I enjoyed joining Ryan Dsouza’s Conversations podcast to discuss self-driving cars, deep learning, and the work we’re doing at Cruise to launch autonomous vehicles to the public!
Cruise is opening fully driverless vehicles to the public in San Francisco, California! I took my own first driverless ride this week and it was amazing!
Join the Cruise Rider Community on our homepage. You can even sign up if you live outside of San Francisco (it just might take a little longer for us to get to you).
On Monday evening, I met my manager, Jason, in San Francisco, to take my first-ever driverless ride. We hailed Torta, one of Cruise’s fully driverless vehicles, to take us from Bob’s Donuts to Kezar Stadium in Golden Gate Park, and back. With nobody behind the wheel!
It was amazing!
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
✔ No Level 5 self-driving cars will be deployed anywhere in the world.
✔ 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.
✔ 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).
✔ 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.
✘ 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.
✘ 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.
A colleague had to miss a work co-presentation yesterday, so I made some deep fakes and inserted him in the presentation virtually. It was kind of a riot.
I was surprised how much effort this turned out to be – I kind of thought there would be a bunch of turn-key deepfake services to use. Instead, I found a Google Colab and wound up doing a lot of manual video and audio editing, and it turned out kind of comically bad.
Deepfakes still seem to require a fair amount of artistic ability, in a sense.
Nonetheless, it was a lot of fun.
Here’s a kind of comically bad deepfake of my brother Adam spouting something about Python.
The university dropout from Halifax, West Yorkshire, learned to code as a child. As a teenager, he built an app that hit No 1 in Apple’s App Store, and another that was featured in the iPhone’s giant TV adverts. And at 21, he landed a spot at the vaunted start-up boot camp Y Combinator, which brought him to California. He never left.
The autodidact went on to create courses in flying cars and virtual reality for the billion-dollar education start-up Udacity — despite no formal training in those fields. He founded the self-driving car firm Voyage and in March sold it to Cruise, a subsidiary of motor giant GM.
I first spoke with Oliver years ago when applying for an engineering position at Udacity. I didn’t get the job, but a year later I was at Ford, working on self-driving cars, when Oliver wrote me out of the blue. He asked for advice on how to teach self-driving cars at Udacity.
I met with Oliver for a few weeks, suggesting a curriculum and projects. Eventually Oliver recruited me to join Udacity and teach the program myself, together with Sebastian Thrun, the founder of both Udacity and Waymo.
While I built the Udacity Self-Driving Car Engineer Nanodegree Program, Oliver incubated a self-driving startup called Voyage, within Udacity. Eventually, Voyage spun out as its own endeavor.
Years later, I wrapped up my own Udacity work and followed Oliver to Voyage, and now to Cruise.
I’ve had a great experience working with and learning from the lad from Halifax.