Friday, January 22, 2021
3rd edition of the 9th year of SmartDrivingCars eLetter

   U-M’s Robert Hampshire joins Biden administration to work in transportation research and technology

J. Karoub, Jan. 21, “Robert Hampshire, associate professor at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy whose research and policy engagement focuses on understanding the societal, climate and equity implications of autonomous and connected vehicles and other innovative mobility services, has joined the Biden administration to work in the U.S. Transportation Department.  Robert Hampshire, associate professor at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy whose research and policy engagement focuses on understanding the societal, climate and equity implications of autonomous and connected vehicles and other innovative mobility services, has joined the Biden administration to work in the U.S. Transportation Department.”  Read more  Hmmmm…  What a fantastic appointment.  Congratulations Robert!  Alain

   SmartDrivingCars Pod-Cast Episode 195 Zoom-Cast Episode 195 w/Diana Furchtgott-Roth, G. Washington U.

F. Fishkin, Jan. 24, “.”  Alexa, play the Smart Driving Cars podcast!“.  Ditto with Siri, and GooglePlay …  Alain


4th Annual Princeton  SmartDrivingCar Summit

5th Live Episode: Live on Zoom

At the Tipping Point

How demographics, COVID-19 and the new U.S. administration will change  the equation for safely-driven and driverless cars

noon ET, Thursday, Jan 21

Video Summary of 1st Session:  Setting the Stage

   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.

Buttigieg Pledges to Support Biden’s $2 Trillion Infrastructure Plan

T. Mann, Jan 21, “Former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg pledged Thursday his support for President Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure-rebuilding plan during a confirmation hearing before a Senate panel.

The $2 trillion target is tied to Mr. Biden’s goal to use climate change as a wedge for economic development, focused on rebuilding roads and bridges and expanding zero-emission mass transit and electric-car infrastructure. In all, the administration seeks to spend $7 trillion over a decade to combat climate change, his campaign and third-party experts have said.

Mr. Buttigieg, Mr. Biden’s nominee to lead the Transportation Department, told the Senate Commerce Committee that he would pursue the administration’s goals to drive federal spending on roads, rails and bridges….”  Read more  Hmmmm… A really good choice here Plus..   Biden-Harris Administration Announces USDOT Appointees   “The Biden-Harris administration has nominated a broad slate of appointees to take over crucial positions within the U.S. Department of Transportation...”  including Dr./Prof. Robert Hampshire and Vinn White.  Fantastic!  Alain

  Early Estimate of Motor Vehicle Traffic Fatalities for the First 9 Months (Jan–Sep) of 2020

NHTSA, Dec 202, “A statistical projection of traffic fatalities for the first 9 months of 2020 shows that an estimated 28,190 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes. This represents an increase of about 4.6 percent as compared to 26,941 fatalities reported to have occurred in the first 9 months of 2019, as shown in Table 1. Preliminary data reported by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) shows that vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in the first 9 months of 2020 decreased by about 355.5 billion miles, or about a 14.5-percent decrease. Also shown in Table 1 are the fatality rates per 100 million VMT, by quarter. The fatality rate for the first 9 months of 2020 increased to 1.35 fatalities per 100 million VMT, up from the 1.10 fatalities per 100 million VMT in the first 9 months of 2019   ”  Read more  Hmmmm…  Yipes! That’s almost a 25% increase in fatalities/ VMT !!! That reflects an enormous increase in Driver misbehavior and/or, As Diana Furchtgott-Roth points in the SDC Podcast #195, it may well be that drivers that tend to not misbehave while driving may well be staying home and driving much less than those that tend to misbehave.  A change in the mix of who is actually driving the VMT could actually result in higher death per VMT without any change in the distribution of the propensity to misbehave across those that drive.  Parsimoniously, it could simply be:  those that tend to misbehave are driving more of the miles that are being driven and those that tend to not misbehaving are staying home more than they did pre-Covid.   Alain

  Microsoft invests in $30 billion driverless car company Cruise

FT, Jan. 19, “Microsoft has invested in Cruise, the General Motors driverless car unit, in a $2 billion funding round that gives the autonomous driving company a $30 billion valuation.

Cruise, which was bought by GM for “more than $1 billion” in 2016, when it had just 40 employees, now has almost 2,000 staff and accounts for more than 40 percent of GM’s $71.5 billion market capitalisation….”  Read more Hmmmm…Since the opportunity still remains for Cruise to be #1 in Driverless Cars, the valuation is not unreasonable.  Heck, “Goldmine Sax” values Uber @ $120B at one point prior to Elaine Herzberg tragic death.  Alain

How Volkswagen’s $50 Billion Plan to Beat Tesla Short-Circuited

W. Boston, Jan 19, “Five years and nearly $50 billion into the auto industry’s biggest bet on electric vehicles, Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess and his guest, Chancellor Angela Merkel, stood in anticipation as the first ID.3, Germany’s long-awaited answer to Tesla, rolled off the assembly line.

The event at the company’s flagship EV plant just over a year ago marked a “systemic shift from the combustion engine to the electric vehicle,” said Thomas Ulbrich, leader of the ID.3 effort.

The car, however, didn’t work as advertised.

It could drive, turn corners and stop on a dime. But the fancy technology features VW had promised were either absent or broken. The company’s programmers hadn’t yet figured out how to update the car’s software remotely. Its futuristic head-up display that was supposed to flash speed, directions and other data onto the windshield didn’t function. Early owners began reporting hundreds of other software bugs….”  Read more Hmmmm..  Whew!! Alain

‘Notorious’ Port Authority Bus Terminal May Get a $10 Billion Overhaul

P. McGeehan, Jan 21, “Few public spaces in the country have been derided so thoroughly and so often as the Port Authority Bus Terminal in the heart of Manhattan.

The dreary 70-year-old station, with its leaky ceilings and dingy vestibules, has become synonymous with the overburdened, crumbling infrastructure that has made commuting in New York City a slog.

Now, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the busiest bus terminal in the country, has settled on a final proposal for transforming it into a 21st-century transit hub capable of handling many more buses. The project’s announcement on Thursday follows the opening on Jan. 1 of the Moynihan Train Hall, a majestic, light-filled terminus meant to alleviate overcrowding at Pennsylvania Station….

The Port Authority wants the new terminal to be able to handle 1,000 buses during the peak evening rush hour, up from about 850 today. It also would be designed to provide charging equipment for electric buses, according to the plan….”   Read more Hmmmm…Actually, the opportunity exists for more than 1,200 buses/hour using the new terminal if those buses are equipped with intelligent cruise control that is available in many car dealerships today.  This is the same technology that today comes as standard equipment on many, if not essentially all, new Subarus.  At some time during, if not at the ribbon cutting of, the operation of this new terminal, this technology will be on many, if not all, buses using this new terminal.  The justification for it to be on those buses will have come from a mandate promoting technology that substantially  reduces the probability of rear-end crashes, reduces top-line expenses to cover un-insured claims/liabilities, and to substantially improve the the workplace of drivers by making driving much less stressful.  These benefits provide sufficient incentives to make the RoI for intelligent cruise control on buses a total no-brainer. 


As the late Prof. Lou Pignataro and I proposed 25 years ago, this technology, which is readily available today in cars, if applied to the buses from/to New Jersey would readily and safely enable 1,100 buses/hr. to use the XBL, the main feeder artery linking New Jersey to the Mid-town bus terminal.  The XBL is capacity-constrained today because it relies on human bus drivers to maintain safe separation of buses.  Normal vagaries associated with human operation (a large variation in bus headway) ends up limiting the current bus through-put to a maximum of about 750 buses per hour.  As Prof. Pignataro and I pointed out 25 years ago, this technology could substantially reduce the variance in headway to readily overachieve a 50% increase in bus throughput, and consequently a 50% increase in high-quality, affordable mobility from New Jersey to Mid-town Manhattan.  It is fundamentally important that the new bus terminal be designed from the beginning to be in tune with the improved performance opportunity of the XBL resulting from intelligent cruise control in the buses that will be using the XBL, and necessarily, the new bus terminal.  It must be able to readily serve the XBL’s 1,100 buses/hr. as well as the other buses that don’t need to use the XBL to reach the terminal.  It would be a real shame if after spending all of that money to modernize the terminal it was explicitly designed to remain THE CONSTRAINT to mobility from/to mobility. 


One might also ask if the bus terminal is really the best place to recharge bus batteries.  We can agree that it needs emergency battery recharge capability; however, given bus duty cycles and the location availability of renewable energy sources, the bus terminal may well not even be a good location for this activity, let alone the best. During peak periods the brief time that each bus is in the terminal is largely consumed by the time needed to safely and pleasantly alight and board passengers.  That time may be so scarce that batteries can’t even be “topped-off’ in any meaningful way.   Seems to me that the ability to accommodate the increase demand that intelligent cruise control may well deliver is a substantially better design objective (this doesn’t even seem to be “on the table”),  than being able to “top-off” batteries. (which is being explicitly touted).  Alain

  Keep the Trains and Buses Running

Opinion, Jan. 21, “The coronavirus pandemic is jeopardizing the long-term health of the public transit systems that provide a crucial circulatory system for major American cities — particularly for lower-income residents who depend on trains and buses to get to work, the market or the doctor.

Transit authorities have tried to ride out the pandemic, which has sharply reduced ridership and farebox revenues, by curtailing service. In New York, where the subway famously runs through the night, the subway no longer runs through the night. Metra, the Chicago area’s primary commuter rail service, has suspended roughly half of its daily schedule. Atlanta’s regional transportation agency has stopped running buses on more than 60 of its 110 bus routes.

These transit cuts are yet another area in which affluence has shaped the experience of the pandemic. Many well-to-do commuters are able to work from home, or to drive to the office. The changes amount to an inconvenience. Millions of lower-income Americans, meanwhile, work in jobs that require their presence, and they cannot afford to get to work in other ways. They must leave home earlier, wait longer, walk farther and return later. What once took half an hour may now take two hours. A direct commute may now require two transfers….”  Read more Hmmmm… The unfortunate aspect of this opinion is that it doesn’t even hint that Driverless technology might actually be an opportunity to provide desirable, high-quality, affordable transit 24/7 to the mobility disadvantaged… those that for whatever reason can’t drive a car to many outside Manhattan.  What a shame that an enormous amount of money is about to be spent restoring bus services that is so unattractive that it is used only by those who have no other alternative.   Alain

  Trump pardons Anthony Levandowski, the engineer who stole self-driving car secrets from Google

A. Kharpal, Jan 20, “President Donald Trump has pardoned Anthony Levandowski, the former Google engineer sentenced to prison for stealing trade secrets relating to driverless cars from the search giant.

On Wednesday, Levandowksi was among dozens of individuals who received a full pardon from Trump on his last night in the White House.

The White House listed tech billionaire Peter Thiel and Oculus founder Palmer Luckey as supporters of Levandowski’s pardon. Thiel was a major supporter and advisor for the 2016 campaign, but did not back Trump’s reelection effort. Luckey hosted a fundraiser for Trump just weeks before the 2020 election….”  Read more Hmmmm…See also.. R. Mitchell: Trump pardons ex-Google engineer who stole trade secrets  Some, like Belichick, found the long-term strings likely to be attached to completely negate the short-term personal gain of a gift from this President. See also Timothy Lee’s take, Kirsten Korosec’s take and Russ Mitchell’s take. Alain

  Robotaxis and Self-Driving Cars Are Coming. This Company Will Be the Brains Behind Them.

A. Fox, Jan 11, “The time for consumer autonomous cars is fast approaching, and investors can already kick the tires. Auto supplier Aptiv showed off its improving self-driving abilities at a virtual Consumer Electronic Show on Monday, indicating that some autonomous services, such as robotaxis, are just around the corner.

Aptiv (ticker: APTV) announced a new brain, or system architecture, for intelligent vehicles as well as its next-generation ADAS, or advanced driver assistance systems, products.

ADAS, pronounced “eh-das,” is industry jargon for autonomous driving. At its most sophisticated level, the cars drive themselves. The details in the news releases appear arcane, but they demonstrate how close the world is to fully autonomous driving—as well as what challenges remain…”  Read more Hmmmm…  I’m happy that my father-in-law convinced me to buy some last year.  I need to continue to take his advice on all matters.  😁  Alain

The Challenges of Selling at Retail and Competing with Behemoths – Part 4 of a Conversation with Alain Kornhauser

K. Pyle, Dec. 21, “By relying on internally generated cash-flow and never receiving outside investment, Dr. Alain Kornhauser explains how he was able to keep a firewall between his interests in ALK Technologies and his teaching at Princeton. From humble beginnings in 1979, ALK grew to approximately 200 people and in January 2013, it was sold to Trimble Navigation…….” Read more  Hmmmm… We had a nice conversation.  Thank you Ken.  Alain

  Where Are We on the Road to Safe Driving?

K. Pyle, Jan. 16, “The road to safe-driving is one with a destination that is always just out of reach. That is, paraphrasing Princeton Professor Dr. Alain Kornhauser, 100% risk-free transportation is unachievable. With that in mind, Kornhauser did an excellent job of organizing a panel of experts from Europe and America to discuss existing and future solutions to make human-driven vehicles safer.

Moderated by Consumer Reports’ Head of Connected and Automated Vehicles, Kelly Funkhouser, the panel consisted of human factors experts representatives from European and U.S. safety rating institutes.  The most important message from these esteemed experts, that regardless of the safety features of any new car, it is imperative that the driver remain fully engaged in the driving experience. …” Read more  Hmmmm…Ken, nice summary. Thank you. Alain

  BMW becomes the latest automaker to shut down its subscription service

A. Hawkins, Jan. 14, “BMW is suspending its two-year-old car subscription service, The Verge has learned.

Access by BMW was launched in 2018 in Nashville as a pilot project to test out whether customers would want to have access to a fleet of fancy cars but not necessarily own one. But recent requests to sign up have been met with a disclaimer that the service is in the process of shutting down. A Nashville resident who was interested in applying for the subscription service was told that it was going to be defunct by the end of January.

“Unfortunately the Access by BMW subscription program is ending on January 31st and we are no longer taking new members,” a sales representative said in an email….”  Read more  Hmmmm…  Not a surprising call by BMW.  Alain

   What we know about the Apple car

I. Fried, Jan 22, “Apple’s moves toward breaking into the market for self-driving cars have come in fits and starts, but it has big ambitions for the space and is moving forward both with its own efforts and with potential partnerships with automakers.

Why it matters: Apple has great businesses in phones and computers, but its long-term growth potential will depend on conquering an entirely new market. Improving health care and playing a role in autonomous vehicles appear to be its two biggest bets on that front.

What’s happening:…  The bottom line: Whatever Apple is doing will take time. Given how much work still needs to be done on automated driving, Abuelsamid said that probably puts an Apple car, or even a service, “likely in the second half of the 2020s.””  Read more  Hmmmm…  Yup!.  Alain

  TikTok star criminally uses Tesla Autopilot and posts video evidence

F. Lambert, Jan 21., “TikTok star criminally uses Tesla Autopilot and posts video evidence…” Read more  Hmmmm… Not at all cute.  Both must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, Elon MUST introduce driver monitoring systems that will disable these systems if they are used outside their Operational Design Domain AND Elon should be held personally liable for any damages occurring during the use of these vehicles.Alain

  Uber planning to spin out Postmates’ delivery robot arm

K. Korosec, Jan. 15, ” Another Uber spinout is in the works.  Postmates X, the robotics division of the on-demand delivery startup that Uber acquired last year for $2.65 billion, is seeking investors in its bid to become a separate company, according to several people familiar with the plans.

The startup is being referred to as Serve Robotics, a nod to the yellow and black-emblazoned autonomous sidewalk delivery bot that was developed and piloted by Postmates X. The Serve robot, which recently partnered with Pink Dot Stores for deliveries in West Hollywood, will likely be the centerpiece of the new startup….” Read more Hmmmm… Firesale.   Alain

  Survey shows EV owners will not go back to gas, brand loyalty is a bit ‘fickle,’ and Tesla leads

F. Lambert, Jan 22, “A new Electric Vehicle Experience (EVX) Ownership Study by JD Power shows that electric car owners will not go back to gas, but brand loyalty is a bit more “fickle.”…” Read more  Hmmmm…  Very interesting.  Alain

  Foxconn, Geely team up to build electric, autonomous and shared vehicles for automakers

K. Korosec, Jan. 13, ” The electric, autonomous vehicles of the future might be manufactured by Apple’s main supplier Foxconn and Chinese automaker Zhejiang Geely Holding Group.

The two companies have agreed to form a joint venture focused on contract manufacturing for automakers, with a specific focus on electrification, connectivity and autonomous driving technology as well as vehicles designed for sharing. Each party will hold an equal 50% stake in the new joint venture. The board of directors will consist of five members, with Foxconn appointing three, including the chairman, and Geely Holding appointing two, according to a statement issued by the two companies…..” Read more Hmmmm… Tough to successfully compete with an existing automaker in making cars unless you have superior automated car software and sensor stack.    Alain

  Microsoft teams up with Cruise on self-driving cars, chips in for $2 billion investment

A. Hawkins, Jan 19, “Microsoft is joining forces with Cruise, the self-driving subsidiary of General Motors, to help speed up the commercialization of autonomous vehicles. The software giant is also chipping in on a new equity investment of $2 billion for Cruise, along with previous investors Honda and GM, bringing the AV company’s valuation up to a whopping $30 billion.

Microsoft and Cruise are entering “a long-term strategic relationship” — though the partnership won’t be exclusive. It is one of Microsoft’s first partnerships with an autonomous vehicle company. (The company also struck a deal with UK-based startup Wayve last October.) As part of the deal, Cruise will use Azure, Microsoft’s cloud computing platform, to help speed up the process of making money off its fleet of autonomous vehicles. For its part, Microsoft will leverage its relationship with Cruise to expand more into the transportation sector…. ”  Read more  Hmmmm…  Not a bad call by Msft.  Alain


   4th Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit  5th Episode at noon on Jan. 28, 2021 TO BE followed by 11 more weekly episodes  through to April15, 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

4th Annual Princeton  SmartDrivingCar Summit

5th Live Episode: Live on Zoom

At the Tipping Point

How demographics, COVID-19 and the new U.S. administration will change  the equation for safely-driven and driverless cars

noon ET, Thursday, Jan 21

Video Summary of 1st Session:  Setting the Stage

On the More Technical Side