Friday, July 23, 2021
28th edition of the 9th year of SmartDrivingCars eLetter

  Upward Urban & Rural Mobility via Autonomous Mobility

K. Pyle, July 19, “It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. The picture Selika Josiah Talbott chose for her virtual backdrop at the recent 2021 TRB Annual Automated Road Transportation Symposium sums up the mobility challenges that urban and rural locales face with existing infrastructure, particularly in low-income areas. Joining Talbott on this panel were experts opining on Talbott’s insightful comments about autonomous mobility and its potential to provide upward mobility….”  Read more  Hmmmm…  Simply a must read.  This is the real market for autonomousTaxis (aTaxis). Alain

  SmartDrivingCars Pod-Cast Episode 225, Zoom-Cast Episode 225 w/Kevin Biesty, Deputy Director for Policy @ Arizona DoT

F. Fishkin, July 22, “Chandler, Arizona is the one place where paying customers can take advantage of driverless robo-taxis (from Waymo) to get where they are going.   How did that happen?  What does the future hold?   Kevin Biesty, Arizona’s  Deputy Director for Policy at the Department of Transportation,  joins Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser & co-host Fred Fishkin for an in depth discussion.   Plus.. Ford, Argo, Lyft, Tesla, Mercedes & more. “Alexa, play the Smart Driving Cars podcast!“.  Ditto with Siri, and GooglePlay …  Alain

SmartDrivingCars Pod-Cast Episode 224, Zoom-Cast Episode 224  w/Selika Josiah Talbot, Principal, Autonomous Vehicle Consulting

F. Fishkin, July 19, “Does there need to be a White House appointed autonomous and electric vehicle  czar to open up new mobility possibilities for all?   That’s the view of Selika Josiah Talbott..a government veteran who now heads Autonomous Vehicle Consulting and lectures at American University.   She joins Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser & co-host Fred Fishkin for a deeper look at how the technology can be deployed to improve lives. “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

Waymo to open offices in Pittsburgh, an AV tech hub

A. Alamathodael, July 22, “Waymo, Google’s former self-driving car project that’s now an independent business unit under Alphabet, is expanding its presence in the eastern U.S. The company said Thursday it would be opening offices in Pittsburgh, joining a growing suite of companies developing and testing autonomous vehicle technology in the Steel City.

The company will start by hiring around a dozen engineers, a source familiar with the move told TechCrunch, and they’ll co-locate in Google’s existing offices in the Bakery Square district. As of Thursday, only around three open positions for the Pittsburgh area were listed on Waymo’s website, but the company will be adding more roles soon.

Some of the new team will come from Pittsburgh-based RobotWits, a tech startup focused on autonomous vehicle decision-making. That includes RobotWits’ founder and CEO Maxim Likhachev, and other members of its engineering and technical team. While Waymo did not technically acquire the startup, it did acquire RobotWits’ IP rights, the source said….”  Read more  Hmmmm… Congratulations Pittsburgh.  It looks like your citizenry will be reaping the rewards of the welcoming environment that you’ve created for this technology. 

I’m sure you’ll be serving Crafton, where I grew up.  Had you been there then, you certainly would have improved the life of my sister, me and especially my parents.  We, of course, didn’t have a car.  Not that I’m suggesting that I would want anything to change, because I am living am living an enormously charmed life, but just thinking about how affordable aTaxis could have made so many little things (and some big things) just a little better (and even much better) well… Congratulations Pittsburgh.  I hope New Jersey is next.  Many here, especially in Trenton, Camden, Newark, … even Princeton, could similarly benefit.  I’m working like hell to trying to make that happen.  It begins with a welcoming environment.  Alain


Press release, July 21, “In an industry-first collaboration, Argo AI, Lyft and Ford Motor Company are working together to commercialize autonomous ride hailing at scale. The unique collaboration brings together all of the parts necessary to create a viable autonomous ride hailing service, including the self-driving technology, vehicle fleet and transportation network needed to support a scalable business and deliver an exceptional experience for riders.

“This collaboration marks the first time all the pieces of the autonomous vehicle puzzle have come together this way,“ Lyft co-founder and CEO Logan Green said. “Each company brings the scale, knowledge and capability in their area of expertise that is necessary to make autonomous ride-hailing a business reality.”

Argo AI and Ford will deploy Ford self-driving cars, with safety drivers, on the Lyft network, as part of a network access agreement, with passenger rides beginning in Miami later this year and in Austin starting in 2022.  As vehicles are deployed, Lyft users within the defined service areas will be able to select a Ford self-driving vehicle to hail a ride. This initial deployment phase will lay the groundwork for scaling operations, as the parties are now working to finalize agreements aiming to deploy at least 1,000 autonomous vehicles on the Lyft network, across multiple markets over the next five years.


“This collaboration is special because we’re executing on a shared vision for improving the safety, access to and affordability of transportation in our cities,” said Bryan Salesky, founder and CEO, Argo AI… ”  Read more  Hmmmm… Sounds great.  Looking forward to this and hope that they’ll come to Trenton and the rest of New Jersey where Ford/Argo can actually improve the quality-of-life of many customers by providing high-quality “… access to and affordability of transportation in..” Trenton.  Those customers are already safe, so, of course, these things need to be safe just to stay even.   What will improve the lives of the residents of Trenton is the improved mobility opportunity that is affordable.  Alain.

  Tesla’s ‘Full Self Driving’ Push Is Okay In California—Because It’s Not Real Self-Driving

A. Ohnsman, July 21,  “If a car company tells people they can sign up to add a feature to their vehicle dubbed “full self driving” it’s reasonable to expect future road trips will be handled solely by the car, allowing a human behind the wheel to nap, eat, read or just sit back and enjoy the ride. When it comes to Tesla Full Self Driving, or FSD, that assumption is incorrect—and also means the U.S. state that buys the most Teslas likely won’t bar a new subscription program for the feature.

That’s because Tesla FSD, despite the name, is an advanced driver assistance system, not Waymo-style robotaxi technology that requires approval for use on California roads. When Tesla’s beta software is used, the company cautions that a human behind the wheel remains vigilant at all times because it “may do the wrong thing at the worst time.” But since Tesla lawyers have told California regulators that it’s not really an autonomous system, it doesn’t appear FSD subscriptions break state rules. ….

The Federal Trade Commission, tasked with protecting consumers from deceptive or fraudulent product marketing, declined to say whether it’s reviewing Tesla’s promotion of FSD. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is responsible for auto safety, has said it’s stepping up monitoring of the auto industry’s use of partially automated features to more rapidly identify defective tech. NHTSA said last month it’s investigating 10 fatal crashes in which Autopilot may have been in use. ”  Read more  Hmmmm…  What??? Did Trump win??  Is he back in the White House?  Or do we have a democrat in there who is supposed to concerned about the welfare of individuals and protecting consumers.  If this isn’t “deceptive” product marketing, then what is?  Let’s then call it unethical product marketing.  C’mon Elon, you make a really good product.  Why do you stoop to deceptive marketing practices?  Can’t be just for the free buzz.  You’re rich enough to pay for responsible buzz.   The mere fact that you are using the phrase “Full Self Driving” to describe today’s version of this product is so untrue that your Twitter and Facebook and … accounts should be shut down.  Then goodby free Buzz.  Alain

Magna Buys Driver-Assist Supplier Veoneer for $3.8 Billion

G. Coppola, July 23, ” Magna International Inc. will acquire Veoneer Inc. for $3.8 billion in cash, bolstering its business supplying advanced driver-assistance systems to automakers.

The Canadian company’s $31.25-a-share offer represents a 57% premium to Veoneer’s closing price on Thursday. The transaction is expected to close toward the end of this year, according to a statement.

Veoneer shares rose slightly above the takeover price Friday morning before paring gains to trade at $31.20 at 3:06 p.m. in New York. Magna fell as much as 7.1%, its biggest intraday drop in more than a year.

Semi-autonomous features like hands-free driving and crash-avoidance technology have become hotly contested battlegrounds as automakers seek to boost prices, best rivals with options that command a premium, and give drivers high-tech bragging rights. In response, global automotive suppliers are increasingly positioning themselves to benefit from the growth in advanced safety features in passenger cars.

“One of the pillars of Magna’s strategy was to be able to create investment in fast-growing areas that are relevant to the car of the future. ADAS is one of them,” Chief Executive Officer Swamy Kotagiri said in an interview with Bloomberg Television on Friday. “You have to look at the long-term sustainable shareholder value, and that’s where we are focusing.”…”  Read more  Hmmmm…Michael Sena sees this as “… one of the major pieces of automotive news in quite some time..”.  We’re going to need to wait for his October issue of The Dispatcher to learn details.  Alain


A. Pisarsky, July 19. ” The WSJ in a piece by David Harrison written July 4 and now expanded in an addition on July 14 is aimed at questioning the federal spending being focused on roads. It introduces all of the standard research papers from over the years as if they were really news. We should do benefit-cost analyses – what a breakthrough thought! Basically, the pieces suggest what the transportation community has been doing for 50 years. The biggest payoffs are early in a road systems life – if the investment were rational one would expect so wouldn’t one. That point was made in research in the 90’s on the massive pay offs generated by the Interstates on the order of 25% of all productivity growth over two decades…


The first is that travel increases on new roads, labeled “induced demand” is somehow unproductive – “the roads just fill up again” argument. That demand is a good thing. It means that more people and goods can go where they want, when they want and how they want – close to a perfect definition of transportation productivity….” Read more  Hmmmm…Alan… Perfect!!  Thank you.  By the way, being successful at deploying affordable high-quality mobility to all will increase Person Mile Traveled and may also increase Vehicle Mile Travel and may also increase congestion, BUT all that is nothing but good. even if the “David Harrisons” of this world find that they must now share the good fortune that they enjoyed in some part because of the marginalization of others.   


The second point, that we learned in the National Academies study of the Interstates, Transportation Research Board Special Report 329, reported to Congress in 2019 is that the doubled population growth and the economic growth since the building of the interstates has generated demand in new places. What was the population of Las Vegas and Phoenix in 1956 when we designed the Interstates? That’s why there isn’t one between those two massive regions. Take a look around. Bringing access to new areas can be an immense boon to productivity. …  “

  Mercedes−Benz prepares to go all−electric

Press release, July 22, “Mercedes-Benz is getting ready to go all electric by the end of the decade, where market conditions allow. Shifting from electric-first to electric-only, the world’s pre-eminent luxury car company is accelerating toward an emissions-free and software-driven future.

By 2022, Mercedes-Benz will have battery electric vehicles (BEV) in all segments the company serves. From 2025 onwards, all newly launched vehicle architectures will be electric-only and customers will be able to choose an all-electric alternative for every model the company makes. Mercedes-Benz intends to manage this accelerated transformation while sticking to its profitability targets….

Read more  Hmmmm…  In a sense, why not??  I suspect that most MB owners have never looked under the hood, checked their oil, and in New Jersey, pumped their own gas  (attendants are still required by law in NJ).  Certainly few ever shifted a gear and the cars don’t even prrrrrr or vroom-vroom.  Were it not for automatic transmissions, MB may have gone EV in the 60s simply to deliver the luxury of not shifting.  Given the performance of EVs v ICEs this transition seems inevitable; except, …   Without the oil changes, filters, tuneups, brake jobs (regenerative braking substantially increases brake life…) @ ~$200/hr. labor, how are the MB dealers going to survive?  Will dealer’s shun selling EVs, …but batteries need replacement.. they’ll be OK.  Alain



G. Bieker, July, 2021, “As important as it is to reduce the emissions from fuel and electricity production and consumption, such reduction should of course not come at the cost of higher vehicle production emissions. Taking all together, it is therefore important for policymakers to understand which powertrain and fuel technologies are most capable of shrinking the carbon footprint of cars—and not only the emissions from the tailpipes, but also from fuel and electricity production and vehicle manufacturing.


This study is a life-cycle assessment (LCA) of the GHG emissions of passenger cars in China, Europe, India, and the United States, four markets that are home to the majority of global new passenger car sales and reflect much of the variety in the global vehicle market. The study considers the most relevant powertrain types—internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEVs), including hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs); plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs); battery electric vehicles (BEVs); and fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs)—and a variety of fuel types and power sources including gasoline, diesel, natural gas, biofuels, e-fuels, hydrogen, and electricity. For each region, the analysis is based on average vehicle characteristics across the most representative market segments and considers fuel and electricity consumption in real-world driving conditions. Additionally, based on stated policies, the study estimates how the lifecycle GHG emissions of cars expected to be registered in 2030 compare with vehicles registered today. For both 2021 and 2030 cars, it considers the changing fuel and electricity mixes during the lifetime of the vehicles.


Key results include the following:…”  Read more  Hmmmm… OK, but Figure ES.1 suggests that emissions from the production of fuel (gasoline) or electricity  is the same for ICE and EV today.  I don’t think that is true.  One should be looking at the ability today (and in each year in the future) to what emissions would result from the creation of its fuel.  For ICE it can be what it has been, but not for electricity.  The EVs are replacing ICEs so their emission calculation must be relative to the ICE’s.  Since we are worried about total emissions, the substitution is what is important. 


There is no getting away from it.  If we substitute one EV for one ICE, today’s emissions go from All to All-ICE+EV.  We know what ICE emissions are and get subtracted.  But today’s EV requires the power grid to generate new electricity for it.  Since the grid currently operates to minimize emissions, new energy needs to be generated.  What was just turned off to hit today’s sweet spot, must be turned back on to create more.  Thus, each incremental EV that is replacing an ICE is actually emmiting what is produced by the best of all of the reserve power sources that were just turned off.  That’s what gets turned on.


In some (few) places, Solar production capacity is greater than 100% of the current demand.  Turn them back on and power the EV @  zero emissions.  But, for places that throttles coal plants to maintain enough electricity, they need to throttle up.  The EV is burning coal.   I don’t see that this analysis included this nuance in 2021, or in 2030, or at any time in the future.  Alain

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

Sunday Supplement


Intel’s Mobileye begins testing autonomous vehicles in New York City

A. Hawkins, July 20, “Mobileye, the company that specializes in chips for vision-based autonomous vehicles, is now testing its AVs in New York City — a difficult and rare move given the state’s restrictions around such testing.

The announcement was made by Amnon Shashua, president and CEO of the Intel-owned company, at an event in the city on Tuesday. Shashua said the company is currently testing two autonomous vehicles in New York City, but plans to increase that number to seven “in the next few months.”…..”  Read more  Hmmmm…Sorry that Intel let you do this (or are you off the reservation).  Hopefully, it is your advertising budget that is paying for this, because buzz is likely to be the only good that will come out of this.  It took GM only about “12 seconds” to decide that this was a bad idea.  Frank Sinatra is not the way to market success for AVs.  First, Manhattan is unique; so, by definition, there is little to learn from there that useful somewhere else.  Next, there is absolutely no incremental value that such cars can add to Manhattan.  They aren’t better than Uber/Lyft/Taxi/BlackCar/GreenCar for those that can afford them and aren’t better than walking, biking, or the subway (which operates 24/7/365) for those that can’t.  And, few people drive their own car in Manhattan.  It will be a very long time before these vehicles are better than driving your own in Manhattan.  This is all about Click Bait.  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

Calendar of Upcoming Events


5th Annual Princeton  SmartDrivingCar Summit

Fall 2021

Live in Person

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

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