42nd edition of the 6th year of SmartDrivingCars

Friday, October 6, 2018 

cid:<a”>  Fully driverless Waymo taxis are due out this year, alarming critics

T. Lee, Oct 1, "Waymo, Google’s self-driving car project, is planning to launch a driverless taxi service in the Phoenix area in the next three months. It won’t be a pilot project or a publicity stunt, either. Waymo is planning to launch a public, commercial service—without anyone in the driver’s seat.  And to date, Waymo’s technology has gotten remarkably little oversight from government officials in either Phoenix or Washington, DC.

If a company wants to sell a new airplane or medical device, it must undergo an extensive process to prove to federal regulators that it’s safe. Currently, there’s no comparable requirement for self-driving cars. Federal and state laws allow Waymo to introduce fully self-driving cars onto public streets in Arizona without any formal approval process.  … Maybe, but automobiles weren’t regulated until long after Henry Ford and we’re barely approaching the "Henry Ford" stage of the Driverless r/evolution….   That’s not an oversight. It represents a bipartisan consensus in Washington that strict regulation of self-driving cars would do more harm than good.  … rightfully so because this is so new that we don’t know what to do.  It is still at such a small scale that even if it  began to fall apart completely not much harm could be done.. " If you think about what would be required for some government body to examine the design of a self-driving vehicle and decide if it’s safe, that’s a very difficult task," says Ed Felten, a Princeton computer scientist who advised the Obama White House on technology issues.

This hands-off regulatory approach drives some safety advocates crazy….Mary "Missy" Cummings, an engineering professor at Duke, agrees. "I don’t think there should be any driverless cars on the road," she tells Ars. "I think it’s unconscionable that no one is stipulating that testing needs to be done before they’re put on the road."… But there is no formal process requiring the company to submit information about its technology and test results to regulators in Phoenix or Washington. …

Even safety advocates like Chase and Cummings don’t necessarily want to see cars subjected to the kinds of comprehensive regulations imposed on aircraft and medical device makers. But they’d like to see the government take a more active role in testing self-driving cars—before they’re allowed on public roads.  But Princeton’s Ed Felten questions whether that’s realistic. He points out that there are unique challenges to testing self-driving cars…

And while Cummings told me that "there has never been any kind of real-world testing" of Waymo’s cars, that doesn’t seem quite fair to Waymo.   …  Ultimately, the only way to test how a self-driving car will perform on real public streets is to test them on real public streets.

If formal FDA-style testing isn’t realistic, what could regulators do instead? Bryant Walker Smith advocates what he calls a "trustworthy company" model for regulating self-driving cars. Instead of writing prescriptive, technology-focused standards for driverless cars, he says, regulators should focus on validating car companies’ own processes for developing and testing driverless cars.  Smith would like to "have governments say: are these companies making a credible case? Are they candidly communicating? Does the company support their assertions?"  "Regulation is not just a rule or a prospective approval," Smith notes. "Regulation is all of the tools available to governments: investigations, inquiries, recalls, prosecutions for misrepresentations to governments."

But the company hasn’t released much data to back up its safety claims. We know Waymo has logged millions of miles on Arizona roads, but we know very little about how its vehicles have performed.   Waymo needs to not just build safe technology, but also convince the public that its technology is safe. Being more transparent about both its technology and its testing efforts could help."  Read more Hmmmm…. What is not pointed out is that "Wall Street" is serving as the ultimate safety regulator in a way that is much more draconian than any "FAA", FDA", "watchdog" or "Congress".  Last year Waymo and Uber were thought by many to be essentially neck-to-neck in the driverless car race.  Both valued at about $75B.  Today Uber is struggling to maintain its $75B valuation while Adam Jonas has pegged Waymo at $175B.  By far the biggest difference in accolades between the two companies is that one had one crash that killed a pedestrian and the other didn’t.  The "Wall Street" lesson of a $100B implication of just one fatal crash is not lost on anyone in this industry.  Safety is fundamentally recognized as an absolutely necessary condition to being a player in this emerging form of mobility. Alain 

imap:// Driving Cars Podcast Episode 60

F. Fishkin, Oct 6,  "With Waymo poised to begin commercial driverless transportation in Arizona…is there reason to worry? In Episode 60 of the Smart Driving Cars Podcast, hosts Alain Kornhauser of Princeton and Fred Fishkin tackle that and more, joined by Ed Felton…a Princeton computer science professor who served as a technology advisor in the Obama administration and Bryant Walker Smith, legal expert from the U. of South Carolina. Tune in and subscribe!… Tune in 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”>  Automated vehicles 3.0: Preparing for the Future of Transportation

E. Chao, Oct 4, "…Automation has the potential to improve our quality of life and enhance the mobility and independence of millions of Americans, especially older Americans and people with disabilities…." Read more Hmmmm…. I hope and I’m sure that included in "disabilities" are those households that are most mobility disadvantaged… those that are poor, don’t have access to a car and aren’t served by conventional transit.  Their quality of life can be dramatically improved by the mobility potentials of shared-ride autonomousTaxis.  Alain

cid:<a”>  Minivans are the future of transportation — just don’t call them minivans

M. Laris, Sept 28, "…Now, the once-mighty minivan — overshadowed by the SUV, vessel of dad jokes and soccer mom cliches, host of self-deprecating bumper stickers (“Zero to 60 . . . Eventually!”) — could be clawing its way off the museum floor and into an unexpected starring role in the future of transportation.   Tech firms are spending billions developing the brains for self-driving cars, and minivans offer what some consider the perfect body for a transplant….

Waymo says the hybrid Chrysler Pacifica minivan is “the perfect platform for ride-hailing” because it’s safe and has “power-sliding doors and roomy, versatile interiors that can accommodate large groups.” The high-voltage battery can also power the self-driving sensors and computers.
Waymo’s competitors, however, aren’t convinced of Americans’ long-lasting love of the minivan. General Motors is building its driverless strategy on a version of Chevrolet’s five-seat electric Bolt EV hatchback. Tesla says its Model 3 is the “car of the future” and eventually will be able to join a driverless fleet “just by tapping a button” on the Tesla app.

An Uber spokeswoman said it is too soon to tell what kind of car will dominate the driverless market. The company is working with Toyota to upgrade Sienna minivans, but also is using Volvo SUVs. Even Waymo is hedging its bets, saying it also will purchase up to 20,000 electric Jaguar SUVs for its driverless ambitions.
“The minivan is not the car of the future,” said Alan Hall, a Ford spokesman, adding that Waymo is “making do with a vehicle that was designed and built for personal [ownership].”

Hall said Ford will design and build its own fleet specifically to carry paying passengers and make deliveries, sometimes at the same time. It will be a mix of minivan, van and truck, “but with some comfort features of sedans,” he said. The company has yet to unveil its creation, slated for production in 2021…." Read more Hmmmm….  I like this because it is NOT aspiring to the Daimler’s Elitist Millennial Aristocrats.  Alain

cid:<a”>  Honda to Invest in Cruise, G.M.’s Venture in Self-Driving Cars

N. Boudette,  Oct 3, "Honda is teaming up with General Motors in the race to develop fully autonomous vehicles.  The Japanese automaker has agreed to purchase a $750 million stake in Cruise, G.M.’s autonomous vehicles unit, and contribute $2 billion to the project over the next 12 years.

“Together we can provide Cruise with the world’s best design, engineering and manufacturing expertise and global reach to establish them as the leader in autonomous vehicle technology,” G.M.’s chief executive, Mary T. Barra, said in a statement.  …  After the deal, Cruise will be valued at $14.5 billion, G.M. said."   Read more Hmmmm….  Adam Jonas valuation of Waymo (a driverless "technology stack"  retrofitted on top of a commodity (a car) ) > 10x GM’s valuation of Cruise (an integrated  car + driverless "technology stack") means what???… Probably that Waymo’s technology stack is perceived to be much more advanced (aka  safe  & market ready!?) than Cruise or is Adam that much off base (which I doubt very much).  He has all of GM (including Cruise) valued at ~$65B.  Is Waymo that much more advanced than Cruise???  Maybe!!! Also… why does GM need Honda??? See also WSJ: Honda to Invest $2.75 Billion in GM’s Self-Driving Car Unit  "…The deal with GM Cruise is a bit surprising as Honda has been in talks to partner with Alphabet Inc.’s driverless-car firm Waymo for nearly two years. Honda disclosed the talks with Waymo in December 2016, but the two companies have yet to announce concrete plans…."  Alain   

cid:<a”>  SoftBank, Toyota Team Up on Ride-Hailing, Self-Driving Cars

P. Alpeyev, Oct 3, " Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp. are betting on a future when consumers and businesses will order up their transportation needs on demand, forming a new venture that will develop and deploy ride-hailing and self-driving car technologies.  Monet Technologies Corp. will initially introduce ride-hailing services for Japanese public agencies and private companies, followed by a rollout of autonomous vehicles in 2020, …

The tech investor conglomerate and Asia’s biggest carmaker are seeking to catch up in an area where U.S. technology and car companies have taken the lead…. SoftBank will own just over 50 percent of the venture, while Toyota will control the rest. It will be initially capitalized at 2 billion yen ($17.5 million), and eventually reach 10 billion yen as needed…"  Read more Hmmmm…. What???  This has to be taken literally as Ride-hailing & Self-driving Cars  and NOT Driverless Cars and has no expectation to "…catch up…" else they need to change "yen’ to "US $" (100x their capitalization).  If Toyota really wants to do Driverless then Toyota needs to do what Ford and GM have done, set up a separate entity apart from the conventional "your father’s" Toyota if they want to do Driverless because "your father’s" Toyota seems to be very comfortable with just Self-driving.  Toyota’s Vision of Autonomous Cars Is Not Exactly Driverless  Alain

cid:<a”>Ex-Apple engineers unveil a next-generation sensor for self-driving cars

N. Slatt, Oct 1, "… today, the company is officially unveiling its product, a tiny box that can more directly measure objects in a given scene and the distance and velocity of those objects relative to one another….Aeva’s technology is able to separate objects based on distance and whether the object is moving away from or toward it. It’s also able to measure the velocity of the object, which enables the software to predict where cars and pedestrians are going…."  Read more Hmmmm….  As with everything, it is all about the details.  If it is really able to provide at each pixel not only {r,g,b} (or grey scale) but also {d} (distance) AND {v} (velocity) at a reasonable pixel density (~720p), at a reasonable frame rate (~ 20 hz), and with reasonable accuracy (say +/- 10% of truth), then this is REALLY GREAT!!  See also public relations article from their launch last year: Former Apple Engineers Working on New Eyes for Driverless Cars  Alain 

cid:<a”>  LM Industries asks cities to find uses for its autonomous vehicles

S. Edelstein, Sept 27, "Like many other companies, LM Industries wants to put autonomous vehicles on the streets of world cities. But instead of going the Uber or Waymo model of showing up in a city with its own fleet of vehicles and its own agenda, the company is asking local groups to figure out how they want to use its Olli low-speed autonomous electric shuttles.

LM Industries is launching a “fleet challenge” that invites local governments, companies, and other interested parties to propose three-month use programs for Olli vehicles. The first challenge will be open to entries from the greater Sacramento and Phoenix areas, but LM Industries plans to expand the concept globally. The winner in each city gets what the company calls a “pod” of Ollis (between two and five vehicles) to carry out its plans.

“Autonomous vehicles are known by some people, but are still new to others,” LM Industries CEO Jay Rogers told Digital Trends…" Read more Hmmmm….  Working to have Jay Rodgers’94 bring Olli to Central Jersey & Princeton.  Alain 

cid:<a”>  NSW driverless shuttle completes first passenger trip

A. McLean, Sept 26, "The New South Wales government has welcomed the first passengers on its Driverless Smart Shuttle at Sydney Olympic Park, with the service set to officially start next week, marking stage two of the state’s driverless trial.

Through its Smart Innovation Centre — a hub for the "collaborative" research and development of safe and efficient emerging transport technology — the NSW government in August last year partnered with HMI Technologies, NRMA, Telstra, IAG, and the Sydney Olympic Park Authority to conduct a two-year trial of the shuttle. …" Read more Hmmmm….  Congratulations on getting the trial started.  Alain

cid:<a”>cid:<a”>Seeing the Light: Our Call for a Standard Self-Driving Car Language to Communicate Intent

J. Shutko, Oct 2, " …Today, we’re calling on all self-driving vehicle developers, automakers and technology companies who are committed to deploying SAE level-4 vehicles — and believe these vehicles should communicate intent — to join us and share ideas to create an industry standard for communicating driving intent, whether it be driving, yielding or accelerating from a stop…"  Read more Hmmmm….  I applaud Ford’s desire to create a "standard for communicating" various aspects of SamrtDrivingCars, but if Ford begins its efforts by using "SAE level …" in its communications, it has failed from the very beginning.  Essentially no one, not even many Ford engineers, understands the "SAE levels".  If you really want to improve communications associated with this technology you’ll need to go back to the very beginning (As you well know, I suggest Safe-driving, Self-driving and Driverless) so that people might have a chance at understanding what mobility service you are trying to communicate about.  (Safe for Safety, Self for Comfort  & Convenience and Driverless for Mobility for All).  Alain

cid:<a”>  Tesla Reports Progress on Model 3 Car Production

N. Boudette, Oct 1,"…But through it all, Tesla managed to produce cars in high volume. On Tuesday, it reported a 50 percent jump in production in the third quarter from the preceding period. Over all, the company made 80,142 cars, of which 53,239 were Model 3 sedans.

Model 3 output nearly doubled from the previous quarter — a key achievement because that is the car Mr. Musk is counting on to drive Tesla to profitability.  The electric-car maker delivered 83,500 vehicles to customers. Of those, 55,840 were Model 3s, about three times as many as in the second quarter….Tesla reported that it had 8,048 Model 3s and 3,776 other cars in transit to customers at the end of the third quarter….

Nevertheless, the company faces many challenges, one of which is: Can it make money?… Tesla vehicles shipped to China are now hit with a tariff of 40 percent, the company said.  China is the world’s largest market for electric vehicles.  “Taking ocean transport costs and import tariffs into account, Tesla is now operating at a 55 percent to 60 percent cost disadvantage compared to the exact same car locally produced in China,” the company said…"  Read more Hmmmm…. An impressive accomplishment.  Better late than never.  GM nor Toyota nor… have done it with their Volt, Bolts, Priuses, …   Alain  See also:

cid:<a”>  Tesla Model 3 deliveries surge. Production rises too

R. Mitchell, Oct 2, "The company said it delivered 55,840 Model 3s to customers in the third quarter, three times as many as in the previous quarter. Including the Model S sedan and Model X SUV, Tesla said it delivered 83,500 vehicles total…. Morgan Stanley stock analyst Adam Jonas sent a note to investors after the news stating that “concerns remain on sustainability” for Tesla.

cid:<a”>  Chevy Bolt EV sales are slumping in the US, GM says production going to Canada and South Korea

F. Lambert, Oct 3, "GM is scheduled to increase production of the Chevy Bolt EV by the end of the year, but sales are slumping in the US in the meantime.  The automaker says that it is because they are focusing production for other markets.   GM delivered 3,949 Bolt EVs during  the last three months versus 6,710 units during the same period last year. That’s a 41.1% decrease in sales in the U.S., the biggest market for GM’s flagship all-electric vehicle…."  Read more Hmmmm…. Ouch!! Alain

cid:<a”>  Unraveling a Tesla Mystery: Lots (and Lots) of Parked Cars

 N. Boudette, Oct 1, "Elon Musk’s settlement of a securities-fraud case has removed a cloud over the company and its leader. But another remains: how its electric-car production is measuring up against Mr. Musk’s ambitious forecasts, a matter that a federal regulator is still investigating.  One group of internet sleuths thinks it has found clues in plain sight, pointing to lots and garages in California, New Jersey, Arizona and other states where Tesla cars have been found parked in large numbers…. 

Tesla has as many as 400 cars at an industrial site. …A Tesla spokesman, Dave Arnold, said by email that the large lots of vehicles were “logistics transit hubs” and added, “Anyone observing those lots will see a change from one day to the next.”…Gabe Hoffman, general partner at Accipiter Capital Management, a hedge fund that has shorted Tesla stock, said he was skeptical that the company would follow through. …  Read more Hmmmm…. It certainly would not be surprising that the dynamics of demand have not matched the dynamics of supply.  Model 3 production is now roughly 50% of what demand (Sales) has been.  Given the precarious position of the "shorters" we now have this "mystery".  Will the SEC investigate the securities fraud implications of the creator and promoters of this "mystery"?  Alain

cid:<a”>  Elon Musk Settled With the S.E.C., but Tesla’s Troubles Aren’t Over

D. Gelles, Sept 30, "Elon Musk was chastened by federal regulators on Saturday night, agreeing to step down as chairman of Tesla and to have his communications monitored.  But Mr. Musk, the exuberant, relentless billionaire chief executive of Tesla, showed no immediate signs of changing his style.

On Sunday at 1:08 a.m., just hours after settling the Securities and Exchange Commission’s fraud case stemming from his impulsive tweet on Aug. 7, Mr. Musk sent an email to all Tesla employees. He implored them to work hard, even though it was the weekend.

“One more day of going super hardcore and victory is ours!!” he wrote. “We are very close to achieving profitability and proving the naysayers wrong, but, to be certain, we must execute really well tomorrow (Sunday). If we go all out tomorrow, we will achieve an epic victory beyond all expectations. Go Tesla!!!” …"  Read more Hmmmm…. You’ve got to love his spunk.  Alain

cid:<a”>  Transit Bus Automation Project: Transferability of Automation Technologies, Final Report

A. Nasser, Sept 2018, "This report examines the feasibility of transferring 13 current automated systems technologies from light-duty vehicles and commercial trucks to 40-ft diesel transit buses. It explores the associated technical and safety challenges of implementing those systems in transit buses and ways to overcome some of the identified barriers to implementation. The transferability of each systems was given a grade of Red, Yellow, or Green, with Green indicating most ready to be transferred. 

System Transferability Summary

The following summarizes the grading of the 13 systems considered:
• Green
– Object Detection and Collision Avoidance (ODCA)
• Yellow
– Lane Keeping/Lane Centering (LK/LC)
– Steering Assist
– Docking
– Park Assist
– Park Out
– Yard Park
• Red
– Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB)
– Reverse Brake Assist
– Full Park Assist
– Valet Parking (Bus Yard)
– Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with/without Stop-and-Go
– Traffic Jam Assist (TJA) with Lane Keeping/Lane Centering (LK/LC)

Read more Hmmmm…. Well, the one and only green one is the big one where "Object" = "Pedestrians".   Alain


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

cid:<a”>  Safe, efficient self-driving cars could block walkable, livable communities

D. Piatkowski, Oct. 2, "… But as an urban planner and transportation scholar who, like most people in my field, has paid close attention to the discussion around driverless cars, I have come to understand that autonomous vehicles will not complement modern urban planning goals of building people-centered communities. In fact, I think they’re mutually exclusive: We can have a world of safe, efficient, driverless cars, or we can have a world where people can walk, bike and take transit in high-quality, human-scaled communities…."  Read more Hmmmm…. So not true.  Driverless is "high-quality transit". "Back in the day" we had a so-described city… Beijing circa 1978.  I was there and I can’t imagine "Beijing circa 1978" being anyone’s aspiration.  Alain

cid:<a”>  There’s no Google Maps for self-driving cars, so this startup is building it

E. Woyke, Oct 4, "Self-driving cars navigate using both onboard sensors that spot obstacles and detailed, 3-D maps of streets, signs, and infrastructure. But building these maps, and keeping them up to date, is a huge undertaking., a San Francisco–based startup, wants to make the process simpler with a service that provides continuously updated maps on demand.  …

Mapper credits its broad reach and speed to its network of freelancers….

The drivers use their own cars, and Mapper provides the mapping devices, which cost about $350 to build. One device model, which wraps around a car’s rear-view mirror, has four machine-vision cameras and sensors that measure linear and angular motion. Another sits on top of a car’s roof and consists of two machine-vision cameras, motion sensors, and a simple lidar. Drivers use that device to map dense city streets, because lidar is good at capturing the geometry of three-dimensional structures. The company claims its approach captures details that are accurate within five centimeters…

“With this new type of map, you get that localization baked in, which is really important because GPS alone isn’t stable or predictable enough.”…" Read more Hmmmm…. Whew!!! This one needs "many grains of salt" to believe.  Alain

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

cid:<a”>Renault’s EZ-ULTIMO is a self-driving luxury lounge

S. Dent, Oct 2, "… With its latest car, the EZ-ULTIMO, the automaker is focusing mostly on the "style" part. Unveiled appropriately at the Paris Auto Show, it’s a robotic EV concept that offers a "premium travel experience" rather than basic transportation, coddling occupants in wood, marble and leather…." Read more Hmmmm….Could Renault or the Paris Auto Show have it more wrong???  Unfortunately this may be the prevailing European view… use Driverless technology so that those that already have the most mobility get even more.  What a wasted use of the technology. C’mon Renault/ParisAutoShow/EU  Alain

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5th Symposium on
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  On the More Technical Side