Friday, June 12, 2020
25th edition of the 8th year of SmartDrivingCars

  Society of Actuaries Research Brief Impact of COVID-19, June 12, 2020

R. Dale Hall, June 12, “…By June 10, 2020, 7.4 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, and the count continues to climb with general agreement that the number is actually higher due to delays in full testing and reporting in many countries. Approximately 188 countries have reported at least one confirmed case and about 416,000 deaths from COVID-19.6 It is important to recognize that the number of reported confirmed cases for any disease typically lags the number of actual confirmed cases. As a result, the number of reported confirmed cases typically continues to rise after the actual number of new confirmed cases declines….”  Read more  Hmmm… Excellent!  An enormous amount here.   See especially FIg 11 and 17.  These are trully non-uniform distributions.  Also Table 1, Figures 21, 22, 24, 25, Table 3, …  An enormous amount to digest here.  Excellent.  Alain

  SmartDrivingCars Pod-Cast Episode 160 – Jessica Cicchino

F. Fishkin, June 12, “Insurance Institute for Highway Safety  Research VP Jessica Cicchino co-authored a new study saying self driving vehicles could struggle to eliminate most crashes.   She joins Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin to discuss the study.  Plus the latest on Tesla, Ford & VW, Covid-19 and more.  “   “Alexa, play the Smart Driving Cars podcast!“.  Ditto with Siri, and GooglePlay …  Alain

SmartDrivingCars Zoom-Cast Episode 160 – Jessica Cicchino

Video version of SmartDrivingCars PodCast 160  .  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:  Tuesday, June 23, 2:00pm New York Time

Free Pre-registration is required

  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….

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…   Repeat of  nsertion that was in SDC 8.24 last week.  As I noted, this is NOT good news.  However, as is often the case, details matter.  After reading the Report: “What humanlike errors do autonomous vehicles need toavoid to maximize safety?” by A. Mueller, J.Cicchono and D. Zuby, the fundamental assumption is that the AV system functions only make the best out of driver misbehavior rather than being pro-active and precluding the driver from  misbehaving.  Baically the assumption is “let drivers be drivers and have the AV system clean up the mess as best it can.  Drivers can continue to misbehave by tailgating, speeding, running red lights, crossing double lines when traffic is on-coming, driving into fog, hurricanes, ice covered roads, un-plowed deep knee-deep snow-covered lanes, get too close to bikers,  etc. 


The “AV system” considered in this study is basically limited to driver warnings and some automated collision avoidance.  It’s “Tesla’s AutoPilot” improved with an automated collison avoidance system that doesn’t disregard stationary objects ahead.  Sure!  Under these circumstances, reducing at-fault crashes for the average driver by 30% is actually doing really well!   But that’s not a “Safe-driving Car”!  


A Safe-driving Car is one that has enough perception of the road ahead to enable it to over-ride driver misbehaviors.  It doesn’t let the driver tailgate, speed excessively, run red lights, cross double lines when there is on-coming traffic, …. .   Such an AV system has an opportunity to reduce at-fault crashes much more substantially.  These capabilities are absolutely necessary in Driverless cars with the added avantage that they don’t have a human driver working against the safe operation of the system.


Of course, Safe-driving cars and Driverless cars are not immune from being T-boned by a conventional car running a red light, or having a bicyclist run into them, or … .  Some folks will prefer to not own a Safe-driving car or not use driverless mobility.  For them, it is important that at least their insurance premiums reflect the carnage and expected liability of their at-fault driver behavior.   Their insurance premiums should be very expensive. These issues and others will likely come up during our next Zoom-Tank Zoom-inar now scheduled for 2:00pm, Tuesday, June 23 focused on Insurance and SmartDrivingCars.  Alain

  Are Tesla Vehicles The Most Dangerous Cars On The Road?

S. Loveday,  June 10, Due to the selective nature of reports in the media, as well as the focus on negative and bad news over positive reports, some people may be concerned about buying a Tesla. It will catch fire, it accelerates on its own when you least expect it, and its Autopilot system might cause a crash.

While all of these things “could” happen, they’re arguably not likely to happen any more often in a Tesla or any electric car than they are in a gas car. In fact, there’s plenty of research that suggests EVs are less likely to catch fire, driver-assist systems save many more lives than they take, and sudden unintended acceleration is much more unlikely than driver error.

Over the years, we’ve seen news of Tesla fires. Now, as more electric cars come to market, we’re getting reports of other automaker’s EVs catching fire….

Just like the fires, we’ve seen our fair share of Tesla crashes involving Autopilot….

‘More recently, there have been plenty of claims of sudden unintended acceleration in Tesla’s vehicles. Thus far, none have been proven….

According to official crash tests and car fire statistics, the answer is very much the opposite. In order to put all the information in one place and set the record straight, Electric Future produced the above video with all the numbers….”   Read more  Hmmm…  Again, Tesla has the fundamental user data that can go a very long way to characterize even the nuances of Tesla’s safety.  I can understand the many reasons that Tesla doesn’t want to release the data. A major one beng that comparable data doesn’t exist for any of the other cars on the road. 

Since safety is realy a relative perception, rather than an absolute fact, fighting relative perception with facts is ususally futile and often counter productive.   Never the less, and especially since Tesla is close to being the most valuable auto OEM, I call on Tesla to lead.  Bring real transparancy to safety.  Release your undelying safety data to independent scholarly investigators.    Short of that, I recommend whatching InsideEV’s video.  While watchng, also please think “driver misbehavior” every time you hear “driver error“.  Alain

Tesla stock soars above $1,000 as Musk vows to “go all out” for Semi

T. Lee, June 10, “Tesla’s stock price soared above $1,000 on Wednesday. The rise pushed the company’s valuation to around $190 billion—within striking distance of the world’s most valuable car company, Toyota, at $215 billion.

Tesla’s stock surge comes a week after one of Tesla’s leading electric vehicle rivals, Nikola, debuted its stock on public markets. Like Tesla, Nikola is building all-electric vehicles. But there are a couple of big differences. First, while Tesla initially focused on passenger cars, Nikola will initially sell trucks along with off-road vehicles and a jet ski. Second, while Tesla cars run on batteries, Nikola is focusing on fuel cells—though some vehicles will have a battery option.

Nikola’s first week on the stock market has been strong, with the stock price nearly doubling to reach Wednesday’s closing price of $65. This makes Nikola worth nearly $30 billion—on par with Ford—before it has shipped its first vehicle.

Nikola’s debut on the stock market apparently got Elon Musk’s attention. In a Wednesday email to staff, Musk reportedly wrote that it was “time to go all out” and bring the long-delayed Tesla Semi to market. The Semi was initially planned for production in 2019, but Tesla recently admitted that the ship date would slip to 2021. Two years ago, Nikola sued Tesla, arguing that Tesla’s design for the semi was too similar to Nikola’s own semitruck design. That legal battle continues to this day….”  Read more  Hmmm…  Who knew that the truck business was incrementally worth that much.   Wow!  Alan

    Transportation lab predicts “extreme traffic” for some cities following COVID-19

M. Shapiro, June 5, “As communities and cities across America embark on paths for reopening, a transportation group at Vanderbilt is asking the question: What will traffic look like if transit riders become car drivers?

A new article, published online by the Work Research Group at Vanderbilt, takes a hard look at transportation modes during and after the COVID-19 pandemic using mathematical analysis and basic laws of traffic to explore scenarios of increased car commuting. Through their work, the researchers predict a sweeping switch to single-occupancy vehicle commuting and resulting risk for extreme traffic in large metro areas.

The article, titled “The Rebound,” is available online:…”  Read more  Hmmm…Be sure to read the paper.  Many caveats and assumptions (as always when looking into the future), but really good.  Alain

  Temple Grandin, Elon Musk And The Interesting Parallels Between Autonomous Vehicles And Autism

R. Razdan, June 7, “:…”For the last decade, autonomous vehicles have been attempting to become operational with great fanfare with companies such as Waymo(Google) and Musk’s Tesla TSLArolling out solutions. Interestingly, in a similar period of time, an increasing number of people with autism have wanted to join the driving public, and this has prompted research studies on their effectiveness in the driving task. This is reported in an excellent and fascinating New York Times NYT article “The Challenge of Driving With Asperger’s.” Several comments in the article are directly on-point relative to autonomous vehicles:…  


Finally, the commonality brings up a more basic question: Shouldn’t AVs pass at least the same tests as outlined in the guideline from the autism institute ? It seems somehow illogical that one would allow an AV on the road in a situation where there was a determination that a human should not drive.”  Read more  Hmmm…   Very interesting!! Alain

   Watch Tesla’s latest Autopilot software handle a roundabout

F. Lambert, June 11, “A new video shows Tesla’s latest Autopilot software handling the steering automatically in a full roundabout.   As we previously reported, Tesla is going through “a significant foundational rewrite in the Tesla Autopilot.” As part of the rewrite, CEO Elon Musk says that the “neural net is absorbing more and more of the problem.”

It will also include a more in-depth labeling system.  Musk described 3D labeling as a game-changer:… ” Read more Hmmmm…     Watch video.  Alain

Image removed by sender. Ford Logo    Ford, Volkswagen Sign Agreements for Joint Projects On Commercial Vehicles, EVs, Autonomous Driving

Press release, June 10, “Ford Motor Company and Volkswagen AG today signed agreements that expand their global alliance to meet rapidly evolving needs of their respective customers in Europe and other regions by leveraging complementary strengths in midsize pickup trucks and commercial and electric vehicles.  Plans for the agreements were first announced by Ford and Volkswagen last July…”  Read more Hmmmm…  More official details about the agreement that we’ve been follwoing for a while.  Alain

Vw Logo                                                   transparent PNG -                                                   StickPNGVolkswagen’s Trailer Assist Video

2016??? “VW faking it to promote their “Trailer Assist capability”  See video  Hmmm…   Cute but given Dieselgate, VW should be careful in its efforts to fool the public.  They must have better things to do.  Alain

  Top Tesla investor bets flying taxis are the future, taking a stake in German start-up Lilium

R. Browne, June 8, “Baillie Gifford, Tesla’s top external investor, has invested $35 million in Lilium, a German start-up vying to become a major player in the emerging “air taxi” space.

Munich-headquartered Lilium made waves last year with the maiden flight of its five-seater electric aircraft, the Lilium Jet. The vehicle takes off and lands vertically, similar to a helicopter, but is powered by 36 electric jet engines placed in two sets of wings.

The firm has now secured a valuation of more than $1 billion thanks to an extension of a $240 million investment round announced earlier this year, raising it into the ranks of Europe’s unicorn companies. Baillie Gifford has taken a less than 5% stake in Lilium.  The fresh funding takes Lilium’s total investment to date to more than $375 million. The company’s other backers include Tencent, Atomico, Freigeist and LGT….” Read more Hmmmm…  I’m still not a fan of toys for the 1%ers. I doubt that its value is CBD2CBD, but instead Village2Village (Hamptons2SuburbanOffice).  CBD office towers are doomed in the NewNormal. Has good videos. Alain 


M. Brown, June 5, “SpaceX wants to build a city on Mars, and it’s not waiting around to get started.  On Friday, CEO Elon Musk confirmed via Twitter that he’s still aiming to launch the first ships to Mars by 2022. These ships will hold cargo designed to support a future manned mission. That mission will come in 2024, the next time when the Earth and Mars are close again…”  Read more Hmmmm… While much crazier, I’m a fan of this.  A dream that died 50 years ago, not seems almost doable.  If you haen’t seen Musk’s 2017 vision, see it here.  Alain

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

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


Samsung AR glasses patent shows off turn-by-turn navigation function

S. Szymkowski, June 3, “… In a patent filed in South Korea, Samsung partially describes a pair of glasses with AR functions that can provide turn-by-turn navigation right in front of the driver’s eyes. Essentially, it sounds a bit like a head-up display of the kind some cars provide in the windshield, but in this case, it’s directly ahead of the driver, thanks to the glasses….”  Read more Hmmmm…As if heads up displays weren’t annoying enough, last thing one needs are turn-by-turn directions in your face which ever way you turn your head.  Yipes!!! So bad!  So annoying!! Alain


Calendar of Upcoming Events:s

SmartDrivingCar Zoom-inar 004

AV Shark-Tank:

Insurance: For or Against SmartDrivingCars?

Live Tuesday, June 23 @ 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