30th edition of the 6th year of SmartDrivingCars

Saturday, July 14,  2018


J. Stewart, July 10, "…Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler took a cautious step into the swamp stomp, announcing plans to launch a self-driving car pilot somewhere in Silicon Valley, next year.

Daimler is calling its service an “automated shuttle,” but it’s not referring to some blobby, slow-moving van. It’s going to start out using a fleet of S-Class luxury sedans and B-Class hatchbacks, with long-term plans for vehicles designed for autonomous driving, like the F 015 “Luxury in Motion” concept it showed off a few years back…"  Read more  Hmmmm….  Daimler, please DON’T!!!! This is such the wrong concept by the wrong company.  Daimler is singularly focused on 1%ers and the last thing that 1%ers need are Driverless aTaxis!  1%ers already have more personal mobility than they can throw a stick at. 1%ers  can easily afford a driver/attendant, so they have no need for Driverless. And one suspects that those who seek elite modes of transportation will not be the first to share rides with others. Daimler, this isn’t your market.  Please stick to the Safe-driving and Self-Driving (with adult supervision) worlds.  You are doing a great job with those, but, please,  don’t ruin the the Driverless, mobility-for-all world with your "F 015 “Luxury in Motion”concept, which reeks of exclusivity. Daimler’s proposed design seems fundamentally focused on the very few.  Driverless is a technological opportunity to provide life-enhancing mobility to the many, which is NOT in Daimler’s DNA and unfortunately NOT is the EU’s DNA, because Daimler has played such a strong role in the evolution of the EU’s perspective on AV technology.  Driverless must focus on shared-riding whenever practical, else it will fail.  So please, Daimler, stay away for  now.  Alain

imap:// Driving Cars Podcast Episode 47

F. Fishkin, July 14, "Self driving taxis from Mercedes? Princeton University’s Alain Kornhauser says, "No thank you". Why? Tune in as the faculty chair of autonomous vehicle engineering joins Fred Fishkin for that and much more in episode 47 of the Smart Driving Cars podcast." 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

cid:<a”>  Oakland in Their Bones, and in Their Films

B. Barnes, July 11, "Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal stood squinting in the June sun, unsure what to make of the graffiti-covered walls of a Boys & Girls Club here. The bright blue building in front of them had been spotless just a few months earlier, when Mr. Casal and Mr. Diggs, both Oakland born and bred, had last seen it.

More jarring was the new Ford GoBike docking station that a Lyft-owned company had installed next to the clubhouse. A trendy bike-sharing service in West Oakland? “All I know is that it was clean and blue when we scouted it, and it was clean and blue when we shot in front of it,” said Mr. Diggs, who stars with Mr. Casal in “Blindspotting,” an Oakland-set comic drama that arrives in theaters on July 20. “And then the shiny bikes came and now there’s graffiti. That means something.”

Mr. Casal had a guess. “I see a neighborhood screaming, ‘You can’t erase me,’” he said. “The rebellion of graffiti sometimes is to shout, ‘I’m here. Don’t forget that I’m here.’ It’s putting your name on things when you’re being swept over.”…"  Read more  Hmmmm…. This is an example of the residents of a neighborhood reacting to introduction of a technology, Ford GoBike, that serves the gentrifiers rather than the existing population.  Many of the "Smart Cities" share similarities as do the privately-owned driverless car visions.  As long as these visions intrude only in the 1%ers neighborhoods, then fine (maybe?).  But if they intrude on city streets and city neighborhoods, then we may well face a " rebellion of graffiti".  My view is that such systems should first be deployed to serve the Mobility Disadvantaged in those communities where these systems can truly improve quality of life of the residents of those communities while utilizing their existing roadway infrastructure.  This is a perspective that I tried to present in one of the Shark Tank breakouts at the 2018 AV conference and something I have been thinking about lately. How to ensure that aTaxi fleets are welcome by residents, whose streets they share, and not harbingers of gentrification, doomed to be vandalized with graffiti by those who feel marginalized or left behind? Alain

cid:<a”>  After 20 Years of Silence, Strangers in Ethiopia and Eritrea Call to Say Hello

M. Specia, July 11, "“I don’t know you, you don’t know me, but I am from Ethiopia and I am so excited to talk to you.”  That was the message Roman Tafessework Gomeju had for the stranger on the other end of the phone line when she called a hotel in neighboring Eritrea this week from her home in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.

For 20 years, this phone call would have been impossible.

Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in the early 1990s, but then a border war broke out between them later that decade, locking the two countries in hostilities and leaving tens of thousands dead.  Cross-border travel was banned, the embassies were closed, flights were canceled and phone calls on landlines and cellphone networks were not permitted between the two countries. Then this week, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia and President Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea announced a formal declaration of peace between the two nations. Economic, cultural and diplomatic ties can be forged again.

And now with phone services restored, some people have begun calling strangers, just to say hello…"  Read more  Hmmmm…. If "Strangers in Ethiopia and Eritrea Call to Say Hello", the we can Share Rides!  Alain

cid:<a”>No One at the Wheel: Driverless Cars and the Road of the Future

S. Schwartz, July 2018, "…On, April 26, 2017, at the invitation of Amazon’s Prime Minister of Ideas H. B. Siegel (yes that is how he signed his name), I attended a "Radical Urban Transportation Summit." The thirty or so attendees companies that offered everything from app-based flying FHV to hyperloops to electric highways….

I was struck by how little the attendees knew about urban transport, how enamored they were with gadgets, and how much they were complicating things, at every distance, a la Rube Goldberg.  When it came my turn to present, the solution I proposed for trips of less than a mile – and more than half of urban trips are this short – was shoes, available since 1600 BC.

Many trillions of dollars are going to be spent on AVs between now and midcentury.  We could get giddy and lose perspective… But going forward, we need to maintain our sanity as we consider the best uses of AVs, keeping in mind that they should improve the quality of our lives (p. 213) …." Read more  Hmmmm…. and on that note, they should be focused first on those whose lives can be improved most.  This is an excellent book and a must read.  It fundamentally addresses how transportation affects people’s lives.  While there isn’t an equation, graph or chart in the book, it lays out the intellectual basis for mobility in society.  It is written from the perspective and experience of a giant who has spent a career doing all he can to deliver transportation services that improve the quality of lives.  Sam, thank you for writing this!  Alain


A. Marshall, July 13, "…But despite the best efforts of the downtown San Francisco Hilton’s air conditioners, the air shared by the attendees of this year’s Automated Vehicles Symposium was thick with secrets and doubt. Eight years after Google first showed its self-driving car to The New York Times, the autonomous vehicle industry is still trying to figure out how to talk about itself.

Over the three-day conference, engineers, business buffs, urban planners, government officials, and transportation researchers grappled with how to tell the public that its wonder drug of a transportation solution will have its limitations. For at least a few decades to come…"  Read more  Hmmmm…. I was only there for one day, the Wednesday "Shark Tank" breakout, which was much fun once again.  I agree with Marshall’s sentiment above largely because the visions held by the regulars of the AV conference: "connected" so as to enable roadway authorities to better manage their roadway infrastructure, Class 8 Truck platooning to save infinitesimal amounts of fuel rather than crash avoidance, individually/consumer-owned driverless cars, a "Class" system for categorizing alternatives void of any semantic content focused on technological details rather than the very difference societal and economic benefits derived from the different technologies, a failure to recognize and embrace the "public transport" opportunities of the technology for the Mobility Challenged and the near-term opportunities of low-speed shuttles, ….  

The conference regulars (consultants, academics, government officials, and suppliers whose expertise, focus and sustenance comes from changes in the roadway infrastructure side of the business) have failed to recognize that the business-as-usual view of transportation has been turned upside down by this technology.   No longer is the vehicle side of the business well-known,  stable and largely untouched by the conference regulars .  It is now where the action is, and that action is being generated without any request for changes in any infrastructure.  Thus the "Kodaks" and "Blockbusters" of the infrastructure side of the ground transportation business are struggling to remain relevant.  Alain  

cid:<a”>aTaxis: A New Urban Canvas fo Vandals or Artists

A. Kornhauser, July 11, "…Basic Challenge: How are aTaxi systems designed & operated so that they gain the RESPECT of the society that they are serving so that they become Canvases for Art

Else:  How do we protect aTaxis from Vandalism? …"  Read more  Hmmmm…. Just a thought presented @ Shark Tank Breakout of 2018 AV Conference.  Alain

cid:<a”>‘Why are you still here?’: Inside the last Blockbuster in America

A. Horton, July 14, "A man parked his motorcycle on the sidewalk Saturday morning, ruining the aesthetic of the last remaining Blockbuster in the contiguous United States.

“You can’t park there,” general manager Sandi Harding told the man as he walked into the store in Bend, Ore. “People are trying to take pictures.”

The man paused for a beat. There was confusion in his response.  “Trying to take pictures?”

Somehow he had missed the past decade, when Blockbuster the video rental behemoth became Blockbuster the fallen victim of modernity.

In 2004, at the company’s peak, 9,000 Blockbuster outlets studded city blocks and suburban strip malls nationwide, a onetime indelible fixture of the family movie night. But soon after, Netflix, Redbox and the cold march of digital progress eroded the customer base at each store…..leaving only three: two in Alaska, and Harding’s store in Bend…."…" Read more  Hmmmm…. Fate of the Personal Automobile Dealership in 2040???? Alain

cid:<a”>It’s Too Soon to Regulate Self-Driving Cars, Says U.S. Safety Official

R. Beene, July 13, "…“At this point the technology is so nascent I don’t think it is appropriate today to regulate this technology,” Heidi King, deputy administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said in an interview. “It’s not there yet, but each and every day we are open to identifying when the time is right.”…" Read more  Hmmmm…. I agree!  It is way too early.  Regulations must be precise and based on facts and knowledge.  Right now we know so very little that we don’t actually know what will end up being good and what will be bad.  Alain


R. Brandom, July 3, "…For a long time, researchers thought they could improve generalization skills with the right algorithms, but recent research has shown that conventional deep learning is even worse at generalizing than we thought. One study found that conventional deep learning systems have a hard time even generalizing across different frames of a video, labeling the same polar bear as a baboon, mongoose, or weasel depending on minor shifts in the background. With each classification based on hundreds of factors in aggregate, even small changes to pictures can completely change the system’s judgment, something other researchers have taken advantage of in adversarial data sets…."  Read more  Hmmmm…. This is a little disconcerting; however,we are still at the very beginning to Deep Learning and we already know that doing image recognition one image at a time can’t possibly be the an efficient or effective approach rather than processing sequences of images and improving our image recognition as time evolves. There  is more work to do.  The paper referenced above "Why do deep convolutional networks generalize so poorly to small image transformations?" by A Azulay and Y. Weiss is well worth reading not only because of the limitations of current CNNs to handle small image transformations but also that in processing sequences of images over time to evolve a "solution" fundamentally involves q sequence of images replete with "small image transformations".  Alain

cid:<a”>A New Approach to Vehicle Occupancy Detection

R. Pool, July 2018 "Enforcement is an ongoing unsolved problem for HOV, HOT, and express toll lanes that offer better service to vehicles carrying a specified number of occupants. Roadside enforcement is costly and ineffective; if actual violators are 30% of all vehicles, a patrol officer can stop and pull over only a handful of violators per hour. Every new roadside camera system that has been tested under real-world conditions has failed state DOT requirements;…" Read more  Hmmmm…. Detection of car occupancy is a challenge but doesn’t address the fundamental measurement challenge of HOV lanes.

The objective  of HOV is to remove vehicles from the traffic stream while delivering the same (or better) person trip movement. The theory goes that if two (or more) people traveling in two (or more cars) got together and traveled in one car, then society would be better off because of the non-linear speed-volume relationship of traffic flow.  Thus those good Samaritans deserve special treatment.

So to determine if a car really deserves special treatment requires the determination of “was at least one other car removed from the traffic stream”?   So that means that a couple “going to the airport “ to catch a flight together are not eligible. Nor is an Uber with one passenger.  Nor an Uber taking that couple to the airport. Nor a father taking a child to the hospital.  Nor…

So if we are to develop a technology to solve the cheating problem, it should address the cheating problem.

(Bob’s response in an email: "I’m 100% in agreement with you about all the people who shouldn’t be counted as legitimate causes of fewer vehicles in the lanes. That’s why my preferred solution, set forth in a TRB paper some years ago, is to grant that special treatment only to registered carpools of three or more occupants, periodically certified by the local ride-sharing agency as still being in regular operation. Those transponders would be identified in the tolling software, and the free passage or discounted toll would apply only during congested periods—in most metro areas during weekday AM and PM peak periods. Florida DOT actually does this (at my recommendation) on the I-95 express toll lanes in Miami.") …

By the way, even though some are beginning to call ride-hailing” , “ride sharing” (see image) it rarely is!
Ride-sharing  needs to be reserved for when “a car is left at home”

cid:<a”>Consumer Privacy Protection Principles: Privacy Principles for Vehicle Technologies and Services

Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, Inc. Nov 12, 2014 "…The Principles apply to the collection, use, and sharing of Covered Information in association with Vehicle Technologies and Services available on cars and light trucks sold or leased to individual consumers for personal use in the United States…."  Read more  Hmmmm…. While focused on traditional personally-owed non-shared private cars, this is a very important document that lays out a basis for developing "Consumer Privacy Protection Principles for Shared-Ride Driverless aTaxi Services."  Alain

cid:<a”>  Could driverless cars cause more congestion in urban cores?

A. Halsy, July 3, "As the era of driverless cars looms, a new Boston-based study suggests that the vehicles may increase traffic congestion in downtown areas as more people embrace ride-hailing services and abandon transit.

The same study also found, however, that driverless vehicles could dramatically improve traffic conditions in the suburbs. …" Read more  Hmmmm…. Yes, but the study did not make any attempt at sharing rides.  My guess is, that the regulatory oversight will heavily tax single riders traveling congested corridors at congested times in congested directions.  This will be the new form of congestion pricing and it will be effective at dis-insentifying private use of aTaxis at times and directions when ride-sharing opportunities exist. 

cid:<a”>  Autonomous Vehicles – Augmentation or Replacement? #SmartDrivingCar

K. Pyle, July 12, "Will autonomy augment or replace the human? Author, angel investor and Cannonball Run record holder, Alex Roy, addresses this question in the above interview, filmed at the 2018 SmartDrivingCar Summit. As the founder of Human Driving Association, his view echos that of car designer and futurist Michael Robinson in that the automation features must improve safety, while effectively becoming an extension of the human.

Roy describes the Human Driving Association and its efforts to responsibly implement automation to improve all aspects of vehicle safety…."  Read more  Hmmmm…. Agreed, Safety is not only most important but is a strict necessary condition before one can even begin to use automation to deliver other services such as take hands off wheel or feet off brake.  Unfortunately, as their crashes have demonstrated, Uber’s and Tesla’s Automated Emergency Braking (AEB) systems which is one of the fundamental automated safety systems were/are substantially ineffective, if not totally disengaged in operating domains in which the automated system was supposedly delivering comfort  & convenience services.  The industry can NOT put this cart before this horse.  If Tesla’s AEB is functional only at speeds less than X then AutoPilot should operate only at speeds less than X.  Alain

Image removed by sender.Near-Term Deployments in the U.S. #SmartDrivingCar

K. Pyle, May  14, "A panel of experts provide updates on various U.S. deployments of autonomous vehicles. After, there is a robust discussion about the challenges and opportunities of rolling out autonomous vehicles, as well as the impact they will have on things like the built-environment, land-value and more."  Read more  Hmmmm…. Check out the 9 videos of the presentations made in the Near-term deployment Workshop at the 2nd Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit o May 15, 2018. Thank you Ken Pyle for putting this together.  A broader list referencing more of the conference can be found at this Link.  Alain

cid:<a”>Driverless testing in NJ? Phil Murphy aide wants to move in that direction

J. Cichowski, June 6, "…“Finally, somebody in power recognizes that New Jersey is a microcosm of the nation that has everything necessary for a grand experiment,” he said, citing the state’s limited mass-transit options and its balance of urban, suburban and rural roads and population demographics. "And the weather isn’t always great," he added, "but that makes it ideal for testing under all conditions."…" Read more  Hmmmm…. See video.  New Jersey may finally start trying to be a player.   


Interested in working in Toronto?   Have a good background and interest in working on safety and security for autonomous driving vehicles and fleets?  Contact Dr. Fengmin Gong, DiDi Labs

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:

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3rd Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit
evening May 14 through May 16, 2019
Save the Date; Reserve your Sponsorship
Photos from 2nd Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit

Program & Links to slides from 2nd Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit

  On the More Technical Side