Any day now

October 13th, 2020

Checking in on an earlier post from last year on being skeptical on the whole self-driving cars thing, I got reminded of this article from last April and the quote from Elon Musk:

As for full autonomy, Musk noted: “the software problem should not be minimized.” He continued that, “it’s a very difficult software problem.” Still, he promised that Teslas will be capable of self-driving by the end of this year and self-driving robo-taxis will be on the road in 2020. Also, in two years, the company will be making cars without steering wheels or pedals at all.

“If you fast forward a year, maybe a year three months, we’ll have over a million robo-taxis on the road.”

Usually futurists give themselves a bit more breathing room, say 25-30 years. By which time they are either no longer with us, or can claim to have been let down by the inept technologists who have failed to deliver on their “vision”. In this particular case though, Tesla is barely struggling to get to level 2 which is basic, partial automation. We’re quite a long way off from a million robo-taxis on the road.

In the meanwhile, Tesla’s official page on autopilot is using some clever wording that makes it seem that they are already at full self driving level 5 (highlights mine):

All new Tesla cars have the hardware needed in the future for full self-driving in almost all circumstances. The system is designed to be able to conduct short and long distance trips with no action required by the person in the driver’s seat.

All you will need to do is get in and tell your car where to go. If you don’t say anything, the car will look at your calendar and take you there as the assumed destination or just home if nothing is on the calendar. Your Tesla will figure out the optimal route, navigate urban streets (even without lane markings), manage complex intersections with traffic lights, stop signs and roundabouts, and handle densely packed freeways with cars moving at high speed. When you arrive at your destination, simply step out at the entrance and your car will enter park seek mode, automatically search for a spot and park itself. A tap on your phone summons it back to you.

Sprinkle a few “will”s in there, and you make it sound like it’s yours once you buy one of their cars. While the press kit is a bit more realistic, bringing it down quite a few notches (highlights mine):

Autopilot is an advanced driver assistance system that is classified as a Level 2 automated system according to SAE J3016, which is endorsed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This means Autopilot also helps with driver supervision. One of our main motivations for Autopilot is to help increase road safety, and it’s this philosophy that drives our development, validation, and rollout decisions.

Autopilot is intended for use only with a fully attentive driver who has their hands on the wheel and is prepared to take over at any time. While Autopilot is designed to become more capable over time, in its current form, it is not a self-driving system, it does not turn a Tesla into an autonomous vehicle, and it does not allow the driver to abdicate responsibility.

So maybe, at some point in the future, it “will” be there. But not any day now, despite the ongoing barrage of lofty promises.

New landing page

August 14th, 2020

If you read this in the RSS reader, you won’t see any difference. But if you hit the main landing page in the browser, you’ll be greeted with the new layout:

The new structure follows the changes in content in the last few years. It’s been a bit awkward to have a landing page that listed the last four posts, whatever those might be – interviews, announcements on Radiance, or random musings. I’ve tried addressing that by adding separate landing pages for the interviews, but that wasn’t readily discoverable.

Now, the main page of this site is structured around three major content areas:

  • Interviews on the art and craft of visual storytelling – these are interviews with cinematographers, production designers, art directors, etc on how films, TV shows and episodic productions in general are made.
  • Interviews on screen graphics in film and TV – these are the FUI (fantasy user interfaces) that we see not just in big sci-fi blockbusters, but pretty much in any contemporary production these days.
  • Everything else – these are occasional updates on Radiance, some tips on coding, or general musings on whatever has been on my mind lately.

The great thing about this new structure is its flexibility. I can add more sections as my interests change. I can rearrange the sections, or display more entries in each section. There’s some space up top for a short intro. Hope you like it.


May 18th, 2020

The original for the quote is behind a paywall, and it’s about four loosely related sections. One of them is borrowing from this story and expanding on the larger ecosystem of the recent crop of “intermediaries”:

In the old economy of price signals, you tried to build a product that people would want, and the way you knew it worked is that people would pay you more than it cost. You were adding value to the world, and you could tell because you made money. In the new economy of user growth, you don’t have to worry about making a product that people want because you can just pay them to use it, so you might end up with companies losing money to give people things that they don’t want and driving out the things they do want.

I think we’ll look back at the late 2010s / early 2020s as some kind of a weird aberration in the global market as untold billions of dollars were burnt trying to upend industries, with no solid business plan other than the vague promise of innovation, customer centeredness and dreams of striking it rich. Well, the last part obviously is working for the very very few who are still managing to squeeze incredible amounts of money from a) investors, b) creators of the thing and c) consumers of the thing. While at the same time destroying the very market they have set out to “rescue”.

Just one more thing for 2019

October 28th, 2019

One last thing I wanted to do with hero images for interviews. Now on larger (desktop / laptop sized) screens the interview title blurb is displayed on top of a translucent scrim along the bottom edge of the hero image. Maybe now I’m done for 2019…