http://smartdrivingcar.com/5.20-Amazon-061917
19th edition of the 5th year of SmartDrivingCars

Monday, June 19, 2017

Amazon Deal for Whole Foods Starts a Supermarket War

R. Abrams, June 16, "Shares of Walmart, Target, Kroger and Costco, the largest grocery retailers, all tumbled on Friday. And no wonder..  Grocery stores have spent the last several years fighting against online and overseas entrants. But now, with its $13.4 billion purchase of Whole Foods, Amazon has effectively started a supermarket war.  Armed with giant warehouses, shopper data, the latest technology and nearly endless funds — and now with Whole Foods’ hundreds of physical stores — Amazon is poised to reshape an $800 billion grocery market that is already undergoing many changes…."  Read more  Hmmmm… Since Jeff Bezos doesn’t need to have you impulse buy on your walk through the store while you get a quart of milk, he simply has to get you click on organic milk and he’ll present you with everything you absolutely can’t checkout without.  All he then needs is to get all those impulse buys (and the quart of organic milk) to your home from the hundreds of physical stores.  That’s where low speed driverless local delivery vans come in (operating initially in the early morning hours when the streets connecting those stores to our houses are completely empty and simply drop off everything you’ll need for the day ahead in your "Amazon Box" that’s replaced your 20th Century mailbox).  So in the end it will be Jeff Bezos’86 battling Eric Schmit’76 for deploying the first fleets of driverless vehicles sharing our neighborhood streets. If they should decide to join forces and have these vehicles providing mobility whenever anyone wants to travel and moving groceries and other goods the rest of the time, watch-out!!! Then everybody wins!! (except Walmart, Target, Kroger and Costco)  See also..Amazon and Whole Foods and Self-Driving Cars    Alain

  Dieselgate 2.0: Porsche And Audi Accused Of Using Sophisticated Defeat Devices

B. Schmitt, June 10, "Volkswagen may be gunning for the “habitual cheater” title. If explosive new claims are true, no lessons were learned when VW was involved in the biggest, and definitely most costliest regulatory cheating scandal the auto industry has ever seen….

A few months later, the sinning continues, and it has reached new levels of sophistication, reports from Germany suggest. The media are already are talking about “Dieselgate 2.0.”  Software in Porsche’s Cayenne diesel SUV “detects whether the car is on the dyno, or on the road,” Germany’s Spiegel Magazin wrote after months of intensive, careful, and costly research involving computer experts, Germany’s TÜV, and prominent lawyers. The magazine cites Martin Führ, Professor for administrative and environmental law, who declared that Porsche is using “a defeat device that is illegal according to EU law.”…"  Read more  Hmmmm… Tell me it ain’t so.  Are they also going to cheat on AVs?  Alain

  The Anti-Uber

P. Brown, June 17, "In this isolated agricultural community of 7,000 in the Central Valley, one of the state’s poorest cities and a place where nearly a quarter of households don’t have cars, Mrs. Lopez works as a “raitera” — driving people to the doctor’s office, the courthouse and other places found only in Fresno, 52 miles away. She ferries asthmatic children and women who have overdosed on prescription pills to the hospital, and students who have missed the bus to the high school in another town. She once delivered a baby in her car, which has covered 194,000 miles and counting….More broadly, “people in rural communities really get social capital,” said Katherine Freund, founder of ITN America, a nonprofit network of more than 700 drivers across the country, most of them volunteers, who give rides to seniors and the visually impaired…"   Read more  Hmmmm… Katherine, you’ve created a really wonderful entity that should be embraced in every community.  You form the basis of providing mobility for everyone once Jeff and Eric roll out their driverless cars and allow you to leverage and scale your volunteers.  Alain

AV Policy Series # 4, June 21

P. Brubaker, June 15, "Bring your voice to a Chatham House Rules* discussion on the Senate Bipartisan Principles that will be used to shape the future of AV Law, Regulation and Policy.  

Join staff from the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, OEMs, national associations and other thought leaders that will shape the future of Automated Vehicle regulation in the United States…. Read more Hmmmm… Worth attending if you are in the DC area.  Alain

  Tesla has opened the floodgates of Autopilot data gathering

F. Lambert, June 14, "Self-driving cars are now a software and big data problem. Most of Tesla’s competitors in the field are working on expanding their test fleets in order to gather more data. GM announced yesterday that it is adding 130 autonomous Chevy Bolt EV prototypes to its test fleet and Waymo recently deployed 500 self-driving Pacifica hybrid minivans in Phoenix.  Tesla is going a completely different *route* by using its large fleet of vehicles already in the hands of customers to gather data, which is especially significant with its vehicles equipped with second generation hardware.

Today, we’ve learned that the automaker’s latest policy change has enabled gathering videos from those vehicles which is really opening the floodgates of Autopilot data gathering… "…We want to be super clear that these short video clips are not linked to your vehicle identification number. In order to protect your privacy, we have ensured that there is no way to search our system for clips that are associated with a specific car.”  (When releasing an Autopilot 2.0 update last month, Tesla also asked owners for the authorization to collect videos from the Autopilot cameras.) .." Read more  Hmmmm… Elon, congratulations on embracing, empowering and benefiting your customers by creating a process by which customers who wish to help improve this most valuable product and benefit directly from the offered help through the over-the-air  update process, can .  Even if only a few of your customers opt in, they and all other customers will benefit.  Improving this technology requires a village.  Thank you for creating that village.  Hopefully what will be learned will be shared more broadly with others who adopt this approach.  That way an even broader community will be able to benefit, faster.  Since this is all about SAFETY, this is where the industry should be cooperating to maximize societal benefit and not use SAFETY as a competitive advantage.  Effective competition can be found in other areas.     Alain

Waymo retires its cute self-driving car in favor of minivans

J. Kastrenakes, June 12, "Waymo is done driving around the cute, steering-wheel-free autonomous cars that were introduced by Google back in 2014. In a blog post this afternoon, Waymo leaders write that time has come to “retire our fleet of Fireflies” — their name for the tiny cars — and focus instead of integrating self-driving technology into other vehicles, like the Chrysler Pacifica minivans Waymo put on the road earlier this year.

“By focusing on mass-produced vehicles like the Pacifica minivan, we’ll be able to bring fully self-driving technology to more people, more quickly,” the Waymo leaders write. They also say that focusing on mass-produced vehicles opens up more opportunities for testing, since the Fireflies were limited to a top speed of 25 miles per hour…."  Read more Hmmmm… I hope this isn’t a move away from Driverless and reverting to the Self-driving ‘Dark-side".  Fireflies were driverless, (although I’m not sure that Waymo ever tested them in mixed traffic with no one in them.  Have they reported to the California Driverless testing regulations??) Pacificas have steering wheels and people able to take over and are thus the Dark Side (aka Self-driving).  Alain

From post-it note to prototype: The journey of our Firefly

Y. Ahn, June 12, "Back in 2013, our prototype vehicle was nothing more than post-it note origami. This miniature paper car was the product of countless hours dreaming up what a fully self-driving vehicle could look like. Should it be a space-age batmobile? A decked-out entertainment pod? Or perhaps a living room on wheels? In the end, we landed on the friendly two-seater vehicle, with no steering wheel or pedals, and a computer under the hood to handle every part of driving…." Read more Hmmmm… Nice! 🙂  Alain

Tim Cook Says Apple Focused on Autonomous Systems in Cars Push

A. Webb, June 13, "After years toiling away in secret on a car project, Apple Inc. Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook has for the first time elaborated on the company’s plans in the automotive market.   “We’re focusing on autonomous systems,” Cook said in a June 5 interview on Bloomberg Television that amounted to his most detailed comments yet on Apple’s automotive plans. “It’s a core technology that we view as very important.” He likened the effort to “the mother of all AI projects,” saying it’s “probably one of the most difficult AI projects to work on.”…" Read more Hmmmm… Other than confirmation, nothing much here.  Alain

Nvidia’s shift from gaming to self-driving cars

K. Hart, June 12, "Nvidia has been best known for building chips powerful enough for 3-D graphics and serious gaming, which still accounts for about half of the company’s business. One of the newest (and fastest growing) focus areas for the Silicon Valley chipmaker is powering the artificial intelligence needed for self-driving cars.  We caught up with Danny Shapiro, senior director of Automotive at Nvidia…" Read more  Hmmmm… Danny, nice interview.  Alain

Meet Carmera, A Startup Using Delivery Fleets to Create 3D Maps of Citi

E Griffith, June 5, "The biggest problem preventing our self-driving future from becoming a self-driving reality is, naturally, humans. We’re unpredictable, we jaywalk, we ride our bikes the wrong way down a one-way. We don’t alert mapping companies when we have initiated a construction project that blocks off half the road, or installed a new curb. The result is that self-driving cars are great on the open road. But constantly changing, people-packed dense, urban areas? Not so much.
That’s one problem Carmera, a New York City-based startup that’s been in stealth mode for the last two years, has set out to tackle. The company’s founders observed that constantly refreshed mapping data would be crucial for any company working on self-driving technology, and that the available options weren’t ideal.
By CEO and co-founder Ro Gupta’s measure, the current market for 3D mapping data falls into three buckets:…" Read more Hmmmm… Ro, All the best.. Also see Fred Fishkin interview.    Alain


Some other thoughts that deserve your attention

Meet the 89-Year-Old Reinventing the Train in His Backyard

A. Davies, June 214, "On a clear, sunny day at a vineyard in the northern California town of Ukiah, a most unusual train chugs through a field of barely budding syrah grapes. Well, it doesn’t chug so much as whoosh because this train—actually, a one-sixth scale train—doesn’t rely upon a diesel engine or electricity to get around. It uses vacuum power and heavy duty magnets.

The 89-year-old man who built it believes it could change how the world moves…. Read more Hmmmm… And see video.  Maybe??? Not as crazy as some of the other stuff.   Alain


On the More Technical Side

http://orfe.princeton.edu/~alaink/SmartDrivingCars/Papers/



Half-baked stuff that probably doesn’t deserve your time

Senators Release Bipartisan Principles for Self-Driving Vehicles Legislation

Press release, G. Peters,  "U.S. Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), John Thune (R-S.D.), and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) today released principles for bipartisan legislation on self-driving vehicles in advance of tomorrow’s Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee hearing, “Paving the Way for Self-Driving Vehicles.” The hearing will explore automated vehicle technology and hurdles for testing and deployment in the United States.

“Self-driving vehicles will not only dramatically change how we get from place to place, they have the potential to prevent accidents and save thousands of lives,” said Peters, a member of the Commerce Committee. “I’m pleased we have compiled this bipartisan framework, which is an important step toward introducing and enacting meaningful legislation that will help the federal government promote the safe development and adoption of self-driving vehicles and ensure the United States remains the world leader in transportation innovation.”

“Self-driving vehicle technology will have a transformational impact on highway safety,” said Thune, who chairs the full committee…" Read more Hmmmm… Sorry to keep pointing this out, but "Self-driving cars" will NOT have a
"…transformational impact on highway safety…""Safe-driving cars will, and deserve to get the credit, for having a transfomational impact on highway safety.  There is nothing about taking hands of wheels or feet off pedals that make cars safer.  Safety is all/(much) about over-riding human errors so as to avoid collisions and/or running off the road.   By extending the way Anti-lock brakes (ABS) and Electronic Stability Control (ESC) take over and "do the right thing" when you improperly apply the brakes and turn too aggressively, this can be simply accomplished.  Alain

China debuts driverless train that only needs white painted lines as tracks

Y. Tan, June 6, "China’s latest mode of public transportation is a bus, tram and train rolled into one.  Its maker, Chinese rail transit firm CRRC, is calling it a "smart bus," but it’s a lot more than that. Like a train, it’s modular and carriages can be added on; but like a bus, it runs on the road.  Amazingly, the carriage will follow a preset path and won’t need a driver — but it won’t need tracks to be laid, either. The train is equipped with sensors that’ll allow it to follow white-dotted lines on the road…."  Read more Hmmmm… Don’t believe the "…won’t need a driver…" Whatever!  Alain

A world first: Bosch creates a map that uses radar signals for automated driving

Press release, June 7, "Bosch and the Dutch map and traffic information provider TomTom have achieved a breakthrough in the development of high-resolution maps for automated driving…"  Read more Hmmmm…or maybe don’t T read more.  here is so much hyperbole here that you’d think it was written by "The Donald" himself.  Chance that this will be used for localization in anything but very special circumstances is "slim to none".  Alain

Honda Targeting Introduction of Level 4 Automated Driving Capability by 2025

Press release, June 7, "Honda today announced that it is targeting the year 2025 for the introduction of vehicles with highly-automated driving capability in most driving situations (SAE Level 4… or unusual driving environments, where the driver would be required to resume control….)  This new goal builds upon earlier-announced plans for Honda and Acura vehicles to have highly-automated freeway driving capability (SAE Level 3) by 2020. These are critical steps in Honda’s commitment to contribute to a collision-free society….

…Honda is rapidly advancing its deployment of advanced safety and driver-assistive technologies…Nearly a half-million Honda and Acura vehicles on U.S. roads today are equipped with these technologies, which include autonomous emergency braking (AEB) via the Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS™), Lane Keeping Assist (LKAS), Road Departure Mitigation (RDM) and Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC)…." Read more Hmmmm…Nice, BUT… Notice the caveat "… most driving  .".  Which means that this is just "Self-driving" and NOT "Driverless".  This is nothing but… same-old, same-old, or little better than what Tesla has on the market today.  I do give Honda enormous credit for putting "…half-million…" Safe-driving cars on US roads today.   Hopefully these "...advanced safety and driver-assistive technologies…" that Honda has deployed really work.  Assuming they do, then it will remain to be seen if the "2025 Level 4" technologies will significantly improve safety.  "...advanced safety and driver-assistive technologies…" certainly will need to work (and much more) and the self-driving may entice customers to buy, so Safety is indeed achieved through the ‘back door’, but the credit should go to the "...advanced safety and driver-assistive technologies…" .    Alain

The Race To Monetize Vehicle Data Gets More Crowded As BMW Hooks Up With IBM

S. Abuelsamid, June 14, "As cars and trucks get ever more packed with sensors and connectivity, they are already generating tens of gigabytes of data per hour and will soon be producing terabytes per hour.  In this modern world, data is often deemed as good as gold, just ask Google and Facebook. That’s why everyone connected to the auto industry is scrambling to figure out ways to make a business out of data with the latest being BMW and IBM. The two are partnering up on the automakers CarData platform…" Read more Hmmmm…Seems awfully sophomoric. Hopefully the real details have substance. Alain

  GM’s Cruise Automation Wades Into HD Mapping to Aid Autonomous-Car Efforts

T. Higgins, June 18, "A small autonomous-cars company owned by General Motors Co. is getting into the high-definition mapping business, a move that could help the Detroit auto giant compete with Google and others in the race to develop self-driving vehicles…"  Read more Hmmmm…The race is all about being able to "understand what is going on around the car and knowing what to do every "1/20th" of a second all the time". Having a clear history of what happened "yesterday" helps only with what hasn’t changed. That might help, but that doesn’t ‘cut it’ in the end.  I like to say that I’ve driven from Princeton to Newark Airport so many times that I could do it with my eyes closed.  That wouldn’t be a pretty sight ( and that’s not because I don’t have a photographic memory).  The AI is the real competition, else I wouldn’t have been able to do it the first time.  Alain

Tesla’s Model X earns all-around 5-star safety rating from NHTSA

D. Etherington, June 13, "The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has bestowed its highest ever SUV safety rating to Tesla’s Model X. The Model X earned a 5-star rating in every category and sub-category that NHTSA tests, using the government body’s own independent testing process. This also puts the Model X second only to the Model S in terms of overall injury probability to passengers per NHTSA’s ranking system….NHTSA’s rating system predicts around a 93 percent chance of a passenger in the Model X walking away from serious crashes…Read more Hmmmm…What about its ability to avoid crash.  Why doesn’t NHTSA include that in its safety rating system.  Make it a `10-star’ rating system.  5 stars for crash mitigation and 5 stars for crash avoidance.  X might get a 7.5.  Most other cars wouldn’t break 5.0.  That rating system would cure the current grade inflation. C’mon NHTSA, up your game.   Alain


C’mon Man!  (These folks didn’t get/read the memo

AUTONOMOUS CARS WILL TRANSFORM EVERYDAY LIFE, FROM JOBS TO PARENTING TO SEX

K. Mahney, June 18, "…" Do NOT read. Hmmmm…Newsweek, you have become totally pathetic.So bad.  Worse than a C’mon Man!  Alain


 

Calendar of Upcoming Events:

AV Policy Series # 4

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

American Institute of Architects
1735 New York Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20006


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


Recent Highlights of:

Monday, June 12, 2017

G.M. Wants to Drive the Future of Cars That Drive Themselves

B. Vlasic, June 4, "… How would it react, for example, when it reached an intersection as a light turned yellow?  Driving in a situation like that, “you have to make a decision,” she recalled in a recent interview. “Generally if you decide to go, you decide to speed up. Or you stop.” If the technology works, she said, it will make the right decision: “The car knows.”

In beginning (sic) to assemble fully automated Bolts in January, G.M. was a step ahead of Google and Uber, which are converting mass-market minivans and sedans into driverless models. It went beyond what Tesla has achieved with autonomous controls on its own models. And it reflected the feverish competition underway…" Read more  Hmmmm… C’mon Bill, GM might be a step ahead of Google (who is not in this anymore) , but it is nowhere near Waymo.  And what is a "fully automated" Bolt?  It is certainly NOT "fully" anything.   Seems like the same-old GM but now with new ‘Corinthian Leather’ to sell to consumers through their network of dealers.  That leather will boost sales in the short run, and decrease the carnage on our roadways , which is great while keeping everyone in their same-old comfort zone of owning their own.   Unfortunately, the Bolt’s  "Corinthian Leather" turns to Flea & Moth Infested Burlap during parts of every trip, thus requiring a human driver to be ready to come to the rescue.  Consequently, the Bolt does NOT deliver the elevator-like mobility that some/many envision when someone says "cars that drive themselves" without explicitly adding in bold "only some of the time.  It won’t be able to provide mobility to the young, those under the influence, those that don’t have a driver’s license,… The Bolt is of no real help to Lyft or Uber or Didi or …but many people will buy Bolts!   Alain

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Rethinking Mobility: The ‘pay-as-you-go’ ca: Ride hailing, just the start

 S. Burgstaller, May 23,"The c.$7 tn global mobility market is speeding into the era of the “pay-as-you-go” car. Ride-hailing services such as Uber and Didi are pioneering a ‘cloud’ mobility system, which is using data to change
how the wealthiest cities move. In Rethinking Mobility, we model how the ride-hailing opportunity can grow to $285 bn by 2030, and is the precursor to a broader technological and social transformation.  We examine how the market might live up to the high valuations of its pioneers, why car sales may prove surprisingly resilient despite the change, and where automakers have a chance to transform their profitability as operators of fleets of autonomous cars…." Read more Hmmmm… Nice to see GoldMine Sachs finally weigh in.  The report is chock full of information and there is a lot here to absorb. 

The big impact will be if we ever get to Driverless without which you don’t replace even one Uber driver.  
Without Driverless, the issue centers on the 8x penetration of hailing rides.  At 8x  only car rental and little else is effected.  At 80x it effects car ownership but there will not be enough gig workers to support it.  So it doesn’t scale without Driverless.

With Driverless, then it is all about ridesharing as with elevators.  If it is as easy as elevators, then car ownership  diminishes greatly.

The report doesn’t respect the enormous difference between Driverless and Non-driversless (Self-driving and Safe-Driving; Levels 0 -> 4).  It seems to  assumes Driverless, yet it does not deal with the likelihood that Driverless will be achieved and fails to realize/identify the enormous forces that may come to bear that will attempt to derail Driverless at all costs.  The strongest of which may well be the "GMs" of this world.  GMs are all about Self-driving which REQUIRES a driver ( thus consumer ownership) and perpetuates their 100 year old business model.  Driverless scales ‘cloud mobility’ beyond the ‘8x’ limits of a gig economy and enables horizontal ‘cloud mobility’ to become as ubiquitous as the elevator is in vertical mobility.  Yes, there are still stair cases, and private ‘cloud-mobility" elevators for the 0.01%, but the masses will just grin&share the on-demand ‘cloud-mobility’ elevators without a 2nd thought.  Driverless assuaged vertical mobility anxiety. Driverless is the critical technological element that will assuage horizontal mobility anxiety and enable widespread horizontal ‘cloud mobility’.

Communities may find, as tall buildings have found, that they really work best (even at all) if they accommodate shared ‘cloud’ mobility and provide it for ‘free’ simply because it is so effective in capturing the enhanced land values that are unlocked by such mobility.  We’ve always been able to walk up and down a couple of flights of stair, but once we were easily able to go (via on-demand ‘cloud’ mobility available 24x7x365) more than four or so, then the sky became the limit. Are similar horizontal land values waiting to be unlocked if they simply pick up the tab for that on-demand horizontal ‘cloud’ mobility?  If so, then the GMs of this world are in a heap of trouble.  Alain

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit

May 18, Enormously successful inaugural Summit starting with the Adam Jonas video and finishing with Fred Fishkin’s live interview with Wm. C Ford III.  In between, serious engagement among over 150 leaders from Communities at the bleeding edge of deployment, Insurance struggling with how to properly promote the adoption of technology that may well force them to re-invent themselves and AI (Artificial Intelligence) and the various technologies that are rapidly advancing so that we can actually deliver the safety, environmental, mobility and quality of life opportunities envisioned by these “Ultimate Shared-Riding Machines”.

Save the Date for the 2nd Annual… May 16 & 17, 2018, Princeton NJ  Read Inaugural Program with links to Slides. Fishkin Interview of Summit Summary and Interview of Yann LeCun Read Inaugural Program with links to Slides. Hmmmm… Enormous thank you to all who participated.  Well done!  Alain

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Exploring the Bear Case: Distracted Driving + ADAS = $7 Trillion of Used Values at Risk

A. Jonas, Feb 1 "A sharp rise in traffic death & rapid growth of semiautonomous tech as standard equipment can accelerate the obsolescence of used cars, with potentially negative implications for secondhand values, auto credit & SAAR. We see elevated auto credit risk & avoid used car exposure….
…One could reasonably argue that if a technology can save 10k or 20k lives and hundreds of thousands of injuries per year in the US it should be (1) affordable and (2) not be optional equipment. Contrary to this, we found the majority of models currently available either do not offer active safety features or offer them only as optional equipment at prohibitively high costs. Our key takeaways are summarized below:…" Read More Hmmmm… First, sorry that I just saw this excellent report.  On top of the enormous substance, this report doesn’t mention that some/many of these systems don’t work as well as they should.  Some don’t brake if the the object ahead is stationary, others get confused with white back-lighting, others only apply the brake after the driver starts applying the brake and others only apply the brakes up to a 50% level.  Here we are trying to let drivers take hands of wheels and feet off pedals, yet we don’t have Safe-driving Cars that actually work (…experiencing essentially no false positives or false negatives) .  Alain

Monday, May 8, 2017

Walt Disney World plans to deploy driverless shuttles in Florida

R. Mitchell, Apr 28, "Walt Disney World in Florida appears poised to launch the highest-profile commercial deployment of driverless passenger vehicles to date, testing a fleet of driverless shuttles that could cart passengers through parking lots and around its theme parks.

According to sources with direct knowledge of Disney’s plans, the company is in late-stage negotiation with at least two manufacturers of autonomous shuttles – Local Motors, based in Phoenix, and Navya, based in Paris. It’s unclear whether contracts would go to both or just one of the companies…." Read More Hmmmm…This is exciting and substantial especially if it will be justified purely on its ability to deliver mobility, not entertainment, and will be financially self-sufficient.  Since it will be operating on Disney property, Disney can pretty much do as Disney wishes without having to be burdened by regulation meant to alleviate anxiety about the new and unfamiliar.  This is really exciting! Alain

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Waymo to Offer Phoenix Area Access to Self-Driving Cars

D. Streitfeld, Apr, 25, "…On Tuesday, the company was to announce the next phase of testing: putting ordinary people inside its Chrysler minivans and Lexuses….Only those who live in Chandler, Mesa, Tempe and Gilbert — roughly the southeastern Phoenix area — will be eligible for the program. And the cars, for that matter, will not take them anywhere else — no weekend jaunts to the Grand Canyon. Read More Hmmmm... Here we go!  Very conservative, but the path ahead is clear.  In 2013 they said that they were going to do this in 2017!   This is the beginning of real commercialization. Congratulations!  This is a major milestone.  Alain

Tuesday, April 17, 2017

Don’t Worry, Driverless Cars Are Learning From Grand Theft Auto

D. Hall, Apr 17, "In the race to the autonomous revolution, developers have realized there aren’t enough hours in a day to clock the real-world miles needed to teach cars how to drive themselves. Which is why Grand Theft Auto V is in the mix.
The blockbuster video game is one of the simulation platforms researchers and engineers increasingly rely on to test and train the machines being primed to take control of the family sedan. Companies from Ford Motor Co. to Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo may boast about putting no-hands models on the market in three years, but there’s a lot still to learn about drilling algorithms in how to respond when, say, a mattress falls off a truck on the freeway….The idea isn’t that the highways and byways of the fictional city of Los Santos would ever be a substitute for bona fide asphalt. But the game “is the richest virtual environment that we could extract data from,” said Alain Kornhauser…"  Read More Hmmmm... Well…we have a slightly different view of history wrt to GTA5.  The ‘Alain view’ is that Chenyi Chen*16 independently started investigating the use of virtual environments as a source of Image – Affordances data sets to use as the training sets in a ‘Direct Perception’ approach to creating a self-driving algorithm.  Images of the road ahead are converted into the instantaneous geometry that is implied by those image.  An optimal controller then determines the the steering, brake and throttle values to best drive the car.  The critical element in that process are the Image – Affordances data sets which need to be pristine.  Chenyi demonstrated in his PhD dissertation , summarized in the ICCV2015 paper,  that by using the pristine Image – Affordances data sets from an open-source game TORCS one could have a virtual car drive a virtual race course without crashing.  More importantly, when tested on images from real driving situations, the computed affordances were close to correct.

This encouraged us to look for more appropriate virtual environments. For many reasons, including: "wouldn’t it be amazing if ‘Grand Theft Auto 5’ actually generated some positive ‘redeeming social value’ by contributing to the development of algorithms that actually made cars safer; saving grief, injuries and lives".  Consequently, in the Fall of 2015, Artur Filipowicz’17 began to investigate using GTA5 to train Convolutional Neural Networks to perform some of the Direct Perception aspects of automated driving.  With Jeremiah Liu, he continued his efforts in this direction last summer which were presented at TRB in January.  Yesterday, he and Nyan Bhat’17 turned in their Senior Theses focused on this topic.

Indeed, GTA5 is a rich virtual environment that begins to efficiently and effective address the data needs of Deep Learning approaches to safe driving.    Alain

Monday, March 20, 2017

Uber’s autonomous cars drove 20,354 miles and had to be taken over at every mile, according to documents

J. Bhuiyan, Mar 16, "Some of Uber’s self-driving cars aren’t driving as smoothly as the company hoped they would. Documents circulated throughout the company’s self-driving group, which Recode obtained, gives us a first look at the progress of the ride-hail company’s robot cars in Pennsylvania, Arizona and California.
The top line: Uber’s robot cars are steadily increasing the number of miles driven autonomously. But the figures on rider experience — defined as a combination of how many times drivers have to take over and how smoothly the car drives — are still showing little progress….
For example: During the week ending March 8, the 43 active cars on the road only drove an average of close to 0.8 miles before the safety driver had to take over for one reason or another…
The good news is the number of miles between these “critical” interventions has recently improved. Last week, the company’s cars drove an average of approximately 200 miles between those types of incidents that required a driver to take over…" Read more Hmmm… Waymo is so incredibly far ahead.  Even with these statistics, it depends on when and where the miles were drive.  It is relatively unchallenging in some places at some times, especially if you’ve experienced it many times before. Its all about being able to handle the unexpected to achieve Driverless. Uber accrues no substantive value until it reaches Driverless.  Self-driving’s only value is as a way/process to achieve Driverless.  Alain

Friday, March 10, 2017

Robot cars — with no human driver — could hit California roads next year

R. Mitchell, Mar 10, "California is back on the map as a state that’s serious about welcoming driverless cars.Truly driverless cars — vehicles with no human behind the wheel, and perhaps no steering wheel at all — are headed toward California streets and highways starting in 2018…
The regulations lay out “a clear path for future deployment of autonomous vehicles” in California, said Bernard Soriano, deputy director at the Department of Motor Vehicles…." Read more Hmmm… Congratulations Bernard!  This is fantastic news on the road to providing high-quality mobility for all.  It squarely addresses the fundamental need to efficiently re-position vehicles so that they can get to even those who can’t drive.  This is a real turning point for automated vehicles from self-driving toys for the 1% to affordable, environmentally friendly mobility for everyone.  Alain

Friday, February 24, 2017

Alphabet’s Waymo Alleges Uber Stole Self-Driving Secrets

M. Bergen, Feb 23, "It took Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo seven years to design and build a laser-scanning system to guide its self-driving cars. Uber Technologies Inc. allegedly did it in nine months.
Waymo claims in a lawsuit filed Thursday that was possible because a former employee stole the designs and technology and started a new company….Anthony Levandowski, a former manager at Waymo, in December 2015 downloaded more than 14,000 proprietary and confidential files, including the lidar circuit board designs, according to the complaint. He also allegedly created a domain name for his new company and confided in some of his Waymo colleagues of plans to “replicate” its technology for a competitor…." Read more   Hmmm…This is very serious.  So unfortunate.  🙁   Alain

Friday, February 17, 2017

Motor Vehicle Deaths in 2016 Estimated to be Highest in Nine Years

Press release, Feb. 15, "NSC offers insight into what drivers are doing and calls for immediate implementation of proven, life-saving measures…

With the upward trend showing no sign of subsiding, NSC is calling for immediate implementation of life-saving measures that would set the nation on a road to zero deaths:…" Read more  Hmmm…"Automated Collision Avoidance" or anything having to do with ‘Safe-driving Cars‘ is not mentioned anywhere in the Press Release.  One of us is missing something very fundamental here!!  So depressing!!  🙁   Alain

Friday, January 27, 2017

Serving the Nation’s Personal Mobility Needs with the Casual Sharing of autonomousTaxis & Today’s Urban Rail, Amtrak and Air Transport Systems

A. Kornhauser, Jan 14, "Orf467F16 Final Project Symposium quantifying implications of such a Nation-wide mobility system on Average Vehicle Occupancy (AVO), energy, environment and congestion, including estimates of fleet size, needed empty vehicle repositioning, and ridership implications on existing rail transit systems (west, east, NYC) and Amtrak of a system that would efficiently and effectively perform their ‘1st mile’/’last-mile’ mobility needs. Read more  Hmmm… Now linked are 1st Drafts of the chapters and the powerPoint summaries of these elements.  Final Report should be available by early February.  The major finding is, nationwide there exists sufficient casual ridesharing potential that a well–managed  Nationwide Fleet of about 30M aTaxis (in conjunction with the existing air, Amtrak and Urban fixed-rail systems)  could serve the vehicular mobility needs of the whole nation with VMT 40% less than today’s automobiles while providing a Level-of-Service (LoS) largely equivalent and in many ways superior than is delivered by the personal automobile today.  Also interesting are the findings as to the substantial increased patronage opportunities available to Amtrak and each of the fixed rail transit systems around the country because the aTaxis solve the ‘1st and last mile’ problem.  While all of this is extremely good news, the challenging news is that since all of these fixed rail systems currently lose money on each passenger served, the additional patronage would likely mean that they’ll lose even more money in the future. 🙁  Alain 

ODI (Office of Defects Investigation) Findings on Tesla AEB & AutoPilot

(Above link should work) Jan 19, "… Summary: …     NHTSA’s examination did not identify any defects in the design or performance of the AEB or Autopilot  systems of the subject vehicles nor any incidents in which the systems did not perform as designed.  AEB systems used in the  automotive industry through MY 2016 are rear-end collision avoidance technologies that are not designed to reliably  perform in all crash modes, including crossing path collisions.  The Autopilot system is an Advanced Driver Assistance  System (ADAS) that requires the continual and full attention of the driver to monitor the traffic environment and be prepared to take action to avoid crashes.  Tesla’s design included a hands-on the steering wheel system for monitoring driver engagement…
…  ODI analyzed data from crashes of Tesla Model S and Model X vehicles involving airbag deployments that occurred while operating in, or within 15 seconds of transitioning from, Autopilot mode. Some crashes involved impacts from other vehicles striking the Tesla from various directions with little to no warning to the Tesla driver.  Other crashes involved scenarios known to be outside of the state-of-technology for current-generation Level 1 or 2 systems, such as cut-ins, cut-outs and crossing path collisions…. 
…The Florida fatal crash appears to have involved a period of extended distraction (at least 7 seconds)…"
.Hmmm… nothing else is written about this nor is a basis given for  the ‘at least 7 seconds’.  Possibly the most important information revealed in this summary is Figure 11, p11: "…  Figure 11 shows the rates calculated by ODI for airbag deployment crashes in the subject Tesla vehicles before and after Autosteer installation.  The data show that the Tesla vehicles crash rate dropped by almost 40 percent after Autosteer installation…
…A safety-related defect trend has not been identified at this time and further examination of this issue does not appear to be warranted.  Accordingly, this
investigation is closed. "  Read more  Hmmm… WOW!!! . Every word of this Finding is worth reading.  It basically exonerates Tesla, states that AEBs (Automated Emergency Braking) systems don’t really work and aren’t designed to work in some scenarios (straight crossing path (SCP) and left turn across path (LTAP), see p 2,3).  …which suggests, to me, that DoT/NHTSA should be placing substantial efforts on making these systems really work in more scenarios.  And… there is the solid data that ‘AutoSteer" reduced Tesla crashes by almost 40%!!! WOW!! Will Insurance now finally get on-board and lead?  Alai

Friday, September 23, 2016

Federal Automated Vehicles Policy: Accelerating the Next Revolution In Roadway Safety

September 2016, "Executive Summary…For DOT, the excitement around highly automated vehicles (HAVs) starts with safety.  (p5)

…The development of advanced automated vehicle safety technologies, including fully self-driving cars, may prove to be the greatest personal transportation revolution since the popularization of the personal automobile nearly a century ago. (p5)

…The benefits don’t stop with safety. Innovations have the potential to transform personal mobility and open doors to people and communities. (p5)

…The remarkable speed with which increasingly complex HAVs are evolving challenges DOT to take new approaches that ensure these technologies are safely introduced (i.e., do not introduce significant new safety risks), provide safety benefits today, and achieve their full safety potential in the future. (p6)  Hmmm…Fantastic statements and I appreciate that the fundamental basis and motivator is SAFETY.  We all have recognized safety as a necessary   condition that must be satisfied if this technology is to be successful.  (unfortunately it is not a sufficient condition, (in a pure math context)). This policy statement appropriately reaffirms this necessary condition.  Alain

"…we divide the task of facilitating the safe introduction and deployment (…defines “deployment” as the operation of an HAV by members of the public who are not the employees or agents of the designer, developer, or manufacturer of that HAV.) of HAVs into four sections:(p6) Hmmm…Perfect! Alain

"…1. Vehicle Performance Guidance for Automated Vehicles (p6)…"  Hmmm… 15 Points, more later. Alain

"…2. Model State Policy (p7)   The Model State Policy confirms that States retain their traditional responsibilities…but… The shared objective is to ensure the establishment of a consistent national framework rather than a patchwork of incompatible laws…" Hmmm… Well done.  Alain

"…3. NHTSA Current Regulatory Tools (p7) … This document provides instructions, practical guidance, and assistance to entities seeking to employ those tools. Furthermore, NHTSA has streamlined its review process and is committing to…"   Hmmm… Excellent. Alain

"…4. New Tools and Authorities (p7)…The speed with which HAVs are advancing, combined with the complexity and novelty of these innovations, threatens to outpace the Agency’s conventional regulatory processes and capabilities. This challenge requires DOT to examine whether the way DOT has addressed safety for the last 50 years should be expanded to realize the safety potential of automated vehicles over the next 50 years. Therefore, this section identifies potential new tools, authorities and regulatory structures that could aid the safe and appropriately expeditious deployment of new technologies by enabling the Agency to be more nimble and flexible (p8)…"  Hmmm… Yes. Alain

"…Note on “Levels of Automation”  There are multiple definitions for various levels of automation and for some time there has been need for standardization to aid clarity and consistency. Therefore, this Policy adopts the SAE International (SAE) definitions for levels of automation. )  Hmmm… I’m not sure this adds clarity because it does not deal directly with the difference between self-driving and driverless.  While it might be implied in level 4 and level 5 that these vehicles can proceed with no one in the vehicle, it is not stated explicitly.  That is unfortunate, because driverless freight delivery can’t be done without "driverless"; neither can mobility-on-demand be offered to the young, old, blind, inebriated, …without "driverless".  Vehicles can’t be "repositioned-empty" (which (I don’t mean to offend anyone) is the real value of a taxi driver today).  So autonomousTaxis are impossible.

Also, these levels do not address Automated Emergency Braking  (AEB) Systems and Automated Lane Keeping Systems which are the very first systems whose on-all-the-time performance must be perfected.   These are the Safety Foundation of HAV (Highly Automated vehicles).  I understand that the guidelines may assume that these systems are already perfect and that "20 manufacturer have committed" to have AEB on all new cars, but to date these systems really don’t work.  In 12 mph IIHS test, few stop before hitting the target, and, as we may have seen with the Florida Tesla crash, the Level 2/3 AutoPilot may not have failed, but, instead, it was the "Phantom Level 1" AEB that is supposed to be on all the time.  This is not acceptable.  These AEB systems MUST get infinitely better now.  It is a shame that AEBs were were not explicitly addressed in this document.

"…I. Vehicle Performance Guidance for Automated Vehicles (p11) A. Guidance: if a vehicle is compliant within the existing FMVSS regulatory framework and maintains a conventional vehicle design, there is currently no specific federal legal barrier to an HAV being offered for sale.(footnote 7)  However, manufacturers and other entities designing new automated vehicle systems
are subject to NHTSA’s defects, recall and enforcement authority. (footnote 8)   . and the "15 Cross-cutting Areas of Guidance" p17)

In sum this is a very good document and displays just how far DoT policy has come from promoting v2v, DSRC and centralized control, "connected",  focus to creating an environment focused on individual vehicles that responsibly take care of themselves.  Kudos to Secretary Foxx for this 180 degree policy turn focused on safety.   Once done correctly, the HAV will yield the early safety benefits that will stimulate continued improvements that, in turn, will yield the great mobility, environmental and quality-of-life benefits afforded by driverless mobility. 

What are not addressed are commercial trucking and buses/mass transit.  NHTSA is auto focused, so maybe FMCSA is preparing similar guidelines.  FTA (Federal Transit Administration) seems nowhere in sight.  Alain

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

May 7 Crash

Hmmm…What we know now (and don’t know):

Extracting Cognition out of Images for the Purpose of Autonomous Driving

Thursday, March 17, 2016

U.S. DOT and IIHS announce historic commitment of 20 automakers to make automatic emergency braking standard on new vehicles

Sunday, December 19, 2015

Adam Jonas’ View on Autonomous Cars

Video similar to part of Adam’s Luncheon talk @ 2015 Florida Automated Vehicle Symposium on Dec 1.  Hmmm … Watch Video  especially at the 13:12 mark.  Compelling; especially after the 60 Minutes segment above!  Also see his TipRanks.  Alain


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