Ai mid 2021. Self driving car meets reality.

The pandemic has largely overwhelmed the news cycle over the past year and hence influencing and largely deflating the AI hype train. There were a few developments though which I'd consider significant. Some of them very well predicted by articles in this blog, and some surprising. Let's jump right in. 

Million Robotaxis in wonderland

Since it is 2021 after all, the most immediate AI flop is related to Tesla robotaxis or rather lack thereof. Elon Musk promised that Tesla would achieve L5 autonomy by the end of 2020 back in April 2019 when he needed to raise money [and reiterated in April 2020]. The famous autonomy day was pumping hype and showing limited demos available to some guests of the show. These demonstration rides were no different from the demo shown in 2016 (as it later turned out, recorded eventually after many failed attempts). In fact Elon Musk claimed in 2016 that self driving problem is essentially solved, here a quote from this interview :

This was later followed by various promises of autonomous coast to coast drive by the end of 2017, later pushed and eventually canceled altogether. To be fair, Musk wasn't the only silicon valley … Read more...


I've started contemplating this post in mid February 2020 while driving back from Phoenix to San Diego, a few miles after passing Yuma, while staring into the sunset over San Diego mountains on the horizon hundred miles ahead. Since then the world had changed. And by the time you'll read this post a week from now (early April 2020) world will have changed again. And by the summer of 2020 it will have changed several times over. I won't go here too much into the COVID-19 situation, since I'm not a biologist, my personal opinion though it that it is a real deal, it's a dangerous disease spreading like wildfire, something we have not really seen since the Spanish Flu of 1918. And since our supply chains are a lot more fragile, our lifestyles a lot more lavish and everybody is levered up, it has all the chances of causing an economic havoc unlike anything we've seen in the past two centuries. With that out of the way, let's move to AI, as certainly the economic downturn will have a huge impact there.


Let's start with the article in technology review that came out in February going deeper inside … Read more...

Autonomous vehicle safety myths and facts, 2020 update.

California DMV disengagements reports are out for 2019, and it is time to plot some data. 

As usual, these number are not really measuring reliably the safety of AV's and there are plenty ways to game them, or overreport. Please refer to my last years post for a deeper discussion (and  2017 post here, 2018 post here) on why these numbers are essentially flawed. Nevertheless these are the only official numbers we get, the only glimpse of transparency into this giant corporate endeavor called the "self driving car". 

First the disclaimer - this data came from

  1. California DMV disengagement reports for years 2019, 20182017, 2016 and 2015
  2. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety fatality data.
  3. RAND driving to safety report.
  4. Bureau of Transportation Statistics

all which is easily verifiable. And so here comes the plot everyone is waiting for (click to enlarge):

And as usual a quick commentary:

First of all, the only players who really have a number anywhere in the vicinity of interesting are Waymo, Cruise and Baidu. I'll discuss Baidu later, since their sudden jump in performance seems a bit extraordinary. Nevertheless even Waymo and Cruise disengagements are still approximately … Read more...

AI update, late 2019 - wizards of Oz


It's been 7 months since my last commentary on the field, and as it became  regular appearance in this blog (and in fact many people apparently enjoy this form and keep asking for it), it is a time for another one.  For those new to the blog, here we generally strip the AI news coverage out of fluff and try to get to the substance, often with a fair dose of sarcasm and cynicism. The more pompous and grandiose the PR statement, the more sarcasm and cynicism - just to provide some balance in nature. The field of AI never fails to deliver on pompous and grandiose fake news hence I predict there will be a material for this blog for many years to come. Now that the introductory stuff is behind and you've been warned, let us go straight to what happened in the field since May 2019. 

Self driving cars

As time goes, more and more cracks are showing on the self driving car narrative. In June, one of the prominent startups in the competition - got acqui-hired by Apple, reportedly days before it would have ran out of cash. For those not … Read more...