42nd edition of the 5th year of SmartDrivingCars


Friday, December 8, 2017


Insurance Companies Are Now Offering Discounts if You Let Your Tesla Drive Itself

B. Jones, Dec. 6, “Self-driving cars are expected to make our roads safer. Now, UK insurance company Direct Line is offering a discount to customers who use Tesla Autopilot to facilitate research into its effects…..” Read more Hmmmm… Guess what.. I bet the discount is substantially less than the expected reduction in LOSS!  Win-Win!! Why is this not happening in the US?  Alain

Smart Driving Cars Podcast Episode 15

Episode 15 of the Smart Driving Cars Podcast.  Hosts Fred Fishkin and Princeton University’s Alain Kornhauser are joined by leading expert Michael Sena from Sweden in a wide open and most entertaining chat ranging from the impact of Ralph Nader to the insurance industry’s role, to the latest from Ford, Lyft, Uber and China’s Didi.

Self-Driving Car Milestones

Dec 5, R. Munroe,  “Upcoming and recently-achieved Self-driving Car Milestones…” Read more Hmmmm… Enjoy!  While you are at it, also enjoy How Do Self-Driving Cars Avoid Driving Straight To The Beach? although it isn’t one of their best.   Alain

Phantom Auto uses humans to remotely control self-driving cars in a pickle

D. Takahashi, Dec 6, “Self-driving cars might not respond perfectly in every driving situation, which could be deadly, as passengers aren’t likely to be paying attention or able to take over in time. So Phantom Auto has come up with a solution. When the situation gets really tough for a self-driving car, Phantom Auto switches the control to a remote human driver, who can use video game equipment to safely control the vehicle….”  Read more Hmmmm… Of course.  Not only important/necessary when passengers are in the aTaxi (autonomousTaxi) but also when the aTaxi is empty while repositioning itself to pick up the next customer(s) or while driverless delivery vans are running around our streets in the middle of the night out delivering Amazon packages to our houses.  I’m sure Waymo already has a ‘situation room‘ full of similar things and had one in operation when Steve Mahan took his ride in 2015. Alain

  Insuring AVs, an $81B Opportunity between now and 2025

L. Karp, 2017, “…The rate of adoption for autonomous vehicles can be debated, but there is little doubt that such vehicles will eventually predominate the world’s highways. Automobile insurers  should embrace, rather than fear, the future.  Our research and modeling conducted in conjunction with Stevens Institute indicates that there will be a significant opportunity for insurers in the near- to mid-term (over the next five to ten years) as the need for cyber insurance and product liability insurance on vehicles outpaces the decrease in individual premium revenues…” Read more Hmmmm… Once again the focus is on revenue not profitability!  I understand that one important component of Insurance profitability is “investing the hold” but “LOSS” is also important. Alain

Volvo Intros Unique Subscription Service in Offbeat Way

S. Finlay, Nov 30, “…Under the unique program, a consumer can acquire an XC40 for two years by paying a monthly flat fee. That also covers insurance (through Liberty Mutual), all maintenance, potential repairs and wear and tear. A concierge service is thrown in.  “And there’s no down payment,” Gustafsson notes. “The only thing that’s not covered is gas.”…”  Read more Hmmmm… Hopefully the XC40 is a Safe-driving car that works (or the customer is a VERY safe driver), else, SELL Volvo!  Alain

Is your city getting ready for AVs? This is a guide to who’s doing what, where, and how.

Dec 4, “…This Atlas is the world’s first inventory of how cities around the globe are preparing for the transition to a world with AVs. As cities seek to learn from one another, they can look to this map for up-to-date information on what’s underway worldwide…”  Read more  Hmmmm… Zero in New Jersey (thank you Gov. Christie) as in the whole NY Metropolitan area 🙁.  This group should use consistent terminology so that what is being tested, where  (Safe-(that really works, see above) / Self- / or Driverless on closed courses / private campuses / or public streets under normal operation) is properly compared. What is sure is:  no one is testing Driverless on public streets anywhere in the world. See also We spent 2017 scoring the globe and At least 47 cities . Alain

ODI Resume: The Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) or Autopilot systems may not function as designed, increasing the risk of a crash.

Investigation: PE 16-007. “…The Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) analyzed the following subjects as part of NHTSA’s examination of the design and performance of Tesla’s Autopilot system: 1) AEB design and performance in the subject Tesla and peer vehicles; 2) human-machine interface issues related to Autopilot operating mode; 3) data from crash incidents related to Tesla’s Autopilot and AEB systems; and 4) changes Tesla has implemented in the Autopilot and AEB systems. …If the driver chooses to avoid the crash by braking, but does not apply sufficient braking to do so, DBS automatically supplements their application. If the driver does not take action to avoid the crash, CIB automatically applies the vehicle’s brakes so that it may be mitigated or avoided…”  Read more Hmmmm… The most unfortunate part of AEB is that it is centered around Warnings as opposed to being centered around Avoidings.   It was created with a mid set that must have been dominated with “the driver is king” and “false alarms are way too prevalent”.  Only under that mind set wrapped with plenty of CYAs would one have DBS operate only after the driver begins to apply the brakes.  One might argue that if the driver suddenly accelerated right after the warning that maybe the driver might know something that the system doesn’t know, but in every other situation, this is simply CYA and in complete lock-step with NHTSA’s “crash mitigation” heritage rather than a “crash avoidance” mind set that the regulator of SmartDrivingCars needs to have. This is why I write that we still need an enormous amount of work and focus on Safe-driving.  What is on the market today simply is NOT nearly good enough and may in fact be lulling us and NHTSA into a sense of false security.  The SmartDrivingCar industry should take a step back and get Safe-driving cars really working well before any more talk about taking hands off wheels and feet off pedals.  If you do nothing the AEB doesn’t work by design!!! That is just totally irresponsible.  Alain


A. Marshall, Nov 29, “…My trip was far from smooth, the vehicle so careful that it jolted, disconcertingly, to a stop at even the whisper of a collision. If the Silicon Valley motto is “move fast and break things,” Detroit’s seems to be “move below the speed limit and ensure you don’t kill anyone.” My herky-jerky ride in an autonomous vehicle showed that Cruise Automation, acquired by General Motors in 2016, has made serious progress. No San Franciscans were hurt during the making of this article. But the biggest vehicle manufacturer in America has some big work to do before humans take the back seat—for good….” Read more Hmmmm… Sounds like Waymo is still very far out in front.  Alain

  How G M Bought Its Way to the Front of the Driverless-Car Pack

D. Welch, Nov 30, “Three years ago, General Motors Co. wouldn’t even let its self-driving cars out of the parking lot. Its custom Chevrolet Volt hybrids, meant to autonomously ferry employees around GM’s 700-acre research and development campus in the Detroit suburb of Warren, Mich., could only handle basic driving and topped out at about 25 miles per hour….”   Read more Hmmmm… Interesting, but no mention of Super Cruise.  Is that fair? Is there a struggle inside GM (the old guys who have been doing their homework for some time to generate revenue and the freshmen riding the hype?    Alain

Surface Transportation News #170

“B. Poole,  Dec 6 “…Puncturing Millennial Myths  By Baruch Feigenbaum…Millennials are also buying cars. Autotrader found that in 2011 millennials were 20% of the new-car market. This year, they are 30% percent of the market, and by 2020 they are forecast to be 40%. And millennials seem to have a preference for large SUVs to accommodate children who will soon be preteens or teenagers….”  Read more Hmmmm… Families with young children escape the cities to the New Jerseys of the world and buy Stationwagons (aka SUV, minivan, ..).  Shouldn’t be surprised. Alain

Didi, the ride-sharing giant of China, is coming to North America

A. Hawkins, Dec 7, “Didi Chuxing, the Chinese ride-hail behemoth, plans to expand to Mexico next year, according to Reuters. It would be the company’s first international expansion and could signal a new phase of competition with Uber, which sold its Chinese business to Didi in 2016 after a lengthy and expensive battle.   Didi is the second-most valued, privately owned firm in the world after Uber. Its decision to begin recruiting drivers and offering rides in Mexico will surely be seen as shot across Uber’s bow at a time when the company has been seen reeling from a series of self-inflicted scandals…

Earlier this year, Didi opened an R&D center in Mountain View, California, that’s focused on hiring (and probably poaching) top engineering talent to work on artificial intelligence and self-driving car technology…”  Read more Hmmmm… Interesting.  I had the pleasure of being invited to participate in that opening.  🙂Alain

Optimizing Our Self-Driving Vehicle to Better Serve You

J. Farley, Dec 6, “…What this means is that we’re designing an all-new vehicle optimized for self-driving technology and the customers it will serve. We feel this optimization across the vehicle, technology and customer experience will differentiate our business as we begin to serve leading companies, such as Lyft, in the movement of people and goods…
…For instance, in our research with the team at Domino’s, we found that customers enjoyed the voice instructions that played over speakers mounted on the outside of the vehicle to explain how to get their pizza out of the self-driving vehicle upon arrival at their house….”  Read more Hmmmm… I don’t know what to make of this.  Really, the worth-talking-about take-away for dDriverless goods delivery is to have speakers outside the vehicle!?  Not some of the weird things that you’ll need to do without crashing in going from and back to Domino all day long.    Does this mean that Ford is now putting all of its eggs into Driverless and feels that its Safe-driving and Self-driving offerings are already optimized?  I’m confused.  This is Ford’s post, not some reporter’s interpretation of what was said by who knows who.  Alain

Vehicle ‘Subscription’ Services: a Respectable Bait-and-Switch Gimmick by Automakers

M. Keller, Dec 6, “Subscription services are the latest attempt by automakers to lure buyers into their cars; Cadillac started with its “BOOK” program, and Porsche, Lincoln, and Volvo have entered with their own variations. From a quick glance, it might seem that these programs were intended as a nod to the millennial generation that prefers to “subscribe” rather than own anything. But these programs aren’t an attempt at appealing to millennials or even experiments in mobility services, but instead, they are marketing strategies by automakers that are trying to revive their market shares…”  Read more Hmmmm… Doesn’t sound like it saves the Dealership Business Model for new cars  given the enormous initial depreciation associated with new cars.  At best, this may be  practical for used cars.   Few is any will be willing to cover that big initial depreciation and you can’t burden the downstream users.  So unless you plan to rent this car for a long time, which is never the renter mentality, there is no new car opportunity.   If it isn’t brand new, then it is used and the dealership becomes a Hertz or Avis or ZipCar none of which are setting the world on fire.  Alain

  When Accidents Weren’t the Drivers’ Fault & Has DSRC Reached the End of the Road? ++

M. Sena, Dec. 2017, “HOW MANY TIMES during the past week have you heard or read that 95% of all vehicular accidents are the result of the drivers and only 5% are caused by some fault with the car or truck?…I’ve done some hunting to find the most important safety improvements, and here is my list in order of the most important:…” “I don’t like Ralph Nader and I didn’t like the book…” …

…I THOUGHT THAT some of my readers might be as much in the dark about hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicles as I was, so I decided to help us all out….

…The report of WAVE’s death is an exaggeration. So don’t uncork the champagne if you areamong those who want to  celebrate, and don’t send sympathy cards if you are an admirer. It ain’t over ‘till it’s over…

…Here is a photo of a drone in highway patrol action taken by another drone at a higher elevation. The image is of
a highway in China. The surveilling drone is low enough to read the vehicles’ license plate numbers…” Read more  Hmmmm…  Enjoy!!! Alain

Recent PodCasts

Smart Driving Cars Podcast Episode 14

Episode 13 of the Smart Driving Cars Podcast with host Fred Fishkin and Princeton University Professor Alain Kornhauser. This edition In this edition Fred and Alain are joined by Bernard Soriano, the Deputy Director of the California Department of Motor Vehicles. On the agenda: Waymo’s CEO says real driverless testing is coming soon.; Waymo’s autonomous fleet now has traveled four million miles; Lyft gets the green light from California to test self driving on public roads

Smart Driving Cars Podcast Episode 11

Episode 11 of the Smart Driving Cars Podcast with host Fred Fishkin and Princeton University Professor Alain Kornhauser. Fred and Alain are joined by leading expert and Internet pioneer Brad Templeton. Waymo makes some history, Thee tech needed to make it work..cameras…lidar or both? Navya bringing new robotic vehicles to Paris. And an accident…as a self driving shuttle is launched in Las Vegas.

Smart Driving Cars Podcast Episode 9

F. Fishkin, Oct  25, Episode 9 “Host Fred Fishkin with Princeton University’s Alain Kornhauser and guest Fred Payne, council member from Greenville County, South Carolina. Greenville’s autonomous taxis are rolling. Bank of America analysts see big investment opportunities in vehicle technology. The latest from London, China and New York. And on demand pilotless planes?

Some other thoughts that deserve your attention

Elon Musk Will Launch His Tesla Roadster to Mars on SpaceX’s 1st Falcon Heavy Rocket

T. Malik, Dec 1, “It really is Mars or bust for Elon Musk. The billionaire says he’s going to launch his own Tesla Roadster on the first test flight of SpaceX’s new giant rocket next month, and the car will play David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” full blast on the way to Mars (if the rocket doesn’t explode during liftoff)…” Read more Hmmmm… Wild!!! Is this another Onion thing?  See also; Boeing CEO Says Boeing Will Beat SpaceX to Mars Alain

  On the More Technical Side

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

Here’s how soon you could be riding in a driverless car

J. Roosevear, Dec 4, “…First, let’s define some terms. “Driverless,” “autonomous,” and “self-driving” all mean pretty much the same thing: a vehicle that can drive itself with no human intervention required, at least under some circumstances…”   Read more Hmmmm…  Sorry, NOT the same!  You are confusing everybody!

One is for when you MUST have someone in the car ready to take over, (Self-driving) versus No one in the car expected to or able to take over and drive, (Driverless) versus It does it all alone without anyone or anything external algorithm telling it where to go when,  (Autonomous).  Each of those 3 very different forms of mobility REQUIREs its own name to avoid confusion.  One requires a capable human overseeing it and ready willing and able to help out, and drive.  Another requires some external entity to tell it where to go when.  The last is a complete free agent.  VERY different and should not be confused.  Please don’t bother reading this.  So confusing; so bad!! Alain

Calendar of Upcoming Events:

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

This list is maintained by Alain Kornhauser and hosted by the Princeton University LISTSERV.