What Automotive Must Learn From Aviation: What is an Autopilot?

7 Oct

Autopilot

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

Guess what? Words can hurt us, when life or death decisions are made on false assumptions. I’m talking, of course, about the language of Self-Driving Cars, that seemingly inevitable panacea into which Silicon Valley and the car industry are pouring billions to save us from ourselves. If technology is only as good as our understanding of it, then the automotive industry has a long way go.

The problem isn’t limited to Tesla’s branding of the word “autopilot”, but it certainly starts there, especially now that the California DMV has threatened to stop Tesla from using Autopilot as a brand name. Add the recurring debate over whether Tesla Autopilot was defective in the Joshua Brown crash, and obvious questions emerged:

What is an autopilot? Is Tesla Autopilot actually an autopilot? What does “autopilot” imply? Where does Tesla’s system fall short of real or perceived autopilots? Is the problem the “auto” prefix? The “pilot” suffix? For those who object to Tesla’s choice of branding, I bring you Audi’s Piloted Driving, the yin of implication to Autopilot’s yang. What does “Piloted Driving” imply? What about Volvo’s Pilot Assist?

In the spirit of unpacking this mess, I signed up for flying lessons and began a deep dive into the history of autopilots and automation. I also decided to reach out to a wide variety of pilots — from private owners of single-engined turboprops to professionals flying Boeing 757’s and Airbus A380’s — and take them out in a variety of cars, starting with Teslas.

This is Part 1 of what I learned. Read the rest over at The Drive…

Alex Roy + Volvo S90 = Midnight Sun Record Run

27 Sep

Cannonball Run

Is there a Swedish Cannonball Run-style endurance driving record? I don’t know. But now there’s this. A 17 hour, 9 minute run from the top of Sweden to the bottom, using the new Volvo S90 and Pilot Assist.

I don’t always use internal combustion vehicles to set records.
But when I do—

Drive safely, my friends.

And read the full story over at The Drive

Alex Roy’s Daily Reading 4.27.16: SAE, Fisker, BMW, Daimler, Sharing, Volvo Autonomy

27 Apr

Alex Roy SAE Conference

I spoke at the SAE World Congress and all I got was this low-rez image. From a friend. Who needs a better smartphone. Still waiting on video.

Crash tests for autonomous cars are going to be way weirder than we think.

BMW really wants Mini owners to rent out their cars? Unlike Daimler, which both owns and fills its own pipeline, otherwise known as Car2Go.

Volvo autonomous car engineer calls Tesla’s Autopilot a ‘wannabe’. I can’t wait to find out. Soon. Continue reading

Volvo Design Is Literally Eating Everyone Alive

24 Feb

Volvo V40

Behold, the new Volvo V40 Wagon. It’s no secret that I’m a Volvo fan. I’ve always wanted an old V70R wagon with a manual, and the old S60R. Polestar? I’ll take any of the rumored models. Sure, there was a dead period for Volvo, but ever since its acquisition it’s become increasingly clear the designers were channeling the Norse Gods as they put pen to paper. From the new XC90 to the S90 and now the V40, Volvo is killing it.

There are many decent designs on the market, but Volvo design is literally eating everyone alive. This is how you resurrect a brand.

Do You Love Your Kids? Branding, VW & The Forgotten Recaro Recall.

23 Sep

Alex Roy's LiveDriveRepeat - Recaro Recalls Baby Seats

All this VW talk has completely clouded the fact that recalls happen all the time. Unless you’re the original owner of anything you buy, it’s unlikely you’ll receive the traditional snail mail notification that might save your life. In this case, your child’s. Maybe, if the recall is big enough, you might even hear about it in the news. Trust me. If you’re the company doing the recalling, it’s best if no one other than current owners of your product finds out. Sooooo, Recaro – yes, that Recaro – really lucked out last week.

The spirit of Nostradamus must have shone upon Recaro, because they announced their recall of 173,000 child safety seats on September 15th, to very little fanfare. The VW Scandal broke on the 18th, and what little coverage Recaro got over the weekend was swamped by VW’s public collapse on the 21st.

Let’s go deeper, because I’m really upset about this. Let’s talk about branding. Continue reading