Editorial: Time to let Value do the talking and put safety and, especially technology, in the background!
What a year. On a personal level, it was absolutely fantastic. Great sabbatical. Traveled through Italy and Kenya, three trips to Boca Chica: spring break with Elizabeth & Helen, launch of StarShip FT1 with Jerry He, and launch of StarShip FT2 with Elizabeth and 9 students from my best class ever. Plus the writing of “The Real Case for Driverless Mobility” with Michael Sena, 51 issues of the SDC eLetter, and 53 SDC PodCast/ZoomCasts with Fred Fishkin. I am so blessed.
For SmartDrivingCars, it was truly a “Tale of Two Cities”… It was the best of times: From my perspective, Driverless passed the “proof-of-technology” test by having both Waymo and Cruise deliver Driverless rides without Smoke&Mirrors to the public in two Operational Design Domains, Phoenix/Chandler & San Francisco. Since nothing is perfect, it wasn’t either, but it was more than perfect enough to move on to the next step of having the opportunity to begin delivering value. The imperfections were just a very few very minor delays in a few chaotic situations that regularly occur in lively cities, which are completely normal in the learning process of trying to use a new tool to do good and as is all too common in life: the learning of a hard lesson the hard way, for which the silver lining ends up being… this lesson is now learned and its likelihood of being repeated is now even more extremely small. That was the fantastic good news for 2023.
But it is a tale of Two cities. The bad news is that not only has there been essentially no advancement in the “proof-of-market” for Driverless mobility. We may also have even moved backwards. I, with Miachael Sena, will claim that the Driverless “industry” has been barking up the wrong tree and that became all too obvious in 2023. What is in the forefront has no hope sufficient value for sufficient customers. A viable business case isn’t on the table. These systems have been put forth as Uber/Lyft copycats without that in comparison are also-rans.. They aren’t substantially “safer”, if at all “safer”; they aren’t substantially “faster”, if at all “faster”; they aren’t substantially “cleaner”, if at all “cleaner”; they aren’t substantially “…er”, if at all “…er”. They’re also-rans. Their only hope lies in their opportunity to be substantially more affordable.
The Driverless winner will be the company that creates an Operational Design Domain that serves with high-quality the mobility aspirations of customers that most value affordability. Alain