20th edition of the 6th year of SmartDrivingCars


cid:<a href=As the Number of Driverless Cars Increase, So Does the Need for Car Maker Transparency

R. Mitchell, Apr 30, “…A schism is developing in the driverless-car world — but not between fans and foes of robot cars.

Instead, on one side are driverless-car advocates who believe data transparency will lead to safer deployment of driverless vehicles and help alleviate public fears about the strange and disruptive new technology. On the other are some automobile and technology companies that, for good commercial reasons perhaps, prefer to keep their workings cloaked in mystery.

The lack of transparency about the workings of sensors, logic processors, mapping systems and other driverless technology, like the debate over robot-car regulation, could shape public perception of the nascent industry, said Bryant Walker Smith, a law professor at the University of South Carolina.  “Essentially, [the public will be] looking to see whether these companies are trustworthy,” he said…

In the Uber death, a video recorded by a dashboard camera — turned over to and released by Tempe, Ariz., police — showed the driverless-car system failed to brake for the pedestrian. It left open the question of whether the system sensors might have failed to notice the pedestrian at all.

Uber’s reaction was to apologize, then dip into some of its $15 billion in investment capital to pay the victim’s family in a legal settlement, thus avoiding a public trial.

Uber declined to make a company executive available to discuss data and transparency on the record, as did Waymo, Tesla and Lyft. Other companies — including Zoox, Nutonomy and General Motors, parent of Cruise Automation — agreed to talk.

Even driverless-car advocates are growing concerned about the silence from the industry’s major players. Grayson Brulte, a well-known consultant in the driverless industry, worries that recent polls have consistently shown the public is wary about driverless technology, while companies appear reluctant to engage with the public.  “They’re like Rapunzel up in the tower,” he said. “They have to let down their hair and climb down.”

Alain Kornhauser, who heads the driverless-vehicle program at Princeton University, said he believes that robot cars will improve safety, reduce driver stress, add productive time to the day and offer the elderly and disabled more independence. But the technology is far from perfect, he said, and some robot-induced deaths are inevitable.

Rather than wall off the lessons learned in fatalities such as the recent Uber and Tesla incidents, Kornhauser said, the companies should be sharing crash data with one another, with outside researchers and with the general public. And not just black-box data, but driverless-system data as well. That would make driverless cars safer and faster, he said.

“Uber should not gain a safety advantage over everyone else because they were involved in this crash,” Kornhauser said. “All of the video, radar, lidar and logic trails in the seconds leading up to the crash should be released to the public.

If this reveals some of Uber’s intellectual property, so be it. If they want to protect their intellectual property, they shouldn’t crash on public roads.” …”  Read more 

Hmmmm… Amen!  This article addresses what may well be the most important issue facing this industry.  Crashes will happen.  The industry has been holding its breath knowing that one, two, three, … deaths are coming.  Deaths are associated with every substantial technological advance in transportation.  Deaths occurred with cable cars, with electric traction, with steam trains, with airplanes, with conventional cars, with elevators, …, even with airbags… why do you have yellow stickers affixed to the passenger-side sun visor of your car.  That’s right… airbags kill children.  No one expected that.  But when it was “tripped over”, then that event was made transparent to everyone.  Similarly, total transparency needs to be created.  Uber needs to release the data that shows that their system did, in fact “see” Elaine for four (4), or however many, seconds before the crash, but didn’t see her reliably enough to convince itself to apply the brakes.  The details of that decision logic and the uncertainty/stochastic characteristics of that decision process needs to be divulged.  Why wasn’t it sure enough that a collision with Elaine was imminent for it to apply the brakes?  It is totally disingenuous for Uber to claim that its system never saw Elaine (Uber hasn’t said that.  They’ve said nothing.  (They’d better not even try to say that. Their system is at least pretty good.  it was developed by competent individuals from CMU and other very good places.  It saw Elaine, it just didn’t see her well enough or it chose to disregard what it saw for whatever reason.  The nitty gritty details of those uncertainties MUST be divulged in all of their minute, gory and transparent details.  Once made then everyone else in the industry can look at their comparable processes/algorithms and fix them so that the next time an “Elaine” is “seen” she will not be disregarded.  It is these situations that deserve the most serious attention.  These are infinitely more important and more challenging than the “Trolley (navel contemplation) Problem”.  

We will be addressing, with some of the best people in the world, this and other fundamentally important issues at the 2nd Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit    May 16 & 17.  Come join in and contribute to the conversations on these issues.  Russ Mitchell will be there. Bryant Walker-Smith will be there.  Grayson Brulte will be there. Raymond Martinez (Head of FMCSA) will be there.  Bernard Soriano (#2 @ CA DMV) will be there.  Nat Beuse (#2 @ NHTSA) will be there.  Oliver Cameron (CEO, Voyage) will weigh in,  Adam Jonas (#1 Auto Analyst, Morgan Stanley) will be there.  Fengmin Gong (Head, DiDi Research) will be there. Justin Erlich (Head AV Policy, Uber) will be there,  Sami Naim, (Manager, Public Policy, Lyft) will be there, Mike Jellen (President, Velodyne) will be there, Paul Brubaker (CEO ATI21) will be there, Matt Moore (SVP, Highway Loss Data Institute) will be there, Mike Scrudato (#1 AV Insurance guy, SVP, Munich Re) will be there, Ro Gupta (CEO Carmera) will be there. Insurance/risk assessment related: Ann Gergen (Exec. Dir. AGRIP), Jerry Spears ( Montana Association of Governments), Laura Kornhauser (President, Stratyfy), David Harmer, Head, Virginia transit Reliability Pool) plus many others will be there.  From the investment community: Sheldon, Sandler (CEO, Bel Air Partners) will be there.  And the list goes on…

Please come join in the discourse.  Click to register.  Alain

imap:// Driving Cars Podcast Episode 37

F. Fishkin, May 3, “Self driving car companies should work together to share critical safety data or face possible collapse says Princeton University’s Alain Kornhauser. He joins co-host Fred Fishkin in Episode 37 of the Smart Driving Cars Podcast where you’ll hear more about Tesla, Lyft, Uber and the upcoming Princeton Smart Driving Car Summit. Listen and subscribe!”

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=

May 16 & 17, 2018

Registration NOW OPEN

Become a Sponsor and Promote your Wares

cid:<a href=Want a car with a backup camera? Now they’re not just for pricier models, thanks to federal mandate

J. Cosgrove, May 3,  “As thousands of passenger vehicles roll off the assembly line this week destined for the U.S. market, each of them will be equipped with backup cameras — the result of a long-awaited federal rule that went into effect Tuesday.

The technology, which has already become standard in many vehicles, is expected to further reduce the number of injuries and fatalities caused by so-called backover crashes….

However, a 2018 study from the institute found that a rear automatic braking system bundled with rear parking sensors and a rearview camera can reduce backing crash-involvement rates by more than 75%….”  Read more 

Hmmmm… Backup cameras are Not the solution to Not looking.   When you look, if you see something, you apply the brakes. That does something!

What is needed is software that looks at the images, recognizes well enough that something is behind you AND applies the brakes in time for you to stop hitting it. The recognition bar is not as high when going backwards in your driveway at 5 mph as it is when going down an arterial at night at 40 mph because over reacting, and every once in a while being fooled and tapping the brakes when nothing is there, is no big thing. Being fooled at 40 mph is uncomfortable. So the system needs to be more certain before it starts applying the brakes for you. Unfortunately, because it wasn’t certain enough, it is of no help when there really was a pedestrian there.

In the case of backup cameras, if there isn’t any software “looking”  for you, it is really of little help if you’re not looking. You could have just easily looked in your rear view mirror.

Why don’t the regulations require quality software that looks at the images and applies the brakes if it sees something??  Alain

cid:<a href=Park assist helps drivers avoid backing crashes

Status Report, Vol 53, No.1 Feb 22, “…New research from IIHS indicates that a rear automatic braking system bundled with rear parking sensors and a rearview camera can reduce backing crash-involvement rates by more than 75 percent, while a rear cross-traffic alert system alone can reduce them by more than 20 percent….

Rear autobrake reduced backing crash rates by 62 percent beyond the effect for cameras and sensors.”  Read more  Hmmmm… Yup!!! Alain

cid:<a href=Tesla will regularly release data about the safety of Autopilot, Elon Musk says

S. O’Kane, ” …Musk argued on the call that there is “no question” that Autopilot reduces the chance of a driver getting in an accident, something both he and his company have often claimed in the past. “The statistics are unequivocal that Autopilot improves safety,” he said. Publishing these statistics about Autopilot’s performance will let the public know “exactly what Autopilot’s safety [level] is,” Musk said. “Is it getting better, is it getting worse?”…

Musk argued on the call that there is “no question” that Autopilot reduces the chance of a driver getting in an accident, something both he and his company have often claimed in the past. “The statistics are unequivocal that Autopilot improves safety,” he said. Publishing these statistics about Autopilot’s performance will let the public know “exactly what Autopilot’s safety [level] is,” Musk said. “Is it getting better, is it getting worse?”…” Read more  Hmmmm…It might be nice if there was an independent oversight group that could verify the forthrightness of the released data.  Otherwise I applaud the initiative. Alain

cid:<a href=Volkswagen in talks to manage Didi fleet, co-develop self-driving cars

Reuters Staff, Apr. 30, “…As part of the deal between Volkswagen and China’s biggest ride-hailing service, expected to be signed early next month, the German automaker will initially manage a fleet of about 100,000 new vehicles for Didi, of which two-thirds will be Volkswagen Group cars, said a senior executive at the carmaker.

Volkswagen will also jointly buy some new cars with Didi to allow the Chinese company to expand its fleet. The two eventually plan to collaborate to design and develop dedicated vehicles, he said, speaking on condition of anonymity as the details are still private….

Didi has said it formed the alliance to collaborate on, among other things, eventually developing cars purpose-built for its services.  For instance, as many as 80 percent of Didi customers ride alone and don’t need a big four-seater car, the Volkswagen executive said….”  Read more  Hmmmm… It is really unfortunate that 80% of DiDi customers ride alone.  While this may be OK for distant suburbs and small cities, if any exist in China, it is NOT OK for the Beijings and Shanghais of China.  Congestion, Energy and Pollution are fundamental problems that are exacerbated by the 80% that ride alone, even if they ride alone in a small vehicle that now needs 2 seats because the rider is not driving. 

I understand that the Chinese 1%ers need to ride alone and that today they are DiDi’s prime customers.  However, if DiDi has the vision of serving 300 million rides a day in China, then the “80% ride alone” will create a real mess, if it is even achievable. 

What DiDi really needs is a partner that will bring a ride-sharing vision and heritage without cheating.  It might also be nice to have one that is committed to a Driverless vision, although, given the availability of a manageable workforce, that may only become important when DiDi’s vision is to serve 3Billion trips a day.   Alain

cid:<a href=Dispatch Central

May 1, M Sena … He’ll be @ The Summit… , “Turn off Autopilot.   THE DRIVER OF THIS TESLA MODEL X did not survive the crash into a concrete barrier while Autopilot was engaged. … Following the death of Joshua Brown in Florida in July 2016, I said Autopilot should be disabled on all Teslas. I’ll say it again…

Numbers Tell the Truth.  TRANSIT RIDERSHIP FELL in 31 of 35 major metropolitan areas in the United States last year, including the seven cities that serve the majority of riders….
A study by Bruce Schaller … He’ll be @ The Summit… , consultant and former New York City Deputy Commissioner for Traffic and Planning, found that daytime traffic in Manhattan’s busiest areas now moves almost 20% slower than five years ago. During the past four years, the number of Uber/Lyft-type vehicles in Manhattan has increased 81% to 68,000. That is five times the number of yellow cabs licensed to operate….

Mapbox – What Is It?
I read the following quote from the CEO of a company I had never heard of and thought, What have I missed?
“We (Mapbox) have more sensors on the road today than the entire connected car space will have by 2020,” said Chief Executive Officer Eric Gundersen.
So I visited its site and sent a few notes around to friends to find out more. Its site says the following:
“Mapbox is the location data platform for mobile and web applications. We provide building blocks to add location features like maps, search, and navigation into any experience you create.”
Barry Glick, founder of MAPQUEST and a standard-bearer for the digital mapping movement, said to me of Mapbox: “I have been quite amazed and impressed at how successful they’ve been, given the competition from Google Maps API and many others. They are pretty much dominating the market now for non-Google mapping toolkits used by app developers….

Beating Traffic Ten Years Later
BEATING TRAFFIC: TIME TO GET UNSTUCK was published in 2007. It is only 136 pages, but it took me two years to write (I had a day job). My reason for writing it was that everyone, from pundits to punters, was saying that traffic congestion would be eliminated if only cities charged cars for the privilege of entry and if all highways were converted to toll roads. London started its charge in February, 2003, and Stockholm turned on its control points in August, 2007. My simple message was that if you don’t address the reasons that traffic congestion exists in the first place, you will not fix the problem by forcing people to pay even more money than they already do to put their lives’ daily puzzles together. People will just be poorer and congestion will still be there. As we have seen, they are and it is….”  Read more  Hmmmm… Another excellent Dispatcher.  Alain

cid:<a href=Self-driving cars’ shortcomings revealed in DMV reports

E. Baron, May 1,  ” … All companies testing autonomous vehicles on the state’s public roads must provide annual reports to the DMV about “disengagements” that occur when a human backup driver has to take over from the robotic system. The DMV told eight companies with testing permits to provide clarification about their reports. More than 50 companies have permits to test autonomous vehicles with backup drivers on California roads but not all of them have deployed vehicles.

It turns out that a number of the issues reported are shared across technology from different companies. Some of the problems had to do with the way the cars sense the environment around them. Others had to do with how the vehicles maneuver on the road. And some had to do with what you might expect from systems made up of networked gadgets: hardware and software failures….”  Read more  Hmmmm… Disengagement Reports are good, but even more voluntary transparency is needed. Alain

cid:<a href= Aptiv will deploy 30 self-driving BMWs in Las Vegas via Lyft

A. Krok, May 2, “…Aptiv announced today that it will launch a fleet of 30 self-driving BMWs in Las Vegas. The vehicles will be available for use on the Lyft network, and it’s no different than selecting a normal ride via Lyft’s app, although it is opt-in, so tech-averse folks won’t be forced to use one. As with the CES demonstration, it appears the vehicles will be limited to select areas — as Aptiv calls them, “high-demand locations.”…”  Read more  Hmmmm… It is progress, but it is way behind Waymo.  Alain

cid:<a href=Clarification of:   ITE Statement on Connected and Automated Vehicles

J. Paniati, Apr. 30, “This is in response to your critique of ITE’s recently issued CV/AV position.  While we have invited and welcome constructive criticism and suggestions for improvement, from your characterization of our position it appears you may have misunderstood our intent.  I want to clarify a few points….”  Read more  Hmmmm… Jeff, thank you for the clarification.  I share your objective to “stimulate dialog” on which, I believe, we are making good progress.  None of these are simple issues.  There is a lot at stake.  Many outcomes are possible, of which only a few are really desirable.  Alain




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

cid:<a href=To Make Autonomous Vehicles Safe, We Have to Rethink “Autonomous” and “Safe”

J. Dunietz, Apr 24, “…The crux of the issue is that autonomy is not a monolithic concept. Monorails, Roombas and C-3PO are all autonomous, but in different senses and with different constraints. Similarly, autonomous driving is not a single technology; it comes in gradations, and the vehicles that are imminent will not be independently hurtling through roundabouts in the snow at twilight. Our expectations and standards regarding safety will need to be tailored to the use cases those vehicles are designed for—many of which will be less sophisticated than we’ve been led to expect…. ”  Read more  Hmmmm… Half-baked might be too harsh, but there really isn’t much substance here. What do you think?  Alain

cid:<a href=One way to get self-driving cars on the road faster: let insurers control them

J. Condliffe, Apr. 30 “…All the vehicles use cellular connections to send data to each other and to other organizations that are involved in the project, such as insurer XL Catlin….“Insurers can adjust the envelope [in which a car can operate] to control the risk on the policy,” explains Newman. “The autonomy system has insurance built into it that allows it to control risk over a fleet.”…” Read more  Hmmmm… Is this a back door attempt to make Connected Vehicles relevant.  V2V isn’t necessary here, but to think that now insurers are going to actively intervene twiddling knobs to control risk in real time is just goofy.  In what universe would that happen.  Yes, insurers MUST understand the technology’s risk domain and should charge appropriately for underwriting that risk.  But to be actively controlling it??  Really half-baked.  Alain

cid:<a href=Pentagon to beat Uber, Tesla in race over self-driving vehicles

Bloomberg, Apr. 30, “Forget Uber, Waymo and Tesla: the next big name in self-driving vehicles could be the Pentagon. “We’re going to have self-driving vehicles in theatre for the Army before we’ll have self-driving cars on the streets,” …  Read more  Hmmmm… I sure hope that the pentagon is not spending my tax dollars competing with Uber et al. and that “Uber” is not designing  something that has military specs. The objectives, design domains and business cases of the Pentagon and the “Ubers” of this world are VERY different.  They are not in the same race, so beating each other is a non sequitur.  Alain



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





Calendar of Upcoming Events:

imap:<a href=

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

Registration NOW OPEN

Become a Sponsor and Promote your Wares



  On the More Technical Side

Capsule Networks (CapsNets) – Tutorial



Recent PodCasts

imap:// Driving Cars Podcast Episode 36

F. Fishkin, Apr 26, “Getting SmartDrivingCar companies to share their data on safety. It’s a move that could benefit all says Princeton University Professor Alain Kornhauser in the latest Smart Driving Cars Podcast. He joins co-host Fred Fishkin…to chat about the move by Voyage. Also…Tesla, Waymo and more.

imap:// Driving Cars Podcast Episode 35

F. Fishkin, Apr 19, “Will self driving car service be free? Princeton University’s Alain Kornhauser thinks that just might be. He explains in Episode 35 of the Smart Driving Cars Podcast with co-host Fred Fishkin. Also…the latest on Waymo, Tesla and the need for grass roots movements to bring about the evolution.

imap:// Driving Cars Podcast Episode 34

F. Fishkin, Apr 13, “Should a brand new regulatory agency be formed to oversee self driving and driverless vehicles? Princeton University’s Alain Kornhauser says yes in Episode 34 of the Smart Driving Cars podcast with co-host Fred Fishkin. Also…Uber’s CEO calls self driving vehicles are in the student driver phase….and Tesla feuds with the NTSB.”

imap:// Driving Cars Podcast Episode 33

F. Fishkin, Apr 4, ” Waymo is making it real! In Episode 33 of the Smart Driving Cars Podcast, hosts Fred Fishkin and Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser are joined by Michael Sena, publisher of The Dispatcher newsletter. Take a deep dive into Waymo’s deals with Jaguar and talks with Honda.. Tesla, Volvo, Uber and Ambarella. And the Princeton Smart Driving Car Summit is coming up!         ”

imap:// Driving Cars Podcast Episode 32

F. Fishkin, Apr 2, “Waymo’s big partnership with Jaguar, a deadly Tesla autopilot crash and the plans for congestion pricing for vehicles in parts of Manhattan. In Episode 32 of the Smart Driving Cars Podcast, Princeton University’s Alain Kornhauser takes on the tough questions with straight answers and no hype, along with tech journalist Fred Fishkin. Listen in…and subscribe!”

imap:// Driving Cars Podcast Episode 31

Waymo’s chief confident his self driving vehicles would have avoided same outcome as Uber’s in deadly crash. How deep are Uber’s troubles? In Episode 31 of the Smart Driving Cars podcast Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and journalist Fred Fishkin are joined by Alex Roy, editor at large of The Drive.

imap:// Driving Cars Podcast Episode 30

Investigating the Uber self driving crash that killed pedestrian Elaine Herzberg: In Episode 30 of the Smart Driving Cars Podcast, Princeton University’s Alain Kornhauser goes in depth on why it could and should have been avoided. He chats with Fred Fishkin about the impact of the crash on other testing programs and how the technology should move forward.


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.


imap:// Driving Cars Podcast Episode 18

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.