It’s Already Here

You can hail a self-driving Uber in San Francisco starting today:

Starting today, anyone in San Francisco who hails an UberX could find themselves in the backseat of a luxury, self-driving Volvo XC90, complete with leather interior, spinning LIDAR sensor, and a trunk full of computing power. It’s where I found myself last week, after being invited out to the Bay Area for a sneak peak before the official launch.

“The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.”

Innovation & Safety

Comma.ai cancels the Comma One following NHTSA letter:

Renowned iPhone hacker turned entrepreneur George Hotz (aka geohot) has cancelled his autonomous driving startup’s first official product, the Comma One aftermarket add-on that would’ve allowed certain cars to gain Autopilot-like highway driving assistance abilities.

Hotz announced the news on the Comma.ai official Twitter account, noting that the decision to cancel was made after he received a letter from the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The NHTSA letter explained that given its mandate of ensuring safety on U.S. roadways, it needed to ensure the Comma One is compliant with regulations before it can be offered for sale.

Some of these startups are fragile little snowflakes, aren’t they? One letter from the NHTSA and they’re done. Hey Hotz: this isn’t just publishing code to a fucking server, you’re putting physical vehicles onto physical roads.

I’m all for innovation, but safety is kind of important. The transition we’ve begun — from humans driving cars to cars driving themselves — is not something we can take lightly or we run the risk of killing many people.

In the longterm, after we’ve conducted thorough tests and ironed out the kinks, I’m certain autonomous vehicles will be multiple times safer than us humans driving ourselves. Robots don’t drive angry, robots don’t play Pokémon Go while driving and end up killing a young boy, and robots don’t drive drunk.

Apple and McLaren

Financial Times: Apple in talks on McLaren supercars takeover:

Left to right: Eddy Cue sits on the board of Ferrari, Sir Jonathan Ive has fondness for Aston Martin, and Phil Schiller owns a McLaren

Apple has approached McLaren Technology Group, the British supercar engineer and Formula One team owner, about a potential acquisition, in the clearest sign yet that the iPhone maker is seeking to transform the automotive industry.

Whaaaaaat.

I’m envisioning a very, very affordable car.

UPDATE: Nevermind.

Self-Driving Employment Snatchers

A group of ex-Google engineers have just launched Otto, an autonomous trucking startup:

Otto’s first vehicle is twice as long and six times as heavy as Google’s cute prototype car, but has exactly the same number of drivers: zero.

Founded by four ex-Google engineers — including Anthony Levandowski, the man who built Google’s very first self-driving car — Otto is applying Google’s all-or-nothing approach to commercial big rigs: ditch human drivers, avoid thousands of road deaths, help the environment, and if all goes well, make a ton of money along the way.

I can tell you who won’t be getting ‘a ton of money’—the drivers that used to drive those big rigs.

Are technology companies putting enough thought into ramifications of phasing out entire sections of the workforce?

[Side thought: I wonder if they got the name of their startup from the idealized thermodynamic cycle that describes the functioning of a typical spark ignition piston engine]

Drive Yo Self

Chris Ziegler at the Verge on Tesla’s announcement:

At a press event today, Tesla announced the release tomorrow of version 7.0 of the Model S software, a big, widely anticipated new build that finally enables the car’s self-driving features. Those capabilities were first announced last year and the necessary sensors were added to all Model S cars that have rolled off the assembly line since last September, but Tesla has needed additional time to flesh out the algorithms, which it has been testing this year. The 7.0 release starts in the US on a rolling basis tomorrow, and will proceed to Europe and Asia in the coming weeks pending regulatory approval; the Model X shouldn’t be far behind, since it has the same sensors in place.

Incredible. The technology of tomorrow keeps getting closer faster and faster.

Tesla’s cars wouldn’t be possible if they didn’t control both the hardware and software (they also value software much more than many other car makers).

No Driving For You

Driving a car will be illegal by 2030. Our economy will be severely impacted as millions of truck drivers, cabbies and delivery people are put out of work. In this era of endless innovation, man’s century-long relationship with the automobile is about to be permanently disrupted.

The reason has nothing to do with millennials, Uber, climate change or improvements in mass transportation. Driving should and will be made illegal because we now have the technology to prevent deadly traffic accidents; one of the greatest causes of premature deaths around the globe. More than 1.2 million people are killed in car accidents globally each year (which is more than the total casualties suffered by both sides in the Korean War).

—Jay Samit, Driving Your Car Will Soon Be Illegal

We don’t deserve nice things.

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