Saturday, April 15, 2023

15h edition of the 11th year of SmartDrivingCars eLetter

   Why We Do AV Software Recalls

K. Vogt, April 7,  “One of our Cruise AVs was recently involved in a minor collision after a city bus slowed and the AV was late to brake behind it. It resulted in minor damage to the front fender of the AV and caused no injuries.  

Fender benders like this rarely happen to our AVs, but this incident was unique. We do not expect our vehicles to run into the back of a city bus under any conditions, so even a single incident like this was worthy of immediate and careful study.

I want to walk you through our investigation of the incident, what we’ve done to address our findings, and why we ultimately chose to file a voluntary recall with the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). These actions are a reflection of the rigorous safety culture that we’ve built at Cruise and our deep commitment to improving roadway safety. ….”  Read more  Hmmmm…..  Kyle, thank you for the responsible and timely response to an unfortunate incident.  Thankfully, this minimal incident uncovered and enabled you to fix something which, under the rarest circumstances, might be more serious.  Again, thank you for the post. Alain .


SmartDrivingCars ZoomCast 313  / PodCast 313

F. Fishkin,  April 15, “Some praise for Cruise and the voluntary recall, a battle for Waymo and Aurora, Didi Robotaxis, Tesla, Space X and the coming Princeton Smart Driving Cars Summit. All in episode 313 of Smart Driving Cars with Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin.

0:00 open

1:00 Cruise recall

11:00 Jalopnik report on Waymo problems with San Francisco fog

15:00 Didi Robotaxis

20:45 TWU opposing waiver for Waymo and Aurora

24:12 EPA unveils new standards pushing EVs

32:00 Tesla Daily

32:43 Upcoming Princeton Smart Driving Cars Summit

46:30 SpaceX readies Starship

48:30 Musk launching new AI company



The 6th Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCars Summit

May 22-24, 2023 | Princeton University, Princeton, NJ

Understanding the Business for Driverless Work Vehicles & Finding the Entry Point for a Radical Innovation…   Providing Affordable High-quality Mobility to Those Without a Personal Car.

The objective of the 6th SmartDrivingCars Summit will be to put the eventual manufacturers of driverless passenger vehicles together with the eventual operators of transportation services to decide if there is a business to be made from delivering affordable mobility to a large segment our societies who are underserved by the current options: private cars and public transport.

It’s already happening with military and work vehicles, with Oshkosh and Robotic Research, and John Deere, Caterpillar, Komatsu and others manufacturing driverless vehicles that are getting the jobs done in military operations, on farms, mines, warehouses, seaports, and airports, jobs where experienced drivers are too few in number or where driver safety cannot be ensured. They will be at the Summit during the sessions on Driverless Vehicles in the Line of Duty to explain how they have made the transition to building tools that safely meet the market requirements for both affordability and performance.

After twenty years of development, it’s time for the companies that will build the vehicles and the organizations that will operate the services to take the leadership position. Sensor manufacturers and software developers have gone as far as they can go, and some of them have already had to drop out of the race. Car manufacturers and energy companies are making the same mistake they made twenty-five years ago when they said they had to wait for a battery breakthrough before they could build an electric car. There is a ready and sizeable market for an inexpensive transport solution that has the flexibility of a passenger car for people who cannot drive themselves or afford their own car.

We have focused too much on the equivalent of the battery solution, on the technology, and not on the need. At the SDC Summit in May, we will focus on the need and how to satisfy that need. Join us in Princeton to be part of making this happen.  Alain

Note:  The 6th Summit will be held in Robertson Hall, whose auditorium capacity is slightly under 200.  Moreover, interaction among the attendees and the program participants is an essential aspect of the Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summits.   Consequently, attendance may require an application process in order to achieve a diversity of attendees in the auditorium.  The first half of the spaces will be available on a first-come-first-served basis.  The remaining capacity will be allocated using an application process enabling the distribution of registration invitations to individuals from designated groups. We hope to see you there.  Please register at this Link


GM’s Cruise Robotaxi vs Bus Crash Caused By Confusion Over Articulated Bus; They Say It’s Fixed

B. Templeton, April 7, “Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt has released an explanation of the cause, or proximate cause, of their crash last week with a San Francisco Muni bus. Key points revealed in the document are:…


Clearly it was a significant error for their system to attempt to predict the path of the bus based on the front segment that it couldn’t see, ignoring the abundant data from the rear of the bus which clearly showed it slowing. This is a very “AI” sort of mistake since it makes no sense to a human. While obviously the Cruise team will not be proud of this level of mistake, the real issues involve not just mistakes, but how well they are handled — both in real time during a problem, and after….”    Read  more  Hmmmm…..  Brad, thank you for the fair evaluation and clear explanation of both the incident and the Cruise response.   Alain


  Waymo Cars Don’t Work In Heavy Fog: Five test vehicles blocked traffic in San Francisco Tuesday morning, unable to drive any further

S. DaSilva, April 13, “San Francisco is known for its fog. The thick, low-hanging water vapor can make visibility tricky, especially behind the wheel. Now, it seems that driverless vehicles are running into the same problem — with five cars from Waymo’s fleet waylaid by heavy fog Tuesday morning….”  Read more  Hmmmm…..  This reporting is so very frustrating and indicative of how the media relentlessly slams AV behavior, when in fact, the vehicle was actually performing according to the highest safety standards.  The headline should read: “Waymo vehicles protect San Francisco by stopping and keeping others from charging into dense fog and killing people.”  Neither we nor these systems should be driving into heavy fog, and the objective of driverless AVs is to provide safe, affordable, equitable, high-quality mobility. Not to enable reckless drivers to travel despite dangerous conditions. 


Waymo was actually delivering valued safety. THAT should have been the headline and crux of the reporting.


Both Waymo and Cruise have made an enormous mistake in trying to bring good to San Francisco.  For trying, they get nothing but their teeth kicked in.


As I’ve been writing for a long time, they should look to New Jersey, where our climate rarely has fog and has an enormous number of customers who would really appreciate the mobility that they are readily able to deliver.  They should come to the 6th Summit to sell their wares to appreciative customers.  Alain


D. Shepardson, April 12, “A major U.S. transport union on Tuesday opposed a request by Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) self-driving unit Waymo and autonomous driving technology company Aurora Innovation Inc (AUR.O) for an exemption from rules on warning devices for large semi-trucks, citing safety issues.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) said last month it received a joint application from Waymo and Aurora seeking a five-year exemption from rules that require drivers to place reflective triangles or a flare around a stopped truck to alert other drivers and help prevent a crash.

A major U.S. transport union on Tuesday opposed a request by Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) self-driving unit Waymo and autonomous driving technology company Aurora Innovation Inc (AUR.O) for an exemption from rules on warning devices for large semi-trucks, citing safety issues….”  Read  more  Hmmmm…..  Devastating!   Actually, having a human place “reflective triangles”  around a disabled truck on a busy stretch of road, potentially in the dark, may well be more dangerous than automatically turning on much more effective warning beacons. AND the warning beacons themselves may well be much more effective at directing motorists to safely pass a disabled truck. 


Waymo and Aurora should modify their application to FMCSA, citing safety issues, to modernize its regulations for all trucks in this manner by recognizing that new on-truck beacons are much safer to engage than human deployment of reflective triangles and flares around a stopped truck and are more effective at alerting other drivers and help prevent crashes. Not to mention safeguarding the lives of truck drivers and passing motorists. Such devices should be required by all commercial trucks as a safety improvement to commercial drivers and passing motorists over outdated reflective triangles and flares.   Alain


  Underwriting Autonomous Vehicle Insurance

G. Brulte, Feb. 14, “Sergey Litvinenko, Co-Founder & CEO, Koop Insurance joined Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss how Koop is reimagining how you underwrite autonomous vehicle insurance.

The conversation begins with Sergey describing Koop.

We are an insurance technology startup that is focused on everything automated. We focus on fully autonomous vehicles that go on public roads like robotaxis, trucks and shuttles to off-road applications in robotics, in agriculture, construction, mining, warehousing, manufacturing and aerial use cases….”  Read more  Hmmmm…..  Very interesting.  Alain 


Model 3 Refresh Possibly Leaked, Megapack Production Rate Info

R. Maurer, April 4, ” ➤ Image appearing to show new Model 3 design posted to Reddit ➤ PPI report below expectations ➤ Insight on Tesla’s Megapack production rate:    • BIG Tesla Profits…   ➤ China sales start strong in second quarter ➤ Twitter partners with eToro ➤ SpaceX gets closer to Starship test

Read  more  Hmmmm…..  Continues to be interesting.  Alain


  EPA lays out aggressive new tailpipe emission rules aimed at boosting EV sales

A. Hawkins, April 12, “The Environmental Protection Agency announced new emissions standards to slash tailpipe pollution, fight climate change, and accelerate the transition to electric vehicles.

The proposal, which was first reported over the weekend and released Wednesday, represents the most aggressive plan to reduce carbon emissions by an administration to date. Depending on how the auto industry responds, the EPA projects that the new standards could result in electric vehicles accounting for 67 percent of new light-duty vehicle sales and 46 percent of new medium-duty vehicle sales by 2032 — a dramatic increase over the current EV sales numbers of around 6 percent. … “ Read more  Hmmmm…..  Has to be good news for Tesla and an enormous wake-up call to the others.. The proposal is a must read.  Alain



Staff, April 16, “SpaceX is targeting as soon as Monday, April 17 for the first flight test of a fully integrated Starship and Super Heavy rocket from Starbase in Texas. The 150-minute test window will open at 7:00 a.m. CT.

Starship is a fully reusable transportation system designed to carry both crew and cargo to Earth orbit, help humanity return to the Moon, and travel to Mars and beyond. With a test such as this, success is measured by how much we can learn, which will inform and improve the probability of success in the future as SpaceX rapidly advances development of Starship….” Read more  Hmmmm….. Watch the launch here. Alain


  What on Earth is Going On with Starship’s Launch Date? | Starship Update

J. Beyer, April 11, “In this Starbase Update, Jack from NSF gives an update on the latest developments regarding SpaceX’s Starship. Jack discusses the removal of scaffolding from the orbital launch mount, Booster 7 testing, antenna testing, the movement of the Raptor work platform, and the stacking of Ship 24 on Booster 7. Jack also provides insight into the issues during the stacking of Ship 24 and how the vehicles are joined together. Join Jack as he discusses the progress of Starship and what we can expect from its launch.” Read more  Hmmmm….. It is going to be wild! Alain


   Counting Down to History: SpaceX’s Attempt at the First Starship Launch!

F. Schlang, April 14, “SpaceX changes the plans again! Starship launches in the fast lane and its fate might be sealed already! Is the Polaris Program going to Hubble? Falcon Heavy preps are underway! And there’s a bang at ULA! Stay tuned, and let’s dive right in!”.  Read more  Hmmmm….. Yahoo! 😊 Alain


  SpaceX’s Starship rocket, the most powerful ever built, receives government approval for launch

J. Wattles, April 14, “SpaceX has cleared the final regulatory hurdle standing before the inaugural launch of its Starship rocket — the most powerful rocket ever constructed.

The Federal Aviation Administration, which licenses commercial rocket launches, announced Friday that it granted the company’s request for an uncrewed flight test of the rocket out of the SpaceX facilities in South Texas. The vehicle, which has already undergone preflight ground testing, is poised to take off as soon as Monday.

“After a comprehensive license evaluation process, the FAA determined SpaceX met all safety, environmental, policy, payload, airspace integration and financial responsibility requirements,” the agency said in a statement….” Read more  Hmmmm….. This is getting real. Alain


How To Visit STARBASE // A Complete Guide To Seeing Starship!

Tim Dodd, Aptil 4, “Today we’ll do a full rundown on how exactly to visit Starbase, what and where Starbase is, tips on how to visit like where you can and can’t go, where to watch a launch from, where to fly into, tips on when to book flights if you’re trying to catch a launch, where to stay, where to eat, and other fun things to do in the area while you’re inevitably waiting for a launch. And perhaps you’re just a huge Starship and Starbase fan and just want to get a better sense of what it’s like, well you’re in the right place. We’ll help you understand this area better than ever before! Article version of this video –…

00:00 – Intro

02:05 – What is Starbase

04:55 – Tour Of Starbase

08:30 – Where to go and not go

12:50 – Rules, tips, and what to bring

16:10 – Where to watch a launch

20:30 – How to get there

22:45 – Flying to Starbase

24:45 – Where to stay

28:45 – When to book stuff

31:00 – where to eat

33:00 – What to do besides Starbase.  

Read more  Hmmmm….. Watch the launch here. Alain


  Elon Musk founds new AI company called X.AI

J. Peters,  April 14, “Elon Musk has created a new company dedicated to artificial intelligence — and it’s called X.AI, as first reported by The Wall Street Journal. The company, which a Nevada filing indicates was incorporated last month, currently has Musk as its director and Jared Birchall, the director of Musk’s family office, listed as its secretary. The filing, which The Verge has also obtained, indicates that Musk incorporated the business on March 9th, 2023.

Rumors about Musk starting up an AI company have been floating around for days, with a report from Business Insider revealing that Musk had purchased thousands of graphic processing units (GPUs) to power an upcoming generative AI product. The Financial Times similarly reported that Musk planned to create an AI firm to compete with the Microsoft-backed OpenAI. Musk even reportedly sought funding from SpaceX and Tesla investors to get the company started.

… “ Read more  Hmmmm…..  As long as he can attract the best and most loyal workers to work to pursue his visions, why not?!  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

 ******************************* provided technical support