Thursday, March 29, 2018

Trials And Fredulations

Top portion of the morning to you!

Sorry for my absence yesterday, I was engaged in mind-numbing tedium:


If you think that riding an exotic handmade bicycle for hours on end on a Wednesday and stopping for a light farm-to-table lunch before heading back home is something I enjoy doing then, well, obviously you're right.  Still, it's my responsibility as a semi-professional blogger to put this artisanal Fred crucifix through its paces, and that's exactly what I plan to do.

Speaking of the Renovo, I happened to read recently that they're receiving an investment from a wealthy Texan:



"As a longtime cyclist, I'd been following Renovo for several years and was blown away by the size of their operation, their technology, and of course, the performance of their bikes," Spinks said. "I immediately made the decision to invest upon seeing their state-of-the-art machines, tools and configurations in-process and watching their new designs come to fruition. And with this production-bike capability boost, our partnership becomes even more exciting and rewarding."



Al Spinks is an author, speaker, proven leader, entrepreneur, Silver Fox Advisor & life/performance coach. While serving as an enlisted man aboard nuclear submarines in the US Navy, he was selected to take part in a leadership program where he earned a B.S. degree (Aerospace engineering, University of Texas, Austin) and was promoted to the rank of 2nd Lt. (USMC). He then qualified as a Naval Aviator (NFO) and flew in high performance, tactical jets (EA-6A) from the decks of 4 aircraft carriers.

If so I'm pretty sure he was one of Etheline Tenenbaum's suitors in "The Royal Tenenbaums:"


Also--and I swear on my chamois Renovo has not asked me to share any of this, I've merely been stumbling upon this stuff in the normal course of my Internet usage--here's a video about Renovo's "SuperBikeBox:"

As I believe I mentioned when I took delivery of the bike, this was by far the best-packed bicycle I've ever received.  I believe I also mentioned that I had no idea the box became a stand so I basically ripped it to shreds with a box cutter and then put the bike together on the floor.  So watching this video now makes me feel like a total idiot.

On the other hand, having destroyed the box means I can't return the bike, so who's the idot now?

Lastly, here's the Outside column about self-driving cars you knew had to be coming:


Even before the technology claimed its first victim last week I've wondered why the hell any cyclist would trust an industry that's turned much of the country into this:


But then again America loves a lying boyfriend.

63 comments:

Anonymous said...

Podia?

MolassesChamois said...

Mornin wood.

Drock said...

My comments don’t make it anymore

Watch and Camera Guy said...

Podium?

Anonymous said...

Charm City Podium

HDEB said...

TSLA has gone from $390/share in September 2017 to $250/share currently, self-driving cars are barely (if at all) better than human driven cars. Cars stink, ride a bike : )

Fourhourerection said...

Farm to table sounds real good. Riding the bike to get it makes it even better. Merry Eastertime weekend, and ride safe All.

dnk said...

Chance Sprinkles.

Stormy Daniels.

Lying Boyfriend.

wishiwasmerckx said...

There is a logical disconnect between reality and the irrational fear of self-driving technology.

The current technology, imperfect as it is, is still safer than a human driver by several magnitudes, and thousands, if not tens of thousand of lives could already be saved each year.

Instead, we insist that the technology be absolutely perfected before it is rolled out for widespread use.

That lady stepped off of the curb outside of a marked crosswalk in front of a car moving 45 mph. I am unwilling to make the assumption that a human driver would have avoided the exact same outcome.

Yes, the technology needs to improve for the safety of pedestrians and cyclists. Yes, we need to program hard choices, like do I hit the baby carriage or swerve into the crowd at the bus stop to avoid it?

Another seemingly unavoidable shortcoming is that the radar needs to be able to better respond to a not-uncommon occurrence where a car is being followed and it swerves to avoid a stationary item in the road, such as a stalled vehicle. Current technology means that the system cannot start to brake until the item is "seen," and by then it is generally too late.

So there are bound to be some tragedies while the technology continues to improve. However, the technology as it exists today is vastly superior to humans, a reality which we are simply unwilling to grasp.

Anonymous said...

it's time renovo made custom bikes that allow the owner to provide artisinal wood from their back yard (or a state park near you); bamboo being the exception.

BikeSnobNYC said...

wishiwas,

As I say in the column, I agree we should continue to pursue the technology as it has the potential to save many lives.

HOWEVER, in practice I strongly suspect that we'll just bend everything else to suit the technology's imperfections. Can't get it to detect cyclists? Make cyclists wear electronic devices. We've been trading down for 120 years in order to build the world around cars. It needs to stop.

Blaming the woman for being "outside of a marked crosswalk" is absurd. People and things aren't where they're "supposed" to be at all times. What good is technology that can't account for that?

--Wildcat Etc.

Late Stroke Bob said...

I for one am reluctant to put any faith in an industry who's key players (GMC for example) can't even engineer an ignition switch that doesn't kill people. The idea that they'll be able to engineer a vehicle that is autonomous and safe is a stretch.
When I taught my teenagers to operate a car I tried to impress on them that "driving" is an activity that goes way beyond "sitting in the car and steering so I don't run into anything". Autonomous cars seem to embrace the idea that all they have to do is get you there without crashing.......

Some guy from upstate said...

Sorry, still on coyotes. This happened Tuesday:

https://www.timesunion.com/news/article/Police-investigate-coyote-outside-State-Museum-12784615.php

I believe he was there to organize a protest to the legislature about the poor treatment of his Westchester brethren.

dancesonpedals said...

Just saw an e-bike confiscated when I stepped out for Vietnamese take away. Four cops stood around with bolt cutters in front of the bike while the staff inside went nuts. The deliveryman and unlocked it for them, so he got to keep his chain.

Two police vans and four cops just to harass a restaurant.

The youngest of the four cops must have thought the place looked nice; she stepped in to grab a menu.

Anonymous said...

according to youtube, self driving cars will be able to keep track of each other using gps and can thus avoid many of the traffic jams we get caught in. maybe in the near future we will all be wearing a gps helmet every time we step outside.

Anonymous said...

Gotta say there's victim-blaming and there's the Darwin awards. If someone climbs on a roof and then walks off it, shall we blame the industry that peppers the landscape with structures that stick up more than three feet above ground?

With the self-driving cars, explicit choices will have to be made and coded in. You're programming a car that comes up on a roadie riding on the shoulder, as we all do. Should you allow for the cyclist to swerve because there's some crap on the shoulder (there often is)? Should you allow for them, apropos of seemingly nothing and without looking, to turn left and cross the whole road because they decided to take a piss and the other side looks more enticing?

BikeSnobNYC said...

Anonymous 12:10pm,

A straw man argument *and* a "Darwin Awards" reference! This really is the Internet, isn't it?

But ultimately yes, the car should account for *seemingly* random behavior, whether the cyclist is dodging a pothole or in the midst of your weird urinating scenario.

--Wildcat Etc.

BikeSnobNYC said...

...cars have made us comfortable with the crazy notion that certain people deserve to die. It's creepy how people seem fine with autonomous cars continuing to kill people as long as they're killing the "right" people.

--Wildcat Etc.

wishiwasmerckx said...

Gracious host, you missed my point. I do blame the victim for stepping off the curb outside a marked crosswalk in front of a car coming at 45 mph. My point was that the same outcome was likely if the car involved was not "self-driving."

The original version of the google self-driver had a steering wheel for the human to take over in the event of an emergency. They took it out because the steering wheel option was greatly increasing the failure rate. The car ultimately proved to be safer without human input than with it.

wishiwasmerckx said...

Certain people deserve to die? That's an unduly harsh way to put it, but there are rules of the road which determine who has the right-of-way and when, and breaking them has consequences, sometimes fatal ones.

Chazu said...

The Royal Tenenbaum's reference just caused me to shuffle my weekend viewing lineup. How did I forget about that film? Oh, that's right, I'm old. Well at least I'm not as old as Al.... and I'm not as accomplished as Al, either (sob). At least I didn't attend a bunch of concerts in my youth without hearing protection... oh wait. Nevermind.

Ok, now I must search for that fantastic looking floor pump in the bike box video. Good thing I'm working against tight deadlines at the orifice. (that's my pet name for the office)

BikeSnobNYC said...

wishiwasmerckx,

The outcome would have been the same in a regular car? Have you watched the video? The car didn't slow or change course at all and the driver was paying absolutely no attention. A driver looking at the road in a normal car would almost certainly have at least braked.

As for the rules of the road and the consequences of breaking them, the rules themselves are in many cases unreasonable and make travel virtually untenable for anyone not in a car.

--Wildcat Etc.

dnk said...

As self-driving car technology develops, should we be scared of hacking? As in, mass hacking? (Terrorism?)

Researchers have proved the "hackability principle," remotely taking over a jeep traveling at highway speed on an interstate (See Wired article by the journalist who was behind the wheel)

Hacking always seems to be an afterthought to the technology we develop. Like, collectively we say, wow that happened & it's fucked up, but we'll try to patch it up & hope for the best.

As I type this, the city of Atlanta is still recovering from a week-long ransomware attack in which municipal workers could not use their computers and citizens were unable to use the city website to do things like report potholes, pay fines, etc.

A scarier example, Bloomberg News reports this month that hackers gained control of portions of the US power grid (including a nuclear plant).

Can this type of large scale hacking "transfer" to cars?

I don't want to be paranoid --- I really don't understand the technology, so my fear could be way off base. This seems an under-discussed aspect of self-driving automobile development.

Chazu said...

Just finished the Outside piece. I hope they're paying you well, you deserve it. Maybe check out yours.org (no affiliation here) as a potential source of revenue from your writing.

Anonymous said...

I have seen my (former) riding buddies veer across the entire lane in a way that *seemed* random to me, riding 10 feet behind.

Like it or not, some limits of 'reasonable' behavior will have to be coded in. In everyday life this is all subjective but computers aren't like that. They do what you tell them to.

The non-nerds are blissfully unaware of this. 'Oh you crunch some numbers together' or 'you kind of have the computer do that': that's not how it works. You approach an alley, out of which a Lucas Brunelle wannabe may jump out at 28mph. Do you slow down preemptively or not? The world is so big, a straw-man scenario will happen at some point and thanks to the internet, we will hear about it the same day.

Thankfully, making sure it doesn't run red lights or into restaurants should be relatively easy, and that will already be an improvement.

Anonymous said...

wishiwasmerckx:
in addition to the video, which greatly varies from the what you described, it's worthwhile to take a look at where herzburg was crossing:


https://www.google.com/maps/@33.4361387,-111.9423159,3a,75y,292.1h,82.01t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sWEC59Dg-BtUcRUWqH4xjqw!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

it's not exactly downtown. there are long distances between intersections. there is some sort of park pedestrian walkway in the median inviting people to cross, but which then very oddly has a sign slapped on it saying it's not meant for crossing.

as somebody trained in machine learning i'll posit autonomous cars will never be perfect: engineer bias, algorithm shortcomings and that the world we want to model is literally a moving target, something that often changes faster than it can be learned (either by software or humans.) ultimately, the autonomous cars won't solve the underlying problem: that cars are heavy and wide, travel too fast in most places (even when not speeding) and that there are too damn many of them.

BikeSnobNYC said...

Anonymous 1:28pm,

I don't have the time to find it at the moment but someone drove along the same stretch of road at the same time of night and posted a video. The video from the incident makes it seem really dark but this person's video reveals it's actually fairly bright. But everyone ran with the "appearing suddenly out of the dark" think.

--Wildcat Etc.

NHcycler said...

Steering back to the Superbox — when, exactly, was Renovo planning on informing you of its Transformer-esque qualities? Or are their customers expected to be so enamoured that they would naturally discover this video on their own?

I know that I wouldn’t think to ask if a bike box naturally converted into a bike stand, but that’s just me.

Anonymous said...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRW0q8i3u6E is the video -- 0:33 in is where the impact happened. Hard to tell if it's just different camera settings, but it definitely doesn't look like it was as dark as the Uber video would suggest.

More here: https://arstechnica.com/cars/2018/03/police-chief-said-uber-victim-came-from-the-shadows-dont-believe-it/

BikeSnobNYC said...

Anonymous 1:41pm,

Thanks for that, that's the one.

NHcycler,

If I'd opened the box reasonably carefully and took a look at the manual which explains the whole thing it would have been obvious. Instead I hacked away at the box impatiently and only noticed there was a manual after I'd put the bike together. I assume total responsibility. (Not to mention by the time a potential customer pulls the plug on a $10K wooden bicycle they've probably learned about the shipping process already, whereas I'm just an asshole who got a bike to test for free.)

--Wildcat Etc.

Bill said...

Brainwashed into Submission!

Al said...

Once again, Mr Snobbers is spot on with his Outside article. But here in Texas the trucktards are celebrating another confirmed victory because a motorist was released from the calaboose on a technicality after killing a cyclist. The coward killed someone's son with his freedom machine and then drove away. A day or so later he turned himself in, went to trial, was found guilty and sentenced too jail. That didn't last long and as soon as the coward got out of the slammer, he posted a video of himself driving and saying how great it was to be behind the wheel again. Self-driving cars and EV's may or may not happen, and I don't really care, but cowards in cars are the reality on America's highways to hell.

Knüt Fredriksson said...

A distopian future where a ragtag band of rebels (the straw men?) get around on bikes made from contriband exotic woods and fight to save us all from our robotic overloards and their mutated, parasitic human slaves...
Sounds like you have your next book idea right there.

Anonymous said...

Renovo designed their box by thinking outside the box.

David Henri said...

Snob, this is one of your best ever articles. Right on target.

hoghopper said...

Re the videos: I assume the self-driving car doesn't need visible light to detect obstructions. (If so, it should not be allowed out of the house after dark) So regardless how dark it was, the self driving car easily should have been able to "see" the pedestrian moving in the shadows, even if a human driver couldn't. But that car never reacted even when the woman and her bike were front-and-center in the headlights. There's something wrong there.

1904 Cadardi said...

A) I for one am eager to welcome our new robot car driving overlords because unless they are programmed to deliberately put'eminnaditch they really can't be any worse than the idiots behind the wheel today. At one point the NTSB was, at the request of Congress, working on rules that would make self-driving car manufacturers liable for any accident the autonomous vehicle caused. That would go a long way to making these things work.

B) You need to get out of the city and go somewhere with pitiful to no public transit and big spaces to cross to appreciate the need for a car. Not that I don't support less sprawl and fewer cars, I do. But we have to deal with the reality we have while trying to change it.

C) If you really want to be scared about autonomous vehicles, do a little reading on how machine learning works. This is an excellent primer.

D) Is anyone surprised that the first autonomous vehicle casualty was by an Uber car? The company is terrible on just about every level. They lost their permission to test in California, went on testing until the DMV shut them down, so they moved to Arizona. They have cut corners, stolen tech, lost lawsuits, cut corners further and still persisted in testing. They are evil.

D.2) The "but it was dark out" excuse doesn't work when Uber uses both LIDAR (laser) and radar, both of which work in complete darkness. See D above.

E) I'm jealous you got to go for such a nice ride. It was snowing AND I had to work. Keep up the good work!

BikeSnobNYC said...

1904 Cadardi,

Again, I'm not against the technology, I'm against using it as a pretense for shifting even more responsibility on to more vulnerable road users, which has been the pattern for 120 years now.

--Wildcat Etc.

janinedm said...

I second everything 1904 Cadardi said. Except for being jealous about the weather. I have the same weather.

The Cash for Silence Bank and Trust Co. said...

I did not have sex with that woman, I did not have sex with that woman, I did not have sex with that woman...And that's just in the first 14 months. Pro-rated out that means we'll hear him say it 7 more times over his remaining 34 months.

NourskSiklist said...

Let's get real ppl; fleets of autonomous cars benevolently taking us from A to B, are a long way away. Google and other big companies have lots of money and interest in the field, but the real dosh belongs to governments - and their military R&D. If ever Virtual Intelligence - or, Lob forbid, true AI - is coupled to a sensor suite capable of safely navigating the n+1 million constantly changing factors present in a metropolitan street environment, then woe is us. We will have semi-volitional mobile weapons platforms run by a decision-making hub (Terminators and SkyNet, for simplicity) long before we have dinky robocars driving us between burger joints. Money talks, shiny happy idealism walks. So there's that. I agree more with the Snob's message about addressing shitty behaviour behind the wheel, before trying smartcars. Let's cut down on the idiocy and lack of respect for other people's lives. Pedestrians were being ridden down by horses before the horseless carriage was introduced. It's the homicidal idiot that must be educated or unlicensed. But Snobby is a creature of the New York City, and his urbanism is showing. All areas of modern life relies on car use. The Danes and Dutch mostly have it figured out; people drive, walk, and cycle, without one party being allowed to casually slay the other without consequence. So how about some mutual respect and space. I'm all for trying that. (And oh yeah, I was forced to assist machine learning by selecting all squares with traffic signs; delicious irony)

leroy said...

Dear Mr. BSNYC -

Is that Stone Barns at Blue Hill? How's the bike parking? Lock or no lock?

(My dog was appalled at their canine restrictions until he realized they didn't include the wine cellar.)

SecondCityCx said...

Came to reiterate that Uber car had Radar AND Lidar. This means that (barring a systms failure that should have raised a failure alarm) the victim WAS "visibile" and that crash was an absolute failure of the autonomous driving system. I could go on about systems engineering for pages but, bottom line, watching that video, the system _completely_ failed and Uber bears substantiatial liability.

The eerie, disturbing part was watching the cops, officials, media, and internet immediately jumping to the defense of this clearly failed system. And why?!? Is it some sort of weird andriod empathy? Or is it recoiling at they idea that they also might be held responsible someday for a terrible error that they make while driving? I really want to know.

Further thought: where is this data showing that autonomous cars are already safer than the average human? Are we really beleieving this? Are these logged testing hours from a broad and realistic set of driving conditions? Show me the data.

Jason said...

"A human driver would have obviously braked or swerved..." I can attest that this is simply not true. In fact, I could hear the engine roaring as the car was *still accelerating* as it was hitting me. I certainly suspect the car failed in this instance (mostly because it has radar detection and should have detected the pedestrian), but I am not convinced human drivers are better than computers. I do hope that, eventually, we get a plausible explanation from Uber of exactly what failed. With my experience with Google self-driving cars, they universally provided me as a cyclist with a much safer situation (lower speed and more space) than nearly all human drivers. So I can buy that some companies may be significantly better than others at this point and maybe all shouldn't be allowed to experiment on the roads so soon.

1904 Cadardi said...

NourskSiklist,

"Let's cut down on the idiocy and lack of respect for other people's lives." If only that would work her in 'Muricah!. In many parts of the world it has, does and will. But here, I just don't see it happening.

"So how about some mutual respect and space. I'm all for trying that."
Me too! Now if we can only get other 330 million onboard we might have something.

I honestly believe we'll have usable autonomous cars before people treat others with respect. One requires a (huge) advance in technology and an economic incentive (probably via insurance companies raising rates on human drivers). The other means people becoming less self-centered.

And Snob, not disagreeing with you about shifting responsibility to the vulnerable road users. That's a problem that must be addressed and one start is to make manufacturers assume all liability.

blunchbelly said...

Just came back from NYSDOT informational meeting on 700+ mile Empire State Trail. Looks promising, but will probably increase the number of hayseeds blowing down from the north into Gotham City. Not sure what effect that will have on straw man arguments. Thank you for the artisanal Fred crucifix line so appropriate in so many ways!

Lulea said...

As a corollary to the “think about the children” you mentioned in the bike forecast, Seattle is having a “think about the single moms” moment. The opponents to a road safety project involving bike lanes declared single moms don’t bike. Then the single moms’ proved them wrong.


https://www.seattlebikeblog.com/2018/03/23/anti-bike-lane-group-tweets-that-single-moms-dont-bike-it-backfires-spectacularly/

wishiwasmerckx said...

A car that never speeds, never runs a red light, never drives drunk and never collides with another car? Sign me up.

Body shop owners and ambulance chasing attorneys will largely be a thing of the past. Insurance rates will be a fraction of what they are today.

I have seen the future, and it is bright.

Lulea said...

The problem is that the self driving car was speeding. Your scenario does not exist yet

Anonymous said...

50

Gordonkx250 said...

The cars 'see' with lasers so light or dark shouldn't even be an issue.

Gordonkx250 said...

Quite right. And the radar/laser eye is Lidar.

Anonymous said...

In the future, it won't matter if you are in a self-driving car or an EV, there won't be any insects to splatter on your windshield bias.

Anonymous said...

If a woodchuck is chasing after a Fred on a renovo what instructions will the self-driving car follow?

BamaPhred said...

I wasn’t there, but it looks to me the self driving car could have easily avoided hitting the lady. A lifetime of dodging crazy road whitetail deer is my guide. You can actually see them, in the diffused light outside of the headlight beam, if you are paying attention, and you damn sure better be here. BTW, I actually hate the newer modern headlight, because the lens cuts off that diffused light, and makes it harder to see in the shadow area where things “appear out of nowhere”. No, they don’t.

Anonymous said...

No friday post or quiz? Whatthehell am i paying you for? Oh, wait...

dancesonpedals said...

According to the NC State Police, the five most common reasons to run off the road are:

1)Officer, I swerved to miss a deer
2)Officer, I swerved to miss a deer
3)Officer, I swerved to miss a deer
4)Officer, I swerved to miss a deer
5)Officer, I swerved to miss a deer

Fredder said...

You may find this of interest.

https://www.bikebiz.com/retail/bath-uni-study-finds-clothing-choice-irrelevant-to-safe-pass-distance

“This means the solution to stopping cyclists being hurt by overtaking vehicles has to lie outside the cyclist. We can’t make cycling safer by telling cyclists what they should wear. Rather, we should be creating safer spaces for cycling..."

leroy said...

Ride safe all!

Nathan Johnson said...

If only there was some way we could move place from place to place, in a predictable way (like on a schedule along a certain path), away from pedestrians and cyclists, spreading the cost over many trips and users. . .nah it’ll never work. We’ve got to be able to drive right up to the entrance of Walmart, on a whim, to buy a basket full of stuff, and check our phone on the way.

bad boy of the south said...

These days,most cars are driver-less.be safe out there.

1904 Cadardi said...

Am I being an optimist or pessimist that I believe while self-driving technology gets better and better, people will only get worse and worse?


Ironical robo-test: Select all images with mountains or hills and 8 of 9 had cars. Sigh.

crankyfred said...

One of the odder digintaries...