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Autonomous Cars

Self-driving cars are finally here, and how they are deployed will change how we get around forever. From Tesla to Google to Uber to all the major automakers, we bring you complete coverage of the race to develop fully autonomous vehicles. This includes helpful explanations about the technology and policies that underpin the movement to build driverless cars.

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Tesla staged Autopilot demo video, says director of software

The vehicle was on a premapped route and was shown obeying traffic lights.

Why automating trucking is harder than you think

An interview with Karen Levy, an associate professor of information science at Cornell, about her new book, Data Driven: Truckers, Technology, and the New Workplace Surveillance

Can an autonomous off-road Jeep provide “more fun, more adventure, more freedom?”

Jeep owner Stellantis is working on a system that adds autonomy to its iconic SUV — and we’re not talking about highway driving... this is for 4x4 adventures.

In a teaser video we see two Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe hybrids with camera-looking equipment. One moves sans a driver while the automaker’s head of AI holds an iPad like a real off-roader.

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Jaguar’s I-PACE recall includes Waymo’s robotaxis.

The British automaker issued a recall for 6,400 electric I-PACE vehicles due to fire risks from an over-heated battery. Included in that recall is an undisclosed number of driverless Waymo vehicles. A spokesperson for the company said it was working with Jaguar on a software update that should fix the issue.

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Driverless cars are only annoying because we have a low tolerance for extreme rule-abiding.

The latest “San Francisco residents hate all these robotaxis” dispatch just dropped, and it’s starting to seem that the complaints largely stem from our collective wish that autonomous vehicles would bend the everyday traffic rules that we, as humans, do everyday. Drive a little faster than you’re supposed to. Barrel ahead through thick fog and low visibility. Rolling stops. Double and triple parking. Maybe if the robot cars weren’t such fussy rule-followers we would like them more. Just saying.

The self-driving car investment crash, in one handy chart.

The autonomous vehicle boom is fizzling. According to a recent report from F-Prime Capital, AV investments have “significantly slowed” in 2022, declining nearly 60 percent as compared to the previous year. That reflects an overall decline in robotics investment — $12 billion in 2022, down from $18 billion in 2021 — but it also speaks to the current reality facing many AV operators right now. They’re laying people off, struggling with regulators and a skeptical public, or shutting down altogether. In short, it’s tough out there for a robot car.

That’s a big drop. (Full-size image here.)
That’s a big drop. (Full-size image here.)
Image: F-Prime Capital
The Verge
PRT making a comeback?

According to Bloomberg, the city of San Jose just approved a personal rapid transit (PRT) system in which pod-sized autonomous vehicles would travel on their own dedicated road back-and-forth between the airport and a nearby rail connection. It’s an incredibly dumb idea and a repudiation of proven high-capacity transportation systems like buses and trains. Nobody asked for this, and yet...

If you want to read about the fascinating history behind PRT, read my colleague Adi Robertson’s piece about the Alden staRR Car at West Virginia University. It’s still in operation!

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Robotaxis are blocking bus lanes and delaying riders in San Francisco.

Sure, human drivers do this too. But robotaxis are supposed to be better than humans, not perpetuate our worst behaviors. Wired got dashcam footage from eight incidents of autonomous vehicles from Waymo and Cruise blocking buses in San Francisco. How much were riders delayed?

Overall, the incidents resulted in at least 83 minutes of direct delays for Muni riders, records show. 

Ford just isn’t into the whole driverless thing anymore.

Five months after it pulled the plug on its autonomous vehicle division, Ford is continuing to divest itself from fully driverless technology. Today, the company filed a notice with the feds that basically retreats from its former position of wanting to deploy vast numbers of robot vehicles. The reason?

We believe the road to fully autonomous vehicles, at scale, with a profitable business model, will be a long one.

Long car rides are the worst, right?

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Waymo has laid off over 200 employees this year.

The autonomous car unit shares its parent company, Alphabet, with Google, which in January cut over 12,000 jobs or about six percent of its workforce. The Information reports that after a new round of layoffs affecting primarily engineers, Waymo has let go of about 8 percent of the people working there.

Like the other recent tech layoffs, it’s a sharp turn from a few years ago — in 2017, Bloomberg reported some Waymo staffers were quitting because the jobs paid so well.

The Verge
Amazon is ready to whiff the steering wheel out the window.

Amazon’s driverless subsidiary Zoox claims that it doesn’t need an exemption from the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards to deploy vehicles without traditional controls like steering wheels (like GM’s Cruise) because it is using “self-certification” to ensure its vehicles are safe. That sounded kind of weird, so I reached out to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to see what they say. Here’s what they told me.

The agency is evaluating the basis for these self-certification claims and, as part of this effort, continues to review information provided by Zoox in response to questions previously posed by the agency.

If vehicles do not comply with all applicable FMVSS, they must generally receive an exemption from NHTSA to operate on public roads.

[Insert monocle emoji.]