12th edition of the 6th year of SmartDrivingCars

Tuesday, March 20,  2018

cid:<a href=Robot drivers may be safer than humans, but tech companies are way behind in proving it

R. Mitchell, Mar 21, “As long as robot cars roam public streets and highways, they will occasionally kill people. That’s an ugly truth that no one in the driverless vehicle industry can deny.

Will those robot cars kill people at significantly lower rates than drunk, stoned, tired or distracted human drivers do now? Automakers, technology companies, politicians and regulators are betting they will, as driverless vehicles are rolling out faster than almost anyone expected as recently as a year ago.  But the Sunday night incident in Tempe, Ariz., in which an Uber robot car hit and killed a woman walking her bicycle across the street, makes clear the industry is much further behind in making its case to the public.

“It’s likely there will be far fewer deaths with driverless cars,” said Marlene Towns, a professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. “But getting to the point where people will be convinced of that will be tough.”

Speculation by Tempe’s police chief that the robot may not be at fault in the crash may temper any public or political backlash.

Uber was testing the robot car in autonomous mode with a human engineer, who was behind the wheel but not driving. Elaine Herzberg, 49, walking a bicycle, stepped in front of the car from a center median, according to video evidence, police said….”  Read more  Hmmmm…  “…Carmakers and technology companies need to be far more transparent as they push forward, experts said. “It’s important that we all learn from this accident and we make these technologies even better, said Alain Kornhauser, a professor at Princeton University and a leading authority on driverless cars. “To that end Uber must release all of the data leading up to this crash. All of the video, radar, lidar and logic trails for the three or so seconds leading up to the crash. If this releases some of Uber’s intellectual property, so be it.”…”
”  …  My sincerest condolences to Elaine Herzberg’s family and friends.  I hope that Uber with its “$60″B  valuation will make a very generous contribution to homeless charities and think even more seriously about “buying” (by partnering) rather than “making” this technology.  Alain

imap:// Driving Cars Podcast Episode 29

A call for transparency, disclosure and learning following the death of a pedestrian in Arizona involving an automated Uber vehicle. That’s the message from Princeton University’s Alain Kornhauser in Episode 29 of the Smart Driving Cars podcast. Professor Kornhauser joins co-host Fred Fishkin to discuss the crash and the impact.
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

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May 16 & 17, 2018

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cid:part24.5CC8FD2F.E3185801@princeton.eduUber Accident Won’t Stop Insurers from Racing to Develop Coverage for Driverless Cars

L. Scism, Mar 21, “…It isn’t clear that the death this week in Arizona would be an example of how liability would shake out for the industry. A person familiar with Uber said the firm’s test vehicles are insured through a commercial-insurance policy for a maximum of $5 million per accident. The insurer or insurers couldn’t immediately be learned.

The Uber accident highlights a likely broader trend to come in driverless cars. Under the current arrangement, individual car owners must buy liability policies to help cover damage in wrecks they cause. But in a possible metamorphosis, individuals would bear less financial responsibility.

Instead, the makers of the vehicles and their many complex parts will instead assume a bigger share—via product-liability coverage, consultants say…

The shift from personal liability is also an opportunity for many of the nation’s biggest insurers eager to get in on the action of insuring autonomous vehicles.

“While insurance coverage for (autonomous vehicles) is not mainstream, there are companies that will provide policies,” said Maureen Brown, a vice president with Munich Reinsurance America Inc.”  Read more  Hmmmm… Unfortunately this accident is similar to situations that are encountered all too often in the bus transit industry.  A pedestrian is struck and killed.  Fortunately, the industry is finally looking seriously into using automated “Safe-driving” technology to substantially reduce occurrence of these accidents in the future. 

As I’ve been writing for some time, the technology developers of “Self-driving” (those focusing on letting the driver relax by allowing her to take her hands off the wheel and feet off the pedals MUST build off of a “Safe-driving” technology stack that is really good.  What the Joshua Brown Tesla crash and the Tesla Firetruck crash and possibly this crash tell us is that Tesla’s and possibly Uber’s “Safe-driving” foundation, on which their “Self-driving” technology stack is built, is simply NOT good enough for “Self-driving” let alone “Driverless”.  In the Brown crash, the brakes didn’t actuate at all even though the truck should have been “see-able” for some time before the crash.  We know that some AEB systems delay their activation in what may have been the Firetruck crash scenario.  We need to know if any limitations in Uber’s AEB system contributed to this crash so that we can improve  “Safe-driving” technology and consequently improve “Self-driving” and “Driverless”. 

Waymo, GM and everyone else needs to put the real details of this scenario into each of their simulator and understand what their “Safe-driving” systems would have “seen” and done and what improvements they can make so that everyone learns from this tragedy.  That is why Uber MUST release all of the data that was captured in the seconds leading up to this crash. Alain                       



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March 26-29, 2018
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Self Racing Cars
March 24-25, 2018

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Willows, CA



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2nd Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit
May 16 & 17, 2018
Princeton University
Princeton, NJ
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  On the More Technical Side

Capsule Networks (CapsNets) – Tutorial