http://smartdrivingcar.com/5.35-BAML-BigBang-102217
35th edition of the 5th year of SmartDrivingCars

Sunday, October 22 , 2017

Automotive Industry: The Big Bang – the Second Coming … could it even be the next Amazon?

J. Murphy, Oct 18, “Auto industry’s identity crisis: a need for speed, ease, cost.  Given all the hype surrounding the automotive industry and incremental technological developments (electrification, autonomy, and connectivity), that we believe are important interim steps, we believe some have lost sight of the industry’s fundamental purpose: safely transporting people (goods) from A to B in the fastest manner possible. The next Big Bang(s), in our view, will be the convergence of all of the ongoing and new technological developments that will materially increase the value of a vehicle/driving experience to the consumer (and by extension value to companies and shareholders), including: 1) Increased efficiency of travel; 2) Autonomous ride/drive on demand (marginal economic positive); and 3) Increased speed of travel (material economic stimulus).
… the revenue/profit for OEMs or technology companies in this evolution may be far-dated…. we believe more companies will attempt in the nearterm, even before commercialization, to ring-fence and monetize “future auto” businesses, separate traditional businesses, or even sell technology/assets.
…We believe the best-positioned companies are those with vertically integrated business models, offering vehicle connectivity, autonomous driving capabilities (likely on electrified vehicle platforms), and a user interfaces for ride-sharing/hailing applications, which will then enable them to operate vehicle fleets and generate a recurring stream of revenue/profits. However, the most critical aspect and barrier to entry appears to be the manufacturing expertise to build production-ready models for deployment. For this reason, there is actually a competitive moat around the OEMs that we think provides them with an advantage in this evolutionary process.
…In this report, we identify a number of sectors within (suppliers, distribution, etc.) and outside of the auto industry (real estate, energy, other transportation, etc.) that may be disrupted in the Big Bang. However, in our view, distribution networks may be most susceptible to a potential shock if fully autonomous, connected, high speed mobility on demand was offered at a low cost, which may represent one of the few cases in which a company like Amazon may be a disrupted entity (barring its own evolution).  Read more Hmmmm… Fascinating!!  In-depth analysis of the fundamental economic forces at play in this mobility r-evolution.  A lot to digest here!  Alain

Automated Driving Systems Public Workshop Readout

Washington DC, Oct 20, “The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is committed to the safe deployment of automated vehicles. NHTSA hosted a public workshop today to get feedback on the Voluntary Safety Self-Assessments discussed in the Automated Driving Systems 2.0: A Vision for Safety guidance released last month.    …The workshop , overall, was a productive, open forum, where manufacturers, suppliers, safety advocates, and other entities shared the types of information that could be made available, and opportunities for making that information public. There were over 100 attendees present, and many more who participated via a LIVE Webcast. A full transcript will be available in the coming weeks.  ” Read more Hmmmm… Congratulations Nat, I agree that it was productive.  The comments the by Global Automakers, AAMVA, MEMA Waymo and AAM were positive and helpful. 

The opening remarks by NHTSA Acting Administrator Heidi King: “… At DOT and NHTSA, of course, our central focus is always on safety. NHTSA’s mission remains to help Americans drive, ride and walk safely…” Given that Safety is central, It is unfortunate that Automated Driving systems 2.0 skips over ‘Safe-driving‘ (ADAS or Level1/2 or whatever) and jumps right into Self-driving (Level 3/4/5 or whatever) to address Safety.  Essentially all of the Automated Vehicle Safety achievements (crash avoidance, lane departure avoidance, etc..) will be achieved by Safe-driving vehicles that always over-ride our failures and do the right thing even if they don’t let us take our hands off the wheel or feet off the pedals.  These systems are beginning to be made available today and it is not an understatement to say that they don’t work as well as they should/could and there is essentially total confusion in the marketplace/showroom about the capabilities/consumer-expectations about these systems.  NHTSA’s  5-Star Safety Ratings program doesn’t even consider any of these systems.  Since ‘Safe-driving‘ has the greatest and nearest term potential impact on Safety, why is it NOT part of this AV program?  These systems are being tested; shouldn’t NHTSA be calling for a Self-assessment of these systems.  Safe-driving systems are beginning to be here now and I contend the public is totally confused. 

“…Public trust is essential to the advancement of automated technology….”  I wholeheartedly agree!! That trust needs to be earned and its first exposure is mixed. Anti-lock brakes and Electronic Stability Control are automated systems that have earned public trust event though they automatically detect erroneous driver behavior and automatically over-ride those actions in order to do the best that they can to keep the driver safe.  But what about these Safe-driving (Level 1/2, …) systems.  These are automated systems focused on Safety, yet NHTSA hasn’t even bothered to include any of these systems in its 5-Star Safety Ratings programThe public is totally confused about what is being offered and there seems to be no public trust evernthough these systems are the very foundations of Self-driving and Driverless systems.  It is necessary that Safety and public trust be established first in Safe-driving systems.  This forms the basis on which to expand that public trust to the  downstream systems that deliver other societal benefits, comfort & convenience for Self-driving and affordable mobility for all for Driverless, while providing very little, if any incremental Safety benefits over Safe-driving technology.  So… NHTSA’s 1st order of business should be to ensure that Safe-driving technology actually works and is valued by car buyers.

A substantial part of the problem here is that the terminology that is being used is totally confusing.  NHTSA’s decision to give up on its original 4-Level nomenclature was good, they just chose to adopt an even worse one, SAE’s.  It focuses entirely on the details of the technology, rather than on the value that is to be derived from the technology.  The Levels invoke no fundamental cognitive relationships; nothing that would inspire…”tell me more”. Thus, engineers might eventually pay attention long enough to absorb the more than 7+/-2 chunks of cognitive information needed to understand the differences in the “Levels”.   Unfortunately, corporate buyers, journalists, planning, policy and/or legislative officials and the general public/consumers remain totally confused. 

I’ve suggested three categories: Safe-driving…, Self-driving… and Driverless…  Not necessarily perfect, because the leader of Driverless chose long ago (~8 years) to call itself Self-driving.  Unfortunately, the term Self-driving with human supervision, reinforces the auto industry’s 100-year old business model of selling personal comfort and convenience to consumers.  The auto industry doesn’t bother emphasizing the partial nature of its Self-driving.  Waymo has chosen to add the  prefix “Fully” in an effort to differentiate itself as really Driverless that is  fundamentally attractive to a different business model focused on Fleets delivering mobility services to a public that doesn’t own cars. But few are aware of the enormous difference implied by the the existence of the prefix.   

In its efforts to engender public trust, NHTSA needs to rethink what it calls these things.  An opportunity exists in the re-framing of its Star Ratings, Or maybe,  this crash-avoidance technology is so different from the crash-mitigation technology that is NHTSA’s sweet-spot, that a new agency or a new division of NHTSA should be created to provide the crash-avoidance safety oversight.  Alain

GM to Test Fleet of Self-Driving Cars in New York

M.Colias, Oct 17, “General Motors Co. GM -1.62% plans to become the first company to test self-driving cars in New York City, a move aimed at asserting leadership in the race to develop autonomous cars and a potentially important step toward commercializing the technology.  GM  will deploy a fleet of self-driving Chevrolet Bolt electric cars early next year in a 5-square-mile section of lower Manhattan that engineers are mapping, said Kyle Vogt, chief executive of Cruise Automation, the driverless-car developer GM acquired last year. The move could be seen as a threat to the thousands of taxi drivers piloting yellow cabs around New York, as autonomous robot-taxis operated by GM and its rivals are seen eventually displacing human drivers…”  Read more Hmmmm… Congratulations Kyle!  Paraphrasing Sinatra: If you can make it there, you can … “.  Hopefully, NY State’s requirement of a State Police escort won’t be a game breaker.  Of course, be very careful of pedestrians and cyclists.  They always claim the right-of-way.  Plus, there are no reliable lane markings, so wrt other vehicles, right-of-way is all about whose nose is ahead.  If yours is ahead, do what you need to do, if not, always yield!  🙂.   Alain

De Blasio says he won’t greenlight self-driving car tests

J. Jorgrnsen, Oct 19, “Mayor de Blasio says he’ll try to stop self-driving cars in their tracks.  Hizzoner blasted plans announced by frequent foe Gov. Cuomo to test autonomous General Motors vehicles on Manhattan streets and said the city would “work vigorously to stop it.”  “This announcement was done without any knowledge of the City of New York and that is unacceptable,” de Blasio said at an unrelated Upper West Side press conference…. A rep for the mayor, Eric Phillips, said, “We trust the DMV when it comes to renewing licenses. We trust the NYPD when it comes to keeping our streets safe.”  Read more Hmmmm… Woops.  Turf battle!  May not be so easy to “make it there”  🙁 Alain

Addison Lee and Ford launch driverless car coalition for London

M. Field, Oct 12, “London cab company Addison Lee is to lead a government-backed effort into driverless car research,..to explore the potential for unmanned vehicles and ride-sharing services in London….” Read more  Hmmmm… See next posting.  Alain

The MERGE Greenwich project: Report 1A: Anticipated uptake of Autonomous vehicle ride-sharing

Oct 2017, “…Analysis by the MERGE Greenwich consortium indicates AV ride-sharing could reach 2.5 million passenger trips per day in London by 2025, equivalent to one-in-seven total trips taken in the capital. Private car and taxi journeys are expected to see the biggest reduction, with roughly a third of both categories expected to be replaced by a ride-sharing programme.  In total, a ride-sharing service could be worth as much as £3.5bn of the total amount spent on
transport in London each year at today’s rates.  … This report outlines the potential uptake, opportunities and challenges of an AV ride-sharing  service and is MERGE Greenwich’s first step towards simulating a full scale AV ride-sharing service, integrated with public transport.  Full results from the MERGE Greenwich project will be available in the summer of 2018. Readers of this report are invited to regularly track the project’s progress at www.mergegreenwich.com  ”  Read more Hmmmm… As per the Report title:  Anticipated… really means what is Anticipated will be found once trips have been simulated in   “…a full scale AV ride-sharing service, integrated with public transports…”    Seems like they may be putting the “cart before the horse” with this report, but it is still a valuable report in that it tries to assess the ride-share potential from available aggregate data of London’s mobility market.  My contention is that ride-sharing is very much an individual choice that is highly dependent on the specific origin, destination and timing of individual trips.  Market forecasts of ride-sharing need to start with individual trips to assess the potential of ride sharing (e.g. Helsinki and New Jersey)  , rather than a spatial and temporal aggregate of trips and trying to carve them into those that might ride share and those that won’t. Can’t wait until next summer when the real results will be available. Alain 

Ride-sharing services like Uber cutting into public transit use in Chicago, elsewhere: study

M. Wisniewski, Oct 19, “…The Emanuel administration maintains that the ride-sharing industry has drained $40 million from city and other local government coffers, in part by shifting some commuters away from the CTA….”  Read more Hmmmm… I thought Uber/Lyft services would help solve Transit’s 1st and last mile anxieties.  But that’s only the case if current auto users decide to give up on their own car.  Apparently, current Uber/Lyft services aren’t compelling (affordable and convenient) enough to convert auto users.  Alain

Tesla cautiously addresses upcoming Autopilot 2.0 software update

F. Lambert, Oct 20, “…While Tesla has introduced the main Autopilot features, Autosteer, TACC, AEB, and Summon, to Autopilot 2.0 vehicles, there are still a few features relying on Autopilot sensors, like automatic wipers, that are not available and some owners argue whether the first or second generation is more reliable for the main features….The executive then revealed that he tested himself new software builds and he was very impressed by them. He reiterated that Tesla is being cautious about what it is pushing to customers and that what he tested is going to be operating in “shadow mode” in customer vehicles for “millions of miles” before being activated.

Fortunately for owners, Tesla’s entire fleet drives millions of miles every day, therefore they should be able to accumulate good simulated miles quickly….” Read more Hmmmm… The fundamental value of over-the-air-updating. Alain

Lyft raises $1 billion at $11 billion valuation led by Alphabet’s CapitalG

D. Ehterington, Oct 19, “Ride-hailing company Lyft has raised a new $1 billion funding round, putting its post-money valuation at $11 billion total. The round was led by Alphabet’s CapitalG, its growth-focused investment fund, and CapitalG partner David Lawee will join Lyft’s board as part of the transaction… and noted that it has run over 500 million rides to date, and expanded its coverage in the U.S. to 95 percent of the population, which is up from just 54 percent at the start of 2017…”  Read more Hmmmm… Gaining on Uber.  Alain


PodCasts

Smart Driving Cars Podcast Episode 8

F. Fishkin, Oct 19, Episode 8 “…the latest jump in vehicle deaths in the U.S. Tech is distracting more drivers, but the right tech can turn things around. And there’s more from Waymo, Tesla, Apple, GM and the plans to test self driving cars in Manhattan.”

Smart Driving Cars Podcast Episode 7

F. Fishkin, Oct 12, Episode 7. “…. California to allow completely driverless vehicle testing, advances in Greenville County, South Carolina and Australia. Is public ready? Many Tesla owners are, while Intel hires LeBron and Waymo partners with MADD to push the technology forward.”


Some other thoughts that deserve your attention

There’s a fine line between what people want robots to do and not do for them

H. Edwards, Oct 22, “The robots are coming, and that’s fine with most people—as long as they don’t try to run their lives.
Over the summer we surveyed 1,600 Quartz readers for their opinions on artificial intelligence. Among respondents, 79% said they were very or somewhat familiar with AI and most were aware of where they use it, with search, travel (maps) and assistants (Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant) rated as the top places where they interact with AI. Respondents expect their use of AI to increase a lot over the next five years. Currently, 30% of respondents use it “all the time” but 65% expect to use AI “all the time” in five years.  We also asked them what they wanted AI to do for them, …”  Read more Hmmmm…  Drive Me is 6th @ 45%.  Alain

Automotive  fuel cell  Hydrogen  transport  energy Toyota’s ‘Fine-Comfort Ride’ fuel cell concept aims for long-range flexibility

D. Etherington, Oct 18, “Toyota is debuting a new concept vehicle for the forthcoming Tokyo Motor Show, and it’s a fuel cell vehicle that’s designed to get around 1,000 km (around 621 miles) on a single hydrogen pack that can be refuelled in about 3 minutes total. The concept looks like an aggressively future-styled minivan, though it’s billed as a “premium saloon,” and it’s got an interior design that emphasizes second row seating space….  The motors are in the wheels, positioned at the absolute outside edges of the car”   Read more Hmmmm…  Interesting.  Why the hood if the motors are in the wheels?  Do we really need that much of a crush zone? Alain



On the More Technical Side

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



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

New video rumored to show close-up of Apple car’s updated ‘Project Titan’ testbed

R. Fingas, Oct 18, “New video rumored to show close-up of Apple car’s updated ‘Project Titan’ testbed…” Read more Hmmmm…  Nice to see them out there again, but it doesn’t look like Apple’s Titan project has spent much money in Product Design of Sensor Integration.  Maybe they should stick to software on this one.    Alain

Intel, Mobileye develop system to determine fault in self-driving-car crashes

C. Said, Oct 17, “…Intel and Mobileye on Tuesday proposed a mathematical formula that provides specific parameters for that assessment — and seeks to make sure that any accident will never be the robot car’s fault….. “As machines start causing collisions, there’s a lot of risk that consumers could turn against them and all the benefits and investments could really be damaged,” said Dan Galves, senior vice president at Mobileye, an Israeli company making sensors for robot cars. Intel bought Mobileye for $15.3 billion in March. “It would help a lot to know that there are predetermined rules for clarifying fault.” Read more  Hmmmm… Wait… If it “seeks to make sure that any accident will never be the robot car’s fault”  then the algorithm/proof is easy:  if crash, other guy’s fault!  QED.  I guess that MobilEye hasn’t gotten over being thrown under the bus by Tesla in the Florida crash, so the first thing that MobilEye and Intel do is to publish a paper to CYA themselves.  If only life was that simple, we wouldn’t need lawyers.   Alain

Investors see opportunity as taxi medallion prices ‘bottom out’

G. Bresiger, Oct 14, “Hurry up and buy New York City taxi medallions while they are still dirt-cheap, because a turnaround is likely coming.  That’s the contention of some industry observers and investors, who have seen medallion prices crater as ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft have come on the scene.  At a recent auction in Queens, 46 medallions were reportedly sold for an average price of $186,000 each. The winning bidder was a Connecticut-based hedge fund, MGPE, which is expected to lease the medallions to a fleet owner….”  Read more  Hmmmm…At one time…(Chart & Chart)  … then… 4 years ago (chart) they were going for > $1M, but $186K is still >> $0.  ???? Alain 



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

  Correction: Self-Driving Cars Report story

M. O’Brien, AP, Oct 19, “In a story Oct. 17 about a Boston self-driving car study, The Associated Press reported erroneously that a computer simulation showed that the advent of self-driving cars would likely add vehicles to the roads. The analysis showed that while vehicles would travel longer distances, there would be fewer of them on roads.

A corrected version of the story is below:   Self-driving cars could ease traffic, but increase sprawl …
The report, released Tuesday by the Boston Consulting Group and the World Economic Forum, is a mostly optimistic take on how autonomous vehicles could change cities….” Read more  Hmmmm… Wait Matt, you did get the memo and your original report was correct.  It is BCG and their report that didn’t get it.  They MUST have an error in their analysis and they don’t know the difference between Self-driving cars and Driverless (Robo-Taxis).  Everyone who buys their own Self-driving car will engender zero increase in ridesharing whether they do any today or not.  Plus, because of the extra convenience and comfort offered by Self-driving, at least some will choose to take advantage of lower land prices farther out because the deterrence of a longer drive is reduced. Plus if any of them use mass transit today, the transit ridership can only go down. Thus Person Miles Traveled (PMT) will go up and since Vehicle Occupancy is unchanged Vehicle Miles Traveled MUST go up.  Given that their scenarios have way more people buying Self-driving cars that people using Robo-Taxis (Driverless) , any ridesharing of Robo-Taxis will be more than off-set by the increase in VMT of the personal Self-driving owners.  So Matt you had it correct and C’mon BCS, find your mistake and correct the record.  Alain

Advancing Automated and Connected Vehicles: Policy and Planning Strategies for State and Local Transportation Agencies

NCHRP Research Report 845, J. Zmund, 2017, “…This report is intended for use by experienced agency staff as they explore actions their agency might take to increase the likelihood that CV and AV technologies will have beneficial impacts on traffic crashes, congestion, pollution, land development, and mobility (particularly for older adults, youths under the age of 16, and individuals with disabilities). Some actions are likely to be infeasible for a particular agency, but every agency should find a few of the actions to be worth pursuing…Read more Hmmmm…  This is largely an excellent report that attempts to map the various AV/CV technologies into various societal benefits to be derived from various public policy and planning strategies associated with various technologies. 
The one strategy that I want to caution is
“Approach…accelerate market penetration of AVs… …Implement a No-Fault Insurance” page 68. …Since “accelerate market penetration of AVs..” is the objective, it baffles me to understand why removing the liability reduction benefit of purchasing a vehicle that crashes less because of its embedded technology motivates anyone from purchasing such a vehicle.  Assume the technology works perfectly, then if I buy such a vehicle, any crash will not be my fault nor my vehicle’s fault.  Then I essentially need no insurance, because neither I nor my car has any liability risk.  Of course no technology is perfect, so, the chances of me/my-car being at fault is much reduced (not completely eliminated). Therefore,  either Flo or the Gecko will offer me much cheaper insurance than if I would have purchased a car without this crash avoiding technology.  In fact, there is every incentive for technologist to create crash avoiding technology that is so inexpensive that insurers would gladly pay for the technology rather than have a consumer purchase a car without it.  That would really accelerate adoption. 

No Fault would make insurance independent of the technology  and thus irrelevant to the with/without purchase decision.  C’mon man!  Alain


Calendar of Upcoming Events:


Nov 8-10
Las Vegas, NV

Smart City, Smart Transit, Smart Energy


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


Recent Highlights of:

Sunday, October 15 , 2017

Proposed Driverless Testing and Deployment Regulations – Released October 11, 2017

 Rulemaking Actions, Oct 1The following 3 PDFs are important:
1. Autonomous Vehicles Notice of Modification (PDF)  Act

2. Autonomous Vehicles Statement of Reasons (PDF)  Act

3. Autonomous Vehicles 15 Day Express Terms (PDF)   Act  Hmmmm..This is all about Driverless!  Thank you California, and especially Dr. Bernard Soriano, for leading this noble effort and for continuing to distinguish this technology from Self-driving and all of the various other names seemingly meant to confuse.  Alain

Friday, October 6 , 2017

FHWA Awards $4 Million Grant to South Carolina’s Greenville County for Automated Taxi Shuttles

Press Release, Oct 4, “Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) officials today awarded a $4 million Advanced Transportation and Congestion Management Technologies Deployment (ATCMTD) grant to South Carolina’s Greenville County for its automated taxis.

“Technology is the future of U.S. transportation,” said Acting Federal Highway Administrator Brandye L. Hendrickson. “These funds will help Greenville County lead the nation into a future with more driverless vehicles, which will improve mobility for some and reduce traffic congestion for all.”

County officials will use the funds to deploy an integrated system of “taxi-shuttles,” known locally as “A-Taxis,” on public roads. These are driverless taxis providing shuttle service to and from employment centers–expected to improve access to transportation for disadvantaged and mobility-impaired residents…” Read more Hmmmm… Wow!! FHWA is actually going to fund aTaxis!!!  Congratulations, Fred Payne!  This is a non-trivial achievement.  Alain

Friday, September 29, 2017

For Uber in London, a New Route: Diplomacy

J. Stewart, Sept 28, “As a global disrupter, Uber is no stranger to conflict, and its instinct has always been pugilistic. But on Monday, three days after Transport for London said it wouldn’t renew the ride-hailing service’s license to operate, Uber all but prostrated itself to show its humility.

In a full-page ad in The Evening Standard that began “Dear Londoners,” Uber’s new chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, apologized “for the mistakes we’ve made,” and acknowledged that “we must also change.” He added, “You have my commitment we will work with London to make things right and keep this great global city moving safely.

In a letter to employees, Mr. Khosrowshahi said that “change comes from self-reflection” and that “the truth is that there is a high cost to a bad reputation.” He pledged to be a “better partner to every city we operate in.”

Welcome to the kinder, gentler Uber.” … Read more Hmmmm…Well said!  You would have thought that this would have happened as soon as its valuation hit 9 digits.  Better late than never.  (Although, did the full-page ad in the Standard buy its editorial?)  Alain

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Driver Errors, Overreliance on Automation, Lack of Safeguards, Led to Fatal Tesla Crash

Press Relaes, Sept 12, “The National Transportation Safety Board determined Tuesday that a truck driver’s failure to yield the right of way ( a fact )and a car driver’s inattention due to overreliance on vehicle automation (  a deduction among several others that can easily be made, including:  the failure to yield was so egregious that there was nothing that he could do about it except lift his arms to protect his head and he wasn’t inattentive.  What the truck was doing was so absurd, it wasn’t believable. ) are the probable cause of the fatal May 7, 2016, crash near Williston, Florida…” Read carefully as well as links below.  Hmmmm… Wow!  Seems as if NTSB has decided to use this crash as a platform to weigh-in on automation.  A fact and a questionable deduction are given equal weight in reaching ‘probable’ cause.  Interesting  Probability Theory going on here.  “… Findings in the NTSB’s report include:

  • The Tesla’s automated vehicle control system was not designed to, and could not, identify the truck crossing the Tesla’s path or recognize the impending crash. Therefore, the system did not slow the car, the forward collision warning system did not provide an alert, and the automatic emergency braking did not activate. ”   This is an enormously damaging finding that should motivate the NTSB to investigate ALL of the forward collision warning and emergency braking systems that are on the market today.  Are any of them designed and do any of them work in cutoff situations? 
  • …, highway design … were not factors in the crash.   The turn lanes at this intersection have no traffic control devices, or signs (yield or stop) to discourage the running of the turn. This isn’t a design issue? Doesn’t seem as if the NTSB considered that maybe, because there was no traffic or ???, the truck driver ran the turn wide, crossing Brown’s lane at maybe even 590 ft/sec.

…The NTSB issued a total of seven safety recommendations based upon its findings, with one recommendation issued to the US Department of Transportation, three to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, two to the manufacturers of vehicles equipped with Level 2 vehicle automation systems, and one each to the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and Global Automakers. …
…Reiterated Recommendations
As a result of its investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board reiterates the following safety recommendations:
To the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: Develop minimum performance standards for connected vehicle technology for all
highway vehicles. (H-13-30)
Once minimum performance standards for connected vehicle technology are developed,
require this technology to be installed on all newly manufactured highway vehicles. (H-
13-31)  
What???  C’Mon Man!!!  Hasn’t the NTSB gotten the memo?  This has NOTHING to do with “Connected Vehicles” .
…”The abstract of the NTSB’s final report, that includes the findings, probable cause and safety recommendations is available online at https://go.usa.gov/xRMFc. The final report will be publicly released in the next several days.  The docket for this investigation is available at https://go.usa.gov/xNvaE. …. Alain

Friday, September 8, 2017

CONGRESS UNITES (GASP) TO SPREAD SELF-DRIVING CARS ACROSS AMERICA

A. Marshal, Sept 7, “ON WEDNESDAY, THE House of Representatives did something that’s woefully uncommon these days: It passed a bill with bipartisan support. The bill, called the SELF DRIVE (Safely Ensuring Lives, Future Deployment and Research In Vehicle Evolution) Act (H.R. 3388), lays out a basic federal framework for autonomous vehicle regulation, signaling that federal lawmakers are finally ready to think seriously about self-driving cars and what they mean for the future of the country…. Lawmakers, for their part, hope the legislation strikes a balance between allowing tech and car companies to test whatever, wherever, and giving them enough leeway to try stuff out, collect some data, and determine the best way to operate vehicles without a driver….
First, the legislation works out a way for the federal government’s rules to trump state laws and rules. It officially gives the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration power to regulate vehicle design, construction, and performance—the way it does with, well, normal cars. States still have authority over vehicle registration and licensing, but they’ll have a harder time making demands about what goes on inside the car….
Second, the legislation requires autonomous vehicle manufacturers be deliberate about the way they share their passengers’ data….
Finally, the legislation makes it a lot easier for self-driving cars to hit the road….
What’s Next?  Well, this is just the first half of this process. Now the Senate has to pass its own bill. Then both houses will work together to come up with compromise legislation that the president can sign….”  Read more Hmmmm… While not a high bar, this is likely to be the best thing Congress has done so far this year.  Putting the burden on NHTSA when it has so much to do with conventional cars may be just too much.  Since all of this, especially Driverless, is so radically new, it probably deserves a new ‘Administration’, a new entity, that has a clean sheet of paper with which to work this technology, much as trucks and airlines have with their own ‘Administration’.  Alain

Friday, September 1, 2017

Automated Vehicles: Are We Moving Too Fast or Too Slow?

M. Sena, Sept, ’17, “ARE WE MOVING too fast to get ‘No Humans Needed’ automated vehicles onto our roads, or are we dragging our feet? The Move Faster lobby says every day that passes without robots driving all our cars, close to a million people die needlessly in traffic accidents.  Here are the numbers, and they are grim:…

The Move Slower camp says that we don’t really know for sure that robots are better drivers than humans, we are not yet certain what changes will be required to the transport infrastructure to accommodate a mix of human and robot-driven vehicles and, perhaps most importantly, turning over our cars, trucks and buses to robots may be just another nail in the human race’s coffin….

… I am arguing in favor of caution….” Read more Hmmmm… First, as I have pointed out many times, the safety objective can be fully obtained with Safe-driving (automated collision avoidance and lane keeping) and doesn’t need Self-driving (automated with a ready and able driver just waiting to “save the day” and take control and drive conventionally)  or Driverless (no one is there to take control and/or there are no controls available to drive conventionally).  The mobility objective (leveling the mobility ‘playing field’ (affordable on-demand ubiquitous mobility) for everyone (including goods) requires Driverless (is not addressed by Safe- or Self-driving vehicles).  With respect to safety, there can be no support for anything more than politically-correct caution because there is no evidence to date that any of the automated collision avoidance systems and automated lane centering systems cause any crashes.  So it should be ‘ full steam ahead’!

With respect to our desire to address the mobility objective, which requires Driverless, extreme caution is where we are (we are still at ‘absolute zero’) and the enormity of the undertaking is so large that extreme caution is all that is possible.   To my knowledge, we have had only one ride (by Waymo) that was ‘Driverless in mixed traffic on an unaltered/unprepared public street’. (and that ride was likely (and appropriately) monitored remotely by an army of Waymo engineers ready to take over if anything bad or challenging was about to happen. So while we have logged ‘the first VMT (vehicle mile traveled)’,  we aren’t yet to even two decimal places of VMT (100th VMT).  Caution is what we have been doing and is the only thing that we can do.  But we must get on with it else we make zero dent in the mobility objective.  (Self-driving is all about enhancing the comfort and convenience of the conventional private automobile and enhancing the existing legacy auto industry.  While it claims, it doesn’t deserve, the safety kudos and it exacerbates rather than soothe the mobility gap between the haves and have-nots.).   See also the other articles in this issue of The Dispatcher.   Alain

Friday, August 25, 2017

Inside Waymo’s Secret World for Training Self-Driving Cars

A. Madrigal, aUG 23, ” a corner of Alphabet’s campus, there is a team working on a piece of software that may be the key to self-driving cars. No journalist has ever seen it in action until now. They call it Carcraft, after the popular game World of Warcraft….Hmmmm…  Waymo’s naming should have been a play of GTA V such as “Maximus Furtum IV”. Oh, but that’s our version of this.   🙂 Alain

…Scenarios like this form the base for the company’s powerful simulation apparatus. “The vast majority of work done—new feature work—is motivated by stuff seen in simulation,” Stout tells me. This is the tool that’s accelerated the development of autonomous vehicles at Waymo…
…Collectively, they now drive 8 million miles per day in the virtual world. In 2016, they logged 2.5 billion virtual miles…
…In that virtual space, they can unhitch from the limits of real life and create thousands of variations of any single scenario, and then run a digital car through all of them….
…Not surprisingly, the hardest thing to simulate is the behavior of the other people. It’s like the old parental saw: “I’m not worried about you driving. I’m worried about the other people on the road.”…
…They call it “fuzzing,” and in this case, there are 800 scenarios generated by this four-way stop. It creates a beautiful, lacy chart—and engineers can go in and see how different combinations of variables change the path that the car would decide to take….
…“That iteration cycle is tremendously important to us and all the work we’ve done on simulation allows us to shrink it dramatically,” Dolgov told me. “The cycle that would take us weeks in the early days of the program now is on the order of minutes.”…
…The power is that they mirror the real world in the ways that are significant to the self-driving car and allow it to get billions more miles than physical testing would allow. For the driving software running the simulation, it is not like making decisions out there in the real world. It is the same as making decisions out there in the real world…”  Read more Hmmmm… Excellent!! However, the description focuses on the ‘testing’ side.  What about the ‘training’ side?  Not much divulged here.   Alain

Monday, August 21, 2017

Driverless-Car Outlook Shifts as Intel Takes Over Mobileye

E. Boudette, Aug 8, “…Mobileye will remain based in Israel, and its co-founder Amnon Shashua will head all of Intel’s autonomous-vehicle efforts. The other founder, Ziv Aviram, is retiring from Mobileye to focus on another company he started, OrCam, which makes artificial-vision devices that allow the visually impaired to understand text and identify objects…” Read more Hmmmm…  Will Intel really not screw this up?   Alain

Monday, August 7, 2017

Cadillac’s Super Cruise ‘autopilot’ is ready for the expressway

M Burns, Aug 3, “Cadillac is about to start selling vehicles with an autonomous driving mode …Once the light bar on top of the steering wheel turns green, the driver can let go…

“Wait for the green light and let go,” the Cadillac engineer instructed. That’s it. The car was driving itself. I, the person behind the steering wheel, was no longer the driver. Cadillac’s Super Cruise system was driving.  The 2018 Cadillac CT6 sped along US-23 under the direction of Super Cruise. Traffic was light and the weather was perfect. The system held the Cadillac sedan in lane and responded appropriately to traffic. I spent an hour on the expressway and touched the steering wheel and pedals only a few times.  Super Cruise made the drive boring. I think that’s the point….

When active, Super Cruise controls the steering and speed, but again, only on an expressway. This is done through on board sensors and using GPS and mapping data. GM employed GeoDigital, a startup in GM Venture’s portfolio, to map 160,000 miles of expressways in the U.S. and Canada. The car company then used Super Cruise-equipped vehicles to test each mile.

Cadillac’s system also lacks several autonomous features found on Autopilot including the ability to pull the car out of a garage and change lanes by using the turn signals. Hmmmm…  fluff features with little value.

Super Cruise’s IR sensors tracks eye location and head movements. As long as the driver looks at the road every seven to 20 seconds, the system works as expected.  Hmmmm… Fantastic!

General Motors will have to rely on independently owned dealerships to correctly position this product and train buyers on its capabilities. Hmmmm… Yup!

For better or worse, Super Cruise is built into the CT6 like a standard system and not something a driver must use every time they’re on an expressway. This should help timid buyers.  Super Cruise feels like a feature ready for the masses. The system is deeply integrated into the vehicle and using it is akin to using cruise control or turning on the lights. There’s a button for Super Cruise on the steering wheel. Press the button when the system is available and it works. It’s that easy to turn a driver into a passenger. Read more Hmmmm…  Over the air updates?  See also Motor Trend’s view: “… a stand-alone option (as yet unpriced) on CT6 models with the premium luxury trim package and as standard equipment on top Platinum models (the price of which went up $500 for 2018, if that’s any indication)….”  Finally, I guess that I’ll have to go test drive one.  Alain

Monday, July 31, 2017

What the World and Transport May Be Like in 2030

M. Sena, Vol 4, issue 9, “UNCERTAINTY IS TROUBLING for businesses, individuals and governments….  In one way or another, all businesses, including and especially transport, are completely reliant on four macro factors:.. I’d add one more: where are children learn and play …. A United Nations study projects world population to reach 8.5 billion by 2030, up from 7.5 billion today, driven by growth in developing countries…India will have traded places with China as the world’s most populous country in around seven years…So the large bulk of those additional one billion inhabitants of the planet by 2030 will be looking for places to live in Mumbai, not in Madrid. The takeaway from this is that the so-called ‘developed’ countries, with a few notable exceptions, are either losing population due to not producing enough children or seeing their populations staying basically stable.  In 2030, Tokyo will still be the most populated city with an estimated population of 37.2 million.
Delhi will be in second place with 36.1 million, up from 3.5 million in 1970! (How has it coped?) Shanghai will be in third place and New York/Newark will have dropped off the top ten list. But what will it be like to live in these cities? The Economist Intelligence Unit ranks cities as the most and least liveable. … It ranked Melbourne, Australia as number one, … Melbourne’s density is 460 persons per km2 compared to 6,158/km2 for Tokyo and 2,059/km2 for Shanghai…. None of the most liveable cities is among the top ten places where venture capitalists have been placing their money bets during the past year….These four city regions are ranked below 30th place on the EIU Liveability Index. In other words, they may be successful, but not that liveable… (in US) 50% live in rural or less urban areas occupying more than 90% of the land area. Is there any wonder why over 50% of the vehicles sold in the U.S. are not passenger cars but SUVs and pick-up trucks?…If everyone who lived in the dense urban areas stopped buying cars, there would still be over 50% of the population who would continue to be car purchasers.

Can we conclude from this that the exodus from city regions to the suburbs of both jobs and families has now stopped and central cities once again will be where people live and work? No, not unless people will be willing to give up everything they have come to value in terms of living standards and will accept being packed into sardine can-sized apartments stacked a mile high…. Living in a central city in the most desirable neighborhoods will continue to be the privilege of the wealthy and very wealthy…They also have homes and dachas in the Hamptons, Vinyard and Vermont, else they couldn’t stand it. … When younger people build families and need more space, preferably with a yard, and that space is too expensive in the city, they find it further out…Visions of young professionals dashing around in robotic cars gobbling up mobility as a service are, to put it kindly, a bit fanciful. Read more  Hmmmm…I love it!!  So many good one-liners.   Alain

Monday, July 24, 2017

Introducing Level 5 and Our Self-Driving Team

 L. Vincent, “For a long time, we at Lyft have shared our plan to help end car ownership in order to usher in a transportation revolution that improves our communities and quality of life. To do so we need to build an ecosystem that offers a variety of ride types, including both rides with drivers as well as rides from self-driving vehicles…

This news builds on the announcement we made earlier this year, when we created the world’s first open self-driving platform. Lyft’s self-driving vehicles will operate on that network, alongside vehicles introduced by Lyft partners. In the years ahead, we will continue to bring the world’s leading automotive and technology companies onto this single platform to serve a nationwide passenger network. And together, we will continue to drive toward a single, shared objective: to build the world’s best transportation ecosystem.
To be clear, we aren’t thinking of our self-driving division as a side project. It’s core to our business. That’s why 10% of our engineers are already focused on developing self-driving technology — and we’ll continue to grow that team in the months ahead. Their efforts will be housed in a brand-new development facility in Palo Alto, which we are calling the Level 5 Engineering Center…

We believe Lyft is in the best position to demonstrate what a great overall user experience can be. Lyft is also uniquely positioned to build technology in collaboration with partners in a way that makes it possible to roll out self-driving cars at scale in the fastest, safest, most efficient way.
This is true for a few reasons. First, Lyft has significant scale, which enables us to rapidly train our self-driving system. Every day, there are over one million rides completed on our network in over 350 cities. This translates into tens of millions of miles on a daily basis…

Lyft will always operate a hybrid network, with rides from both human-driven and self-driving cars. When a passenger requests a ride that a self-driving car can complete, we may send one to complete the trip. If that person needs to go somewhere self-driving cars are unable to navigate, or their needs call for a different level of service, they will have a driver. But in either event, we’ll make sure everyone can get where they need to go. …” Read more  Hmmmm…Luc, congratulations!  At least you’re calling it “Level 5…” so that there is little doubt that you are focusing on “Driverless” and that what seems to be the auto industry’s view of “Self-driving” doesn’t cut it, which is why one gets the confused reporting in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.  I agree that Lyft (and everyone else) will always need a hybrid fleet, serving rides using both “Driverless Cars” for trips that can so be served and human-driven  “Safe-driving Cars” for those trips that haven’t been certified as capable of being served safely with “Driverless Cars”.   The fundamental economic advantage of “Driverless Cars” (substantially lower labor cost per person trip served) fuels this investment initiative.  Moreover, its operational simplification enables it to scale such that once it becomes technologically achievable Lyft’s share of the rides market will explode.  With “Driverless Cars” Lyft will achieve, in the words of Joseph Schumpeter“… [I]n capitalist reality…, it is not [price] competition which counts but the competition from the new commodity, the new technology…- competition which commands a decisive cost or quality advantage and which strikes not at the margins of the profits and the outputs of the existing firms but at their foundations and their very lives.” Alaint in Washington State, IDEA Program Final Report J. Lutin, May 19 “The Rosco/Mobileye Shield+ system is a collision avoidance warning system (CAWS) specifically designed for transit buses. This project involved field testing and evaluation of the CAWS in revenue service over a three-month period. The system provides alerts and warnings to the bus driver for the following conditions that could lead to a collision: 1) changing lanes without activating a turn signal (lane departure warning was disabled for this pilot), 2) exceeding posted speed limit, 3) monitoring headway with the vehicle leading the bus, 4) forward vehicle collision warning, and 5) pedestrian or cyclist collision warning in front of, or alongside the bus. Alerts and warnings are displayed to the driver by visual indicators located on the windshield and front pillars. Audible warnings are issued when collisions are imminent. …”   Read more  Hmmmm… Very interesting.  This is the first substantive report of realities of retrofiring existing transit buses with active safety collision-warning technology.  Anyone in the public transit industry should be paying attention to this report.  This is the very beginning of actually implementing safety-oriented automated technology in transit buses and it was motivated and led by insurance (Jerry Spears & Al Hatten @ WSTIP + Mike Scrudato @ Munich Re). Insurance finally stepping up and leading. Alain

Sunday, June 25, 2017

NTSB Opens Docket on Tesla Crash

The docket material is available at: https://go.usa.gov/xNvaE Read more  Hmmmm… A few comments…
1.  Since lateral control (swerving) couldn’t have avoided this crash (the truck is almost 70 ft long (6 lanes wide) stretching broadside across the highway) , it doesn’t matter if Josh Brown ever had his hands on the steering wheel. That’s totally irrelevant. 
2.  Why didn’t autobrake kick in when the tractor part of the tractor-trailer passed in front of the Tesla?
3.  How fast was the truck going when it cut off the Tesla.  I couldn’t find the answer in 500 pages.   
4.  With sight distances of greater than 1,000 feet, why didn’t the truck driver see the Tesla?  Was it the drugs?
5.  This intersection invites “left-turn run-throughs” (no stop or yield and a 53 foot median and turn lane need to be crossed before one slips through a gap in two traffic lanes.  So you certainly roll into it, (plenty of room to stop if you see something coming) and if you don’t see anything, you hit it.  If you’re in the Tesla, you think you’ve been clearly seem, you expect the truck to stop, it doesn’t, you can’t believe it, BAM!  All in probably a second or so.
6.  The head injury description (Table 1 p2 of 3) certainly suggests that Joshua Brown was seated upright facing forward at impact.  The bilateral lacerations on the lower arm from the elbow to the wrist may indicate that he saw it coming in the last second and raised his arms in an attempt to protect his head.   The evidence reported doesn’t seem to suggest he saw this early enough to bend toward the passenger seat and try to pass underneath. 
7.  About 40 feet of tractor and trailer passed directly in front of the Tesla prior to impact.   Depending on how fast the truck was traveling, that takes some time.  Has NTSB run Virtual Reality simulations of various truck turn trajectories and analyzed what the truck driver and the Tesla driver could/should have seen?  Seems like a relatively simple thing to do.  We know what the Tesla was doing prior to the crash (going 74 mph straight down the road.) and we know where it hit the truck.  How fast the truck was traveling doesn’t seem to be known.
8. Why wasn’t there any video captured from the Tesla.  Didn’t that version of the MobilEye system store the video; I guess not, 🙁 
Anyway, lots to read in the 500 pages, but there is also a lot missing.  I’m not linking the many articles reporting on this because I disagree with many of their interpretations of the facts reported by NTSB.   Please reach your own conclusions.   Alain

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

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

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

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

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

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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