9th edition of the 6th year of SmartDrivingCars

Wednesday, February 28,  2018

imap:// to allow testing of self-driving cars without a driver present

D. Etherington, Feb 27,  “California’s Department of Motor Vehicles established new rules announced Monday that will allow tech companies and others working on driverless vehicle systems to begin trialling their cars without a safety driver at the wheel. The new rules go into effect starting April 2.

Until now, the DMV has allowed companies approved for autonomous vehicle testing to run their cars on the roads, with autonomous driving systems engaged, provided that there’s a trained safety driver behind the wheel ready and able to take over manual control. Now, the regulators are updating their rules to allow for fully driverless test, which is a key step along the route towards actually deploying self-driving vehicles in a commercial capacity.

This doesn’t mean test vehicles will be out there on the roads without any kind of human intervention backup – the DMV will require that those testing autonomous cars without a driver present have a dedicated communications channel that ties the car to a remote operator, who can take over if needed. …” Read more  Hmmmm… Even though we have been expecting this, it is a major hurdle for it to actually have occurred.  How long after April 2 will Waymo take to begin this type of testing.  Again this is only testing and deployment, but NOT commercial service, which may happen first in Arizona, but it is a major step in this r-evolution.  Commercial services are regulated by other agencies in California, not CA DMV.  It is those other agencies that will need to grant/award the licenses for the various commercial operations where these driverless vehicles would be used.  This regulation allows properly licensed commercial operations using CA DMV certified driverless vehicles to have those vehicles use California public roadways in delivering the otherwise licensed commercial activity. Note: CA DMV does not license the commercial transport of people or goods.  That is the purview of other CA regulatory agencies.  Alain  

imap:// Driving Cars Podcast Episode 26

The Smart Driving Cars Podcast Episode 26! Join Princeton University’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin as they take an in depth look at the new driverless vehicle testing regs unveiled this week in California with the state’s Deputy Director of the Department of Motor Vehicles, Bernard Soriano. Also… the latest from Waymo, Ford and Amazon.

Hmmmm…. Now you can just say “Alexa, play the Smart Driving Cars podcast!” .  Ditto with Siri, and GooglePlay.  Alain

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!  Alain

imap:<a href=2nd Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit  imap:<a href=

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imap:<a href=Take a ride in one of Waymo’s fully driverless minivans with this 360-degree video

A. Hawkins, Feb 28, “Waymo continues to lay the groundwork for its commercial robot taxi service in Phoenix, releasing a video today with a 360-degree look inside of one of the company’s fully driverless minivans. It’s part of the Google spinoff’s public education campaign to raise awareness around a technology that remains inaccessible — and even a little scary — to most people.

The Arizona Department of Transportation recently greenlit Waymo’s application to operate as a transportation network in the state, a crucial step as it readies its ride-hailing service that will compete directly with Uber. But before it can launch, it needs to assure a wary public that self-driving cars can safely navigate through complex urban and suburban environments. And that means offering a short lesson in the technology and sensing equipment that underpins autonomous driving.

Waymo is also announcing a new milestone: 5 million autonomous miles traveled on public roads. The company notes that it took six years to rack up 1 million miles, another six months to reach 4 million miles, and just three months to hit the 5 million marker. “Today we’re driving as many miles in one day as the average American adult drives in a whole year,” a spokesperson said.  Read more  Hmmmm… Somewhat impressive:  K* (VMT(Self-Driving-Waymo)) = Log(5M) = 6.7; K (VMT(Driverless-World)) = K (VMT(Driverless-Waymo)) = Log(10) = 1.0!.  What will be impressive is how fast K (VMT(Driverless-Waymo))will rise after April 1 and the California driverless testing regs go into affect. See video.   Alain

* Kornhauser Scale: K (X) = Log (X), X = VMT by a category over a time span  (for example, per year by Ford Safe-driving vehicles)

 cid:<a href=Alumnus steers Ph.D. research into self-driving vehicles job

D. Palmer, Feb 23, “For eight miles the black Lincoln MKZ sedan zips along the rural lanes of Holmdel, New Jersey, without any human guidance. As the driver sits with his hands in his lap and feet off the pedals, the steering wheel spins on its own, as if controlled by a ghost.

The person behind the wheel is Chenyi Chen, a research and development engineer for NVIDIA, a leading manufacturer of hardware and software platforms for visual computing and artificial intelligence. Chen, a scientist in NVIDIA’s team of thousands working to give cars the ability to “see” the road, earned his Ph.D. at Princeton in 2016….”  Read more  Hmmmm… I’m so proud.  🙂 Alain

cid:<a href=Studies are increasingly clear: Uber, Lyft congest cities

Associated Press, Feb 25, “One promise of ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft was fewer cars clogging city streets. But studies suggest the opposite: that ride-hailing companies are pulling riders off buses, subways, bicycles and their own feet and putting them in cars instead. …For shame!! Transit captives may have actually found a way to use the public streets that are used so inefficiently today by gas guzzling, single occupant, suburban SUVs…

And in what could be a new wrinkle, a service by Uber called Express Pool now is seen as directly competing with mass transit. …Isn’t this AMERICA where competition is supposedly good???  … 

 Alison Felix, one of the report’s authors. “Ride sharing is pulling from and not complementing public transportation,” she said.…really isn’t much to complement…  

At least one study did not pin increased congestion on hailing services. Seattle-based firm Inrix scoured data from 2012 to 2015 in London and found the number of passenger vehicles, including Uber cars, remained the same or even dipped slightly. … Read more  Hmmmm… Maybe not so clear… to generate some discussion…it depends on one’s biases…
1.  Walking & biking at best reduce an infinitesimal amount of congestion because the vehicle trips that they replace are very short for walking and short and few in number for biking.  Consequently the impact on VMT and congestion is very small on local streets and essentially zero on arterial and major roads.

2.  If folks are taking Didi/Uber/Lyft on weekends and evenings that’s actually when available road capacity tends to exist, so  ride-hailing leads to better use of existing road infrastructure, not to mention reducing the number of impaired drivers during those hours.

3.  Seems very self-centered and entitled to have auto owners blame congestion on those poor souls who have finally found an affordable way to use the public street system to take a few trips they wouldn’t have otherwise taken and improved their quality of life (only reason people travel).  Can’t all those people just go back to their deplorable transit service and leave those roads to car owners!!!???

4.  I’m a big fan of INRIX and they have the data on the spatial and temporal distribution of traffic speeds 24/7/365 as compared to who knows what biased small sample surveys are cited in this article.

5. There’s talk about taxing ride-hailing services, yet there is disdain about increasing the gas tax $0.25/gallon.  I guess that it depends on whom you are taxing.

From my view, ride hailing is providing a somewhat affordable, on-demand, O2D, auto-like service to transit captives who have have been taken for granted way too long.  The objective of public policy/taxes/regulations should not be to knock down this improvement in mobility in order to make transit not look so bad nor to make sure that car drivers have the roads all to themselves. Alain  Collaboration with University of Iowa

February  AStuff News, “Enabling the future of autonomy is a phrase we live by at AutonomouStuff. A great way to do this is by teaming up with great universities, like the University of Iowa…” Read more  Hmmmm… autonomuStuff continues to be the leader in supplying components, engineering services and software that enable SmartDrivingCars.  Congratulations Bobby.  Alain

imap:<a href=Musings of a Dispatcher: Red Herrings

M. Sena, March 2018, “…A RED HERRING is something that is said or written that misleads the listener or distracts the reader from the main issue….”   Read more  Hmmmm… Simply enjoy! Alain

imap:<a href=3 Far-Flung Cities Offer Clues to Unsnarling Manhattan’s Streets

C. Anderson, Feb 26, “The idea translates easily into any language: Charge drivers for using congested streets and watch them change their habits. It has become an increasingly attractive tool for major metropolises overwhelmed by the traffic strangling their streets.

But actually carrying out congestion pricing has been anything but easy — at least in three cities that are often cited as international models. In London, Singapore and Stockholm the fees were met with skepticism and outrage by commuters and civic and business leaders, though they later proved effective in reducing traffic, congestion and air pollution….” Read more  Hmmmm… This is “Value” pricing, not “congestion” pricing.  The glass is “half-full” rather than “half-empty”.  The “Value” proposition of being able to “move” in Manhattan rather than “sit” in Manhattan is substantial.  But it needs to be a level playing field and applied to everyone.  No placards, special passes, resident discounts or other preferential treatment.  Having the revenue dedicated to improve public transit allows Value to be captured by everyone.   While the PANY&NJ’s tunnel revenues may be hardest hit, the value of the long overdue service improvement is “priceless” to both tunnel users and the PANY&NJ.  (Almost no amount of money spent on infrastructure could deliver the service improvement of reduced demand, thus “Value pricing” is profit maximizing for the PANY&NJ).    Alain

A. Rychel, Feb 28, “NVIDIA has quickly turned into one of the largest players in automated driving. In an exclusive interview, Danny Shapiro, Senior Director of Automotive, explains how to develop safe driverless cars – and how NVIDIA is growing its ecosystem with more than 300 automotive companies….”
Read more  Hmmmm… Nice interview.  Congratulations Danny.  Alain

cid:<a href=Auto insurance rates climb as number of cars, distractions rise

N. Zelniker, Feb 27, “…According to The Zebra, an insurance comparison website, the national average cost of car insurance this year is $1,427, a 20% increase from 2011…In addition to their rising numbers, the vehicles themselves are changing, with more technology loaded inside, which lifts the price of the vehicles. That becomes another factor boosting insurance rates.

More technology also increases instances of distracted driving, …” Read more  Hmmmm… “Bad” technology (what I call “TravelTainment”) needs to be offset with “good” technology that automatically avoids (as opposed to just mitigating) crashes (Safe-driving Cars).  Then insurance rate would have a chance to decline. Alain

imap:<a href=Automated Vehicles Can’t Save Cities

A. Arieff, Feb 27, Click through, Hmmmm… Cute, but cities are more than “Manhattan” and there may only be one Manhattan (~2% US population) worth saving.  Herding the other 98% into Manhattan clones may not be that attractive, desirable or Smart (as in SmartCities) .  Driverless vehicles may not be able to save Manhattan, but Driverless vehicles could substantially improve mobility for the other 98% of Americans.  Alain


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

cid:<a href=Self-driving cars may be the science world’s dream, but premise is flawed

S. Chumley, Feb 27, “…After all, engineers can’t even make cars themselves that are immune to mechanical failure. What makes science think it can make artificial intelligence that can safely navigate vehicles without fear of failure?

The better route to citizen safety seems to be bettering driving conditions for humans, rather than simply sticking them in the back seat and letting machines take the wheel…”  Read more  Hmmmm… Please, Chumley can’t be seriously arguing that “engineers aren’t perfect” (at making things) but imperfections in human driving are caused by “conditions” of the driving environment.   Texting, falling asleep, intoxication, inattention, road rage and stupidity examples of human “conditions” that the technology is trying to overcome?  This article should be in C’mon Man!  Alain



Been There; Done That!

imap:<a href=Ford is bringing its self-driving cars to Miami

A. Hawkins, Feb 27,  “Ford is bringing its fleet of self-driving cars to the neon-splashed streets of Miami to test out its future commercial plans for robot cars, which include ride-hailing and deliveries, the automaker announced today….” Read more  Hmmmm…  If you can do Pittsburgh and Detroit, not much news.  Alain

imap:// launches a self-driving ride-hailing fleet for public use in China

D. Etherington, Feb 27, “Autonomous driving technology startup has become the first company to operate an autonomous ride-hailing service on public roads for public users in China. …” Read more  Hmmmm…  Since they have an attendant in the vehicle, this might be new in China, but it isn’t new.  Alain


E. Adams, Feb 27, “…Those rides took passengers on a 4.3-mile loop around the Olympic Stadium, on a route that included a roundabout. That’s notable because for a fully autonomous vehicle (with a human backup in the driver’s seat), such traffic circles are beguiling.

“Roundabouts have sharper turns and require both lane changing and avoiding traffic accidents simultaneously,” says Hyundai research engineer Byoungkwang Kim. …”   Read more  Hmmmm…  The human in the driver’s seat makes this very ho hummmm.  Alain



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

cid:<a href=The Future of Transportation

Flyer, Feb. 2018, “How autonomous aerial vehicles and personal airborne transportation solutions will revolutionize urban mobility,…” Read more  Hmmmm… If any of these images are the view of the future, then those futures will definitely not happen.  Depicted is one but never more than 6 of these contraptions in any of these “views of the future”.  If that’s all there are, then, Airbus will have gone bankrupt trying to make them and their impact on anyone, other than The Donalds of this world, is absolutely zero.  If these contraptions were to ever be of any use, the view of the city would be more like a swarm of locust.  Put that on your cover of your conference.  C’mon Man! Alain



  On the More Technical Side

Capsule Networks (CapsNets) – Tutorial

imap:<a href=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

·     NorthEast Region Assessment of aTaxi Ridesharing and Empty Vehicle Management  (Draft) 

    South Region Assessment of aTaxi Ridesharing and Empty Vehicle Management  (Draft) 

·      Plains Region Assessment of aTaxi Ridesharing and Empty Vehicle Management  (Draft)

       West Region Assessment of aTaxi Ridesharing and Empty Vehicle Management  (Draft)

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





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