Monday, March 21, 2016

Daimler offenbar vor Megaauftrag von Uber

M. Freitag, Mar 18, "Der Stuttgarter Autokonzern Daimler hat den wahrscheinlich größten Auftrag seiner Geschichte erhalten. Der amerikanische Taxidienst Uber wolle langfristig eine sechsstellige Zahl an S-Klasse-Karossen abnehmen, berichtet das manager magazin in seiner neuesten Ausgabe (Erscheinungstermin: 18. März).
Daimler-Chef Dieter Zetsche und Uber-CEO Travis Kalanick hätten dies vereinbart, heißt es in Kreisen beider Unternehmen. Die Bestellung hänge allerdings noch an diversen Bedingungen…. "  Read more  Hmmmm…Also check out the following

Uber seeking to buy self-driving cars: source

Reuters, Mar 19, "Ride-hailing service Uber [UBER.UL] has sounded out car companies about placing a large order for self-driving cars, an auto industry source said on Friday.  "They wanted autonomous cars," the source, who declined to be named, said. "It seemed like they were shopping around."  Loss-making Uber would make drastic savings on its biggest cost — drivers — if it were able to incorporate self-driving cars into its fleet….Earlier on Friday, Germany’s Manager Magazin reported that Uber had placed an order for at least 100,000 Mercedes S-Class cars, citing sources at both companies….

The top-flight limousine, around 100,000 of which Mercedes-Benz sold last year, does not yet have fully autonomous driving functionality.."  Read more  Hmmmm…Uber has the current valuation to place the order; however, they aren’t the only ones that will want to place an advance order for such a fleet.  Lyft will want to, Enterprise-Rent -A-Car (remember, they "pick you up" (while incurring an enormous labor expense) and all of the AlainkAutonomousTaxi companies that see the economic opportunity of providing on-demand mobility without incurring labor cost.  It will be interesting to watch the bidding war for these driverless vehicles.   All of this will be going on while Alphabet gobbles up the market with its own vehicle that it keeps for itself.  Advertisers are already in the back seat of conventional cabs.  While that revenue isn’t enough to pay for the driver, it is likely to substantially offset aTaxi’s operating and capitalization costs. What’s Alphabet’s other business?? 🙂  Alain

Sidewalk Labs is making a tool to prep cities for self-driving cars

A. Hawkins, Mar 17, "Sidewalk Labs, the "smart city" company spun off from Google last year, unveiled a new tool Thursday it built to help cities better manage traffic congestion, parking problems, and ultimately prepare themselves for the expected onslaught of self-driving cars. Flow is described as a "transportation platform" that uses aggregated, anonymous traffic data to help city managers identify bottlenecks or redirect trains and buses to transit-starved neighborhoods, as well as drivers get real-time parking information during their commutes…The Quid…: the winning city will also get Sidewalk Labs’ Flow platform, as well as up 100 public Wi-Fi hubs, much like the LinkNYC kiosks the company is currently installing in New York City. If the city authorizes it, those hubs will also contain sensors that the company says can help route drivers directly to available parking, and allow cities to adjust transit routes or change traffic patterns to respond to real-time demands. The Pro Quo…: Flow will also gather data from third-party apps like Google Maps and Waze (both owned by Sidewalk Labs’ parent company). Read more  Hmmmm…OK, I guess it is a deal!?!  Alain

Autonomous Cars Aren’t Perfect, but How Safe Must They Be?

T. Krisher, Mar 17, "In Austin, Mayor Steve Adler says Google cars in his city haven’t caused any crashes, and he believes they bring safety benefits. "We don’t get perfection with regular drivers either," he says…" Read more  Hmmmm…A reasonable, brief back and forth on the issues.  Perfection, it is not; but Perfection doesn’t exist anywhere.  It is the best opportunity to improve the status quo. Stay with what you tolerate today, or evolve into a better future.  Your call, Ms/Mr Politician. Alain

Hyundai Motor to Invest 2 Trillion Won in Self-driving Car Commercialization within 5 Years

J. Suk-yee, Mar 16, ". Krisher, Mar 17, "Hyundai Motor Group is gearing up efforts to develop self-driving cars amid explosive interest in the historic go match between Google’s artificial intelligence (AI) AlphaGo and Korea’s top-ranked Lee Se-dol.

Google is a step ahead in this sector. However, Hyundai Motor will be competitive enough when the company jumps into the business in earnest since there is only a small technical gap.

According to industry sources on March 15, Hyundai Motor and its smaller affiliate Kia Motors are aiming to commercialize self-driving cars within five years. In order to do so, they will invest over 2 trillion won (US$1.68 billion), and make every effort to develop various autonomous driving technologies, including the autonomous driving system in congested areas, and hire more expert…" Read more  Hmmmm…Sure! Alain

Self-Driving Cars Won’t Work Until We Change Our Roads—And Attitudes

A. NG, Mar 15,"AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES WILL join human drivers on our roads sooner than most people think. At Baidu, we plan to put commercial, self-driving cars on the roads by 2018. But the way to make them safe is not to make them act just like human driven cars—in fact, the limitations of today’s technology mean that’s not feasible. Instead, we should make modest changes to our infrastructure, program these cars to behave as predictably as possible, and teach the public new ways to interact with them…"  Read more  Hmmm… An appropriate part of the discussion, but we should continue to move forward as much as we can without waiting for the infrastructure improvements, including moving forward in limited areas where no improvements are necessary. Alain  

Standards to Support Connected Vehicle Deployment

ITSJPO, Mar 17,  "The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) is pleased to announce IEEE’s publication of three standards to support connected vehicle deployment.
These standards are:

 Read more   Hmmmm…OK. Alain  

Some other thoughts that deserve your attention

 Google’s AI Wins Fifth And Final Game Against Go Genius Lee Sedol

C. Metz, Mar 13,"The win puts an exclamation point on a significant moment for artificial intelligence. … Lee Sedol could not climb back to finish within one win of his artificially intelligent rival. But he did lead Game Five in the early going, after a significant error by AlphaGo—an error that looked amateurish to the human eye. As the Google machine dug out of its hole in the second half of the contest, Game Five grew into the most exciting of the series, a game balanced on a knife edge, exceeding even the drama of Lee Sedol’s win in Game Four.

The Korean showed—in swashbuckling fashion—that humans still carry talents that no machine can duplicate. Yes, early in the five-game series, he struggled to deal with the pressure—a very human failing. But as the match continued, he adapted to what he saw from his opponent in previous games—something AlphaGo can’t yet do…

AI is flawed. But it is here.  Read more  Hmmmm.. It’s all over!! Alain 

On the More Technical Side

Recompiled Old News & Smiles:

Increasing Mobility in Southern California: A New Approach

B. Feigenbaum, Nov 2015: "….While the region continues to spend significant resources on new rail lines, Southern California residents are taking fewer transit trips per capita today than 20 years ago. Transit-dependent residents must rely on a smaller bus network that fails to adequately serve their needs…This study examines Southern California’s mobility challenges in detail. While the Southern California Association of Governments’ (SCAG) Long Range Transportation
Plan includes some new capacity, it does not allocate nearly enough resources to improving mobility. The region’s planned transportation approach of investing heavily in fixed-rail transit and land-use changes to reduce the extent of driving can benefit the region but the approach will not significantly reduce traffic congestion or improve transit service in Southern California. The current plan would lead to only a modest increase in transit’s market share, while overall congestion would continue to increase. While non-automobile alternatives—including a larger and better-designed bus network, sidewalks for walking and a bike network for commuting—definitely have an important role to play, they alone cannot reduce congestion…." Read more    Hmmmm…Good news: It recognizes that continuing the current spending on infrastructure is non-optimal; however, it doesn’t seem to be aware of the possibility of driverless shared-ride transit.  Maybe we will just walk and ride bikes? Oh well?? 🙁    It is old news (2015) and it does have a good compilation of statistics that document the past.  Alain

Peuguot Autonomous Road Trip Wraps Up With 600 Kilometers Through Spain

K. Field, Mar 18, "I few months ago, Peugeot embarked on a 3,000 kilometer road trip through France and Spain. This would normally not be a big deal, as humans all around the world take road trips a few thousand kilometers long, myself included… however, Peugeot took this road trip in its new autonomous driving Citroen…" Read more and see video Hmmmm…Old news but video worth watching. Alain

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

Car Safety at Any Price

M Naranjo, Feb 23, "Consumer Reports sees FCW and AEB as the most promising safety breakthroughs in the automobile industry since the advent of electronic stability control almost two decades ago. We are urging automakers to make those features standard on all cars, from luxury to economy models, as quickly as possible…." Read more Hmmmm…It is very nice that CR is urging automakers to …, (something that they have just done); unfortunately, it is really disappointing to read everything else that is in their April 2016 Annual Auto Issue. It reads as if it was written by Madison Avenue or Mad Men and should be titled "Using 1960 Mentality in Buying a Car".  The cover is all Machismo with a 3/4 shot of a red "Power of Prius" improving the lowly "Green" car.  Their brand Profiles each lead with the size of the engine and Safety is never mentioned (although it is an afterthought with "…and Safety").  Their comparison table of attributes has the Safety column filled with "NA"s. I guess "Safety" is Not Applicable to their ratings??   Safety is essentially absent from the very publication that is supposed to provide independent sanity to consumer purchasing.  No wonder Safety doesn’t sell. The consumer product that is the largest cause of death for those of us between the ages of 5-35 and for which there is evolving technology that can substantially mitigate that statistic is brushed under the carpet by CR with a simple "NA".  What a shame!  Alain

Railway Rises on Oahu, as Does Anger Over Cost

A. Nagourney, Mar 20, "From the start — when Honolulu officials began talking about building a 20-mile elevated train line near the southern coast of Oahu — there were concerns. How much would it cost? What would it do to the character of a state that has long celebrated its natural beauty and isolation? Can an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean handle the kind of ambitious public works project one would associate with urban centers like Boston and New York?

Eight years after voters in Hawaii approved a referendum clearing the way for construction of the rail line, many of the concerns that have been voiced during a 40-year debate over the project have turned out to have merit.  The project was initially projected to cost $4.6 billion, but that number now is $6.7 billion, forcing the city in January to approve a five-year extension of a general excise tax surcharge to help cover the overrun…it could have the distinction of being, on a per-capita basis, the most expensive transit project in the country’s history …" Read More Hmmmm…At least it is the first driverless system in US and (hopefully?) the last.  Just think what a $5B infusion into autonomousTaxis would do…produce more and better mobility but the construction trade unions wouldn’t be happy.  The Simpsons saw this coming in January 1993; the  Simpson Monorail song . Alain

WhitePaper: Automated Driving and Platooning: Issues and Opportunities

Tech & Maintenance Council, Sept 21,2015, "This white paper examines the intensive activity in the development and introduction of Automated Vehicles (AVs) and identifies potential issues and opportunities.  The paper is intended to promote better understanding of this emerging technology and serve as a platform for discussing key areas of interest and concern on the part of commercial fleets…"Read more Hmmmm…The AV part is somewhat OK, but the platoon part fails to identify what % of current truck-miles are operated such that there are even two trucks going in the same direction at the same time at about the same location on any highway.  Those are the only truck-miles that could benefit from platooning if all trucks have the enabling technology.  Except for the (short) truck corridor outside the Port of Long Beach, the Northern section of the NJ Turnpike, parts of the XBronx DistressWay, and the upper decks of the GWB and the Verrazano,  the % of truck miles is very small, likely less than 5% .  On those named sections it is likely less than 50% (and combined they account for a very small portion of the nation’s truck miles).  If only half of the fleet is so equipped, then all of these numbers need to be multiplied by the product of the penetration percentage (in this case: 0.25).  So these are very very small opportunities.  No wonder the report said nothing about this.  Nor mentioned was the disruption that would be caused to current operations if trucks were somehow coordinated to maximize platooning.  Chances that the benefits of platooning could outweigh the additional costs incurred by the needed disruption is, in my mind, Slim2None. No wonder these issues aren’t contained in this "grey paper"  (doesn’t deserve to be called a "white paper").   Moreover, it doesn’t cover the short-term benefits of AV in the form of Automated Braking and Automated Lane Keeping on insurance (self and otherwise) and driver quality-of-life.  At best Half-Baked!  Sorry!  Thanks to G. Mercer for sending a copy of this "white" paper. Alain

How George Hotz Plans To Beat Tesla And Google With His Robocar Startup

Mar 2016, "Behind his showboating lies a keen desire to build a real company around self-driving cars and, more importantly, artificial intelligence. …"Read more Hmmmm…You are welcome to join the club, but at some point you’ll need substance. Alain

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

Revisiting Street Intersections Using Slot-Based Systems

R. Tachet, Mar. 16,  Hmmmm…This is just &*^%$*.  I can’t even suggest any part of this to read. Slotted intersections were thoroughly studied 40 years ago with PRT if not before and have no hope of seeing the light of day unless all cars are centrally managed.  Why was this re-visitation published??? C’mon Man! Alain

Calendar of Upcoming Events:

The Business of Autonomous Vehicles
March 22-23, 2016
Crowne Plaza Hotel, San Francisco Airport

Workshop on Automated Vehicle Policy and Regulation:

A State Perspective

The National Transportation Center, University of Maryland

May 18, 2016
Preliminary Program

Recent Highlights of:

Thursday, March 17, 2016

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

Press Release, Mar 17, NHTSA & IIHS "announced today a historic commitment by 20 automakers representing more than 99 percent of the U.S. auto market to make automatic emergency braking a standard feature on virtually all new cars no later than NHTSA’s 2022 reporting year, which begins Sept 1, 2022. Automakers making the commitment are Audi, BMW, FCA US LLC, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar Land Rover, Kia, Maserati, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi Motors, Nissan, Porsche, Subaru, Tesla Motors Inc., Toyota, Volkswagen and Volvo Car USA. The unprecedented commitment means that this important safety technology will be available to more consumers more quickly than would be possible through the regulatory process…The commitment takes into account the evolution of AEB technology. It requires a level of functionality that is in line with research and crash data demonstrating that such systems are substantially reducing crashes, but does not stand in the way of improved capabilities that are just beginning to emerge. The performance measures are based on real world data showing that vehicles with this level of capability are avoiding crashes.. Watch NHTSA video on AEB  Download AEB video from IIHSRead more  Hmmmm…Fantastic!  Automakers leading with regulatory process staying out of the way.   Alain

Saturday, March 12, 2016

GM Buying Self-Driving Tech Startup for More Than $1 Billion

D. Patrick Mar 11,"General Motors  GM 1.43%  this morning announced that it will acquire Cruise Automation, a San Francisco-based developer of autonomous vehicle technology. No financial terms were disclosed, but Fortune has learned from a source close to the situation that the deal is valued at “north of $1 billion,” in a combination of cash and stock.

Talks between the two companies originally related to a strategic investment by GM in Cruise, which was planning to raise a new round of venture capital funding. But that quickly morphed into an acquisition discussion with the entire agreement getting hashed out in less than six weeks. Read more Hmmmm…That sets the bar.  Reminiscent of AOL paying $1.1B for MapQuest resulting in NavTeq getting $8.1B from Nokia followed by Here getting $3B from MB et alDeja vu all over again!  Very interesting  🙂  Alain

Thursday, March 3, 2016

THE ROAD NOT TAKEN: How we found (and lost) the dream of Personal Rapid Transit

A. Robertson, Feb 10 , Feb. "…Half a century after its heyday, the Alden StaRRcar clearly wasn’t made for its world. It looks like a white flatiron with wheels or a sleek, plastic bullet, dwarfed by the regal sedans of 1960s Detroit. It belongs in one of Buckminster Fuller’s domed cities, a vehicle for traveling under the geodesics of a bubble-topped Manhattan. Its future wasn’t one of highways, but of narrow cement tracks looping gracefully between city and suburb, connecting increasingly alienated parts of the American landscape…

Once considered a key to solving urban blight, the StaRRcar was part of a public transit revolution that never was — but one that would help launch one of the weirdest and most politicized public infrastructure experiments of the 20th century. It’s an old idea that today, in an age of self-driving cars, seems by turns impractically retro and remarkably prescient…

PRT’s invention is attributed to a transportation expert named Donn Fichter, but the central idea was conceived, remixed, and adapted by many in the 1950s and 1960s. While the details varied, the prototypical PRT system was a network of narrow guideways populated by small passenger pods. When commuters arrived, they would hit a button to select a destination, calling one of the pods like a taxi. Then, instead of running on a set line, the pod would use guideways like a freeway system, routing around stations in order to take passengers directly to their final stop.

The system was designed to be everything that existing public transportation wasn’t. Pods would carry only as many people as an average car, guaranteeing a nearly private ride. Riders wouldn’t need to follow a timetable or wait for other people to enter and exit the system. Because the pods would only be dispatched on demand, cities could run service to many low-traffic areas without worrying about waste. There were no drivers to train or pay, and the pods could run quietly on electrical power instead of with fossil fuels…

Multiple plans for personal rapid transit fell through, whether because of budget problems, logistical issues, or political power struggles….

And as in the ‘60s, we’re talking about whether self-driving vehicles could spell the end of private cars…." Read more  Hmmmm…A must read.  Pretty much as I remember it.  I lived much of it, including designing 10,000 station, 10,000 mile PRT networks that could serve all of New Jersey’s needs for personal mobility.  The good news was that the area-wide systems would provide great mobility for all.  The bad news: No viable way to start.  The best starting places could each be readily served by conventional systems with no technology risk.  Without a place to start, PRT never got a chance to flourish in the vast areas that are un-servable by conventional technology.  Moreover, PRT needed the diversion of public sector capital funds that weres already in the back pocket of those pedaling the conventional technologies. Consequently, the personal auto has reigned on.

Today is different. With PRT, even the first vehicle needed a couple of stations and interconnecting guideway (and all of the discussion and heartache was about the location and cost of those initial stations and guideway).  With autonomous taxis sharing existing roads, one can begin with a single vehicle capable of serving many existing places without needing to pay-for/justify any infrastructure.   That is today’s fundamental opportunity, in contrast to PRT’s monumental infrastructure burden even for one vehicle.  That’s why aTaxis are destined to finally deliver PRT’s utopian mobility to all and substantially transform our cities and suburbs. Alain

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Vancouver councillor wants city to prepare for driverless cars  T. Fletcher, Feb 18 "Driverless cars might seem like a futuristic dream, but a city councillor doesn’t want Vancouver to take a hands-off approach to the emerging technology.  Coun. Geoff Meggs is steering a motion slated for next Tuesday’s council meeting asking city staff to look into the impact of self-driving vehicles and how to maximize the benefits of the technology for Vancouver and the city’s economy.

Although the city’s transportation 2040 plan, which outlines a strategy for how people and goods will move in and around Vancouver for the next 30 years, was adopted only four years ago, Meggs said it fails to address driverless technology….  “It may be a powerful tool or there may be problems with it, but at the moment, it’s an empty category in a lot of our thinking,” Meggs told Metro. “We don’t want our (transportation) plan, which we just did, to be obsolete before it even starts.”…"  Read more Hmmmm…Yup!  Obviously, "obsolescence before ribbon cutting" is something all cities should try to avoid.  Alain

Thursday, February 18, 2016

  Motor Vehicle Deaths Increase by Largest Percent in 50 Years

Press Release Feb 16 "With continued lower gasoline prices and an improving economy resulting in an estimated 3.5% increase in motor-vehicle mileage, the number of motor-vehicle deaths in 2015 totaled 38,300, up 8% from 2014.

The 2015 estimate is provisional and may be revised when more data are available. The total for 2015 was up 8% from the 2013 figure. The annual total for 2014 was 35,398, a less than 0.5% increase from 2013. The 2013 figure was 3% lower than 2012. The estimated annual population death rate is 11.87 deaths per 100,000 population, an increase of 7% from the 2014 rate. The estimated annual mileage death rate is 1.22 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, an increase of 5% from the 2014 rate. Read more Hmmmm…This is REALLY BAD news.  Come on insurance. This is costing you money!  Accident rates going up means that your actuarials are behind, your regulated pricing lags and you are losing money.  To get ahead of your actuarials, you MUST incentivize the adoption of automated collision avoidance systems.  You’ll then do very well, thank you AND help society.  Alain

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

 Budget of the U.S. Government, FY 2017

Feb. 9, "…(3) Accelerate the integration of autonomous vehicles, low-carbon technologies, and intelligent transportation systems into our infrastructure….

  • Providing almost $400 million on average per year in funding over the next 10 years for the deployment of self-driving vehicles. Investments would help develop connected infrastructure and smart sensors that can communicate with autonomous vehicles, support R&D to ensure these vehicles are safe and road ready, and expand at-scale deployment projects to provide “proving grounds” for autonomous self-driving and connected vehicles in urban and highway settings.

Read more Hmmmm…major victory…not only: "…for autonomous self-driving…", bit also stated before: "… and connected…".     Alain

Thursday, January 28, 2016

London’s first driverless cars revealed

The consortium behind the trial has decided to adapt electric passenger shuttles that are currently in service at Heathrow Airport for use in Greenwich.  Unlike the Heathrow pods, they will not need dedicated tracks.
The Greenwich trial is one of four in the UK to test driverless technology and public reaction to it…"This vehicle has millions of miles under its belt and now we have to take it outside of the track and modify it for use on pavements," he added.  The so-called UltraPODs currently in service at Heathrow carry passengers between the car park and Terminal 5. In the five years they have been in use, they have carried 1.5 million passengers and traveled three million kilometers (1.8 million miles)…."   Read more   Hmmm…Wow!! … PRT evolving to be autonomousTaxis!  Wow!!!  🙂    Alain

Thursday, January 14, 2016

 Obama’s $4 Billion Plan for Self-Driving Cars Will Make Google Very Happy

M. Bergen, Jan 14 "The Obama Administration has seen the self-driving future, and it’s jumping aboard.  At the Detroit auto show on Thursday morning, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx will unveil a plan to develop a national blueprint for autonomous driving technology within the next six months.  He will also announce that President Obama is planning to insert $4 billion into the 2017 budget for a 10-year plan to support and “accelerate” vehicle automation projects.

“We are on the cusp of a new era in automotive technology with enormous potential to save lives, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and transform mobility for the American people,” Secretary Foxx said in a statement. …But here’s the part of Foxx’s talk that really matters for Google: These national rules will allow fully driverless cars..." Read More  Hmmm… A few months ago it was $42M for Connected Vehicles. Today it is 100x for automated vehicles! Finally Secretary Foxx.."YES! YES! JESUS H. TAP-DANCING CHRIST… I HAVE SEEN THE LIGHT" (Blue Brothers)  Yea!!!!!   🙂 Alain

Sunday, January 3, 2016

 Google Pairs With Ford To Build Self-Driving Cars

J. Hyde & S. Carty, Dec. 21 "Google and Ford will create a joint venture to build self-driving vehicles with Google’s technology, a huge step by both companies toward a new business of automated ride sharing, …According to three sources familiar with the plans, the partnership is set to be announced by Ford at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. By pairing with Google, Ford gets a massive boost in self-driving software development; while the automaker has been experimenting with its own systems for years, it only revealed plans this month to begin testing on public streets in California….

Google already has several links to Ford; the head of the self-driving car project, John Krafcik, worked for 14 years at Ford, including a stint as head of truck engineering, and several other ex-Ford employees work in the unit as well. Former Ford chief executive Alan Mulally joined Google’s board last year.

And Ford executives have been clear for years that the company was ready to embrace a future where cars were sold as on-demand services. Ford CEO Mark Fields has repeatedly said Ford was thinking of itself “as a mobility company,” and what that would mean for its business" Read more  Hmmm…Not surprising and not exclusive. 🙂 Alain

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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