Friday, Dec. 8, 2023

48th edition of the 11th year of SmartDrivingCars eLetter 


 Who Will Operate Driverless Vehicle Services

M. Sena, Dec. 6, “  I cannot say for sure whether the timing of the behave-and-clean up your mess “Mom Reminder” and the UBER announcement were related, but I suspect they were. Together they set in motion a great deal of speculation in the ether about what it all meant for WAYMO, UBER, and EVERYTHING.

The answer is not 42.…” Read More  Hmmmm…. Read on and watch ZoomCast 348. The Waymo deal with Uber is very troubling for many reasons.  One, is it even legal with respect to issues of collusion, price fixing?  (I’m obviously not a lawyer.)  More troubling is that it reinforces the perception that Waymo is focused on giving rides to people who relish Waymo’s novelty as the attribute that makes it the winning mode in the user’s choice process.  Compared to classical 5-star Uber service.  It isn’t faster, cleaner, easier, friendlier, … It is just more novel. 


For Waymo, that’s fine, because they’ll gain “HumanRevenue (minus their finder’s fee to Uber) while expending RoboOperatingCosts” since Uber, at some point, is going to have to start charging HumanRevenue (LivingWage plus Expenses and its finder’s fee) in order to remain a viable ride provider using its gig workforce.


It’s an OK deal for Uber and its gig workers because they only lose these customers as long as the novelty shines.  Once that wears off, their service level is a decisive winner, thus Waymo basically gets the “one & done” and Uber gets the repeat customer.  The only thing that could upset this apple cart would be if Waymo started to use its substantial RoboOperatingCost advantage (plus the profit margin built into Uber’s finder’s fee that Waymo could keep on its books).  Competing on price, Waymo could easily keep the novelty customers well after the novelty completely wore off while remaining extremely profitable even if their profit margin isn’t quite as big as “HumanRevenue minus RoboCosts”.  Such price competition certainly wouldn’t go well for Uber nor its gig workforce.  


What seems really disappointing is that Waymo isn’t focused on the societal benefit of giving rides to people for whom a ride that actually took them from where they are to, where they want to go, when they want to go would substantially improve their lives because that quality ride is affordable and is simply not available with conventional public transport systems.  This market is enormous.  It is not only a substantial portion of half of today’s rides, roughly 500 million personTrips per day, but an unknown number of “latent rides” that aren’t going to be taken today by all the people that couldn’t find a ride and stayed home.  Not only is their improved quality of life not realized, but also the stimulation to the economy by having them go to the places where they wanted to go but couldn’t because they couldn’t get a ride, let alone an affordable ride. 


That’s the real market and societal opportunity, which seems to be completely irrelevant to Waymo and most media outlets.  Now with Cruise on the ropes, the two entities that can technologically unleash this opportunity are becoming a pipe dream.  We may now need to have to wait for Tesla to get their driverless system to work well enough and be willing to engage and support technically a partner that can profitably deliver safe, affordable, equitable, sustainable high-quality rides to people who need rides, plus, without compromise, those that today give themselves a ride should they so desire. It’s difficult to remain optimistic.  Alain  


A book cover of a book  Description automatically generatedSmartDrivingCars  ZoomCast 348 / PodCast 348  w/ Michael Sena, Editor, The Dispatcher

F. Fishkin,  Dec. 8, “What is the real business for Waymo at Alphabet/Google? Michael Sena, publisher of The Dispatcher and co-author of The Real Case of Driverless Mobility joins Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin for that plus Cruise, Tesla and more.

0:00 open

0:46 The real business for Waymo

49:00 Reuters reports AV Industry Association is asking Department of Transportation for help

55:00 NHTSA ..a debate over its role

1:03:34 Princeton fatal accident lesson

1:06:30 Rail service from Scranton to NYC may be back on track




A white and green logo  Description automatically generatedMan crushed to death by car in driveway of Princeton home, police say

C. Sheldon, Nov. 29, “A Hudson County man died Wednesday morning after a woman backed her car into him in the driveway of her Princeton home, pinning him between the vehicle and a detached garage, police said

Officers were called to the Red Hill Road home shortly before 10 a.m. and found 61-year-old Meliton Hernandez-Morales, of West New York, pinned between the structure and the woman’s car, a Lexus sport-utility vehicle, Princeton police said in a statement.

The home has a wraparound-style driveway. Hernandez-Morales was at the home performing roofing work, police said.

Hernandez-Morales died from his injuries at the scene. The driver was not hurt, and was not facing any charges as of Wednesday evening, police said….”  Read More  Hmmmm…. Tragic, for all involved,  and the appropriate response by the police and the media.  But just imagine if this would have been a Driverless aTaxi that had come to the house to give someone ride who needed a ride. Where is the outcry for safer vehicle systems?  So unfair!  Alain


Waymo is full speed ahead as safety incidents and regulators stymie competitor Cruise

H. Field, Dec. 5, “ Waymo, Alphabet’s self-driving car unit, is having a relatively good couple of months – at least, compared to one of its key rivals: GM’s Cruise. 

Formerly known as the Google self-driving car project and now an independent subsidiary of Google parent-company Alphabet, Waymo has been operating in some capacity since 2009. Five years ago, the company launched what it billed as the “world’s first commercial autonomous ride-hailing service” in the metro Phoenix area, then last year expanded to San Francisco. The company soon plans to launch commercially in Austin, its fourth city, and also recently began test-driving vehicles in the winter weather of Buffalo, New York. …”  Read More  Hmmmm…. Great, but where are they headed?  Nice that they are going to Buffalo to “begin test-driving in winter”.  But, again, it isn’t winter all the time in Buffalo.  It’s not winter 50% of  time in Buffalo.  It’s winter only 25% of the time, just like Mountain View, CA.  So why isn’t Waymo interested in providing safe, affordable, equitable high-quality mobility in Buffalo 75% of the time?  And if the issue is snow, Buffalo has about 18 days per year (5% of days) where snowfall is greater than 1 inch.  So… why the hesitancy to provide service in Buffalo?  Lots of people need affordable rides in Buffalo, and I suspect they’d be thrilled if Waymo could deliver those rides 75% of the days, let alone 95% of the days in the year.  C’mon Waymo!  Why not be thrilled at what you can do as opposed to dragging your feet while trying to be perfect? 

I guess you can have that luxury of not really getting anywhere when you’re nice & comfy as an “otherBets”.   Alain


A black text on a white background  Description automatically generated  Exclusive: New leader of GM’s Cruise acknowledges ‘all-time low’ amid safety review

Reuters, Dec. 5, “General Motors’ Cruise autonomous vehicle unit has hit an “all time low,” said its new leader, while promising to restore trust with regulators and the public after the company pulled all of its vehicles from U.S. roads.

“Our integrity, our competency are being questioned and this really hurts,” said Mo Elshenawy at an all-staff meeting Tuesday, according to a transcript of the call reviewed by Reuters. “We went from an all-time high to an all-time low and from being an industry leader to temporary pausing all of our operations,” he said..….” Read More  Hmmmm….  Mo.  Routing for you!    Alain


A close-up of a logo  Description automatically generatedTuSimple Winds Down U.S. Operations as It Looks for Buyer

H. Somerville, Dec. 4, “Self-driving trucking company TuSimple Holdings TSP -6.54%decrease; red down pointing triangle said Monday that it is winding down its U.S. business, reducing its workforce to about 30 people as it looks for a buyer for its assets that remain in the country.

The demise of TuSimple’s U.S. operations marks a precipitous fall for the one-time leader in autonomous long-haul trucking. The San Diego-based company in the past year has had to grapple with safety concerns as well as government scrutiny of its dealings with a Chinese trucking startup.

TuSimple is now moving its business to China, according to company filings…….” Read More  Hmmmm….  Unfortunately, from my perspective, there seemed to be a lot of smoke&mirrors.  All of this is proving out to be non-easy and non-fakeable. Alain


A black text on a white background  Description automatically generated  US self-driving industry seeks federal support, cites China risk

Reuters, Dec. 7, “The U.S. Transportation Department needs to support the development of autonomous vehicles, a coalition of groups representing the industry warned on Thursday, saying the nascent industry risks losing out to competitors like China.

“The AV industry is at a critical juncture and in need of strong leadership from USDOT,” the Autonomous Vehicle Industry Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Alliance for Automotive Innovation and others said in a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg..….” Read More  Hmmmm….  What?  Losing out to China?  No!  What they are losing out to may be MobilEye, an Israeli company, and to itself for not addressing the right market.  No one in China is ahead of Waymo, or Cruise, or Tesla, or nVIDIA,  or GM SuperCruise, or MB Distronic, or Ford BlueCruise, or …  China is now going to assume the burden of TuSimple.  Smoke&Mirrors isn’t going to help China be more competitive.   Plus, China is shooting itself in the foot by requiring attendants in anything driverless so as to completely obliviate the fundamental service advantage of driverless… affordability (but, I guess, affordability is no problem in China since they pay some so little.)   C’mon AVIA!  Alain


A black text on a white background  Description automatically generated  China issues safety guidelines for autonomous public transport vehicles

Reuters, Dec. 5, “… China issues safety guidelines for autonomous public transport vehicles.….” Read More  Hmmmm…. Talk about China shooting itself in the foot.  There must have been translation error, because if this is true, China has zero incentive to actually achieve driverless.  Smoke&mirrors will continue to be good enough in China and be totally useless in the US & Europe.   Alain


A black text on a white background  Description automatically generated  Danish dockworkers join Swedish strike action against Tesla

Reuters, Dec. 5, “Denmark’s 3F labour union said on Tuesday it will support Swedish mechanics in their strike action against Tesla (TSLA.O), and will refuse to unload or transport cars made by the U.S. auto company for customers in Sweden.

“Like the companies, the trade union movement is global in the fight to protect workers,” 3F Chair Jan Villadsen said in a statement, adding that Sweden’s IF Metall union had asked 3F to help.….” Read More  Hmmmm…. Every worker deserves a fair wage; else the worker should find another job, and every employer should pay a fair wage; else the employer should find another business to run  (as we know, life is not that simple, and the reason why the above is so unfortunate on both sides).  Alain


SpaceX plans key NASA demonstration for next Starship launch

M. Sheetz, Dec. 5, “ SpaceX could attempt a key demonstration for NASA during the third test flight of its towering Starship rocket, according to the federal agency.

A NASA official revealed on Monday that the next Starship flight is expected to include “a propellant transfer demonstration,” though an agency spokesperson noted Tuesday the plan is subject to change, as is often the case in the space industry.

SpaceX last month launched its second Starship flight, a test which saw the company make progress in development of the monster rocket yet fall short of completing the full mission. The propellant transfer demonstration would require that the rocket reach orbit as one of the demo’s goals.

A successful attempt would push Starship beyond its benchmarks reached thus far.

“NASA and SpaceX are reviewing options for the demonstration to take place during an integrated flight test of Starship and the Super Heavy rocket. However, no final decisions on timing have been made,” NASA spokesperson Jimi Russell said in a statement to CNBC.…”  Read More  Hmmmm…  I hope to be there to witness the 3rd launch, God willing.  It’s not that I’m considering going back to my first love, aerospace engineering, but the way the media, industry, regulators, academics – everybody – in the driverless space is ignoring the potential for automation to improve lives has me enormously frustrated, and it wouldn’t take much more to initiate movement.  Alain


A white text on a black background  Description automatically generated  Cruise Will Re-Launch Robotaxis ‘With Communities, Not At Them’

C. Farivar, Dec. 5, “In a new email sent to Cruise employees, the company’s new president and CTO struck a new conciliatory tone, suggesting the company plans to dial strategically back an aggressive robotaxi roll out that inspired California regulators to ultimately shut the company’s vehicles down.

“We remain focused on commercializing a fully driverless L4 service, relaunching ridehail in one city to start,” Mo Elshenawy wrote in a Dec. 1 message, using the industry term for fully-automated driving. “Our priority from day one will be to launch with communities, not at them.”…”  Read More  Hmmmm…. This is REALLY important.  Focus on learning who needs rides from to where, when in each neighborhood and then shape your service offering to what you have learned, not what you, as an outsider, think is what they want or need.  Also, please learn that current ride-hailers are not your market sweet-spot.  They already have a good service provider.  That’s Uber/Lyft/Taxi and you aren’t as good as them straight up.  Plus they serve very few because a chauffeur is NOT cheap and deserves to earn a living wage and be reimbursed for the expenses they incur in giving rides.  Plus, as they serve more rides, their costs go up because the next driver wants to be paid more than the last driver that agreed to pitch in and drive.  Not so for you.  The scale economies of  a computer that drives is such that its cost decreases with increasing scale.  So, I encourage you to change ridehail to MOVES while keeping everything else as you’ve stated above. Then I will no longer be tempted to change lanes and go disrupt the aerospace industry.  J Alain


A close up of a sign  Description automatically generatedPlan for Scranton-NYC railroad route that would run through Poconos takes step forward

Staff, Dec. 5, “U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) and U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright (D-PA-8) announced Tuesday that the Federal Railroad Administration has included Northeastern Pennsylvania in its Corridor Identification and Development Program.

The goal would be to reestablish direct passenger rail service between Scranton, PA and New York, NY, according to a news release from Casey’s office.

The line would run from Manhattan to Scranton. The study estimates it would take just under the hours with several stops, with one at the Pocono Manor property and one in East Stroudsburg. …”  Read More  Hmmmm…. This is great for both Michael Sena and Joe Biden  J Alain


A green and white logo  Description automatically generated  Shocking: Safety Experts Worry The Tesla Cybertruck’s Design Is Going To Injure Pedestrians, Cyclists And Anything Else It Hits

Andy Kalmowitz, Dec. 8, “The angular design and stiff stainless-steel exoskeleton of the Tesla Cybertruck are raising concerns from safety experts that the truck could hurt pedestrians and cyclists and cause a lot of damage to other vehicles on the road….” Read More  Hmmmm…. Wow!  Isn’t the design of all cars and trucks going to injure anything they hit?  What??  Actually, the gentle slope of the front hood and windshield may actually be a “safer” design.  But shouldn’t “safety experts” be more concerned about the acceleration and top speed?  Alain


Tesla Teases New Features, China Records, Thailand InterestA red and white logo  Description automatically generatedTesla

R. Mauer, Dec. 8, “ Tesla teases a number of new features coming soon Bernstein calls TSLA short their best idea for 2024 Tesla China sales and production Model Y standard range sells out Tesla executives meet in Thailand Model Y becomes second best-selling car in US Tesla adds pre-qualifying finance option Cybertruck discussion from reviewers:    • Tesla Cybertruck DEEP DIVE ft. Marque…   Calendar

0:00 TSLA

0:25 Bernstein recommends TSLA short

3:02 New features

7:25 China numbers

10:45 Model Y China

11:26 Thailand

12:26 Model Y US

13:11 Pre-qualification

13:38 Cybertruck reviewers

14:33 Calendar

Read More  Hmmmm….  Impressive.  Alain


M Brownlee, Dec 1. “Behind the wheel and every detail and spec of the new “Beast Mode” Cybertruck from Tesla!”  Read More  Hmmmm….  Really good review  Alain



6th  SmartDrivingCar


May 29 (evening) -> May 31, 2024

Princeton, NJ