Friday, April 12, 2019
16th edition of the 7th year of SmartDrivingCars

cid:<a”>  SpaceX Lands Three Falcon Heavy Rocket Boosters After One Launch

J. Torchinsky, April 11, "For the first time ever, yesterday, SpaceX managed to land and recover all three of the Block 5 Falcon 9 rocket boosters that, when combined, form the Falcon Heavy launch vehicle. While the idea of vertically landing a rocket after launch for re-use has been around a while, SpaceX was the first to actually do it, and this triple-landing, part of the Arabsat-6A launch, is the first time three boosters from one launch have been recovered…."   Read more  Hmmmm… If you weren’t watching live, then you must watch the video.  2 side landing @ T+7:30+ (also), center@ T+9:40+ See this aerial picture.  See also  cid:part14.C918BCE4.33EF31AC@princeton.eduSpaceX Falcon Heavy Sticks Triple Rocket Landing with 1st Commercial Launch.

In the 70’s, after putting a man on the moon, we felt empowered that technologically, everything was possible! However, going 3for3 on bull’s eye landings on earth is totally mind boggling.  Technologically, I’m fully confident we soon can have aTaxis serving the mobility disadvantaged throughout our communitie.  But, do we have the the societal/political will to risk even trying.  There simply may be too many gatekeepers of the status quo. Alain  Smart Driving Cars Podcast Episode 99

April 5, F. Fishkin, "SpaceX amazes, Uber ready for lift off, Tesla’s Autopilot and Ford’s CEO assesses the self driving landscape. Join Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin for Episode 99 of Smart Driving Cars."  Just say "Alexa, play the Smart Driving Cars podcast!" .  Ditto with Siri, and GooglePlay …  Alain


3rd Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit
evening May 14 through May 16, 2019
Apply to Participate; Reserve your Sponsorship

cid:<a”>  Uber files for initial public offering

C. Teale, April 12, " Ride-hailing giant Uber officially filed for its initial public offering (IPO) Thursday as it submitted its S-1 to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) ahead of its listing on the New York Stock Exchange…"  Read more  Hmmmm… The S-1 is a must read.  Be sure to read the footnotes.  Gains on investments have by far been Uber’s best performing asset.  (p.19).  UberEats < 8% revenue and declining. (p.03).  Ridership certainly increasing (p.i-1)  Alain

cid:<a”>The Battle for the Last Unconquered Screen—The One in Your Car

T. Higgins, April 6, "The auto industry and Silicon Valley are locked in a battle for control of one of the last unconquered screens: your car dashboard display.

At stake are billions of dollars in revenue from ads and services as well as the balance of power between two big industries. And then there is the future of the dash itself, a source of endless complaints from drivers frustrated by its glitchy concoction of buttons and technologies.

Car makers, trying to overcome this poor track record, are counting on these few square inches to help build closer relationships with customers. Some fear handing control to Silicon Valley. Alphabet Inc. and Apple Inc., meanwhile, are itching to put their familiar screens and apps inside vehicles.

The current state of play is a confused free-for-all as the two industries circle each other warily. Some car makers are turning over their dashboard operating systems to Alphabet’s Google entirely. Others, including Ford Motor Co. and Daimler AG , wager they can muster the technological chops to compete." Read more  Hmmmm… Excellent!  Car companies lost the carPhone in ~2000.  Car companies are about to lose the the dashBoard in ~2020.  This will surely force car companies to transform the Driver into a Passenger, else the dashBoard doesn’t capture enough eyeball-minutes in the race to the ultimate dashBoard.  Without the need for eyeballs to drive the car, the enslavement of personal ownership is broken and the cars are no longer consumer products, but mobility/entertainment products serving consumers.  TFor the past 100 years, car companies only really cared about the one time sale of the car.  They risk very little even if you never use it.  Once the car becomes a service, then it use becomes paramount and car companies lose their fundamental business mode.  They become commodity platforms for others. Alain

cid:<a”>  Google tracks millions of phones worldwide, and the police are using its database to find suspects. But the dragnet can also snare the innocent.

J. Valentino-DeVries, Apri 13, "…Technology companies have for years responded to court orders for specific users’ information. The new warrants go further, suggesting possible suspects and witnesses in the absence of other clues. Often, Google employees said, the company responds to a single warrant with location information on dozens or hundreds of devices…."  Read more  Hmmmm… Google is distributing data about me and my stuff.  Those data belong to me. That is my Intellectual Property (IP).  While I’d like to be paid for my IP, "Google" should at least be required to tell me who and what they are telling about me and my stuff.  How would they like it if I, like Anthony Levandowsky, got a hold of some of their IP and told someone else about it.  At some point, the damage that Google may be causing me overwhelms any perceived benefit that Google may be delivering.  Alain

cid:<a”>  Ford CEO Tamps Down Expectations for First Autonomous Vehicles

K. Naughton, April 9, "“We overestimated the arrival of autonomous vehicles,” Jim Hackett said Tuesday at a Detroit Economic Club event. While Ford’s first self-driving car is still coming in 2021, “its applications will be narrow, what we call geo-fenced, because the problem is so complex.”

Hackett, 63, is engineering an $11 billion overhaul of Ford, which involves closing factories, cutting thousands of salaried jobs and ditching tradition sedans to focus on high profit sport-utility vehicles and trucks. In addition to shoring up profitability, the drastic moves are borne out of the pressure car companies are under to get autonomous-vehicle technology on the road before rivals inside and outside the auto industry.

“When we break through, it will change the way your toothpaste is delivered,” Hackett said at Ford Field, the football stadium of the Detroit Lions, owned by the family of Executive Chairman Bill Ford. “Logistics and ride structures and cities all get redesigned. I won’t be in charge of Ford when this is going on, but I see it clearly.”…"Read more  Hmmmm… Excellent! 


A. Marshall, April, 8, "…Hackett is the latest high-ranking industry insider to engage in public real talk about the prospects for self-driving cars, which back in 2016 seemed just around the corner…."  Read more  Hmmmm… The problem here is Wired and all of the click-oriented media… They purposely mislabel and misrepresent.  Self-driving cars are here.  They are called Teslas with AutoPilot.  Could be better, but not bad.  What is not here are Driverless cars in geo-fenced areas.  What will never be here are Driverless cars everywhere ("55 Chevys" can’t go everywhere and neither can your Land Rover or your Jeep or your F-150!  So get a grip!).  C’mon Wired!  Start being a little more precise technologically.  Alain

cid:<a”>Tesla releases new Autopilot safety report: more crashes but still fewer than when humans drive 

F. Lambert, April 9, "“In the 1st quarter, we registered one accident for every 2.87 million miles driven in which drivers had Autopilot engaged. For those driving without Autopilot, we registered one accident for every 1.76 million miles driven. By comparison, NHTSA’s most recent data shows that in the United States there is an automobile crash every 436,000 miles.”

Interestingly, accidents per mile without Autopilot went down during the last quarter.

Tesla has committed to releasing those numbers on a quarterly basis…

As I have previously stated, it’s great that Tesla is keeping good on their promise to release those reports every quarter even when the data is not improving.

They are not required to and we aren’t seeing any other automakers doing the same thing. Maybe they should follow Tesla’s lead on that front. It could become an interesting metric to follow industry-wide, especially with the advent of driver assist systems…." Read more  Hmmmm… Kudos to Tesla for continuing to release the data.  I am troubled by the comparison with NHTSA data.  Teslas in general can’t be 4x better than your average driver.  Also, since not much lane striping goes on in the winter, some of that paint gets warn away and … I would very much like to conduct an independent investigation of these data.  I appeal for Tesla to releas the underlying data, cleansed of Privacy Information, and allow me and possibly others to independently assess autoPilot’s safety implications.  Alain

cid:<a”>  The crowd-sourced, social media swarm that is betting Tesla will crash and burn

R. Mitchell, April 8, "It’s a sunny day in March and “Machine Planet” is flying a single-engine Cessna over Northern California. He’s cruising at 1,500 feet toward a massive lot leased by electric-car maker Tesla. His mission: to burst the Tesla bubble. And make some money doing it.

What he sees today makes his eyes widen: more than 100 car-carrier trailers, the kind you see on highways hauling new cars to dealers. They’re lined up in neat rows. Empty. Idle….

For as long as there have been stock markets, there have been short sellers wagering that companies will fail. Their notoriety stemmed from their dirt-digging tactics. Napoleon supposedly called them “enemies of the state.” Some blamed them for the stock market crash of 1929….

But the war on Tesla is unique. Musk has used Twitter to cultivate a cult-like following as a tech revolutionary. Fittingly, his nemesis is a social media swarm, made up largely of anonymous contributors with made-up names and colorful avatars…."  Read more  Hmmmm… This is a reflection of our national politics.  Two polarized sides with no one in the middle when the middle is actually the nice and comfortable spot.  Social Media has enabled too many to see themselves as the National Enquirer?  Alain

cid:<a”>  Learning to Drive like a Human

Site, April 3, "To turn what is currently a fantasy into a reality, we need to take a different approach.

The solution is machine learning, which is surpassing hand-engineered systems everywhere. Intelligent behaviour cannot be hand-coded, but can be learned through experience. We’ve built a system which can drive like a human, using only cameras and a sat-nav. This is only possible with end-to-end machine learning…."  Read more  Hmmmm… I’m not a fan of "end2end" but am a fan of vision-centered machine learning approaches.  Videos look like a good start.  I’m looking forward to seeing how they progress.  Alain

cid:<a”>   “Autonomy” Documentary Provides Evidence That Self-Driving Vehicles Will Make Our Lives Better

C. Fortuna, April 10, "…Autonomy. The film chronicles the human side of emerging self-driving technology, tracing what Ford VP Ken Washington calls in the film “the representative symbol of mobility” from classic cars to today’s software influence on transportation.

Autonomy had its world premiere at the SXSW Interactive Festival in Austin in March, 2019. It educates an audience which hasn’t had much background knowledge about self-driving technology’s remarkable origins and evolution. It looks beyond the technical to ask pressing social questions:…" Read more  Hmmmm… I haven’t seen it, but given the source, I’m real skeptical that this has anything to do with vehicles having autonomy  and certainly nothing relevant about driverless vehicles and their opportunity to be mobility machines that substantially enhance the quality-of-life of the mobility disadvantaged.  Likely it is focused on providing more to those that already have too much.  I’ve become such a  pessimist. 🙁 Alain

cid:<a”>  They Thought It Was Their Uber. But the Driver Was a Predator.

J. Healy, April 4, "The black sedan glided up to the Las Vegas hotel where Elizabeth Suarez was waiting to take an Uber home after a night of gambling. She recalled asking the driver: Are you waiting for Liz? Yeah, he responded. Get in.

She had done it countless times. But that night in July 2018, as the man veered off course toward a deserted parking lot, as he cranked up the radio and ignored her questions, as her real driver called her wondering where she was, Ms. Suarez said she realized with horror: This was not an Uber.

“That’s when he said, ‘Give me your wallet, give me your phone, give me everything you have,’” Ms. Suarez, 28, said.

On busy streets outside bars or clubs, people often hop into a car without a second thought. But the killing of Samantha Josephson, a 21-year-old college student in South Carolina who was stabbed to death after getting into a car she mistook for her Uber last weekend, has brought national attention to a rash of kidnappings, sexual assaults and robberies carried out largely against young women by assailants posing as ride-share drivers.

There have been at least two dozen such attacks in the past few years, according to a tally of publicly reported cases, including instances where suspects have been charged with attacking multiple women. In Connecticut, a man was arraigned last week on charges that he kidnapped and raped two women who believed he was their ride-share driver. In Chicago, prosecutors said a man who posed as an Uber driver sexually assaulted five women, climbing into the back seat and pinning them down.

These attacks turn a simple mix-up into a nightmare, showing how easily bad actors can exploit the vulnerabilities of a ride-sharing culture that so many people trust to get them home safe…."  Read more  Hmmmm… Nothing is easy, nothing is perfect. We now need to work even harder to make sure that this happens even more rarely.  (I could have said that this is another reason for autonomousTaxis; however, they will have their own nightmares that will need to be cleaned up.)  Alain


T. Moeller, Dec 2018, "We believe 2018 could represent a distinct tipping point from thinking, talking about, and planning for future mobility to implementing it. It’s the year when a firework of electric-vehicle (EV) launches began and charging infrastructure became solid in key regions; when cars enabled by artificial intelligence (AI) began to replace “dumb” ones; when we moved from advanced driver-assistance systems to autonomous vehicles (AVs) in real life; when the automotive and mobility industries shifted from a driver- or owner-focused value proposition to a customer-centered one; and when micromobility started to scale up. …"  Read more  Hmmmm… Report contains some very good charts but you have to use them carefully because there is a lot of fluff and McKinsey has little appreciation of the vast differences between Safe/Self-driving vehicles and Driverless vehicles.  You would think that McKinsey would pick up on the stark difference, but when the focus is on those that already have the most, then this and Smart Cities and IoT and .. are what you get.  Alain

cid:<a”>With Waymo Robotaxis, Customer Satisfaction Is Far From Guaranteed

A Efrati, March 22"ar tried to turn left into oncoming traffic, driver had to avoid collision,” wrote a customer of Waymo, the unit of Alphabet, in early March after taking a ride in one of the company’s experimental self-driving taxis in suburban Phoenix. The customer was referring to the human backup driver who sits behind the wheel and is supposed to take over if a potential safety problem arises.

According to internal Waymo data reviewed by The Information, there were several technical problems on that ride that caused the driver to take over twice: The Waymo minivan robotaxi got “way too close” to another car, moved “super slow” at one point, made an “unnecessary” lane change and, lastly, experienced the apparent near-collision. Despite the close call, the customer gave the ride four stars out of five.

The majority of the several hundred Phoenix area residents who ride in Waymo’s robotaxis, which are considered to be the most advanced of their kind, have nice things to say when their rides end. But close to 40% of the time …"  Read more  Hmmmm… If NJ Transit did exit interviews of riders, close to 120% of the time…"  That said, we still have a lot of work to do, but we are at least asking actual users some questions.  We’ll also be asking mobility disadvantaged individuals similar questions after they "kick the tires" of some demos during the 3rd Annual Princeton SDC Summit.  Alain

cid:<a”>  Eyes for the Darkness & Blinding Light for Autonomous Driving & More

Ken Pyle, April 5, "Thermal imaging has been around for decades in various industrial and military applications, but could it be the extra sense that makes autonomous mobility machines safer than human-driven vehicles? AdaSky’s Sharon Fiss, Director of Sales Engineering, makes a convincing case that detecting thermal signatures and fusing with other sensor data will provide for a super-human vision and perception.

In the above video filmed on the streets of Las Vegas at CES2019, Fiss details some of the specifications for AdaSky’s FIR (Far Infrared) sensor with dedicated Image Signal Processor), which include:…"  Read more  Hmmmm… See video.  Very interesting.  Alain TodayTonightAdelaide

April 9, "The retirement village on the south coast that’s proving age is no barrier when it comes to new technology. Its residents have embraced a new driverless vehicle that’s helping them get from A to B."  Read more  Hmmmm… See video.  Alain

cid:<a”>  How Big Business Is Hedging Against the Apocalypse 

J. Barron, April 11, "…Exxon’s arrangement in Texas reflects, in miniature, our national state of indecision about the best approach to climate change. Depending on whom you ask, climate change doesn’t exist, or is an engineering problem, or requires global mobilization, or could be solved by simply nudging the free market into action. Absent a coherent strategy, opportunists can step in and benefit in wily ways from the shifting landscape. Tax-supported renewables in Texas take coal plants offline, but they also support oil extraction. Technology advances, but not the system underneath. Faced with this volatile and chaotic situation, the system does what it does best: It searches out profits in the short term.

Unlike almost every other future event, climate change is 100 percent certain to happen. What we don’t know is everything else: where, or how, or when, or what the changes mean for Facebook or Pfizer or notes of Chinese-government debt. Navigating these thickets of complexity is theoretically what Wall Street excels at; the industry prides itself on its ability to price risk for the whole economy, to determine companies’ values based on their likelihood of generating earnings. But traders are compensated on their quarterly or yearly performance, not on their distant foresight. It takes confidence to walk into your boss’s office talking about sea levels in Mozambique in 2030, when your colleague has a reason to short-sell the Turkish lira this week. Practically no one in the financial system is directly incentivized in the near term to worry about the biggest risk conceivable…."  Read more  Hmmmm… None of this is easy, nor pretty.  Alain

cid:<a”>Affectiva Raises $26M to Get Self-Driving Cars to Know Your Mood

B. Dowling, April 11, "The vision of a hands-off, self-driving car demands much more than accurate computer vision that senses cars, trees, lanes, pedestrians, bicyclists, roads, potholes—all in sun, rain, and snow. But the automotive industry …and Google, Apple, Facebook, The Russians…that always seems to be barreling toward smarter autonomous vehicles also wants the car to know exactly what’s going on in the cabin.

How many people are in the car? Is the person in the driver’s seat looking at the roadway, in a fit of road rage, watching a movie, or even asleep? And the passengers— are they happy, nodding off, or nauseated?  Boston emotional AI startup Affectiva, which launched an automotive product in March 2018 to look at how and what occupants are doing, is pressing on with its goal to get the technology on the roads. ..   that classifies their moods and activities to give the car a clear picture of what’s going on inside."  Read more  Hmmmm… OK.  Seems like one needs this not only in a car but also in any meeting or when talking to anybody.  Alain

cid:<a”>  ZF coPILOT Enables Enhanced Safety and Driving Comfort

Press Release, April 12, "Friedrichshafen/Shanghai. ZF today announced the debut of ZF coPILOT, an intelligent advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) leading to enhanced safety and driving comfort opportunities. Leveraging the power of AI and equipped with a comprehensive sensor set, vehicles can perform various automated driving functions, especially on freeways. In addition, ZF coPILOT can be operated with voice commands and is designed to recognize traffic conditions, sense vehicle handling and monitor the driver, helping to pre-empt hazardous situations through active control intervention. ZF coPILOT is powered by the ZF ProAI central computer and the NVIDIA DRIVE platform. It is designed for volume production and will be available from 2021…."  Read more  Hmmmm… This is an advanced product announcement which is properly focuses on Safe & Self-driving cars providing safety, comfort and convenience.  It stays away from grandiose promises of "autonomy this" and "autonomy that". (Although at the bottom it feels compelled to talk about SAE levels.  They also need to look at possible trademark issues associated with "coPILOT"  (IBM may well own (and protect) "i-Bm".)  Alain


A. Davies, 6/14/17, "ON A CLEAR, sunny day at a vineyard in the Northern California town of Ukiah, a most unusual train chugs through a field of barely budding syrah grapes. Well, it doesn’t chug so much as whoosh, because this train—actually, a one-sixth scale train—doesn’t rely upon a diesel engine or electricity to get around. It uses vacuum power and heavy duty magnets.

The 89-year-old man who built it believes it could change how the world moves.

That man is Max Schlienger, an accomplished engineer who owns the vineyard and leads his family-run company, Flight Rail Corp. Its sole product, the Vectorr system, uses a propulsion method like no other: Between the rails lies a PVC pipe, 12 inches in diameter, connected to a pump that can draw all of the air out of the pipe or fill it. Within the pipe you’ll find something Schlienger calls a thrust carriage, which is connected to the train with powerful magnets. This carriage is about the size and shape of a large watermelon and moves back and forth through the pipe under vacuum power, bringing the train with it.

This weird but clever product works something like the vaunted hyperloop, but rather than shooting a pod full of people through a tube it shoots a carriage through a tube…."  Read more  Hmmmm… You gotta love it!! Why not (switching isn’t easy in any of these).  Alain

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

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

Simply Click Bait

 Calendar of Upcoming Events:

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3rd Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit
evening May 14 through May 16, 2019
Apply to Participate; 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

September 4-6, 2019
Pocono Manor, PA

  On the More Technical Side