Friday, October 2, 2020
41st edition of the 8th year of SmartDrivingCars



Staff, Oct. 2020  “On this page you will find the gradings of cars tested by Euro NCAP on automated driving technologies.

For its 2020 assessment of Highway Assist systems, Euro NCAP has developed dedicated test and assessment protocols, divided into two main areas: Assistance Competence, based on the balance between Driver Engagement and Vehicle Assistance, and Safety Backup….”  Read more Hmmmm….Look carefully at each component of the rating system.  NCAP has chosen one algorithmic way of “adding apples and oranges” to get their rating.  Unfortunately they don’t divulge the secret formula.  To me, it doesn’t seem to be sufficiently iweighted on what I consider to be the most important element… “Collision Avoidance”.  If the system doesn’t do that well, then why bother being good at Consumer Information (unless that information says clearly that the system doesn’t work well”. 

If NCAP itself did a good job of Consumer Information then it would divulge its algorithm and allow the consumer to edit its weights to trade-off what the consumer believes is more or less important. 

In all fairness, NCAP does divulge the individual  performance values.  With work, this is really valuable information.  This is a must read!  Alain

  SmartDrivingCars  Pod-Cast Episode 177

F. Fishkin, Oct. 2, “New grades for assisted driving systems from Euro NCAP.   But Princeton Professor Alain Kornhauser says the devil is in the details in this edition with co-host Fred Fishkin.  And there’s Amazon’s success against Covid plusTesla, Uber, GM, Nikola and more.   Subscribe!  .” Alexa, play the Smart Driving Cars podcast!“.  Ditto with Siri, and GooglePlay …  Alain

SmartDrivingCars  Zoom-Cast Episode 177

Video version of SmartDrivingCars PodCast 177  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.

  Tesla Autopilot gets ‘moderate’ grade from European vehicle safety authority while Audi, BMW and Mercedes get top marks

L. Kolodny, Oct 3, “A European vehicle safety authority gave “very good” marks to Audi, BMW and Mercedes for their driver assistance systems, and gave Tesla’s system, known as Autopilot, a “moderate” grade in a new report out Thursday.

The ratings from the European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP) — a counterpart to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The ratings can influence consumer car-buying decisions and insurance premiums for different make and model vehicles.

In general, vehicle safety ratings from the likes of NHTSA and Euro NCAP show how well a car is designed to protect the driver, passengers and pedestrians in a crash….”  Read more Hmmmm…. See my comments above.  More importantly, it is a real shame that, except for Teslas, it is virtually impossible to find a car on the road where the driver is using these driver assistance capabilities.  Some companies like Subaru have them as standard equipment but this equipment is not highlighted in the sales process.  Cup holders, stereo systems and “soft Corinthian Leather” are touted.  No wonder no one uses them. 

In other makes such as Mercedes. very good systems have been available for more than 5 years, but try to find a used Mercedes with such systems.  They don’t exist.  Now it may be that these systems are so good that owners don’t sell them …, but I doubt it.  Car dealers didn’t/don’t order them for their own inventory.  OMs don’t push Dealers to order them  (Takes to long to sell them because consumer needs to be educate. Need more sales personnel to sell the same number of cars.) .  No one advertises or promotes them.  Mad Men would never suggest: “you could use a Driver Assistance System” or “You need a Collision Avoidance System”.  That’s Ysuggesting/implying I’m a poopy driver!  Not much of a complement!.   Alain

  China’s robot taxis: Would you ride in one?

E. Lawrence, Oct 2, “Driverless taxis are now available to the public in China’s biggest city. A firm AutoX, backed by the online tech and retail giant Alibaba, has started offering a free taxi service – using a fleet of autonomous driving cars – in a small area of Shanghai. It’s one of numerous trials, of various vehicles, across the world. Robin Brant took a ride.   Watch Video  Hmmmm….Hmmmm, indeed.  Alain

Uber Can Continue Operating in London, Judge Rules

A. Satarino, Sept 28, “Uber scored an important victory on Monday when a judge restored the company’s transportation license in London, one of its most important global markets, where regulators had threatened to ban its cars from the road over safety concerns.

A deputy chief magistrate, Tan Ikram, said Uber had met a “fit and proper” standard to receive a license for 18 months. Mr. Ikram said Uber had taken the necessary steps to address regulators’ concerns, including new safety measures to keep unauthorized and uninsured drivers from using its platform to carry passengers…..”  Read more Hmmmm…. This is a big win for Uber.  Maybe it is better to Lawyer-up and “Just Do It” .  They would have never gotten permission.  Alain

  Amazon says more than 19,000 workers got Covid-19

A. Palmer, Oct. 1, “Amazon on Thursday released comprehensive data on the spread of the coronavirus among its employees, disclosing for the first time that more than 19,000 workers, or 1.44% of the total, contracted the virus this year….

Amazon said the rate of infection among employees was 42% lower than expected, compared with the “general population rate” in the U.S. If Amazon’s infection rates were in line with the community, the total number of cases would have reached 33,952, the company said. …

Thousands of tests are being conducted daily, Amazon said, and it expects that to grow to 50,000 tests a day across 650 facilities by November.

CNBC previously reported Amazon’s goal is to test the bulk of its front-line workers every two weeks, with employees testing themselves with nasal swabs. The company previously said it would invest its expected Q2 profit of $4 billion into its Covid-19 response and will spend $1 billion on testing throughout the year.

Amazon has built a dedicated team of research scientists, program managers, procurement specialists and software engineers in order to quickly scale up its testing capabilities, it said. It has built its own lab to develop coronavirus testing capacity, with teams focused on these efforts in Sunnyvale, California, and Hebron, Kentucky.”  Read more Hmmmm….Very impressive!  Alain

  Gas Tax Spikes in N.J. Because of Pandemic’s Impact

T. Tully, Oct 1, “Motorists in New Jersey began reaching deeper into their wallets on Thursday to fill their gas tanks as the state’s fuel tax rose by more than 9 cents a gallon to the nation’s fourth-highest rate — a spike linked to a steep decline in traffic during the pandemic.

Drivers in New Jersey purchased nearly 40 percent less gas between March and May as businesses and schools closed and more people began working from home.

That led to a drop in tax revenue that chewed into funds the state was required by law to set aside to pay for improvements to rails, roads and bridges and, in turn, mandated a 9.3-cent tax increase, state officials say. The new rate took effect on Thursday. …  ”  Read more Hmmmm….  We like paying higher taxes in New Jersey.  We’d better, because we have no other choice (except to buy an EV). Alain

  Seattle Passes Minimum Pay Rate for Uber and Lyft Drivers

N. Scheiber, Sept 29, “The Seattle City Council approved a minimum pay standard for Uber and Lyft drivers on Tuesday, becoming the second city in the country to do so.

Under the law, effective in January, ride-hailing companies must pay a sum roughly equivalent, after expenses, to the city’s $16 minimum hourly wage for businesses with more than 500 employees.

“The pandemic has exposed the fault lines in our systems of worker protections, leaving many frontline workers like gig workers without a safety net,” Mayor Jenny Durkan said in a statement.

Seattle’s law, passed in a 9-to-0 vote, is part of a wave of attempts by cities and states to regulate gig-economy transportation services. …..”  Read more Hmmmm…. There goes affordability.  The rich will be able to benefit from on-demand chauffeuring, the poor will need to wait for Driverless.  An elevator operator still exists (existed) in Tiffany’s on 5th Avenue.  In a Bronx tenement it needs to be automated; else, the steps.  Alain

  The former head of Audi is on trial in Volkswagen’s emissions-cheating scandal.

J. Ewing, Sept 29, “On Wednesday, prosecutors in Munich will begin presenting evidence the first trial in Germany stemming from Volkswagen’s emissions-cheating scandal, in which the company was caught using illegal software to conceal the fact that its “clean diesels” were actually rolling pollution machines.

On trial is Rupert Stadler, the former chief executive of Volkswagen’s Audi luxury car division, who belonged to the top echelon of its leadership.  The case will test whether prosecutors can overcome the difficulties inherent in trying to convict top managers protected by layers of underlings. That is a problem that has also frustrated investigators in the United States when prosecuting corporate crime.

Mr. Stadler faces charges of fraud and false advertising stemming from accusations that Audi continued to sell diesel cars with illegal software even after United States authorities uncovered the cheating in 2015.

Read more Hmmmm….    Lying, cheating and stealing is no way to run any company, especially one that going to have AI Black Boxes driving their cars.  Alain

Nikola chairman, VectoIQ CEO Steve Girsky eyes his next transportation investment

K. Korosec, Sept. 25, “Steve Girsky,  the former GM vice chairman, consultant and investor whose special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) merged with hydrogen electric startup Nikola this summer, is in talks to back self-driving trucks startup TuSimple,  according to four people familiar with the deal.

The capital would come from Girsky’s VectoIQ LLC, a consulting and investment company he runs with managing partner Mary Chan, and would be part of a consortium of investors, according to one unnamed source who requested anonymity because the deal had yet to be finalized. The deal could close as early as mid-October.

TuSimple as well as Girsky declined to comment. …”  Read more  Hmmmm…  Hopefully TuSimple doesn’t have Nikola’s baggage. Alain

  Nikola’s deal with GM was supposed to close today—it didn’t

T. Lee, Sept 30, “When Nikola and GM announced a partnership on September 8, GM said it expected the deal to close by September 30. Now September 30 has arrived, and the deal hasn’t closed. Media reports indicate that the deal is unlikely to close today.

A GM spokesman confirmed the delay in an email to Ars. “Our transaction with Nikola has not closed. We are continuing our discussions with Nikola and will provide further updates when appropriate.” …” Read more Hmmmm….   Whew!   Alain

  Who will rule the Teslaverse?

Staff, Sept. 17, “A recent video of Elon Musk taking a spin in a new all-electric Volkswagen with Herbert Diess, the German carmaker’s boss, set tongues wagging. vw was forced to deny that a deal with Tesla was in the offing. A deeper bromance between Mr Musk’s firm and his main rival in the market for electric vehicles (evs) looks unlikely. But the meeting highlights how the car industry is at last taking the impending ev revolution seriously.

Giant new businesses are gearing up to support the switch from petrol to electricity. Besides changing the way cars are propelled, this requires batteries, software to ensure these work in harmony with motors, and data harvested from cars that may one day allow them to drive themselves. Over 250 firms are manufacturing electric motors. Forty-seven battery factories are under construction. Anjan Kumar of Frost & Sullivan, a consultancy, expects total new ev-battery capacity to go from 88 gigawatt-hours in 2019, enough to power Texas for less than two hours if plugged into the grid, to 1,400 gigawatt-hours in 2025. Established carmakers are pondering how to loosen the grip of big tech on software. …” Read more Hmmmm….  The best way to “see” the implication of a major shift to EVs is to ponder Lawrence Livermore’s Energy Flow Charts.  Energy is one of those wonderful entities that is conserved… If you need need some amount, you have to produce exactly that amount.  When I look at the chart  for the US in 2019, I clearly see that the energy needed to power the transportation sector of our economy was about 28% (28.2/100.2) of all energy produced (most of which cames from petroleum).

Considering all the various sources (solar, nuclear, …) electricity produced only 13% (12.7/100.2) of the energy consumed by all sectors, essentially none of which (0.03%) was used to power transportation (subways, Amtrak, LIRR, …, and a very few electric cars.) and essentially none of which (0.19%) came from petroleum. 

Consequently, the electric generation system need to triple in size for it to completely power the transportation sector.  Since  of which 82% is used by the highway sector is “only” consumes about 82% of  the transportation’s sector thirst for energy, one needs to be prepared to double our electricity generation potential to support a 50% conversion to EVs. 

If we now look at where that energy can come from, that’s when things get scary. To get to 10% EV penetration one would need to grow today’s total solar by 10x.  Or today’s Wind by 4x, and put aside any demisgshing of Nuclear, gas or coal production.  .  Yipes!  We have a lot of work ahead of us.  Alain

  Tesla sets sales record, but still lags growth expectations

Russ Mitchell, Oct 2, “Tesla said it delivered a record 139,300 cars in the third quarter. For Tesla investors, that’s the good news. The bad news is that the company finds itself saddled with factory overcapacity.

The delivery numbers top the previous record by 24%. That record had been set last December, when 112,000 deliveries were reported, with all cars made at Tesla’s only factory at the time, in Fremont, Calif.

Then it opened a plant in Shanghai, dramatically increasing capacity.

But sales in China have been flat all year, and sales in Europe are down. Given that the Shanghai plant increased Tesla’s annual production capacity by 40%, “selling another 27,000 cars isn’t stellar,” said Matthias Schmidt, publisher of the European Electric Car Report in Berlin.

Tesla’s total annual capacity now is 690,000, yet analysts say it will sell well under 500,000 cars this year.

To hit the half-million mark, which Musk has identified as his deliveries target, Tesla must now deliver 180,000 cars in the upcoming fourth quarter.

That might not be an issue if growth were faster or the stock price were lower. But with a tiny fraction of worldwide sales, the stock market pegs Tesla as the world’s most valuable car company. Its market value of about $400 billion is bigger than Toyota, Ford, General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, Volkswagen and Honda — combined. The company is under tremendous pressure to show how it can grow into those expectations….”  Read more Hmmmm…. Yup!  Alain

60% of new cars are electric in new milestone for Norway thanks to VW ID.3

F. Lambert, Oct. 1, “Electric cars got another win in Norway where they accounted for over 60% of new cars sold in the market last month — thanks to the VW ID.3.

Norway has long been the world’s leading market when it comes to electric vehicles. They have the most aggressive electrification goal of any market with the aim to have every new car on the road being electric by 2025.  Considering the world’s average market share for EVs currently stand at around 3%, this is a really ambitious goal, but the nation is tracking well.   Last year, 56% of Norway’s new cars were electric (full electric or plug-in hybrids).

In 2020, things have been harder to judge since overall cars sales have plunged due to the pandemic.  However, sales have rebounded and in September, car sales were up 40% versus the same period last year.  In September, over 60% of cars registered in Norway were electric    …” Read more Hmmmm…. Only one country, but it IS in one country.  Very impressive.  Alain

GM tests its Ultium battery system for Cruise Origin autonomous electric vehicle

F. Lambert, Sept 29, “GM has started testing its Ultium battery system, which is going to power its next generation of electric vehicles, for the Cruise Origin autonomous electric vehicle.

Earlier this year, GM Cruise, General Motors’ autonomous driving subsidiary, unveiled its self-driving electric car designed for ridesharing.  The vehicle was technically the first vehicle to get GM’s new Ultium battery system.

This week, Ken Morris, General Motors’ VP of AV and EV programs, sent an update to GM employees about the program:  “Despite the pandemic, we haven’t missed a beat. Our EV and AV programs remain on track. In fact, from 2020 until 2025, we will allocate more than $20 billion of resources to our EV/AV programs, which equates to more than $3 billion annually.”. …”    Read more Hmmmm…. Of course.  Alain

  Tire Blowouts Could Cause Self-Driving Cars To Go Astray

L. Elliot, Oct 3, “Sometimes, a tire can seemingly obliterate and become a tangled mess of rubber and threads.

If this happens, a driver is likely to be taken by utter surprise, oftentimes reacting instinctively by doing the wrong things. For example, jamming on the brakes is not necessarily the wisest course of action in such a situation. Usually, taking firm control of the car and gradually bringing the vehicle to a stop is the more prudent approach. There is also the question of directional movement, such that you normally would remain in a straight-ahead driving motion overall, and slowly angle over to get out of the way of other cars. Sudden moves such as a radical turn are not apt to provide the desired results….”  Read more Hmmmm….   Larry is good to bring this out, but this isn’t the Achilles of Driverless cars.  Run-flat tires exist, as he points out.  More important, Driverless cars won’t “react instinctively’ but the code will make the right decisions for the conditions existing in its Operational Design Domain’.  That code will have been tested and demonstrated to make the right decisions.  PJust part of the reason why driverless mobility will be safer than us all reacting instinctively as we do today.   Alain


    Draft Program   4th Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit   Postponed until Evening Dec. 8 through Dec. 10, 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

  New Hyundai Team Targets Development of “Ultimate Mobility Vehicles”

P. Eisenstein, Sept 29, “Hyundai’s latest mobility effort sounds like it was inspired by Star Trek. It’s newly created New Horizons Studio has the task of developing a line-up of products capable of going “places where vehicles have never roamed before.”

The South Korean carmaker offered a hint of what it had in mind at the Consumer Electronics Show in 2019 when it introduced the Elevate Ultimate Mobility Vehicle….”  Read more Hmmmm…Crazy stuff.  Whatever!  Alain



Calendar of Upcoming Events:s

Postponed, to be Virtual, Evening Dec. 8 -> Dec.10.

4th Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit

Princeton University

Princeton, NJ

On the More Technical Side