47th edition of the 9th year of SmartDrivingCars eLetter

  Pony.ai’s permit to test driverless vehicles in California is suspended after crash

A. Hawkins, Dec. 14, “Pony.ai, an autonomous vehicle startup based in Silicon Valley and Guangzhou, China, is temporarily unable to test driverless vehicles in California after a vehicle crash led the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles to suspend the company’s testing permit.

Pony.ai was one of the few companies approved to test fully autonomous vehicles without safety drivers behind the steering wheel on public roads in California…. 

The permit was suspended after the company reported a crash to the DMV…. ”  Read more  Hmmmm…  Crash… not good! 

Crash report  “Driver’s Name”is blank Hummmm … ??? 

Crash report makes no mention of occupants or attendants.  Hummmm … Rest assured that “NJCrash reports of AVs” will include names of occupants, drivers and/or attendants. (One of the benefits of being “tied for last with Mississippi” for so long).

Also,  rest assured, that NJ will NOT permit the testing of AVs without an alert driver/attendant capable of “disengaging” the AV in an attempt to avert or mitigate a crash. 

Finally.. what was Pony.ai thinking????  The objective/purpose of testing is to encounter situations where the car will crash if the driver/attendant fails to “disengage”.  Encountering such situations might allow the AV system to be improved/fixed/corrected so when that situation is encountered in the future, the AV system will not crash and not need anyone to disengage it. Then you can get rid of the driver/attendant. 

Testing is not over until the probability that a situation requiring disengagement by a driver/attendant is sufficiently rare such that the liability associated with such rare occurrences is substantially smaller that the the value captures by the increased mobility afforded by not having to pay the cost of an attendant/driver…  period!!!!! 

Certainly not an advanced concept.  Every parent & child knows that you continue to run behind the bike and you don’t take off the training wheels until the child is good enough at riding the bike such that the chances of falling and scraping a knee or worse is so remote that you let them enjoy the fruits derived from the newly acquired mobility. No different for driverless vehicles or whatever you wish to call them.

So what was Pony.ai thinking, if indeed, they were testing without and attendant or driver????  What value were they acquiring…

  • Saving an infinitesimal percentage of their cost of testing?  Are they that strapped for $$$? 
  • Public relations creds?  What was the net on that Silicon Valley gambit?
  • Demonstration of their manliness?  Very last century!, or
  • Just total irresponsibility and stupidity.  C’mon Man!!!

Also, what was CA DMV thinking when they created a license to test without a driver or attendant?   Some of us believe that the #1 value of being able to operate a vehicle without a driver/attendant is the substantial percentage reduction in the cost to deliver high-quality mobility to everyone, especially those who, for whatever reason, can’t afford to provide mobility for themselves (can’t… drive a car, ride a bike, ride a scooter, walk).  That cost reduction provides society with the opportunity to deliver thigh-quality affordable, and thus equitable, mobility to everyone. But that is deployment/operations, NOT testing. 

It is fundamentally OK/necessary that a license to deploy/deliver mobility to people and/or goods, without a driver/attendant be available. That is the goal.  To test without a driver/attendant is irresponsible and stupid.  Alain

SmartDrivingCars Pod-Cast Episode 246, Zoom-Cast Episode 246 w/Jack Woll’22, Jason Sun’232, and Connor Larson’22

F. Fishkin, Dec. 16, “Affordable autonomous mobility is what the State of New Jersey is aiming to bring to Trenton and beyond.   But the need is everywhere.  Princeton Students Jack Woll, Jason Sun, and Connor Larson have been doing some research and join Alain Kornhauser and Fred Fishkin to explore.   Plus…Pony AI, Aurora, Tesla and more.”

Technical support provided by: https://www.cartsmobility.com/

   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: www.motoetf.com.  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 says self-driving car that struck pedestrian in San Francisco was in manual mode

K. Korosec, Dec.. 16, “A Waymo self-driving Jaguar I-Pace that struck a pedestrian in San Francisco on Wednesday evening was in manual mode, the company told TechCrunch in response to an initial report posted on Reddit. Waymo says the vehicle was in manual mode at the time, meaning the human safety driver who was behind wheel was actually driving….” Read more  Hmmmm…Let’s all take a deep breath.  Having the intertubes focus on this instead of Covid is refreshing.  Thank goodness a human was driving! 


However, why didn’t the Automated Emergency Braking System kick in and “save-the-day”?  That is a serious question!   Had it kicked in, we, of course, wouldn’t know that we, and especially the non-victim, would be clueless about it.  Not easy to win here.  Alain


  Orf 467F21 Symposium: Evolutionary Deployment of a State-wide aTaxis system starting from MyVillage

J. Woll’22, A. Lau’23, M. Wasserman’22, C. Larson’22, J. Sun’23, Dec. 10, “Slides of: Making It Happen”: Hawaii – California – Washington – Florida – Connecticut” Read more  Hmmmm…  Video of Presentation, Slides, Report Format.  I couldn’t be more proud. Also check out Pod-Cast Episode 246, Zoom-Cast Episode 246 w/Jack Woll’22, Jason Sun’232, and Connor Larson’22
😁  Alain

Trenton MOVES: Community Engagement Update

J.He, Dec. 15, “Vignettes from Community Engagement “focus groups”.  Read more  Hmmmm… Why Trenton!  Alain

  Self-driving shuttle crashes in Whitby, Ont., operator in critical condition

 Staff, Dec. 17, “A self-driving shuttle bus crashed into a tree in Whitby, Ontario, Thursday afternoon, sending the vehicle’s operator to a nearby trauma centre with life-threatening injuries. …

“There was one operator on board,” said acting Sgt. George Tudos. “No pedestrians or any passengers [were on board,] so that one person did suffer critical injuries.”  The cause of the crash is unknown….”  Read more  Hmmmm… At least there was an operator/attendant on-board.  We’re likely to learn something important here. Alain

  New GHSA Report Affirms Behavioral Aspect of Safe System Approach to Reaching Zero Traffic Deaths

A. Snider, Dec. 15, “The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) today released a new report that makes the case for the integral role of behavioral safety and road user responsibility in the Safe System approach to traffic safety and includes recommendations for how organizations and advocates can work together toward ending roadway deaths. This new report, developed for GHSA by Cambridge Systematics, comes ahead of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s anticipated release in January of a National Roadway Safety Strategy that will be rooted in the Safe System approach…..

The GHSA report, Putting the Pieces Together: Addressing the Role of Behavioral Safety in the Safe System Approach, debunks the misconception held by some in the traffic safety community that infrastructure alone can end road deaths and that behavioral safety plays no role in keeping road users safe. The report stresses that it will take a comprehensive solution – including infrastructure improvements, changes to road design, equitable enforcement of traffic laws, education and public outreach, and emergency response – to reduce traffic crashes, injuries and deaths. This comprehensive Safe System approach has been highly effective in other countries, with traffic fatalities falling in Sweden, where the approach originated, by 67% between 1990 and 2017….”   Read more  Hmmmm…Fundamentally, Yes!   Since we can all agree that there is at least some truth in the often quoted… > 90% of crashes involve human ‘misbehavior‘ (my word in place of ‘involvement”… speeding, drinking, tailgating, road-rage, fell asleep, didn’t see) that addressing behavior by drivers is really important! in addressing this societal objective.  Alain 


M. Ball, Dec. 13, ” The richest man in the world does not own a house and has recently been selling off his fortune. He tosses satellites into orbit and harnesses the sun; he drives a car he created that uses no gas and barely needs a driver. With a flick of his finger, the stock market soars or swoons. An army of devotees hangs on his every utterance. He dreams of Mars as he bestrides Earth, square-jawed and indomitable. Lately, Elon Musk also likes to live-tweet his poops….” Read more  Hmmmm… Given, that “none of us is perfect”, except, of course, you the reader, and Elon for discovering Twitter and mis-naming things, Elon earned and richly deserves this rank of distinction. Bravo!  Alain

  Longtime GM exec Dan Ammann is out as Cruise CEO

K. Korosec, Dec.. 16, “Cruise CEO Dan Ammann is leaving the company, its parent company General Motors said in a late afternoon statement.

Kyle Vogt, who co-founded the autonomous vehicle company, and was the company’s first CEO, will take over the role on an interim basis. Vogt has been serving as Cruise’s president and CTO. Wesley Bush, the former chair…” man and CEO of Northrop Grumman and a GM board member, will join the Cruise board, GM said.  …”  Read more  Hmmmm… Wow!!!  Congratulations Kyle, I think?  It is really great what you and Dan have accomplished with GM/Cruise.  This is not at all easy.  Keep it going.  From where I sit (I agree, I have no view from here), you are out there among very few in the break-away ahead of the peloton.  Keep it all going. we’re close to finally begin capturing some real societal value out of all your tenacious efforts.  Alain

  Mercedes Gets Approval For Traffic Jam Pilot, Where Is Tesla?

B. Templeton, Dec. 13, “Mercedes-Benz has announced approval of their “Drive Pilot” system, in Germany, which does fully autonomous operation in highway traffic jam situations. Such systems have been promised for many years. It’s interesting to note that Tesla, which might be able to produce such a system today, has instead put all their focus on their poorly named “full” self-driving product, possibly at the expense of other features like this.

The German certification is designed to be extended to the rest of the world, starting of course with Europe. Honda has sold a modest number of Legend sedans in Japan with this function, and Audi produced one but did not finish the regulatory approval process….”  Read more  Hmmmm… Please read the whole article.  What I believe is still missing here… has Daimler accepted the responsibility, and thus the liability, resulting from each crash that may occur when “Drive Pilot” ‘s car is found to have “caused” the crash?  (If I’m driving, and “the police” determine that the crash was my fault, the insurance that I bought pays.  If “the police” determine that the crash was my car’s fault when “Drive Pilot” was driving, who’s insurance pays.. mine or Daimler’s?… As little “it depends” as possible, please. )

  Also Brad, thank you for the “…though those levels are misleading…” 😁   Alain

  Via Shuts Down Ride-Hailing Services to Focus on Public Transit

J. Davalos, Dec.15, “Via Transportation Inc.’s shared van service, like all ride-hailing businesses, was decimated at the beginning of the pandemic. It has recently begun showing signs of a rebound this year, but instead of doubling down on what has been its largest and most visible business, the company is shutting down its consumer service altogether.

…Despite improving ridership, the ride-hailing industry has been challenged by persistent driver shortages, and giants like Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc. have spent millions to lure drivers back on the platform in order to meet demand.

In November, Via raised $130 million from investors who valued the company at $3.3 billion. It’s opting against pouring any more capital into ride-hailing, which accounted for the majority of the startup’s revenue before Covid-19, to focus solely on partnerships with public transit agencies. “Transit technology was our original vision and it’s growing extremely quickly,” said Daniel Ramot, the company’s co-founder and CEO. “It came down to focus and opportunity costs.”…

The revenue stream from Via’s “TransitTech” software is more predictable than its ride-hailing business was, because contracts are long-term, Ramot said. The segment exceeded an annual revenue run rate of $100 million this year,”  Read more  Hmmmm…  Wow!  $100M revenue with ??? expenses = $3.3B  I sure hope ??? ~ $0. How can one be demand-responsive without being “hailed”?  Can a dynamic schedule become anything that a customer can rely upon?  Or is this a right2work bus company?  Alain

  Aurora self-driving trucks are using Uber Freight to haul goods for customers

K. Korosec, Dec.. 16, “Aurora’s self-driving trucks are hauling goods for Uber Freight customers in Texas as part of a multiphase commercial pilot that aims to more closely integrate the two companies.

While the pilot was officially announced Wednesday, Aurora’s self-driving trucks, which always have two vehicle safety operators on board, have been working with Uber Freight for about a year, according to a spokesperson. The news marks a progression from those early tests to a formal commercial pilot…”  Read more  Hmmmm…  With all the news above, this deserve ink???  Alain


Saturday, December 11, 2021


P, Murphy, Dec. 6, “The New Jersey Department of Transportation (“NJDOT”), an instrumentality of the State of New Jersey, has issued a Request for Expression of Interest (“RFEI”) to identify experienced firms capable of introducing a safe, equitable, affordable, sustainable, and efficient on-demand
automated vehicle mobility systems in and beyond Trenton, NJ.

NJDOT is soliciting written Expression of interest from qualified and experienced vendors to gain valuable insight from the private industry regarding the goals set forth in the Trenton MOVES (Mobility & Opportunity: Vehicles Equity System) potential project and assess its viability.

If and when NJDOT elects to proceed with a potential project, NJDOT may issue formal Request(s) for Qualifications or Proposals.
The RFEI is available to be downloaded at https://www.nj.gov/transportation/business/procurement/ems/current.shtm…

1. Potential Project Summary
The State of New Jersey is exploring a transportation equity and sustainable energy opportunity within the capital city of Trenton. Trenton MOVES (Mobility & Opportunity: Vehicles Equity System) will be led by the Governor’s Office, NJ Department of Transportation, the City of Trenton, and one or more institutions of higher education.

Trenton MOVES is exploring the feasibility of deploying ~100 AVs to serve as lowcapacity (4-8 passenger), high-quality (on-demand, kiosk-to-kiosk) shuttles to serve the 90,000 residents who live in the City of Trenton’s 8 square miles. The effort will be phased in over two (2) years and will serve the population of New Jersey’s capital city, a population where 70% of households have one or fewer cars. A proof-of-concept Operational Design
Domain (“ODD”) is described in Section 3.1. …  “Read more  Hmmmm… How fantastic is this!  Plus, Governor Phil Murphy’s Press Release announcing Trenton MOVES.  All substance!!  I also presented relevant testimony to NJ’s Assembly Transportation Committee Thursday morning.  An ALK trifecta this week😁.  The “welcoming environment” now exists in New Jersey.  We are no longer tied for last with Mississippi as was reported at last week’s Florida AV Conference. We’re looking like “first in the world” focused on substantive deployment to real customers.  We’ve built the “Field of Dreams” and awaiting the technology “to come”.  We only need one!  Or we’ll assemble volunteers (and not hostages as Mike Tomlin would put it) and build a winning team ourselves.😎 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 https://www.cartsmobility.com/ 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

   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

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

Calendar of Upcoming Events

5th Annual Princeton  SmartDrivingCar Summit 

Spring 2022

Thursday (evening), May 5, Welcome Reception (Registration required)

Friday, May 6, Equitable Mobility Innovation Forum (Registration required)

Saturday, May 7, Equitable Mobility Festival (Open to All)

Trenton, NJ
Live in Person

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): https://youtu.be/UcDC8gXiUFk
Session 2: (Cybersecurity): https://youtu.be/ppp2hxlvebY
Session 3: (Automated Driving Systems): https://youtu.be/uL2dRHuX2Cc
Session 4: (Communications for ADS) : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IFQcL6yfBso

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