49th edition of the 6th year of SmartDrivingCars

Thursday, November 15, 2018

cid:<a href=Waymo to Start First Driverless Car Service Next Month

T. Randall, “In just a few weeks, humanity may take its first paid ride into the age of driverless cars. Waymo, … is planning to launch the world’s first commercial driverless car service in early December, according to a person familiar with the plans. It will operate under a new brand and compete directly with Uber and Lyft.  Waymo is keeping the new name a closely guarded secret until the formal announcement, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the plans haven’t been made public. …

It’s a big milestone for self-driving cars, but it won’t exactly be a “flip-the-switch” moment. Waymo isn’t planning a splashy media event, and the service won’t be appearing in an app store anytime soon, according to the person familiar with the program. Instead, things will start small—perhaps dozens or hundreds of authorized riders in the suburbs around Phoenix, covering about 100 square miles. …” Read more  Hmmmm….  Understood that it is a “big milestone”, but I’m tired reporting about “gonna” and want to report “didda”.  Also, I’m beginning to wonder about the “Driverless” aspect of this launch.  Is it “attendant-less” too???  Since this “Service” is supposed to be a business, then Driverless must be attendant-less, else it is NOT a real business.  By that I mean it can’t scale to be more than a niche/toy.  Not even the giant Alphabet could afford to subsidize anything more than a niche/toy and Adam Jonas would have to drop his valuation to zero.  When are we going to see true Driverless and not “gonna be Driverless”.  By the way, how many of those “10 million Autonomous miles driven” have been attendant-less?  It is OK if only a few have been, but the business case requires attendant-less.  The marketPlace/wallStreet/adamJonas  will require Waymo to actually demonstrate that it has a attendant-less business case, else zero valuation..  Alain 

imap:// Driving Cars Podcast Episode 67

F. Fishkin, Nov 15,  “Ford unveils progress and targets self driving car service for 2021. Waymo plans to launch its first paid self driving service next month. And Uber talks safety. Join Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin for those stories 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

cid:<a href= Here’s how Ford’s autonomous vehicles will shake up ride hailing and delivery services

F. Holland, Nov  15, “…Ford has said it plans to begin selling self-driving cars by 2021, but it is also testing out ways it can use these vehicles to carry people and things. Sherif Marakby, CEO of Ford Autonomous Vehicles, told CNBC the company is focused on profitability and scalability.

“We’re laser focused on profitability,” said Marakby, who said autonomous vehicles provide transportation at a lower cost than current vehicles. “While the vehicle is expensive, initially we’re deploying it in service so the cost per mile for transportation for a person or a business is going to be lower and will be profitable for us,” he said.

Ford has said it plans to invest a total of $4 billion into AV technology through 2023…..”   Read more  Hmmmm….  Very interesting how Ford seems to be trying to be a serious competitor.   Alain

cid:<a href=Uber ATG Safety Report:  A Principled Approach To Safety

D. Khosrowshahi, Nov 2018, “…Our Mission…We believe the best way to harness the power of self-driving technology for broad public benefit is to deploy it in managed fleets of shared vehicles equipped with Level 4 capability…  Not to quibble about nuances in language, but this does NOT state a focus on Ride-sharing.  Shared vehicles are NOT shared-riding.  Shared-vehicle just means that more than one family gets to use a car during the day.  That does NOTHING for energy, congestion or the environment.  In fact because of the empty vehicle management requirement, it makes each worse!  This is part of Uber’s “Mission Statement”.  I’m sure each word was chosen carefully… So when they say their mission is on shared vehicles, they mean shared vehicles, not shared riding; else they would have written shared riding….
We already have established systems which evaluate a rider’s needs and connect them with a driver-partner who can best meet these needs. ….We are actively developing partnerships in two models:
1. Fleets of vehicles equipped with our own selfdriving technology made available via the Uber platform….
2. Fleets of vehicles equipped with other developers’  self-driving technology made available via the Uber platform… Not So!!  This indicates that Uber believes its value is in the “platform (aka app)” and the mobility service provider can be anyone who pays Uber for the referral.  I think that works as long as the provider is an individual with very limited resources (such as time and a car).  But a fleet owner who has the resources to equip a fleet with Safe Driverless technology also has the resources to develop a next generation “platform (aka app)” that can readily leapfrog, thus commoditising Uber’s platform.  So while Uber might be “developing” two partnership models, only one is viable.  Since someone is going to be market dominant in driverless technology, it will be that entity’s “platform” that will emerge market dominant in the personal mobility business.  My take-away is: Uber must achieve market dominance in Safe Driverless (attendant-less) technology, else we may have reached “Peak Uber”.  

Uber’s Self-Driving Technology: Base Vehicle.  Uber selects vehicle platforms with a strong track record of safety and high marks in passive safety testing by independent ratings agencies. All of the vehicles in Uber’s current fleet are recent model-year Volvo XC90 sport-utility vehicles, upfitted with sensors and our self-driving technology… City Safety Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) System… Unfortunately, Volvo’s AEB has significant limitations where the system explicitly disregards stationary objects detected ahead.  I could not find any reference to such limitations nor any mention of how Uber is circumventing these limitations nor any suggestion as to limiting their operational domain, as they failed to do in Arizona, in order to avoid encountering such limitations.  I’m focusing on a detail here associated with Uber’s failure to properly appreciate the limitations of the base systems in the specification of the Operational Design Domain (ODD).  Uber does have an excellent chapter in this report that describes their OOD, starting on p. 29.  They do have on p 35 ……We develop our Vehicle Control software in partnership with the manufacturer of the base vehicle, thereby ensuring the self-driving system understands the capabilities … I would add the words “and limitations”…  of the vehicle and is able to avoid conflict with base vehicle systems….” Read more  Hmmmm….  My quibble above focuses on how important safe driverless technology is to Uber’s future and on how I’d like to see the industry respond to tragedies. Involved parties must go beyond conductuing a thorough investigation of “what happened”.  They also need to prepare and widely distribute a complete and sober reporting of the findings, and lead a cooperative “rolling up the sleeves” ammong all in the industry to fix the problem.  It is in everyone’s best interst to avert history repeating itself.  The industry must cooperate rather than compete to achieve the highest levels of safety.

A similar situation is emerging in the airline industry with the crash of flight Lion Air Flight 610 , the next article.  Similar scenarios undoubtedly will happen, and may happen often, with Driverless cars. The scenario is what does the “AI” do when it is being fed incorrect data?  The philosophical aspects of this issue are unsolvable, but are there any practical aspects that can be addressed.  (redundancy alone isn’t the answer because if it was, why not just rely on the redundant sources in all situations?) 

Anyway, I digress… Except for the above quibble,  this is an excellent Safety Report and I commend Uber for all of the detail and thoroughness that Uber included in this report. Alain

cid:<a href=New Questions Swirl Over Boeing on Updated 737 Model That Crashed

H. Beech, Nov 13, “…Investigators have been focused on whether the plane, Lion Air Flight 610, crashed because the system, which is designed to pull the plane out of a dangerous stall, activated based on inaccurate data transmitted or processed from sensors on the fuselage….The emergency system is intended to maneuver the plane out of a stall, when its nose is often angled too sharply upward. The system automatically pushes the nose down. If activated incorrectly, it could have sent the plane into its fatal dive, especially if the pilots were not properly trained on how to deal with such a situation….” Read more  Hmmmm…. Ouch!!  This is very troubling, because this is incorrect input data.  Is there anything that could have been done to better monitor the “health” of the sensor that generated the bad data or better continuous inspection of the data stream to suggest that the data stream had become corrupted?  Short of any of these options, this may be one of these unsolvable philosophical problems.  (sure, 20-20 hindsight points to a maintenance problem, maybe; although the sensor may/could have lost its calibration in real-time.  Then what???) Alain 

cid:<a href=Uber details why its driverless SUV killed a pedestrian and how it’s working to fix safety problems

M. Laris, Nov 2, “…A key internal recommendation cited the need for “improving the overall software system design,” which is akin to saying Uber’s robot car needed a better brain with sharper thinking.

In practice, that means that since the fatal crash in Tempe, Ariz., in March, company engineers have worked at “reducing latency,” or the delay between when an initial observation is made and when an action is taken in response, Uber said. “We are now able to detect objects and actors sooner and execute safe reactions faster,” Uber said….”  Read more  Hmmmm…. That may be what “company engineers have worked at”; however, that wasn’t “why its driverless SUV killed a pedestrian”.  The car was operating in an Operational Design Domain (ODD) where the Volvo AEB was turned off.  Its system “Saw” Elaine 6 seconds before it hit her.  It had plenty of time.  It just didn’t know what to do and its backup system was turned off.  It should have never been operating in on this road at this speed which should obviously have been outside its ODD.  Alain

cid:<a href=Waymo CEO: Autonomous cars won’t ever be able to drive in all conditions

S. Tibken, Nov 13, “… John Krafcik, head of the self-driving car unit of Google parent company Alphabet, said that though driverless cars are “truly here,” they’re not yet ubiquitous. And he doesn’t think the industry will ever achieve the highest driving rating of being able to drive at any time of year in any weather and any condition….” Read more  Hmmmm…. Duhhh… Nothing new here.  Conventional cars can’t “drive in all conditions”.  Go try to drive your Landrover to Climb the great Wall or see how many times you can drive your Jeep down a riverbed. or drive in these conditions.  Alain 

  Walmart agrees to work with Ford on self-driving grocery delivery pilot

T. Lee, Nov 14, “Ford is working with Postmates and Walmart on a pilot program for self-driving grocery deliveries, the companies announced on Wednesday. “We are exploring how self-driving vehicles can deliver many everyday goods such as groceries, diapers, pet food and personal care items,” Ford said in a press release.
The grocery delivery pilot experiment will be based in Miami, where Ford’s self-driving car company, Argo, is already testing self-driving vehicles. Ford had been testing self-driving deliveries with Postmates prior to this announcement….”  Read more  Hmmmm…. Since this is about hauling stuff, why aren’t they using a F-150?? Alain

cid:<a href=Amazon Plans to Split HQ2 Between Long Island City, N.Y., and Arlington, Va.

K. Weise, Nov 5, “After conducting a yearlong search for a second home, Amazon has switched gears and is now finalizing plans to have a total of 50,000 employees in two locations, according to people familiar with the decision-making process.

The company is nearing a deal to move to the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens, according to two of the people briefed on the discussions. Amazon is also close to a deal to move to the Crystal City area of Arlington, Va., a Washington suburb, one of the people said. Amazon already has more employees in those two areas than anywhere else outside of Seattle, its home base, and the Bay Area…. ” Read more  Hmmmm…. A shame that they didn’t pick Newark, NJ.  🙁  Alain

cid:<a href= How Elon Musk might make $920 million in Tesla debt go away

R. Mitchell, Nov 15, “A big pile of debt comes due at Tesla on March 1 – $920 million worth. But starting in two weeks, the company has a chance to make it disappear.  The debt is in the form of convertible bonds, a special kind of instrument that can be converted into shares of Tesla stock under certain conditions. If conditions are met, and all bondholders convert, Tesla would suddenly gain $920 million worth of much-needed financial flexibility.

To spark a conversion, Tesla needs to boost its stock price to $359.87 or higher at some point in the three-month period between Dec. 1 and Feb. 28. The higher the price goes, the more likely holders will convert.  A successful conversion would go a long way toward helping Tesla meet Chief Executive Elon Musk’s bold financial goals. He’s told stock analysts to expect positive net income and positive free cash flow in the upcoming quarter ending in December, with “aspirations” for profits in “all quarters going forward.”

If the overall stock market’s recent swoon continues, the $359.87 strike price might be hard to reach. Tesla shares now trade at around $345. …  That’s why the best way for Tesla to lift its share price high enough to trigger a conversion and save $920 million is to prove that Model 3 sales continue to grow and costs are being kept low enough to produce a healthy profit.”  Read more  Hmmmm…. Wow.  This would be really bad news for the Shorters.  Alain

cid:<a href=Did Uber Steal Google’s Intellectual Property?

C. Duhigg, Oct 22, “n the spring of 2011, a small group of engineers working on a secretive project at Google received an e-mail from a colleague. It’s finally happening, the note read. Anthony is going to get fired. Several of the recipients gathered in one of the self-serve espresso bars that dot the company’s headquarters, and traded rumors suggesting that Anthony Levandowski—one of the company’s most talented and best-known employees—had finally gone too far.  …” Read more  Hmmmm….  Please read for pure enjoyment about the personalities in this business.  Each of my interactions with Anthony, while limited, have been nothing but pleasant. Alain

cid:<a href=The Prophets of Cryptocurrency Survey the Boom and Bust

“…Di Iorio had invited a fellow Toronto Bitcoiner named Joseph Lubin, then forty-nine, who, with a sense of the import of the occasion, brought along the reporter Morgen Peck, to bear witness. She later described it as “an after-hours grease trap” for dozens of additional participants in the conference. …Di Iorio had invited a fellow Toronto Bitcoiner named Joseph Lubin, then forty-nine, who, with a sense of the import of the occasion, brought along the reporter Morgen Peck, to bear witness. She later described it as “an after-hours grease trap” for dozens of additional participants in the conference. … ” Read more  Hmmmm….  This was another article in the Oct 22 New Yorker that I finally got around to reading (see also) with a personal connection…  In the early 90s, while Joe Lubin was a student at Princeton, we were researching the design of Neural Networks to perform lateral control of automated vehicles using image data as the input: (with J.M. Lubin, E.C. Huber, S. Gilbert) “Analysis of a Neural Network Lateral Controller for an Autonomous Road Vehicle” SAE Paper No. 921561, in IVHS Issues  and Technology, SP 928, SAE publication, pp23 – 44, Aug. 1992.  (with J.M. Lubin, E.C. Huber, S. Gilbert) “Lateral Control of an Autonomous Road Vehicle in a Simulated Highway Environment Using Adaptive Resonance Neural Networks” Proceedings of the IEEE/SAE Intelligent Vehicles ’92 Conference . Detroit, July, 1992. 🙂  Alain

cid:<a href=Imminent Bitcoin Cash schism triggers cryptocurrency selloff

T. Lee, Nov 14, “Bitcoin’s price has fallen more than 12 percent over the last 24 hours to $5,400, the lowest price for the popular cryptocurrency in more than a year.  Bitcoin’s plunge is part of a broader cryptocurrency sell-off. Ethereum has fallen more than 15 percent over the last 24 hours, while Bitcoin Cash is down 18 percent.

Cryptocurrency markets are jittery ahead of a high-stakes “hard fork” of Bitcoin Cash. Rival factions are pushing different, mutually incompatible versions of the spinoff cryptocurrency, and the two versions are scheduled to create separate, competing versions of the blockchain starting on Thursday. The schism could create confusion among users and damage the reputation of the cryptocurrency….”  Read more  Hmmmm…. Whew!! Alain

cid:<a href=Self-Driving Cars May Kill That Old Real Estate Mantra Of ‘Location, Location, Location’

A. Ohnsman, Nov 13, “…“The famous real estate phrase is ‘location, location, location.’ It’s our belief that that is not going to be the way of the future,” David Eisenberg, CBRE’s senior vice president for digital enablement & technology, told Forbes. “In the future, people are going to be willing to go farther because their commutes are more pleasant — they’re not driving themselves, they’ll have high-quality media available to them, especially with 5G internet.”

As the availability of autonomous service expands over time it will have the biggest impact on U.S. real estate markets “since mass adoption of the car and expansion of the federal highway system,” he said….”  Read more  Hmmmm…. Maybe… For Self-driving cars VMT goes up which means congestion goes up and we may or may not be willing to be in the car longer.  Even though Madison Avenue wishes us to this so, cars are a depressing place to be stuck in. 

Driverless cars may prove to deliver a much better service for moderately dense environments and shorter trips. Moreover, they may be able to make shared-riding  tolerable to such an extent that PersonMiles traveld actually go down and VMT goes down a lot.  In that world, Location, Location and Location are still very important. Alain

cid:<a href=San Joaquin RTD, National Express and Ecolane launch mobility-on-demand program

Oct 8, “In partnership with National Express, Ecolane released its first instance of mobility-on-demand (MOD) that services riders with and without disabilities for San Joaquin’s Regional Transit District (RTD) through the new pilot program “RTD Van Go!”.  The service is 100% rider-controlled through a convenient app that they can download, self-register, schedule payment with a credit card, and book trips. …

“Tailor-made trips are a click or call away with RTD Van Go!,” said RTD CEO Donna DeMartino. “Residents start where they are and go where they want — fast. This connected service combines vans and free transfers to fixed-route buses to continue longer trips. Unlike some other transportation options, RTD Van Go! will even pick up passengers in rural San Joaquin County.”…”  Read more  Hmmmm…. Very nice that they are doing this.  Hopefully they will be able to afford to provide this kind mobility to all, or is there a catch someplace??? If they really can do this, maybe we don’t need Driverless Cars.  Alain

 cid:<a href=Unsafe Uber? Lethal Lyft? We’re skeptical

J. Cortright, Oct 23, “A new study from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business makes the provocative claim that the advent of ride-hailing services like Lyft and Uber has actually led to an increase in car crashes, and related injuries and deaths. If true, this is a pretty stunning downside to this new technology.   We’re skeptical that this paper has it right, for three reasons:

  • The study leaves out the effect of lower gas prices and increased driving on crash rates.
  • Rural areas–which essentially don’t have ride-hailing services–saw even bigger increases in crashes than cities with ride-hailing.
  • And the study doesn’t try to correlate the increase in crashes to either the times or the places that ride-hailed vehicles are most used, which would be a much more powerful indicator of a safety effect.

…” Read more Hmmmm…. I agree with the reasons, but more importantly, the fact that the study was titled “The Cost of Convenience: Ridesharing and Traffic Fatalities”  when Uber and Lyft are rideHailing companies that do essentially zero rideSharing  indicates a lack of rigor associated with the authors.  Alain

cid:<a href=Scooters: We answer your questions about this latest transportation trend

L. Lazo, Nov 10, “Almost overnight, electric scooters have seemingly become ubiquitous on streets and sidewalks in cities across the United States.

From joyriding teens to commuters to tourists, this latest transportation trend has been met with excitement — and dread, from some corners, as confusion abounds over rules for use, whether they are considered motor vehicles and where they can be ridden.  And they don’t seem to be going away anytime soon….” Read more  Hmmmm…. All essentially as societally irresponsible as Segways.  All these folks should be walking and they certainly should not be on the sidewalk.  What terrible inventions.  Hopefully they will go the way of Google Glassholes. Talk about a product that deserves an infinitely large import duty.  Worse of all, since they are the most marginal users of electricity, everyone of those watts is generated by coal. Alain

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

cid:<a href=Waymo, GM to Deploy Self-Driving Cars With or Without Congress

S. Courtney, Nov 13.  “..”  Read more  Hmmmm…  I couldn’t identify any highlights or lowlights to reprint here.  This is all noise.  Washington is hopelessly behind and largely irrelevant to initial deployment because so much is unknown until we have some deployment.  It is best that Washington simply remain vigilant with a threat to jump in should the deployment start to fall apart.  Until then, very little is at risk and much learning and knowledge to be gained.  All is good.  The tragedy in Arizona has caused the whole industry to be even more responsible and diligent with safety.  It has earned the opportunity to move forward without the oversight of Washington that is largely clueless and ill equipped to lead.   And, it is nice to see the industry willing to go out there and lead without a Washington safety net to fall back on should deployment not go as planned. Alain

cid:<a href=We’re thinking about autonomous vehicles all wrong

A. Macleod, Nov 12, “…Thinking about an autonomous vehicle in isolation is like thinking about a car engine today without the rest of the vehicle. Forbes illustrates this broader perspective by adding smart cities into the mix: “before autonomous cars can transform modern life, cities will have to transform themselves.”…”  …” Read more  Hmmmm…  Whoa.  I agree with the premise, but disagree completely with Andrew.  This is about focusing on the technology and being enamored by it as opposed to what the technology can or can’t do to improve quality of life for normal folks.  This article may not even be half-baked.  Alain

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

Calendar of Upcoming Events:

cid:<a href=
Self-Driving Cars – Policies and Technologies
Dec 6, 2018
6:00 -> 8:45 pm
1 Madison Avenue, 5th Fl.  (Yext)
New York NY 10010

The End of Driving Workshop
Planning for Autonomous Vehicles Now

Dec 6, 2018
Mississauga, ON, Canada

imap:<a href=

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

Catalog of Videos of Presentations @ 2nd Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit
Photos from 2nd Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit

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

  On the More Technical Side