his PhD in Computer Science from the University of Alabama and his BS in Computer Science from Tianjin University.
DeepMap is accelerating safe autonomy by providing the world’s best autonomous mapping solutions. We deliver the technology necessary for self-driving vehicles to navigate in a complex and unpredictable environment. We address three important elements: precise high-definition mapping, ultra-accurate real-time localization, and the serving infrastructure to support massive global scaling.
Without a human driver, self-driving cars will have to rely on maps with real-time localization to constantly update changes (such as road conditions, accidents, construction, and more). For cars to be able to maneuver autonomously, they must be aware of all conditions around them. DeepMap is solving this challenge by providing accurate and efficient prior knowledge of the world.
Collectively, the founders and employees of DeepMap have built mapping technologies in use by tens of millions of people daily (including Google Maps and Apple Maps). The company’s technical advisory board includes former Google, Uber, and Apple visionaries Brian McClendon and Jaron Waldman, as well as Dr. Leonidas Guibas, a prominent Stanford University professor, and Herman Kaess, former CEO of Bosch Korea.
In May 2020, DeepMap was named a “Cool Vendor in Autonomous Systems" by Gartner.
#154-Amazon Prime's "Upload," and my thoughts on their trolley paradox solution
Amazon Prime recently launched a (ridiculous) new show called Upload. The first 15 minutes show a passable take on an AV future in which the lead character's AV is hacked and he crashes and dies and goes to (virtual) heaven. There's a subtle, implicit reference to the trolley paradox, and a suggested solution to simply "prioritize" your AV according to your preferences, e.g., to prioritize pedestrians over other cars. This is a rambling, stream of conscious discussion in which I try to unpack and destroy this admittedly clever but deeply troubling approach.
#153-GM Ultra Cruise; Self-Driving Scooters; Improved Regulation for Delivery Bots
1. GM Ultra Cruise: GM's current semi-autonomous driving tech, Super Cruise, uses onboard HD maps for certain freeways to enable hands-free driving on those freeways that are mapped. Now, GM is planning to expand this tech city streets with so-called Ultra Cruise.
2. E-Scooters are going autonomous as Go X borrows Tortoise's self-driving scooter retrofit kit to shuttle scooters autonomous to passengers and then to parking spots.
3. Delivery bots like Nuro's R2 desperately need better (and more permissive) regulation.
#152-Andy Schaudt, Program Director, Automated Vehicle Systems, Virginia Tech Transportation Institute
Today we speak with Andy Schaudt, Program Director at the Automated Vehicle Systems group at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.5
#151-Zoox for sale; Voyage + FCA; Intel + Moovit
Today we discuss Zoox up for sale (and I predict VW grabs them up); Voyage and FCA partner up; Intel brings in Moovit to join Mobileye.