Friday, March 24, 2023

12h edition of the 11th year of SmartDrivingCars eLetter

 ITU 2023 Future Networked Car Symposium: Automated Driving Systems (ADS) for Consumers and Other Vehicles (Trucks, Delivery, Shuttles, Robotaxis, Etc.)

R. Lanctot, March 12, “ Full automation of the driving task appears tantalizingly close. Multiple use cases are emerging simultaneously, revealing potential paths to market adoption and consumer acceptance. The evolution of these use cases will determine the future of ADS. This panel will review the emerging ADS applications – consumer vehicles, commercial vehicles, delivery vehicles, shuttles, robotaxis – to better understand the challenges and opportunities associated with ADS technology and the state of development and market adoption.….” Read  more   Hmmmm….. After almost 15 years of substantive  testing (the Google effort started in 2009) and almost 20 years since the first DARPA Challenge, we are still only ”… revealing potential paths to market adoption and consumer acceptance …”??? 


Isn’t it about time that this teenager start delivering some tangible return to its “parents” and society.  For what is supposed to be such a disruptive technology it has yet to identify the market where it has decisive cost or quality advantage over the existing firms. (over the existing solutions it is trying to replace.)


It might be as safe as good drivers (It might be safer than bad drivers), but it has no chance anytime soon to being disruptively safer. It is not disruptively more fun to drive.  Just ride around with it, that’s a service, not a possession.   It has no chance at being a consumer vehicle. 


ADS has equally no chance at replacing commercial vehicle drivers.  Helping professional drivers have an enhanced workplace? Yes!  Removing them from their workplace? No!

Some special purposed deliveries in the middle of the night? Maybe.


Shuttles… at best a very small one-off niche with no opportunity to be disruptive.


Robotaxis designed and operated so as  to serve rich ride-hailers and the chauffeured limousine market?  Good luck!   Service  quality is really important and price is essentially irrelevant (these folks are rich and/or are traveling on an expense account).   It is a non-trivial challenge for Robotaxis to deliver service quality approaching  that of Uber/Lyft/Limo; so at best, these Robotaxis  can only nip at the heels of Uber/Lyft/Limo, which itself is way less than 1% of the daily vehicle person-trips under 50 miles in length.  Even if Robotaxis got’em all, there’s nowhere near enough to justify any continued investment here.


These conundrums are NOT what was discussed in this session. 


Unfortunately, what was also not discussed or realized is that there does exist an enormous market for demand-responsive Robotaxi service that is affordable. 50% of the people in the U.S. are not physically able to drive a car, or are not financially able to own one for themselves. They still need to get to work, to shops, to medical and rehab facilities, to school, to friends, to … and the fact that they cannot readily and affordably affects their well-being and the health of the entire country. This is a huge market where a demand-responsive and affordable service is disruptive because it delivers mobility to those who need a ride but are not being served by any transport alternatives which they can afford. THAT’S WHERE DRIVERLESS MAKES THE DIFFERENCE!   Affordability is really important to those who are paying for their own travel and are non-rich. Thus, affordable, demand responsive Robotaxi service can readily be the best consumer choice for that 50%.


The addressable market here is ~150M people over the age of 10,  wishing to make ~ 500M personTrips a day in the USA that don’t have their own car waiting around for them to drive it to take them where they want to go at the drop of a hat. To offer them with on-demand affordable Robotaxis service that is almost as well (and maybe even better) as if they did have that personal car, would be very disruptive to some, even many and eventually “all”.  A well-managed (100 personTrips per day per Robotaxi, 20% profit margin) fleet of 5M Robotaxis could serve essentially all.   Serving 1% would need 50,000.   Serving a targeted opportunity representing the first 0.001% would require 50.  This panel made no mention of this use case.  No mention of the business case.


Let’s continue this panel discussion at the 6th Princeton SmartDrivingCars Summit in May 22->24. A major part of the  Summit is devoted to this one topic: Delivering Mobility to the Non-mobile. We’re going to talk about the business case, something that is sorely missing in public discussion so far. Alain


  SmartDrivingCars ZoomCast 310 / PodCast 310

  F. Fishkin,  March 24, “Where does autonomous mobility go from here? Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin explore…plus Ford’s EV losses, SMART grants fail to fund autonomous mobility, Waymo, drones & more. 0:00 open

0:35 Princeton basketball

1:25 More thoughts in aftermath of ITU 2023 Future Networked Car .”Symposium. Where does autonomous mobility go from here?

29:26 SMART grants from DOT fail to fund autonomous mobility

31:55 Ford’s EV losses

32:57 Ford updates on BlueOval City mega site in West Tennessee

34:46 Waymo takes on task of writing the safety case for Avs. Alain emphasizes that companies shouldn’t compete on safety

39:25 The Street headline… Four reasons self driving cars, not drones, will deliver your packages.



Ford Just Exposed Massive EV Losses – Tesla’s Dominance Unveiled

R. Maurer, March 23, ” ➤ Ford separates business units, revealing EV profitability for the first time ➤ Electrek reports on Tesla’s EV tax credit expectations ➤ Tesla begins offering extended warranties ➤ New charging product”  Read  more  Hmmmm…..  Wow! It is refreshing that Ford is exposing the costs they are incurring  to transition to EVs and not throwing in the towel as they did with when facing similar challenges.  How bad must that have looked?  It must not have been close.  At least the EVs have upside  revenue expectations and are out-of-the box with the Mustang Mach-E and the Lightning which look great!


The view at GM must be similar.  But they’re leading with the Hummer ( how depressing is that?), and only now transitioning the Camero.     It may not be pretty for a while.  Alain


  Biden-Harris Administration Funds Innovative Projects to Create Safer, More Equitable, Transportation Systems

Staff, March 21, “Today, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced the first round of grants totaling over $94 million for 59 projects across the country through the new Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation (SMART) Grants Program. The competitive grant program, established by President Biden’s historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, provides State, local, and Tribal governments $500 million over five years to leverage technology to create safer, more equitable, efficient, and innovative transportation systems.  …


The funding will support a diverse array of topics and communities: ….”  Read  more  Hmmmm….. Congratulations to EVs “widespread adoption of electric vehicles” and CVs “Connected vehicle projects in states including”! 


Amazing that no awards were made in the area of AVs.  I guess that US DoT has concluded:  AVs are insufficiently relevant “… to leverage technology to create safer, more equitable, efficient, and innovative transportation systems …” .  This is a  loud and clear message as to where AV technology ranks in its potential to contribute to this most righteous pursuit.  No “Elite 8” for AVs.  Wasn’t even invited to the dance.  Alain


  Waymo is taking on the task of writing a safety case for the entire AV industry

Andrew Hawkins, March 22, “Waymo published a paper today outlining a safety case for autonomous vehicles that the company says should serve as a blueprint for the entire industry.


Waymo’s safety case would be “a formal way to explain how a company determines that an AV system is safe enough to be deployed on public roads without a human driver, and it includes evidence to support that determination,” the company says in an accompanying blog post.


In other words, Waymo is presenting an argument for the safety of autonomous vehicles, along with evidence that it says backs up this argument. And the company wants other AV companies — essentially, its competitors — to adopt a similar approach in order to prove to regulators that AVs can safely be deployed at a wide scale. And in doing so, Waymo hopes to improve the public’s perception of self-driving cars — which surveys show has been waning over the years.

….”  Read  more  Hmmmm….. This is a most worthwhile undertaking by Waymo.  Read Waymo’s recent paper


Safety is a fundamental requirement for this industry.  It is so necessary that the industry should be cooperating and NOT competing on safety.  The industry should be granted anti-trust immunity associated with achievement of safety and safety IP should be placed in the public domain.   Alain


  Four Reasons Self-Driving Cars, Not Drones, Will Deliver Your Packages

T. Lee, March 17, “ …But Bezos was also the same guy who proclaimed a decade ago on 60 Minutes that remotely piloted drones from Amazon would deliver online orders to your home or office.


Ten years later, Amazon is nowhere close to making that happen. Over the same period, Musk has arguably done more than anyone to advance the idea that self-driving cars, not weird little helicopters, will transport both passengers and goods to their ultimate destinations.


The stakes are huge. E-commerce sales, already booming before the global pandemic, have continued to soar since, along with demand for faster delivery times. Last year, online sales for the first time crossed the $1 trillion mark, nearly double that of 2019, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau….


Here are four reasons why self-driving cars will triumph over drones in the race to dominate the last mile of e-commerce deliveries….  Read  more  Hmmmm….. Maybe???  But  both technologies are stuck at zero so neither may emerge to replace the deliveryPerson or mailPerson anytime soon   Alain



  The Great American Bus Crisis.

Andrew Hawkins, March 22, “A private bus route from my town in New Jersey to New York City was just cancelled because the pandemic has wiped out ridership. But apparently the problem is much, much worse than just that one route.


Nearly half of private US bus companies have shut down since 2019, according to the American Bus Association, …


That is very bad….”  Read  more  Hmmmm….. I agree.  This is very bad.  Alain


MIT Mobility Forum: Spring 2023

Fridays 12:00-13:00 Boston Time Open to the public


Hosted by Prof. Jinhua Zhao

  Save the Date: 

6th Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit:

Monday Evening, May 22 -> Wednesday 5pm, May 24, 2023


TRB Automated Transportation Symposium

San Francisco, CA, July 9-13


Bridging Transportation Researchers (BTR) Conference

Paper Submission deadline: April 30

August. 9 & 10

On-line Conference