Friday, October 7, 2016

An Alarming 10% Rise in Traffic Deaths in the First Half of 2016

D. Victor, Oct. 5,  "Traffic deaths in the United States rose 10.4 percent in the first half of this year compared with the same period in 2015, maintaining a steady climb….

The numbers were released on Wednesday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which noted that Americans drove about 50.5 billion more miles in the first six months of 2016 than in the first half of 2015, an increase of 3.3 percent….Officials have not identified a specific cause for the most recent increase… " Read more Hmmm…worst kept secret…Texting!!!  It is an epidemic and the way to address it begins with Automated Collision Avoidance Systems (ACAS)…what is on the shelf today (if it only really worked), and a necessary foundation for Self-driving (which improves Quality-of-Life for some but increases VMT) and Driverless (which improves Quality-of-Life for all and decreases VMT).   Alain

Early Estimate of Motor Vehicle Traffic: Fatalities for the First Half (Jan–Jun) of 2016

DoT HS 812 332, Oct 5, "…The second quarter of 2016 represents the seventh consecutive quarter with increases in fatalities as compared to the corresponding quarters in the previous years….

The fatality rate for the first half of 2016 increased to 1.12 fatalities per 100 million VMT, up from 1.05 fatalities per 100 million VMT in the first half of 2015..Read more  Hmmm…Yipes, see above.  🙁   Alain

U.S. DOT, National Safety Council launch ‘Road to Zero’ Coalition to end roadway fatalities

Washington, Oct 5, "… DoT has committed $1 million a year for the next three years to provide grants to organizations working on lifesaving programs."Hmmm…there must be some zeros missing or the units are wrong.  They must mean per hour (or at worse per day). Roadway crashes are are a Trillion dollar per year problem growing at what may well be a 10% rate.  The best business minds in the world, not even The Donald, could take $1M and have any hope of eliminating the rate of increase, let alone drive the base of this problem to zero.  "… "The "4Es" – Education, Engineering, Enforcement and Emergency Medical Services provide a reliable roadmap for driving down fatalities."   Really??? A lot of excellent "Es" have been expended on drunk driving over the last 30 years.  We’ve made headway, but still are nowhere near Zero on that one. "…With the rapid introduction of automated vehicles and advanced technologies, the Department believes it is now increasingly likely that the vision of zero road deaths and serious injuries can be achieved in the next 30 years.  Read more  Hmmm…OK…I see…AVs are the answer, but how much is DoT/NHTSA investing? I didn’t see a number.  I also note that DoT believes "…it is now increasingly likely" rather than "likely".  Is that like going from "no hope" to "a hope and a prayer"?  Seriously, it is wonderful that DoT has adopted the ‘Road to Zero’ vision and that it is not saying that we’ll get there using v2v (although v2v  will help in the last stages), but if it took, say, the Federal contribution to the $5.6B Purple Line and applied to AVs then one might begin to take this announcement seriously.  (Note: the Purple line is scheduled to begin operation in 2022 just in time to be rendered obsolete by AVs, particularly if the Feds don’t help.  Not to belabor this, but my mechanic said: to repair my car would cost $500; however, if I watch the cost will be $750. and if I help, then $2,000.)    Alain

Train Was Traveling at Twice the Speed Limit Just Before Hoboken Crash

E. Fitzsimmons, Oct 6, "A New Jersey Transit train that crashed in Hoboken last week accelerated to about 21 miles per hour just before it smashed into the terminal, killing a woman and injuring more than 100 other people, federal investigators said on Thursday.

In the minute before the crash, the train had been moving toward the platform at just eight miles per hour, the National Transportation Safety Board said. The engineer had blown the train’s horn and activated the bell that signals its approach before suddenly accelerating, braking only at the last second before the train plowed through a bumper and onto the platform.

The federal agency is still investigating the accident and has not determined a cause, officials said….“What it doesn’t answer is: If there were those movements by the operator of the throttle, were they accidental or intentional?” he said.   Mr. Hall praised the railroad’s decision to place a conductor next to the train’s engineer to serve as a backup. …" Read more Hmmm…Seems as if the NTSB and NJT are setting it up to blame the train’s engineer as the NTSB did in the Philadelphia Amtrak derailment earlier this year.  As with the Amtrak crash, the engineer should not be thrown "under the bus".  Rather, it should be NJT’s Board of Directors for seeking a waiver to avoid installing Positive Train Control on NJ Transit trains. Now, instead of finally championing automated technology to take human error out of the loop, they are adding another human in the loop.  NJT is absolutely hopeless!  🙁   Alain

A Revolution That Didn’t Happen: Personal Rapid Transit

J. Palca, Oct 3, "This is a story about a revolution that never happened.  In 1975, a novel transportation system called Personal Rapid Transit, or PRT for short, started operating in Morgantown, W.Va. It was supposed to usher in a new age of public transit.

It didn’t.  But West Virginia University, which operates the PRT system, remains committed to it — and is spending more than $100 million to refurbish the aging system. …"If you look at it, there isn’t a system in the world that can do what this system can do," he says.

But elsewhere, PRT hasn’t caught on. There are a multitude of probable reasons…" Read more Hmmm…The biggest reason is that it requires a duplicative guideway/roadway.  The beauty of Driverless Vehicles is that they’ll deliver PRT’s mobility using our existing road infrastructure.  Since our existing roads can accommodate a range of vehicle sizes, both ride sharing and goods movement can be readily accommodated.   Alain

Why Nonstop Travel In Personal Pods Has Yet To Take Off

J. Palca, Oct 3, "To find out more about whatever happened to PRT, I recently traveled to Minneapolis to meet Mike Lester, CEO of Taxi 2000, a company that designs PRT systems….Read more Hmmm…The article should have mentioned Dr. J. Edward Anderson‘s pivotal role Taxi2000 (and who mentored me in automated transit starting in 1971  🙂  Alain

Uber’s self-driving cars are already getting into scrapes on the streets of Pittsburgh

Oct 4, A. Griswold, Oct 4, " Uber driver Nathan Stachelek was pulled off to the side of the road when he saw the self-driving car turn the wrong way….Stachelek isn’t the only Pittsburgher to spy one of Uber’s self-driving cars in an awkward spot….“I couldn’t see any of the damage,” says Jason, the Uber driver, who requested Quartz withhold his last name because he feared being deactivated by the company. But “there’s no reason for a self-driving Uber car to be pulled over in the way that it was, with another car right behind it with its flashers on.” …" Read more Hmmm…It isn’t easy being first! ( By the way kudos to Google for doing such a fantastic job in introducing GoogleCars on public streets over the past 3+ years.)  And why are conventional Uber drivers reporting these anomalies?  Alain

Are Uber’s Self-Driving Cars Driving Like Asshats Around Pittsburgh? 

D. Tracy, Oct 5, "Uber’s representative did acknowledge the accident on the 24th, however, but said a driver in another car (perhaps on his or her cell phone) had rear-ended the Fusion while the latter was at a stop. So this was human error..Uber has confirmed that the vehicle from the video above was not in self-driving mode during the one-way incident…" Read more Hmmm…First, "GlassHoles" deflate Google Glasses, will "AssHats" tarnish Driverless cars?   Alain

A Google self-driving car was involved in crash in Mt. View today

L. Kolodny, Sept 23, "…Google issued the following statement with details about the crash:  “A Google vehicle was traveling northbound on Phyllis Ave. in Mountain View when a car heading westbound on El Camino Real ran a red light and collided with the right side of our vehicle. Our light was green for at least six seconds before our car entered the intersection. Thousands of crashes happen everyday on U.S. roads, and red-light running is the leading cause of urban crashes in the U.S. Human error plays a role in 94% of these crashes, which is why we’re developing fully self-driving technology to make our roads safer.”…" Read more Hmmm…Yup!  Alain

Open Sourcing 223GB of Driving Data

O. Cameron, Oct 5, "A necessity in building an open source self-driving car is data. Lots and lots of data. We recently open sourced 40GB of driving data to assist the participants of the Udacity Self-Driving Car Challenge #2, but now we’re going much bigger with a 183GB release. This data is free for anyone to use, anywhere in the world.
What’s Included…." Read more Hmmm…Fantastic! Link to Challenge #2.  Alain

New California law allows test of autonomous shuttle with no driver

Sept. 29, "A bill signed into law on Thursday by California Governor Jerry Brown allows a self-driving vehicle with no operator inside to test on a public road, a key step enabling a private business park outside San Francisco to test driverless shuttles.

Self-driving cars are already allowed to test on California public roads … But under current state regulations, a person must be in the driver’s seat for monitoring, and the car must have brakes and a steering wheel.  The bill introduced by Democratic Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla allows testing in Contra Costa County northeast of San Francisco of the first full-autonomous vehicle without a steering wheel, brakes, accelerator or operator.

A project at the Bishop Ranch office park in the city of San Ramon to deploy driverless shuttles from French company Easymile had been on hold pending passage of the bill. Easymile already operates the shuttles in Europe…." Read more Hmmm…Yup!  The other "road" to driverless.  Alain

  FDOT Announces Partnership with Florida Polytechnic University to Develop SunTrax Test Facility

Press release, Sept. 2016, "Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Secretary Jim Boxold today announced a long-term partnership between FDOT and Florida Polytechnic University to construct the new, state-of-the-art transportation technology testing facility, SunTrax. The creation of this facility will establish Florida as a transportation technology leader and create a high-tech hub for the research, development and testing of emerging transportation technologies related to tolling, intelligent transportation systems (ITS) and automated and connected vehicles…." Read more Hmmm…Congratulations Florida!  Nothing much positive happening in New Jersey.  Alain  


Fed. Register v81, I173, Sept 7, "…Specifically, NHTSA is proposing to establish a new Federal motor vehicle safety standard (FMVSS) requiring that each new multipurpose passenger vehicle, truck, bus and school bus with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of more than 11,793.4 kilograms (26,000 pounds) be equipped with a speed limiting device. …" Read more Hmmm… Click & read comments by R.W. Peterson, Prof of Law, Santa Clara U.   Alain

Some other thoughts that deserve your attention

Here’s who’s cheering and jeering N.J. road deal with 23-cent gas tax hike

S. Marcus, Oct 3, "A tax deal announced Friday to replenish the Transportation Trust Fund was cheered by many for potentially bringing an end to a months-long construction shutdown and reliable funding to the state’s transportation network.

But with a mix of tax cuts and hikes, not everyone is pleased with the proposal, the result of negotiations…"
"Read more Hmmm…How convenient!..Only in New Jersey; instead of simply spending State revenue on what is most needed, let’s instead require that transportation must obtain its public funds from a dedicated source (fuel tax) and the "negotiations" require that any increase in that source, must be more than offset by decreases in other means of taxation.  Fair enough, to get revenue that will benefits everyone, tax everyone roughly according to how much they’ll benefit… Tax fuel consumption.  Since "everyone" drives in New Jersey, the costs and benefits are spread fairly evenly and roughly proportional to fuel consumption. However,  the "negotiated need" to more than offset the gross increase (so that a net tax decrease can be touted), lets cut taxes that tend to apply disproportionately more on the wealthy  (for example the death tax).  Truly Regressive (aka Trumpian) !   Alain

On the More Technical Side


Half-baked stuff that probably doesn’t deserve your time:

Older stuff that I had missed:

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

Calendar of Upcoming Events:

Recent Highlights of:

Friday, October 1, 2016

Do Driverless Cars Favor Urban or Suburban Life?

H. Grabar, Sept 29, "One possibility is that easy mobility—driverless cars, on-demand deliveries, and the like—will dull the pains of suburban life. The long commute, the wasted driving time, the difficulty of running out for a carton of milk—the inconvenience and expense of the subdivision will be melted away by hot new technology. Milk by drone, what a concept!

Another is that easy mobility produces greater advantages in the city. Carless living is better than ever. NIMBY battles don’t happen because parking and congestion aren’t problems. Wasted auto infrastructure, like lots and curbside parking and garages, is converted towards better uses like housing and restaurants. Maybe a central highway, once evidence of a city’s essential unpleasantness, becomes a park…. Read more  Hmmm…VERY interesting.  My view: There is essentially zero consumer demand for Driverless car ownership.  Without a substantial mobility alternative, suburbanites will buy and love Self-driving cars. Driverless is a useless upgrade. 

However, fleets of Driverless vehicles can provide a compelling alternative.  They have a much better opportunity to thrive (be a profitable fleet business) if Driverless makes sharing rides "consumer acceptable/desirable".  This may be  achieved through price, amenities, ease-of-use, marketing, ???.  Moderate density generates demand that can be readily served with moderate ridesharing that is substantially better than individual car ownership or car-sharing.   This kind of elevator-like mobility is better in terms of service, price, overhead, environment, …  and it substantially enhances the fundamental attractiveness of medium density urban lifestyle.  Thus, ride-share Driverless favors moderate urban while Self-driving favors status quo. Alain 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Federal Automated Vehicles Policy: Accelerating the Next Revolution In Roadway Safety

September 2016, "Executive Summary…For DOT, the excitement around highly automated vehicles (HAVs) starts with safety.  (p5)

…The development of advanced automated vehicle safety technologies, including fully self-driving cars, may prove to be the greatest personal transportation revolution since the popularization of the personal automobile nearly a century ago. (p5)

…The benefits don’t stop with safety. Innovations have the potential to transform personal mobility and open doors to people and communities. (p5)

…The remarkable speed with which increasingly complex HAVs are evolving challenges DOT to take new approaches that ensure these technologies are safely introduced (i.e., do not introduce significant new safety risks), provide safety benefits today, and achieve their full safety potential in the future. (p6)  Hmmm…Fantastic statements and I appreciate that the fundamental basis and motivator is SAFETY.  We all have recognized safety as a necessary   condition that must be satisfied if this technology is to be successful.  (unfortunately it is not a sufficient condition, (in a pure math context)). This policy statement appropriately reaffirms this necessary condition.  Alain

"…we divide the task of facilitating the safe introduction and deployment (…defines “deployment” as the operation of an HAV by members of the public who are not the employees or agents of the designer, developer, or manufacturer of that HAV.) of HAVs into four sections:(p6) Hmmm…Perfect! Alain

"…1. Vehicle Performance Guidance for Automated Vehicles (p6)…"  Hmmm… 15 Points, more later. Alain

"…2. Model State Policy (p7)   The Model State Policy confirms that States retain their traditional responsibilities…but… The shared objective is to ensure the establishment of a consistent national framework rather than a patchwork of incompatible laws…" Hmmm… Well done.  Alain

"…3. NHTSA Current Regulatory Tools (p7) … This document provides instructions, practical guidance, and assistance to entities seeking to employ those tools. Furthermore, NHTSA has streamlined its review process and is committing to…"   Hmmm… Excellent. Alain

"…4. New Tools and Authorities (p7)…The speed with which HAVs are advancing, combined with the complexity and novelty of these innovations, threatens to outpace the Agency’s conventional regulatory processes and capabilities. This challenge requires DOT to examine whether the way DOT has addressed safety for the last 50 years should be expanded to realize the safety potential of automated vehicles over the next 50 years. Therefore, this section identifies potential new tools, authorities and regulatory structures that could aid the safe and appropriately expeditious deployment of new technologies by enabling the Agency to be more nimble and flexible (p8)…"  Hmmm… Yes. Alain

"…Note on “Levels of Automation”  There are multiple definitions for various levels of automation and for some time there has been need for standardization to aid clarity and consistency. Therefore, this Policy adopts the SAE International (SAE) definitions for levels of automation. )  Hmmm… I’m not sure this adds clarity because it does not deal directly with the difference between self-driving and driverless.  While it might be implied in level 4 and level 5 that these vehicles can proceed with no one in the vehicle, it is not stated explicitly.  That is unfortunate, because driverless freight delivery can’t be done without "driverless"; neither can mobility-on-demand be offered to the young, old, blind, inebriated, …without "driverless".  Vehicles can’t be "repositioned-empty" (which (I don’t mean to offend anyone) is the real value of a taxi driver today).  So autonomousTaxis are impossible.

Also, these levels do not address Automated Emergency Braking  (AEB) Systems and Automated Lane Keeping Systems which are the very first systems whose on-all-the-time performance must be perfected.   These are the Safety Foundation of HAV (Highly Automated vehicles).  I understand that the guidelines may assume that these systems are already perfect and that "20 manufacturer have committed" to have AEB on all new cars, but to date these systems really don’t work.  In 12 mph IIHS test, few stop before hitting the target, and, as we may have seen with the Florida Tesla crash, the Level 2/3 AutoPilot may not have failed, but, instead, it was the "Phantom Level 1" AEB that is supposed to be on all the time.  This is not acceptable.  These AEB systems MUST get infinitely better now.  It is a shame that AEBs were were not explicitly addressed in this document.

"…I. Vehicle Performance Guidance for Automated Vehicles (p11) A. Guidance: if a vehicle is compliant within the existing FMVSS regulatory framework and maintains a conventional vehicle design, there is currently no specific federal legal barrier to an HAV being offered for sale.(footnote 7)  However, manufacturers and other entities designing new automated vehicle systems
are subject to NHTSA’s defects, recall and enforcement authority. (footnote 8)   . and the "15 Cross-cutting Areas of Guidance" p17)

In sum this is a very good document and displays just how far DoT policy has come from promoting v2v, DSRC and centralized control, "connected",  focus to creating an environment focused on individual vehicles that responsibly take care of themselves.  Kudos to Secretary Foxx for this 180 degree policy turn focused on safety.   Once done correctly, the HAV will yield the early safety benefits that will stimulate continued improvements that, in turn, will yield the great mobility, environmental and quality-of-life benefits afforded by driverless mobility. 

What are not addressed are commercial trucking and buses/mass transit.  NHTSA is auto focused, so maybe FMCSA is preparing similar guidelines.  FTA (Federal Transit Administration) seems nowhere in sight.  Alain

Sunday, September 4, 2016

  How Do You Buy a Million Cars When You Can’t Make a Dime?   

B. Simpson, Aug 25, "Isn’t this supposed to be a quiet time for business? …Not in transportation technology.

For instance, Ford announced it was working to launch fully autonomous automobiles by 2021. BMW, Intel and Mobileye joined to say they will have vehicles in production for the same target date. Ridesharing titan Uber says it will launch this month driverless vehicles in Pittsburgh, though some employees will be in the car to ensure safety.

Forget the 10 years down the road baloney. We’ll be Level 4 Autonomous in three to five years.

Yet for all the excitement there’s been some downer news…. Lyft was seeking a buyer, despite the $500 million that GM pumped into it …Earlier this year Lyft pledged… to keep its U.S. losses under $50 million a month….Uber told its investors it lost $520 million in the first quarter, and more than $750 million in the second. This after losing about $2 billion in 2015….It’s valuable to keep in mind the shaky foundations of Uber and Lyft because the two have been touted as an important foundation for the growth of autonomous vehicles. Read more Hmmm…Do read more!  It may well be that those that can’t make a dime wont even have the opportunity to buy the driverless vehicles that would allow them to "make a dime".  The real value of the driverless vehicles may well be in their ability to generate operating cash without needing any of the $10B+ expertise/intellectual property amassed by Uber/Lyft in managing self-employed part-timers that aren’t needed.  If that is the case, then the makers of those vehicles will manage them for their own account rather than selling them at cost-plus (or the price of those vehicles will be such that only their maker is making any money). Alain

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Prepare to be Underwhelmed by 2021’s Autonomous Cars

Friday, August 19, 2016

Ford Promises Fleets of Driverless Cars Within Five Years

N. Boudette, Aug 16, "In the race to develop driverless cars, several automakers and technology companies are already testing vehicles that pilot themselves on public roads. And others have outlined plans to expand their development fleets over the next few years.    At a news conference on Tuesday at the company’s research center in Palo Alto, Calif., Mark Fields, Ford’s chief executive, said the company planned to mass produce driverless cars and have them in commercial operation in a ride-hailing service by 2021….
“That means there’s going to be no steering wheel. There’s going to be no gas pedal. There’s going to be no brake pedal,’’ he said. …." Read morHmmm…This is significant because it implies that Ford, (or an entity under its control) will operate and deliver on a day-to-day basis MaaS (Mobility as a Service).  In other words it will both build/assemble and operate mobility’s "Cloud".  The scale economies of such a mobility "cloud" are arguably much more substantial than that of the data storage & computing "cloud".  Think about it!  Alain

Monday, August 8, 2016

Latest to Quit Google’s Self-Driving Car Unit: Top Roboticist

J. Markoff, Aug 5, " A roboticist and crucial member of the team that created Google’s self-driving car is leaving the company, the latest in a string of departures by important technologists working on the autonomous car project.  Chris Urmson, a Carnegie Mellon University research scientist, joined Google in 2009 to help create the then-secret effort. … Read more  Hmmm…Very unfortunate.  What a great job he has done. All the best. Alain

Monday, August 1, 2016

SJMobileye Ends Partnership With Tesla

M. Ramsey, July 26, " A key supplier of semiautonomous car technology ended a supply agreement with Tesla Motors Inc. following a high-profile traffic fatality in May involving one of the Silicon Valley company’s electric vehicles.  Read moreHmmm….And why in all of this isn’t there a discussion of Automated Emergency Braking (AEB) technology/suppliers??  There must be no consumer/regulatory appeal to AEB?  Alain

 Thursday, July 21, 2016

Master Plan, Part Deux

Monday, July 11, 2016

Lessons From the Tesla Crash

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

May 7 Crash

Hmmm…What we know now (and don’t know):


Extracting Cognition out of Images for the Purpose of Autonomous Driving

Chenyi Chen PhD Dissertation , "…the key part of the thesis, a direct perception approach is proposed to drive a car in a highway environment. In this approach, an input image is mapped to a small number of key perception indicators that directly relate to the affordance of a road/traffic state for driving….."  Read more  Hmmm..FPO 10:00am, May 16 , 120 Sherrerd Hall, Establishing a foundation for image-based autonomous driving using DeepLearning Neural Networks trained in virtual environments. Very promising. Alain

Friday, March 25, 2016

Hearing focus of SF 2569 Autonomous vehicles task force establishment and demonstration project for people with disabilities

March 23 Hmmm… Watch the video of the Committee Meeting.  The testimony is Excellent and very compelling! Also see Self-Driving Minnesota Alain

Thursday, March 17, 2016

U.S. DOT and IIHS announce historic commitment of 20 automakers to make automatic emergency braking standard on new vehicles

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Motor Vehicle Deaths Increase by Largest Percent in 50 Years

Sunday, December 19, 2015

Adam Jonas’ View on Autonomous Cars

Video similar to part of Adam’s Luncheon talk @ 2015 Florida Automated Vehicle Symposium on Dec 1.  Hmmm … Watch Video  especially at the 13:12 mark.  Compelling; especially after the 60 Minutes segment above!  Also see his TipRanks.  Alain

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