Hello Kodiak!

I joined Kodiak to work on self-driving trucks!

I’m so excited to be here 😊 🚛 Last week was my start, and I’m already riding along in the truck and kicking off projects on new and exciting problems.

Kodiak has quietly been building an impressive operation tackling middle mile freight transportation, one of the biggest and most conducive markets for autonomy.

My team covers planning, controls, and simulation, and they’ve been building impressively!

I’m enjoying observing the similarities and differences between self-driving trucks and self-driving cars. At a high level, the planning, controls, and simulation tasks are quite similar across industries, but the details create distinctions.

For example, Kodiak trucks operate primarily on controlled-access highways, which makes lane boundaries more salient and reduces some of the complexity inherent in urban driving.

On the other hand, Kodiak trucks travel at highway speeds, much faster than self-driving cars in urban environments. This changes the time and distance horizons for the entire autonomy stack – perception, prediction, planning, and controls.

I’ll write more about the work here in the coming weeks. In the meantime, Kodiak has a great blog with insights about our latest projects.

Lastly, Kodiak is hiring like crazy! We should hire you! Work on self-driving trucks with me.

Send me an email right now to d.silver@kodiak.ai with “Work At Kodiak” in the subject line. I will find a job for you!

Thank You And Farewell, Cruise!

Last Friday was my final day at Cruise. I will miss it!

I joined Cruise in March, 2021, as part of the acquisition of Voyage. In 14 months at Cruise, I learned so much and saw so much growth. It was a really special time.

Most of all, the performance of Cruise AVs astounds me. I drove rode in fully driverless Cruise AVs half-a-dozen times since the beginning of the year, across huge swaths of San Francisco. They drive so, so well. And the experience of having the car entirely to myself, without having to worry about driving, is amazing.

My team at Cruise is terrific, and they are hiring! I can’t recommend them enough. Jason is a great manager.

I am so grateful for everything and everyone I had the privilege of working with over the past year. Truly a world-class engineering team.

Auterion’s SkyNode Flight Control Unit

A tiered stack of Auterion Skynode Flight Control Units, one in orange housing and the rest as loose circuit boards.

Last week got a little crazy for me, so I missed the opportunity to post here about my Forbes.com article and interview with Auterion, a Swiss-American drone manufacturer.

In the past year, drone software start-up Auterion has grown its customer-base of drone manufacturers from five partners to one hundred, according to founder and CEO Lorenz Meier. The four year-old Swiss-American startup has produced drone software from the beginning, but Lorenz ties the recent inflection point to its Skynode reference hardware.

Lorenz Meier, the CEO has a lot of good quotes. Check it out.

Companion Drones

Two flying drones and four ground robots, each about about the size of a baseball.

My latest Forbes.com article features interviews with the CEOs of Draganfly and Digital Dream Labs, which are collaborating on a “companion drone.”

According to Draganfly co-founder and CEO Cameron Chell, the initial $9 million order calls for an initial delivery of 10,000 drones starting in 2022, with 50,000 units over the life of the initial agreement. That will make this model, codenamed Project Breezemo, the most common Draganfly product in existence.

Kind of wild that the biggest drone order (in history, maybe?) is for a companion. Read the whole thing.

Blickfeld Lidar

Blickfeld Qb2 MEMS lidar unit, a box about the size of a baseball.

My latest article in Forbes.com is about Blickfeld, a Munich-based lidar startup with expertise in mirrors and MEMS. I enjoyed interviewing Chief Experience Officer and co-founder Florian Petit.

“Blickfeld isn’t the only MEMS lidar on the market, but co-founder and Chief Experience Office Florian Petit touts that Blickfeld lidar outperform due to their mirrors. “Lidar faces a trade-off between silicon, where small is good, and optics, where large is good,” Petit explains. 

Blickfeld has finessed that tension by developing lidar mirrors with unusually large aperture, which allows them to maintain a wide field of view and high signal-to-noise ratio, while packing a large number of beams into a box roughly the size of an apple.”

Read the whole thing for detail on some of their interesting customers, like the Frankfurt Airport.

2022 Predictions

Crystal Ball Sunset Nature - Free photo on Pixabay

At the beginning of every year I predict what will happen by the end of the year, mainly with regard to autonomous vehicles. Then at the end of every year I see how I did.

This year’s predictions are different than those of years past, because this year I am avoiding self-driving car predictions. Now that I am a Cruise employee, I need to avoid any public predictions that relate to Cruise or GM. I tried drafting a set of predictions about the industry and caveating them with some version of “not counting Cruise or GM”, but it got too awkward.

Instead, this year I am predicting a grab bag of topics that are of personal interest to me.

100% Confidence

The Chicago Cubs will not win the 2022 World Series.

No states will secede from the US.

The Chicago Cubs will not win the World Series.

Linux will remain my primary operating system for personal computing.

90% Confidence

The Phoenix Suns will not win the NBA Championship.

Teddy Bridgewater will not start the first game of the regular season for the Denver Broncos.

The 2022 Winter Olympics will take place.

Joe Biden will remain the President of the United States.

China will not mount a land invasion of Taiwan.

80% Confidence

My now-five year-old son will no longer wear a mask to school.

I will not be hospitalized because of COVID.

Republicans will hold a majority in either house of Congress.

I will travel internationally.

70% Confidence

The CDC will recommend I receive a 4th COVID booster shot.

I will not use a Mac as my primary work computer.

My primary residence will remain in Burlingame, California.

US economy will not experience a recession.

US will not invade another country.

60% Confidence

I will be able to work in my office without wearing a mask.

I will contract COVID.

Kiev will remain independent of Russian control.

I will live more than two months of the year away from my primary residence.

S&P 500 will finish the year above where it started.

50% Confidence

Somebody in my extended family will be hospitalized because of COVID.

I will buy a car.

My personal inbox will have zero messages at some point during the year.

I will feel an earthquake.

Average US housing prices will decline nationwide.

Evaluating David Silver’s 2021 Self-Driving Car Predictions

Office Work Free Stock CC0 Photo - StockSnap.io

Most years (with some exceptions) I forecast predictions in January about what the coming twelve months will bring for self-driving cars. At the end of the year, I evaluate those predictions.

My predictions from January 2020 held up very well at high confidence levels, and then fell apart at low confidence levels. In particular, I wildly overestimated progress on driverless delivery and on international autonomy.

100% Confidence

✔ No Level 5 self-driving cars will be deployed anywhere in the world.

90% Confidence

✔ Level 4 driverless vehicles, without a safety operator, will remain publicly available, somewhere in the world.
✔ No “self-driving-only” public road will exist in the U.S.
✔ Tesla will remain the industry leader in Advanced Driver Assistance Systems. [DS – I don’t have a good objective source of truth for this. Arguably GM Super Cruise or Comma AI have surpassed Tesla Full Self-Driving Beta. But Telsa FSD Beta still seems to me like the standard again which everyone else compares themselves.]
✔ An autonomy company will be acquired for at least $100 million. [DS – A whole bunch of lidar companies were “acquired” by SPACs in 2021. That is not what I had in mind when I made this prediction, but I guess it counts.]
✔ Level 4 autonomous vehicles, with or without a safety operator, will remain publicly available in China.

80% Confidence

✔ C++ will remain the dominant programming language for autonomous vehicles.
✔ A lidar-equipped vehicle will be available for sale to the general public. [DS – Some have been announced, but I don’t think any are actually for sale yet. Maybe outside the US?] [Update: Audi A8]
✔ My parents will not ride in an autonomous vehicle (except at Voyage or anywhere else I might work).
✔ Tesla will not launch a robotaxi service.
✘ Fully driverless low-speed vehicles will transport customers (not necessarily the general public).

70% Confidence

✔ Waymo will expand its public driverless transportation service beyond Phoenix. [DS – I count Waymo’s free transportation of pre-screened beta customers in San Francisco. Although this is not what I envisioned when I made the prediction.]
✘ A Chinese company will offer self-driving service, with or without a safety operator, to the public, outside of China.
✔ A self-driving Class 8 truck will make a fully driverless trip on a public highway. [DS – TuSimple just barely slid under the wire!]
✔ Aerial drone delivery will be available to the general public somewhere. [DS – I think the Zipline-Walmart partnership counts.]
✔ Tesla will remain the world’s most valuable automaker.

60% Confidence

✘ Fully driverless grocery delivery will be available somewhere in the US.
✘ Tesla Full-Self Driving will offer Level 3 (driver attention not necessary until requested by the vehicle) functionality somewhere in the world.
✘ A member of the public will die in a collision involving a Level 4 autonomous vehicle (including if the autonomous vehicle is not at-fault).
✘ A company besides Waymo will offer driverless service to the general public, somewhere in the US.
✘ A company will deploy driverless vehicles for last-mile delivery.

50% Confidence

✘ Level 4 self-driving, with or without a safety operator, will be available to the public somewhere in Europe.
✘ A Level 3 vehicle will be offered for sale to the public, by a company other than Tesla.
✘ The US requires driver-monitoring systems in new vehicles.
✘ The industry coalesces around a safety standard for driverless vehicles.
✘ Self-driving service will be available to the general public, with or without a safety operator, in India.