48th edition of the 9th year of SmartDrivingCars eLetter

  GM Fires Cruise CEO Over The Robotaxi Vs Personal Car Battle Writ Large

B. Templeton, Dec.  20, “One of the key debates over the future of self-driving cars is how much of it will be robotaxis — Uber UBER +2.5%-style services which sell rides rather than cars, and how much will be sales of personal self-driving cars to private owners. This week this battle was prominent in the firing of Cruise CEO Dan Ammann by Mary Barra, CEO of GM over conflicts on this question. Amman saw a “robotaxi first” strategy with an IPO to capitalize on strong market interest in that business. Barra wanted Cruise to put more focus on technologies that could be used in GM’s traditional product lines.”  Read more  Hmmmm… I guess that Brad has the inside information on Dan’s firing.  Nobody ever tells me anything that isn’t public, so I can’t really comment; however…

My perspective has been since near “the beginning” that automated driving technologies have two largely orthogonal (very different) markets:     

  •  as Comfort&Convenience features for consumer-owned “conventional” automobiles.   A long time ago I chose to call cars with these features “Self-driving Cars”, and
  •  Cost-reducing and Quality-of-Service improving features to fleet operators focused on providing mobility (as a service) to people (some call this “transit”) and/or things (for example package delivery).   I’ve called these Driverless cars or aTaxis (autonomousTaxis or automatedTaxis, your call.) 

These are fundamentally different markets. 


It can be envisioned that the Self-driving variety is a natural market for traditional OEMs,  I’ve flippantly called this technology today’s Chrome & Fins that will propel customers into showrooms (or on-line to buy, buy, buy).  I’ll argue that these Comfort&Convenience features, named “autoPilot” and “FSD”, may well have been one of, if not the, fundamental brilliance(s) that fueled Elon’s success with Tesla. 


Even with all the regulatory challenges that these Comfort&Convenience features have piled on Elon, he hasn’t backed off his use of these “Chrome&Fins” which are largely Bling Substance. 


GM is even aggressively promoting its SuperCruise “Chrome&Fins” and Daimler is touting its “Level 3 drivePilot”   “Chrome&Fins”. 


Consequently, it would not be surprising for a leader founded on traditional OEM business models to aggressively pursue the development of Chrome&Fins, especially when, once sold to the customer, the future liability exposure to the OEM for any mis-use or tarnishing of the Chrome&Fins is expected to be minimal.


Unfortunately, the technology associated with Driverless is enormously different because it is Not for show, it has to be for go from the very beginning.  It only delivers its promised value… more affordable, higher-quality mobility…  if it actually works.  And works, not just in the showroom, but during its entire lifespan. And , if it doesn’t then the producer of the technology as well as the operator of the technology, will bear some, if not most/all of the liability risk. 


Thus, Driverless is a substantially different challenge that Self-driving and it is not at all surprising that an individual focused on doing driverless, would have little patience with an individual focused on doing Self-driving. 


Self-driving doesn’t really have to work so you can be sloppy and still “make a buck”. 

Sloppy with Driverless and you’re out of business… ask  Uber .. $120B v $60B  “sells” to Aurora


Moreover, I’ve written for a very long time that there is no feasible market (neither profitable or non-profitable) for the sale of driverless cars to individual consumers.  First, who would buy a car that one can’t drive, but more importantly, no OEM is going to backstop the liability associated with a car traveling all by itself without a responsible person in the car.  Regulators will never allow it, OEMs will never embrace the responsibility (Elon hasn’t even come close, read the fine print) .  End of story. 


Finally, as many others have written, it is not at all obvious that Driverless evolves from Self-driving.  Since self-driving fundamentally includes having the driver in the loop as the responsible entity, Self-driving is able, from the get go, to be “sloppy” in its functionality. 


Driverless, can’t afford to be “sloppy” or cut corners from the very beginning.  That mindset must endure throughout. Lack of that mindset may have gotten Uber in trouble in the first place and may be ingrained in Pony.ai, EasyMile and others.


It simply may not be all that easy or appropriate to to try to clean up technology that has relied on a human driver as a back up to build one that from the beginning must recognized that crutch is not available nowhere, no how.  Alain

SmartDrivingCars Pod-Cast Episode 247, Zoom-Cast Episode 247 Self-Driving & Driverless are like Oil & Vinegar… largely Orthogonal.

F. Fishkin, Dec. 23, “In episode 247 of Smart Driving Cars: a shift at GM’s Cruise as the the CEO is fired?  Tesla faces editorial fire.   While Waymo posts about bringing the next generation Waymo Driver to trucking.   Plus more on the push for safe, equitable, affordable, high-quality mobility in New Jersey.  Join Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin.”

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

  Barra dismissed Cruise CEO Dan Ammann over mission, IPO timing, report says

D. Welsh, Dec. 19, “… What seemed abrupt to outsiders and people working at Cruise had been building for months. The two executives didn’t agree on how to focus the breakthrough self-driving technology that the Silicon Valley unit is preparing to launch with a taxi service…”  Read more  Hmmmm… Another good article about this break-up and the struggle between initiatives that have a human as the responsible entity versus having a software/hardware/sensor/actuator stack as the responsible entity.  For Driverless, the Automated Collision Avoidance aspects need to be near perfect.  For Self-driving, not so much.  For Driverless, rules of the road are largely sacrosanct.  For self-driving, you’re damned if you you don’t let the driver be the driver, mis-behavior and all.  Two businesses that are largely orthogonal to each other.  Alain

  Editorial: Slam the brakes on Tesla’s self-driving madness

pinion, Dec. 20, “In recent years, some Tesla owners have had the option to buy a $10,000 software upgrade to test what the company calls its “Full Self-Driving” package, essentially making ordinary drivers on public roads part of a vast experiment of the company’s autonomous vehicle technology. The problem is, unlike a real experiment, this one lacks oversight to track successes and failures, and — most importantly — to ensure public safety.

It’s time for state and federal regulators to step in. …

… If the cars are not automated enough to be regulated as autonomous vehicles, then Tesla should not be allowed to market the technology as “Full Self-Driving.”

“I can call my umbrella a parachute, but that doesn’t make it true. It just makes it more dangerous,” notes Bryant Walker Smith, an expert in autonomous vehicle law at the University of South Carolina.” …” Read more  Hmmmm…Well said!  Since this is testing on public roads, the public has a right to know and to weigh in; else, the testing can be done on private property or in simulation, but good luck with learning very much. 

I love Bryant Walker Smith’s umbrella analogy.  😎  Alain

  Tesla test drivers believe they’re on a mission to make driving safer for everyone. Skeptics say they’re a safety hazard

 R.Albergotti, Dec. 20, ” Kevin Smith has a love-hate relationship with driving. He was rear-ended twice in a short span of time, his daughter crashed her car weeks after getting her drivers license and his mother chose to surrender hers after she started missing red lights.

“I felt like I needed better driver assistance or I was going to have a panic attack,” he said.

Smith is now part of a group of at least 12,000 beta testers for Tesla’s polarizing “Full Self-Driving” software, which can attempt many everyday driving tasks, albeit sometimes unpredictably. Despite its flaws, Smith believes it’s safer. He is willing to take on the task even if he knows he might have to intervene when software makes mistakes: running a red light, driving onto light-rail tracks or nearly striking a person in a crosswalk, all scenarios that beta testers interviewed by The Washington Post have encountered on the road… ” Read more  Hmmmm…All likely true; however, Why over-sell it.  A little humility and cooperation with the public would go a long way to benefit everyone. 

Is a name like “Imperfect Driver Assistance” all that bad.  People actually prefer when reality exceeds expectations and are really disappointed when reversed.  Try it Elon.   You may be pleasantly surprised.  Plus you can afford to make a mistake here. Alain

   Public Streets Are the Lab for Self-Driving Experiments

R. Furchgott, Dec. 23, “… The answer is that there is no federal regulation to stop Tesla — or the many other autonomous vehicle companies — from using public streets as a laboratory. As long as a driver is ready to take over, the only thing that prevents a company from putting an experimental autonomous vehicle on a public road is the threat of a lawsuit or bad publicity….” Read more  Hmmmm… Another view of the LA Times Opinion that doesn’t realize the enormous difference between Self-driving (human necessarily in the loop all the time) and Driverless (human necessarily NOT in the loop all of the time).  Also, one should never test Driverless on public streets without close human oversight. Alain

  Designed to deliver: Bringing the benefits of our 5th generation hardware to trucking

J. Jeyachandran, Dec. 20, “At Waymo, we’re developing one core autonomous driving platform—the Waymo Driver—consisting of hardware and software, which builds the foundations of a Driver that can scale across multiple geographies, vehicle types, and use cases. Because we engineer an autonomous driver that can navigate these different modalities side by side, system requirements and skills learned from one vehicle platform benefit the other, and vice versa. As more of the first fully redundant, L4 Freightliner Cascadia trucks operated by the Waymo Driver begin hitting the road, we wanted to share how we’ve designed and engineered our fifth-generation hardware specifically for the rugged life of Class 8 trucking….” Read more  Hmmmm… Very nice information about the technology, but essentially nothing about the “…benefits…to trucking.

Trucking is a business where Return-on-Investment (RoI) Talks while Bling Walks.  Exactly how is this “5th generation” going to improve Returns and what’s it going to Cost?   Since no hint is provided, this post can’t be targeted to the customer, the Class 8 trucking companies who would employ this technology.

It must instead be targeted to the investment community looking to flip what they’ve funded. Alain

  Tesla Model Y achieves highest possible IIHS safety rating

F. lambert, Dec.. 21, “The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the main independent organization that conducts crash tests on vehicles in the US, released the result of its latest tests on the Tesla Model Y and confirmed that it achieved the highest possible safety rating…” Read more  Hmmmm…  See videos 1 & 2.  What a shame.  If only Elon would back off and call FSD… “Imperfect Driver Assistance”, or the like, and stop letting people play video games or watch movies while the car is moving, he could become even richer and become even more liked.  What a shame!  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

  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

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