Thursday, August 20, 2020
35th edition of the 8th year of SmartDrivingCars

  Creating Standards in an Environment of Mistrust

M. Sena, Sept, 2020, “Will ITS standards work fall prey to geopolitical conflicts and meddling? How many exclusive partners can Waymo manage? Will Geely Auto and Volvo Cars merge or not? Is the StarLink satellite broadband initiative going to be another win for Elon Musk? What effects are COVID-19 having on the car industry? We are not out of the woods yet with this current plague, and governments seem to be taking very different tacks as they navigate their boats through these troubled waters. ….”  Read more Hmmmm….  Another Excellent Dispatcher.  Be sure to listen/watch Corresponding PodCast 170 w/Michael Sena.  Alain

  SmartDrivingCars PodCast 170 w/Michael Sena

F. Fishkin Aug 20, “Tesla grows while other automakers flounder. And creating standards in an era of mistrust. The Dispatcher publisher joins Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin in a thought provoking episode. Plus…transportation planning during and after the pandemic…NVIDIA…and more..Alexa, play the Smart Driving Cars podcast!“.  Ditto with Siri, and GooglePlay …  Alain

SmartDrivingCars ZoomCast Episode170 w/Michael Sena

Video version of SmartDrivingCars PodCast 170  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.

  Georgia Trooper Is Charged in Fatal Shooting of Black Driver

A. Waller,  Aug. 15, “A Georgia state trooper was fired and charged with murder on Friday, one week after a 60-year-old Black man was fatally shot during a traffic stop over a broken taillight on his car, the authorities said….

“Mr. Lewis was no threat as a 60-year-old man just trying to make it home from a convenience store run” to get a grape soda for his wife, said Francys Johnson, a lawyer representing Mr. Lewis’s family.

Mr. Lewis continued driving, and Mr. Thompson eventually used his patrol vehicle to force Mr. Lewis’s car to turn sideways, causing him to stop in a ditch. Mr. Thompson drew his gun as he got out and saw Mr. Lewis with both of his hands on the steering wheel, the report said.

It then appeared, the trooper said, that Mr. Lewis was trying to maneuver his vehicle toward him, prompting him to open fire, the report said. Mr. Lewis was pronounced dead at the scene, the bureau said in a statement….”  Read more Hmmmm….  Why do we have highly trained and competent individuals with guns involved in enforcing traffic laws that rarely, but way too often, escalate into situations like this? 

We can either mandate technology in cars that will make them adhere to all traffic laws; however, the OEMs will scream bloody murder if we try do that; so…

1. Stop making traffic law violations a mechanism for funding local governments.
2. Make owners of vehicles responsible for violations involving their vehicles.
3. Use cameras and sensors to identify, record and issue violations to the registered car owner
4. enforce traffic law violations the same as parking and EZ-pass violations. 
5. focus on helping the car owner be more responsible for the proper use of her/his owned vehicle. 

Of course this isn’t easy, but we shouldn’t be using guns and muscle to enforce good good behavior driving cars.  C’mon Man!!  Alain

  Nvidia’s server business eclipses gaming chips for first time, though maybe not for long

W. Witkowski, Aug. 19, “Nvidia Corp.’s data-center chips brought in more money than the gaming specialist’s core business for the first time in the company’s second quarter, but new gaming chips amid a pandemic-influenced boom in video games are expected to flip that back around and produce even more record sales.

Nvidia NVDA, -0.99% reported $1.75 billion in data-center sales in the second quarter Wednesday, more than double last year’s total of $655 million and ahead of the average analyst expectation of $1.71 billion. The data-center segment is especially important to investors after Nvidia announced its latest Ampere-architecture-based offering for servers earlier this year.

It was also the first full quarter that Nvidia’s Mellanox Technologies acquisition, which closed in April, contributed to revenue. On a conference call, Chief Financial Officer Collette Kress said that Mellanox contributed about 14% of total revenue and more than 30% of data-center revenue, and “was a critical part of several of our major new product introductions this quarter.”…”  Read more Hmmmm….  If the OEMs really start competing with Tesla for self-driving capabilities, the nVIDIA ,machines that they buy gives nVIDIA revenue that is gravy on top of their revenue from Servers and Gaming systems.  What a juggernaut!  Alain

  Five Steps to Guide Transportation Spending and Planning During Coronavirus Pandemic

A. Pisarski, Aug 19, “This analysis discusses a five-step approach to understanding and addressing the new challenges that preceded, and now are intensified by, the COVID-19 pandemic and economic events of this year. The way that we react to them will be crucial to the nation’s transportation capabilities in the future. The COVID-19 pandemic and the governmental responses to it have reduced overall travel activity and shifted demand to different locations and modes of travel. Demand has shifted away from any form of concentration of passengers in vehicles and terminals, or even at potential destinations of travel. There has been a major shift to relying on household vehicles for any travel demand since there is less personal exposure to others.

1. Call a moratorium on all expansion-based transportation investments—for the obvious reasons. ….

… for the obvious reasons …

2. Focus on improving the condition of the existing system—not just restoring, but modernizing. ….

… Hopefully “modernization” is polite term for “automation”.  Driving a bus might be appropriately challenging as a occupation, but sitting at the head end of a NJ Transit, DC Metro, BART or even the LIRR, Amtrak or CSX intermodal train isn’t a real engineer job.  A long time ago we moved on from employing hundreds (thousands ??) of RR Xing guards.  It is time that we move on from these babysitting jobs. A train engineer looks at electronic displays/signals that tells her/him what to do.  Why is there an intelligent, creative human in that loop?… 

3. Assess ways to determine the role and prospective impacts of Work at Home trends—which already exceeded transit in share in 2017. …

…  pre-covid transit share is not a very high hurdle.  Work & Home have been coupled at a scale of 10-100 miles (or km).  Covid has demonstrated that the coupling can extend to 1,000 miles (or km) or even more.  Houses turnover “every 5 years” on average largely due to either corporate relocations or job changes. If corporate relocations diminish and/or job changes necessitate fewer relocations, household movers (Mayflower etc.) and real estate agents (less turnover) are in trouble…. 

The main attraction of living in a city is not needing to commute. If you can work from home, why live in a city.  The main attraction of locating jobs in a city in not needing to commute.  The labor pool lives in a city and won’t need to commute.  But if the labor pool can work from home, why locate the job in the city?   GoldMine Sachs will sublet for whatever it can get (if it can get anything) most of its space on Wall Street.  K Street in DC is OK because lobbyists still need to be near congressPersons and the Donald… Unless Congress can Zoom into DC from their districts!  Yipes!! Why do folks assemble in the Pentagon today??? 

It may be that military bases may be the only entities immune to change.  Recruits need to march together and cavalry together….. Is this really the way we are going to fight future wars…  Massive conglomerations of invading humans not practicing social distancing???  Really ????….

4. Focus further on shifting transportation funding to be responsive to the accessibility needs of lower-income populations. …

… This is very important and has been since day one; however, the real funding always goes to those that already have good mobility but are now given multi-modal alternatives because already good mobility isn’t enough.

5. Emphasize a strong focus on private sector solutions to respond to needs in this transportation world—utilizing the disruptive technologies that can serve users’  needs rapidly. …

… automation has the opportunity to substantially reduce the labor cost aspect of delivering high-quality mobility.  That cost reduction is the fundamental fuel that enables high quality mobility to be offered at an affordable price with a greatly diminished need to beg the public sector for operating subsidies….”  Read more Hmmmm….  See comments in line above.  Alain

   Why are stocks so strong when employment is so weak?

R. Mitchell, Aug. 17, “It seems bizarre that the stock market is doing so well in the midst of the worst economy since the Great Depression.

There are several reasons, though none are directly connected to the economic value of companies, the traditional method by which market prices are measured.

The Federal Reserve Board’s injection of trillions of dollars into the nation’s economy is key. More money circulating means more economic activity than there would be otherwise.

Especially notable: For the first time ever, the Fed has been buying corporate bonds, including junk bonds, helping keep even weak companies afloat. The Fed’s low interest rates, meantime, encourage borrowing, which usually leads to economic growth. The low rates mean investors chase bigger returns, and stocks have been about only investments yielding big returns the last several years….”  Read more Hmmmm…. Seems as if for many, revenues are stable, if not increasing (tech firms) while labor expenses are down (layoffs and surprisingly good productivity on Zoom).  That makes for bigger bottom lines.  Moreover, the expectation is that Zoom Labor productivity may actually improve in the future indicating that profits will be even higher.  Alain


  How Transit Systems Can Provide Cost-Effective, High-Quality Paratransit Services

B. Feigenbaum, Aug. 12, “People with disabilities use transit seven times as much as the general population.

Unfortunately, existing transit service does a poor job of connecting them to work. Paratransit vehicles often arrive late and without the proper equipment. Riders sometimes are stranded for hours at a time. As a result, people with disabilities are far more likely to be underemployed or unemployed, despite being 1.5 times more likely to be highly educated compared to the general population. This vexing problem led the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) to explore an alternative to traditional paratransit.

In an effort to increase customer satisfaction and decrease cost, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority created a trial program using ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft. Four percent of all MBTA paratransit customers are involved in the trial, which gets high marks for rider satisfaction. Uber and Lyft receive a customer score of +85, while the MBTA’s overall score is -11.

Unfortunately, the trial has been disappointing from a cost-saving perspective. The transit agency had hoped for savings of 10 percent to 20 percent over traditional paratransit. In reality, at a subsidy of $40 per trip, the savings have been only about 1 percent…. ”  Read more Hmmmm…. There wouldn’t even be a 1% saving if Uber/Lyft drivers earned a living wage.  The only reducible cost is labor’s wage rate.  That gets reduced either by enslavement or automation (driverless).  Which do you prefer? Alain

  Surface Transportation News: Diverting Gas Taxes to Amtrak, Toll Road Traffic Recovering, Hyperloop and More

R. Poole, Aug. 11, “In this issue:

  • Hyperloop, yet again  … I’m not a fan.  Another gizmo for the rich that already have great way(s) to get between any pair of Hyperloop stations….
  • Traffic recovery aids toll roads  … Are any new toll roads making money??…
  • Diverting highway money to Amtrak?  … Why not?, but only to automate Amtrak and the freight trains that share rails with Amtrak…
  • Availability payments are debt, per GASB
  • Fiscal impacts of automated vehicles… I particularly like… On the latter, excessive reliance on revenue from traffic infraction fines can create perverse incentives for law enforcement to engage in predatory and sometimes discriminatory behavior… and would go much farther to completely eliminate reliance … traffic fines must be, by far, the most regressive public revenue source.  If you are white and infraction traffic, you get a warning.  If you are black, you get a fine.  Plus, if it is discovered that a warrant is out for your arrest because you couldn’t pay the  fine for your previous traffic infraction,  you are going to jail and more fines…  At least you didn’t get shot.  For what??? … traffic infractions that are usually unenforced, sometimes subject to a warning.  But a poor black person is put in an inescapable downward spiral.  
  • Survey misrepresents per-mile user fees  … the price of gasoline it both totally inelastic and everyone wants it to be free.  OPEC can, and has, increased its price in amounts up to 10x the gas tax.  Bridges, Tunnels & Roads increase tolls regularly.  People just pay.   Yet Congress hasn’t increased the gas tax is because driving cars is what an overwhelming percentage of their clientele does every day.  (Few constituents regularly take toll road, even fewer regularly take bridges and tunnels.)  …
  • News Notes
  • Quotable Quotes …” Read more Hmmmm…. Comments in-line above.  Alain

  Trump, Unions Call For More Taxpayer-Funded Airline Bailouts

R. Poole, Aug. 6, “After weeks of maintaining their neutrality, last week many airlines decided to support airline union calls for another large federal subsidy to maintain existing airline workforces. The $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) signed by President Donald Trump included $32 billion in aid for airlines to prevent the involuntary termination of airline employees until Oct. 1.  As that date grows nearer, the airline unions have stepped up their calls another $32 billion airline bailout, in order to extend the airlines’ employment freeze for six additional months.

Yesterday, President Trump said he supports giving more taxpayer-funded aid to airlines. Marketplace reports:  …

…There are also very real human concerns for mid-career people losing good-paying jobs that may be hard for them to replace. … ” Read more Hmmmm….  Bailout of rich people!  Not at all surprising.  I guess we would be bailing out GoldMine Sachs if the demand for investments had waned.  Oh, we did that in 2008.  OK.   Alain

  Return to office will be much slower than expected, survey says

N. Sachmechi, Aug. 14, “Only a third of the city’s workforce will return to their desks by the end of the year, according to a survey of the city’s top employers.

Major city landlords had initially set their sights on a Labor Day return once the season ended, but current occupancy levels, at 8%, are 20% lower than expected, according to the report from the Partnership for New York City, a consortium of the city’s elite employers.

Companies are looking to bring back a little more than a quarter of their employees by the end of this year and have more than half of them in the office by the summer of 2021, the survey found.

“I think the economic consequences and time required to recover are going to be longer and more serious than people have realized,” said Kathryn Wylde, the organization’s president and chief executive, but she doesn’t think it’s the end of offices.   “I think the doomsday reports are inaccurate,” she said….

Public transportation is a major deterrent for workers, the survey found, with 74% of respondents saying it was either a primary or secondary concern. More than 3 out of 4 employees rely on public transportation to get to work. ”  Read more Hmmmm….  in Manhattan, not anywhere else in the nation.  The only thing good about taking transit to work is that you can be doing something else while you are riding.  The rest of the process is nothing but aggravating and stressful.  As long as the stress of working from home is less than the stress on mass transit to NYC, then folks are going to working from home..   Alain

  All About Roundabouts

Rotaries, traffic circles or however you know them, they’re often frustrating for American motorists. They are designed to lessen accidents, but that’s not always the effect….

The question may eventually boil down to “Do robots like roundabouts?” Autonomous cars with a plethora of sensors and microprocessors at the wheel should have no problem negotiating the trickiest of circular intersections, but mix those artificially intelligent vehicles in with a fleet of old cars and the results could prove interesting.”  Read more Hmmmm….  Robots have no problem with roundabouts. The rules of the road a clear. Crashes will not be the robots’ fault.  Alain

  Tesla closes above $2,000 per share for the first time, now worth more than Walmart (TSLA)

C. Reinicke, Aug. 20, “Shares of Tesla rose 7% on Thursday to close at an all-time high of $2,001.83 per share.
It was the first time that the automaker, led by Elon Musk, crossed the $2,000-per-share threshold, even during a rally that’s sent shares skyrocketing this year. In intraday trading Thursday, Tesla surged as much as 8% to touch $2,021.99 per share before paring some gains.
The rally pushed Tesla’s market capitalization to nearly $372 billion, surpassing the market value of Walmart, worth about $371 billion. Tesla earlier in the year became the most valuable automaker in the world after eclipsing Toyota’s market value….”  Read more Hmmmm…. Wow!! Alain

  How have our expenditures on motor vehicles changed during the pandemic?

M. Sivak, Aug. 19, “… examined the relative expenditures on motor vehicles in the United States from March through June 202… The main findings are as follows:

  • In comparison with February, the drop in the total sales excluding those at motor vehicle dealers was greatest in April (a reduction of 18.3%). The sales virtually recovered by June (a reduction of only 0.6%).
  • In comparison with February, the drop in the sales at motor vehicle dealers was also greatest in April, but it was more substantial (a reduction of 36.6%). The sales more than recovered by June (an increase of 4.7%).
  • In February (the last pre-pandemic month), the sales at motor vehicle dealers amounted to 18.5% of the total sales. This percentage dropped to 14.7% in March, followed by a gradual increase to 19.3% in June (a greater percentage than in February).

Read more Hmmmm….  And what was Tesla’s share?  Alain

  Tesla is about to make a huge leap forward in self-driving car tech

B. Schmidt, Aug. 17, “It seems that Tesla is about to make a massive Leap Forward in self-driving technology. On Saturday, Elon Musk took to Twitter to give new insight on a number of developments that Tesla is working on in regards to its self-driving technology.

Self-driving package are key to the California EV maker’s plan to unleash a massive fleet of self-driving autonomous taxis on the world.

This will not only allow those who invest in the purchase of an electric vehicle to gain a financial return on their investment, but may also reduce the need for everyone to own a private car.

The biggest announcement from Musk on Saturday was in regard to the “Dojo” supercomputer that he referred to in Tesla’s Autonomy Day in April 2019. This supercomputer will apparently help train neural net systems in order to process, as Musk puts it, “truly vast amounts of video data”.

“It’s a beast!” Musk said, adding, “Please consider joining our AI or computer/chip teams if this sounds interesting.”…”  Read more Hmmmm….  It is till just Self-driving , NOT Driverless , and Drivers MUST remain alert and engaged in the driving task.  No testing, gaming, sleeping or jumping in the back seat; else, you’ll die!! Alain

  Self-driving car only lanes? They’re coming to an autonomous corridor in Michigan

S. Szymkowski, Aug 13, “A future stretch of road between Detroit and Ann Arbor, Michigan, will be home to road lanes marked exclusively for self-driving cars in the future.

The state and private partner Cavnue announced Thursday the creation of a new public-private duo to build the first kind of autonomous car corridor in Southeast Michigan to help accelerate testing. Eventually, the end goal is to close “long-standing gaps” to transportation access in the area…. ”  Read more Hmmmm…. I don’t believe it.  This is pure Click-bait.  I sure hope no public moneys go into this investment.  More for the super rich. The whole AV thrust for the past 15 years has been focused on sharing existing infrastructure and NOT requiring any special considerations (except a smooth surface and properly painted lanes. This smacks of going back to the discarded Automated Highway days where the automated car needed an exclusive automated roadway or lane.  This concept was DoA in the 1940s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and all the way to the DARPA Challenges in “2005”  No one will build automated cars for non-existent automated roadways and no one will build automated roadways for non-existent cars.  Not even close!  Alain


A. Hawkins, Aug. 13, “The COVID-19 pandemic has cratered demand for air travel, tens of thousands of people are already out of work, and a recovery — whatever that may look like — is expected to take years. But while smaller suppliers are crashing and burning, the biggest corporations that operate and orchestrate the air travel industry are surviving, thanks to their size and their access to a crucial resource: cash.

The major airlines were hit with historic losses, which they detailed over the last month during their quarterly earnings calls. Collectively, the Big Three — United, Delta, and American — lost a staggering $10 billion during the second quarter of 2020. JetBlue lost $320 million, Southwest $915 million, and budget carriers Spirit and Alaska lost $144 million and $214 million, respectively.

They’ve done a lot of the hard work already, reducing their costs by retiring planes early and pausing most of their routes — but they are also prepping layoffs and furloughs despite government programs meant to keep those people employed. Of the many billions of dollars they took from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, only a portion was dedicated to protecting layoffs. That money is running out, leaving the airlines threatening widespread cuts unless that part of the government program is extended….”  Read more Hmmmm….   No comment.  Alain

  Tesla Roadster: Elon Musk confirms race car-like centerlock wheels

F. Lambert, Aug. 19, “Tesla CEO Elon Musk confirmed the smallest little detail about the new Roadster: it will have race car-like one-nut wheels.  We are kind of starving for information when it comes to Tesla’s new Roadster.

The electric supercar is supposed to come deliver the “ultimate smackdown” to gasoline-powered cars by outperforming all other supercars and becoming the new ‘halo’ car when it comes to performance.  Originally, it was supposed to come to market this year, but it has been delayed and the timeline to production is now unclear.

In the meantime, CEO Elon Musk gradually reveals more information about the electric supercar and he has now confirmed that the Tesla Roadster’s wheels will have just one nut…. ”  Read more Hmmmm….. had actually dreamed about getting a mid-engine Corvette, but, of course, none are available.  Now I may just wait and get a Tesla Roadster.  Can GM do anything sufficiently right?   Alain

  Kandi reduces price of its electric car under $10,000 (with incentives) for US launch

F. Lambert, Aug. 19, “Kandi, a Chinese electric car manufacturer, is launching its electric cars in the US, and it has reduced the price under $10,000 with the federal tax credit for the launch.

Several Chinese automakers are currently looking to expand outside of China, and that’s especially true of electric vehicle makers.

Even foreign automakers, like Volvo and BMW, are now producing electric vehicles in China and exporting them globally. The Chinese-made Polestar 2 is due later this year. BMW is also looking at bringing Chinese made EVs to the US.

But when it comes to China-based electric automakers, Kandi is leading the way to sell first in the US.

Last year, Kandi announced that it received US approval to sell two electric cars in the country….. ”  Read more Hmmmm…..The US government is subsidizing the sale of a Chinese car in the US?????  Does Trump know about this?  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



Calendar of Upcoming Events:s

 DrivingTheDebate Episode 006

AV Shark-Tank:

Topic to be announced

Tuesday, Sept. 1 @ 2pm New York Time

Register Here

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

4th Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit

Princeton University

Princeton, NJ

On the More Technical Side