Friday, January 29, 2021
4th edition of the 9th year of SmartDrivingCars eLetter

G.M. Will Sell Only Zero-Emission Vehicles by 2035

N. Boudette, Jan. 28, “The days of the internal combustion engine are numbered.

General Motors said Thursday that it would phase out petroleum-powered cars and trucks and sell only vehicles that have zero tailpipe emissions by 2035, a seismic shift by one of the world’s largest automakers that makes billions of dollars today from gas-guzzling pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles.

The announcement is likely to put pressure on automakers around the world to make similar commitments. It could also embolden President Biden and other elected officials to push for even more aggressive policies to fight climate change. Leaders could point to G.M.’s decision as evidence that even big businesses have decided that it is time for the world to begin to transition away from fossil fuels that have powered the global economy for more than a century….”  Read more Hmmmm…   Great! (maybe???):   Good News:  Zero emission vehicles; Bad News: From where cometh the marginal electricity that enables that Zero-Emission Vehicle to move and what carries that electricity to the point on the road where that electricity is used to power that Zero-Emission Vehicle?  Until we have a “Zero Emission Battery” and all electricity is created using Zero Emission, GM cannot produce, nor sell, Zero Emission Vehicles that actually move (other than downhill a la Nikola).  So please tout the whole story!!  (Will these EVs be less polluting than an ICE that GM could build and sell “by 2035”? is the real question.  The answer depends on where we will be with electricity production and distribution, the efficiency and makeup of batteries and the improvement of ICEs. (I didn’t mean to imply that it was a simple question, but the NY Times should be more than click-bait.).   Alain

   SmartDrivingCars Pod-Cast Episode 196, Zoom-Cast Episode 196 w/Steve Polzin, Recently US DoT

F. Fishkin, Jan. 24, “Will more safe vehicle technology dampen the push for driverless mobility? Measuring the progress and challenges ahead with Dr. Steven Polzin..former Sr. Advisor, Office of the Ass’t. Secretary for Research and Technology in the DOT. He joins Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser & co-host Fred Fishkin … plus GM going zero emission, Tesla, Waymo and more..”  Alexa, play the Smart Driving Cars podcast!“.  Ditto with Siri, and GooglePlay …  Alain


4th Annual Princeton  SmartDrivingCar Summit

5th Live Episode: Live on Zoom

Safe Enough in the Operational Design Domain

Where and when can we ride safely in a driverless vehicle cars

noon ET, Thursday, Feb. 4

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.

  A Tipping Point or a Fork in the Road

K. Pyle, Jan. 28, “The hypothesis is that that pandemic has forever changed the way we live, work, play, and, most importantly interact, says Dr. Reggie Caudill, Dean Emeritus Martin Tuchman School of Management, NJIT. In making this statement, Caudill set the stage for the latest Smart Car Summit panel on autonomous mobility, At the Tipping Point, for which he was the moderator….” Read more  Hmmmm…Ken, nice summary. Thank you. Alain

Aurora closes acquisition of Uber ATG, forms partnership with PACCAR

J. Mericle, Jan 19, “Autonomous vehicle company Aurora has closed its acquisition of Uber’s Pittsburgh-based self-driving unit, according to a news release.

Aurora, based in both Pittsburgh and Palo Alto, California, announced the acquisition of Uber Advanced Technologies Group, a division of Uber Technologies Inc., in December.

The deal increased Aurora’s employees from 600 to more than 1,600. Aurora, which already had operations in Pittsburgh; Mountain View, California; San Francisco; Dallas ;and Bozeman, Montana, confirmed the deal added locations in Seattle; Louisville, Colorado; and Wixom, Michigan.

“Just six weeks ago we announced that we were acquiring ATG,” Chris Urmson, CEO of Aurora, wrote on LinkedIn. “Today marks an exciting moment for Aurora, the people of ATG, and the future of self-driving technology as we officially welcome them to our team.”

Urmson also announced that Aurora entered into a strategic partnership with PACCAR, a Bellevue, Washington-based manufacturer of heavy-duty trucks. Aurora aims to enter the commercial market first through the trucking industry with its Aurora Driver technology.  … ”   Read more  Hmmmm… Chris, Congratulations on both fronts!  Alain 

  Coronavirus economic impact continues: the year of contraction (2020) yields to the year of rebound (2021)

J. Hughes, Jan. 2020, “The year 2020 was always expected to be a milestone year. It would mark the opening of the third decade of the twenty-first century and host the start of the third decennial census of the new millennium. But not anticipated was a year engulfed by a once-in-a-century pandemic event.  Two months into 2020 saw the abrupt termination of the longest economic expansion in history, starting what has turned out to be nothing less than a wild, unprecedented, often terrifying, record-setting economic roller coaster ride. As coronavirus-driven disruptions quickly ravaged
the nation and New Jersey, a new set of totally unexpected economic milestones emerged throughout the year.  …”  Read more  Very informative.  Alain 

  Self-driving vehicles allowed to skip some crash safety standards under new rule

R. Beggin, Jan 24, “The Trump Administration issued final rules Thursday that will allow self-driving vehicle manufacturers to skip certain federal crash safety requirements in vehicles that aren’t designed to carry people.

It marks the first major update to existing federal safety standards to accommodate innovations in driverless technology. While no fully autonomous vehicles are for sale for consumers now, industry experts expect that market share for self-driving cars and trucks will expand in the coming decade.  The rule — months in the making — also allows manufacturers more leeway to design self-driving vehicles without controls meant for human drivers, such as steering wheels or pedals….”  Read more  Hmmmm… Excellent!  But, I don’t understand why removing a steering wheel that is, itself, very unsafe, is somehow cast in a headline as degrading safety???  Alain

  Connected vehicle: 8 principles for a balanced ecosystem accessible to everyone

L. Namin, Jan.2020, “Vehicle connectivity opens an extremely wide field for the creation of innovative digital services and new solutions for the general public.  These new services will improve the comfort and lives of drivers and passengers. Other services will be broad in scope, contributing
in particular to road safety, infrastructure optimisation, ecological transition and vehicle electrification.  Likewise, they will facilitate the sharing of public space between all mobility players.  Access to data is at the heart of these developments and a major concern for each of the stakeholders in this emerging ecosystem.

Technologies are also evolving very rapidly, enabling new global-sized entrants with dominant approaches.  To preserve European competitiveness and
sovereignty, upstream and downstream operators in the automotive industry are invited to develop common, shared and balanced solutions in the fundamental interest of users….”  Read more  Hmmmm…Interesting view on Privacy and access to data in connected cars.  Alain

Seizing a New Opportunity and CoPilot – Part 5 of a Conversation with Dr. Alain Kornhauser

K. Pyle, Dec. 21, “It is clear from Dr. Alain Kornhauser’s actions that he lives by the late Everett Christensen’s postulate about learning from, but not living in the past. An example of that is how he and his company, ALK Technologies, created a new market after a behemoth-crushing experience in the retail space.

The sliced bread, as Kornhauser puts it, was a relatively low-cost, $100 GPS receiver from Australia, Marrying this device with ALK Technologies’ mapping data led to the creation of the first nationwide turn-by-turn navigation system, known as CoPilot.

In many ways, CoPilot hints at Kornhauser’s current efforts in autonomous mobility to ensure affordable mobility for all people, regardless of ability, location or income. As he points out in the above interview, the people who need CoPilot the most are those who don’t go places. CoPilot automates navigation, removing that hurdle.

Launched at J&R Computer World & Music in August 1997…” Read more  Hmmmm… We had a nice conversation.  Thank you Ken.  Alain

Run Alain Run – CoPilot Live at the New York Marathon

CoPilot Staff, Nov 6, 2004, “Alain L Kornhauser (ALK) will be running the 26.2 mile (42km) New York marathon tomorrow (Sunday) and will be kitted out with a Windows SmartPhone and a GPS Receiver, and you can track his progress LIVE using CoPilot’s LIVE web console….”  Read more  Hmmmm… Blast from the past.  Alain

  Waymo CEO dismisses Tesla self-driving plan: “This is not how it works”

FT, Jan. 22, “Many Tesla fans view the electric carmaker as a world leader in self-driving technology. CEO Elon Musk himself has repeatedly claimed that the company is less than two years away from perfecting fully self-driving technology.

But in an interview with Germany’s Manager magazine, Waymo CEO John Krafcik dismissed Tesla as a Waymo competitor and argued that Tesla’s current strategy was unlikely to ever produce a fully self-driving system.

“For us, Tesla is not a competitor at all,” Krafcik said. “We manufacture a completely autonomous driving system. Tesla is an automaker that is developing a really good driver assistance system.”

For Musk, these two technologies exist along a continuum. His plan is to gradually make Tesla’s Autopilot software better until it’s good enough to work with no human supervision. But Krafcik argues that’s not realistic…..”  Read more Hmmmm….  John is right; Elon is wrong.  John accepted the responsibility if anything goes wrong with Driverless Waymo; Elon hasn’t (all the fine print and not so fine print says driver/owner is responsible).  Case closed! Alain

  Tesla had talks with other automakers about licensing its self-driving software, Elon Musk says

F. Lambert, Jan 27., “Today, Tesla released its Q4 2020 financial results and following the release, the automaker held its usual conference call with management.  During the call, CEO Elon Musk was asked by an analyst about Tesla potentially licensing some of its software, especially Autopilot and Autobidder, to other companies.

Perviously, when it comes to Autopilot, Musk has been resistant to the idea, citing that it would be a lot of work to adapt the system to other vehicles.  But now the CEO gave a different answer that surprised some:

“We’ve had some preliminary discussions about licensing Autopilot to other OEMs.”

Musk then added Tesla would be open to doing that in the future, but that he would prefer Tesla to prove a clear path to full self-driving capacity before licensing the software.s…” Read more  Hmmmm… Given that the conditional won’t be achieved any time soon means that the Tesla will NOT … ”  Alain

  January 2021 AS Newsletter

B. Hambrick, Jan. 29, “n this issue:

  • Empowering an autonomous future: 2021 SAM Talks
  • High-speed autonomy — powered by Hexagon
  • New product: smartmicro Collision Avoidance
  • Meet the team: Scott Yerbic
  • AutonomouStuff culture

Read more  Hmmmm… Keep it up Bobby.  Alain

  Can Uber Help Save Public Transit?

D. Zipper, Jan 26, “More than a decade after the emergence of ride-hailing, the transit community still can’t quite decide what it thinks about Uber. Is the company an ally that can ferry new passengers to and from transit stations, solving the so-called “first mile-last mile problem”? Or is it a competitor, luring away more affluent riders and forcing remaining ones to endure worsening congestion? The debate continues, in transit board meetings as well as in academia.

Uber, for its part, would like to be seen as transit’s friend. In 2018, the company set up a team called Uber Transit to manage its relationships with public transportation agencies. The team’s new report, “Towards a New Model of Public Transportation,” arrives at a moment of profound crisis for U.S. public transportation systems, which have seen their ridership and revenue hammered by the coronavirus crisis. The Uber paper is the clearest articulation yet of ride-hailing’s pitch to transit agencies. The company presents itself as part of transit’s recovery; the report’s cover page promises to explain “how Uber is offering public transportation agencies new tools to operate more efficient, connected, and equitable mobility networks.”…  ”  Read more     Hmmmm… Uber and Lyft and Via and … are Public Transit because they are mobility providers to the public.  Just because they are not included in the (un)exclusive club that explicitly lives on public subsidy doesn’t mean that they are not part of Public Transit.  Unfortunately, Uber/Lyft/Via can’t come close to delivering the mobility delivered by the subways in NYC, Boston, Chicago, Washington DC, and San Francisco and NJ Transit ‘s Commuter Rail; however, shared-ride versions of Uber/Lyft and Via could readily replace and enhance the mobility delivered by most of the other Transit Club members.   Alain

  Segway-Ninebot launches new self-balancing electric scooter with steering wheel

F. Lambert, Jan 22., “Segway-Ninebot has just opened orders in North America for a new version of the company’s self-balancing electric scooter, the Ninebot S Max. Unlike conventional electric scooters of the Bird and Lime variety, the Ninebot S Max uses the hoverboard-style parallel wheel design.

The previous version of the scooter offered by Ninebot included a center pillar that reached just short of the rider’s knees. Riders pressed against the pillar with their legs to control steering.

The new Ninebot S Max can be operated in this way, but it also includes an extendable pillar that sports a steering wheel. The steering wheel doesn’t actually turn, but appears to be leaned left and right like a control column or yoke.
 The new design is likely to improve comfort and stability by allowing riders to also hold on with their hands…” Read more  Hmmmm… See embedded video, Whatever?  Segholes aren’t going away easily.  When did walking go out of style?  Alain

  Baidu gets California nod for testing empty self-driving cars

J. Lanhee, Jan 27, “Baidu Inc has received a permit from the state of California to test self-driving cars without a driver behind the wheel, the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles said on Wednesday.

Although self-driving vehicles are designed to eliminate the need for a driver, most testing thus far has been with a safety driver behind the wheel who can take over in case of emergency. Currently, 58 companies have permits in California to test self-driving cars with such a backup driver, including most major automakers and Apple Inc….”  Read more  Hmmmm… I guess that it is a free country, but this doesn’t sit all that well with me.  These are our public roads for our use, not public testing facilities for anyone in the world to use for free.  Or are they???  Alain

  Chinese electric carmaker Xpeng rolls out autonomous highway driving features in challenge to Tesla

A. Kharpal, Jan 26, “Chinese electric carmaker Xpeng Motors has started rolling out its new autonomous highway driving features to eligible customers as it looks to ramp up its challenge to Tesla in the world’s largest auto market.

The electric vehicle start-up announced the Navigation Guided Pilot or NGP this month. The feature allows drivers to automatically change lanes, speed up or slow down, overtake cars as well as enter and exit highways…”  Read more Hmmmm… Who wrote this code?  Tesla???  Pretty soon we’ll let them test the IP that they’ve “copied” on our public roads.  Yipes!  Alain

  Didi raises $300M for Self-driving Unit

Y. Sun, Jan. 28,” “, Read more  Hmmmm…Nice to see that Didi realizes that for it to really scale, it must have driverless car.  Alain

   4th Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit  6th Episode at noon on Feb. 4, 2021 TO BE followed by 10 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

Safe Enough in the Operational Design Domain

Where and when can we ride safely in a driverless vehicle cars

noon ET, Thursday, Feb. 4

Video Summary of 1st Session:  Setting the Stage

On the More Technical Side