1st edition of the 7th year of SmartDrivingCars

Thursday, January 3, 2019

cid:<a href=Wielding Rocks and Knives, Arizonans Attack Self-Driving Cars

S. Romero, Dec. 31, “The assailant slipped out of a park around noon one day in October, zeroing in on his target, which was idling at a nearby intersection — a self-driving van operated by Waymo, the driverless-car company spun out of Google.

He carried out his attack with an unidentified sharp object, swiftly slashing one of the tires. The suspect, identified as a white man in his 20s, then melted into the neighborhood on foot.

The slashing was one of nearly two dozen attacks on driverless vehicles over the past two years in Chandler, a city near Phoenix where Waymo started testing its vans in 2017. In ways large and small, the city has had an early look at public misgivings over the rise of artificial intelligence, with city officials hearing complaints about everything from safety to possible job losses.

Some people have pelted Waymo vans with rocks, according to police reports. Others have repeatedly tried to run the vehicles off the road. One woman screamed at one of the vans, telling it to get out of her suburban neighborhood. A man pulled up alongside a Waymo vehicle and threatened the employee riding inside with a piece of PVC pipe. …”  Read more  Hmmmm….  This may well be the Achilles heel  of Driverless cars.  As I presented at Dick Mudge’s Shark Tank Session at last summer’s AV Conference…  community, neighborhood, street segment by street segment acceptance and welcoming is a necessity, especially in the beginning; else, Driverless mobility will have no chance!!! In a similar vein I’ll be giving a talk at the TRB Annual Meeting in Washington, Session #1768 on Wednesday, January 16 titled: Making cities Smarter by Intelligently Deploying and Managing Driverless Vehicles to First Serve the Most Mobility Disadvantaged.  See also David Silver in Forbes. Alain

imap:// Driving Cars Podcast Episode 74

F. Fishkin,  Jan. 3,  “Waymo under attack, how to regulate driverless mobility and sensors to monitor passengers… Those issues and more are in Episode 74 of the Smart Driving Cars podcast with co-hosts Fred Fishkin and Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser. 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=Transportation 2019—Looking Back, Looking Ahead

S. Polzin, Jan. 3, “How Smart are Smart Cars?
I was thinking about smart cars the other day. I don’t pretend to understand how artificial intelligence really works. But I was wondering, will a smart car act differently when it needs to merge if it is next to a guy in a red sports car versus an older woman in a minivan? …I can.. Will it know that the Johnstone kids play kickball in the front yard on sunny days and you should really drive slowly past their house? …Certainly as well as the folks that drive past my house and do more than 9 over… Will it remember that the water freezes in the ruts on Main Street and21st Ave. when it gets cold, so you should go really slow and not drive in the ruts? …Certainly as well as the folks that currently drive there in those conditions… If I tie a Christmas tree, bike, or kayak on the car, will it goof up the LIDAR? …No, because you won’t own one…  Can I tell it to back up around the side of the house on the lawn, so I can unload ten bags of mulch? …No, guys who like to haul stuff will continue to own Ford F-150s… After a thunderstorm, will it learn that you can usually drive over thin tree branches but probably shouldn’t drive over building materials? … Again, certainly as well as the folks that currently drive there in those conditions…Will it have a hitch, and will it know how to back up with a one or two axle trailer? … Once again, you are on your own with your F-150…  Will it get scared and panic going through a car wash? … you don’t wash your own???… If I get a new smart car will it download everything the old one learned? … Again, you missed the point, these aren’t things that you will own…  If we have two cars will my car teach my wife’s car everything it learns? … Please, no sexist comments from guys that love hauling stuff…   If my wife sits in the back seat and gives it pointers on how to drive will it pay any attention to her? … OK, we see this is a threat to you manhood… Can I train it to automatically mute the radio when fake news or hate speech comments are made?  … Can you tell the difference???…   Read more  Hmmmm…Whew!!!  All in good fun. (The rest of the article is quite good)  Heaven forbid that someone might develop a system that actually provide quality mobility to those that don’t haul stuff in their F-150s.  What needs to be realized is that Driverless cars are for the boring primary activity of our personal vehicles, that is to provide basic mobility.  This might not be why any of us have bought the vehicles we have bought.  That would be too boring.  What the OEMs have done is sold us fantasies … Hauling more stuff than your neighbor (gets reinforced with every NFL  Sunday )…  Plow through any depth of snow (I only watch NFL games),  Go on Safari and climb the Great Wall with my Range Rover (Good thing I don’t watch any other TV….).  Somehow none of these visions come to mind when when I need to get to the 12th floor of some tall building.  I’m even content to share an elevator with you to get there.  Alain

cid:<a href= It’s up to us: Policies to improve climate outcomes from automated vehicles

J Greenwald & A Kornhauser, Apr. 2019 “Vehicle automation is coming, but environmental and energy imperatives are NOT what’s motivating it. In fact, its energy and environmental outcomes are deeply uncertain. The promise of autonomous vehicles (AVs) is greater safety and mobility. The question is: How do we achieve that promise while reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and saving energy?

Future AV scenarios range widely, from dramatically higher to dramatically lower GHG emissions. Fortunately, the best case for the environment is also the best case for business, for the economy, and for safe and affordable mobility: autonomous Taxi fleets that operate clean vehicles, encourage ridesharing, and are integrated with other public and private transportation modes. Governments, businesses, drivers and riders make decisions that can increase or decrease the likelihood of the best-case scenario…”  Read more  Hmmmm…  Yup!! Alain

cid:<a href=Who Will Regulate Autonomous Vehicles Best?

K. Gogarty, Dec 27, “It’s not clear yet whether the AV START Act will pass the U.S. Senate and become a law. What is clear is the first effort at creating a national safety standard for connected and automated vehicles (CAVs) wasn’t the most effective tactic.

The bill requires the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to pre-empt regulations and progress achieved by the states wasn’t the most effective tactic. But pre-empting work done in the states to get a handle on autonomous-vehicle trials has raised some complaints. And offering CAV developers permission to leave important safety gear off the vehicles they put on the road – as a way to cut costs and red tape and therefore make development faster – is generating a lot more complaints.

In fact, more than 100 organizations have raised concerns, ranging from associations of mayors and governors to coalitions of clubs for bicyclists, hikers and others worried about being run over and left behind….

The Pennsylvania legislature has never been quite sure what to make of autonomous vehicles, so it has been cautious about peremptory decisions, authorizing the CAV program that allows Cohen a measure of influence but not the ability to make the rules.

“As it turns out, policy can leave you a lot more nimble and flexible and better able to keep pace with the increasing advancement of tech than regulation, which takes a year two to get approved and is then very rigid,” Cohen said. “There was an upside and a downside. We could respond with appropriate policies and create a framework we could later present to be formalized as regulation. But we also could build a collaborative relationship with stakeholders and with all six testing entities that are active in the Pittsburgh area and around the county…. ”  Read more  Hmmmm….  One also needs to look at what California has done, … But… There are really two very different entities here… One is Self-driving cars/trucks/buses… where the human driver remains in the loop.  Here, all of the conventional things continue to apply.  The other is Driverless, where there are only human (and cargo) passengers.  No human driver.  This is VERY different and deserves its own regulation/legislation.  As I’ve written before, Driverless is a NEW MODE and it deserves its own legislation, regulation and oversight Federal entity. Trucks have the FMCA, Trains have FRA, Planes have FAA, conventional (and Safe-driving and Self-driving) Cars have the FHWA/NHTSA, Driverless Cars deserve to have FDCA/NDCSA.  Alain

cid:<a href= How electric scooters infiltrated society in 2018

P. Sawers, Dec 22, “If 2017 was the year of dockless bike-sharing, then 2018 was the year that ushered in an entirely new era for tech-infused personal mobility startups.  Throughout last year, dueling Chinese bike-sharing companies Ofo and Mobike scrambled to corner a burgeoning market by raising crazy sums of cash to deposit bright-colored bicycles in cities around the world.

Fast-forward to 2018, and things don’t look quite so “bright” — Ofo is now flirting with bankruptcy, while Mobike has its own challenges in the form of vandalism and data-privacy probes. This isn’t to say that dockless bike-sharing is going the way of the dodo — far from it — it just means that a more measured approach will be required when entering new markets. Working with cities will be integral to longer term success, rather than fighting with rivals to push as many bikes on a city as possible.

But what we’ve seen in 2018 is a marked evolution in the personal mobility realm, with more form factors, integrations, infrastructure, and investment thrown at the chase. One of the big trends was a shift into electrified transport, with a particular focus on electric scooters…. ” Read more  Hmmmm…. The same process will fail if someone tries the same thing with Driverless cars.  One, they are infinitely more expensive, so no one will dare try and, two, they are substantially more delicate and vulnerable.  Alain

cid:<a href=Winter Is Coming, for Scooters

A. Small, Dec 21, “For the last three months, Michael Schultz and his girlfriend, Mia, have been making extra money working for Bird and Lime scooters in Denver. They’re part of the freelance workforce that gathers and charges the shared electric vehicles overnight. During a normal week, the couple spend a few hours each evening rolling around in his Jeep to collect the battery-powered e-scoots. Sometimes they make a Saturday out of the adventure, together pocketing about $75 an hour… It’s starting to get colder and it’s already snowed in Denver a few times, but Schultz says business is still good. He finds plenty of scooters that need their batteries charged. “They get used, rain or shine,” says Schultz, a 36-year-old who works as a DevOps engineer during the day. “Even snow doesn’t stop them.”…  If anything, the cold’s has been good for Schultz’s side hustle as a “Bird hunter” or “Lime juicer,” as the gig economy …”  Read more  Hmmmm…. If I tie a Christmas tree, bike, or kayak on the Scooter, will it still go through the snow??? Alain

cid:<a href=Self-drivingCars

Staff, Jan 2019, “Explore the road to driverless mobility through ride-and-drive experiences. Test drive a variety of technologies that support the future of self-driving cars, including parking assist, collision avoidance, emergency braking and much more….”  Read more  Hmmmm…. See you there next week.  Alain

cid:<a href=Toyota’s self-driving cars can now fit more junk in their trunks

A. Hawkins, Jan 3, “Toyota, the world’s largest automaker, will once again unveil the latest iteration of its self-driving test vehicle at CES in Las Vegas next week. The TRI-P4 test car is designed by the Toyota Research Institute, the automaker’s Silicon Valley-based division, and the major upgrade over the third version of the vehicle is — wait for it — more trunk space.

On the surface, that might not sound very impressive, but those with more than a passing familiarity with autonomous vehicle design will recognize it as a major step. Most Level-4 capable self-driving cars on the road today — meaning those cars that can perform all the driving tasks within a confined area and under specifics conditions —…  “Our Chauffeur development is focused on full autonomy, where the human is essentially removed from the driving equation, ”  Read more   Hmmmm…. C’mon  Andrew, this is NOT a “Level 4” car.  It is a Self-driving car, period.  “essentially removing” is NOT removing.  Everything that I have seen from Toyota indicates to me that Toyota is exclusively focused on maintaining its business model of selling cars to individuals as opposed to creating machines that provide mobility to all.  So, no wonder they want more trunk space so folks who “haul stuff” will buy these instead of Ford F-150s. Alain

cid:<a href=Paving the way for self-driving cars

J.  Siliezar, Jan 3, “…A few years ago, when tech companies like Uber and Airbnb spread across the nation and beyond, they introduced rapid and irreversible changes in how people travel. As the firms’ simple apps rocketed their platforms to popularity, the local policymakers responsible for ensuring that corporations contribute to the public good were left far behind, playing catch-up…. They hope that, with thoughtful policies in place, self-driving cars will debut in a way that provides real public value. Their potential to improve civic life is great, including by reducing road deaths, increasing mobility for the elderly and disabled, and boosting transit in areas with little current access. At the same time, policymakers are wary of potential problems, such as increased road congestion, inequitable pricing and availability, and the loss of public revenue in a future with less need for metered parking and fewer traffic violations….”  Read more   Hmmmm…. First, Harvard should use the correct term… Driverless cars.  Second, Safe-driving cars reduce road death.  Self-driving cars do nothing except make it more comfortable for those of us that already drive conventional cars and certainly don’t do anything for “… reducing road deaths, increasing mobility for the elderly and disabled, and boosting transit in areas with little current access…”  That takes Driverless cars that are managed and operated as “mobility machines”.  We are not on the same page. Alain

cid:<a href=The hype around driverless cars came crashing down in 2018

T. Lee, Dec 30, “… “I’ve been seeing an increasing recognition from everybody—OEMs down to various startups—that this is all a lot tougher than anybody anticipated two or three years ago,” industry analyst Sam Abuelsamid told Ars. “The farther along they get in the process, the more they learn how much they don’t understand.”…”  Read more   Hmmmm…. A fundamental misunderstanding is central to the hype.  Self-driving cars that are driven/attended by its owner are a reality and did great in 2018 (Example: Teslas) .  The hype was that these same cars could magically become driverless and deliver the virtues that only a driverless car can deliver. That’s where 2018 continued to struggle. 

Prior to 2018, there had been only one “10 mile” Driverless ride to Steve Mahan in Austin Texas in late 2015.  It wasn’t until March 13, 2018 that the 2nd Driverless ride was given to anyone anywhere in the world in a car operating driverlessly in a normal driving environment.   So, indeed there was great progress made in 2018 in getting to the 2nd ride.  Unfortunately, Waymo didn’t give too many more of these real driverless rides and reintroduced “attendants” in the vehicles.  And, no one else anywhere in the world dared to do give real driverless ride to anyone… probably for good reason.  They still aren’t confident enough, nor is there any real value to taking even the very small risks because they aren’t ready enough.  The hype has been that driverless is just a little bit better self-driving.  NO!!!  And as Waymo has been touting the theory: getting to driverless requires a driverless mindset from the very beginning and doesn’t really evolve from self-driving.  Given that the only entity on the planet that has achieved driverless, even for only a few rides, is an entity that has been focused on driverless since the get-go, the theory is holding firm.   Alain

cid:<a href=Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s year in one chart

Staff, Jan 2, “Three point eight.

From the first day of trading in 2018 to the last, that was the final percentage difference in Tesla’s share price. Taken on its own, the number is a modest and positive gain — and far more fruitful than automakers Ford, GM and Fiat Chrysler. It’s a number that suggests a consistent year of upwards momentum for Tesla, steady and diligent like a tugboat, even keeled and untouched from stormy market seas.

Those two bookends of the stock market calendar — January 2 and December 31 — and the 3.8% gain they produced obfuscates what really happened to Tesla and CEO Elon Musk in 2018.  It wasn’t quiet. It wasn’t calm. It wasn’t constant or consistent. Tesla wasn’t a tugboat in 2018; it was a whipsaw….”  Read more   Hmmmm…. and see chart.  Alain

cid:<a href=No Olli for Knoxville: City hits the brakes on self-driving buses

J. Gaines, Jan 1, “…Bumpas said she didn’t fault anyone for the dissolution of Knoxville’s Olli deal. Acceptance of autonomous vehicles is probably still just a couple of years away, requiring further testing and safeguards to reassure the public, she said….”  Read more   Hmmmm…. Not good news.  We need to understand the backstory.  Alain

cid:<a href=Self-driving cars and smart tech. Google partners with Princeton to develop AI.

Editor, Jan 2, “Two powerhouses in their respective fields – Princeton University in academics, Google in innovation – will combine forces to ride the next big wave in technology: artificial intelligence.  Long nothing more than a sci-fi writer’s dream, AI gives us machines that “think” and “learn” like humans, capable of marvels such as a self-driving car and a computer that outperforms a reigning “Jeopardy” champ.

Google and Princeton have selected 1 Palmer Square, across from the campus, as the venue for a new AI computer lab…” Read more   Hmmmm…. Nice.  Alain

cid:<a href=Tesla leaks info about new self-driving computer in latest software update

f. Lambert, Jan 4, “Tesla is working on its new Autopilot Hardware 3, which consists of a new neural net computer that they claimed will be the ‘world’s most advanced computer for autonomous driving’.  The company has now leaked some info about the new self-driving computer in its latest software update.
The current Autopilot computer in Tesla’s vehicles is powered by Nvidia GPUs.

CEO Elon Musk says that it is capable of processing 200 frames per second and Tesla’s hardware 3 computer, which is optimized to run a neural net, will be able to handle 2,000 frames per second with redundancy.

…DamianXVI managed to create a graphical visualization of the data flow for “some of the networks observed in the binaries”:…”  Read more   Hmmmm…. Very interesting.  Alain

cid:<a href=Tesla Autopilot: 1 billion miles driven, with the next billion coming up fast

G. Vasilash, Jan 4, “Unless there is some sort of tragic accident or some jackass performing a stunt in a YouTube video, Telsa Autopilot doesn’t get nearly the amount of attention as (1) Elon Musk boring holes, (2) Uber returning to self-driving car research, or (3) Elon Musk tweeting.

Yet day by day, the number of actual road miles being accumulated by the Autopilot system is rather remarkable, according to research conducted by MIT’s Lex Fridman and his colleagues, who are involved in human-centered AI research, including autonomous driving.

According to Fridman, as of December 23, 2018, there were 1,056,505,935 miles driven with Autopilot engaged. Of those miles, 581,495,817 were driven using the Autopilot hardware version 1, which went into operation on October 15, 2015. The balance, 475,010,118, were driven using Autopilot hardware version 2+, which was enabled on January 21, 2017…. ”  Read more   Hmmmm…. Embedded within what is largely boring useless data is a treasure trove of fundamentally valuable safety information.  Finding and separating that wheat from all that chaff is a non-trivial exercise.  I hope that they are doing it well and will begin to share with everyone that fundamentally valuable safety-relevant information that they uncover. All should be working together on making sure these systems are as safe as possible, because all suffer when the Ubers of this world totally screw up.  Alain

cid:<a href=Tesla’s latest sales report sinks its stock price and raises questions about growth

R. Mitchell, Jan.2, “Tesla started the new year by releasing data that throw its growth story into doubt.

The company reported Wednesday that at the end of the fourth quarter it was making 6,668 cars per week on average — far less than what Chief Executive Elon Musk once promised analysts. “What people should absolutely have zero concern about is that Tesla will achieve a 10,000-unit production week by the end of next year,” Musk said on a conference call in August 2017.

Sales growth, meanwhile, slowed dramatically. After a bang-up second quarter that saw unit sales more than double over a year earlier, the growth rate slowed in the fourth quarter to 8%, with total sales of 90,700 vehicles.  Sales of the new Model 3 electric sedan – crucial to Tesla’s reputation as a growth stock – fell well below analyst expectations, rising 13% in the fourth quarter, to 63,150. The consensus expectation was for a 17% boost.

Perhaps most worrying of all, from a financial standpoint, the company cut prices $2,000 on all vehicles sold in the U.S. – the Model S, the Model X and the Model 3. That move, which the company said is meant to offset expiring federal subsidies for zero-emission vehicles, could boost demand but at the cost of revenue, cash flow and profit margins.  Investors didn’t take the news well. Tesla’s stock price slid as much as 10% in early trading, and closed down nearly 7%, at $310.12…”  Read more   Hmmmm…. Too much of a roller coaster for me.  Alain

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

cid:<a href=Segway unveils a more durable electric scooter and autonomous delivery bot

M. Dickey, Jan 3, “Wear and tear is a major issue in the realm of electric scooters, resulting in a short lifespan of individual scooters and poor unit economics. At the Consumer Electronics Show today, Segway -Ninebot unveiled the Model Max scooter, which is designed to help services like Bird and Lime, for example, reduce their respective operating and maintenance costs. “Model Max was designed taking into consideration complex shared usage scenarios, consumer overuse of vehicles, operation models and maintenance costs,” Segway wrote in a press release.  … Once a Segway, always a niche for SegHoles…  By design they are obnoxious and intrusive.  They have little hope of earning any respect or tolerance… Segway also unveiled today Loomo Delivery, an autonomous vehicle for last-mile deliveries.  … ” Read more  Hmmmm…. Even more Segway than Segways.  Alain

cid:<a href= Aptiv Wants to Use AI Software to Read Vehicle Occupants’ Moods

S. Edelstein, Jan 3, “Self-driving cars use an array of sensors to “see” the world around them, but those sensors may also soon point inward. Automotive tech firm Aptiv has entered into a partnership with Affectiva, a developer of artificial-intelligence (AI) software, to develop sensing systems for monitoring vehicle occupants.

Aptiv, which made a minority investment in Affectiva as part of the deal, wants future self-driving cars to be able to track passengers’ emotional and cognitive states. A “multi-modal interior sensing solution” will be based around Affectiva’s software, which uses real-world data to identify people’s moods, an Aptiv press release said. Aptiv, which is partnering with Lyft on autonomous-driving tech, views this as a natural extension of sensor suites that monitor conditions around the car…”  Read more  Hmmmm….This deserves C’mon Man! status.  “… Without human drivers onboard, cars will need some mechanism for detecting medical emergencies or other issues….”  Really???  What else are you going to do with such personal intrusions???  If this stuff was any good, it would be infinitely more valuable replacing shrinks.  Since it’s obviously not that good, it is not only Goofy, but dangerous.  Alain

cid:<a href=Driverless cars must navigate human foibles

P. Waldmeir, Jan 2, “The biggest problem with self-driving cars is not the technology. It’s the humans….”  Read more  Hmmmm….Woops… The title suggested that this was going to be about Driverless cars, yet the first sentence …” self-driving…” and it evolves to be a promotional piece for Ford.  Yes, humans are the problem.  Jaywalkers and unprotected left turns are a significant issue with Self-driving, but only the very tip of the human-challenge iceberg  Driverless is confronting.  Alain

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

Calendar of Upcoming Events:

imap:<a href=

3rd Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit
evening May 14 through May 16, 2019
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Catalog of Videos of Presentations @ 2nd Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit
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Program & Links to slides from 2nd Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit

  On the More Technical Side