Monday August 22, 2022

30th edition of the 10th year of SmartDrivingCars eLetter

  Can Tesla Data Help Us Understand Car Crashes?

C. Metz, Aug. 18, “Shortly before 2 p.m. on a clear July day in 2020, as Tracy Forth was driving near Tampa, Fla., her white Tesla Model S was hit from behind by another car in the left lane of Interstate 275.

It was the kind of accident that occurs thousands of times a day on American highways. When the vehicles collided, Ms. Forth’s car slid into the median as the other one, a blue Acura sport utility vehicle, spun across the highway and onto the far shoulder.

After the collision, Ms. Forth told police officers that Autopilot — a Tesla driver-assistance system that can steer, brake and accelerate cars — had suddenly activated her brakes for no apparent reason. She was unable to regain control, according to the police report, before the Acura crashed into the back of her car.

But her description is not the only record of the accident. Tesla logged nearly every particular, down to the angle of the steering wheel in the milliseconds before impact. Captured by cameras and other sensors installed on the car, this data provides a startlingly detailed account of what occurred, including video from the front and the rear of Ms. Forth’s car.

It shows that 10 seconds before the accident, Autopilot was in control as the Tesla traveled down the highway at 77 miles per hour. Then she prompted Autopilot to change lanes…” Read more  We’ve been calling for an independent analysis of the Tesla data for some time.  Privacy is easy to protect.  There is no need to know who owns or was operating each Tesla.  Also see ZoomCast 280 Alain


SmartDrivingCars ZoomCast 280 /PodCast 280 w/Cade Metz, NY Times

F. Fishkin, Aug . 22, “How can Tesla data help with the understanding of car crashes?   NY Times reporter & author Cade Metz joins Alain and Fred to explore the latest Tesla news, including the new higher price for FSD.  Plus NHTSA reports a continuing rise in traffic deaths, Lyft in Vegas,  Cruise and Waymo.  And Princeton and NBA great Brian Taylor joins us to remember legendary basketball coach Pete Carril.”

Timeing Index:


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

  Lyft Unveils Self-Driving Car Service in Las Vegas (With Caveats)

C. Metz, Aug. 16, “Self-driving car services are popping up across the country. But they are not what they seem.
The latest example is an upgraded service in Las Vegas from the ride-hailing business Lyft.

On Tuesday, the company said it would allow users to hail a new kind of self-driving car on and around the Las Vegas Strip, building on a similar service that it has offered in the city for the last four years. But the news arrives with a significant caveat: Riding along in these vehicles will be two of what the industry calls safety drivers, who will take control of the car should anything go wrong.

The technology and automotive industries have spent much of the past decade promising cars that would drive the streets on their own. But many more years — perhaps even decades — will pass before truly autonomous vehicles are commonplace. Though the leading companies have made significant progress, delivering the technology to the masses remains a painstaking process.

“No autonomy system is ready to be deployed safely, in high volume, in urban environments,” said Schuyler Cullen, who oversaw a team that explored autonomous-driving possibilities at the South Korean tech giant Samsung …

Earlier this year, three other companies introduced self-driving services in San Francisco, Miami and Austin, Texas. All said these services would not include safety drivers. And, in at least some cases, these cars are now operating without drivers. But they are available only to a few riders, many of whom are friends or family of the companies’ employees.

Reporters are not allowed to use these services without a driver behind the wheel…

As it stands, only one completely public service operates without safety drivers. Waymo, owned by Google’s parent company, offers a driverless service in the suburbs of Phoenix, where the roads are wide, the weather is predictable and the pedestrians are few.

Even as new services expand to places like San Francisco, they include significant caveats. They will be available only in tightly constrained areas. They will operate at speeds below 35 or 40 miles an hour. They will shut down in unfavorable weather. And companies will employ technicians who can take control of the car from afar if anything goes awry.”

        … nothing wrong with that.  But at least do that consistently and in places where such a mobility service will be appreciated by delivering mobility to many that is better than all other alternatives.  From my perspective, the deployments in Arizona, SF, Vegas and Austin have been about the technology’s novelty and opportunities for selfies and not about fundamental improvement of mobility for at least some folks. 

The value of an automated elevator is not that it is automated or safer, it is that it is demand-responsive 24/7 much more economically than an elevator requiring an attendant/operator.  Arguably better mobility costing enormously less to deliver. Such an argument has NOT been central to any of the aforementioned deployments…

Karl Iagnemma, the chief executive of Motional, the company that will operate Lyft’s self-driving cars in Las Vegas, said this was to be expected. “The technology needed for autonomous driving is enormously complicated,” he said. “The solution will be found incrementally…..” Read more&nb! sp; Hopefully one of these technology companies will really be interested in deploying in New Jersey communities where the interest is in having “safe, equitable, affordable, sustainable high-quality mobility and not novelties and selfies.  Alain

  The Simple Yet Precise Legacy of Carril’s Princeton Offense

B. Witts, Aug. 19, “To anyone who played men’s basketball at Princeton during Pete Carril’s 29 years as coach, it is a play call that comes with reflexive recognition. So much so that even septuagenarian former Tigers could be summoned to a gym now and run — or at least walk — through it with rhythmic precision.

As for the rest of us? The name describes the play: the center flashes from underneath the basket to the free-throw line and receives a pass. He then looks to the wing for a forward, who cuts to the basket and receives a bounce pass through a gap in the defense — the backdoor — for a layup.

The set is a foundational element of what is often characterized as the Princeton offense — the balletic ball movement, crisp cuts and selfless play whose roots trace back to the old Boston Celtics dynasty of the 1950s and 1960s and live on in today’s Golden State Warriors.

It is at once simple, as the nomenclature suggests, and sophisticated, as the myriad permutations and required intuition demand. The same goes for Carril, who died Monday at age 92, the rumpled, beer-drinking, cigar-smoking son of an immigrant steelworker who carved out a home — and a Hall of Fame career — among the Ivy League’s privileged and academic elite.  …”  Read more Hmmmm… Watch ZoomCast 280 @ t=3255 What an absolute fantastic teacher.  Thank you for all the memories.  RiP! Alain

  Tesla releases new picture of its upgraded supercomputer – one of the best in the world

F. Lambert, Aug. 15, “Tesla has released a new picture of its upgraded supercomputer, which is now believed to be the seventh most powerful computer in the world by GPU.

For years now, Tesla has been teasing the development of a new supercomputer in-house optimized for neural net video training. Tesla is handling an incredible amount of video data from its fleet of over 1 million vehicles, which it uses to train its neural nets.

The automaker found itself unsatisfied with current hardware options to train its computer vision neural nets and believed it could do better internally.

Over the last few years, CEO Elon Musk has been teasing the development of Tesla’s own supercomputer called “Dojo.” In 2020, he even teased that Tesla’s Dojo would have a capacity of over an exaflop, which is one quintillion (1018) floating-point operations per second, or 1,000 petaflops….”  Read more Hmmmm… I’ll be clear here… I want Elon to take data from a few Teslas driving throughout the Trenton MOVES ODD, use Dojo to augment the coefficients in FSD 10.69, call this release “TrentonMOVES 1.0”, use this release in Trenton with safety drivers, collect more data, use Dojo to augment TrentonMOVES 1.0 , call this release Trenton MOVES 1.1, repeat the process until disengagements with Trenton MOVES 1.n become essentially zero.  Voila!!! RoboTaxis will then be on their way to massive deployment throughout Trenton, Mercer County, New Jersey, and the nation.   😁Alain

  Early Estimate of Motor Vehicle Traffic Fatalities for the First Quarter of 2022

News,  Aug. 17, “A statistical projection of traffic fatalities for the first quarter of 2022 shows that an estimated 9,560 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes. This represents an increase of about 7.0 percent as compared to 8,935 fatalities projected to have occurred in the first quarter of 2021, as shown in Table 1. This also represents the highest number of fatalities in Q1 since 2002. Preliminary data reported by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) shows that vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in the first 3 months of 2022 increased by about 40.2 billion miles, or about a 5.6 percent increase. Also shown in Table 1 are the fatality rates per 100 million VMT, by quarter. The fatality rate for the first quarter of 2022 increased to 1.27 fatalities per 100 million VMT, up from the projected rate of 1.25 fatalities per 100 million VMT in the first quarter of 2021. ….” Read more Hmmmm… Back in 2012 when the fatality rate (11st Q) jumped from 0.98 t0 1.08 is when I and others started reporting that increased driver mis-behavior (speed, texting, …) was the challenge and the hope that “SafeDrivingCars” would help… Technology that would not just warn, but actually intervene to “bail-out” the mis-behaving drivers.  After now 10 years, it seems that the technology, at least on paper has gotten better.  Automated Emergency Braking (AEB) is on the window stickler of most new cars sold , but the rate is now almost 30% higher @ 1.27.  Whew!!!

While IIHS has created safeguard ratings for partial automation to reduce its mis-use enormously more needs to be done to not only reduce but also overcome the mis-behavior by the human driver while the human driver is in control.  

Deaths/quarter due to misuse of automated driving functions is in the single digits, while we have no idea as to how many death automated driving has averted; call it zero.  This is not our problem. 

Our problem is that we are not doing enough driver mis-behavior when the driver is in control. 

Stop texting, slow down, don’t drink&drive, crash mitigation haven’t been able to keep up. 

  • My view is that we need to continue pressing for the improvement of automation to avert driver misbehavior.  Interestingly, the IIHS safeguards does not couple the benefits of automated driving with speed.  Seems to me that you should only get one.  If you want to speed excessively, then drive.  If you want the comfort and convenience of self-driving, then you can’t set it to go “more than 9 over”. 
  • Intelligent cruise control should be coupled seamlessly with automated emergency braking and shouldn’t disengage the braking function simply because the brake is tapped by the driver.  If more braking needs to be applied earlier, it should apply it and not wait for the AEB to begin “@ 1.6 seconds to collision” to kick in at full force.  Why did it wait???
  • Automated lane keeping needs to be much better.  One way to begin is to eliminate automated lane changing and more stringently discourage lane changing unless the turn signal has been engaged and a safe lane change is possible.  Given the few times that this occurs in any trip, precious little driver comfort is delivered by automated lane change.


Safety Implications of Variability in Autonomous Driving Assist Alerting

M. Cummings, Aug. 15, “Advanced Driving Assist Systems (ADAS) are on the rise in new cars, including versions that embed artificial intelligence in computer vision systems that leverage deep learning algorithms. Because these systems, at the present time, cannot operate in all operational driving domains, they employ some type of driver monitoring system for assessing driver attention, so that drivers can effectively take control if and when an ADAS system can no longer control the car. To determine the reliability of a driver alerting system when linked to autonomy that leverages deep learning, a set of increasingly complex tests were conducted on three Tesla Model 3 vehicles. Tests were conducted on a highway and a closed test track to test road departure and construction zone detection capabilities. Results revealed significant between- and within-vehicle variation on a number of metrics related to driver monitoring, alerting, and safe operation of the underlying autonomy. In some cases, cars performed better than expected but all cars exhibited both inconsistent and unsafe behaviors as well as poor driver alerting. These results highlight that a post-deployment regulatory process is ill-equipped to flag significant issues in vehicles with embedded artificial intelligence…”  Read more Hmmmm… Recommended read!  Alain

Driverless Cars Shouldn’t Be a Race

S. Ovide. Aug. 11, “I grind my teeth when the metaphor of “a race” is used in discussions about self-driving vehicle technology.

Companies developing computer-piloted car technology, including Tesla, the Chinese company Baidu, and Waymo, a sibling company of Google, are regularly described as being in a horse race to make self-driving vehicles ready for widespread use. ”  Read more Hmmmm… Of course it needs to be safe, and certainly the bulk of us in this field have insisted that it be safe, but the objective of the driverless version of this technology is to provide better mobility while being safe.  Alain

  Lyft and Motional’s all-electric robotaxi service is now live in Las Vegas

A. Hawkins, Aug. 15, “A new robotaxi service has officially launched for public use in Las Vegas. It’s being run by Lyft and an autonomous vehicle company called Motional and is a prelude to a fully driverless service that is set to launch in the city in 2023.

Motional, which is a joint venture between Hyundai and Aptiv, has been testing its autonomous vehicles in Las Vegas through a joint partnership with Lyft for over four years now. The testing began as a weeklong pilot between Aptiv and Lyft during the annual Consumer Electronics Show in 2018 and has since gone on to complete over 100,000 passenger trips.

Today, the companies are announcing the public launch of that service, marking the first time that customers can hail a ride in one of the company’s autonomous, all-electric Hyundai Ioniq 5 vehicles that has been modified for commercial operations. A safety driver will remain behind the steering wheel in case something goes wrong, similar to how other robotaxi services have launched over the years. But Motional and Lyft say fully driverless vehicles will join the service next year. …

And rides will be free; the companies plan to start charging for the service next year….” Read more Hmmmm…  Rides are free??? Is this mobility perceived to be so bad that “the first hit on the corner has to be free in order to create addiction”?   Why isn’t this sold from the beginning on its delivery of improved mobility at somewhere near its long-run price?  Alain

  Auto! nomous Trucking: Leadership Change at Daimler Truck’s independent subsidiary Torc Robotics

Press release, Aug. 18, “Daimler Truck and Torc Robotics announce a change in leadership at Torc that will usher in the next era of growth, product commercialization, and customer focus. Effective October 1, Dr. Peter Vaughan Schmidt (52), currently head of Daimler Truck’s Autonomous Technology Group, will succeed Michael Fleming (43) as chief executive officer of Torc Robotics, an independent subsidiary of Daimler Truck. Fleming will retain a seat on the Torc Board of Directors and remain engaged as a key advisor. This change in leadership is a natural transition in Torc’s evolution as a company since 2019, when Daimler invested into the company…. ” Read more Hmmmm…  Great run Michael… Congratulations.  Alain

  American Airlines places order for 20 supersonic jets from Boom Supersonic

A. Hawkins, Aug. 16, “American Airlines announced Tuesday that it has placed an order for up to 20 supersonic aircraft from Boom Supersonic, with an option for an additional 40 jets. American is the second major airline to bet on the return of ultra-fast air travel in just two years.

The amount of money exchanging hands was not disclosed, but American said the deposit on the 20 initial aircraft was nonrefundable. That agreement, though, is still subject to change depending on the outcome of American’s safety testing and also Boom’s ability to deliver on its promises despite never having built or flown a full-scale supersonic jet before.

According to American, “Boom must meet industry-standard operating, performance and safety requirements as well as American’s other customary conditions before delivery of any Overtures….”  Read more Hmmmm…  Maybe?  Alain

  GM Cruise Self-Driving Vehicles Have Been Involved in Nine Hit-and-Runs This Year

J. Kukura, Aug. 10, “… Now we see another unanticipated problem, as The Examiner reports the driverless Cruise cars have been involved in nine hit-and-run accidents this year. This is ostensibly because the drivers in the other vehicles don’t know how to stop and share information with the other driver when there is no other driver, or they see the car is driverless, and figure they can just probably get away with it because what is the robot going to do. 

“This year, there have been nine ‘hit and run’ collisions involving Cruise driverless autonomous vehicles in San Francisco, according to reports filed with the DMV,” the Examiner reports. “In fact, almost every accident involving a driverless Cruise has resulted in the human driver leaving the scene.”

We will say again that there is no evidence that any of these accidents were the Cruise vehicle’s fault. In fact, there is plenty of evidence that, in most cases, the other driver was at fault. The Examiner pored over the DMV accident reports and they noted that “Cruise’s collision reports from this year contain instances of human-driven cars blowing through stop signs, making left turns from the right lane and backing into stationary cars.”… ”  Read more Hmmmm…  Nothing is easy.  Alain