Friday, March 18, 2022

11th edition of the 10th year of SmartDrivingCars eLetter

  Apple Car Project Team Has Reportedly Been Dissolved For A While

T. Lee, , March 15, “For a while now, we’ve been hearing rumors that Apple is apparently developing their own electric car tentatively known as the Apple Car. However, according to a tweet by analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, he has heard that the team behind the Apple Car has actually been dissolved for some time now.

Kuo also writes that should Apple want to be able to start mass producing their cars by 2025, a reorganization needs to happen within the next 3-6 months. It’s actually a little bit weird to hear that the team has been dissolved, especially since it was last year that there were rumors and reports of Apple seeking out manufacturing partners and were talking to companies like Kia. …”  Read more  Hmmmm…Not at all surprising.  Apple’s focus seemed entirely on making, what I call, a Self-driving car (~ Level 2) leveraging what Apple does best… Comfort & Convenience… rather than a Driverless  (~Level 4) Equitable, Affordable, …,  Mobility Machine, which are not really Apple’s strength.   Apple must have realized that all OEMs and Elon are now well ahead of Apple and Apple can’t leapfrog them.  Alain

  SmartDrivingCars  ZoomCast Episode 260/ PodCast 260

F. Fishkin, March 21, “Apple reportedly has dissolved its car team and why is Alain now eating at McDonald’s?  Episode 260 of Smart Driving Cars with Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin has that plus GM, Cruise, Tesla, Aurora, Polestar and more.”-


Technical support provided by:

   The SmartDrivingCars eLetter, Pod-Casts, Zoom-Casts and Zoom-inars are made possible in part by support from the Smart Transportation and Technology ETF, symbol MOTO.   For more information:  Most funding is supplied by Princeton University’s Department of Operations Research & Financial Engineering and Princeton Autonomous Vehicle Engineering (PAVE) research laboratory as part of its research dissemination initiative

We need them to catch their breath’: Pittsburgh’s RDC starts running a refugee train in Germany

A. Litvak, March 19, “On March 13, a woman stood on a train platform in Frankfurt and vomited while three members of the German Red Cross watched.

All around her, crowds of Ukrainian refugees, mostly women and children, waited for the three-hour train to Hanover, which serves as a central processing center for refugees. From there, they would fan out across the country or move on to other destinations.

Henry Posner III, a Pittsburgher whose railroad company, RDC Deutschland, was contracted by the German government a few days earlier to run the daily refugee train, imagined what the emergency medical officials must be thinking: Is the woman contagious? Should she be held back for evaluation? Are they overseeing the spread of some unknown pathogen among the already dire humanitarian disaster that has so far driven 3 million Ukrainians from the war zone?

No. It was motion sickness, the woman’s mother told Mr. Posner in Russian. They had likely been traveling for days.

Mr. Posner has often been quoted saying that the foundation of his decadeslong railroad investment firm — based in Downtown but with seven rail businesses on three continents — is a functional passport and the command of four particularly useful languages: English, Spanish, French and Russian….”  Read more  Hmmmm…  Henry, what a fantastic thing for you to do.  We are all so proud of you.  Thank you!!! Alain

   Over 400 Companies Have Withdrawn from Russia—But Some Remain

J. Sonnenfeld, March 17, “.Since the invasion of Ukraine began, over 400 companies have announced their withdrawal from Russia—but some companies have continued to operate in Russia undeterred.

Originally conceptualized as a simple “withdraw” vs. “remain” list, our new list of companies now consists of four categories:

1) WITHDRAWAL – Clean Break: companies completely halting Russian engagements;

2) SUSPENSION – Keeping Options Open for Return: companies temporarily curtailing operations while keeping return options open;

3) SCALING BACK – Reducing Activities: companies scaling back some but not all operations, or delaying investments;

4) DIGGING IN – Defying Demands for Exit: companies defying demands for exit/reduction of activities

Download the list by clicking here. (make sure to “download” the file from Box as an excel document rather than “previewing” for best file quality) …” Read more  Hmmmm… Just in case you are looking at something you might do to help… boycott and sell if you own anything in this Hall of Shame (#4 Digging In).  Alain


Staff, March 17, “One of the most common questions we hear about autonomous vehicles is “when will AVs be here?” … and the honest answer is: “well, it depends on where ‘here’ is!”

In this panel, we will discuss why a better question may be “Where will AVs be?”…” Read more  Hmmmm…  Very interesting panel with Sven Beiker and Cater Stern scheduled for 2: 00 pm EDT, March 23.  Be sure to tune in.  Alain


  GM to buy SoftBank’s stake in Cruise self-driving unit for $2.1 billion

M. Weyland, March 18, “General Motors is acquiring SoftBank’s equity ownership stake in its majority-owned Cruise autonomous vehicle unit for $2.1 billion, the automaker announced Friday afternoon.

SoftBank Vision Fund 1 first acquired a minority ownership in Cruise through a $2.25 billion deal in 2018. Its exit comes as the prominent technology investment firm was set to have to invest a second tranche of $1.35 billion as part of the deal upon Cruise’s commercial deployment of vehicles, which GM will now pay. ” … I guess this means that SoftBank is taking a $2.25B – $2.1B = $125M hit after tieing up $2.25B for 4 years.  Hmmm…   Sounds like the kind of investing I do.  No wonder I’m not rich…

It also follows Cruise CEO Dan Ammann’s abrupt departure from the company in December. Ammann was reportedly let go from Cruise by GM CEO and Chair Mary Barra, who also chairs Cruise’s board, over disagreements in strategy, including when to take the company public.” … Hmmm… This make Mary look really good!!! She was able to borrow SoftBank’s money for 4 years @ -5% interest rate; that is minus 5%… Not many startups are this fortunate.  I must be missing some details….

GM has signaled it plans to keep the company public (… private??…) for the foreseeable future. Ammann’s successor, Cruise founder Kyle Vogt, tweeted on Friday that an IPO would be a “major distraction, especially right now” as the company is scaling up its newly-launched driverless ride-hailing service in San Francisco.

The SoftBank announcement was made as GM and Cruise also announced the launch of a “Recurring Liquidity Opportunity Program”, in which Cruise employees with vested stock options will be able to sell them to GM.

“Employees can sell as many vested shares as they like at a fair price determined by a third party,” Vogt said on Twitter. “Or they can hold onto their shares and hope for appreciation over time.” 

The program is apparently intended to help retain Cruise employees, who may have been hoping for a windfall from an IPO of the company, something that Wall Street has been hoping for as well. ” … Hmmm… What??? If you want to leave you can’t sell, you must hold.  If you want to stay, you can sell.  There must be details that prevent: I want to stay, sell, then leave with the money.  I must be missing a fundamental detail.


Oh, I get it.. I only had something that might be worth something in some future.  I leave, that expectation disappears.  Now I’m offered cash, but that cash doesn’t become real until some future date, if I survive that long working here.  I can take that bird-in-hand or hang on until an IPO, the two birds-in-bush. 


Going back to the Mike Tomlin quote…”From a team perspective, it’s better to have volunteers as opposed to hostages.”  Seems like this initiative is focused on retaining those that are in it for the money..  I’ll let you decide if that’s aimed at volunteers or a hostages”  ” A GM spokesman said SoftBank’s exit was not related to the employee program. He referred questions about Softbank’s decision to the company. A SoftBank spokesman declined to comment.

Since SoftBank’s initial investment, much of the hype and investor optimism surrounding autonomous vehicles has crashed down to reality, including GM and Cruise missing an initial deployment of self-driving vehicles in San Francisco in 2019.

The dramatic downturn in tech stocks since late 2021 also is problematic for SoftBank, which has been among the biggest investors in pre-IPO companies across the globe in the past half-decade. The new deal with GM frees up capital that SoftBank could deploy elsewhere….”  Read more  Hmmmm… Let’s all assume that its not in machines of war.  Alain

Full Self Driving – Elon Musk Sheds Light On Tesla’s ‘Only Path’ Forward

J. Crider, March 18, “… In response, Elon Musk said, “They have no idea how hard FSD is. Only path to success imo is hardcore real-world AI software with dedicated NN inference acceleration ASICs in car, multibillion dollar NN training supercluster and 10+ billion miles of vehicle data. Good luck.”… “Read more  Hmmmm… I continue to side with Elon on this one.  My only wish is that he tone down the name; however, we’ve all become numb to taking labels or slogans literally instead of figuratively or aspirationally.  Alain

  Greenville, Clemson among first in US to launch ride-sharing network

M. Hulsey, March 15, “Former County Councilman Fred Payne may have retired from Greenville County’s Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, but he hasn’t put the brakes on his advocacy for affordable transit solutions.

Shared rides are on the rise. Upstate Forever installed rental bike stations across downtown Greenville in 2013. Bird e-scooters flock along sidewalk corners on Anderson’s Main Street.

And now, as board chairman of nonprofit Carolinas Alliance 4 Innovation, Payne expects Greenville to be on the cusp of the Upstate’s latest micro-mobility development: a low-speed electric vehicle fleet deployed for hourly rental this summer….”  Read more  Hmmmm… Way to make a difference, Fred.  Congratulations.  Alain

  The Transferable Hardware Behind Aurora Driver-Powered Cars and Trucks

Post, March 15, “Hardware design plays a critical role in our path to market. With our world-class product team and platform (OEM) partners, we’ve developed a hardware kit that’s transferable between vehicles. Our hardware enables the Aurora Driver to power both  trucks and cars, which we expect to unlock the successive launches of  Aurora Horizon and Aurora Connect.

Here’s a closer look at how we invested in common components, a modular design, and rigorous testing of real-world conditions to allow us to seamlessly integrate one hardware kit into an array of vehicles. … ”  Read more  Hmmmm… A nice informative post. Alain

    Polestar O2 Autonomous Drone Experience

YouTube, March 2022, “In a world increasingly driven by social media, the Polestar O2 features an autonomous cinematic drone integrated behind the rear seats. Developed in collaboration with Aerofugia’s consumer electronics brand Hoco Flow, the concept drone can be deployed while the car is moving, to record the perfect driving sequence….” Read more  Hmmmm… See video.  This is so enormously depressing to me.  Sure, this can be done, but just because it can be done in one-off situations, doesn’t mean that it is anything but click-bait.  Can you see me  driving down US 1 deploying my drone.  It would wack the 1st traffic light I passed.  Oh but it has Elon’s FSD!  C’mon Polestar!   Alain

   Our Future on the Go, with AI Behind the Wheel

A. Marshall, Jan 2021, “Aicha Evans, CEO of Zoox, and Chris Urmson, CEO and cofounder of Aurora, discuss the expanding future of the self-driving car industry….”    Hmmmm… This is an excellent interview  that I somehow just tripped on.  It is especially relevant today, especially in the light of what we’re trying to do here in New Jersey with Trenton MOVES, the Mobility Festival aspects of the 5th Summit and a realization of “equity”.  While I put a slightly different spin on a couple of issues (New Jersey weather is just fine for this technology during about 350 days of the year.  Come here and deploy for 350 days a year and you can take 2 weeks plus 1.25 days vacation.  That would make us very This is an excellent interview.  Alain

  Tesla still dominates US electric car market, and it’s not even close

F. Lambert,  March 17,  “New registration data show that Tesla is still dominating the US electric car market, and it’s not even close. Something is going to have to break for EV adoption to accelerate in the country.

For years now, Tesla has been dominating the electric auto market in its home country. It is expected that Tesla’s hold on the market will erode as more EV options hit and help grow the US market, but for now, the US EV market is still extremely dependent on Tesla.

For the entire year of 2020, Tesla vehicles accounted for 79% of new electric vehicles registered in the US…”  Read more   Hmmmm…  That’s impressive! Alain

  Tesla named ‘most-trusted’ brand developing fully-autonomous vehicles

J. Klender, March 18, “Tesla was recently named the “most-trusted” brand in the pursuit of fully-autonomous vehicles, according to a new study. The study surveyed consumer perception regarding fully-autonomous vehicle technology.

Fifty-six total automotive brands were options for consumers to pick in the study, a release from AutoPacific, who performed the study, said. Tesla topped the list, earning 32 percent of the votes and beat out Toyota with 19 percent and BMW with 18 percent….” Read more  Hmmmm…  I’m not sure how much any of these opinion surveys are any good, but, this is at least good click-bait.  Alain

  China’s driverless delivery startup Whale Dynamic targets US market with $2.5M fund

R. Liao,  March 19, “A nascent Nuro challenger from China has its sight set on the delivery market in the US and has just raised some seed funding to advance its ambitions.

Whale Dynamic, a Shenzhen-based autonomous delivery startup founded by Baidu veteran David Chang, says it has closed a seed round of about $2.5 million. Qianchuang Capital, a Beijing-based investment firm managed by veterans from China’s leading financial institutions, led the round, with participation from Shangbang Huizhong, a Chinese fund backed by real estate developers….  ” Read more   Hmmmm…  Just what we don’t need, a Chinese copycat to Nuro.  They couldn’t even add headlights.  Alain

Making it Happen:  Trenton MOVES… a Framework for the Deployment of Safe, Equitable, Affordable, Sustainable, High-quality Mobility

A. Kornhauser, Jan 11, 2022 TRB, ” A slide deck describing the framework fora phased deployment of high-quality mobility in Trenton New Jersey that is envisioned to have wherewithall to naturally scale beyond Trenton in a fashion that can be replicated the more than 100 communities across the US that have similar demographic and travel demand characteristics.”  Read more  Hmmmm… Go through the slides in presentation mode to take advantage of the animations.  Alain

  4th Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit  It is over!!!  Now time to actually do something in the Trentons of this world.   

  Making Driverless Happen: The Road Forward (Updated)

K. Pyle, April 18, 2021, “It’s time to hit the start button,” is Fred Fishkin’s succinct way of summarizing the next steps in the Smart Driving Car journey. Fiskin, along with the LA Times’ Russ Mitchell co-produced the final session of the 2021 Smart Driving Car Summit, Making It Happen: Part 2. This 16th and final session in this multi-month online conference not only provided a summary of the thought-provoking speakers, but also provided food for thought on a way forward to bring mobility to “the Trentons of the World.”

Setting the stage for this final session, Michael Sena provided highlights of the Smart Driving Car journey that started in late December 2020.  Safety, high-quality, and affordable mobility, particularly for those who do not have many options, was a common theme to the 2021 Smart Driving Car Summit. As Princeton Professor Kornhauser, the conference organizer put it,…..” Read more  Hmmmm…. We had another excellent Session.  Thank you for the summary, Ken!  Alain


Ken Pyle‘s Session Summaries of 4th Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit:
15th Session    Making it Happen – Part One: Elected Officials’ Role in Creating a Welcoming Environment in the Trentons of this World

14th Session    What Will Power Safely-driven Cars

13th Session    Improving the Moving of Goods

12th Session    3/18/21 Human-centered Design of Safe and Affordable Driverless Mobility

11th Session    3/11/21  Incentivizing Through Regulation

10th Session    3/04/21  Incentivizing Through Insurance

9th Session    2/25/21  Can Level 3 be Delivered?

8th Session    2/18/21  Who Will Build, Sell and Maintain Driverless Cars?

    Michael Sena’s SlidesGlenn Mercer Slides

7th Session    2/11/21  Finally Doing It
6th Session    2/ 4/21   Safe Enough in the Operational Design Domain
5th Session    1/28/21   At the Tipping Point
4th Session    1/21/21  Why Customers are Buying Them

3rd Session    1/14/21  The SmartDrivingCars We Can Buy Today
2nd Session   1/ 7/21  A Look into the Future
1st Session: 12/17/20  Setting the Stage

Kornhauser & He, April 2021 “Making it Happen:  A Proposal for Providing Affordable, High-quality, On-demand Mobility for All in the “Trentons” of this World” 

Orf467F20_FinalReport “Analyzing Ride-Share Potential and Empty Repositioning Requirements of a Nationwide aTaxi System

Kornhauser & He, March 2021 AV 101 + Trenton Affordable HQ Mobility Initiative


Staff, Dec 6, “The New Jersey Department of Transportation (“NJDOT”), an instrumentality of the State of New Jersey, has issued a Request for Expressions of Interest (“RFEI”) to identify experienced firms capable of introducing a safe, equitable, affordable, sustainable, and efficient on-demand automated vehicle mobility systems in and beyond Trenton, NJ.
NJDOT is soliciting written expressions of interest from qualified and experienced vendors to gain valuable insight from the private industry regarding the goals set forth in the Trenton MOVES (Mobility & Opportunity: Vehicles Equity System) potential project and assess its viability.  If and when NJDOT elects to proceed with a potential project, NJDOT may issue formal
Request(s) for Qualifications or Proposals.

The RFEI is available to be downloaded at…”


Staff, March 2, “…” Read more  Hmmmm… Links to the 20 responses to NJ DoT’s Trenton MOVES RfEI.  Lots of very encouraging and enthusiastic respondents.  Thanks to NJ DoT for making the replies available to the public at large on a very timely basis allowing everyone to learn a lot and showing that there is broad and competent interest in deploying Safe, Equitable, Affordable, Sustainable, High-quality Mobility throughout Trenton and beyond.  Alain

Calendar of Upcoming Events

5th Annual Princeton  SmartDrivingCar Summit 


Thursday (evening), June 2, Welcome Reception @ Alain’s home (Registration required)

Friday, June 3, Equitable Mobility Innovation Forum @ Princeton University (Registration required)

June 4, Equitable Mobility Festival @ Mayor Donnely Homes, Trenton, NJ (Open to All)

Live in Person

On the More Technical Side

K. Lockean’s AV Research Group at U of Texas