Monday, June 26 2023­-Proof-of-Market–062623

25th edition of the 11th year of SmartDrivingCars eLetter


  San Francisco’s fire chief is fed up with robotaxis that mess with her firetrucks. And L.A. is next

R. Mitchell, June 26, “Robotaxis keep tangling with firefighters on the streets of San Francisco, and the fire chief is fed up.

“They’re not ready for prime time,” Chief Jeanine Nicholson said….

State regulators track robotaxi collisions, but they don’t track data on traffic flow issues, such as street blockages or interference with firetrucks.

But the Fire Department does. Since Jan. 1, the Fire Department has logged at least 39 robotaxi incident reports…

State regulators track robotaxi collisions, but they don’t track data on traffic flow issues, such as street blockages or interference with firetrucks.


The Fire Department incidents include reports of robotaxis:…  


Safety data censored

In 2021, the DMV joined with Waymo on a court-approved deal to allow driverless car companies to censor not only trade secrets but basic information on safety performance, including most details of collision reports as well as information on how the company handles driverless car emergencies 

The industry is tight with the information it releases to the public about its operations on public roads.

Waymo won’t say how many cars it runs in San Francisco. Cruise said it operates 150 to 300 cars but won’t be more precise. Neither company will say how large its fleet will grow, or how quickly. Neither Waymo nor Motional will say how many robotaxis they’re testing in Santa Monica and L.A….”  Read  more  Hmmmm…   Devastating in so many ways.  The SF “proof-of-market” is a train wreck!  Time for a major pivot! Watch PodCast 323 with Russ.  Alain


    SmartDrivingCars ZoomCast 323 / PodCast 323 w/Russ Mitchell, LA Times Correspondent

F. Fishkin,  June 26, “Robotaxis and first responders. The San Francisco situation with Waymo and Cruise. And focusing on solving mobility needs could generate more public support. Russ Mitchell of the L.A. Times joins Princeton’s Alain Konrhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin for episode 323 of Smart Driving Cars.


    Robotaxis are here. It’s time to decide what to do about them

B. Schneider, June 23, “These are not experimental test vehicles, and this is not a drill. Many of San Francisco’s ghostly driverless cars are commercial robotaxis, directly competing with taxis, Uber and Lyft, and public transit. They are a real, albeit still marginal, part of the city’s transportation system.  … True… And the companies that operate them, Cruise and Waymo, appear poised to continue expanding their services in San Francisco, Austin, Phoenix, and perhaps even Los Angeles in the coming months.  … Great; maybe.  As a “Part A: proof-of-technology ”deployment, Phoenix & SF have done very well. They’ve earned a A. 


They now need to successfully complete a “Part B: Proof-of-market” deployment  in order to accomplish a full “proof-of-concept”.  Unfortunately, to date, Phoenix & SF aren’t doing well in ”proof-of-market” deployments.  To date, they are failing.   What may well be worse is that Waymo’s  LA (Santa Monica) impending deployment is more of the same which  suggests that they don’t even realize they are failing.  Maybe there is hope in Austin.  To earn a degree in “Proof-of-concept” one must at minimum pass BOTH Part A and Part B.  Goldman Saxe might insist on a >3.8 from an Ivy. 


I spent the past year covering robotaxis for the San Francisco Examiner and have taken nearly a dozen rides in Cruise driverless cars over the past few months. …  Great.  You’ve come to class… During my reporting, I’ve been struck by the lack of urgency in the public discourse about robotaxis. I’ve come to believe that most people, including many powerful decision makers, are not aware of how quickly this industry is advancing, or how severe the near-term labor and transportation impacts could be. … OK, but the fact that the word “labor” comes first reveals the preference and the use of the word “transportation” instead of “mobility” reveals that there is more  concern about physical aspects  than the personal value proposition that is being offered to  the traveling individual.  This is OK, since the motivation for using the system was to write an Op Ed rather than the need of a ride and finding Waymo to be the best way to get that needed ride to where one wants to go, when one wants to o   Waymo and Cruise have failed to have the author state that any of the rides that he took were rides that he needed  and that the ride offered by Waymo/Cruise was better than all other ways he could have gone at that time…


Hugely important decisions about robotaxis are being made in relative obscurity by appointed agencies like the California Public Utilities Commission. Legal frameworks remain woefully inadequate: in the Golden State, cities have no regulatory authority over the robotaxis that ply their streets, and police legally cannot cite them for moving violations.  …Really bad here.  The A for Part A is a grade-inflated A if the lead concern is the inability to pass out traffic tickets. A “C” in  “proof-of-technology” requires “Zero moving violations”. If there are no moving violations no tickets would be issued.  There is no need to guard against something that will never/rarely happen.   Moreover, using the word “ply” in association with an existing SF asse (roads) implies that this concept isn’t near the top of the list among those desiring to share precious assets in the pursuit of good for SF.  To do well in Part B, proof-of-market, one’s concept must be disruptive in quality and/(or) cost over all competitors.   In the Phoenix, SF & Santa Monica markets, quality is at best break-even with the current best and affordability, aka cost, is never mentioned, let alone touted as the disruptive force. Seems as if these markets have zero opportunity for a successful proof-of-market deployment. Of a driverless mobility service.


It’s high time for the public and its elected representatives to play a more active role in shaping the future of this new technology. Like it or not, robotaxis are here. Now comes the difficult work of deciding what to do about them   I couldn’t agree more! …


…. The prospect of automating professional drivers out of existence is not theoretical anymore. It’s a very real possibility in the near future. This is a real concern, and needs to be watched, but this is totally hypothetical.  There is no evidence that once the “selfie” benefit of  “driverless” deteriorates the Waymo/Cruise service is anywhere near as good as what  Taxi/Uber/Lyft can readily deliver to those who need a ride, can afford Taxi/Uber/Lyft drivers and are rides that Taxi/Ube/Lyft drivers want to serve.  Taxi/Uber/Lyft customers are solid. 


Customers are only lost to those who serve them better.  Waymo/Cruise are a distant 2nd , or worse, than the service a Taxi/Uber/Lyft can and do  provide o their customers  …


…  As technology accelerates, public policy should accelerate along with it.   What???  Zero mention of a mobility void that a driverless mobility concept might fill in SF.  Everyone there must be so happy that they can adroitly get to all the places they want to go, when they want to go.  This solidifies the “F” in Part B.  There is no hope for Waymo/Cruise to do a successful “proof-of-market” in SF.  SF has no viable market for Waymo/Cruise… …“.   Read  more  Hmmmm…   This is an excellent Op Ed.  MIT Technology Review should present its editorial view.    Alain


  Alberto Broggi: with my chip your car will drive itself

June 25, “The pioneer of the self-driving car is an Italian. He has been studying and working in the sector for 25 years. He anticipated Google by ten years, with his Waymo and all the competitors. And after at least ten self-driving car prototypes with which he has faced impossible challenges, such as going from Parma to Shanghai in a car driven by a robot, today he has decided to take on the real challenge: which is to bring this technology to the series machines.

Alberto Broggi is 56 years old, was among the first in the world to deal with self driving. Today transforms production cars into self-driving vehicles thanks to a chip unique in the world, small with high performance, low consumption, less than a 60 watt bulb, and low cost. To be installed directly on the cars….

Broggi remains in charge of the project. Today he is general manager of Vislab, a 100% American company. Two years ago, he resigned from his position as a university professor. He continues to do what he has been doing for years but with greater vigor, energy and intensity. … “  Read  more  Hmmmm…  Alberto, please come and save the day for driverless cars.  We desperately need a system that works. I’m confident that you have one that works.  We need you.  Alain


TRB Automated Transportation Symposium

San Francisco, CA, July 9-13

Be sure to attend the Shark Tank Session on Wednesday afternoon


Bridging Transportation Researchers (BTR) Conference

Paper Submission deadline: April 30

August. 9 & 10

On-line Conference


Isabelle Ducharme, Sylvain Tousignant, Adam Cohen,                Rupal Bapat, Jarvis Murray, Cammie Chaumont Menendez