2024-06-17

What dis?

What's this?


It's the plumbing for World of Color at Disneyland California Adventure.



They lowered the water level.


And here's some wiring exposed by the lower water level.




They used to have a little wave machine across that would cool the giant electromagnets that launch the cars for California Screamin' (renamed Incredicoaster).  Incredicoaster was working this particular day without any wave machine so I assume someone realized it was better to have a real cooling system than waves that splash up against the magnets.  But I applaud the theming of the original solution.

How come those electromagnets don't erase everyone's credit cards?














2024-05-27

Full Self Driving (FSD) - Unsupervised

It's been in the news that Elon Musk announced that he will announce Tesla robotaxis in August, 2024.  Everyone thinks is he is full of shit, basically, because he has been full of shit about Tesla car autonomy for a very long time.

He might still be.

But!  Here's what I think he will announce and why Elon might have less shit in him this time.

He recently announced that Tesla is no longer "hardware constrained" for car training.  But Tesla has been hardware constrained for car execution for a very long time, since they shipped a bunch of hardware without fully understanding how their software stack was going to work.

And the latest Tesla "full self-driving", renamed to "FSD (supervised)", is really good.  The big change was shifting (heh) away from a combination of neural network and logic in code to executing entirely out of the neural network.  The result is pretty human-like driving.  And it's pretty good at unprotected left turns.  I have a buddy Eric R who lets his Tesla drive him all over the place - freeways, side streets, and even across country.  He says you have to watch it like a hawk but even then it is less stressful than actually driving.

A couple of years ago two other buddies told me they had the "maxed out" FSD and both of them said they stopped using it after it tried to kill them three times.  Which, BTW, it's probably worth pointing out that the Tesla statistics that say FSD is safer than human driving are nonsense, because anytime (in the past at least) that anything interesting happened, it was turned off.  So, sure, it was good at the easy stuff.

So, overall, big improvements in FSD, and my view is that the limitation now is the hardware in the car.

I think the robotaxi announcement will basically reflect the technology they have now but with a major upgrade to the in-car computing and maybe better sensors.  And I think it will be pretty good!  And the new thing will be called "FSD - Unsupervised."

As for the sensors - Elon has said that if you don't solve vision, then you haven't solved anything.  I don't agree with that, but even if that is your view - that the car shouldn't need more sensors than a human (wait, humans have two eyes, and Tesla's have, what, eight? [oh well]) - then you should add in sound and vibration.  I get lots of hints from how the road feels when I drive.  And I think the recent horrible accident from the Cruise vehicle where it dragged a person under the car could have been prevented with more tactile sensors.

BTW, Cruise, the GM self-driving company, has offices right near us at work.  We had a picnic out on the lawn and a bunch of them came out and sat with us.  One of the things I learned as we swapped stories about our respective businesses is that the the Cruise car is always computing an escape plan if something goes wrong, like it loses compute power.  And I think that is what happened after that car accident - it flipped into "escape plan" mode to pull over without considering that it was dragging a body.

I have to admit that accident really bummed me out, because at the time (this is years ago) I was very impressed at how they had a built-in safeguard like that.  And sadly, maybe it backfired.

One more thing.  Back in 2005 an autonomous car succeeded in the DARPA Grand Challenge.  I thought, yay, we're almost there!  And I took into account something Bill Gates said (I think it was Gates), that people overestimate what is possible, computing power wise, in five years, but underestimate what is possible in ten years.  So I thought, yay, in ten years, we'll have self-driving cars!

Well, shit.  That didn't work out.  I should doubled those numbers again.

Update 2024-06-17: AS PREDICTED:  https://www.autoevolution.com/news/elon-musk-reveals-the-first-details-about-hardware-5-autopilot-computer-and-sensors-235405.html



Fail!

I had a goal of posting a new blog entry every day (on average) last year.  I got about half way through and then stopped.  I had a chance during time off during the last week of 2023 to post a big pile of pictures to catch up and finish but I thought, "why?", I'm just kidding myself.

However, like any good failure, I learned something.  As I got into it I realized it was the most fun for me when I did a series of related posts, like the improv music series.

Also related were some ideas to speed up posting, most notably not posting labels.  I missed them!  And I realize if I'm going to focus on series of posts then the labels are pretty useful.

And so here it is May 27, 2024.  I've spent the last five months doing a lot of cleaning-up and decluttering both at home and in my rather large amount of electronic files.  I think I'm about ready to jump back into blogging.

I do have one time-specific blog entry to make, which I have now done.

2023-12-15

Los Angeles - the city of angels

 


Probably more like Orange County looking north toward LA.

Blue Angels near I-90

 





Really, really big store

 


Bed, Bath, and Beyond!

 


SeaTac airport control tower

 


Near the Seattle Aquarium

 


Those electrical wires won't route themselves

 


Alias PowerAnimator 6.0 - those were the days

 


Spider Web

... via flip phone many years ago - 2003?



Inside the flyover bridge at Washington State Convention Center



Reflections

View from W Hotel in Seattle next to the Seattle Public Library.



Luxo Jr.

I went to my first Siggraph in 1987.  There was a panel on animation and one of the panelists was a young man who had made a CGI short about a lamp that plays ball with his son.




The outside of fog

 


Siblings

Supposedly if you show people a picture of something cute before you give a talk they will like your talk better.  I tried this at GDC one year.  Sadly it's hard to tell if it improved my scores.  These were the siblings from the litter where we got our dog.



No respect

Caricature of me by Al Eufrasio:



Throwing

... a pot ...



Amazing forest fire from 2007

This is a screenshot from Eye of the North - a Guild Wars expansion.

I wish I had a gif to show you.  I don't know who did this environment art but it pushed the engine in a really beautiful way.