Friday, August 27, 2021

33rd edition of the 9th year of SmartDrivingCars eLetter

  Not So Easy to Pop a Top Hat on a BEV Skateboard, plus more

M. Sena, Issue (08-10) , Aug. 25,” Some of you are fans of Douglas Adams and will enjoy this month’s Musings. Sometimes a little humor helps to get a serious point across better than trying to be seriously persuasive.

The lead article in this issue is the first part of a two-part series. This month I discuss why there is still a chance for the Western automotive OEMs to stay in the game of manufacturing cars, rather than being relegated to assemblers of battery electric vehicle components. Next month I examine why the position they have held for the past century, King of the Hill, is about to be challenged.

In the second article is focused on the need for cooperation between robot and driver in highly automated driving. If Tesla had done a better job on this score it could have avoided being called on the carpet by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. We’ll see where that leads.

Dispatch Central, as usual, attempts to have something for everyone. I’ve called the European Commission out for a major miss in its intelligent speed assistance regulation, not for passing it but for not making it as robust as it should be.

Yes, I did use these summer months to start work on a follow-up to the Princeton SmartDrivingCars Summit, and I did enjoy a very pleasant summer here in Sweden. I hope you enjoyed your summer as well wherever and however you spent it.  M. Sena”

Read more Hmmmm…  Enjoy & Learn this month’s Dispatcher ( especially how to “... turn… pig’s ear into a silk purse…; no-brainers (P. 17); Some interesting Statistics on World energy & BEVs (P.18, thank you Fred Dryer),  a possible upside for coal mines (P. 19), why ‘Level 3’ is even less  probable than ‘Level 5’ which is reached only ‘in the limit as time goes to infinity’ and Evolutionary Domesticity (P. 29) and the answer is ‘42‘ !  Listen/watch to the Pod/Zoom-Cast 231 with Michael, Fred and me centered on this issue. Alain

SmartDrivingCars Pod-Cast Episode 231, Zoom-Cast Episode 231 w Michael Sena, Creator of The Dispatcher

F. Fishkin, Aug 27, “What’s wrong with the concept of building electric vehicles on a skateboard type platform?  Consultant and The Dispatcher publisher Michael Sena joins Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin for that…plus Tesla, Waymo and more.   And the next Princeton Smart Driving Cars Summit is on the way.   Watch or listen…and subscribe!   Or listen.”

   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

I must apologize… for what I wrote wrt:    Watch Plus Testing Level 4 Autonomous Truck without a Driver  See below… from

I apologize for suggesting that was “totally irresponsible” for testing without a driver.  I incorrectly assumed that the testing took place under normal everyday conditions on a “traffic filled highway”. 

The “driverless test” seems to have taken place on or before June 24, 2021 on the Wufengshan Future Expressway…  which did not open to the general public until June 28.  So the test without a driver/attendant inside was conducted on a closed expressway.  Not “totally irresponsible” because the general driving public was not at risk, just “irresponsible” because nothing is gained in such a test by not having a backup driver/attendant inside.  One assumes that someone in one of the chase cars was closely monitoring everything while holding a “kill” switch.  A watchdog with a kill switch is not something that one can afford to have in normal operation, so “the testing w/o  driver” is actually smoke & mirrors.  Question is… why not just tell/depict the truth???

Moreover, the “traffic-filled highway” is also smoke & mirrors.  It is photoshopped!  In their video

  •  10 second in:  The four cars around the truck may be real, the others are photoshopped.  There is never a car in what can be seen of the opposite flow lanes in the periphery of the inside images (from to and from to ).  What’s the chance in that if the expressway was open??  No cars there because they were too hard to photoshop.  Who would notice??? Smells staged
  • They also didn’t bother to photoshop cars into the end sequence from to.  What’s the chance of no cars either way in a “traffic-filled highway”???  They didn’t even do a good job photoshopping. Tastes staged
  • In the sequence from to the speedometer can be seen to be pegged at about 50kph yet the truck was keeping pace with the 4 car entourage on a divided highway that is not filled with cars.  Nice, but not a typical pace.  Looks staged.
  • The shadows cast in the early part of the video (from to) are substantially longer than those cast at the end from to. Was this a really long trip?  @ 50kph it  really could  have been) or is it a photoshopped video that stitches together who knows how many different test runs.  This frame clearly shows three trucks.  Staged!!!

If this was the first doctored Clip or press release from First ai, then they could be granted a pass.  Unfortunately, in December 2019, issued this press release… Completes First Cross-Country Commercial Freight Run by a Self-Driving Truck in Record Three Days claiming among other things…first L4 U.S. cross-country commercial pilot hauling a fully-loaded refrigerated trailer of perishable cargo. … A safety driver was onboard at all times to monitor and assume control if needed, and a safety engineer was present to monitor system operations.

  • If a driver is on-board then it is NOT L4, but to be during a test it is Level 4 if the driver doesn’t intervene in any way.  With them on-board, it is indeed L4 when there are no disengagements.  Since the Press Release states explicitly “The vehicle drove primarily in autonomous mode ” the word “primarily” admits that there were disengagements and thus it is not L4! but I’m being picky here, I admit.
  • The more fundamental problem has to do with hours of service to travel 2,800 miles in 3 days, Granted they had 2 individuals in the cab.  They can be legitimate “team” drivers, if they both have Commercial Driver’s Licenses (CDLs) but one needs to be resting/sleeping while the other is alert to assume control and monitoring system operation.  Thus, at any time, there is only one person doing both jobs, not two people doing one job each as is implied by:  “A safety driver was onboard at all times to monitor and assume control if needed, and a safety engineer was present to monitor system operations.
  • More serious here is the claim that this was a legitimate “Commercial Freight Run“.  Unfortunately butter needs to be refrigerated when transported.  The images of the trucks associated with this press release are not refrigerated trucks and has not registered as a transporter of refrigerated products with the US DoT.
  • See also: Was the cross-country run all it’s made out to be? Not exactly”  .  In March 2020 it asked: “But how much of the hype is actually true?

My fundamental question is why do these folks have to lie to us.  At this point they are lying to investors who are savvy enough to not be fooled.  Unfortunately, at some point, all of this stuff has to be real and not faked; else, those investors that didn’t flip are going to be left holding the bag. 


So depressing…  Nikola rolls down hill, Grizzly goes after TuSimple, The AutoX Fully Driverless  video splices together different segments from different times of the day made obvious by shadow differences even though contemporaneousness is implied.  What else is being faked?  Their Two hours of continuous driving in 30 minutes from May 6 in Shenzhen is pretty impressive and certainly looks like it is driverless without an attendant (and also without any passengers), my only question would be… If indeed they have been operating driverlessly without attendants for 100 days, why not simply put together a video of some of those trips showing riders without attendant.  Please note that all of their claims that I have seen have been careful to say that “driverless cars can operate on public roads”.  I emphasize the word “can” which doesn’t necessarily mean that they “do“. 

The AutoX most recent video in an Urban village is very impressive, but it is a test that was conducted “totally irresponsibly” without a safety driver on-board.  No societal value is being delivered here because no one and nothing is being transported (increasing its personal utility).  It is just a text that is as valuable if conducted with an attendant as it was without an attendant.  Just because we don’t see an attendant in the images, doesn’t mean that there wasn’t one who did who knows how many disengagements.  Hiding an attendant would have been child’s play for Harry Houdini.


Sorry to be so jaded here, but so much smoke & mirrors have been used by so many up to this point that little credibility exists .  What a shame. 


For this technology to deliver safe high quality, affordable, equitable and sustainable mobility, it has to be able to work without crashing and deliver a pleasant ride, without incurring the labor cost of a driver/attendant/overseer.  That is a tall order.  You can’t fake the “without crashing”.  You can’t fake “the pleasant ride”.  And you can’t fake the “without a driver/attendant/overseer (unless you refuse to pay them a living wage which won’t last long). This is a tough business, where everyone should work together on the safety part (finding “all” of the “corner cases”).  There are enough competitive challenge and IP opportunities in delivering equity,  the “most pleasant ride” and the ability to remove the driver and safely negotiating all of the identified corner cases.


Of course, things are a lot easier if the objective is only achieving the comfort& convenience of Self-driving cars that require the “Do-it-Yourself” (DiY) driver to remain alert to take-over/help-out whenever needed.  Those exist today in the consumer car market place.  Some better, some worse; but, all require the driver to remain alert and capable at any time. Since the driver is DiY, then the perceived labor cost is zero, if done for one’s own family and friends but non-cheaply if done for others. Alain

  Watch Plus Testing Level 4 Autonomous Truck without a Driver

(reprinted from last week)  J. Ramey,Aug. 11, “Autonomous tech developer Plus has recently completed a real-world demonstration of its Level 4 autonomous truck technology on a traffic-filled highway. The company tested the truck without a driver behind the wheel, and also without any other remote operator who could take control of the truck if needed. The test took place on the Wufengshan highway in the business hub of the Yangtze Delta region, with Plus being the first company to be granted a special permit to test Level 4 vehicles in the country….”  …” Read more Hmmmm… See video.  Whoa!!! Wait a minute… totally irresponsible… “… tested… without driver behind the wheel, and also without any other remote operator who could take control of the truck if needed…”  If true…

1.  totally irresponsible because this was a test. Its results would have been just as valid had there been no disengagements by the “driver” even if something unexpected happened.  Plus does not earn more points by irresponsibly not having an attendant on-board ready to take over and save the day should something bad begin to happen. Hopefully no one else does tests this way in the US or Europe.  It’s not OK in China, either.

2.  Good thing this took place in China; although, not really… Plus was totally irresponsible for doing this in China as well as everywhere else. 

3.  I’ve been on traffic-filled highways in China.  The video shows a truck with some traffic.  “traffic-filled” is unadulterated hype.  The video actually looks staged.   Only a few other cars around.  No other trucks.  Truck passing to the right of “left-lane hangers”.  Again, my limited experience of riding in China, is that in light traffic conditions some Chinese drivers drive very fast and, it is not New Jersey… very few “left lane hangers”. 

4.  Steering wheel is very jerky.  Is that the way professional truckers steer?  Seems like some improvements are needed in their lateral control algorithm. 

5.  Hard to believe that the Chinese government would really let them test like this unless it was staged.  Alain

  Welcoming our first riders in San Francisco

Waymo Team, Aug 24, “Today, we’re excited to share the next step in our journey in the City by the Bay, with the kickoff of our Waymo One Trusted Tester program.

Trusted Tester is a research-focused program that, for the first time, will invite San Franciscans to actively help us shape the future of fully autonomous ride-hailing. We’ve been driving in the city for over twelve years, have accumulated more autonomous driving miles in California than anyone in the industry, and began ramping up our testing by offering autonomous rides to our employees in San Francisco earlier this year.

Now, for the first time, San Franciscans will be able to hail an autonomous ride in one of our all-electric Jaguar I-PACE vehicles equipped with the fifth-generation Waymo Driver. While this is a first for San Francisco, it is a familiar step for Waymo. Over the past four years in Metro Phoenix, we’ve gone from welcoming our first riders in 2017 with an autonomous specialist on board, to launching the first public, fully autonomous ride hailing service. Since October 2020, we’ve served tens of thousands of fully autonomous rides, and through our years of experience, have refined our incremental approach guided by our safety framework and rider feedback…”  Read more Hmmmm… Very nice and congratulations. I sure hope that I can convince you to bring this high-quality, safe, affordable, equitable and sustainable mobility to the residents of Trenton, New Jersey who could really benefit from this mobility opportunity. 

I do wonder why you emphasize “fully autonomous” when what’s important to a user/customer are its availability where & when they want (aka demand-responsive, high-quality), its affordability, its availability indiscriminately to everyone (aka equitable), and its environmental sustainability.  That’s what is important.  The “fully autonomous” part, the glitz, is totally immaterial if you indeed deliver on the mobility characteristics.  If you can’t deliver the mobility attributes, then the glitz might temporarily as wage your investors while some try it as if they were in Disneyland, but in the end, you  and the last investors will fail. 

What would this announcement look like if Waymo was really selling the mobility that they are trying to deliver rather than the process they are using to deliver that mobility? Just a thought here.  Alain

  Break Down Tesla Valuations And Everything Looks Bonkers

R. Orlove, Aug. 25, “Tesla’s valuation is so sky high that once you break down its individual business components, you start to realize that none of this makes any sense. All that and more in The Morning Shift for August 25, 2021.

1st Gear: None Of This Makes Sense:
Tesla’s stock price is overinflated. We all know that kind of generally, but it’s hard to pin down exactly how perception doesn’t meet reality, though this new report from The Financial Times does help. It focuses on Morgan Stanley’s Adam Jonas’ recent “bullish missive” on Tesla’s valuation following AI Day, the time when Elon brought someone in a morph suit onstage and claimed he was going to make robots for colonizing Mars. Elon was, amazingly, not laughed out of town.

Here is Jonas’ valuation:
Our PT of $900 is comprised of 6 components: (1) $375/share for core Tesla Auto business on 5.6mm units in 2030, 8% WACC, 14×2030 exit EBITDA multiple, exit EBITDA margin of 20%. (2) Tesla Mobility at $75 on DCF with 500k cars at $1.7/mile by 2030. (3) Tesla as a 3rd party powertrain supplier at $88/share. 4) Energy at $78/share. 5) Insurance at $30/share. & 6) Network Services at $255, 17mm connected fleet, $100 ARPU by 2030,20% discount

And here’s what the FT has to say about it:…”  Read more Hmmmm…And Adam didn’t even speculate that DoJo might let Tesla mint BitCoins for almost nothing.  😎 Alain

  Forget autonomy: Here’s how driving becomes safer

G. Nichols, Aug. 20, “According to Stefan Heck, PhD, CEO of Nauto, a leader in AI-powered advanced driver assistance systems. With the belief that fully autonomous driving is still years away, Heck’s answer to the mounting number of collisions and fatalities in 2020 is to help drivers, not replace them. To that end, Nauto’s technology underpins sophisticated safety systems for hundreds of the world’s top large-scale fleets, and customers are achieving up to an 80% reduction in a collision loss. The company estimates that has translated into over $300 million in savings….” Read more Hmmmm… Right on!! Safety is improved by bailing out drivers when they are mis-behaving.  When drivers are fully engaged, they are essentially perfect.  ~90% of the challenges occur when drivers are not fully engaged… mis-behaving.  Helping them out in those situations fundamentally improves safety. 

Autonomy is whole other animal that behaves essentially all the time but doesn’t have the fully engaged human at its disposal any of the time.  Being as good as a fully engaged human does deliver substantially improvements in safety.   That can serve as the safety bar, because it never mis-behaves; however, that is a very high bar.   Once achieved, can safely deliver mobility values such as affordability and equity… but, that is a very high bar.  Alain

  Tesla Sells ‘Full Self-Driving,’ but What Is It Really?

C. Metz, Aug 20, ” …Critics say F.S.D. hasn’t lived up to its name since its debut more than two years ago. It can help a car navigate off one highway and onto another, and respond to traffic lights and stop signs. It also includes a service for summoning a car out of a parking space or parking lot with a mobile app. But full self-driving? Not quite.

When Joel M. Young paid $6,000 for F.S.D. in 2019, he assumed he would receive a system that could drive anywhere on its own by year’s end. Two years later, that remains beyond the system’s abilities. Mr. Young, a lawyer, writer and car enthusiast living in Placitas, N.M., recently asked Tesla to refund his money, and it declined. On Wednesday, he sued the company, accusing it of fraud and breach of contract, among other complaints.

“Tesla has not delivered what it promised,” he said…. ” Read more Hmmmm…    Somewhat amazing that a lawyer didn’t read the fine print.  Anyway… this is all free access to eyeball for Elon.  What’s the downside??  Refund all those that want their money back?  Can’t be more than 10% of the customers, given the Tesla customer demographic and the tease of over-the-air-updating (Tesla now aims for Full Self-Driving Beta public release in ‘~4 weeks’)  Alain

  TuSimple rips gain after Needham calls out positive developments

C. Schultz, Aug. 19, “

  • TuSimple Holdings (TSP +11.5%) rallies after Needham posts a positive update on the firm’s meetings with the autonomous truck startup’s top execs.
  • Analyst Rajvindra Gill notes that TuSimple is working towards driverless demos in Q4 of this year. Those demos will be performed at night to validate nighttime operations while still facing moderate traffic along I-10. The company is also said to be working with state governments to explicitly allow for either autonomous testing or commercial operations. Crucially, the business book progress is observed to be moving along….”

 Read more Hmmmm…   It must be easy for ‘the business book progress to be moving along’.  My understanding is that TuSImple’s  expected revenue is to be $0.35/mile, about half of the cost of a driver.  You can make nice ‘business book progress’ if you can charge only half of what someone will save, if they flip to yours.  RoI is instantaneous.  The question is when and where will yours be available to cause that flip.  As I see it, there are not very many trucks that operate exclusively where the flip might be made any time soon.  So even if my business book progress gets all of them as early as possible, that may not amount to enough, soon enough to justify much.


One could decide to pivot and just go for Self-driving (Comfort  & Convenience + Safety) and not remove the driver.  Unfortunately, then the $0.35/mile has the effect of increasing driver costs by 50%.  While delivering driver retention  ($0.??/mile) and liability/safety savings (~$0.05/mile).   Tough to make good business book progress with those numbers, especially when waiting in the weeds is “FSD hardware&software” currently on a market for ~$10k (or ~$0.02/mile amortized over the 500k miles life of a Class 8) that may readily be able to be over-the-air updated to provide a competitive Self-driving (Comfort  & Convenience + Safety) solution.  Tough to make money in the Self-driving market against a $0,02/mile competitor, so you have to have to be good enough to take the driver out of the truck and keep her/him out of the truck for ~500k miles. all w/o smoke & mirrors.  Not easy!


Hmmmmm…. Other “seasoned investor” views on TSP…

N. Chamaria, Aug. 24 “Why TuSimple Stock Was Flying 28% Higher Todayand Zacks Equity Research, Aug 20, Are Options Traders Betting on a Big Move in TuSimple (TSP) Stock?


  Autonomous car insurance drives new opportunities

K. Wiggers, Aug. 23, “In 2017, Kyle Vogt, the founder of GM-backed autonomous car company Cruise, promised that the startup would begin testing driverless vehicles in New York City by 2019. That didn’t come to pass — Cruise put the brakes on the pilot in August 2018 — but driverless cars have scaled significantly in the years since Vogt’s pronouncement. Last month, Ford and Argo AI announced they would work together to launch self-driving cars on Lyft’s ride-hailing network in Miami and Austin, Texas. Motional, a joint venture of Aptiv and Hyundai, plans to start testing autonomous vehicles in Los Angeles following a deployment in Downtown Las Vegas. And Intel’s Mobileye recently became among the first to pilot self-driving cars in New York City, beating rival Cruise to the punch.

As driverless cars inch toward reality — experts predict it could be as little as a decade before they’re widely available — figuring out how to insure them remains an unsolved challenge. One fundamental question is whether the individual owners of autonomous vehicles will need insurance at all. Liability could lie with manufacturers if accidents are determined to be caused by a flaw in self-driving cars’ designs.

Startups with new business models are emerging in anticipation of the challenge….”  Read more Hmmmm… It is still very early.  Everything is still in testing and nothing has even begun to emerge. Alain

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

Sunday Supplement



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 slides,  See 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 SlidesGlenn 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

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

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