Friday, July 2, 2021
25th edition of the 9th year of SmartDrivingCars eLetter

  Sociology not technology will decide the electric car race

J. Thornhill,  June 24,  “Brimming with epic successes and spectacular failures, the early history of the motor car industry offers clues about its future, too. As so often during technological revolutions, initial bursts of fast and furious experimentation by wild-eyed pioneers are followed by waves of industry consolidation by more sober corporate types.

So it was in the US from the 1890s, when scores of obsessive entrepreneurs launched the modern auto industry. Over the next few decades they founded hundreds of companies manufacturing thousands of different models. In the words of one historian, these dedicated enthusiasts competed in a “drastically Darwinian” world and seemed to prefer “to go broke making automobiles than get rich doing anything else”, a tune which resonates again today.

But the development of capital-intensive mass manufacturing methods, the Great Depression and the second world war thinned out the competition. By 1950, the industry was dominated by just three giant corporations: General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, which between them accounted for about three-quarters of global production.

Today, the car industry is opening up once again to new entrants amid another technological convulsion as electric and connected vehicles — and maybe eventually autonomous cars — replace combustion engine motors driven by humans. As this revolution unfolds, we are seeing another burst of creative competition as entrepreneurial start-ups and tech companies flood into the market. …

The industry’s dream is to create an attractive and reliable $25,000 electric car that overcomes range anxiety. As Alain Kornhauser, a professor at Princeton University, says, the winners will be those who can build cars that appeal to everyday drivers as well as the “greasers and truckers”. “It’s all about the sociology, not the technology,” he adds.

In other words, it will be, as it has always been throughout history, the customer who decides.”  Read more   Hmmmm… Same for Driverless AVs.  Alain

  SmartDrivingCars Pod-Cast Episode 221, Zoom-Cast Episode 221    w/Mark Rosekind, Chief Safety Innovation Officer, Zoox

F. Fishkin, July 1, “With Zoox…the Amazon owned autonomous mobility company out with a comprehensive safety report.. Chief Safety Innovation Officer Dr. Mark Rosekind joins Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin.   What is so different about the Zoox approach to building a vehicle and safety?   What is the company’s vision for future mobility and transportation.    Dr. Rosekind fills us in on those issues and more. “Alexa, play the Smart Driving Cars podcast!“.  Ditto with Siri, and GooglePlay …  Alain

SmartDrivingCars Pod-Cast Episode 220, Zoom-Cast Episode 220    w/John Thornhill, Innovation Editor, Financial Times

F. Fishkin, July 1, “Sociology not technology will decide the electric car race.    That’s a Financial Times headline from a piece written by Innovation Editor John Thornhill…who joins Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin for a lively discussion on that…plus Tesla…autonomous mobility and more.   John is also the founder of “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

  Why Am I Being Stopped?

S.Talbot, July 2,” Transportation planning must include addressing what happens in a traffic stop. This July 4th holiday weekend millions of travelers will take to the road to visit family and friends in celebration of the Independence holiday. Tens of thousands of them will be stopped by a vehicle and traffic law enforcement officer. A vehicle and traffic stop by law enforcement can be a dangerous sometimes scary event for both the law enforcement officer and motorist alike.

Who confronts us – do they look like us, are they from our neighborhood – and how we are confronted by the authority of the police often figures into the ultimate outcome of the stop.

In today’s age of ready cellphone recording, we do not have to look far to see stops that show outrageous behavior by officer and/or the driver/rider of the stopped vehicle. Too often the level and tone of the officer from the inception of the interaction is a raised voice, dictatorial and condescending. That, however, does not make the motorist correct if their response is to ignore directives from the police and or be disrespectful in return. It is a recipe for disaster… ” Read more  Hmmmm…Very pertinent and timely article. I’d go even farther.  It is time that we completely rethink traffic stops.  We have technology and real-time information that can keep drivers from mis-behaving and allow cops to catch criminals.  We need to start over with a clean sheet of paper.  Alain

  The auto industry is distancing itself from Tesla in response to new crash reporting rule

A. Hawkins, June 30, “The auto industry is holding its fire — for now — over the new requirement to report crashes involving vehicles equipped with partially and fully autonomous driving systems. But automakers are also distancing themselves from the company that appears to be the primary target of the new rule: Tesla.

The rule, issued yesterday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, requires companies like Tesla and Alphabet’s Waymo to report incidents involving driver assistance and autonomous systems within one day of learning of a crash, a major change that signals a tougher stance by regulators…..” Read more  Hmmmm… I continue to interpret NHTSA’s crash reporting requirement to extend to cars having Automated Emergency Braking.  It should also include those with Electronic Stability Control (how well do those systems really work??) .  This would encompass all new cars manufactured since 2012. 


We all need to do a much better job in the design and implementation of each and every electronic driver assistance subsystem.  Alain

  Tesla (TSLA) announces record deliveries in Q2 2021: 201,000 electric cars

F. Lambert, July 2, “Tesla has confirmed that it managed to build 206,421 vehicles and deliver 201,250 electric cars in Q2 2021 – a new record for the electric automaker.

As we previously reported, the expectations for Tesla this quarter were kind of all over the place since it has been known that the company was facing some important supply chain challenges in Q2.

Delays in bringing the new Model S to market created a backlog at the end of the quarter, and on top of that, over 10,000 vehicles were put on a containment hold in May, which delayed many deliveries until Tesla was able to push its new computer vision system.

It resulted in June and especially the very end of the quarter potentially making a very important difference in the overall delivery results for the quarter….” Read more  Hmmmm…  Very impressive.  Teslas continue to be bought by customers while others, not so much.  Alain

  AutonomouStuff June 2021 News: Testing functional safety for autonomous vehicles

B. Hambrick June 30, “…Achieving functional safety with integrity means ensuring the absence of unreasonable risks due to hazards caused by a malfunction in any of the solution’s sub-systems and components. This means all possible malfunctions and their associated risks must be taken into consideration during the design stage. Every component of a system must be verified, validated and certified to these possibilities for users to be confident in its application.

This blog post introduces the design and process concepts and approach used for positioning technology to achieve the appropriate functional safety within autonomous vehicles. This includes how the components and sub-systems of autonomous vehicles are tested and the role integrity plays when developing safety certified positioning solutions….”  Read more  Hmmmm… Very nice.  Alain

  A Tesla Model S Plaid caught fire in Pennsylvania, briefly trapping the driver inside

F. Lambert, July 2, “A high-end Tesla Model S Plaid caught fire Tuesday night in Haverford, Pennsylvania, briefly trapping the driver inside, according to the local fire department. A lawyer for the owner said the vehicle “spontaneously combusted.”

Firefighters from both the Gladwyne and Lower Merion Fire Departments arrived on the scene shortly before 9PM ET on Tuesday. The firefighters, who had been trained on how to respond to battery fires involving Tesla vehicles, “laid a 5 inch supply line into the scene so that we could keep a continual water stream on the fire to extinguish the fire and cool the batteries down to ensure complete extinguishment,” according to a statement from the Gladwyne Fire Department. The driver managed to escape and there were no injuries reported…” Read more  Hmmmm…  I hope that Tesla and the whole EV initiative isn’t beginning to experience a Hindenburg moment. Alain

  Hydrogen Buses Are the Driving Force Behind Fuel Cell Vehicles, Says Information Trends

Info Trend, July 1, ” Close to 600 thousand hydrogen fuel cell buses and minibuses will be in service by 2035, according to a market research study published by Information Trends ( The study, “Global Market for Hydrogen Fuel Cell Buses,” covers hydrogen buses and other public road transportation vehicles….”  Read more  Hmmmm… Whew! Another “will be” extrapolated from a “NFT“.  Building one’s future on top of the Hindenburg, Apollo 13 and buses seems like a substantial challenge.  Alain

  Tesla Vision-powered active safety features found to be at least as good as with radar in new test

F. Lambert, July 1, “Tesla’s active safety features powered by its new Tesla Vision computer vision system without radar are proving to be at least as good as radar in a new independent test.

When Tesla announced the transition to its “Tesla Vision” Autopilot without radar, it warned that it would result in limitations of some Autopilot features at first.  It didn’t really affect Tesla’s major active safety features powered by Autopilot, but Consumer Reports and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) both pulled their top safety rating picks for Tesla’s Model 3 as they believed the active safety features to be gone.

Today, they have reinstated the ratings after the latter tested them on the new Model 3 and found that the active safety features were at least just as good without radar.

IIHS wrote:  “IIHS has completed tests of the 2021 Tesla Model 3’s new camera-based front crash prevention system, which rates superior for vehicle-to-vehicle interactions and advanced for pedestrian interactions....” Read more  Hmmmm… Well done, Elon.  The issue remains as to how the software is identifying objects in the lane ahead and reliably computing the free space under (and over) the detected stationary object.

I suspect that the biggest issue with radar that Elon was addressing was Radar’s unreliability in the determination of that free space.  This is a critical value to determine if you can safely pass under (or over) a stationary object detected ahead.  Most stationary objects detected ahead can be readily passed under (overpasses, signs, tree canopies, …) (or passed over (small debris, small trash, speed bumps, …))…  except when they happen to be  a tree truck (because you were showing off and hopped in the back seat), blunt end on a NJ Barrier (because the lane makings were so poor that they guided you in that direction). parked fire truck (because the car you were following changed lanes to avoid hitting that parked firetruck and it suddenly appeared “out of nowhere” sitting in your lane ahead).  Because these situations occur so infrequently and “radar” “often” can’t/doesn’t provide information in a way where the free space under an object can be determined, the software simply goes with the more prevalent… assumes that the object ahead can be passed under and, should it be wrong, the driver, who is supposed to be alert, will readily determine that they’d better apply the brakes; else, a crash will occur.  These are not driverless cars, irrespective of what you might have though Elon might have said.  You, the driver, is responsible, in the end, to keep you from crashing.  NOT Elon.  He may have provided a few things that work most of the time, but NONE work ALL the time.  

Nice system. Removing radar may well have been a good call.  Given all the data that NHTSA is going to collect on all of these crashes of vehicles with and now without radar, it will be very interesting the limitations of not only each of these sensors, but also the software that uses the data from these sensors to figure out  when and how hard to hit the brakes. 

P.S.  If LiDar doesn’t do a substantially better job of helping to determine free-space under stationary objects ahead, it is very unlikely to be worth even a penny.  Alain

  Eviation’s ‘Tesla of aircraft’ production version unveiled with over 400 miles of range

F. Lambert, July 1, “Eviation, which has been described as the “Tesla of aircraft” for working on the first compelling long-range electric aircraft, has unveiled the production version of its Alice aircraft.

It has a shorter range than previously announced…Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who has revealed having his own design for a VTOL electric plane, says that such a system becomes possible once battery energy density reaches over 400 Wh/kg, while his Tesla vehicles are believed to be currently powered by battery cells with 250 to 300 Wh/kg.

Battery technology is improving at a rapid pace, and many prototype battery cells have claimed to have reached the 400 Wh/kg barrier.

It boasted a range of up to 600 miles (965 km) and a capacity of up to nine passengers, making it viable for some short-haul regional airlines. Read more  Hmmmm…Issue.. What is the fuel cost for a 300 mile trip?   Easy to automate, so labor cost is “Zero”.  How much are these?   Might get 6 legs a day at a load factor of 67%  (AVO = 6)… 36 passengers/day… 10,000 passenger miles per day.   Revenue @ $0.25/PassMile only give one $2,500/day to pay for amortization, maintenance and electricity.  300 operating days per year might allow you to lease these @ $0.5M/year  Are they going to be that cheap to make safe? (I’ve assumed they are crew-less). Alain

  Tesla Supercharger station gets direct service from McDonald’s: get a Big Mac while charging?

F. Lambert, July 1, “A Tesla Supercharger station is now getting direct service from a nearby McDonald’s that offers direct delivery to Tesla owners charging their electric vehicles.  When charging station operators open new stations, they try to build them near amenities for drivers to use when their vehicles are charging.

We are mainly talking about restrooms, coffee shops, and restaurants….” Read more  Hmmmm…I  So much for Range Anxiety.  Only problem now will be heart-burn and obesity.  😁 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.â€

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

Tentaively: November 2 (evening) -> 4, 2021



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: (Cybersecurity):
Session 3: (Automated Driving Systems):
Session 4: (Communications for ADS) :

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