Thursday September 1, 2022

32nd edition of the 10th year of SmartDrivingCars eLetter

  Funding Roads: Pay for the Effect or Pay for the Cause

M. Sena, Aug. 30, “The September 2022 Issue in Brief

Funding Roads: There was a time when the main problem with roads in the U.S. and Europe was that there were not enough of them to keep drivers from getting stuck in traffic. Then, environmentalism, NIMBYism, anti-feceralism and anybody-with-a-beefism put the breaks on all infrastructure. They shifted the debate to how to pay, rather than what do we need to stay competitive with the countries where the rulers decide what gets built where and how. Is there a way forward for democracies to have a functioning infrastructure, or must we look on with envy at countries where totalitarian governments build infrastructure like it’s the 1950s in the West?

Dispatch Central:  A new city in the desert is an old idea – The de facto head of the Saudia Arabia government has designed a city with one stroke of the pencil. One very long stroke.

Aluminum: Another brick in the Wall of China – Governments required higher fuel efficiency. OEMs lowered car weights to comply. China cornered the market on the material that was needed to make it happen: aluminum. Sound familiar?

Some countries actually do something about Tesla – China (again) seems to be the only country that can tell Tesla to “Heel?”, and Tesla heels. We don’t wonder why this is so.

GM looking for money in all the wrong places – Making something like OnStar a ‘standard option’ is like telling parishoners they need to put money in the collection basket in order to get into mass.  …” Read more Hmmmm… Another fantastic issue.  See ZoomCast 282/PodCast 282 for a discussion of the content.  Alain



SmartDrivingCars ZoomCast 282 /PodCast 282 w/ Michael Sena, Editor of The Dispatcher

F. Fishkin, Aug. 31, “Is there really a battle over building and maintaining roads?   “The Dispatcher” publisher Michael Sena on the history and outlook on episode 282 of Smart Driving Cars with Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin.   Plus… the Saudi linear city plan, GM, #Tesla, Baidu, Waymo and more.”    Michael Sena ..battle over roads   Michael Sena  Saudi linear city plans  Aluminum makes cars…China makes aluminum  Teslas banned from Chinese Communist Party retreat   GM’s mandator OnStar option   Gatik partners with Pitney Bowes   Waymo reported seeks to withhold trip level data in SF  GM president on autonomous vehicle strategy   Baidu says automous EV rides in China have surpassed one million


  California Approves a Wave of Aggressive New Climate Measures

B. Plumer, Sept. 1, “California took some of its most aggressive steps yet to fight global warming as lawmakers passed a flurry of new climate bills late Wednesday, including a record $54 billion in climate spending, a measure to prevent the state’s last nuclear power plant from closing, …

As part of that spending package, legislators endorsed a plan to keep open the Diablo Canyon Power Plant, a pair of nuclear reactors that provide 9 percent of California’s electricity without producing any emissions.

Those reactors were originally scheduled to close in 2024 and 2025, but the new plan extends those deadlines to 2029 and 2030 while providing a $1.4 billion loan to Pacific Gas & Electric, the utility that operates the plant. PG&E is also expected to apply for money from a new $6 billion federal program designed to keep open existing nuclear plants.

Mr. Newsom had once been a firm believer that Diablo Canyon should shut down. But as California has faced increasingly severe heat waves that drive up demand for electricity and strain the grid, the state has struggled to keep the lights on. So, this summer, Mr. Newsom reversed course and urged lawmakers to keep the plant open.

Some environmentalists criticized the move, arguing that the money would be better spent on other clean energy resources like solar and wind power and batteries. But proponents of keeping the plant open warned that California badly needed the electricity, and if the plant closed, it would be replaced with more polluting sources like natural gas….”  Read more Hmmmm… Excellent!  California leading with some real sanity here.  Alain

  Bill targeting Tesla’s ‘self-driving’ claims passes California Legislature

R. Mitchell, Aug. 31, 2022, “Since 2016, Tesla has been marketing an expensive option called Full Self-Driving. A reasonable person might infer from the name that the software package enables a car to drive itself, fully.

It does not. No car available for consumers to buy is capable of full self-driving. The California Department of Motor Vehicles has rules on its books that ban the advertisement of cars as “self-driving” when they are not. But it has never enforced those rules.

So, impatient with the DMV, the state Legislature is stepping in, going over the DMV’s head and making its false advertising regulation a state law.

The bill, sponsored by Senate Transportation Committee Chair Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), was passed by the Senate on Tuesday night and now heads to Gov. Gavin Newsom for his signature. Newsom’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

False advertising of self-driving technology is a serious safety issue, Gonzalez said. At least several deaths have been linked to Tesla’s Autopilot, the cheaper, more basic version of Full Self-Driving….”  Read more Hmmmm… Excellent!  More great leadership coming out of California.  I hope that the law extends to press releases that then get repeated by the press.  Hopefully this is not a loophole in the legislation.   Alain

  Tesla Raises ‘FSD’ Price To $15K. Does It Signal They Are Giving Up?

B. Templeton, Aug. 31. “… The sale of this product is quite unusual in global industry, and the take-rate for it has been dropping as the price has risen. This opens up questions about why the price continues to rise, why people buy it, and what strategies it opens up when the price is this high — including one strategy which suggest they be enacting a contingency in case the project does not succeed…. ”  Read more Hmmmm… ??? Brad, This is not your most parsimonious argument.  Occam’s razor would simply suggest that a $15k price tag for something that is really “Full Self-driving” is a very small price tag even if the price tag was very much cheaper yesterday.  Alain

  Waymo withholds data on autonomous vehicle taxi service in San Francisco

B. Schneider, Aug. 29, “Despite their ubiquity on San Francisco’s streets, Waymo’s pearly white autonomous vehicles have an air of mystery about them. Like The City’s growing population of coyotes, these purring electric Jaguars may appear in any neighborhood, at any time of day or night and sometimes in packs.

Now, the Google subsidiary is hoping to preserve a certain amount of mystery around its operations in San Francisco by claiming confidentiality on some of the data it is required to publicly report. Specifically, Waymo is seeking to withhold trip-level data on its limited ride-hail service in San Francisco, including pickup and dropoff locations, time of day and miles traveled. It also wants to make information about its charging stations confidential…. ”  Read more Hmmmm… OK about the location of their charging stations.  We probably can find them on Google Earth anyway, but what are they hiding about the personTrip mobility that they are delivering.  All Yellow cab, Uber and Lyft rides in Manhattan are reported.  What is more confidential about Waymo rides?  Alain

  Tesla battery fire and crash were faked by insurance company in bizarre showcase

F. Lambert, Aug, 30, “An insurance company has faked a Tesla battery fire and crash as part of a bizarre showcase to show that electric cars cause more accidents.

Tesla vehicles have been tested by many auto safety agencies around the world, including the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which most recently gave the Tesla Model Y its highest possible safety rating…. confirmed that AXA Insurance completely faked the crash by pulling the vehicle to launch and then activating pyrotechnics to fake a fire:…”  Read more Hmmmm… So bad!!! Shame on you AXA Insurance! Alain

  Autonomous delivery company Gatik wins new pilot program with Pitney Bowes in Dallas

J. Stebbins, Aug. 31, “… The Pitney Bowes routes will have a safety driver to start, but the company expects to have the trucks completely driverless within a few months. ….

…OK!  Great expectations.  Let’s revisit in a few months to see if there is anything really new here….

“… “By constraining the autonomy problem, we can get to the point where the driver comes out [of the safety driver role] faster than anyone else in the industry,” Gatik’s CEO, Gautam Narang, told CNBC in an interview. .  Read more  Hmmmm… Taken literally, this quote implies that no one, including Gatik, has gotten “… to the point where the driver comes out.”  I believe that in trucking, that is a true statement. 

(TuSimple took the driver out for a test run but had a human-driven lead vehicle clearing the way and a human-driven chase vehicle prepared to help should something unexpected happen… Not a commercially viable approach to safe driverless.)   Alain

  Driving Toward the Automobile’s Electric, Autonomous Future

A. Marshall, Aug. 29, “Meanwhile, another revolutionary technology is also approaching: self-driving vehicles. Automakers and tech companies have poured hundreds of billions into the quest for robot cars. That spending has yet to bear commercial fruit, but it is expected to reshape everything from the business of cars to city streets and the labor market.

Mark Reuss, the president of General Motors, has worked at the Detroit automaker for decades and feels the ground shifting beneath his feet. The company is ramping up production of new electric models like the Cadillac Lyriq and Chevrolet Silverado EV, manufacturing its own battery packs in a joint venture with LG, and trying to push forward self-driving subsidiary Cruise,..

We’re solving one of the greatest engineering problems in the world with autonomous driving. Our approach has always been to go to the hardest place, which is what we’re doing in San Francisco. I was out there for a Cruise board meeting two weeks ago, and we’re becoming more aligned as we look at the opportunities that we’re going to have with AVs and PAVs—personal autonomous vehicles. We’ve got 34 million miles on Cruise. And we monitor what Super Cruise [GM’s hands-free driving feature] does every day. We’re actually building the Origin [GM’s driverless taxi], alongside the Hummer and the Silverado at Factory Zero. …” Read more Hmmmm… I’m not a fan of the “Frank Sinatra” approach to accomplishing an objective.  I much prefer focusing delivering the most value the earliest along the evolutionary path.  Unfortunately, San Francisco already has many very good mobility solutions for which driverless automation add little of any value.  There are many easier places where mobility and wealth is not as concentrated and automation can substantially improve the quality-of-life of many (Automation is all about affordability… replace human labor costs with technology).  Seems that “expected delivered value” (aka market opportunity) should play a bigger role in deciding on which problems to solve, where, as opposed to “hardness of the problem”. 

There is enormous opportunity for this technology to deliver substantial societal benefits without ever working in San Francisco.  Why not get it to work in places where it delivers real value without it needing to work everywhere. 

The “work everywhere” requirement only comes when one is interested in PAVs.  If you sell one to me, I might just take it to San Francisco.  That is so never going to happen!   Origin’s will be constrained to ODDs and a Trenton Origin will never need to go to San Francisco.  Alain

  Baidu’s (BIDU) Apollo Go service strikes 1 million EV autonomous ride milestone in China

P. Johnson, Aug. 30, “Chinese tech giant Baidu (BIDU) beat Wall Street’s Q2 earnings estimates on Tuesday despite several headwinds in China’s economy. Baidu’s Apollo Go, its robotaxi business, unveiled its next-gen autonomous EV, the Apollo RT6, as the service surpasses 1 million rides….”  Read more Hmmmm… Since “… the service ….” is NOT described and it is NOT explicitly stated that these personTrips were served in cars without a driver or attendant,  one MUST assume that there was an attendant  and or driver in those cars; else, they would have been extremely precise and proud that they had actually accomplishes something better than what conventional taxis have done for 100 years.  Little to get excited about here. Alain

Previous SmartDrivingCars ZoomCast/PodCasts

These editions are sponsored by the SmartETFs Smart Transportation and Technology ETF, symbol MOTO. For more information head to provided technical support

SmartDrivingCars ZoomCast281 /PodCast 281 

F. Fishkin, Aug. 28, “A new step for Tesla FSD with Beta 10 69 release and the company’s “Occupancy Network”.  Princeton’s faculty chair of autonomous vehicle engineering, Alain Kornhauser, weighs in on that plus oversized EVs,  Toyota’s view of autonomous mobility,  Pittsburgh’s Guaranteed Basic Mobility Program and some excitement surround SpaceX and NASA and more.”

00:42 new Tesla FSD Beta 15:37 Tesla AI Day coming 19:07 Space X Launch 21:06 NY Times Essay on oversized EVs 24:18 California to ban gasoline cars by 2035 25:43 Toyota Research Institute says AVs not imminent 31:35 Tesla acts agains Dawn Project and O’Dowd 32:19 Pitssburght Guaranteed Basic Mobility 38:24 Waze shutting carpooling service 41:09 NASA readies Artemis

SmartDrivingCars ZoomCast 280 /PodCast 280 w/Cade Metz, NY Times

F. Fishkin, Aug . 22, “How can Tesla data help with the understanding of car crashes?   NY Times reporter & author Cade Metz joins Alain and Fred to explore the latest Tesla news, including the new higher price for FSD.  Plus NHTSA reports a continuing rise in traffic deaths, Lyft in Vegas,  Cruise and Waymo.  And Princeton and NBA great Brian Taylor joins us to remember legendary basketball coach Pete Carril.”

SmartDrivingCars ZoomCast 279 / PodCast 279 w/Scott Painter, CEO Autonomy

F. Fishkin, Aug . 11, “After announcing it will spend 1.2 billion dollars on EVs and rapidly expand its vehicle subscription service, what does the future hold for Autonomy. Serial entrepreneur & CEO Scott Painter joins us for episode 279 of Smart Driving Cars.  Plus Tesla, Argo AI and more …”

Timeining Index:

@t=47 Autonomy CEO Scott Painter 

@t=2485 Tesla, Ralph Nader 
@t=2635  Anti-Tesla ad campaign 
@t=2657 Pittsburgh Post Gazette 
@t=2892 Argo AI  
@t=2967 Congressional push for AV legislation 

SmartDrivingCars ZoomCast 278 / PodCast 278 Tesla 2022 shareholder’s meeting

F. Fishkin, Aug . 7, “Elon Musk talked about his vision for Tesla robo-taxis and more during his Q&A following the 2022 shareholders’ meeting.   Weighing in on that and more is Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser on episode 278 of Smart Driving Cars with co-host Fred Fishkin.  Plus TuSimple, GM Cruise, Lucid, Argo and more.”

Timeining Index:

SmartDrivingCars ZoomCast 277/ PodCast 277 w/Michael Sena, Editor of The Dispatcher

F. Fishkin, July 30, “A look at cities & mobility, turmoil at VW, the cash problem at Cruise & more. “The Dispatcher” publisher Michael Sena joins Alain Kornhauser & Fred Fishkin for another spirited discussion on episode 277 of Smart Driving Cars.”

SmartDrivingCars ZoomCast Episode 276/ PodCast 276 w/R. Mudge, President, Compass Transportation

F. Fishkin, July 25, “Following the TRB gathering in California, what was accomplished?  Compass Transportation & Technology President Dick Mudge joins us for a look.   Plus the latest on Tesla, Cruise, Baidu, Zoox & more.   Smart Driving Cars episode 276 with Alain Kornhauser & co-host Fred Fishkin.”


Link to 275 previous SDC PodCasts & ZoomCasts