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Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024


2nd edition of the 12th year of SmartDrivingCars eLetter 


Letter to the Editor NY Times: (Sent, but who knows if they’ll publish it)

Jan. 12,  Since November 8, 2016, my wife and I have ceased to watch news on TV, for obvious reasons, but have continued to rely mostly on the home delivery and the digital version of the New York Times.  We try to ignore its absolutely unrelenting coverage of a certain former president and other more minor shortcomings.  However, it would be nice if the NYT were more accurate in the portrayal of topics for which we actually know something about.  The latest occurred on January 10 in Brian Chen’s “The Tech That Needs Fixing in 2024, and What Got Fixed Last Year”. 

Yes, 2023 was an up and down year for driverless cars. They finally happened for real without smoke & mirrors (a high point), but to characterize the low point as “… a Cruise vehicle struck a San Francisco pedestrian and dragged the victim for 20 feet” completely misses the real substance of the incident, if this incident is to contribute substantively to the title of the article “… Fixing in 2024…”

What actually happened, based on available reporting, was that a human driver struck a pedestrian and fled the scene. The impact was sufficient to fling the pedestrian in front of the low-speed driverless car that was in the adjacent lane.  The driverless car braked “instantly” and came to a complete stop, but unfortunately, not before striking the pedestrian a second time.  Given that the driverless car was blocking traffic, a decision was made to pull over.  Most unfortunately, that decision was made without the knowledge that the pedestrian was under the car, so it dragged the victim at very low speed for 20 feet. Tragic! And one wonders, where is the reporting on the criminality of the human driver? Were they ever apprehended? Were they distracted by texting? Talking? Under the influence? While I have not seen follow-up reporting along these lines, I do see stories like this of Mr. Chen. So, my focus here will be on his purported interest in improving autonomous vehicles. 

Details do matter here if the intent is “… Fixing Tech in 2024…”.  In new situations, our challenge is always “we don’t know what we don’t know”.  While we hypothesize, theorize, imagine, test, anticipate, … some unknowns may still trip us up.  The important point is that once we encounter them, they are no longer unknowns, so now we can focus on the fix. This terrible accident has demonstrated the need for all driverless cars to “check under the vehicle” before they start moving.  Since these cars have many cameras, one of potentially many solutions may well be, just add one more that looks under the car and checks every time.  Certainly seems trivial and likely an easy “fix” for 2024. 

Another fix that this incident could catalyze is a serious focus on ending misbehaviors of human drivers.  This incident was sparked by a human driver who first hit the pedestrian.  That driver took off.  Had that driver not doubled-down on their potentially lethal misbehavior by running from the scene, they might have noticed that the victim was under the Cruise car, and could have prevented the driverless car from pulling over, or even helped the victim out of the way.  

I also notice that in the Sunday January 7, Letters section “Danger Ahead: Pedestrians and Cars at Night” NY Times readers, eight of them, highlighted the misbehavior of human drivers that result in pedestrian deaths.  It is not hyperbole to claim that 90% of traffic deaths involve human driver misbehavior in the forms described by these readers.  It also should be noted that driverless cars don’t misbehave in these ways. 

Last comment on Mr. Chen’s assessment of self-driving cars. He ends by sharing his own experience riding in Waymo vehicles and makes no mention of any unsafe operation. Instead, he is irritated by how they “can struggle to find pickup zones, stop abruptly and take inefficient routes – but then again, many human drivers can be just as annoying.”  No mention of how anyone who actually needs an affordable ride might gladly accept an inefficient route over missing a doctor’s appointment or reliable transportation to and from a job.

In characterizing Waymo’s foibles as “annoying” and not commenting on the deadly misbehaviors of human drivers, Mr. Chen misses the fundamental benefit of driverless cars:  their ability to provide high quality rides to a broad population of people for whom getting an affordable ride from near where they are to near where they want to go at about the time they wish to go is simply not available.  Hopefully in 2024 the driverless car industry will realize that this is indeed their opportunity to be of real value to our society.





A book cover of a book  Description automatically generatedSmartDrivingCars  ZoomCast 353 / PodCast 353 Danny Shapiro, VP Automotive, nVIDIA, CES 2024 and more

F. Fishkin,  Jan. 13, “NVIDIA VP for Automotive Danny Shapiro joins Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and Viodi’s Ken Pyle for an interview from CES 2024. With AI, Kia, LG and more making headlines at CES, Alain and Fred look at the innovations, plus Hertz, a letter to the editor of the NY Times from Alain and more. Tune in and subscribe.

0:00 open

0:40 Interview with NVIDIA’s Danny Shapiro

11:00 Alain’s letter to the editor of the NY Times

15:00 A look at the Las Vegas Loop

19:35 Kia PBV at CES

20:10 Hertz unloading many electric vehicles

23:55 Skwheel One electric skis at CES

25:40 AI everywhere at CES with Rabbit and more

26:20 Smart glasses and Apple Vision Pro

27:50 LG shows transparent OLED screen

31:00 The Real Case for Driverless Mobility arriving this month

33:00 More thoughts on CES


A close up of a logo  Description automatically generatedLas Vegas Loop

K. Pyle, Jan. 9, “The Las Vegas Loop is an all-electric, zero-emissions, high-speed underground public transportation system in which passengers are transported to their destination with no intermediate stops. Also known as “Teslas in Tunnels!” CES is famous for highlighting the outlandish, the uncompromising, and the immobile in the auto industry, but props to Kia for thinking more practically with its latest concept.


The South Korean automaker unveiled the PBV, or Platform Beyond Vehicle, which utilizes a flexible chassis to support a variety of vehicle types designed for businesses and individuals. How flexible? Kia is thinking of at least nine different vehicle variations built on the same platform….”  Read More  Hmmmm…. Elizabeth and I rode it this year @ CES.  Its stations are emblematic of MOVE-style kiosks, and if it became Driverless, it would become a modern Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) system. In fact it could readily become a “Dual Mode” version of PRT in that it could readily extend Operational Design Domain using surface streets as it does now using human drivers in getting vehicles to & from its surface depot. Alain


A Not So Boring Ride with Dr. Kornhauser and Dr. Monroe – #ces2024

K. Pyle, Jan. 13, “A joy ride is one way to describe this video that documents Dr. Kornhauser’s first adventure through the Boring Company’s Las Vegas tunnel. This brief sojourn under the massive Las Vegas Convention Center at CES2024 provides a glimpse of things to come, as this is the start of a larger network, as outlined in this previous Viodi article and video..”  Read More  Hmmmm…. You can tell how excited I was. J   Alain


A black numbers on a blue and white background  Description automatically generated     Kia’s ‘Platform Beyond Vehicles’ is a family of modular electric minivans for businesses

Andrew Hawkins, Jan. 8, “CES is famous for highlighting the outlandish, the uncompromising, and the immobile in the auto industry, but props to Kia for thinking more practically with its latest concept.


The South Korean automaker unveiled the PBV, or Platform Beyond Vehicle, which utilizes a flexible chassis to support a variety of vehicle types designed for businesses and individuals. How flexible? Kia is thinking of at least nine different vehicle variations built on the same platform….”  Read More  Hmmmm…. Interesting for autonomousTaxis.  If Tesla offered something similar with FSD, life ahead would be really interesting.   Alain


  The Grandma of Robotaxis Is Winning

J. Karl, Jan. 9, “…The Alphabet-owned robotaxi company recently announced that it plans to unleash its cars onto the Phoenix freeway soon. The news is a game changer for Waymo employees, some of whom use the cars to get to work. Until now, riders could only take surface streets to get to their destination.…

In a few years, who knows what other cities will allow Waymo to compete with the likes of Uber and Lyft. Will people prefer the comfortable silence of a driverless car over the awkward chitchat you endure with other rideshare businesses? …

“the newly uncovered video showed the Cruise car dragged the woman 20 feet at 7 miles an hour before coming to a stop — on top of her.” In contrast, Waymo’s robocars have traveled 7.1 million miles and have caused less than a handful of minor injuries.”  Read More  Hmmmm…. What a simply horrendous piece. Touting Waymo for spending who knows how many billions to create a competitor to an existing mobility service (Uber/Lyft/taxis) for which its most salient feature is “comfortable silence”?  Really?! Every Lyft/Uber driver I’ve interacted with has been politely taciturn or interestingly engaging. Slamming thousands of working people as awkward chit-chatters seems unfair, at best. More importantly, if that’s the best advantage Waymo has to offer, no chit-chat, it has zero chance of being successful in the marketplace. I also wonder why the writer (I won’t say reporter) takes the lazy route in failing to mention that the woman who was struck was flung in front of the Cruise vehicle by a hit-and-run human driver, and that it is only by the grace of god that it wasn’t a Waymo vehicle at that location at that time? Not much, if any, of the substance of what happened would have changed.


Hot take? This “opinion piece” is purposely misrepresenting what happened in the incident by only reporting about the dragging.  Is everything else in Bloomberg so misrepresenting of its real context?  Shame on you, Bloomberg!   Alain


[Elizabeth also wants me to protest the author’s perpetuation of the sexist and ageist description of cautious driving as “Grandma.” Are you for real? Our grandmothers were bold, brave, and incredible role models. Dissing careful driving as “grandmotherly” is a low blow on so many levels.]


A black numbers on a blue and white background  Description automatically generated     Hertz is selling 20,000 EVs so it can buy more gas guzzlers

Andrew Hawkins, Jan 11, “Hertz went from scaling back its electric vehicle ambitions to selling off its actual EVs in the span of three months. The rental car agency said in a regulatory filing today that it will sell 20,000 vehicles, or roughly one-third of its global EV fleet, and use that money to buy gas guzzlers.


The decision was made after Hertz reported higher depreciation and damage than expected to its EVs, amounting to $245 million in costs for the company. Also, Hertz apparently couldn’t find enough customers for the EVs in its fleet, so selling a huge chunk of them will “better balance supply against expected demand of EVs,” the company said. The company had previously set a target for 25 percent of its fleet to be electric by the end of 2024.

All of which is to say: if you’re in the market for a used EV, now would be a really good time to pop over to Hertz’s sales page and start browsing. Tesla Model 3s can be had for as little as $20,000, used Chevy Bolts are going for $21,000, and there’s one BMW i3 that lists for a little less than $17,000. I’m not seeing any Polestar 2s or Ford Mustang Mach-Es, but I’m guessing they’ll start showing up there soon….


Hertz’s problem is a bit unique. Of the 100,000 Teslas acquired by Hertz, half were to be allocated to Uber drivers as part of a deal with the ridehail company. And while drivers said they loved the Teslas, they also tend to drive their vehicles into the ground. This higher rate of utilization can lead to a lot of damage — certainly more than Hertz was anticipating.”  Read More  Hmmmm…. Lol!  They assumed EVs would not wear out, and insurance upsells weren’t as ridiculously profitable as they are for ICEs.  I see what is going on here. J   Alain


A blue and white logo  Description automatically generated   Skwheel One electric skis set out to turn urban streets into alpine slopes

B. Coxworth, Jan 9, “People looking for an ebike alternative can already choose between electric scooters, skateboards and roller skates. With the debut of the Skwheel One system, they now have another option – electric skis.


Designed by Parisian startup Skwheel (pronounced “Skywheel”), the Skwheel One package consists of two motorized “skis” along with a wireless handheld remote.


Each ski has one wheel at the front and one at the back, along with a carbon composite deck, front and rear running lights, a quick-swappable lithium-ion battery and a snowboard-style binding. Each wheel in turn contains a 600-watt hub motor, giving both skis a combined power of 2,400 watts.


The wheels are clad in pneumatic all-terrain tires, allowing the skis to be used both on- and off-road. What’s more, the front wheels pivot relative to the deck, reportedly mimicking the carving sensation of downhill skiing. Riders accelerate, brake and monitor battery life via the remote….”  Read More  Hmmmm…. See video.  Maybe.  Certainly for certain warehouse personnel and possibly for some mail carriers and security personnel.   Maybe.  Alain


A black numbers on a blue and white background  Description automatically generated     Rabbit sells out two batches of 10,000 R1 pocket AI companions over two days SpaceX Starship Update 2024


E. Roth, Jan 11, “The R1, the pocket-sized AI gadget from Rabbit that’s supposed to use your apps for you, has already sold out of its first batch — and its second batch, too….


Rabbit introduced the R1 during CES on Tuesday, which comes with a small 2.88-inch touchscreen that runs on the company’s own Rabbit OS. It uses a “Large Action Model” that works as a “sort of universal controller for apps,” according to my colleague David Pierce, who got to try out the device during the showcase. This allows it to do things like play music, buy groceries, and send messages through a single interface without having to use your phone. It also lets you train the device how to interact with a certain app.” Read More  Hmmmm…. Interesting, I certainly need something to manage my stuff, but is that another piece of hardware or a master app on my phone?  And is this “AI”? Alain


SpaceX Starship Update 2024

E.  Roth, Jan 13, “Elon Musk held a private SpaceX company all hands meeting at Starbase, TX where he gave and update on Dragon, Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy and Starship! Read More  Hmmmm…. Enormous accomplishments in 2023. Alain


A black numbers on a blue and white background  Description automatically generated     Apple won the CES headset game without showing up

J. Peters, Roth, Jan 12, “Apple isn’t at CES, but it had a huge presence anyway. On Monday, just before a string of CES keynotes were set to kick off, the company announced that its Vision Pro headset would be launching on February 2nd. Apple had already promised that the headset would launch early this year. So the stage was set for its rivals to compete by making CES 2024 a showcase of new ideas about virtual and augmented reality.

Ultimately, that didn’t pan out. Lots of companies showed up with AR and VR tech. A lot of the headsets offered similar functionality to the Vision Pro, like an AR / VR monitor for your computer or a substitute TV. But none were as impressive a package as Apple’s headset, nor were most arriving nearly as soon.


That’s not to say what was shown at CES wasn’t interesting: …” Read More  Hmmmm…. Headsets may make a dent in needing to travel? Folks have been working on that future for almost 60 years: Sword of Damocles (1966) – First augmented reality head-mounted display … Five or so years longer than I’ve been working on automated mobility for cities J without much more success L    Alain


A black numbers on a blue and white background  Description automatically generated     Nvidia’s RTX 4080 Super arrives on January 31st at a more reasonable $999

T. Warren, Jan. 8, “Nvidia is introducing three RTX 40-series Super cards this month that offer more performance at price points that are similar or better than existing cards. Pricing of the RTX 40-series has been a sticking point for gamers, particularly for the RTX 4080. Nvidia is replacing this GPU with the RTX 4080 Super and cutting the price to $999 when it launches on January 31st.

The $200 price cut will put a lot of pressure on AMD’s Radeon RX 7900 XT ($899) and XTX ($999) cards. Before the RTX 4080 Super launches, there’s also the RTX 4070 Super on January 17th priced at $599 and the RTX 4070 Ti Super, with some interesting changes, on January 24th at $799. Nvidia is also phasing out the RTX 4070 Ti but keeping the RTX 4070 around at a lower $549 price point….” Read More  Hmmmm…. What a big week for nVIDIA. Up 10% over previous high.  See my interview with Danny Shapiro’87, VP of  nVIDIA Automotive. Also see as background.   Alain


A black numbers on a blue and white background  Description automatically generated     I’ve looked through LG’s new transparent OLED TV and seen something special

C. Welch, Jan. 8, “Transparent display prototypes have had a presence on the CES show floor for many years. They’re a guaranteed way to wow people and showcase the unique capabilities of an OLED panel. But LG has seemingly decided that the time has come to ship a real, bona fide transparent TV that people will actually be able to buy this year. At some undisclosed date. For what’s certain to be an exorbitant amount of money.


The company has announced the OLED Signature T (you can guess what the T stands for) here at CES 2024. The product that LG demoed for press in Las Vegas isn’t exactly “final.” The 77-inch display won’t be changing at all, but the company hasn’t decided whether it’ll come bundled with all the side furniture you see in these photos or if it’ll sell those items separately.

….” Read More  Hmmmm…. Watch the video.  Whatever. Alain


Cybertruck Non-Employee Impressions, Tesla Cuts China Prices, Point-of-Sale CreditA red and white logo  Description automatically generated

R. Mauer, Jan. 12, “0:00 TSLA 0:26 PPI 1:42 Cybertruck first impressions 5:12 Point-of-sale credit 6:39 China price cuts 8:39 Piper Sandler note 9:15 Voice assist update 10:29 Covered vehicles at Texas 11:27 FSD Beta v12.1.1 11:55 Rivian impact report 12:31 SpaceX company update 13:25 Calendar” Read More  Hmmmm…. Interesting, especially the FSD v12.1 rollout.  Alain



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6th  SmartDrivingCar


May 29 (evening) -> May 31, 2024

Princeton, NJ

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