55th edition of the 6th year of SmartDrivingCars

Thursday, December 27, 2018

 cid:<a href= Top 10 Potential Surprises for

A. Jonas, Dec. 20, “… #6. Safety drivers not removed from autonomous car fleets. While we are optimistic on the direction and end-state of AVs, we do not expect the tech to be “ready for prime time” in 2019.  Look for expansion of AV fleets in the US to have at least one if not two safety drivers to satisfy regulations and mitigate risk for years to come. …”  Read more  Hmmmm….  Yipes!!!  Sorry for not ending the year on an optimistic note.  What may be becoming obvious is that the AI technology that replaces the driver may no longer be the critical path item.

“Expansion”  and “safety drivers” are oxymorons.  Expansion, especially in the tech world is only possible if is associated with substantial labor productivity.  Do you think that it is expensive to for NJ Transit to employ bus drivers?  How much must those “Safety Drivers” cost Waymo, Apple, Cruise, etc with their “Silicon Valley”  narcissism  and self-worth.  Figuring out how use Driverless technology such that it is valued and respected by society may well be THE critical path item.   What is known for certain is that, if Driverless is to become mobility as a service, it is necessary that the service has substantially better labor proclivity than today’s personal automobile or Uber/Lyft/DiDi Chauffeured mobility. 

The automobile has been able to thrive only because it leveraged its ability to have the driver, the beneficiary of the technology, personally absorb the labor cost of delivering that mobility.  We pay ourselves to Chauffeur ourselves  and never think about paying ourselves.  Our significant others, friends and children endear us to Chauffeur them.  Thus the automobile’s labor cost has been elegantly internalized to such an extent that it is perceived to be completely free.  We also internalize the cost of our labor in watching over and maintaining out personal car(s).

All of these internalized costs spill out and become real tangible costs for any system for which we decide, for whatever reason, to not do them for ourselves any more.   So the critical contribution that we make when driving is not actually the shifting of the gears, etc, but, instead,  driving like everyone else.  In a sense, just blending in without being noticed.  Today’s cars provide personal mobility without incurring an explicit labor cost.  Just to be even, Driverless cars must do the same.  That means No attendant nor Safety driver and  that’s just to be even.  To be better than today’s cars, then Driverless will need deliver shared rides.

 For Driverless technology to achieve any worthwhile scale, it will need to do it without one, let alone two, attendants on-board.   Alain

imap:// Driving Cars Podcast Episode 73

F. Fishkin,  Dec. 27,  “What a year it has been on the road to autonomous vehicles. From Waymo to Uber and all of the companies in between, 2018 has been eventful. Where are we now and what’s to come? Join Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin for Episode 73 of the Smart Driving Cars podcast!  ”  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=Driverless Cars Will Be the Biggest Investment Write-Off Ever

A. Wahlman, Dec 21, “In December 2015, I published an article on Seeking Alpha titled “The most overhyped story of 2015 — and 2016: Driverless cars.” We were supposed to be driving around in driverless robotaxis by 2015 or 2016, but it didn’t happen.
Now, three years later, it still hasn’t happened. There is no shortage of talk in the automotive industry about this happening very, very soon — and Alphabet Inc.’s (GOOGL – Get Report) Waymo is widely considered to be in the lead for deploying driverless cars successfully. But … it hasn’t happened yet.

There is no shortage of good demos. There is also no shortage of geo-fenced demos, where the car will perform the driverless task in a very confined (“safe”) geography. Furthermore, there is also no shortage of demos where there is a “safety driver” behind the wheel, ready to take over on a split second’s notice. Waymo fits very well into both of these key constraints.

However, there is simply no driverless car yet, in the relevant sense: A car that will drive you — or a blind 5-year-old or 105-year-old — anywhere, anytime  while you’re sleeping in the back seat. That’s really the only meaningful definition of a driverless car. It’s one where there is no human being required to “sometimes” intervene in the driving task…”  Read more  Hmmmm….  Yup!!!  Reality hasn’t achieved the hype.  Much work remains to be done, mostly dealing with sociological challenges, rather than technical challenges…  but still worth pursuing for those non-faint of heart  Alain

cid:<a href=Carlos Ghosn: Fallen Hero or Betrayed Emperor?  …

M. Sena, Jan 2019, ”  …THERE IS ONE person who can surely commiserate with Carlos Ghosn, and that is P.G. Gyllenhammar, the chairman of the board of AB VOLVO in 1993 when he was forced out of the company as a result of a failed merger between VOLVO and RENAULT. Both Gyllenhammar and Ghosn were chairmen of companies that RENAULT wanted to acquire, VOLVO for Gyllenhammar and NISSAN for Ghosn. Both med were betrayed by their second-in-command. Both men lost their chairman positions. There the similarities end. Ghosn is suspected of legal wrong-doing (although he strenuously denies the charges and has not been convicted); Gyllanhammar was definitely never accused of anything illegal. It now appears that there is reason to believe that Carlos Ghosn’s present legal tribulations are less related to what he has been accused of by Japan’s authorities, under reporting of income, and more the result of his being the primary proponent of a merger between RENAULT and NISSAN that is more of a takeover by RENAULT….” Read more  Hmmmm…. Most interesting perspective!! As well as other sections on Amazon and Cities… Enjoy!  Alain

cid:<a href=A Vision for the Future of Transportation in Massachusetts

I. Davis, Dec 25, “On Dec. 14, the Commission on the Future of Transportation in the Commonwealth released its two-part report on transportation needs and challenges facing the Commonwealth between 2020 and 2040. The commission was established by executive order in January to provide recommendations to the Baker-Polito Administration on how to best account for potential changes in transportation in the future.

“At the heart of the mammoth report’s many recommendations, said Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack, is fixing public transit and putting it on sound financial footing, with the explicit goal of reducing the number of cars on the road,” reports Adam Vaccaro who covers transportation, infrastructure, and commuter issues for the Globe…

Cordon area congestion pricing was also a recommendation, but the governor’s track record on congestion pricing, let alone cordon area tolling, is not exactly inspiring.

”  Read more  Hmmmm….  Be sure to look at the 2-part Report.  By the way, why is congestion pricing not called value pricing??  It basically prices along the “value” curve.  So it is really value pricing.  Congestion is just a by-product with negative perceptions.  I’ve never been able to understand why traffic engineers used such harsh terminology to describe what is otherwise a pretty good and valuable idea.  Also, the report has a section on Connected & Automated and good  comments in the Listening Session Notes.  Alain

cid:<a href=Tesla automatically avoids crash caught on video, says owner

F. Lambert, Dec 22, “A Tesla owner says that Autopilot automatically applied the emergency brake to avoid a crash caught on his TeslaCam last week.  Tesla vehicles are equipped with an automatic emergency braking (AEB) feature powered by the Autopilot driver assist system.

It can automatically detect a potential impact and apply the brakes in order to avoid the impact or limit the force of the impact…”   Read more  Hmmmm….  Watch the video… Well, maybe…. It is nice that AutoPilot stopped the car, but… Why was the driver on autoPilot when…

1. he clearly saw that there were flashing emergency lights ahead,

2. cut in and was basically tailgating the guy ahead, and

3. this is the intelligent cruise control feature at work (which we know works well) and not the Automated Emergency Braking (AEB) system which we question if it works at all.  The car ahead was moving so everything worked well.  This scenario is nice, but this scenario doesn’t address the real problem with AEBs … disregarding stationary objects ahead in our current lane.

What if the driver had not changed lanes, what would the Tesla AEB have done when faced with a stationary object in the lane ahead??   Alain

cid:<a href=Tesla Supercharger gets taken over by anti-Tesla pickup truck drivers acting aggressively

F. Lambert, Dec 22, “In what appears to be an act of protest against Tesla, a bunch of pickup truck drivers used their trucks to block access to a Supercharger station and reportedly yelled profanities about Tesla until they were removed from the premises. The incident happened in Hickory, North Carolina last weekend.

A Tesla owner and Reddit user Leicina stopped to charge at the local Supercharger station located next to a Sheetz, but all the stalls were blocked by 3 large pickup trucks.  This is not exactly uncommon and it is referred to in EV community as ‘Icing’ a charging station – when ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles are occupying a space for an EV…..”  Read more  Hmmmm…. Just think what these guys will do to Driverless cars.  No contest!!  Maybe the most basic/important is how to get these folks/”Gilets Jaunes” to “behave”/”back-off”.  Alain 

cid:<a href=Zoox Inc. Snags First California Permit To Transport Passengers In Self-Driving Cars

F. Paris, Dec 23, “Self-driving cars, once a futuristic projection, have already become old news in California. More than 60 companies currently hold permits to test autonomous vehicles, according to the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.

But on Friday, California passed a new milestone when it allowed one self-driving car startup, Zoox Inc., to transport passengers for the first time.  Zoox received its permit under a pilot program launched in April by the California Public Utilities Commission, or CPUC.

“This is a really, really significant milestone as we head towards commercial launch, which we have stated is toward the end of 2020,” Bert Kaufman, head of corporate and regulatory affairs at Zoox, told Reuters.  There are a few catches. Zoox can’t charge for the trips, and each autonomous vehicle, or AV, has to have a certified backup driver….”   Read more  Hmmmm…. This is somewhat significant in that it is a “first” in California, which is substantially behind Arizona in doing this type of service.  Plus, what is being done remains a far cry from what needs to be started in order for any of this to become a viable business… doing it without attendants on board and accommodating/encouraging ride-sharing, each of which are currently strictly forbidden by California Public Utilities Regulations.  So this first helps Zoox’s Flip Valuation, but does little to make it into a viable on-going business.  Alain

cid:<a href=Tesla to start testing new Autopilot Hardware 3 in employee vehicles

F. Lambert, Dec 27, “Tesla is working to bring to market its new Autopilot Hardware 3, which consists of a new neural net computer that they claimed will be the ‘world’s most advanced computer for autonomous driving’.  The company is now testing the new hardware in employee vehicles as part of its ‘Full Self-Driving Test Program’.

Earlier this year, Tesla sought “hundreds of employees” to test its full self-driving system and offers free Autopilot upgrades with new purchases.  The automaker is retrofitting participants’ vehicles with the new computer to test the self-driving system.   …”  Read more  Hmmmm…. Great use of employees and effective real-world testing by responsible and properly motivated individuals.  While they may not get, nor is it necessarily in Tesla’s best interests to get,  to Driverless.  They are perfecting Self-driving!.   Alain

cid:<a href=Automated Driving System Demonstration Grants

Staff, Dec. 21, “U.S. DOT announces the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for Automated Driving System (ADS) Demonstration Grants. Up to $60,000,000 in Federal funding to provide grants to eligible entities to fund demonstration projects that test the safe integration of automated driving systems into the Nation’s on-road transportation system. View the NOFO at more  Hmmmm…. Very interesting, especially since it is really focused on Driverless Cars, or Self-driving Buses.  Wrt Self-driving Buses, the best Demonstration remains Intelligent Cruise Control on Buses using the XBL, although, since that is “only” “Level 1” technology it may be deemed unresponsive (Solicitation is limited to “Level 3 and above” (whatever that is????)).

No problem because if the PANYNJ doesn’t see the RoI basis that makes Self-driving buses on the XBL a no-brainer, $10M in Fed funding isn’t going to change anyone’s mind.  Wrt Driverless Cars, $10M doesn’t really help any technology get over the hump to driverless, but it could certainly help address sociological and societal roadblocks to this emerging technology.  Alain

cid:<a href=Ready for self-driving future? Sorry, it’s drizzling out

Staff, Nov 30, “Even a little crummy weather might pose big problems for self-driving systems.

New research from Michigan State University suggests light rain and drizzle can confound the algorithms that autonomous systems use to detect pedestrians, bicyclists and other road users.  The findings raise the prospect that until these algorithms can better handle a variety of weather conditions, self-driving vehicles may be limited to Sun Belt states, or fleets of vehicles might need to be grounded when weather conditions are subpar….” Read more  Hmmmm…. Not surprising, since we have problems with a little drizzle.  My wife makes me turn on my windshield wipers when it rains; else, I couldn’t drive.  Asking the algorithms to do as well with rain hitting the lens as without is asking the wrong question.  How about developing an effective lens wiping system or the combination of a windshield and wiping system that enables a clear view.  Alain

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

cid:<a href=Elevating the ridesharing experience

Staff, Dec 2018, “McKinsey & Company and LUNAR are on a journey to gain insights and provide our perspective on the rapidly evolving rideshare landscape. This effort brings together industry and market analytics, deep consumer insights, and design to explore growth opportunities…” Read more  Hmmmm…. Appropriate initiative, but seems very superficial.  Keep working!! Alain

cid:<a href=Autonomous driving startup AutoBrain to start Level-3 car sales in 2020

J. Shen, Dec 26, “eijing-based autonomous driving company AutoBrain and Chinese auto manufacturer Great Wall Motors have developed a prototype Level 3 (L3) self-driving car, which they plan to release on the market by 2020, reports 36Kr.

L3 autonomous vehicles are able to take full control of driving and operate when certain conditions are met—for example when driving on freeways…. ”  Read more  Hmmmm…. Wow!??  Tesla, GM, Volvo, Subaru, … have been offering this for “years”.  What is the big deal here that requires a startup.  By 2020 this will be the norm for the legacy OEMs, if it isn’t already for those outside of China.  Alain

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

Calendar of Upcoming Events:

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