10th edition of the 6th year of SmartDrivingCars

Thursday, March 8,  2018

imap:// study shows how much driving for Uber or Lyft sucks

N. Lomas, Mar 2, “Ride-hailing giants Uber and Lyft are delivering pitiful levels of take-home pay to the hundreds of thousands of US independent contractors providing their own vehicles and driving skills to deliver the core service, according to an MIT CEEPR study examining the economics of the two app platforms….”  Read more  Hmmmm… This post is predicated on what is likely a very flawed article that follows below.   The serious flaws are described in the 3rd article and the fourth provides another perspective. 

Originally I had a dim view of the ride-hailing concept and equated it to disruptive Jitney services early last century.  My initial impression was: just another up-scale mobility service for Silicon Valley’s 1%ers to use if they should ever give their chauffeur a day off.

I’ve done a 180. I now see it as a somewhat affordable, high-quality, demand-responsive mobility service for the 99%ers and most importantly for those who don’t have access to a car for whatever reason.  For many, especially those who travel in all but the “sweet spot” of public transit, the service-affordability-ease-of-use characteristics are so much better than the public transit alternative, that their quality-of-life has been substantially improved.  To make it affordable, yes, ride-hailing drivers make less than Silicon Valley and Wall Street banker types (and Professors).  For their contribution to society for being out there providing the service they deserve our sincere thanks and appreciation.  Those of us who can afford to pay more should tip generously whenever we benefit from their service.  The public sector should be encouraging, and not even thinking about taxing, Uber/Lyft drivers for providing such high-quality service to its constituents.  Moreover, the availability of these jobs, whose flexibility, independence and underlying personal pride focus on what some can and want to do in their efforts to feed their families is indeed another fundamental contribution to our society.  Some folks want to “work for the man”; others prefer to have their own business, set their own schedules.  This service allows many to have a chance to do the latter.  Apple’s App Store created that opportunity for “coders/geeks”, Uber/Lyft/Didi are doing it for those who don’t mind driving, AirBnB is doing it for those with extra rooms, examples where “the man” just doesn’t cut it.  These personal revenue generation opportunities so substantially alleviate pressures on public assistance that the public sector should certainly be tolerating , if not praising, but in no way should be taxing these mechanisms.  Alain

imap:// Driving Cars Podcast Episode 27

Episode 27 of the Smart Driving Cars Podcast with Princeton University’s Alain Kornhauser and tech journalist Fred Fishkin. This week: More self driving trucks hit the road, the economics of ride hailing services under fire, will Uber partner with Waymo….and more!    Tune in and subscribe!

Hmmmm…. Now you can just say “Alexa, play the Smart Driving Cars podcast!” .  Ditto with Siri, and GooglePlay.  Alain

Real information every week.  Lively discussions with the people who are shaping the future of SmartDrivingCars.  Want to become a sustaining sponsor and help us grow the SmartDrivingCars newsletter and podcast? Contact Alain Kornhauser at!  Alain

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cid:<a href=The Economics of Ride Hailing: Driver Revenue, Expenses and Taxes

S. Zoepf, Feb 2018, “We perform a detailed analysis of Uber and Lyft ride-hailing driver economics by pairing results from a survey of over 1100 drivers with detailed vehicle cost information…”  Read more  Hmmmm… Read only in conjunction with the two articles that follow.  Alain

cid:<a href=An analysis of CEEPR’s Paper on “The Economics of Ride-Hailing”

J. Hall, Mar 2, “…This week, MIT’s Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research (CEEPR) released a paper titled “The Economics of Ride-Hailing: Driver Revenue, Expenses and Taxes,” which differs markedly from previous academic studies on the topic of driver earnings….For example, a study we conducted with Alan Krueger of Princeton found that drivers across 20 of Uber’s largest US markets earned an average of $19.04 per hour, in October 2015. A more recent study with Stanford professors estimated gross hourly earnings of $21.07¹ for all US drivers between January 2015 and March 2017.    Perhaps most surprisingly, the earnings figures suggested in the paper are less than half the hourly earnings numbers reported in the very survey the paper derives its data from. That survey, conducted by The Rideshare Guy in 2017, reports average hourly earnings of $15.68.

Why the major discrepancy? In our estimation, it comes down to a major error in the authors’ methodology….”  Read more  Hmmmm… Read also Alan Krueger’s study which was done with J. Hall, from Uber who co-authored this article, so it needs to read more critically.  It’s the next article.  Alain 

cid:<a href= An Analysis of the Labor Market for Uber’s Driver-Partners in the United States

J. Hall, A. Krueger, Nov 2016, “…This paper provides the first comprehensive analysis of the labor market for Uber’s driver-partners, based on both survey and administrative data. Drivers who partner with Uber appear to be attracted to the platform largely because of the flexibility it offers, the level of compensation, and the fact that earnings per hour do not vary much with the number of hours worked….”  Read more  Hmmmm… Read carefully in light of the above 3 articles and reach your own conclusions.  Alain

cid:<a href=Mission District cabbie attacks self-driving car

A. Brinklow, Mar 7, “It happened again.

Less than four weeks after an unidentified man on Valencia Street attempted to tackle a self-driving car while it waited at an intersection, another neighborhood taxi driver took matters into his own hands by stopping in the middle of traffic to deliver a blow to a robot car hard enough to scratch the window.

According to a report to the DMV (state law requires car companies to publicly report all accidents and mishaps while testing autonomous vehicles on public streets, no matter how minor), the confrontation happened on January 28 on Duboce Avenue near the corner of Guerrero.  As the automated GM Cruise’s human safety driver testifies, he was “stopped behind a taxi” and then “the driver of the taxi exited his vehicle, approached the Cruise AV, and slapped the front passenger window, causing a scratch. There were no injuries and police were not called.”.., ” Read more  Hmmmm… You can’t make this stuff up!! But seriously, this will end up being a problem.  Vandalism of unprotected assets exists today.  We have many other more important challenges to address but this will end up being a nasty one.  While any act of vandalism doesn’t have the breadth of a cyber attack, the breadth of possible actors places it in the same category of breadth x depth.  Alain

cid:<a href=U.S. DOT Public Listening Summit on Automated Vehicle Policy

On March 1, 2018, U.S. DOT hosted a Public Listening Summit on Automated Vehicle Policy (agenda) between 1:00 – 4:00 pm EST at U.S. DOT Headquarters.

Stakeholders and the public were invited to attend a summit with senior leadership from USDOT, state and local partners, industry, academia, and safety advocates at USDOT Headquarters.  The event focused on key cross-modal issues that are important to the successful integration of automated vehicles into our nation’s surface transportation system….” Read more  Hmmmm… Watch the video of the afternoon presentations. This was very much of a multi-modal Summit.  Watch especially Honorable Raymond Martinez starting at 2:21:04   Alain

cid:<a href=Tesla Semi sets out on first cargo trip from Gigafactory 1 to Fremont factory, says Elon Musk

F. Lambert, Mar 7, “A Tesla Semi prototype was recently spied driving on the highway going up to Gigafactory 1 and we suspected it would be to test the route for transport since company executives already confirmed their intentions to use the electric truck on that particular route…

Electrek’s Take: Any truck maker should start to get very worried right about now. As we recently reported, some of them still don’t believe that what Tesla is doing is even possible. Daimler’s head of trucks said that ‘Tesla Semi defies laws of physics and is passing them by if the specs are true’.  If Tesla can now really prove the specs of the electric truck and deliver it at the promised price points of $150,000 and $180,000 depending on the configuration, it’s virtually game-over for other truck makers since the economics grossly advantage Tesla Semi….”  Read more  Hmmmm… And that’s before saying anything about AutoPilot on them.  🙂 Alain

cid:<a href=Uber reportedly wants a partnership with Waymo – here’s what that means for both sides

N. Shields, Mar 7, “…Such a partnership would likely be similar to Waymo’s agreement with Lyft, and allow Uber customers to request rides from Waymo’s self-driving Chrysler minivans. Although it’s unclear which geographies would be included in such a tie-up, Waymo is planning to launch its self-driving cars commercially this year in Arizona as part of its own ride-hailing service, so an agreement could give Uber customers there access to these cars….”  Read more  Hmmmm… As I’ve written previously, Waymo needs an “Uber” because its Driverless vehicles will for some time be “geofenced” to such an extent so as to not be able to provide a sufficiently broad service for anyone to “adopt” Waymo as a go-to mobility service.  It will be too “niche” and very far behind the Uber/Lyft/Didis of this world in providing a mobility alternative to the personal car. With a partnership that is able to tailor its service to the broad mobility needs of its customers, gives it an opportunity to scale.  Plus, even as the geofence becomes very large, Waymo will always needs and want to provide a mobility service option that includes a driver.  Thus, it will always have enough customers to keep the Uber drivers happy. 

Uber needs Waymo because it can’t hire enough drivers to grow much beyond where they are today without making the service unaffordable.  It needs Waymo’s driverless technology to keep costs down.  Moreover, Uber must realize that the better business decision to partner with (buy) that technology than to make it. 

The challenge here is that there is only one Waymo for Uber to partner with yet Waymo has a choice of Uber, Lyft, Didi and maybe others  (although it is not easy to manage well that many independent drivers.)  Alain

cid:<a href=Uber starts robot taxi service in SF for its own self-driving team

C. Said, Mar 6, “There’s a new robot taxi service in San Francisco — but it’s only for people working on Uber’s self-driving car project.  The 300 local employees of Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group can use a modified Uber ride-hailing app to request one of its self-driving Volvo XC90 sport utility vehicles to take them to and from their new offices at Pier 70 on the city’s eastern waterfront. The free rides, which start Wednesday, will operate only in San Francisco. ..”  Read more  Hmmmm… Calling this a “robot taxi service” is a real stretch of the terminology even for Silicon Valley.  Is this part of a Pump & Dump?  … But it is start so let’s see where it goes.  Alain

cid:<a href=Cadillac’s self-driving system is better than Tesla’s or Volvo’s

M. Hogan, Mar 5, ” I tested Cadillac’s new Super Cruise autonomous driving system in a brand new 2018 CT6, and I’m convinced it’s way better than anything else on the market, including Volvo’s Pilot Assist and, yes, even Tesla Autopilot….” Read more  Hmmmm… Good article although it depends on how one weights the apples, bananas and pears when adding them up to decide on which is “Best”.  Different strokes for different folks.. 🙂  Alain 

cid:<a href= The Future is Here

Mar 5, See video  Hmmmm… Cadillac CT6 30-second add during the Oscars. Very interesting. Alain

cid:<a href=Roundtable on Data for Automated Vehicle Safety, Summary Report

D. Kan, Jan 23, “…This report summarizes key discussions from the roundtable and includes materials, such as the draft USDOT Guiding Principles on Voluntary Data Exchanges to Accelerate Safe Deployment of Automated Vehicles, that were the basis for discussion.  …” Read more  Hmmmm… Good discussions but there seems to be little meat.  What tends to bother me is the word “deployment”. I’ll let you choose your own source for the definition, but it will invariably have a military context and implications of centralized control. Unfortunately, Automated Vehicles are an element of the market place which is largely decentralized and not waiting for US DoT or really any other centralized authority to bring resources into effective action.  A better recognition that this is fundamentally a non-governmental market place phenomenon might generate a more substantive discussion on Data beyond it being ‘voluntary”.  Just a thought.  Alain

imap:<a href=Self-driving cars continue to face little resistance from the federal government

A. Hawkins, Mar 5, “…Most people are still highly skeptical about self-driving cars, but if the government was at all nervous about the coming revolution in driverless technology, it didn’t show. In speech after speech, public officials emphasized the extreme laissez-faire approach they were taking to self-driving cars that they’ve been espousing for several years now. This technology must be allowed to progress unencumbered by government rules, they argue. All guidance would be completely voluntary, and anything that could be perceived as a mandate or a requirement was dismissed as an impediment to innovation.

“We are not in the business — we don’t know how — to pick the best technology or to pick the winners,” said Elaine Chao, secretary of transportation. “We’re not in the business of picking winners or losers. The market will decide what is the most effective solution.”…

During the listening session, transportation officials admitted to being slightly out of their league when it comes to the technology underpinning autonomous driving…”  Read more  Hmmmm… Very good summary report.  Since the technology is being developed outside of DoT rather than by DoT, as is for example “road building technology”, it is actually wise of them to take an “extreme laissez-faire” approach to regulations as long as actual safety is not being compromised.  There is more than enough social media out there to watchdog safety even while the market penetration remains so infinitesimal.  Even if “the wheel completely came off” the magnitude of the harm is so minuscule compared to the potential benefits that could be derived that the risk is well worth taking.  Our current mobility systems have some fundamental safety flaws, service shortcomings and environmental challenges that we  willingly accept every day that, theoretically, can be alleviated by automated technology.  It is certainly worth the risk of “extreme laissez-faire” regulation to continue to try to convert the theory into reality.  Be assured that, if the “wheels start to come off” “laissez-faire” will be out the window faster than The Fukushima Tsunami shut down Nuclear Power.

imap:<a href=Uber’s Self-Driving Trucks Hit the Highway, but Not Local Roads

D. Wakabayashi, March 6, “…Uber said on Tuesday that its self-driving trucks had been carrying cargo on highways in Arizona for commercial freight customers over the past few months. The trucks operate with a licensed truck driver at the wheel, ready to take over in the case of an emergency. But Uber said the eventual goal was to eliminate human drivers inside the cab….”  Read more  Hmmmm… We know all about eventual!  This is “just” Self-driving and purely for drive comfort and convenience…which is a very valuable and good contribution but it is very far from Driverless.  Since we’ve only gone 10 miles world wide driverless on any public road in normal operation, (and that was on lightly used local roads.  We aren’t about to let an 80,000 pound, 53 foot monster loose at highway speeds for a while!  So please see this for what it is… improvement of the working conditions of drivers which is more than enough worthy of praise and delivers an attractive RoI to long-haul trucking companies especially if FMCSA offers some improvement in hours-of-service as a quid pro quo.  Don’t bother about the eventual “kitchen sink”. 

See also UBER’S SELF-DRIVING-TRUCK SCHEME HINGES ON LOGISTICS, NOT TECH which focuses on the load-matching aspects; however, that’s a crowded field. Alain

cid:<a href=Coming Soon (2018): The $200k Robo-Taxi

J. Yoshida, Feb 21, “…EE Times sat down with Yole Développement and asked about the firm’s analysis on the evolution of the robotic vehicle market, and market drivers for such highly automated vehicles. We also asked the estimated cost for a robotic vehicle today, and the likely number of robocars that might hit the commercial market in 2018-2019. We also asked Yole to break down robotic vehicle economics….In short, robocar users are not current private car users/owners, and use cases by robocar users will be very different from what we already see on the market….Cambou equated the dawn of the robotic vehicle today to the time — in 1992 — when nobody had ever envisioned what iPhone technology could do 15 years later….” Read more  Hmmmm… Well worth reading.  I’d put it as: the view of where the automobile was going to take us from the perspective of 1898, well before Henry Ford but after the Benz patent.  Alain

cid:<a href=Renault unveils autonomous EZ-GO ride-sharing concept

B. Coxworth, Mar 6, “…the idea is that people could summon an EZ-GO car from anywhere in the city via an app, or by using an interface at one of many designated EZ-GO stations. The driverless vehicle would subsequently show up at their location, opening its wide front door, lowering its active suspension and deploying a lighted boarding ramp so they could walk (or roll a wheelchair) on board…. ”  Read more  Hmmmm… Maybe??? But the primary design goal will need to be attractive non-sketchy ride-sharing.  You’ll probably need to go to where it is waiting for you where someone else “going your way” may conveniently show up.  The economics of that design will will ensure its market dominance.   

cid:<a href=Shanghai launches testing of smart cars on public roads

L. Yan, Mar 8, “Shanghai issued China’s first batch of licenses allowing testing intelligent and connected vehicles (ICVs) on public roads on March 1. Previously, the road testing of these vehicles was only allowed in closed areas.  The city opened a 5.6-kilometer-long road in suburban Jiading district for the testing. Two Shanghai-based auto makers, SAIC Motor Corp and Shanghai-based electric carmaker NIO, were granted licenses, which take effective from March 1 to May 29, 2018…. Read more  Hmmmm… Interesting article.  China is not sitting still.  Alain

cid:<a href=Minnesota speeds up planning for self-driving cars

E. Roper, Mar 7, “…Gov. Mark Dayton formed a group Wednesday to delve into the tricky policy and infrastructure questions that will accompany the arrival of autonomous vehicles. The 15-member advisory council will take up traffic regulations, privacy concerns and many other matters, with policy recommendations due to the DFL governor by December….”  Read more  Hmmmm… Keeping things moving in MN. Alain

cid:<a href=Autonomous vehicles now being tested on San Ramon streets

E. Alvero, Mar 7, “Officials and members of the media gathered at San Ramon Bishop Ranch Tuesday morning for a historical moment — the state’s first testing of shared autonomous vehicles on public streets….

“Imagine a day when you have door to door service, that’s very, very inexpensive,” said Randell Iwasaki, executive director of Contra Costa Transportation Authority, which is leading the project in conjunction with GoMentum Station. “We can get to not only that first and last mile issue, but with this technology we can get to the under-served parts of our community.”…”  Read more  Hmmmm… Another important step forward.  Congratulations Randy!  Those new CA DMV regs allowed this happen. Alain


Half-baked stuff that probably doesn’t deserve your time

cid:<a href=Government to review law before self-driving cars arrive on UK roads

A. Perkins, Mar 6, “…  The three-year review, to be conducted by the Law Commission of England and Wales, and the Scottish Law Commission, will look at how traditional laws need to be adjusted to take account of issues including self-driving vehicles not having a human at the wheel or even a steering wheel…. The Brits have a nice leisurely pace..

..  The first recorded death involving a driverless vehicle was in July 2016… Read more  Hmmmm… But they can’t get their terminology nor their dates correct.  The vehicle wasn’t Driverless and it was May, not July.  I Guess the Guardian isn’t much of a guardian of the proper use of English words.  TechCrunch’s reporting of the same.  Alain



Been There; Done That!

cid:<a href=Pull over, Uber. This self-driving truck is driving with no one on board

M. McFarland, Mar 8, “Two days after Uber announced self-driving truck operations in Arizona, which feature a backup driver as a precaution, Starsky Robotics said it has completed a seven-mile drive without a human in the vehicle.

In mid-February, Starsky conducted the test on a closed portion of Route 833 in Hendry County, Florida, with no traffic….”  Read more  Hmmmm… What can one expect from CNN except “Sunday supplements”. Oshkosh did more than 100 miles 12+ years ago with one of their big trucks. How about some real news CNN.  Alain




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imap:<a href=

2nd Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit
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