24th edition of the 5th year of SmartDrivingCars

Monday, July 24, 2017

Introducing Level 5 and Our Self-Driving Team

 L. Vincent, Lyft, "For a long time, we at Lyft have shared our plan to help end car ownership in order to usher in a transportation revolution that improves our communities and quality of life. To do so we need to build an ecosystem that offers a variety of ride types, including both rides with drivers as well as rides from self-driving vehicles…

This news builds on the announcement we made earlier this year, when we created the world’s first open self-driving platform. Lyft’s self-driving vehicles will operate on that network, alongside vehicles introduced by Lyft partners. In the years ahead, we will continue to bring the world’s leading automotive and technology companies onto this single platform to serve a nationwide passenger network. And together, we will continue to drive toward a single, shared objective: to build the world’s best transportation ecosystem.
To be clear, we aren’t thinking of our self-driving division as a side project. It’s core to our business. That’s why 10% of our engineers are already focused on developing self-driving technology — and we’ll continue to grow that team in the months ahead. Their efforts will be housed in a brand-new development facility in Palo Alto, which we are calling the Level 5 Engineering Center…

We believe Lyft is in the best position to demonstrate what a great overall user experience can be. Lyft is also uniquely positioned to build technology in collaboration with partners in a way that makes it possible to roll out self-driving cars at scale in the fastest, safest, most efficient way.
This is true for a few reasons. First, Lyft has significant scale, which enables us to rapidly train our self-driving system. Every day, there are over one million rides completed on our network in over 350 cities. This translates into tens of millions of miles on a daily basis…

Lyft will always operate a hybrid network, with rides from both human-driven and self-driving cars. When a passenger requests a ride that a self-driving car can complete, we may send one to complete the trip. If that person needs to go somewhere self-driving cars are unable to navigate, or their needs call for a different level of service, they will have a driver. But in either event, we’ll make sure everyone can get where they need to go. …" Read more  Hmmmm…Luc, congratulations!  At least you’re calling it "Level 5…" so that there is little doubt that you are focusing on "Driverless" and that what seems to be the auto industry’s view of "Self-driving" doesn’t cut it, which is why one gets the confused reporting in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.  I agree that Lyft (and everyone else) will always need a hybrid fleet, serving rides using both "Driverless Cars" for trips that can so be served and human-driven  "Safe-driving Cars" for those trips that haven’t been certified as capable of being served safely with "Driverless Cars".   The fundamental economic advantage of "Driverless Cars" (substantially lower labor cost per person trip served) fuels this investment initiative.  Moreover, its operational simplification enables it to scale such that once it becomes technologically achievable Lyft’s share of the rides market will explode.  With "Driverless Cars" Lyft will achieve, in the words of Joseph Schumpeter“… [I]n capitalist reality…, it is not [price] competition which counts but the competition from the new commodity, the new technology…- competition which commands a decisive cost or quality advantage and which strikes not at the margins of the profits and the outputs of the existing firms but at their foundations and their very lives.” Alain

As Self-Driving Cars Near, Washington Plays Catch-Up

K. Roose, July 21,  "…On Wednesday, a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee voted to advance a bill that would speed up the development of self-driving cars and establish a federal framework for their regulation. The bill, known as the Highly Automated Vehicle Testing and Deployment Act of 2017, is the first major federal effort to regulate autonomous vehicles, and would give the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration broad oversight of the self-driving car industry. A full committee vote on the measure is expected next week, and the bill could go before the entire House this fall…

…The politics of autonomous driving will almost certainly become messier as self-driving cars edge closer to widespread use. There will be safety and security worries, intra-industry squabbles and backlash from driver unions concerned about job loss. The self-driving car could become a politically polarizing symbol, with some Americans cheering it as a technological miracle and others viewing it as a nanny-state intrusion into individual liberty. It’s not hard to imagine that one day a politician might run for office on a “Make America Drive Again” platform.

But for now, as self-driving cars peek over the horizon and gridlock seizes Capitol Hill, lawmakers just seem happy to have found something — anything — to agree on…."  Read more  Hmmmm… Nice that there might be bi-partisan agreement on something.  As the legislation exists today it is very extensive e dealing with xemption, cybersecurity, consumer information, advisory panels, rear seat occupancy, headlamps, definitions and more.  Details matter and details need to be tracked as this legislation progresses. It may well be very far-reaching.   Alain


R. Poole, Jr. July 2017, "Getting to Yes on Mileage-Based User Fees…Here are two recent headlines about efforts to begin the transition to paying for highways based on miles driven rather than gallons of fuel:

…A common element in all three cases is presenting a per-mile charge (1) as a tax rather than a user fee, and (2) as a net tax increase (rather than as an initially revenue-neutral change that would not lose purchasing power in coming years, as fuel taxes will do).

…Changing the way we pay for our highways and bridges (by shifting from per-gallon to permile) offers a once-in-a-century opportunity to rethink how this vital infrastructure is managed,
as well as how it is paid for… Hmmmm…Challenge is that ‘ per-gallon’ is soooooo simple and ‘per-mile’ is sooooooo "1984".  Since the only objective is to increase $$$$ received without it being labeled a "tax increase"  So just  change the name of the ‘per-gallon  Federal excise tax" to a ‘per-gallon Federal excise user fee", then increase the "user-fee".

By the way, if the issue has anything to do with the free ride that electric vehicles get since they consume no gallons of gasoline, let’s focus on the $7,000 of up-front Federal Tax credits given to each buyer.  That $7,000 is equivalent to the $0.184/gallon Federal excise tax earned on about 38,000 gallons of gasoline.  A 20 mpg equivalent vehicle would need to be driven 760,000 miles to contribute that much (and that would be paid over its 10+ year life and not up front).  So, if one is interested in making sure that EVs pay their way, all one would need to do is reduce the Fed Tax credit by about $1,000.  That would easily bankroll the Federal excise tax contribution that the vehicle would contribute throughout its lifetime had it consumed gasoline.   That’s the easy way to solve the PEV problem! (State gas taxes are about twice federal and so a reduction of the Fed tax credit by $3,000, less than 50%, would make everyone more than whole.)  Alain 
"If Cars Were Banned . . . Shared-Mobility Visions…Among my critiques was that shared mobility does not provide the claimed “same level of comfort and convenience” as an individually owned vehicle and that the simulation covered only trips within the Lisbon city limits, not the much larger metro area.  Well, last month ITF released a successor report, “Transition to Shared Mobility,” which  extends the modeling to the entire Lisbon Metro Area (3,000 sq. km versus only 85 sq. km in the city, and 2.8 million people rather than just 548,000)…" Hmmmm… Given the effort and pain associated with owning a vehicle and then finding a place to store it while it waits for you as compared to the efficient management of a fleet as is done with elevators in buildings, the shared mobility might in fact have a much better “level of comfort and convenience”.  My simulation results for the 32 million trips that take place on a typical day in New Jersey correspond with the findings in Lisbon.  ( AVO (Average Vehicle Occupancy) throughout the day doubles from today’s levels, meaning that VMT is cut in half.  During peak hours in peak direction AVO more than triples, congestion disappears and ridership on NJ Transit rail increases by 5x.)  These are major changes with major implications delivered with comparable "levels of comfort & convenience". Alain
"Developing Transit Service for the 21st Century…By Baruch Feigenbaum… Despite the claims of certain boosters, U.S. transit ridership continues to decline….U.S. transit service can be improved. But this requires transit agencies to think about their future and have the political courage to start making changes today."  Hmmmm… Excellent! 
"Sharrows vs. Bike Lanes…Authors Ferenchak and Marshall note in passing that sharrows have been added to the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices, which I think was ill-considered, especially in light of their closing comment: “It is time that sharrows are exposed for what they really are: a cheap alternative that not only fails to solve a pressing safety problem, but actually makes the problem worse through a sense of false security.” Their paper, presented at the Transportation Research Board 2016 Annual Meeting, is “The Relative (In)Effectiveness of Bicycle Sharrows
on Ridership and Safety Outcomes.” Read more  Hmmmm… Given that we are going to have SmartDrivingCars ‘sharing the road’, this is all food for thought.  Alain

Smart Driving Cars podcast episode 2

F. Fishkin, July 21, Comments on 2017 Automated Vehicles Symposiuum Listen to  Hmmmm…Your call.  Alain

Pittsburgh Gets a Tech Makeover

S. Kurutz, July 22, "… But perhaps the secret, underlying driver for both the economy and the cool factor — the reason Pittsburgh now gets mentioned alongside Brooklyn and Portland, Ore., as an urban hot spot for millennials — isn’t chefs or artists but geeks….The big tech firms, along with their highly skilled, highly paid workers, have made Pittsburgh younger and more international and helped to transform once-derelict neighborhoods like Lawrenceville and East Liberty….
…Put simply, where the tech world is going — self-driving cars; personal A.I. concierges; robot workers — is where Carnegie Mellon’s faculty and students have been for decades….

…Lee Gutkind, an author who published a 2006 book about the Robotics Institute, “Almost Human: Making Robots Think,” has seen self-driving cars go from clunky circuit boards on wheels to cruising the streets of his hometown. “It’s a terrific thing to have in Pittsburgh,” Mr. Gutkind said. “It’s uplifting to see.”

Speaking of Red Whittaker, the professor who led Carnegie Mellon in winning the $2 million Darpa Urban Challenge self-driving car competition in 2007, Mr. Gutkind said, “Red was into self-driving vehicles before anyone,” using Carnegie Mellon’s resources and reaching out to local investors for money and technical support.

A legend in the robotics field, Professor Whittaker turns out also to be a gentrification pioneer: He was instrumental in locating the school’s National Robotics Engineering Center in an abandoned foundry in Lawrenceville, in 1996.

“Lawrenceville was in the lost and found, it was really rough,” he said, adding that the introduction of a state-of-the-art research facility and its educated work force was, among other developments in the area, a “catalyst and galvanizing influence” for the neighborhood.

“The real estate and the culture of the neighborhood was a very big thing for robotics,” he said. “And robotics was a very big thing for the neighborhood.”…" Read more Hmmmm…Congratulations Red!! What additional nice legacy.  Alain 

Tesla puts Model 3’s new gear selector with Autopilot in Model S/X manuals

F. Lambert, July 23, "Just a few days before the launch of the Model 3, Tesla has slipped an interesting update into the onboard instruction manuals of Model S and Model X.

After the most recent software update, the new gear selector seen on Model 3 prototypes is now part of the manuals.
…The interesting thing is that the Autopilot is now featured as a gear, just like drive or reverse, on the new lever…."  Read more Hmmmm…It is not insignificant that ‘automated driving’ appear on the same "rung" as R, N, & D.  Cruise control has always been relegated to a separate hidden stalk whose engagement is never promoted or suggested (have you ever seen a roadway sign suggesting the use of cruise control?  If you have please inform me and send a non-photoshopped picture).  To have AutoPilot share the limelight with R, N & D is a significant achievement.   Alain

Tesla pushes new Autopilot 2.0 update with truly ‘silky smooth’ control algorithm

F. Lambert, July 20, "…But a few week later, Tesla is now releasing a new version of the update and this one is better deserving of the hype created by Musk’s comment.   Tesla changed its naming scheme with this new update. It’s still under the version ‘8.1’, but Tesla is now adding ‘2017.28’, which is the year and week, and they added the code ‘c528869’…We talked to a few owners of Tesla vehicles with second generation Autopilot who already received the update and they all noticed improvements with both Autosteer and TACC. Their vehicles are not “ping ponging” between the lanes anymore, both on highways and also on single lane roads… Here are a few videos of Autopilot under the latest update: ,
Read more Hmmmm…Interesting business model… Improve the product and deliver those improvements to your former customers free of charge with zero inconvenience.  Consider the conventional business model…  drop off your car at the dealer for its non-inexpensive scheduled service and receive zero improvements, then schlep to go get it back.  Shall I quote Schumpeter again? 

Baidu and Microsoft join forces in the intelligent cloud to advance autonomous driving

Press release, July 18, "Microsoft Corp. and Baidu Inc. (NASDAQ: BIDU) today announced plans to partner in order to take the technical development and adoption of autonomous driving worldwide. As a member of the Apollo alliance, Microsoft will provide global scale for Apollo outside of China with the Microsoft Azure cloud….“Today’s vehicles already have an impressive level of sophistication when it comes to their ability to capture data. By applying our global cloud AI, machine learning, and deep neural network capabilities to that data, we can accelerate the work already being done to make autonomous vehicles safer.”…As part of the partnership, Baidu and Microsoft plan to explore opportunities to deliver connected vehicle solutions and unique customer experiences that aim to digitally transform the autonomous driving industry"  Read more  Hmmmm… While the cloud is needed to harvest real-time data, these vehicles will need to be able to prove their safety and value long before there are enough of them out there to even begin "to explore opportunities to deliver connected vehicle solutions".  This seems somewhat half-baked.  Alain

Bikes May Have To Talk To Self-Driving Cars For Safety’s Sake’

M. Krauss, July 24, "Proponents of self-driving cars say they’ll make the world safer, but autonomous vehicles need to predict what bicyclists are going to do. Now researchers say part of the answer is to have bikes feed information to cars….Waymo’s cars are programmed to pass bikes in accordance to state laws, usually with three feet of clearance. And if they can’t do it, they’ll just wait.

"Cyclists, like pedestrians, are some of the most vulnerable road users," Fairfield says. "And so we do want to treat them with extra caution and care."…

…"People did feel much more comfortable riding next to autonomous vehicles than they did next to human vehicles. I mean, autonomous vehicles, they don’t get angry, they don’t have road rage."…"People did feel much more comfortable riding next to autonomous vehicles than they did next to human vehicles. I mean, autonomous vehicles, they don’t get angry, they don’t have road rage."…

It’s all meant to help Rowe and his team figure out the exact position of the bike in the world at all times, so that nearby cars can use that information to drive more conservatively…." Read more  Hmmmm…Yes, having bikes relate what they intend to do to nearby cars is extremely important but it is NOT anytime soon when there are enough "Safe-driving cars", let alone "Self-driving cars", on the roads with the ability to capture that information to make any difference.  Moreover, basing the whole concept on "… the exact position in the world at all times…" is just wrong.  That would require cars to know their exact positions at all times in order to determine if the precise relative position suggests a likely conflict.  It is infinitely easier to determine precise relative position (and velocity) directly and go from there.  What is most important is that cyclists relate their intentions to human drivers in some consistent way and that we all, including the AI in SmartDrivingCars, respond safely to those intentions. Alain

Police sirens, wind patterns, and unknown unknowns are keeping cars from being fully autonomous

K. Hao, July 19, "But let’s be clear: The leap from the current state of autonomous vehicles to the day you’ll be shuttled around by truly driverless cars is bigger than you think.
The main obstacle can be boiled down to teaching cars how to operate reliably in scenarios that don’t happen often in real life and are therefore difficult to gather data on…" Read more  Hmmmm… No kidding.  Tell us something that we didn’t know. At some point we’ll just have to bite the bullet by assembling the arsenal to fix new challenges as they become known and otherwise  ‘Just do it’ .   Alain

Nexar releases 55K street pics from 80 countries to spur autonomous driving

D. Etherington, July 24, "Nexar has released a dataset that it says is the world’s largest photo set featuring geographically diverse images for automotive tech development, for an open competition. There are 55,000 tagged photos in the set, taking from over 80 countries, in a variety of lighting and weather conditions. Each of the photos is taken from street level, using Nexar’s community-based V2V dashcam app for iOS and Android, and the goal of the release is to help drive the development of autonomous driving perception models that can handle a wide range of weather, road and country variety…"  Read more  Hmmmm… 55K is large but may be more than  10x short.  These will at least be good in testing but likely very insufficient for training.  Alain

Some other thoughts that deserve your attention

On the More Technical Side

Half-baked stuff that probably doesn’t deserve your time

Hackers Could Confuse Driverless Cars By Manipulating What They See

A. Akhtar, July 18, "…Researchers found a slight modification of a street sign could lead to a driverless car misinterpreting its meaning, leading to potential danger. For example, Google found altering an image just 4 percent could fool AI into thinking it’s a different object 97 percent of the time…"  Read more  Hmmmm…What Google found was that ‘its AI algorithm’ either has a bug or simply is bad and should be discarded.  But,  NOT the whole field of AI.  There are  likely lots of bad AI algorithms out there today…  Also, a kid can go out and steal a Stop Sign from some busy corner and cause real havoc to conventional drivers, so if someone want to cause confusion they don’t even need to know how to hack or code.  Yes, we all have to behave and we still have a lot of very hard work to do before this is all good enough.  This article doesn’t reveal anything new or remind us of anything useful. Alain

This Image Is Why Self-Driving Cars Come Loaded with Many Types of Sensors

J. Condliffe, July 21, "Autonomous cars often proudly claim to be fitted with a long list of sensors—cameras, ultrasound, radar, lidar, you name it. But if you’ve ever wondered why so many sensors are required, look no further than this picture. You’re looking at what’s known in the autonomous-car industry as an “edge case”—a situation where a vehicle might have behaved unpredictably because its software processed an unusual scenario differently from the way a human would. In this example, image-recognition software applied to data from a regular camera has been fooled into thinking that images of cyclists on the back of a van are genuine human cyclists…"  Read more  Hmmmm…No.  This is simply an example of a naive image processing algorithm that tries to do cognition with a single image.  For it to be a duck it not only has to look like a duck, it needs to act like a duck, … Alain

Daimler and Bosch create a driverless parking garage

D. Etherington, July 24, "Daimler and Bosch teamed up to bring autonomous driving tech to one of the more annoying parts of driving – finding and parking a vehicle. Their automated valet system is debuting today at the parking garage for the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany, making it easy for vehicles to simple drive up, leave their vehicle, and trust the system to negotiate the multi-story parking facility, find and park in a spot…."  Read more Hmmmm… Another thing that the 1%ers just gotta have.   You’ve got to be kidding!  So depressing!  Alain

India will ban driverless cars in order to protect jobs

M. Locklear, July 19, "…The country’s transport and highways minister, Nitin Gadkari told reporters today, "We won’t allow driverless cars in India. I am very clear on this."  The statement wasn’t a reflection of safety concerns. Rather, the minister’s rejection of self-driving vehicles is about the jobs they would take away from drivers in the country. Read more  Hmmmm…No need to ban driverless cars in India because drivers are paid so little that there is no economic benefit to replacing them with AI.  Same goes for China which is why Didi should be serving essentially all trips taken today in conventional cars.  Given the high cost of car ownership in Beijing, Shanghai and many of China’s large cities, it is a non-trivial marketing achievement by the car companies to establish a status mystique that has anyone in China owning a personal car.  It can’t be possible that any Chinese family justifies to themselves to own 2 cars???  Didi, you have the opportunity to serve a major portion of the auto trips today in China at probably half of what Chinese person spends today in owning a car.  Assuming that the cost of owning a car in a large Chines city is $10,000 per year and that Didi can provide all of the mobility that the family is going to need for $5,000 per year, that means that for every million cars Didi get $5B/annual revenue. Nice!  Alain

Startup Is Working to Bring Mapping and Self-Driving Car Data to Entire Industry

R. Stumpf, July 19, "…One might wonder just how a company that they’ve never even heard of plans on putting the hurt on Google and OpenStreetMap. The truth is, it already has a huge user base. More than 2,500 Uber and Lyft drivers have already signed up to help build over 500,000 miles of mapped roads, thanks to some clever marketing. Kouri reportedly got the company’s foot into the ride-sharing door by handing out free phone mounts to Uber drivers at the San Francisco International Airport. While the Uber drivers are transporting passengers or just driving around to wait for their next ride, Lvl5 will pay them $0.05 per mile that their phone is recording data (which include photos and GPS information). Should they take a route already mapped, the company will shell out $0.02. Even you can get in on this by downloading the company’s Payver app…"   Read more  Hmmmm…One still has to wonder how one gets centimeter accuracy from cell phone based GPS.  If current cell phone GPS was good enough to deliver centimeter accuracy, one would already have the data.  The Law of Large Numbers might help but it requires IID which may not exist because of unknown biases.  Without many more details, this is really half-baked. Alain

C’mon Man!  (These folks didn’t get/read the memo)

Siemens and Bombardier in Talks to Form Train Joint Ventures

B. Dummett, July 21, "…Germany’s Siemens, one of the world’s biggest industrial conglomerates, and Canada’s Bombardier, which is also a major plane maker, are discussing possibly creating two joint ventures from their train operations. One unit, controlled by Siemens, would hold the signaling operations of the two companies. The second, which Bombardier would majority own, would oversee the rolling-stock operations. Signaling equipment is used to keep trains clear of each other, and rolling stock centers on train manufacturing…." Read more  Hmmmm…Wait… "Signaling equipment"???  Sounds so 20th century, if not 19th.  Shouldn’t it be "Automatic Train Control".  Isn’t that going to be the specification in each new build or substantial rehabilitation?!  C’mon Siemens!  

Calendar of Upcoming Events:

2nd Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit
May 16 & 17, 2018
Princeton University
Princeton, NJ
Save the Date

Recent Highlights of:

Sunday, July 09, 2017

The Maturation of the Autonomous Vehicle Space

K. Pyle, July 14, "Reflecting upon the comments and insight from this week’s Automated Vehicle Symposium 2017, the automated vehicle space feels like the Video on Demand space did a couple of decades ago. The technology wizards are making great progress and its obvious the industry is maturing because there are multiple companies addressing both mainstream challenges, as well as corner cases. Still, like video on demand, technology will probably not be the biggest hurdle to autonomous vehicle adoption, but ease-of-use and trust in the technology will probably represent the biggest challenges…."  Read more  Hmmmm… A thoughtful reflection on the Symposium.  Thank you Ken.  Alain

Active Safety-Collision Warning Pilot in Washington State, IDEA Program Final Report

J. Lutin, May 19 "The Rosco/Mobileye Shield+ system is a collision avoidance warning system (CAWS) specifically designed for transit buses. This project involved field testing and evaluation of the CAWS in revenue service over a three-month period. The system provides alerts and warnings to the bus driver for the following conditions that could lead to a collision: 1) changing lanes without activating a turn signal (lane departure warning was disabled for this pilot), 2) exceeding posted speed limit, 3) monitoring headway with the vehicle leading the bus, 4) forward vehicle collision warning, and 5) pedestrian or cyclist collision warning in front of, or alongside the bus. Alerts and warnings are displayed to the driver by visual indicators located on the windshield and front pillars. Audible warnings are issued when collisions are imminent. …"   Read more  Hmmmm… Very interesting.  This is the first substantive report of realities of retrofiring existing transit buses with active safety collision-warning technology.  Anyone in the public transit industry should be paying attention to this report.  This is the very beginning of actually implementing safety-oriented automated technology in transit buses and it was motivated and led by insurance (Jerry Spears & Al Hatten @ WSTIP + Mike Scrudato @ Munich Re). Insurance finally stepping up and leading. Alain

Sunday, June 25, 2017

NTSB Opens Docket on Tesla Crash

Press release, June 19, "As part of its ongoing investigation into the fatal 2016 highway crash involving a Tesla Model S and a tractor-semitrailer truck near Williston, Florida, the National Transportation Safety Board on Monday opened the accident docket, releasing more than 500 pages of information.

System performance data downloaded from the Tesla revealed that the driver was operating the car using automated vehicle control systems: Traffic-Aware Cruise Control and Autosteer lane keeping systems.

The docket includes reports that cover various aspects of the investigation, including highway design, vehicle performance, human performance, and motor carrier factors. The crash reconstruction report, also included in the docket, provides a description of the crash sequence. The docket also includes interview transcripts and summaries, photographs, and other investigative material.  The docket contains only factual information collected by NTSB investigators; it does not provide analysis, findings, recommendations, or probable cause determinations. No conclusions about how or why the crash occurred should be drawn from the docket. Analysis, findings, recommendations, and probable cause determinations related to the crash will be issued by the Board at a later date.

The docket material is available at:" Read more  Hmmmm… A few comments…
1.  Since lateral control (swerving) couldn’t have avoided this crash (the truck is almost 70 ft long (6 lanes wide) stretching broadside across the highway) , it doesn’t matter if Josh Brown ever had his hands on the steering wheel. That’s totally irrelevant. 
2.  Why didn’t autobrake kick in when the tractor part of the tractor-trailer passed in front of the Tesla?
3.  How fast was the truck going when it cut off the Tesla.  I couldn’t find the answer in 500 pages.   
4.  With sight distances of greater than 1,000 feet, why didn’t the truck driver see the Tesla?  Was it the drugs?
5.  This intersection invites "left-turn run-throughs" (no stop or yield and a 53 foot median and turn lane need to be crossed before one slips through a gap in two traffic lanes.  So you certainly roll into it, (plenty of room to stop if you see something coming) and if you don’t see anything, you hit it.  If you’re in the Tesla, you think you’ve been clearly seem, you expect the truck to stop, it doesn’t, you can’t believe it, BAM!  All in probably a second or so.
6.  The head injury description (Table 1 p2 of 3) certainly suggests that Joshua Brown was seated upright facing forward at impact.  The bilateral lacerations on the lower arm from the elbow to the wrist may indicate that he saw it coming in the last second and raised his arms in an attempt to protect his head.   The evidence reported doesn’t seem to suggest he saw this early enough to bend toward the passenger seat and try to pass underneath. 
7.  About 40 feet of tractor and trailer passed directly in front of the Tesla prior to impact.   Depending on how fast the truck was traveling, that takes some time.  Has NTSB run Virtual Reality simulations of various truck turn trajectories and analyzed what the truck driver and the Tesla driver could/should have seen?  Seems like a relatively simple thing to do.  We know what the Tesla was doing prior to the crash (going 74 mph straight down the road.) and we know where it hit the truck.  How fast the truck was traveling doesn’t seem to be known.
8. Why wasn’t there any video captured from the Tesla.  Didn’t that version of the MobilEye system store the video; I guess not, 🙁 
Anyway, lots to read in the 500 pages, but there is also a lot missing.  I’m not linking the many articles reporting on this because I disagree with many of their interpretations of the facts reported by NTSB.   Please reach your own conclusions.   Alain

Monday, June 19, 2017

Amazon Deal for Whole Foods Starts a Supermarket War

R. Abrams, June 16, "Shares of Walmart, Target, Kroger and Costco, the largest grocery retailers, all tumbled on Friday. And no wonder..  Grocery stores have spent the last several years fighting against online and overseas entrants. But now, with its $13.4 billion purchase of Whole Foods, Amazon has effectively started a supermarket war.  Armed with giant warehouses, shopper data, the latest technology and nearly endless funds — and now with Whole Foods’ hundreds of physical stores — Amazon is poised to reshape an $800 billion grocery market that is already undergoing many changes…."  Read more  Hmmmm… Since Jeff Bezos doesn’t need to have you impulse buy on your walk through the store while you get a quart of milk, he simply has to get you click on organic milk and he’ll present you with everything you absolutely can’t checkout without.  All he then needs is to get all those impulse buys (and the quart of organic milk) to your home from the hundreds of physical stores.  That’s where low speed driverless local delivery vans come in (operating initially in the early morning hours when the streets connecting those stores to our houses are completely empty and simply drop off everything you’ll need for the day ahead in your "Amazon Box" that’s replaced your 20th Century mailbox).  So in the end it will be Jeff Bezos’86 battling Eric Schmit’76 for deploying the first fleets of driverless vehicles sharing our neighborhood streets. If they should decide to join forces and have these vehicles providing mobility whenever anyone wants to travel and moving groceries and other goods the rest of the time, watch-out!!! Then everybody wins!! (except Walmart, Target, Kroger and Costco)  See also..Amazon and Whole Foods and Self-Driving Cars    Alain

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Rethinking Mobility: The ‘pay-as-you-go’ ca: Ride hailing, just the start

 S. Burgstaller, May 23,"The c.$7 tn global mobility market is speeding into the era of the “pay-as-you-go” car. Ride-hailing services such as Uber and Didi are pioneering a ‘cloud’ mobility system, which is using data to change
how the wealthiest cities move. In Rethinking Mobility, we model how the ride-hailing opportunity can grow to $285 bn by 2030, and is the precursor to a broader technological and social transformation.  We examine how the market might live up to the high valuations of its pioneers, why car sales may prove surprisingly resilient despite the change, and where automakers have a chance to transform their profitability as operators of fleets of autonomous cars…." Read more Hmmmm… Nice to see GoldMine Sachs finally weigh in.  The report is chock full of information and there is a lot here to absorb. 

The big impact will be if we ever get to Driverless without which you don’t replace even one Uber driver.  
Without Driverless, the issue centers on the 8x penetration of hailing rides.  At 8x  only car rental and little else is effected.  At 80x it effects car ownership but there will not be enough gig workers to support it.  So it doesn’t scale without Driverless.

With Driverless, then it is all about ridesharing as with elevators.  If it is as easy as elevators, then car ownership  diminishes greatly.

The report doesn’t respect the enormous difference between Driverless and Non-driversless (Self-driving and Safe-Driving; Levels 0 -> 4).  It seems to  assumes Driverless, yet it does not deal with the likelihood that Driverless will be achieved and fails to realize/identify the enormous forces that may come to bear that will attempt to derail Driverless at all costs.  The strongest of which may well be the "GMs" of this world.  GMs are all about Self-driving which REQUIRES a driver ( thus consumer ownership) and perpetuates their 100 year old business model.  Driverless scales ‘cloud mobility’ beyond the ‘8x’ limits of a gig economy and enables horizontal ‘cloud mobility’ to become as ubiquitous as the elevator is in vertical mobility.  Yes, there are still stair cases, and private ‘cloud-mobility" elevators for the 0.01%, but the masses will just grin&share the on-demand ‘cloud-mobility’ elevators without a 2nd thought.  Driverless assuaged vertical mobility anxiety. Driverless is the critical technological element that will assuage horizontal mobility anxiety and enable widespread horizontal ‘cloud mobility’.

Communities may find, as tall buildings have found, that they really work best (even at all) if they accommodate shared ‘cloud’ mobility and provide it for ‘free’ simply because it is so effective in capturing the enhanced land values that are unlocked by such mobility.  We’ve always been able to walk up and down a couple of flights of stair, but once we were easily able to go (via on-demand ‘cloud’ mobility available 24x7x365) more than four or so, then the sky became the limit. Are similar horizontal land values waiting to be unlocked if they simply pick up the tab for that on-demand horizontal ‘cloud’ mobility?  If so, then the GMs of this world are in a heap of trouble.  Alain

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit

May 18, Enormously successful inaugural Summit starting with the Adam Jonas video and finishing with Fred Fishkin’s live interview with Wm. C Ford III.  In between, serious engagement among over 150 leaders from Communities at the bleeding edge of deployment, Insurance struggling with how to properly promote the adoption of technology that may well force them to re-invent themselves and AI (Artificial Intelligence) and the various technologies that are rapidly advancing so that we can actually deliver the safety, environmental, mobility and quality of life opportunities envisioned by these “Ultimate Shared-Riding Machines”.

Save the Date for the 2nd Annual… May 16 & 17, 2018, Princeton NJ  Read Inaugural Program with links to Slides. Fishkin Interview of Summit Summary and Interview of Yann LeCun Read Inaugural Program with links to Slides. Hmmmm… Enormous thank you to all who participated.  Well done!  Alain

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Exploring the Bear Case: Distracted Driving + ADAS = $7 Trillion of Used Values at Risk

A. Jonas, Feb 1 "A sharp rise in traffic death & rapid growth of semiautonomous tech as standard equipment can accelerate the obsolescence of used cars, with potentially negative implications for secondhand values, auto credit & SAAR. We see elevated auto credit risk & avoid used car exposure….
…One could reasonably argue that if a technology can save 10k or 20k lives and hundreds of thousands of injuries per year in the US it should be (1) affordable and (2) not be optional equipment. Contrary to this, we found the majority of models currently available either do not offer active safety features or offer them only as optional equipment at prohibitively high costs. Our key takeaways are summarized below:…" Read More Hmmmm… First, sorry that I just saw this excellent report.  On top of the enormous substance, this report doesn’t mention that some/many of these systems don’t work as well as they should.  Some don’t brake if the the object ahead is stationary, others get confused with white back-lighting, others only apply the brake after the driver starts applying the brake and others only apply the brakes up to a 50% level.  Here we are trying to let drivers take hands of wheels and feet off pedals, yet we don’t have Safe-driving Cars that actually work (…experiencing essentially no false positives or false negatives) .  Alain

Monday, May 8, 2017

Walt Disney World plans to deploy driverless shuttles in Florida

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Waymo to Offer Phoenix Area Access to Self-Driving Cars

Tuesday, April 17, 2017

Don’t Worry, Driverless Cars Are Learning From Grand Theft Auto

D. Hall, Apr 17, "In the race to the autonomous revolution, developers have realized there aren’t enough hours in a day to clock the real-world miles needed to teach cars how to drive themselves. Which is why Grand Theft Auto V is in the mix.
The blockbuster video game is one of the simulation platforms researchers and engineers increasingly rely on to test and train the machines being primed to take control of the family sedan. Companies from Ford Motor Co. to Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo may boast about putting no-hands models on the market in three years, but there’s a lot still to learn about drilling algorithms in how to respond when, say, a mattress falls off a truck on the freeway….The idea isn’t that the highways and byways of the fictional city of Los Santos would ever be a substitute for bona fide asphalt. But the game “is the richest virtual environment that we could extract data from,” said Alain Kornhauser…"  Read More Hmmmm... Well…we have a slightly different view of history wrt to GTA5.  The ‘Alain view’ is that Chenyi Chen*16 independently started investigating the use of virtual environments as a source of Image – Affordances data sets to use as the training sets in a ‘Direct Perception’ approach to creating a self-driving algorithm.  Images of the road ahead are converted into the instantaneous geometry that is implied by those image.  An optimal controller then determines the the steering, brake and throttle values to best drive the car.  The critical element in that process are the Image – Affordances data sets which need to be pristine.  Chenyi demonstrated in his PhD dissertation , summarized in the ICCV2015 paper,  that by using the pristine Image – Affordances data sets from an open-source game TORCS one could have a virtual car drive a virtual race course without crashing.  More importantly, when tested on images from real driving situations, the computed affordances were close to correct.

This encouraged us to look for more appropriate virtual environments. For many reasons, including: "wouldn’t it be amazing if ‘Grand Theft Auto 5’ actually generated some positive ‘redeeming social value’ by contributing to the development of algorithms that actually made cars safer; saving grief, injuries and lives".  Consequently, in the Fall of 2015, Artur Filipowicz’17 began to investigate using GTA5 to train Convolutional Neural Networks to perform some of the Direct Perception aspects of automated driving.  With Jeremiah Liu, he continued his efforts in this direction last summer which were presented at TRB in January.  Yesterday, he and Nyan Bhat’17 turned in their Senior Theses focused on this topic.

Indeed, GTA5 is a rich virtual environment that begins to efficiently and effective address the data needs of Deep Learning approaches to safe driving.    Alain

Monday, March 20, 2017

Uber’s autonomous cars drove 20,354 miles and had to be taken over at every mile, according to documents

Friday, March 10, 2017

Robot cars — with no human driver — could hit California roads next year

R. Mitchell, Mar 10, "California is back on the map as a state that’s serious about welcoming driverless cars.Truly driverless cars — vehicles with no human behind the wheel, and perhaps no steering wheel at all — are headed toward California streets and highways starting in 2018…
The regulations lay out “a clear path for future deployment of autonomous vehicles” in California, said Bernard Soriano, deputy director at the Department of Motor Vehicles…." Read more Hmmm… Congratulations Bernard!  This is fantastic news on the road to providing high-quality mobility for all.  It squarely addresses the fundamental need to efficiently re-position vehicles so that they can get to even those who can’t drive.  This is a real turning point for automated vehicles from self-driving toys for the 1% to affordable, environmentally friendly mobility for everyone.  Alain

Friday, February 24, 2017

Alphabet’s Waymo Alleges Uber Stole Self-Driving Secrets

Friday, February 17, 2017

Motor Vehicle Deaths in 2016 Estimated to be Highest in Nine Years

Press release, Feb. 15, "NSC offers insight into what drivers are doing and calls for immediate implementation of proven, life-saving measures…

With the upward trend showing no sign of subsiding, NSC is calling for immediate implementation of life-saving measures that would set the nation on a road to zero deaths:…" Read more  Hmmm…"Automated Collision Avoidance" or anything having to do with ‘Safe-driving Cars‘ is not mentioned anywhere in the Press Release.  One of us is missing something very fundamental here!!  So depressing!!  🙁   Alain

Friday, January 27, 2017

Serving the Nation’s Personal Mobility Needs with the Casual Sharing of autonomousTaxis & Today’s Urban Rail, Amtrak and Air Transport Systems

A. Kornhauser, Jan 14, "Orf467F16 Final Project Symposium quantifying implications of such a Nation-wide mobility system on Average Vehicle Occupancy (AVO), energy, environment and congestion, including estimates of fleet size, needed empty vehicle repositioning, and ridership implications on existing rail transit systems (west, east, NYC) and Amtrak of a system that would efficiently and effectively perform their ‘1st mile’/’last-mile’ mobility needs. Read more  Hmmm… Now linked are 1st Drafts of the chapters and the powerPoint summaries of these elements.  Final Report should be available by early February.  The major finding is, nationwide there exists sufficient casual ridesharing potential that a well–managed  Nationwide Fleet of about 30M aTaxis (in conjunction with the existing air, Amtrak and Urban fixed-rail systems)  could serve the vehicular mobility needs of the whole nation with VMT 40% less than today’s automobiles while providing a Level-of-Service (LoS) largely equivalent and in many ways superior than is delivered by the personal automobile today.  Also interesting are the findings as to the substantial increased patronage opportunities available to Amtrak and each of the fixed rail transit systems around the country because the aTaxis solve the ‘1st and last mile’ problem.  While all of this is extremely good news, the challenging news is that since all of these fixed rail systems currently lose money on each passenger served, the additional patronage would likely mean that they’ll lose even more money in the future. 🙁  Alain 

ODI (Office of Defects Investigation) Findings on Tesla AEB & AutoPilot

(Above link should work) Jan 19, "… Summary: …     NHTSA’s examination did not identify any defects in the design or performance of the AEB or Autopilot  systems of the subject vehicles nor any incidents in which the systems did not perform as designed.  AEB systems used in the  automotive industry through MY 2016 are rear-end collision avoidance technologies that are not designed to reliably  perform in all crash modes, including crossing path collisions.  The Autopilot system is an Advanced Driver Assistance  System (ADAS) that requires the continual and full attention of the driver to monitor the traffic environment and be prepared to take action to avoid crashes.  Tesla’s design included a hands-on the steering wheel system for monitoring driver engagement…
…  ODI analyzed data from crashes of Tesla Model S and Model X vehicles involving airbag deployments that occurred while operating in, or within 15 seconds of transitioning from, Autopilot mode. Some crashes involved impacts from other vehicles striking the Tesla from various directions with little to no warning to the Tesla driver.  Other crashes involved scenarios known to be outside of the state-of-technology for current-generation Level 1 or 2 systems, such as cut-ins, cut-outs and crossing path collisions…. 
…The Florida fatal crash appears to have involved a period of extended distraction (at least 7 seconds)…"
.Hmmm… nothing else is written about this nor is a basis given for  the ‘at least 7 seconds’.  Possibly the most important information revealed in this summary is Figure 11, p11: "…  Figure 11 shows the rates calculated by ODI for airbag deployment crashes in the subject Tesla vehicles before and after Autosteer installation.  The data show that the Tesla vehicles crash rate dropped by almost 40 percent after Autosteer installation…
…A safety-related defect trend has not been identified at this time and further examination of this issue does not appear to be warranted.  Accordingly, this
investigation is closed. "  Read more  Hmmm… WOW!!! . Every word of this Finding is worth reading.  It basically exonerates Tesla, states that AEBs (Automated Emergency Braking) systems don’t really work and aren’t designed to work in some scenarios (straight crossing path (SCP) and left turn across path (LTAP), see p 2,3).  …which suggests, to me, that DoT/NHTSA should be placing substantial efforts on making these systems really work in more scenarios.  And… there is the solid data that ‘AutoSteer" reduced Tesla crashes by almost 40%!!! WOW!! Will Insurance now finally get on-board and lead?  Alai

Friday, September 23, 2016

Federal Automated Vehicles Policy: Accelerating the Next Revolution In Roadway Safety

September 2016, "Executive Summary…For DOT, the excitement around highly automated vehicles (HAVs) starts with safety.  (p5)

…The development of advanced automated vehicle safety technologies, including fully self-driving cars, may prove to be the greatest personal transportation revolution since the popularization of the personal automobile nearly a century ago. (p5)

…The benefits don’t stop with safety. Innovations have the potential to transform personal mobility and open doors to people and communities. (p5)

…The remarkable speed with which increasingly complex HAVs are evolving challenges DOT to take new approaches that ensure these technologies are safely introduced (i.e., do not introduce significant new safety risks), provide safety benefits today, and achieve their full safety potential in the future. (p6)  Hmmm…Fantastic statements and I appreciate that the fundamental basis and motivator is SAFETY.  We all have recognized safety as a necessary   condition that must be satisfied if this technology is to be successful.  (unfortunately it is not a sufficient condition, (in a pure math context)). This policy statement appropriately reaffirms this necessary condition.  Alain

"…we divide the task of facilitating the safe introduction and deployment (…defines “deployment” as the operation of an HAV by members of the public who are not the employees or agents of the designer, developer, or manufacturer of that HAV.) of HAVs into four sections:(p6) Hmmm…Perfect! Alain

"…1. Vehicle Performance Guidance for Automated Vehicles (p6)…"  Hmmm… 15 Points, more later. Alain

"…2. Model State Policy (p7)   The Model State Policy confirms that States retain their traditional responsibilities…but… The shared objective is to ensure the establishment of a consistent national framework rather than a patchwork of incompatible laws…" Hmmm… Well done.  Alain

"…3. NHTSA Current Regulatory Tools (p7) … This document provides instructions, practical guidance, and assistance to entities seeking to employ those tools. Furthermore, NHTSA has streamlined its review process and is committing to…"   Hmmm… Excellent. Alain

"…4. New Tools and Authorities (p7)…The speed with which HAVs are advancing, combined with the complexity and novelty of these innovations, threatens to outpace the Agency’s conventional regulatory processes and capabilities. This challenge requires DOT to examine whether the way DOT has addressed safety for the last 50 years should be expanded to realize the safety potential of automated vehicles over the next 50 years. Therefore, this section identifies potential new tools, authorities and regulatory structures that could aid the safe and appropriately expeditious deployment of new technologies by enabling the Agency to be more nimble and flexible (p8)…"  Hmmm… Yes. Alain

"…Note on “Levels of Automation”  There are multiple definitions for various levels of automation and for some time there has been need for standardization to aid clarity and consistency. Therefore, this Policy adopts the SAE International (SAE) definitions for levels of automation. )  Hmmm… I’m not sure this adds clarity because it does not deal directly with the difference between self-driving and driverless.  While it might be implied in level 4 and level 5 that these vehicles can proceed with no one in the vehicle, it is not stated explicitly.  That is unfortunate, because driverless freight delivery can’t be done without "driverless"; neither can mobility-on-demand be offered to the young, old, blind, inebriated, …without "driverless".  Vehicles can’t be "repositioned-empty" (which (I don’t mean to offend anyone) is the real value of a taxi driver today).  So autonomousTaxis are impossible.

Also, these levels do not address Automated Emergency Braking  (AEB) Systems and Automated Lane Keeping Systems which are the very first systems whose on-all-the-time performance must be perfected.   These are the Safety Foundation of HAV (Highly Automated vehicles).  I understand that the guidelines may assume that these systems are already perfect and that "20 manufacturer have committed" to have AEB on all new cars, but to date these systems really don’t work.  In 12 mph IIHS test, few stop before hitting the target, and, as we may have seen with the Florida Tesla crash, the Level 2/3 AutoPilot may not have failed, but, instead, it was the "Phantom Level 1" AEB that is supposed to be on all the time.  This is not acceptable.  These AEB systems MUST get infinitely better now.  It is a shame that AEBs were were not explicitly addressed in this document.

"…I. Vehicle Performance Guidance for Automated Vehicles (p11) A. Guidance: if a vehicle is compliant within the existing FMVSS regulatory framework and maintains a conventional vehicle design, there is currently no specific federal legal barrier to an HAV being offered for sale.(footnote 7)  However, manufacturers and other entities designing new automated vehicle systems
are subject to NHTSA’s defects, recall and enforcement authority. (footnote 8)   . and the "15 Cross-cutting Areas of Guidance" p17)

In sum this is a very good document and displays just how far DoT policy has come from promoting v2v, DSRC and centralized control, "connected",  focus to creating an environment focused on individual vehicles that responsibly take care of themselves.  Kudos to Secretary Foxx for this 180 degree policy turn focused on safety.   Once done correctly, the HAV will yield the early safety benefits that will stimulate continued improvements that, in turn, will yield the great mobility, environmental and quality-of-life benefits afforded by driverless mobility. 

What are not addressed are commercial trucking and buses/mass transit.  NHTSA is auto focused, so maybe FMCSA is preparing similar guidelines.  FTA (Federal Transit Administration) seems nowhere in sight.  Alain

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

May 7 Crash

Hmmm…What we know now (and don’t know):

Extracting Cognition out of Images for the Purpose of Autonomous Driving

Thursday, March 17, 2016

U.S. DOT and IIHS announce historic commitment of 20 automakers to make automatic emergency braking standard on new vehicles

Sunday, December 19, 2015

Adam Jonas’ View on Autonomous Cars

Video similar to part of Adam’s Luncheon talk @ 2015 Florida Automated Vehicle Symposium on Dec 1.  Hmmm … Watch Video  especially at the 13:12 mark.  Compelling; especially after the 60 Minutes segment above!  Also see his TipRanks.  Alain

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