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It's also worth reading Kyle's blog post from last week. Cruise is doing some stuff that nobody else can do. Not even Waymo:

https://medium.com/kylevogt/why-testing-self-driving-cars-in...

GM right now is the most vertically integrated of all the companies making meaningful progress on Robotaxis. They have a dedicated assembly line set up building off the Chevy Bolt platform, and intend to have 'thousands' of them on the road before the end of 2018. They're building their own ride hailing app, called Cruise anywhere, currently only available to GM employees. They've got On-star, which provides in-house expertise with connected car and vehicle diagnostic services. GM's Maven subsidiary offers car sharing services.

But when Robotaxis really proliferate fleet management infrastructure will be very important. Apple and Waymo have made partnered with Hertz and Avis respectively, but General Motors can utilize the real estate and expertise of it's existing network of dealerships, which can save them from a great deal of capital investment as Robotaxis dissemintate.

Before last December there wasn't a whole lot to be known about Cruise's progress, but since then it's just been one reason after another to be getting excited about what they're doing.




>...but General Motors can utilize the real estate and expertise of it's existing network of dealerships, which can save them from a great deal of capital investment as Robotaxis dissemintate.

I was involved in a project at a major US auto maker where they wanted to utilize spare capacity at the dealers on something similar to what you are discussing. In this case, we would pay the dealers to utilize that capacity.

In some states, the dealer networks are large, politically very influential, and are not inclined to allow anything that will disrupt the status quo of selling and leasing cars. They absolutely had their hands around the throat of the auto maker and forced us to go another route just because they saw what we were trying to do could possibly change their income flow in some small way.

In theory, GM has the infrastructure and is making the right acquisitions. In practice the vast majority of the company is entrenched in selling and leasing cars and many people in the company don't have the imagination to see the world differently. GM has a lot of internal and external politics to overcome before they are successful with autonomous cars and Robotaxis.


Yeah, additionally dealerships are commonly multi-regional run under different names so finding competition within a brand can be difficult.

Generally you tend to have to go 150-200mi to get to a different parent company.


That article was interesting. I've been a truck driver, with recurring jobs throughout San Francisco, and can attest to how nerve-racking it can be. In order to drive trucks there successfully, you have to know the roads really well, as your GPS is often worthless (so many different rules, changing conditions, unpredictable drivers/cyclists/pedestrians, as well as truck-specific restrictions). From a pedestrian safety perspective, I really appreciate that there are companies that are prioritizing San Francisco as a testing ground.

I still think Seattle is more difficult to drive in. The streets are narrower (most residential streets are two way, but only wide enough for one car width, requiring drivers to negotiate with other drivers on how to proceed). There are far more 3,5,6 and even 7 way intersections[0]. Just as many hills as San Francisco, but the several poorly-intersecting street grids give the hills much worse visibility. And I'm willing to bet we have way more construction than San Francisco.

[0] https://vimeo.com/124481186


>I really appreciate that there are companies that are prioritizing San Francisco as a testing ground.

I think it has more to do with them not having a snowball's chance in hell in Boston, Rome or New Delhi (in increasing order of difficulty).

We haven't even seen a driver-less car floor it on a green to make a left before the opposing traffic moves.


We haven't even seen a driver-less car floor it on a green to make a left before the opposing traffic moves

Of course, this isn't an issue in San Francisco, because the intersection is completely gridlocked. The only way you're going to make a left turn -- or even a right turn at many intersections at rush hour -- is by violating various traffic laws up to and including the Pauli exclusion principle.

I can't imagine how to build a self-driving car that can perform both safely and effectively in any major urban environment... and I'm not the type of person who says "I can't imagine" lightly. It would literally be easier to work on autonomous rockets at SpaceX. With self-driving cars, the engineering problems are largely social, not technical.


Probably even worse in a place like Manhattan. Tuning the "aggressiveness" setting so that you hit the right balance for a given situation between making forward progress, not blocking the grid, avoiding all the pedestrians who jaywalk (including myself) as soon as there's an opening, etc. seems like a really tough problem.


In Pittsburgh this is known as the "Pittsburgh Left", although there are various other cities and states that lay claim to the name! :)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pittsburgh_left


SF has plenty of unprotected left turns against traffic. I haven't seen a driverless car outside Mountain View, but hopefully they actually make those turns and don't just get stuck?

That said I remember the occasional drive straight down a cliff in Pittsburgh beating even the SF hills.


Yeah, certainly one of the key ways pedestrians are killed, entilted drivers who can't be bothered to wait.

Unprotected left turns are one of major ways pedestrians are murdered by careless drivers.


The usual definition of murder is that of an intentional act.


Aren't they still working out the actual software... To make all of this work...hardware wise they are ahead but people around here have been tooting the GM horn just because they can produce cars.


I never thought about car companies being able to use their dealerships for their fleets. That will actually be a pretty huge advantage in smaller towns where there won't be enough business to have the cars driving continuously.


It's not really "their dealerships". A car dealer is an independently owned franchise. None are owned by the car manufacture.

Of course, the manufacturer can say "we will give you $x off your car purchase if you let us use your lot" but the reality is the dealership can just tell them to take a hike.

Also, manufacturers lease to rental car companies. So that is an option as well. I can imagine Enterprise having unrented cars in a lot that switch to robotaxis...


They also have invested in Lyft for $500 Million USD. See https://blog.lyft.com/posts/lyft-1billion-gm


Vogt did an interview with Forbes earlier this summer, in which he implied that the Lyft investment was done on the initiative of some other arm of General Motors, and that Cruise doesn't need no stinking rideshare partnership. I guess we'll see how that plays out.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=beaaidqx4vA


Isn't it just a hedge if Cruise doesn't work out? Or GM for that matter?




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