Thursday, July 23, 2020
31th edition of the 8th year of SmartDrivingCars

  Waymo and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) expand autonomous driving technology partnership

Company News, July 22, “Back in 2016, we announced our very first OEM partner: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA). Since then, we’ve worked closely with FCA to integrate our Waymo Driver into FCA vehicles, and together we’ve made self-driving history in the proven, capable, L4-ready Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan, including launching the first commercial autonomous ride-hailing service, beginning to offer fully driverless service to our riders, and driving in dozens of cities across diverse geographies and challenging weather conditions. Now, we’re pleased to share that we’ve strengthened our partnership with FCA in several important ways.

FCA has selected Waymo as its exclusive, strategic technology partner for L4 fully self-driving technology across FCA’s full product portfolio. We’ve already started to work together to imagine future FCA products for the movement of people and goods operated by the Waymo Driver.

In addition, Waymo will work exclusively with FCA as our preferred partner on the development and testing of L4 autonomous light commercial vehicles* for goods movement, including in Waymo Via. We will initially target integration of the Waymo Driver into the Ram ProMaster van, a highly configurable platform that will enable access to a broad range of global commercial customers…. ”  Read more  Hmmm….  This is big!  WayFCA v AmaZoox (+Rivian)!   Only challenges:

a.  WayFCA is missing the Customer leg of the 3-legged stool.  It is only the Zoox (+Rivian) part of AmaZooRiv.  Does FedEx or UPS or USPS or WalMart or Maycy’s (heaven forbid) or Sears (heaven forbid squared) or ??? make the Trinity to take on AmaZooRiv, plus

b.  Is the Technology rather than the Customer is wagging the WayFCA??? dog.

In any even, Affordable (Driverless) Home Delivery of Stuff may well be the Elijah for Affordable (Driverless) Mobility for the Mobility Disadvantaged as we debated in SmartDrivingCar Zoom-inar 004  AmaZooks. Alain

  SmartDrivingCars PodCast 166  w/Jay Rodgers’95, CEO Local Motors

F. Fishkin 16, “Local Motors announces a partnership with Beep to broadly deploy autonomous electric shuttles. CEO Jay Rogers joins Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin for a wide ranging chat. Plus the Waymo-Fiat Chrysler deal, Tesla, AutoX, Ford, Mobileye and more.”   “Alexa, play the Smart Driving Cars podcast!“.  Ditto with Siri, and GooglePlay …  Alain

SmartDrivingCars ZoomCast Episode166  w/Jay Rodgers’95, CEO Local Motors

Video version of SmartDrivingCars PodCast 166.  Alain

  SmartDrivingCar Zoom-inar Episode 004  AmaZooks

F. Fishkin, July 20, “Is Driverless home delivery the fastest route to Affordable Mobility for the Mobility Disadvantaged?  … “

Listen/Watch more  Hmmm…   We only scratched the surface. Then came WayFMC??? 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.

  Beep And Local Motors Announce Strategic Partnership To Broadly Deploy Autonomous, Electric Shuttles

PRWire, July 23, “Beep, a Florida-based autonomous Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) provider and Local Motors by LM Industries, the world’s first and only digital vehicle manufacturer, today announced a strategic partnership and new reseller agreement. The collaborative agreement is intended to significantly expand the number of AV shuttles on both public and private roads, enabling Beep and Local Motors to bring autonomous solutions to more people and enhance the rider experience through continued testing and safe deployments. 

Under the reseller agreement, Local Motors will provide Beep with Olli 2.0 autonomous, electric, 3D-printed shuttles for future customer deployments. Beep and Local Motors will also team up to advance and expand the operating domain of multi-passenger, autonomous vehicles in concert with their ongoing testing and information sharing program through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). 

“By partnering with Beep and leveraging our existing relationship with Robotic Research, we can bring Olli to new customers in expanded markets across the U.S. and abroad,” said Vikrant Aggarwal, President of Local Motors. “We’re living in a world where self-driving technology is needed now more than ever, and this partnership is a huge validator of the increasing demand for autonomous solutions. By deploying more vehicles and introducing Olli to new, complex scenarios on public and private roads, we can provide safe, sustainable, and comfortable experiences for all riders now and in the future.”…”  Read more  Hmmm….Nice, watch / listen  ZoomCast with Local Motors CEO Jay Rodgers’95.  Alain

  Fear of Public Transit Got Ahead of the Evidence

J. Sadik-Khan, June 14, “The headline of the report read like the title of a 1950s horror film: “The Subways Seeded the Massive Coronavirus Epidemic in New York City.” As America’s densest city became the epicenter of a national pandemic in March, New York’s subway system, which carried 5.5 million people on an average workday in 2019, emerged as the villain from central casting. Landing in mid-April, the report, written by an MIT economics professor, concluded that New York’s subway system was “a major disseminator—if not the principal transmission vehicle” in the city’s COVID-19 outbreak.

Ominous articles citing the report created an uproar during the opening weeks of the pandemic. Some elected officials urged Governor Andrew Cuomo to shut down New York’s transit system. Conservative commentators, long skeptical of public transportation, seized on the MIT report as more evidence of transit’s unviability.

In recent months, public-health experts in the United States have urged people to avoid crowds, enclosed spaces, and time spent in close contact with others—each a feature of a normally functioning transit system. The notion that subways themselves were seeding disease interrupted this social contract and also played to long-standing fears of urban spaces…. ”  Read more  Hmmm…. All of this MUST be taken very seriously because Transportation’s most major challenge by a long shot is ride-sharing.  Essentially every major issue.. affordability, congestion, the environment, energy,… is caused by the lack of ride sharing.  In the past ride-sharing has focused on many people riding togther to address the affordability challenge because the human driver costs money.  Either lots of riders each pitch in to pay for the driver, aka conventional mass transit, or enslave yourself to do it for free.  Most people are willing to do that only for themselves.  Doing the driving for free is arguably the fundamental basis for the private automobile and it is the driver’s predisposition to do it for free only for themselves that creates the problems of congestion, pollution, …

The other possibility is to have a gizmo do the driving.  Rails only do the steering so they aren’t much help by themselves without encasement (keeping other things out of the way).  Easy to do in elevators, thus tall buildings became affordable to use.  Doable in highly controllable environments like airports where the demand is naturally concentrated..  Also doable when there are many going between few places or underground.  The high cost of tunnel  construction allows only a few places can be interconnected affordably.

The big opportunity with Driverless is that the gizmo replacing the driver may well become very inexpensive and is NOT fundamentally predisposed to do it only for itself, or one passenger.  It doesn’t mind doing it for just two or three, even if that’s all that could readily travel together.  Doubling the Average Vehicle Occupancy for all vehicle trips solves the congestion, energy, pollution and affordability challenges of mobility.

Pre-covid19 that predisposition was engendered by social distancing norms that had a chance of being addressed.  If there is anything nice that can be said about “9-11”  is that it brought New Yorkers closer together. Reduced Social Distancing.  Unfortunately Covid-19 has demonized social closeness instead of physical closeness. bans on physical closeness can be lifted as soon as the pandemic ends. The mentality against social closeness may well take very much longer to dissipate.  Alain

  COVID-19 and Public Transportation: Current Assessment, Prospects, and Research Needs

A. Tirachini, July 2020 “The COVID-19 pandemic poses a great challenge for contemporary public transportation worldwide, resulting from an unprecedented decline in demand and revenue. In this paper, we synthesize the state-of-the-art, up to early June 2020, on key developments regarding public transportation and the COVID-19 pandemic, including the different responses adopted by governments and public transportation agencies around the world, and the research needs pertaining to critical issues that minimize contagion risk in public transportation in the so-called post-lockdown phase. While attempts at adherence to physical distancing (which challenges the very concept of mass public transportation) are looming in several countries, the latest research shows that for closed environments such as public transportation vehicles, the proper use of face masks has significantly reduced the probability of contagion. The economic and social effects of the COVID-19 outbreak in public transportation extend beyond service performance and health risks to financial viability, social equity, and sustainable mobility. …” Read more  Hmmm…  More on what we’ll need to do moving forward. Thank you Robin Chase and Carlos Pardo.  Alain

  Editorial JTH 16 –The Coronavirus Disease COVID-19 and implications for transport and health

C. Musselwhite, Apr 4, “…Although it was found that the use of crowded public transport vehicles can be associated with the acquisition of infectious diseases, it can be argued that these findings do not support the effectiveness of suspending mass urban transport systems as a pandemic countermeasure aimed at reducing or slowing population spread because, whatever the relevance of public transport is to individual-level risk, household exposure most likely poses a greater threat” (Williams et al., 2010; Cooley et al., 2011)….”  Read more  Hmmm…  Thank you Carlos Pardo. 

More from Carlos…


“Reassuringly, they did not trace any clusters to Japan’s notoriously packed commuter trains. Oshitani says riders are usually alone and not talking to other passengers. And lately, they are all wearing masks. “An infected individual can infect others in such an environment, but it must be rare,” he says. He says Japan would have seen large outbreaks traced to trains if airborne transmission of the virus was possible”


(“Out of 297 local clusters, none was related to public transport”)


“Lawrence Wong co-chair of Singapore Ministerial Covid19 Task Force: ‘We have evidence that the risk of spreading the virus in gatherings and social interactions is much higher than in public transport where people wear masks, don’t talk and travel in disinfected vehicles for a short time’”


“Sorry for bugging everyone with more info, but this point is crucial: the five key factors that we’ve identified and that we want to publish soon (well, I guess not just we, but at least we have been more insistent in our specific recommendations to public transport) are more useful – no particular order:

1- Cleanliness (which everyone knows already for a while)

2- Wearing a mask (which we all know but few are doing…)

3- Being silent (which, unless you have a friend or are singing for money, isn’t a huge problem in transit)

4- Distancing (we have heard the 6 feet endlessly, but see more below)

5- The ventilation system of the vehicle (which is a huge super technical issue that implies doing aerodynamic analysis etc – I wanted to share some of that but we’re not allowed to yet – but it can be summarized as “open your windows wide and always, and confirm that your AC is very good at “renovating” or otherwise don’t use it)).

6- The duration of the trip (anything after 15 min is problematic)


So when you look at the above, you can already note that the combination of all 5 factors creates a situation where there is little to no contagion (see Japan, Paris trains as described in links below, no contagion associated to their use), but if you are missing one or more it becomes complicated. So in ridesharing you may have leeway because you can open the doors, but in elevators you have to be more careful since air renovation is extremely poor BUT the trip is really short.


I hope that helps. And I hope we can publish some of this soon so that I can share it more officially and better explained. And as you notice, I am very happy expanding my views on the topic!



Thank you Carlos!  Alain


  First Packages, Then People – Potential Implications of the Amazon-Zoox Deal

K. Pyle, July 21, “Will package delivery via autonomous vehicles provide a path for those people who can least afford mobility, the so-called mobility disadvantaged? Specifically, does Amazon’s purchase of Zoox hint at a world where the world’s largest online seller becomes the low-cost people mover? And, if so, what are the implications for public spaces, the built environment, and human-to-human interaction?…”  Read more  Hmmm….  Excellent summary of our latest DriveTheDebate.  Thank you Ken.    Alain

  Tesla stock soars more than 5% after company reports surprise Q2 profit, on track for S&P 500

C. Assis, July 22, “Tesla Inc. stock rose more than 5% late Wednesday after the Silicon Valley car maker reported a second-quarter GAAP and adjusted profit, setting it on a course to join the S&P 500 index and surprising investors as most of the quarter was beset with coronavirus-related stoppages.

Tesla (TSLA) said it earned $104 million, or 50 cents a share, in the quarter, contrasting with a loss of $408 million, or $2.31 a share, in the year-ago quarter.  Adjusted for one-time items, Tesla earned $2.18 a share, swinging from an adjusted loss of $1.12 a share a year ago. Sales fell 5% to $6.04 billion from $6.35 billion a year ago.

Analysts polled by FactSet expected an adjusted loss of 2 cents a share on sales of $5.15 billion.

“Demand is not our problem,” Chief Executive Elon Musk told analysts on a conference call after the results. Most of the challenges, including some parts shortages, are related to supply-chain and production issues, he said. “Don’t worry about demand, that’s not the issue.”…” Read more  Hmmm….  Wow!   See also Fred Lambert’s take: Tesla (TSLA) releases Q2 2020 result: delivers profit and crushes expectations Alain

  Tesla’s insane stock price makes sense in a market gone mad

Russ Mitchell, July 22. “Like a SpaceX rocket lofting a Tesla Roadster into orbit, Tesla stock is on a vertical trip into outer space. Since March, the electric car maker’s share price has more than quadrupled to a mind-boggling market value of $290 billion.

That makes Tesla, which reported second-quarter earnings Wednesday, the world’s highest valued car company — if far from the largest. Of the 90 million cars sold around the world in 2019 Tesla sold 367,000. Take the two top-selling carmakers in the world, Toyota and Volkswagen, toss in Ford; the stock market still values Tesla higher than all three combined.

On Monday, Tesla stock climbed nearly 10%, adding $26.5 billion to its market value in a single day. It pulled back 4.5% on Tuesday, to $1,568.36 a share, then closed up about 1.5% Wednesday. Shares spiked more than 5% in after-hours trading when Tesla reported a net quarterly profit of $104 million.

Even Jim Cramer, the CNBC personality who has hyped Tesla stock plenty in the past, is astounded. Asked about Tesla stock on Twitter on Monday, he wrote: “I don’t even know if it is a stock. it is something else entirely, like a new species discovered in the wild.”

Or maybe it’s a more familiar beast, only supercharged. Tesla’s bewildering ascent makes more sense when you think of it as a hyper-exaggerated product of — and maybe metaphor for — a stock market that itself has stopped making sense, at least by conventional measures….”  Read more  Hmmm….  The market now has a New Normal.   See also: Tesla, posting a crucial profit, unveils Austin factory plan Alain

  California DMV allows AutoX to test autonomous cars without drivers behind the wheel

K.  Wiggers, July 17, “The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) today awarded autonomous car startup AutoX a permit authorizing it to test driverless vehicles on streets within a designated part of San Jose. While AutoX has had state authority to pilot vehicles with safety drivers since 2017, the new license allows the company to test one autonomous vehicle without a driver behind the wheel on streets around its San Jose headquarters.

With the permit — the third-ever awarded in California’s history, following issuances to Waymo and Nuro —  AutoX will be able to drive its test vehicles in “fair weather conditions” and light precipitation on streets at speeds not exceeding 45 miles per hour. Currently, 62 companies have an active permit to test autonomous vehicles with a safety driver.

AutoX, which recently launched robo-taxi services in Shenzhen and Shanghai involving fleets as large as 100 cars, was founded by former Princeton University assistant professor Xiao Jianxiong, who also serves as the company’s CEO. Xiao launched AutoX in 2016 with the goal of “democratizing” autonomy through a full-stack system — AI Driver — packing solid-state lidar sensors, high-definition cameras, and a computer that acts as the brains of the system. He often claims that part of the company’s secret sauce is a custom-designed control unit dubbed the XCU, which ostensibly delivers faster processing speed and more computational capability than competing solutions.. …. ” Read more  Hmmm…   Congratulations JianXiong!! Non-trivial accomplishment.  Alain

  Aurora will test its fleet of self-driving cars and semi trucks in Texas

A. Hawkins, July 20, “Aurora, the startup founded by former lead engineer for Google’s self-driving project Chris Urmson, is bringing its fleet of test vehicles to Texas. It’s the latest company to shift resources to the Lone Star State, which has quickly become a hotbed of autonomous vehicle testing.

Aurora says it is bringing a “small” fleet of vehicles to the Dallas-Fort Worth area within the next few weeks. The company tests out its autonomous vehicle hardware and software in both Chrysler Pacifica minivans — also popular with Urmson’s former employers at Waymo (née Google) — and Class 8 tractor trailers. Aurora says its first commercial service will be in trucking “where the market is largest today, the unit economics are best, and the level of service requirements is most accommodating.”…. ”  Read more  Hmmm… Excellent.  Alain

  Why some self-driving startups reject Google’s “moonshot” approach

T. Lee, July 21, “Progress on self-driving technology has been slower than many people expected just a few years ago. Google’s Waymo was aiming to launch a fully driverless taxi service by the end of 2018 but missed its deadline. GM’s Cruise abandoned plans to launch a commercial service in 2019. Tesla has repeatedly fallen short of Elon Musk’s optimistic timelines for delivering fully self-driving technology.

This isn’t a crisis for these companies. They have plenty of cash and can keep working on the problem as long as they need to. But it is a big challenge for some of their competitors: independent self-driving startups that rely on venture capital to stay afloat. As the timeline for self-driving technology has stretched out, fundraising has gotten more difficult.

“Given the amount of resources required to develop an autonomous vehicle, it never made sense to have dozens of companies doing the same thing,” said Sam Abuelsamid, an analyst at Guidehouse Insights. “There was always going to be a shake-out.” …

Some of these smaller startups believe they can bring their products to market at a fraction of the cost of the big guys. Voyage raised $31 million last September. May Mobility raised $22 million in February 2019 and another $50 million in December. Optimus Ride raised “nearly $50 million” last November.”  Read more Hmmmm….  .  Alain 

  Autonomous Vehicles, Mobility, and Employment Policy: The Roads Ahead

J. Leonard, July 2020, “Fully autonomous cars, trucks, and buses, able to operate across wide geographical areas with no drivers necessary, would revolutionize ground transportation. The number of accidents and fatalities could drop significantly. Time that people waste stuck in traffic could be recovered for work or leisure. Urban landscapes would change, requiring less parking and improving safety and efficiency for all. New models for the distribution of goods and services—the “physical internet”—would emerge as robotic vehicles move people and objects effortlessly through the world, on demand. …

• The widespread deployment of fully automated driving systems that have no safety driver onboard will take at least a decade. Winter climates and rural areas will experience still longer transitions.
• Expansion will likely be gradual and will happen region-by-region in specific categories of transportation, resulting in wide variations in availability across the country. … “Read more Hmmmm…. “Widespread” isn’t defined so the first bullet is “whatever”.  The fact is that we haven’t even started yet with the game changer…  “no safety driver onboard” (except for a very small amount of rides in Chandler).  Safety improvements will kick in for cars that we all drive else it is more of the same.  Alain 

  Mobileye expands Ford partnership to power driver-assist features

K.  Wiggers, July 20, “Mobileye, Intel’s driverless vehicle R&D division, today expanded its partnership with Ford to offer camera-based detection capabilities for the automaker’s advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS). Mobileye will provide its suite of EyeQ sensing technologies to bolster features available through Ford’s Co-Pilot 360 suite, including lane-keeping, pedestrian and cyclist detection, auto high beam headlamps, pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go and lane-centering.

Mobileye’s collaboration with Ford isn’t new — the two companies have been working together for years — but it’s the first time Ford has committed to the company’s solutions for the lifecycle of its cars. Moreover, it marks the start of a Ford pilot to evaluate Mobileye’s Roadbook platform, which leverages anonymized, crowdsourced data from vehicle cameras to build a high-definition map for autonomous navigation and localization.

Along with its EyeQ family of devices, Mobileye says it will supply vision-processing software to support level 1 and level 2 driver-assist systems in Ford cars globally as a part of the expanded partnership. …. ” Read more  Hmmm…   Good.  Alain

Elon Musk on Tesla Self-Driving: ‘I can almost go from my house to work with no intervention’

F. Lambert, July 23,”Elon Musk said that he is testing Tesla’s latest alpha built of its self-driving system and claim that he can “almost” go from his house to work without intervention. ….”  Read more Hmmmm… Unfortunately, the “almost” implies that if Elon stops paying attention or hops in the back seat, or therwise misbehaves he is likely to die.  Please don’t.  We all love you!  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


Popular “Shark Tank” Moderated by Richard Mudge

Thursday, July 30

Two Sessions:@ 1pm & 2pm New York Time

Register Here

 DrivingTheDebate Episode 006

AV Shark-Tank:

Topic to be announced

August 10 @ 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