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On Dead Cat, Tom & Katie take stock of the self-driving cars, valuation cuts, the Uber files, and Elon Musk. I'm missing in action.
I’m in Italy right now for my first extended vacation of the year. I spent yesterday bopping around Siena, taking in another beautiful Duomo, eating a sandwich with lardo, and hunting for the frescoes that provided the grist for my girlfriend’s mom’s art history thesis. After stopping in Rome and Florence, my girlfriend and I are staying in rural Tuscany for a friend’s wedding and then are headed to Cinque Terre in a few days.
I’m doing my best to disconnect from the newsletter for these two weeks — though not as much as my girlfriend might like.
I left my podcast co-hosts Tom Dotan and Katie Benner to their own devices with Dead Cat this week. Listening to the episode, they’re clearly feeling a little more pessimistic than I am. Tom proposed for the subject line of this email, “No ideas. No joy. No money” or “the summer of despair.” Both struck me as a little too dour.
In the latest episode of Dead Cat, Tom and Katie take stock of some of the top stories in tech this week via Techmeme headlines: The implosion of Apple’s self-driving car program, the Uber files, and Elon Musk’s fight with Twitter. They ask why tech seems to be stuck in a rut. But mostly they seem to have a fun time, sardonically dissecting the tech world and puzzling out what the latest stock downturn means for our favorite tech storylines. It’s an enjoyable listen if you’ve got some time to kill as vineyards and hay bales pass you by.
Their discussion hinges in part on The Information’s latest reporting on Apple’s self-driving car program. Apple just can’t seem to figure it out.
The Information’s Wayne Ma reported on the perils of demoware:
Engineers waste precious time choreographing demonstrations along specific routes using technology that works there but almost nowhere else, a phenomenon known as demoware. Some people who have worked on Titan say Apple fell harder into the demoware trap than some rivals, despite the fact that an automated car with no steering wheel needs to drive almost perfectly everywhere or few people would feel safe buying one.
“If you spend enough money, you can get almost any fixed route to work,” said Arun Venkatadri, who previously worked on self-driving cars at Uber and now runs Model-Prime, which makes software tools for robotics companies. “But what isn’t shown is whether you can build your self-driving software in a scalable fashion and whether you can operate in a reasonably broad area.”
And if Apple can’t figure it out, who can? Despite constant promises and over-optimistic projections from self-driving car researchers, the driverless cars don’t seem to be coming to the masses anytime soon.
Even while on vacation, I couldn’t help myself from reading Twitter’s lawsuit against Elon Musk. The suit convinced usually skeptical Hindenburg Research to buy Twitter shares, believing that Twitter had a compelling case on its hands.
It’s hard not to feel bad for Twitter. They never wanted Musk to try to buy them in the first place. Then Musk gave them an offer too good to refuse. And since then, he seems to be trying to do everything in his power to further erode Twitter’s value without paying them the premium he agreed to.
Tom and Katie break down the drama on the latest episode.
Give it a listen.