Sunday, November 05, 2023

Imagine There's No People

The "mechanical Turk" nature of all of our latest tech developments is quite fascinating. My line on self-driving cars all along (the companies that are making a semi-serious effort, not Elmo who is just a fraud) has been they'll work surprisingly well but surprisingly well won't be good enough. It's neato! But neato doesn't mean useful and it certainly doesn't mean profitable.

Focusing on the notoriously high margin taxi business has always been odd, in that even if they "work" it's not entirely clear where the big profit opportunity is! Replacing low wage workers with expensive machines that require a lot of attention from people who have more specialized skills than "driving" doesn't seem to be such a great plan!

I get the appeal for the carbrained. What "we" all want is a 24 hour driver at an affordable rate. It's just not quite clear what the business model is, even if the technology works!

People always point to niche cases in which robot car would be particularly useful. But they're niche cases and you need scale to make anything in this industry profitable!   Scale is necessary for a lot of reasons, but one is maintenance and spare parts production. Your self-driving campus vans won't last long if there's only one guy who knows to maintain them and the parts manufacturer just went bankrupt.