Thursday, July 16, 2020
30th edition of the 8th year of SmartDrivingCars

   Car OEMs Driving Toward Relevance or Perdition

M. Sena, August 2020, “Are we ready to be online carscribers? Online new car sales and car subscription programs, now being pursued simultaneously by car OEMs, will either lead the OEMs to endless highways paved with gold or two large dead ends. Each of these approaches to putting customers behind the wheel of a car are aimed at different pain points—real or perceived—in the purchase process. With online sales, the customer is in theory spared the visit to car dealers except. Car subscription programs go one step further. The customer is also decoupled from the dealer and in addition is, in theory, shielded from having to care about most of the responsibilities related to car ownership. Who benefits, who thinks they benefit and who loses, either in the short term or in the long term.  Continue reading

Dispatch Central:  Battery Electric Vehicle News  Continue reading 

Musings of a Dispatcher: The Way Forward: We Continue to Wander in the Desert  Continue reading

Postscript on the China Series: In The disciples of liberal democracy can be forgiven for believing that China would become one of them if it was invited into the World Trade Organization. It was their belief—hope—that more trade with liberal democracies would would make China a libral democracy that drove the decision to open up to China. Although Continue reading…”  Read more  Hmmm….  Listen to PodCast 165 or watch ZoomCast 165.  Alain

  SmartDrivingCars PodCast 165  w/Michael Sena

F. Fishkin 16, “Is the option to buy a car at a dealership going to vanish? The Dispatcher publisher Michael Sena has a provocative perspective in this edition with Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser & co-host Fred Fishkin. update on the Amazon Zoox deal, autonomous vehicles and how they can help battle discrimination in transportation, TuSimple, Mobileye, Uber, Tesla and more.”   “Alexa, play the Smart Driving Cars podcast!“.  Ditto with Siri, and GooglePlay …  Alain

SmartDrivingCars ZoomCast Episode165  w/Michael Sena

Video version of SmartDrivingCars PodCast 164.  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.

Fostering Economic Opportunity through Autonomous Vehicle Technology

July 16, “Autonomous vehicles (AVs) hold significant potential to open up wider economic opportunities currently beyond the reach of many low-income households due to inadequate transportation, a new study by SAFE finds. The report, “Fostering Economic Opportunity through Autonomous Vehicle Technology,” concludes that on-demand, point-to-point AV transit can cut financial stress by providing reliable, affordable and efficient transportation that is a crucial factor in determining the upward social mobility of low-income households.

Although the post-pandemic priority for transit agencies is to get current transportation systems back up to speed, AV trials are still necessary to incorporate low-cost, autonomous transit into the future transportation mix as soon as possible—at per-mile costs far lower than today’s transportation options. As a result, low-income communities would be able to access opportunities that are out of reach due to enduring gaps in current systems, particularly outside of traditional business hours….”  Read more  Hmmm…. Watch SDC PodCast 164 with Robbie Diamond and watch SAFE’s July 16th Zoom-inar.  Alain

  Exclusive: Amazon plans at least $100 million to keep Zoox talent after $1.3 billion deal

S. Nellis, July 9. “ Inc (AMZN.O) plans to create at least $100 million in stock awards to retain the 900-plus employees of Zoox, the self-driving car startup it offered to buy last month, and can walk away from the deal if large numbers of them turn down job offers from the technology giant….

Attempts to wrest Zoox or its talent away from Amazon started before the two even reached a definitive agreement.

After Zoox signed an exclusive agreement to negotiate with Amazon but before they reached a deal, a third party stepped in to offer $1.05 billion, according to the deal documents.  The offer came from Cruise, the self-driving company backed in part by General Motors Co (GM.N), Honda Motor Co Ltd (7267.T) and SoftBank Group Corp (9984.T), two people with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

Zoox did not respond to the offer. Reuters reported June 4 that the founder of Cruise approached Zoox engineers with job offers.

Technology news publication The Information reported June 30 that two senior Zoox engineers, James Philbin and Marc Wimmershoff, joined Waymo, Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) self-driving unit. Philbin and Wimmershoff did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Amazon-Zoox deal documents describe two lists of “key employees.” All on the first list must take Amazon jobs for the deal to close, and at least 19 from the second list must stay. Amazon plans to offer jobs to three schedules of other Zoox employees, requiring that 90% of the first two and 88% of the third accept jobs to close the deal….”  Read more  Hmmm….   Very interesting.   Without the people, the IP isn’t worth much. Participate in out Live Zoom-inar 005:  AmaZooks:Is Driverless home delivery the fastest route to Affordable Mobility for the Mobility Disadvantaged?  Monday, July 20 @ 2pm New York Time.  Required Pre-Registration  Alain

  Autonomous Vehicles’ Potential To Remove Discrimination In Transportation

Selika Talbot, July 13, “The political economy of autonomous vehicles is poised to improve if not radically change the discrimination and racism that is built into the nation’s transportation systems. From the very start of the U.S. highways and byways, political barons have purposefully and systematically created barriers to people of color, often preventing them from living and reaping the benefits of the American dream.

In Montgomery, Alabama Rosa Parks’ heroic action on December 1, 1955, refusing to sit at the back of the bus spurred the Montgomery Bus Boycott. At the time, the Montgomery ordinance required the front rows of buses to be reserved for Whites. The buses had ‘colored sections’ for Black people in the rear of the bus. As with many inner cities today, Black people composed the overwhelming majority of ridership at the time….

These scenarios are played out in community after community in America often limiting access to better homes, education, healthcare and in some cases creating food deserts for people of color.   Transportation can be a leveler. With access and the ability to reach critical services and resources, citizens are able to avail themselves of all that makes America great. Without it, you cut off the opportunity and limit where you can go and what you can achieve. Autonomous vehicles can and should be that leveler. They have the potential to deliver anybody anywhere.  …”  Read more  Hmmm….Driverless vehicles have the opportunity to level the mobility playing field for the 10s of millions of Americans that are and have been mobility disadvantaged… the physically challenged, the young, the old and especially the poor.  By nature, these vehicles don’t discriminate… they can take anyone from anywhere to anywhere at anytime and can do it at a very attractive low cost and be priced at a cost per passenger mile that can approach zero.  The only Caveat is that those that are designing these systems design them that way.  That means…  Their Operational Design Domain MUST encompass the places where these people live and wish to go.  The ODD can’t be the new form of “Redlining“.  Curb space needs to be allocated for use as pick up and drop off locations rather than the parking of private automobiles.  Employers and businesses need to stop spending money on parking spaces and parking garages and, instead, subsidize this form of mobility to make sure that it is extremely affordable to even our poorest citizens and those that offer the service make a reasonable profit.

Finally, designers need to realize that their most faithful customers are actually those that have been left behind by the personal automobile.  These folks don’t have a good alternative, so they are likely to be your most loyal customer.  Not the entitled car owner who can do just as well without you.  Why pamper them with another alternative. 

Many household don’t have access to even one personal car.  Many more have access to only one car,  meaning only one person in the household has really good mobility.  Everyone else in that household has to be beholding to be chauffeured by the exalted driver in the household.  Even the two car families tend to have other family members that need to be beholding to the car drivers.  There are in fact very few households for which each member of the household has a car available for them to drive whenever they wish to go from where they are to where they want to go.  With Driverless mobility machines, essentially everyone in every household has the opportunity to affordably go from wherever they are to wherever they want to go at any time (as long as it is within the system’s ODD.  This is why it is so important that the ODDs encompass many/most/”all” mobility nerd of the transportation disadvantaged.).  What a great opportunity!  Alain

  The Political Economy Of Autonomous Vehicles

Selina Talbot, June 23, “There is a Political Economy of Autonomous Vehicles.  Will there be less and less individuals applying for driver’s licenses? If so, that will result in fewer dollars in State general funds. The Texas Department of Motor Vehicle collects $4.5 Billion in registration, fees and sales most of which are used by their highway trust fund to build bridges and maintain highways and roadways.  It is possible that the wide-spread use of autonomous vehicles will have an impact on the amount of dollars available to replenish their highway trust fund.

If autonomous vehicles are in wide use, shuttling one passenger to the next passenger, how does a city make up the loss of revenue from meter and garage parking. For example, the State of Illinois anticipates that their new taxing scheme will bring in $60 million dollars a year in taxes on parking garages. 


Given that autonomous vehicles are programmed to obey traffic laws and comply with regulations of operating on the roadways, what will offset the loss of millions of dollars of vehicle infraction violation fees that many cities use to plug the holes in their budgets? Washington, DC, the nation’s capital, annually budgets for $300 million in revenue from speed, red light, moving violation and parking infractions…..


Possibly moving away from infraction revenue used to bolster government budgets. Or…”  Read more  Hmmm….  Much food for thought here.  Alain

Image removed by sender. The SOA                                                           logo.Society of Actuaries COVID-19 Symposium

July 22, 2020 9:00am -> 4pm CDT, “The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the health care system and the insurance industry. Now that the initial shock has passed, it is important for all organizations and leaders to move forward with this new reality. This one-day virtual symposium looks at the impact of COVID-19 from a cross-disciplinary perspective and its implications on future projections. Experts will share their insights on lessons learned and what to look for in the coming months.

Share How COVID-19 Has Impacted You: If you have a story to tell or a person to honor, we will share during certain portions of the symposium. Honor a healthcare hero, a loved one lost to COVID-19 or anyone making a difference during this pandemic. Please send us your submission to To join the conversation on social media, use the hashtag #SOACOVID19….” Read more  Hmmm….  Should be very interesting and informative.  Alain

  4th of July Travel: 2020 vs. 2019

R. Schmitt,  July 11, “With the pandemic-shadowed 4th of July week in the rear-view, BTS compares holiday travel this year with that of 2019.
Americans took 2.8 billion fewer total trips during the 4th of July week this year than they did in 2019. That overall drop is supported by similar declines in the number of trips per day throughout the week. It is driven by a similar 2.8 billion drop in the number of local trips (under 50 miles) as well as the number of trips taken in each of several local trip-distance groupings. The number of long-distance trips (50 or more miles) edged up by 2.7 million from 2019 to 2020. That slight increase was driven by a 15.5 million rise in the number of trips between 100 and 250 miles, which was tempered by a 13.5 million drop in the number of trips greater than 500 miles. In 2019, on average, 19.7% of Americans stayed home each day during the holiday week; in 2020, that number rose to an average of 24.8% staying home each day….”   Read more  Hmmm….  Very interesting.  However, I have a basic question… Are these PersonTrips or VehicleTrips?  This may be an important nuance especially for longer trips.  Many of those trips in 2019 may have been taken by airplane where the counts are typical PersonTrips as compared to highway trips which are typically counted as VehicleTrips.  ????  Alain

  Daily Travel during the COVID-19 Pandemic

R. Schmitt,  July 10, “In which States and Counties are people staying at home? Which ones show the most activity?
Dive into the map below to see what percentage of the population is staying at home in your state or county. You can also use the Select A Metric drop-down to see state or county-level measures for the average number of daily trips people are taking and more.

Map of Activity by State or County….”   Read more  Hmmm…  Very interesting.  Alain

  The Intersection Between Self-Driving Cars and Electric Cars

A. Marshall, July 13, “CARS HAVE NOT been good for the environment, to put it lightly. Transportation accounts for 28 percent of US greenhouse gas emissions, and light-duty vehicles for more than half of those. Someday, self-driving cars will appear widely in the US. Would’t it be nice if they also helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

Trouble is, making an electric car self-driving requires trade offs. Electric vehicles have limited range, and the first self-driving cars are expected to be deployed as roving bands of robotaxis, traveling hundreds of miles each day. Plus, the sensors and computers onboard self-driving cars suck up lots of energy—not great for range, either.

New research suggests that the trade offs for electric autonomous vehicles aren’t as painful as once thought—and indicates that AVs, whenever and wherever they show up, could contribute to the green-ing of the global car market.

In a paper published in the journal Nature Energy last month, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University project the potential behavior of self-driving cars in cities and suburbs. They find that certain aspects of autonomy do drain car batteries, but smart software and hardware tweaks should make fleets of battery-powered self-driving cars very possible.

“A bunch of commentators used to suggest the first AVs might have to be gas hybrids,” says Shashank Sripad, a PhD candidate in mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon who worked on the paper. “But we believe that, if we want to do electric vehicles, autonomy will be compatible with it.”….”   Read more  Hmmmm….  Given that there are peaks and valleys in demand throughout any day, There is plenty of time to recharge batteries.  Plus, there are really very few very long trips that exceed an EV’s range.  For those, one could have a few hybrid cars available to serve them or instead of waiting for the batteries to be recharged, one could easily have a fully charged car waiting at charging facilities and simply ask the customers to quickly use the rest area and simply board a waiting fully charged car and continue on their long journey.  Alain

  TuSimple finds a partner to help it build a fleet of robot semi trucks

A. Hawkins, July 15, “US truck maker Navistar is joining forces with TuSimple, a leading autonomous vehicle startup, to build a self-driving semi truck that can operate without a human driver on highways and local roads. As part of the deal, Navistar is taking a minority stake in TuSimple — though neither company would disclose the size of Navistar’s investment.

TuSimple recently unveiled its plans to build out a coast-to-coast freight-hauling business using a fleet of camera-and-LIDAR equipped autonomous class 8 tractor trailers. Now the company has a manufacturing partner to help it realize its dream of robot semi trucks criss-crossing across the nation. ”  Read more  Hmmm… My comment remains… They should be creating Safe-driving trucks that are focused on improving the quality of the work life of the professional driver rather than on removing the professional driver.  Let’s get the Safe-driving Truck working really well before we  seriously try to remove the driver from 18 wheelers. Alain

  Uber acquires meal delivery service Postmates for $2.65 billion

A. Hawkins, July 6, “Uber will acquire food delivery service Postmates in a $2.65 billion all-stock deal intended to give the ride-hail company a much-need jolt after its offer to buy Grubhub fell apart amid antitrust scrutiny.

Postmates’ app will continue to run separately after the acquisition, but it’ll be able to tap into a merchant and delivery network combined with Uber Eats. Uber says this will mean more restaurant options for consumers and more efficient deliveries for drivers who pick up multiple orders at a time. The companies intend for the deal to close in Q1 2021.

Uber desperately needs its meal delivery division, Uber Eats, to make up for the huge losses it’s been experiencing since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Food delivery is not profitable, nor is Uber’s core ride-hailing business. But the company is hoping that with restaurants closed to in-person dining, more people will be ordering takeout in the future…. ”  Read more  Hmmm… Seems like another tough business that doesn’t scale well.  Extremely peaked temporally during lunch and the dinner hour.  Alain

  Tesla’s stock soars as tens of thousands of Robinhood users buy it

T. Lee, July 14, “Tesla’s stock reached an unprecedented intraday high of $1,760 on Monday, just as tens of thousands of new investors were pouring into the stock using the online brokerage Robinhood. Data from Robintrack shows that the number of Robinhood users holding Tesla shares soared from 408,000 at the start of the day on Monday to 458,000 at the day’s end—a jump of 50,000 users.

By Tuesday morning, the stock had given back some of those gains, with the stock trading below $1,500.

Robinhood announced Monday that it had raised $320 million from investors at a valuation of $8.6 billion. …”  Read more Hmmmm….  All so hard to believe.  You can’t make up this stuff.  Alain 

  Mobileye wins permit to test autonomous vehicles in Germany

K.  Wiggers, July 14, “Mobileye, Intel’s driverless vehicle R&D division, today announced that German certification body TÜV Süd awarded it a recommendation for a permit to drive its autonomous vehicles on public roads in Germany, including urban and rural areas as well as the Autobahn at up to 130 kilometers (~80 miles) per hour in real-world traffic. Mobileye — which says testing will begin now in and around Munich before expanding elsewhere — claims it’s one of the first non-OEMs to receive a driverless vehicle test permit from German regulators. Volkswagen and BMW, among others, have been testing in German cities, including Hamburg, since mid-2019.

In partnership with Moovit, the mobility-as-a-service startup Mobileye acquired in May for $900 million, Mobileye aims to build full end-to-end ride-hailing experiences with its vehicles using Moovit’s mobility platform and apps. By the end of this year, Mobileye says it expects to scale open-road testing in other countries including Israel, France, and South Korea….. ” Read more  Hmmm…  There will be an attendant behind the wheel at all times.  Why does Mobileye need any certification?  Is it to limit it to be one of the slowest drivers on the German Autobahn  😉  Alain

Tesla Autopilot and Full Self-Driving claims are judged ‘misleading’ by German court

F. Lambert, July 14,”Tesla lost a case in a German court today over how the company advertises its Autopilot and Full Self-Driving, which the court judged “misleading.”
Last year, we reported on Wettbewerbszentrale, which describes itself as “the largest and most influential nationwide and cross-border self-regulatory institution for enforcing the right to unfair competition,” filing an injunction against Tesla in Munich:

The Wettbewerbszentrale has criticized various advertising claims such as “autopilot included,” “full potential for autonomous driving,” or “by the end of the year: … automatic driving in town” with the automaker Tesla vehicle assistance functions of a particular vehicle type, as misleading and in the LG Munich I Action for injunctions filed (Case 33 O 14041/19).

The group claimed that Tesla has been misleading consumers by calling its level 2 assisted driving system “Autopilot” and claiming that “automatic driving on city streets” is coming later this year ….”  Read more Hmmmm… Impressive.  Alain

Tesla (TSLA) surges on new Chinese factory rumor

F. Lambert, July 14,”Tesla (TLSA) stock jumped 7% in pre-market trading this morning after rumors of a second factory in China started circulating in Chinese media.
Gigafactory Shanghai has already been extremely beneficial to Tesla after less than a year in operation.

It is helping to develop the Chinese EV market, which is already the biggest in the world and growing fast, thanks to local incentives and strong regulation accelerating to switch to electric vehicles.   Production at Gigafactory Shanghai has also ramped up extremely fast, and Tesla is expected to hit a production rate of 200,000 cars per year in 2020. It’s adding production capacity for Model Y.

In the past, CEO Elon Musk has indicated that Tesla is going to need many more Gigafactories, including more in China.  Now the rumors of Tesla starting to work on a second Gigafactory has started after Liangjiang New Area officials confirmed to have met with Tesla executives about “accelerating projects,” according to local Chinese media.  Liangjiang New Area is a new state-level industrial district within the megacity of Chongqing. ….”  Read more Hmmmm… Impressive.  Alain
    Draft Program   4th Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit   Postponed until Evening Oct. 20 through Oct. 22, 2020 (But will likely need to be completely Virtual, possibly in “Second life)

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


   The ‘Android Of Self-Driving Cars’ Built A 100,000X Cheaper Way To Train AI For Multiple Trillion-Dollar Markets

J. Koetsier, July 16, “How do you beat Tesla, Google, Uber and the entire multi-trillion dollar automotive industry with massive brands like Toyota, General Motors, and Volkswagen to a full self-driving car? Just maybe, by finding a way to train your AI systems that is 100,000 times cheaper.

It’s called Deep Teaching.  Perhaps not surprisingly, it works by taking human effort out of the equation.

And says it’s the key to unlocking autonomous driving. Including cars driving themselves on roads they’ve never seen … using just one camera.

“Our Deep Teaching technology trains without human annotation or simulation,” CEO Vladislav Voroninski told me recently on the TechFirst podcast. “And it’s on a similar level of effectiveness as supervised learning, which allows us to actually achieve a higher levels of accuracy as well as generalization … than the traditional methods.”…”  Read more Hmmmm…Since there is no substance in the article support the claim, I don’t believe it.  Alain


Calendar of Upcoming Events:s

SmartDrivingCar Zoom-inar 005

AV Shark-Tank:


Is Driverless home delivery the fastest route to Affordable Mobility for the Mobility Disadvantaged?

Monday, July 20 @ 2pm New York Time

Register Here

Image removed by sender. The SOA                                                           logo.

COVID-19 Virtual Symposium
July 22, 2020 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM CT

Postponed, to be Virtual, Evening Oct. 20 -> Oct 22.

4th Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit

Princeton University

Princeton, NJ

On the More Technical Side