Here’s Why the Public Will Not Accept Driverless Cars

I have written before about why I think driverless cars should never be allowed, but this time I’m going to suggest why the public — you — would likely reject the idea.

During the transition to a driverless car, you’ll get to experience, as I already do, some of the features required for a car to drive itself. Those features include traffic-aware cruise control and lane management dependent on multiple cameras, radar and numerous sensors. I have been using those features on my Tesla for quite a while. 

The first thing to recognize is that a self-driving car will always err on the side of caution. Here are just three examples: Let’s say you’re driving a city street with parked cars but no line between the travel lane and the parking lane. Every now and then your car will mistake a parked car for a stopped car and simply stop.

Or you’ll be driving along and a car coming the other direction with make a left turn in front of you. Erring on the side of caution, your car will abruptly apply the brakes even though it’s clear to you that braking was not needed.

John Krafcik, CEO of Waymo, introduces driverless car

Or you’re driving on a road with no bike lane, but there’s a cyclist cruising along at 10 mph and no room to pass without crossing the yellow line, which your car won’t do. You car slows to 10 mph.

My Tesla knows the speed limit on all roads based on GPS information, but 1) sometimes the GPS information is wrong, and 2) sometimes there’s a lower speed limit in effect for school zones or construction. Your self-driving car will plow through those areas, totally oblivious!

Wildlife poses a special problem. As a human, you know to slow down if an unpredictable deer is next to the roadway. You driverless car doesn’t have that judgment.

Think of all the times you depended on exchanging eye contact or body language with another driver to know whether to yield or not yield. Think about two lanes merging into one, or about another car being driven erratically. Think about going off road. Think about anything other than driving on a dedicated highway with other driverless cars.

Think about seeing someone in distress on the side of the road or within sight of you. Think about witnessing an accident. Your car will want to leave the scene of the accident rather than stop.

Think of when the painted lanes have disappeared due to wear and only a human could figure out where to go. Or lines that have not been removed completely when new lines were painted.

Red light runner hits Waymo van in Arizona (ABC 15 photo)

In Golden, where Hwy 6 crosses Colfax Avenue, it’s not a 90-degree intersection. If I’m in the left lane traveling west through that intersection, my Tesla consistently misinterprets the dashed guide lines for the left-turn lane next to me and swerves into eastbound traffic thinking that it’s a left curve. Fortunately, I have my hand on the wheel and make the immediate correction.

I hope by now you have gotten the impression that self-driving software can not anticipate every conceivable (or inconceivable) situation and could lead a driverless car into desparate situations.

More People Are Considering Electric Cars and Trucks As the Number of Brands and Models Surges in 2020

2020 will be a “watershed year” when it comes to the adoption of electric cars and trucks. By the end of this year there will likely be twice as many models of EVs being sold, including by the major automakers.

Mustang Mach E trunk under hood

Ford, for one, is now selling the Mustang Mach E, an electric crossover with up to 300 miles of range, selling for $43-50,000.  Tesla is now delivering its Model Y, a crossover built on the same platform as the successful Model 3. It too boasts a range up to 300 miles and sells for $43-56,000.  I predict it will be Tesla’s best-selling model so far.

Jaguar I-Pace

Mercedes is bringing its EQC 400 4-matic crossover to market this year, joining the already successful Jaguar I-Pace and Audi e-tron. Volvo is bringing to market the XC40 Recharge SUV, as well as the Polestar 2 sedan, which is marketed in partnership with the Chinese firm Geely.

Rivian platform for both its truck and SUV is cleaner than most because it has four motors, one in each wheel hub.

Rivian is bringing out both an SUV and its electric pickup this year. Instead of one electric motor between the front and rear wheels, it has a motor in each wheel hub, allowing it to do a “tank turn” – literally turn on a dime like a tank! Another electric pickup is coming next year from Bollinger, when the Tesla Cybertruck is also expected.

The Porsche Taycan is already in its second year of production.

Mini Cooper has already started selling its SE Electric. Hyundai is in the second year of selling its Kona electric, which has a 258-mile range and sells for just under $37,000. The latest Nissan Leaf has a range up to 226 miles for $38,200. Chevrolet continues to sell the Bolt.

Kelley Blue Book first drive – click on picture to see 5:26 YouTube video.

The newer brands of electric vehicles still enjoy the $7,500 federal tax credit plus the $4,000 Colorado tax credit, making them less costly than equivalent gas-powered cars.

Personally, I recommend buying used EVs, which are as good as new (because they have so few components that can fail), for under $10,000 to $30,000+.  Green Eyed Motors in Boulder specializes in the sale of used EVs and has 15 in stock as I write this, including several under $10,000 and this 2013 Model S Performance below, which probably sold new for $125,000. Asking price: $35,999.

https://www.greeneyedmotors.com/inventory/2013-tesla-model-s-performance/181059

Your Car Battery Could One Day Be Your Home Backup Power

Perhaps you, like me, have considered investing in a home battery system — not to go “off grid” so much as to survive blackouts. Simply having solar does not give you such protection, because when the grid goes down, your solar panels do not generate electricity. That’s required by power companies, because they don’t want you pumping electricity into downed power lines as their technicians work to repair them.

Personally, I’m holding out for a future in which the energy stored in my EV batteries can be tapped to power my home during a blackout.  There’s a term for this called vehicle-to-grid, but a more accurate term would be vehicle-to-home, since it would be done in isolation from the grid.

Because I have two EVs with combined battery capacity of 170 kilowatt-hours, I have a lot of stored power available to me at any time, even if those cars are not fully charged.  For example, 100 kilowatt-hours can provide 5,000 watts of household electricity for 20 hours.

There are commercially available inverters for creating a 120-volt outlet in any car, either gas or electric, but inevitably some automaker — probably Tesla — will create an interface that allows for the electricity stored in one’s EV battery to be tapped for household use during a blackout.

Several electric trucks are going to hit the market in 2020 and beyond, and each will have 120 and possibly 240-volt outlets for field power, which is a good start. You could run an extension cord to power critical home appliances. 

Winter Is When Electric Vehicles Really Shine

You may think this claim is counterintuitive, but consider the following:

Electric cars never need to warm up. Get in, put it in drive and go! (In Teslas, there’s not even a “Start” button.) Moreover, your cabin will be warm in less than 1/2 mile, because it doesn’t depend on an engine warming up.

You’ll never break down.  There is hardly anything to fail. Remember, it’s just a battery and a motor (or two).  You’ll never stall and you’ll never need a boost. There are only 50 moving parts in an electric car. What can fail? I like to tell people that the only time you’ll see an EV on the side of the road is if there’s an accident or a flat tire or the driver needs to duck behind a bush.

With their low center of gravity and 50/50 front-to-back weight distribution, electric cars handle better and more safely on wet or snow-covered roads. The battery in most EVs is mounted underneath the cabin. My AWD Teslas perform better in snow than my AWD 2009 Lexus RX 400h did. Here’s a 11-minute YouTube video of all three Tesla models being test-driven on Tesla’s Alaska test-track:

Imagine the worst winter scenario, where you get stranded in the snow and need to survive overnight or longer in your car. An EV is perfect for that situation, because you won’t have to stop and start your gas engine to keep warm and worry about carbon monoxide poisoning. The EV will lose less than 5 miles of range per hour to keep you warm. And it won’t matter if your car is upside down. If you charged your car beforehand, you’ll have long-term warmth.

One of my favorite EV features is the ability to leave the climate system on when I go into a store or meeting on a frigid (or super hot) day. When I return to the car, it will be at 70 degrees.  If I’m going to be in a long meeting, I can turn on the heat or A/C using my smartphone app as I’m leaving the meeting room and know that the car will be comfortable by the time I get in it.

As I wrote last month, the best deal in electric cars is a used one. According to Kelley Blue Book (www.kbb.com), my good-as-new 2015 Tesla Model S 70D has a private resale value of $33,402. That is crazy.  I paid $93,000 for it new.

My Advice on Buying Solar Panels and Electric Cars

By JIM SMITH

In the wake of last Saturday’s green homes tour and electric vehicle showcase, I’d like to share the advice I give to people who ask me about investing in solar power and buying an electric car.

As much as I wish it weren’t so, you will not recoup what you spend on solar panels, insulation and other green home improvements for your home when you sell it. As with any improvement, you will receive a percentage of what you spend, but it will not be anywhere near 100%. Only make those investments because you’ll enjoy the comfort and savings for at least a few years — and because it’s the right thing to do.

Regarding electric cars, I recommend buying a used EV. The used car industry has yet to properly value used EVs. Currently electric cars are devalued the same way gas cars are devalued, which doesn’t make sense. Consider a 4-year-old gas-powered car with 100,000 miles on it. You can probably get it for half its original price, because so many components, such as transmission, timing belt or fuel pump, are worn and might fail. But none of those components exist in EVs. There are under 50 moving parts in a Tesla. The same age EV is simply as good as new.

A used Tesla built before mid-2017 is an especially good deal, because lifetime free supercharging transfers to the buyer (unless purchased from Tesla). I’ve seen many Tesla Model S cars for sale online under $40,000, less than half their original price. Here’s one I found just now on autotrader.com….

At Saturday’s ‘Green Homes’ Tour, You’ll Learn What’s Possible for Your Home

The Metro Denver Green Homes Tour is an annual event that happens on the first Saturday in October, which is this coming Saturday. For $10 per person, you get to go on a self-guided tour of 14 Jefferson County homes with a variety of green features.

I consider myself pretty knowledgeable about solar power and sustainability, but every year I learn things I didn’t already know by touring the homes on this tour.

Golden Real Estate is proud to be a platinum sponsor of this event each year. Also, I serve on the steering committee and help in a variety of ways, such as organizing the Electric Vehicle Showcase, which takes place during the post-tour reception, 4 to 6 pm in the CoorsTek parking lot at 10th & Jackson Street in downtown Golden. It coincides with the reception and Green Expo in the American Mountaineering Center (AMC) across the street.

You can register for the tour online at www.MetroDenverGreenHomesTour.org, but you’ll need to pick up your tour book and map, which you can do anytime on Friday at Golden Real Estate’s office, 17695 S. Golden Road, or on Saturday after 9am at the AMC, 710 10th Street.  If you don’t register online, you can do so at the AMC on Saturday morning.

Then you’re on your own, mapping out your own tour based on locations but also on what you read about each house in the tour book.

I couldn’t shoot video tours of every home, but I did choose two that the committee felt represented particularly interesting examples of sustainability. You can see those two videos on the website mentioned above. By watching those two videos you will learn things you didn’t already know, as I did by shooting them.

To quote from page 3 of the tour book, “In our ongoing effort to showcase a wide variety of solutions and lifestyles, you will see solar, of course, and also mini splits, ground source heat pumps and passive solar treatments. You can visit an Arvada sustainable new town home community [Geos] and enjoy many other sustainable lifestyle features such as co-housing, electric vehicles and water wise gardens. You will be viewing the tried-and-true in addition to the latest in innovative technologies, plus learning many steps used to eliminate red tape while going green.”

If you pick up your tour book at Golden Real Estate, let us show you how we transitioned to “net zero energy” using many of the features you’ll see on the tour, including heat pump/mini-split heating & cooling, solar panels, super insulation, and tankless electric water heating. Our monthly energy bill is $10.26 since having our gas meter removed two years ago. If you come in an electric car, you can plug in to our free ChargePoint charging stations — powered by the sun — while we show you around! Click here to read the Jan. 4, 2018, column I wrote describing Golden Real Estate’s transition to Net Zero Energy.

This Saturday’s tour is one of 79 such tours of 894 private homes happening this weekend as part of the National Solar Tour sponsored by the American Solar Energy Society (ASES). And that doesn’t include, for example, last Saturday’s Boulder Green Home Tour, which had 10 homes on it. This is the 25th National Solar Tour, and we have participated for 23 of those years.

Don’t forget the Green Expo during the reception, 4 to 6 pm following the tour. Many companies which implement green solutions will have booths, and there will be an Electric Vehicle Showcase in the parking lot across the street. If you have an EV, bring it for display! If you’re interested in going electric, there will be test drives available. Also, Pedego Golden is bringing electric bicycles which you can test ride.  I have an electric bike, and I love it!

Also at the event will be the CSU Extension 4-H Mobile STEM Lab. The primary focus of the mobile lab is energy production and conservation, energy conversions and mechanical advantage for youth and adults.  Should be interesting!

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Some Takeaways from Last Saturday’s Electric Car Event

This was the 6th year that Golden Real Estate has been the site of a local “Drive Electric Week” event.

This year we got our first glimpse of EVs built to compete with Tesla. I got to drive the new Jaguar I-Pace and ride in Audi’s eTron, and they are certainly worthy competition for Tesla in the luxury EV field.

The Jaguar has four electric motors, one in each wheel hub, which is an improvement over Tesla’s two motors and is likely to become a favored design for high-end EVs.

The Audi eTron has dual electric motors, like Tesla, centered between the front and rear wheels.

While these are worthy competitors to Tesla in the luxury market (and there will be others), I don’t think Tesla has anything to worry about thanks to its proprietary Supercharger network throughout the U/S. & Canada and worldwide.

ICYMI: Video of EV Roundup

I have posted a 6½-minute video of last Saturday’s “Drive Electric Week” event. To find it, scroll down .

There’s a similar event Thursday, Sept. 19th, 11-2 in Denver’s Civic Center Park. Dealers will be offering test drives, too, and the first 100 people to request a test drive will get a free lunch! Also, there’s another EV roundup Oct. 5, 4-6 pm as part of the Metro Denver Green Homes Tour. More about this next week.