http://smartdrivingcar.com/5.19-GM??-061217
19th edition of the 5th year of SmartDrivingCars

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

How Mercedes Plans to Recapture Its Early Lead in Robo-Cars

E. Behrman, June 4, "Three decades ago, an experimental Mercedes-Benz van managed to steer, brake and accelerate on its own. But after the technology was refined enough to put an S-Class sedan through its paces on a highway around Paris in 1994, it was largely set aside as commercially unviable.  Now, the prospect of autonomous vehicles is threatening to upend the auto industry, and instead of an enviable head start, Mercedes is just part of the pack in the race to roll out robo-cars….In 2015, he unveiled the futuristic self-driving F 015 concept car and prodded developers by moving forward targets for introducing the technology several times in recent years,…"  Read more  Hmmmm… Unfortunately, there really isn’t much more to read.  Mercedes is at best only doing Self-driving and not doing that well because they, unlike Tesla, have not embraced their customers.  As I’ve written, I purchased a 2014 S-550 with the 997 package that gives me 7 seconds of "self-driving", a "1st of its kind" 3 years ago.  In those 3 years, has MB reached out to me and asked for any feedback, no! Have they "over-the-air updated" the really marginal lane-centering control system, no! (They haven’t even done anything in the pricy major service visits.)  Have they corrected the, enormously unsafe in my opinion, turning off the intelligent cruise control (ICC) braking function simply because I tapped the brakes, no! (Why did they interpret that as signal that I want to disengage the ICC braking function?  A signal that I want to turn off the acceleration function, yes!: braking function, no!!! (Oh just because this is a way one turned off the whole system when it was stupid cruise control was NOT the proper interpretation of my action at that time, either.  I wanted the acceleration function turned off!  Just because that was the only function, therefore you simply turned everything (one thing) off should NOT be taken as a "turn everything off signal" from the driver.  Please!!!!   Has all of this been fixed?  I don’t know.  I’ve given up on MB and there is nothing in this article that suggests that MB has any viable plans to "recapture its early lead" in Self-driving.   There is also no hint that they are really serious about Driverless because they remain focused on the 1%ers buying what they make using their 100+ year old business model.    🙁   Alain

Lyft teams up with NuTonomy to put ‘thousands’ of self-driving cars on the road

A. Hawkins, June 6, "Lyft announced a new partnership today with Boston-based self-driving car startup NuTonomy to eventually put “thousands” of on-demand, autonomous vehicles on the road. In the meantime, the two companies said they intend to launch a limited pilot in Boston within the next few months, in which Lyft users will be able to hail one of NuTonomy’s driverless vehicles by using Lyft’s app…"   Read more  Hmmmm… The benefit to Lyft is that it responds to what Uber has been doing (which may just be a publicity stunt).  "Self-driving" has little if any value to Lyft, Uber or …  Today, these vehicles are more expensive and require trained drivers, not something that tends to exist in the "Gig economy". 

The benefit to NuTonomy is that its technology gets a customer (who is picking up the tab is ???) and automated driving systems get to experience more miles. Miles are of some importance but not really.   Most miles are repetitive and in a sense very "boring".  "every" automated driving system can drive them safely.  The issue is finding the situations, likely spanning very short distances, feet not miles, that are rare and present challenges to automated driving systems.  The main issue is how to experience these rare situations where the automated systems are challenged and capture the data that can be used to "fill these holes" (called ‘corner cases") in the automated driving algorithms. One could just happen to "trip over them" and that’s the benefit of accumulating a lot of miles… maybe you’ll encounter one, two or a few and that experience will be really valuable in one’s efforts to continue to improve the safety of automated driving systems.  Consequently the partnership between Lyft and NuTonomy helps NuTonomy’s algorithm experience more miles and possibly uncover some important corner cases. 

There are of course other ways to also accumulate such information using even more aggressive crowd sourcing.  MobilEye has its cameras and other sensors on  numerous cars, as has Tesla, Mercedes, BMW, Volvo and others.  These systems could be and hopefully are, recording and preserving the few minutes or even just seconds before and after every crash or near crash that they are experiencing.  This is the really valuable experience and "feet" that need to be captured and, in my opinion, shared among everyone in the field.. NuTonomy, Tesla, MobilEye, Mercedes, VW, GM, Toyota, etc.   These data are critical for everyone to improve the safety of each of their automated driving systems.  The objective should be to make them all as safe as possible.  NuTonomy should NOT be competing with Argo or Waymo or Tesla to be the safest or to "secretly handle that tragic situation that everyone else is going to eventually trip over."  Each should be warning all others.. "Wow, we just uncovered this one.  Everyone, be careful here!" That’s the purpose of accumulating the miles.  Everyone has so many other things to compete over, safety or the handling of these corner case should NOT be one of them.  That is simply just good societal responsibility that this industry should and must embrace.  Alain

Telematics Industry Insights by Michael L. Sena

Vol4, I7, June 2017, "The Swedish Connected Vehicle Factory: WHAT IS IT ABOUT SWEDEN? The country’s companies and
citizens not only compete on the global stage; they often win….

The End of Mobility: How on-line shopping will contribute to the end of the need to move
.
Why we travel:

  • 45% of daily trips in the U.S. are taken for shopping and errands
  • 27% are social and recreational, such as visiting friends and family
  • 15% are for commuting to and from work
  • 91% of people commuting to work use person vehicles
  • More daily trips are taken between 12.00-13.00 (7.4%) than any other time
  • The average driver spends 55 min/day behind the wheel and drives 29 miles (46 kms)…

What was Jeff Bezos thinking? He is definitely not a flashy car guy. He drives a ’96 Honda Accord. It is said that his wife drops him off at work after they have delivered their kids to school in her car. Did he think the company he and his wife founded back in 1994 would eventually contribute to the demise of the car industry? He earned a degree in electrical engineering and computer science at Princeton and was president of a space exploration club. He’s a pretty smart guy. Amazon’s business is decreasing to zero the distance between you and any product you want to buy. It must have crossed his mind that the end result would be fewer daily trips for shopping. In any case, he has probably figured it out by now. Maybe that $35 million placement in Uber isn’t such a good investment after all, Jeff….Read more  Hmmmm… With lots more in between Alain

  What Does a Management Shakeup Mean For Uber (and Silicon Valley)?

E. Griffith, June 12, "Sunday was a critical day for Uber, the world’s most valuable venture-backed startup. The company’s board held a 10 a.m. meeting in Los Angeles to go over the findings of attorney Eric Holder’s investigation into the company’s workplace issues. Reporters covering the event went into scoop mode…."  Read more  Hmmmm… Great unanswered questions!  Be sure to read all of the linked "scoops" including..NYT: Uber Weighs Leave of Absence for Chief Executive etc… Alain

Uber, But for Meltdowns

 R. Wiefeman. May 29, "…One former Uber manager who oversaw growth in a number of smaller, non-coastal cities where the cost of owning a car is low told me that the business there was almost exclusively taking people to and from bars.  But McClendon argued that for people in urban areas, the cost of Ubering was beginning to make as much financial sense as owning a car, especially if riders were willing to use Uber Pool, …. Uber says that Pool now makes up a quarter of all rides in New York….

So far as Horan could tell, there was only one possible path for Uber to meet that $68 billion valuation: eliminate competition….Recent events have made a monopoly harder to imagine, to say nothing of how regulators might react….

Uber has expanded into a variety of industries tangentially related to its core business. In 2015, the company launched Uber Everything, an initiative to figure out how it could move things in addition to people…It turned out that food delivery was the only area that made much sense, though even that was difficult….

Uber’s expansion into an ever-widening gyre of business interests makes sense for a company looking to justify a huge valuation, but it has drawn criticism from some who wonder why the company is moving into so many different markets without becoming profitable in its first one. “It’s a Ponzi scheme of ambition,” Anand Sanwal, a venture-capital analyst, told me. “ ‘We’re gonna raise money on the promise of dominating an industry to come in order to pay for this thing that doesn’t make us money right now.’ ” …

Back on land, Kalanick had already discovered perhaps his company’s biggest opportunity and gravest threat: self-driving cars. On the one hand, getting rid of “the other dude in the car,” as Kalanick once callously referred to the drivers on whose backs he built the company, would cut out Uber’s biggest costs. On the other, he realized the technology was “basically existential for us”: If Google, or another tech company, or an automaker, developed a driverless car, there was no guarantee they would offer the cars to Uber’s network rather than develop their own….

I always thought the biggest threat to Uber was if Google bought Lyft,” one engineer told me in May. A few days later, Waymo announced a partnership with Lyft…

Does all that mean Uber — so synonymous with this tech boom, and with the modern city itself — is going to become a relic of this decade? Will it be an app that you delete less out of protest than simply because your phone gets too crowded? “I don’t think it’s doomed,” Erik Gordon, a business professor at the University of Michigan, told me recently. “But I think it’s stunted. It was within an arm’s length of absolute dominance — of being Microsoft in Microsoft’s best days — but I think it’s going to be a case study we teach in business school of a company that could have crushed all comers but because of their repeated botch-ups, they aren’t in that position and will not be in that position.” …" Read more  Hmmmm… With lots more in between Alain

Uber Fired Its Robocar Guru, But Its Legal Fight With Google Goes On

A. Marshall, May 30, "On Tuesday Uber fired Anthony Levandowski, the engineer at the center of its legal battle with Waymo, Google’s self-driving car company. Uber said Levandowski failed to cooperate with the company’s internal investigation into allegations asserted in a lawsuit Waymo brought against Uber: mainly, that Levandowski, who previously worked at Google and spent years working on the company’s robocar effort, stole reams of intellectual property before he quit in early 2016, and that when he joined Uber six months later, used the illicit know-how to advance his new employer’s technology…"  Read more  Hmmmm… What are the implications on the $680M Otto deal?? Is this about Google or about $680M? or both? Alain

Jaguar Land Rover gives Lyft $25 million and a fleet of vehicles for autonomous testing

A. Hawkins, June 12, "UK-automaker Jaguar Land Rover is investing $25 million in Lyft to support the ride-hail company’s autonomous and connected vehicle activities, the two companies announced today. The money was invested through InMotion, Jaguar Land Rover’s mobility services subsidiary, and was included in Lyft’s latest round of fundraising, which ended in April. .." Read more  Hmmmm… I guess this makes some sense???? Depends on the terms and valuation which aren’t mentioned.  Alain 

“Have you tried turning it off and on again?”

T. Hallauer, June 1, "…Yes, it will become more difficult to get locked out of the car or run out of fuel for example. Crashes are expected to come down – requiring fewer tows – but it won’t affect breakdown assistance due to flat tyres, batteries or being stuck in a ditch. (OK, Autonomous vehicles should at least avoid the last one.)…" Read more  Hmmmm… Nice focus on ADAS. Alain

First drive with Tesla Autopilot 2.0’s new ‘silky smooth’ control algorithm and Autopark

F. Lambert, June 12, "While the rollout of Tesla’s latest Autopilot 2.0 update has yet to go wide, some owners have reported getting the update early and they are now testing the new features for the first time.We get our first look at the latest version of Autopilot 2.0 in a new video. Read more  Hmmmm… Mostly straight road and who really cares about parking (if it is so tight, do you really want to park there???).   Alain

  Regulatory options to assure automated vehicle safety in Australia: Discussion paper

June 2017 "…The purpose of this paper is to seek feedback on:

  • whether there is a need for explicit regulation of automated driving functions, above existing transport and consumer law
  • if there is a need for regulation, what form this should take.

We are seeking feedback from governments, road safety experts, automated vehicle manufacturers, technology providers, insurers and other stakeholders on these questions. This paper examines:

  • how safety of automated vehicle functions should be assessed
  • the options for a safety assurance system
  • the criteria that should be used to decide among those options
  • institutional arrangements, road access and compliance…."

Read more Hmmmm… A good and thorough presentation of the issues but my main complaint is the broad brush on "Automated Vehicles".  Having one set of regulations on ALL AVs is as silly as having one set of regulations on cars, trucks and trains.  There are such fundamental differences between a Safe-driving AV whose purpose is to compensate for human frailties in driving , to Self-driving whose purpose is to provide comfort and convenience to human drivers and to Driverless whose purpose is to replace the human driver.  Attempts to set regulations serve all will end up stifling all and serving none. Alain

Delphi, the Auto Parts Supplier, Embarks on a High-Tech Overhaul

 N. Boudette, June 9, "…But with new technologies turning automobiles into supercomputers on wheels, Delphi is trying to reinvent itself. Over the last several years, it has shed almost all of its old operations, and begun acquiring and investing in high-tech businesses that in many ways are more like Intel than G.M…."  Read more Hmmmm… Maybe.  Alain

Australian guidelines for automated vehicle trials invite nationwide testing of new-era technology

Press release, May 24,  " Australian governments are taking steps to move to a new era of mobility, with today’s launch of national guidelines for trials of automated vehicles.  Guidelines for trials of automated vehicles in Australia is a joint publication of the National Transport Commission (NTC) and Austroads. The guidelines support state and territory road agencies in providing exemptions or permits for trials, and give greater certainty to industry on conditions for trials…." Read more Hmmmm… Read the just released Guidelines. However, see the supporting materials because there really isn’t much substance here.   Alain


Some other thoughts that deserve your attention 

Optimal Prediction in the Retina and Natural Motion Statistics

J. Salisbury, March 2016, " Almost all behaviors involve making predictions. Whether an organism is trying to catch prey, avoid predators, or simply move through a complex environment, the organism uses the data it collects through its senses to guide its actions by extracting from these data information about the future state of the world. A key aspect of the prediction problem is that not all features of the past sensory input have predictive power, and representing all features of the external sensory world is prohibitively costly both due to space and metabolic constraints. This leads to the hypothesis that neural systems are optimized for prediction. Here we describe theoretical and computational efforts to define and quantify the efficient representation of the predictive information by the brain. …" Read more Hmmmm… Very interesting. See also S. Palmer video.

Tech’s Backyard: The Most Well-Funded Bay Area Tech Startups By City In One Map 

June 8, "Collectively, the startups on our map have raised approximately $17B in disclosed equity funding to date. …" Read more  Hmmmm… Informative graphic.  Alain


On the More Technical Side

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



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

Yandex’s on-demand taxi service debuts its self-driving car project

D. Etherington, May 30, "Russia search and internet technology giant Yandex is showing off the self-driving vehicle prototype developed by its Yandex.Taxi on-demand ride service for the first time, and the video above is the first footage of the car in action….The vehicle in the video isn’t yet navigating real city streets, but Yandex says that testing is coming on public roads within a year, if all goes as planned…"  Read more Hmmmm… Always nice to have Russian Smoke & Mirrors in the competition.  🙂   Alain


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

  Apply for an Autonomous Vehicle Technology Demonstration / Testing Permit

The law permitting the demonstrations or tests is set to expire April 1, 2018.  That link states…  "…For the purposes of this act, the term "autonomous vehicle technology"  shall mean the hardware and software that are collectively capable of performing part or all of the dynamic driving  task  on  a  sustained basis,  and  the term "dynamic driving task" shall mean all of the real time operational and tactical functions required to operate a vehicle in on-road traffic, excluding the strategic functions such as trip scheduling and selection of destinations and waypoints…."  My car (’14MB s550) and a Tesla w/autopilot certainly fall under that definition.  I guess I can drive it but NOT test it???

"…How to apply… Complete
Autonomous Vehicle Technology Demonstration/Testing Application Form (AV-1)
Autonomous Vehicle Technology Demonstration/Testing Addendum (AV-2)…" …This link states  "…The entity named above shall reimburse the New York State Police for direct supervision of each demonstration/test according to the following schedule:  Regular Hourly Rate: $92.73, Overtime Hourly Rate: $131.67, Mileage cost $0.535 per mile. 
Read more Hmmmm… Wow!! This one takes your breath away.  Can’t wait until April Fools, 2018 when this expires.  Can’t imagine anyone testing in New York State.  This MUST have been written by GM.  It has all of the Sears/Craftsman’s monkey wrenches in it.  Doesn’t the NY State Police have something better to do with all of their training, expertise and dedication to serve and protect.    Waymo has tested over 3 million miles and let’s assume an average speed of 30 mph to guestimate a test duration of 100k hours.  Further assume a blended regular/overtime rate of $100/hour.  That’s $11.5M.  Certainly Google/Waymo  can afford it, but.. absolutely ZERO would have been contributed to improving the safety.  If NY State wants to tax the test, fine!;  but…maybe the tax should go to feeding, housing and providing mobility for the poor rather than wasting the time and squandering the opportunity of  those Highly Trained Police Officers.  C’mon NY State!  This is really embarrassing and even worse than New Jersey.  Alain


Calendar of Upcoming Events:

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


Recent Highlights of:

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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