50th edition of the 6th year of SmartDrivingCars

Thursday, November 22, 2018

 cid:<a href= Market Framework and Outlook for Automated Vehicle Systems

R. Mudge, A. Kornhauser, M. Hardison, Nov, 2018 “The surface transportation industry is in the early stages of a series of profound changes, stimulated by the development of increasingly sophisticated driving safety and automation technologies.   Considerable uncertainty exists regarding the speed with which these changes will take place and the nature of their impacts on safety, the overall demand for travel, vehicle sales, and vehicle ownership.  This report does not attempt to forecast the pace of these changes, instead advancing a list of “trigger points” that might serve as leading indicators of change….

What might these changes mean for actuaries and the insurance industry? Since Driverless vehicles will most likely be available only to fleet operators and not the general public, their actuarial and insurance implication will differ substantially from the implications of Safe and Self technologies that will be on vehicles purchased by consumers. But, will these vehicles continue to be insured in the same way as personal vehicles are today or will this practice change in some way. For example, if the burden of
liability shifts to the technology rather than the driver, then should actuaries focus on product liability rather than personal liability? To what extent does technology rather than personal behavior or demographics become the important link to liability? ” Read more  Hmmmm….  This is a very good report. Listen to SmartDrivingCar Podcast 68 with Dick Mudge. (Of course, I’m biased. 🙂)  Alain 

imap:// Driving Cars Podcast Episode 68 – Dick Mudge

F. Fishkin, Nov 22,  “The insurance industry hears about the outlook for automated vehicles. Co-author Dick Mudge joins Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin for Episode 68 of the Smart Driving Cars podcast. Plus…Uber, GM Cruise, Waymo, VW and more. 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 href=Uber insiders describe infighting and questionable decisions before its self-driving car killed a pedestrian

J. Bort, Nov 19, “… Its creators had forbidden the car from slamming on the brakes in an emergency maneuver, even if it detected “a squishy thing” — Uber’s term for a human or an animal, sources told Business Insider. .… Not new.  We’ve known that from the NTSB Preliminary Report… “The vehicle was factory equipped with several advanced driver assistance functions by Volvo Cars, the original manufacturer. The systems included a collision avoidance function with automatic emergency braking, known as City Safety, as well as functions for detecting driver alertness and road sign information. All these Volvo functions are disabled when the test vehicle is operated in computer control but are operational when the vehicle is operated in manual control”…
”…Much has been written about the death of Herzberg, most of it focused on the failings of the driver. But until now not much has been revealed about why engineers and senior leaders turned off the car’s ability to stop itself.  Insiders told us that it was a result of chaos inside the organization and may have been motivated, at least in part, to please the boss…

At the time of the accident, engineers knew the car’s driverless software was immature and having trouble recognizing or predicting the paths of a wide variety of objects, including pedestrians, in various circumstances, according to all the employees we talked to.  For instance, the car was poorly equipped for “near-range sensing,” so it wasn’t always detecting objects that were within a couple of meters of it, two people confirmed.”… Maybe so with respect to what they “don’t see”, but what about the things they do see but mis-classify such as something that is really to the side of the lane ahead, but appears directly ahead,or something that they can readily pass under but has been identified otherwise.   How do they avoid putting on the brakes or swerving in those situations??…

“…For example, the tree branches. For weeks on end, during a regular “triage” meeting where issues were prioritized by vice president of software Jon Thomason, tree branches kept coming up, one former engineer told us. Tree branches create shadows in the road that the car sometimes thought were physical obstacles, multiple people told us.

Uber’s software “would classify them as objects that are actually moving, and the cars would do something stupid, like stop or call for remote assistance,” one engineer explained. “Or the software might crash and get out of autonomy mode. This was a common issue that we were trying to fix…

On top of all this, a number of engineers at Uber said they believed the cars were not being thoroughly tested in safer settings. They wanted better simulation software, used more frequently….

Internally, people began talking about “Dara’s ride” and “Dara’s run.”  The stakes were high. If ATG died it could end the leadership team’s high-paying jobs. Senior engineers were making over $400,000 and directors were paid in the $1 million range between salary, bonus, and stock options, multiple employees said….

Two days after the product team distributed the document discussing “rider-experience metrics” and limiting “bad experiences” to one per ride, another email went out. This one was from several ATG engineers. It said they were turning off the car’s ability to make emergency decisions on its own like slamming on the brakes or swerving hard.  Their rationale was safety.  “These emergency actions have real-world risk if the VO [vehicle operator or safety driver] does not take over in time and other drivers are not attentive, so it is better to suppress plans with emergency actions in online operation,” the email read.

In other words, such quick moves can startle other drivers on the road and if there was a real threat, the safety driver would have already taken over, they reasoned. So they resolved to limit the car’s actions and rely wholly on the safety driver’s alertness…”  … This make perfect sense, if you are developing a “Self-driving” car that has “adult supervision” all the time.  But if your entire valuation is based on having a “Driverless car” that must be able to operate without “adult supervision” else it is useless, except as a publicity stunt, then the logic is absolutely wrong…. 

“….Within ATG, we refused to take responsibility. They blamed it on the homeless lady, the Latina with a criminal record driving the car, even though we all knew Perception was broken,” one software developer said, referring to the software that allows the car to interpret the data its sensors collect. “But our car hit a person. No one inside ATG said, ‘We did something wrong and we should change our behavior…”  Read more  Hmmmm…  Part of the blame here is the lack of appreciation of how different “Driverless” is from “Self-driving”.  They are two very different animals and require very different mindsets as is obvious from this reporting. One can also lay the blame on the “SAE levels” which fail to engender this different mindset.  All of this is very hard and there are many challenges, but “faking it to impress the boss” should not be part of the process.  Hopefully the mindset at Waymo and GM/Cruise is different.  It must be.  Alain

cid:<a href=VW says it’s 1 to 2 years behind Waymo’s self-driving-car development

A.Krok, Nov 19, “Volkswagen, being the pragmatic bunch of Germans that it is, is fully willing to admit that it might not be leading the drive toward full vehicle autonomy.

Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess told Germany’s Welt am Sonntag newspaper that it’s not leading the autonomous charge by a long shot, Reuters reports. Diess estimates that Google’s Waymo is approximately 1 or 2 years ahead of his own company….”  Read more  Hmmmm…Nothing that is in this article even suggests that VW is even focused on the same business as Waymo, which is to create a Driverless mobility machine.  It will take VW way more than “two years” to create the mind-set, let alone the technology that the mind-set would create in order to “compete” with Waymo. Alain

cid:<a href= GM’s self-driving unit Cruise is expanding to Seattle

K. Korosec, Nov 19, .”Cruise, the self-driving company acquired by GM in 2016, is expanding to Seattle as it seeks more engineering talent to develop its technology.

The company doesn’t have any plans right now to test its autonomous vehicles in the city. Instead, GM Cruise plans to set up offices in Seattle to attract and hire between 100 to 200 engineers by the end of 2019…”  Read more  Hmmmm… Seems weird.  I guess that is where the talent is, but at some point the making of a driverless car that actually works becomes serious enough to be done by serious dedicated professionals and not by a bunch of people that jump from one hype to another because in the end, you get what Uber’s gotten.  Bad decisions.   This is a serious business that needs serious access to resources that needs to be spent seriously.  Alain

cid:<a href= Victorian toll road operator puts public trust in fully autonomous vehicles in the breakdown lane

M. Johnston, Nov 21, 2018 “Drivers want tech assistance, not takeover.Victorian tollroad operator EastLink says the autonomous vehicle hype bubble has well and truly burst for motorists, more of whom are showing a reluctance to cede full control to machines.

A survey of 18,000 road users, which EastLink claims to be the world’s largest of its type, suggests that although drivers are warming to features like adaptive cruise control and lane keeping technology, they still don’t trust robots enough to let them drive on their own.  ...  Duh!  No kidding!  Surveyed were people who own and drive their own car and ask if they want one that they can’t drive.  Of course they’ll say no.  That’s why Driverless has always been a “mobility machine” that is put to work delivering rides whenever there is demand by anyone, 24/7.  It does not sit around waiting for its one owner and used at best 5% of the day.

“…More than 80 percent of respondents indicated they would be happy to travel as a passenger in a fully self-driving car if there was a human driver monitoring the situation who could intervene and take control if need be...Yet, if each respondent was asked … “do you feel uncomfortable that there isn’t  “a human driver monitoring the situation” when you take the people mover at your favorite major airport or when you ride an elevator?” They’d respond…”what are you talking about????”
…  More women did, however, report wanting collision avoidance technology, blind spot warnings and automatic parking assistance compared to men.”  Read more  Hmmmm….  Look at the survey announcement.  Alain

cid:<a href= The American Dream Is Alive. In China.

J. Hernandez, Nov 18, “China is still much poorer over all than the United States. But the Chinese have taken a commanding lead in that most intangible but valuable of economic indicators: optimism.

In a country still haunted by the Cultural Revolution, where politics are tightly circumscribed by an authoritarian state, the Chinese are now among the most optimistic people in the world — much more so than Americans and Europeans, according to public opinion surveys.

What has changed?   Most of all, an economic expansion without precedent in modern history.

Eight hundred million people have risen out of poverty. That’s two and a half times the population of the United States….” Read more  Hmmmm….  hard to believe.  Made my first trip to China essentially 40 years to the day in November 1978 as part of what was the “first” scientific exchange between the US & China since the revolution.  Lectured on Port Automation and Containerization.  There was zero in China. (Hong Kong was not  China, nor was/is Taiwan).  Beijing airport terminal was no larger than Sherrerd Hall.  In Beijing there was Democracy Wall, Buses, a handful of Russian limousines and millions of bicycles. The Friendship Store  was the only place “westerners” could buy stuff and the Peking Duck Restaurant (in Peking) was essentially the only non-hotel/cafeteria eatery in Beijing.  Shanghai didn’t have any and we attended the “first” concert of western music in Shanghai. It was an eye-opening 2 weeks.  A totally unbelievably economic transformation during my professional life.  Congratulations!!  Alain 

cid:<a href=Michael Bloomberg: Why I’m Giving $1.8 Billion for College Financial Aid

M. Bloomberg, Nov 18, “Here’s a simple idea I bet most Americans agree with: No qualified high school student should ever be barred entrance to a college based on his or her family’s bank account. Yet it happens all the time.

When colleges review applications, all but a few consider a student’s ability to pay. As a result, high-achieving applicants from low- and middle-income families are routinely denied seats that are saved for students whose families have deeper pockets. This hurts the son of a farmer in Nebraska as much as the daughter of a working mother in Detroit….I was lucky: My father was a bookkeeper who never made more than $6,000 a year. …

And so, I am donating an additional $1.8 billion to Hopkins that will be used for financial aid for qualified low- and middle-income students.  This will make admissions at Hopkins forever need-blind; finances will never again factor into decisions….

There may be no better investment that we can make in the future of the American dream — and the promise of equal opportunity for all.”  Read more  Hmmmm….  More just good news.  Kudos to Michael Bloomberg.  My father was an escaped prisoner of war, emigrated here and started over at absolute zero at the age of 49 in the  land of opportunity, never made over $6,000 as a welder, but made it possible for me to get an education.  While I haven’t made even an infinitesimal percentage of what Michael has made, I have helped a few get an education and continue to argue that while Princeton is need blind, given its endowment it should go father and be free to all.  Finances should not play any role in any accepted applicant’s decision to attend.  Need blind is great for the rich and the poor but is lacking for the middle class who are asked to “pay their fair share to attend Princeton, while getting a ‘full ride” at a “safety school”.   Princeton should not be placing a family for which Princeton has decided to offer admission in that kind of precarious position. 

Some argue that such a policy would be a windfall for the very rich.  Not so because Princeton is very capable in convincing those that can readily afford the tuition to donate even more.  Do the math; in the end, donations grow way more than the lost tuition and fees.  Plus Princeton recruits an entering class as diligently as Kentucky recruits a basketball team.  Quality is all that matters; desire to pay disappears.  Alain

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

cid:<a”>  Police can remotely drive your stolen Tesla into custody

A. Vleugels, Nov 19, “Imagine this: You’re leaving work, walking to your car, and you find an empty parking spot — someone stole your brand new Tesla (or whatever fancy autonomous car you’re driving). When you call the police, they ask your permission for a “takeover,” which you promptly give them. Next thing you know, your car is driving itself to the nearest police station. And here’s the kicker — if the thief is inside he will remain locked inside until police can arrest them….”  Read more  Hmmmm….  Totally sophomoric as well as half baked.  Don’t worry, this capability won’t be abused.  Alain  

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

Calendar of Upcoming Events:

cid:<a href=
Self-Driving Cars – Policies and Technologies
Dec 6, 2018
6:00 -> 8:45 pm
1 Madison Avenue, 5th Fl.  (Yext)
New York NY 10010

The End of Driving Workshop
Planning for Autonomous Vehicles Now

Dec 6, 2018
Mississauga, ON, Canada

imap:<a href=

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

Catalog of Videos of Presentations @ 2nd Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit
Photos from 2nd Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit

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

  On the More Technical Side