Friday, January 18, 2020
3rd edition of the 8th year of SmartDrivingCars

Intel’s Mobileye has a plan to dominate self-driving—and it might work

T. Lee, Jan. 10, "…In a Tuesday speech at the Consumer Electronics show, Mobileye CEO Amnon Shashua made clear just how big of a strategic advantage this is. He laid out Mobileye’s vision for the evolution of self-driving technology over the next five years. And he made it clear that he envisions Mobileye staying at the center of the industry…

In his Tuesday speech, Mobileye’s Shashua calls ADAS systems with high-definition maps, like Super Cruise, "Level 2+"—a small step above regular ADAS systems that are called "level 2" in the five-level SAE framework. A number of carmakers have developed similar systems. Shashua says Mobileye is supplying the technology for 70 percent of them, including systems from Nissan, Volkswagen, and BMW…" Read more Hmmmm…  This is all about Self-driving just like Tesla’s AutoPilot.  It is not Driverless

A lot is made about HD maps that I simply don’t appreciate. "… The company uses all this data to generate detailed, high-definition maps of the areas where the cars drive…"  HD maps don’t have any info on the other cars, pedestrians and … that are moving around you when you drive.  Nor do they have the "stopped firetrucks" in your lane ahead.  Call these thing "half" of the things that you don’t want to hit while driving down the road. You and I need something (cameras, radars) to sense these in real time as we move down the road.  These things need to "see" everything around you (especially in front of you), which likely include the things that are NOT in the HD maps.  Moreover, by sensing them relative to "my nose", I only need "10 cm" accuracy, especially when I do this in real time 20 to 30 a second. 

Also, I don’t really need to know where I am.  I only care about objects relative to where I am. (Since I only care about my position relative to the static map data, I need to take the difference between my position and the position of the objects in the map data.  The accuracy of that difference in those two values (my location and the object’s location in the map data) is the inferior accuracy of those two values.  Good luck at independently knowing to centimeter accuracy your position every 20th or 30th of a second.  So "centimeter’ accuracy in the HD data is totally useless and need not be any more accurate than your independent positional accuracy.  What is easier and better is to simply directly measure the relative positions (and velocities and accelerations and…) of everything every/many time steps in (near) real-time and disregard any of the "precision" in the map data that isn’t complete and latent.

So, please, explain to me why I need super accurate info about the stationary things. Seems like an enormous amount of overhead to carry around when it is still p to the real-time sensing system to spot the stopped firetruck in the lane ahead.  (Also, most folks, if they pay attention and behave, they drive very safely without HD maps and just Rand-McNally fold out maps.) 

Also, can you imagine how useless much of the real-time image data are (data is plural).  Everything that is moving in each frame is unique, never to happen precisely again.  All of that needs to be purged.  Also all of the non-"permanent" stuff like parked cars and "stopped firetrucks".  One thing that our brains do very well is to forget, (especially those of Steelers fans).  In addition to "Optimal Learning" algorithms, we need some "Optimal Forgetting" algorithms.  Alain

  Smart Driving Cars Podcast Episode 138

F. Fishkin, Jan 18, "The new mobility on the ground and in the air. Nicolas Zart joins Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and co host Fred Fishkin for a discussion on Urban Air Mobility…plus..Qualcomm, NVIDIA, Mobileye, Waymo and more in this edition of the Smart Driving Cars podcast."  Just say "Alexa, play the Smart Driving Cars podcast!".  Ditto with Siri, and GooglePlay …  Alain

  Why Creating An AV Business Is 10,000 Times Harder Than Building Self-Driving Tech

R. Gindrat, Jan. 15, "….Patrick McGee of the Financial Times wrote that "there is a growing recognition that getting the self-driving algorithms right is merely an entry ticket for the much bigger challenge of commercialization," adding that "the technical know-how to manage a fleet that competes with the likes of Uber and Lyft on timely pickups" is critical to commercialization." …As well as maintaining those vehicles and doing the nitty griddy required to have happy customers….


"According to a report from Schaller Consulting, (1,2)these vehicles add 2.8 miles for every mile of personal driving they eliminate."… Bruce and I disagree about his reasoning in coming up with this number.  For one, he assumes that there is no Chauffeuring going on in personal driving when you take your kid to soccer practice come home and go back and pick her up.  You’ve driven twice as far as she had to go.


"… Deciding in real time which vehicle should go where may seem simple when thinking of a single ride request from point A to point B. But to do this at scale requires evaluating an enormous number of variables that grows exponentially with the size of the operation…." Actually it isn’t that tough unless you care about the 4th decimal place.  If the 4th decimal place does make a difference to you, then even the small scale problems are "unsolvable" because of the uncertainty of the future.  .


"… "The self-driving system is a core competency, it’s necessary—but it’s not sufficient to create a new business," James Farley," … Yup!


"… A first step to optimizing fleets of autonomous vehicles is to think of shared transit as the primary use case and business case for AV fleets…."  " The MIT study has a number of heroic assumptions and simplifications.  It really shouldn’t be quoted without those qualifications."


"…Comparing autonomous fleets to today’s peer-to-peer ride-hailing business — thinking that autonomy simply involves removing a human driver — is an overly simplified view. If operator-owned robotaxis replaced every Uber and Lyft vehicle, with the supply demand mismatch they have today, the companies would likely lose even more money. The excess vehicles would still be empty most of the time, and those empty vehicles would become very expensive — someone has to absorb that cost."  "True.  Also, in assigning riders to gig workers, Uber and Lyft need to try to pacify the gig workers as much as possible.  Then the challenge becomes as much about keeping the gig workers happy as keeping the riders happy.  I’ve suggested that the core competency of Lyft/Uber may well be more about "optimally" managing a bunch of cats (gig workers) as it is servicing person trip demands.  Once the driver becomes an algorithm (which is essentially deterministic) , then the optimization can really focus on servicing demand for trips. 

"…I believe what cities really need is services that move more people with fewer vehicles, reducing traffic and emissions…."  " Absolutely true.  So do I!!!!   Read more Hmmmm…  Excellent!  A must read. Alain

  Behind the Scenes With Aptiv’s Self-Driving Car Nerve Center at CES 2020

D. Cardinal, Jan 7, "As fun as it is to get a ride in a self-driving car (even if it does have a safety driver) there are only so many times that is exciting enough to write about. So, for a change, Aptiv, a leading automotive component supplier and innovator in self-driving technology, offered me a behind-the-scenes tour of their Las Vegas Technical Center instead of another test ride. Their LVTC is responsible for both the overall operation of the extensive fleet of autonomous vehicles it operates with Lyft in Las Vegas and working on the portions of the underlying technology.

To put this in context, for nearly two years Lyft customers have been able to opt-in to getting a self-driving car to ferry them around Las Vegas — in lieu of a more traditional vehicle. So it is a real, commercial service. It is limited to certain drop-offs and pick-up points (3,400 currently, with Aptiv announcing here at the show that it will begin testing the addition of the airport to that list), but is one of the largest and longest-running commercial deployments anywhere…"  Read more   Hmmmm…  A MUST read. There is substance here.  Alain

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao Announces New Initiatives to Improve Safety on America’s Roads 

Press release, Jan. 15,  "U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Secretary Elaine L. Chao today spoke at the 99th Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) where she announced new transportation initiatives aimed at harnessing new and existing technologies to improve safety for the traveling public and first responders.

“These safety initiatives will make a difference in saving lives and help prevent injuries among first responders and all road users,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao.

Today, Secretary Chao announced the next phase of the Partnership for Analytics Research in Traffic Safety (PARTS) program. PARTS II expands participation in the PARTS program to include almost 70% of the U.S. automobile market and will collect data on additional advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) such as Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Keep Assist. Results derived from analysis of up-to-date-real-world performance data will assist researchers in assessing the safety effectiveness of these systems….."  Read more Hmmmm…  Whew!  First responders are really important, but given all of the private-sector activity in the mobility space, one might expect more.  US DoT can’t seem to let go of the totalitarian (central control) approach to mobility.  Alain

Tesla is now worth more than Ford and GM—combined

T. Lee, Jan. 13, "Less than a month after Tesla’s stock first rose above $400, the company’s shares have now soared past $500 per share. As I write this, one share of Tesla stock is worth $516, which means the company as a whole is worth more than $93 billion.

The latest rally was sparked by a new report from Colin Rusch, an analyst at the Wall Street firm of Oppenheimer & Co. He revised his Tesla price target upward from $385 to $612. But more fundamentally, the rising stock price reflects the fact that, after a couple years of near-constant chaos, the company seems to finally be executing smoothly.

Tesla delivered 112,000 cars in the fourth quarter of 2019 and 367,500 for the full year. Both were new records for the company; Tesla barely achieved its goal to deliver at least 360,000 cars for the year…." Read more Hmmmm…  Whew.  Glad I don’t know how to short.  Although, is now the time?  It is really good that when God made us, she made the future uncertain; else, all of this would be really boring.  Alain

  US customs rules electric bicycles are motorcycles, granting tariff exclusion

M. Toll, Jan. 16, "In the latest twist in the ongoing saga of Trump’s trade war with China, US Customs and Border Protection has excluded imported Chinese electric bicycles from the 25% tariffs originally imposed by the Trump Administration. But the way they did it comes as a bit of a surprise:..’  Read more Hmmmm…   Here they come.  The scooter v electric bike v walking  ModeShare for short trips in good weather evolution will be interesting to watch. MZZK Electric Bike 7-Speed Powerful E-Bike with 48V Lithium Battery & Multi-Function Display.  Alain

  Revel’s 30 mph shared electric mopeds have (finally) made it to California

M. Toll, Jan. 13, "Revel, an electric moped sharing service, has just made its first West Coast expansion, this time hitting the Golden State.  Oakland will be the first West Coast city to receive Revel’s 30 mph (48 km/h) electric mopeds.  The news comes as Revel announces that it is launching a fleet of 1,000 electric mopeds under an OakDOT permit program.

Licensed drivers over the age of 21 who pass a safe driving record check will be able to sign up for the Revel program and rent the electric mopeds. The service will cover the entire city of Oakland.

Rides cost $1 to begin and $0.29 per minute until the ride has finished. The electric mopeds are free-floating, meaning they are parked in proper spaces around the city and must be parked again legally when riders are finished…’  Read more Hmmmm…   Even more mobility options for short trips for "Millennials".  Why would any of them buy a car?  When I was an undergrad I had a Lambretta.  Certainly couldn’t afford a car. Served me perfectly well. Alain

  Waymo’s Long-Term Commitment to Safety Drivers in Autonomous Cars

I. Boudway, Jan. 14, "Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo took a big step forward last fall when it began ferrying riders around the Phoenix area in robotaxis without human safetydrivers. Humans have been behind the wheel for almost all of the 20 million miles of testing the company says it’s completed on public roads.

The driverless rides in Arizona don’t mean the end for Waymo’s human operators. Last summer, the company quietly finalized a multiyear contract with Transdev North America, which provides bus drivers, streetcar conductors and other transportation workers to airports and cities. The partnership is an acknowledgement that Waymo will be relying on test drivers for many years to come….

“For the foreseeable future, as we expand and are driving in some of these new areas, it’s critical that we have vehicle operators,” said Rocky Garff, Waymo’s head of operations. “They’re part of the equation that gets us to fully self-driving.”… Read more Hmmmm…  Of course… Alain

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

There are so many bad articles.  I’m overwhelmed.  C’mon Man!  Alain


  Will Qualcomm Overtake NVIDIA in Driverless Cars?

L. Sun, Jan. 15, "Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM), the top mobile chipmaker in the world, generates most of its revenue from the smartphone market. But it’s also been diversifying into new markets, and connected cars are a top priority.  Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Automotive modems link cars to 4G and 5G networks, and its Snapdragon Automotive Platforms bundle those modems with a CPU, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, USB, GPS, and audio connections to support infotainment and navigation systems.

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Ride platform is a new advanced driver-assistance system (ADAS), which enables autonomous driving. Its Snapdragon Digital Cockpit platform controls digital dashboard displays and rear-seat entertainment systems, and its new Cloud-to-Car platform links those systems to 4G/5G networks for over-the-air updates. …"  Read more  Hmmmm…   This is about Safe- and Self-driving cars and not about Driverless, but read on.  There is more click bait here than substance. Barron’s : These 2 Chip Stocks Offer Bets on Electric Vehicles and Autonomous Driving, isn’t better.  Alain

Calendar of Upcoming Events:


4th Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit

evening May 19 through May 21, 2020

Princeton University

Princeton, NJ

On the More Technical Side