Sunday, July 14, 2019
289th edition of the 7th year of SmartDrivingCars
Ford-VW alliance expands to include autonomous and electric vehicles
A. Hawkins, July 12, "n a widely anticipated move, Ford and Volkswagen announced Friday their plan to expand their seven-month-old alliance to include autonomous and electric vehicles.
As part of the deal, VW will invest a whopping $2.6 billion in Argo AI, the autonomous vehicle startup based in Pittsburgh that practically no one had heard of until Ford’s own eye-popping $1 billion investment in 2017. VW will invest $1 billion in cash, as well as $1.6 billion in assets that include the auto giant’s Munich-based Autonomous Intelligent Driving team, which will be absorbed by Argo. After the deal goes through, Argo’s post-money valuation will be over $7 billion….
The deal also gives Argo a global reach. The company, which was founded by former Uber engineers with ties to Carnegie Melon University’s famed robotics lab, has been testing its cars with Ford’s backing in Pittsburgh, Detroit, Miami, and Washington, DC. Now it can also deploy its vehicles on European roads under VW’s guidance….
A month ago VW severed a partnership with Aurora Innovation, the autonomy startup founded by former Google self-driving head Chris Urmson. Argo was co-founded by Bryan Salesky, another former member of the Google self-driving team. He was also on the same team as Urmson in the 2007 DARPA autonomous vehicle challenge, which is seen as a watershed moment in the pursuit for self-driving cars. Ford dumped $1 billion into Argo in 2017 and has worked closely with the startup ever since….
Companies have been pairing up to work on self-driving cars for years now, but only recently has that relentless coupling taken on more serious overtones. Over the last few months:
Apple acquired the startup Drive.ai (buying the beleaguered company literally as it was shutting down);
Honda has partnered with General Motors’ Cruise unit;
Volvo and Uber just unveiled their first jointly-developed autonomous SUV after three years of working together;
Waymo is teaming up with Renault-Nissan to bring the Alphabet unit’s self-driving minivans and trucks to Japan and France;
Fiat-Chrysler and Hyundai, along with Amazon, are both partners with self-driving startup Aurora."
Read more Hmmmm… That pretty much rounds up the serious deep pocket alliances: Waymo+, GM/Cruise+, Ford/Argo+, Uber/Volvo, Lyft/Active, Hyundai/Yandex and Aurora+ with SoftBank influencing in the wings. That leaves Zoox, Toyota, Daimler, BMW looking for dance partners???? Tesla doesn’t seem to need one. (Would Elon sell to Toyota??). Alain
Smart Driving Cars Podcast Episode 115
F. Fishkin, July 5, "VW invests billions partnering with Ford in autonomous startup Argo AI. Just one of many new alliances. That plus employing new safety tech for buses, the latest from VIA, Uber, Tesla and a farewell to Ross Perot on this edition of the Smart Driving Cars podcast with Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin." Just say "Alexa, play the Smart Driving Cars podcast!" . Ditto with Siri, and GooglePlay … Alain
Pierce Transit conducting national study on pedestrian, rider and bus operator safety
Pierce Transit, July 3, …“Pierce Transit is excited to be part of this important research project, which is seeking new ways to enhance the safety of transit riders, bus operators, pedestrians and others in communities across the country,” said Pierce Transit CEO Sue Dreier. “We take pride in being a forward-looking agency and are pleased to be able to help with the exploration of new and innovative safety solutions.”
…We feel that automated collision avoidance systems like this are good both economically for our nation’s transportation system and for the wellbeing of our communities.
… The project seeks to ensure the Pedestrian Avoidance Safety System is successful in a variety of road user scenarios, can be installed into new and legacy buses, and is accepted by a highly-trained community of professional drivers.
…“Each year, transit buses and vans report about 4,000 collisions, 16,000 injuries, 100 fatalities, and over 700 million dollars in casualty and liability expenses,” according to Dr. Jerome Lutin, retired Senior Director of Statewide and Regional Planning at New Jersey Transit and current principal research investigator. “Many of those are preventable, and the technology being tested by Pierce Transit at VTTI has the potential to significantly reduce those numbers.”…" Read more Hmmmm… A substantial step involving many key players in the process of getting this technology from "Sunday supplements", "Bookshelves", "Alliance announcements" and "Toys for the 1%ers" to begin delivering some substantive societal benefits. Alain
Bid #RFI 2019-DOT-PPD-4 – New Transit Options: Airport-Diridon-Stevens Creek Transit Connection
City of San Jose, July 1, "The City is soliciting Requests for Information (RFI) from firms that can offer convincing solutions for grade-separated mass transit infrastructure and operations at significantly lower costs than traditional transit projects. The City is open to responses in which the technological, operational, and/or business features are well-thought-out and defined. Since the Airport Connector and Stevens Creek Line may have different characteristics that may warrant different solutions, responses may choose to focus on one route, if not both…." Read more Hmmmm… While not an RfP it is an RfI from an entity that at least has interests in looking at Driverless mobility options as Gary Hsueh <firstname.lastname@example.org> writes: "… When I worked at Arup, I led two of the referenced studies, the ATN and the AGT studies. The past year I have worked for a non-profit organization in San Jose called Prospect Silicon Valley (www.prospectsv.org) where I am focused on the deployment of ACES (automated-connected-electric-shared) transportation technologies through demonstration projects. Of current relevance, I am working on an MTI-sponsored study on estimating the impacts of automated low-speed shuttles and helping VTA to develop an Accessible Automated Vehicle (in the early stages yet)… " Alain
European startups navigate long, winding road to self-driving future
Business news, July 10, "Far from the sunny, wide streets of Phoenix, where Waymo’s self-driving taxis ply their trade, a handful of European startups are developing driverless cars to navigate the clogged, chaotic, rain-swept roads of European cities. Startups such as Oxbotica, FiveAI and Wayve that are testing cars in Britain say the old continent is a unique proposition with quirks and challenges that tech giant Alphabet’s (GOOGL.O) Waymo, Uber (UBER.N), Aurora and others have yet to crack.
Operating on a shoestring relative to their U.S. rivals, the European startups say they have been forced to get creative and focus on cheaper, more tailored technologies that could cope in a heavy downpour on a busy London street.
“A car trained to drive on the wide open highways of Arizona isn’t going to survive on the streets of Croydon. It’s a totally different environment,” said Alex van Someren, venture capital investor at Amadeus Capital, which has a stake in FiveAI…. " Read more Hmmmm… The discussion is about Driverless; however, trying to do Driverless on London streets where there is good convention mass transit doesn’t seem to be the the most ideal place to start in Europe. Aren’t there smaller cities where the "mobility/accessibility divide" is large between those that have a car they can drive and those that don’t. These folks are the real customers for this technology.
Driverless technology is not about making the car better for those that already can drive cars. That’s the job of Self-driving technology where there is a "zero perceived incremental cost" driver present and willing to oversee the operation of the technology without incurring additional incremental cost in return for comfort and convenience incremental benefits. Driverless is all about not having a driver or attendant at all and providing car-like mobility to those that would otherwise have to pay someone a "living wage" to perform that service for them. The Londons, Mahattans, Tokyos and Shanghais of this world have mass transit systems that enable people to ride at a reasonable price rather than drive. Those aren’t the places that are the "low hanging fruit" of Driverless technology. It is the places where the car environment is more welcoming, and there is sufficient concentration of people for which driving is not an option. That’s where these companies should be focused to try to make their systems work. Alain
Via partners with BusBot to launch autonomous bus trial in New South Wales
K. Wiggers, July 11, "Ride-sharing startup Via, not to be outdone by Uber and Lyft, is investing meaningfully in autonomous vehicles. To this end, it today announced the launch of a driverless shuttle program in New South Wales, Australia, in partnership with the BusBot project, local bus operator Busways, local government agency Transport for New South Wales, and startup EasyMile. Via says it’ll serve a community of seniors that currently lacks a public transit solution.
It’s the second phase of BusBot’s pilot program, which began in Marian Grove on April 2019. (The third phase will operate along a roughly 1.6-mile path from the Coffs Harbour central business district [CBD] to the jetty precinct, using existing bus stops to complement current bus services.) Service will be free for the duration of the deployment, which is expected to last 22 weeks…." Read more Hmmmm… Nice. Another real initiative to deliver real shared mobility. Alain
TRANSIT AGENCIES TURN TO UBER FOR THE LAST MILE
A. Marshall, June 29, "TRANSIT OFFICIALS WORLDWIDE worry that ride-hail apps like Uber and Lyft are creating traffic and pulling passengers away from public transit. Amid that concern, Florida’s Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority in 2016 tried something unusual: It began to subsidize rides on Uber, taxis, or wheelchair-accessible cars that ended at a public transit stop. In a sense, the experiment made Uber into public transit….
The county nixed two poorly performing bus routes and used that money to give riders $3 breaks, and later $5 breaks, on Uber or taxi rides to specified public transit stops. By swiping to a special screen inside the app, Uber riders can travel to within 800 feet of 24 eligible bus stops and then transfer to a bus for free….
This has implications beyond ride-hail experiments, he points out. Many agencies are pondering how autonomous taxis or shuttles might supplement their networks, helping to move people from their homes to bus and train lines. But what if riders won’t get onboard?… " Read more Hmmmm… This is a very nice article. Alain
A new type of engine for electric cars
S&T, July 11, "At the dawn of the motor industry one of its pioneers, Ferdinand Porsche, caused a sensation at the Paris World Fair in 1900 with a vehicle driven by a pair of electric motors incorporated into its front wheels. This arrangement allowed the Lohner-Porsche (pictured above) to dispense with cumbersome belts, chains and gears. It was thus able to nip along at a heady 35kph for up to 50km after its lead-acid batteries had been charged up.
Porsche, like other carmakers of the time, eventually turned to the internal-combustion engine for greater range and flexibility. His eponymous firm went on to build some of the fastest sports cars around. But despite the fact that electric vehicles are now returning to the road with a vengeance, the idea of using “in-wheel” motors of the sort Porsche pioneered has failed to follow suit. Some vehicle manufacturers and their suppliers, including Michelin, a French tyremaker, and nsk, a Japanese component-producer, have developed modern versions of in-wheel drives for cars, but these have yet to make it into production models…." Read more Hmmmm… Maybe… Some of these (in-wheel motors) are appearing in electric bikes/scooters/cheats in the Tour de France (and drones). (Take a look at what is needed to drive a traditional tail rotor on a black Hawk helicopter, let alone the main rotor.) Local Motors is working to incorporate them in their Olli. Again the bad news is the bad news. The environment in the wheel is not pretty and reliability/longevity is essential. (There are 4 of them which helps.) Alain
Pros And Cons Of Shareable Electric Scooters
Infographics, July 10, "Shareable electric scooter programs have started to roll out into U.S. cities, leading to debate over whether their benefits outweigh the potential consequences. The Onion looks at the pros and cons of shareable electric scooters…. " Read more Hmmmm… Enjoy. Alain
Ross Perot, Brash Texas Billionaire Who Ran for President, Dies at 89
R. McFadden, July 9, "Ross Perot, the wiry Texas gadfly who made a fortune in computer services, amazed the nation with audacious paramilitary missions to Vietnam and Iran, and ran for president in 1992 and 1996 with populist talk of restoring Norman Rockwell’s America, died on Tuesday at his home in Dallas. He was 89.
The cause was leukemia, a family spokesman, James Fuller, said.
They called him the man from Texarkana, but he really came out of an era — the Great Depression, World War II and the exuberant postwar years — when boys had paper routes, folks tuned in to the radio and patriots rolled up their sleeves for Uncle Sam and built innovative companies and a powerful nation.
“Most people give up just when they’re about to achieve success,” Mr. Perot liked to say. “They quit on the one-yard line. They give up at the last minute of the game one foot from a winning touchdown.”
He was no quitter: an Eagle Scout, a Navy officer out of Annapolis, a top I.B.M. salesman, the founder of wildly successful data processing enterprises, a crusader for education and against drugs, a billionaire philanthropist. In 1969, he became a kind of folk hero with a quixotic attempt to fly medicine and food to American prisoners of war in North Vietnam…." Read more Hmmmm… "Most" importantly to me is that in 1992 he proposed to raise the gas tax to $0.50/gallon. What a shame that he wasn’t elected. Enough said. R.I.P. Ross. Alain
Louisiana lawmakers write rules for self-driving trucks
M. Deslatte, July 7, "…Louisiana’s law will permit autonomous vehicles to transport passengers or property if they are deemed able to follow state vehicle and traffic laws, meet federal vehicle safety standards and achieve "a minimal risk condition if an (operational) failure occurs." The vehicles must be registered and have a minimum of $2 million in insurance coverage.
Under the regulations, the person or company operating the vehicles can be issued a traffic ticket or other penalties if laws aren’t followed. If an accident happens, the self-driving vehicle will have to remain at the accident scene, and someone representing the company must contact law enforcement.
Louisiana’s transportation department will oversee compliance with the regulations. The agency didn’t seek the bill, but had input on the final version. "While the trucks likely have the ability to run under federal law, it is important for Louisiana to implement laws that address governance, operations and liability," department spokesman Rodney Mallett said in an e-mail. "The department has met with the industry leaders and will continue to work with them as the governing agency."…" Read more Hmmmm… OK (except meet the safety standards, many of which are focused on the safety of the driver which seems silly if there is no driver; but OK. Whatever???) Alain
New York Was Supposedly Getting Better for Cyclists. What Happened?
G. Bellatante, July 12, "On a particularly humid evening this week, hundreds of cyclists gathered in Washington Square Park for an action reminiscent of the years when AIDS summoned so many to protest bureaucratic indifference to tragedy. After several speeches addressing the need for cyclists to be better protected on the road, those who came to the park staged a die-in, lying down in mournful silence — a response to what has become known in the biking community as “the crisis.”
Just two years ago, the city’s transportation department issued an encouraging report on cycling in the city: over the preceding 20 years it had become safer and easier to navigate streets that were increasingly clogged with cars and trucks…." Read more Hmmmm… Conventional cars win! atounousTaxis will need to be common place in many cities before anyone will/should even think of trying them in Manhattan. Alain
Tesla engineer admits uploading Autopilot source code to iCloud before leaving for competitor
F. Lambert, July 1, "Tesla is currently suing a former Autopilot engineer who they claim stole the source code of the autonomous driving system for a Chinese competitor, Xpeng. Now the former employee has admitted to uploading the Autopilot source code to his iCloud at a suspicious time in his move to Xpeng, but he denies misconduct.
We published a report last year about how Xpeng, also known as Xiaopeng Motors, was building a vehicle heavily inspired by Tesla to the point that some were calling it a “Tesla clone.”…." Read more Hmmmm…. Of course he didn’t mean to upload it. His dog ate his homework. Alain
Tesla beats expectations, delivers 95,000 vehicles in the second quarter
R. Mitchell, July 2, "Tesla Inc. delivered 95,200 vehicles to customers in the second quarter, outperforming analysts’ expectations. Analysts polled by FactSet expected the company to deliver 91,000 vehicles in the second quarter. The Palo Alto electric-car maker said Tuesday that it delivered 77,550 Model 3 cars, and a combined 17,650 Model S sedans and Model X sport utility vehicles.
The news boosted Tesla’s share price 7% to $241 in after-hours trading.
Tesla produced a total of 87,048 vehicles, including 72,531 Model 3 cars and 14,517 Model S and Model X vehicles. During the first quarter of the year, Tesla produced about 77,100 total vehicles — 62,950 Model 3s and 14,150 Model S and Model X vehicles…" Read more Hmmmm…. Not bad! In fact, damn good. Alain
Tesla releases 4 video examples where Autopilot’s safety features helped avoid crashes
F. Lambert, July 4, "Tesla has released a series of 4 videos showing examples where autonomous active safety features powered by its Autopilot driver assist system helped avoid crashes and accidents. With the release of TeslaCam, Tesla’s dashcam feature powered by Autopilot cameras, we have been seeing a lot more examples of Tesla’s active safety features helping prevent accidents. …" …" Read more Hmmmm….See videos. Alain
Half-baked stuff that probably doesn’t deserve your time
Tesla Roadster’s SpaceX thruster will be hidden behind the license plate, says Elon Musk
F. Lambert, July13, "Tesla’s new Roadster is going to come with an optional ‘SpaceX package’ that will include cold air thrusters to improve performance.
Now CEO Elon Musk says that the thruster will be hidden behind the license plate…." Read more Hmmmm…. Whatever!? Alain
C’mon Man! (These folks didn’t get/read the memo)
Tesla Semi prototype spotted on highway, maybe without a driver
F. Lambert, July 12, "A Tesla Semi prototype has been spotted driving down the highway in California and some are speculating that there wasn’t a driver at the wheel. While Tesla has been focusing on self-driving for consumer vehicles, the automaker hasn’t made self-driving a focus when it comes to its Tesla Semi electric truck project…." Read more Hmmmm…. Since Tesla has not be authorized by California DMV to do Driverless testing, I doubt/hope that Tesla is not stupid enough to explicitly violate CaDMV regulations. (Fred also points out.."First off, it would likely be a regulatory issue not to have someone in the driver seat, …". Alain
Calendar of Upcoming Events:
September 4-6, 2019
Pocono Manor, PA
4th Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit
evening May 19 through May 21, 2020
On the More Technical Side