Friday, October 29, 2022

39th edition of the 10th year of SmartDrivingCars eLetter

  Ford, VW-backed Argo AI is shutting down

K. Korosec, Oct 26, “Argo AI, an autonomous vehicle startup that burst on the scene in 2017 stacked with a $1 billion investment, is shutting down — its parts being absorbed into its two main backers: Ford and VW, according to people familiar with the matter.

During an all-hands meeting Wednesday, Argo AI employees were told that some people would receive offers from the two automakers, according to multiple sources who asked to not be named. It was unclear how many would be hired into Ford or VW and which companies will get Argo’s technology.

Employees were told they would receive a severance package that includes insurance and two separate bonuses — an annual award plus a transaction bonus upon the deal close with Ford and VW. All Argo employees will receive these. For those who are not retained by Ford or VW, they will additionally receive termination and severance pay, including health insurance. Several people told TechCrunch that it was a generous package and that the founders of the company spoke directly to its more than 2,000 employees…”  Certainly a “class act” way to shut down.

“...said Farley. “It’s mission-critical for Ford to develop great and differentiated L2+ and L3 applications that at the same time make transportation even safer.”  Farley also insinuated that Ford would be able to buy AV tech down the line, instead of developing it in house. “We’re optimistic about a future for L4 ADAS, but profitable, fully autonomous vehicles at scale are a long way off and we won’t necessarily have to create that technology ourselves,” … Read more Hmmmm… What???  What is “L4 ADAS”??? You are really going to do L3 which many believe is harder than L4.  L3 is going to require that Ford accept the safety liability and the “obey all the legal operation” liability for the life of the vehicle whenever the driver is able to engage that functionality.  There is NO WAY Ford or really any OEM is ever going to take on that substantive amount of liability unless there is such an abundance of fine print that it makes Elon’s proclamations about FSD seem like junior varsity. 

We all understand that “L2+” is today’s “50s-style chrome & fins” propelling the selling cars in showrooms as OEMs have always done.  Absolutely no need to get to driverless (L4 in some societly or commercially viable ODD).  

Idf someone does develop (as I quoted last week) Schumpeter’s Disruptive Technology Threshold …: “… [I]n capitalist reality…, it is not [price] competition which counts but the competition from the new commodity, the new technology…- competition which commands a decisive cost or quality advantage and which strikes not at the margins of the profits and the outputs of the existing firms but at their foundations and their very lives.” Joseph A Shumpeter  (1883-1950)”, it is going to simply make it available to allow Ford to continue to serve its customers or will use it to crush Ford?   Alain

  Argo AI shuts down as Ford, VW pull backing from autonomous-vehicle startup that raised more than $3 billion

L. Sumagaysay, Oct. 27, “…”, Read more Hmmmm…  Another view.  Alain

Argo AI, driverless startup backed by Ford and VW, is shutting down

A. Hawkins, Oct. 26, “….” Read more Hmmmm… Andrew’s view.  Alain

  Ford thinks driver assist is a safer bet than driverless cars, but it’s fooling itself

A. Hawkins, Oct. 27, “When Ford announced yesterday that it was pulling its support for Argo AI, the autonomous driving startup it had financed since 2017, it cited as one of its reasons a belief that driver-assist technology will have more near-term payoffs…..” Read more Hmmmm… I agree with Andrew, as I stated above.  Alain

  SmartDrivingCars ZoomCast 289 /PodCast 289 Argo Shuts Down w/Michael Sena, Editor, The Dispatcher

F. Fishkin, Oct. 27,  “The demise of #Argo AI, the joint Ford-Volkswagen a step forward for autonomous vehicles, not a step back.  So says Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser on episode 289 of Smart Driving Cars. Alain and co-host Fred Fishkin are joined by The Dispatcher publisher Michael Sena for that plus #Tesla, Elon Musk and more.”


Technical support provided by:  a 501c3 dedicated to Safe & High-Quality Mobility for All

  Full Self-driving Is All in the Mind, Just Like With BEVs 

M. Sena, Oct 27, “The main article in this issue of The Dispatcher is my contribution to the discussion about why we don’t have self-driving cars, that is, cars that drive themselves anywhere without the help of a human driver inside or outside the vehicle. I make the comparison to what happened with battery electric vehicles. People didn’t buy them until they believed they worked, and the reason we don’t have more of them is because there are still only a relatively few number of people who believe they do work and who are willing to place their $75,000 bet on that belief. Naturally, Elon Musk figures in both the BEV and the self-driving car stories.

I have replaced the Musings section this month with something new for The Dispatcher. I call it Conversations with the Dispatcher. The first conversation is with Robert W. Poole Jr., and it concerns his book, Rethinking America’s Highways: A 21st-Century Vision for Better Infrastructure. Our exchange will give you a good idea what the book is about. I highly recommend Bob’s book to all of you.

Have a look at Dispatch Central. It’s packed with news of our industry and my thoughts on what is or is not happening. …”  Read more Hmmmm… Excellent!  Enjoy reading.  Alain

  The Automotive Valley of Death

R. Maure, Oct 27, “ Discussing the auto industry’s “valley of death”
Amazon, Apple report earnings
Uber provides updates on Tesla usage through Hertz partnership
Tesla Model 3, Cyberquad for Kids recalled
SEC reportedly investigating FSD marketing
Tesla lets term sheet for lithium expire
Model Y is best selling vehicle in Europe in September

Read more Hmmmm… Interesting view.  Alain

  U.S. in ‘Valley of Death’ as Autonomous Cars Write Checks the Tech Can’t Cash, Warns Pete Buttigieg

O. Bellwood, Oct. 25, “Self-driving cars have been billed as the future of transportation for decades. In the sci-fi space, they’ll let you drift off to sleep as you’re whisked to your destination in a private bubble, while a more grounded person might prefer to point out the significant safety improvements they could bring to U.S. roads.

Some experts estimate that self-driving cars could cut out 72 percent of highway incidents on U.S. roads, once they become widespread. But right now, self-driving cars aren’t widespread. Heck, they aren’t even a reality yet.

“It feels like the widespread use of autonomous driving is seven years away, and it’s been seven years away for 10 years,” says U.S. Department of Transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg. “So the question is, will it be seven years away 10 years from now, or will we actually be getting somewhere?”…

Buttigieg says: “There is a very serious danger right now in this kind of valley of death between where we started and where we’re headed, where these technologies do run the risk of making things worse. Especially if people see ADAS, which is an automated driver assistance system, and treat it like a driver replacement system.

“Just to be clear, I don’t care what they call these things, Autopilot or Self-Driving or whatever, there is no car that you can buy today from a dealer where you don’t have to be paying attention at all times when you’re driving.””…”  Read more Hmmmm… No disagreement here!  In fact the talk 5 minute talk that I gave at the Pennsylvania AV Summit in Pittsburgh on Tuesday afternoon (Framework for the Deployment of Safe, Equitable, Affordable, Sustainable, High-quality Mobility…) I said essentially the same thing and went even further, saying that inproved MOBILITY (while being at least as safe) is the opportunity and not improved safety.  Plus the improved MOBILITY is not across the board but is targeted to improving the mobility of those that today find themselves with very poor mobility opportunities: the “too young”, “too old”, ‘too poor”, “not enough cars in the family”, and “physically challenged”.  It may well be that here exists today Operation Design Domains for cars with exiting driverless capabilities that could deliver “decisive mobility enhancements” to these folks.  This is why we in New Jersey are focusing on Trenton where 70% of the households have access to one or zero cars.  This is the maket that should have been focused on and the market that Cruise, Waymo and the others should focus on.  Today their technology could well be decisively better than what many in nTrenton have available and would readily become their customers.  Instead, they focus on trying to capture the “black-car/limosine” market for which they have no hope of deliveing better service to those who are totally price insensitive (someone else pays).  Good luch at acquiring any repeat customers, generating any revenue, let alone making a profit.  Alain

  Framework for the Deployment of Safe, Equitable, Affordable, Sustainable, High-quality Mobility

A. Kornhauser, Oct. 25, “… For whom are such attributes likely to be disruptive?…” Read more Hmmmm…  Presented at Pennsylvania AV Summit in Pittsburgh earlier this week.  Only had 5 minutes.  Alain

  FedEx is shutting down its robot delivery program

J. Vincent, Oct. 18, “FedEx is stopping development of its last-mile delivery robot, Roxo. The news was first reported by Robotics 24/7, with FedEx confirming to the publication that the company would be shifting focus away from the bot to more “nearer-term opportunities.”

Roxo was announced in 2019 as a collaboration with DEKA, makers of the iBot wheelchair, which used multiple sets of wheels to “walk” up and down stairs, and raise its user from a sitting level to eye-height. Roxo also used multiple sets of wheels to climb steps and curbs. The robot had a top speed of 10mph, a cargo capacity of 100lbs (45kg), and was able to autonomously navigate around cars and pedestrians using cameras and LIDAR sensors. Human operators were used to oversee its movements and steer it manually if necessary….”  Read more Hmmmm… Reality check  Alain

  Amazon stops field tests of its delivery robot Scout

J. Vincent, Oct. 7, “Amazon’s is scaling back its plans to build a delivery robot, Scout, but insists that the project is not finished.

Bloomberg first reported that the company has shut down tests of the machine, and that the Scout team, constituting around 400 employees globally, is being disbanded. However, a spokesperson for Amazon, Alisa Carroll, told The Verge that the company is “not abandoning the Scout program” entirely: “We are scaling the program back and still have a team dedicated to Scout.

“During our Scout limited field test, we worked to create a unique delivery experience, but learned through feedback that there were aspects of the program that weren’t meeting customers’ needs,” Carroll told The Verge.”….”

In most cases, the idea is for the robots to handle “last mile” deliveries — that is, taking packages from local distribution centers to customers’ front doors. However, as Amazon’s failure with Scout suggests, it’s not certain that the economics of this technology make sense. Although the robots are nominally autonomous, they often have to be overseen remotely, especially when they run into unexpected situations. They’re also slow, moving no faster than walking pace, which gives them little advantage over traditional couriers.  Read more Hmmmm… Another way of saying, this technology is not good enough yet (needs more investment) for this application (mobility market segment).  Alain

  Despite warnings, many people treat partially automated vehicles as self-driving

Staff, Oct 11, “Drivers who use partial automation on a regular basis often treat their vehicles as fully self-driving despite widespread warnings and numerous high-profile crash reports, a new study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows.

Regular users of Cadillac Super Cruise, Nissan/Infiniti ProPILOT Assist and Tesla Autopilot said they were more likely to perform non-driving-related activities like eating or texting while using their partial automation systems than while driving unassisted. More worrying, 53 percent of Super Cruise users, 42 percent of Autopilot users and 12 percent of ProPILOT Assist users said that they were comfortable treating their vehicles as fully self-driving….”  Read more Hmmmm…  How many of those people understood that the question they were being asked was in the same context of the way it is being implied in this article.  The question that should have been asked is something more alike “under what situations and for how long would you would you completely disengage from overseeing the driving task”.  Yes, there is misbehavior in the use of these systems as there is misbehavior in the use of cars without these systems, but asking this question throws gasoline on the fire rather than helping us put out the fire. 


By the way, isn’t it important to have your feet near the brake at all times; even more important than having you hadnds on the wheel? Alain


Oct 27, ” On Thursday, October 27 at 6:14 p.m. PT, SpaceX launched 53 Starlink satellites to low-Earth orbit from Space Launch Complex 4E (SLC-4E) at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

This was the eighth launch and landing for this Falcon 9 first stage booster, which previously launched Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, DART, and now six Starlink missions.” Read more Hmmmm… 187
total launches; 149 total landings, 124 total reflights.  49th launch of Falcon 9 in 2022.  Impressive! Alain

Full Stack Cryo Testing

NASASpaceflight, Oct 27, “Booster 7 and Ship 24 underwent Cryo testing on the Orbital Launch Mount, Ship 26s Nosecone was moved into the Mid Bay, and a new tent is going up near the Propellant Production Site….”  Read more Hmmmm…Moving along. Alain

  Two NASA spacecraft detect biggest meteor strikes at Mars

M. Dunn, Oct. 27, “Two NASA spacecraft at Mars — one on the surface and the other in orbit — have recorded the biggest meteor strikes and impact craters yet.

The high-speed barrages last year sent seismic waves rippling thousands of miles across Mars, the first ever detected near the surface of another planet, and carved out craters nearly 500 feet (150 meters) across, scientists reported Thursday in the journal Science.

The larger of the two strikes churned out boulder-size slabs of ice, which may help researchers look for ways future astronauts can tap into Mars’ natural resources….”  Read more Hmmmm… Very interesting.  Alain




  our Car’s Driving Assistance Tech Isn’t Meant to Be Used Alone—Here’s Why

S. Brodsky, Oct. 17, “
Read more Hmmmm… Another way of saying, this technology is not good enough yet (needs more investment) for this application (mobility market segment).  Alain

  FedEx is shutting down its robot delivery program

A. Hawkins, Oct. 20, “F…”  Read more Hmmmm… A.  Alain

  Lyft co-founder

T. DeChant, Oct 20, “… ”  Read more Hmmmm… All very true! Alain

  The driver

E. Moore, Oct.22, “…”  Read more Hmmmm… All of this to enhance bar hopping? This reality isn’t pretty.   Alain


N. Doughty, Oct. 12, “…”  Read more Hmmmm… Not pret Alain

The Day

J. Barron, Oct 20, “……..”  Read more Hmmmm…  Sure! Alain

MIT Mobility Forum  VISTA 2.0: An Open, Data-driven Simulator for Multimodal Sensing and Policy Learning for Autonomous Vehicles

Oct.28 @ noon EDT, D. Russ, “VISTA 2.0: An Open, Data-driven Simulator for Multimodal Sensing and Policy Learning for Autonomous Vehicles”.   Please register at Zoom beforehand. ” Read more  Hmmmm… An absolutely excellent lineup, every Friday, which started on Friday, Sept. 16th with Prof. Susan Handy’84, UC Davis.  Alain

  Elon Musk

F. Lambert, Oct 21, “….” Read more  Hmmmm… Hmmmm… TAlain

  Tesla is ai

F. Lambert, Oct 21, “T:…” Read more Hmmmm…     Alain