Friday, April 10, 2020
16th edition of the 8th year of SmartDrivingCars

Autonomous shuttles help transport COVID-19 tests at Mayo Clinic in Florida

Press release,  April, 2, "For the first time in the U.S., autonomous vehicles are being used to transport medical supplies and COVID-19 tests at Mayo Clinic in Florida.

At a time when health care resources and staff are stretched thin, the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) has partnered with Beep and NAVYA to use autonomous vehicles to safely transport COVID-19 tests collected at a drive-thru testing location at Mayo Clinic in Florida.

"This development is a historic moment for the Jacksonville Transportation Authority," says Nathaniel P. Ford, Sr., CEO of Jacksonville Transportation Authority. "Along with our partners, Beep, NAVYA and Mayo Clinic, we are leveraging our learnings from three years of testing autonomous vehicles through our Ultimate Urban Circulator program. Our innovative team saw this as an opportunity to use technology to respond to this crisis in Northeast Florida and increase the safety of COVID-19 testing."…"  Read more Hmmmm… While not mentioned in the article, they are operating Driverlessly… without attendant or safety driver.  Yea!!!  (People aren’t being moved, just goods and the Operational Design Domain is constrained, but it it is driverless none the less!)  Listen watch more on Pod-Cast_151/Zoom-Cast_151. Alain

  Smart Driving Cars Pod-Cast Episode 151

F. Fishkin, April 9, "In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, fully autonomous, driverless vehicles are carrying medical supplies and Covid-19 tests to the Mayo Clinic in Florida. They’re provided by Beep and the CEO, Joe Moye, joins Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin for that, plus the latest from Nuro, Tesla and more."   "Alexa, play the Smart Driving Cars podcast!".  Ditto with Siri, and GooglePlay …  Alain

Smart Driving Cars Xoom-Cast Episode 151 – Joe Moye

Video version… Watch Zoom-Cast 151  .  Alain

Note to readers…

The SDC eLetter is in its 8th year, the audio Pod-Casts are in their 3rd year and above is the link to the 4th video Zoom-Cast.  Dick Mudge, Fred Fishkin, Jeremiah Liu and I have begun experimenting with extending the Zoom-Cast to include a live component, a Zoom-inar, to bring in some of your thoughts and comments in real time.  These will need to be scheduled in advance and will require a pre-registration on your part.  They will also require agreements on some acceptable behaviors by all involved as well as some funding sources to support the production costs.  I’d love to have feedback from you as to the scope, viability and value to you of such an initiative.  Please email me at with subject:  Thoughts on SDC Zoom-inar.  Thank you in advance for your contribution.  Stay safe and healthy.  We can make it through all of this and help others who are in need. Alain

  Nuro gets the green light to test driverless delivery robots in California

A. Hawkins, April 7, "Nuro, the self-driving startup founded by two ex-Google engineers, was approved to test its driverless delivery robots on public roads in California. The company is the second to receive a driverless permit in the state.

Nuro, which has tested its driverless grocery delivery service in Arizona and Texas, is authorized to test two light-duty delivery vehicles in nine Bay Area cities, according the California DMV. This includes portions of the cities of Atherton, East Palo Alto, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, and Woodside. The vehicles can’t exceed 25 mph and are only approved to operate in fair weather conditions on streets with a speed limit of no more than 35 mph."  Read more Hmmmm… Very nice.  This is a substantial step forward. The Ca DMV announcement:  DMV Authorizes Nuro to Test Driverless Delivery Vehicles in Portion of Bay Area  Alain 

  Tesla sales in China hit record high during the pandemic, represent 25% of country’s EV sales

F. Lambert, April 9, "…We already knew that Tesla delivered 3,563 and 3,900 cars in January and February in China, but the March numbers are apparently the ones that made the difference.

The China Passenger Car Association (CPCA) announced today that Tesla delivered 10,160 vehicles in China in March, the automaker’s best results in a single month ever.

Tesla managed the result in a month when the overall passenger car sales in China, which is the biggest auto market in the world, were down more than 40%…." Read more Hmmmm…  Pretty impressive.  Tesla’s halo in China seems similar to the iPhone’s halo in year past.  Alain


  Tesla releases impressive look inside Gigafactory Shanghai, with its hundreds of robots

F. Lambert, April 8, "Tesla has released a video with an impressive look inside Gigafactory Shanghai, which is currently Tesla’s only vehicle factory in operation.  The timing of Tesla’s Gigafactory Shanghai couldn’t have been better for the automaker.

Not only did they manage to build the entire factory and start production within about a year, but the production also started before Tesla was forced to shut down Fremont factory due to the coronavirus pandemic.  It resulted in Tesla at least being able to produce some cars during the shutdown at its main plant.

This wouldn’t be possible without Tesla managing to turn what was an agricultural field into a complex factory on an incredible timeline.  We’ve covered the construction through drone videos posted by locals, but we’ve rarely had the chance to take a look inside the plant — where the really impressive work happens.

Today, we get our best look inside the factory, thanks to Tesla releasing an official video in China:…." Read more Hmmmm…  Very impressive.  See video.  Alain

  Zoox, citing COVID-19 shutdown, lays off its autonomous vehicle backup drivers

A. Hawkins, April 6, "Zoox, the ambitious self-driving startup said to be worth over $3 billion, laid off almost all of its contract workers last week, including its backup drivers who ride around in the company’s autonomous vehicles. Around 120 people are said to be out of work….

“Zoox has every intention to resume testing and normal business practices, and will need your efforts in getting back on track,” the email said."  Read more Hmmmm…  When they start laying off coders, then one can read something into this.  Actually this is a good time to do a thorough upgrade of all the code so there really isn’t need to be testing physically right now.  There is plenty to do in simulation which can all be done while "sheltering in place" (at  least sort of and much easier than driving around.)  So they have a good excuse to save some short term money.  Alain

   Self-Driving Cars Can Pave Way during COVID-19. Let’s do so in the U.S.

Blog, April 8, "Americans are wisely moving their daily lives to their homes during COVID-19 and following recommendations from public health officials to distance themselves from others. At the same time, these changes present hurdles as people seek to stock up on medical supplies, groceries, and other necessities without exposing themselves to this virus. Self-driving cars, or autonomous vehicles, can be a part of the American advantage in meeting this challenge—if Congress steps up…. " Read more Hmmmm…Washington doesn’t have enough money to make this happen and should focus the money that it is printing to those that really need it.  To make driverless cars happen all Washington needs to really do is to create a welcoming environment for these mobility machines and let the investment community do the rest.  Driverless Mobility Machines have a viable business case.Alain

    The COVID-19 Shared Mobility Action Plan

A. Friedel, April 1, "With many countries in various levels of quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it comes as little surprise that the Shared Mobility sector has been hit particularly hard. Not only are most people staying home, but those who do need to travel are wary of using shared vehicles which could be harbingers for transmission. So, what are private service operators in this sector doing to keep business afloat, meet shifting demands and to even help those in need during this crisis? To answer these questions, Shared Mobility Expert Augustin Friedel is curating an extensive table that records the various actions taken by shared mobility actors around the world. The table effectively organises their responses into three primary categories:

1.  Daily Operations
2.  Adjustments to Increased Usage/Addressing New User Groups
3.  Help for Front Line Heroes/High Risk Groups

Within each of these categories, there are several interesting trends which we have observed…" Read more Hmmmm… Excellent resource!!  Thank you John Niles for alerting me. Alain

  N.Y.’s Changed Streets: In One Spot, Traffic Speeds Are Up 288%

W. Hu, April 9, "Traffic at New York City’s busiest bridges and tunnels has plunged nearly 60 percent.

Rush-hour speeds have soared 288 percent on one of the city’s most clogged arteries — the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway — to 52 miles per hour from 13 m.p.h.  Even the air is cleaner, with levels of particulate matter, which contribute to health problems including lung cancer and heart attacks, plunging as much as 35 percent across the city.

The coronavirus pandemic that has ravaged New York has essentially erased much of the traffic in the country’s largest city, easing the congestion that has strangled the streets and has made it more perilous for pedestrians and a growing army of bicycle commuters.

And it has happened far more swiftly and drastically than any measure New York’s leaders have taken so far to push cars off the streets, including a congestion pricing plan that starting next year will impose fees to drive into the busiest parts of Manhattan….

Despite far fewer vehicles on the road, the city’s automated speed cameras issued 24,765 speeding tickets citywide on March 27, or nearly double the 12,672 tickets issued daily a month earlier, according to city data…." Read more Hmmmm… Unfortunately, none of this is really good news because of the enormous personal cost that so many are bearing to achieve congestion relief. Congestion is in fact good.  Alain

  What does our post-COVID-19 technology world look like?

M. Erickson, April 9, "…  For the next year or so, we must focus on the recovery of manufacturing, supply chain, and delivery. New diagnostics and treatments will be the new medical normal. Flexibility will continue in many sectors.
Longer-term, we will move toward a new normal. What might be different?
Here, I focus on the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math — including medicine) changes that can help make our new normal a better world to live in. "  Read more Hmmmm…Somewhat extensive list of changes, almost including the "kitchen sink", which gives almost everyone an opportunity to contribute.  One of the glaring shortcomings is good old fashioned DATA.  We somehow need to add a D to STEM.  It is good that M now includes MEDICINE.  Maybe Math needs to revert to DATA, its fundamental.  DATA has none of the romance of S, T, E and or M but we all know… Garbage In yields Garbage Out for S, T, E and M.  It all starts with good DATA.  When it doesn’t exist and is not respected, you get the poop show that we have today.  Alain

  Self-driving car LIDAR stalwart Velodyne sued for sacking a third of its staff claiming coronavirus was the cause

K. Quach, April 9, "  A key maker of Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) sensors for self-driving cars unlawfully terminated more than 140 of its employees to shift jobs offshore, a lawsuit claims.  Velodyne Lidar fired more than 33 per cent of its staff working at its headquarters based in San Jose, USA, we’re told. The layoffs came as a shock to more than 140 of its employees, who were only given one day’s notice, it is claimed.

The company blamed the layoffs on the coronavirus outburst, but its employees argued the advanced-tech biz is using the pandemic as an excuse to conveniently slash its US workforce so that it can shift more of its operations overseas to cut costs…."  Read more Hmmmm…Ouch.   It is a hardware company and many may not be able to work from home, but this is not pretty.  Alain

  Car dealers are desperate. Does that make it a good time to buy a vehicle online?

R. Mitchell, April 8, "New-car showrooms are closed. Inventory is beyond bloated. Car dealers are bleeding cash and ready to negotiate.

In other words, if you’re blessed with good health and you have a reasonable chance of keeping your job, now’s a good time to buy a car.

You’ll have to shop from home — or wherever you’re sheltering in place. You’ll need to be adept at online shopping and ready to negotiate price by email or phone. But negotiating power in favor of the buyer has rarely been so lopsided…."  Read more Hmmmm… I backed off buying that Subaru 2 months ago.  Did I actually make a good decision for the first time in my life.  I’ve so consistently bought high and sold low. 😉 Alain

Tesla announces pay cuts and worker furloughs

T. Lee, April 8, "Tesla announced Tuesday that salaried workers would take pay cuts of 10 percent or more through the end of June. Most hourly workers—many of whom haven’t been working since Tesla shut down its Fremont factory last month—are being formally furloughed, making them eligible to claim unemployment benefits. The changes take effect on April 13.

"We expect to resume normal production at our US facilities on May 4, barring any significant changes," the email from Tesla HR said. It said that pay cuts and furloughs were a "shared sacrifice across the company that will allow us to progress during these challenging times."

Tesla is slashing pay for vice presidents by 30 percent and directors by 20 percent. Lower-level salaried employees will see their pay fall by 10 percent. These are predominantly white-collar workers who have been able to continue working from home.

"Employees who cannot work at home and have not been assigned to critical work onsite will be furloughed," the email says. Furloughed employees will continue to receive benefits, including health insurance. And thanks to the recently passed $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill, workers will be eligible for higher-than-usual unemployment benefits. Tesla says that "for the vast majority of furloughed employees, unemployment benefits will be roughly equivalent to normal take home pay."… " Read more Hmmmm… Certainly not a Stupid thing for Tesla to do.  I especially like the shared sacrifices and the higher % cut to VPs and Directors.  Alain

    Draft Program   4th Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit   Postponed until Evening Oct. 20 through Oct. 22, 2020

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 cites.  "… 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

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

Sunday Supplement


  VW releases video of insane heads-up display in ID.3 electric car

F. Lambert, April 3, "VW has released a series of videos about some of the more interesting features of the ID.3 electric car, including an insane heads-up display….." Read more Hmmmm…  I’ve never been a fan of Heads Up displays.  Putting that stuff in our face all the time is simply distracting and not at all cute.  Maybe OK if you are a fighter jet pilot that shouldn’t even be in harms way in the cockpit.  Instead the pilot should be in some bunker someplace flying the plane remotely.  But of course that wouldn’t be manly enough.  Never mind. After driving a car for a while does anyone ever turn on these distracting in your face displays????  VW, you are insane.   Don’t bother seeing video.  Alain


Calendar of Upcoming Events:s

Postponed, until Evening Oct. 20 -> Oct 22.

4th Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit

Princeton University

Princeton, NJ

On the More Technical Side