Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023

SmartDrivingCar.com/11.37-Fair Reporting-09/26/23

37th edition of the 11th year of SmartDrivingCars eLetter 

 Don’t fall prey to the current panic over automated vehicles

D. Sperling, Sept. 17, “Skepticism, frustration, and even hostility met the California Public Utilities Commission’s decision last month to grant Waymo and Cruise permission to operate automated vehicles in San Francisco. The panic over AVs threatens to drown out the voices of those celebrating this technological advancement. 

As transportation researchers, we aim to present pathways that embrace technological progress and improve public transportation while being mindful of the cynicism. AVs are not the panacea to all transportation troubles, but let’s not discard this valuable innovation just yet. …

….AV companies have invested tens of billions of dollars testing this technology with the goal of improving safety and accessibility. Now it is time for better policies that will enable scaling of this technology in a way that is in the public interest — that will improve safety for occupants and pedestrians, enable sharing, and provide greater accessibility to all riders. ”   Read  more  Hmmmm…  Extremely well said..  Alain


  SmartDrivingCars ZoomCast 336 PodCast 336 w Prof. Dan Sperling, UC Davis

F. Fishkin,  Sept. 26, “With the swirling controversies surrounding robotaxis in San Francisco and beyond, some words of caution from Daniel Sperling. The University of California, Davis, founding Director of the Institute of Transportation Studies joins us for episode 336 of Smart Driving Cars. Plus Cruise, Waymo, Governor Newsome’s climate lawsuit against oil, Tesla’s Optimus robot and more.

0:00 open

0:45 Daniel Sperling , UC Davis, on his opinion piece for The Hill. “ Don’t Fall Prey to the Current Panic Over Automated Vehicles.

6:30 Alain’s viewpoint along similar lines

13:33 A business model focused on giving rides is needed

20:00 Sperling says support for public transit is an obstacle

22:47 Policy makers have an opportunity that they aren’t moving on

28:45 Ride sharing has fallen by the wayside

32:45 The Drive reports on robotaxi opposition in Austin while NPR piece is headlined Horseless Carriages Were Once a Lot Like Driverless Cars. What Can History Teach Us?

38:37 Tesla has data not only on their crashes, but their near misses as well

44:00 Gov. Newsome’s suit against oil companies 47:45 Newsome has also vetoed bill that would have required safety drivers in automated trucks for at least five years.


  Newsom kills driverless truck safety bill, says he trusts the DMV

R. Mitchell, Sept. 23,  “The California Legislature passed a bill this month to require human safety drivers in heavy-duty robot trucks for at least the next five years.

On Friday, Gov. Gavin Newsom killed it.

“Considering… the existing regulatory framework that presently and sufficiently governs this particular technology, this bill is not needed at this time,” the governor said in a veto message.

The bill was sponsored by the Teamsters union and backed by highway safety advocates. Opponents included driverless technology companies, Silicon Valley lobbyists, and various chambers of commerce and business leadership groups. Supporters focused on safety and jobs, opponents on business growth and technological progress..…”   Read  more Hmmmm…  Whew!!!   Alain


Waymo begins testing the waters for a robotaxi service in Los Angeles

Andrew Hawkins, Sept. 20 “Waymo announced a “tour across Los Angeles” that allows curious residents the opportunity to ride in fully autonomous vehicles as the Alphabet-owned company begins to lay the groundwork for the launch of a commercial robotaxi service.

Waymo says it will make six multi-week “tour stops” in LA neighborhoods where people can hail a self-driving car without anyone in the front seat. Interested Angelenos can snag early access tickets at several pop-up events throughout the city or sign up for a waitlist. Once they receive a ticket, riders can use Waymo’s fully driverless vehicles for free within the service area for one week during the allotted time.

The tour is as follows: Santa Monica and Venice Beach October 11th–November 18th; Century City November 20th–December 17th; West Hollywood December 17th–January 7th; Mid City January 8th–23rd; Koreatown January 24th–February 8th; and Downtown LA February 9th–March 3rd.....

his is the first time Waymo is deploying a “tour” model as a precursor to a commercial service. Waymo says it plans to “partner with local businesses and community organizers” at each stop as it seeks to make a good impression among the locals. Robotaxi companies in San Francisco have been facing pushback from city officials who oppose their expansion, citing blocked intersections and obstructed emergency vehicles….”   Read  more Hmmmm… This sounds very positive.  Hopefully they’ll promote their ability to give safe, affordable, equitable, sustainable high-quality rides to people whenever they need a ride within their ODD.  Seems inviting.  Alain


  Horseless carriages were once a lot like driverless cars. What can history teach us?

N.  Ulaby, Sept. 25, “….[Victor] McFarland, who teaches at the University of Missouri, says the newfangled beasts known as automobiles were more threatening and unfamiliar to people a century ago than driverless cars are to us now. “Automobiles were frightening to a lot of people at first,” he says. “The early automobiles were noisy. They were dangerous. They had no seatbelts. They ran over pedestrians. “ Some people also felt threatened by the freedom and independence newly available to entire classes of people, says Saje Mathieu, a history professor at the University of Minnesota. They included Black people whose movements were restricted by Jim Crow. Cars let them more easily search for everything from better employment to more equitable healthcare, as could women, who often seized opportunities to learn how to repair cars themselves.”...…   Read  more Hmmmm… A very welcome reminder that people have had the same fears about technological advances in transportation since early automobiles first hit the roads. So perhaps it is no wonder that current anxieties about the potential impact of driverless vehicles on the job market, on those who have been unable to access reliable transportation, and on potential sexual expression(!) continue to dominate in media coverage. On the other hand, this article does little to answer its own question, “What can history teach us?,” preferring instead to highlight the same apprehensions we’ve had since the 1910s.

And when is someone going to dig into the very real potential of driverless to bring the mobility-disadvantaged life-changing solutions? And we aren’t talking about children’s playdates here – we are talking about those who cannot afford a car, cannot drive a car, or who cannot afford the time it takes to utilize public transportation (if it is an option for them) to get to work, to a doctor’s appointment, etc.  A wasted opportunity. I see parallels in how San Francisco has been trashed repeatedly these past years in a Twain-ian, “the report of my death was an exaggeration” kind of way. Someone call me when a similar article appears on the potential of driverless!

Also, Read This! Alain


Tesla Just Released Insane Bot Update

R. Mauer, Sept 25, ” Tesla releases Optimus Tesla bot update Giga Texas employees return Cybertruck updates Musk meets with president of Hungary Tesla expands VPP to San Diego Canadian autoworkers reach agreement with Ford Ford pauses battery factory plans Starlink crosses subscriber milestone  Read  more  Hmmmm…. Very impressive; however, I still prefer using automation to do things humans can’t do well rather than replicating humans, but OK. The video is worth watching. . 😁 Alain


   What does that mean for driverless cars’ future?

E. Robinson-Johnson, Sept. 18, “Bryan Salesky, Peter Rander and Brett Browning, all industry veterans and former leaders of the Pittsburgh robotaxi company Argo AI, are some of the brightest minds in autonomous vehicle development.

Their pivot from self-driving cars to self-driving trucks is the latest sign of how difficult it is to fully take our hands off the wheel, industry experts and researchers said.

“It is becoming more and more evident that automating trucks and transportation on highways is a more realistic goal for AVs than solving the general urban traffic automation problem,” said Dimi Apostolopoulos, senior scientist at Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute and the National Robotics Engineering Center.

Nearly two decades after another CMU professor, Red Whittaker, built an autonomous Hummer that drove itself 132 miles across the Mojave Desert, mass implementation of self-driving cars remains a distant goal. Experts blame safety, business economics and technological complexity for the delay...…”   Read  more Hmmmm…  Maybe???  Technological complexity, of course! 

Business economics, ???   Chasing the wrong business…  Yes!  Not having the right business model… Yes!  Not understanding the real value opportunity, Yes!  Not focusing on understanding and engaging with the customer… Yes!  

Unfortunately, safety is a necessary condition to be in the game and not the “end all”.  For movement of people the end all is giving rides.  Some rides are easy to give (rides needed by folks who can’t drive for whatever reason), the easiest of which are those that can’t afford to drive themselves. Some businesses start by focusing on customers that are easiest.  To date, not the driverless car business.

For the movement of non-people, the end all is % improvement in productivity in accomplishing the end goal for the process that currently requires, in part, the movement of non-people.  Again, this industry, in its infancy, desperately needs a victory.  I disagree that removing the drive from long-haul trucking makes making money more straight forward.  Making money in this instance means spending less.  Unfortunately, the driver contributes value that is more than just driving that may require incurring new cost, but what is more challenging is the expected cost of achieving the necessary safety (aka regulatory & societal approvals) to remove the driver.  Way later in the timeline, sure!  In the short term in order to begin to ween off the venture baby bottle, good luck!  Alain


 Self-Driving Trucks Save Fuel, and Lives, Chinese Startup Says

L. Lew, Sept. 25,  “While most attention on the development of autonomous driving has focused on passenger cars — like Tesla’s controversial Full Self-Driving — Chinese startup Inceptio Technology is concentrating on revolutionizing long-haul trucking. 

The Shanghai-based company has clocked up more than 50 million accident-free kilometers (31 million miles) with its trucks that use a mix of radar, lidar and cameras, and in-cabin tech like hands-on steering wheel detection, vibrating seats and voice reminders to achieve Level 3 assisted driving …  This is total hype.  They are NOT doing real Level 3.  Why the hype??? Really good Level 2 is fantastic here… , where the truck can perform most of the driving, though a human has to be ready to take control. ..

“A few years ago, many startups bet 100% on L4 straight away, which turned out to be incredibly difficult.” Ma said. “But with Inceptio starting on a L2 and L3 basis … Again, why the “L3” hype.  No one believes them… , we think it’s possible to get to driverless trucks on highways in five years.”    Read  more Hmmmm…  At least these guys have a chance at early success. Hopefully they’ll be profitable in these coming five years.  If they are, then achieving “driverless” becomes icing on the cake.  If they are not, then ???? Alain


   across the U.S.

J. Muller, Sept. 15,  “I drove round-trip from Detroit to New York City over Labor Day weekend — a grueling 10 hours each way — but for a good chunk of that time, the car took the wheel for me...

Yes, but: There were a few “uh-oh” moments, like when the car veered sharply, confused by freshly painted white lines that were smeared on the roadway. I had to grab the wheel quickly….

The bottom line: A long road trip was much better with a robot as my co-pilot.”   Read  more Hmmmm…  As we’ve been writing for over a decade.. This is “Self-driving”/ Level 2 where assistance is given to the driving task that remains with the driver.  We said it would give wonderful comfort and convenience to those who travel the “Home Depot” way, They Do it Themselves.  They Drive Themselves!   

These systems are totally incapable of Giving rides.  That’s a totally different market that requires “Driverless”/Level 4. 

(“Level 3” is some supposedly middle ground, but it isn’t because giving partial rides is of no real value to someone who needs a ride. It is of value only to those who can “HomeDepot” it.)  Alain


 Cruise would join the call to ban human drivers in city centers, says CEO

R. Bellan, Sept. 21,  “Cruise co-founder and CEO Kyle Vogt posed a controversial question at TechCrunch Disrupt 2023: At what point does it still make sense to have human-driven cars in cities?

“If you extrapolate forward and you see that [autonomous vehicles] decrease in cost, they continue to improve their safety performance, they get much better at adapting in ways that cities find agreeable and preferable, and you see more pooled rides, the question will be: Do we want as many human-driven cars on our roads?” said Vogt. “Like at what point does it still make sense?”...…”   Read  more  Hmmmm…  Yes, of course, maybe…  The asymptotic vision is correct.  The challenge today is getting started, getting a first victory on the “proof of market” side.  Alain


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