Saturday, February 15, 2020
7th edition of the 8th year of SmartDrivingCars

  “Urbs,” “Burbs,” and the Immigration Locomotive

J. Hughes, Feb 2020, "Even more so than the nation, the broad fourstate, 35-county metropolitan region centered on New York City (figure 1) is becoming afflicted by a condition of demographic stagnation.  While the United States has been experiencing the lowest population growth rates since the Great Depression, the region has only recently (2016–2018) slipped into absolute population decline, spawned by domestic outmigration. The major counterforce forestalling a demographic catastrophe has been positive international migration.  Immigration has become the primary source of population growth—the demographic locomotive.  Without it, the region would have to bear fully the economic consequences of what has become a virtual domestic population hemorrhage—a vast exodus of regional residents moving to the rest of the country. This is just one dimension of endemic demographic change that has swept the post–Great Recession world….


The second new reset is a turnaround of the pattern evidenced in the 2010–2016 period, when population growth in the “urbs” surpassed that of the “burbs.” After dominating growth early in the decade (2010–2016), the core—the urban heart of the metropolitan region encompassing New York City and three adjacent counties in New Jersey—suddenly slipped into decline post-2016, causing the region as a whole to lose population. This is the latest transformation in what has become a transmillennial demographic roller coaster ride… "   Read more Hmmmm… Most interesting Demographic Dynamic.   A must read.   Alain

  Smart Driving Cars Podcat Episode 142 – James Hughes

F. Fishkin, Feb 15, "What shifting populations mean for the future of mobility and transportation. Leading expert Jim Hughes of Rutgers University joins Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin for that plus the latest on Tesla, GM, Comma AI’s inexpensive autopilot, Aptiv, Lyft and more. Tune in and subscribe! "  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

  Is a $1000 Aftermarket Add-On as Capable as Tesla’s Auto­pilot and Cadillac’s Super Cruise?

D. VanderWerp. Feb 10, "f the self-driving car is the promised land, then today’s ever proliferating driver-assist features are the desert. Diminished claims and "it’s harder than we thought" mea culpas from self-driving’s loudest advocates suggest we’ll be wandering here for many years to come.

At least the technology is meandering in the right direction, though. Thanks to recent software updates, the most sophisticated systems—Cadillac’s Super Cruise and Tesla’s Autopilot—are more capable today than they were initially. This report on those systems includes a lesser known third player. For $998, upstart sells an aftermarket dash cam and wiring harness that taps into and overrides the factory-installed assistance systems in many Honda and Toyo­ta models as well as some Chrysler, Kia, and Lexus vehicles, among others. When activated,’s Openpilot software assumes control over the steering, brakes, and throttle, and it reduces the frequent reminders to keep your hands on the wheel. As you might imagine, automakers do not endorse this hack.

Any one of these systems could confidently track the center of a lane for hours with minimal driver input on reasonably straight highways. Although no automaker admits that infotainment is part of its system’s machine learning, right after we went hands-free, Hinder’s "Get Stoned" started playing through the Cadillac’s speakers. We ignored that suggestion and threw the three systems at the toughest highway kinks, interchanges, and two-lane roads surrounding our Ann Arbor home base until either they or we flinched. There was some of each…."  Read more Hmmmm…  A really good description of these systems.  A must read.  (What a shame that GM isn’t making a bigger deal out of SuperCruise.  What you MUST remember about each of these systems, especially the *.ai system is that these are FULL self-driving systems… Meaning that you MUST pay attention to the road ahead and be prepared to take over control ALL the time.  Don’t even think that they’ll take you home after having adult beverages, or they’ll let you take a nap or they’ll let you do more than take a quick glance at some text, or… These are nowhere near Driverless systems.  Alain

  Introducing the Cruise Origin

Veoneer, Jan. 27, "When GM introduced their Cruise Origin,… thermal sensing, … was highlighted as an important sensor (at 1:16)." Read more Hmmmm… Watch the video  Given that each but one of the 6 deer that I’ve hit (or hit me) in my lifetime of driving have been at night, in not so rural New Jersey (Jim Hughes calls NJ, the Garden State, a "salad bowl" for deer) and Pennsylvania, Thermal Sensing may well be more than a "nice to have".  The 4th Summit will discuss the role of Thermal Sensing.  Alain

NTSB Opens Public Docket for 2 Ongoing Tesla Crash Investigations

Press release, Feb 11, "The National Transportation Safety Board released Tuesday  new factual information via the public docket for  two Tesla accident investigations – the March 23, 2018, crash of a Tesla Model X in Mountain View, California,  and the March 1, 2019, crash of a Tesla Model 3 in Delray Beach, Florida….The Mountain View accident occurred when a 2017 Tesla Model X P100D electric-powered passenger vehicle operated with advanced driver assistance features – a feature  Tesla calls “autopilot” – departed  the southbound travel lanes of Highway 101 and struck a previously damaged crash attenuator. The driver, the sole occupant of the vehicle, was fatally injured in the crash.

About 500 pages of factual information covering various aspects of the investigation were made public Tuesday.  These items have been added to the Mountain View public docket, which was originally opened on June 19, 2019, when the NTSB released more than 500 pages of factual information.  The Mountain View docket is available at

The Delray accident occurred when a 2018 Tesla Model 3 electric-powered passenger vehicle traveling southbound on State Highway 441 struck an eastbound semitractor-trailer that had crossed in front of the Tesla.  At the time of the crash, Tesla’s ”autopilot” system was active. The driver, the sole occupant of the Tesla, was fatally injured. The truck driver was uninjured. The public docket for the Delray investigation was opened Tuesday and is available at…. Read more Hmmmm…There is a lot of factual information here.  As I wrote earlier, in the Mountain View crash, not only was the attenuator not replaced, but the road striping was very confusing and likely contributed significantly to the previous crash that took out the attenuator in the first place.  Ca DoT should be sure to have good paint and good striping on all of their road segments.  Also, if you’ve had problems with an automated system in a certain area, wouldn’t you be super attentive and even not use that system when you returned to those areas?

In the Delray crash, how can the truck driver not be at fault.  Same thing happened in the Joshua Brown crash, the truck driver was at fault (failed to yield to on-coming traffic).  In both cases, the truck drivers essentially stopped their trucks while they were broad-side across the car’s lane of travel.  It is also a problem that these Automated Emergency Braking  systems can not accurately determine the clearance under a stationary object across a road.  And it seems like they don’t even try.  They either disregard such objects which leads to the Joshua Brown and Delray crashes or they inappropriately slam on the brakes as happened to Steve Still . 

  ‘Disgruntled’ former Waymo self-driving car operator arrested for causing car crash

A. Hawkins, Feb 13, "A former Waymo contractor was arrested after allegedly forcing one of the company’s self-driving cars to crash in Tempe last month, according to AZ Central. Police say 31-year-old Raymond Tang drove his Mazda recklessly around the Waymo vehicle, eventually swerving in front of the self-driving car and slamming his brakes, causing the Waymo vehicle to rear-end him.


The collision was captured on video by the Waymo vehicle’s cameras and posted online by ABC15. A dark Mazda can be seen swerving several times in front of the Waymo vehicle before eventually slamming on the brakes and causing a minor fender-bender…." Read more Hmmmm…  Yea!!! See video.  Alain

  NTSB Releases Report On 2018 Fatal Silicon Valley Tesla Autopilot Crash

B. Templeton, Feb. 13, "On March 23 of 2018, Walter Huang, an Apple engineer commuting to work in his Tesla Model X crashed into a damaged crash attenuator at the off-ramp for Highway 85 from 101 in Silicon Valley. Tesla Autopilot was on, and steered the car into the barrier, accelerating as it approached it. Huang was killed. This triggered an NTSB investigation, which was recently released. A hearing with the full report is scheduled for Feb 25 where final conclusions will be published.

..This crash is particularly visceral for me, since I drive the same lane he was driving frequently, and I have several times done so using Autopilot in my Tesla. It’s a piece of highway almost everybody in Silicon Valley drives, and it’s located just a few miles from Tesla Headquarters in Palo Alto, so it is also driven frequently by a large fraction of Tesla engineers.


The NTSB report adds only modest new data, and what is added matches closely with expectations….


There is debate as to how much Huang was paying attention, but it is very likely the report will find that he holds the bulk of the responsibility for the crash, because it was his duty to take the wheel if Autopilot failed, and he did not….


The report also will assign fault to Caltrans, which maintains the highways…..


As noted, the report will likely not find crash responsibility with Autopilot. It performed (or didn’t perform) as it is advertised to not perform. Worse, Huang was aware that Autopilot did not handle this off-ramp correctly, for he had experienced problems with it there before at least twice. This should have caused him to either not use Autopilot there or to make sure he was vigilant at that location. The report also contains speculation on whether Huang was playing a game on his iPhone prior to the crash that might have distracted him. There are also incorrect statements in the report concerning the question of whether Huang had is hands on the wheel or not…."  Read more Hmmmm… Excellent! Ca DoT deserves more blame.  There is absolutely no reason that lane lines are permitted to fade.  Not only are good lane lines necessary for AutoPilot to stay in the correct lane, but also for each of us to stay in the correct lane.  For too long, the small amount of money that it takes to paint good lines has been overlooked in place of massive, more prestigious construction projects.  It is not glamorous, but may well be the most cost effective way for Ca DoT, and every other DoT, to improve safety on its roadways. Alain

  $7,000 Tesla Autopilot vs $1,000 Openpilot: Self-Driving Test!

A. Slye, Jan. 13, " …"  Read more Hmmmm… Watch the video and you make the call.   Again, The OEMs state that installing the system voids the warranty.  I’m not sure what your insurance company will say (When these aftermarket systems become good enough, they may say … go ahead, we’ve got you covered because these systems, when used with continuous human oversight actually reduce the expected liability associated with your driving behavior.  In fact they may go so far as to say… you are such a poor driver, that if you responsibly use this such a product we’ll even pay for it and have you covered.  Used car dealers may actually install such after-market devices to increase the value of their used cars, especially if the product has proven its crash avoidance performance to some insurance company.   The focus of such technology is (should be) all about crash avoidance.  If it works for bad drivers (good drivers tend not to be at fault in crashes), then there is real money on the table to promote the adoption of such crash-avoiding Safe-driving car technologies.  Alain

  Tesla Self-Driving Computer architect Jim Keller is confident about solving autonomous driving

F. Lambert, Feb 7, "Jim Keller, Tesla’s former head of Autopilot hardware and the designer of Tesla’s Self-Driving Computer chip, says that he is confident about solving autonomous driving after working at Tesla….. 

Elon Musk confirmed that Tesla is working on its own new AI chip.  Keller was leading the program, along with several other hardware responsibilities at the automaker.  It eventually led to the Tesla Self-Driving Computer unveiled last year, but Keller left in 2018 after having designed the chip.

The engineer now works at Intel and he hasn’t publicly commented about his work at Tesla until now.  He was interviewed on Lex Fridman’s AI podcast and had some very interesting comments about how he thinks autonomous driving is a problem that can be solved:… " Read more Hmmmm…Most interesting comments by Keller in this PodCast.  Must watch the video!  Alain

  How good are your car headlights? Here’s how technology is making them safer

R. Mitchell, Feb. 13,"How good are your headlights? Probably not as good as you think.  The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety on Thursday issued a list of the 23 safest 2020 passenger vehicles, based mainly on the institute’s crash worthiness tests.

Of those 23 vehicles, only six offer top-rated headlights as standard equipment, the IIHS said: the Genesis G70, the Honda Insight, the Hyundai Nexo, the Lexus NX, the Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid and the Tesla Model 3. The headlights on the other 17 models on the list are rated as “acceptable.”

The IIHS also includes pedestrian detection systems in its safety assessments, although that feature is rarely available as standard equipment…" Read more Hmmmm… IIHS and NHTSA also need to do a better job AEB, Lane centering, and intelligent cruise control systems.  Alain

  We still can’t agree how to regulate self-driving cars

A. Hawkins, Feb 11, " There was a sense of déjà vu on Capitol Hill today as a House panel convened yet another hearing on how to best regulate autonomous vehicles. But it wasn’t clear that any of the issues that sunk the previous effort had actually been resolved — which may mean that we’re headed for a very similar conclusion. …

A quick recap in case you forgot:…

 Auto and tech industry representatives want more leeway to manufacture and deploy vehicles that lack traditional controls, like steering wheels, sideview mirrors, and pedals….

And they want to preempt states and cities from passing laws regarding autonomous vehicles.

On the flip side are safety advocates, trial lawyers, and local officials who maintain that the promise of self-driving cars to reduce road deaths is just that — a promise. " …  Driverless cars are NOT about improving Safety, that’s the role of Safe-driving cars.  Driverless cars are about being safe in delivering improved mobility to many who can not or wish not to drive themselves.  Yes, safety will be improved, simply by having the driverless vehicles misbehave way less frequently that human drivers misbehave.  >90% of car crashes involve human driver misbehavior. Why is there no discussion about mobility in these hearings??? …"… 

Cathy Chase, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, noted that AV companies have the ability to test as many vehicles as they want on public roads in most states right now. “They can test unlimitedly right now,” Chase said. “There’s a big difference between testing and selling and deploying.”…

Jeff Tumlin, the director of transportation at San Francisco’s Municipal Transportation Agency,…urged lawmakers to require companies to install “black box”-like event data recorders in their cars to capture sensor data before and during inevitable crashes. And he pushed for the creation of a national database of safety incidents involving self-driving cars that would be available to the public."… Absolutely!  This is extremely important so that everyone can work to fix what went wrong.  We don’t know what we don’t know.  We can’t afford to lose the opportunity to learn from each crash and JFI (Just Fix It)…

"…Still, the sticking points that sunk the last bill remain the same: forced arbitration, exemptions, and federal preemption. Neither side seems to have moved much since the last round of hearings. And even if they did overcome their differences to pass a bill, it’s unclear that Congress would find a willing partner in President Trump…"  Read more Hmmmm…Watch for yourself…   Alain

How lidar makers are coping with slow progress of self-driving tech

T. Lee, Feb 11, "… For this piece I asked both lidar company officials and independent experts to help me understand the state of the lidar market. They told me that Velodyne—the company that invented modern three-dimensional lidar more than a decade ago—continues to dominate the industry.

But Velodyne is facing growing competition from newer firms. One company in particular—Ouster—has begun shipping aggressively priced alternatives to Velodyne’s flagship products. While these products might not quite match Velodyne’s performance, they’re good enough and cheap enough to pose a serious threat to Velodyne’s dominance….."  Read more Hmmmm…  FURTHER READING  Elon Musk: “Anyone relying on lidar is doomed.” Experts: Maybe not  This topic will be addressed and debated at the 4th Princeton SDC Summit.  Alain

  Aptiv’s self-driving cars have given 100,000 paid rides on the Lyft app

K. Korosec, Feb 11, "… The companies announced Tuesday that they’ve given 100,000 paid rides in Aptiv’s self-driving vehicles via the Lyft app.

“To our knowledge, this is the largest open-to-the-public commercial pilot,” Aptiv Autonomous Mobility President Karl Iagnemma said in a recent interview. ….”

The milestone has a few important caveats. Aptiv’s self-driving vehicles — which initially began with BMW 5 series — have a human safety driver behind the wheel to take over if needed. The human driver operates the vehicle manually in parking lots and hotel lobby areas.

The program, even if with those human safety drivers behind the wheel, has proven invaluable to the companies, according to Iagnemma and Jody Kelman, who leads the self-driving platform team at Lyft.  “We’ve got something here,” Kelman said. “This is really a blueprint for what future mobility partnerships can look like.”

Companies in this so-called “race” to commercially deploy on-demand ride-hailing services using self-driving vehicles must master more than the technical bits. Fleet management, real-time routing and designing an approachable user interface are just a few critical components needed to operate a profitable robotaxi service.

The program has taught Aptiv how to “get and keep a fleet of autonomous vehicles on the road and keep them highly utilized,” Iagnemma said, later adding that this project positions Lyft and Aptiv to be major winners in this space. The companies also learned how to work with various regulatory bodies, in this case, with the city of Las Vegas, Clark County and the region’s transit authority…."  Read more Hmmmm…  This is all very important.  They must now know where their aTaxis actually work so they should be able to define an Operational Design Domain (ODD) where they can deliver rides safely without an attendant.  Once that ODD is large enough to encompass enough potential trip demands  to make it worth their while, they should go out an JDI (Just Do It)… serve those customers who wish to travel within that ODD.  Unfortunately, the fact that they haven’t done it yet must mean that they have work yet to do to make the ODD large enough to encompass enough potential trips that could be expected to deliver enough benefit to offset the risk associated with removal of the the attendant/driver. 

One thing is certain… expensive cars with expensive drivers has very limited upside opportunity and very downside expectations.  First get rid of the driver. Then scale to reduce the cost of the car.   That might give you a chance to provide substantial return to all the sunk investment.  Alain

  The killer(s) on the road: reducing your risk of automotive death

P. Attia, Feb 9, "…nearly 18,000 automotive accidents occur every day in the US, on average. This frequency multiplied by the low severity still amounted to nearly 37,000 automotive fatalities in 2018. To put this difference into perspective, between 2000 and 2018 there were 778 fatalities from US scheduled air travel. Over the same time span, there were 723,530 automotive fatalities—almost 1,000 times greater than the number of fatalities from scheduled air travel….

These numbers should scare anyone. If I die in the next 10 years, the most probable “murder weapon” is my vehicle or another vehicle on the road. Is there anything I can do to lower the chances of dying in a car or from a car?…

Of all drivers killed in US automotive accidents in 2017, 18% occurred on a freeway. …  there are more drivers killed in intersections (20%) than on freeways….  drivers killed on rural roads with 2 lanes (i.e., one lane in each direction divided by a double yellow line) accounts for a staggering 38% of total mortality….

What driving error resulted in the fatality?… In the cases where drivers are killed on freeways, 31% of them have alcohol in their system and nearly 85% of these drivers were over the legal limit of 0.08 g/dL.  Furthermore, 29% of all driver deaths involved speeding, and just under 1 in 10 involved distracted driving…."   Read more Hmmmm….  These are NOT "driving errors".  They are driver misbehaviors!   drivers have to stop misbehaving and OEM have to stop promoting their cars as opportunities for drivers to misbehave.  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



Israeli cyber experts manage to fool autonomous vehicle systems with phantom images

Staff, Feb 14, "Researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s (BGU) Cyber Security Research Center have found that they can cause the autopilot on an autonomous vehicle to erroneously apply its brakes in response to “phantom” images projected on a road or billboard.

In a new paper, “Phantom of the ADAS,” researchers demonstrated that autopilots and advanced driving-assistance systems (ADASs) in semi-autonomous or fully autonomous cars register depthless projections of objects (phantoms) as real objects…"   Read more Hmmmm….  Thee in no news here.  We get fooled by optical illusions all the time. Fooling a CNN is much easier.  User’s of ADAS systems should be paying attention all the time and as you do when you go out on the road, you take a chance.  The paper actually wants to suggest the need for some sort of verification of sensed objects using communications.  Somewhat an attempt to justify V2X communications providing "… validate their  findings with a third party due to the lack of deployed vehicular communication systems…."  Will the next paper be on how to hack the third party source data?   Alain

Calendar of Upcoming Events:

4th Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit

evening May 19 through May 21, 2020

Princeton University

Princeton, NJ