Saturday, November 19, 2022– Future of Autonomy 111922

42st edition of the 10th year of SmartDrivingCars eLetter


  What Riding in a Self-Driving Tesla Tells Us About the Future of Autonomy

C. Metz, Nov. 14,Cade and Ian spent six hours riding in a self-driving car in Jacksonville, Fla., to report this story.

When we decided it was time for lunch, Chuck Cook tapped the digital display on the dashboard of his Tesla Model Y and told the car to drive us to the Bearded Pig, a barbecue joint on the other side of town.


“I don’t know how it’s gonna do. But I think it’s gonna do pretty good,” he said with the folksy, infectious enthusiasm he brought to nearly every moment of our daylong tour of Jacksonville, Fla., in a car that could drive itself. 


The most telling moment came as the car drove us to lunch. After navigating heavy traffic on a four-lane road, taking an unexpected turn and quickly remapping its route to the restaurant, the car took a right turn onto a short street beside a small motel.


But watch as the Tesla struggles to make sense of its environment, veering from the road into a motel parking lot. Chuck is forced to retake control….


Tesla is constantly modifying the technology, working to fix its shortcomings. Since the day we drove around Jacksonville, the company has twice released new versions of the technology that show signs of improvement. But the moment in the motel parking lot showed why it may be a long time before cars can safely drive anywhere on their own….


Tesla is constantly modifying the technology, working to fix its shortcomings. Since the day we drove around Jacksonville, the company has twice released new versions of the technology that show signs of improvement. But the moment in the motel parking lot showed why it may be a long time before cars can safely drive anywhere on their own…


Mr. Cook had been posting online clips of his Tesla trying to navigate an unprotected left turn near his home in Jacksonville. …


Soon, Mr. Musk noticed the videos and vowed to solve what Tesla enthusiasts began calling “Chuck’s turn.” In the weeks that followed, Tesla equipped several test cars with a new version of its self-driving technology and sent them to Mr. Cook’s neighborhood, where they spent several weeks testing the new software and gathering data that could help improve it.


Mr. Cook and I spent a good chunk of our day asking his car to navigate the turn named after him. Each attempt was different from the last. Sometimes, the cars approached much faster from the left. Other times, from the right. Sometimes, the gap between the two was enormous. Other times, it was tiny.


Not long after that day in Jacksonville, Tesla released a new version of its software to Mr. Cook and other beta testers.  When facing heavy traffic, it could navigate Chuck’s turn with a precision that was not possible in the past. So if it needed to stop next to the median, it would position itself so that traffic could safely pass both in front and behind.  Chuck’s turn is just one scenario among the endless scenarios a Tesla might face on American roadways.


Chuck’s turn is just one scenario among the endless scenarios a Tesla might face on American roadways….


As the car approached the shadows beneath this mossy canopy, it suddenly changed course, turned sharply right and headed the wrong way down a one-way street:  he moment highlighted the difference between Tesla’s self-driving technology and “robotaxi” services being developed by companies like Waymo, owned by the same parent company as Google, and Cruise, backed by General Motors.  The robotaxi companies are trying to reduce these unexpected moments by tightly controlling where and how a car can drive.  But these services will have strict limitations that make the task easier. The cars will travel only in certain neighborhoods under certain weather conditions at relatively low speeds. And company technicians will provide remote assistance to cars that inevitably find themselves in situations they cannot navigate on their own…. “Read more  Hmmmm… This is exactly the basis for our MOVES-style approach to deployment.  In the near term, this technology has a reasonable chance of being good enough if its calibrations (the released version) has been biased to work well in …” in certain neighborhoods under certain weather conditions at relatively low speeds” ,.  It must also demonstrated that it does work well (zero disengagements) in a sufficient subset of the streets in those neighborhoods such that the driver/attendant is not needed to ensure safe operation.   Substantially better mobility can then be delivered between many locations throughout those neighborhoods in most weather conditions than the mobility available today throughout those neighborhoods.   


Unless Driverless is substantially better in delivering mobility to some in some places they will never be more that a fad or fashion statement.  Unfortunately, that’s how Driverless has been positioned to date.  “My car drives itself! A ride becomes a goofy selfie on TikTok/Instagram/Twitter… Look Mom, no hands!!!   Good luck in any repeat customers or near-term RoI.  


As we’ve been saying over and over, the substantial value proposition of driverless (or real FSD) is NOT safety (it can be “as safe” but, again, way too difficult for it to be substantially safer) and, in the near term, not a fashion statement or toy for the rich (way too expensive to create that).  It certainly can’t be substantially better than one’s own personal car, although it can come close to being as good and maybe even arguably better to some. 


The attributes that can make Driverless substantially better than all other forms of mobility is its capability to affordability deliver high-quality (auto-like demand-responsive non-circuitous, 24/7 availability in most weather conditions) mobility affordably while being safe, equitable and environmentally responsive (by facilitating casual ride-sharing when warranted as is done naturally when using elevators).  Such a mobility service is offered by Kiosk2Kiosk elevator-like operation throughout the safest subset of interconnecting streets.  We call these MOVES-style Driverless Transit Networks.


Affordability is THE key differentiator.  If you are rich enough to afford a car for yourself and have a driver’s license, then this system isn’t substantially better than what you have now.  Neither is it if you can afford to pay and tip an Uber/Lyft gig worker or if your expense account pays for your taxi/limo or black car driver or if you have a chauffeur. Nor if you live in Manhattan or in the very center of a few of our largest cities.   For everyone else (the too young, the too old, the too poor, the sufficiently poor that can’t afford a car for each driver in the family, then MOVES-style Driverless Transit Networks can readily be transformative.  Trenton NJ turns out to be one of these communities where 70% of households have access to one or fewer cars.  Perth Amboy, NJ,. Cherry Hill, MD, Patterson, NJ, Scranton, PA are similar.   My Mobility Disadvantage Index for places in New Jersey can be found here and for the rest of the US, here.


I am confident that Waymo, Cruise and Tesla could today, make their systems work safely in Trenton and many of the other Mobility Disadvantaged communities if they simply added to their training set the data from driving between the kiosks in, say Trenton, and generated a ***.Trenton release of their ***Driver to be used exclusively in Trenton to deliver substantially improved mobility to many.    Alain 

SmartDrivingCars ZoomCast 292 / PodCast292  w/Chuck Cook, FSD Betta Tester

“F. Fishkin, Nov.. 18, ” Chuck Cook, pilot and airline industry veteran, has been a prominent Tesla FSD Beta tester, well known inside and outside the company. Recently featured in the NY Times, Chuck joins Alain Kornhauser and Fred Fishkin on episode 292 of Smart Driving Cars for a look at where FSD is today.

0:00 open 1:00 Tesla FSD Beta tester Chuck Cook 29:05 Chuck Cook unprotected left turn FSD videos 39:00 Is Tesla using customers improperly to Beta test? 52:40 Motional and Lyft to launch fully driverless ride hailing in L.A. 53:37 Waymo shows new prototype vehicle without steering wheel 54:10 Cruise expands SF driverless service to daylight hours 56:34 Tesla’s data advantage


Technical support provided by:  a 501c3 dedicated to Safe & High-Quality Mobility for All

  Waymo shows off its next truly driverless prototype car

R. Amadeo, Nov. 17, “Waymo is now running a robotaxi service in two states, but the vehicles for those services are retrofitted commercial cars. The company rolls around in either the “4th-gen” Waymo vehicles, built on the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, or the “5th-gen” driver, built on the Jaguar I-Pace. That’s all great for enabling Waymo’s service to get up and running, but these vehicles, which are full of controls and dials for human drivers, are driven by a robot that, in the long term, doesn’t actually need a steering wheel or pedals.


So, for the second time now, Waymo is doing a ground-up design of a driverless vehicle, without any of those useless, legacy human controls. The car was originally announced in December, but today Waymo is showing off a bit more detail about the vehicle. Real-life models are actually being built now, with Waymo showing off the car at an LA press event and a camouflaged, sensorless, human-driven test mule recently hitting a test track.


The car is being built with Geely Group’s Zeekr brand and designed as an all-electric “transportation-as-a-service (TaaS)-optimized” vehicle. The car has no steering wheel, pedals, or mirrors, and four automated sliding doors open up like it’s some kind of road-going subway train. Inside, the minivan seats five people, including two in the front, where the dashboard contains nothing but a centrally mounted touchscreen. There are also two seat-back touchscreens for the back seats, where you can play music, pick a destination, or see what the car is currently thinking….” Read more  Hmmmm… Looks perfect for Trenton-MOVES-style Driverless Transit Network. Alain


Lyft, Motional to launch robotaxi service in Los Angeles

Reuter, Nov. 17, ” Lyft and driverless technology firm Motional said on Thursday that residents in Los Angeles will be able to book robotaxis on the ride-hailing company’s app, but did not specify by when the service will be available.


Tough regulatory scrutiny and delayed commercial adoption of autonomous vehicle technology have delayed deployment of robotaxi services, worrying investors.


Los Angeles will become the second city where the companies will offer the driverless taxi service after Las Vegas.


Motional which uses Hyundai Motor Co’s (005380.KS) IONIQ5 electric car for the robotaxi service is a joint venture between the South Korean manufacturer and automotive technology company…..” Read more  Hmmmm… It continues to baffle me why Motional insists on being an “also ran”.  Chances they are able to get to driverless in LA before they run out of money and are as good as Waymo are “slim2none”.  Sorry, but the ride-hailing market in LA is hopelessly diffuse spatially, so much so  that one must be able to operate essentially everywhere in LA in order to be a player in this market.  Given the trouble Tesla is having trying to get FSD to work everywhere, Waymo may not even be able to do it sufficiently well before they run out of money.  Once again, they should be looking at places like Las Vegas (the city, not the strip) as their next markets where they might have a chance of being a real business.   Alain


 Cruise has expanded its driverless robotaxi service to daytime hours

K. Karosec, Nov. 16, “ Cruise is expanding its driverless ride-hailing service in San Francisco to daytime hours, Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt tweeted Wednesday.


The robotaxi service is now available to employees 24 hours a day. Eventually, these expanded operating hours will be available to the public. The bolstered hours are the latest expansion of the GM subsidiary’s driverless operations in San Francisco….”  Read more  Hmmmm… .. Nice.  This is progress and I hope the daytime service is oriented to complementing Muni rather than duplicating Muni.  The nice thing about the overnight service is that it really complements Muni in that Muni doesn’t


   Stellantis to buy software developer aiMotive in autonomous driving push

Staff, Nov. 7, “Carmaker Stellantis (STLA.MI) said on Thursday it had agreed to buy aiMotive, a Hungary-based developer of advanced artificial intelligence and autonomous driving software, to advance its technology development efforts.


No financial details of the transaction were disclosed.


The acquisition enhances Stellantis’ artificial intelligence and autonomous driving core technology, expands its global talent pool, and boosts the mid-term development of its all-new STLA AutoDrive platform, the company added in a statement….”  Read more  Hmmmm… This is a move to assist in the development of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS/ “Level2”) and not Driverless.    Alain


  Transit Agencies Increasingly Dependent on Federal Funding

D. Ionescu, Nov. 9, “”ransit agencies nationwide are taking in less farebox revenue, with agencies recovering, on average, just 12.8 cents for every dollar they spent on operations in 2021, down from 32.3 cents in 2019.


According to an article in The Center Square by Elyse Apel, Tom Gantert, and Brett Rowland, “Once the pandemic hit, transit operational costs increased while passengers abandoned public transportation for various reasons – including fear of COVID-19, working from home and having some transportation shut down.” Many transit agencies also eliminated fares in an effort to assist low-income riders and encourage more people to use public transportation….”   Read more  Hmmmm… Transit desperately needs an affordable option.    Alain