Wednesday, June 16, 2021
23rd edition of the 9th year of SmartDrivingCars eLetter

  Waymo teams up with trucker JB Hunt on autonomous freight hauling in Texas

A. Hawkins, June 10, “Waymo’s autonomous trucking unit got a boost with the announcement that it would be teaming up with JB Hunt Transport Services, a 56-year-old company based in Arkansas. The two companies will work collaboratively on a pilot project to evaluate the use of Waymo’s autonomous technology to move freight.

The test will take place in Texas, with Waymo’s Class 8 autonomous truck hauling goods along Interstate 45 between facilities in Houston and Fort Worth for one of JB Hunt’s customers. The trucks will operate autonomously but will be supervised by two Waymo employees, a commercially licensed driver and a software engineer, from the cab of the vehicle. If everything goes smoothly, Waymo and JB Hunt could decide to work together on more freight hauls in the future.. .” Read more  Hmmmm… Nice.  We also know that the sociology challenges and the liability risks require human supervision.  Hopefully all will work out so that the two Waymo employees can magically disappear in a short time. 

I have come to realize that this front-end labor investment will be needed to successfully enter any new Driverless Operational Design Domain. These expenses are, in reality, infrastructure expenses: they are front end temporary expenses incurred to certify the viability and safety of the long-run low-cost driverless operation.  For Trenton, I see this as requiring 2.5 FTEs per vehicle for two years.  A small price to pay to successfully launch affordable mobility to all.   Alain

SmartDrivingCars Pod-Cast Episode 218, Zoom-Cast Episode 218    w/Xinfeng Le, Waymo Product Manager

F. Fishkin, June 10 , “Have questions about Waymo’s partnership with JB Hunt to test autonomous trucks in Texas?  So do we…and Waymo’s Product Manager, Xinfeng Le joins Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser & co-host Fred Fishkin to provide answers.   Plus.. Waymo raises 2 and a half billion dollars, MacKenzie Scott gives away billions, start-up Waabi comes out of stealth, Argo AI plans an IPO and more. “Alexa, play the Smart Driving Cars podcast!“.  Ditto with Siri, and GooglePlay …  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 initiative

   MacKenzie Scott Gives Away Another $2.74 Billion Even as Her Wealth Grows

N. Kulish, June 15, “MacKenzie Scott promised she would give her fortune away “until the safe is empty.” That has proved to be harder than expected.

Ms. Scott made that pledge in 2019, after her divorce from Jeff Bezos. At the time, her portion of the settlement, some 4 percent of Amazon shares, was valued at around $36 billion.

Thanks to the soaring value of that stock, Ms. Scott is accumulating wealth faster than she can give it away. Though she has donated more than $8 billion over the past 11 months, primarily through direct gifts to nonprofits, today she is richer than ever, worth some $60 billion, according to Forbes.

In 2020, a year of incredible need, Ms. Scott gave away nearly $6 billion to 500 organizations. Now, for the third time in under a year, Ms. Scott has announced a new round of grants, worth a combined $2.74 billion, demonstrating that her dedication to rapidly disbursing her fortune has not abated. … How fantastic is that!  Be sure to read her post…


” … said Maribel Morey, founding executive director of the Miami Institute for the Social Sciences. “Much as a judge has to explain their logic, or a senator has to answer to their constituents, a philanthropist owes it to the public to explain how and why they came to their decisions.” …  What???  Did the NYT include this comment in the interest of “balanced Journalism“???  C’Mon NYT, how can you criticize what MacKensie is doing??? …


“…In a break from the way many foundations operate, Ms. Scott said her gifts were not earmarked for specific programs. “Because we believe that teams with experience on the front lines of challenges will know best how to put the money to good use, we encouraged them to spend it however they choose,” she said…  …Absolutely FANTASTIC!!!


“… she had so far shown little interest in the think tanks and research institutes that often shape policy in Washington and statehouses around the country…  “She just doesn’t seem to be tuned in to that kind of stuff at all,” Mr. Callahan said. “That reflects an incomplete understanding of how change happens in this country. Change happens from the bottom up, and also the top down.”…

.. What??? What???  I beg to disagree.   As if those in the “think tanks and research institutions” are anything more than part of the overhead that she is so elegantly disrupting in an industry (philanthropy) that may well be THE Smokestack of smokestack industries.   Read more Hmmmm…  MacKensie may well end up being more transformative than Jeff in totally disrupting an insular industry. Alain

  First Look TESLA VISION with NO Radar | 2021 Model Y

Dan M., May 27, “We take a First Look TESLA VISION with NO Radar on a 2021 Tesla Model Y. Software version 2021.4.15.11. ”  Watch more Hmmmm… @ 6:14 in, he talks about the non-detection of the vehicle in front of the vehicle directly in front of him.  Radar could do that detection can identify the radar signals that pass under the vehicle in front of him, bounced off the pavement, reflected off the vehicle that can’t be seen, bounce off the pavement and be recaptured by the radar unit.  While this might be “neat” information to have in some obscure situation, its unreliability disqualifies it from it playing a role in the driving task and certainly doesn’t provide sufficient benefit to require the continued inclusion of radar as a sensor. 

@ 8:05 in, he approaches an overpass.  I’m certain that the overpass is “seen” by the camera system.  Part of the overpass is directly above in the lane ahead.  Why isn’t that overpass displayed on the road ahead and annotated with the detected clearance?   Why is that “stationary object in the lane ahead” discarded from being displayed on the autoPilot monitor?  What other objects are discarded from being displayed when the image processing system detects an object in the lane ahead? Seems like signs and traffic lights are similarly discarded from being displayed.  How low do they need to be to not be discarded.  What if it is a trailer sitting broadside across the lane ahead?  What if it is a firetruck parked under the overpass?  Are any of these detected objects passed to Tesla’s collision avoidance system? 

I agree that radar (and Lidar) are redundant to image processing.  They aren’t even nice-to-haves when the image processing system is designated as the go-to sensor in cases where there is a discrepancy.  Alain

  Alphabet’s self-driving car company Waymo announces $2.5 billion investment round

L. Feiner, June 16, “Google sibling company Waymo announced Wednesday a $2.5 billion investment round, which will go toward advancing its autonomous driving technology and growing its team.

The funding round follows the departure of Waymo CEO John Krafcik in April and criticism that the company is moving slower than expected toward commercialization of its technology. Waymo and other self-driving companies have found adoption to be more difficult than expected. The company, for example, still largely relied on human safety drivers last summer…

Waymo says it eventually wants individuals to own and operate vehicles using its autonomous driving technology. The company said it’s driven tens of millions of miles on public roads across 25 cities in the U.S. so far…”   Read more Hmmmm…  Wow!  That last sentence implies a real change in Waymo’s business strategy, if it is true.  Hard to believe, unless they are going to position it like Tesla’s AutoPilot… can do a lot, but absolutely requires the driver’s butt to be in the driver’s seat and the driver’s mind always focused on overseeing the Waymo driver.  If this is true, then Waymo is throwing in the towel on Driverless  and putting lipstick on it.  Wow! Alain

Waabi launches to build a pathway to commercially viable, scalable autonomous driving

Press release, June 8, “Waabi, founded by AI pioneer and visionary Raquel Urtasun, today launched out of stealth to build the next generation of self-driving technology. Waabi’s innovative approach unleashes the power of AI to “drive” safely in the real world, bringing the promise of self-driving closer to commercialization than ever before.

Waabi also announced today a $83.5 million (USD) Series A financing with backing from best-in-class investors across the technology, logistics and the Canadian innovation ecosystem. The round, which is among the largest Series A rounds ever raised in Canada, was led by Khosla Ventures with additional participation from Uber, Radical Ventures, 8VC, OMERS Ventures, BDC Capital’s Women in Technology Venture Fund (WIT), Aurora Innovation Inc., AI luminaries Geoffrey Hinton, Fei-Fei Li, Pieter Abbeel, Sanja Fidler and others….”  Read more Hmmmm… Very interesting that Aurora Innovations, Inc. is one of the participants since it seemed to have had the opportunity to get all of Waabi’s IP and people when it “acquired” Uber’s ATG in December.  Yet Aurora seems to be investing in the people that it passed on in December.  Did Aurore also pass on Uber’s ATV’s IP that has now found its way in Waabi?  Sure hope this doesn’t end up being another Otto.  Alain

  U.S. push for self-driving cars faces union, lawyers opposition

D. Shepardson, June 16, “The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday again rejected attempts to lift regulations to allow for the deployment of thousands of autonomous vehicles as union groups and attorneys campaign against the legislative proposal.

The committee rebuffed the bid by Republican Senator John Thune to attach measures lifting regulations on autonomous vehicles to a $78 billion surface transportation bill after he sought last month to attach it in May to a bill on China tech policy….

Thune said that the “Teamsters and trial lawyers” are opposed to self-driving legislation and they “seem to own lock, stock and barrel the Democrats on this committee.”…

The American Association for Justice, which represents plaintiffs lawyers said it “will continue to oppose any legislation that exempts the driverless car industry from basic safety standards, and allows auto and tech companies to avoid being held accountable through the use of forced arbitration clauses…. ”  Read more Hmmmm…  Nice to hear that lawyers oppose relaxation of basic safety standards that would cause them to become even richer. Alain

  Beep Launches Yellowstone’s First Autonomous Shuttles with Local Motors

Beep, June 10, “Beep – a provider of multi-passenger, electric, autonomous mobility solutions – today announced the launch of Yellowstone National Park’s first-ever autonomous shuttle program, called T.E.D.D.Y. (The Electric Driverless Demonstration in Yellowstone), in partnership with Local Motors, a leader in the design and manufacturing of autonomous vehicles. The T.E.D.D.Y. project, an ode to Teddy Roosevelt, will enable the National Park Service to test the feasibility and sustainability of autonomous mobility and better plan for the future of transportation….” Read more Hmmmm… Congratulations.  Alain

  Argo AI’s CEO says IPO expected within next year

J. Lee, June 9, “Self-driving startup Argo AI, backed by Ford Motor Co (F.N) and Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE), expects to pursue a public listing within the next year, founder and CEO Bryan Salesky said on Wednesday.

“So we’re actively fundraising and are going out this summer to raise a private round initially,” Salesky said at The Information’s Autonomous Vehicles Summit. “And then we’re looking forward to an IPO within the next year.”

“The raise this year will definitely provide capital that gives us plenty of runway and will help us continue to scale out,” he said, adding that autonomous driving is a capital-intensive business…”   Read more Hmmmm…  “Scale out”???  They haven’t even achieved their 1st dollar of revenue.  Today’s challenge is getting started.  Yo date, only Waymo has anything that barely begins to get started and that may well be on life support.  Alain

  Lordstown’s electric pickup plans hit another snag as CEO and CFO resign

F. Lambert, June 14, “Lordstown Motors is again finding itself in hot water on the road to try to bring to market its ambitious electric pickup as both the CEO and CFO are leaving.

The company was founded out of a deal to take over GM’s Lordstown factory just a few years ago, and it plans to bring an electric pickup truck, the Lordstown Endurance, to production this year.

We previously stated that the timeline was extremely ambitious due to the fact that the factory needs to be completely retooled, and Lordstown is trying to bring to market the first passenger vehicle with in-wheel hub motors, which is an untested technology in pickup trucks.

Lordstown went public through a SPAC deal last year and saw its valuation soar to up to $4 billion….” Read more Hmmmm… Another Nikola? (which still closed @ $15.76 today) Alain

  GM-backed Cruise secures $5 billion credit line as it prepares to launch self-driving robotaxis

M. Wayland, June 15,” Cruise, a majority-owned subsidiary of General Motors, has secured a new $5 billion line of credit as it prepares for commercialization of its autonomous ride-hailing business.

The new credit, announced Tuesday, is being provided by GM’s automotive financing arm to use for the purchase of Cruise’s self-driving Origin shuttles, which GM is expected to begin producing at a factory in Detroit in early 2023. It brings Cruise’s war chest to more than $10 billion, according to Cruise CEO Dan Ammann….”  Read more Hmmmm… Congratulations.  GM already had a factory making Cruise’s autonomous Bolt.  Are the Origin shuttles going to be manufactured in the same plant? “

  TuSimple’s self-driving truck network expanding eastward via Texas

N. Carey, June 16,”  Self-driving truck technology company TuSimple Holdings Inc (TSP.O) said on Wednesday it will open a new Texas facility that will enable it to put trucks to work hauling freight on the roads of the southeastern U.S. states within six months.

The company, which outfits its trucks with self-driving technology, is opening a new terminal in Alliance, Texas, to serve the “Texas Triangle”, an area that includes Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, and Austin, adding 3,000 miles to its network….”  Read more Hmmmm… Seems to me that TuSimple is becoming a Warehousing company using its own trucks to move freight between its facilities.  At this point, having “self-driving” technology on its trucks helps the influx of investor capital while adding a sea of red to their balance sheet.  Alain

   How Software Is Eating the Car

R. Charette, June 7, “Predictions of lost global vehicle production caused by the ongoing semiconductor shortage continue to rise. In January, analysts forecast that 1.5 million fewer vehicles would be produced as a result of the shortage; by April that number had steadily climbed to more than 2.7 million units, and by May, to more than 4.1 million units.

The semiconductor shortage has underscored not only the fragility of the automotive supply chain, but placed an intense spotlight on the auto industry’s reliance on the dozens of concealed computers embedded throughout vehicles today.

“No other industry is undergoing as rapid technological change as the auto industry,” says Zoran Filipi, Chair of the Department of Automotive Engineering at Clemson University’s International Center for Automotive Research. “This is driven by the need to address impending, evermore stringent CO2 and criteria emission regulations, while sustaining unprecedented rate of progress with development of automation and infotainment, and meeting the customer expectations regarding performance, comfort, and utility.” …”  Read more Hmmmm… A non-trivial problem.  Complexity in the car may well be outstripping any “Moore’s Law” productivity improvements. ..“”… Once, software was a part of the car. Now, software determines the value of a car,” notes Manfred Broy, emeritus professor of informatics at Technical University, Munich and a leading expert on software in automobiles. “The success of a car depends on its software much more than the mechanical side.” Nearly all vehicle innovations by auto manufacturers, or original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) as they are called by industry insiders, are now tied to software, he says….” …”  An excellent read.  Alain

PS I’m told by my Mercedes repair shop that my horn is “on” according to its MB S550 diagnostic system;  yet, it doesn’t make a noise when I hit the center of the steering wheel.  I’m told they don’t know why is doesn’t blow, but for $1,200 they will try the cheapest possible fix by replacing electronic control unit.  If that doesn’t fix it they’ll try the next more expensive fix.  Why Mercedes make a horn so complicated??  I give up.

  Autonomous vehicle startup Aurora in talks to merge with Reid Hoffman’s SPAC -TechCrunch

Staff, June 4,”Self-driving car startup Aurora is nearing a deal to merge with blank-check firm Reinvent Technology Partners Y , which is backed by Silicon Valley heavyweights Reid Hoffman, Mark Pincus and Michael Thompson, TechCrunch reported on Friday…..”  Read more Hmmmm… Congratulations, I guess.  Alain

  You may be paying more for Uber, but drivers aren’t getting their cut of the fare hike

F. Siddiqui, June 10, “Uber passengers paying astronomical fares amid a labor shortage may think the extra money is going to their stressed and overworked drivers.

But drivers are not being compensated based on what customers pay. Instead, they are paid for their time and distance — with added, predetermined surge bonuses controlled by Uber….”  Read more Hmmmm…  Unfortunately, the Uber/Lyft business model is fundamentally flawed.   Affordability is achieved only through enslavement of the driver.  There is no opportunity to achieve any economies of scale because output is fundamentally proportional to labor input.  Uber/Lyft may well be among the most labor intensive industries.   There is a reason why taxi cabs didn’t dominate mobility in the 20th century.  It is simply too labor intensive to be afforded (not completely obliterate any personal value attained by travel) except in the most dire circumstances or for folks for whom money was no problem or had someone else paying for it.  No wonder the personal automobile became so popular… Justify the occasional expenses while experiencing freedom during each trip.  It was a no-brainer.  And still is … until the intense labor charge can somehow be eliminated from  each transaction.  Alain

More On….

Re-see:    Pop Up Metro USA Intro 09 2020

H. Poser’77, Sept 13, 2020.  “Creating Value for Light Density Urban Rail Lines”  . See slidesSee video Hmmmm… Simply Brilliant.  Alain

   4th Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit  It is over!!!  Now time to actually do something in the Trentons of this world.  

  Making Driverless Happen – The Road Forward (Updated)

K. Pyle, April 18, ““It’s time to hit the start button,” is Fred Fishkin’s succinct way of summarizing the next steps in the Smart Driving Car journey. Fiskin, along with the LA Times’ Russ Mitchell co-produced the final session of the 2021 Smart Driving Car Summit, Making It Happen – Part 2. This 16th and final session in this multi-month online conference not only provided a summary of the thought-provoking speakers, but also provided food for thought on a way forward to bring mobility to “the Trentons of the World.”

Setting the stage for this final session, Michael Sena provided highlights of the Smart Driving Car journey that started in late December 2020.  Safety, high-quality, and affordable mobility, particularly for those who do not have many options, was a common theme to the 2021 Smart Driving Car Summit. As Princeton Professor Kornhauser, the conference organizer put it,…..” 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:
15th Session    Making it Happen – Part One: Elected Officials’ Role in Creating a Welcoming Environment in the Trentons of this World

14th Session    What Will Power Safely-driven Cars

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, April 2021 “Making it Happen:  A Proposal for Providing Affordable, High-quality, On-demand Mobility for All in the “Trentons” of this World”

Orf467F20_FinalReport “Analyzing Ride-Share Potential and Empty Repositioning Requirements of a Nationwide aTaxi System

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

 C’mon Man!  (These folks didn’t get/read the memo)

Sunday Supplement



Calendar of Upcoming Events

The 2021 TRB Annual

Automated Road Transportation Symposium

Virtual on July 12-15, 2021



5th Annual Princeton  SmartDrivingCar Summit

Fall 2021

Live in Person

To be Announced



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