4th edition of the 6th year of SmartDrivingCars
Andrew Hawkins, Jan 30, “Waymo, the self-driving unit of Google parent Alphabet, has reached a deal with one of Detroit’s Big Three automakers to dramatically expand its fleet of autonomous vehicles. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles announced today that it would supply “thousands” of additional Chrysler Pacifica minivans to Waymo, with the first deliveries starting at the end of 2018.
Waymo currently has 600 of FCA’s minivans in its fleet, some of which are used to shuttle real people around for its Early Rider program in Arizona. The first 100 were delivered when the partnership was announced in May 2016, and an additional 500 were delivered in 2017. The minivans are plug-in hybrid variants with Waymo’s self-driving hardware and software built in. The companies co-staff a facility in Michigan, near FCA’s US headquarters, to engineer the vehicles. The company also owns a fleet of self-driving Lexus RX SUVs that is has been phasing out in favor of the new minivans. (The cute “Firefly” prototypes were also phased out last year.)…” Read more Hmmmm… We’ve all been wondering” Who’s going to make the cars? How will that evolve?Will they magically appear???
Well….Looks like it is FCA for now. We’ve gone from a handful 5 years ago, 2 years ago added 100, added 500 last year, “thousands” this/next year, … Beginning to look like exponential growth! (A Bit Coin Bubble??) What is also most interesting: no parallel announcement that Waymo was hiring “thousands of attendants” to ride around as “drivers” in these “thousands of minivans”. Guess what that means… The Kornhauser Scale is going to start really going up!!! J
While ultimately they’ll need about 35 million of these to provide affordable mobility to all in the US, this is a real start at making this into a business as opposed to an NSF-style study that collects dust on a shelf or, worse yet, a digital manuscript that is never downloaded by anyone outside a “group of three”. This is a major announcement!
From Stan Young: It will be interesting to watch. It probably has the OEMs, Uber and Lyft scared out of their wits. Based on any objective comparison of accomplishment with automated vehicles, there is not a close second to Waymo, despite all the claims to the contrary by trade rags – and the competition knows it. Still a huge unknown concerning the ‘social side’ of riding in an un-attended vehicle, but we will likely get over it like we did with elevators. ‘Thousands’ of vehicles if deployed in one city will put it on scale of Uber and Lyft – an interesting study when/if it comes to that.
…An issue is: where will Waymo choose to deploy (and for Waymo, the word “deploy” is the right word… they make the decision where to place these, in some sense take it or leave it… as opposed to waiting for people to show up at a dealership to buy or have it stay on the lot or have some governmental agency thinking that it actually has a role/power/where-with-all to “deploy”) where, when and how many. They could “flood/concentrate” on Chandler/Phoenix/Tuscon area with scale to be really relevant and substantively demonstrate the evolution of mobility, or they could sprinkle them out nationwide and remain irrelevant everywhere. I like the “flood/concentrate” approach in a state (Arizona) where they seem to be truly welcomed and whose climate, topography and road network are “easy”. More importantly it would demonstrate the viability/challenges of the at-scale approach. From our simulations we uncovered that at-scale, one might need to be managing as many as 20,000 aTaxis in a 2.5×2.5 mile area (the extreme in Manhattan, which may be the last place that you want to try this) but it can be large. We’ll drill down in our data and take a look at Chandler/Phoenix and report back as to what we think it would take to provide mobility for all. Alain
Smart Driving Cars Podcast Episode 21
Episode 21 of the Self Driving Cars podcast is ready to roll. Waymo’s big deal with Fiat Chrysler for thousands of self driving mini-vans, GM’s push to keep up, ex-Google employees create Nuro for self driving deliveries, does AI need to be perfect for self driving cars and the Congressional train crash.
Real information every week. Lively discussions with the people who are shaping the future of SmartDrivingCars. Want to become a sustaining sponsor and help us grow the SmartDrivingCars newsletter and podcast? Contact Alain Kornhauser at firstname.lastname@example.org! Alain
J. Ewing, Jan 25, ” In 2014, as evidence mounted about the harmful effects of diesel exhaust on human health, scientists in an Albuquerque laboratory conducted an unusual experiment: Ten monkeys squatted in airtight chambers, watching cartoons for entertainment as they inhaled fumes from a diesel Volkswagen Beetle.
German automakers had financed the experiment in an attempt to prove that diesel vehicles with the latest technology were cleaner than the smoky models of old. But the American scientists conducting the test were unaware of one critical fact: The Beetle provided by Volkswagen had been rigged to produce pollution levels that were far less harmful in the lab than they were on the road.
The results were being deliberately manipulated.
The Albuquerque monkey research, which has not been previously reported, is a new dimension in a global emissions scandal that has already forced Volkswagen to plead guilty to federal fraud and conspiracy charges in the United States and to pay more than $26 billion in fines.
The company admitted to installing software in vehicles that enabled them to cheat on emissions tests. But legal proceedings and government records show that Volkswagen and other European automakers were also engaged in a prolonged, well-financed effort to produce academic research that they hoped would influence political debate and preserve tax privileges for diesel fuel…” Read more Hmmmm… This is really UGLY!! even without thinking back 75 years. So sad!!! Let’s hope that there’s none of this going on in the SmartDrivingCar world. Alain
Press Release, Jan 30, “Today Nuro formally launched, debuting a self-driving vehicle designed to transform local commerce. Nuro’s fully autonomous vehicle reshapes the cost structure of goods transportation, creating a powerful platform for a variety of everyday goods and services. …“We started Nuro to make products that will have a massive impact on the things we do every day,” said Nuro Co-founder Dave Ferguson. “Our world-class software, hardware, and product teams have spent the past 18 months applying their expertise to deliver on this mission. The result is a self-driving vehicle designed to run your errands for you …I certainly hope they don’t think that these things will be bought by consumers to be used to take dirty clothes to the cleaners and pick up groceries at the local Shop-Wrong… . It is poised to change the way that businesses interact with their local customers. …This one can be envisioned… ”
Nuro’s new vehicle is designed specifically to move goods between and among businesses, neighborhoods and homes …depending on how you parse the phrase some of this is actually good design…. The fully autonomous vehicle is unmanned and about half the width of a passenger car …may be too small to matter…. It’s built with ultra-light materials and designed for neighborhoods …Great! If it was bigger, it would be perfect for Amazon’s Robbinsville -> 42 Cleveland Lane Challenge… . These combined design elements will make it one of the safest vehicles on the road. Additional details including images and video are available here . Read more Hmmmm… Since it never carries people it doesn’t/shouldn’t need to satisfy NHTSA Crash Mitigation Regulations. There is no one to mitigate! It will need to pass NHTSA’s Crash Avoidance Regulations, but unfortunately, NHTSA doesn’t have any Crash Avoidance Regulations. Interestingly, this entity could, willingly, be restricted to using local streets only in the wee hours of the morning when there is essentially no one else using them because that may well be the best time for them complete all of their “errands”. While Otto was perfectly poised to be acquired by Uber, this seems perfectly poised to be acquired, or leapfrogged, by Jeff Bezos. See also Forbe’s Take on this: Ex-Google Engineers Raise $92 Million To Roll Out Robot Delivery Vehicles This Year Alain
PlanetM, AutoMobili-D Award CARMERA Best in Show and Startup of the Year at Inaugural PlanetM Awards Show
Jan 16, “PlanetM and AutoMobili-D today announced that CARMERA, provider of real-time 3D maps and navigation-critical data for autonomous vehicles, was awarded both Best in Show and Startup of the Year by Governor Rick Snyder at the inaugural PlanetM Awards ceremony during the 2018 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS)…. Read more Hmmmm… Congratulations Ro! Enormous progress. Alain
S. Zoepf, Jan 25, “As recently as 2013, the phrase “self-driving car” was nowhere to be found in documents published by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Oh, what a difference half a decade makes….
Questions of responsibility and fault have also begun to arise in the small number of accidents involving partially- and fully-automated vehicles to-date….
In the context of this accident and others, I’ve found myself taking a more personal look at the issue….
I can’t think of another common situation in life in which we frequently make potentially fatal mistakes and depend on others to notice and compensate for them. This is a profound form of a social contract, and a shift to self-driving vehicles would be a fundamental movement away from this idea, towards one where we expect vehicles to make fewer mistakes. I’m less confident that they’ll be able to fulfill the same role in compensating for the mistakes of others. This social contract of driving is one that overarches questions that might be asked by NHTSA (e.g. “Did this system fail or act as intended?”) or the NTSB (e.g. “Is the system driving this vehicle at fault?”)
As a society a third, related question that we could ask is that of the counterfactual: “Had a human been operating this vehicle would the accident have happened?”…” Read more Hmmmm… This third question is very interesting. Yes, we want these systems to not misbehave and pay attention all the time, but also, as is pointed out very well, we also want them to be as capable of avoiding a crash as well or better than we do when we are paying attention well.
I’m not convinced that Joshua Brown wasn’t paying attention well. He may well have not believed that the truck was actually going to run the turn, if that was actually what happened. That is a very “dangerous” intersection. I’ve tried to put myself in Joshua’s position just cruising down that road on a nice partly cloudy afternoon. I clearly can conceive, in my mind, that I would have seen the truck, assumed that he saw me and expected him to stop. And then, as it got to be too late, completely freaked out and brought my hands up to protect my face.
Last summer we almost completed an AR animation from driver-eye camera positions from both vehicles to really have a view of what both Joshua and the truck driver could have, and have not, seen, assuming the truck driver is running the turn (and of course other scenarios). Unfortunately I was doing it with students and, of course, they disappeared before we were sufficiently done. At some point I want to revisit that for no reason other than seeing to what extent the right pillar blocked the truck driver’s view, but also to really understand the extent to which one really needs to be alert and anticipate correctly in this kind of situation. I think that as most of us drive down the road, we expect
To me this is a very important edge case and even more so from this article’s perspective. We make many assumptions when we drive. On a two lane road we assume the oncoming car is NOT going to cross over into my lane. We assume your child is NOT going to turn and all of a sudden jump out in front of us. Every time I drive down Nassau Street and pass a parked car that has a person in the driver’s side I move over to give them as much room as I can in case they decide to open the door. If they do it soon enough I may have enough time to react. By moving over and hugging the centerline, I give myself a little more leeway. Why, because many years ago someone opened a door on me and I hit it. I also tend to drive in the middle of the road at night because of deer. It gives me an even chance if they are coming at me from the right as from the left. Even so, I’ve hit 6 deer in my life. Not pretty.
Anyway, it is VERY good that the woman was paying attention and had enough time to avoid a tragic outcome. One would hope that with better reaction times and better monitoring, AVs will be able to avoid crashes as well as we can when we are paying attention. I applaud the efforts of this article to have this be the design hurdle rather than just having AVs simply not hit anything ahead, stay in our lane, don’t cut people off when making a lane, eliminate excessive speeding, don’t tailgate and obey traffic rules and signs. J Alain
M. Sena, Feb 2018, “LET’S PUT ASIDE for a moment the question of whether humanless-driven motorized road transport vehicles (MRTVs)1 are both necessary and sufficient for reducing deaths, negative environmental effects and traffic congestion, compared to alternative solutions for achieving the same goals. Let’s focus on the real question, which is whether humanless-driven* MRTVs that can take you and me wherever and whenever we want to go are even possible. I believe they are, if and when we achieve artificial general intelligence. Artificial general intelligence (AGI) is the intelligence of a (thus far hypothetical) machine that could successfully perform any intellectual task that a human being can perform (including driving a car, bus or truck). This definition, as well as the inspiration for this article, come from Max Tegmark’s book, LIFE 3.0….” Read more Hmmmm… This third question is very interesting. I disagree a little because I consider that since driving occurs in a human-made environment with well-defined rules of the road, it is MUCH simpler and less demanding than the natural environment and therefore doesn’t require all of our intellectual horsepower to do extremely well, thank you. Not a proof, just my intuition. Plus, if we are even just good at it, we may be delivering such enormous value, that we’ll leave the rest for later. Michael, thank you for sharing another very thought-provoking issue. Alain
Broadening Understanding of the Interplay Between Public Transit, Shared Mobility, and Personal Automobiles
S. Feigens, Jan 2018, “The picture of urban transportation is rapidly evolving in the United States, particularly since the advent of transportation network companies (TNCs) such as Uber and Lyft in the early 2010s. The rise of TNCs and ubiquitous mobile computing technologies have catalyzed a reexamination of many aspects of transportation in the US. For instance, questions remain as to whether:
· TNCs themselves are fundamentally transforming the way people move in cities or merely represent a reorganization and expansion of markets for taxis and other for-hire transportation services.
· Recent declines in public transit ridership, after a decade or more of growth nationally, may represent a real change in how people are using public transit or are symptomatic of cyclical factors that had been obscured during an earlier period of economic recession and higher gas prices….
TNCs are changing the mix of airport‐related transportation revenues (e.g. parking charges; rental car, taxi, van, and TNC fees; and fare surcharges on dedicated public transit links) … Read more Hmmmm… No kidding!!! We all found a better way to get to airports without any help from the airports. Airports, please don’t don’t throw cold water on this just because your past decisions are no longer in our best interests. Very Nice report with real hard data behind it. A MUST read. Alain
For summary see: TURNS OUT UBER AND LYFT MIGHT NOT BE RUINING THE AMERICAN CITY
A. Marshall, Jan 31, “…So no, Uber isn’t single handedly wrecking your city commute. (It’s not always the bad guy.) And transit agencies aren’t always working the way they should, providing frequent, reliable, or fast enough service to keep those with higher incomes away from the siren call of traffic-creating cars. “This study says what every study says: The transit agencies should be very concerned,” says Bruce Schaller, a former New York City traffic and planning commissioner who now runs his own consultancy. “From a transit agency standpoint, it’s a clarion call that they have to do better.”
To put a more positive spin on it: There are openings for transportation alternatives, like private services that coordinate with public transit to take commuters from their doors to the closest bus stop, or even all the way to work. (Think Chariot or Via.) These could be especially useful in less dense urban areas, where homes and businesses are too far-flung to be efficiently served by something like a fixed-route bus.” Read more Hmmmm… Very nice summary and a very interesting report. “Transit” is a service providing mobility to anyone. It is not limited to just infrequently-run large vehicles operating along fixed routes with few stops. Taxis, that provide on-demand point2point mobility to anyone were never “embraced” as “Transit” by the “Transit” community. Now maybe ride-hailing companies will be embraced as companions of “Transit”. When (not If) we get to Driverless ride-hailing they, along with the legacy “Heavy Rail” will become the “Multi-modal Transit” systems serving the bulk of societies mobility personal mobility needs. Alain
T. Higgins, Jan 31, “General Motors Co. reported progress in the consistency of its autonomous-driving system last year as it sharply increased testing on the roads of California, though it remained well behind the self-driving tech unit of Google-parent Alphabet Inc., according to state records…” Read more Hmmmm… In reality, no one is even close! It isn’t game-over yet, but everyone else has an enormous amount of homework and cathin’ up to do. The train is leaving the station! Alain
Senate, Canada, Jan 2018 “At the request of the Minister of Transport, the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications undertook this study … on the regulatory and technical issues related to the deployment of automated (i.e. driverless) and connected vehicles. The Committee heard from over 78 witnesses from across Canada and the United States, received a number of written submissions from various sectors involved, and participated in many impressive demonstrations of this quickly developing technology.
With the converging automotive and technology industries, modern vehicles already contain considerable levels of automation, including millions of lines of code. New players, including Tesla and Google, have shaken up the automotive industry, and taken major steps towards a driverless and connected future.
We are …may be.. approaching the …beginning of the… end of an era for the traditional, individually-owned, human-driven automobile. In the not-too-distant future, people will … may.. be able to summon a driverless taxi from their smartphone and may therefore decide to forego vehicle ownership in favour of these shared automated vehicles.
The trucking sector will also be affected by this technology. Automation and connectivity will allow trucks to drive in “platoons”. A driver will be in the first vehicle. The subsequent vehicles, without a human driver, will automatically follow behind the first at a predetermined distance…Please… I thought that was the job of a tow bar. Platooning is not important enough to deserve to be presented so early in the report. It gained favor in the US DoT because it used DSRC. Talk about a tail wagging a dog.… Read more Hmmmm… If you ignore the discussions about “connected” and “platooning” the report is actually pretty good. A number of good policy directions and a good perspective. We are going to need for these systems to work well (and not necessarily perfect, nothing is perfect anyway…)) in winter conditions. Canada could/should focus on that aspect. The rest of the world will handle the easier “Florida-like” conditions. Alain
PlanetM, AutoMobili-D Award CARMERA Best in Show and Startup of the Year at Inaugural PlanetM Awards Show
Jan 16, “PlanetM and AutoMobili-D today announced that CARMERA, provider of real-time 3D maps and navigation-critical data for autonomous vehicles, was awarded both Best in Show and Startup of the Year by Governor Rick Snyder at the inaugural PlanetM Awards ceremony during the 2018 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS)…. Read more Hmmmm… Congratulations Ro! Alain
A. Hawkins Jan 10, “With 125,000 residents, over 54,000 homes, 32 square miles, 750 miles of road, and three distinct downtowns, The Villages in Florida is one of the largest retirement communities in the US. It’s also been described as a raunchy, booze-filled boomtown for those who want to fill their twilight years line-dancing and no-strings-attached sex. And starting soon, it will have another distinction to brag about: a fleet of robot taxis.
Voyage, a startup that has been operating a handful of self-driving cars in the San Jose, Calif.-based retirement community also called The Villages, announced today that later this year it will expand to the much-larger Villages north of Orlando. This is thanks to a successful Series A fundraising round that raked in $20 million in 2017….
Voyage’s self-driving cars aren’t fully driverless. Safety drivers will remain behind the wheel just in case there’s a need to intervene. And to compliment its digital mapping capabilities, the startup says it will partner with Carmera, a 3D mapmaker for autonomous vehicles. This type of partnership is necessary for what Voyage believes is “the largest deployment (by area size) of self-driving cars in the world.”…” Read more Hmmmm… Great! Doing this first where it will have the greatest chance to be of the most good. Alain
Some other thoughts that deserve your attention
A train carrying Republican lawmakers slammed into a truck in rural Virginia. One person in the vehicle died
A. Fram, Feb 1, “A train carrying dozens of Republican members of Congress to a strategy retreat in the countryside slammed into a garbage truck in rural Virginia on Wednesday, killing one person in the vehicle and sending several lawmaker-doctors rushing to help the injured.
No serious injuries were reported aboard the chartered Amtrak train, which set out from the nation’s capital with members of the House and Senate, family members and staff for the luxury Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. At least two other people in the truck were reported seriously hurt….” Read more Hmmmm… Maybe this may wake up Congress to how bad our Crash Avoidance Systems are on our surface transportation systems. One can’t even go on a family junket.. What did this train cost the taxpayers to take these Congressional families to the “luxury Greenbrier”? Alain
Assessment of RideSharing, Empty Vehicle Management Needs and ‘Last-Mile’ Ridership Implications on the Existing Rail Transit, Amtrak and Airline Networks Associated with Having autonomousTaxis Efficiently Serve the Billion or so PersonTrips Taken Throughout the US on a Typical Day… Final Project Description
A. Kornhauser, Jan 13, “… What if no one owned a personal car or truck any more? What operational characteristics would a fleet of autonomousTaxis (aTaxis), operating nation-wide, need to have to deliver a comparable level-of-Service (LoS), in conjunction with existing Rail Transit, AmTrak and Airline networks (with appropriately enhanced LoS between existing stations/airports)? How many of what size would be needed? How would they need to be managed? What would be the fundamental economics in order to adequately serve the Billion or so person trips that take place on a typical day across the US? Because details matter, we synthesized each of the 310 or so, million people in the US. For each we synthesized their mobility needs throughout a typical day to accomplish their activities such as get to and from work/school/play/shopping/entertainment/… Preliminary results include…
- In order to deliver a Level-of-Service (LoS) comparable to that offered by today’s conventional automobile in its service of the roughly 1 Billion trips that take place on a typical day across the USA would requite a fleet of approximately 35 million autonomousTaxis (aTaxis).
- In serving those trips throughout the day, those aTaxis would travel almost 50% fewer vehicle miles than today’s road vehicles if:
- people traveling from about the same place at about the same time to about the same place agreeing to ride together, much as they do today in elevators, (shared-ride), accounts for more than 50% of the reduced vehicle miles.
- The remainder comes from offering a reliable and attrative LoS to/from the existing fixed rail transit systems and, surprisingly, to and from existing AmTrak stations but assuming that the assistance of extremely improved AmTrak frequencies if service.
- It is amazing how, across the country, so many segments of the AmTrak network could be of service to so many 100-400 mile trips that take place on a typical day. If these trip makers had a reliable, convenient and affordable way to get from their origin to the nearest AmTrak station AND to their destination from that nearest AmTrak station, then the ridership potential on numerous segments of the AmTrak system beyond the NorthEast Corridor (NEC) would justify a LoS that is even better than what exists today on the NEC.
- If this preliminary result holds up under closer scrutiny (there isn’t an error someplace), this opportunity may be this study’s most significant finding. There is little literature on “long auto trips” yet, because they are “long” they log a significant amount of daily VMT on existing highways. Many of these trips today essentially parallel the AmTrak network. By providing convenient “first 1 – 20+ mile / last 1 – 20+ mile” accessibility to AmTrak’s existing stations AND by having AmTrak provide a high-quality LoS, the a significant percentage of these travelers would become AmTrak customers.
Very interesting… aTaxis Save AmTrak!! 🙂 More later. Alain
Read more Hmmmm… Most interesting! We hope to have a draft of the final report for all of USA out soon. Alain
Half-baked stuff that probably doesn’t deserve your time
C’mon Man! (These folks didn’t get/read the memo)
Calendar of Upcoming Events:
Come along for the ride! Smart Driving Cars Podcast Episode 20 with the faculty chair of autonomous vehicle engineering at Princeton University Alain Kornhauser and technology journalist Fred Fishkin. In this episode: Didi’s plans for data in China, autonomous crashes for GM and Tesla, Lighter colored vehicles to help Lidar? And Apple growing its self driving test fleet.
Episode 19 of the Smart Driving Cars Podcast with Princeton University’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin. In this edition: The White House Infrastructure Plan, driverless transportation for seniors in Florida, Waymo coming to Metro Atlanta, Uber’s big promise and more.
Episode 18 of the Smart Driving Cars Podcast with Princeton University’s Alain Kornhauser, co-host Fred Fishkin and guest research engineer Steven Shladover of UC Berkeley. Topics: General Motors, Waymo, the Transportation Research Board, CES, nVIDIA and how #MeToo may impact ride sharing technology in the future.
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.
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
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.