33rd edition of the 11th year of SmartDrivingCars eLetter
T. Mickie, Aug 21, “ “Hello, Tripp,” a disembodied woman’s voice said through the speakers of a driverless taxi that was about to pick up a fare near the colorful Victorian houses known as the Painted Ladies.
“This experience may feel futuristic,” the voice said. “Please don’t touch the steering wheel or pedals during the ride. For any questions, you can find information in the Waymo app, like how we keep our cars safe or clean.”
For several years, San Francisco’s hilly and congested streets have doubled as a test track for hundreds of driverless cars operated by Waymo, an autonomous vehicle company owned by the Google parent company Alphabet, and General Motors-owned Cruise…. “ Read more Hmmmm… Although I included this article in the body of SDC 11.32, I am repeating it here so that I can include a letter-to-the editor that I sent the NY Times, which is unlikely that the NYT will publish, so I’ll just include it here as follows…
To the editor:
While I applaud the Times for their seriousness of purpose in sending three reporters to determine, for themselves, if the driverless rides offered by Waymo in San Francisco actually work without smoke, mirrors, or snake oil, and for their un-sensationalized, balanced assessment, it is a shame that the PR around the enhanced quality-of-life opportunity for this form of mobility remains overlooked.
Instead of focusing on the tourist experience for those who already have the wherewithal of time, money, and physical ability to be chauffeured around, I recommend that for the next article you get the opinion of a formerly incarcerated individual who could have a night job, but can’t get there because Muni operates but 2 bus routes between midnight and 5 am, or a single parent who can’t leave work to give their kids a ride to the doctor or to cello lessons. Or to the many people who find themselves in the unenviable position of having to ask a friend, let alone a stranger, for a ride. I urge you to talk with people whose lives would be fundamentally improved if they had easy access to safe, equitable, demand responsive, affordable mobility 24/7/365, just like, maybe even better, than having their own car to drive themselves.
By the way, we compute that in the 49 square miles of San Francisco there is a demand for about 2.1 million person trips every day. About 30% are well served affordably by Muni (but require a subsidy that is 4x the affordable fare) and about 10% can afford the luxury of being chauffeured by Uber/Lyft/taxi/limo. That leaves more than 1 million that prefer to drive themselves or get a ride from a family member, friend or neighbor or don’t improve their lives by going because, Muni’s rides aren’t suitable, Uber/Lyft/taxi/limo are too expensive, or they can’t convince someone to take them. Waymo (and Cruise) can safely serve all 2.1 million; however, they can make life changing differences to this last group that can’t afford to go. With casual ridesharing, Waymo/Cruise could achieve a 100 personTrips/vehicleDay productivity and break-even average cost, without subsidy, of less than $2.50 /personTrip (~$2.43/personTrip, Public Comment to the California Public Utility Commission, August 10, 2023 by Dr. Alain L. Kornhauser, Princeton University, also attached).
Now that’s high-quality, affordable mobility that delivers quality-of-life throughout the city. The city should be begging them to so enhance SF’s Quality-of-life.
Alain L. Kornhauser, PhD
SmartDrivingCars ZoomCast 332 / PodCast 332 Right Market w/ Bryce Rasmussen’25
F. Fishkin, Aug. 24, “How can communities plan for autonomous mobility systems? There’s a new Interactive Person Trip Visualization tool developed at Princeton University and Bryce Rasmussen, class of ’25, shows us how it works. Episode 332 of Smart Driving Cars with Alain Kornhauser and Fred Fishkin. Plus.. Cruise, Waymo, San Francisco, Tesla and more.
0:41 Creation of Interactive Person Trip Visualization in Tampa with Bryce Rasmussen, Princeton class of ‘25
11:20 NY Times has three reporters ride in Waymo robotaxis
16:42 Politico reports Gavin Newsom sides with the robots in autonomous vehicle debate
20:43 Cruise bringing robotaxis to Raleigh
22:40 Beginning October 1 Pinellas’ SunRunner will no longer be free to ride. Why?
27:50 Results and demo of Interactive Person Trip Visualization in Tampa with Bryce Rasmussen
56:00 Visualization tool will be demonstrated at upcoming Florida AV conference and will become available to all
J. Koehn, Aug. 23, “… . Cruise spent more than $804,000 on lobbying efforts in Sacramento from the beginning of 2021 through June, according to records filed with the California Secretary of State’s Office. Meanwhile, Waymo spent more than $1.2 million in Sacramento and plunked down almost half a million dollars in the months leading up to the commission’s Aug. 10 vote. This isn’t an earth-shattering sum, but it was enough for the companies to become players in Sacramento…..” Read more Hmmmm… Agreed, this is really peanuts, given the amount that these companies have invested to date in doing “testing” aka “proof-of-concept”.
That said, why did they have to spend anything on lobbying? If the value proposition of this ”concept” is anywhere near able to justify the enormous investment that’s been spent to achieve its “proof-of-concept”, then it should have been these legislators who should have been doing everything that they could to convince Cruise & Waymo to successfully deploy a “proof-of-market” in order for SF to benefit from the value proposition that motivates the enormous technological investment.
These systems have the opportunity to deliver safe, high-quality (demand-responsive), sustainable rides affordably and without subsidy to anyone and everyone 24/7/365. How is it that Cruise and Waymo had to spend money to lobby public officials that the ability to offer such rides is not a bad idea, but in fact, about the best thing that could have happened to San Francisco since the introduction of the cable cars 150 years ago on August 2, 1873???
C’mon SF public officials. My advice to Waymo and Cruise… Take what you’ve learned in SF about how to safely deliver high-quality (demand-responsive), sustainable rides affordably and without subsidy to anyone 24/7/350 to do repeated “proof-of-markets” in the many communities across North America that value what you’ve accomplished and quit trying to convince folks who don’t see it your way. San Francisco is obviously happy with the mess they have, so move on and don’t look back. SF isn’t worth it! It’s them and not you. Evidently, it’s too rich, too smart, too happy with things as they are. Alain
J. Koehn, Aug. 23, “The county’s transit authority voted Wednesday to accelerate its timeline on charging for the downtown St. Petersburg-to-beach bus service….
The move comes in the wake of pressure from St. Pete Beach residents, who have complained about homeless people riding the bus into their community, and from Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. The sheriff said he saw imposing a fare as the only way to stem an increase in activities such as panhandling, sleeping on the beach and shoplifting……” Read more Hmmmm… Unbelievably UGLY!
… For a year, 3/1/78 -> 2/28/79, Mercer Metro (bus company running buses in Trenton NJ to Princeton, eventually folded into NJ Transit) had a free-fare demonstration. Not so much “Fun Fact”: Off-Peak Fare-Free Transit: Mercer County, New Jersey, p 9: … About 60 percent of the merchants” … which included Nassau Street merchants… ”responding to a survey said they did not support system-wide fare-free bus service. Common complaints centered around a lack of buying power among farefree users and perceived increases in loitering, shoplifting, and vandalism during fare-free hours”. …. Very UGLY then. Very UGLY now! C’mon, Tampa!! Alain
M. Talhelm, Aug. 22, “… . The North Carolina Department of Transportation is not required to get a permit to test driveless technology on the roads in Raleigh. A state law passed in 2017 regulates fully autonomous vehicles in North Carolina. It states:
· No driver’s license is required to operate one, but there is a minimum age of 12 to ride in one unsupervised
· The registered owner of a driverless car is responsible for any violations
· The vehicles are required to meet federal safety regulations.
….” Read more Hmmmm… Seems like the same business model as in SF. Seems like they are in Raleigh to do “proof-of-concept” aka “it works”, rather than a “proof-of-market” aka “oh my goodness, there are so many people in Raleigh who could really benefit every day by having Cruise given them an affordable ride.” Hasn’t San Francisco taught them anything? Alain
Rob Mauer, Aug. 23, “➤ Tesla teases Cybertruck delivery event ➤ Tesla Cybertruck production candidate driven by Elon Musk ➤ Delivery event rumors ➤ NVDA reports strong earnings ➤ Giga Berlin production report ➤ Texas approves Tesla VPP ➤ FSD branch merge ➤ Starship prepares for second orbital test flight….” Read more Hmmmm… Very interesting and informative, as always. Alain
M. Mirsky, Aug. 24, “Ask a rabbi about self-driving cars and you’d better be ready for a long answer….
…And yet the all-electric fleets offer intriguing Shabbat possibilities — not least for observant Jews who traditionally refrain from driving and using electricity on the day. So what do local rabbis say?…
There is one existing piece of technology that might offer a clue, he said. It’s the Shabbat elevator, which automatically stops and opens its doors at each floor, negating the need to press a button…. ” Read more Hmmmm… What??? all elevators use electric motors to open & close the doors and are involved in moving elevators or counter weights up. I buy it, as well as letting me mix some baking soda in my matzo meal so that my Passover matzo balls are light ad fluffy and not lead sinkers. I love it!!! (You can’t make up this stuff. J , plus Elizabeth and I still argue if one is really allowed to eat any wheat at all during Passover. What are the ingredients? Is it all about puffiness or the lack thereof??? All too difficult for me. Thank goodness I still go to Temple. Thank you, Marty M. Alain