Sunday, November 7, 2016

   Our Driverless Future

S. Helpen, Nov 24, " Review of  Driverless: Intelligent Cars and the Road Ahead   by Hod Lipson and Melba Kurma, MIT Press, 312 pp..." Read the review and the book. Hmmm… This book is really about ‘Driverless’ and differentiates it well from ‘Self-driving’, kudos for that.  So while it has no equations, it precisely address the issues.  I enjoyed Ch 6, First there were Electronic Highways, especially pages 116,7 and, of course,  Chapter 7, Build Smart Cars, not Smart Highways.  especially pages 137,8 and the subchapter The value of dumb highways.  Chapter 10 Deep Learning: The Final Piece of the Puzzle is a very nice background while much is being advanced ‘as we speak’.   The book appropriately ends with a chapter about hype, Ch 12 The Ripple Effects which references the Zero Principle, addresses local goods movement and lists the potential losers in this technological revolution.  The book ends by supporting the argument that this technological transition is more about the rapid evolution of algorithms than hardware.  Bravo!  Alain

  Drive the Vote: free rides to and from the polls on election day

Oct. 2016, " How it Works:  Voters send a text to request a ride, and Drive the Vote connects them with a volunteer driver, who picks them up and takes them to their polling place. …" Read more Hmmm…Unfortunately it is not in more place, but this is important in Dayton, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Alain cancels breakthrough self-driving vehicle kit amid federal inquiry

R. Pierson ..R. Pierson, Nov 1, " unveiled what could have been a breakthrough conversion kit that turns regular cars into self-driving ones. That is, until a legal challenge pushed its CEO to cancel the product before it even made it to market…
This cancellation comes after an inquiry sent to Hotz by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association requesting proof that the Comma One was safe…"Read more Hmmm…Is this justifiable public prudence or the ultimate Catch 22 for any startup.  If one can’t sell a product, how can one deliver value to the producer and the consumer? More follows below… Alain

By Certified Mail

US DoT, NHTSA, Oct 27, "Dear Mr Hotz: …Recently, NHTSA, has become aware that you company intends to sll a product, the "Comma One", that you claim allows certain Honda cehicles…to operate in semi-autonomous mode…. It is essential that you are aware of…your legal responsibilities to ensure vehicle safety before introducing this product into commerce…"  Read more Hmmm…Presumably the Comma One included an Automated Emergency Braking (AEB) system, which enhances safety and can be easily demonstrated.  In fact, NHTSA has been allowing conventional automakers to sell AEBs that fail to prevent crashes even if the car is going only 12 mph.  And, NHTSA has allowed the braking function of intelligent cruise controls to be turned off if the driver only taps the brake.  Totally unsafe!!  So these manufacturers haven’t needed to "ensure vehicle safety before introducing…".   Is there a double standard?  Moreover, did Honda play any role in triggering this letter?  Alain cancels comma-one add-on box after threats from NHTSA

B. Templeton, Oct 28, "… This letter creates several big issues:…" Read more Hmmm…In particular Brad points out issues dealing with miss-use of the product (Has Tesla been reprimanded) and use of neural networks (which, if forbidden, would be an enormous unfortunate).  Alain

  Young bride-to-be, 27, and her tech entrepreneur boss, 44, who were killed when the Tesla they were driving slammed into a tree and burst into a FIREBALL

L. Quinn, Nov 5, "A young bride-to-be and her tech entrepreneur boss were killed when the Tesla they were driving slammed into a tree and burst into flames…Tesla added it appears as though the car’s semi-autonomous Autopilot system was not engaged when the crash occurred…" Read more Hmmm…Why does the AutoPilot in the car permit the Tesla to travel at a "high rate of speed".  It knows which road it is on.  It knows the speed limit.  If NHTSA was really interested in safety, shouldn’t it mandate Tesla drivers to require special permission to "travel at a high rate of speed".  Isn’t allowing a car to travel at a high rate of speed on most public roadways fundamentally unsafe; yet car manufacturers are regularly permitted to include such unsafe capabilities to be mis-used.   I’m so naive  🙁  Alain

SJStartup Zoox’s Valuation Soars to $1.55 Billion

T. Higgins, Nov 7, " Zoox Inc., the secretive Silicon Valley startup working to build its own self-driving cars, has quietly raised another round of funding that puts its valuation at $1.55 billion, a big jump from just a few months prior and a sign of increased interest in automotive technology.

The Menlo Park, Calif., company founded by Tim Kentley-Klay, an Australian entrepreneur and designer, and Jesse Levinson, from Stanford University’s self-driving car program, raised $50 million in October, according to people familiar with the matter…." Read more Hmmm…Congratulations.  Apparently the NHTSA letter to has not had a chilling effect.  Alain

Uber’s Discrimination Problem Is Bad News for Public Transit

A, Marshall, Nov 3, "…In Seattle and Boston, the researchers used Uber and Lyft profiles with “white sounding” and “distinctively black” names to request rides. In Seattle, UberX and Lyft drivers took 16 to 28 percent longer to accept requests from the apparently African-American profiles.  

UberX drivers in Boston, who see their passengers’ names and photos only after agreeing to go get them, were twice as likely to cancel a pickup of a black rider while en route, and three times more likely to cancel on an African-American man than a white one…."Read more Hmmm…This is UGLY!  Alain

The End of Public Transit?

A. Semuels, Oct 28, "…The ease of Chariot has made me wonder if my friend were right: Why should anyone use public services if the private sector can provide the same service more efficiently? On an individual level, after all, the private bus was much more pleasant and not much more expensive. On the government level, privatization could save money. Privatizing public bus services could save $5.7 billion a year, according to a paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research in March. Read more Hmmm…The Beginning of Private Transit. Alain

Semiconductor Engineering  Will 5G Enable Connected Cars?

A. Mutschler, Nov 3, "…Fifth-generation mobile networks will enable data transmission rates of more than 10Gps, connecting machines to machines, as well as everything else, including smartphones, IoT devices that require a more energy-efficient network, faster data download and upload speeds, and lower latency than today’s 3G, 4G, 4G LTE, WiFi, and other connectivity technologies…." Read more Hmmm…No mention of DSRC!?   Alain

New regs for Monday: Driverless cars, speed limits, quality control

T. Devaney, Nov 4, "Monday’s edition of the Federal Register contains new guidelines for driverless cars, speed limits for trucks, and ….The NHTSA proposed a federal automated vehicles policy in September, and will now hold a public meeting to discuss the best practices manufacturers can use for the “safe design, development, testing, and deployment” of driverless cars.

The meeting will be held on Nov. 10.Read more Hmmm…Must pay attention to this! Why only Speed Limits for trucks??? Alain

Bob Lutz on the high-tech future of autonomous cars

J. Gallager, Nov 5, "…His world of fully driver-less vehicles is just 15 to 25 years away, Lutz said, depending on how quickly governments are willing to invest in the road technology needed for a fully automated, or so-called Stage 4 system to work…."  Read more Hmmm… While he might be the automotive Industry’s most entertaining voice, his suggestion that it will take government investment in road technology to achieve "stage 4" is simply dead wrong.  The government won’t invest and nor will it need to.  Plus going 200 mph on any road other than a rail road is simply Detroit being totally silly, irresponsible and stuck in the ’60s.  Alain

Some other thoughts that deserve your attention


On the More Technical Side


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

Whose Life Should Your Car Save?

G. Matter, Nov 3, "… Our research, however, shows that there is also an important ethical dilemma that must be solved before people will be comfortable trusting their lives to these cars….." Read more Hmmm…What a self-serving statement! There is nothing ‘important’ about this thought experiment whose only value is as an alternative to the contemplation of one’s navel.  The article itself ‘eliminates’ its own dilemma: "…Ethical dilemmas on the road are exceedingly rare, the argument goes, and companies should focus on eliminating rather than solving them."  Eliminating risks does solve the dilemma.  QED Alain

Uber’s Ad-Toting Drones Are Heckling Drivers Stuck in Traffic

M. Rielly, Oct 14, "Drivers stuck in traffic in Mexico City lately have found themselves being buzzed by a fleet of sign-toting drones. “Driving by yourself?” some scolded in Spanish. “This is why you can never see the volcanoes”…."   Read more Hmmm… Is this really  good way to promote casual Ride-sharing?  Whatever helps!?! Alain

Older stuff that I had missed:

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

Calendar of Upcoming Events:

5th Connected & Autonomous Vehicle Symposium

December 8-9, 2016

Brooklyn, NY

Recent Highlights of:

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Ontario Must Prepare for Vehicle Automation

B. Grush, Oct. 2016, "Two contradictory stories about our transportation infrastructure are currently in circulation. One is that Ontario’s aging, inadequate and congested infrastructure is perennially unable to catch up with a growing and sprawling GTHA. The other is that vehicle automation will soon dramatically multiply current road capacity by enabling narrower lanes, shorter headways and coordinated streams of connected vehicles to pass through intersections without traffic signals to impede flow.
Since the premature forecast of peak car in 2008 and now the hype surrounding the automated vehicle, we are often told that we have enough road capacity; that shared robotic taxis will optimize our trips, reduce congestion, and largely eliminate the need for parking. This advice implies we need wait only a few short years to experience relief from our current infrastructure problems given by decades of under-investment in transportation infrastructure.

This is wishful thinking. Vehicle automation will give rise to two different emerging markets: semi-automated vehicles for household consumption and fully automated vehicles for public service such as robo-taxi and robo-transit. These two vehicle types will develop in parallel to serve different social markets. They will compete for both riders and infrastructure. The purpose of this report is to look at why and how government agencies and public interest groups can and should influence the preferred types and deployment of automated vehicles and the implication of related factors for planning…" Read more Hmmm…Bravo!  The Key Findings & Recommendations are excellent.  This is an excellent report (but it largely misses goods movement.)  Especially 5.1 (read ‘semi-autonomous’ as ‘Self-driving’ and ‘full-automation’ as ‘Driverless’.  My view:  Driverless may well be at the heals of Self-driving because it is a business play rather than a consumer play.  Driverless will be ordered by the hundreds or thousands rather than individually.)  and, of course Ch 10: Ownership (the business model) is more important than technology. Alain

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

How Apple Scaled Back Its Titanic Plan to Take on Detroit

M. Gurman, Oct 17, "Apple Inc. has drastically scaled back its automotive ambitions, leading to hundreds of job cuts and a new direction that, for now, no longer includes building its own car, according to people familiar with the project.
Hundreds of members of the car team, which comprises about 1,000 people, have been reassigned, let go, or have left of their own volition in recent months, the people said, asking not to be identified because the moves aren’t public.

New leadership of the initiative, known internally as Project Titan, has re-focused on developing an autonomous driving system that gives Apple flexibility to either partner with existing carmakers, or return to designing its own vehicle in the future, the people also said. Apple has kept staff numbers in the team steady by hiring people to help with the new focus, according to another person….

Regardless of Apple’s struggles, established carmakers have recognized the threat posed by new entrants and have embarked on a hiring and acquisition splurge to beef up their software capabilities. They are wary of allowing technology companies to own the lucrative software component of new cars…" Read moreHmmm… Very interesting!)  Alain

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 moreHmmm…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

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, 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

Monday, August 1, 2016

SJMobileye Ends Partnership With Tesla

 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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