Friday, November 13, 2020
47th edition of the 8th year of SmartDrivingCars

  Road Charge Projects:  California Four Phase Demonstration

K. Pyle, Nov 12, “A key recommendation from the 2017 pilot was to explore whether paying at the pump could work for a road charge just like it does for the gas tax. How could the user experience be as easy as possible? With support from a federal Surface Transportation Funding Alternative grant, California will test how road charge can work with four technologies: usage-based insurance, ridesharing, electric vehicle charging stations/pay-at-the-pump systems, and autonomous vehicles.

Interested in participating? The demonstration will begin in January 2021 and run for six months. Complete the Contact Us data form to express your interest in volunteering for one or more demonstration phases…. ”  Read more Hmmmm…  New Jersey is seeking volunteers for its version of this.  Participation is easy.  You will enroll via a quick, online enrollment process, plug a mileage reporting device into your vehicle and drive.  During the pilot, you will receive monthly simulated statements that compare what you pay in current state fuel taxes to what you could pay in an MBUF system.  It is okay if you are not driving as much as you typically would because of the COVID-19 Pandemic.  Your driving data and feedback provided through anonymous online surveys will help us understand key issues such as privacy, equity and administrative costs with an MBUF system.  

Please contact   to participate and help n the New Jersey version.  Use Subject: Please send,  Body: Mileage-Base User Fee (MBUF) Demonstration registration information .  We need volunteers.  Thank you for helping.  Alain 

  The Autonomous Vehicle Policy Forum

S. Talbot, Nov. 17 & 18, ”  Autonomous vehicles are becoming a reality, and as more “connected” cars take to the road, the implications for policy – from transportation to public safety – are numerous. Join the School of Public Affairs at American University on November 17-18 for two half-days of panel discussions on what the emergence of AVs means for the policy and regulatory landscape of the United States. Panels include:

  • November 17, 1:30 PM ET  Moving America with Autonomous Freight Vehicles: A Discussion with Robert Brown (TuSimple), Çetin Meriçli  (Locomation), Monika Darwish (Embark), and Daniel Goff (Kodiak)
  • November 17, 3:30 PM ET  How Are Cities and States Preparing for AVs? Featuring DC, MD, and VA representatives
  • November 18, 1:30 PM ET  Last Mile Delivery: The Emergence of Delivery Bots during COVID-19 featuring Nuro, Kiwibot, and Starship
  • November 18, 3:30 PM ET  Fireside Chat with Michelle Peacock, Head of Global Policy, Waymo, and Selika Talbott, Professorial Lecturer, SPA  Read more Hmmmm…  Look like an excellent program.   Registere here. Alain

  SmartDrivingCars Pod-Cast Episode 183  w/Kirsten Korosec

F. Fishkin, Nov 13, “Rivian’s hands free driver assistance will be standard equipment…while Ford unveils the E-Transit. TechCrunch Senior Transportation reporter and editor Kirsten Korosec joins Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin for that plus Nuro, Tesla, Uber, Lyft, Cruise and more. Plus the coming changes for mobility under a new administration!”  Alexa, play the Smart Driving Cars podcast!“.  Ditto with Siri, and GooglePlay …  Alain

SmartDrivingCars  Zoom-Cast Episode 183  w/Kirsten Korosec

Video version of SmartDrivingCars PodCast 183...  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.

   Safe Enough:  Approaches to Assessing Acceptable Safety for Automated Vehicles

Marjory Blumenthal, November, 2020,  “Automated vehicles (AVs) are coming to America’s roadways. They are not coming as quickly as was forecast five years ago—partly because the people developing them now have a clearer understanding of how difficult it is to make them safe—but incremental progress continues to be made in improving AV safety. This progress adds urgency to the need to understand when AVs can be considered acceptably safe—that is, safe enough to operate on public roads without the oversight of a human, professional safety driver.
In this report, we examine different approaches for appraising whether AVs are acceptably safe. Our analysis draws from three data sources: interviews with a diverse group of AV stakeholders, a survey of the general public, and a review of relevant literature. We also consider areas of agreement and disagreement among different groups of stakeholders about the value of different approaches. Finally, we examine the importance of communicating to public audiences about AV safety.

Approaches to Assessing AV Safety

We developed the following categorization of approaches for assessing AV safety:
• safety as a measurement
• safety as a process
• safety as a threshold. …

Read more Hmmmm…. This is a most laudable report prepared by one of the most respect institutions. The “Approaches” are totally solid; however, what doesn’t seem to be addressed, (and my most sincere apologies if I missed it,) is the decision process that the entity, that will be held responsible should something bad happen (which will almost assuredly happen, since nothing is perfectly safe), will need to go through to trade off the the expected benefits against the expected fallout in order to finally decide to pull the driver.   

To me, “the buck” stops with the individual(s) that will reap the net benefits of driverless operation.  Without those benefits, there is no incentive to forgo the driver.   That action reaps the rewards and unleashes the risks of driverless.   Those risks need to be fully embraced by those capturing the benefits.  The key question centers on how small do the risks need to become in order for the benefits to be viewed as worth removing the driver.  This is fundamental decision science.  It clearly points out that any approach to safety MUST also include a serious discussion of the benefits side.  This report seems to only look at one side of the process; the risks,   Moreover, it doesn’t seem to fully address the human entities that will eventually bear the responsibility of implementation of these safety approaches.   Alain

  Rivian is making its hands-free driver assistance system standard in ‘every vehicle’ it builds

K. Korosec, Nov 11, “Electric automaker Rivian  will makes its hands-free driver assistance system standard in every vehicle it builds, including its first two vehicles — the RT1 pickup truck and R1S SUV — that are coming to market in 2021.

Details about the system, which is branded as Driver+, was just one of numerous new bits of information released Wednesday on its website, including prices and specs on its R1T pickup truck and R1S SUV.

Rivian said the driver assistance system will automatically steer, adjust speed and change lanes on command…”  Read more Hmmmm…  A really valuable addition to help professional drivers have a better and safer workplace.  I love that they are joining Tesla in pushing the driver assistance technology and making it standard!  Alain

  Honda says will be first to mass produce level 3 autonomous cars

Staff, Nov. 11, “apan’s Honda Motor Co said on Wednesday it will be the world’s first automaker to mass produce sensor-packed level 3 autonomous cars that will allow drivers to let their vehicles navigate congested expressway traffic.

“Honda is planning to launch sales of a Honda Legend (luxury sedan) equipped with the newly approved automated driving equipment” before the end of March 2021, Honda said in a press release….

Japan’s government earlier in the day awarded a safety certification to Honda’s autonomous “Traffic Jam Pilot” driving technology, which legally allow drivers to take their eyes off the road….”  Read more Hmmmm… This is Sooo bad!!  This is NOT “Level 3”.  “Level 3” isn’t achieved until the maker of “Level 3” (Honda in this case) agrees to accept all liability (actual damages, deductibles, etc. ) if anything bad happens during and around the the use of this technology.  Honda has NOT accepted such a responsibility.  Until that is done, and liability is removed from the driver, all of this technology remains a “Level 2” or lower Driver Assistance system where the driver is held responsible for any incurred liabilities.   I realize that “liability responsibility” is not part of the (Editor’s note: atrocious) SAE definitions, but liability responsibility is at the crux of any of these technologies.  If the liability remains on the driver, then it is just Driver Assistance Technology.  If the liability is accepted by the maker of the automated technology, then it is Automated Driving.  Pure and simple!  Alain

  EasyMile in First Fully Autonomous Level 4 Driving Operation in Norway

Oct 30, “Norway has reached a new milestone in autonomous mobility with it’s first driving operation completely removing any human supervisor from the vehicle. EasyMile’s technology, with clients Applied Autonomy, Vy, Yara, City & Lab and Herøya Industripark AS, is behind the inaugural Society of Automotive
Engineers (SAE) level 4 mobility operation.

Launched at industrial premise Herøya the deployment is an important step toward better mobility, zero-emission and increased safety on private sites.  An EZ10 shuttle is carrying employees to and from the canteen area and main gate. Beside it are lanes with cars, lorries, buses, pedestrians and cyclists. It will cross two intersections.

The pilot project will initially run for five days before an evaluation is carried out  “This project gives us valuable experience in the work of making Herøya an autonomous
industrial park,” says Sverre Gotaas, CEO of Herøya Industripark AS…”  Read more Hmmmm… Sounds like it is at least somewhat of a major step…  because of “… completely removing any human supervisor from the vehicle..”; however, there may also be some important caveats…the Operational Design Domain is a private site, not public roadways and “… pilot project is (only) for five days before an evaluation is carried out ??? (Does this mean it hasn’t been operating for a “long time” with human supervision that has been deemed to be totally unneeded???)  Note… driverless operation on private Operational Design Domains have been taking place in a few places for  many years. Alain

 Robotic                                                           Research  Automated Bus Rapid Transit:  A New Mode for High- Quality, High-Capacity Transit Corridors

R. Mudge & J. Lutin, Oct. 2020 “Elected officials and transit executives today face operating crises due to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, uncertain future demand, funding shortfalls, and competition from new services and technology. This paper describes a new technology that may help transit leaders address some of these problems as they look toward the future.

This paper describes a new approach to high-capacity transit, Automated Bus Rapid Transit (ABRT). ABRT uses state-of-the-art technology to enhance conventional Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). This document provides information for elected officials, transit executives, transit planners, and engineers who seek options to improve transit service while taking advantage of new technology….”  Read more Hmmmm.. .Yup!  Where the demand is large enough BRT makes the most sense and, and today, one might as well automate it.  This report nails it. Alain

  Vaccine offers hope for airlines — and a big logistical challenge

J. Muller, Nov. 13, “…The challenge is enormous: Just providing a single dose to the world’s 7.8 billion people would fill 8,000 747 freighter planes, says the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

If half the needed vaccines are transported by land, it would still be the biggest single challenge the air cargo industry has ever faced, says IATA.
The problem: Most cargo flies in the belly-holds of passenger aircraft — not on cargo planes — and one in four airplanes have been grounded during the pandemic because people aren’t flying.

The majority of those parked planes are wide-body jets typically flown on international routes — precisely the ones needed to distribute vaccines.
An added complication: …”  Read more Hmmmm…   Non trivial.   Alain

  Ford courts fleet buyers with new electric commercial vans

R. Mitchell, Nov. 12, “Ford unveiled its new all-electric E-Transit van Thursday morning, and while not as flashy as the Mustang Mach E it unveiled late last year, the launch in some ways could prove more important to Ford’s zero-emissions strategy and perhaps to the public’s acceptance of vehicles that don’t run on gasoline or diesel fuel.

“If Ford does this right, the E-Transit van will be a very important vehicle for them, and for [vehicle] electrification in general,” said Mike Ramsey, an analyst at Gartner….

The cost savings for electric vans — mainly in the form of lower fuel and maintenance costs — could well swing fleet buyers to electric vans, Brinley said. But right now those savings are “in theory.” Fleet buyers will need a few years of experience to adequately judge the potential of electric vans, she said….”  Read more Hmmmm… What may well  be even better is that this form factor, having a little larger capacity and the opportunity to more easily get in and out of the vehicle than a “Pacifica”, may make it more ideal for driverless mobility for ‘everyone” (as well as, driverless home delivery of packages).   Alain

  Daimler will shrink with shift to electric, autonomous cars: CEO

E. Taylor, Nov. 12, “Daimler DAIGn.DE will be a smaller company five years from now, focused on capturing recurring revenues with software-based services as Mercedes-Benz seeks to redefine luxury in an era of electric self-driving cars, Chief Executive Ola Kaellenius said.  The Stuttgart-based company founded by Carl Benz, who patented the first gasoline-powered car in 1886, is accelerating plans to shift the carmaker beyond combustion-engine vehicles, a step which will result in job losses….

Jobs will disappear because it takes less time to build an electric car than a conventional gasoline or diesel version.   That’s because an electric car’s battery and motor have only 200 components, compared with at least 1,400 parts found in a combustion engine and transmission, according to analysts at ING….”  Read more Hmmmm…Yup!  Alain

  Autonomous delivery startup Nuro hits $5 billion valuation on fresh funding of $500 million

K. Korosec, Nov 9, “Nuro,  the autonomous delivery startup founded by two former Google engineers, has raised $500 million, suggesting that investors still have an appetite for long-term pursuits such as robotics and automated vehicle technology. Nuro now has a post-money valuation of $5 billion.

The Series C round was led by funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price  Associates, Inc., with participation from new investors including Fidelity Management & Research Company and Baillie Gifford. The round also includes existing investors such as SoftBank Vision Fund 1 and Greylock.

Nuro was founded in June 2016 by former Google  engineers Dave Ferguson and Jiajun Zhu. While the startup was initially bootstrapped by Ferguson and Zhu, it has never struggled to attract investors…”  Read more Hmmmm…  Today the climate is very good for driverless home delivery.   Alain

  Cruise is teaming up with Walmart for robo-delivery in Arizona

A. Hawkinns, Nov. 10, “Cruise is partnering with Walmart to test out a delivery service using a fleet of autonomous and electric vehicles. The pilot project will kick off in early 2021 and take place in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Cruise has yet to settle on a final number of cars it will use as part of the delivery service. The company has maintained a small fleet of five vehicles in Phoenix since 2016.  It’s the latest in a series of announcements centered on the use of autonomous vehicles in last-mile delivery scenarios, underscoring a core truth about the technology: it’s risky to put human passengers in robot vehicles, but it’s much less risky to put groceries and Walmart purchases in them.

It’s the latest sign that Cruise, which is a majority owned subsidiary of General Motors, is interested in expanding beyond robo-taxis and into the world of autonomous delivery. …” Read more Hmmmm… Given that Walmart is interested in Driverless delivery, automated home delivery must be near the top of Amazon’s interests.  Alain

  Why Biden tapped several Big Tech staffers for his transition team

T. Lee, Nov. 10.  “On Tuesday, President-elect Joe Biden announced a roster of policy experts who will help ensure “a smooth transfer of power” and enable the new Biden administration to “hit the ground running.”

The list has more than 500 members, and technology companies are well-represented on the list. It includes current employees of Airbnb, Amazon, Dell, Dropbox, LinkedIn, Lyft, Salesforce, Stripe, and Uber. It also includes employees from the philanthropic organizations of three tech moguls: the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates), and Schmidt Ventures (former Google CEO Eric Schmidt).

The list also includes one representative from a technology-focused non-profit group: Gene Kimmelman of Public Knowledge will be part of the transition team for the Department of Justice…..”   Read more Hmmmm… Nice!   Alain

  Nikola has $900 million in the bank, lost $117 million last quarter

T. Lee, Nov. 9.  “Electric truck-maker Nikola was widely ridiculed in September when a short-selling firm revealed that its first truck, the Nikola One, never worked. A promotional video of the truck “in motion” actually showed the vehicle rolling down a hill.

But the company’s latest quarterly financial results, released Monday, show that Nikola has something it didn’t have in 2016: truckloads of cash. Specifically, Nikola has $900 million in the bank—most of it raised when the company went public back in June.  Nikola says it spent $117 million in the third quarter of 2020 while bringing in no revenue. The losses were smaller than some analysts had expected, and investors reacted positively to the results, sending Nikola’s stock price up by 2 percent in after-hours trading.

Nikola’s war chest means that, despite the company’s shambolic origins, Nikola might still have a shot to become a viable truckmaker. The company’s cash should last about two years at the current burn rate. So Nikola has until 2022 to either begin generating revenues or raise more money from investors….”   Read more Hmmmm… OK, 2 years to start breaking even (assuming that those that bankrolled you don’t want to be paid back).  All this while competing with the Ford EV 150 And the Tesla Cyber Truck,   Good luck!  Aso, the Hydrogen economy was hot in the 70s, along with the thermonuclear fusion economy.  Both have always been 30 years in the future and remain so today.  Alain

  Lyft sees ride revenues recover by nearly 50% in just three months

K. Korosec, Nov 11, “Shares of Lyft  are riding high, popping more than 7% in after-hours trading today after the American ride-hailing giant reported its Q3 earnings.

Lyft, which competes with Uber  for rideshare, reported revenues of $499.7 million in the third-quarter, a 48% drop from the $955.6 million in the same year-ago period. That lackluster result is still a 47% improvement over last quarter when Lyft reported $339.3 million in revenue. That’s good?

Investors were heartened by the improvement and Lyft’s ability to beat analysts revenue expectations of $486.45 million. The company’s net loss of $1.46 per share was worse than expected, but investors appeared more bullish than bearish, buying up Lyft equity and boosting its value after the company’s earnings report…”  Read more Hmmmm…  I still don’t see it, but maybe they can find a way to keep more and more drivers happy and actually scale a labor-intesive service.  Alain

   Tesla is No. 1 most attractive company for engineering students, and that’s a massive advantage

F. Lambert, Nov. 11,  “Tesla has now taken the No. 1 spot in the rankings of the most attractive companies for engineering students to work for in the US.

That’s a massive advantage that can’t be overstated.  In the fast-paced tech world, innovation is the most important way for companies to stay competitive.

The best way to achieve a high pace of innovation is through establishing a culture that nurtures it within the organization and attracts top engineering talent.  On the latter, Tesla appears to have an important lead over the competition.

Universum conducts extensive surveys of students around the world and recently released its 2020 report:…”  Read more Hmmmm… One reason why the banks have done so well in the past.  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

The Autonomous Vehicle Policy Forum

November 17 & 18


4th Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit

Postponed, to be a Virtual Series

1st Live Episode noon ET Thursday, Dec.10

Princeton University

Princeton, NJ

On the More Technical Side