Saturday, October 19, 2019

DARPA’s Grand Challenge at 15: how far have autonomous military vehicles come?

G.  Turnbull, Oct 14, "Fifteen years ago, the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) conducted its groundbreaking Grand Challenge, which aimed to accelerate the development of autonomous military vehicle technology. Today, the commercial automotive world is fully embracing autonomous technologies originally pioneered during the early 2000s, but can the same be said for the military? …

The irony of the Grand Challenge, however, is that despite the competition predominantly focusing on how autonomous technologies could be used for military applications, armed forces around the world have ultimately been slow to adopt self-driving vehicles for combat operations.

Even the US DoD, with its huge research and development budget, has still not fully rolled out self-driving vehicles and continues to work on several projects in areas such as autonomous convoy missions, and robotic combat vehicles that work alongside manned assets in armoured formations…."  Read more  Hmmmm…Boy those 15 years went by fast. Alain

  Smart Driving Cars Podcast Episode 128

F. Fishkin, Oct 11, "Waymo advises Arizona riders that completely driverless Waymo cars are on the way. Very big news says Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser in this week’s edition of Smart Driving Cars with co-host Fred Fishkin. He adds…that they’re betting the ranch. Also…Tesla not getting great reviews for Smart Summon, NJ Transit wants to get into the autonomous picture and more. "  Just say "Alexa, play the Smart Driving Cars podcast!".  Ditto with Siri, and GooglePlay …  Alain

  I watched over 100 Tesla Smart Summon videos—here’s what I learned

T. Lee, Oct 14, "In late September, Tesla released a major software update that included a new feature called Smart Summon. It enables a customer to summon their car from across a parking lot with no one inside—though the owner is expected to continuously monitor the car from outside.

People immediately started testing the feature and documenting their experiences on social media. Over the last few weeks I’ve watched more than 100 YouTube videos of people testing out Smart Summon. I’ve also read dozens of comments on Twitter, Reddit, and Tesla forums discussing the new feature.

Smart Summon worked well enough for most owners, but a fair number of them experienced problems. Take well-known YouTuber Judner Aura, for example. He had his cousin walk in front of his Tesla car as it turned out of a parking spot. The car got uncomfortably close to his cousin before Aura halted the test…." Read more  Hmmmm… Timothy, thank you for compiling all of this; unfortunately, "working well enough for most users" is simply not good enough when basically nothing is gained and everything could be lost.  The reward is simply not worth the risk.  Consequently it remains: StupidSummon.  Alain 

  Tesla Smart Summon proves useful for wheelchair users

F. Lambert, Oct. 15, " Tesla’s new Smart Summon has been criticized for not being really practical, but a new video shows how it proves to be useful for wheelchair users…. "Read more  Hmmmm… I stand corrected, for some people it may well be very important.  Alain 

  Tesla smart summon is a self-inflicted wound

B. Templeton, Oct 11, "I tried out smart summon on my Tesla yesterday. Both times it got confused and stuck for so long it blocked parking lot traffic and I had to run into it to move it. Videos have surfaced of the cars (gently) hitting things. Even if there it’s working well for many people, these results erode confidence in the capability of Tesla’s systems. Tesla has driven over its own foot releasing this product in this state, and for nothing, since it’s not at all useful…."  Read more  Hmmmm… Read also the comments.  Alain

  Waymo is mapping L.A. in hopes of someday introducing driverless taxis

R. Mitchell, Oct 9, "Waymo this week set three Chrysler Pacifica minivans crawling Los Angeles streets to make maps — but not the kind made for humans.

Google’s autonomous vehicle offshoot deployed the vans not to chart the layout of the city’s streets and avenues, but instead to craft 3-D maps of the infrastructure around which cars travel — curbs, fire hydrants, potholes, fences and crosswalks.  The goal is to turn the physical environment into a virtual reality that robot cars can understand…" 

Besides mapping, Waymo is also using different cities and regions to teach self-driving cars about different weather and road conditions — San Francisco for tight traffic and hills; Michigan snow; Florida for one kind of rain, Washington state for another…" Read more  Hmmmm…  They are probably also determining how well their system works to begin defining an Operational Design Domain (ODD) in LA that allows them to begin a viable mobility service throughout that LA ODD.  Alain

LIDAR Put Into A Tesla–And The World Doesn’t Come To An End

L. Elliot, Oct 8, "There is a LIDAR sensor in a Tesla!…    Those were the range of reactions by attendees at last week’s World Safety Summit On Autonomous Technology at Levi Stadium in Santa Clara. This marquee annual event about self-driving cars is put together by Velodyne, a top maker of LIDAR sensors, and includes as participants anyone with keen interest in the future of autonomous car safety. Speakers included luminaries from major automakers, notable driverless car tech firms, representatives of automotive standards groups and professors and researchers, including from Princeton University.

If you are wondering why the attendees might have differing and puzzled reactions about seeing a Tesla loaded with a LIDAR unit, you need to know the backstory underlying how Elon Musk and Tesla have essentially taken an anti-LIDAR stance…"  Read more  Hmmmm… As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, If the liDAR allows Tesla to reliably determine if these exists sufficient clearance under a stationary object in the lane ahead to reliably disregard that object, and not begin applying the brakes, then it may well be worth Tesla including that LiDAR so that Teslas stop decapitating its owners because it always disregards stationary objects that appear in the lane ahead.  Alain

  Ride-Sharing’s Big Role in Driving Electric Car Adoption

A. Jonas, Oct. 2, "n the long run, ride-sharing could be critical to reducing carbon emissions. But right now, is the “share" half of ride-share vehicles—which often have one driver and just one passenger—a misnomer? By some estimates, the ride-sharing boom may actually be raising auto emissions….

“Ride-sharing firms may find themselves increasingly drawn into the discussion at the intersection of transportation and climate change," says Adam Jonas, Head of Global Auto & Shared Mobility at Morgan Stanley. In a recent Morgan Stanley Research report, Jonas and a collection of industry analysts and sustainability experts look at why the next iteration of shared mobility could drive a multitrillion-dollar shift in capital to build the EV economy. Along the way, it could cut carbon emissions, create sustainable high-tech transportation and impact key sectors, including automakers, ride-sharing firms, and some of the world’s largest technology companies…."  Read more  Hmmmm… Unfortunately ‘Ride-sharing’ Firms don’t do very much ride-sharing.  Lyft/Uber/Didi are ‘Ride-hailing’ ‘Transportation Network Companies’ (TNCs).  They are certainly NOT ‘ride-sharing’ companies (Via is a ‘ride-sharing’ TNC).  The driver is just a worker/slave performing a service for the one passenger or one family/group of individuals.  Real ride-sharing pertains to the process of removing cars from the traffic stream.  When my wife and I go to dinner in Lambertville, we aren’t ride-sharing. We are just two(2) members of a family traveling together.  We would never take two cars from Princeton to Lambertville. No car-mele would have been taken off the road.  Energy use or pollution would not be reduced.   Congestion remains unchanged. 

However, if we somehow learned that a person down the street was going to drive to Lambertville  to go antiquing and we gave her a ride, then that would be ride-sharing.  Car-miles would have been taken off the road.  Energy, pollution and congestion all reduced. As you might imagine, essentially zero ride-sharing takes place today.  No one has developed a readily used app that that captures and disseminates the information that identifies the opportunites to ride share, let alone removes the sketchiness/anxiety associated with actually ride-sharing. 

Ride-sharing is the answer to all of our transportation challenges, yet it is essentially non-existent.  Adam gave an excellent lecture in my class last week: Cars & Climate: Tech´s Opportunity to Tackle CO2 Alain

Autonomous shuttles in Northern Virginia suburb show why the future of robot cars might be slow

I. Duncan, Oct 12, "The shuttles’ job is to make runs from parking lots that have been shifted farther from people’s offices. But when the new offices, apartments and stores go up on the 36-acre Halley Rise development in Northern Virginia and a Metro station opens nearby, the company that operates them hopes the vehicles will speed people on the first or last mile of their daily commute.

The project, a partnership between Boston-based start-up Optimus Ride and real estate developer Brookfield Properties, is a glimpse of one version of a self-driving future that features squadrons of robotic vehicles that are smaller and slower than traditional cars and that can cart people efficiently over small distances….

…deploying the vehicles in the real world with crew on board is an important step toward going fully driverless, providing the chance to collect more data. He said the company’s goal is to switch from onboard crew to a remote operator managing a squadron of vehicles at one of its sites by next year." Read more  Hmmmm…  The real news will be made when they remove the onboard operator and the squadron that in managed (not ‘operated’; vehicles drive themselves) by a single remote person is at least 2, preferably greater than 10; else this is another financially non-viable mobility demonstrations that will disappear quickly into the night.  Alain

    Law Commissions looks to future with self-driving vehicles

Staff, Oct. 16, "… The UK is one step closer to self-driving cars that can pick-up and ferry passengers without a human driver.

This consultation forms part of a three-year project commissioned by the UK Government’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles. The Law Commission of England and Wales and the Scottish Law Commission (the Law Commissions) are reviewing driving legislation to prepare for the introduction of self-driving vehicles on UK roads.

The second consultation paper focuses on how completely automated trips might be supplied to the public in vehicles that can travel empty or only with passengers and no driver or user-in-charge. We refer to these as Highly Automated Road Passenger Services (HARPS)…."  Read more  Hmmmm… A very serious and necessary undertaking.  Laws governing HARPS (Driverless Cars/trucks/Buses)must be such that the HARPS vehicles can operate in a harmonized manner with conventional cars.  If conventional drivers roll through stop signs when ‘the coast is  clear’, then so must HARPS cars.  If human driven cars are not ticketed if they travel at speeds ‘9 miles over the speed limit’, then so must HARPS cars … HARPS cars must behave like normal drivers; else, normal drivers (the central 80%) will backlash.  This is not going to be easy.  Alain

  Volvo shows an electric SUV and plans to drop cars running on just gas or diesel

R. Mitchell, Oct 16, "Volvo showed its first fully electric vehicle in Los Angeles on Wednesday, part of a new branding effort to back the Swedish company’s lineup of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.   The XC40 Recharge compact SUV is an electric version of a gas-powered vehicle that went on the market earlier this year.

Volvo said it intends to reduce the “life cycle carbon footprint” of its vehicles by 40% per car and make its global manufacturing network carbon-neutral by 2025. That’s in line, it said, with the global climate agreement struck in Paris in 2015.

Volvo has marketed its reputation for safety over the decades. Now it wants to be known for commitment to the environment too.  …" Read more  Hmmmm…  Given the quality of its intelligent cruise control, lane centering and automated Emergency Braking, they may begin to give Tesla some real competition.  Alain

  Didi seeks competitive edge with faster rollout of driverless pickup

M. Dunne, Oct. 18, "Didi Chuxing, China’s colossal ride-sharing company, is rolling out a self-driving pickup service on Chinese streets in the next few weeks — a gamble that could give the company an important edge in the global market.

Why it matters: The first company to put large numbers of self-driving cars on the road stands to gain two important advantages: reduced operating costs and real-world driving data for its algorithms, which will improve its autonomous driving systems.

What’s happening: In the first quarter of 2019, Didi delivered an estimated 21 million rides per day, compared with 15 million daily by Uber.  In August, Didi spun out its self-driving unit, following the example of Google and Waymo.  The autonomous driving unit employs 200 software engineers in Mountain View, California, and in China.

Between the lines: While China has abundant labor, Didi has made an aggressive push into self-driving cars because of concerns around competition and safety.

In wealthier city markets like Beijing and Guangzhou, labor is no longer cheap, and to win those markets, Didi must offer the lowest prices compared to Beijing-based Shouqi Chauffeur and Geely-backed CaoCao Zhuanche. Removing drivers is seen as the most direct path to lower costs.
Didi faced heavy scrutiny after two female passengers were killed by drivers in 2018. The company has 33 million drivers and cannot screen and monitor all of them effectively.  Meanwhile, Didi can afford to develop autonomous technology and expand overseas thanks to funding from heavyweight backers, including Softbank, Tencent and Alibaba. It also has partnerships with VW, Toyota, Beijing Auto, Nissan and others.  Read more  Hmmmm…Seems plausible.  Alain

  Russia’s Yandex Joins the Self-Driving Car Million-Mile Club

I. Khrennikov, Oct. 17, "Yandex NV, Russia’s largest internet firm, said its self-driving cars have passed 1 million miles in fully autonomous driving since it started testing the technology in December 2017, joining an elite group in the emerging robotaxi industry.

The milestone matters for Yandex’s quest to compete with the likes of Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo for a share of the market, which UBS Group AG says could exceed $2 trillion by 2030. Getting to 1 million indicates the company is on its way to verifying its technology — showing that it’s reliable and safe. That’s key for getting regulators to accept cars in the streets with no person at the wheel. … The bigger challenge will be to get its own board and lawyers to actually believe that the risk (having driverless crashes… making it obvious that the system doesn’t work, substantially delaying, if not completely destroying public acceptance and giving regulators/legislators a good excuse to kill such concepts (maybe even in Russia), and substantially reducing Yandex’s market cap, (even in Russia)) is way lees than the potential reward (may Rubles)   … Getting to 1 million indicates the company is on its way to verifying its technology — showing that it’s reliable and safe. … Not really…. It only shows them some of the Operational Design Domains (ODDs) where it is safe and unsafe.  They haven’t told us how many disengagements they have in which ODD and they haven’t told us that the disengagement rate is essentially zero on enough repeated kilometers of any ODD that covers enough trips (big enough market) to make such a service economically viable or have any redeeming social value.  To "show" anything to us, they need to divulge much more than self-drive miles.  ….

Most of the company’s mileage was driven on public roads in Moscow, including in the snow and rain, and in Tel Aviv, known for "haphazardly parked cars in the city’s intense heat," Yandex said in a statement Thursday. … And the disengagement rates in those "Domains" were????? ….….

The company already runs Russia’s largest ride-hailing service, Yandex.Taxi, which posted 16.4 billion rubles ($260 million) of revenue in the first half of 2019 and turned profitable in the second quarter…." Read more  Hmmmm… Maybe it is easier to be profitable in Russia; although, if it was really easier, then why did capitalism take so long to get there? Oh wait… I forgot about monopolies.   Maybe this should have been in ClickBait.  I’m simply too skeptical and cynical.  Alain


  Survey Says Consumers Remain Skeptical Of Both Electric And Self-Driving Cars

J. Gorzelany, Oct. 16, "As automakers begin to roll out a fleet of new full-electric vehicles in the near term and are pouring money into developing the autonomous cars of the future, they may have a hard time finding enough buyers to turn a profit on either. That’s according to the just-released J.D. Power Mobility Confidence Index Study, conducted in conjunction with SurveyMonkey….


Specifically, respondents indicated they would not be comfortable riding in an autonomous vehicle, whether it’s a private car or public transit, with over half saying they are unlikely to ever purchase a self-driving model. This could be attributed in some way to the fact that over two-thirds (68 percent) of them admitted to having little to no knowledge of self-driving technology. …"  Read more  Hmmmm…  So exactly what should we be learning about a topic from surveys of folks who admit to having "little or no knowledge" about a particular topic?    Oh yes, little or nothing!  I recognize that one should not artificially bias random samples, but surveying folks who admit to being clueless about the topic just adds noise to the data. No wonder "over half" didn’t want to buy something that 68% didn’t know what they would be buying. Not even half-baked!  Alain

  A Look At The Investment In Self-Driving Cars: Who Has Spent The Most?

D. Gates, Oct. 17, "The development of driverless car technology is on the rise, and automakers are investing millions and billions to be the first to market with their lineup of autonomous vehicles. But which company has made the largest investment in self-driving cars? Here’s a look at what some of the top companies have invested in their driverless vehicle programs so far.

The investment into the autonomous vehicle industry has reached over $100 billion, with the leader in spending investing more than half of this number, according to a report by Leasing Options.  The report indicated that Volkswagen is driving the charge when it comes to driverless technology with an investment of $54.2 billion and 57 percent share in total industry investment of self-driving cars…."  Read more  Hmmmm…  Once again a total conflation of Driverless and Self-driving which are VERY different, but I digress.  GM near the bottom.  Alphabet/Waymo not even mentioned?  Is this just announced deals v money actually spent trying to do something???  Samsung????  Where is Tesla?   Tesla actually sells a Self-driving car??? Alain

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

Simply ClickBait


In comments on Alphabet’s Waymo valuation cut 40% by Morgan Stanley to $105 billion amid challenges in self-driving car market   I Hmmmmed…. "$105B is still not bad for an entity that has yet to generate its first dollar of revenue." 

That is not true.  Riders/users of Waymo One in Arizona pay for the rides.  So Waymo has and is continuing to generated revenue. Alain

Calendar of Upcoming Events:

4th Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit

evening May 19 through May 21, 2020

On the More Technical Side