Starsky Robotics Unveils a Self-Driving Truck That Could Kill Uber Subsidiary Otto

28 Feb

Starsky Robotics

How many trucking jobs will self-driving trucks eliminate? All of them, if Uber subsidiary Otto has its way. What about Embark, last week’s alleged “Otto-killer”? Hard to tell from the vague press release regurgitations. But one company has just emerged from stealth mode with a genuinely fresh take on self-driving trucks—the first one to make truckers allies instead of enemies. It’s called Starsky Robotics.

And how is it doing that, exactly? By inverting the traditional “disruptor” role Silicon Valley loves to crow about. Starsky hopes to use AI to augment and positively transform the truck driver’s traditional role—and to do so with the cooperation of the trucking companies and regulators their competitors have so far taunted or ignored.

If Starsky succeeds, they will provide an example of how evolution can sometimes be better than revolution. Theirs is a genuine effort to adapt technology to political and cultural realities, a strategy others would do well to emulate, as Uber is finding out in country after country. Continue reading

Who Is The Theranos of Mobility?

13 Dec

Theranos

Theranos is a classic tale of hubris and schadenfreude, a blood-testing tech company that generated massive press, with a female CEO straight out of Gattaca who attracted hundreds of millions of dollars from investors, that is now imploding because its technology never worked.

Every sector gets its Theranos—so, who is the Theranos of the mobility space?

The answer starts with “mobility,” a word that bores me to tears. What does mobility mean? I’m already mobile; Americans are among the most mobile in the world, but in transportation, mobility ≠ “Mobility”, the new buzzword for companies that don’t have clear strategies in a world of increasing connectivity, autonomy, and electrification. (Case in point: BMW has for the last few years been beating the drum that they are no longer a car manufacturer, but a “mobility provider”—whatever that means.)

Mobility is used so broadly that it has become meaningless, and yet billions of dollars are flowing into disparate companies converging on what they hope will be a pot of gold, but will more likely be an expensive grave.

Bubble, thy name is Mobility. The criteria? Big fundraising, big name investors, beaucoup press, and the high expectations that come with big promises.

Let’s take a look at our candidates, courtesy of a flood of suggestions that came in when I posed the question online. Let’s start with the ride-hailing business, dominated by what are called TNCs, or Transportation Network Companies.

Read the rest over at The Drive

What if the Autonomous Car Industry Is Wrong?

7 Dec

Autonomous

Do you spend time in Silicon Valley or Detroit? If you don’t, know that most conversations involve these talking points: Autonomous cars are inevitable. Almost here. Will be ubiquitous. Save lives. Reduce traffic. Cut pollution. Also, mobility. And sharing. And no one will own cars. FYI, Don’t buy Tesla. Tesla sucks. Wait for our stuff.

“Never assume,” my father always said, so let’s follow his advice, deconstruct the clickbait underlying much of the autonomous driving narrative, and ask the question:

What if the autonomous car industry is wrong?

First we have to answer this: What is the autonomous car industry? On one side, we have the universe of Silicon Valley companies trying to figure out how to monetize an immature technology. On the other, we have the universe of legacy car companies terrified the upstarts are going to leave them behind. Since no one knows when or how it will be possible to monetize autonomous cars, they’re investing billions in anything with the words Autonomy or Mobility, catchphrases of a seemingly inevitable future they don’t understand.

Are autonomous cars inevitable? Of course. A self-driving car that works on the streets of Mountain View in decent weather? Google has them now. A self-driving car that is 100% guaranteed never to make a mistake, anywhere, in any condition? Not in my lifetime, and I’m not that old.

The billion-dollar question is—

Read the rest over at The Drive

Alex Roy Digest 5.11.16: No Steering Wheels, Uber For Gas, People Are Dangerous

11 May

Filld

Transportation Communist/Gizmodo contributor Alissa Walker is back with another pro-Autonomous Driving article, Why Self-Driving Cars Should Never Have Steering Wheels. Citing Google’s Chris Urmson, she adds some predictable commentary to his argument that Self-Driving Cars basically should launch at Level 5. Don’t know your Autonomous Driving (AD) Levels? Here’s a nice chart from SAE. I’ll say this one more time…technology can solve a lot of problems, but it can’t solve for human nature. I don’t think it matters whether AD is Level 5 capable. People want to feel agency, however untrained they are in the art of driving. Article coming… Continue reading

Alex Roy Digest 5.9.16.2: FBI, Amazon Echo, OnStar, Spies, Facebook

9 May

FBI

I’ll let the above tweet from Matt Novak speak for itself. Now imagine you own a car with OnStar, or ANY with voice recognition, ESPECIALLY if it was made in the last 24 months. Do you really believe there is NO chance someone is listening to your in-car conversations? Really?

The Americans. As in the show. Actually happened. The day we discovered our parents were Russian spies.

Continue reading

Alex Roy’s Digest 5.4.16: Car AntiVirus, OnStar, GPS Death, Uber

4 May

Antivirus

You didn’t need to be Nostradamus to see this one coming: Your connected car will need antivirus software.

Autonomous Driving tech is the next bubble. THEN it will become ubiquitous. Seriously, people aren’t going to want this until Level 4 is available…with or without a steering wheel.

Continue reading

Alex Roy’s Digest 5.2.16: Panamera Wagon, Analog Carpooling, Uber vs. Renting, Autonomous Driving vs, Bad Roads

2 May

Panamera Wagon

Porsche should just make THIS the Panamera. Cosmetically, a Panamera wagon eats a Tesla Model X alive, and would probably attract the same customers, especially once it’s electrified.

Analog carpooling. It still works. Toby Barlow approves.

Autonomous Cars Confused by America’s Shabby Roads? Something tells me this is going to be a way bigger problem than people expect, but guess what? Continue reading

Uber Allegedly Ordered a Whole Bunch of Mercedes S-Classes. Here’s What’s Really Happening.

27 Mar

Uber Mercedes S-Class Order

“Uber Has Apparently Ordered $10 Billion Worth of Autonomous Mercedes S-Class Sedans”

Whoa, that’s a lot of clickbait. And it’s just one of the 118,000 results that pop up when you Google “Uber Mercedes S Class,” and every single one of them is based on a single uncorroborated report published last Friday in Manager Magazin, a German site I’ve never heard of.

The rumor seems crazy, of course, but its very specificity—not, “a whole bunch of luxury sedans,” but “100,000 Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedans”—demands we pay attention. The story wouldn’t have spread so far so quickly if there wasn’t something there, and the more one steps back, the more there there is.

Read the rest of my article over at The Drive

Alex Roy On What The Ford/Google Driverless Partnership REALLY Means

22 Dec

Alex Roy On What The Ford/Google Driverless Partnership Really Means

It has begun. Ford and Google will partner to build Driverless Cars, according to sources. I must be Nostradamus. Just last week I explained “How Car Companies Can Survive The Self-Driving Car Apocalypse,” and now Ford has allegedly done precisely what I suggested OEM’s need to do to ensure their survival. Ford, as the first American OEM to partner with Google, has now gained a temporary but Brobdingnagian advantage over every other legacy OEM on the planet.

Yes, Brobdingnagian. On the scale of size, that’s bigger than big, massive or colossal.

Read the rest over at The Drive

Alex Roy is the author of the LiveDriveRepeat blog and Editor-at-Large for The Drive.
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The Real Future Of Autonomous Cars

9 Sep

Alex Roy's LiveDriveRepeat - The Real Future Of Autonomous Cars

Elon Musk believes in it. So does Uber’s Travis Kalanick. The Autonomotive Singularity is inevitable. It is the enemy of enthusiast car culture as it stands, but only as we know it. If we come to understand it, it might just be the best thing ever for car enthusiasts. Might. If you truly love driving, you need to understand the Autonomotive Singularity, and that means you have to stop ignoring it and accept it. Continue reading