Friday, August 17, 2019

Autonomous Vehicles:  A View from Seniors

 Katherine Freund, August 2019, "…By the year 2060, approximately 100 million people, 25 percent of the US population will be 65 years of age and older.  In this age group, people outlive their decision to stop driving by about 10 years, and three out of four live in rural and suburban communities that lack the density for traditional mass transit solutions.  Their unmet transportation needs lead to social isolation, diminished quality of life, limited access to healthcare and a strain on families and caregivers.


It is apparent that our needs change as we age, but how they change, and in particular how our transportation needs change, is only generally understood.  Based on data from the ITNRides database and the ITNAmerica annual customer satisfaction survey, the typical ITN rider is a woman (74%) age 75 or older (71%) living alone in the community (58%).  She probably has a driver’s license (69%) and owns a car (59%), but there is only one chance in three she still drives (34%).  Her most common ride is for healthcare (39.5%), followed by consumer needs (23%) and recreation (10%). …"  Read more   Hmmmm….  Another must read.  Chock full of fundamental facts.  Alain

   Smart Driving Cars Podcast Episode 120

F. Fishkin, Aug 18 , "Solving senior mobility needs with Uber, Lyft and autonomous transportation. Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin weigh in on that…plus Tesla, UPS, the big problem with congestion pricing and more. Just say "Alexa, play the Smart Driving Cars podcast!".  Ditto with Siri, and GooglePlay …  Alain

  Tesla has a huge incentive to deploy self-driving tech. But is the world ready?

R. Mitchell, Aug 9, "Elon Musk frames his company’s aggressive push into driverless car technology as a moral imperative. Along with sustainable electric transportation, he views autonomy as a core element of Tesla Inc.’s “fundamental goodness.”  Humans will be freed of the tedium of driving, he told Wall Street last year. Millions of lives will be saved.

There is another incentive for Musk to put driverless cars on the road, though. The day he does that, hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of stored-up revenue become eligible for a trip straight to Tesla’s perpetually stressed bottom line.

All Tesla cars built since late 2016 are equipped with sensors and other hardware that allow them to function without a human driver at the wheel, according to the company. Since then, buyers of Tesla Models S, X, and 3 have been able to pay $3,000 to $6,000 to eventually get what Musk calls Full Self-Driving technology, or FSD. (The price will soon rise to $7,000.).

Tesla has sold approximately 500,000 cars over that period. The electric-vehicle website Electrek has estimated that 40% of customers choose the FSD option. Owners who haven’t can buy it when available, albeit at a higher price.  ….That is an enormous take-up rate which demonstrates the fundamental market appeal for this "nice-to-have-comfort&convenience feature"…
Tesla cars will just need new lines of computer code beamed into the car to go full robot when the software is ready, the company says. Musk is aiming to make that happen by the end of the year.

But is Tesla anywhere close to ready with fully driverless technology? And what would that even mean?…"  Read more   Hmmmm….  A must read.  My position is that one can NOT discuss "Fully Self-Driving" (FSD), or what I prefer to call "Driverless", without also specifying Where Driverless is being accomplished, technically known as the the Operational Design Domain (ODD).  Today, Elon can claim that Teslas are FSD in your driveway leading to your garage in good weather.  I doubt that any of us, including Elon, will see the day that Teslas are FSD in an ODD that includes’ Bryant Walker Smith’s “The technical definition of ‘full’ means I can get into this car, fall asleep, and [the car] can take me from downtown Manhattan … 7th & 26th… to the mountains of Maine … Bear Pond…  in the wintertime.” In between, it is anybody’s guess.  OOD is very wide.  I’ll go farther to say that legislation/regulation will forbid the personal ownership/operationalOversight of any vehicle using public streets while a licensed human driver is not alert and within the vehicle. 

Ensuring that these vehicles operate strictly within their certified OOD on pubic streets will require professional oversight that can only be provided by a certified and trusted fleet operator that carries sufficient liability coverage to cover any expected faux pas. 

It is conceivable that a private road operator, say the NJ Turnpike, might grant FSD authority to individual private vehicles using its private roadway; however, it is hard to see the business case that would cause the NJ Turnpike Authority to offer such a "service".  Alain

  Older People Need Rides. Why Aren’t They Using Uber and Lyft?

P. Span, Aug 16,  "Martin Gerstell treasures his Thursday morning volunteer stint at the National Gallery of Art, where he fields questions at the main information desk. He patiently responds when visitors ask about the current exhibits, whether the paintings are real, where the bathrooms are.

Usually, fellow volunteers give him a ride from his assisted living residence in northwest Washington to the museum downtown, and home again. But when they can’t, Mr. Gerstell, 94, uses the Uber app his granddaughter installed on his iPhone.

“They appear very quickly, and they’re very helpful,” Mr. Gerstell said of his Uber drivers, who fold and stash his walker in the trunk. Summoning a taxi, his previous option, usually took 15 to 20 minutes; Uber arrives in three to five minutes and charges less, under $20, to drive him downtown.  It probably helps that Mr. Gerstell, a retired electrical engineer, handles new technology with aplomb….

Still, “it’s got great potential,” Joseph Coughlin, director of the M.I.T. AgeLab, said of ride-hailing. “There’s been so painfully little innovation in transportation for the aging population that anything we do can only be an improvement.”… "  Read more   Hmmmm…. Read in conjunction with Katherine Freund’s article above.  Alain 

  August 2019 WNAC Meeting

From K. Pyle, Aug 15, "…We will soon start to see the fruits of that RFI and the WNAC will get a preview at our Wednesday, August 21st meeting at the Cypress Community Center when representatives from the City of San Jose and the Bosch/Mercedes partnership will provide an update and give a sneak peek of what we will soon see in certain parts of West San Jose…"  Read more  Hmmmm…. What should be a very interesting public "neighborhood" meeting in conjunction with the initial "testing" of SmartDrivingCars through the public streets of that neighborhood.  I portend that such meetings are absolutely necessary in order to achieve "trust" and "welcoming" by the neighborhoods through which these vehicles will be "tested" and eventually deliver a valued service.  These neighbors "own" these public streets.  These vehicles need to earn the "trust" and "welcoming" of those living along those streets. 


If you live in the San Jose area, please try to attend and participate in this meeting.  Thank you Ken for bringing this meeting to my attention.  Looking forward to reporting your feedback in the next SDC eLetter.  Alain 

Between Cars And Micromobility Lies ‘Minimobility’ – A Self-Driving Transportation Revolution

B. Templeton, Aug 12, "… Micromobility has other problems besides scattered scooters, though. It’s really only useful in fairly dense areas, and for short trips, typically not much more than 3 miles. That’s partly because of speed, and because it’s actually cheaper to hail an Uber over certain distances. And they do have their dangers, and they require some physical ability to ride safely, and a helmet is a good idea, but not easy to make happen….

There’s a different mode which has been around in some sense for a while, but may soon rule the roost: I call it Minimobility….

There’s a reason minimobility cars are not a success today. They don’t work very well at all at being your main car, they can only be a 2nd or 3rd car. That’s true even though 80% of urban trips are solo. Up to now, they’ve been made in small quantities, jacking up the price, and are useful only for that specific (though common) subset of urban trips. They are very easy to park, which has made some people buy them.

It’s a different story when you can get a mini-car on demand that drives itself and delivers itself to your door. When buying a ride, like you do from companies like Uber, there’s no big downside to getting something the size of a Twizzy. Why do you need to ride alone in a 5 seat sedan? If it’s cheaper, and if it gets privileges in traffic, it should be quite popular.

So while few people want to buy such a special purpose vehicle, it’s probable that if they can be robotic taxis, lots of people will want to use them…."  Read more   Hmmmm…. Very interesting, but the key is the driverless piece and  its Operational Design Domain (ODD).  Within a community, seems perfectly fine; extending beyond a community, it may need to be more substantive???  Alain 

Carnegie Mellon’s prestigious computer science school has a new leader

B. Schackner, Aug 8, "The incoming dean of Carnegie Mellon University’s renowned School of Computer Science is a roboticist and head of CMU’s Robotics Institute who has been a university faculty member for 35 years.  Martial Hebert has served as the institute’s director since 2014 and is known among colleagues as a top researcher in the areas of computer vision, robotics and artificial intelligence.  He becomes dean Aug. 15, university officials announced Thursday.

Tom Mitchell is serving as the interim computer science dean, a post he has held since Andrew Moore returned to Google last year to lead the artificial intelligence effort for the California-based search engine giant’s division, Google Cloud…"  Read more   Hmmmm…. Congratulations to Martial, Tom and Andrew.  Alain

UPS Ventures Invests in Self-Driving Trucking Startup

M. Varabedian, Aug 15, "United Parcel Service Inc. ’s venture-capital division, UPS Ventures, has acquired a minority stake in self-driving trucking startup TuSimple Inc., signaling the delivery company’s continued push into autonomous driving.

In addition, UPS will expand a partnership it began with TuSimple earlier in March for the startup to carry truckloads of goods between Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz., said UPS Ventures Managing Partner Todd Lewis. TuSimple’s trucks operate autonomously with a human operator on aboard to take over if needed.

The two companies are looking to add more routes to run self-driving tests in the Western U.S., said Chuck Price, chief product officer of TuSimple…." Read more   Hmmmm….They must compete/beat with Amazon-Prime.  (see also "Amazon Expands in the Transportation Industry")  Alain

Tesla Autopilot applied brakes in Model 3 crash that resulted in explosions

F. Lambert, Aug 12,  "We now have more details on the Tesla Model 3 crash that resulted in explosions in Moscow last weekend. Autopilot was indeed activated during the crash and it did apply the brakes a second before the collision.  Last weekend, we reported on a Tesla Model 3 that caught on fire and exploded after a crash with a tow truck while reportedly driving on Autopilot in Moscow.

Early reports from Russian media stated that the car was a Model S, but it was actually a Model 3 — making it one of the rare Model 3 vehicles to have caught on fire.  … Tretyakov talked to Russian EV advocate Igor Antarov and said that he suffered a broken leg and the children only had bruises. They were all able to exit the vehicle before it caught on fire.

The driver also confirmed previous reports that the vehicle was on Autopilot. He stated that he wasn’t paying attention at the time of the crash and didn’t see the tow truck before the crash.  A surveillance video actually captured the accident, albeit in poor quality, and it shows that the brakes were applied a fraction of a second before the crash: ."  Read more   Hmmmm… See the surveillance video.  It explicitly demonstrates the severe limitation of Tesla’s Automated Emergency Braking System that surely must have "seen" the protruding object many seconds before the impact, but because it was stationary, disregarded it as a false alarm until it was almost "on top on it".  This is likely a fundamental design flaw that must be fixed immediately.  Maybe NHTSA should consider a recall!?!  Alain

Fair and Efficient Congestion Pricing for Downtown Seattle

M. Kitchen, Prepared for Uber, July 2019, "Uber supports congestion pricing as a solution to urban traffic and so sponsored this white paper to explore the potential impacts of one approach to introducing tolls in Seattle. This analysis uses the best available information on regional travel patterns and the Seattle road network from local planning agencies and Uber’s own operations.  While the results offer considerable insight into how congestion pricing could work in Seattle, additional analysis would help validate and extend these findings…"  Read more   Hmmmm…. A reasonable classic analysis; however, a couple of issues: 

1.  Why is it called "congestion pricing"?  Such a harsh, totalitarian sounding name.  If it was a really good idea, it should be called "value pricing". and

2.  More seriously, this has substantial negative societal implications: 

The capacity of a public roadway is "owned" by the public at large and is, and should be, made available indiscriminately to everyone. Congestion delays are caused by an over-consumption of that capacity by too many at about the same time. In order for congestion to be alleviated, some users must "step aside" and forgo their use of that public asset at that time.  The fundamental question is who should and why.   currently, those that step aside to not have the congestion be even worse are those who have individually have something better to do at that time.  It is as simple as that.   If we are now going to introduce explicit pricing to cause oven more individuals to realize that they have something better to do and thus abdicate their use at that time, then we should understand and be seek to have that pricing mechanism be in-discriminant.  Unfortunately, and cot come as a surprise, the way congestion pricing is promoted it heavily favors the rich at the explicit expense of the poor.

From the perspective of the individual, delay is normalized.  it has the same percentage reduction in individual quality-of-life.  So congestion itself is nondiscriminatory.

From the perspective of the society, the value of time is substantially different across individuals.  Delays are perceived by the rich (those having a high value of time) to have a much higher monetary value than the monetary value perceived by poor (who’s time apparently not worth much to them?). Yet congestion pricing is just money to the rich (who have much too much of it anyway) yet means less food on the table for the poor and therefore is very cherished.  So congestion pricing is simply a mechanism for the rich to buy from the poor what they most value at bargain basement prices, without the poor getting any of the revenue.  Seems harsh unless the funds are transferred to those that vacated the roadways that allowed the rich to "ease on down the road".

Those that step aside to deliver that value to the rich should be compensated for stepping aside.  That would require that a market mechanism be established that would allow "the poor" to sell their capacity rights to "the rich".  Such a value pricing scheme would allow the rich to become more productive and the poor could better feed their families.    Alain


Wired Opinion, Aug 15, "IMAGINE A COUPLE of caffeine-addled biochemistry majors late at night in their dorm kitchen cooking up a new medicine that proves remarkably effective at soothing colds but inadvertently causes permanent behavioral changes. Those who ingest it become radically politicized and shout uncontrollably in casual conversation. Still, the concoction sells to billions of people. This sounds preposterous, because the FDA would never let such a drug reach the market.

Yet this madness is happening everywhere online. Every day, we view streams of content custom-selected by simple software algorithms, some created in dorms, based on a technique called adaptive reinforcement learning. … and in SmartDrivingCars…

….To protect the cognitive autonomy of individuals and the political health of society at large, we need to make the function and application of algorithms transparent, and the FDA provides a useful model…."  Read more   Hmmmm….Interesting… not the worst approach to building and maintaining "public trust" in the safety of automated driving systems.  Currently its the "wild wild west",  "buyer beware" and/or "trust me" with something that can readily cause not only self harm, but harm to innocent by-standers because it operates in the public right-of-way.  This is serious business which needs serious oversight.  Alain

Uber CEO: NYC ride-hailing regulations ‘malarkey’

C. Teale, Aug 9, "New York City’s ride-hailing regulations, the first to be passed in the United States, have been under fire from Uber and Lyft from the start, with the companies accusing the TLC and New York City Council of undermining transportation equity and driving up prices. Business continues to grow in New York City thanks to higher-income areas where people can afford price increases, but East New York, Wakefield, the Bronx and Central Harlem are seeing declines in usage, Khosrowshahi said on the call.

Khosrowshahi also criticized the decision to set a minimum wage for ride-hailing companies, another part of the regulations approved by the city council and then set at $17.22 an hour by the TLC at the end of 2018.  He said that Uber is an "open labor system," and the rules make it difficult for drivers to fan out across the city and make money everywhere…"  Read more   Hmmmm…. Khosrowshahi is right on this one; however, he should be more forceful to encourage ride-sharing, especially in NYC.  One way is to price it better and to let the driver keep more of the total so that it is a real incentive for the driver to serve ride-sharers.  Unfortunately, this isn’t the case today.  No wonder there is essentially no ride-sharing in the ride-haiiling business that is inappropriately called " ride-sharing" by many.  Alain

  How Pennsylvania’s Transportation Secretary Is Shifting the Infrastructure Conversation in Her State and Across the Country

D. Vock, Aug 13, "In just 4 1/2 years as the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Leslie Richards has seen a lot of changes in the transportation industry.

When she started her job, she was the only woman in a high-ranking position at PennDOT, and one of only four women who led a state DOT nationwide. Now she has numerous female colleagues within her agency and across the country….

Everybody wants the greatest amount of options in front of them when they make a major decision. The way to make that happen is to make sure that you don’t have all engineers who were in school 40 years ago who think the same way and who have the same life experiences. You need all different experiences to get those decisions. It’s just good business…."  Read more   Hmmmm…. You mean that DoTs need to continue their long term evolution from Depts. of Highways through Depts. of Transportation to Depts. of Mobility that actually focus on the people being moved rather than the vehicles moving around?  This can begin by having Person Miles Traveled (PMT) being the bottom line metric rather than Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT). … Hmmmm… indeed.  Alain

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

  6 carmakers that are betting electric scooters and bikes — not cars — are the future of city transportation

B.  Chang, Aug 11, "…It’s no surprise carmakers are looking towards the booming e-mobility market. E-scooter company Bird reached a $2 billion valuation in under a year of operation in 2018, according to Inc. Similarly, one of Bird’s largest competitors, Lime, has a $2.4 billion valuation, the company announced in February…"  Read more   Hmmmm…  If scooters and bikes are the future of city transportation and cities are the future of where people live, then traditional "carmakers" are in deep trouble because there wont be enough business to allow even one of them to maintain their current valuation. Time to Sell, Sell, Sell.  Alain 

  Bogus Satellite Nav Signals Send Autonomous Cars Off the Road

M. Eddy, Aug 8, "Driverless cars are great and all, but they’re not much good if they don’t know where they’re going. That simple concept was driven home here at the Black Hat security conference where Victor Murray, an Engineering Group Leader at SwRI, showed how he caused driverless cars to stop, change lanes, and even drive off the road at his command…." Read more   Hmmmm…  Is the next great research break-through going to be a demonstration by Victor Murray and SwRI at the next Black Hat conference that a rock can be thrown through Tiffany’s window on 5th Avenue allowing you to actually grab in your hand the necklace that is being displayed.  Wow, thank you SwR.  I didn’t know that I could do that!!!  Alain 

INSIGHT: Blockchain Can Address Privacy Worries With Self-Driving Cars

P. Vogel, Aug 5, "As we adapt to intelligent devices and prepare ourselves for the world of self-driving cars, a myriad of technology and legal issues should be considered. For example, have you ever given any thought about how V2V (Vehicle to Vehicle) communications may impact your privacy? Can using blockchain help alleviate some of that concern?… "  Read more   Hmmmm…  Whew!!   Now I feel safe.  Will Blockchain also help me counter Victor Murray and other SwRI Black-hatters?? Alain


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

Simply ClickBait

 Calendar of Upcoming Events:

September 4-6, 2019
Pocono Manor, PA

4th Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit

evening May 19 through May 21, 2020

On the More Technical Side