Thursday, November 26, 2020
49th edition of the 8th year of SmartDrivingCars

The Vehicle Fuel Debate Has Been Hijacked

M. Sena, Nov. 19, “The lead article this month was inspired by a diagram I received showing how much of the energy that we generate to heat our homes, light up our rooms, make the concrete and steel to build our infrastructure and power our transportation is wasted. It’s over two-thirds. Wasted! Half of it is from producing electricity.

There are a spate of battery and hybrid electric cars (and some others) on their way from China to Europe and North America. Some of the ones I describe in the Dispatch Central section will be familiar to readers since I wrote about them earlier. I could not help writing again about Volvo’s slow but steady exit from Sweden. In the self-driving and data sharing section there is some interesting news out of the UK and Massachusetts, a state (actually a Commonwealth just like Pennsylvania, my home state) where I registered most of the cars I have owned during the eighteen years I lived there.

Waymo has delivered quite a bit of news to the press during the past few months. It seemed like everyone was putting the same spin on what they were saying. Naturally, I decided to spin in the other direction. In Musings of a Dispatcher I have mused about who is going to be sitting in all of those driverless vehicles. Will they be from Mars or from Venus?…”  Read more Hmmmm… What can I say?? Another great edition of the Dispatcher. Be sure to read all the way through including  “Musings of a Dispatcher: Cars are from Mars“.  Enjoy and listen/watch the following Pod/Zoom-casts.  Alain

  SmartDrivingCars Pod-Cast Episode 187  w/Michael Sena,

F. Fishkin, Nov 25, “What you should know about electric cars, climate change and more.  The Dispatcher publisher Michael Sena joins Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin in an eye opening edition of Smart Driving Cars..”  Alexa, play the Smart Driving Cars podcast!“.  Ditto with Siri, and GooglePlay …  Alain

SmartDrivingCars  Zoom-Cast Episode 187  w/Michael Sena,

Video version of SmartDrivingCars PodCast 185...  Alain 

  SmartDrivingCars Pod-Cast Episode 186  w/Kelly Funkhouser, 

F. Fishkin, Nov 24, “When it comes to active driver assistance systems, what works and what needs improvement?  Some answers from Kelly Funkhouser… program manager for vehicle interface, head of connected and automated vehicles at Consumer Reports.  She joins Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin for episode 186 of Smart Driving Cars.”  Alexa, play the Smart Driving Cars podcast!“.  Ditto with Siri, and GooglePlay …  Alain

SmartDrivingCars  Zoom-Cast Episode 186  w/Kelly Funkhouser,

Video version of SmartDrivingCars PodCast 186...  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.

  GM’s Wrong Way Insurance Plan

R. Lanctot, Nov 24, “Word arrived last week that General Motors was returning to the car insurance business, after a decade-long sojourn post-bankruptcy, in the form of a tie up with Homesite Insurance Group, an affiliate of American Family, and a service launch for GM employees in Arizona – land of quick-draw insurance startups. This is a bad idea and a waste of time and money – but why?

Let’s look at the potential strategic rationales for GM to get into car insurance:…


To be clear, none of the reasons expressed by Rose or Page makes any sense. ….


Across the industry, though, insurers are racing to understand the impact of advanced safety and automated driving systems on claims. Hmmmm…  If those systems were really good there would be very few claims where GM was at fault…. There is a related need to understand the behavior of drivers driving cars equipped with these systems. Hmmmm… Again if, the systems were good, they’d be overriding driver mis-behavior resulting in Driver/automatedDriviver cooperative behavior being nothing but great….  But this does not appear to be the stated objective of the new insurance effort and, again, GM need not get into the insurance business to gather this data…


GM can achieve most of its corporate objectives of capturing sales and service leads, retaining customers, and better calibrating safety systems without selling car insurance. The entire exercise appears to be pointless and misguided – … To be successful GM will need to be more transparent and will also need an entirely new relationship with its customers and dealers.

GM’s public-facing stance in the era of CEO Mary Barra has been one of fighting off ignition switch litigants, embracing Trump Administration de-regulation, and resisting Takata airbag recalls. GM is going to have to change its tune if it wants consumers to sing along with OnStar Insurance.   Read more Hmmmm…  My comments are in red above.  Given that, to dat, GM has done so little to promote and sell its “advanced safety and automated driving systems” speaks volumes of what GM’s top management believes is the real value of these systems… (precious little).  Certainly Elon doesn’t have the same implied perspective.  Alain

  GM dumps Trump to side with California in emissions rules fight

K. Korosec, Nov 18, “General Motors is changing sides in a battle over whether states — and specifically California — can set tailpipe emissions regulations and other rules meant to mitigate climate change that are stricter than the federal government.

The automaker said Monday it will no longer back the Trump administration’s lawsuit to prevent California from setting its own rules, Reuters reported. CEO Mary Barra reportedly sent a letter to several environmental groups stating that the automaker was “immediately withdrawing from the preemption litigation” and is inviting other automakers to join it.

The decision is a reversal for the automaker, which along with competitors Fiat Chrysler and Toyota  sided with the Trump administration last year over the issue. …”  Read more Hmmmm…  We’ll take what we can get at this point.  Alain

  Uber and Lyft just scored a huge federal transportation contract

A. Hawkins, Nov. 23, “The US government awarded a big transportation contract to Uber and Lyft this week, authorizing the ride-hailing companies to provide transportation to up to 4 million federal employees and their families.

The General Services Administration, the procurement arm for the federal government, granted the five-year contract to Uber and Lyft, the companies confirmed. The contract is worth up to $810 million, though it’s unclear how much each company will receive.

While individual federal employees have previously been able to use ride-hail services for travel, the new contract allows the companies to formally launch their services within agencies and directly work with officials to promote the service. …” Read more  Hmmmm… This may well be a first for the Federal government to grant a contract to an entity that is not only NOT Union, but Gig.  I can’t imagine this isn’t going to blow up.  This may end up being good for the Lyft/Uber drivers, enabling them to begin to earn a living wage, but this isn’t going to do anything to help get affordable mobility to non-government workers unless many more companies subsidize chauffeur services.  Is GSA now going to subsidize AirB&B?  Alain

  Waze will soon support CarPlay’s split-view dashboard mode

A. Hawkinns, Nov. 23, “Waze is finally coming to Apple CarPlay’s new multiscreen dashboard. This is sure to come as welcome news to devotees of the Google-owned navigation app, who have been waiting for over a year for it to work with the much-improved, upgraded version of CarPlay.  …” Read more Hmmmm… Sure!  Let’s have Waze distract drivers even more by enticing drivers to play with Apple’s CarPlay when they should be concentrating on their driving and not mis-behaving.  I’m not a fan! Alain

  Cutting Edge, Automated Mobility at the Oldest National Park & Beyond

K. Pyle, Nov 24, “Mobility as an amenity is one way to characterize Beep’s autonomous transportation service. To paraphrase Princeton’s Dr. Kornhauser, Beep’s service is like a horizontal elevator connecting buildings spread out over a given area. In a sense, what Beep is offering is an extension of its sponsors’ customer experience. These are just a few takeaways from the above video interview with Beep CEO, Joe Moye, and Beep CMO, Racquel Asa…. ”  Read more   Hmmmm…but still with attendants on-board.  Alain

  Tesla Semi electric truck to have up to 621 miles of range, says Elon Musk

F. Lambert, Nov. 24, “Elon Musk made new comments about the Tesla Semi program, Tesla’s upcoming electric semi truck, and said that the vehicle will eventually have up to 1,000 km (621 miles) of range.

This new range is going to be achieved, thanks to Tesla’s new in-house battery cells and battery pack technology.

When launching Tesla Semi in 2017, the automaker said that the production versions of Tesla Semi, which is a class 8 truck with a 80,000-lb capacity, will have 300-mile and 500-mile range options for $150,000 and $180,000, respectively….”  Read more  Interesting.  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


  Gatik And Loblaw Partner To Bring First-Ever Driverless Deliveries To Canada

R. Bishop, Nov 23, “…When Driverless?

Currently, safety drivers are on board. …” Read more  Seems to mean that this isn’t …“First-Ever Driverless Deliveries” … anywhere.  Alain

  KFC rolls out self-driving food trucks in China and it’s sort of wild

S. Szymkowskim Nov 23, “Some experts believe the self-driving cars are in for a boom, thanks to how the coronavirus pandemic has started to reshape how we purchase goods. When a top priority is to slow the spread of a contagious virus, having things delivered can help some people. Now take the driver out of the equation, for better or worse, and things are even simpler.

Well, that’s what renowned fried chicken expert KFC did in China. U.   ”  Read more Hmmmm…  Not even half-baked.  Totally “Whatever?!” Alain



Calendar of Upcoming Events:s

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