Thursday, July 9, 2020
29th edition of the 8th year of SmartDrivingCars

Fostering Economic Opportunity through Autonomous Vehicle Technology

July 8, “SAFE invites you to join us for the release of “Fostering Economic Opportunity through Autonomous Vehicle Technology”, our new paper that addresses how autonomous vehicles (AVs) and autonomous transit can redress imbalances for low-income communities, whose options are limited by inadequacies in today’s transportation.

To mark the launch of the paper, SAFE is holding a panel event on July 16 at 2:00pm ET. Alisyn Malek, SAFE, will be moderating a conversation between:

– Courtney Ehrlichman, CEO, Ehrlichman Group
– Dr. Richard Ezike, Senior Policy Associate, The Urban Institute
– Dr. Alain Kornhauser, Director of the Program in Transportation, Princeton University

SAFE would appreciate you joining us for what we expect will be an illuminating discussing on transportation’s role in limiting economic opportunities for millions of Americans, and how AVs and autonomous transit can be part of the solutio…”  Read more  Hmmm…. Watch today’s PodCast and join in on July 16.  Alain

  SmartDrivingCars Pod-Cast 164  w/Robbie Diamond

F. Fishkin, July 9, “Fostering economic opportunity through autonomous technology is the focus of an upcoming report from Security America’s Future Energy. Founder and CEO Robbie Diamond shares details and more in this edition with Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin. Plus ..are armed police officers really needed for traffic enforcement? And the latest from Tesla, Waymo and more.  …”   “Alexa, play the Smart Driving Cars podcast!“.  Ditto with Siri, and GooglePlay …  Alain

SmartDrivingCars Zoom-Cast Episode 164 w/Robbie Diamond

Video version of SmartDrivingCars PodCast 164.  Alain

   The SmartDrivingCars eLetter, Pod-Casts, Zoom-Casts and Zoom-inars are made possible in part by support from the Smart Transportation and Technology ETF, symbol MOTO.   For more information:  Most funding is supplied by Princeton University’s Department of Operations Research & Financial Engineering and Princeton Autonomous Vehicle Engineering (PAVE) research laboratory as part of its research dissemination initiatives.

  We Don’t Need Cops to Enforce Traffic Laws

A, Gordon, June 11,”… Regardless of which policy you personally prefer, any effort to eliminate racism in American policing must figure out what to do about traffic enforcement, which is the leading cause of interactions between police and the public, according to the Department of Justice. And, by law, it is almost entirely up to the officer whether to let the person go with a warning, give them a ticket, ask to search their vehicle, or escalate the situation even further. It is an interaction intentionally designed to let the officer do virtually whatever he or she wants, reflecting the inherent biases of our legal system.

Police pull over more than 20 million motorists every year, according to the Stanford Policing Project, which undertook a first-of-its-kind large scale study into what happens during more than 100 million traffic stops. It found “police require less suspicion to search Black and Hispanic drivers than white drivers. This double standard is evidence of discrimination.”

But, traffic enforcement is not just the most common way police interact with people. It is also a foundational element to modern policing that encapsulates how things got so bad and why..

The problem, Seo told Motherboard, has to do with the history of the automobile in America itself. Before the car, basic tort law handled street conflict well enough; if your wagon ran into mine and caused damage to me or my property and we couldn’t settle it like reasonable adults, I’d sue you. This stopped being good enough once cars flooded roads, causing all sorts of conflict and crashes, not to mention death…”  Read more  Hmmmm….   Fine, police need to enforce traffic laws, but why do police with guns need to enforce traffic laws?  How many of those 20 million “pull-overs” involve “Bonnie & Clyde”????  Parking tickets are passed out by persons without guns, cars are towed by person’s without guns.  Why are guns needed to give tickets to those speeding or have broken tail lights?  We can then save the well trained individuals that know how to respect and use guns for duties that really need those trained individuals rather than enforcing traffic laws   Alain

  Elon Musk says Tesla is ‘very close’ to level 5 autonomous driving

Reuters, July 9, “U.S. electric vehicle maker Tesla is “very close” to achieving level 5 autonomous driving technology, CEO Elon Musk said on Thursday, referring to the capability to navigate roads without any driver input.

“I’m extremely confident that level 5, or essentially complete autonomy, will happen, and I think will happen very quickly,” Musk said in remarks made via a video message at the opening of Shanghai’s annual World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC).

“I remain confident that we will have the basic functionality for level 5 autonomy complete this year.”…”  Read more Hmmmm….  “Basic functionality” is only the beginning of the “Level 5”  process.  The “Level 5” business case requires  either:

1. Elon to absorb all responsibilities and their implied liabilities if anything goes bad while you are using the “Level 5 Tesla” that you bought from him.   He doesn’t have enough money implied liability, or

2. He could decide to build and operate a mobility machine that incorporates his automated driving technology but he hasn’t even hinted at that.  So all he is doing is pumping up with hot air the value of his shares.  Alain

  I’ve Seen a Future Without Cars, and It’s Amazing

F. Manjoo. July 9, “As coronavirus lockdowns crept across the globe this winter and spring, an unusual sound fell over the world’s metropolises: the hush of streets that were suddenly, blessedly free of cars. …  Cars took a break from killing people, too. About 10 pedestrians die on New York City’s streets in an ordinary month. Under lockdown, the city went a record two months without a single pedestrian fatality. In California, vehicle collisions plummeted 50 percent, reducing accidents resulting in injuries or death by about 6,000 per month.

As the roads became freer of cars, they grew full of possibility. Rollerblading and skateboarding have come back into fashion. Sales of bicycles and electric bikes have skyrocketed.

But there is a catch: Cities are beginning to cautiously open back up again, and people are wondering how they’re going to get into work. Many are worried about the spread of the virus on public transit. Are cars our only option? How will we find space for all of them?

In much of Manhattan, the average speed of traffic before the pandemic had fallen to 7 miles per hour. In Midtown, it was less than 5 m.p.h. That’s only slightly faster than walking and slower than riding a bike. Will traffic soon be worse than ever?

Not if we choose another path….”   Read more  Hmmm… Correct!  Cars should not be in Manhattan.  It has a subway. Very few other US city centers have the density to warrant an NYC type subway.  For everyone else (at least 300 million of the 328 million Americans) that is fortunate enough, cars are really great and what is proposed here is marginal at best from the perspective of the individual.

Very  nice interactive graphics.  Alain

  Self-Driving Tech Is Becoming a Game of Partnerships

A. Marshall, July 7, “BUILDING A SELF-DRIVING car was never going to be easy. But Karl Iagnemma says he didn’t expect it to be this hard.  “Vehicles are these massively complex systems, and to [build self-driving cars], we need to integrate them with another very complex system and do it in a way that’s reliable and cost-optimized. It’s really, really hard,” says Iagnemma, the president and CEO of a joint venture formed in March between South Korea’s Hyundai and Aptiv, which designs automotive electronic systems. “I think that’s one of the things that most players in the industry underappreciated, myself included.”

That realization has led to a rash of partnerships between established automakers and self-driving startups. Think Aptiv and Hyundai; Waymo and Jaguar; General Motors and Cruise; Argo AI and Ford and Volkswagen. The Covid-19 pandemic has only heightened the need for partners, as venture capitalists tighten the purse strings on big bets like self-driving. “$1 billion is the price of an entry ticket in the autonomous-driving space today,” says Iagnemma.

Last month, Zoox was acquired by Amazon for a reported $1.1 billion, two-thirds less than its 2018 valuation. In self-driving, it’s getting harder to go at it alone.

“The list of independent startups that are tackling [autonomous vehicles] without a mothership continues to get smaller,” says Oliver Cameron, cofounder and CEO of the startup Voyage, which aims to build and then operate self-driving vehicles inside retirement communities. As a result, “every quarter, there’s a casualty,” he says. “Zoox was this quarter.” In May, Voyage announced a partnership with Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles to integrate its tech into a handful of Pacifica minivans….”   Read more  Hmmmm….  Of course, but at this point, the car is produced by many extremely competent and experienced entities.  It is thus the commodity.   A sufficiently good personless driver has yet to emerge as the differentiator and dominant trail blazer.  Alain

  Tesla mocks shortsellers with sale of red satin shorts

H. Jin, July 6, “After surpassing Toyota Motor Corp as the world’s most valuable automaker and stunning with forecast-beating deliveries, Tesla Inc has taken time out to poke fun at the company’s naysayers – with sales of red satin shorts.
“Limited edition short shorts now available,” CEO Elon Musk tweeted on Sunday.
Musk has often taken umbrage at short-sellers and in 2018 sent a box of shorts to hedge fund owner and Tesla short-seller David Einhorn. …


The shorts cost $69.420, the last three digits an apparent reference to Musk’s infamous tweet in 2018 that he was considering taking Tesla private for $420 per share, with 420 also a code word for marijuana….


The Silicon Valley car maker, however, has reason to crow. Its stock has almost tripled in value this year to just over $1,200 per share and it sold more than 90,000 of its electric vehicles in the second quarter, defying a trend of plummeting sales for other automakers hit by coronavirus-induced lockdowns”.   Run like the wind or entertain like Liberace,” the product description says, adding: “Enjoy exceptional comfort from the closing bell.” It will ship within 2-4 weeks….”   Read more  Hmmm… 🙂 Alain

  Tesla delivers 90,650 vehicles despite pandemic and factory shutdown

A. Hawkins, July 2, “Tesla said on Thursday that it was able to deliver 90,650 vehicles during the last quarter, despite its Fremont, California factory being partially shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. Wall Street analysts had expected the electric automaker to only deliver about 72,000 vehicles during the last three months, according to CNBC.

This was the second consecutive quarter of better-than-expected delivery numbers from Tesla. The company delivered 88,400 vehicles in Q1 of 2020, down from the fourth quarter of 2019, when Tesla shipped around 112,000 vehicles…. Tesla said in a press release. ”  Read more  Hmmm… Impressive!  Alain

  How May Mobility’s autonomous shuttle ambitions backfired

K.  Wiggers, July 6, “By all appearances, May Mobility was a scrappy success story. The autonomous transportation startup made its debut at Y Combinator’s demo day in 2017,…But on the inside looking out, it was a different story. May engineers struggled to maintain and upgrade the company’s vehicle platform, at one point spending months attempting to install an air conditioning system in the depths of summer. The leadership’s ambition often outstretched May’s ability to deliver, which upset vendors, some of whom went unpaid for stretches. And not a single one of the company’s commercial routes approached full autonomy.

Conversations with former May employees reveal a startup struggling to stand out in an industry dominated by incumbents like Waymo, Uber, Aurora, Cruise, and Amazon’s Zoox. As one source put it, May’s intent might not have been malicious — executives at the top were convinced it would succeed. But overeagerness and inexperience led to missteps that soured municipal relationships….

After 500 hours of testing at the Quonset Business Park in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, humans had to override the GEM’s systems for left-hand turns with traffic, right turns on red, rain, wind, pedestrians standing at crosswalks, construction work zones, certain four-way intersections, speed bumps, potholes, and aggressive drivers. Foliage also caused complications because the preprogrammed route was mapped when trees were bare. Once the leaves and other foliage emerged, it disrupted the camera, radar, and lidar sensors that helped the shuttles to navigate.

One source described May’s autonomy as “all over the map.” While some days saw autonomy rates hit 80% to 90%, performance often dipped “well under” that mark….

.May’s stumbles didn’t end with engineering. Operational challenges resulted in lower-than-anticipated ridership, with most rides — which were free during pilots — falling short of break-even. One source pegs each deployment’s losses at over $1 million a year….

After its pilots in Columbus and Rhode Island came to a close and planned deployments in Florida and Texas fell through, May redoubled its efforts in Grand Rapids and Detroit with Bedrock, the real estate firm associated with Quicken Loans chairman Dan Gilbert. It was recently announced that GHSP, a company developing an ultraviolet-C treatment that automatically disinfects the air and high-touch surfaces within vehicles, would receive $80,000 from the Michigan Economic Development’s PlanetM program to install the treatment in May’s shuttles…. ” Read more  Hmmm…  Yipes!   Unless they can become driverless, there isn’t much value in the automation.  (Driverless doesn’t only enable one to reduce operating costs, it also enable demand-responsive operation… allowing vehicles to sit and wait without incurring a labor charge and taking you to where you want to go.  Many conventional buses move around empty a non-trivial amount of time.  Their operation is heavily biased on the “when” of the driver’s work schedule rather than the”when” of the customer’s deire to travel.  Thus there is no service when some people want to travel and there is serve when very few want to travel.  Replacement of the driver with a computer enables the timing of the service and its spatial scope to be better aligned to customer’s demands.  Alain

Tesla captures bigger chunk of China EV market

F. Lambert, July 8,”Tesla delivered 3,635 made-in-China Model 3 cars in April and in May, and sales jumped to a record 11,095 units.  The electric automaker was helped by an overall quick recovery of the auto market in China following the worst of the pandemic in the market.

Now the China Passenger Car Association has released June numbers, and the market went down again.

However, Tesla is still moving ahead full steam and managed to deliver just shy of 15,000 Model 3 vehicles in the country in June.

With the rest of the market down, overall passenger cars down 6.5% and EVs down 35%, Tesla managed to capture an impressive 23% of the EV market in China.

In Q2, Tesla delivered around 30,000 vehicles in China. It means that the country represented around one-third of Tesla’s entire global deliveries during the second quarter. ….”  Read more Hmmmm… Impressive.  Alain

  Autonomous ridesharing isn’t dead: How Waymo is adapting to the post-COVID era

R. Glon, July 3, “… Ridesharing is undeniably down, but it’s not out. As self-driving car technology continues its steady march forward, ridesharing could very well bounce back as a convenient — and safe — mode of transportation. Autonomous vehicles that hold one fewer warm, breathing body feel more relevant than ever before. To get a glimpse of the road ahead, Digital Trends spoke with Waymo, one of the leaders in the field, to find out how the coronavirus-related lockdowns and stay-at-home orders affected its operations, and what it’s doing to maintain the trust of its growing ridership…. ” Read more  Hmmm…  Not dead, but sedated, strapped and on a ventilator.  Not a good place to be.  I was one of the lucky ones to survive.  I sure hope ridesharing is as fortunate.  Alain

Image removed by sender. CleanTechnica logo  Can Argo.AI Make Ford & Volkswagen Self-Driving Leaders?

Z. Shahan, July 5, “… Perhaps the two most notable players in this field other than Tesla, from my perspective, are Zoox (because it was just bought by Amazon, which has potential to develop its tech at an enormous scale) and Argo.AI (company site here). Why Argo.AI? Well, not being an AI expert and not having much insight into the details of the various startups anyway, it’s not from some analysis of Argo.AI’s competitive advantage. It mostly (but not entirely) comes down to its potential to quickly collect data at a massive scale. (Though, potential is a key word there.)…”  Read more  Hmmm…  What???    If you are still dependent on collecting data, you are way behind.   Whatever???   Alain

Image removed by sender.  Self-Driving Startup Aurora Debuts its New Long-Range Lidar Called ‘FirstLight’

E. Walz, July 8, “… Aurora said that it chose Blackmore because of its pioneering work in Frequency Modulated Continuous Wave (FMCW) lidar, a next generation lidar technology that can improve the perception capabilities of its self-driving vehicles. Aurora also said that Blackmore’s technology will allow it to deliver a more cost-effective autonomous driving platform than even the best systems currently on the market….


FMCW lidar however, uses a continuous-wave of laser pulses and changes the frequency of the light at regular intervals, thus the term “frequency-modulated.” This allows developers of self-driving vehicles to better determine the precise location and velocity of objects using the Doppler effect.

FMCW lidar is more accurate for tracking objects that are moving, such as other vehicles on the road. It can even be used to determine if an object is moving closer or moving away, which is especially helpful for autonomous vehicles to navigate. It’s also better at detecting objects in low light situations, including in rain and fog.

FMCW lidar sensors allow the Aurora Driver to see well beyond 300 meters even on targets that don’t reflect much light, such as a pedestrian wearing dark clothing at night. Aurora’s FirstLight lidar is also more powerful since the sensors are single photon sensitive, meaning they can detect the smallest amount of light possible. …”  Read more  Hmmm…  If you are moving, aren’t stationary objects moving relative to you?  300 meters is a very long way.  Is there any safety critical situation in which you need to be able to “see” that far ahead. In all of my lifetime driving experience, I cant recall that one instance that it was advantageous that I could see 300 meters ahead (or any direction).  I guess I’ve never driven really fast.  


For the near term, in fact maybe even the long term, we should restrict our Operational Design Domain to include roads that have reasonable speed limits. Technically interesting anyway.  Alain

  cars to Barnard Castle before driverless trains operate on London Underground” – ASLEF General Secretary Mick Whelan.

Staff, July 8, “People will be using driverless cars to Barnard Castle before driverless trains operate on London Underground, claims ASLEF General Secretary Mick Whelan.

The leader of the drivers’ union was responding to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s suggestion that driverless LU trains could be a condition of the emergency funding for Transport for London.

Johnson discussed the idea at the launch of construction of Siemens’ Goole factory, where the first tranche of new Deep Tube trains will be built for the Piccadilly Line.

Johnson told ITV News: “You can run these trains without the need for somebody to be sitting in the driver’s cab the whole time….”  Read more  Hmmm…  Just because you can doesn’t mean you will.   One might have thought that private freight railroads might buy out union contracts to help them survive once we stop burning coal and there is no demand for 200 car long coal unit trains.  Unfortunately there are no signs freight railroads are going to change their long unit train business model.  Very small labor cost per car, but very infrequent service between very few places and zero service between most places.  Alain

    Draft Program   4th Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit   Postponed until Evening Oct. 20 through Oct. 22, 2020 (But will likely need to be completely Virtual, possibly in “Second life)

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



Calendar of Upcoming Events:s

Image removed by sender. Webinar                                                           banner

Fostering Economic Opportunity through Autonomous Vehicle Technology

July 16 @ 2pm New York Time
Register Here

SmartDrivingCar Zoom-inar 005

AV Shark-Tank:

Topic to be Announced

July 21 @ 2pm New York Time

Register Here

Postponed, to be Virtual, Evening Oct. 20 -> Oct 22.

4th Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit

Princeton University

Princeton, NJ

On the More Technical Side