8th edition of the 7th year of SmartDrivingCars

Friday, February 15, 2019

cid:<a href= Facing opposition, Amazon scraps New York HQ2 plans

T. Lee, Feb. 14, “Amazon is canceling its controversial plan to build a new corporate campus in the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens. The plan, which included almost $3 billion in subsidies and tax breaks, provoked a grassroots backlash.

“The commitment to build a new headquarters requires positive, collaborative relationships with state and local elected officials who will be supportive over the long-term,” Amazon said in a statement. “While polls show that 70 percent of New Yorkers support our plans and investment, a number of state and local politicians have made it clear that they oppose our presence and will not work with us to build the type of relationships that are required to go forward with the project.”.. ” Read more  Hmmmm….  An example of what happens when the “Welcome Mat’ fails to include on one side…the grass roots… those who were supposed to be direct beneficiaries (those who were supposed to get the jobs) and those whose “back yards” were to be disrupted.  And on the other side …  those being welcomed failed to “wipe their feet” by extracting too many incentives and failing to be respective of local values. 

Similarly with the California HSR.  California put out the Welcome Mat, but the technology didn’t properly wipe its feet by promoting optimistic schedules and low-balling cost estimates, both of which finally caught up to them. 

Driverless Shared-ride mobility will have to avoid making similar faux pas; else, it simply isn’t going to happen.  Alain  Smart Driving Cars Podcast Episode 91

Feb. 8, F. Fishkin,  , “What can autonomous vehicle companies learn from the Amazon HQ2 cancellation in NY? Plenty, says Princeton University’s Alain Kornhauser. That and more in Episode 91 of the Smart Driving Cars Podcast with co-host Fred Fishkin. ”   Hmmmm…. Now you can just say “Alexa, play the Smart Driving Cars podcast!” .  Ditto with Siri, and GooglePlay.  Alain

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cid:<a href= An agency hid Tesla crash data for nearly two years. Is that any way to build trust in driverless cars?

R. Mitchell, Feb 14, “It was an extraordinary vote of confidence for autonomous driving by the nation’s top vehicle safety agency. Two years ago, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced crash rates for Tesla cars dropped by almost 40% after installation of a driver-assist technology called Autosteer.

“Forty percent. That was an eye-popper,” said R.A. Whitfield, director of Quality Control Systems Corp. and an expert in statistics. So “breathtaking and remarkable,” he said, that he didn’t quite believe it. “Extraordinary claims ought to be backed by extraordinary evidence.”

But when Whitfield requested the supporting data, he encountered a thick bureaucratic wall at NHTSA, the taxpayer-funded agency primarily responsible for vehicle safety in the United States. On Nov. 27, 2018, after a federal lawsuit and almost two years, NHTSA finally released the data. Whitfield was shocked. In a detailed, 25-page report issued on Feb. 8, he said the NHTSA study violated basic principles of standard research methodology to the point where no conclusion of any kind could be justified

The episode raises questions that go far beyond whether Tesla’s Autopilot is safe. It draws attention to the collection and transparency of data that will be crucial to crafting laws and regulations governing the use of vehicles that, in whole or in part, can drive themselves — and the extent to which driverless-technology companies can win public trust.

The episode raises questions that go far beyond whether Tesla’s Autopilot is safe. It draws attention to the collection and transparency of data that will be crucial to crafting laws and regulations governing the use of vehicles that, in whole or in part, can drive themselves — and the extent to which driverless-technology companies can win public trust.

Most researchers and the general public have little data available to understand what happened in that crash. Uber’s reaction was to apologize, pay the victim’s family a legal settlement and avoid a public trial. The National Transportation Safety Board, or NTSB, released a preliminary report last May that noted that the Volvo car’s automatic brakes were turned off and that the woman was wearing dark clothes and was hard to see. But little underlying data about Uber’s driverless system was revealed….”

Read more Hmmmm…“…Alain Kornhauser, who heads Princeton University’s autonomous vehicle engineering program, has another problem with the NHTSA finding: The data show that, if determination of safety is the goal, NHTSA is asking the wrong questions, he said. He notes that the NHTSA study didn’t assess whether Autosteer was turned on or off when the air bags were triggered.

“Isn’t the issue of safety of Autopilot the question of when Autopilot is engaged versus not engaged? The question is not whether Autopilot is available or not,” Kornhauser said. “Maybe we need more transparency. What we probably need is for NHTSA to release all of the data that they were given by Tesla.”…”  .. Alain

cid:<a href=Autonomous Vehicle Disengagement Reports 2018

CA DMV, Feb 12, links to the Vehicle Disengagement Reportings for the 12 months Dec 1, 2017 through Nov 30, 2018.  Read more Hmmmm… Very informative. Read especially Tesla, Waymo and GM/Cruise..  Alain

cid:<a href=Driverless Car Data Shows Robots Are Improving But Still Need Human Hands

T. Higins, Feb 13, “…The California Department of Motor Vehicles on Wednesday released self-reported data from companies with permits to test autonomous vehicles on public roads. The reports offer a glimpse into the progress of developing driverless technology, which could reshape personal transportation by improving road safety and potentially creating massive new businesses….

Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo, which has logged the most test miles on public roads, recorded about 1.2 million miles in the reporting period that ran from December 2017 through last November. That was more than triple the number of miles logged a year ago. Its rate of disengagement improved to 0.09 per 1,000 miles from 0.179 in 2017… a 50% improvement.  Not bad, but probably still at least 10x too high.  “Good enough” depends on Waymo’s precise definition of a disengagement.  In the “worse case” it means that Waymo’s system would cash once every 10,000 miles had a human not been behind the wheel.  (Technically the rate could be worse if Waymo only drove “easy miles” throughout the year (so that Waymo could report a good rate?); however, it would be so stupid of them to do that.  Waste all that time and money driving 1.2M miles just for bragging rights, no way!  It is more likely that Waymo, and all other serious competitors, drove harder-than-normal miles in an effort to stress test, learn and improve.  They each know that if they can’t get their systems to go at least 100,000 miles between crashes caused by the automated driving system, then they can’t be Driverless and are relegated to “Self-driving”.  In that case, they should simply do what Tesla is doing…  Requiring (not as well as many would like) adult supervision at all times.  They are not playing in the Cal DMV autonomous vehicle testing game.  They are just doing self-driving on public streets.  In your private driveway…that’s a whole different story…

General Motors’ driverless unit Cruise, which focuses its testing in San Francisco, more than tripled the miles it tested to 447,621 last year. Its rate of disengagement improved to 0.19 miles per 1,000 from 0.80 a year ago… a Improvement to Waymo’s “2017” rate.  Not bad!  This may imply that they are only 1 year behind.


A. Davies, Feb 13, “…But like many standardized tests, the reports miss a lot. They are poor tools for understanding how well this technology works, and how each company’s progress compares to their competitors’. Some in the space gripe that the reports risk encouraging engineers to baby their cars in a bid to keep disengagements low, to juke the stats.

Still, in a new industry built on complex software and hardware, in which secrecy is paramount, any public information can be revealing. And there is knowledge to be gleaned from these thousands upon thousands of pages…”  Read more Hmmmm…  Another take on the DMV data.  While these data, (as well as essentially all data), “miss a lot”, these are very “revealing”.  Realizing that these data are only information and aren’t definitive of anything, designing testing plans to “pad the numbers” is simply stupid.  The tests are focused on learning and improving. Everyone knows that you learn best by challenging your limitations.  Easy tests reveal nothing.

Cheating/fraud is a completely different animal.  Safety/Crashes can’t be swept under the rug when this technology is used to generate revenue, and no one has forgotten the VW scandal.  Consequently everyone is behaving above board trying to get to a point when crashes are very unlikely and revenue can start to be generated.     Alain.

cid:<a href=Tesla reports no autonomous miles in California again – what does it mean for ‘full self-driving’?

F. Lambert, Feb 13, “Tesla’s ‘Autonomous Mode Disengagement’ report for 2018 has been released by the California DMV. It shows that the automaker is still not officially testing fully autonomous driving in California.

That’s despite CEO Elon Musk saying that the California-based company is aiming to have its ‘full self-driving capability’ ready this year and running its own employee “full self-driving program”. Should Tesla owners with the ‘Full Self-Driving package’ be worried about this? I am on the fence.

To Tesla’s defense, they undoubtedly have the great advantage of running their software on ‘shadow mode’ on hundreds of thousands of vehicles. They also say that they test vehicles “on public roads in various locations around the world” – meaning not in California.  But on the other side, it is weird that Tesla appears to be actively avoiding California, the company’s home, to test fully autonomous vehicles.

I also find it hard to reconcile this with the “full self-driving program” that Tesla is running with employees.

We reported last year that Tesla is recruiting employees to enroll in its ‘full self-driving program’ to install its latest HW3 in their own Tesla vehicles and test its latest self-driving software.

I find it hard to believe that some of the “hundreds” of employees in this program are not in California.  Read more Hmmmm…  Tesla must just feel that its cars are not “autonomous vehicles”  They are just vehicles in which driver’s hands aren’t on wheel and feet aren’t on brakes/accelerator some of the time.  Which is a self-driving vehicle (“SAE Level -47.3”) and is not an “autonomous vehicle”.  It doesn’t even have LiDAR, how could it be?  Seems as if all the other ones do.  Who knows what “full self-driving” is.  Is that like a “Full Monty“??

cid:<a href= Google’s Waymo risks repeating Silicon Valley’s most famous blunder

T. Lee, Feb. 14, “Everyone in Silicon Valley knows the story of Xerox inventing the modern personal computer in the 1970s and then failing to commercialize it effectively. Yet one of Silicon Valley’s most successful companies, Google’s Alphabet, appears to be repeating Xerox’s mistake with its self-driving car program.

Xerox launched its Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) in 1970. By 1975, its researchers had invented a personal computer with a graphical user interface that was almost a decade ahead of its time. Unfortunately, the commercial version of this technology wasn’t released until 1981 and proved to be an expensive flop. Two much younger companies—Apple and Microsoft—co-opted many of Xerox’s ideas and wound up dominating the industry.

Google’s self-driving car program, created in 2009, appears to be on a similar trajectory. By October 2015, Google was confident enough in its technology to put a blind man into one of its cars for a solo ride in Austin, Texas.

But much like Xerox 40 years earlier, Google has struggled to bring its technology to market. The project was rechristened Waymo in 2016, and Waymo was supposed to launch a commercial driverless service by the end of 2018. But the service Waymo launched in December was not driverless and barely commercial. It had a safety driver in every vehicle, and it has only been made available to a few hundred customers.

Today, a number of self-driving startups are aiming to do to Waymo what Apple did to Xerox years ago. Nuro is a driverless delivery startup that announced Monday that it raised $940 million in venture capital. Another, called Voyage, is testing a self-driving taxi service in one of the nation’s largest retirement communities.

Right now, these companies’ self-driving services aren’t as sophisticated as Waymo’s. Their vehicles have top speeds of 25 miles per hour. But Apple started out making under-powered products, too, then it gradually worked its way up-market, ultimately eclipsing Xerox. If Waymo isn’t strategic, companies like Nuro and Voyage could do the same thing to the pioneering self-driving company…….. ” Read more Hmmmm….  Very interesting take!!  Plus they are sitting on an option to buy 20k Jaguars and 62k Pacificas.  The longer they sit on those option the closer others age going to get to Xerox/Kodak/Blockbuster Waymo.  Alain   Vehicle Deaths Estimated at 40,000 for Third Straight Year

Press release, Feb. 13, ” For the first time since the Great Recession, the U.S. has experienced three straight years of at least 40,000 roadway deaths, according to preliminary estimates released Feb. 13 by the National Safety Council. In 2018, an estimated 40,000 people lost their lives to car crashes – a 1% decline from 2017 (40,231 deaths) and 2016 (40,327 deaths). About 4.5 million people were seriously injured in crashes last year – also a 1% decrease over 2017.

Florida, Hawaii, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., had at least a 5.8% spike in fatalities, according to Council estimates. Five states experienced declines of more than 9.4%: Kansas, Maine, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Wyoming.

The Council’s preliminary estimate signals a leveling off after years of consecutive rises. Discouragingly, last year’s estimated 40,000 deaths is 14% higher than four years ago. Driver behavior is likely contributing to the numbers staying stubbornly high. The Council’s estimates do not reveal causation; however, 2017 final data show spikes in deaths among pedestrians, while distraction continues to be involved in 8% of crashes, and drowsy driving in an additional 2%…”  Read more Hmmmm….  Continued Non-good news.  Alain

cid:<a href=Driverless delivery startup Nuro raises almost $1 billion

T. Lee, Feb. 14, “The autonomous delivery startup Nuro has raised $940 million from The Softbank Vision Fund, making it one of the most lavishly funded startups in the driverless car sector. The news comes after Nuro became one of the first startups in the world to begin operating a fully driverless commercial service on public roads.

Under a deal announced last year, a Kroger-owned Fry’s Foods store in the Phoenix area is using Nuro’s technology to deliver groceries to nearby customers. Initially, the deliveries were conducted by modified Toyota Priuses. But in December, Nuro added two custom-designed robots to its fleet. These robots are smaller than a conventional car and are fully driverless—they don’t even have space inside for a human driver to sit.

“Our goal this year is to really scale to an entire city worth of operation,” CEO Dave Ferguson told Ars last week.  .. ” Read more Hmmmm….  Very interesting.  This is sort of the “low-speed shuttle” approach to goods delivery.  I still think that focusing on doing it in the middle of the night, when there is no one complaining that they are going too slow, would be very interesting.  Alain

cid:<a href=Ford and VW Discuss Autonomous Car Team-Up at a $4 Billion Valuation

K. Naughton, Feb 14, “Ford Motor Co. and Volkswagen AG are progressing toward a potential agreement to join forces on self-driving cars and have overcome earlier obstacles, according to people familiar with the talks.

Breakthroughs in the deliberations Thursday include a possible framework for Volkswagen to work with and invest in Argo AI, the Ford-backed autonomous-vehicle startup, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the talks were private. The automakers discussed an approximate valuation for the company of $4 billion, one of the people said…..

Argo AI was formed in 2016 by Bryan Salesky, an early leader in Google’s self-driving program, and Pete Rander, who helped pioneer Uber Technologies Inc.’s autonomous efforts. The company’s technology drew positive reviews in November when analysts and media rode along in its test cars at an event in Miami.

Where Argo has lagged is in winning the outside investment GM has drawn with Cruise. Japan’s SoftBank Vision Fund and Honda Motor Co. last year committed to invest a combined $5 billion in Cruise. ”  Read more Hmmmm…  Waymo is worth $175B… Argo,  $4B,  Waymo is “Driverless”; Argo is “Self-driving” ??? Since $175B /= $4B; then “Driverless” /= “Self-driving”.  Q.E.D.  Alain 

cid:<a href= Uber reports $3B in Q4 revenue, rising operating losses

M. Dixon, Feb 14, “Ahead of its anticipated initial public offering this year, Uber reported a net loss of $865 million in the fourth quarter. That figure, however, was aided by a tax benefit that saved the company from reporting a $1.2 billion net loss in the period. On an adjusted, pro-forma basis, Uber’s net loss in the final quarter of 2018 was a slimmer $768 million.

The figures are an improvement of sorts. The firm reported a pro-forma net loss of $939 million in the preceding, third quarter of 2018, but also reported a smaller pre-tax net loss of $971 million. Regardless, Uber’s stiff losses continued in the quarter.

In Q4 2018, Gross bookings (the amount collected before it pays drivers) went up 11 percent quarter over quarter, to $14.2 billion, while revenue increased 2 percent quarter over quarter to $3 billion… ”   Read more Hmmmm… These are the important numbers… (before they pay drivers, up 11%; after they pay drivers up 2%). If Uber operated aTaxis….  Up 11 rather than 2 on the revenue side.  Also…“Year over year, Uber’s gross bookings increased 37 percent” ...nice…  “and revenue increased 24 percent. ” ...nice…  ” But as a percentage of gross bookings, revenue declined to 21.3 percent” ...not bad… “These numbers exclude the impact of SEA and Russia. ...Great!  Nothing but a quagmire.  Let them have it… Alain. of Uber rides each day:

J. Erlichman, Feb 11 ”
2019: +15 million rides a day
2016:   +5.5 million rides a day
2015:   +3 million rides a day
2014:   +1 million rides a day
2013:      +120,000 rides a day ”  Read more Hmmmm…  Is the +15M an audited # , or a GoldMineSachs pre IPO number.  I hope that it is true.   Assume it is… It shows that

  • being chauffeured is desirable to some people in many situations if it is made easy and affordable, and
  • growth continues

A couple of cautions…

  •     growth rate is “slowing” (~3x/yr (’14 -> ’16; ~1x/yr (’16 -> ’19),
  •     the number is world wide (What is the US number?) and
  •     in US there are ~1B person trips per day.

So we are still a niche.  Does the business model scale (can service be maintained and unit costs reduced at higher volumes.)???

cid:<a href=Uber Sues NYC To Lift Vehicle Cap – But FHV Cap Still In Place for Now!

M. Daus, Feb 14, “Late this afternoon, Uber Technologies Inc. (Uber) filed a lawsuit against the City of New York seeking to overturn Local Law 147 which was passed by the NYC Council, and signed into law by Mayor Bill de Blasio on August 14, 2018, creating a “vehicle cap” on for-hire vehicles (FHVs) operating in New York City. Uber did not request an immediate order to lift the FHV cap, so there is no current impact on the status quo…”  Read more Hmmmm….  Not easy to do business in NYC.  Alain

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

cid:<a href=The 2019 Deloitte City Mobility Index

S. Dixon, Jan 7, “A smart city is a data-driven city, one in which municipal leaders and citizens have an increasingly sophisticated understanding of conditions in the areas they oversee and live in, including the urban transportation system. In the past, regulators used questionnaires and surveys to map user needs. Now, leaders can connect the dots about people, places, and products using a vast array of data from the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and other digital technologies. Using this information, they can gain a more accurate picture in a much shorter time frame at a lower cost to more proactively develop informed decisions… Sounds good but seems really hollow and overoptimistic… 

  ..Casual ridesharing is common in cities such as Washington, DC (where it is known as “slugging”) and New York, but less so in other US cities… This is symptomatic of the Half-bakeness… Casual ridesharing is NOT “common” in any city.  Having one example does not make it common.  Casual ridesharing is some ridiculously small percentage of the person trips in Washington.  The vast majority of person trips in Washington are taken as single occupants/drivers in cars!!    “Bus rapid transit” is essentially non-existant and is nothing but an oxymoron. Sure, there is an XBL lane leading to the Lincoln Tunnel, but that is a one-off.  …  Bicycles, were once dominant in Beijing, but now are at best 1% of the trips.  Lime scooters… maybe for the indestructible teenagers… Others, not so much.   Today we get around driving cars alone.   A smart city would find a comparable alternative. 

Putting everything is just a few places connected by the only few stops that a subway or a bus rapid transit can effectively serve, only benefits the developers of vertical ghettos. What made them the “smart alternative”???  Why would employers want to stuff workers floor above floor when most of those worker interact electronically all day and could just as easily work from home.  Aren’t all those concepts of “Smart Office Towers” doomed?   That’s enough.  ….

DCMI Methodology
We chose more than 60 unique data parameters based on a review of existing literature, their correlations with economic growth, and our research team’s analysis….   … We assigned each metric a score between 1 and 5 based on the data parameters within it. Depending on the metric, score assignment involved converting a qualitative assessment into a number, indexing data to create a relative score, or both. We applied some data parameters and metrics to more than one theme…   This was really cooked… Just take  ….”Transit Safety = f( Road Quality, Walkability Score, ..)  …What??? Doesn’t anyone raise their hands?? ….”Versatility = f( Presence of tube or…, BRT, )  …What??? ….”Customer Satisfaction= f(Satisfaction with Public Transport )  …Isn’t Public Transport … Transport that serves the public.    Is it really better if it is controlled by the public sector? ..  Read more Hmmmm….  This is a good read if you read each sentence with “What definition of “Smart” made this “Smart”” .  Alain .

cid:<a href= Apple-designed inter-car communications could make ‘Project Titan’ safer

M. Owen, Feb 12, “…Apple’s solution is described in a patent published on Tuesday by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, titled “Wireless vehicle system for enhancing situational awareness.” In short, it is a system for how a vehicle can interpret wireless messages from nearby electronic devices to determine their location relative to the car and their motion, and use the information to warn the driver or to take evasive action. …”  Read more Hmmmm… The operative word is “could” as opposed to “will”.  Another one of these “solutions” that is essentially useless until market penetration is more than significant.  Also one has to be careful about “calibration” and “interference” that introduce error and bias into the “measurements” such that false value probabilities are sufficiently large so as to  render the approach DoA.  No worry, it’s only a patent and ClickBait.  Alain

cid:<a href=Qualcomm, Nokia, Samsung clash with Wi-Fi Alliance over 5.9 GHz for C-V2X

M. Allenven, Feb 11, “Qualcomm, Nokia and Samsung are among those supporting a request by the 5G Automotive Association (5GAA) for permission to conduct Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything (C-V2X) in the upper portion of the 5.9 GHz band, something the Wi-Fi Alliance and other groups want the FCC to reject.

The 5GAA filed a waiver request back in November saying the FCC’s current rules for the 5.9 GHz band—adopted well before the development of C-V2X—restrict intelligent transportation system (ITS) operations to those that use the dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) standard. The deadline for reply comments, which had been extended to accommodate the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), was last week…” Read more Hmmmm… I’m clueless.  Alain

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

Simply ClickBait

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September 4-6, 2019
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  On the More Technical Side