This week I want to share with you some news articles from this week that I found particularly noteworthy.
Cruise abandons self-driving taxis in San Francisco
Cruise was one of two companies that until recently operated self-driving taxis in San Francisco. The decision to allow autonomous operation has been controversial from the start, and there has been a lot of opposition, particularly from emergency response personnel. Now, after a fatal accident involving a robot taxi in early October, the California Department of Motor Vehicles has revoked Cruise’s permit to operate driverless vehicles in San Francisco (source: SF Chronicle).
For a while, Cruise continued to operate its robotaxis with a driver on board who could intervene in case of problems, but now the company has decided to withdraw all taxis and also to stop the development of a new generation of cars, according to the German news service Heise.de (link).
Recent news reports have also revealed that Cruise’s operations were neither profitable nor truly fully autonomous. It seems that each self-driving taxi required 1.5 people in the back office, who had to step in remotely if the car could not decide how to proceed (source: Heise.de).
This news comes as a major setback to advocates of fully autonomous driving. The technology is clearly not ready to be released to the public.
First autonomous EVTOL taxi approved in China
Meanwhile, autonomous vehicles that can fly instead of drive got another boost when the Civil Aviation Administration of China approved the first electric vertical take-off and landing taxi (EVTOL) that can fly without a pilot on board, the Economist reports.
The EVTOL EH216-S is made by EHang, a company based in Guangdong. The range is about 30km and the speed up to 130km/h. An extended range version is in preparation. The article does not mention when the first flights for paying passengers will take place. In any case, EVTOLs now seem to be quite close to the market.
Autonomous Valet Parking Robot replaces Tow Trucks
Finally, I came across this ingenious use of robots for Autonomous Valet Parking: They can do the work of tow trucks, removing cars from places where they are not allowed to park. As these videos show, both the UK and China have figured this out:
Given the low speed and range of AVP robots, I would not expect them to completely replace tow trucks. Still, they are a quick and easy way to move a car blocking an important space when the need arises.
I hope you enjoyed my first news aggregator. If you did, please leave a comment and let me know what you would like to read more about in the future.