Saturday, July 09, 2022

Pay Me For My Genius

While I'm revisiting "proved fucking right about Elon," I do want to remind people that the dream of self-driving cars (in any kind of coming soon timeline) is over and our glorious capital markets allocated billions and billions to the project when they just could've handed me a bit of cash.
Here's a recent piece describing the experience of the cutting edge in service self-driving cars. The basic point is that technology is absolutely amazing and impressive, total science fiction rocket surgery, but it just isn't good enough to be useful or commercially viable.
People always underestimated just how well these things need to work to, well, work. "Safety" was always a bit of a distraction, because if they work they'll be safe enough but the point is they just won't work.
The problem was that there was construction happening right there. Instead of a side walk there was a temporary pedestrian walkway constructed from scaffolding and wooden structures in the parking lane, and no way to get out to the road from there. Brownie stopped in the traffic lane waiting for us. We had been in an empty parking spot about 30 feet north of there, and waved to Brownie as one would with an Uber to get it to come pick you up. Brownie did not respond, so we had to walk along the active traffic lane, admittedly with Brownie blocking it, to get to Brownie. This was a mistake that even the most taciturn taxi driver would not make.
A basic thing like "can't just wave it over" is a big problem! There's just a level of necessary flexibility given the reality of our built environment that the robot brains aren't going to manage. A car that works great 95% of the time is... not a car that works well enough! It's annoying!

As for the business model, how much are these things really going to save in labor costs given how much taxi drivers generally make? Just a bizarre obsession.