Friday, March 21, 2020
12th edition of the 8th year of SmartDrivingCars

  Waymo suspends robotaxi service except for its truly driverless vehicles

K. Korosec, Mar. 17, "Waymo  said Tuesday it is pausing operations of Waymo One, a service in the Phoenix area that allows the public to hail rides in self-driving vehicles with trained human safety operators behind the wheel, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Waymo is also halting testing on public roads in California.

However, Waymo will keep some operations up and running, notably its truly driverless vehicles, which don’t require a human safety driver, according to an announcement on its website Tuesday. These driverless vehicles are used in the Phoenix area as part of Waymo’s early rider program that lets vetted members of the public hail a ride…"   Read more  Yippie!!! Unfortunately, the latest is not so good…   Waymo has suspended all services, including the driverless.  Poopie!!! Alain

  Smart Driving Cars Podcast Episode 147 – Michael Sena

F. Fishkin, Mar. 14, "From Sweden…The Dispatcher editor Michael Sena joins Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin as Covid-19 takes a toll on Waymo, Uber and more. Plus Saving the Car Industries in the U.S. and the EU… the latest from Future Networked Car 2020 in Geneva and more."   "Alexa, play the Smart Driving Cars podcast!".  Ditto with Siri, and GooglePlay …  Alain

  Symposium on the Future Networked Car: FNC2020

M. Sena, April 2020, " THE ITU AND UNECE Symposium on the Future Networked Car is special for several reasons. It is arranged and held by organizations that are in the standards and policy support business, not in the conference business. That means there are no exhibitions where large sums of money are paid for the privilege of occupying a booth. It
also means that there are no attendee fees.  The Symposium comprises four panel discussions and two information presentations about the organizers’ activities in the area of vehicle connectivity. Panelists are subject experts in the topic addressed by the panel and there are no company pitches. There are no parallel sessions or breakout sessions, so everyone hears everything. The two coffee breaks, the lunch and the Symposium-ending reception (this year sponsored by DEKRA, QUALCOMM and ROAD DB) offer plenty of opportunity for old friends to meet and new friendships and business contacts to be made. As a bonus, it’s held on the first public day of the GENEVA INTERNATIONAL MOTOR SHOW, or GIMS as it is referred to, and admission to the Symposium also provides access to the SHOW at the Palexpo for the day.

The tally for delegates on-site was around 60, as opposed to the usual 120-150. In spite of some doubabout a local/remote panel discussion, it worked.

The ITU conference hall provided everything we needed for both those who were present and for those who joined remotely. There were enough participants in the hall to give it the feel of a real, live event, while the remote panelists where shown on the multiple screens…."  Read more I participated remotely, Michael provides a must read excellent summary and you may learn more by listening to PodCast 147.  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

  The End of Starsky Robotics

S. Seltz-Axmacher, Mar. 19, "In 2015, I got obsessed with the idea of driverless trucks and started Starsky Robotics. In 2016, we became the first street-legal vehicle to be paid to do real work without a person behind the wheel. In 2018, we became the first street-legal truck to do a fully unmanned run, albeit on a closed road. In 2019, our truck became the first fully-unmanned truck to drive on a live highway.

And in 2020, we’re shutting down.

I remain incredibly proud of the product, team, and organization we were able to build; one where PhDs and truck drivers worked side by side, where generational challenges were solved by people with more smarts than pedigree, and where we discovered how the future of logistics will work.

Like Shackleton on his expedition to Antarctica, we did things no one else ever has. Similarly, though, it didn’t turn out as planned….

There are too many problems with the AV industry to detail here: the professorial pace at which most teams work, the lack of tangible deployment milestones, the open secret that there isn’t a robotaxi business model, etc. The biggest, however, is that supervised machine learning doesn’t live up to the hype. It isn’t actual artificial intelligence akin to C-3PO, it’s a sophisticated pattern-matching tool…. "  Read more Hmmmm…  Yup!!! Read on. It is VERY worthwhile! There are many fundamental truths… Alain

  U.S. agency proposes revising auto safety rules to speed self-driving cars

D. Shepardson, Mar 17, "The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said Tuesday it was proposing sweeping changes to U.S. safety requirements to speed the deployment of self-driving vehicles without human controls.  The agency said it is proposing to rewrite 11 safety standards that require traditional manual control "by revising the requirements and test procedures to account for the removal of manually-operated driving controls." The proposal will be open for public comment before the agency can finalize it. …"  Read more Hmmmm…  It is about time.  The public comments will be very interesting. Details are in the Federal Register, next.  Alain

Occupant Protection for Automated Driving Systems

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 49 CFR Part 571 Docket No. NHTSA-2020-0014 RIN 2127-AM06, Mar. 16, "SUMMARY: This proposal is one of a series of regulatory actions that NHTSA is considering to address the near- and long-term challenges of testing and verifying compliance with the Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSS) for vehicles equipped with Automated Driving Systems (ADS) that lack the traditional manual controls necessary for human drivers, but that are otherwise traditional vehicles with typical seating configurations. This notice seeks to clarify the
ambiguities in applying current crashworthiness standards to ADS-equipped vehicles without traditional manual controls, while maintaining the regulatory text’s application to more traditional vehicles and vehicles equipped with ADS that may have alternate modes. This proposal is limited to the crashworthiness standards and provides a unified set of proposed regulatory text applicable to vehicles with and without ADS functionality. …"  Read more Hmmmm…  Read all the details, They are important.  Alain

  U.S. Department of Transportation Announces $20.3 Million in Grants to Improve Transportation Access Through Innovative Technologies

Press release, Mar. 16, "Federal Transit Administration (FTA) today announced approximately $20.3 million in grant selections through the Integrated Mobility Innovation (IMI) program. IMI supports projects that use innovative technologies and processes to improve access to public transportation, increase public transportation efficiency, and enhance the overall rider experience. Twenty-five projects in 23 states will receive funding under the program.

"These $20.3 million in federal grants will help communities nationwide enhance their transportation systems to make it easier for people to use transit, especially older adults and people with disabilities," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

The projects will advance mobility through creative partnerships and emerging technologies. Combining public and private transportation assets and strategies can greatly increase access to mobility for everyone…."  Read more Hmmmm…  Congratulations to the 23 recipients. Hopefully the services rendered will outlast the funding provided.  Alain

  Announcing Waymo’s Open Dataset Virtual Challenges

D. Anguelov, Mar. 19, "Last August, we invited the research community to join us in accelerating self-driving technology with the release of one of the largest multi-sensor self-driving datasets available today. Even as COVID-19 continues to develop, we are committed to fostering an environment of innovation and learning – one that can continue to grow and thrive in our temporarily virtual world. That is why today, we are launching the next phase of our program: expanding the Waymo Open Dataset by an additional 800 segments and inviting researchers to participate in Waymo’s Open Dataset Challenges…

We’re offering awards to the top submissions in each of the five challenges as follows:… ,  Read more Hmmmm… As if we had nothing to do while working from home.  We can now do this for Waymo.  Alain

Ford Motor                                                         Company Logo  Ford Autonomous Vehicle Dataset

K. Staff, Mar. 19, "We present a challenging multi-agent seasonal dataset collected by a fleet of Ford autonomous vehicles at different days and times during 2017-18. The vehicles were manually driven on a route in Michigan that included a mix of driving scenarios including the Detroit Airport, freeways, city-centers, university campus and suburban neighborhood.

We present the seasonal variation in weather, lighting, construction and traffic conditions experienced in dynamic urban environments. This dataset can help design robust algorithms for autonomous vehicles and multi-agent systems. Each log in the dataset is time-stamped and contains raw data from all the sensors, calibration values, pose trajectory, ground truth pose, and 3D maps. All data is available in Rosbag format that can be visualized, modified and applied using the open source Robot Operating System (ROS)."  Read more Hmmmm…  Excellent.  I haven’t had a chance to look at the data but I suspect that it is excellent, especially since it addresses some of the variational environmental  aspects. On the surface  (see map of the 66 km route) it seems to be oriented towards the self-driving car market, rather than the driverless mobility services market (which consists of residential city streets, their construction zones, etc. where people live and places they’d like to go to … clinics, hospitals, day care centers, food stores, thrift stores, libraries, community centers, …).  Some streets in Dearborn are included, but not that first residential ring outside the gilded center city towers such as Petosky-Otsego or  Warrendale or … 

Note, the empty open straight freeway that is displayed on the lead page exemplifies how much of the data is absolutely useless. Who cares about all those trees? If a data point is behind you and going slower than you, it is irrelevant! 

Also note that the lane data for the approach of the the overpass is missing just at the time when you really need it as you approach that stationary object in the lane ahead.  Why is it missing??  Does the ground truth contain the minimum clearance under that stationary object overpass) in the lane ahead?  That’s the most important data segment, along with the lane line data and the data associated with the car in the other lane,   

Kyle Wiggers’ take on the data release can be found in Ford releases a data set to accelerate autonomous car development in VB.  Alain

  Elon Musk says ‘coronavirus panic is worse than virus itself’ in email to Tesla employees

F. Lambert, Mar. 17, "Elon Musk sent a new email to all Tesla employees today to share some thoughts about the coronavirus as the Bay Area, where tens of thousands of Tesla employees work, has imposed a shelter-in-place that tells people to stay home…

After that, the CEO was critical of the level of panic around the virus:

My frank opinion remains that the harm from the coronavirus panic far exceeds that of the virus itself. If there is a massive redirection of medical resources out of proportion to the danger, it will result in less available care to those with critical medical needs, which does not serve the greater good.

Though he also issued a warning for family gatherings:

What the COVID-19 coverage does show is that the danger of colds and flu in general can be high for the elderly, especially if there is prior lung damage. Much is made of public gatherings, but please be cautious of family gatherings, too. What is relatively harmless to a child can be dangerous to grandparents.

Read more Hmmmm…   I agree. Alain

WIRED   Apple’s New iPad Pro Has Lidar and a Keyboard With a Trackpad

J. Chokkattu, Mar. 18, "APPLE HAS A new iPad Pro, and it looks like a mash-up of its predecessor and the iPhone 11 thanks to Apple’s signature dual-camera array on the back. But the cameras go a step further; they use Lidar, a technology commonly seen in self-driving cars, to sense depth and to boost the iPad Pro’s augmented reality abilities. Perhaps more interesting, the tablet’s keyboard cover now has a built-in trackpad…"  Read more Hmmmm…  We’ve come a long way, baby!  "Commonly seem in …".  Not if Elon has his way!  Alain

Tesla Reports Only 12.2 Miles of Autonomous Mode Testing in 2019

R. Baldwin, Feb 26, "Every year companies working on autonomous cars in California have to file a report to the state, stating the number of miles they traveled during their drives and their disengagements (how many times the human behind the wheel had to take over). Recently, companies including Waymo and Cruise have balked about the disengagement data point, saying it doesn’t reflect the true power of their systems. Frankly, miles aren’t much of an indicator, either, since these drives take place in only certain areas…. "  Read more  See Video, Alain 

Uber is doing 70 percent fewer trips in cities hit hard by coronavirus

A. Hawkins, Mar. 19,  ”Uber took stock of the effect the coronavirus outbreak has had on its business in a call with investors on March 19th, and the early numbers are pretty grim. The company’s gross bookings in Seattle, a city hit hard by the novel coronavirus, is down by 60-70 percent, the company’s CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said.

And while the company didn’t release exact numbers for other US cities, Khosrowshahi says they are assuming similar declines in other big markets that have also been affected, including San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York City…."  Read more  transit systems are down even more.  Anyone want to buy oil??  Are savings in highway deaths outpacing  the virus?  See also..  Lime is yanking its electric scooters from California and Washington due to coronavirus, and Coronavirus shows there’s still no such thing as a totally human-free self-driving car  Alain

After resisting coronavirus order, Tesla will now end production in Fremont

R. Mitchell, Mar. 19, "Tesla will temporarily end production at its Fremont, Calif., assembly plant beginning March 23 to comply with San Francisco Bay Area restrictions amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The company made the announcement Thursday after days of controversy as Chief Executive Elon Musk kept the plant running full-tilt despite shelter-in-place orders from Alameda County, where Fremont is located.

“We have decided to temporarily suspend production at our factory in Fremont from the end of day March 23, which will allow an orderly shutdown,” the company said in a statement posted on its investor website.

The lockdown orders, issued jointly by six Bay Area counties, are in effect until April 7, although public health officials have said that date could change…."  Read more Hmmmm… No comment.   Alain


  Uber is shutting down Uber pool to “flatten the curve” of the coronavirus

T. Lee, Mar. 17, "Uber plans to disable Uber Pool, its shared-rides feature, in the United States and Canada, the company announced on Tuesday. The company hopes to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

"Our goal is to help flatten the curve on community spread in the cities we serve," Uber executive Andrew Macdonald said in a statement to the media.

Uber says that it will decide on other markets beyond the US and Canada on a case-by-case basis.

Uber’s other services—including regular ride-hailing and meal delivery—will continue operating…."  Read more Hmmmm…   As if it wasn’t tough enough to achieve ride-sharing.  Will it be the real loser in this desolization of the world public?   Given the sad state of our health care information system, the curve would have to extend beyond the inception of the next pandemic to be flat enough for the system to be able to handle it.  So sad. Alain

  Automated Speed Enforcement Launches Statewide In Pennsylvania

J. Heinze, Mar 5, "Pennsylvania will soon launch the use of automated cameras to enforce speeding in work zones across the state.

The plan, which was announced in Nov. 2019 and has been in a trial "pre-enforcement" phase the last 60 days, begins on March 9.

Officials hope the program helps change driver behavior on a larger scale. Cameras will only detect speeders in works zones who are going 11 miles per hour or more above the posted limit…."  Read more Hmmmm… Seems as if it is OK in PA to go 10 mph above the limit, even in a work zone.  Does that mean that it is OK for Driverless cars to go 10 mph above in work zones.  How much over the limit is it OK to go in non-work zones???  PA must have their own language where the definition of "limit" is Fuhgeddaboudit.   Alain

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

Sunday Supplement



Calendar of Upcoming Events:

Postponed,  More Later!!!

4th Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit

Princeton University

Princeton, NJ

On the More Technical Side