61st edition of the 6th year of SmartDrivingCars

Sunday, January 14, 2018

imap:<a href=Say hello to Waymo

Jan. 9, T. Papandreou & E. Casson. “… Waymo driverless service…”  Read more Hmmmm…  Tim and Ellie made presentation at the Transportation Research Board’s  Vehicle-Highway Automation (AHB30) Committee meeting on Tuesday in which they gave an update on Waymo’s progress to launch “Waymo’s driverless service” (slide 11), an app-based ride hailing service to the general public in a geo-fenced area of Arizona.  To date Waymo has been testing such a service using volunteer riders in their driverless vehicles in various areas around the country (slide 7): however, to date, except for one ride given to Steve Mahan in Austin, TX, rides on normally operating public streets have always had  trained Waymo-authorized personnel (an attendant) in the vehicle capable to intervene in the driving of the vehicle should the need arise.  Since October, in Arizona, those personnel no longer sit behind the wheel, but are in the back seat so that Waymo can observe the response of the volunteer riders to riding in a vehicle on normal public streets under normal conditions without anyone in the front seats of the vehicle. 

Tim said, without providing a specific date, that Waymo will soon launch “Waymo’s driverless service” providing mobility to the general public on public roads in a geo-fenced area of Arizona.  I asked Tim “Will that service be offered with vehicles that have an attendant in the vehicle?”.  Tim’s answer was “No!”.  I asked a follow-up question: “Will these vehicle’s have telemetry capabilities that enable these vehicles to be closely monitored from a “situation room” or “control center” that would enable remote operation of the vehicle, should the need arise?”.  Tim’s answer was  “No!”.  Another questioner asked if the geo-fenced area included special “connected vehicle” road infrastructure improvement that Waymo’s system will be relying on?”  Tim’s answer was “No!”.

While the definition of “soon” was not given, I’ve taken this as a really big pronouncement that Waymo is actually going to go to launch commercially-viable on-demand mobility to the general public on conventional public roads.  This is really big news because this is finally going to enable us to begin to evolve on the “Kornhauser Scale” ( log of (world-wide VMT of Driverless (VMT-D) vehicles without a human attendant/driver on board accumulated while providing mobility to the general public on conventional roadways).  So far we are beyond the “undefined value” associated with VMT-D = 0 and are at KS = 1 only by virtue of the one Steve Mahan ride in Austin).  🙂 Alain

imap:// Driving Cars Podcast Episode 18

Episode 18 of the Smart Driving Cars Podcast with Princeton University’s Alain Kornhauser, co-host Fred Fishkin and guest research engineer Steven Shladover of UC Berkeley. Topics: General Motors, Waymo, the Transportation Research Board, CES, nVIDIA and how #MeToo may impact ride sharing technology in the future.

imap:<a href= Assessment of RideSharing, Empty Vehicle Management Needs and ‘Last-Mile’ Ridership Implications on the Existing Rail Transit, Amtrak and Airline Networks Associated with Having autonomousTaxis Efficiently Serve the Billion or so PersonTrips Taken Throughout the US on a Typical Day… Final Project Description

A. Kornhauser, Jan 13, “… What if no one owned a personal car or truck any more?  What operational characteristics would a fleet of autonomousTaxis (aTaxis), operating nation-wide, need to have to deliver a comparable level-of-Service (LoS), in conjunction with existing Rail Transit, AmTrak and Airline networks (with appropriately enhanced LoS between existing stations/airports)?  How many of what size would be needed? How would they need to be managed?  What would be the fundamental economics in order to adequately serve the Billion or so person trips that take place on a typical day across the US?  Because details matter, we synthesized each of the 310 or so, million people in the US.  For each we synthesized their mobility needs throughout a typical day to accomplish their activities such as get to and from work/school/play/shopping/entertainment/…  Preliminary results include…

  • In order to deliver a Level-of-Service (LoS) comparable to that offered by today’s conventional automobile in its service of the roughly 1 Billion trips that take place on a typical day across the USA would requite a fleet of approximately 35 million autonomousTaxis (aTaxis).
  • In serving those trips throughout the day, those aTaxis would travel almost 50% fewer vehicle miles than today’s road vehicles if:
  • people traveling from about the same place at about the same time to about the same place agreeing to ride together, much as they do today in elevators,  (shared-ride),  accounts for more than 50% of the reduced vehicle miles.
  • The remainder comes from offering a reliable and attrative LoS to/from the existing fixed rail transit systems and, surprisingly, to and from existing AmTrak stations but assuming that the assistance of extremely improved AmTrak frequencies if service.
  • It is amazing how, across the country,  so many segments of the AmTrak network could be of service to so many 100-400 mile trips that take place on a typical day.  If these trip makers had a reliable, convenient and affordable way to get from their origin to the nearest AmTrak station AND to their destination from that nearest AmTrak station, then the ridership potential on numerous segments of the AmTrak system beyond the NorthEast Corridor (NEC) would justify a LoS that is even better than what exists today on the NEC.
  • If this preliminary result holds up under closer scrutiny (there isn’t an error someplace), this opportunity may be this study’s most significant finding.  There is little literature on “long auto trips” yet, because they are “long” they log a significant amount of daily VMT on existing highways.  Many of these trips today essentially parallel the AmTrak network. By providing convenient “first 1 – 20+ mile / last 1 – 20+ mile” accessibility to AmTrak’s existing stations AND by having AmTrak provide a high-quality LoS, the a significant percentage of these travelers would become AmTrak customers.  

Very interesting… aTaxis Save AmTrak!!  🙂 More later.  Alain
Read more Hmmmm…  Most interesting!  Draft Initial Report on NE Region Ride Sharing Analysis.  We hope to have a draft of the final report out soon.  Alain

NVIDIA Press Event at CES 2018 with NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang

J Huang, Jan 8, “Watch a replay of NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang’s press event at CES 2018 in Las Vegas, where he unveiled … along with a slew of auto news, including NVIDIA DRIVE ” Read more Hmmmm…  And most importantly listen at 1:32:52 when he credits my Doctor-son,  Chenyi Chen, with what he and the Urs Muller’s Holmdel team have done with using vision to drive a car.  I’m so proud Chenyi!  🙂 Alain

Engineering alumnus gives $4 million to support UB institute

M. Cochrane, Oct 5, “A UB graduate who said the university changed his life has given $4 million to the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS).  Stephen Still graduated with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 1976, then earned master’s and doctoral degrees at Princeton University. While he says his passion has always been in transportation planning, he spent most of his career in the aviation industry….In recognition of Still’s generosity, UB will rename the institute the Stephen Still Institute for Sustainable Transportation and Logistics….” Read more Hmmmm…  I’m so proud of my Doctor-son,  Steve Still!  🙂  Alain

imap://’s AutoSIM is the ‘Inception’ of self-driving car simulators

Jan 10, D. Etherington, “…AutoSIM is essentially a huge virtual world running on extremely powerful Nvidia DGX GPU-based super computers. Within, there are multiple virtual cities, and virtual cars driving around virtual roads within those cities, sharing the generated urban environments with virtualized pedestrians, cyclists, animals and more…”  Read more Hmmmm…  This is a no-brainer for nVIDIA because it takes its legacy/expertise in gaming (creating virtual environments for gamers) and puts it to good societal use as both a testing environment but also a training and re-training environment for developing the AI for the safe and efficient driving of road vehicles..  Alain

General Motors is asking the U.S. government to let it test cars without steering wheels in 2019

P. Holley, Jan 12, “…The new vehicles, unveiled for the first time today, are the fourth generation of GM’s driverless cars that are being powered by its self-driving arm, Cruise…  All vehicles that are allowed to operate on public roads must meet the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards — 16 of which include human-driver-based requirements. GM is asking NHTSA to allow the company to meet those safety standards through alternate means — a process that the House of Representatives intends to include in a self-driving bill that was recently passed.. .  

NHTSA says it’s reviewing GM’s petition.  “Yesterday, General Motors filed a petition with NHTSA requesting an exemption to have a limited number of autonomous vehicles (no more than 2,500) operate in a controlled ride-share program,” the agency said in a statement. “Existing motor vehicle standards were designed to apply to vehicles with conventional driver controls like steering wheels and gas and brake pedals. The petition that was filed says that GM would use automated vehicles with no human drivers and no human driver controls.”…”  Read more Hmmmm…  See also the video.  This is a first for a manufacturer to request permission to manufacture in at least limited quantity a road vehicle without a steering wheel and other standard controls.  This is significant in that

I Rode Lyft’s Self-Driving Taxi Down the Las Vegas Strip. Here’s What It Was Like

L. Eadicicco, Jan 9, “It started like any other Lyft pickup: After entering my destination in the app, a car appeared at my location several minutes later. But as I stepped inside the vehicle and shut the door, I was required to confirm my trip details on a tablet mounted near the center console facing the backseat. A driver sat in the front seat, but he took his hands off the wheel just a few moments into our drive. Suddenly, a disembodied voice announced that the car would be entering autonomous driving mode.

My ride was the result of a partnership between Lyft and automotive technology company Aptiv, which are proving self-driving taxi rides during this year’s CES in Las Vegas….Transmitters in traffic lights on the Las Vegas strip are sending data to the self-driving Lyfts to communicate exactly when reds will change to greens. Aptiv’s technology can also distinguish between people, animals, trees, and billboards, and is capable of tracking up to 60 objects around the vehicle, Lambermont says… As promising as the technology seemed during my demonstration, we’re still a ways off from self-driving taxis becoming commonplace affairs. There are several important obstacles to overcome, the biggest of which is ensuring the technology will always work safely, even when there’s a technical glitch… Not with the Waymo and many other systems.…But Raj Kapoor, Lyft’s chief strategy officer, insists that the transition to autonomous driving will be similar to the evolution from horse-drawn buggies to the first automotive vehicles — that’s to say there will be “a few here and there” in the beginning before they’re suddenly “everywhere,” he says…”  Read more Hmmmm… My experience in my ride with Lyft/Aptiv was extremely also good under very challenging congested situations.  We were cut off at least twice and the car behaved very well, it wasn’t too defensive.  It even made a U-turn properly and waited for the on-coming traffic to mostly clear before just doing it.  I was impressed.  However, the system still has a long way to go before it can ‘Just Do It’ without an attendant behind the wheel.  Alain

Despite CES hype, self-driving cars are not for sale

T. Warren, Jan 13, “After an onslaught of announcements (notice that in this video is being done in a shut-down lane, NOT and a guy in the back… nothing is actually working “) about self-driving cars at CES, it’s almost hard to believe that even if you want to buy an autonomous vehicle, you can’t.

It’s a strange era, as car companies try their hand at something new: selling an idea, rather than a product that doesn’t yet exist, and won’t for some time. But throughout 2017, automakers, suppliers, startups, and giant tech companies spent billions of dollars on R&D, followed by millions of dollars marketing a good chunk of their R&D advancement at CES this week. But fully autonomous self-driving cars are not yet available, or even desired en masse by the general public.

We’ve said it before: your ability to buy a self-driving car is years away, and is not guaranteed. What you can buy today are cars with some rudimentary autonomous driving software, by Tesla and Mercedes-Benz, and vehicles with advanced safety systems, like the Volvo XC60, that employ automatic braking and steering….”  Read more Hmmmm… If only The Verge would realize that there are really 3 very different varieties of automated cars: Safe-Driving Cars (somewhat available today but the technology isn’t nearly as crash avoiding as the car makers imply/suggest that they are. Shame on them!  It could and should be.), Self-driving cars (of which the Tesla, Mercedes and Volvo that are referred to in the article offer about as much self-driving as the public wants, needs or can safely use) and Driverless (Only make economic sense if leveraged by a fleet owner offering on-demand Mobility-as-a-Service; why would anyone want to own their own?? And won’t be offered for sale as admitted to by GM who can gain substantial recurring revenue by offering MaaS rather than the one-time margins selling them in showrooms.).    Otherwise this is a really good article and summary of CES. Alain

imap:<a href=//” class=”” height=”21″ width=”133″ border=”0″> Are We All on the Same Bus to Utopia?

M. Sena, Jan. 2018, “Once again, Scranton, PA,  my hometown, featured in THE ECONOMIST, and once again it was as an example of the negative effects of globalization and government attempts to dampen those effects….Are cities and regions with similar de-mographics to Scranton’s going to be taking part in the new wave of mobility that so many pundits are prophesizing? Will Uber be ship-ping a portion of those 25,000 Volvo XC90s that Volvo’s CEO, Håkan Samuelsson, so proudly announced on the 21st of November would be delivered in 2019-2021? Uber says it will be fitting the Volvo’s with its own hardware and software and putting them into traffic with-out human drivers? I think it is highly unlikely that any of those Volvo’s will make it to Scran-ton or that self-driving taxis or buses are going to be an early hit in areas like Scranton where every job is a prize. It’s one thing to lose the prize to someone who is competing on equal terms; it is quite another to lose to a robot….” Read more Hmmmm… It turns out that in my analysis, there is a market for aTaxis in rural America.  More later.  Plus there’s much more to read in this month’s Dispatcher.  Alain

Yes, Smartphone Use Is Probably Behind the Spike in Driving Deaths. So Why Isn’t More Being Done to Curb It?

R. Rosenberg, Dec 28, “The U.S. has seen a 14-percent spike in roadway fatalities over the past two years. It’s also seen the biggest back-to-back increase in motor vehicle–related death rates per mile driven in more than 50 years and 37,461 lives lost by drivers, passengers, cyclists, and pedestrians in 2016 alone…. In its reassessment of data from 2015, the NSC estimated that cellphone usage was involved in 26 percent of all traffic accidents. A study released this year by Cambridge Mobile Telematics, a company that creates apps to monitor driving and smartphone usage for insurance purposes, similarly found that approximately a quarter of drivers involved in crashes were using their phones during or in the minute before the accidents occurred….in February, for example, the Consumer Technology Association, a trade organization that lobbies for companies like Apple and AT&T, sent a letter to relevant Trump Cabinet officials urging them to reconsider the Phase 2 guidelines…Another trade group, CTIA – …issued a public comment calling for the guidelines’ full retraction….Well-written state laws against bad driving habits and federal guidelines about the design of in-car infotainment systems and personal electronics can send crucial signals about the dangers of these distractions.,,”  Read more Hmmmm… Very interesting!!   Moreover, the best thing to do is to insist that the automakers equip every car with crash avoidance and automated lane keeping systems that actually work and keep drivers from misbehaving. To deliver Safety we don’t have to ask the driver not to drive but simply place systems in cars that doesn’t let the driver mis-behave PERIOD!  The systems should NOT allow us to speed excessively, run red lights or stop signs, change lanes without signalling, tailgate or crash into things.  Its not that hard and its cost should be such that insurance can happily pay for it.  Auto companies have for too long sold cars as a dream to mis-behave.  just look at today’s car commercials.  Many/most have small print stating that the driving was done on a closed course by professional drivers.  Irrespective of the disclaimer, they’re using mis-behavior to sell their product.  Shame on them.  Instead, they should be placing systems on cars that precludes them from behaving that way on public streets.  Alain

  Shenzhen Completes Switch To Fully Electric Bus Fleet. Electric Taxis Are Next

S. Hanley, Jan 1, “Shenzhen, located just north of Hong Kong, is home to BYD, which happens to build electric vehicles, including buses. With a population approaching 12 million, Shenzhen has a lot of buses — 16,359 of them, to be precise — and as of this moment, every one of them is electric…Of course, none of those electric vehicles are worth anything if they can’t be recharged cnveniently. Over the past few years, the city of Shenzhen has built 300 bus chargers and installed 8,000 streetlight poles that double as charging stations for electric cars. The bus chargers can replenish the battery in an electric bus in about two hours….” Read more Hmmmm… Very ineresting.  Alain

U.S. urges railroads to quickly install anti-crash safety system

D. Shepardson, Jan 2, “… Chao wanted railroads to “greatly accelerate” efforts to meet congressional deadlines. A deadly Amtrak crash last month near Seattle that killed three occurred on a section of track that did not have the PTC system operating….The Transportation Department said 12 of 41 railroads covered by the requirements report having installed less than 50 percent of the hardware required for their PTC systems as of Sept. 30. The government said the systems are in operation on 45 percent of route miles owned by freight railroads and just 24 percent of passenger railroads…” Read more Hmmmm… The system is so old, and possibly so obsolete, that maybe the better thing to today is to to go to a more modern system sys so little ahs been installed to date.  Should railroads simply be automated. You have a human implementing what a signaling system is telling her/him what to do.  Since “the system” knows what to do, wouldn’t it be better/safer if the system just did it, instead of trying to cajole a person to do it.  Sure some jobs would be lost, but so many more jobs would be created because railroads would be able to offer substantially better service with short trains that their busibess would increase so much that all the displace train engineers could readily find even better employments in ather areas of the business.  Alain

China’s ride-hailing giant DiDi acquires Brazilian counterpart

Xinhua, Jan 4, “China’s DiDi Chuxing, the world’s largest ride-hailing company, has acquired Brazil’s ride-hailing leader 99, the Chinese company announced on Wednesday.  While DiDi did not specify the amount for the transaction, Brazilian media placed the figure at around 300 million U.S. dollars. …” Read more Hmmmm… Very interesting.  Alain

The Enverge is a deadly looking electric car from a company you’ve never heard of

A. Hawkins, Jan 15, ” You probably haven’t heard of GAC, the Chinese automaker with big designs on the US market. At the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, GAC is seeking to up its profile in advance of its 2019 US launch with — what else? — an eye-catching, futuristic, mostly irrational electric car concept.

The Enverge certainly attracted a lot of attention here in Detroit with its gull-wing doors, “floating” digital dash-screen, and alleged range of 370 miles on a single charge. That would place it over the Tesla Model 3, which is, of course, a real car and not a concept like this. GAC also unveiled the GA4 midsize sedan that will go on sale in China later this month…”  Read more Hmmmm…  Whatchout!! Could they or similar company become Waymo’s “Foxcom” ???  Alain

Some other thoughts that deserve your attention

  On the More Technical Side

Capsule Networks (CapsNets) – Tutorial

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

Wisconsin corridor turns testbed for connected vehicle technology

S. Schmidt, Jan 9,  “In an ambulance rushing a heart attack victim to the hospital, every second counts. If the ambulance and traffic signals could work together to clear traffic, the time saved could be a life-saver.  The eventual 6.2-mile corridor will connect the campus with the Beltline Highway. It serves emergency vehicles for two hospitals and a fire station and frequently handles heavy event and bus traffic.

A team of researchers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and Madison traffic engineers are establishing a testbed for that future on Park Street, the north end of an eventual 6.2-mile corridor linking the UW–Madison campus with Madison’s Beltline Highway. …”  Read more Hmmmm… Sounds like a last gasp for those trying to sell to public officials connected vehicle gizmos for traffic signals.  Ambulances don’t need these things to get through and in the words of John Cichowski, The Road Warriorcolumnist: “Having written extensively about advances in EMS over the years, I don’t see much necessity for that application because Advanced Life Support units are equipped to treat victims during trips to the hospital – even in the worst traffic. Nevertheless, I’m sure there are plenty of other worthwhile applications.“… John, unfortunately there aren’t.  That’s why they are trying to use this one.  Alain

cid:<a href=Cruising With No Hands at 80 MPH in Renault’s Autonomous Car

M. Mawad, Jan n10, “…There are bugs though. The car had some glitches on the highway, and the co-pilot had to jump in a few times to stop it from driving straight into a lane that was under construction or too close to other vehicles when the road got crowded.

We also had to stop to wipe condensation off certain sensors. While the car has a 360-degree view and detects elements up to 250 meters around it, it’s not fit yet for city driving, and regulation doesn’t allow that anyway in most countries…”  Read more Hmmmm…  Sounds like this isn’t even a Tesla that you’ve been able to buy for some time.  Why is this news? Alain

imap:<a href=AAA is testing self-driving cars to see how safe they are

S. Dent, Jan 10, “…The American Automobile Association (AAA) is trying to figure that out by testing self-driving cars powered by Torc Robotics “Asimov” system. The aim is to gather information and develop safety criteria that could be used by any company developing self-driving tech. “By creating a blueprint for automakers to follow, we hope to build public trust in technology,” said AAA Northern California, Nevada & Utah CEO Tim Condon….”  Read more Hmmmm…  Unfortunately not much substance here except for a bland CES pronouncement. Does AAA really have the resources and facilities to do this as well as IIHS?  Alain

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

Calendar of Upcoming Events:

imap:<a href=//” class=”” height=”52″ width=”46″ border=”0″>

2nd Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit
May 16 & 17, 2018
Princeton University
Princeton, NJ
Save the Date

Recent PodCasts

imap:// Driving Cars Podcast Episode 17

Episode 17 of the Smart Driving Cars Podcast! Princeton University Professor Alain Kornhauser, who is faculty chair of autonomous vehicle engineering and tech journalist Fred Fishkin chat about the latest from Waymo, Velodyne, GM, Lyft and more.

imap:// Driving Cars Podcast Episode 16

Episode 16 of the Smart Driving Cars Podcast.  The Amtrak crash: who is to blame? Uber’s European problem. Yann LeCun at the Institute for Advanced Study. All this along with the latest on Apple, Volvo and Tesla in Episode 16 of the Smart Driving Cars podcast with Princeton University’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin.  Listen

imap:// Driving Cars Podcast Episode 15

Episode 15 of the Smart Driving Cars Podcast.  Hosts Fred Fishkin and Princeton University’s Alain Kornhauser are joined by leading expert Michael Sena from Sweden in a wide open and most entertaining chat ranging from the impact of Ralph Nader to the insurance industry’s role, to the latest from Ford, Lyft, Uber and China’s Didi.

imap:// Driving Cars Podcast Episode 14

Episode 13 of the Smart Driving Cars Podcast with host Fred Fishkin and Princeton University Professor Alain Kornhauser. This edition In this edition Fred and Alain are joined by Bernard Soriano, the Deputy Director of the California Department of Motor Vehicles. On the agenda: Waymo’s CEO says real driverless testing is coming soon.; Waymo’s autonomous fleet now has traveled four million miles; Lyft gets the green light from California to test self driving on public roads

imap:// Driving Cars Podcast Episode 11

Episode 11 of the Smart Driving Cars Podcast with host Fred Fishkin and Princeton University Professor Alain Kornhauser. Fred and Alain are joined by leading expert and Internet pioneer Brad Templeton. Waymo makes some history, Thee tech needed to make it work..cameras…lidar or both? Navya bringing new robotic vehicles to Paris. And an accident…as a self driving shuttle is launched in Las Vegas.

imap:// Driving Cars Podcast Episode 9

F. Fishkin, Oct  25, Episode 9 “Host Fred Fishkin with Princeton University’s Alain Kornhauser and guest Fred Payne, council member from Greenville County, South Carolina. Greenville’s autonomous taxis are rolling. Bank of America analysts see big investment opportunities in vehicle technology. The latest from London, China and New York. And on demand pilotless planes?