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Saturday, Jan. 20, 2024


3rd edition of the 12th year of SmartDrivingCars eLetter 


A black and yellow logo  Description automatically generatedSunnyvale considers ride-share service for commuting students

B. CAnnestra, Jan. 18, “Sunnyvale is looking to fill accessibility gaps in existing public transit options for residents to travel around the city, and one ride-share service is taking center stage.

The Sunnyvale City Council is considering signing the city up with Silicon Valley Hopper (SV Hopper), a multi-city ride-share service that operates in Cupertino and Southern Santa Clara. Residents spoke in support of the program at a Jan. 9 council meeting, highlighting the ways it could benefit students, seniors, disabled residents and businesses. Advocates and a handful of students from Fremont and Homestead high schools spoke about transit inequities they face from living in North Sunnyvale, a historically underserved low-income community.

“All of our students and those further away have to travel great distances just to get to school and … participating in activities … is really difficult for these students if there isn’t reliable and safe transportation,” Peggy Brewster, founder of Sunnyvale Equity in Education, told San José Spotlight.….”  Read More  Hmmmm…. Seems like an excellent opportunity for Waymo to step up and say, “We can do that safely and very affordably”.  This looks like it is ideal for a “Sunnyvale MOVES” right next door. What a way to be of real value! 


Cecelia, Shlok and Tommy: let’s add Sunnyvale to the ORF467F24 Final Report that you are preparing.   Alain


A book cover of a book  Description automatically generatedSmartDrivingCars  ZoomCast 354 / PodCast 354  Sunnyvale & More

F. Fishkin,  Jan. 20, “In Sunnyvale, not far from Silicon Valley, officials are looking for ride sharing solutions for students. On episode 354 of Smart Driving Cars with Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin, Alain asks why aren’t the tech neighbors stepping up? Plus… Why are American Drivers So Deadly, big American carmakers avoiding the Super Bowl, Driverless Trucks in Dallas and more. Tune in and subscribe.

0:00 open

0:40 Sunnyvale considers ride share service for students

5:12 Why are American Drivers So Deadly?

22:55 Biggest American car makers won’t be running Super Bowl ads

23:40 Driverless trucks coming to Dallas

28:50 GM may be canceling Ultra Cruise

31:40 L. A. Times report-As EVs gain traction, how will California pay for road repair?

39:45 CNBC reports German startup Vay will use teledriving to bring vehicles to customers in U.S.

42:25 D.C. city officials seek more say in how autonomous vehicles are deployed

43:40 Alphabet’s Wing unveils larger drones for heavier packages

48:50 Rob Mauer ends Tesla Daily

51:00 The Real Case for Driverless Mobility book almost her


Why Are American Drivers So Deadly?

M. Shaer, Jan 10, “In the summer of 1999, a few years after graduating from medical school, Deborah Kuhls moved from New York to Maryland, where she had been accepted as a surgical fellow at the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. Founded by a pioneer in emergency medicine, Shock Trauma is one of the busiest critical-care facilities in the country — in an average year, doctors there see approximately 8,000 patients, many of them close to death..

Kuhls considered herself to be up for the challenge. At 31, she was substantially older than the typical resident — she had been a banker before she was a doctor — and steelier too, capable of operating with preternatural calm in even the most frenetic of circumstances. But her first few months at Shock Trauma tested her resolve. The center sees a particularly high proportion of the region’s car- and motorcycle-crash victims, and not everyone can be saved. On bad days, it could seem as if as many patients were being revived as were being shipped down to the basement morgue.

At a residency at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, Kuhls had been taught how to handle what’s known in the trade as penetrative trauma — stabbings, impalements, gunshots. Now she underwent an education in blunt-force injuries, which are often considerably harder to diagnose: A gunshot wound is its own clear evidence, in the form of a ragged perforation, of where the surgeon must focus his or her attention. But a body battered in a car crash tends to yield fewer clues — the damage can be invisible to the untrained eye.

“If you’re going very fast, and then suddenly you’re not, the floppy parts of your body — your intestines, your kidney, your liver — will keep going,” Kuhls told me. “That’s just plain physics.” She went on: “And our brain is floating in our skull, surrounded by fluid. But what if the skull bounces around or the car roof caves in and connects with the driver’s head? It might not look like it, but that person is probably bleeding to death internally. You don’t have much time to save them….

Above all, though, the problem seems to be us — the American public, the American driver. “It’s not an exaggeration to say behavior on the road today is the worst I’ve ever seen,” Capt. Michael Brown, a state police district commander in Michigan, told me. “It’s not just the volume. It’s the variety. There’s impaired driving, which constituted 40 percent of our fatalities last year. There are people going twice the legal limit on surface streets. There’s road rage,” Brown went on. “There’s impatience — right before we started talking, I got an email from a woman who was driving along in traffic and saw some guy fly by her off the roadway, on the shoulder, at 80, 90 miles an hour.” Brown stressed it was rare to receive such a message: “It’s got so bad, so extremely typical,” he said, “that people aren’t going to alert us unless it’s super egregious.”…

Take the bad behavior and add the perils of distraction by smartphone — responsible, by one conservative estimate, for about 3,500 deaths annually — and you’re left with what Emily Schweninger, a senior policy adviser at the U.S. Department of Transportation, described to me as a “genuine public-health crisis” on the level of cancer, suicide and heart disease….” Read More  Hmmmm…. Really good reporting here.  As Fred and I have been discussing for at least the past year, human mis-behavior is the root cause of the overwhelming majority of crashes.  More needs to be done to actively (aka using automation) restrict mis-behavior especially when it is likely to be mission critical.  That’s not to say that it shouldn’t be all the time, but it is a necessity during mission critical times.  It is OK to cross a double line if there is no one coming the other way, but if there is, then it is an absolute no-no. So let’s at least start with the absolute no-no situations.  At yesterday’s Safety Research Day I learned about a system that addressed driver induced accidental full throttle engagement that considers weather to implement a sudden full throttle input based on the real-time assessment of the road ahead.  If that assessment is that a brake engagement rather than a full throttle engagement should be the driver action, it assumes the worse and converts the driver’s full throttle engagement into an appropriate brake engagement.  Whew!  I was so startled I was hitting the wrong pedal.  Fantastic!!  That’s a great “get out of jail free card”!   More of that kind of Advanced Driver Assistance needs to be placed in all cars to address the chronic driver mis-behavior safety problem. Alain


 America’s 4 largest car makers all pass on the Super Bowl for the first time in 23 years — and the race to catch Elon Musk could be to blame

D. Sloan, Jan. 18, “For the first time in 23 years, none of America’s four largest automakers will air national Super Bowl ads – but foreign-owned companies like Kia and Volkswagen are picking up their slack. The “challenging U.S. automotive market” is a leading reason why.  .….”  Read More  Hmmmm…. Three of them may not know how really challenging it is for them to keep from being completely leapfrogged.  I had the pleasure of attending one of their Safety Research Days yesterday, and it was substantive.   Alain


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

K. Pyle, Jan. 20, “A joy ride is one way to describe this video that documents SmartDrivingCars/Princeton’s 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.

The Boring Company’s terminal designs at the South, Central, and West Halls are a physical example of the type of kiosks Dr. Kornhauser is advocating for as part of the Trenton MOVES project. The Boring company’s Las Vegas project is still taking baby steps (the drivers don’t appear to be using the advanced driver assistance systems that Tesla offers), but it is clear that automation and purpose-built vehicles are part of the evolution of this anything-but-boring mobility infrastructure. …”  Read More  Hmmmm…. Yup! Very interesting.  Alain


Driverless 18-wheelers coming to Dallas

N. Rajwani-Dharsi, Jan. 17, “Dallas will soon be a launchpad for 18-wheelers carrying freight from city to city, without a driver in the cab.

Driving the newsCalifornia-based Kodiak Robotics unveiled its “driverless-ready semi-truck” at the 2024 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week and said its first driverless route, between Houston and Dallas, will launch in the second half of this year.

Pittsburgh-based Aurora Innovation is also planning to launch fully driverless trucks in Texas by the end of the year, with Dallas to Houston as the first route. ….”  Read More  Hmmmm…. I continue to be perplexed by why these companies continue to seek click-bait type publicity about their operation. Given the San Francisco experience of both Waymo and Cruise PLUS the fact that their customers are NOT the general public but the “Top 100”, or maybe only the “Top 10”, motor carriers, there is zero value to them if their business model is to move freight in a substantially better way. That is a radically different market from giving people a ride or bringing them their lunch.  Alain


A blue and white logo  Description automatically generatedGM May Be Canceling Ultra Cruise

J. Lopez, Jan. 15, “General Motors may be canceling Ultra Cruise, the automaker’s next-generation semi-autonomous driver assistance system. Ultra Cruise was announced in 2021 as the evolution of the GM Super Cruise system, expected to offer expanded capabilities compared to Super Cruise. GM has faced considerable headwinds in its autonomous vehicle technology programs since an incident last October.

According to a recent report from CNBC, which cites two anonymous sources familiar with the matter, GM is poised to end the Ultra Cruise program, with one source indicating that the automaker will refocus its attention on developing Super Cruise, rather than offer two different semi-autonomous driver assist systems. Ultra Cruise was originally slated for launch for the 2023 calendar year…”  Read More  Hmmmm…. Makes some sense.  How many “Cruises” can one company have.. Super/…, Ultra/…, GM/…, …

On the other hand, this doesn’t sound good if the next domino is GM/…   Alain


As EVs gain traction, how will California pay for road repair?

Russ Mitchell, Jan 12, “California drivers already rumble across some of the worst pavement in the nation, but the poor condition of the state’s roads and highways could get far worse in coming years as electric cars take over and gasoline cars fade away, according to state analysts.

That’s because money for road repair and maintenance depends on the state’s motor fuel taxes, and that revenue is expected to plunge. Electric vehicles don’t use gasoline, so EV drivers don’t pay the gas tax.

The news comes at a time when the state is wrestling with a $37.9-billion budget deficit that has forced cuts to climate programs and other services. The possible solutions outlined in the report are likely to prove unpopular: raise taxes, raise fees or slash spending on road repairs, maintenance and construction.…. ”  Read More  Hmmmm…. If EVs were really saving the environment, then the unpopular might have a chance to become popular.  The extent of that transformation will reveal the extent to which EVs are believed to be saving the environment.  Right now because of the capital and operating subsidy they are well understood as being cheaper than ICEs.

Plus… are we really going to let the government track us using GPS in order to tax us?  Where are the privacy concerns about that one?  Alain


This startup has a different take on driverless cars. Now it’s launching in the U.S.

R. Browne, Jan. 17, “German startup Vay on Wednesday launched its so-called “teledriving” solution in the U.S. for the first time, putting the company into direct competition with more richly funded and valuable American firms in the mobility technology space.

The company, which has so far received $110 million in funding from investors including Swedish investment giant Kinnevik, U.S. fund Coatue and French private equity fund Eurazeo, said its new service is now live in Nevada, Las Vegas.

Vay’s service will enable people to get cars delivered to them directly by drivers in remote spaces operated by Vay. When they’re done with the trip, they can choose in Vay’s app to let one of the company’s teledrivers take over, and then park the car. The car is then driven back by Vay’s teledriver….”   Read More  Hmmmm…. Don’t get too excited. Remote driving works only in the very easiest of Operational Design Domains – where there are few, if any, chances for collisions. If that environment  is “really easy”, then maybe. Otherwise, I do not see the scaling possibilities on public roads. Sorry.  Alain


A white text on a black background  Description automatically generated   TSIS Deploys RRAI Autonomous Yard Tractors For Detroit Intermodal Hub

R. Bishop, Jan 18, “In a vitally important supply-chain niche, the Autonomous Yard Tractor (AYT) space is steadily gaining momentum. Truck Specialized Information Services (TSIS) has chosen RRAI to deploy Automated Vehicle tech in their partner’s Oasis Trucking Centers (Oasis) bustling trailer storage yard in Detroit, Michigan. TSIS and Oasis teamed up to develop this TSIS Detroit truckport, with AYT operations beginning last August with initial deployment of two vehicles.

A key component of TSIS’s overall business model is providing trailer / container storage services at its truckports near intermodal hubs. The company sees AYT’s enhancing their level of service, creating a competitive advantage leading to increased revenue. Carl Rundell, TSIS Founder and CEO, shared their motivation for the partnership, saying “it has become clear to TSIS that implementing RRAI technology on our truckports is undoubtedly going to optimize efficiency and savings.” “However, more importantly, it is optimization of the entire supply chain. Many of the targeted TSIS truckports are around railheads, sea ports and even inland ports. We are looking at starting with the bottlenecks of getting freight into our proposed North American Truck Parking Network.”

RRAI is a multi-faceted autonomy player with deep roots in military autonomy. On the commercial side, RRAI has several autonomous truck projects in off-road environments such as forestry operations and resource extraction. A partnership with Mack Defense on their military common tactical truck is a key part of their dual-use go-to-market strategy. The company is also developing autonomous transit buses, with an initial deployment planned in Connecticut..”…. ”  Read More  Hmmmm…. Of course!  On private property: perfect!  Alain


 A blue text on a white background  Description automatically generated   City officials plead for more say in how AVs are deployed 

Andrew Hawkins, Jan 11, “As autonomous vehicles hit the streets in more cities, local transportation officials want the companies behind those cars and trucks to make sure they’re talking regularly with city officials.

“When something goes wrong in your city streets, it’s not some far-off federal agency or even necessarily a state agency you’re calling. It’s your city council member,” said Stephanie Dock, the manager of the innovation division at the District Department of Transportation in Washington, D.C. “Cities have to be part of the conversation.”

Dock said cities need control over what’s going on—or at least the ability to influence it. Agencies are already reconfiguring streets to meet changing demands, she noted. “AVs must be designed for the streets that we have today,” she said. “We can’t be redesigning everything for AVs.”…. ”  Read More  Hmmmm…. Of course!  AVs are supposed to be giving rides to people who live in/near to the city/town and require no infrastructure changes. This technology should serve people, not the other way around.  J   Alain


A black numbers on a blue and white background  Description automatically generated   Alphabet’s Wing unveils larger drones for heavier packages

Andrew Hawkins, Jan. 17, “If drone delivery is going to go mainstream, it’s going to need bigger aircraft that can handle more stuff. Today, Alphabet’s Wing unveiled the first in a new lineup of larger drones with more payload capacity.

Wing’s flagship drone is designed to handle payloads of up to 2.5 pounds. The new drone can handle up to five pounds without sacrificing range. The company says that it has enough battery power to complete 12 miles round trip while cruising at up to 65mph.

“It’s always been our vision to implement a multimodal drone delivery model, in the same way that ground delivery uses different vehicle sizes for different orders,” Wing CEO Adam Woodworth said in a blog post.

By deploying larger drones capable of carrying more stuff, Wing says its customers can place orders for more items, making its service more useful and convenient. The new drone will be deployed in the communities where Wing operates within the next 12 months, the company says. ….” Read More  Hmmmm…. Is there a real business case here?  For special, mission critical items, then maybe. For more “just stuff”, are you kidding???   Alain


A close up of a logo  Description automatically generatedFederal Support of Public Transportation Operating Expenses

Staff, Jan. 18, “ …Another possible way to address expected budget deficits is to increase federal operating support for public transportation agencies. Federal assistance for operating expenditures could affect three main aspects of public transportation: (1) transit service, including the amount provided and fares; (2) transit productivity; and (3) transit capacity and condition. Research on the rapid expansion of operating support in the 1970s generally concludes that it allowed transit agencies to maintain a higher level of transit service and lower fares than would have prevailed without it, but such support also caused supply-side productivity (e.g., the operating cost per vehicle mile) to worsen.…”,  Read More  Hmmmm…. Open the flood gates.  Moving a few essential works to and from jobs in big buses at shift change times while keeping those big buses running empty so as to maintain full employment of those drivers while those essential workers are performing their essential roles is a very expensive way to provide those few rides.  If the objective is to have the public subsidize the provision of  high-quality affordable mobility so as to get essential workers to/from their homes from/to their essential workplaces at the proper times, then one should evaluate all modal alternatives.  Under such scrutiny Uber/Lyft/taxi/Via/Waymo may well demonstrate substantially better “supply-side productivity” and would deserve to “win” the “federal operating support” that should NOT earmarked for the local “transit agency”.   Alain


A red and white logo  Description automatically generated  The End

R. Mauer, Jan. 17, “  I’ve got a number of personal announcements to make after more than six years and almost 1500 episodes of Tesla Daily today’s episode will be the last.  It almost doesn’t feel real to say that but for a few reasons that I’ll talk about I think that it’s time to move on…”,  Read More  Hmmmm…. So sad.  He was/is really good.  The good news is that he is taking on a broader mission. See his First Principles Group.   Alain



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6th  SmartDrivingCar


May 29 (evening) -> May 31, 2024

Princeton, NJ

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