21st edition of the 8th year of SmartDrivingCars
K. Korosec, May 11, “Self-driving vehicle startup Voyage said Monday that it has inked a deal with Fiat Chrysler to supply purpose-built vehicles, a partnership that will help accelerate its plan to launch a fully driverless ride-hailing service.
Voyage, a three-year-old startup that tests and operates a self-driving vehicle service (with human safety operators) in retirement communities in California and Florida, started by modifying Ford Fusion vehicles. The company then began modifying FCA’s Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans with its autonomous vehicle technology.
This new deal, which was nearly two years in the making, marks a critical step in Voyage’s plan to deploy fully driverless vehicles as a ride-hailing service. It also illustrates FCA’s increasingly large role as a supplier to AV developers. The automaker already has a deal with autonomous vehicle company Waymo to provide thousands of purpose-built Chrysler Pacifica minivans. FCA also has a partnership with Aurora to develop self-driving commercial vehicles…
Under this deal with Voyage, Fiat Chrysler is supplying Voyage with purpose-built Pacific Hybrids that have been developed for integration of automated technology. These vehicles come with customizations such as redundant braking and steering that are necessary to safely deploy driverless vehicles, Voyage CEO Oliver Cameron told TechCrunch.
FCA characterized the deal as more than just a supply contract, noting that it will provide support to Voyage to understand the features, operation and technology of the vehicle.” Read more Hmmmm… This is very good for both Voyage and Fiat/Chrysler in that it makes them into a serious competitor with Waymo, Ford/Argo and GM/Cruise. Congratulations Oliver. Alain
F. Fishkin, May 14, “With new hardware and software capabilities NVIDIA is expanding into new areas of driver assistance technology. Sr. Director of Automotive Danny Shapiro joins Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin for that…plus the latest on Waymo, Voyage, Ford and more. listen and subscribe!” “Alexa, play the Smart Driving Cars podcast!“. Ditto with Siri, and GooglePlay … Alain
Video version… Watch Zoom-Cast 156 – Danny Shapiro2 .… Alain
J. Lee, May 14, “Nvidia Corp, whose semiconductors power data centers, autonomous cars and robots, said on Thursday it plans to enter the market for technology that helps cars with automated lane-keeping, cruise control and other driver-assistance features.
The move, announced as part of the chip company’s annual conference, which was held online this year, represents a change in direction for Nvidia. Until now, the Santa Clara, California-based company has supplied key technology aimed at making autonomous vehicles that require much more sophisticated computers.
But such vehicles, some of which are known as “robo-taxis,” remain years away from mass adoption. Even before the coronavirus pandemic hammered the world economy, automakers such as General Motors Co and Ford Motor Co were dialing down their expectations for self-driving cars.
Many of the driver-assistance features that the new Nvidia system will enable, by contrast, are already available on high-end vehicles with technology from providers such as Mobileye, the Israeli firm owned by Nvidia data center rival Intel Corp.
Danny Shapiro, senior director of automotive at Nvidia, said the shift in strategy is aimed at meeting the existing needs of automakers that struggle with maintaining two systems – one for the driver assistance available today, and one for more advanced self-driving technology for the future. The new Nvidia system means automakers will be able to use one system for both, saving engineering efforts and using some of the self-driving technology to improve the driver assistance functions, Shapiro said….” Read more Hmmmm… The near-term opportunity has been in the Safe- & Self-driving car category. Aspiration to achieve Driverless capabilities have motivated the development of Safe and Self driving systems so that they might actually work. Before the industry became focused on Driverless, only driver warning systems were available. The Driver was king! A system couldn’t/shouldn’t over-ride what a driver wanted to do seemed to be the over-arching concept. It was the vision of Driverless that motivated OEMs to look beyond passive warning systems to active collision avoidance systems whose false positive/negative performance requirements, rare please, need the computing power offered by nVIDIA. Watch Jensen Huang’s GTC 2020 keynote, especially Segment 8 Autonomous Vehicles. Alain
M. Sena, June 2020, “Covered are three topics:
- How will car companies compete when China is delivering all of the BEV skateboards, either as finished cars or as the platform? This is where I discuss connectivity as a major competitive factor. See Page 4 sidebar: Connectivity is a Three-sided Coin.
- Travel during and after COVID-19: As with most problems in life, they create opportunities. This pandemic provides us with an opportunity to study the relationships between transport options and transport needs in a way that we have not been able to do it before. We don’t need conjecture or articles by armchair experts promoting their pet theories; we need rigorous analyses of facts gathered from the field in all types of contexts, not just Manhattan or London or Stockholm. We need serious discussion of the facts amongst both politicians and business representatives to determine whether there are ways to address both congestion on our roads and harmful emissions in our air. We need more evidenced-based decision-making.
- Do we need driverless cars: The moral of this story, and the ultimate answer to whether we need driverless cars, is that you can’t always keep what you want, and someone else may decide what you need….”
Press release, May 7, “Back in March, we decided to suspend our driving operations in response to COVID-19 to ensure the safety of everyone involved in our services and local communities. Starting this coming Monday, May 11, Arizonans will begin to see some Waymo vehicles back on the road. The first part of our tiered approach to safely resume our operations begins with our test fleet and responsibly progresses to serving Waymo One riders again.
Even under the extraordinary circumstances of COVID-19, we’ve continued to advance our technology and mission to make it safe and easy for people and things to get where they’re going. Our continued focus on hardware and software development, driving in simulated environments, and ongoing investment in advanced algorithms, machine learning, and evaluation means we have not taken our foot off the pedal during these unprecedented times.
We’re beginning to restart our driving operations in the Metro Phoenix area after careful consideration and active conversations with our teams, partners, and local and state authorities. The health and safety of our riders, team, and partners is our number one priority as we begin driving again.
How we’re moving forward safely: …” Read more Hmmmm… Happy to have them back out on the road. It would be really nice if they released some basic “disengagement reports” on their testing in Phoenix. They’ve captured enough demand data (individual trips) to rerun any set of trips with an attendant on-board but not need any passenger on-board. That is, operate as if those individuals actually got on the vehicles and went to their destinations, picking up and discharging shared riders along the way, if any. Doing that with the current software/hardware stack, what is the time duration between “disengagements” for the fleet? How many vehicle hours of operation and how many person-trips were served within this ODD between the time-stamp of each disengagement? Once the vehicle hours between attendant intervention becomes north of 2,500 hours and the number of “virtual” trips served becomes north of 5,000 personTrips, then one may have a system that is safe and reliable enough in that ODD and can be used to “convince” everyone to perceive that the system is reliable/safe enough to begin mobility services in this ODD with no attendant on-board. To me, these kinds of numbers make sense. A fleet of 10 vehicles operating in Trenton for 12.5 hours a day could demonstrate that in 20 days. A fleet of 100 in 2 days. (No disengagements in those durations. I like “back of the envelope” analyses so that I can I have a perspective.) I wonder what metrics Waymo and others have decided to use internally to decide that they are “good to go”? Alain
C. Kilgannon, May 11, “Princeton University has announced its first black valedictorian in its 274-year history.
Nicholas Johnson, who was named valedictorian of Princeton’s Class of 2020, called the achievement especially significant, given the school’s struggle in recent years to confront its troubled history with slavery….
Mr. Johnson, who is from Montreal, majored in operations research and financial engineering. He wrote his senior thesis on developing algorithms to design a community-based preventive health intervention to decrease obesity in Canada. The research also included applications to help impose strict social distancing to stop the spread of the coronavirus….” Read more Hmmmm…Personally, I am so proud of Nicholas as a person and what he has accomplished at Princeton. As Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Operations Research & Financial Engineering (ORFE), he is one of my students, even though he isn’t singularly focused on SmartDrivingCars (yet !) Congratulations! You are indeed most deserving of this highest Princeton honor. He is ORFE’s 1st valedictorian; however, Jamie Iannone, recently named eBay CEO, was Princeton’s Pyne Prize Scholar. Alain
B. Templeton, May 13, “Waymo, the world’s leading self-driving car company, has resumed on-road testing and some delivery services, after shutting these down due to Covid-19. Baidu BIDU, Pony.AI and Aurora have also resumed, and Zoox says it will restart soon in Las Vegas. Uber UBER resumed some testing in California (a big step after they were shut down for a very long time after running over a pedestrian in Arizona) on March 11, just a short time before lockdowns ended that. Some other companies have been doing Covid-19 related operations like delivering food or medicine, such as Nuro and Cruise. (Nuro vehicles never have a driver in them.) Starship, which operates delivery robots on sidewalks, has increased its city operations due to high demand for delivery in the Covid era.
Companies are being diligent. Some, like Waymo, are operating with only one safety driver — more on that later. They are all cleaning vehicles frequently and having safety drivers follow sanitary protocols, and telling them not to work if they have symptoms. Unless drivers are alone in vehicles all the time, they will wear masks at most companies.
When providing passenger or delivery service, the companies qualify as “essential services.” Slightly more complex is whether vehicle testing qualifies. It certainly should, since as I have repeatedly pointed out, any delay in the development of self-driving vehicles which save lives costs a huge number of lives down the road….” Read more Hmmmm… I certainly agree that delay results in lives lost; however, that is not the foremost reason to continue forward. Safety is a floor, not an objective. These systems must be perceived as safe by manufacturers, regulators, operators and, most importantly, the customers and the residents along the streets on which these vehicles operate. Required is unanimous perception by all of these entities throughout the Operational Design Domain (ODD) that these systems are SAFE! Once deemed SAFE by all, then these systems can begin to maximize mobility, affordability, and improvement in the quality-of-life of the mobility disadvantaged… those that for whatever reason can’t or choose not to drive a car. That’s the fundamental motivation here (as far as I’m concerned). Alain
Aurora Team, Mat 12, “At Aurora, we’ve adopted a “smarter, not farther” approach to on-road testing. That is, instead of blindly pushing to drive more and more miles, we’ve continued to focus on collecting quality real-world data and on getting the most value out of every data point. For example, we amplify the impact of real-world experience by flagging interesting or novel events and incorporating them into our Virtual Testing Suite.
While they aren’t valuable as a measure of progress, on-road events can be incredibly valuable as learning opportunities. Our triage team reviews flagged events and then works with our engineering teams to identify which ones offer opportunities to improve the Aurora Driver….” Read more Hmmmm… A very valuable capability. Certainly the data surrounding disengagements is really important. Additionally, folks like Tesla must have tons of data about many/most/all their crashes. How valuable are those image sequences! How about the crazy Russian crash videos. Seriously! The world has no shortage interesting and novel events. Each event is a novel event. We really need good ways to extract to set of representative events that span and define the system’s Operational Design Domain. That set can easily become NP complete so we need some elegance here. Alain
N. Shirouzu, May 14,”Electric car maker Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) plans to introduce a new low-cost, long-life battery in its Model 3 sedan in China later this year or early next that it expects will bring the cost of electric vehicles in line with gasoline models, and allow EV batteries to have second and third lives in the electric power grid…
New, low-cost batteries designed to last for a million miles of use and enable electric Teslas to sell profitably for the same price or less than a gasoline vehicle are just part of Musk’s agenda, people familiar with the plans told Reuters….
Tesla’s new batteries will rely on innovations such as low-cobalt and cobalt-free battery chemistries, and the use of chemical additives, materials and coatings that will reduce internal stress and enable batteries to store more energy for longer periods, sources said.
Tesla also plans to implement new high-speed, heavily automated battery manufacturing processes designed to reduce labor costs and increase production in massive “terafactories” about 30 times the size of the company’s sprawling Nevada “gigafactory” — a strategy telegraphed in late April to analysts by Musk….
The cost of CATL’s cobalt-free lithium iron phosphate battery packs has fallen below $80 per kilowatt-hour, with the cost of the battery cells dropping below $60/kWh, the sources said. CATL’s low-cobalt NMC battery packs are close to $100/kWh.
Auto industry executives have said $100/kWh for battery packs is the level at which electric vehicles reach rough parity with internal combustion competitors….” Read more Hmmmm…Ever since Thomas Davenport in 1837, through the Apollo Program (“Houston, we have a problem“), through to the iPhone today, batteries have been a nothing but difficult, expensive and limiting. No Moore’s Law here, but maybe Elon is moving the needle. Very interesting. Alain
D. Welsh, May 14, “Cruise, the self-driving car unit majority owned by General Motors Co., is laying off almost 8% of full-time employees to cut costs in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
Th company, which gets about $1 billion a year in funding from GM, went on a hiring spree in 2019 to bring in software-development talent and launch an autonomous ride-hailing service. But Cruise backed off plans to deploy robotaxis by the end of last year and had not set a new target date before the public-health crisis set in and forced companies in the space to slow their testing efforts on public roads. ‘…
The cuts mostly fall outside of the company’s engineering and core development teams.
“These are very difficult decisions to make, and we do not make them lightly,” Amman wrote. “These changes are the right choice for the mission.” Cruise has close to 2,000 employees, meaning roughly 160 people will be dismissed. The company will keep hiring tech talent, spokesman Ray Wert said.” Read more Hmmmm… Not surprising given the inability of so many to work remotely which requires a different support functions and capabilities. Covid-19 has unfortunately made this a good time to clean house not only literately but also figuratively. Alain
C. Metz, March 12, “Tech companies once promised that fully functional, self-driving cars would be on the road by 2020 and on the path to remaking transportation and transforming the economy.
But a decade after Google unveiled an autonomous car prototype with global fanfare, the technology is still far from ready, and many investors are wary of dumping more money into it — just when the world could benefit from cars that ferry people and deliver packages without a human driver.
The companies that made these promises are now in a jam: To perfect their technology, they need to test it on roads. But they need at least two people in the cars to avoid accidents. Because of social distancing rules meant to keep people safe during the coronavirus pandemic, that is often not possible. So many cars are sitting in lots.
“This is a difficult time for everyone,” said Bryan Salesky, the chief executive of the start-up Argo AI, which is backed by $1 billion from Ford and another $1 billion in promised funding from Volkswagen. “We want to get back on the road as soon as it is safe to do so. There is no substitute for on-road testing.”….
Many self-driving car companies have no revenue, ” … None have any significant revenue from this segment of their business. It is all investment ($$$ out) up to this point. “None” are supported by government/public-sector contracts because government didn’t have enough money before Covid-19, and most certainly has better places to spend what little money it may have/print post Covid-19…. “and the operating costs are unusually high. Autonomous vehicle start-ups spend $1.6 million a month on average — four times the rate at financial tech or health care companies, according to PitchBook, which tracks financial activity across the industry.” Read more Hmmmm… The rest of the article summarizes some of the articles that appear herein (Zoox, Voyage, Waymo); however, I believe that Covid-19 is being used as a “My dog ate my homework” excuse (delays in the global supply chain and suspension of on-the-road testing). This has been and continues to be an excellent opportunity for these companies to cleanup and optimize their algorithms and software. Plus, the real challenge facing these companies is not technological, but sociological… can one define an Operational Design Domain in which these systems are perceived to drive safely and deliver a service that is desired by “all” in similar Operational Design Domains around the country. That’s what is needed to get the process started in the first place.
In order to expand and scale, similar Operational Design Domains need to be numerous and expandable without degradation of perceived SAFETY and continued improvement of affordability, mobility and quality-of-life. Alain
B. Templeton, May 4, “Zoox has released a video showing an hour long drive through Las Vegas, a follow-up to their video of an hour-long drive in San Francisco. The video is sped up 2x to make it a little more interesting. The car does an hour long drive, including driving through the pickup areas of two hotels, along various Las Vegas streets and through the airport. It needs no interventions and handles a number of complex road situations.
What this video tells us is that Zoox has a high quality project, ahead of many other teams, but at the same time, it doesn’t tell us that it’s anywhere close to being ready for release, and in fact shows ways that suggest this could be some time in the future.
Demo rides and videos for robocars are tricky. It is hard to do an hour of complex driving with no interventions. Many less mature teams can’t pull that off at all. But it’s still very far from doing 2,500 hours (around 100,000 mixed miles at an average of 40mph) with only a minor intervention needed, or 6,000 hours without a major one, which is what it takes to be around the same as an average human. To be better than human, even more hours are required. (This number is a rough one, and varies based on the driving circumstances. It’s longer on the highway and less hours on city streets.)….” Read more Hmmmm… This is very true. Before one has the confidence to remove the attendant, one has had to have the attendants not intervene something like a combined 2,500 hours. Such an achievement can only be done in a finite amount of time in any Operational Design Domain with a fleet of vehicles. 10 vehicles could do it (would need to do it) over a 20 day span in a Trenton, NJ ODD encompassing about 25% of the city’s streets. Such an ODD would serve essentially all intra-Trenton trip, plus, of course, “last mile” access to NJ Transit. Until one can successfully complete and repeat such a demonstration in a comparable ODD, all of this isn’t ready for prime-time. Alain
A. Hawkins, May 13, “Public transportation is on life support, as the pandemic makes people less inclined to want to cram themselves into underground metal tubes with poor air circulation and nonexistent social distancing. The weather is getting nicer and some states are taking tentative steps toward reopening, even shutting down certain streets to car traffic to make more room for walking, biking, and scootering. So why isn’t the micromobility industry — shared electric bikes and scooters — thriving right now?
The novel coronavirus has brought the shared scooter and bike business to the brink of financial collapse. Demand has evaporated — an analysis of credit card data by The New York Times found that spending on scooter rentals had fallen the most of all transportation modes, by nearly 100 percent — companies are laying off employees en masse, and their previously sky-high valuations have been almost wiped out. Rather than basking in the sun and delighting in the reduced car traffic, the scooter industry is looking at end times.
There are some early signs that shared mobility could survive the crisis, even come out looking better than before; one of those “it’s always darkest before dawn” kind of things. But before that happens, the scooter industry as a whole will need to shrink, as it already was doing before COVID-19. And a lot of people will probably lose their jobs.,,,
Even so, many cities probably won’t be in the position to waive fees or offer public funding of scooter operations in the near future. …”. Read more Hmmmm…. What??? Public funding for those that should be walking and can readily walk??? Is anybody awake here??? If there is any “mode” that needs to make it on their own bottom, its scooters. The fundamental problem with scooters is the “empty scooter repositioning challenge” and the “entitlement attitude” of its clientele. The Segway looked good but was a bust. Scooters, while cheaper, has caught the “scooter-hole” syndrome. “Coolness”, if it ever existed outside of the mind of the user, has worn off very quickly. Alain
A. Hawkins, May 12, “Waymo’s first external fundraising round, initially expected to bring in $2.25 billion for the self-driving company, just grew to $3 billion, thanks to the addition of some new investors.
On March 2nd, Waymo announced its first outside investment round, with investors including Silver Lake, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Mubadala Investment Company, Magna International, Andreessen Horowitz, AutoNation, and Waymo’s parent company Alphabet.
That round was extended to include a new crop of investors: funds managed by T. Rowe Price Associates, Perry Creek Capital, and Fidelity Management and Research Company.
To date, Waymo has been an outlier in the world of self-driving cars, relying almost exclusively on the largesse of its corporate parent. With these new funds, the company says it will speed up its plans to commercialize its revolutionary self-driving technology, which it believes will be even more crucial in a world changed by the coronavirus pandemic.,,,
One of Waymo’s new investors is no stranger to the world of electric and autonomous vehicles. T. Rowe Price Associates is a major investor in Waymo’s main rival, Cruise, as well as EV startup Rivian.”. Read more Hmmmm…. Waymo is a no-brainer for anyone interested in participating in this sector, especially if you believe that there is a fundamental advantage in being first-in. They are by far the leader. If they can be first to demonstrate safe operation in a relevant ODD, (see above comment Brad’s article about Zoox), then why trust someone else? If they don’t stumble, then they may be un-leap-frogable. Alain
NO MORE FOMO: NEW FORD OVER-THE-AIR UPDATES HELP MUSTANG MACH-E GET EVEN BETTER WITH TIME — WITHOUT LEAVING HOME
Press release, May 12, “Owners of the all-new all-electric Mustang Mach-E won’t need to worry about keeping up with the Joneses, thanks to over-the-air updates that work to continuously improve the SUV over the vehicle’s life without leaving home.
And unlike some vehicles that require owners to wait while a software update takes place, Ford has developed a way to allow secure updates to download in the background, and in some cases, be completed in under two minutes1.
“The beauty of the Mustang Mach-E is that what our customers experience on day one is just the beginning – it will evolve to add even more features and capabilities over time,” said John Vangelov, connected services manager, Ford Motor Company. “Our clever over-the-air updates also minimize downtime through incredibly fast activation and ensure your Mustang Mach-E is always getting better, even when you’re asleep.”…” Read more Hmmmm…. Can AutoPilot for the Mach-E be far behind? Alain
K. Wilson, May 7, “rivers aren’t just speeding up on our empty roads — they’re also braking harder, scrolling cell phones longer, and crashing more, new data show.
In the five weeks after many states announced lockdown orders on March 16, the data company Zendrive said drivers’ use of cell phones behind the wheel is up 38 percent over pre-lockdown numbers. The number of drivers who exceeded speed limits was also up 27 percent, as was hard braking (25 percent) and collisions per million miles (20 percent.)
“As a result, every minute spent on the road is riskier; every mile driven is riskier,” a rep for the company said. (Full report here.), …” Read more Hmmmm… We really need to get to Driverless because people simply misbehave too frequently to maintain their “privilege to drive”. Remember, it is supposed to be a privilege, not a right. Alain
F. Lambert, May 14, “With stay-at-home orders and travel restrictions being put in place in many markets, gasoline sales are way down. Unsurprisingly, electric car charging station usage is also way down.
Musk decided to release an interesting chart of the usage of Tesla’s Supercharger network in different regions over the pandemic. The chart shows that Tesla’s Supercharger network in China saw a massive reduction in use in late January through February::… ” Read more Hmmmm… Very interesting. It would be nice to see the chart for different regions of the US. He4 also has GPS Tracks for each car so he knows what the changes are on every road segment in the US!!! Alain
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
C’mon Man! (These folks didn’t get/read the memo)
> Fulton, May 4, “From where we sit, it looks much less like an economy that could benefit from autonomous, that wheel their snoozing occupants safely from place to place, than just three months ago. For that matter, we can probably scratch our heads now about whether that moon shot by 2024 is a great idea. Our priorities have been shifted for us….” Read more Hmmmm…Mostly 1950s Sunday Supplement with a dash of current click-Bait. This vision died shortly after Daimler’s introduction of their F 015 Luxury in Motion at the CES in January 2015 (5 years ago!!). Way too difficult/expensive to bring to reality as just another toy for the super entitled, super rich. Much more attractive as mobility machines for the masses. A concept that has zero traction in Sunday Supplements. But that’s OK… that’s a real market that can also deliver substantial value to society. Alain
Calendar of Upcoming Events:s
The Future of Public Roadway Transit
“Is it the Best or times… or Is it the Worst of times ????
Live May 18, 2pm New York Time