Friday, September 18, 2020
39th edition of the 8th year of SmartDrivingCars


Staff, Sept. 2020, “…This report concludes the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s 18- month long investigation of the design, development, and certification of the 737 MAX aircraft, and related matters. The Committee’s investigation has revealed multiple missed opportunities that could have turned the trajectory of the MAX’s design and development toward a safer course due to flawed technical design criteria, faulty assumptions about pilot response times, and production pressures. The FAA also missed its own opportunities to change the direction of the 737 MAX based on its aviation safety mission. Boeing failed in its design and development of the MAX, and the FAA failed in its oversight of Boeing and its certification of the aircraft. …”  Read more Hmmmm…. Ouch!  See also… House Report Condemns Boeing and FAA in 737 Max CrashesBoeing 737 MAX Investigation Alain

  SmartDrivingCars  Pod-Cast Episode 175  w/Michael Sena

F. Fishkin, Sept. 18, “Automobility and the future of car dealers…   “The Dispatcher” publisher Michael Sena offers a different take on how car dealers may battle automakers pushing for direct to consumer subscriptions.  That and more in this edition of Smart Driving Cars with Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin.” Alexa, play the Smart Driving Cars podcast!“.  Ditto with Siri, and GooglePlay …  Alain

SmartDrivingCars  Zoom-Cast Episode 175  w/Michael Sena

Video version of SmartDrivingCars PodCast 175  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.

  Dealers are the Present and Future of Automobility

M. Sena, Oct. 2020, “The lead article this month is about car dealers. They are, with or without the car OEMs, the present and future of automobility. You can read why I believe this is the case. There is plenty of news about battery electric vehicles, both on the battery side and on the vehicle side. Something’s happening with connectivity intellectual property, and it involves Daimler and a company we might have thought faded into the mist of history. I’m talking about Nokia.  If you want to wander around a big time motor show before next year you are going to have to pay for a ticket to Beijing. That’s where the show goes on. In Musings, I reminisce about dream cars of yesteryear.

I try to look at these situations from the perspective of the ITS industry and pass on to you what I believe could be of interest. I trust you find the information useful. As always, I would appreciate receiving your thoughts….”  Read more Hmmmm…. Michael, another fantastic issue.  Love the T-shirt and the red cadllac.  Also tune into our Zoom-Cast Episode 175. Alain

Tuning Up the “Dealership of Tomorrow” Insights

P. Welsh, March 2, “A few weeks ago at the 2020 NADA Show in Las Vegas, the mood among dealers was extremely upbeat. And why not? The industry closed out 2019 with sales topping 17 million new units for the fifth straight year, and we seem to be situated atop a high and healthy sales plateau.

What’s more, dealers have had years to prepare for current conditions. And if the recent quarterly filings of the public dealership groups are any indication,  the retail side is well positioned to absorb a modest decline in new-vehicle sales by continuing to focus on other business units within the store.  Dealers are more than ready for 2020 and whatever the beginning of this new decade throws at them.

Even so, there was something else in the air in Las Vegas—something that was a little harder to pinpoint, but was nonetheless lingering in the background. It wasn’t concern, and it wasn’t doubt. Let’s call it uncertainty. But not about business.

This was a concern about, frankly, a dealer’s place in a world where seemingly every breath out of an OEMs mouth these days is about “mobility,” “change” and “revolution”— anything other than “cars and trucks.”

Outgoing NADA Chairman Charlie Gilchrist summed it up best during his keynote address.

“The franchise system is at its peak,” he said. “Still, the two questions I hear most from dealers here and at home are: What’s my future? And how can our business model thrive into the future?” Charlie’s right. These are legitimate questions. But that doesn’t mean they’re cause for alarm.

Four years ago NADA commissioned respected automotive industry consultant Glenn Mercer to help franchised dealers scan the horizon for threats to the business so they could be proactive in how they plan for the future.

Mercer’s eventual report, “The Dealership of Tomorrow: 2025,” provided a comprehensive view of what automotive retailing would look like to dealers, consumers and manufacturers in 2025. Among other things, Mercer was one of the first to predict an evolution not a revolution of the dealership business model in spite of wild pronouncements about disruptive technologies and behaviors that “promised” to blow up everything we knew about personal vehicle ownership.

Mercer’s initial insight is still just as relevant four years later. That said, we also thought a check-in couldn’t hurt, so last year we commissioned an update to the original Dealership of Tomorrow report….”  Read more Hmmmm….  Mercer’s report is a must read.  Alain

  Safety driver in 2018 Uber crash is charged with negligent homicide

T. Lee, Sept 15, “n Arizona grand jury has indicted Rafaela Vasquez, a former safety driver in Uber’s self-driving car project, for the 2018 death of pedestrian Elaine Herzberg in Tempe, Arizona. Prosecutors decided not to charge Uber criminally last year.  …” Read more Hmmmm…. Seems unduly harsh. What about those who wrote the code to disregard stationary objects in the lane ahead?  The code saw an object 6 seconds before it hit it!  Plenty of time for the code to slow down the car and even stop it.

What do they say about Grand Jurys? …. “They can indict a ham sandwich” …   Alain

  Electric trucking startup Nikola defends itself from short-seller fraud allegations

A. Hawkins, Sept. 14, “…Nikola said the report from Hindenburg Research is “false and defamatory” and was “designed to provide a false impression to investors and to negatively manipulate the market in order to financially benefit short sellers, including Hindenburg itself.”

The startup said it has briefed the US Securities and Exchange Commission on the report and will cooperate with the agency regarding its “inquiry.” (A spokesperson for the SEC declined to comment.) The Phoenix-based company also said it had hired law firm Kirkland and Ellis to evaluate its options…” Read more Hmmmm…. OK Alain

Nikola (NKLA) admits to faking video of driving prototype in weak response to allegations

F. Lambert, Sept 14, “Nikola Motors (NKLA) has issued a somewhat weak response to the allegations made in a recent report, and even admitted to faking the video of their electric hydrogen truck driving on the road…. ”  Read more Hmmmm…..    OK  Alain

  GM has no reason to back out of its one-sided deal with Nikola

T. Lee, Sept. 15, “… “For GM, there’s really no downside to the deal,” said Sam Abuelsamid, an auto industry analyst at Guidehouse. “It’s all upside.”…  Under the deal, Nikola will pay GM up to $700 million to cover the cost of building manufacturing capacity for Nikola’s Badger truck. Nikola will then pay GM even more money to manufacture the vehicles on a cost-plus basis.”  $700M is a nice ceiling, but what is the floor?  $0.00 ??? So how is that such a sweet deal for GM?
… On top of that, GM gets to retain 80 percent of the valuable electric vehicle regulatory credits from the Badger trucks. …” Read more Hmmmm….. So that’s the value to GM!  It gets the EV regulatory Credits that Nikola earns without earning their own.  Th regulatory credits are supposed to be an incentive to convert from IC to EVs.  GM is immorally obtaining credits that were meant to incentivize IC companies to evolve into EVs.  What has happened here is that GM will gain the credits without evolve one iota from ICs to EVs.;  Shame on everyone   Alain

Tesla driver found asleep at wheel of self-driving car doing 150km/h

L. Cecco, Sept. 17, “Police in Canada have charged a man with speeding and dangerous driving after he was found asleep at the wheel of his self-driving car as it travelled at 150km/h down a highway in the province of Alberta.

“The car appeared to be self-driving, traveling over 140km/h, with both front seats completely reclined and both occupants appearing to be asleep,” the RCMP said in a statement.

After the police flashed their lights, however, the Tesla electric vehicle reportedly sped up to “exactly” 150km/h, according to police. The speed limit on most of Canada’s highway network is 110km/h.

The driver, a 20-year-old man from neighbouring British Columbia, was charged with speeding and given a 24-hour license suspension for driving while fatigued. The province has also decided to charge the driver with dangerous driving, ..”   Read more Hmmmm…..    Elon MUST emphasize that driver MUST remain aware of what is going on.   If Rafaela Vasquez can be indicted, how about indicting this guy on attempted murder.  He’s lucky he didn’t kill anyone.   Alain


S. Wells, Sept. 14, “TAKING A SNOOZE AT YOUR CAR’S STEERING WHEEL AS IT HURDLES DOWN A FREEWAY IS A TERRIBLE IDEA, but with the continued expansion of self-driving car technology, getting a few extra minutes of sleep on your commute may not remain a pipe dream for much longer. ….  No!!  We are NOT close at it being anything but a terrible idea n doing this in your car!  We may be close to letting you do that in a car that is operated by a responsible fleet owner….

In a study published Monday in the journal Nature Machine Intelligence, the researchers explain how their approach differs from typical probabilistic machine learning algorithms in a few key ways, Christian Pek, the study’s first author and a post-doctoral researcher at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) at the time of the research, tells Inverse…”  Read more Hmmmm….  I have my doubts.  If the feasible set is really limited to those that “satisfy baked-in traffic and safety rules” then the operation will suffer from being over-constrained and will not function satisfactorily.   Alai

  Daimler, Torc Robotics See Path to Autonomous Trucking as Marathon

R. Gilroy, Sept. 3, “One year after Daimler Trucks purchased a majority share in U.S.-based Torc Robotics to develop Level 4 autonomous trucks, efforts have accelerated to bring out highly automated trucks within the decade, company executives said.

At the same time, they are pushing Tier 1 suppliers for even more advanced safety technologies….” Read more Hmmmm….  This may be the best news to come out of the Motor Carrier industry in a long time.  I read it as saying the heck with “Level 4″ (taking the professional truck driver out of the truck”) and focusing on automation techniques that help the professional driver stay safe, be comfortable, reduce anxiety and let him/her be healthier and better able to feed their families.  That’s how I interpret “… pushing  Tier 1 suppliers for even more advanced safety technologies….”  Fantastic!!! Do that well and we have a substantially more productive and happier long-haul trucking  and logistics industry.  Alain

  Zoox becomes fourth company to land driverless testing permit in California

K. Korosec, Sept 18, “Zoox,  the automated vehicle technology startup that was acquired by Amazon this year, has been issued a permit from California regulators that will allow it to test driverless vehicles on public roads.

The permit is not for all public roads in the state, but it’s still notable, considering the company will be able to test its vehicles without a human safety operator behind the wheel. The California Department of Motor Vehicles, the agency that regulates automated vehicle testing in the state, has issued a permit for a designated part of Foster City in San Mateo County.

Mark Rosekind, the former director of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration who is now chief safety officer at Zoox, called it another important milestone in the company’s “efforts to deliver safe, fully electric, and affordable autonomous mobility to riders in California.”…”  Read more Hmmmm…. Unfortunately, this means essentially nothing.  No one will test on public roads without  an attendant on-board.  It is testing.  You need someone on-board to look over things, if nothing else needs to be done.  It really doesn’t cost that much.  Not worth th risk.  Even in a deployment, attendants will be on-board in the beginning.  But if the deployment is going to be successful, aka affordable, then the attendant will need to go.  Alain

NVIDIA to Acquire Arm for $40 Billion, Creating World’s Premier Computing Company for the Age of AI

Press Release,  Sept. 13, “NVIDIA and SoftBank Group Corp. (SBG) today announced a definitive agreement under which NVIDIA will acquire Arm Limited from SBG and the SoftBank Vision Fund (together, “SoftBank”) in a transaction valued at $40 billion. The transaction is expected to be immediately accretive to NVIDIA’s non-GAAP gross margin and non-GAAP earnings per share.

The combination brings together NVIDIA’s leading AI computing platform with Arm’s vast ecosystem to create the premier computing company for the age of artificial intelligence, accelerating innovation while expanding into large, high-growth markets. SoftBank will remain committed to Arm’s long-term success through its ownership stake in NVIDIA, expected to be under 10 percent…”  Read more Hmmmm…. nVIDIA is on a roll,  Alain

  Lidar is becoming a real business

T. Lee, Sept. 8, “For years, the lidar business has had a lot of hype but not a lot of hard numbers. Dozens of lidar startups have touted their impressive technology, but until recently it wasn’t clear who, if anyone, was actually gaining traction with customers.

That’s starting to change. This summer, three leading lidar makers have done major fundraising rounds that included releasing public data on their financial performance.  The latest lidar maker to release financial data is Ouster, which announced a $42 million fundraising round in a Tuesday blog post. That blog post also revealed a striking statistic: the company says it now has 800 customers.

That’s interesting because we can compare it fairly directly to two other prominent lidar companies that have released data in recent months. Velodyne, which has been considered the industry leader for the last decade, revealed in July that it had 300 customers.  The lidar startup Luminar hasn’t revealed the number of customers, but it disclosed two other figures in August: the company has 50 commercial partners and expects to sell 0.1 thousand—aka roughly 100—lidar sensors in calendar year 2020.

By the metric of total customers, then, Ouster seems to be well ahead of two of its better-known rivals. But saying that Ouster has become the industry leader would be too simplistic. In reality, the three companies are each pursuing different segments of the market.  …” Read more Hmmmm…. Yes, but being a supplier to Auto OEMs is not very Internet-ish,  LiDAR needs to find another volume application/customer.  Alain

   Tesla Autopilot Used as Idiots Fly Down Highway with No One in Driver’s Seat

Staff, Sept. 8, “Drinking and driving is stupid, but so is drinking and letting your car do the driving for you … as these morons demonstrate.”  Read more  Hmmmm…. See video  Why “Level 3” will never see the light of day.


    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

  Mercedes-Benz Winning The Race To Level 3 Autonomy

M. Butler, Sept. 3, “Autonomous driving has been a buzzword for well over a decade now, and we’ve seen some impressive progress by companies such as Tesla, but things are only just heating up. With Mercedes-Benz and BMW announcing that they won’t be working together as previously thought, the race for a self-driving car is on. Mercedes-Benz has always been at the cutting edge of automotive technology, and the 2021 S-Class is a perfect example of how far it’s pushed the boundaries, but the auto manufacturer aims to be the world’s first carmaker with level three autonomy….”   Read more Hmmmm…  What??? This is like crazy stuff.  There is no market for “Level 3”.  Mercedes is nowhere close to “Level 3 Autonomy”.  This autonomy requires Mercedes to accept the responsibility if something happens to my Mercedes when I engage the Level 3 Autonomy. Mercedes will never accept that liability!!!! Alain


  Making a Dumb Road, Smart #CES2020

K. Pyle, Sept. 8, “Replacing passive lane reflectors with connected devices will transform highways from dumb to smart, promises Sharar Bahiri, Founder, Chairman & CTO of Valerann. Improving highway safety is the driving force behind Valerann’s quest to see their devices installed on highways around the world.

An Active Device Instead of a Passive Reflector #
Their solar-powered units include radar, capacitive, and magnetic vibration sensors. It provides visual communications to drivers via multi-colored LEDs. At the same time, it wirelessly communicates to roadside units via DSRC (Dedicated Short-Range Communications), but he also indicates support for 5G….” Read more Hmmmm… Really tough to have Active devices replace passive ones.  Getting off the ground is almost impossible because the addressable market (those that have the gizmos) is initially zero,; so there is no market.  This occurs at a time when the passive device that are proposed to be replaced serves everyone indiscriminately.  Consder, for example, the NJ Barrier.  It helps everyone not cross into the opposing lane(s).   Grooved rumble strips along the road edge warn everyone that they’re crossing into the other lane or off to the side of the road.   Good paint allows everyone with a driver’s license (folks who can actually see with their own eyes) know the boundary of the lane ahead.  Plus KISS (Keep It Simple S…) is really the way to make a Smart (and Elegant) Road. .  Alain

MnDOT gears up to nab carpool lane cheaters 

T. Harlow, Sept. 9,”The Minnesota Department of Transportation is expanding new technology across the metro area to better identify drivers illegally using MnPass freeway lanes, with the goal of making the system operative by the end of the year.

“We are serious about enforcement,” said Brian Kary, MnDOT’s director of traffic operations. “It’s really a better tool to decipher whether there is a violator or not.”…

Here’s how it works: As a driver passes a checkpoint, an antenna seeks to read a MnPass tag. If a driver has a valid tag, a blue light flashes; if no tag is detected, an amber light flashes and a trooper must visually determine whether the vehicle has only one occupant…. ”  Read more Hmmmm…So many things wrong here… 1st.. Of course this is all done by a well-trained, gun carrying member of the police.  What a waste of talent, and of course, nothing can go wrong. …

Next… th purpose of the car-pool lane is to remove cars from the traffic stream; else you must pay!  However, how many of those folks with 2 people in the car actually would have taken 2 cars and left one at home?  Any???  The Uber driver with a passenger in the back didn’t.  The husband riding in the car with his wife didn’t.  The father chauffeuring his son to violin practice didn’t.  … Did anyone??? All of these folks should be paying the toll.  Is that well-trained officer going to pull them over and give them a ticket??? Never mind!  MinDoT:  Save your money.  It is costing you more to collect, than your receiving, even before you incur all of the bad will.  Alain


Calendar of Upcoming Events:s

 DrivingTheDebate Episode 006

AV Shark-Tank:

Topic to be announced

Tuesday, Sept. 22 @ 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