33nd edition of the 8th year of SmartDrivingCars
A. Efrati, July 22, “In just five years, TuSimple has become the biggest and most visible developer of self-driving trucks, raising more cash and putting more robotic big rigs on the road than any rival. High-profile customers including UPS have contracted to let TuSimple haul their cargo on the highway. Executives have forecast heady revenue and predicted that fully automated, driverless trucks are in sight.
Instead, TuSimple has fallen short of expectations, hampered by the same technological challenges that have afflicted other developers of self-driving vehicles. It had predicted several hundred million dollars of revenue by this year, but instead acknowledges revenue is minimal, according to the company’s financial projections reviewed by The Information. And it has fallen short of its timeline for removing human backup drivers, repeatedly..,” Read more Hmmm…. I simply don’t understand why they have to be focusing on Driverless right from the beginning. There is substantial RoI for Safe-driving Trucks… reduced expected liability (~$10/truck/year); improved comfort, quality of work place, reduced anxiety, … of drivers yielding improved driver recruiting and retention; improved on-time deliveries; … continue to yield very attractive RoIs for just for Safe-driving truck technology, aka “Level 1/2”. Why isn’t tuSimple starting with this technology to build its advanced distribution network???? Alain
F. Fishkin Aug 8, “Is Tesla a tech stock? Or a fashion product? Maniv Mobility’s Olaf Sakkers authored a piece on Medium with that title and he joins Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser & co-host Fred Fishkin for that plus… GM’s would be Tesla challenger Cadillac Lyriq, TuSimple, Uber, Ford and more.” “Alexa, play the Smart Driving Cars podcast!“. Ditto with Siri, and GooglePlay … Alain
Video version of SmartDrivingCars PodCast 168… 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: www.motoetf.com. 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.
O. Shakkers, July 30, “Tesla recently became the world’s most valuable carmaker. That’s pretty shocking since, as Morgan Stanley has pointed out, the company generates 0% of auto profits, 1% of auto OEM revenues and yet has 30% of sector market cap.
If Tesla wasn’t an industrial company that had to manage a complex supply chain, labor costs and distribution, it might be easier to understand how it could be valued at an EBITDA multiple well in excess of pure tech companies like Google and Facebook. Amazon’s significantly more capital intensive business might be the only comparable stock, but in that case, AWS is the primary profit engine and yet Amazon’s multiple is about half of Tesla’s…..” Read more Hmmm…. This may well be the best explanation. Does this mean that China starts producing knock-offs sold on Canal Street in NYC? 😁 Alain
A. Root, Aug. 7, “The 111-year-old General Motors is serious about a future with all electric vehicles, and about making sure Tesla, the husky teenager on the automotive block, doesn’t shove it into the shadows. GM launched its electric Lyric Cadillac SUV Thursday evening.
It feels a little odd to say General Motors (ticker: GM)—a firm selling millions of cars generating hundreds of billions in sales—is coming for Tesla (TSLA)—a company selling hundreds of thousands of cars generating tens of billions in sales. But that’s automotive reality these days….
GM would like to be included in that conversation. The Lyriq will be available in late 2022 and boasts fast charging and a range of 300 miles per charge. Lyriq will start at about $70,000….
GM also boasted the ability to deliver “truly hands-free driver assistance.” That is presumably similar to Tesla’s autopilot, which comes as an upgrade on all Tesla vehicles…” Read more Hmmm… Seems overweight to me and not really a “fashion product” even though it is boasting SuperCruise, its own version of AutoPilot. Technically, SuperCruise may well be better than AutoPilot. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that anyone at GM can sell any technology, let alone make it fashionable. How many units of SuperCruise has the Cadillac dealer network sold to date??? Cadillac claims “over 5M miles driven“. One would hope that each sold has been used at least 1,000 miles, if not 10,000 mile. But let’s take only 1,000 miles. That means that Cadillac has sold only 5,000 SuperCruise Cadillac CT6 in the 2018 and 2019 model years. A whopping 2,500 per year!!! Now that is depressing!!!! (Or, buyers really love Super,Cruise and have used it, on average, much more that 1k miles meaning that GM has sold even fewer of these, or they’ve sold a lot more, but buyers don’t use it. Neither of which are attractive alternatives). Alain
Uber Announces Results for Second Quarter 2020
Revenue of $2.2 billion, declining 29% year-over-year or 27% on a constant currency basis
Wire release, Aug 6, “Uber Technologies, Inc. (NYSE: UBER) today announced financial results for the quarter ended June 30, 2020.
Financial Highlights for Second Quarter 2020
- Gross Bookings declined to $10.2 billion, down 35% year-over-year, or 32% on a constant currency basis, with Mobility Gross Bookings declining 73% and Delivery Gross Bookings growing 113% year-over-year, each on a constant currency basis.
- Revenue declined 29% year-over-year, or 27% on a constant currency basis. Mobility Revenue declined 67% year-over-year and Delivery Revenue grew 103% year-over-year.
- Adjusted Net Revenue (“ANR”) declined 33% year-over-year, Mobility ANR declined 66% year-over-year and Delivery ANR grew 162% year-over-year. YoY Growth % at constant currency & ex-Driver appreciation award was (37)% and with respect to Mobility and Delivery, (68)% and 163%, respectively. Adjusted Net Revenue and segment Adjusted Net Revenue excludes the impact of COVID-19 response initiatives.
- Net loss attributable to Uber Technologies, Inc. was $1.8 billion, which includes $131 million in stock-based compensation expense and $382 million in restructuring and related charges.
- Mobility1 Adjusted EBITDA delivered $50 million in profit, down $456 million year-over-year, and down $531 million quarter-over-quarter, and 6.3% margin as a percentage of Mobility ANR.
- Delivery1 Adjusted EBITDA was $(232) million, up $54 million year-over-year and up $81 million quarter-over-quarter.
- Adjusted EBITDA was $(837) million, down $181 million year-over-year, and $225 million quarter-over-quarter. Adjusted EBITDA excludes the impact of COVID-19 response initiatives…. ” Read more Hmmm…. Made a tiny amount on decreased RideHailing and lost a lot less on increased Delivery. Have plenty of cash. Will it be enough??? CNBC’s take… Uber ride-sharing revenue plummets, food delivery more than doubles Andrew Hawkin’s take Uber continues to hemorrhage cash during the pandemic despite growth in delivery Alain
Uber announces employees can work from home through June 2021, and it’s giving them $500 for their home office
B. Smith, Aug. 4, “On Tuesday, Uber announced that corporate employees will be allowed to voluntarily work from home through June 2021.
“As a company built on flexible working, we want to provide our team with flexibility, choice and longer term clarity so they can plan ahead,” the company said in a statement to Business Insider.
In order to accommodate this change, Uber will be offering a $500 stipend to help employees with their home office setups.
If local offices open before June 2021, employees will have the option returning to the office if they feel comfortable. Uber said that whatever decision employees make will not factor into performance reviews. While the company said it will be reevaluating the policy for a possible extension in the spring of 2021, the policy itself will not be shortened.”… Read more Hmmm… A couple of obvious comments: 1. I guess Uber will stop paying rent, utilities and everything else associated with maintaining at least some offices which must amount to way more than $500 per employee, so the $500 is no big thing. This is being done so as to not lose as much money. Covid is just a convenient excuse. Moreover, the implication of this, and the many others like it, on commercial real estate, urban and suburban land use, home design and, of course, transportation is colossal. Alain
Y. Huang , K Kockelman, L. Truong, Aug, 2020, “Before Shared Automated Vehicles (SAVs) can be widely adopted, they are anticipated to be 27 implemented commercially in confined regions or fixed routes where the benefits of automation 28 can be realized. SAVs would be likely to operate in a traditional transit corridor, replacing 29 conventional transit vehicles, and have frequent interactions with other vehicles as well as 30 pedestrians. This paper micro-simulates SAVs’ operation on a 5 mile-corridor to understand how 31 vehicle size and attributes of SAV-based transit affect traffic, transit passengers, and the system 32 cost. The SUMO (Simulation of Urban Mobility) package is employed to model microscopic 33 interactions among SAVs, transit passengers, and traffic. Results show that the use of smaller, but 34 more frequent SAVs leads to reduced passenger waiting times but increased total system travel 35 times. More frequent services of smaller SAVs in general do not significantly affect general 36 traffic due to shorter dwell times. Overall, using smaller SAVs instead of the large 40-seat SAVs 37 can reduce system costs by up to 3.1% while also reducing passenger waiting times, under 38 various demand levels and passenger loading factors. However, the use of 5-seat SAVs does not 39 always have the lowest system costs”…” Read more Hmmm… Interesting micro simulation of automated shuttle operation on a corridor. This is fine for traditional transit corridors; however, the real opportunity for driverless mobility is for the provision of area-wide service throughout an operational design domain that encompass a network, not a corridor. The human labor requirements has painted conventional transit into corridors and schedules. Mobility demand is realy between many places scattered throughout an area at essentially any time. That’s why people buy and use cars. Scheduled corridor services aren’t competitive for most trips. Automation’s opportunity to replace the driver throughout an operational design domain that encompasses a network of even just a small subset of streets enabling walk access to and from a wide area enables high-quality on-demand service that can compete for usership with the personal automobile. (and is a “life-saver” for those that don’t have access to a car.) Alain
F. Lambert, Aug. 6,”Elon Musk’s Boring Company has received the green light to start expanding its “Loop,” an electric transport system using Tesla vehicles, in Las Vegas.
Last year, Electrek reported on The Boring Company announcing a new proposed “Loop” system of tunnels for approval in Las Vegas. A Boring Company Loop is an underground tunnel system in which autonomous Tesla vehicles travel at high speed to transport people.
The project was initiated by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA), which operates the city’s massive convention center. They are currently expanding the already gigantic venue with a new section to open in 2021, and they need a new way to move people between all their different halls. In May 2019, the LVCVA chose The Boring Company’s $50 million project to act as its new official people mover……” Read more Hmmmm… Whatever. Seems as if Elon can’t do anything wrong. The man is on a roll! Alain
A. Thompson, Aug. 7, ” SpaceX successfully launched dozens of Starlink internet satellites and two small Earth-imaging satellites into orbit Friday (Aug. 7) in the second of what’s expected to be a series of Starlink rideshare missions.
A two-stage Falcon 9 rocket carrying 57 SpaceX Starlink satellites, along with two BlackSky Global Earth-observation satellites, lifted off at 1:12 a.m. EDT (0512 GMT) from Pad 39A here at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
It was the fifth launch for this Falcon 9’s first stage. And the booster pulled off yet another landing this morning, settling softly onto the deck of SpaceX’s “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship in the Atlantic Ocean about eight minutes after liftoff.
This is SpaceX’s 10th Starlink mission since 2019, and the company’s 12th overall mission for 2020. SpaceX has been relying on its fleet of used, flight-proven boosters to sustain a rapid launch cadence. The company has had a stellar summer, with the launch and landing of two NASA astronauts on the Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station — a first for a private company — and isn’t slowing down anytime soon. …” Read more Hmmmm…. Elon is on a roll!!! See video of launch.which includes a spectacular view of the recovery landing of the booster. So impressive! Hopefully Starlink will soon start offering service. We need it now so that we can have some semblance of a level WiFi-access field as we teach remotely for the coming academic year. Starlink may be a way for all of our students to have high-quality internet service. Alain
2 Princeton grads just bought out hotels in Hawaii and Arkansas and are betting on college students paying them $15,000 to study in a ‘bubble’
J. Kaplan, Aug 7, “As the coronavirus pandemic continues to temporarily — or perhaps permanently — alter the college experience, two Princeton graduates have come up with a new idea: instead of students taking online courses from their bedrooms and couches, they’ll take them from a luxe “bubble” hotel full of other students in the same boat.
It’s called The U Experience; come fall, it may be hosting 150 students at hotels in Arkansas and Hawaii — and it’s currently accepting applications. The idea began, according to 24-year-old cofounder Lane Russell, when Harvard said it would shift to remote learning for the fall, but would continue to charge full tuition.
“It really made us think about, ‘What is the thing that college is offering, and what are students getting out of it?” Russell said. “And we think that, even if a college is announcing something that indicates that the experience is actually worth $0, a lot of students probably do value it much higher than that.”…” Read more Hmmmm…. Brilliant! A total no-brainer! Alain
B. Templeton, Jul 28, “Researchers presenting at the annual “Automated Vehicle Summit” which opened Monday in the virtual-conference world demanded that Tesla TSLA -2.5% institute camera based driver monitoring in Tesla Autopilot.
Tesla’s Autopilot contains a rudimentary system to assure people are still paying attention to the road. It can sense if you apply force to the wheel, and typically when you hold the wheel with a bit of grip, there will be occasional torque forces. If it doesn’t detect any such force, it signals alerts, first on the screen, eventually with sound, and eventually by slowing the car to a stop. It’s not a super accurate system — it is possible to hold the wheel quite well and not get detected, and it’s also possible to deliberately “defeat” it by attaching a weight to the wheel to apply just enough force.
Other systems, such as GM’s “Super-Cruise” actually use a camera to monitor the driver and see how much attention is being paid the the road. The most sophisticated systems track the eyes of the driver, and note how much time is spent looking ahead, or down at the controls, or at a phone, or checking the mirrors. They can insist you don’t take your eyes off the road for too long, even if you keep your hands off the wheel….” Read more Hmmmm…. Yes, AutoPilot should do much more to ensure that drivers don’t mis-behave while using it and the Super Cruise eye tracker is a fine system. The article also contains an excellent discussion of Tesla’s safety claims. It is unfortunate that Tesla hasn’t been as forthright as it could be in making sure that apples are compared to apples instead of to oranges when they make their safety claims. As i’ve noted before Tesla should release their data to an independent entity: me, Brad, or someone else… or all of us… so that at least most of us can become comfortable that apples are indeed being compared to apples. An important aspect of the is, that even with driver mis-use and mis-behavior of autoPilot which could be addressed with an eye tracker, its safety record may well be very impressive. Alain
Z. Shahan, Aug. 1, “…The second quarter of 2020 saw a slightly worse result for Tesla than the first quarter in terms of accidents per million miles driven with Tesla Autopilot engaged (see graph below), but keep in mind that the first quarter had a record result. Additionally, the difference was so small that it was probably not statistically significant. On the other hand, Tesla’s Q2 figure was far better than the US average — about 10 times better with Autopilot engaged.
Here are the key statistics:
1 accident every 4.53 million miles when Autopilot engaged
1 accident every 2.27 million miles when Autopilot not engaged but active safety features active
1 accident every 1.56 million miles without Autopilot and without active safety features
1 accident every 479,000 miles — US average…
Read more Hmmmm…. As Brad pointed out above, the “US average” from NHTSA may not be the same “accident” that are reported by Tesla. Tesla’s reported Crashes (which are rarely accidental), may well not be the same as what NHTSA defines as a “crash” Are they dings, air-bag deployments, police reported …??? .
One must assume that Tesla is consistent within its own definition; however, the driving environment is likely very different in the three categories. One may more likely engage AutoPilot on open roads and freeways where driving is substantially more simple that on complex urban or rural streets.
Why Tesla allows active safety features to be turned off seems totally irresponsible unless one is using the car in extremely weird situation, like driving in very deep snow or down river beds, ??? In those situations one would expect the driver to remain very aware and be driving very cautiously. I’m surprised that Teslas are used in these challenging driving situations. I suspect (I hope) that this is a very small amount of the Tesla fleet mileage, Again, why does Tesla allow the safety features to be turned off???? Also please release the data to allow an independent assessment to be made. Alain
Aug. 4, “Ford has changed CEOs for the third time in six years, the company announced on Tuesday. Current CEO Jim Hackett will step down in October and be succeeded by his handpicked deputy, Chief Operating Officer Jim Farley.
Hackett made some significant changes to try to make Ford more profitable. Most dramatically, Hackett cancelled most of Ford’s car lineup in the US so the company can focus on its more profitable trucks and SUVs. Ford then announced plans for $11 billion in new investments in electric and hybrid vehicles—even as it laid off almost 20 percent of its European workforce.
“We made some significant decisions in the earliest days that were quite controversial,” Hackett said on a Tuesday conference call. “Getting out of the sedan business was a difficult question.”
…Wall Street hasn’t been impressed. The company’s stock has lost about 40 percent of its value since Hackett took over in 2017. And that was on top of stock-price declines under Hackett’s predecessor, Mark Fields….” Read more Hmmmm…. It is what it is. Alain
S. Clark, Aug. 7, “United Launch Alliance and SpaceX beat out Northrop Grumman and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin for billions of dollars in U.S. military rocket contracts, and will share the load in launching the Pentagon’s highest-priority national security space missions through 2027, officials announced Friday.
ULA, the 50-50 joint venture formed in 2006 by Boeing and Lockheed Martin, will get 60 percent of the military’s most critical satellite launch contracts awarded through late 2024 for missions that will take off between 2022 and late 2027. SpaceX will receive 40 percent of the national security launch contracts over the same period, the Pentagon said. The Pentagon did not select proposals submitted by Northrop Grumman and Blue Origin.
The agreements cover contracts to launch satellites for the U.S. Space Force, the National Reconnaissance Office, the Missile Defense Agency, and other military services and agencies, providing an anchor customer for SpaceX and ULA.
“This is a groundbreaking day, culminating years of strategic planning and effort by the Department of the Air Force, NRO, and our launch service industry partners,” said Will Roper, assistant secretary of the U.S. Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics. “Maintaining a competitive launch market, servicing both government and commercial customers, is how we encourage continued innovation on assured access to space.”…” Read more Hmmmm…. This is an enormously big win for SapceX. They’ve been able to put its nose into possibly the most protected military-industrial complex tent. SpaceX could well be the first new entrant in that closed cabal since before WWII. Alain
M. Sivak, Aug 8, “Light-duty vehicles (cars and light trucks) are being purchased primarily by individuals, while heavy trucks by companies. Therefore, an examination of the recent changes in the sales of vehicles in these two classes provides some information about the economic impact (both actual and anticipated) of the current pandemic on individuals and companies. (I have shown recently that during this pandemic light-truck sales declined less than car sales.)
Given the above rationale, the present analysis examines the sales of light-duty vehicles and heavy trucks in March through June of 2020—the first four months of the current pandemic—by comparing them with the corresponding sales in February 2020. The raw data for the calculations—annualized, seasonally adjusted vehicle sales—came from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. (Several of the values were recently updated.) The results are shown in the following table….
The main finding is that the peak decline in the sales of light-duty vehicles was greater and it occurred earlier than the peak decline in the sales of heavy trucks. Specifically, the peak decline for light-duty vehicles was about 48% and it occurred in April 2020, compared with the peak decline for heavy trucks of about 32% in May 2020.” Read more Hmmmm….These are big declines, meaning that the logistics sector is backing off on investments. Hopefully not so much that the sector begins to collapse. It is fairly amazing that the logistics sector has functioned as well as it has during this pandemic. Alain
A. Townsend, Aug. 3, “he first self-driving vehicles were ships. After centuries of wrestling with wind and waves, ancient sailors devised contraptions that harnessed these forces of nature to fill in for man. They were simple but ingenious solutions, like the sheet-to-tiller system, which is still used today.
To rig it, you simply take the jib sheet (the rope that controls the smaller sail up front) and run it around a pulley and back across the deck. Finish by tying the bitter end to the tiller (the stick that steers the boat). Now, when a gust hits and the boat starts to round up into the wind, the jib will pull the rope around the pulley and yank the tiller, steering the vessel back the opposite way.
Tricks like this helped clever mariners relieve the fatigue of long shifts at the helm during the Age of Sail. You can use it to crack open a cold one and enjoy the spray as your yacht plows through the whitecaps like a train on rails. And while tillers were repurposed to steer the first automobiles, this old technique didn’t make the leap from sea to land — though we can imagine some frightful, fruitless attempts to make it do so. By 1891, the introduction of the steering wheel, by Benz, put the matter to rest.
On land, self-steering actually got harder when machines replaced animals. Motorization was a vast improvement over draft animals’ muscle power, but the gain came at the expense of brain power. It had long been common for riders on horseback, and even cart drivers, to fall asleep at the reins. Their dutiful animals would simply keep following the road or stop dead in their tracks.
Cars and trucks, however, needed drivers to guide them second by second. Their soaring popularity, combined with the growing risks posed by their weight and speed, birthed a variety of experimental self-steering schemes. One 1925 demonstration of a remotely controlled vehicle in New York City offered a glimpse of driverless autos to come, simultaneously tantalizing and terrifying the public. Cruising down Broadway before thousands of onlookers, the optimistically named American Wonder drove “as if a phantom hand were at the wheel,” reported the New York Times.
In the 1920s, motor vehicles claimed tens of thousands of lives annually — a death rate 18 times higher than today. This new technology promised to render city streets safe once again. But those hopes were soon dashed when the futuristic vehicle’s operators lost control — first at Sixty-Second Street and again moments later at Columbus Circle — before finally crashing the would-be wonder into another vehicle.
Despite this early misstep, the auto industry continued to daydream about remote-controlled cars. At the 1939 World’s Fair, the Futurama exhibit by General Motors featured an enormous motorized diorama of an American city. Free-flowing highways plied by self-driving cars, trucks, and buses crisscrossed bustling districts of slender skyscrapers. There was even a “traffic control tower” where, the future city’s designers imagined, dispatchers would direct the movements of tens of thousands of vehicles by radio. By the 1950s, guide wires embedded in the road surface had replaced radio as the preferred technology for remote-controlled vehicles. Ironically, it was RCA, the Radio Corporation of America, that staged the first successful demonstration of this approach in the 1950s….” Read more Hmmmm…. CliffsNotes to his new book Ghost Road. 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)
Staff, Aug. 8, “A town in Gunma Prefecture will kick off trials for an autonomous amphibious tour bus this winter as part of a project to foster tourism and facilitate the transport of goods between islands.
The trial will be the first of its type in the world, according to the town of Naganohara. The amphibious bus began manned operations last month around Yamba Dam, a long-delayed project that was finally completed in March….” Read more Hmmmm…Total one-off and nothing but Click-bait. Alain
Calendar of Upcoming Events:s
Topic to be announced
August 17 @ 2pm New York Time