Friday, February 19, 2021
7th edition of the 9th year of SmartDrivingCars eLetter

COMMENTARY:  How the Biden Administration and Congress Can Pave the Path for Automated Vehicles

M. Scribner, Feb. 11, ““Automated vehicle technology is coming; it’s advancing very quickly,” said now-confirmed Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg during his confirmation hearing. “It is something that holds the potential to be transformative and I think in many ways policy has not kept up.”

Secretary Buttigieg is absolutely correct. The U.S. Department of Transportation, specifically the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration division, has a number of tools at its disposal that can be used to modernize the federal regulatory environment to help speed the deployment of automated vehicle technologies that can greatly enhance safety, mobility, and access for all Americans. There is also an important role for Congress, especially at this early stage of automated vehicle development.

To support reform efforts within the executive and legislative branches, my new Reason Foundation policy brief, Challenges and Opportunities for Federal Automated Vehicle Policy, lays out several steps policymakers can take to adapt the automotive regulatory apparatus to automated driving system technologies. The brief is broken into three main sections: defining automated vehicles, a survey of current federal automated vehicle policy development activities, and recommendations for federal policymakers.

The reform recommendations for legislators and regulators are categorized under four themes: …” Read more  Hmmmm… Read especially: CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR FEDERAL AUTOMATED VEHICLE POLICY“.  Included is an extensive discussion on the SAE Levels where Marc states: “…most legacy automakers and new automated driving developers are planning to avoid SAE Level 3 altogether..”  and  “Given the wide diversity of road network operating conditions, achieving SAE Level 5 poses significant challenges….”  That leaves just two very different classes of AVs … Safely-driven AVs, encompasing SAE Levels 1 & 2, that assist and support human drivers while requiring that a human driver ensures that the vehicle will be driven safely… and Driverless AVs, SAE Level 4, where the responsibility that the vehicle will be driven safely is entirely borne by the driving technology.  Those are the only two kinds.  Policy should focus on only those two and get those right.  They are they only real opportunities for this technology … one to help human drivers drive more safely and the other is to drive safely without any help or involvement by anyone riding long with the vehicle.  Thus, the first order of business for Federal Policy is to simplify the process by concentrating on those two very diffent kinds of AVs and get those right.  Alain

   SmartDrivingCars Pod-Cast Episode 199, Zoom-Cast Episode 199 w/Marc Scribner, Senior Transportation Policy Analyst, Reason Foundation

F. Fishkin, Feb. 19, “How the Biden administration & Congress can pave the path for autonomous vehicles.   Reason Foundation Sr. Transportation Policy Analyst Marc Scribner joins Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin to focus on what’s next.   Plus jobs and autonomous trucking, Waymo, GM, Ford and more.” Alexa, play the Smart Driving Cars podcast!“.  Ditto with Siri, and GooglePlay …  Alain

SmartDrivingCars Pod-Cast Episode 200, Zoom-Cast Episode 200 w/Edwin Olsen, CEO, May Mobility

to be released Monday, February 22, 2021  Alain



4th Annual Princeton  SmartDrivingCar Summit

9th Live Episode: Live on Zoom

Can Level 3 be Delivered?

What are the challenges for developing a workable solution for SAE Level 3?

noon ET, Thursday, Feb. 25

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.

  To Own or to Use Driverless, That Is the Question

K. Pyle, Feb. 20, “To paraphrase Shakespeare, to own or to use, that will be the question in a driverless world. This question was an underlying theme of the latest Smart Driving Car Summit, Who Will Build, Sell and Maintain Driverless Cars? With a collective experience of 150+ years of automotive industry experience, this panel, led by the Dispatcher’s Michael Sena, looked to the past, presented the current situation, and provided informed speculations about the future of driverless…..” Read more  Hmmmm…Ken, extremely nice summary. Thank you. Alain


Ken Pyle Session Summaries of 4th Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit:
7th Session    2/11/21  Finally Doing It
6th Session    2/ 4/21   Safe Enough in the Operational Design Domain
5th Session    1/28/21   At the Tipping Point
4th Session    1/21/21  Why Customers are Buying Them

3rd Session    1/14/21  The SmartDrivingCars We Can Buy Today
2nd Session   1/ 7/21  A Look into the Future
1st Session: 12/17/20  Setting the Stage

Driving Jobs, The Future Of Autonomous Trucking

S. Talbot, “Autonomous vehicles are coming. Trucks carrying freight will likely be the first vehicles to see widespread autonomous use. That is good for everybody. When we recognize the importance of trucking to our economy and way of life it is easy to see the benefits of AV trucking.

The freight business in America is an $800 billion dollar a year enterprise which explains why truck driver is the number 1 job in 29 states in America. But the age of the average truck driver is 57 and increasing and approximately 4,900 people die each year on U.S. roadways in a truck involved crash…

 For those who are worried about the workforce, as my old boss, former FMCSA Administrator Raymond Martinez used to say, “if you start as a truck driver t4oday, you will likely retire as one”. The real work ahead is to figure out a prototype across the nation that addresses increased training and identifies other careers that can be a natural segue for professional truck drivers….”  Read more  Hmmmm…   To me the biggest RoI for trucking is in Safely-driven Trucks  (so called “Level 2”) that really work.  By really working, I mean… the automation substantially improves the truck driver’s working conditions by reducing the stress and anxiety involved in driving.  That technology will substantially improve safety and driver happines; which improves productivity and, because much of long-haul trucking is self- (read CEO-) insured, the profit contribution is tangible.  Those saved top-line safety liabilities flow directly into the bottom-line.  Thus, fantastic RoIs are accrued before you need to go to “Level 3” (which will never happen in trucking or personal car ownership and Level 4 for which the incremental RoI is likely not worth the risk in the near-term.  Alain

  Washington priorities for driverless cars

J. Tumlin,  Feb. 17, “…The bottom line is that transit remains the most energy and space efficient way to move large numbers of people long distances in and around cities. To keep up with Europe and Asia, make room for AVs on city streets, and prevent climate catastrophe, expanding Washington investment in world class public transit is essential….”  Read more  Hmmmm… While true (most energy efficient and space efficient), large numbers of people don’t want to travel long distances (at about the same time)  between the few places that transit serves, which, by the way, is very expensive.  Transit in the US only serves 1% of the people miles traveled.  And, half of those people-miles are in the NY/NJ metropolitan area.  So if “Washington” is “for the people”, then it should really move-on from conventional transit in many places. 

Jeffrey does come close to realizing that driverless mobility is actually transit that could actually provide energy efficient, space efficient and economically efficient high-quality mobility (aka good transit) by his 2nd “AV principle”: ” …  as developers build AV fleets from the ground up to provide ride services to the public, Washington should insist that AV services be born accessible to people of every age and ability…”  Unfortunately, he doesn’t follow that up with “-including the economically disadvantaged”.  Of course these systems must serve the physically challenged, many of which are also extremely economically disadvantaged.  The fundamental opportunity of AV technology is that it can deliver high-quality mobility to anyone… including the economically disadvantaged and do it affordably!   Let’s focus on making that opportunity a reality.  Alain

Princeton astrophysicists re-imagine world map, designing a less distorted, ‘radically different’ way to see the world

L. Fuller-Wright, , Feb. 15, “For centuries, mapmakers have agonized over how to accurately display our round planet on anything other than a globe.

Now, a fundamental re-imagining of how maps can work has resulted in the most accurate flat map ever made, from a trio of map experts: J. Richard Gott, an emeritus professor of astrophysics at Princeton and creator of a logarithmic map of the universe once described as “arguably the most mind-bending map to date”; Robert Vanderbei, a professor of operations research and financial engineering who created the “Purple America” map of election results; and David Goldberg, a professor of physics at Drexel University…

A thin box could hold flat, double-sided maps of all the major planets and moons in the solar system,” Gott said, “or a stack of Earth maps giving physical data, political boundaries, population density, climate, languages, explorers’ voyages, empires at different historical periods or continents at different geological epochs.”

To the best of their knowledge, no one has ever made double-sided maps for accuracy like this before. A 1993 compendium of nearly 200 map projections dating back 2,000 years did not include any, nor did they find any similar patents.

“Our map is actually more like the globe than other flat maps,” Gott said. “To see all of the globe, you have to rotate it; to see all of our new map, you simply have to flip it over.”

Flat maps that improve on the Winkel Tripel,” by J. Richard Gott III, David M. Goldberg and Robert J. Vanderbei, was published on Arxiv on Feb. 15. You can see their double-disk maps of Earth, Mars, Jupiter, the sun, and other heavenly bodies here….”  Read more  Hmmmm…Very neat!! Alain

  Sony’s self-driving sensor sees 300 meters down the road

K. Shimizu, Fe. 19, “Sony has developed an automotive sensor that determines the distance of objects up to 300 meters away to within 15 cm, aiming to offer it as a crucial technology for automated vehicles.

The direct time-of-flight sensor gauges how long reflected light takes to come back. It will be incorporated into lidar, a radar-style technology that uses light to help automated vehicles “see” the road and objects….”  Read more  Hmmmm… Really good; however, for what???  Such accuracies are totally unnecessary for Driverless cars that provide mobility for just folks.  First, it is rare that there is an uobstructed “300 meter” line of sight as one drives.  If you do have a 300 meter unobstructed line of sight ahead of you, you are “good to go”!! No Problem….   even if the error is 10x, or even 100x “3.5 cm.”.  So, if this sensor is essentially free, I’ll take it; else, I’ll put my money on what’s happening within 100 meters and especially within 50 meters where distance accuracy of even 35 cm is more than good enough.  Alain

Waymo begins robo-taxi tests in San Francisco

K. Wiggers, Feb 17, “Waymo today announced that it has begun limited rider testing with employee volunteers in San Francisco to gather feedback and improve its robo-taxi technology. It’s the first expansion of the Alphabet subsidiary’s ride-hailing service beyond the Phoenix Metropolitan Area, where Waymo launched its first commercial driverless taxi service, Waymo One, in December 2018….

“We’re beginning with a limited number of cars and riders and will scale over time. These rides are being offered with a single-vehicle operator,” the spokesperson said. “The initial program starts this week and will last for several, but we plan to grow it over time….” Read more  Hmmmm… ” rider testing with employee volunteers ….  with a single-vehicle operator,”  new for Waymo in SF, but is it really more than what GM/Cruise is doing and Uber did?   More importantly… where is Waymo doing it in SF… where BART and Muni has good service, such that it is one more option for rich folks that already have good ways to get around SF, or is it where public transit has terrible service and where it wants to provide “last-mile” service to SF’s wealthy who can readily afford to pay Uber surge prices and tip the drivers well????    Alain

Torc selects AWS as preferred cloud provider for self-driving truck flee

Press release, Feb. 17, “Torc Robotics has selected Amazon Web Services (AWS), Inc. as its preferred cloud provider to handle the scale and speed needed for data transfer, storage, and compute capacity as the company prepares to deploy its fleet of next-generation self-driving test trucks in New Mexico and Virginia. With the growth in test fleet size, number of routes, and sensor capability, there is an increase in data ingestion and analysis needs by engineering teams in the U.S. and in Germany.

Torc is an independent subsidiary of Daimler Truck AG, responsible for commercializing a Level 4 autonomous system that will be offered to trucking customers. As defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), under Level 4 autonomy, a vehicle is capable of performing all driving functions under specified operating conditions.

AWS’s extensive capabilities are designed to provide rapid, secure data transfer, intelligent tiered storage, managed orchestration and analytics tools, and high-performance multi-core CPU and GPU compute to help Torc rapidly scale its agile and cost-efficient development platform and accelerate its testing and commercialization of the technology….” Read more  Hmmmm…Substantive announcement.  Notice, that the purpose of the computing power is … monitoring operations and simulation, NOT “remote control” (as it should NOT be).  Alain

  Apple approached Nissan to work on autonomous car project

K. Inagaki, Feb 12, “Apple approached Japan’s Nissan in recent months about a tie-up for its secretive autonomous car project, but talks are no longer active, according to people briefed on the matter.   The contact was brief and the discussions did not advance to senior management levels following divisions over branding for the iPhone maker’s electric vehicles, the people added.

Apple also recently halted talks with South Korea’s Hyundai Motor and its affiliate Kia, underscoring the challenges of finding an automotive partner for its car efforts, known as Project Titan….


Apple has been testing driverless technologies in California for years. The company disclosed last week that its back-up drivers had to intervene once every 145 miles of testing. By contrast, Waymo, Alphabet’s self-driving car unit, and GM’s Cruise each managed to travel on average nearly 30,000 miles each before a single “disengagement”….”  Read more  Hmmmm… May not be as easy as doing Apple Watch.  May be a service rather than a consumer product, so may not be in Apple’s wheelhouse. Alain

  Report: Nissan shot down Apple deal to avoid becoming Foxconn of cars

T. Lee, Feb. 15, ” potential partnership between Apple and Nissan foundered due to disagreements over branding, the Financial Times reported on Sunday. Apple wanted Nissan to build Apple-branded cars, while Nissan preferred to keep its own brand on the vehicles.

In recent months, Apple has reportedly been looking for a partner to build an Apple-branded electric car. Last week, Bloomberg reported that negotiations with Kia (and its parent company, Hyundai) had ended without a deal. The Financial Times says that Apple has also “sounded out” BMW as a potential partner.

Apple reportedly held preliminary talks with Nissan, though the talks didn’t reach the most senior levels at either company:…” Read more  Hmmmm… Tim’s take on the above.  Alain

  Uber: Bankrupt engineer Levandowski is hiding millions from creditors

T. Lee, Feb. 18, ” Famed self-driving engineer Anthony Levandowski was forced to declare bankruptcy last year after he lost a legal battle with Google over claims that he stole trade secrets on behalf of Uber. Now Uber is objecting to the proposed terms of his bankruptcy, arguing that he used legally dubious techniques to shelter his wealth from creditors.

Levandowski faces a skeptical bankruptcy judge. “I continue to view many of the transactions in which Mr. Levandowski engaged immediately prior to the filing of this bankruptcy case with an incredibly jaundiced eye,” said Judge Hannah Blumenstiel during a phone conference last week.:…” Read more  Hmmmm… Tim classifies this as “Shenanigans”.  Tim is being kind! This could be “fraud-squared”, with the 2nd fraud being Trump-proof.  Alain

    Anthony Levandowski closes his Church of AI

K. Karosec, Feb. 18, “The first church of artificial intelligence has shut its conceptual doors.

Anthony Levandowski, the former Google engineer who avoided an 18-month prison sentence after receiving a presidential pardon last month, has closed the church he created to understand and accept a godhead based on artificial intelligence….”  Read more  Hmmmm…   You can’t make up this stuff.  Alain

  This year will be huge for electric cars — here’s why

A. Hawkins, Feb. 16, “2021 is going to be a really big year for electric vehicles. Car-buying experts at Edmunds expect US sales to grow to 2.5 percent from 1.9 percent in 2020. That’s thanks to more options and growing interest from interested consumers.

Nearly three dozen EVs from 21 automotive brands are expected to go on sale this year, compared to 17 vehicles from 12 brands in 2020. Notably, this will be the first year that all three major vehicle categories will be represented: there will be 11 electric sedans, 13 SUVs, and six pickup trucks in 2021, whereas only 10 cars and seven SUVs were available last year.. …”  Read more  Hmmmm…   Let’s see if any EVs sell in Texas after this week’s electrical meltdown.  Alain

  IATR’s Model Regulations & Best Practices for Shared-Connected & Autonomous Electric Vehicle (S-CAEV) Implementation

M. Daus, Jan. 5, ” Autonomous Vehicles and the For-Hire Industry: Key Issues (Slide 17)..”  Read more  Hmmmm…   A view of autonomousTaxi issues from the industry that has forever been delivering for-hire mobility throughout our cities.  Alain


A. Hawkins, Feb. 14, “The Chevy Bolt is undergoing a growth spurt. General Motors unveiled two new versions of the Bolt on Sunday: an updated Bolt EV hatchback with longer range and new high-tech features, and the brand new Bolt EUV — essentially a compact SUV — with more legroom room and less range than the Bolt EV.

Due out this summer, the refreshed Bolt EV will sell for $31,995 — or about $5,000 less than the current model year Bolt EV….

But the automaker has no plans to move the Bolt over to the Ultium platform, according to Chevy’s lead engineer.

As a consolation for its approaching irrelevance, both versions of the Bolt will come with Super Cruise, the “hands-free” advanced driver assist system that previously has only been available in Cadillac vehicles. The Bolt EV and EUV are the first non-Cadillac vehicles and first electric vehicles to have Super Cruise.

The price helps make up for the Bolt’s shortcomings… ” Read more  Hmmmm…  Seems like Tesla’s autoPilot is forcing GM to include SuperCruise.   But why not in Chevys and Buicks, too

????  Alain

  Ford dissolves its 7.6% stake in Velodyne Lidar

Staff, Feb. 15, “Ford Motor Co has dissolved its stake in Velodyne Lidar Inc, a maker of sensors used in self-driving cars, according to a regulatory filing on Monday.  As of Sept. 30, Ford had a passive stake of 7.6% or 13.07 million shares in Velodyne.

Velodyne is one of several companies vying to supply automakers with lidar, a sensor that generates a three-dimensional map of the road ahead….”  Read more  Hmmmm…  Ford/Argo did buy Princeton Lightwave back in 2017, so they must be happy with what they bought. Alain

  Tesla owns 79% of the electric car market in the US, and that needs to change

F. Lambert, Feb 15, “Tesla owns almost 79% of the electric car market in the US, according to registration data, but that needs to change, as per Tesla’s own mission.   During the first half of 2020, registration data showed that Tesla owned nearly 80% of the US’ electric car market.

This was especially impressive considering 2020 was the first year Tesla buyers didn’t have access to federal tax credit for electric vehicles, making other electric cars more competitive.  The incredible market share was expected to slip as more EVs hit the market, but now we learn that Tesla was able to maintain the lead throughout 2020.

New registration data shows that Tesla had 79% of the market for the whole year [via Auto News]:…”  Read more  Hmmmm… Really impressive!  Alain

  Jaguar announces it will be all-electric brand by 2025, Land Rover to quickly follow

F. Lambert, Feb 15, “Jaguar Land Rover announced today a new global strategy called “Reimagine,” and it involves a serious acceleration of the electrification of all its brands, including Jaguar going all-electric by 2025 and Land Rover following with mostly electric vehicles after that.

As part of the new plan, the automaker is planning to have Land Rover and Jaguar brands develop separate electric architectures with “two clear, unique personalities.”….” Read more  Hmmmm…  That isn’t all that far in the future.  Maybe EVs are for real. Alain

   4th Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit  9th Episode at noon on Feb. 25, 2021 TO BE followed by 8 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

9th Live Episode: Live on Zoom

Can Level 3 be Delivered?

What are the challenges for developing a workable solution for SAE Level 3?

noon ET, Thursday, Feb. 25

Video Summary of 1st Session:  Setting the Stage

On the More Technical Side

K. Kockelman’s AV Research Group at U of Texas