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An Honest Tech Glossary for Micromobility, Tesla, and the ‘Cactus Effect’

The buzzwords are proliferating faster than Bird scooters in Los Angeles. Here, a handy glossary for the current mobility lingo.

If self-driving theater is the new security theater, then last season’s two-part finale was quite a shocker. Between the Uber crash in Tempe and the

crash mistakenly attributed to Phantom Auto, every season has upped the mystery. The greatest riddle? What all the buzzwords actually mean. Now that “micromobility” is taking off, I’ve decided to release Part 2 of my Honest Tech Glossary, with some updates to old terms and my best guesses at some new ones.


  • Anything with flippers, wings or 2+ legs.
  • The French word for range, commonly used to describe electric vehicle range. This often causes initial confusion when English and French speakers discuss automation/autonomous technology.
  • What people who don’t know the difference between autonomy and automation use to describe the latter.

“On Autopilot”

  • A good way to describe mobility consultants whenever they cite C.A.S.E. (Connected, Autonomous, Shared, Electric) passenger vehicles as the future, indicating the absence of creative or original thinking, and/or a realistic understanding of deployment timelines for four distinct technologies.


Bird Poacher

  • People who steal idle Bird scooters, hack/break them, and use them for free.

Bird Charger

Bird Catcher

  • Unofficial term for Bird Chargers who track down hacked/stolen Birds—often at their own risk—for a premium of $5 to $10 per Bird.
  • Another job you can’t believe exists in 2018.

Cactus Effect

  • The opposite of a Network Effect.
  • Also called “Cactus Internality” or “Supply-Side Deployment Friction,” this is the negative effect described in economics and business whereby adding additional unnecessary or unrelated functionalities to a good or service impacts the deployment timeline of that product. When a Cactus Effect is present, the deployment timeline of a product or service increases according to the number of disparate additional functionalities deemed necessary for release.
  • What happens when car makers plan for a future where passenger vehicles are all C.A.S.E. (Connected, Autonomous, Shared, Electric). For example, many shared vehicles are on the road now. Some are electric. Few are connected, and none are autonomous. There is no reason profitable businesses can’t be built around individual legs of C.A.S.E., or some combination of its elements, and yet billions are being invested on the assumption that all four legs of C.A.S.E. will yield vast network effects.

Cactus Internality

  • What happens when you try to swallow a cactus.


  • A Cactus Effect trigger.


  • The name for Audi’s seemingly cool electric SUV.
  • The name that cost Audi low-to-mid six figures in branding consulting, but a random person off the street could have come up with for free.


  • The Mercedes equivalent to the Audi E-Tron—not in terms of the vehicle, but in terms of the creativity in naming.


  • What Tesla’s least creative trolls call Elon Musk.


  • A term intended to replace the disastrous SAE Level 4 terminology, clarifying both capability and limitation in a single word; geotonomy is a combination of geographic and autonomy, implying autonomy within a geofence.

Geotonomous Car/Vehicle

  • An automated vehicle capable of functioning without human input within a clearly defined geographic area.
  • A term I came up with in this amazing article.


  • A clear high-level thought process around the development and deployment of automated vehicles, based on location.


  • Jaguar’s equivalent to the E-Tron and EQC—not in terms of the vehicle, but in terms of the creativity in naming.

Mobility Floor

  • A Minimum Service Guarantee for transportation options; i.e. Mobility Modes.

Mobility Modes

  • The term for individual forms of mobility, i.e. cars, scooters, light rail, uniycles, etc.

Mobility Equilibrium

  • When any given area has sufficient mobility modes to satisfy 100 percent of its residents.
  • Any municipality in which transit deserts are eliminated.

Modal Equilibrium

  • The state in which an individual settles into a unique mix of modes over time (this may or may not be optimal for the community at large).


  • Coined by the Nostradamus of transportation, Horace Dediu, to describe urban transport modes weighing less than 500 kg (1100 pounds), and predominantly electrically powered—like Bird scooters.


  • SpaceX, Blue Origin, NASA, Hyperloop, the Hindenburg.



  • An Internet meme that became popular through the imageboard 4chan. As the name suggests (“pedo” being short for “pedophile“), it is portrayed as a pedophilic cartoon bear. It is a concept used to mock pedophiles or people who have any sexual interest in children or “jailbait.” The bear image has been likened to bait used to lure children or as a mascot for pedophiles.
  • Anyone who shorted $TSLA after Elon Musk called that diver a pedo.


  • What Elon Musk keeps on haters who spend too much time in Thailand.


  • A place full of busy people.


  • What Tesla’s comms people want to do whenever journalists call.
  • What Tesla’s lawyers want to do whenever the SEC calls.


  • A fancy word for “remote control”.
  • What anyone deploying geotonomy will need in the event the vehicle cannot make a driving decision, unless they want to lose customers.
  • An idea I think will be bigger than self-driving for decades, or at least until geotonomy expands to cover the majority of places humans currently drive
  • The best way to move taxi and truck drivers out of vehicles, once redundant connectivity can be guaranteed.
  • See Phantom Auto and Starsky Robotics.

Universal Basic Mobility

Alex Roy is founder of Geotegic Consulting and the Human Driving Association; editor-at-large at The Drive; host of The Autonocast; co-host of /DRIVE on NBC Sports; and author of The Driver. He has set numerous endurance driving records, including the infamous Cannonball Run record. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.