Friday, November 6, 2020
46th edition of the 8th year of SmartDrivingCars

  Edmunds: Where are our self-driving cars?

W. Kaufman, Nov. 4, “Tesla recently made headlines with the beta launch of its Full Self-Driving system. That system comes with a disclaimer saying, “It may do the wrong thing at the worst time, so you must always keep your hands on the wheel and pay extra attention to the road.”

Tesla’s system has impressive capabilities, but it’s definitely not hands-free driving. A few years ago, news stories seemed to say that autonomous vehicles were just a few years away.

Well, it’s been a few years and autonomous vehicles are, alas, still in the future. Right now, there is no car on sale that can drive itself without requiring the driver to pay attention to the road and be prepared to take control of the vehicle. In fact, some automakers have slowed down their timelines.

Here are three reasons why you can’t buy a self-driving car today and one place you’re likely to find them first….

EDMUNDS SAYS: You probably won’t be able to buy an autonomous car any time soon. But expect autonomous fleet services to begin expanding in the near future.” Read more Hmmmm… An now a change in Washington… Alain

  SmartDrivingCars Pod-Cast Episode 182

F. Fishkin, Nov 6, “What will a new administration mean for autonomous mobility? And what about the passage of Proposition 22 in California after Uber’s big campaign? That plus luxury EVs coming from Bentley….and cheap EVs from China. Join Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin for that and more.”  Alexa, play the Smart Driving Cars podcast!“.  Ditto with Siri, and GooglePlay …  Alain

SmartDrivingCars  Zoom-Cast Episode 182 

Video version of SmartDrivingCars PodCast 182...  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.

  With Prop 22’s Passage in California, Tech Companies Are Just Writing Their Own Laws Now

A. Press, Nov. 5, “n Tuesday, California voters passed Proposition 22, a ballot measure backed by app-based “gig” companies that exempts them from classifying their estimated three hundred thousand workers as employees. Included in Proposition 22’s fine print is a requirement that the measure cannot be modified with less than seven-eighths of the state legislature’s approval, all but ensuring it cannot be overturned.

The measure’s success is a landmark in the story of rule by the rich. Were there any doubts before, Proposition 22’s success proves that capitalists can write their own laws — you can expect every executive in the United States to take notice.


Companies including Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Postmates, and Instacart poured $205 million into the “Yes on Prop 22” effort to pass legislation that exempts them from labor law requirements relating to health care, unemployment insurance, safe working conditions, and other benefits (potentially including workers’ compensation, such as death benefits, as detailed in this harrowing Los Angeles Times story). The opposition to Proposition 22, largely composed of unions and allied labor organizations, raised $20 million, leaving it outspent ten to one…”  Read more Hmmmm… A tough issue…  on the one hand, one needs all the labor protection, on the other hand one needs some opportunity to control one’s own initiatives and risk tolerances.  The benefits of being an employee are eroded by the responsibilities attached to those benefits.  In my view, the ultimate gig workers are not Uber drivers, house cleaners, baby sitters or gardeners, but those enabled to just code in their parent’s basement by the existence of the Apple’s App Sto


re.  Apple earns 30% and provides no health care,no…, … 


If Apple had to rely on its App Store, it certainly would not be worth even a minuscule percentage of its current market cap, if it could survive at all.  Same is/will be true for Uber, Lyft etc. once the investor $$ run out.  There aren’t enough folks who get enough personal satisfaction out of gig work to scale a business or a company.  AS an opportunity for some folks to attempt to help themselves it may well be OK.  To build a mobility entity that delivers reliable high quality affordable mobility to a substantial portion of the population… Not so much!   Tough issue!!!  Alain

  Chinese autonomous vehicle startup hits $5.3 billion valuation

K. Korosec, Nov 6, “,  the Chinese autonomous vehicle startup and relative newcomer to the industry, is now valued at $5.3 billion following a fresh injection of $267 million in funding.

The round was led by TIP, an innovation fund within the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board that focuses on late-stage venture and growth equity investments in companies that deliver disruptive technology. Existing partners Fidelity China Special Situations PLC, 5Y Capital (formerly Morningside Venture Capital), ClearVue Partners and Eight Roads also participated in the round….”  Read more Hmmmm… It helps to be tied in with Toyota. Alain

Huge delivery demand fails to stop Uber’s revenue from shrinking in Q3

K. Korosec, Nov. 5,”Despite surging delivery demand, Uber’s  third-quarter ultimately failed to meet investor revenue expectations in the third quarter.

Uber reported gross bookings of $14.7 billion in the period, a decline of 10% compared to the year-ago quarter. That level of platform spend generated revenue of $3.1 billion for the company, down 18% from a year-ago result.

Analysts had expected the company to report revenues of $3.2 billion. The company’s top line miss was partially ameliorated by an earnings-per-share beat, with Uber losing $0.62 per share in the quarter, against an expectation of $0.65….” Read more Hmmmm… Uber’s balance sheet can’t look good until they successfully demonstrate safe Driverless mobility. Alain

   Bentley plans to go all-electric within 10 years  

F. Lambert, Nov. 5,  “Bentley announced a significant expansion of its electrification plans, including only selling battery-electric vehicles starting in 2030.

As part of the Volkswagen Group, Bentley has been somewhat lagging behind its sister brands when it comes to electrification.  Now, it plans to change that with a significant transition over the next 10 years.

Today, Bentley announced its “Beyond100 strategy,” and it involves going all-electric:

Bentley Motors has outlined plans to become a global leader in sustainable luxury mobility with further details of its Beyond100 strategy revealed today. With the promise to offer truly sustainable luxury, Bentley will reinvent every aspect of its business to become an end-to-end carbon neutral organisation as it embarks on its second century. The target is driven by a transformation programme across Bentley’s entire operations and products. This includes switching its model range to offer exclusively plug-in hybrid or battery electric vehicles by 2026, and full electric vehicles only by 2030.

However, the transition is going to start with plug-in hybrids — starting with two coming next year.

Here are the main points from the strategy announced today:

Bentley aims to be end-to-end carbon neutral by 2030, with Crewe operations climate positive thereafter
Confirms move to full electrification – PHEV or BEV only by 2026
By 2030, switching the entire model range to battery electric vehicles
Two new PHEV launches planned in 2021
Committed to reducing factory environmental impact by 75 percent by 2025 against a 2010 baseline – including plastic neutral
Fully supports Volkswagen Group ambition of going beyond the two-degree target of the Paris Climate Agreement
Targeting truly diverse talent – 30 percent of management population to be diverse, increase from less than 20 percent today
Holistic Beyond100 program transforms every aspect of the 100-year-old company

The company didn’t reveal when exactly it plans to release its first all-electric vehicle, but we know that it has been working on it…”  Read more Hmmmm… Might as well make the driver electric.   But what about the muffled sound of that v12? Alain

  Pride Group Enterprises Orders 150 Tesla Semi

M. Twain, Nov. 5,  “The company might buy a total of 500 for use in the U.S. and Canada.
Pride Group Enterprises (PGE), engaged in equipment rental, leasing, logistics and sales in the U.S. and Canada, announced a reservation placement for 150 Tesla Semi.  Moreover, the company hinted an option to increase the number to 500 units, which would be one of the largest orders for the Semi.

Sam Johal, Pride Group Enterprises CEO said:

With support from one of our long-term financial partners, Hitachi Capital, we are very excited to bring this innovative product to our strong customer base, helping forge a new path in clean transportation. We believe that electrification is the way of the future as we work together across multiple industries to reduce our carbon footprint. As well, we have the option to increase our order as we gauge customer acceptance of this new technology.

Tesla intends to finally start production of the Semi in 2021 (the vehicle was unveiled in 2017 and originally planned for 2019), but as of today, it is not yet assigned to any particular plant (Gigafactory Texas is the probable location).

Tesla’s all-electric Class 8 trucks were promised to offer 300 or 500 miles (483 or 804 km) of range on a single charge, which would be quite a unique:…”  Read more Hmmmm…  It is certainly a start.  See also F. Lambert: Tesla (TSLA) receives massive new order of Tesla Semi electric trucks — biggest yet?Alain

   Kandi’s small electric car to cost $7,999 in California

F. Lambert, Nov. 5,  “Chinese electric startup Kandi announces that its small K27 electric car has been approved for California roads and it is going to cost only $7,999 in the state after incentives.

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.   ”  Read more Hmmmm…  Is this the beginning of the “Lime Scootering” of the US auto industry??? Or is this a Yugo or a deux-chevaux? Alain

  Self-Driving Cars Can Also Self-Design A Whole New Traffic Code

B. Templeton, Oct. 27, “There has been much debate about how to regulate safety and the initial operation of self-driving cars, and how to even tell how safe they are. Our current “rules of the road” govern by safety and traffic flow. They have been built by observing all the ways in which human drivers can’t be trusted to be safe and cooperative on the road, then passing laws forbidding those, and sending out police to catch and punish offenders.

There are a billion drivers, each a different entity, so the use of the law makes sense. But there will never be more than a handful of robocar driving systems in any given area, and probably not more than a hundred or so world-wide. Unlike the human drivers, it will be possible to get representatives from each robocar system in a town or nation in one room at the same time. There, it will be possible for them to discuss, with themselves and with regulators, what the right rules are. Once they are agreed upon, they can also be enforced directly with those entities.

Most of the rules of the road break down into these two goals

  • Be safe
  • Share the road (ie. do not unfairly impede others)

There are a variety of local regulations for specific streets, such as declaring one-way streets and parking zones, though usually these are created in order to support the two goals in special ways on certain streets.

This creates the potential for a vastly simpler vehicle code…..”  Read more Hmmmm…  Yup. Alain


    Draft Program   4th Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit   Postponed until  1st Episode at noon on Dec. 10, 2020  and followed by 14 more weekly episodes  through to March 18, 2021.  Each episode starting Live on Zoom @ noon Eastern (Princeton Time) and lasting for 1.5 hours or until Discussion with audience ends. 

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

Postponed, to be Virtual, Evening Dec. 8 -> Dec.10.

4th Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit

Princeton University

Princeton, NJ

On the More Technical Side