Friday, October 30, 2020
45th edition of the 8th year of SmartDrivingCars

  Sharing our safety framework for fully autonomous operations

Waymo Team, Oct. 30, “On October 8th, Waymo opened its fully autonomous ride-hailing service to the general public in Phoenix. Right now members of the public are hailing vehicles with no human driver controlling the car – either in the vehicle or remotely – to help them get to where they’re going as part of their everyday lives….”  Read more Hmmmm… 

  Waymo’s Safety Methodologies and Safety Readiness Determinations

N, Webb, Oct. 30, “As the world’s most experienced developer of automated driving systems (“ADSs”), Waymo has extensive experience in developing and applying state-of-the-art safety methodologies.  Waymo’s methodologies help implement Waymo’s forward-looking safety philosophy: Waymo will reduce traffic injuries and fatalities by driving safely and responsibly, and will carefully manage risk as we scale our operations. Waymo’s safety methodologies, which draw on well established engineering processes and address new safety challenges specific to Automated Vehicle (“AV”) technology, provide a firm foundation for safe deployment of our Level 4 ADS, which we also refer to as the Waymo Driver™. Waymo’s determination of its readiness to deploy its AVs safely in different settings rests on that firm foundation and on a thorough analysis of risks specific to a particular Operational Design Domain (“ODD”)….”  Read more Hmmmm…  The process.  Must read!  Alain

  Waymo Public Road Safety Performance Data

M. Schwall, Oct. 30, “Waymo’s mission to reduce traffic injuries and fatalities and improve mobility for all has led us to expand deployment of automated vehicles (AVs) on public roads without a human driver behind the wheel.  As part of this process, Waymo is committed to providing the public with informative and relevant data regarding the demonstrated safety of Waymo’s automated driving system (ADS), which we call the Waymo Driver….” Read more Hmmmm…  The substance.  Must read! …

I had the priveledge of reviewing Waymo’s most recent Safety Reports 1 , 2 (above)

In the past, safety reports by the AV community have largely been a response to NHTSA’s Voluntary Safety Self-Assessments and have, in my opinion, been largely public relations documents.  While generally descriptive about the testing processes they contain very little, if any, substantive information about their safety related experience to-date focused exclusively on driverless operation.

Safe driverless operation is absolutely necessary for AVs to evolve from extremely expensive chauffeured rides to affordable mobility available to essentially anyone throughout an Operational Design Domain (ODD).  Affordability requires that the mobility be delivered without a driver or attendant on-board the vehicle.  Only passengers. 

The decision to remove the driver/attendant rests in part on the shoulders of public safety regulators who need to allow such operation, but more importantly, on the shoulders of the real decision makers at the AV company.  In the end, it is those AV company decision makers who will be held fully responsible for any lapse in the safety of the driverless operation. These decision makers are inside the AV companies and are, of course, privy to all the details and substance about their own safety related driverless operation, which, in the past, has not been shared in their Voluntary Safety Self-assessments. 

My impression is that these just released Waymo Safety Reports contain the substantive information that clearly depicts Waymo’s safety-related driverless operational experience.  To me, they read like internal documents meant to guide and inform internal decision makers to objectively decide if a sufficiently safe operational experience has been achieved in order to vote to fully accept the safety responsibility of driverless operation in their Operational Design Domain. 

Given the information that is contained in these documents, it does not surprise me that Waymo decision makers have decided to proceed with driverless operation in the Phoenix Operational Design Domain. Had I had the responsibility of being one of the decision makers reviewing these documents, I would have also voted yes.


A. Hawkins, Oct. 30, “…“This is a major milestone, we think, in transparency,” said Matthew Schwall, head of field safety at Waymo, in a briefing with reporters Wednesday. Waymo claims this is the first time that any autonomous vehicle company has released a detailed overview of its safety methodologies, including vehicle crash data, when not required by a government entity. “Our goal here is to kickstart a renewed industry dialogue in terms of how safety is assessed for these technologies,” Schwall said….”  Read more Hmmmm…  Andrew;s take on all this.  Alain

  SmartDrivingCars Pod-Cast Episode 181  w/Sheldon Sandler & Glenn Mercer

F. Fishkin, Oct. 30, “Waymo releases self driving data…while traditional car dealers enjoy surprisingly strong profits during the pandemic.   Why?  What about the coming autonomous mobility?  Bell Air Partners’ Sheldon Sandler and researcher-consultant Glenn Mercer explain in Episode 181 of Smart Driving Cars with Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin.  ”  Alexa, play the Smart Driving Cars podcast!“.  Ditto with Siri, and GooglePlay …  Alain

SmartDrivingCars  Zoom-Cast Episode 181  w/Sheldon Sandler & Glenn Mercer

Video version of SmartDrivingCars PodCast 181...  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.

  Waymo and Daimler are teaming up to build fully driverless semi trucks

A. Hawkins, Oct. 27, “Waymo and Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, announced that they are forming a “broad, global, strategic partnership” to deploy fully driverless trucks. Daimler will integrate Waymo’s autonomous driving technology, widely considered to be among the best in the world, into its fleet of heavy-duty Freightliner Cascadia semi-trailer trucks.

Both Waymo and Daimler were independently working on self-driving trucks until coming together to form this partnership. Waymo had purchased a small fleet of Peterbilt trucks, which it has retrofitted with autonomous driving sensors and software. It currently is testing those trucks in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.

Meanwhile, Daimler announced it was working on its own self-driving big rig in 2015 when it showed off a working prototype called the Freightliner Inspiration Truck. The automaker went big, debuting the truck on the Hoover Dam and offering test rides at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. At the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show, Daimler showed off a production version of that prototype truck. …” Read more Hmmmm… Driverless or Self-driving.  I suspect that this is more about Self-driving (human paying attention behind the wheel at all times) rather than driverless (no one in the cab).  Semi-trucks need and can readily justify the best Driver-assistance technology. Truck driving is a tough and very unsafe job.  Truck drivers deserve this technological assistance.  There is really little to be gained by removing the expense of the driver.  High valuesd freing moves by truck and can afford to pay for the driver.  Low valued freing can readily afford to wait around for a two-person crew train departure and doesn’t benefit from higher frequency opportunities that might arise from driverless semis.  Alain

   UPDATED: Mercedes-Benz throws in the towel on self-driving efforts: ‘We can no longer win’

S. Alverez, Oct. 26, “Five years ago, Mercedes-Benz made headlines when it unveiled the F-015 Luxury in Motion research vehicle, a stunning, futuristic concept car that could navigate itself without a human driver. The excitement brought by the vehicle was palpable, and at the time, it appeared that a future populated by driverless, autonomous cars was at hand. But since it was passed around during its debut, the F-015 disappeared.

And now, amidst the release of Tesla’s limited Full Self-Driving beta and the rollout of Waymo’s truly driverless ride-sharing service in Phoenix, Arizona, Mercedes-Benz has announced that it is throwing in the towel. Speaking with local media, a Mercedes-Benz spokesman noted that the company will no longer be competing in a race that it would lose. “We don’t compete in any race that we can no longer win,” the spokesman said….” Read more Hmmmm… Wow!!!  They are sticking with their tried and true 135 year business model.  Sell cars to consumers.  Then walk away and leave the buyer with the task of furnishing the labor to provided mobility and requiring that buyer to be responsible for all on-going expenses and liabilities.  (Is Daimler realy throwing in the towel???  Was this an “Onion” article???) Alain

  The Future of Mobility and Transportation

Oct. 25, “Join us to explore current and future opportunities and challenges in the complex and rapidly evolving landscape of mobility and transportation. Our objectives:
•    Engage a panel of experts (together with event participants) to gain an understanding of bright spots of innovation and progress, and assess potential possibilities and scenarios for the future of mobility and transportation.
•    Take a multi-sector, multi-modal perspective—exploring how different aspects of the mobility landscape are evolving right now and the implications that this will have for the future.
•    Seek to understand the central role that mobility and transportation play in advancing economic recovery and growth and promoting equity, public health, and a clean environment for all.
•    Explore how inequitable access to transportation and mobility has been laid bare and exacerbated by the COVID crisis. Discuss the moral, societal, and economic imperative to work towards a mobility and transportation future that is efficient, safe, sustainable, and affordable for all and that serves every individual and community safely and reliably.
•    Assess opportunities across sectors—understanding where investment and resources are flowing (or not)
•    Identify how those interested in shaping the future of mobility and transportation can participate across sectors.  …”

Read more Hmmmm… Watch video of Zoom session.  Alain

Waymo Safety Report

Staff. September 2020,”…”  Read more Hmmmm… In case you missed it.  A lot about process , but relatively little about the experiences; the what.  Very little about how well the what works… the safety experienced to date. Also the terminology is all over the place with “self-driving”, “full self-driving”, “autonomous”…. “Driverless” may also be in there some place.  If the objective is to be “safest”, then removing the human driver may not be the best approach.  One might be able to argue that safety is enhanced by keeping the redundancy of the driver in the loop.  If the objective is some combination of affordability and safety, then, at some point, one might imagine that the system becomes so safe that any incremental improvement in safety provided by keeping an attendant in the vehicle is more than offset by the improvement in affordability achieved by eliminating the attendant.  I couldn’t find any discussion about such concepts in this document.  That’s because this doculent is from September.  The reports above, released at the end of October, document the “what”.   Alain

  AutonomouStuff October News

R. Hambrick, Oct. 29, “AutonomouStuff leads the industry in enabling, accelerating and deploying the future of autonomy. Our team works hard to remain at the forefront of technology in this fast-paced, ever-changing industry. Despite constant change and innovation, one goal remains steadfast: help our customers succeed. Communication is a vital component of that goal, so each month we share what’s new, what’s exciting and the success of our partnerships….”  Read more Hmmmm… Good to see that all is going well at AS.  Congratulations Bobby.  You’ve earned it!  Alain

  Lorraine Complains: The vehicles we buy today are just too big

L. Sommerfeld, Oct 26,”…My inbox has been assaulted in recent weeks with manufacturers touting the newest pieces of artillery they’re bringing to the battlefield. Sorry, to our roads. But I could be forgiven for making that mistake….Nearly half of us at this site said the explosion in both sales and size in SUVs was our biggest automotive disappointment in 2019, and things have only gotten worse. …” Read more Hmmmm…It is really a disgrace and irresponsibility of the auto industry.  They should lead, not claim that they are just following.  Alain

   Watch Tesla Full Self-Driving Beta in a full 30-minute realistic trip

F. Lambert, Oct. 24,  “Today, we take a look at Tesla Full Self-Driving Beta trying to handle a full 30-minute trip in a realistic environment…”  Read more Hmmmm…  Watch video.  Note:  …. A minute in …” oh …I have to take over”. Failure!!!!!  0-1.  Next.  This is total BS!!! Stupid Self-Driving  is nowhere near good enough for ELon to accept full responsibility if anything goes bad while using Stupid Self-Driving. Same goes for Stupid Summon. Alain

  Tesla’s ‘Full Self-Driving’ Is 99.9% There, Just 1,000 Times Further To Go

B. Templeton, Oct. 23, “The package is impressing many of these owners. A few have posted videos to Youtube showing the system in operation on city streets. In spite of the name, “full” self driving is neither self-driving nor full as most people in the industry would refer to it. It is more accurately described as Tesla “autopilot” for city streets. Like autopilot, it requires constant monitoring by the driver as it can, and does make mistakes which require the driver to take control to avoid an accident….

What the vehicle does is slightly better than what Google Chauffeur (now Waymo) demonstrated in 2010…”  Read more Hmmmm… Yup!   This is better driver assistance and NOT driver replacement.  It can not reliably take you from your favorite watering hole to you home safely.  Plus ELon has NOT proclaimed that the system is good enough that he’ll take personal responsibility for anything that goes bad while his customers are using the system. Alain

Plus releases voluntary safety report describing approach to autonomy

L. Baker, Oct 29, “Autonomous trucking technology company Plus (formerly has filed a safety self-assessment report describing its approach to putting self-driving big rigs on the road even as concerns persist about the usefulness of the voluntary reports in determining the safety of a given autonomous system.

The 34-page document from Plus, released on Thursday, comes a few months before the company’s Level 3 automated driving system starts mass production in China… ”  Read more Hmmmm…looks like total vaporWare to me   They talk about Level 3, yet describe “Level 2” Driver Assistance and are no where near anything that approaches “Level 4”  This might well be “An Approach to..”, but it doesn’t contain any substance describing any progress on that approach.  This is worse obfuscation than Elon.  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



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