Monday, Oct. 2, 2023

38th edition of the 11th year of SmartDrivingCars eLetter 

Why Driverless Cars Are a Tough Sell

C. Friedersdif, Sept. 27, “Last week, I asked for your thoughts on self-driving cars.

Replies have been edited for length and clarity….

“Our century-long love affair with all things automotive dooms the driverless concept to a niche market,” one reader argues….”   Read  more  Hmmmm…   Maybe for those who are able to “Home Depot” (or do it themselves) their mobility…For the many, many others who need a ride and can’t “Do it Themselves” for whatever reason (who are responsible for about 500 million personTrips each day), a driverless vehicle that provides a good ride is an enormous market opportunity whose ease and affordability might even make the “Do it Themselves-er” ask “what the heck have I been doing burdening myself with the capX, parking, fueling, headaches???”  Looking beyond the market opportunity and societal benefits, we take issue (again) with the premise that driverless vehicles are/should be intended for private, single-family ownership. We push against the notion that these potentially-life changing modes of transport should be positioned as just another luxury good for the 1%. Also, is it really accurate to refer to a “century-long love affair with all things automotive”? Or have capitalist forces compelled us to believe we love paying for, maintaining, driving, etc our own cars? I expected more from The Atlantic.   Alain


   SmartDrivingCars ZoomCast 337 PodCast 337 Driveless Cars a Tough Sell?

Driverless cars a tough sell? Not to people who need mobility. That’s Alain’s response to a piece in The Atlantic. Plus Mercedes Drive Pilot, Uber plays nice with taxi industry, Teamsters oppose Cruise Origin, Tesla, Microsoft and May Mobility. And Alain shares his IATR presentation- Modernizing the Giving of Rides. 0:00 open 0:41 The Atlantic …

F. Fishkin,  Oct. 2, Driverless cars a tough sell?   Not to people who need mobility.   That’s Alain’s response to a piece in The Atlantic.  Plus Mercedes Drive Pilot, Uber plays nice with taxi industry, Teamsters oppose Cruise Origin, Tesla, Microsoft and May Mobility.   And Alain shares his IATR presentation- Modernizing the Giving of Rides.   

0:00 open 

0:41 The Atlantic headline.. Why Driverless Cars are a Tough Sell 

8:03 Forbes report.. Mercedes Benz Drive Pilot: The Self Driving Car Has (sort of) Arrived 9:40 The Verge report:  How Uber learned to Stop Fighting and Play Nice With Taxis 

13:45  Teamster Union opposing exemption for building of Cruise Origin 

18:50  Tesla missed third quarter delivery estimates..but… 

20:50 Microsoft announces new AI companion called CoPilot…umm… 

23:13 May Mobility announces software release focused on rider only operations 

30:13 Alain talks about his presentation at the IATR Conference  in Arizona 

41:34 Alain’s IATR presentation slides and more


  Woman seriously injured after being hit by driver in SF, then trapped under Cruise car: company

L. Hwland, Oct. 3, “A woman is seriously injured after being struck by a hit-and-run driver that “launched” her in front of a Cruise autonomous car in San Francisco Monday night, the robotaxi company said.

Police say at 9:31 p.m., officers responded to 5th and Market Streets and discovered a female pedestrian trapped under a Cruise vehicle.

San Francisco Fire Department tells ABC7 News they had to use the “jaws of life” to lift the car off of the woman, who was trapped underneath.

The victim was transported to SF General Hospital with “multiple traumatic injuries,” according to SFFD.

Read  more Hmmmm…  First, we pray for a speedy recovery for this victim in this still developing story that is unfortunately all too common.  A human driver strikes “launches” a pedestrian to the adjacent lane. Rather than stop to provide aid, the human driver flees the scene.  Two serious, irresponsible, illegal and outrageous misbehaviors by a human.  The mise-en-scene is having the driverless car immediately braking with full force trying to mitigate the situation, and, of course, not leaving the scene.  


This one strikes home because a similar incident killed one of my relatives many years ago as a human tailgater startled a young driver who hit my relative in a crosswalk knocking her to the side.  The tailgater screamed past the startled car, ran over my relative and took off.  A driverless car would not have been tailgating, would not have been startled, would not have screamed past in the opposite lane.  Also, worth reading… “Why the ‘Mother of the Atomic Bomb’ Never Won a Nobel Prize’” Alain 


  Mercedes-Benz Drive Pilot: The Self-Driving Car Has (Sort Of) Arrived  

K. Brauer, Sept. 27,  “… But responsible, educated drivers (you’re out there… right? Please tell me you’re out there!) know we’re still a long way off from the fully self-driving car. However, thanks to Mercedes-Benz, we’re a lot closer today than we were a few years ago. The German luxury brand has introduced a new technology called Drive Pilot on its S-Class and EQS sedans. And, technically, when several conditions are met, these models are indeed capable of fully driving themselves….

What defines a self-driving car? Well, from a legal standpoint it’s pretty straightforward. Specifically, if one of Mercedes-Benz’s cars is in Drive Pilot mode and an accident occurs, the human driver is probably not responsible. The car, and thus Mercedes-Benz, is. This is the first time an automaker is selling a car to the general public that makes its vehicle—not the human operator—liable for an on-road incident….

Mercedes-Benz’s Drive Pilot is the first system that crosses the boundary between “assisted” driving and “automated” driving. In Drive Pilot mode, if some specific circumstances are met, the car completely takes over, allowing the driver to take their hands off the wheel, feet off the pedals, and eyes off the road for an extended period.   This means they can, for example, watch TV, read a book, or play a game with their passengers. Drivers must remain in the driver’s seat and cannot dramatically recline it, and they must be capable of retaking control of the car in 10 seconds or less….

Mercedes-Benz’s Drive Pilot system technically meets that definition… if:

  1. Lane lines and/or Botts’ dots are present and clearly visible
  2. Lane width is sufficient
  3. The road is dry and all sensors are free of obstruction
  4. The car is on an approved freeway
  5. Vehicle speed is 40 mph or lower
  6. And, I think, construction is not taking place in the area and there is a car to follow in the lane ahead

.…”   Read  more Hmmmm…  It is a start of a “proof-of-technology” for “Level 3”.  The “ifs” are onerous so it may pass the “proof-of-technology” if it is absolutely strict in enforcing the “ifs”.  The challenge  may well come in achieving a “proof-of-market” in such a constrained Operational Design Domain (ODD) that is strictly enforced.   Alain


  How Uber learned to stop fighting and play nice with taxis

Andrew Hawkins, Sept. 26 “For over a decade, Uber and taxis have been locked in a desperate battle for control of cities across the world. In one corner, the century-old practice of raising your hand to hail a ride. In the other, pressing a button on your smartphone to summon a car.

But while Uber has succeeded in decimating the cab industry in many cities, it has failed to completely wipe it out. In fact, the taxi business is thriving, with the number of drivers in the US almost tripling in recent years. And now, there are signs that the long and bitter struggle between Uber and taxis is fading as more and more taxi fleets are choosing to be folded into Uber’s cold, technological embrace.

Uber and taxis have been locked in a desperate battle for control of cities across the world

The latest is Los Angeles Yellow Cab, which announced today its plan, along with its partner fleets, to list approximately 1,200 taxis in Uber’s app as part of a pilot program.….”   Read  more Hmmmm… Some of this was evident at last week’s International Association of Transportation Regulators (IATR) 36th annual conference in Scottsdale, Final Program.   Alain

Uber and taxis have historically not gotten along. This is an understatement.



 Teamsters urge NHTSA to deny Cruise Origin exemption 

R. Bellan, Sept. 27,  “The International Brotherhood of Teamsters union is urging U.S. auto safety regulators to deny a petition by General Motors to grant an exemption to Cruise, the automaker’s autonomous vehicle subsidiary, that would allow it to build its Origin AV without traditional vehicle safety standards.. …”   Read  more  Hmmmm…  I guess this makes sense, but if GM doesn’t make autonomousTaxis, Tesla and the Chinese will.  Alain


  Announcing Microsoft Copilot, your everyday AI companion

Y. Mehdim, Sept. 21,  “ We are entering a new era of AI, one that is fundamentally changing how we relate to and benefit from technology. With the convergence of chat interfaces and large language models you can now ask for what you want in natural language and the technology is smart enough to answer, create it or take action. At Microsoft, we think about this as having a copilot to help navigate any task. We have been building AI-powered copilots into our most used and loved products – making coding more efficient with GitHub, transforming productivity at work with Microsoft 365, redefining search with Bing and Edge and delivering contextual value that works across your apps and PC with Windows. .…”   Read  more Hmmmm…  Wait a minute Microsoft, Trimble Transportation owns the CoPilot trademark…. Courtesy of … J.   Alain


 Tesla Just Released Q3 Delivery Report


R. Mauer, Oct. 2, “ 

Tesla has released Q3-23 delivery and production numbers

Read  more  Hmmmm…. Somewhat interesting;. 😁 Alain


  May Mobility moves toward rider-only service

Kavpriya, Sept 27, “May Mobility announced its newest software release, which provides major performance improvements to a wide range of vehicle functions and rider experience elements. This latest update is the foundation of the company’s soon-to-be-released fully driverless software. It signals May Mobility’s shift to a focus on rider-only operations.

These updates enhance overall rider comfort, trip efficiency, and safety. They also mark May Mobility’s continued commitment to achieving the most comfortable AV ride. Riders can experience May Mobility’s service across the country in Ann Arbor, MI, Arlington, TX, Grand Rapids, MN and Sun City, AZ, with other deployments planned for the end of 2023 and early 2024….

May Mobility previously announced plans to launch its first driverless service by the end of 2023, and these improvements ensure on-time delivery. .…”   Read  more Hmmmm…  Great to learn that the launch of May Mobility Driverless is less than three months away. Alain


San Jose, CA

Nov. 30 -> Dec. 1, 2023