Wednesday, December 14, 2016
Google is spinning off its self-driving car program into a new company called Waymo
A. Hawkins, Dec 13, "Today, Google announced that it would be spinning off its six-year-old self-driving project into a standalone business called Waymo, which stands for “a new way forward in mobility,” according to John Krafcik, the CEO of the new company.
It was previously reported that Google would be dropping its plan to build its own vehicle without steering wheels and pedals, instead focusing on creating the self-driving technology that can be installed in third-party vehicles. Krafcik didn’t provide much clarity there, but did state definitively that the new company was still fully committed to fully autonomous vehicle technology.
“We are all in, 100 percent, on Level Four and Level Five fully driverless solutions,” he said.
Krafcik didn’t comment on a report in Bloomberg that Google would be starting its own ride-sharing service in partnership with Fiat Chrysler using the Italian car maker’s Pacifica minivans as its fleet of self-driving taxis. Google and FCA announced their collaboration earlier this year. Krafcik did confirm that the self-driving Pacificas were still in the build phase, but would hopefully be on the road for testing very soon.
It may be too soon to say that Google is abandoning its plans to build it’s own fleet of driverless cars, without steering wheels and pedals. That said, Krafcik made it clear that Waymo “is not a car company, there’s been some confusion on that point. We’re not in business of making better cars, we’re in the business of making better drivers.”…Read more Hmmm… Boy that is a lot of hedging. If they are in the business of making better drivers, then all they need to do is to make Automated Collision Avoidance systems that actually work… avoid collisions (aka Safe-driving Cars). That would make all drivers better drivers, but it wouldn’t do anything for non-drivers… the young, old, poor, blind, those under the influence, … Has Google abandoned all of those folks and reverted to the ‘dark-side’? Alain
Say hello to Waymo: what’s next for Google’s self-driving car project
J. Krafcik, Dec 13, "…Today, we’re taking our next big step by becoming Waymo, a new Alphabet business. Waymo stands for a new way forward in mobility. We’re a self-driving technology company with a mission to make it safe and easy for people and things to move around.
We believe that this technology can begin to reshape some of the ten trillion miles that motor vehicles travel around the world every year, with safer, more efficient and more accessible forms of transport. We can see our technology being useful in personal vehicles, ridesharing, logistics, or solving last mile problems for public transport. In the long term, self-driving technology could be useful in ways the world has yet to imagine, creating many new types of products, jobs, and services…
On October 20, 2015, we completed the world’s first fully-self driven car ride…Read more Hmmm… Kudos on the mission, but the terminology remains confusing. Adding the word ‘fully‘ does not provide enough separation from the run-of-the-mill ‘self-driving’, which can’t chauffeur Steve Mahan "on a sunny Tuesday morning … down an ordinary Austin street‘ . The ability to offer this enhanced mobility deserves a unique/separate name so that there is no confusion. I’ve proposed "Driverless", just like an elevator is driverless! This technology can’t be really useful in ‘ridesharing, logistics, or solving last mile problems for public transport‘ unless it is Driverless. Now if you’re only interested in is being useful in ‘personal vehicles‘ then Self-driving is good enough. But, Self-driving doesn’t deliver the societal benefits of ridesharing, logistics, or solving last mile problems for public transport. It doesn’t even provide incremental Safety benefits (Those are captured by Safe-driving cars that have Automated Collision Avoidance, the fundamental precursor of Self-driving. Self-driving only delivers comfort and flexibility to the driver that, unfortunately, will substantially increase VMT (Vehicle Miles Traveled), congestion, pollution, energy consumption, sprawl, … 🙁 Alain
On the road with self-driving car user number one
N. Fairfield, Dec 13, "… This time was different. This time I asked if he’d like to go it alone, and be the first passenger for the world’s first fully driverless ride on public roads — no police escort, no closed course, and most importantly, no test driver.
And so, on a sunny Tuesday morning last fall, I watched from the sidewalk as Steve rode down an ordinary Austin street, with everyday traffic. Our software and sensors were in full control. The wind from the open car windows was blowing through his hair, and he was chuckling as he relished the freedom and independence of being alone in a car for the first time in 12 years…" Read more Hmmm… This is REALY IMPRESSIVE! Important numbers going forward are the personMiles and vehicleMiles of Driverless operation on public roads operating normally ("no police escort, no closed course, … no test driver" and no external human monitoring.) Alain
Google’s Car Diaspora
A. Efrati, Dec 13, "At least a dozen senior members of the Google autonomous car team have departed in the past year, most of them to Uber and to a self-driving car startup that’s right next door to Google’s campus in Mountain View…." Read more Hmmm… Given how valuable each Google employee is to every startup, it is impressive how few have jumped ship. (Thanks to Glenn Mercer for link) Alain
U.S. DOT advances deployment of Connected Vehicle Technology to prevent hundreds of thousands of crashes
Press Release NHTSA 34-16, Dec 13, "Citing an enormous potential to reduce crashes on U.S. roadways, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued a proposed rule today that would advance the deployment of connected vehicle technologies throughout the U.S. light vehicle fleet. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking would enable vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication technology on all new light-duty vehicles, enabling a multitude of new crash-avoidance applications that, once fully deployed, could prevent hundreds of thousands of crashes every year by helping vehicles “talk” to each other… Read more Hmmm… One must always be well aware of the caveats! Here the caveats are "potential" and "fully deployed".. Potential implies that vehicles don’t already have Automated Collision Avoidance (ACA) systems that work (aka ‘Safe-driving Cars’). If they do, the potential incremental reduction of crashes that this proposed rule would have is a small fraction of what is claimed above. Moreover, an infinitesimally small portion of what is already a small fraction can’t be achieved until there is substantial deployment. V2V only avoids crashes between vehicles that BOTH have the mandated technology. That means that the chances that V2V can play a part is the product of the probability that vehicle A has it and the probability that vehicle B has the technology. It isn’t until 70% of the vehicles on the road have the technology that there is even a ‘Coin flip’s" chance that V2V could play any part in avoiding a crash (0.7 x 0.7 = 0.49!) That level of penetration isn’t going to happen for at least 25 years given that there is no "retrofit" requirement.
At 33% deployed (which might be achieved in 10-15 years), V2V is only 10% effective at potentially avoiding crashes that haven’t already been avoided by ACA. In 5 years, adoption may still be less than 10%, making V2V relevant to only 1% of the potential crashes that ACA would not have already not have avoided. Essentially no value is achieved until we’ve been really successful at deployment/adoption and what’s been adopted/deployed actually works. Whew!!!
Moreover, this proposed rulemaking is restrictive in that: "…V2V devices would use the dedicated short range communications (DSRC)…" How obsolete is a DSRC approach going to be before this approach contributes anything measurable?
I thought that Secretary Foxx had realized that automation was the way to go. Why didn’t he propose a rule requiring Automated Collision Avoidance system that actually work to be installed in every new car. At least such systems would eliminate most of the crashes that would have been caused by the drivers of each of the so-equipped vehicles.
So Dec 13 had Google moving forward and DoT/NHTSA moving backwards. Oh well. Happy that it is not the other way around. 🙂 Alain
An EU strategy on cooperative, connected and automated mobility
Press Release, Nov 30. "Today the European Commission adopted a European Strategy on Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems (C-ITS), a milestone initiative towards cooperative, connected and automated mobility…
The Strategy will make it possible to deploy vehicles that can "talk" to each other and to the transport infrastructure on EU roads as of 201To achieve this, the Strategy presents a hybrid communication approach combining complementary and available communication technologies. Currently, the most promising hybrid communication mix is a combination of WiFi based short range communication and existing cellular networks.9…" Read more Hmmm…At lease they haven’t painted themselves into the DSRC corner. Alain
Michigan law permits cars with no steering wheels
R. Mitchell, Dec 9, "e governor of Michigan signed a legislative package Friday that allows cars without steering wheels or drivers to be tested on the state’s highways.
The plan is to make the state “the epicenter for driverless vehicle technology,” said Gov. Rick Snyder. Florida already allows testing of completely driverless cars. With the new law, Michigan and Florida now are the most liberal states on laws governing driverless car technology. Read more Hmmm… There are other parts of this legislation that fund a test center and provide other incentives for this industry, as opposed to a bill forwarded by a NJ Assembly committee that basically discourages (my opinion) this technology in New Jersey. Kudos to Michigan 🙂 We’re hurtin’ in NJ 🙁 So depressing!!!! Alain
Some other thoughts that deserve your attention
On the More Technical Side
Half-baked stuff that probably doesn’t deserve your time:
Taking back control of an autonomous car affects human steering behavior
Stanford U. Public Release, Dec 6, "…The researchers, who had a combined expertise in autonomous car design, human-robot interaction research and neuroscience, found that the transition could be rough. Drivers who experienced certain changes in driving conditions since their last time at the wheel, such as changes in speed, since their last time at the wheel had a period of adjustment in their steering…." Read more Hmmm… Actually the subjects did not experience a change in speed…"…Changing the steering ratio from the standard 15:1 to 2:1 simulated the more sensitive steering feel drivers experience at a higher speed…" Changing the response of a system, of course, requires some readjustment and changing a response from 15:1 to 2:1 may well be very drastic. What speed change is this really "comparable" to??? Maybe some inflated claims here. My apologies, if not. Alain
C’mon Man! (These folks didn’t get/read the memo)
Calendar of Upcoming Events:
January 8-12, 2017
Princeton Alumni & Friends Banquet
Tuesday, 6:00pm Jan 10
Recent Highlights of:
Wednesday, December 7, 2016
Why the driverless car industry is happy (so far) with Trump’s pick for Transportation secretary
R. Mitchell, Dec 6, "licon Valley voted heavily for Hillary Clinton, but companies working on driverless cars seem overjoyed with President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for Transportation secretary, Elaine Chao.
Chao will wield great power over how driverless cars and other automated vehicles will be regulated — or not….Industry insiders say they don’t want Chao to ignore driverless car policy.
Instead, they hope to avoid a patchwork of differing and conflicting rules across the 50 states. “This should be centralized,” said Alain L. Kornhauser, director of the transportation program at Princeton University and an autonomous vehicle expert, “but that doesn’t mean the states don’t play a part. It would be better if we had a common understanding.”…Read more Hmmm… Yup! Alain
Sunday, November 20, 2016
DSRC’s ‘Dead End,’ Says Qualcomm Exec
J, Yoshida, Nov 15, "…Qualcomm’s pending takeover of NXP Semiconductors isn’t making the path to V2X any clearer.
NXP remains a staunch advocate for DSRC-based V2X (as demonstrated via truck platooning on Munich roads last week during Electronica). Qualcomm, a leading voice and force behind the progress of the cellular standards, is sticking to its cellular radio technology-based V2X evolution…We see this as a continued cellular revolution with new elements coming in… " Read more Hmmm…V2X is important, but primarily as a complement to vehicle-centered automated collision avoidance and not as a centralized orchestration of individual vehicles. Finally seeing this as: "We see this as a continued cellular revolution with new elements coming in…" may bring some reality to V2X. Alain
Sunday, November 6, 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
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
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 more Hmmm…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
Mobileye 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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