Friday, December 31, 2020
55th edition of the 8th year of SmartDrivingCars eLetter

    4th Annual Princeton  SmartDrivingCars Summit

2nd Live Episode

A Look into the Future

noon ET, Thursday, Jan 7

Video Summary of 1st Session  Setting the Stage

   SmartDrivingCars Pod-Cast Episode 192 Zoom-Cast Episode 192  w/Danny Shapiro, nVIDIA

F. Fishkin, Dec. 30, ” ”  Alexa, play the Smart Driving Cars podcast!“.  Ditto with Siri, and GooglePlay …  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.

   Sustainable and Attainable: Zoox Unveils Autonomous Robotaxi Powered by NVIDIA

D. Shapiro, Dec. 17, “When it comes to future mobility, you may not have to pave as many paradises for personal car parking lots.

This week, autonomous mobility company Zoox unveiled its much-anticipated purpose-built robotaxi. Designed for everyday urban mobility, the vehicle is powered by NVIDIA and is one of the first level 5 robotaxis featuring bi-directional capabilities, providing a concrete view into the next generation of intelligent transportation….”  Read more  Hmmmm… Watch Zoom-Cast 192.  Alain

  NHTSA Releases 2019 Crash Fatality Data

News release, Dec. 18,”The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration today released its annual 2019 traffic fatality data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). 

Traffic deaths decreased nationwide during 2019 as compared to 2018, and alcohol-impaired driving fatalities decreased to the lowest percentage since 1982, when NHTSA started reporting alcohol data.

There were 36,096 fatalities in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2019.  This represents a decrease of 739 (down 2%) from the reported 36,835 fatalities in 2018, even though vehicle miles traveled (VMT) increased by 0.8%.  As a result, the fatality rate for 2019 was 1.10 fatalities per 100 million VMT – the lowest rate since 2014, and down from 1.14 fatalities per 100 million VMT in 2018. . …”  Read more  Hmmmm… That is good news.  I suspect this must mean that some SafelyDrivenCar technology is being placed in new cars by OEMs, being sold by Dealerships and used by consumers.    Alain            

  A Great American Mobility Success Story – Part 1

K. Pyle, Dec. 21, “It could be said that one of the godfathers of the automated mobility revolution is a professor from Princeton who many know from his podcast, the SmartDrivingCar. Each week, Dr. Alain Kornhauser provides his wisdom and wit to make a serious topic engaging and fun. It is his decades of experience that differentiates Alain from the crowd.

With a transportation background dating back to the Apollo Space program, Kornhauser brings more than a rigorous academic approach to advancing autonomous mobility….” Read more  Hmmmm… We had a nice conversation.  Thank you Ken.  Alain

  Nikola stock craters after cancellation of major garbage truck order

T. Lee, Dec 24, “Another established company has backed away from struggling electric truck maker Nikola, sending the latter’s stock price down by 18 percent over two days of trading. Nikola’s stock value is down more than 80 percent from its all-time peak in June.

Back in August, trash company Republic Services placed an order with Nikola for 2,500 electric garbage trucks with an option to take 5,000 more. At the time, Nikola was flying high, having just entered public markets in June. According to the Arizona Republic, the trucks were slated to have a range of 150 miles and capacity for 1,200 cans of garbage….”  Read more Hmmmm… Not surprising. Alain

  Nuro gets first California OK to charge money for self-driving services

Staff, Dec. 23, “Robotics company Nuro on Wednesday received the first-ever permit to commercially deploy its self-driving vehicles in California, allowing the Silicon Valley firm to charge clients for its driverless delivery service.

Relying on a remote human operator – who could control multiple autonomous vehicles from miles away – is a step that allows a path to profitability in the emerging field of self-driving technology.

Nuro has been testing autonomous vehicles on California’s roads with safety drivers since 2017, and it was authorized by the state regulators to test two driverless delivery vehicles in nine cities earlier this year.  .The company said it would launch a delivery service with a fleet of autonomous Toyota Priuses, and later add its own low-speed R2 vehicle, which has no pedals or steering wheel and only room for packages….”  Read more  Hmmmm… All good news; however, it is still about gonna and not didda.  So, still a pipe dream.  Alain

  Elon Musk says SpaceX will attempt to recover Super Heavy rocket by catching it with launch tower

D. Etherington, Dec 30, “SpaceX  will try a significantly different approach to landing its future reusable rocket boosters, according to CEO and founder Elon Musk. It will attempt to ‘catch’ the heavy booster, which is currently in development, using the launch tower arm used to stabilize the vehicle during its pre-takeoff preparations. Current Falcon 9 boosters return to Earth and land propulsively on their own built-in legs – but the goal with Super Heavy is for the larger rocket not to have legs at all, says Musk….” Read more  Hmmmm… There seems to be no end to the out-of-the-box thinking and innovations with Elon’s companies.  The bigger the booster, the bigger the legs, the bigger the drone ship. Only downside may be fuel needs for a return to Cape rather than down range to the drone ship.  They’ve, of course, run the numbers and must feel great about controllability and precision.  The landing of the last Falcon 9 seemed to have really nailed it.. Alain

  Ouster, maker of self-driving tech, agrees $1.9 billion deal to go public

J. Franklin, Dec. 22, “Ouster, maker of self-driving tech, agrees $1.9 billion deal to go public

The deal values San Francisco-based Ouster at around $1.9 billion and makes it the fifth lidar manufacturer this year to agree a SPAC merger to go public, following on from Velodyne Lidar Inc, Luminar, Innoviz and Aeva.

Ouster sees its digital lidar technology as having practical applications beyond autonomous vehicles and extending to areas such as drones, smart cities and robotics, according to company co-founder and Chief Executive Angus Pacala…..”  Read more  Hmmmm… Congratulations.  Alain

  Are we doing justice to sidewalk robots?

Bern Grush, Dec 24, “A sidewalk delivery robot is formally known as a Personal Delivery Device (PDD) to a U.S. state legislator. Currently, I am aware of 19 states that have prepared statutes for this technology (11 passed, five pending, and three failed). While these numbers will soon be out of date, there are certainly going to be 50 of these passed before the last of us gets a meal delivered this way.

As the project leader of an international standardization project (ISO/4448) that includes describing data and procedures for operating these and other automated machines at our curbside and on our sidewalks and crosswalks, I have read through these legislative examples in search of insight.

I have several concerns around weight, speed, momentum, registration, device IDs, insurance, enforcement, monetization, and the definition of pedestrian and vehicle….”  Read more  Hmmmm…  Interesting and not simple.  Sidewalk use is largely a “live and let live” competitive/cooperative undertaking among the users of that space.  While the walk mode operates at substantially lower speeds than roadways it may involve much more subtle communications and is subject to localizations in the form of customs, behaviors and tacit acceptance by current users.  While all of us might accommodate a child erratically riding a bike on a sidewalk it may be a different story  when encountering even a well-behaved sidewalk robot.  As with autonomousTaxis, the biggest challenge is sociological between humans really clumbsy, at best, technologies.  Alain

  Exclusive: Apple targets car production by 2024 and eyes ‘next level’ battery technology – sources

S. Nellis, “Apple Inc is moving forward with self-driving car technology and is targeting 2024 to produce a passenger vehicle that could include its own breakthrough battery technology, people familiar with the matter told Reuters….” Read more Hmmmm… Very interesting. As with Amazon, at this point, they have no reason to share what they are doing with anyone since they don’t need anyone else’s help or permission.  Plus their stock holders are doing just fine, than you. Alain

  Musk says he tried to sell Tesla to Apple during Model 3 crunch

R. Mitchell, Dec. 22, “Apple and Tesla could soon be competitors in the driverless car business, but they could have ended up on the same team.

Responding to a Reuters report that Apple is developing an autonomous passenger vehicle for sale as soon as 2024, Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk tweeted Tuesday that he “reached out” to Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook during Tesla’s “darkest days” in 2017 to propose that Apple buy the electric carmaker.

“He refused to take the meeting,” Musk wrote, before twisting the knife. The price would have been “1/10 our current value.”…”  Read more Hmmmm…  I guess that I’m not the only one that missed out, big time, on Tesla.  Alain

  Tesla stock (TSLA) pushes to new all-time high as people who bet against it lost $38 billion in 2020

F. Lambert, Dec 31, “…S3 Partners, who track short selling interest, told Bloomberg that Tesla short sellers lost $38 billion betting against Tesla in 2020.

That’s $31 billion more than the second biggest short selling loss of the year:…”  Read more Hmmmm…  Ouch!!  Alain

  Once you go electric, you don’t go back: survey shows less than 1% of EV owners want to go back to gas

F. Lambert, Dec. 29, “A new survey shows that once you go electric, you don’t go back as less than 1% of EV owners want to go back to gasoline-powered vehicles.

The poll was conducted amongst UK electric vehicle (EV) drivers using Zap-Map.

2,000 electric car drivers responded to the survey, which showed that the vast majority won’t be going back to gasoline or diesel-powered vehicles::…”  Read more Hmmmm…  Even though this is a UK finding it is profound.  Alain

  Tesla driver accused of sleeping on Autopilot is going to trial for dangerous driving

F. Lambert, Dec. 28, “A Tesla driver’s case over sleeping while using Autopilot on the highway is going to trial for dangerous driving in what legal experts are calling a legal first.

Earlier this year, we reported on the Alberta RCMP (Canada federal police) issuing a report on a strange incident involving a Tesla vehicle on Autopilot:…”  Read more Hmmmm…  Luckily he is going to trial and not dead.  Also means that AutoPilot/FullSelfDriving is NOT FullSelfDriving, else it would not be dangerous driving! Plus Elon is nowhere around claiming that it was not dangerously driven; backing that claim with Tesla money to defend Cai. Alain

  Despite economic downturn, space startup funding defies gravity

K. Korosec, Dec. 21, “he COVID-19 pandemic might have upended the global economy, but according to Meagan Crawford at Spacefund and Chris Moran with Lockheed Martin Ventures, it didn’t dampen investment in space startups.

The space industry has enjoyed a honeymoon period with hundreds of startups popping up in the past five to seven years following SpaceX’s success.

Spacefund research conducted earlier this year found that there is almost no correlation between the global economy and the space industry, said Crawford, a managing partner at the VC firm, last Thursday at TC Sessions: Space 2020. Crawford and Moran both agreed that interest and investment in space will increase as more startups have successful exits. …” Read more Hmmmm… After “70” years, viable business propositions are beginning to emerg.  Alain

  AutonomouStuff December 2020 News: Letter from Chief Autonomous Officer Bobby Hambrick

Dec. 28, “As the founder of AutonomouStuff and the Chief Autonomous Officer of Hexagon’s Autonomy and Positioning division, I am honored to take part in one of the most invigorating challenges undertaken by mankind. It’s also incredibly humbling to witness firsthand the scale of the task and the ingenuity unleashed to solve it. …”  Read more Hmmmm…  Bobby, congratulations on faring well in 2020.  All the best for 2021! Alain

  Boeing 737 Max Resumes Flying U.S. Passengers After 2-Year Halt

N. Chokshi, Dec. 29, “Boeing’s troubled 737 Max plane returned to American skies on Tuesday, carrying paying passengers in the United States for the first time in almost two years.

Those passengers were aboard American Airlines Flight 718, which left Miami around 10:30 a.m. and landed after 1 p.m. in New York, well ahead of schedule. The plane made the return trip on Tuesday afternoon, ending a long and difficult chapter for Boeing….”   Read more  Hmmmm…  That’s surviving one nightmare.  Will air passengers return (Still down +60% from 2019)?? September 2020 U.S. Airline Traffic Data   Cargo is doing great!!   U.S. Airlines Carried 13% More Cargo in October 2020 than in October 2019  Alain       

  Giving Billions Fast, MacKenzie Scott Upends Philanthropy

N. Kulish, Dec. 20. “Through a streamlined operation, Ms. Scott has given away $6 billion this year, much of it to small charities and nonprofits….”  Read more Hmmmm…. What a wonderful way to do so many wonderful things for so many good causes by someone with the wherewithal to do it. This post is most inspiring worth savoring.  Congratulations and thank you MacKensie. Happy New Year, and all the Best for 2021!!  Alain

    Draft Program   4th Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit  2nd Episode at noon on Jan. 7, 2021 TO BE followed by 14 more weekly episodes  through to April15, 2021.  Each episode starting Live on Zoom @ noon Eastern (Princeton Time) and lasting for 1.5 hours or until Discussion with audience ends. 

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

4th Annual PrincetonSmartDrivingCar Summit

Postponed, to be a Virtual Series 

2nd Live Episode, noon ET, Thursday, Jan 7

Princeton University

Princeton, NJ

On the More Technical Side