Thursday, June 4, 2020
24th edition of the 8th year of SmartDrivingCars

  Two-way Vehicle Connectivity is a Three-sided Coin That Everyone Wants to Own

M. Sena, May 26, “Two-way vehicle connectivity has three facets. Two of them are mainly of interest to vehicle OEMs and their suppliers. They are vehicle-centric and customer-centric. Vehicle-centric connectivity includes functions such emergency notification, logistics tracking and over-the-air updating. Customer centric connectivity includes many services that are also provided by mobile apps outside of the vehicle, such as music streaming, workshop service booking, traffic notifications and car sharing applications. Two-way vehicle connectivity today is a major competitive factor for the OEMs.

The third vehicle connectivity facet is principally of interest to public sector traffic management authorities. It is focused on communicating warnings to vehicles and providing guidance on which roads to use in case of traffic congestion or emergencies. The public authorities view these roadway-centric functions as their domain, and vehicle-to-infrastructure and vehicle-to-vehicle communication as the tools to accomplish the job. They are grouped together under the term V2X. This third facet is not a competitive factor for the OEMs. If it is legislated, V2X will not distinguish one OEM from another since every OEM will have to include it….

But the debate is not really about technology nor is it about who delivers the best value for the money or the most privacy. It is about…”  Read more  Hmmmm… The provacateur’s lead at the beginning of our 3rd Shark-Tank Zoom-inar (Video, Audio)  Alain

  SmartDrivingCars Pod-Cast Episode 159 – Kara Kockelman

F. Fishkin, May 28, “Prof. Kara Kockelman’s focus on smart transportation to save lives, money and the environment has made her a sought after global expert.  The U. of Texas Transportation Engineering Professor joins Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin on the impact of Covid-19 and much more.  Plus Tesla, Uber, Argo AI and the top smart driving headlines.  For more on Dr. Kockelman’s work….please visit…”   “Alexa, play the Smart Driving Cars podcast!“.  Ditto with Siri, and GooglePlay …  Alain

SmartDrivingCars Zoom-Cast Episode 159 – Kara Kockelman

Video version of SmartDrivingCars PodCast 159 – Kara Kockelman  .  Alain

   The SmartDrivingCars eLetter, Pod-Casts, Zoom-Casts and Zoom-inars are made possible in part by support from the Smart Transportation and Technology ETF, symbol MOTO.   For more information:  Most funding is supplied by Princeton University’s Department of Operations Research & Financial Engineering and Princeton Autonomous Vehicle Engineering (PAVE) research laboratory as part of its research dissemination initiatives.

  SmartDrivingCar Zoom-inar 004 Insurance: For or Against SmartDrivingCars?

Live:  Monday, June 15, 2:00pm New York Time

Free Pre-registration is required

  SmartDrivingCars Zoom-inar 003  Everyone’s for Connectivity; but…

F. Fishkin, June 2, “But the debate is not really about technology nor is it about who delivers the best value for the money or the most privacy. It is about …”

Listen/Watch more  Hmmm…   We only scratched the surface. Alain

  Self-driving vehicles could struggle to eliminate most crashes

Press release, June 2, “Driver mistakes play a role in virtually all crashes. That’s why automation has been held up as a potential game changer for safety. But autonomous vehicles might prevent only around a third of all crashes if automated systems drive too much like people, according to a new study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

“It’s likely that fully self-driving cars will eventually identify hazards better than people, but we found that this alone would not prevent the bulk of crashes,” says Jessica Cicchino, IIHS vice president for research and a coauthor of the study.

Conventional thinking has it that self-driving vehicles could one day make crashes a thing of the past. The reality is not that simple. According to a national survey of police-reported crashes, driver error is the final failure in the chain of events leading to more than 9 out of 10 crashes.

But the Institute’s analysis suggests that only about a third of those crashes were the result of mistakes that automated vehicles would be expected to avoid simply because they have more accurate perception than human drivers and aren’t vulnerable to incapacitation. To avoid the other two-thirds, they would need to be specifically programmed to prioritize safety over speed and convenience…”  Read more  Hmmm…   This is NOT good news.  My perception has been that “9 out of 10 crashes” involved human mis-behavior.  The real value of automation is its near elimination of “mis-behavior”; NOT that it be technically better than people when they are not mis-behaving. 


If “being as good as humans when they are not mis-behaving” only reduces the probability of a so-equipped car being responsible for a crash, then the automation is going to need to be a lot better than a human in order to deliver substantial safety.  A third isn’t bad, except when it is the asymptotic value.   If the major value proposition for SmartDrivingCars is saftety, then we have much much more work to do.  I contend that delivering affordable mobility to many/most of the mobility disadvantaged is a more than a sufficiently worthwhile proposition, even if safety is not improved.    I need to spend a lot more time looking at this report.  More later. Alain

  What Volkswagen’s Investment in Argo AI Means for Ford’s Self-Driving Vehicle Business

John Lawler, Jun 2, “Last July, Ford and Volkswagen announced a collaboration with Argo AI to introduce autonomous vehicle technology in the U.S. and Europe. As part of this collaboration, Volkswagen would join Ford in investing in Argo AI. Working together with Argo AI positions both Ford and Volkswagen to better serve our future customers while improving cost and capital efficiencies. While the uncertainty of today’s business environment has created challenges for partnerships and investments in the self-driving space, this collaboration remains on track and will be a positive development for everyone involved. As a result, Volkswagen’s investment in Argo AI was finalized June 1.
In my previous role as vice president of Ford corporate strategy, I can tell you firsthand the moment our teams started talking, all three parties could see the value of working together. Here’s what we saw and why we believe it works for everyone involved — including our future customers….”  Read more  Hmmm…   The right partneship for the right reasons that now has gone through any reglatory hurdles and can proceed in high gear. Alain

  Tesla In Taiwan Crashes Directly Into Overturned Truck, Ignores Pedestrian, With Autopilot  On

B. Templeton, June 2, “Video from Taiwan reveals a disturbing Tesla TSLA crash, where the vehicle plows directly into the top of a large truck lying on its side, straddling two lanes of a freeway. The driver states the vehicle was in Autopilot mode. The driver did not hit the brakes himself until far too late, indicating he was probably not paying attention. The road has light traffic and visibility is very good. Nobody was injured.  The video shows the event from several angles, and raises several questions:…”  Read more  Hmmm…   See video.  Working backwards from Brad’s 5 questions. I agree with 5 and 4.


I disagree with 3.  Given that Tesla’s Peception Stack must be explicitly disregarding Radar Data of stationary objuects on the lane ahead when traveling at speeds greater than ??? MPH, suggests that it would also disregard LiDAR data.  Maps don’t help because they can’t be relied upon because they can only contain information about what was in the driving environment, not what is in the driving environment.  Collision avoidance must deal with what is in the driving environment and not rely on the assumption:  “since it was/wasn’t it is/isn’t”.  Plus, Tesla has “tons” of data about this highway location that indicates that a stionary object does not exist in this lane at this location at any height above the lane.  No sign, no overpass, no tree canopy.  Tesla has the data but has chosen not to rely on it in its algorithmic loop that decides to disregard “the radar data suggesting there is a stationary object in the lane ahead”. 


Wrt #2, it seems as if the brakes may have been applied just as the car passes the driver, but immediately released.  The system likely worked perfectly, as designed, since the driver is not in the lane ahead and is not moving to enter the lane, but just basically waving his arms.  The system likely recognized the stationary object and since it was not close enough to the lane ahead until the very last second, nor a velocity vector indicating it was moving into the lane ahead, there was no need to brake to avoid hitting that object.  Once passed without collision, the pedestrian presented no need to continue applying the brakes 


The likelihood that the Tesla software has any clue about the intention of objects waving around on the side of a lane is slim to none; else, every wind gust that disturbs shrubery lining a road would apply the brakes. 


At the speed that the Tesla was traveling, the likelihood that the Tesla software is able to reliably recognize that this individual’s actions were intended to get the Tesla to slow down and stop is even slimmer and as close to zero as one can get.  The challenge here is geetting both false positives and false negatives associated with what one is trying to recognize to be “small enough”. Very unlikely that such capabilities are going to be available anytime soon. When, of course, depends on the size of “small enough”.


The answer to #1 is the same answer as to the Joshua Brown crash and the Firetruck crashes and AutoPilot is simply not reliable enough (defined as “sufficiently small false positives and false negatives”) in being able to determine if there is enough room to safely pass under the stationary objects it senses ahead.  In essentially all instances of detecting a stationary object in the lane ahead, the answer is yes… there is enoughclearance under the overpass, the sign is suffiiently high above the lane, trucks that have passed by here have sufficiently chopped the tree canopy so that there is no problem for a Tesla to pass under without scraping its roof paint.  So disregard stationary objects in the lane ahead… except the minicule number of times when its a truck laying broadside, or a fire trusck stopped in the lane ahead or its a Jersey Barrier butt-end in the center of was perceived to be the lane ahead because the paint was so bad, or non-existant.  This is Deja vu all over again.   This needs to get fixed (although, I thought that it had.  Did this car have the update?  was AutoPilot really on??  ????).  Alain


  Uber’s Ex-CTO Reflects on a Rift With Travis Kalanick and How to Fix Autonomous Cars

L. Chapman, June 2, “… In his first interview since stepping down, Pham described “battle scars” from his time at Uber. He said his decision to stay at the company after Kalanick’s exit drove a wedge between them that remains to this day. Pham, 52, now walks away from Uber with concern over the company’s autonomous-driving strategy….

In a video call from his home in San Jose, California, Pham said he’s relieved to no longer be responsible for the technology that powered some 18 million trips a day before the pandemic. “It is a very heavy burden,” he said. “I have a little PTSD setting in right now.”…

One area he doesn’t support is the autonomous-vehicle division. Pham urged Khosrowshahi to abandon the effort and instead team up with other companies whose projects are more advanced. He likens his proposal to the strategy Google pursued with Android by teaming up with hardware makers to counter Apple Inc. in phones. In self-driving cars, it’s the Alphabet Inc. subsidiary Waymo that’s the one to beat. “Individually, none of the companies can go it alone and compete with Waymo,” Pham said…” Read more  Hmmmm…  Pham is likely right.  But he needs both a technology company and an auto OEM that isn’t alread in it themselves (because those that are can readily do the Uber part.) How about Voyage/Chrysler or Aurora/Hyundai? Watch video. Alain

   Tesla announces massive Supercharger expansion in China to support growth

F. Lambert, June 3, “Tesla announced plans to install 4,000 Superchargers in China this year alone in order to support its growth in the market.  Over the last five years, Tesla has deployed over 2,500 Supercharger stalls in over 150 cities in China.

At their Shanghai office last week, the automaker announced its plan to deploy 4,000 Superchargers in the country in 2020 alone.   This is a massive acceleration of Supercharger deployment for Tesla in China…. ” Read more Hmmmm…    If you’re going to do it, this is the way to do it.  Why does it seem to be so easy to do over there?  I guess I know the reason.  I’ve always prefered hard over easy. Hard does have advantages. Alain

  National Safety Council Applauds Transportation Reauthorization Bill

Press release, June 3, “The National Safety Council applauds House lawmakers for the INVEST in America Act, the reauthorization of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. For too long, the United States has consistently avoided the hard choices needed to save lives on the roadways. This proposal is an opportunity for us to start making the right choices so we can save lives, because we know that all traffic deaths are preventable.

In the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in April 2019, NSC called for the House to double down on what works, accelerate technology and embrace a culture of safety that mitigates common roadway risks and accounts for driver error and promotes safe systems…”  Read more Hmmmm…     Is it driver “error” or driver “misbehavior” that needs to be addressed.  Speeding, under the influence, textng, not paying attention, … are misbehaviors, not errors.  Alain

  SoftBank led $500M investment in Didi in China’s biggest autonomous driving round

R. Liao, May 29, “The race to automate vehicles on China’s roads is heating up. Didi, the Uber  of China, announced on Friday an outsized investment of over $500 million in its freshly minted autonomous driving subsidiary. Leading the round — the single largest fundraising round in China’s autonomous driving sector — is its existing investor Softbank, the Japanese telecom giant and startup benefactor that has also backed Uber.

The proceeds came through SoftBank’s  second Vision Fund, which was reportedly lagging in fundraising as its Fund I recorded massive losses in part due to the collapsing valuation of WeWork.

As China’s largest ride-hailing provider with mountains of traffic data, Didi clearly has an upper hand in developing robotaxis, which could help address driver shortages in the long term. But it was relatively late to the field. In 2018, Didi ranked eighth in kilometers of autonomous driving tests carried out in Beijing, far behind search giant Baidu, which accounted for over 90% of the total mileage that year…. ”  Read more  Hmmmm… In case anyone thought differently, it looks like SoftBank and DiDi are still in it and “doubling down” . When does DiDi team with a Chinese automobile OEM?   Or is everyone already on one team in China?  Alain

  AutonomouStuff May News

Staff, May 28, “In this issue:  Safety Q&A with Hexagon A&P’s functional safety expert and Upcoming webinar: Integration of Functional Safety and Cybersecurity…”   Read more  Hmmmm… Bobby… Keep up the good work!  All the best.  Alain

  Torc Robotics continues growth, recruiting during pandemic

Press release, May 28, “Torc Robotics, a leader in self-driving vehicle systems, continues its strong recruiting efforts even under social distancing and safer-at-home orders. Torc has steadily added new employees since January and plans to increase the company size by more than 50 percent before year end.

Torc’s recruiting process has changed to accommodate personal safety during the pandemic. “We are very fortunate that most of us can work from home – and our team has been using this time to scale up our virtual testing and future fleet infrastructure,” said Michael Fleming, Torc’s CEO.

“Over the past 10 years, we’ve built our culture on winning teams and find that Torc’rs are great at solving problems – including bringing on new team members during a pandemic,” he said. …”  Read more  Hmmm…   Congratulations Michael.  Keep up the great work!  All the best.  Alain

  Electric truck maker Nikola looks like Tesla 2.0 — except even riskier

R. Mitchell, June 2, “It’s a week before Nikola, the electric truck start-up, debuts its shares on the public market. Time to spin up the hype machine. For some reason its founder and chief executive, Trevor Milton, wants to talk about how much he loves Tesla.

You’d think he’d count Tesla as a rival, if not an enemy. Each aims to capture the market for long-haul diesel trucks. Each seeks to claim the mantle of brilliant inventor Nikola Tesla, who helped bring electricity to the masses by championing alternating current technology. Whenever the subject comes up, Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk dumps on Nikola’s core technology, electric fuel cells, deemed by Musk as irredeemably inferior to Tesla’s own lithium ion battery power systems. “Fool cells,” he calls them….”  Read more  Hmmmm…  Very interesting.  Alain

Locus Robotics raises $40 million to take its warehouse robots global

K. Wiggers, June 2, “Warehouse robotics startup Locus Robotics today announced it has raised $40 million, the bulk of which will be put toward accelerating R&D and the company’s expansion into new markets, including in the EU, where it opened a new headquarters. CEO Rich Faulk says Locus also intends to launch strategic reseller partnerships throughout 2020, following a year in which its number of customer deployments passed 50.

Worker shortages attributable to the pandemic have accelerated the adoption of automation. According to ABI Research, more than 4 million commercial robots will be installed in over 50,000 warehouses around the world by 2025, up from under 4,000 warehouses as of 2018. In China, Oxford Economics anticipates 12.5 million manufacturing jobs will become automated, while in the U.S., McKinsey projects machines will take upwards of 30% of such jobs…  ”  Read more Hmmmm….   It is nice to be in the controlled environment of a warehouse.  Almost everything is deterministic, but it is still nor easy.  Alain

Otto Motors raises $29 million to staff warehouses with autonomous mobile robots

K. Wiggers, June 1, “Otto Motors, a company providing self-driving robot technology and services for research and industrial clients, this week announced it closed a $29 million financing round. Matthew Rendall, CEO of Otto parent company Clearpath Robotics, says the proceeds will enable the company to meet the needs of its customers both during and after the pandemic.

Worker shortages caused by the spread of coronavirus have prompted some retailer, fulfillment, and logistics companies to accelerate the rollout of mobile robots. For instance, Gap more than tripled the number of item-picking machines it uses to 106 in total, while Amazon says it’s relying more heavily on automation for product sorting. According to ABI Research, more than 4 million commercial robots will be installed in over 50,000 warehouses around the world by 2025, up from just under 4,000 warehouses in 2018…. ”  Read more Hmmmm….   Ditto.  Alain

  Waymo’s robot minivans are ready to roll in the Bay Area for the first time since COVID-19 outbreak

A. Hawkins, May 30, “Waymo’s self-driving cars are returning to Bay Area roads for the first time since the company halted its public testing in early March because of the coronavirus outbreak. The Alphabet-owned company plans to return its fleet of autonomous minivans to service starting June 8th, according to an email obtained by The Verge.

Waymo’s self-driving cars will be put to use delivering packages for two Bay Area non-profits: illustrator Wendy McNaughton’s #DrawTogether, which provides art kits to Bay Area kids; and Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

The company is the latest autonomous vehicle operator to discover that doing deliveries allows it to sidestep restrictions that would otherwise require them to keep their autonomous vehicles off the road. Waymo, along with the rest of California’s AV companies, paused on-road testing in mid-March after the city issued a “shelter-in-place” order banning all nonessential travel. That order does not have a set end date….. “. Read more Hmmmm….Good. Alain

   Tesla going into software subscription service could become big business

F. Lambert, May 28, “Tesla has started to indicate that it is going to expand its software offering, including a subscription to its full self-driving package, and analysts are starting to consider this new revenue stream as a massive opportunity.

 Over the last year, Tesla has made several moves to start generating revenue from software.  The automaker started charging $10 a month for its ‘premium connectivity’ features….. ” Read more Hmmmm…  Very interesting.  Look at what happened to Msft once it did this with Office.  Brilliant for everyone.  Keep the improvements coming and I’ll continue to not be able to live without it.  Plus, it’s so cheap, to start, get hooked and continue to ante up. Brilliant!  Alain

   2021 is going to be the year for electric revolution – 10 new EVs coming next year

F. Lambert, June 2, “2021 is going to be the year for all-electric cars and should greatly accelerate the electric revolution. There are so many new models hitting the market that it should shift the entire industry.

Here we look at 10 new electric vehicles coming next year: First off, it is going to be the year for the electric pickup truck.

Several electric pickup trucks are scheduled to hit the market in 2021 and it’s the first time that this highly important segment in North America is going to get all-electric options.  To be fair, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these vehicle programs slip to 2022, but for now, they are scheduled for 2021…… ” Read more Hmmmm…  The substantial latent/pent-up demand out there post-COVID-19 should really help this segment. Alain

    Draft Program   4th Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit   Postponed until Evening Oct. 20 through Oct. 22, 2020

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)

Sunday Supplement



Calendar of Upcoming Events:s

SmartDrivingCar Zoom-inar 004

AV Shark-Tank:

Insurance: For or Against SmartDrivingCars?

Live Monday, June 15 @ 2pm New York Time

Register Here

Postponed, until Evening Oct. 20 -> Oct 22.

4th Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit

Princeton University

Princeton, NJ

On the More Technical Side