* Posts by John Robson

4182 posts • joined 19 May 2008

Tesla Full Self-Driving fails to notice child-sized objects in testing

John Robson Silver badge

Presumably they’re investigating abs, airbags and seatbelts…

“ In early June, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration upgraded a probe of Tesla Autopilot after it found reasons to look into whether "Autopilot and associated Tesla systems may exacerbate human factors or behavioral safety risks." The investigation is ongoing.”

On the basis that it is well known that motorists take more risks with any safety feature on a vehicle.

It’s pretty easy to demonstrate that seatbelts, for example, had negligible impact on traffic fatalities.

Their undeniable safety benefit was simply eaten up by drivers taking more risks, at the expense of those outside the vehicle.

There is nothing new under the sun.

Pull jet fuel from thin air? We can do that, say scientists

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Re: The plan for the combustion fleet isn't to ban them from the roads

That's *because* of cars - the cars are the problem, not the solution.

No, it's because public transport has been privatised, so it is run "for profit". It's pure right-wing neoliberal economics, as is evidenced by the plentiful and affordable public transport in countries that haven't veered to the right, as opposed to those which have.

I agree, but I'd maintain that one of the main reasons the silver could be sold off so easily is that car ownership was pushed so hard.

John Robson Silver badge

Re: The plan for the combustion fleet isn't to ban them from the roads

"I don't think any parent wants to be trying to find a way to get their child to hospital in the middle of the night when the busses have stopped running. While that might never be necessary, it is a big fear."

Two options, one you have a public transport system that doesn't just stop overnight...

Or.. and this is a shocking thought, if you need to get to a hospital then there are these things called ambulances. One will collect your child, and you, and get you to an appropriate hospital at any time of day or night.

John Robson Silver badge

Re: you focus on EVs were you can

No - the main reason is that it takes about a third as much energy to move a BEV as it does to move an ICE vehicle.

Fuel duty has never brought £30bn to the treasury, it was ~22bn a decade ago, and grew to ~27bn just before the pandemic (I'm not cherry picking pandemic years here).

One of the main reasons for fuel duty is to encourage people to reduce emissions, so there is immediately less need to add it to EV fuel. We should, however, be increasing the duty on petrol/diesel further - and jet fuel (massively).

However let's ignore all that and do some more maths...

The cost per mile (just fuel) is:

38mpg@£1.90 = 22.7p (which includes just 6.3p fuel duty - RAC average cost page)

3.8m/kWh@7.5p = 1.9p (Charging overnight at home - Octopus Go, currently offered rate)

3.8m/kWh@50p = 13.2p (Public charging - Gridserve DC cost)

So... if you subtract the fuel duty (and the VAT on the fuel duty) then you get a cost per ICE mile that is 15.1p, still higher than the already elevated cost of public DC charging.

Assuming that ~90% of miles are charged from home... the typical cost per mile would be 2.4p, so add on the 7.6p of fuel duty and VAT for the treasury - that's now 10p/mile, same revenue for the treasury, but less than half the cost for the user.

John Robson Silver badge

Re: The plan for the combustion fleet isn't to ban them from the roads

"In most of the country, public transport is either expensive and sparse, or simply non-existent. "

That's *because* of cars - the cars are the problem, not the solution.

John Robson Silver badge

I manage to get on and off buses with my wheelchair... many wheelchair users (particularly those who are full time users) don't have a folding wheelchair (they are heavier and less stable than folding chairs), and there are a significant proportion with electric chairs, which you aren't ever going to put on the roof of a car.

Access to a bus is relatively easy - many have adjustable suspension to match them to the kerb height. It's coaches that are challenging, and trains - despite the fact that train/platform heights have been standard for ages.

Many disabled people can drive - but many can't.

If we make transport (and that includes, and should prioritise, pedestrian/cycle/wheelchair/scooter routes) accessible to all then none of us would need to drive a car.

We might get electrical assistance on our mobility aids*, but cars are generally a poor choice of mobility aid, spending most of their energy moving themselves around, not the passengers.

* Personal example: the hill from my house to town is very hard work pushing up, though lever drive makes it merely hard work, an electrical boost for the steepest 100 metres (at 10%) would make a significant difference.

Coming back there is a slightly shallower climb from the bottom of that hill to my house (7% is still steep to push up for any distance) that a little helping hand would be good.

John Robson Silver badge

Re: you focus on EVs were you can

I did the calculations in 2019 based on 15 years of previous receipts and records for a variety of cars I had over that time.

At that time the lease of a new BEV cost me the same as running ICE vehicles from 80k-150k miles old.

The prices have shifted in my favour over the last couple of years. Diesel has gone from £1.10 to whatever it is now - £1.90 (https://www.rac.co.uk/drive/advice/fuel-watch/), electricity prices have moved a bit, but make up a very small portion of my costs - and off peak is still available cheaply.

I readily admit that the leases offered by motability are below market rates, but:

- Assuming a generous 38mpg in the ICE (reality was 36/37)

- Assuming a stingy 3.8kWh/m for the BEV (reality is 3.9-4.1)

- Assuming 10% BEV miles are on DC charging at 55p/kWh

Then at 2019 prices 12k/year was the point at which costs were even.

At 2022 prices (fuel £1.90 rather than £1.10 - ignoring inflation) that distance is just 5k miles.

If I do 10k a year, then the lease would have to be 25% more expensive to match the cost of an old ICE vehicle. If I do 12k/year (what my MOTs recorded for the decade leading up to the switch) then the lease could be 40% more expensive.

"Buying an older EV is taking a gamble with the battery life degradation curve"

As opposed to the gamble with ICE vehicles and all the things that go wrong with them?

Battery degradation is actually well characterised, gradual, and observable - you get a few miles less max range than you used to, you don't get stranded road side with no warning.

EV batteries generally will come with 8 year/100-150k mile warranty - double that of a typical ICE warranty. I'd be more worried about a cam belt failure, or a head gasket failure, or a gear box failure, or any of the other myriad of failures that can strand an ICE vehicle with little to no warning, not the battery pack.

John Robson Silver badge

Re: you focus on EVs were you can

The average age of a vehicle* in the UK is... 8 and a bit years.

Suggesting that there are very few vehicles older than 25 years isn't exactly a stretch.

Yes there will always be some vehicles which just keep trundling on with nothing more than a big hammer and a bit of string, but for the vast majority they become uneconomic long before then.

~40m on this report - 35m cars and 5m vans.

John Robson Silver badge

Re: The plan for the combustion fleet isn't to ban them from the roads

Any transport strategy that doesn't involve weaning people off cars is doomed to failure... EVs are one step on that path, they aren't the final destination.

US regulators set the stage for small, local nuclear power stations

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Re: For which the sane answer is

Right, so let's hold the fossil fuel industry to the same standard... Oh, wait they're the ones suggesting that transport is difficult.

Even back in the early 1980s we were testing transport flasks by running trains into them at 100 miles an hour, and there was no loss in pressure at all.

John Robson Silver badge

Re: the real facts about small vs large reactors

How many people does it take to look after a small (ship sized) reactor?

My instinct tells me that they aren't exactly designed for lots of servicing to be done at sea - i.e. they're not exactly black boxes, but they shouldn't need a huge staff.

John Robson Silver badge

Re: @Dr Syntax - "more radioactive"

B- must try harder.

The "rated output" is *never* what has been suggested to be the output of wind/solar plants.

It's always been the peak, and the load factor is very well known in advance of construction, though it varies by location and generation technology.

Energy storage has always been a challenge, and until recently we have generally used the renewables to reduce the usage of fossil fuel plants when we can. We are on the brink of the capacity to implement true distributed grid scale storage - BEVs, and home/workplace chargers, need to be mandated to support V2G.

Micro nuclear plants are, imho, an excellent component in the diversification of energy supply, both in terms of materials and in terms of supply points. If we put two of these at each motorway services (chosen because there are ~100 of them, they are generally a little way outside populated areas, and they have very good grid connections with the capacity to expand) - then we could be replacing one unit each week (that assumes a 4 year life, scale as appropriate) and have 100MW (plus some local heating) available at each services (excellent for all those EV fast chargers), with a grid connection capable of handling surplus output onto the grid... that's 10GW of distributed production - dropping 50MW for a couple of days each week as each unit is swapped out.

That's ~third of our current demand (bit more in summer, bit less in winter), and way more than the estimated electricity requirements for the entire UK car fleet to switch to BEV.

Combine a distributed solid baseload with a distributed grid scale storage and we are alot closer to being able to turn off the fossil fuels entirely.

It's a shame that new builds aren't required to be well insulated, or to have PV installed (cheaper at build, because the PV can be the roof), or to use heat pumps, or...

Because all of those things should be the bare minimum for new buildings.

John Robson Silver badge

Re: @Dr Syntax - "more radioactive"

Well it makes a significant difference to how radioactive the ash is, since stuff that doesn't burn is highly concentrated by the act of burning the rest of the stuff away.

John Robson Silver badge

Re: @Dr Syntax - "more radioactive"

35 times sod all... it's still several orders of magnitude less waste than a coal plant produces (much of which is far more radioactive than you'd expect, the heavier radioactive elements don't burn well).

US-funded breakthrough battery tech just simply handed over to China

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Re: Sounds familar

"At least in the space arena, we have Elon Musk, who might not be that competent, but he's got a lot more done than any one else."

I would suggest that in terms of space flight Musk has demonstrated more competence than basically anyone else in recent history.

He has been pretty ruthlessly focussed on a single long term aim, and SpaceX has developed (almost as sideline technology en route to his vision) an incredibly successful launch vehicle, which is much more reusable than any previous vehicle (oh how people laughed when they started trying to land F9 boosters), and now has multiple orbital class boosters which have flown 10 times or more, and they are launching more flights per year than everyone else combined.

Post-quantum crypto cracked in an hour with one core of an ancient Xeon

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Re: Ancient?

So how many times do you need to run the arithmetic to cost more than the replacement ;)

Anti-piracy messaging may just encourage more piracy

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False equivalence as well...

Stealing a car, and copying some ones and zeroes that they simply won't sell you in any other way are not equivalent.

SpaceX upgrades Starlink to reflect less light, can't launch without its Starship

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Re: Corporate Good Citizenship?

Listening and "doing exactly what one group of people says" are different things.

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Re: bigger

Well, it's bigger if the numbers are written in angry all caps...

Bad news, older tech workers: Job advert language works against you

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Re: So?

Depends on how well the desk environment is put together...

I manage just fine fixing most cabling issues - though I predominantly try to avoid generating those issues in the first place.

John Robson Silver badge

Re: So?

"must have physical ability to get off arse to fix a problem"

Can I not fix a problem from my wheelchair?

General Motors goes electric with $2.5b US government loan for battery plants

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Re: Nissan must feel hard done by...

It was such an obvious error that it was far better to laugh at it than complain.

It is astonishing how many people think that Tesla have been unfairly favoured though.

John Robson Silver badge

Nissan must feel hard done by...

$5.9 billion to Ford in 2009, $1.45 to Nissan in 2010, and $465 million to Tesla

Just one dollar 45!

Chinese booster rocket tumbles back to Earth: 'Non-zero' chance of hitting populated area

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Re: What's the Orbit, Bob?

What tweet? I see no tweet (and no I'm not clicking on links to the cesspit)

Google, Oracle cloud servers wilt in UK heatwave, take down websites

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Re: Last night a friend was grumbling that they couldn't get into either ocado or waitrose

Don't worry, the regulations preventing people from selling bottled water with a floating turd will also be gone in the name of profit.

John Robson Silver badge

Re: Last night a friend was grumbling that they couldn't get into either ocado or waitrose

Stop using a sieve to carry it then.

Taps work quite well, not aware of anywhere using standpipes at the moment.

UK chemicals multinational to build hydrogen 'gigafactory'

John Robson Silver badge

Whilst there is an increase in supply of various materials needed - the people who actually run the country's electrical infrastructure are very confident that the load is sustainable.

30M vehicles, 4mi/kWh, 20mi/day... that makes about 6GW of generation to find, on a grid that averages 30GW, and peaks at 47GW (with spare capacity even then).

With the notable additional factor that cars can easily act as load balancing batteries, particularly with newer evse and vehicles being v2g capable. And 30M EVs, even if you only "allocate" 10kWh of the ~50kWh pack as v2g available is still a 300GWh battery - 250 times the current largest operating grid scale battery - and enough to run the entire country for ten hours without *any* other generation at all.

So there will be some which can't be plugged in most of the time, and there will be a couple of "low" availability points during the day - but even so that's a colossal battery.

John Robson Silver badge

Re: @ExiledChris

How many of those vibrations are currently caused by the dirty great deisels in the equipment?

I wonder if they'd be happier with batteries and an on site fuel cell powered charging station?

John Robson Silver badge

Re: Two horses, not just one.

Lithium isn't the only available battery technology, it might be the best - but not all vehicles need the best possible battery technology.

I can see vehicles which are traditionally a "second car" being fitted with alternative battery technologies, or even the choice of technologies at different costs when a car is purchased (or the battery replaced - and given that warranties range between 100 and 150 thousand miles, that's about the time you'd normally replace an engine anyway)

John Robson Silver badge

The lower energy density of H will mean frequent top ups* ... *it would only need to go as far as battery can manage on a good day and cost the same, consumer

Well, I'm not sure - one of the advantages of the battery is that I can choose to never leave home with anything less than a full tank. H2 is back to the petrol station model, but with a harder to handle product.

John Robson Silver badge

Where do you come up with the 1% figure:

"The argument that we've started with electric so we should/must only carry on with that doesn’t carry much weight when the installed capacity is maybe 1% of requirements come the next decade."

BEVs are already more than 1% of the UK car fleet, and almost all of the remaining infra already exists, because it uses existing infrastructure. The national grid says "There is definitely enough energy and the grid can cope easily."


There will need to be more high speed hubs, and more devices at each one... but we have twenty to thirty years to build that out as the demand increases. If you ban sales of ICE cars today that doesn't mean everything is electric tomorrow.

John Robson Silver badge

Re: Quick charging

Talk to the bean counters, maybe they'll do you a different lease, or a mileage expense instead of just reimbursing fuel expenses.

John Robson Silver badge

Re: Quick charging

No it isn't particularly relevant to that - but that wasn't the point of the post I replied to.

Of course you might ask why the hell that trip isn't being done by train, or even by using a closer port.

John Robson Silver badge

Serious fire hazard? As opposed to either hydrocarbon based cars (which catch fire so often it's not even local news), or hydrogen based vehicles?

Hydrogen takes about three times as much energy, since production, transport and usage is so inefficient.

John Robson Silver badge

Why should your transport be effortless but cost other's their life?

There is precious little adapting required to use an EV.

John Robson Silver badge

Agree - there isn't a single solution for everything... I don't see the risks and complications of an H2EV being worth the limited benefits for cars/vans - the arithmetic changes for HGVs, they can afford the complexities of storage, and could store *so* much that they'd be able to deal with a relatively weak supply chain.

For basically any car the issue isn't max single stop range, it's either speed of charge *or* continuous charging for those rare long journeys (maybe a handful each year).

I'd like to see some battery standardisation, so that you can rent an additional battery occasionally, whether that's Li based, AlAir based, or something else, plug it in and boost range for that trip.

Maybe have it "spare wheel" sized, since so many cars are doing away with the spare wheel... yes I know that's a variety of sizes, but it's not that many really.

The one thing that is absolutely clear to me is that direct combustion is a piss poor way to provide motive power - even moving to hydrogen you still generate various nox-ious gases, and the efficiency is substantially worse than fuel cells.

John Robson Silver badge

Re: AFAIK, ONLY Tesla drivers can use those charge points.

"Norway should be used as a great example of how to do this stuff. Almost every village that has a supermarket and a filling station also have at least 2 DC chargers."

Perhaps more importantly they are mandating that all car parks should at least have the routing for cables to provide AC charging to every spot (they don't yet have to install all the cable, but the routing has to be available). That immediately reduces the dependency on fuel station style charging.

John Robson Silver badge

Re: Quick charging

Quite a few of the tesla charge stations are now open to all users.

John Robson Silver badge

Re: Quick charging

Whilst regulations don't *require* you to take a break in a smaller vehicle... it's still sensible to do so.

Taking regular short breaks is a mechanism to reduce fatigue and increase safety, failure to do so should be considered careless driving.

BEVs are far more effective than you (who I assume is talking from a place of not having one) realise.

I have an MGZS, it (just about) fits my wheelchair and family, and is pre facelift - so "only" has a range of 174mi range (WLTP), which I normally consider to be about 140, though I have done a trip to my in-laws and back without recharging - that's a touch over 160 (I normally take a five minute "volt and bolt" to leave a little extra wiggle room, but didn't on this occasion).

But the number of times in a year we use a public charger is so small it can be counted without even resorting to toes - and a couple of those have been destination chargers, so taking exactly zero time out of our day. It makes the six hour journey to my parents about one hour longer, but *much* easier and more relaxing.

There will be a few travelling salespeople who do silly miles each and every day, but they really are very rare - and that's where something less difficult to handle (like an Al/Air pack) could really come into its own. It's not particularly efficient, but neither is H2. Compared with H2 it's trivial to handle and transport.

Or of course battery swap stations for those users - who are probably either leasing or fleet users anyway.

John Robson Silver badge

I can see a role for lorries, but for vans and smaller you're right - DC charging for the relatively small number of long journeys is a better approach than hydrogen - there might even be an intermediate technology, something like Al/Air as a safe and easy "extender" with similar energy efficiency to hydrogen but without the storage/transport issues of hydrogen

Trees may help power your next electric car

John Robson Silver badge

Re: And this is going to solve CO2 problems how?

Well since the carbon is captured into the lignodes... they simply plant more trees, which will therefore continue to absorb more carbon dioxide.

Demand for smartphones is drying up

John Robson Silver badge

Re: It is a different reason for PCs

Yep - I'm holding off replacing the wife's iDevice 8 until the iDevice 7 or 6 starts to fail in the hands of the offspring. The flexibility it allows is one of the major reasons I decoupled telephony contracts from telephony hardware a long while ago.

We used to upgrade (and pass down) one phone every 18 ish months, but it's been a little over two years since the last upgrade (which was feature driven), and no real sign of needing to upgrade any time soon - even then I might also just opt to replace the battery in the 6 (assuming that's what starts to give out).

Just because you failed doesn't mean you weren't right

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Re: Basic QC

My last foray into EMC testing was fun. EMC testing facility was basically a small wooden building in the middle of a field - with a rather long electrical supply cable.

Server had three ~1200W (I think) PSUs, and because it was "just testing" we had them all plugged into a single four way extension.

About to do all the zappy stuff to the box, which had been put in the back of my car the previous day, and so we plugged in the four bank. The inrush from those PSUs turned all the lights out for about half a second.

Fortunately the chassis and PSUs were already certified, so we just decided to ignore that...

Cruise self-driving cars stopped and clogged up San Francisco for hours

John Robson Silver badge

Re: Does it really need to be AI?

No, it means that my offspring have corrupted my brain with minecraft coordinates.

John Robson Silver badge

Re: Does it really need to be AI?

Oh I don't hate it - it's not worth the effort.

Of course I call it soccer whenever I have to refer to it, and generally treat it with the disdain it* deserves... but hate is going too far.

* Commercial soccer that is. I have nothing against school/community based sports**.

** No using a golf bat on a golf court doesn't count as sport.

John Robson Silver badge

Re: Does it really need to be AI?

"Needs to do more than just react to ball air pressure spikes otherwise the vast majority flagged as potential offside will not be offside."

Yes - but that's why it flags it to the team watching the monitors on the sidelines, not direct to the ref.

John Robson Silver badge

Does it really need to be AI?

Why not just put tags in the back of everyone's shirt and track that and the ball - no AI required...

If player's Z axis location is further forward than all but one of the opposition when the ball air pressure spikes (because it's being kicked) then flag potential offside - with an indicator on screen as to the player in question and the ball at moment of pressure spike.

Uber to pay millions to settle claims it ripped off disabled people with unfair fees

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So now...

instead of being charged for being "too slow" to get into an uber, they are charged time to fill out a form which others don't need to fill in...

John Robson Silver badge

Re: Why is this legal anyway?

If they fix the system and reimburse those affected... I'm all for doing it in a speedy way, rather than having it drag out over months.

But despite not being an admission of guilt, it should also not be a permanent immunity... Anything else they do and this should be lumped back on top.

Intel’s first discrete GPUs won't be a home run

John Robson Silver badge


Low end?

Not quite sure I'd call a £350-450 card low end, though I'll admit it's a while since I've cared about GPU performance.


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