Friday, February 7, 2020
6th edition of the 8th year of SmartDrivingCars

  NHTSA Grants Nuro Exemption Petition for Testing Low-Speed Driverless Vehicle

Press release, Feb 6, "NHTSA announced today that it granted Nuro’s request for a temporary exemption from certain low-speed vehicle standard requirements. The exemption will allow the company to deploy its low-speed, occupantless electric delivery vehicle, the “R2.”  Unlike a conventional low-speed vehicle, the R2 is designed to have no human occupant and operates exclusively using an automated driving system.

“Since this is a low-speed self-driving delivery vehicle, certain features that the Department traditionally required – such as mirrors and a windshield for vehicles carrying drivers – no longer make sense,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao… " Read more Hmmmm… this is: One small step.  The bigger one will be for the GM/Cruise vehicle.  Be sure to read the Supplemental Information.  Details matter.  Alain

  Smart Driving Cars Podcat Episode 141- A. Roy

F. Fishkin, Feb 7, "The latest glossary of BS in mobility, self driving and autonomy from author, podcaster and cannonball driver Alex Roy on Smart Driving Cars with Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin. Plus the news from Tesla, Nuro, Waymo, GM and more!Just say "Alexa, play the Smart Driving Cars podcast!".  Ditto with Siri, and GooglePlay …  Alain

    Draft Program  4th Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit   evening May 19 through May 21, 2020 (Tickets are limited, register before May 1)

A. Kornhauser, Feb 6, "The focus of the Summit this year will be moving beyond the AI and the Sensors to addressing the challenges of Commercialization and  the delivery of tangible value to communities.  We’ve made enormous progress with the technology. We’re doing the investment; however, this investment delivers value only if is commercialized: made available and is used by consumers in large numbers.  Demos and one-offs are "great", but to deliver value that is anywhere near commensurate with the magnitude of the investment made to date, initial deployments need to scale.  We can’t just have "Morgantown PRT Systems" whose initial deployment has been nothing but enormously successful for 45 years (an essentially perfect safety record, an excellent availability record and customer valued mobility).  Unfortunately, the system was never expanded or duplicated anywhere.  It didn’t scale.  It is a one-off. 


Tests, demos and one-offs are nice niche deployments; however, what one really needs are initial deployments that have the opportunity to grow, be replicated and scale.  In 1888, Frank Sprague, successfully deployed a small electric street railway system in Richmond, Va.  which became the reference for many other ciites.  "… By 1889 110 electric railways incorporating Sprague’s equipment had been begun or planned on several continents…" Substantial scaled societal benefits emerged virally from this technology.  It was eventually supplanted by the conventional automobile but for more than 30 years it delivered substantial improvements to the quality-of-life for many. 


In part, the 4th Summit will focus on defining the "Richmond" of Affordable Shared-ride On-demand Mobility-as-a-Service.  The initial Operational Design Domain (ODD) that safely accommodates Driverless Mobility Machines that people actually choose to use and becomes the envy of communities throughout the country. " Read more Hmmmm… Draft Program is in flux.  Consider all named individuals as "Invited yet to be confirmed". Alain

  Alex Roy’s Glossary of BS in Mobility, Self-Driving and Autonomy (Winter 2019/2020)

A. Roy, Jan 31, "he scope of mobility-industry clickbait is so massive these days, all the wine at a Pagani owners meet isn’t enough to make sense of it. Consider the transportation sector, in which publicists compete to unleash ever more BS words on an overwhelmed public. How best to counter the daily storm of nonsense and exaggeration? -—with a glossary for the ages.

Here goes:.. "  Read more Hmmmm… enjoy!! Alain

  APEX: The Secret Race Across America

A. Roy, 2020, "2,811 miles. 2 drivers. 1 car. The movie they didn’t want us to release. The true story of how the Cannonball Run record was broken…." Read more Hmmmm… See movie.  Enjoy!! Alain 

  The federal government just granted its first driverless car exemption

A. Hawkins, Feb 6, "… Nuro, the self-driving startup founded by two ex-Google engineers, has a new delivery robot. The R2 is the company’s second-generation vehicle, and while it looks similar to the first-generation R1 — egg-shaped, no room for a human driver, objectively cute — there is one important difference: the R2 has been granted a special exemption from federal safety requirements….

That may sound dangerous, but it’s actually pretty significant. It gives Nuro permission to produce and test vehicles that aren’t intended for human drivers. Right now, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) require cars to have basic, human controls, like steering wheels, pedals, sideview mirrors, and so on. These standards specify how vehicles must be designed before they can be sold in the US… But Nuro’s exemption will come with some strings attached. According to the department (emphasis ours):

Given the R2’s unique and novel design, though, NHTSA has determined that it would be in the public interest to maintain greater oversight of the R2 than typical for an exempt vehicle, and has conditioned the exemption on a set of terms including mandatory reporting of information about the operation of the R2 (including the automated driving system) and required outreach to the communities where the R2 will be deployed…" Read more Hmmmm…This is significant!  Alain

  Tesla’s Stock Is Up 36% in Two Days. What’s Going On?

N. Cholski, Feb 4, "… But if a stock rises steadily above the price at which the short-sellers initially sold it, they are sitting on a loss. That loss — in theory — has no limits because a stock can keep rising. And if a stock zooms higher, as Tesla’s has, the short-sellers will usually have to rush to buy the shares to protect themselves against further losses. If enough investors do this, it pushes the stock price up even further, forcing even more buying by short-sellers. Other investors often join the buying, in the belief they can make quick and easy profits.

This effect, known as a short squeeze, not only creates losses on existing short bets, but also deters new investors from betting against the stock. The almost vertical trajectory of Tesla’s share price suggests that a particularly acute short squeeze is in progress…."  Read more Hmmmm… Whew!! Alain

  The Future of Sensors for Self-Driving Cars: All Roads, All Conditions

D. Cardinal, Feb 4, "Whatever your thoughts about how quickly autonomous vehicle technology will move forward, there is little doubt that it will need to rely on better and less expensive sensor technology than we have available today. Current test vehicles often have sensor suites costing over $100,000, and still can’t deal with all types of road and weather conditions.

To help provide some background context and assess the future potential of various sensor technologies, we assembled a panel of industry experts at Electronic Imaging 2020. They represented the major sensor modalities in automotive use today: lidar, radar, cameras, and thermal imaging. Everyone learned a lot, and there were some great takeaways that we’ll share with you in this writeup of the session….

When asked about the argument that “people can drive with two eyes, why can’t cars?” their responses ranged from needing to be better than human drivers to a desire for true redundancy for safety. All of the panelists also agreed that it would be years before the advanced technology needed for L4 and above would be close to affordable for retail car buyers. So they are all determined to buckle up for the long, slow, adoption curve they expect as costs gradually come down with increased volume and innovation."    Read more Hmmmm… Redundancy isn’t really good when there is disagreement.  Which is correct???  Also, being "better than humans" should NOT be the goal.  Humans are absolutely fantastic as long as they don’t misbehave. A system that is as good as humans and misbehaves much less is substantially "better than humans".  Alain


F. Delaunay, Jan 28, "… AlixPartners’ Global Autonomous Vehicle Report, which is based on a survey of more than 6,500 consumers across China, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States, found that consumers are willing to spend just an 8% to 24% premium for “hands-off-the-wheel” autonomy over today’s already-available technologies (lane-keeping assistance, automatic braking, etc.). The results ranged from Germany’s 24% down to 8% in China. Americans surveyed said they’d be willing to pay just a 9% premium—or $1,868 versus $1,709.

At the same time, the survey results also suggest that the traditional auto industry, in particular, faces another big challenge when it comes to AVs: competition from ride-hailing.

When asked if they’d be willing to consider switching from personal-vehicle ownership to using autonomous-vehicle ride-hailing services, or “robotaxis,” if the monthly cost were from 40% cheaper to even 20% more expensive than vehicle ownership, 44% to 84% across the six countries said they would—led by consumers in China, the world’s largest auto market, at the 84%. In the U.S., 44% said they’d consider swapping their personal vehicle for ride-hailing under such circumstances…"  Read more Hmmmm… The results about aTaxis are interesting and encouraging.  Alain

  GM’s Cruise values autonomous vehicle industry at $8 trillion

M. Wayland, Feb 5, "The global autonomous vehicle industry is an $8 trillion market opportunity, according to General Motors’ autonomous vehicle unit Cruise.

Dan Ammann, CEO of the GM majority-owned autonomous vehicle subsidiary, on Wednesday said that valuation includes autonomous ride-hailing services to compete against current companies such as Uber and Lyft at a potentially $5 trillion sector; $2 trillion for freight; and $500 billion each for data insights and in-vehicle experiences…. "  Read more Hmmmm… In line with Adam Jonas’ original $10T/yr.  See the embedded video.  Alain

  2021 Cadillac Escalade Elevates the Extraordinary

Press room, Feb 5, "

  • Industry-first curved OLED display technology
  • Industry-first AKG audio technology
  • Segment-first available Super Cruise driver assistance technology…

… Then finally way down on the page…
Super Cruise

The 2021 Escalade enters the future of mobility as the first full-size SUV with Super Cruise driver assistance technology. It enables hands-free driving on more than 200,000 miles of compatible highways in the United States and Canada, using LiDAR map data, high-precision GPS, a state-of-the-art driver attention system and a network of cameras and radar sensors.

The 2021 Escalade features an enhanced Super Cruise system with several new features and improvements, including automated lane change.  Automated lane change will allow the driver to direct the system to perform a single lane change using the turn signal to indicate the direction of the desired move…." Read more Hmmmm… I guess that we should be pleased that GM placed Super Cruise third after a display and a speaker.  I’m certain that Elon would have listed Super Cruise first, highlighted its current and future capabilities at the top of the sheet (or right after the EV range aspects) and found better things to promote other that a screen and speakers.  So bad!!  (Super Cruise is actually a very good system.  Too bad GM doesn’t really value the safety of its customers; else, it would have it at the top, on all of its models, and not be promoting the watching of a curved OLED screens.)  Alain

  Peoria Approves Funding for Autonomous Shuttle

Press release, Feb 5, "Arizona’s first shared-ride, autonomous shuttle operating on a public street is coming to Peoria. Last night, Peoria’s city council approved the funding for a 60-day autonomous vehicle pilot program with Beep, a Florida-based autonomous mobility solutions company….  The Beep Command Center can also communicate with the onboard shuttle attendant at any time. The shuttle holds up to 10 passengers at a time and will operate at a maximum speed of 15 mph as part of the pilot program…."  Read more Hmmmm…This is Peoria, Arizona. It does have an attendant. Alain

Tesla: Two Heads are Better Than One

R. Lancelot, Feb 5, "…  All of these investors are ignoring something that Tesla owners or wannabe owners know, that Tesla’s vehicles are fundamentally built differently. From their Ethernet networks to Tesla’s dual redundant fully self-driving system, Tesla’s vehicles are unlike anything manufactured anywhere else in the world for sale to the general public.

Tesla is also building up a powerful network effect narrative around its stated plans to enable a car sharing/ride hailing service on its existing connectivity platform. But fleet operators aren’t waiting for Tesla’s own networked car solution. Fleet operators from Daimler (that’s right – buying 60 Tesla’s) to Kapten (Las Vegas taxi operator – bought 50) and many others are stuffing their fleets with Tesla’s due to their low cost of operation and reliability.

Underlying all of this is the most remarkable value multiplier of all: transparency. While other autonomous vehicle operators and car companies tout their long-term and short-term plans for electrification, connectivity, and autonomy – Tesla publicly discloses its plans, its architecture, its philosophy, and its results.

Is Tesla perfect? Far from it…."  Read more Hmmmm… Tesla treats it customers substantially differently than traditional,even higher end, OEMs.  As I’ve mentioned several times, in 2014 I bought a new Mercedes S-550 because it had intelligent cruise control and automatic lane centering (which barely works).  In the more than 5 years that I’ve owned the car, there has been zero/no attempt by Daimler to improve/update the software in my car.  The intelligent cruise control works well (except it turns off completely if I tap the brakes, rather than turning off only the acceleration function.  I claim that when most people tap the brakes, that’s an indication that they want to speed up.  It does NOT mean that they don’t want to slow down enough to to not hit something in front of them!   This is a left-over from our Society of Automotive Engineers who set standards for "stupid" cruise control to turn off the system if the brakes were tapped.  But stupid CC only controlled the throttle, so turning off the whole system was the simple thing to do.  The SAE has failed to understand that tapping the brakes just means stop accelerating, NOT: stop accelerating  AND stop decelerating!  So bad!!! , but I digress!) 


The Lane centering system does not work  well and who knows if the AEB works well.  Daimler must have made improvements to the software over the past 5 years; however, they’ve made zero effort to try to improve my car.  I’d pay handsomely for software improvements that would cost them close to zero to upgrade.  But that’s not their business model.  It is centered on Obsolescence.   They have focused completely on selling me a new one by telling me how bad my car is relative to a new one.  Tesla’s obsession with upgrading and improving what you just bought, rather than the traditional obsolescence and dis-satisfaction central to the traditional OEM’s business model, is a fundamental force in this dynamic. Alain

    This Is What Tesla’s Autopilot Sees On The Road

Carscoops, Jan 31, "This video shows what Tesla Autopilot’s neural network sees on the road. Tesla says the system relies on per-camera networks to analyze raw images to perform semantic segmentation, object detection and monocular depth estimation. It employes birds-eye-view networks to take a video from all cameras to output the road layout, static infrastructure and 3D objects directly in the top-down view…. " Read more Hmmmm… See video.  Fairly impressive.  Frame rates of about 17 frames per second, with lanes and road edges clearly seen.  However, … There doesn’t seem to be any indication on the screen of the approaching car from the left 20 seconds in.  Plus there are no situations in which it approaches any stationary object overhead (tree canopy, overpass,…) nor a 53 foot trailer without a skirt stationary in the lane ahead, or a parked firetruck, or a transition from car-following to leading with a stationary object in the lane ahead, or …. Alain

  Tesla Autopilot is going to detect potholes and make mini-maps to remember them

F. Lambert, Feb 5, "Tesla’s Autopilot, which the automaker is trying to turn into a self-driving system, is going to detect potholes and make mini-maps to remember them, according to a new comment from CEO Elon Musk.
In order to achieve full self-driving, a system would have to be able to handle a wide range of different scenarios, including different weather and road conditions.

These conditions, like potholes, can sometimes be difficult for human drivers to handle, and some people find it improbable that self-driving systems will be able to appropriately navigate them.

Tesla is leveraging its large customer fleet equipped with Autopilot hardware to capture data on those corner cases and teach its neural network to handle them…. " Read more Hmmmm…Why not!  This is leveraging Tesla’s over-the-air communications.  Just the beginning of what they can do as they scale.  Alain

  Tesla will launch ride-sharing app with its own driver insurance

F. Lambert, Feb 4, "…I think it would make sense for us to close-loop on higher use of Autopilot, it reduces the insurance costs as well as the probability of injury.’…"  Read more Hmmmm..  Why not!  Alain

Someone used neural networks to upscale a famous 1896 video to 4k quality (Updated)

T. Lee, Feb 4, "… Of course, humanity’s standards for realism have risen dramatically over the last 125 years. Today, the Lumière brothers’ masterpiece looks grainy, murky, and basically ancient. But a man named Denis Shiryaev used modern machine-learning techniques to upscale the classic film to 21st-century video standards.  The result is remarkable. Watching the upscaled version makes the world of our great-great-great-grandparents come to life. Formerly murky details of the train, the clothing, and the faces of the passengers now stand out clearly…."  Read more Hmmmm…  Look at the videos.  Alain

     Autonomous Vehicle Work Group: 2019 Annual Report

J. Lin, Nov 15, "…This report represents the culmination of extensive research, deliberation, and discussion in 2019 led by a 34 members Executive Committee made up of public, private and non-profit organizations, and seven subcommittees lead by nine different state agencies with the participation of nearly 500 stakeholders. The AV Work Group effort is truly a broad-based, transparent, and inclusive process with stakeholders and experts driving the research, assessment, and determination of what our state decision makers need to consider in order to prepare for the operation of AV’s on our public roadways in Washington State.."  Read more Hmmmm…  Unfortunately it seems that Washington State is singularly focused on AVs for consumers, rather than the opportunity that AVs to deliver substantial affordable on-demand shared-ride mobility-as-a-service.  I guess that Washington State is content to continue to promote and expand single occupant do-it-yourself mobility as the mainstay for the State.   (Oops.. there is an image of an Olli on page 1  (offset by numerous images of connected personal vehicles.) So disappointing.  Alain

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

There are so many bad articles.  I’m overwhelmed.  C’mon Man!  Alain

Sunday Supplement



Calendar of Upcoming Events:

4th Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit

evening May 19 through May 21, 2020

Princeton University

Princeton, NJ

On the More Technical Side