Saturday, March 14, 2020
11th edition of the 8th year of SmartDrivingCars


A. Hawkins, Mar. 13,  "Waymo,Waymo, the self-driving unit of Alphabet, says it will keep operating its fleet of roughly 600 self-driving taxis in Arizona during the novel coronavirus outbreak. But the safety drivers who monitor the autonomous taxis are concerned that they are being put in harm’s way.

Waymo is “strongly encouraging” its full-time employees without “business critical” tasks to work from home. Its safety drivers, who are employed by a French transit company called Transdev North America that has a multiyear contract with Waymo, are still mostly required to come into work, The Verge has learned. Transdev appears to be following guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by stepping up the frequency of its cleanings and disinfections. But drivers tell The Verge that the Waymo vendor is ignoring recommendations about social distancing.

“It feels like the drivers are treated like second class citizens, having to report to work and serve ‘hails’ while the full-time employees are required to work from home to stay safe,” said a Waymo driver who requested anonymity in order to speak freely. “Safety for some.”…"  Read more Hmmmm… I thought that Waymo had started offering rides without safety drivers in Chandler????  I guess, they do it in a "smaller" Operational Design Domain (ODD) and they are trying to expand that ODD by operating with safety drivers for trip originating and or terminating outside that original "smaller" ODD. 


Anyway… I often use the elevator to try to understand autonomousTaxis… driverless mobility machines.  Will we look back to this complaint by attendants as the turning point which hasten Waymo’s operation of its vehicles without attendants on-board much as the elevator operator’s strike in NYC in September 1945 hasten the deployment of automated elevators (see Pushing the right Buttons)?   As I’ve been writing, the biggest challenge of Uber/Lyft is management of its drivers.  It looks like Waymo is experiencing the same challenges with its attendants.  Moreover,  a NECESSARY condition on economic viability is safely operating without a driver/attendant.  We may look back and credit COVID-19 as hastening Waymo’s deployment of driverless mobility for all.  This may be COVID-19’s only positive contribution to society. 🙂   Alain

  Smart Driving Cars Podcast Episode 146

F. Fishkin, Mar. 14, "Will the Coronavirus speed the move to driverless mobility? Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin tackle that plus the latest on Waymo, Tesla, new IIHS safety tech recommendations and more in this edition of the Smart Driving Cars Podcast. Tune in and subscribe!"   "Alexa, play the Smart Driving Cars podcast!".  Ditto with Siri, and GooglePlay …  Alain

    Draft Program   4th Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit   Postponed until after June 30.  More later

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 cites.  "… 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

  Addressing driver disengagement and system misuse: human factors recommendations for Level 2 driving automation design

A. Mueller, March 2020, "Currently available Level 2 driving automation has the potential to reduce crashes. However, there are known risks with drivers misusing these systems, particularly as they relate to drivers becoming disengaged from the driving task. The purpose of this paper was to summarize the human factors literature and make empirically supported design recommendations for Level 2 driving automation on the best methods to encourage driver engagement and communicate where the system can safely be used. Our recommendations pertaining to driver engagement concern driver monitoring systems that detect signs of driver disengagement, driver attention reminder methods, escalation processes, consequences for sustained noncompliance when monitoring systems have detected driver disengagement, and proactive methods for keeping drivers engaged with respect to driver-system interactions and system functionality considerations. We also provide guidance on how the operational design domain should be communicated and restricted. We advise you to consider these recommendations in a holistic context, as selectively adhering to only some may inadvertently exacerbate the dangers of driver disengagement and system misuse….

The operational design domain (ODD) for Level 2 automation systems should be clearly defined and communicated to the driver."  Read more Hmmmm… This is very important and a MUST read for everyone.  I’d even go farther by:

  • banning "Level 3" systems,
  • banning the use of StupidSummmon on private and public roads/spaces except for one’s own private property,
  • allow the tapping of the brakes to disengage only the throttle but NOT the braking function of intelligent cruise control,
  • sustained or repeated instances of noncompliance should result in pulsebraking, safe stop, and Level 2 system lockout until the driver gets a note from his mother that he has been a good boy and can have his toy back or makes a n*$250.00 donation to IIHS, where n = lockouts he has incurred .


Tesla’s Musk is mum about coronavirus impact, except to say panic is ‘dumb’

R. Mitchell, Mar. 12, "Tesla had been hoping to score three profitable quarters in a row, for the first time in its history. But with the coronavirus slamming the overall economy, analysts are increasingly skeptical.

Wall Street analysts expect Tesla’s first-quarter sales to come in well under pre-virus forecasts and see net losses near $40 million when the company reports in late April, according to consensus estimates compiled by FactSet.  But they have little to go on.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk uses Twitter as Tesla’s primary communications channel. He’s not saying much there about how the coronavirus might affect the company….  He’s said nothing about the current level of production in Shanghai, which reopened on Feb. 10 after a 10-day government-ordered shutdown. Nor about the company’s sales prospects in China, where the overall auto industry suffered an 80% decline in sales in February. Also, no talk about supply chain issues….


The company’s stock price has dived with the rest of the market, plummeting 39% from a closing high of $917.42 on Feb. 19 to $560.55 as of Thursday’s close…


 On Thursday, Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas cut his delivery estimate from 500,000 cars to 452,000…


The new factory is sailing into a tail wind: EV sales in China fell in February 77%, from 49,000 vehicles in January to 11,000. The good news for Tesla: it accounted for 3,958 of those cars, according to the China Passenger Car Assn., or a bit over a third of all EVs sold in China.  Sales growth must burst well beyond current levels to support the China factory’s annual production capacity of 150,000 cars…"  Read more Hmmmm… In a nutshell, reflective of the whole reaction to the virus.   Alain

  Driverless trucks being tested right now on public roads

Mar. 13, "Few are aware that driverless 18-wheelers are already on the road. The test runs on highways have humans in them just in case sensors or computers fail, but an autonomous trucking executive says by next year, they won’t. The future of freight on America’s roads can be a driverless one, this executive says. And that’s news to many, especially the truck drivers who stand to lose their livelihoods. 60 Minutes cameras ride aboard a test run and Jon Wertheim reports on the potential disruption to a storied American industry on the next edition of 60 Minutes, Sunday, March 15 at 7 p.m. ET/PT on CBS…." Read more Hmmmm… they now  …have humans in them just in case…    and next year they will also …have humans in them just in case… , and the year after that… …have humans… There is an enormous benefit to the driver, the carrier and the shipper for automated driving aids for the long-haul trucking industry (Safe- and Self-driving trucks).  What is being presented here are Self-driving trucks, where the professional driver remains attentive to the driving task as IIHS has recommended above.

It is complete watch-bait, that 60 minutes is even suggesting that any of these trucks will be going down any interstate or any other public road driverlessly any time soon (No attendant on-board anywhere.).  The risk to the surrounding public will simply be many times greater than the minuscule private benefits derived by saving the cost of the driver. No trucking company CEO is going to risk his job and the value of his stock options on such a stunt.  TuSimple isn’t going to bet its ranch on it either.  Just because you might be able to do it, doesn’t mean that you will do it, especially when one screw-up loses the ranch.  It’s even doubtful that a "Level 3" operation (the driver is able to sleep while traveling within the Operational Design Domain (ODD)) will become operational in any significant way.  There isn’t even a reasonable business case for platooning except for maybe very limited niche situations. 

Again, systems that improve the driver’s work environment and possibly help her/him get another one or maybe even two hours of service are fantastic.  removing the driver altogether, not so much.  Alain

Morgan Stanley warns it’s too early to buy Tesla’s stock — even after a coronavirus-led plunge of more than 20% (TSLA)

C. Reinicke, Mar 2, "Tesla stock fell to a one-month low on the last trading day in February as coronavirus fears rattled global markets, snapping a record rally that had sent shares up more than 250% from October to their all-time high close of about $918 per share on February 19.

It might still be too early to buy the dip, according to Morgan Stanley.   "While the shares trade ~34% above our $500 target, we would wait and see if a challenging 1Q and supply disruptions come to pass before revisiting the stock," equity analyst Adam Jonas wrote in a Monday note, referring to Friday’s closing price. He reiterated his "underweight" rating on shares of the company, which gained about 10% Monday. …" Read more Hmmmm… Tesla Stock Price.  Alain

Video: AutonomouStuff building next generation of self-driving cars

D. Proeber, Mar 6, "This promotional video by AutonomouStuff in Morton shows how it is bringing self-driving technology to life."  Read more Hmmmm…See video. Alain

  Tesla makes its millionth car—a red Model Y

T. Lee, Mar. 10, "Tesla has made 1 million electric cars, CEO Elon Musk announced on Twitter on Monday evening. Musk shared an image of the vehicle, a red Model Y—Tesla’s forthcoming lower-cost crossover.

It’s a remarkable milestone. The carmaking business is notoriously competitive and capital-intensive. Before Tesla, it had been decades since anyone had built a substantial American carmaker…." Read more Hmmmm… Congratulations.  Alain

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

Sunday Supplement


  Self-driving cars stuck in neutral on road to acceptance

Mar 9, "A new AAA survey on automated vehicles reveals only one in 10 drivers (12%) would trust riding in a self-driving car. Even more Americans – 28% – don’t know how they feel about the technology, signaling that consumers are stuck in neutral on the road to accepting self-driving cars. AAA believes consumer sentiment of automated vehicles will be driven by tangible information on key issues and, equally important, quality education and experience….

Seven in 10 (72%) U.S. adults would feel safer riding in a self-driving car if they had the ability to take over control if something goes wrong. …"  Read more Hmmmm… Ability to take over???  Self-driving cars require you  to continuously be paying attention  and be ready and able to "take over" if something bad is starting to happen!!!   Once again, the AAA didn’t properly describe Self-driving cars, so it is impossible to draw any conclusions from this survey. Alain


Calendar of Upcoming Events:

Postponed,  More Later!!!

4th Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit

Princeton University

Princeton, NJ

On the More Technical Side