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2020 isn’t all bad

October 14, 2020

I suspect it will be the case in future years that the world looks back at 2020 with some measure of relief. But as with all years, there also will be signal good things that happened. Many of which went not much noticed at the time. In a small patch of Arizona, the general public now can call autonomous Waymo taxis, that will take them on rides to any destination within that small area, on public roads, now with no safety driver present. Some will harp that the vehicles still aren’t completely autonomous, because:

Waymo says the cars still have remote overseers. These Waymo staffers never steer the vehicles directly, but they do send high-level instructions to help vehicles get out of tricky situations. For example, a Waymo spokeswoman told me, “if a Waymo vehicle detects that a road ahead may be closed due to construction, it can pull over and request a second set of eyes from our fleet response specialists.” The fleet response specialist can then confirm that the road is closed and instruct the vehicle to take another route.

As those who have had a teenage driver in their family will aver, it is not uncommon for human drivers to call for backup! It will be interesting  when the automation reaches the point that a taxi that experiences a drive-train failure automatically pulls over, detects that it is inoperable, verifies by voice that the occupants are unharmed, informs them that another taxi will arrive to deliver them to their destination, giving them an updated ETA, and arranges for its own tow service. 

If someone in 2004 were to guess who would own the cellular platform today, they might have said Nokia or Microsoft. There is no guarantee that Waymo will dominate driving automation in 2040. Still, I am long Alphabet. 

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