Sunday, October 17, 2021

39th edition of the 9th year of SmartDrivingCars eLetter

  Aurora’s autonomous trucks and taxis will be available to customers via subscription

A. Haawkins,  Oct 13, “Aurora, the autonomous vehicle company founded by the former lead engineer for Google’s self-driving car project, announced that its autonomous trucks and taxis will be available to customers via subscriptions.

Aurora doesn’t expect to roll out its self-driving trucks and ride-hailing vehicles until 2023 and 2024, respectively, but the company is providing more detail about how it plans on putting them into commercial operation.

Aurora’s trucking service will be called “Aurora Horizon,” in which the company says it will provide trucking carriers and private fleets “with a reliable and scalable driver supply powered by the Aurora Driver.” The Aurora Driver is the name the company uses to describe the hardware and software it uses to enable a vehicle to drive itself under certain conditions….” Read more Hmmmm…  Very nice to learn that Aurora is still looking to be in the autonomousTaxi business.  Hopefully they’ll take seriously what we are trying to do in Trenton and beyond.  What Aurora is developing can deliver Equitable Affordable, High quality mobility to many customers whose quality-of-life will be substantially improved. Would love to have you work with us, Chris.  Alain 

SmartDrivingCars Pod-Cast Episode 237, Zoom-Cast Episode 237

F. Fishkin,Oct 18, “Aurora is planning subscription services for autonomous trucking & ride hailing.   Passenger buttons to stop and start are part of Motional’s planned self driving taxi experience.  And Tesla’s Texas insurance rates to be based on real time driving behavior. Plus more in Episode 237 of Smart Driving Cars with Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser & co-host Fred Fishkin.”

   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

  Tesla debuts new car insurance that uses Texans’ real-time driving behavior

M. Moon, Oct. 15, “Tesla now offers car insurance in Texas, its new home state, a couple of years after launching the product in California. According to Electrek, though, the insurance available to Texans is quite different than the one owners can get in The Golden State: It calculates for a customer’s insurance premium using their real-time driving behavior. Their credit, age and gender that are typically used by other insurance providers apparently don’t matter to Tesla. The automaker says it won’t even look at customers’ claim history and driving records.

Instead, Tesla will look at their “safety scores,… “ Read more Hmmmm…  Key here is that Tesla, knows how well Autopilot/FSD mitigate each driver’s propensity to mis-behave.  Since unmitigated mis-behavior may well be responsible for the overwhelming majority of crashes, this gives Tesla an enormous advantage to properly price insurance. Alain

  Here’s How VW Wants Autonomy to Change City Life

J. Ramey, Oct 14, “.This week Volkswagen is giving the world a preview of its robotaxi tech in the city that will be the first to host the company’s autonomous ride-pooling service…

While our previous glimpses of the ID. Buzz have focused on the autonomous tech, relatively less attention has been paid to Volkswagen’s mobility arm, launched in 2016. In these short five years, MOI has already launched Europe’s largest all-EV ride-pooling fleet, transporting millions of passengers in that time. And as a part of Hamburg’s planned launch of an autonomous ride-pooling service, MOI is the third major component of this effort.

“Cities all over the world want to make their traffic more efficient and more climate-friendly. Autonomous ride-pooling improves urban mobility, increases road safety, and make cities more attractive. Hamburg will be the first city to offer autonomous ride-pooling,” MOI says….

At the moment ride-pooling is not a well-known term in the US, even though there is no shortage of ride-hailing apps. Ride-pooling, on the other hand, combines the concepts of a shared taxi service with an app-based ride-hailing service, with passengers requesting to be picked up by a passenger van with others traveling in the same direction…..

The next step in this evolution is making the ride-pooling service autonomous. The automaker, along with Argo AI and MOI, will be testing the Level 4 prototypes on the streets of Hamburg starting this year. Argo AI has begun 3D mapping of the streets in the test area of Hamburg, using mapping vehicles to create a very detailed representation of the streets. After mapping is completed, VW, Argo, and MOI will conduct test drives with and without passengers…”  Read more Hmmmm… This service looks very similar to what Via offers. I’d like to understand the similarities and the differences. Also, it is nice that the next step is to make the service autonomous.  Unfortunately, no reasons are given as to why this next step is needed. What shortcomings of the existing service is autonomy going to improve? We need to understand why autonomy is important in our Trenton initiative.  Hopefully VW will participate in our 5th Summit so that we can learn from them. Alain

  For Uber and Lyft, the Rideshare Bubble Bursts

G. Bensinger, Oct. 17, “Piece by piece, the mythology around ridesharing is falling apart. Uber and Lyft promised ubiquitous self-driving cars as soon as this year. They promised an end to private car ownership. They promised to reduce congestion in the largest cities. They promised consistently affordable rides. They promised to boost public transit use. They promised profitable business models. They promised a surfeit of well-paying jobs. Heck, they even promised flying cars.

Well, none of that has gone as promised (but more about that later). Now a new study is punching a hole in another of Uber and Lyft’s promised benefits: curtailing pollution…..”  Read more Hmmmm… Please take a look at the ‘New Study’: “Air Pollution, Greenhouse Gas, and Traffic Externality Benefits and Costs of Shifting Private Vehicle Travel to Ridesourcing Services“.  Two fundamental issues… 1. Uber/Lyft have failed miserably at achieving any Ride-sharing and their “’empty vehicle repositioning algorithm” doesn’t seem to be sufficiently focused on minimizing empty vehicle miles. 

2.  The only incentive for Ride-sharing is the political halo of the term.  Drivers aren’t for it because it make for fewer customers to pass around, lowers the probability of surge pricing and any incentive offered by Uber/Lyft doesn’t sufficiently compensate for the customer dissatisfaction induced by having to share a ride. 


The challenge may even go as far as having a driver earns less from ride sharers than would have been earned from serving just one of them.  The  {revenueShare + Tip} earned from one rider may be greater than {revenue Share + muchSmallerTip} from two riders riders!   Ouch!  


As was obvious from the very beginning,  a necessary condition for Uber/Lyft to be successful is driverless operation.   Its business model has no chance of becoming an “internet business” or achieving any scale/network/viral economy as long as a paid individual to be involved for the duration of each trip.  Not only does the operation have to accommodate the interests of the driver in deference to the interests of the customer and or the environment, but the driver is an expensive fixed cost.  T


I’ve written many times: without driverless operation, the Uber/Lyft ‘Ride-Hailing business model can not become substantially greater than the conventional taxi business.  Their App is nice and better way to summon the service, but it doesn’t transcend the business model’s fundamental omnipresent labor cost burden.  To have a hope of becoming disruptive the mobility must be delivered without a driver/attendant.  The personal car became a disruptive mobility force when the customer of its mobility didn’t need to pay a driver.  The ultimate “Do it Yourself (DiY)”. Alain


5th Annual SmartDrivingCars Summit:  Deployment of Equitable Affordable, High Quality Mobility throughout New Jersey

Date Change:   Thursday evening, May 5, through Saturday May 7, 2022.  Live in Trenton, New Jersey. 

“Everything” was going well wrt the 5th Summit Nov 18->20; however…

Time is very short, we must focus on the election and the realities of where we remain with Covid really put cold water on some aspects of our vision for November.

Consequently. I’ve become convinced that it is very much better, that we take our time and reschedule for the first week on May 2022 rather than rush for what isn’t as good as could be. 

By May we will have received responses to our upcoming RfI for “Equitable … Mobility in Trenton”.  We will thus have a better idea on “Who”,  from the “What & How” communities, “Want & Can” Deploy “Equitable … Mobility” starting in Trenton with real expectations of scaling throughout New Jersey.

In May the 5th Summit can better achieve its fundamental purpose by allowing all of us in New Jersey to better learn from others around the world  the “Whats & Hows” and have the possible “Whos” get a better appreciation of the “Equitable … Mobility” desires of Trentonians and other New Jersians. 

Rescheduling the Summit to be between the RfI and the RfP steps of our Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) Deployment Process, will better enable our Community Engagement initiative to shape our ultimate  deployment.  We’ll thus deliver even better mobility equitably and best improve quality-of-life in Trenton and throughout New Jersey.   

Please pencil into your calendar the new dates of  May 5 (Thursday evening) though May 7 (Trenton Mobility Festival Saturday). 😎   Please let me know if these dates work for you.

Sorry about the delay, but many will be relieved by this change. Plus, early May is really nice in NJ.😁


This 5th Summit is inspired by the many levels of public-sector, community and neighborhood welcoming and support that now exists in New Jersey for the deployment of equitable, affordable, high-quality mobility. This is now made possible by automated driving technology that is especially targeted to serve those who, for whatever reason, don’t have access to their own personal car.

The Princeton SDC Summits were initiated in 2017 to provide a venue for the open discussion of how technology, in particular automation, can be shaped to improve mobility of people and goods between and within cities. Early on, we realized that this form of mobility could easily provide yet another alternative to those who are fortunate enough to enjoy one or many high quality mobility options.

But, more importantly, it became obvious that substantial improvement in quality-of-life and equitable mobility can readily be made available to the un-served and under-served.  Those who cannot drive themselves, cannot afford the transport alternatives that exist for them, or who live in areas where, for either economic or other reasons, neither public nor private desirable forms of transport are offered.  Furthermore, such initial Operational Design Domains (OODs) can be readily expanded and replicated to allow the vast investments continuing to be made in this technology to actually yield their envisioned societal and financial benefits.

The recently completed 4th Summit set the groundwork for these initial deployments to benefit under-served communities. Communities with many households having access to one or fewer cars and with challenged transit alternatives. We concluded the 4th Summit by envisioning a deployment throughout Trenton, NJ, a community where 70% of the households have access to one or fewer cars.

We believe that Trenton is a perfect ODD to begin to deliver Equitable, Affordable, High-quality Mobility, in addition to being environmentally responsible, safe and comfortable.

The opportunity to expand throughout Mercer County and replicate this deployment scenario throughout the State exists.  This deployment will  serves as a blueprint for the future for many other “Trentons” of this world.

The groundwork set by the 4th Summit and the NJ Autonomous Vehicle Task Force has enabled us to create a “most welcoming environment”  in New Jersey for creating a Public-Private Partnership to deliver this enhanced mobility to the residents of Trenton and all New Jersians. The 5th Summit will focus directly on deployment in Trenton and will take place in Trenton. We also envision its expansion throughout Mercer County and its replication in and around New Jersey’s other major cities.

The Technical portion of the summit will be in the morning, through lunch, of Friday, May 6 and Saturday, May 7. 

Sessions will be free of charge but will require advance registration, as seating will be limited. 


The Societal portion focused on engaging the customers of this form of mobility, featuring descriptions, discussions, interactions, exhibits and  technology demonstrations, will be free and open to the public, with preference given to Trenton residents on Friday and residents of Mercer County and the rest of New Jersey on Saturday.  Link to Sponsorship Opportunities Link to Draft Program  Link to Registration

  Motional Previews the Self-Driving Taxi Experience, With Lyft as Its First Partner

A, Alcantara, Oct 14, “Driverless technology company Motional AD Inc.’s vision for how passengers will ride in its planned self-driving taxis includes a start button to spur the cars into motion, another button to indicate when to pull over and other features aimed at making riders feel at ease in the new experience.

The company and its partner in the effort, Hyundai Motor Group, have developed the taxis and the rider experience for ride-hailing companies to use. Lyft Inc. is set to be the first out of the gate with a planned U.S. deployment of Motional’s modified Hyundai Ioniq 5 in 2023, according to the companies….”. Read more Hmmmm… We can all learn a lot from this initiative.  Alain

  Waymo’s autonomous vehicles keep getting stuck in a dead-end street in San Francisco

A. Haawkins,  Oct 14, “That’s what some residents on one quiet street in San Francisco have discovered, with a seemingly endless parade of autonomous vehicles from Waymo driving down a dead-end street in the city’s residential Richmond district, turning around, and driving away…..” Read more Hmmmm…  Maybe… Or is Waymo simply testing the cars on a tough street where they need to be able to do a K-turn in order to emerge should they need to pick up or discharge a customer on a dead-end road.  What’s the big deal?  Nothing better to fill up airtime in SF???  


 Or, does this behavior give insight into Waymo’s evolving strategy and decision making. Individuals and institutions only do what they think/believe is best for them from their perspective.  With that in mind, this behavior suggests that Waymo is investing substantial testing resources to  make sure that they can make K-turns in real dead-end streets in addition to testing “K-turn-ability” in their testing facility and in simulation.  Seems that in order for such testing to be justified, Waymo must think that San Franciscans who live on dead end streets need to be picked up and dropped off at their door step rather than at the corner.  Seems like a substantial investment to provide a marginal improvement in level-of-service that is likely to be appreciated by few, if any, real Waymo customer(s). Why does Waymo covet such customers to such an extent?  Has it really nailed the service to less needy customers?  If so, why isn’t it offering that service someplace if it can do it so well?  Is Waymo really that unconstrained, resource wise.  If so, then they should easily be able to afford to serve Trentonians without ever having to go down dead end street.  Alain

  Aptera Alpha Develop  ment Vehicle | Jay Leno’s Garage

J. Leno, “If you really want to save energy and make a truly efficient vehicle, it can’t look like anything else on the road—and that’s the Aptera. The new Aptera electric-solar hybrid offers unique styling and really unique performance—it gets 1000 miles per charge, and they claim the solar panels make it so you never even need to charge it! ” Read more Hmmmm…  Interesting, especially if you are relay energy conscious.  Alain

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

Sunday Supplement



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

Calendar of Upcoming Events

5th Annual Princeton  SmartDrivingCar Summit 

Spring 2022

Live in Person (Covid permitting)

Trenton, NJ

May 5 (evening) -> 7, 2022

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