Friday, March 6, 2020
10th edition of the 8th year of SmartDrivingCars

  Call to Action on Children in Autonomous Vehicles

Feb. 2020, "The Blue Ribbon Panel on Children in Autonomous Vehicles is calling on developers of autonomous vehicles (AVs) to ensure that AVs are engineered, deployed and marketed to protect the unique needs of child passengers. Developers are broadly defined to include original equipment manufacturers, non-original equipment manufacturers, as well as designers of component systems such as LIDAR, chip or satellite manufacturers, and others building key components of AVs.

AVs must be developed, regulations upgraded and laws passed to ensure children will be properly restrained, have the highest level of protection in a crash, and can be appropriately supervised during a trip. This panel believes it is imperative that minor children never be transported without appropriate supervision by a parent, guardian or caregiver until best practices are adopted.

We’re asking developers to commit to the following actions: … "  Read more Hmmmm… Given that one of the largest mobility marginalized groups are individuals that are too young to drive, including the very young that require supervision as well as those that are old enough to ride alone, this focus group is very important and very pertinent.  Alain

  Smart Driving Cars Podcast Episode 145 – L. Walker

F. Fishkin, Mar. 5, "Tackling the issues of children in autonomous vehicles, Lorrie Walker of Safe Kids Worldwide joins Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin. Plus the latest from Waymo, Tesla, GM, Uber, Lyft and more."   "Alexa, play the Smart Driving Cars podcast!".  Ditto with Siri, and GooglePlay …  Alain

  Smart Driving Cars Podcast Episode 144 – L. Shinohara

F. Fishkin, Feb 27, "How a new generation of affordable LiDAR can make autonomous vehicles smarter and safer. RoboSense VP Leilei Shinohara joins Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin for that plus..the Tesla investigations, California’s latest autonomous reporting, Waymo, Michigan’s initiative and more."   "Alexa, play the Smart Driving Cars podcast!".  Ditto with Siri, and GooglePlay …  Alain

  World’s First Smart LiDAR Sensor Will Be Demonstrated at CES2020 with On-Vehicle Public Road Test

Press release, Jan. 3, "RoboSense, the world’s leading autonomous driving LiDAR perception solution provider, announced today that the solid-state LiDAR RS-LiDAR-M1Simple(Simple Sensor Version) is now ready for customer delivery, priced at $1,898. The new RS-LiDAR-M1Simple is less than half the size of the previous version, with dimensions of 4.3” x 1.9” x 4.7” (110mm x 50mm x 120mm), and is equipped with enhanced hardware performance virtually equal to the serial production version provided to OEMs. The main body design of this automotive-grade solid-state LiDAR is finalized and ready for shipment…."  Read more Hmmmm… Listen to Smart Driving Cars Podcast Episode 144 above.  Alain

The U.S. and EU Can Still Save Their Car Industries

M. Sena, March 2020, "What does the incarceration of car industry executives have to do with Tesla selling 367,000 cars in 2019, 50% more than in 2018? And what do both of these facts have to do with the U.S. and the EU governments unwittingly reducing the competitiveness of their automotive companies compared to their competitors in China that are receiving maximum financial and political support? I will de-scribe the connections, how we arrived at where we are today and where we are headed unless Western vehicle manufacturers’ and politicians take concerted, coordinated and effective action. It’s not too late—yet…. "  Read more Hmmmm… Another absolutely wonderful and most well written expose on the fate of the traditional auto industry.  Michael will welcome your feedback.  Alain

  Introducing the 5th-generation Waymo Driver: Informed by experience, designed for scale, engineered to tackle more environments

S. Jeachandran, Mar. 4 "… In order to navigate the complexities of driving – from the biker weaving and speeding through traffic on a foggy San Francisco morning, to the family pet rushing into the street to greet you at night – the Waymo Driver uses a comprehensive view of its surroundings and a detailed understanding of its environment to accurately reason about its next move. No one type of sensor on its own can provide that level of detail in all operating conditions; therefore, we’ve spent over a decade developing a single integrated system comprised of complementary sensors to give our Driver this comprehensive view of the world so that it can safely navigate complex environments.

Over the past few months, people have begun to notice more of our latest Waymo Driver cruising in the San Francisco Bay Area, especially since our all-electric Jaguar I-Paces look a little different thanks to our latest hardware sensor suite. Informed by 20 million self-driven miles on public roads and over 10 billion miles of simulation, engineered to tackle an even more diverse range of complex driving environments with unparalleled capabilities, our completely redesigned fifth-generation hardware sensor suite will enable the scaled deployment of the Waymo Driver.

Here’s a look at each of the sensors that form the latest generation to inform the Waymo Driver…." Read more Hmmmm… A must read.  See also Andrew Hawkin’s comments on this announcement.   Alain


H. Campbell & B. Schlecter, Jan 2020, "An Analysis of Ride-Hailing at LAX and recommendations to Optimize the TNC System at Airports.  What started as a novel way to hail a ride with an app is now a multi-billion dollar industry with millions of drivers and hundreds of millions of passengers worldwide. While many have enjoyed the comfort and ease of hailing a Transportation Network Company (TNC) ride, cities are now dealing with the negative effects of tens of thousands of extra cars on the road. 

Airports have always been one of the most challenging arenas for TNCs. We’ve come a long way since the days of unregulated pick-ups and drop-offs, and while nearly all major airports now have agreements with Uber and Lyft, the volume of passengers being dropped off and picked up on an hourly basis often exceeds airport capacity.  Combine that with more and more flights every year, and aging infrastructure, and you have a recipe for serious problems when it comes to getting people in and out of airports.

Airports around the country are attempting to deal with the sudden influx of ride-hail passengers, but Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) was one of the first to implement an off-terminal pick-up site, a major structural change to the TNC pick-up process. This report aims to examine the change, provide recommendations to optimize the system, and analyze how other airports around the country can learn from this process to ensure a smooth transition when it comes time for them to face their own ride-hail problems…. "  Read more Hmmmm…  This is a very important report that is certainly relevant to the infrastructure side of creating Operational Design Domains (ODDs) that include a safe and welcoming interface for large volumes of customers.  Unfortunately, this report’s Allow Pickups for Shared Rides at the Terminals    section doesn’t go far enough emphasizing sharing rides.  There is no mention of the opportunity to have users who are going in the same direction to match themselves up dynamically in real-time.  Same thing doesn’t happen at the taxi line at Las Vegas airport, even on the first day of CES.  The attendant at the head of the taxi line outside of Union Station has been doing (or maybe had been doing before Uber/Lyft showed up) this most effectively and efficiently since at least 1975, using only his brain. 

The report’s Recommendation section has 3 focused on enhancing ride-sharing, but fails to recognize the opportunity to dynamically assemble shared rides right up to the point at which customers get into the vehicle.  People wait outside the terminal to get into these vehicles.  The priority line (the shortest line) should be composed of those who are willing to share a vehicle.  The opportunity to ride together should exist right up to the time the vehicle is boarded (have "Re-Match" operate all the way up to the time that the car is ready to leave the priority line). Create the perception, and the reality, that "if you are willing to share you’ll get out of the airport faster than if you don’t"  (and cheaper, but airport user’s most valued commodity is time. They are typically spending someone else’s money, but time is theirs!)  Make ride-sharing a virtue rather than burden.

People aren’t assembled into a shared elevator as they enter a building, or before they leave their room in a hotel.  They assemble at the elevator bank (and they do it themselves.)

Ride sharing is the most important environmental and de-congestion opportunity afforded  by LAX-it and it needs much more emphasis and attemtion.   Alain

  Tesla Autopilot is going to detect potholes and make mini-maps to remember them

F. Lambert, Feb 5, "Tesla’s Autopilot, which the automaker is trying to turn into a self-driving system, is going to detect potholes and make mini-maps to remember them, according to a new comment from CEO Elon Musk.  In order to achieve full self-driving, a system would have to be able to handle a wide range of different scenarios, including different weather and road conditions.  These conditions, like potholes, can sometimes be difficult for human drivers to handle, and some people find it improbable that self-driving systems will be able to appropriately navigate them…. "  Read more Hmmmm…   Given NTSB’s findings in the Huang Tesla crash, instead, or in addition to classifying and geo-coding potholes, Tesla should classify and geo-code poor/bad paint stripping locations, including all of the gore areas that don’t have zebra striping as well as all locations where autoPilot has challenges with lane striping.  They then could use this information to assist, alert Tesla drivers, but more importantly, help all human drivers by making this information available to DoTs so that they could properly paint these locations to help everyone drive more safely. 

If they don’t wish to perform this public service, then they should release their data so that I or someone else can do this. Alain

GM plunges deeper into the EV market with a $20-billion spending plan

R. Mitchell, Mar. 4, "General Motors laid out an aggressive electric vehicle strategy Wednesday, an approach it hopes will dramatically boost sales in California.

Chief Executive Mary Barra said GM would spend $20 billion on its electric and automated vehicle programs over the next five years, at which point it intends to be selling a million EVs a year in the U.S. and China. Key to the strategy is a joint venture with South Korea’s LG Chem that aims to boost driving range to 400 miles or more while reducing costs.  “We believe climate change is real,” Barra said. The company’s aggressive move into EVs, she said, “will dramatically change the future of this company and our industry.”

California, and the coastal states in the U.S. in general, has proved more amenable to EVs, giving GM the opportunity for faster growth beyond its base in mid-America. “We sell the most vehicles in the country right now,” she said. “We’re unrepresented on the coasts. It’s a huge opportunity for us.”"  Read more Hmmmm… Interesting.   Alain

    Draft Program   4th Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit   evening May 19 through May 21, 2020 (Tickets are limited, register before May 1)

A. Kornhauser, Feb 6, "The focus of the Summit this year will be moving beyond the AI and the Sensors to addressing the challenges of Commercialization and  the delivery of tangible value to communities.  We’ve made enormous progress with the technology. We’re doing the investment; however, this investment delivers value only if is commercialized: made available and is used by consumers in large numbers.  Demos and one-offs are "great", but to deliver value that is anywhere near commensurate with the magnitude of the investment made to date, initial deployments need to scale.  We can’t just have "Morgantown PRT Systems" whose initial deployment has been nothing but enormously successful for 45 years (an essentially perfect safety record, an excellent availability record and customer valued mobility).  Unfortunately, the system was never expanded or duplicated anywhere.  It didn’t scale.  It is a one-off. 


Tests, demos and one-offs are nice niche deployments; however, what one really needs are initial deployments that have the opportunity to grow, be replicated and scale.  In 1888, Frank Sprague, successfully deployed a small electric street railway system in Richmond, Va.  which became the reference for many other ciites.  "… By 1889 110 electric railways incorporating Sprague’s equipment had been begun or planned on several continents…" Substantial scaled societal benefits emerged virally from this technology.  It was eventually supplanted by the conventional automobile but for more than 30 years it delivered substantial improvements to the quality-of-life for many. 


In part, the 4th Summit will focus on defining the "Richmond" of Affordable Shared-ride On-demand Mobility-as-a-Service.  The initial Operational Design Domain (ODD) that safely accommodates Driverless Mobility Machines that people actually choose to use and becomes the envy of communities throughout the country. " Read more Hmmmm… Draft Program is in flux.  Consider all named individuals as "Invited yet to be confirmed". Alain

Waymo rakes in $2.25 billion in self-driving unit’s first external fundraising

A. Hawkins, Mar. 2, "aymo just announced a significant milestone: its first external fundraising round. The self-driving division of Alphabet raked in $2.25 billion in a funding round led by Silver Lake, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, and Mubadala Investment Company, the sovereign wealth fund of Abu Dhabi. Additional investors include Magna International, Andreessen Horowitz, and AutoNation, as well as Alphabet.  To date, Waymo has been an outlier in the world of self-driving cars, relying almost exclusively on the largesse of its corporate parent. That changes with today’s announcement, shifting Waymo into an uncertain but potentially lucrative new phase.

Waymo CEO John Krafcik framed it as an expansion of the roster of automakers, fleet logistics firms, transit agencies, and delivery companies with which Waymo already has partnerships. “We’re expanding that team, adding financial investors and important strategic partners who bring decades of experience investing in and supporting successful technology companies building transformative products,” Krafcik said in a statement. “With this injection of capital and business acumen, alongside Alphabet, we’ll deepen our investment in our people, our technology, and our operations, all in support of the deployment of the Waymo Driver around the world."

…Waymo only provides its fully driverless rides (i.e. no safety driver) to customers who have signed NDAs with the company and not as part of its consumer-facing Waymo One service. The comparison to San Francisco is noteworthy because that is where Cruise is testing its self-driving cars in the hopes of eventually launching a similar ride-hailing service (which it argues is more complex than suburban Phoenix). The fifth generation of Waymo’s self-driving system is expected to roll out this year as part of its new fleet of Jaguar I-Paces. And to my knowledge, this is the first time Waymo is giving a name to its self-driving truck and delivery pursuits: Waymo Via…."  Read more Hmmmm…   Very interesting, informative and important.  Alain

  Under the Hood of Uber ATG’s Machine Learning Infrastructure and Versioning Control Platform for Self-Driving Vehicles

Y. Guo, Mar. 4, "As Uber experienced exponential growth over the last few years, now supporting 14 million trips each day, our engineers proved they could build for scale. That value extends to other areas, including Uber ATG (Advanced Technologies Group) and its quest to develop self-driving vehicles.

A significant portion of this work involves creating machine learning (ML) models to handle tasks such as processing sensor input, identifying objects, and predicting where those objects might go. The many models needed to solve this problem, and the large team of engineers working on them, creates a management and versioning issue in itself.

We initially address this problem by defining a five-step life cycle for the training and deployment of ML models in our self-driving vehicles. This life cycle begins with data ingestion and goes all the way to model serving, with steps along the way to ensure our models perform well. This process lets us effectively accelerate the iteration of our self-driving vehicle components, continually refining them to perform to the highest standards…." Read more Hmmmm…   Very worth reading and pondering.  Alain

  This cheerful Waymo ad highlights all the ways we’ll use self-driving cars in our daily lives

A. Hawkins, Mar. 3,  "Waymo came out with a new ad today that presents a cheerful, very Google-esque look at how the self-driving company plans to eventually make money: ride-hailing, delivery, trucking, and logistics. The ad comes on the heels of the announcement that the Alphabet-owned company has, for the first time, raised $2.25 billion in outside investment….."  Read more Hmmmm… All part of the early deployment strategy that has the opportunity to scale.  Be sure to see the video.  Alain

  Uber driver reclassified as employee in France

R. Dillet, Mar. 4,"France’s Court of Cassation, a court of last resort, has ruled that a former Uber driver should have been considered an employee instead of a self-employed partner. As the Court of Cassation is the supreme court of appeal in that case, Uber  can no longer appeal the decision.

Back in June 2017, an Uber driver filed a lawsuit against Uber because their account had been deactivated. A labor court first refused to look at the case, saying that the court couldn’t rule on that case as it didn’t involve an employee and an employer.

Another court in Paris then took care of the case and ruled that there was an employment relationship between that Uber driver and Uber itself. According to the court, there was a relationship of subordination between the company and the driver — in other words, the driver was following orders from Uber.

In particular, the Paris court said that the driver couldn’t build their own customer base and couldn’t set prices. The driver also argued that Uber was overseeing their work, as they would receive a message that said “Are you still there?” after declining three rides…."  Read more Hmmmm… Typical French.  Now the cost of the driver will make Uber even less affordable and effectively precludes Uber from becoming anything more that your father’s taxi service.  (Are taxi drivers in France employees?) 

  What European Consumers Think about Connected Car Data and Privacy

L. Rosner, March 2020, "… In 2018, we commissioned Edison Research to field a consumer survey in the United States. In that survey, we saw significant interest among consumers for new services based on connected car data and a high willingness to share car data in order to access these services. However, these same consumers expressed general concerns about sharing their data with apps and services—a finding that did not surprise us, since the survey was fielded just a few months after the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal had broken and just as the European General Data
Protection Regulation (GDPR) was coming into e‑ect.

But we also wanted to find out what European consumers think and were excited to be able to collaborate with SBD Automotive on this research, which was fielded in December 2019 and January 2020. We were encouraged to see clear signs of a budding ecosystem with growth potential, but we also saw the need for OEMs and service providers alike to provide more evangelism and more transparency about their data practices. This report will delve into our findings and provide actionable takeaways to stakeholders in the connected car ecosystem.  Enjoy the read!…" Read more Hmmmm…  An interesting read. Alain

  Lyft ramps up self-driving program

K. Korosec, Feb 28, "… “Lyft Inc. did not operate any vehicles in autonomous mode on California public roads during the reporting period,” the letter read. “As such, Lyft Inc. has no autonomous mode disengagements to report.”

The 2019 data tells a different story. Lyft had 19 autonomous vehicles testing on public roads in California in 2019, according to data released earlier this week by the CA DMV. Those 19 vehicles, which operated during the reporting period of December 2018 to November 2019, drove nearly 43,000 miles in autonomous mode….


The total number of autonomous miles driven in 2019 rose 40%, to more than 2.87 million, thanks largely to a notable uptick in public on-road testing by Baidu,  Cruise,, Waymo and Zoox…." Read more Hmmmm…OK.  Alain

  GM unveils a new electric vehicle platform and battery in bid to take on Tesla

A. Hawkins, Mar. 4,  "General Motors laid out its electric vehicle strategy on Wednesday, showcasing roughly a dozen products as part of a broader attempt to convey to investors how serious it is about embracing its electric future.

In addition to showing off some of its upcoming vehicles, GM revealed an all-new modular electric vehicle platform with an improved battery pack called Ultium. Much like Volkswagen’s so-called MEB platform, the GM platform is intended to be flexible and multifaceted, with the goal of eventually undergirding a variety of vehicle types and shapes.


….The automaker has said it plans to release 20 electric nameplates by 2023 and will publicly unveil three of those vehicles in the months to come: the Cadillac “Lyriq” EV crossover in April and two electric versions of GMC’s Hummer in May. This will be followed “soon after” by the Cruise Origin, a shared, electric, self-driving vehicle developed by Cruise (a majority owned subsidiary of GM) and Honda.."  Read more Hmmmm… Very interesting; however, seems that Hummers are more important than Cruise Origins.  Same old GM???  Alain

  Waymo’s Self-Driving Jaguars Arrive With New, Homegrown Tech

A. Davies, Mar. 4, "If you’re in Mountain View and you spot a self-driving car, the smart money says it’s one of Waymo’s modified Chrysler Pacifica minivans. If you see an electric car, it’s most likely a Tesla. But the odds on both are set to change. Waymo is rolling out its new fleet of roboticized, all-electric Jaguar I-Pace SUVs, a robotic armada that over the next two years will grow to as many as 20,000.

At first glance, the newly outfitted I-Paces don’t look much different from the mocked-up version Waymo showed off nearly two years ago, when it announced a partnership with Jaguar. A closer look reveals a bigger shift offering hints about the future of autonomous vehicles. The two rooftop lidars on the Pacificas have been compressed into one unit that can handle both medium- and long-range sensing. The perimeter lidars near the wheels have been joined by “perimeter cameras.” A lidar and camera sit on the grille, where you’d normally see Jaguar’s roaring cat logo. And so on.

To borrow an auto industry phrase, this is more than a “facelift,” a package of minor changes designed to refresh a stale model. Over the past several years, hundreds of Waymo engineers have rebuilt most of the company’s self-driving hardware, chiefly the cameras, lidars, and radars that perceive the world around the car. They did almost all of the work in-house and from scratch. Now the electric Jaguar (which Waymo, inexplicably, declined to dub the I, Robot-Pace) is the first vehicle to benefit from the company’s fifth generation hardware suite…."  Read more Hmmmm… Nice information here.  Hopefully Waymo will bring a few hundred of these to central Jersey giving Waymo the opportunity to provide valuable mobility to many and really demonstrate that all of their efforts can substantially improve the lives of many rather than be yet another toy for those that already have too many. Alain

 Ex-Uber self-driving head declares bankruptcy after $179 million loss to Google

P. Dave, Mar. 4, "The former head of Uber Technologies Inc’s self-driving technology unit, Anthony Levandowski, filed for bankruptcy protection on Wednesday, shortly after a court confirmed that he must pay $179 million to Google to end a legal battle over his split from the Alphabet Inc unit.


… Levandowski filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, enabling him to negotiate debts. He has $50 million to $100 million in estimated assets, compared with $100 million to $500 million in liabilities, according to his filing…." Read more Hmmmm… We all need to behave.   Alain

  Uber and Lyft generate 70 percent more pollution than trips they displace: study

A. Hawkins, Feb. 25,  "Uber and Lyft have weathered criticism about pollution and traffic congestion for years, but it’s been difficult to get an exact gauge about how much ride-hailing contributes to daily emissions. A new study released today claims to have a more precise answer to this question.


According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, ride-hailing trips today result in an estimated 69 percent more climate pollution on average than the trips they displace. In cities, ride-hailing trips typically displace low-carbon trips, such as public transportation, biking, or walking. Uber and Lyft could reduce these emissions with a more concerted effort to electrify its fleet of vehicles or by incentivizing customers to take pooled rides, the group recommends.

“However, those strategies alone will address neither the increases in vehicle miles traveled nor rising congestion concerns,” the report says. “For ride-hailing to contribute to better climate and congestion outcomes, trips must be pooled and electric, displace single-occupancy car trips more often, and encourage low-emissions modes such as mass transit, biking, and walking.”.."  Read more Hmmmm… I emphasized parts of the last sentence above. Unfortunately, unless driverless, Uber/Lyft  can’t pool effectively because the drivers don’t like pooling.  With drivers that don’t pool, Uber/Lyft can’t be affordable and thus can’t scale to displace a meaningful number of single-occupant car trips   Alain

  Should we design for self-driving cars — or for people?

TEDxMidAtlantic, March 2019, "Sam Schwartz, the traffic engineer who literally invented the word "gridlock," offers an overview of the last 100 years of cars and traffic. And he offers the sobering warning that if we don’t alter our ideas about autonomous vehicles, we may find ourselves living in a future designed for cars rather than the people they are intended to serve."  Read more Hmmmm…  See video. Alain

  Issues in Autonomous Vehicle Testing and Deployment

B. Canis, Feb. 11, "Autonomous vehicles have the potential to bring major improvements in highway safety. Motor vehicle crashes caused an estimated 36,560 fatalities in 2018; a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has shown that 94% of crashes are due to human errors … I prefer to say "due to human misbehavior"… …."  Read more Hmmmm… Read but this seems antiquated in that it is focused on cars owned by individuals rather than mobility machines operated in a fleet to provide mobility as a service.  Alain

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

  Tesla Autopilot is going to detect potholes and make mini-maps to remember them

F. Lambert, Mar. 4, "Tesla could soon release its “Reverse Summon” feature, which could enable owners to have their electric car drop them off and go find their own parking spots….. "  Read more Hmmmm…   Yipes!! Tell me it ain’t so.  What is this Stupid Summon Squared??? Please stop Elon.  Just because it can do something cute and impresses a 4th grader doesn’t mean that you actually put this capability in the hands of lazy individuals.  How entitled and potentially irresponsible are your customers?  Be prepared for another grand appearance before the NTSB.  Owners of parking lots… if you don’t place signs forbidding this practice on your property, then you’re also going to be dragged into court and in front of the NTSB.  This is CRAZY! C’mon Elon!  Alain

Sunday Supplement



  What Would You Do In A Self-Driving Car?

Mar 4, "…We asked more than 2,000 drivers from around the world that very question. Here’s what we learned….  " Read more Hmmmm… Don’t we already know what passengers do in cars that we drive?  We aren’t always by ourselves, are we?  Whatever!  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