2nd edition of the 10th year of SmartDrivingCars eLetter

  Local Motors, the startup behind the Olli autonomous shuttle, has shut down

R. Bellan,, Jan.  13, “Local Motors, the company that crowdsourced and built the Olli autonomous shuttle as well as the Rally Fighter, will be shutting down operations by Friday, according to several posts from various employees on LinkedIn. The company has yet to release an official statement, but many employees are already openly looking for new work….

The shutdown comes only a few months after Vikrant Aggarwal, formerly president and chief operating officer, took over as CEO, as the company shared plans to scale production globally. Former CEO Jay Rogers transitioned to an advisory role on the company’s board.”…   Read more  Hmmmm… So sad.  What a shame.  While it is exceedingly difficult to build a driver technology stack that actually works, it is proving non-trivial to build vehicles, as Glenn & Michael reminded us during the 4th SDC Summit  Alain

SmartDrivingCars  Zoom-Cast Episode 251 /A. Kornhauser: Making it Happen:  Trenton MOVES… a Framework for…

F. Fishkin, Jan. 15, ” In this special edition of Smart Driving Cars, Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and his presentation: Making it Happen: Trenton Moves-a framework for the deployment of safe, equitable, affordable, sustainable, high quality transportation.      The focus is on providing autonomous mobility in a place where there is real need.  A first.   Join the effort.”

SmartDrivingCars Pod-Cast Episode 250, Zoom-Cast Episode 250  /RIP:  Olli 😭

F. Fishkin, Jan. 15, “.The end of the road for Local Motors, the robotaxi arms race in China,  Tesla trouble in California, a GM-Qualcomm partnership and more in episode 250 of Smart Driving Cars.   Join Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin for the latest on autonomous mobility and transportation.   Don’t forget to subscribe!”

Technical support provided by: https://www.cartsmobility.com/

   The SmartDrivingCars eLetter, Pod-Casts, Zoom-Casts and Zoom-inars are made possible in part by support from the Smart Transportation and Technology ETF, symbol MOTO.   For more information: www.motoetf.com.  Most funding is supplied by Princeton University’s Department of Operations Research & Financial Engineering and Princeton Autonomous Vehicle Engineering (PAVE) research laboratory as part of its research dissemination initiative

Making it Happen:  Trenton MOVES… a Framework for the Deployment of Safe, Equitable, Affordable, Sustainable, High-quality Mobility

A. Kornhauser, Jan 11 TRB, ” A slide deck describing the framework fora phased deployment of high-quality mobility in Trenton New Jersey that is envisioned to have wherewithall to naturally scale beyond Trenton in a fashion that can be replicated the more than 100 communities across the US that have similar demographic and travel demand characteristics.”  Read more  Hmmmm… Go through the slides in presentation mode to take advantage of the animations.  Alain

  China’s robotaxis charged ahead in 2021

R. Liao, Jan.14, “Autonomous driving startups in China are in an arms race to put passengers in their machine-driven vehicles. Every few weeks, news arrives that another major player has got the greenlight to launch a new pilot program or a small-scale service.

These press releases, often dotted with regulatory jargon and flowery language to aggrandize the companies’ progress, can be confusing. That’s why we put together this post summarizing the progress of China’s major robotaxi operators — AutoX, Baidu, Deeproute.ai, Didi, Momenta, Pony.ai and WeRide — in 2021 while trying to parse what their announcements actually mean.

Most of the major players have been testing drivered (autonomous vehicles with in-car safety operators) and driverless vehicles for some time in China, so this post will focus on their public-facing services that run on a regular basis. While navigating the costs, safety and regulations around robotaxis, these companies have also dabbled into areas that are quicker to scale, such as self-driving trucks, goods-hauling vans and city buses, though robotaxis remain their focus in the long run….”  Read more  Hmmmm…  Good article that warns the reader about possible smoke & mirrors.  Reader beware of caveats that are NOT said.  For example, if a 100 driverless cars began delivering mobility in a large area many months ago, why hasn’t it  scaled to 1,000 or even more vehicles by now.  What is holding it back?  Same question could be asked of Waymo in Chandler; although, the answer in Chandler may well be that few Chandlerians are sufficiently mobility-challenged.  Consequently, Waymo’s level-of-service disutility rarely competes well enough to become the chosen mode.  Alain

  DMV ‘revisiting’ its approach to regulating Tesla’s public self-driving test

R. Mitchell, Jan. 11, “But confronted with dozens of viral videos showing Tesla’s Full Self-Driving beta technology driving the car into dangerous situations, and a letter of concern from a key state legislator, the DMV now says it’s reviewing Tesla’s behavior and reassessing its own policies.

The agency informed Tesla on Jan. 5 that it is “revisiting” its opinion that the company’s test program doesn’t fall under the department’s autonomous vehicle regulations because it requires a human driver.

“Recent software updates, videos showing dangerous use of that technology, open investigations by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the opinions of other experts in this space” prompted the reevaluation, the DMV said in a letter Monday to state Sen. Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), chair of the Senate’s transportation committee….”  Read more  Hmmmm…  My view is that much of the source of the confusion is the SAE and its J3016 standards document.

First of all… testing should always include a human attendant in the vehicle capable of readily disengaging the automated driving system in all emergency situations.  Except for the possible saving of what amounts to an infinitesimal labor charge, there is NO value gained in testing without an attendant/safety-driver. 

(When testing an automated vehicle intended to move goods for which there is no accommodation for a human, then such tests should only be conducted with an attendant traveling near the test vehicle who is capable disengaging without crashing.  Unfortunately, the presence of a chase vehicle accommodating a safety driver tends to invalidate a test that is supposed to “test” safety in real operational situations. That chase vehicle won’t be present real operations.  Seems as if public road tests of automated goods movement vehicles should largely take place using vehicles appropriately modified to accommodate a human attendant.)

Moreover, the “Level” of an automated vehicle should be associated with its operational characteristics and not its testing characteristics.  It is clear to me that there are really only two classes/Levels of vehicles (“Level 0/1/2” and “Level 4”).

“Level 0/1/2” are Those that require a human to be responsible for its safe operation and that rely on a human in the vehicle to be the last “line of defense” against a crash.  Should an avoidable crash occur, the at fault individual(s) are  held liable and responsible.  This situation is no different today than what has existed with road vehicles for more than 125 years. It is irrespective of any level of automation from standard/automatic transmission, anti-lock/conventional brakes, electronic traction control/not, Automated Lane Keeping/not, intelligent Cruise Control/not, even FSD/not.  In all of these situations, at least the owner’s manual makes it clear.  A properly licensed driver is responsible for the safe operation of the vehicle and liable in case of a crash. 

It is my view that a properly licensed  driver should not only be capable of driving a vehicle but also to safely disengage any of the automated driving features that are operating in a fashion that can lead to a crash.  For many years now, all drivers engaging “stupid” cruise control have needed to be capable of disengaging that automated system or changing lanes should they be approaching a slower moving vehicle ahead in its lane.  This is a driver permitting responsibility, not a vehicle testing responsibility.

The other, driverless, is “Level 4” in which no humans in the vehicle bear the responsibility to safely drive the vehicle.

In the driverless / “Level 4” it is the vehicle/automated driver manufacturer (the OEM) that needs to assume the safe-operation responsibility.  Since those OEMs are not involved in the human driver licensing process, it is incumbent on them to prove to the public/DMV that the automated driver will be able to safely drive throughout the Operational Design Domain (ODD) that it will be permitted to drive.  The purpose of the testing is to precisely define the ODD where such vehicles can operate safely.  (“Level 3” is just a “Level 4” car that requires a conventional driver when operating outside its ODD.  So “Level 3” comes after “Level 4” capabilities have been certified in some ODD.  The only way these vehicles can operate outside the certified ODD is with a human attendant as a “Level 0/1/2 vejocle. ) Alain

   Tesla could be forced to report Full Self-Driving Beta data to DMV after ‘videos showing dangerous use’

F. Lambert, Jan 12,  “Tesla, which has managed to avoid reporting autonomous driving data to the DMV, could be forced to open the books on its Full Self-Driving (FSD) Beta to the California DMV after what the latter called “videos showing dangerous use.”

Many companies from Apple to Tesla have been testing autonomous driving technology in California.

The California DMV requires them to share data from their autonomous driving programs, like disengagements and accidents.

Tesla has been able to avoid sharing this data with the DMV, and it has officially only logged in a few hundred miles of “autonomous test driving” in the state over the last seven years.

We have previously reported that most if not all of that mileage was related to creating video “demonstrations” of Tesla’s self-driving technology.

But since the release of Tesla’s Full Self-Driving (FSD) Beta program, things have been more complicated….”  Read more  Hmmmm… They should simply volunteer to release the information.  Transparency does NOT hurt Tesla.  It would reinforce how far ahead they are.  They’ll be compelled to in the end anyway.  Fighting the public sector on “safety” is not a winning strategy.  Safety is a fundamental dominion of the public sector. All AV participants should be cooperating on safety.  Safety should be granted anti-trust immunity and colusion should be encouraged. Alain

  New NHTSA Senior Advisor Would Put An Electric Cattle Prod In Tesla Seats To Make Drivers Pay Attention

J. Crider, Jan. 15, “Dr. Missy Cummings was a recent Biden administration pick for a senior advisor position at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). She is also a clear Tesla Autopilot skeptic and has stated some extreme and alarming things on the matter. Although she stated this in 2020 and the video is a couple of years old, it’s making waves on Twitter, and what she said is seriously disturbing — even as a joke….” Read more  Hmmmm… I love it!!!   Can you imagine what the “Clean Technicas” of this world would do to me if I ever became a political appointee.  Even the most cursory vetting would instantly disqualify me.  Don’t these gals/guys have anything substantive to write about?  Tesla drivers not paying attention when using AutoPilot, FSD and/or Stupid Summon not only put them at risk, but also puts all of us, even J. Crider, at risk.  It is hard to imagine anyone, even J. Crider, not emphatically supporting Missy’s efforts to encourage everyone using any automated driving technology sold today on the open market to pay attention while their car is driven by some gizmo.  None of them, None of them, None of them, work so well that any driver can afford to not pay attention when they are in use.  C’Mon Johnna!  Alain

  Pa. transportation secretary, senator unveil bill to allow self-driving cars to be tested without someone behind the wheel

E.Blazina, Jan. 5, “… Mr. Jahanian spoke in strong support Wednesday of bi-partisan legislation that will allow companies to test self-driving vehicles on Pennsylvania roads without a driver available to take over in an emergency. State Transportation Secretary Yassmin Gramian and state Sen. Wayne Langerholc, R-Johnstown and chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, unveiled the proposed legislation at a news conference at Mill 19 at Hazelwood Green…. ”  Read more  Hmmmm… NO!  Please, this is crazy stuff!  There is ABSOLUTELY nothing to be gained by testing without someone capable and available to take over in an emergency“.  Is anyone awake in Pennsylvania??? C’Mon Pennsylvania!  Alain

The Deadly Myth That Human Error Causes Most Car Crashes

D. Zipper, Nov. 26, “…But in the United States, the responsibility for road safety largely falls on the individual sitting behind the wheel, or riding a bike, or crossing the street. American transportation departments, law-enforcement agencies, and news outlets frequently maintain that most crashes—indeed, 94 percent of them, according to the most widely circulated statistic—are solely due to human error. Blaming the bad decisions of road users implies that nobody else could have prevented them. That enables car companies to deflect attention from their decisions to add heft and height to the SUVs and trucks that make up an ever-larger portion of vehicle sales, and it allows traffic engineers to escape scrutiny for dangerous street designs….”  Read more  Hmmmm… Good points, but I’d rather continue to blame the mis-behavior of drivers for the “94%”.  We must behave better and do the above. Automation can save us when we mis-behave.  (How to get OEMs to stop building tanks???  I have no idea. 😭) Alain

  GM says Qualcomm’s computer chips will power its next-gen ‘hands-free’ driving mode

A. Hawkins, Jan 6, “General Motors completely redesigned the compute architecture that powers its next-generation “hands-free” driving system thanks to US semiconductor company Qualcomm.

The automaker’s Ultra Cruise system, which will make its debut in the 2024 Cadillac Celestiq electric sedan, will be the first advanced driver assist system (ADAS) to use Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon Ride Platform. The size of “two laptops stacked together,” GM claims the new architecture will have the processing power equivalent to “several hundred” personal computers….”  Read more  Hmmmm…   Interesting.  Alain

EVs are the least reliable vehicle type: Consumer Reports points to some problem areas

S. Edelstein, Jan 14, “In a reliability survey published last November, Consumer Reports named electric SUVs the least-reliable vehicle type. Now CR has followed that up with a report shedding light on specific problem areas.

On average, EVs have significantly higher problem rates than internal-combustion vehicles across model years 2019 and 2020, according to CR’s data. That improved somewhat for 2021, but certain models still showed high rates of problems, according to the report.

The most common EV problem areas were “in-car electronics, noises and leaks, power equipment, climate system, body hardware, drive system, and paint and trim,” the report said….” Read more  Hmmmm… Haven’t the newer modeled cars “always” had early reliability issues?  Alain


Saturday, December 11, 2021


P, Murphy, Dec. 6, “The New Jersey Department of Transportation (“NJDOT”), an instrumentality of the State of New Jersey, has issued a Request for Expression of Interest (“RFEI”) to identify experienced firms capable of introducing a safe, equitable, affordable, sustainable, and efficient on-demand
automated vehicle mobility systems in and beyond Trenton, NJ.

NJDOT is soliciting written Expression of interest from qualified and experienced vendors to gain valuable insight from the private industry regarding the goals set forth in the Trenton MOVES (Mobility & Opportunity: Vehicles Equity System) potential project and assess its viability.

If and when NJDOT elects to proceed with a potential project, NJDOT may issue formal Request(s) for Qualifications or Proposals.
The RFEI is available to be downloaded at https://www.nj.gov/transportation/business/procurement/ems/current.shtm…

1. Potential Project Summary
The State of New Jersey is exploring a transportation equity and sustainable energy opportunity within the capital city of Trenton. Trenton MOVES (Mobility & Opportunity: Vehicles Equity System) will be led by the Governor’s Office, NJ Department of Transportation, the City of Trenton, and one or more institutions of higher education.

Trenton MOVES is exploring the feasibility of deploying ~100 AVs to serve as lowcapacity (4-8 passenger), high-quality (on-demand, kiosk-to-kiosk) shuttles to serve the 90,000 residents who live in the City of Trenton’s 8 square miles. The effort will be phased in over two (2) years and will serve the population of New Jersey’s capital city, a population where 70% of households have one or fewer cars. A proof-of-concept Operational Design
Domain (“ODD”) is described in Section 3.1. …  “Read more  Hmmmm… How fantastic is this!  Plus, Governor Phil Murphy’s Press Release announcing Trenton MOVES.  All substance!!  I also presented relevant testimony to NJ’s Assembly Transportation Committee Thursday morning.  An ALK trifecta this week😁.  The “welcoming environment” now exists in New Jersey.  We are no longer tied for last with Mississippi as was reported at last week’s Florida AV Conference. We’re looking like “first in the world” focused on substantive deployment to real customers.  We’ve built the “Field of Dreams” and awaiting the technology “to come”.  We only need one!  Or we’ll assemble volunteers (and not hostages as Mike Tomlin would put it) and build a winning team ourselves.😎 Alain

  Orf 467F21 Symposium: Evolutionary Deployment of a State-wide aTaxis system starting from MyVillage

J. Woll’22, A. Lau’23, M. Wasserman’22, C. Larson’22, J. Sun’23, Dec. 10, “Slides of: Making It Happen”: Hawaii – California – Washington – Florida – Connecticut” Read more  Hmmmm…  Video of Presentation, Slides, Report Format.  I couldn’t be more proud. Also check out Pod-Cast Episode 246, Zoom-Cast Episode 246 w/Jack Woll’22, Jason Sun’232, and Connor Larson’22😁  Alain

Trenton MOVES: Community Engagement Update

J. He, Dec. 15, “Vignettes from Community Engagement “focus groups”.  Read more  Hmmmm… Why Trenton!  Alain

5th Annual SmartDrivingCars Summit:  Deployment of Safe, Equitable Affordable, Sustainable,  High Quality Mobility throughout New Jersey

Date Change:   Thursday evening, May 5, through Saturday May 7, 2022.  Live in Trenton, New Jersey. 

“Everything” was going well wrt the 5th Summit Nov 18->20; however…

Time is very short, we must focus on the election and the realities of where we remain with Covid really put cold water on some aspects of our vision for November.

Consequently. I’ve become convinced that it is very much better, that we take our time and reschedule for the first week on May 2022 rather than rush for what isn’t as good as could be. 

By May we will have received responses to our Trenton MOVES RfEI   for “Equitable … Mobility in Trenton”.  We will thus have a better idea on “Who”,  from the “What & How” communities, “Want & Can” Deploy “Safe, Equitable … Mobility” starting in Trenton with real expectations of scaling throughout New Jersey.

In May the 5th Summit can better achieve its fundamental purpose by allowing all of us in New Jersey to better learn from others around the world  the “Whats & Hows” and have the possible “Whos” get a better appreciation of the “Equitable … Mobility” desires of Trentonians and other New Jersians. 

Rescheduling the Summit to be between the RfI and the RfP steps of our Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) Deployment Process, will better enable our Community Engagement initiative to shape our ultimate  deployment.  We’ll thus deliver even better mobility equitably and best improve quality-of-life in Trenton and throughout New Jersey.   

Please pencil into your calendar the new dates of  May 5 (Thursday evening) though May 7 (Trenton Mobility Festival Saturday). 😎   Please let me know if these dates work for you.

Sorry about the delay, but many will be relieved by this change. Plus, early May is really nice in NJ.😁


This 5th Summit is inspired by the many levels of public-sector, community and neighborhood welcoming and support that now exists in New Jersey for the deployment of safe, equitable, affordable, sustainable, high-quality mobility. This is now made possible by automated driving technology that is especially targeted to serve those who, for whatever reason, don’t have access to their own personal car.  

The Princeton SDC Summits were initiated in 2017 to provide a venue for the open discussion of how technology, in particular automation, can be shaped to improve mobility of people and goods between and within cities. Early on, we realized that this form of mobility could easily provide yet another alternative to those who are fortunate enough to enjoy one or many high quality mobility options.

But, more importantly, it became obvious that substantial improvement in quality-of-life and equitable mobility can readily be made available to the un-served and under-served.  Those who cannot drive themselves, cannot afford the transport alternatives that exist for them, or who live in areas where, for either economic or other reasons, neither public nor private desirable forms of transport are offered.  Furthermore, such initial Operational Design Domains (OODs) can be readily expanded and replicated to allow the vast investments continuing to be made in this technology to actually yield their envisioned societal and financial benefits. 

The recently completed 4th Summit set the groundwork for these initial deployments to benefit under-served communities. Communities with many households having access to one or fewer cars and with challenged transit alternatives. We concluded the 4th Summit by envisioning a deployment throughout Trenton, NJ, a community where 70% of the households have access to one or fewer cars.

We believe that Trenton is a perfect ODD to begin to deliver Safe, Equitable, Affordable, Sustainable, High-quality Mobility, in addition to being environmentally responsible, safe and comfortable.

The opportunity to expand throughout Mercer County and replicate this deployment scenario throughout the State exists.  This deployment will  serves as a blueprint for the future for many other “Trentons” of this world. 

The groundwork set by the 4th Summit and the NJ Autonomous Vehicle Task Force has enabled us to create a “most welcoming environment”  in New Jersey for creating a Public-Private Partnership to deliver this enhanced mobility to the residents of Trenton and all New Jersians. The 5th Summit will focus directly on deployment in Trenton and will take place in Trenton. We also envision its expansion throughout Mercer County and its replication in and around New Jersey’s other major cities.  

The Technical portion of the summit will be in the morning, through lunch, of Friday, May 6 and Saturday, May 7. 

Sessions will be free of charge but will require advance registration, as seating will be limited. 


The Societal portion focused on engaging the customers of this form of mobility, featuring descriptions, discussions, interactions, exhibits and  technology demonstrations, will be free and open to the public, with preference given to Trenton residents on Friday and residents of Mercer County and the rest of New Jersey on Saturday.  Link to Sponsorship Opportunities Link to Draft Program  Link to Registration

   4th Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit  It is over!!!  Now time to actually do something in the Trentons of this world.   

  Making Driverless Happen: The Road Forward (Updated)

K. Pyle, April 18, “It’s time to hit the start button,” is Fred Fishkin’s succinct way of summarizing the next steps in the Smart Driving Car journey. Fiskin, along with the LA Times’ Russ Mitchell co-produced the final session of the 2021 Smart Driving Car Summit, Making It Happen: Part 2. This 16th and final session in this multi-month online conference not only provided a summary of the thought-provoking speakers, but also provided food for thought on a way forward to bring mobility to “the Trentons of the World.”

Setting the stage for this final session, Michael Sena provided highlights of the Smart Driving Car journey that started in late December 2020.  Safety, high-quality, and affordable mobility, particularly for those who do not have many options, was a common theme to the 2021 Smart Driving Car Summit. As Princeton Professor Kornhauser, the conference organizer put it,…..” Read more  Hmmmm…. We had another excellent Session.  Thank you for the summary, Ken!  Alain


Ken Pyle‘s Session Summaries of 4th Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit:
15th Session    Making it Happen – Part One: Elected Officials’ Role in Creating a Welcoming Environment in the Trentons of this World

14th Session    What Will Power Safely-driven Cars

13th Session    Improving the Moving of Goods

12th Session    3/18/21 Human-centered Design of Safe and Affordable Driverless Mobility

11th Session    3/11/21  Incentivizing Through Regulation

10th Session    3/04/21  Incentivizing Through Insurance

9th Session    2/25/21  Can Level 3 be Delivered?

8th Session    2/18/21  Who Will Build, Sell and Maintain Driverless Cars?

    Michael Sena’s SlidesGlenn Mercer Slides

7th Session    2/11/21  Finally Doing It
6th Session    2/ 4/21   Safe Enough in the Operational Design Domain
5th Session    1/28/21   At the Tipping Point
4th Session    1/21/21  Why Customers are Buying Them

3rd Session    1/14/21  The SmartDrivingCars We Can Buy Today
2nd Session   1/ 7/21  A Look into the Future
1st Session: 12/17/20  Setting the Stage

Kornhauser & He, April 2021 “Making it Happen:  A Proposal for Providing Affordable, High-quality, On-demand Mobility for All in the “Trentons” of this World” 

Orf467F20_FinalReport “Analyzing Ride-Share Potential and Empty Repositioning Requirements of a Nationwide aTaxi System

Kornhauser & He, March 2021 AV 101 + Trenton Affordable HQ Mobility Initiative

Re-see:    Pop Up Metro USA Intro 09 2020

H. Poser’77, Sept 13, 2020.  “Creating Value for Light Density Urban Rail Lines”  . See slides,  See video Hmmmm… Simply Brilliant.  Alain

Calendar of Upcoming Events

5th Annual Princeton  SmartDrivingCar Summit 


Thursday (evening), May 5, Welcome Reception (Registration required)

Friday, May 6, Equitable Mobility Innovation Forum (Registration required)

Saturday, May 7, Equitable Mobility Festival (Open to All)

Trenton, NJ
Live in Person

On the More Technical Side


K. Lockean’s AV Research Group at U of Texas