28th edition of the 6th year of SmartDrivingCars

Friday, June 15,  2018

cid:<a href=Waymo’s early rider program, one year in

Waymo team, June 13, “Ariel rides after school. Neha hops to the grocery store. Barbara and Jim zip around town while kicking back.

They’re all part of the Waymo early rider program we launched last April. Today, over 400 riders with diverse backgrounds use Waymo every day, at any time, to ride all around the Phoenix area. Their feedback helps us understand how fully self driving cars fit into their daily lives.

One year in, our early rider program and our extensive on-road testing is helping us build the world’s most experienced driver. In fact, our fleet of cars across the U.S. is now driving more than 24,000 miles daily; that’s the equivalent of an around the world road trip! Here’s a quick report on how our riders use Waymo, what we’ve learned, and what’s next….As some of the first people in the world to use self-driving vehicles for their everyday transportation needs, our early riders are helping shape this technology. Thanks to their feedback, we’re refining the rider experience to make sure that: …  nobody wants to carry grocery bags a block down the street… ”  Read more Hmmmm…. Yipes!!  The personal car isn’t bad enough in its focus on private single-occupant parkingSpot2parkingSpot mobility? Are we now going to have Waymo providing it Door2Door with zero opportunity to share rides and while delivering negative public benefits of increased energy, pollution and congestion with all of its empty vehicle repositioning.  No wonder the CPUC voted to forbid ride-sharing.  Did Waymo made them do it since Waymo hasn’t done ride-sharing in Phoenix? Having 2 or more people in the car isn’t ride sharing if they would have all gone together in their own car had Waymo not been there.  So Bad!!!  Without ride-sharing, this is just expensive, energy inefficient and environmentally challenged private chauffeuring for the entitled privileged class:  See video Just like watching Oszzie & Harriet or Leave it to Beaver.  For Waymo to “Win it”, they’ll need to embrace ride-sharing because no “Blue-state” PUC is going to be as impressionable as as California’s.  Alain

cid:<a href=Waymo has been testing self-driving cars with 400 riders in Phoenix for a year. Here’s what it’s learned so far

J. D’Onfro, June 14, “For slightly more than a year, 400 volunteers have tested out Waymo’s self-driving car service in Phoenix, Arizona, for free, letting the driverless vehicles whisk them to work, shopping centers, the bar, or anywhere else within a 100-square-mile area.  In that time, these riders have been filing the non-technical equivalent of bug reports, using the cars’ rider support call buttons and in-app feedback forms to point out issues with the service and highlight use cases that Waymo researchers might have missed.  Through their experiences, Waymo has learned a few things:… Read more Hmmmm…. Very interesting, but they didn’t learn ride-sharing.   See also video on Waymo Test Site.  Alain

imap:// Driving Cars Podcast Episode 45

F. Fishkin, June 15, “Waymo marks the first year of its early rider program. The news is good but Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser says it could be better. How? Tune in to Episode 45 of the Smart Driving Cars Podcast for that and the latest on GM, Voyage, Ford and more  Listen 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

cid:<a href=The market for driverless cars will head towards monopoly

Free  exchange, June 7, “The race to bring driverless cars to market is fierce and crowded. All the leading carmakers are in the field: on May 31st SoftBank’s Vision Fund said that it would invest $2.25bn in the autonomous vehicle (AV) arm of General Motors. So are tech upstarts, from Uber to Tesla to Waymo, Alphabet’s self-drive division and the leader in driverless technology, which recently announced plans to add 62,000 minivans to the fleet of cars that will make up its autonomous ride-hailing service. Intense competition has both benefits and costs, but will probably prove short-lived. Thanks to powerful economies of scale, the roads may soon be ruled by no more than a handful of firms.

The advantages of scale begin with data. Like humans, the computers which power driverless cars improve with experience. The computers sitting in AVs are essentially in the business of learning and improving on what a good human driver would do, write Ajay Agrawal, Joshua Gans and Avi Goldfarb in their new book, “Prediction Machines”. The more data they have, the better they become at predicting whether that blur ahead is a pedestrian or sunlight reflecting off the road, and reacting accordingly. And the more miles under an AV project’s belt, the more unusual events—a moose in the road, say—the system faces….”  Read more Hmmmm…. Mobility is fundamentally a Utility, so a monopoly (exclusive charter) is not out of the question. Transit Agencies are “monopolies”. Alain

cid:<a href=Introducing the Voyage G2 Autonomous Vehicle

O. Cameron, June 14, “…For the last year, we’ve worked side-by-side with our communities to refine our self-driving taxi service. Today, we’re taking that a step further with the introduction of our second generation (G2) vehicle.

The G2 is a big step forward for Voyage and our communities. The G2 vehicle is based on the widely acclaimed Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid mini-van, and is paired with a first-of-its-kind partnership with Enterprise to super-charge the scaling of our autonomous fleet. The G2 features incredible new sensor technology from Velodyne, best-in-class safety systems, and Voyage’s own autonomous driving technology. As a team, we are marching incredibly fast toward truly driverless services inside Voyage communities….

We’ve solved the vehicle scaling problem by establishing a first-of-its-kind partnership with the leader in commercial fleet leasing and maintenance: Enterprise. Enterprise will leverage decades of fleet management experience to procure, lease, and service our fleet of G2 autonomous vehicles. The lease allows Voyage to retrofit vehicles with our self-driving hardware. When the lease term is up, we simply return the vehicle to Enterprise, and recycle any vehicle equity back into expanding our fleet. “…”  Read more Hmmmm…. Somewhat interesting; however, there must be more than just a car leasing arrangement.  Given Enterprse’s “We’ll pick you up”  slogan, they really need Voyage’s driverless technology.  Moreover,  Enterprise had been an early investor in MobilEye.  There must be more to this deal.     Alain

cid:part27.1BECD216.32F65D5E@princeton.eduHow startups are building driverless cars without Google’s billions

 T. Lee, June 15, “There’s near-universal agreement that Google spinoff Waymo is the leading company in the driverless-vehicle business. And Waymo’s strategy for developing fully driverless cars is very expensive. Before launching a commercial driverless car service, Waymo needs to convince itself—and the world—that its cars will be at least as safe as human drivers.

That has meant racking up millions of test miles on public roads, a process that has taken several years and cost Waymo well over $1 billion.

Waymo’s more established competitors—including Uber, GM’s Cruise, and the Ford-aligned—are pursuing a similar strategy. But a number of startups is also trying to build fully autonomous cars. And many of these companies simply don’t have the money it takes to follow Waymo’s lead. They need a different strategy—one that allows them to bring a product to market more quickly and at lower cost.

“We want to build a product that launches now and not in five or 10 years,” said Voyage CEO Oliver Cameron in 2017.   Voyage and other self-driving car startups aren’t aiming to sell customers a car that can drive anywhere autonomously or even to offer a Waymo-style taxi service. They’re building low-speed, geographically limited shuttle services. These beginnings are modest, but they could lay the foundation for much more impressive technology in the future.”…

It’s easy to dismiss a 25mph shuttle service as not a real self-driving vehicle—and obviously it’s not as impressive as building a Waymo-style autonomous taxi that travels safely at highway speeds. But we shouldn’t underestimate these startups; once they have a portfolio of profitable low-speed shuttle services, it will be pretty easy to gradually expand into more demanding applications….” Read more   Hmmmm….  Yes, There is a sizeable niche market for low-speed shuttles in limited geo-fenced gated environments.  These well-behaved environments are definitely opportunities to “crawl safely” while learning to walk and eventually run all the while delivery enhanced mobility for folks living or working in those unique environments.  Alain

cid:<a href= Google Has Spent Over $1.1 Billion on Self-Driving Tech

M. Harris, Sept 15, 2017, “…Now, a court filing in Waymo’s epic and ongoing lawsuit against Uber (now settled out of court) has accidentally revealed just how big a bet Google placed on autonomous vehicles. Between Project Chauffeur’s inception in 2009 and the end of 2015, Google spent $1.1 billion on developing its self-driving software and hardware, according to a recent deposition of Shawn Bananzadeh, a financial analyst at Waymo….

Throughout Bananzadeh’s deposition, every dollar amount was redacted to protect Waymo’s confidential commercial information. Every time, that is, except in the Uber lawyer’s very next question: “The calculation that was the basis of the $1.1 billion cost estimate for Trade Secret 90 is the same calculation that was done for Trade Secret 2 and Trade Secret 25?”…   “Insofar as it is part of the entirety of this self-driving system…. therefore, all of the costs of the program since inception… are what then informs that number.”…”  Read more  Hmmmm…  One must assume that Bananzadeh added up every conceivable expense incurred by Google in developing the driverless software, its associated hardware, creating a test facility and a simulation environment, designing and building “Firefly” and all the lobbying and legal expense of creating Waymo and who knows what other “kitchen sinks”.  An ceiling (through 2015) of just $1.1B.  That investment has positioned them in the lead to address a $10T/yr market.  SoftBank just put twice that to get only a piece of a distant #2.  Alain

cid:<a href=GM Is Exploring Listing Shares of Cruise Self-Driving Unit

D. Welch, ” General Motors Co. is having early discussions internally and with banks about strategic options for its self-driving car unit Cruise Automation, according to people familiar with the matter.  The largest U.S. automaker is researching possibilities including a public offering of shares, listing a separate tracking stock to reflect its value, or spinning off the unit, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private. GM won’t make a decision until Cruise is further along in development and may not take any action for a couple of years, if at all.

While a public offering may be well into its future, the exploration shows how far Cruise has come since it was acquired two years ago as a 50-person firm. It’s now attracting capital, hiring by the hundreds and aiming to offer an app-based, ride-hailing service next year. The company, whose autonomous vehicle prototypes are still in the testing phase, wants to demonstrate commercial viability and build out a business before moving forward with any plans, said two of the people. GM declined to comment.  Read more  Hmmmm…  I’m sure that SoftBank would rather see its $2.25B devoted to Cruise rather than shared with the legacy GM.  Very interesting!  Alain

cid:<a href=We are in the midst of a major Technological Revolution

G. Maring, “Presentation to a group of non-transportation but well educated retirees in Montgomery County.”  See Presentation  Hmmmm….  Nice slides, good use of videos. Focus is mostly on Self-driving cars that require adult supervision.   Insufficient attention to the fleet fleet-owned & managed Driverless scenario focused on leveraging shared-ride opportunities to reduce congestion, energy consumption and pollution while  delivering vastly enhanced affordable mobility to the mobility disadvantaged.  Alain

cid:<a href=Driverless testing in NJ? Phil Murphy aide wants to move in that direction

J. Cichowski, June 6, “…“Finally, somebody in power recognizes that New Jersey is a microcosm of the nation that has everything necessary for a grand experiment,” he said, citing the state’s limited mass-transit options and its balance of urban, suburban and rural roads and population demographics. “And the weather isn’t always great,” he added, “but that makes it ideal for testing under all conditions.”…” Read more  Hmmmm…. See video.  New Jersey may finally start trying to be a player.   

cid:<a href=Links to videos from 2nd Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit


Interested in working in Toronto?   Have a good background and interest in working on safety and security for autonomous driving vehicles and fleets?  Contact Dr. Fengmin Gong, DiDi Labs

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

cid:<a href=Ford Unit Teams With Startup Developing ‘Waze’ for Self-Driving Cars

“Startup RideOS said Friday that it has raised $9 million led by venture firm Sequoia Capital and reached a partnership with a division of Ford Motor Co. Started by two former Uber Technologies Inc. employees, RideOS plans to sell software that gives routes and other dispatching instructions to fleets of autonomous cars. Add RideOS to a mounting list of companies competing to create markets around the nascent technology, which continues to reel in investment….”  Read more  Hmmmm…. Wow, Sequoia and Ford must have money to burn.  Maybe 20+ years ago this stuff was hard and novel.  I guess that $9M is really pocket change and good talent (like my students who could do this) cost that much to acquire.  Alain

 C’mon Man!  (These folks didn’t get/read the memo)

cid:<a href=Contest Aims to Lift Personal Flying Machines Off the Page

Z. Wichter, June 14, “Since at least the ancient Greeks, people have dreamed of soaring like a bird from place to place. Leonardo da Vinci’s sketches of personal flying machines were ahead of their time and remain ahead of our own. Most people who want to fly today can do so only with an airline ticket and a valid form of identification.

But some inventors, designers and engineers have continued to tinker, and now a contest called GoFly is encouraging them. It aims to have working prototypes next year….”  Read more  Hmmmm…. I can’t think of anything worse that society should develop for the entitled privileged affluent 1%ers than these.  Ronny Chieng said it best on the Daily Show.  C’mon Man!  Alain

Calendar of Upcoming Events:

imap:<a href=

3rd Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit
evening May 14 through May 16, 2019
Save the Date; Reserve your Sponsorship
Photos from 2nd Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit

Program & Links to slides from 2nd Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit

  On the More Technical Side

Capsule Networks (CapsNets) – Tutorial