How can driverless cars expand their territory?


Easy: just use them as I proposed.

In the realm of self-driving cars, the term ODD stands for “Operational Design Domain”, that is “the set of roads, times (e.g. in daylight only, or 247) and conditions (e.g. only on paved street without snow) in which the car can operate”.

An ODD many not include all streets within a region, or all lanes on every street. The fence is more about how difficult the street is to handle than where it is, and the only thing geographic is that it’s useful that the streets be connected so you can drive between them. Right now most driverless vehicles operate in a fairly limited ODD.

Yesterday Forbes discussed how much, how and why it will be Hard Or Easy For Self-Driving Cars To Expand Their Territory to new ODDs. The main points are (do read the whole piece, it’s good!):

  • To drive in a new place, a robocar is certainly going to need to know the different local rules of the road, and develop and test any entirely new capabilities demanded by the new ODD
  • Humans CAN do that, that is “generally plunk down in any other city not too different from where they live and pick up a rental car and go successfully”
  • Tthe question is, does being this adaptable require something unique to humans, or can robots do it? And how long would it take for them to do so?

Here is the interesting thing

How can driverless cars expand their territory? /img/shared-on-demand-micro-train-concept-small.jpg
CAPTION: Click for larger version

As Forbes explain, mastering a new ODD very often is quite hard, expensive and time-consuming… but nobody is scared by how hard it is among robotaxi providers:

“If you want to sell private cars, that’s another story. A private car with a self-driving feature that only works in a few towns isn’t really an option for a big car OEM. They don’t want to sell models that only work in one town, while a robotaxi operator can be quite happy doing that, at least to start”.

Tesla? You mean, the driverless car that drives itself only if you drive it too? Its ambition to produce a real true actual “full self driving” some day “is also very far from ready” (gee, what a surprise!!!), whereas robotaxi companies can have a perfectly profitable service handling just the most lucrative regions of a city.

And the executive summary is…

Once more, the same I have been saying for almost four years now: the right name of realistic self-driving cars should be “Shared, On-Demand, Micro… Trains”. Something, that is, that only move in their own, physically separate ODD, like this.

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