Getting to autonomy

Apropos my Observer column, this from Frederic Filloux:

I would love to tell my Tesla to come and pick me up at home in Palo Alto and take me to the Sutter Street parking garage in San Francisco, “any level will be fine”, without intervention. But when will we get there?

If you believe Musk, it’s 2020. If you believe Chris Urmson, Google’s Director of Self-Driving Cars from 2013 to late 2016, it’s going to take three decades or more, although it’s possible that Waymo will ignore Page’s wise Level 5 edict and come out with Level 3 or 4 for a client such as Audi, Mercedes, or BMW well before that. Can we learn to codify partial automation the way we codified MPG, speed, and emissions? Personally, I trust we will, perhaps helped by numbers such as fatalities or, less morbidly, frequency of driver intervention.

Elon Musk may be a pain. But he’s not nuts

This morning’s Observer column:

You don’t have to be a psychiatrist to wonder if Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla, is off his rocker. I mean to say, how many leaders of US public companies get into trouble with the US Securities and Exchange Commission for falsely claiming that they have secured funding to take their company private at $420 a share – and then get sued and fined $40m? Or can you imagine another CEO who deals with Wall Street analysts by swatting away questions about his company’s capital requirements as if they were flies. “Excuse me. Next. Next,” he replied to one guy who was pressing him on the subject. “Boring, bonehead questions are not cool. Next?”

The view from Wall Street is that Musk is too volatile to be in charge of a big and potentially important public company. The charitable view is less judgemental: it is that, while he may have a short fuse, he’s also a gifted, visionary disrupter. But even those who take this tolerant view were taken aback when he declared at a recent public event that he could see “one million robo-taxis on the roads by 2020”…

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