Friday, April 2, 2021
13th edition of the 9th year of SmartDrivingCars eLetter

  Waymo Chief John Krafcik Resigns, Co-CEOs Tapped To Run Alphabet’s Self-Driving Tech Giant

A. Ohnsman, April 2, “John Krafcik, the auto industry veteran who’s run Waymo for over five years, is stepping down as CEO of the Alphabet Inc. self-driving tech giant and is being replaced by two high-ranking company executives.

…Takedra Mawakana, Waymo’s chief operating officer, and Dmitri Dolgov, its long-time CTO, are both being promoted to co-CEOs, the company said. Krafcik will continue to work with Waymo as an advisor.

“After 5 exhilarating years leading this team, I’ve decided to depart from my CEO role at Waymo & kick-off new adventures,” he said on Twitter. “To start, I’m looking forward to a refresh period, reconnecting with old friends & family, and discovering new parts of the world.”…”  Read more  Hmmmm…  John, thank you for a fantastic 5 years and for keeping Waymo focused on bringing high-quality, affordable mobility to all.  Doing good for many isn’t easy.  Enjoy and thank you!!  Alain

  Driving Towards Better Goods Delivery Through Automation

K. Pyle, March 31, “Are the milk delivery wagons of 100-years ago and Trailers on Flat Cars (TOFC) good proxies for the future of automation in the transportation of goods?  Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser set the stage for the thirteenth session of the Smart Driving Car Summit with this thought-provoking question. Kornhauser was also the moderator for this panel that looked at the challenges and opportunities of automating goods delivery……” Read more  Hmmmm…. We had another excellent Session.  Thank you for the summary, Ken.  Alain


Ken Pyle‘s Session Summaries of 4th Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit:
13th Session    Improving the Moving of Goods

12th Session    3/18/21 Human-centered Design of Safe and Affordable Driverless Mobility

11th Session    3/11/21  Incentivizing Through Regulation

10th Session    3/04/21  Incentivizing Through Insurance

9th Session    2/25/21  Can Level 3 be Delivered?

8th Session    2/18/21  Who Will Build, Sell and Maintain Driverless Cars?

    Michael Sena’s Slides, Glenn Mercer Slides

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

Kornhauser & He, March 2021 AV 101 + Trenton Affordable HQ Mobility Initiative

  SmartDrivingCars Pod-Cast Episode 206, Zoom-Cast Episode 206  w/Stan Young, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

F. Fishkin, April 2, “When it comes to future mobility, what will fuel the vehicles?   How can the shortcomings of electric vehicles be overcome?   Stanley Young, Mobility Systems team lead for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory joins Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser & co-host Fred Fishkin…” Alexa, play the Smart Driving Cars podcast!“.  Ditto with Siri, and GooglePlay …  Alain


4th Annual Princeton  SmartDrivingCar Summit

15th Live Episode: Live on Zoom

Making It Happen: Part One

Elected Officials’ Role in Creating a Welcoming Environment in the Trentons of this World

noon ET, Thursday, April 8

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.

  Angry Residents, Abrupt Stops: Waymo Vehicles Are Still Causing Problems in Arizona

R. Stern, March 31, “A driverless Waymo vehicle caused a crash in October by stopping unexpectedly in the middle of the road, displaying a technical malfunction the Google-related company claims is rare.

In another 2020 incident, a police officer claimed a sudden stop by a Waymo vehicle caused a rear-end collision, but the officer was cited.

The incidents are detailed in newly released police reports obtained by Phoenix New Times that shed fresh light on the function and operations of the driverless vehicles, which are often cloaked in secrecy. The reports from Chandler and Tempe, released last week under state public records law, detail all Waymo-related cases since January 2020….


Following a January 2020 collision, the department issued a citation to one of its own officers for rear-ending a Waymo vehicle. Yet in that case, like the later case involving the pickup, the collision followed an unexpected move by the driverless vehicle. When a streetlight turned green, the Waymo vehicle “began to move forward and then stopped prior to entering the intersection per the programming of the vehicle.” The Waymo backup driver reportedly saw the other vehicle coming up behind him “and attempted to disengage the autonomous mode by pressing the accelerator but it did not disengage in time” and the unmarked police vehicle hit the Waymo minivan. Both vehicles had slight damage…

“The 15 months’ worth of reports from Tempe and Chandler include several other notable safety-related incidents:

* A bicyclist reported that a Waymo vehicle with no backup driver seemed to prepare for a turn on a residential street, but wasn’t slowing down, causing the bicyclist to stop. The vehicle “appeared not to detect him as it accelerated through the northbound turn.” The man reported “he would have been struck had he not stopped.” An officer noted that Waymo would be contacted about the incident, but no investigation occurred….”  Read more  Hmmmm…   Nothing is perfect and human drivers often do “unexpected” things.  >90% crashes involve driver misbehavior… doing “unexpected’ things.  That said, this is both really bad news and really good news.  Really bad, because it is really bad that public expectations are that these things are perfect. They’ll never be. 


Really good, because if this is all the bad that could be found, Waymo cars are really good and safe!  Making this a reality rather than just a research project is really hard!!!!!  No wonder John wants to enjoy life.  He deserves it after the advances that he’s led. Timothy Lee’s take: “Fender bender in Arizona illustrates Waymo’s commercialization challenge“.


I sure hope that this article wasn’t “the straw that broke John’s back”.  It would be an enormous shame.  The good news about this article is so infinitely better than the the “chicken ****/ B&M” bad aspects.  Alain


Press release, March 29, “Today, the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) announces its first-ever, statewide Strategic Plan for Connected and Automated Vehicles (CAV) to support emerging transportation technology and mobility trends. Specifically, the plan outlines strategies for advancing multimodal CAV-related services and infrastructure to address both current and evolving transportation needs.

Connected vehicles (CV) are vehicles that wirelessly communicate with other vehicles, roadside infrastructures, pedestrians, and the cloud. Automated vehicles (AV) are those capable of performing all or part of the real-time vehicle operations in on-road traffic. The strategic plan explores ways connected and automated vehicles or CAV technologies could become a powerful tool in helping meet key CTDOT goals to improve safety; enhance mobility, accessibility, and reliability; reduce congestion; support infrastructure state of good repair; provide efficiencies; reduce vehicle emissions; and support economic growth….”  Read more  Hmmmm…  Nice to see that we may well be emerging from the pandemic in the NorthEast with an announcement in this area of work that was dated as February.  From its name, cover and contents this report is way older and is at least a couple of years out of date. 


Hopefully sometime soon, maybe this week, we’ll announce that New Jersey’s investigation of this technology, completed March, 5, 2020 and delivered to the legislature last December 2nd will finally be “announced”.  Indeed, we’ve had much more important things to do in addressing the pandemic. Maybe we’re finally turning a corner that will allow us to begin improving mobility for the many that are not well served by either the conventional car or NJ Transit.  Alain

  Volvo and Aurora team up on fully autonomous trucks for North America

A. Hawkins, March 30, “.Volvo is partnering with self-driving startup Aurora on a new lineup of fully autonomous semi trucks, the companies announced. The trucks will be deployed in North America on highly frequented hub-to-hub routes.

The deal between Volvo Autonomous Solutions and Aurora — which was founded by former executives from Google, Tesla, and Uber — is a “long-term partnership spanning several years,” the companies said.

It’s also the latest partnership between a major OEM (original equipment manufacturer) and an autonomous technology startup, as the industry continues to slowly inch toward a future with more fully driverless passenger vehicles and trucks on the road.

Aurora has been testing its “Aurora Driver” hardware and software stack in its test fleet of minivans and Class 8 trucks in the Dallas-Fort Worth area since last year. Unlike its rivals, which are largely focused on robotaxi applications, the company has said that its first commercial service will be in trucking “where the market is largest today, the unit economics are best, and the level of service requirements is most accommodating.

…Established players like Daimler said they would be joining forces with Waymo, while newcomers like TuSimple, Ike, Embark, and Plus are also working toward fully driverless trucks..”  Read more  Hmmmm…   Good partner here for Aurora.  Alain

   Review: AI’s humble beginnings and potentially sinister future

R. Mitchell, March 29, “…”The woman ran communications for Andreessen Horowitz, the famed venture capital firm whose official tagline is: “Software is eating the world.”

Our talk turned to artificial intelligence. I marveled at the wonderful things AI promised us, but I did worry about people’s jobs. “What’s an accountant displaced by AI going to do?” I asked.  “Oh, people will be able to pursue their creative passions,” she said.

For instance?  “I don’t know. Braid hair? She could set up a shop and braid hair, if that’s her passion.”

OK, then….   I thought back to this conversation while reading Cade Metz’s excellent new book, “Genius Makers: The Mavericks Who Brought AI to Google, Facebook, and the World.”…


While Metz, a reporter for the New York Times, does sketch out the early history, his focus is on the last 10 years or so, when a once-belittled AI approach known as neural networking began to insinuate itself, for good or ill, into the daily lives of humans around the world. Alexa, Google Home, Siri — all made possible with AI neural networks…

“Genius Makers” is not really a history of AI, as such. Artificial intelligence goes back at least to the 1950s. The key thing the field accomplished over most of those years was to explore a number of dead-end ideas that proved worthless or not ready for prime time. In other words, basic scientific research doing its thing.


…These are important issues, and Metz’s book is the best one-stop shop to learn about them. It might encourage deeper study. It may help all of us challenge Silicon Valley’s blithe dismissal of the world it is creating: “Let them braid hair.”

Read more  Hmmmm…   Nice book.  My view… AI, totally self-serving, starting from its basic label through to its “self-learning” and “autonomous” hyperboles. In many ways, a flee does better collision avoidance than Tesla’s FSD. Alain

  Ford-Backed Self-Driving Startup Argo AI Mulling IPO This Year

K. Naughton, April 2, “.Argo AI, the self-driving startup backed by Ford Motor Co. and Volkswagen AG, is considering going public as soon as this year, according to people familiar with its plans.


Bryan Salesky, Argo’s co-founder, told employees in an all-hands meeting April 1 the company is looking to boost its funding as it comes closer to commercializing its self-driving technology, said the people, who asked not to be identified revealing internal discussions. Ford, which invested $1 billion in Argo in 2017, plans to roll out robo-taxis and driverless delivery pods in 2022….”  Read more  Hmmmm…  Why not.  It may well be the cheapest money.  Alain

NetJets Just Ordered 20 of Aerion’s $120 Million Supersonic Jets

M. Verdon, March 4, “In what amounts to a vote of confidence in the future of supersonic technology, NetJets has revealed a purchase order for 20 Aerion AS2 business jets. With 760 aircraft, the Berkshire-Hathaway company owns the world’s largest fleet of business jets.

Aerion is currently building a new headquarters in Melbourne, Florida. The company plans to start production of the AS2 next year. Aerion said its order backlog is valued at more than $10 billion. Each AS2 has a price of $120 million. “At Aerion our vision is to build a future where humanity can travel between any two points on our planet within three hours and this new partnership is a significant step towards realizing that vision,” Aerion CEO Tom Vice said in a statement. ..” Read more  Hmmmm… This may be easier than trying to deliver high-quality, affordable mobility to residents of Trenton, New Jersey.  Congratulations 1%ers. Alain

  XPeng Sets Records for Longest Autonomous Drive

A. Hawkins, March 25, “.. a leading Chinese smart electric vehicle (“Smart EV”) company, today announced the consolidated results for its 3,000 km navigation-assisted autonomous driving expedition, China’s longest real highway autonomous driving challenge by mass-produced vehicles…” Read more  Hmmmm…   Once again, one has to go beyond the headline and read the fine print.  The important caveat that makes this achievement essentially irrelevant is “achieved an average of 0.71 human driver interventions per 100 km,“.  Depending on how the 3,000 km was chosen, this may well be what many other systems can do even better..  What is most disturbing is: since driver interventions were needed this was NOT an ‘autonomous” drive.  XPeng MUST continue to insist that drivers remain alert with their butts in the drivers seat when using these “mass-produced vehicles”; else the mass of the XPeng customer set may become less massive.  Alain

   4th Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit  15th Episode at noon on April 8, 2021 TO BE followed by one more weekly episode on 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

15th Live Episode: Live on Zoom

Making It Happen: Part One

Elected Officials’ Role in Creating a Welcoming Environment in the Trentons of this World

noon ET, Thursday, April 8

Video Summary of 1st Session:  Setting the Stage



June 9, 2021, Fully virtual

On the More Technical Side

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


 R. Shields, 22 – 25 March, “Recordings from the conference:

Session 1 plus opening: (Regulatory):
Session 2: (
Session 3:
(Automated Driving Systems):
Session 4:
(Communications for ADS) :

Read more  Hmmmm…  Russ, thank you for sharing!  Alain