Friday, March 25, 2022

12th edition of the 10th year of SmartDrivingCars eLetter

   Mercedes Drive Pilot Beats Tesla Autopilot By Taking Legal Responsibility

M. Hogan, March 20, “Mercedes’ new Drive Pilot seems, in operation, like many “traffic jam assistant” technologies already on sale today. On certain highways, below 40 mph, a Drive Pilot-equipped S-Class or EQS will take control of the car’s speed, steering, and brakes to move you along in traffic. But there’s one key difference: Once you engage Drive Pilot, you are no longer legally liable for the car’s operation until it disengages. You can look away, watch a movie, or zone out. If the car crashes while Drive Pilot is operating, that’s Mercedes’ problem, not yours….”  Read more  Hmmmm… Wow!!!  I’m searching for the fine print.  If there isn’t any, then this is really wow!!!  It means it works!! At least in its Operational Design Domain…  Probably only on a divided highway and not on 5th Avenue in Manhattan or on the Champs Elysee in Paris, but only where it lets itself be turned on.  That is actually one of the easiest ODDs because the car is lolloping the car ahead (much easier to flow than to lead) and there are no kids chasing balls or pedestrians or all the really tough stuff associated with driving down some street with people around.  All that is fine, it is at least somewhere on public roads in the midst of conventional cars without an entourage.  That;’s fantastic!!

Brilliant of Mercedes to lead in this way.  Reminds me of when Mercedes led with being the first to offer an airbag on the steering wheel of a car that could be bought in a showroom in 1984.  I actually to a cab to the Mercedes dealer in St. Louis (Not from Princeton. I was already there for a conference.) because they had one of the first in the US.  I bought it and had it shipped to Princeton 😁.  True story.). Once Mercedes offered the airbag, Lee Iacocca picker up the concept as a way to differentiate Chrysler coming out of bankruptcy and the rest was history wrt airbags.  Here will be the same.  Level 3 in very narrow ODDs, will become the standard in “all” cars.  Over-the-air updates will enable improvement through evolution. The key is “… that’s Mercedes’ problem, not yours…”  This is major!!! 

There is talk about enabling legislation that may or may not be necessary.  Fine, but that legislation should be careful to not limit the liability exposure of this feature.  It has to be made as safe as possible and it is important that only those capable of achieving that level of safety be offering this feature.

Link to segment in ZoomCast 261. Alain

F. Fishkin, March 25, “Where autonomous mobility vehicles operate matters.  But why does too.  And Mercedes takes a leap.    That and more as Sven Beiker of Silicon Valley Mobility and Dick Mudge of Compass Transportation join Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin for episode 261 of Smart Driving Cars.”


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

Logo   To our fellow San Franciscans

T. Mawakana, March 21, “Our mission at Waymo is to make it safer and easier for people and things to get where they’re going….”    Read more  Hmmmm…  Very nice.  Congratulations, Tekedra!  

We invite you to expand your mission and really put it in high gear towards profitability by coming to Trenton and join our MOVES initiative where you’ll have the opportunity to enable many to substantially improve their quality-of-life by delivering to them “Safe, Equitable, Affordable, Sustainable, High-quality Mobility”.  Sure, you’ll improve safety, but more importantly you’ll improve access to opportunity to each member of the 70% of the households that have access to one or fewer cars.  While the Trenton Transit Center does provide access to arguably the best commuter rail system in the nation, it doesn’t have cable cars, automated subway or surface trolley lines. For many Trentonians, if that destination is not walkable, it doesn’t get a chance to improve their personal utility.

While, like everyone else, Trentonians want everything, they’ll be thrilled if you start by providing this life-enhancing opportunity between 50, or so, locations throughout Trenton.  This enables short walks to connect everybody to everything throughout Trenton.

Doing it only during 95% of the time that Trenton has OK weather would be fantastic.  We’ll gladly take a break when there is snow on the streets (we’ll shovel it quickly), fog or the rain is too heavy.  We’ve learned to live with it.  Those aren’t the times that we’re desperate for the kind of mobility improvements that we’re certain that you can readily deliver to us in New Jersey. What you’ve demonstrated in Chandler and San Francisco seems great to us even if it is only when our weather cooperates.

Moreover, it may well be easy for you to pay attention to us. You already seem to be using New Jersey to park some of your cars overnight so they can do who-knows-what in Manhattan, during the day. (Note..Manhattan has a fantastic 24/7/365.25 subway.) I invite you to start by bringing one of those cars to my 5th Summit in Trenton where you can begin to educate Trentonians about the fantastic high-quality mobility system that you’ve developed and you can begin to appreciate the extent to which what you’ve created can substantially improve people’s lives by coming to Trenton. 

Succeed in Trenton and you’ll readily be able to scale throughout New Jersey and gain access to profitably serve many of the more than 30 million person trips taken by 9 million New Jersians every day.  That’s an opportunity for you.   Link to 5th Summit segment in ZoomCast 261  Alain

  Ford Creates Unit to Develop Autonomous Vehicles and New Technology

Toyota and Aurora test robotaxis in Texas

K. Naughton, March 24, “Ford Motor Co. Chief Executive Officer Jim Farley has reshaped the company’s internal operations to accelerate development of autonomous vehicles and foster new technology businesses.

Farley formed Ford Next late last year and put it under the direction of Franck Louis-Victor, a hard-charging specialist in new businesses hired last June from Renault SA. The unit contains Ford’s stake in autonomous-auto startup Argo AI and will develop startups in mobility services and other businesses. A joint venture that the automaker struck in January with security specialist ADT Inc. came out of Ford Next….”  Read more  Hmmmm…  Given the Mercedes announcement above, Ford needs to get serious with real substance.  Mercedes substantially increased the height of the bar to entry.   Link to segment in ZoomCast 261  Alain

  Toyota and Aurora test robotaxis in Texas

J. Finga, March 23, “Toyota and Aurora are bringing their robotaxi partnership to Texas roads. TechCrunch reports the two companies are launching an autonomous ride-hailing test in the Dallas-Fort Worth area using modified Sienna hybrid minivans. The project will focus on highways and other high-speed roads, and is already dealing with challenges like high-speed merges, construction and vehicles stopped on shoulders.

The test is small, and the vans aren’t truly driverless. Each vehicle will have both a behind-the-wheel supervisor as well as a monitor in a passenger seat. The Siennas will drive autonomously up to 70MPH, however, and Aurora said it would both grow the fleet and expand testing into more urbanized areas over the months ahead….”  Read more  Hmmmm…  Very nice to see Aurora seriously back in the “give people rides” game. 

Congratulations Chris.  My self-serving opinion…. This initiative could be spectacularly successful if you brought it also to Trenton MOVES.  😁  (The Challenge in Texas, as it is in Chandler, is that “everyone” already has a car so it is tough to be more than a side-show. In Trenton, you’d be the main attraction. Think about it. Link to segment in ZoomCast 261  Alain

  Tired of waiting for driverless vehicles? Head to a farm

S. Mcfetridge, March 16, ” For years Americans have been told autonomous technology was improving and that driverless vehicles were just around the corner.

Finally they’re here, but to catch a glimpse of them, you’ll need to go to a farm rather than look along city streets.

Beginning this fall, green 14-ton tractors that can plow day or night with no one sitting in the cab, or even watching nearby, will come off the John Deere factory assembly line in Waterloo, Iowa, harkening the age of autonomous farming….”  Read more  Hmmmm… Yup!  No kids playing with balls in fields.  No bike riders. ODD is pretty easy.  Alain

  ‘Remote Pod Operator’ Would Solve One Of The Biggest Problems With Autonomous Last Mile Deliveries

E. Marquism March 15, A Swedish freight technology company revealed a new job title at SXSW on Monday which may help answer the interminable problem of getting packages to customers’ front door.

The last-mile of delivery is the most costly and time consuming portion of any package’s journey through global shipping. With more customers expecting free shipping, companies and logistics companies are desperate to cut down on those costs. Autonomous vehicles might be the answer to cutting costs and time, if only we could get them to think like a human when encountering problems. Einride has an autonomous pod that can mostly bumble around the streets on its own, but like all autonomous vehicle in existence today, it needs occasional help.

Enter the “Remote Pod Operator,” the first of which is trucking veteran Tiffany Heathcott. It’s the operators’ job to monitor the self-driving delivery pods and do their best to help them out of any jams or scraps they may come up against. Since the pods are mostly autonomous, one operator can monitor several vehicles at once. …” Read more  Hmmmm… I don’t believe it.  Simply doesn’t solve enough problems given the number it creates.  Link to segment in ZoomCast 261  Alain

  Tesla spends the most R&D and least in advertising per car sold

F. Lambert,  March 24,  “A new report shows that Tesla is spending more in research and development (R&D) per car than any other automaker by a wide margin, and it is spending the least in advertising per car sold.

Tesla is now the biggest automaker in the world by market capitalization, despite selling only a fraction of the number of cars that other big automakers are selling. The electric automaker is growing fast, with a capacity to deliver over a million vehicles per year.

In order to keep growing, Tesla aims to maintain its EV technology lead and is investing heavily to do so. A new report from compared R&D spent per car sold from all the biggest automakers and found Tesla to be in the lead:…”  Read more   Hmmmm… Impressive!   Link to segment in ZoomCast 261  Alain

  Uber will feature NYC taxi cabs in its app under groundbreaking new

A. Hawkins, March 24, , “Uber, longtime foe of the taxi industry, has made a deal to integrate New York City’s iconic yellow cabs in its app. The agreement, which is set to go into effect later this spring, means that roughly 14,000 taxis will be able to receive trip requests from Uber customers. (The news was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.)

As part of the deal, the city’s licensed technology providers, Curb Mobility and Creative Mobile Technologies, will integrate their software with Uber. Yellow cabs, which can be hailed using smartphone apps owned by the two companies, will gain access to Uber’s much larger customer base, which could translate into higher trip volumes and more money for beleaguered cab drivers….


Those tensions may be easing under this new agreement. Riders will be able to book trips in taxis that are connected to either Curb or Arro, the two smartphone apps that are owned by Curb Mobility and CMT. Together, those two companies operate the entertainment and payment systems in all of New York City’s yellow and green taxis….”  Read more     Hmmmm… I guess this is fine, but who regulates the fare???  A major virtue of the NYC cab system is that the rates are set by public oversight.

And there are “medallions” involved.  What is really going on here?? Matt Daus, we need to do a PodCast. Link to segment in ZoomCast 261  Alain


  2021 Virtual Forum on the Impact of Vehicle Technologies and Automation on Users: A Summary Report ‘Remote Pod Operator’ Would Solve One Of The Biggest Problems With Autonomous Last Mile Deliveries

C. Yang, March ’22, “This report summarizes panel discussions, presentations, and discussion from the 2021 Virtual Forum. Stakeholders from academia, industry and government gathered to discuss and exchange information and ideas about the impact that these emerging technologies are having on road users. This report should be of interest to researchers and practitioners who are involved with work related to vehicle technologies and automation….


Each day, attendees convened for a two-hour session (see Appendix B for program). The first hour was reserved for a panel discussion or virtual presentations from invited speakers. The second hour involved breakout group discussions on pre-defined topics. Each day was oriented around a different (though not mutually exclusive) theme:

  • Day 1: Understanding and Perception of Vehicle Automation
  • Day 2: Driver Interactions with Vehicle Automation
  • Day 3: Education and Training on Vehicle Automation

This summary report documents the panel and group discussions such that the outcomes can be shared with other stakeholders to improve coordination and encourage collaboration….”  Read more  Hmmmm… Content pertains to Safe- & Self-driving cars that consumers are going to buy and use pretty much as conventional cars are used today.  The “user”i n this report is NOT the passenger in a driverless car, even if that driverless car has been purchased by a consumer.  For those who prefer to think in “SAE Levels”, this report is useful for those addressing Level 1 & 2 issues. Alain

  How COVID-19 affected car rentals over the past year

Staff, March 23, “Before the global health crisis, the car rental industry was enjoying a steady, successful climb with more people renting vehicles than in previous years. The pandemic, however, decimated much of the travel industry, the rental car market included. Rental car operators were forced to sell off large chunks of their fleet, and Hertz, one of the largest companies for decades, had to declare bankruptcy.

However, once travel bans and lockdowns were lifted, rental car operators were faced with a new problem: People were starting to hit the road again but companies no longer had enough vehicles to meet the demand. The standard rules for traveling—like leaving early and making reservations even earlier—became truer than ever as people rushed to leave the confines of their homes to stand in hour-long lines just to get their rental cars.

To see how much COVID-19 has changed the car rental industry over the past year, RateGenius investigated the current state of the rental car industry and its dramatic resurgence….” Read more  Hmmmm…  Even though this is a promo, it does have some interesting content.  I invite you to do more fact checking, but, Covid did hit this sector very hard.  Alain

  China Eastern Airlines flight 5735 crashes

I. Petchenik, March 21, “China Eastern Airlines flight MU5735 crashed near Wuzhou en route from Kunming (KMG) to Guangzhou (CAN) on Monday, 21 March 2022. The flight was operated by a Boeing 737-800 registered B-1791….

The graph below depicts the final 150 seconds of data from the flight, beginning just before its first descent from 29100 feet….” Read more  Hmmmm…  FlightRadar24 data table .. Column K is in ft/minute of altitude change.. At the end it was descending at roughly half of its air speed which would imply an angle of descent (pitch) of about 30 degrees (normal pitch is <10 degrees).  Going down fast, but not straight down as implied 20 seconds into this video, which is supposedly capturing the plane going straight down.  I think this segment of the video is photoshopped.  Whatever. This was tragic. Alain

  Clifford Winston is a big fan of deregulation

P. Coy, March 25, “Capitalism and free enterprise might seem synonymous, but Americans don’t view them the same way. According to Gallup, only about 60 percent of Americans have a positive image of “capitalism,” while 84 percent view “free enterprise” positively.
That distinction makes sense to Clifford Winston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “‘Free markets’ is an unambiguous term, which implies a lack of inappropriate government intervention as consumers and firms pursue their own interest in a competitive environment,” he wrote to me in an email on Friday. “So, I certainly support free markets.” In contrast, he went on, “‘capitalism’ does not necessarily exclude what is known as crony capitalism, where firms take advantage of the government to get an unfair advantage.”…

In a 2020 book, “Autonomous Vehicles,” Winston and a co-author argued that regulators should not stand in the way of the development of self-driving cars and trucks, which they said could revolutionize transportation. (At the same time, he’s not entirely hands-off when it comes to autonomous vehicles. In an essay this year for Barron’s, he and Joan Winston, his wife, a technology policy analyst, wrote that Elon Musk, the chief executive officer of Tesla, had hurt the reputation of autonomous vehicles by “establishing his own proprietary testing procedures and adoption standards.”)…” Read more  Hmmmm… Interesting.  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