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40th edition of the 5th year of SmartDrivingCars

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Volvo to supply Uber with up to 24,000 self-driving SUVs for taxi fleet

S. Masunaga & R. Mitchell, Nov. 20, " fleet of self-driving Volvo vehicles operated by Uber Technologies Inc. could be ready for the road as early as 2019, marking the ride-hailing firm’s biggest push yet to roll out autonomous cars.  Volvo said Monday that it would sell Uber tens of thousands of luxury sport utility vehicles between 2019 and 2021 outfitted with the Swedish automaker’s safety, redundancy and core autonomous driving technologies. Uber will then add its own self-driving technology to the autonomous taxi fleet…"  Read more Hmmmm…  This is a significant announcement and recognizes that it is going to take another year-plus for the Uber/Volvo existing ‘Self-driving‘ technology stack (which now requires an Uber attendant in the car)  to become ‘Driverless’ (can operate safely without an Uber attendant in each car).   If these cars don’t become Driverless, their cost per ride will be so prohibitively high that their use will not be sustainable. 

24,000 is a reasonable number with which to start   These vehicles would become Uber’s work horses.  They’ll operate ~20 hours a day and could serve ~5 short trips per hour when concentrated in Uber’s highest demand areas.  With some ride sharing they could serve 100 person trips per day,  allowing them to serve nearly half of Uber’s current 5.5 million trips a day.  Unfortunately, this is the short-trip half. The half remaining is dominated by long trips.  Vehicles serve these at only about 1.5 trips per hour.  Vehicle (driver)  productivity is consequently limited to about 30 trips per day.  That means that each day Uber will still need two shifts of 100,000 gig workers each to show up and deliver the mobility services needed to serve their 3 million daily longer trips.  To really scale, Uber will need to order many more of these Volvos and and get them to operate Driverlessly in much larger geographic areas so that they can serve some of these long trips.

In the US there are about 1 Billion vehicular trips per day. Many are short, some are long, very few are very long.  It is doubtful that a Driverless car could serve more than 2.5 person trips per hour or 50 blended-length trips per day.  Thus, to serve 10% of the Billion trips per day would require a fleet of about 2 million Driverless cars.  In 2016, 17.5 Million cars & light trucks were sold in the US.  By devoting about 10% of the car & light duty truck manufacturing capacity to the production of Driverless vehicles, enough Driverless cars are produced in a year to serve 10% of all US vehicular trips.  So the manufacturing capacity exists to enable an Uber or Lyft or Didi or Waymo or … to in a few years serve many/most trips in the US. 

This suggests to me that Waymo must have already established a deal/arrangement with a manufacturer to begin very soon to produce thousands of cars that can accept Waymo’s Driverless stack of hardware and software and aggressively begin to serve pockets of those 1Billion daily person trips.  🙂 Alain

Smart Driving Cars Podcast Episode 13

Episode 13 of the Smart Driving Cars Podcast with host Fred Fishkin and Princeton University Professor Alain Kornhauser. This edition: Volvo gets a self driving fleet order from Uber, fighting motion sickness in self driving vehicles, Fisker’s battery break through? And the latest from Tesla, Bill Gates, Apple and the Pope!

Capsule Networks (CapsNets) – Tutorial

A. Geron, Nov 21, "Capsule networks, a hot new architecture for neural networks…"  See video  Hmmmm…   A must watch!  Alain

  The Apple car just made the ‘mother of all’ lists: Tim Cook’s most-hyped projects

A. Balakrishan, June 25, "Apple chief executive Tim Cook made a lofty proposition this month: That Apple was working on "the mother of all A.I. [artificial intelligence] projects.".." Read more Hmmmm…  Slightly old news but Apple needs to up their game because they may well be left behind on this one. Alain  

  Apple just gave us all a look inside the AI of its secretive self-driving car project

K. Hao, Nov 23, "Apple is beginning to show the world that it’s undertaking real, competitive research for its secretive autonomous car project.  The company is working on a new approach to make self-driving cars understand where other cars, cyclists, and pedestrians are located nearby, by reading data from a LiDAR sensor, according to a publicly-posted research paper that has not been peer-reviewed. …. Apple’s proposed AI system would take these points and find the patterns that indicate the things to avoid—a person, bicycle, or another vehicle—and the patterns for open roadway, safe to traverse. Apple’s method, called “VoxelNet,” would use a deep neural network to group the data points into simple boxes, foregoing more complex efforts to accurately calculate every swoop and curve of the complex data cloud.
The researchers were limited to using publicly-available dataset to demonstrate their work, likely so as to not divulge Apple’s internal data. But they did use a few tricks to amplify what the AI system could learn from the same data, including scaling point clouds to be larger and smaller to emulate different size cars, and rotating the entire dataset sideways so it appears to the AI system that the car is turning…."  Read more  Hmmmm…  See the paper, next.  Alain

VoxelNet: End-to-End Learning for Point Cloud Based 3D ObjectDetection

Y. Zhou, Nov 17, "In this work, we remove the need of manual feature engineering for 3D point clouds and propose VoxelNet, a generic 3D detection network that unifies feature extraction and bounding box prediction into a single stage, end-to-end trainable deep network. …" Read more  Hmmmm…  An interesting approach and one of the very few publications coming out of Apple.

Uber is working on tools to fight motion sickness in self-driving cars

N. Ingraham, Nov 21, "Motion sickness is a real problem in self-driving cars. As you’re not in control of where the car is going, you might feel queasy when the vehicle moves in ways you weren’t anticipating. Uber clearly needs to minimize that urge to hurl if it’s going to create an autonomous fleet — and accordingly, it’s exploring technology that could make you feel at ease. It’s applying for a patent on a raft of technologies that would counter motion sickness by stimulating your senses as the car moves, distracting your brain…."  Read more  Hmmmm…  This is very important, too.  Alain

Thanksgiving 2017: The Worst is Over

R. Lanctot, Nov, 25, "The good news from the National Safety Council (NSC), quoting third-party research, is that the worst is over as far as highway fatalities during Thanksgiving are concerned. The NSC estimates that 400 Americans will die on the nation’s highways this weekend and the majority of those fatalities will have occurred already, with the safest driving days of the 4.25-day weekend being Friday, Saturday and Sunday…

There are no prescriptions to correct this malaise. The NSC strongly advocates the use of safety belts among other passive safety approaches and has spoken out on behalf of wider adoption of active safety systems know collectively as advanced driver assist systems (ADAS). The NSC has also emphasized the need to mitigate drunk/impaired driving and driver distraction… Wow, they’ve ‘spoken out’.  Have they done anything about making sure that those systems work, have they encouraged the insurance industry to price their adoption, have they gone to auto companies and told them to stop selling speed and bad behavior ? … The Intelligent Transportation Society of America and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration continue to advocate for active safety system technology in the form of mandated fitment of Wi-Fi-based DSRC (Dedicated Short Range Communication) technology for collision avoidance and inter-vehicle communications….In essence, a DSRC mandate will create a one-hand-clapping safety proposition where only new cars will be able to avoid colliding with one another. No other country has mandated DSRC technology…."  Read more  Hmmmm…  killing 400 this weekend is like having 3 airplane crashes. Almost one a day.  If we did, the nation would be outraged.  Alain

America Is Now an Outlier on Driving Deaths

D. Leonhardt, Nov 19, "This week, millions of Americans will climb into their cars to visit family. Unfortunately, they will have to travel on the most dangerous roads in the industrialized world.  It didn’t used to be this way. A generation ago, driving in the United States was relatively safe. Fatality rates here in 1990 were roughly 10 percent lower than in Canada and Australia, two other affluent nations with a lot of open road.

Over the last few decades, however, other countries have embarked on evidence-based campaigns to reduce vehicle crashes. The United States has not. The fatality rate has still fallen here, thanks partly to safer vehicles, but it’s fallen far less than anywhere else.."  Read more Hmmmm…  Not good!   We have essentially no enforcement of speed and have auto industry that sells cars by selling a fantasy centered on misbehavior.  That industry is painting itself into a corner where they’ll be forced one way or another into installing technology that will preclude us from really experiencing the irresponsible fantasies that they sell us.  Alain

What they said in 1999 about Amazon com

Nov 20,  "Interview look the year when the internet dotcom bubble burst dramatically. What they were saying about Amazon.com and Jeff Bezos.  "  See video  Hmmmm… Really unbelievable.  Retrospective on now the World’s richest guy.  Alain

  At $180,000, Tesla’s Semi Could Be a Game-Changer for Trucking

D. Morris, Nov 25,  "After its debut last week, we now have a price for Tesla’s all-electric freight truck. The company now says the Tesla Semi is expected to sell for $150,000 with a 300-mile range, and $180,000 with 500 miles of range. Those prices, though tentative, are substantially below expectations, and would make the Tesla Semi instantly competitive with gas-burning freight trucks.  

According to an earlier in-depth analysis by The Verge, an average Class 8 truck costs around $120,000. That conventional truck burns about $70,000 of diesel fuel per year, costing about $0.54 per mile. By contrast, the Tesla Semi will consume less than 2kwh of electricity per mile, or about 26 cents based on the average cost of electricity in the U.S.   Tesla estimates that adds up to $200,000 in fuel savings over the life of the truck. Electric engines are also much cheaper to maintain than gas-burning engines…" Read more Hmmmm… This sounds like really attractive prices.  Maybe even more attractive than the original pricing for the Model 3.  If these are real, then Tesla should ask Trucking Company CEOs to put down $10,000. to guarantee a delivery position as Tesla did with the Model 3.  If they do, then I should go into the trucking business.  But is the investment community willing to also subsidize Tesla’s Electric truck pricing???? Alain

  Pope Francis calls for police to show drivers ‘mercy’

Nov 20, "Drivers who are caught speeding could now cite the Pope when asking for sympathy from the police.
At a meeting with traffic police in Italy, Pope Francis urged them to show "mercy" towards those who break the rules of the road…Read more Hmmmm… Unfortunately he is wrong on this one.  While showing compassion: "We must take into account the limited sense of responsibility of many drivers, who often do not seem to realise the serious consequences of their distraction," he said." , the misbehavior of drivers has just become too common place. 
They not only need to brought back into the fold, but they need to realize that driving is a privileged, not a right and that society should impose strong restrictions and use technology to limit what the driver can actually do.  The fault lies with the auto industry who has lost its way selling dreams and fantasies instead of basic mobility.  Alain

Self-Driving Vehicles in an Urban Context

J. Hellaker, "Four scenarios of future mobility including SDVs modeled…" Read more Hmmmm… Very important 2 slides of the scenarios.Jan Hellaker also provided:  Link to corresponding DCG material, this year’s focus on the WEF-supported Boston pilot and reminds us that Sharing is absolutely the key feature of Drive Sweden’s two major efforts. KOMPIS and KRABAT.  Thank you Jan.  Alain

Bill Gates invests $80 million in real estate on Phoenix area’s western edge

C. Reagor, Nov 8, "A huge swath of land on the western edge of metro Phoenix has drawn an $80 million investment from Microsoft founder Bill Gates’ investment group, a move that could change the region’s future growth….Few people live in the area now, but plans for Belmont call for as many as 80,000 homes, 3,800 acres of industrial, office and retail space, 3,400 acres of open space and 470 acres for public schools, according to Arizona-based Belmont Partners, the real estate developer behind the project…."   Read more Hmmmm…  Reminds me of when Walt Disney bought land in Kissimmee, Florida.  I should have bought next door.  But I didn’t.  Sure hope this "smartCity" doesn’t turn out to be a "Levittown".  Alain

The Inconvenient Truth about Smart Cities

K. Smith, Nov 17, "…The movement toward smart cities signifies attempts by public and private industry to tackle the complexity and, oftentimes, incoherence of urban design efforts to create livable and sustainable communities. However, the potential of smart cities to deliver on their goals should not be mistaken with reality of smart cities.
The current reality of smart cities is that there aren’t any. At the end of the day, most so-called smart cities are just cities with a few or several standout smart projects…"  Read more Hmmmm… One might even go farther by comparing today’s SmartCities as being Socialist/Communist/Marxist "5-year Plans where the central planner now controls data and electronic devices rather that human work brigades.  They are both about centralized control of lifestyles. All well and good as long as the centralized "optimizers" of the society are benevolent dictators.  However, they were dangerous then and are probably dangerous now.   Smart Cities may well be an attempt to some perfection at the demise of individual good enough.  I’ve always preferred Wardrop’s 1st principle (individual optimization (user equilibrium)) over his 2nd Principle (System Optimal) unless I’m the one specifying the system’s objective function..  Alain

Fisker patents radical ‘solid state battery’ it claims can power a car for 500 miles and recharge in a MINUTE 

C. McDonald, Nov Electric car-maker Fisker has filed patents for flexible solid-state battery technology that could slash charging times and improve range.  The battery is expected to be ready for mass production by 2023, and will be displayed at the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show in January…"  Read more  Hmmmm… If true, very interesting!  But batteries are VERY tough.  There is also Hyundai’s filing a solid state battery patent on Nov 23 (20170338517)  and IBM has a prior art on 3D Solid State from March 2012 {20130260183).  Is Fisker for real? Alain

  BMW to spend $237 million on battery cell center

Staff, Nov 24, "BMW will bundle its battery cell expertise in a new competence center, the German luxury carmaker said on Friday, adding it would invest 200 million euros ($237 million) in the site over the next four years.  “By producing battery-cell prototypes, we can analyse and fully understand the cell’s value-creation processes. With this build-to-print expertise, we can enable potential suppliers to produce cells to our specifications,”….   Read more  Hmmmm… Batteries are very tough!  No Moore’s Law there. (yet?) Alain 

  Elon Musk has finished building the world’s biggest battery in less than 100 days

T. Ong, Nov 23, "Elon Musk looks to have delivered on his promise to build the biggest lithium ion battery in the world in an effort to help South Australia with its crippling energy problems. “100 days from contract signature or it’s free,” Musk tweeted at the time…  Musk is well ahead of schedule (a rarity for Tesla!), with the 100MW battery set to be energised and tested in the coming days, according to a press release from the local state government. Read more  Hmmmm… Does this mean that batteries are easier than producing 5,000 Model 3s per month?  Alain

Assessing the Traffic and Energy Impacts of Connected and Automated Vehicles (CAVs)

S. Schladover, Nov 15, "…
• Managed lanes for CACC can improve traffic conditions in certain cases (when CACC market penetration and number of managed lanes are well matched)
• With CACC gap preferences of drivers in our field test, highway throughput could increase about 50% when all drivers use CACC.." Read more Hmmmm… ????  I still can’t get over the fact that no DoT encourages drivers to use  Cruise Control (the stupid (unconnected)  version nor the smart ones (which are at least partially connected to the vehicle ahead))  to save energy or improve traffic flow.  So is it that they’ll get on board only if these cars are fully connected?? Alain

Cali. may limit liability of self-driving carmakers

M. Liedthe, Nov 15,  "California regulators are embracing a General Motors recommendation that would help makers of self-driving cars avoid paying for accidents and other trouble, raising concerns that the proposal will put an unfair burden on vehicle owners.  If adopted, the regulations drafted by the California Department of Motor Vehicles would protect these carmakers from lawsuits in cases where vehicles haven’t been maintained according to manufacturer specifications,
That could open a loophole for automakers to skirt responsibility for accidents, injuries and deaths caused by defective autonomous vehicles, said Armand Feliciano, vice president for the Association of California Insurance Companies. For instance, manufacturers might avoid liability if the tires on self-driving cars are slightly underinflated or even if the oil hasn’t been changed as regularly as manufacturers suggest, he said…" Read more Hmmmm… Sure, that’s a reasonable concern, but is the safety systems are not maintained and or the wires get cut, then the warranty should be voided as well as the liability of the manufacturer.  Alain

How Driverless Cars Will Change the Feel of Cities

I. Bogost, Nov 15, "…It seems clear that cars will always have a place in America. But until now, they have been slaved to the people who drive them. The roads have always belonged to the people, even if those people were assumed to be inside automobiles. When that coupling is broken for good, and everywhere, the roads will likely be safer, cleaner, and more efficient. But the urban experience, especially in cities like this one, will change forever. "  Read more Hmmmm…  And no one knows how they will change.  Just as no one knew about suburbs 115 years ago.  Alain 

The Coming Transit Apocalypse

R. O’Toole, Oct 24, "With annual subsidies of $50 billion covering 76 percent of its costs, public transit may be the most heavily subsidized consumer-based industry in the country. Since 1970, the industry has received well over $1 trillion (adjusted for inflation) in subsidies, yet the number of transit trips taken by the average urban resident has declined from about 50 per year in 1970 to 39 per year today.

Total transit ridership, not just per capita, is declining today, having seen a 4.4 percent drop nationwide from 2014 to 2016 and a 3.0 percent drop in the first seven months of 2017 versus the same months of 2016. Many major transit systems have suffered catastrophic declines in the past few years: since 2009, for example, transit ridership has declined by 27 to 37 percent in the Bakersfield, Detroit, Fresno, Memphis, Richmond, Toledo, and Wichita urban areas.

Four trends that are likely to become even more pronounced in the future place the entire industry in jeopardy: low energy prices; growing maintenance backlogs, especially for rail transit systems; unfunded pension and health care obligations; and ride-hailing services.

The last is the most serious threat, as some predict that within five years those ride-hailing services will begin using driverless cars, which will reduce their fares to rates competitive with transit, but with far more convenient service. This makes it likely that outside of a few very dense areas, such as New York City, transit will be extinct by the year 2030, leaving behind a huge burden of debt and unfunded obligations to former transit employees…."    Read more Hmmmm… Yup!!  Much transit as we know it today is DoA. Certainly scheduled route bus service and probably most light rail. Alain

How Politics and Bad Decisions Starved New York’s Subways

 B. Rosenthal, Nov 18, "After a drumbeat of transit disasters this year, it became impossible to ignore the failures of the New York City subway system….  "  Read more Hmmmm… Yup!! So bad.  No wonder it is about to be completely leapfrogged.  Alain


Recent PodCasts

Smart Driving Cars Podcast Episode 12

Episode 12 of the Smart Driving Cars Podcast with host Fred Fishkin and Princeton University Professor Alain Kornhauser. This edition: Tesla unveils a truck, the media focuses on the future of driving, Uber’s Express Pool, remembering the DARPA challenge, Jaguar Land Rover testing self driving vehicles in the UK and public acceptance.
How far all of this has come:  The first skit of the Yale Band at half-time of the Princeton-Yale football game last Saturday centered on the Driverless Car "Trolley Problem".  Talk about almost mainstream! Alain

Smart Driving Cars Podcast Episode 11

Episode 11 of the Smart Driving Cars Podcast with host Fred Fishkin and Princeton University Professor Alain Kornhauser. Fred and Alain are joined by leading expert and Internet pioneer Brad Templeton. Waymo makes some history, Thee tech needed to make it work..cameras…lidar or both? Navya bringing new robotic vehicles to Paris. And an accident…as a self driving shuttle is launched in Las Vegas.

Smart Driving Cars Podcast Episode 10

F. Fishkin, Nov 2, Episode10 "Host Fred Fishkin along with Princeton University’s Alain Kornhauser are joined by internationally recognized expert Michael Sena from Sweden. The latest from Washington D. C., the ITS World Congress in Montreal and headlines from Nvidia, Waymo, GM, Elon Musk and Sony!

Smart Driving Cars Podcast Episode 9

F. Fishkin, Oct  25, Episode 9 "Host Fred Fishkin with Princeton University’s Alain Kornhauser and guest Fred Payne, council member from Greenville County, South Carolina. Greenville’s autonomous taxis are rolling. Bank of America analysts see big investment opportunities in vehicle technology. The latest from London, China and New York. And on demand pilotless planes? 


2nd Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit
May 16 & 17, 2018
Princeton University
Princeton, NJ
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