9th edition of the 9th year of SmartDrivingCars eLetter
K. Pyle, March 5, “It is in the insurance industryâ€™s best interest to use automated driving technology to make things safer through crash avoidance, not just crash mitigation. Unlike crash mitigation, crash avoidance saves the insurance company money. This was Alain Kornhauserâ€™s premise for the Smart Driving Car Summit, Incentivizing Through Insurance. The trillion-dollar question is whether the incentives to automate will overcome the countervailing forces of existing business practices in other parts of the mobility industry?….” Read more Hmmmm…. We had another excellent Session. Thank you for the summary, Ken. Alain
SmartDrivingCars Pod-Cast Episode 202, Zoom-Cast Episode 202 President & CEO, RoadDB
F. Fishkin, March 3, “When will we be able to purchase cars that can largely drive themselves? It may not be long…but don’t expect to vacate the driver’s seat. That’s the view of entrepreneur, tech pioneer and RoadDB CEO Russ Shields. He takes an in depth look at where we are and where we’re headed with Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser & co-host Fred Fishkin.” Alexa, play the Smart Driving Cars podcast!“. Ditto with Siri, and GooglePlay … Alain
4th Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit
The Role of Public Policy in Enabling the Manufacture of Safely-driven Cars and Encouraging the Deployment of Driverless Cars
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: www.motoetf.com. 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.
Staff, March 4, ” Honda Motor Co Ltd on Thursday unveiled a partially self-driving Legend sedan in Japan, becoming the worldâ€™s first carmaker to sell a vehicle equipped with new, certified level 3 automation technology.
The launch gives Japanâ€™s No.2 automaker bragging rights for being the first to market, but lease sales of the level 3 flagship Legend would be limited to a batch of 100 in Japan, at a retail price of 11 million yen ($102,000).
Still, the new automation technology is a big step towards eliminating human error-induced accidents, chief engineer Yoichi Sugimoto told reporters.
The Legendâ€™s â€œTraffic Jam Pilotâ€ system can control acceleration, braking and steering under certain conditions.
Once the system is activated, a driver can also watch movies or use the navigation on the screen, helping to mitigate fatigue and stress when driving in a traffic jam, Honda said in a statement….” Read more Hmmmm… I added the bold emphasis and you must read the fine print, that unfortunately Reuters glossed over. Honda must stop doing things for “…Bragging Rights…” and stop behaving like Elon! This isn’t really “Level 3” because, rightly so, it requires the driver to have his butt in the driver’s seat. It is also only for low speed. What MUST be clearly stated upfront is the Operational Design Domain that will be strictly enforced and driver mis-use of this functionality will be not be tolerated. So at low speeds, in acceptable weather, on certain pre-determined roads,…, and if a non-drowsy, non-impaired licensed driver remains in the driver’s seat, then that driver may take his/her “feet off the brake & throttle”, “hands off the wheel” and “eyes off the road” but remain prepared to be required to use his/her feet, hands and eyes to safely drive the cars, if so requested. Should the driver not respond to such request in a timely manner, Honda assumes no responsibility for any liabilities incurred should the vehicle crash and the”Level 3 flagship Legend” will either stop dead in the middle of the street or pull over to the side of the road and stop. The Level 3 functionality will not be re-enabled until the driver … (you fill in the blank).
I agree that this is a start, but it has a very long way to go. To me, the most important message that needs to be conveyed to a potential buy of this kind of car is: 1. Mis-use or mis-behavior will not be tolerated. and 2. While the driver may be enabled to take “feet-off”, “hands-off” and “eyes-off” the driver’s butt MUST remain in the driver’s seat and the driver may not be drowsy or intoxicated! We can’t have Tesla-style videos all over the intertubes showing the mis-use of Honda’s Level3 in Japan. Alain
S. Beasley, Feb. 24, “The FAA has asked its drone advisory panel to explore moving away from words like ‘unmanned,’manned,’airman’ and other gender-specific terms for drones as the agency and industry look to attract a more diverse and younger crop of people to the field.
The agency’s Drone Advisory Committee, whose members are mostly drawn from various parts of the drone industry, has been tasked with making recommendations on how the FAA and industry can shift to using gender-neutral language as has been done in other countries as well as at NASA. The U.S. space agency started using gender-neutral words in 2006.
Jay Merkle, who heads the FAA’s drone integration office, said during a recent DAC meeting that the agency would like to see the panel â€œtake the lead in facilitating the adoption of gender-neutral language throughout the drone communityâ€ and â€œreally in aviation in general.â€ Committee members have agreed to establish a task force to examine the issue.
FAA did not immediately respond to a request for more details on the initiative or whether it had been launched under the Biden administration or beforehand… ” Read more Hmmmm… Concern about this fundamentally gender-offensive terminology wasn’t mentioned until the 63rd and 64th slide (‘Adjourn’ was the 68th slide). Probably slid in there after everyone else may have Zoomed off.
What seems worse is this wasn’t brought up until after these terms had been proudly and confidently used throughout the earlier portions of the program (at least 46 times in “Drone Advisory Committee Public eBook“). Knowing that this was going to be a topic brought out at the end of the meeting, no one spoke out and said…”Yo! All day we’ve been using this fundamentally gender-offensive terminology. Shouldn’t we set an example and start right now by cleaning up our terminology! Plus, let’s send a strong message over to the Pentagon, especially the Airforce. This ends now!”
That didn’t happen! I guess the “good ‘ol boys” are still in charge! Alain
March 2, “Austin Russell is the 25-year-old founder and CEO of Luminar, a startup in Silicon Valley that makes LIDAR sensors for self-driving cars. LIDAR technology had been used for short-distance mapping, but Luminar claims to have a functioning LIDAR that works at 250 meters, which is a breakthrough. Luminar recently went public, making Austin today’s youngest self-made billionaire.
And when it comes to self-driving cars, youth is definitely an advantage. Austin told me we’re still years if not decades away from fully self-driving cars, and there’s a lot of work to be done to make them safe, effective, and ubiquitous. That work is racing ahead. ” Luminar has deals with Volvo, Audi, Toyota, and others ” but building a complete self-driving car is still a long-term project.
Here we go…” Read more Hmmmm… A good interview well worth reading. My issue with Driverless cars for the consumer market is that the development cost for the software are non-trivial, especially relative to any incremental value that might be envisioned relative to “Level3′ or “Level 2+”. ” Consumer-grade Level4″ software must become good/safe enough to do all of the driving and accept all of the safety-related responsibility throughout the Driverless Car’s Operational Design Domain (ODD). (The ODD is the strictly regulated/controlled conditions under which such “Feet-off, Hands-off, Eyes-off, Butt-out (can’t rely/fall-back on there being a licensed & capable driver in the driver’s seat; car is empty plus, maybe, riders and packages)
That ODD must be “larger enough” to encompass mobility opportunities that deliver more consumer value than the, appropriately financed, development cost of that software. I’ll claim that there is little incremental consumer value in not having the consumer do any of the driving (Level4) over even needing to do most of the driving (Level 3). The only real incremental value is getting you home if you are drunk, (Level3 can’t get you all the way from the watering hole to your home; else for that trip it is “Level 4”
There is also some real value in “giving” rides to individuals that aren’t properly licensed to drive (your young children) or those that can’t drive for whatever reason. There is also value in being able to dispatch your car with no one in it to go to someone else and give them a ride… as long as all of the Driverless/Level4 car’s activities are strictly contained in the ODD.
Having a capable licensed driver available as a backup substantially reduces software development cost . Said another way: the incremental cost of going from a Consumer-viable Level3 car (where the consumer implicitly/explicitly accepts to be responsible and “do the heavy lifting” when things get tough) to Level4 where the “software” has to do all of the lifting, light through heavy, and accept all of the responsibility, is likely ms more a sufficient number of “early adopters’ are willing to endure. Thus, Level4 as a consumer product is “Dead-on-Arrival” (DoA)! (Very high incremental cost for very little incremental value. Alain
D. Furchtgott-Roth, March 1, “Covid-19 caused a tsunami of changes to the transportation sector. In its wake, Congress shouldn’t design the $1.9 trillion stimulus package as though Americans will eventually return to their pre-pandemic behavior. Instead, legislators should determine what changes in behavior will be permanent and, until the future is clearer, focus on maintaining existing infrastructure rather than building new and ambitious projects.
Some modes of transportation have fared better than others since the pandemic began. A recent Department of Transportation (DOT) report by Steven Polzin finds that passenger cars have seen only a 10 percent decline in mileage, while Amtrak, airlines, public transit, and intercity buses have seen drop-offs in excess of 60 percent. The report projects that only air travel will return to its pre-pandemic level by 2024, while travel via other modes, including cars, will remain about 5 percent to 10 percent lower….
To allocate federal infrastructure dollars wisely, legislators need to know how many people will continue to work from homeâ€”and how this share will be divided among cities, suburbs, and rural areas. As our transportation habits have changed, so have the answers to these questions. Congress should take note.” Read more Hmmmm… Wise advice here. Be sure to read Steve Polzin’s report: “COVID-19’s Effects on The Future of Transportation“. Alain
J. Ewing, March 2, “Volvo Cars one-upped larger rivals like General Motors and added momentum to the movement toward electric vehicles on Tuesday by saying it would convert its entire lineup to battery power by 2030, no longer selling cars with internal combustion engines.
The declaration by the Swedish carmaker is the latest attempt by a traditional auto company to break with its fossil fuels past. It is also one of the most ambitious proposals and ratchets up the pressure on others to follow suit.
The auto industry has been moving toward electrification for years, but the shift has taken on new urgency in recent months. President Biden’s election, along with his commitment to fight climate change, has raised expectations that the United States will offer the kind of incentives that helped make electric cars the fastest-growing segment of the European market last year….” Read more Hmmmm… We’ll address this topic in more depth in the 14th Weekly Session of the Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit at noon on Thursday, April 1: What Will Power Safely-driven Cars? (no correlation with April Fool’s pranks, promise) Alain
J. Bartlett, Feb 25, ” The road to self-driving cars is paved by the active driver assist systems that are available on most cars today. But while much attention is paid to the potential of an autonomous future, the majority of drivers (80 percent) say they want current systems, like automatic emergency braking and lane keeping assistance, to work better, according to a new survey by AAA…” Read more Hmmmm… This should be an important message to OEMs… get Automated Collision Avoidance to really avoid collisions, etc. and the car buying public will be happy. OEMs can readily do that. Subaru, for one, has been focusing on that. OEMs can deliver that value now and make more money. Insurance will smile all the way to the bank! Alain
R. Mitchell, March 2, “With the introduction of its new C40 Recharge on Tuesday, Volvo became the latest automaker to bet that consumers who have so far been cool to the idea of an electric vehicle might change their minds if it comes in a form they love: the crossover. Whether they do may be crucial to the success of California’s plan to end sales of gasoline and diesel cars by 2035.
Volvo joins Ford of Europe and Jaguar in going all in on EVs, promising every car it makes and sells by 2030 will be all-electric. In a webcast to introduce the new vehicle, the company also laid out a radical new retail strategy â€” the C40 and all electric Volvo cars will be available for purchase only online.
A slew of electric crossovers has hit the market in recent months, including the Ford Mustang Mach-E, the Tesla Model Y and the Volkswagen ID.4….” Read more Hmmmm… Maybe. We’ll see if these are able to eat into Tesla’s market share. Alain
G. Wilson, March 3, “Marking three years since automotive manufacturer – Ford Motor Company – began its plans to test and commercialise its self-driving services in Miami, we take a look at what the company has been up to in the last three years to develop the technology….” Read more Hmmmm… To get all of this to work safely and to “make everyone ‘whole’ should something bad happen” while you don’t have a capable driver in the driver’s seat is non-simple! Elon’s fine print requires a capable driver in the driver’s seat who will be held responsible to “make everyone ‘whole’ should something bad happen” because Elon is unwilling to accept that responsibility. He knows he isn’t rich enough and FSD isn’t good enough for him to take that risk. As soon as he proclaims that he is accepting that risk, then, maybe, we’ll begin to pay attention to his proclamations about FSD. Alain
S. Loveday, March 4, “…On the other hand, while Tesla’s vehicles require a driver to be in the driver’s seat closely monitoring the tech and taking over when necessary,…” Read more Hmmmm… You need not read anymore to realize that what is being compared are two very different animals. Maybe next time they’ll compare a Dodo with an Eagle. (Tesla’s the Dodo. ðŸ˜) Alain
E. Lipton, March 3, “While serving as transportation secretary during the Trump administration, Elaine Chao repeatedly used her office staff to help family members who run a shipping business with extensive ties to China, a report released Wednesday by the Transportation Department’s inspector general concluded.
The inspector general referred the matter to the Justice Department in December for possible criminal investigation. But in the weeks before the end of Trump administration, two Justice Department divisions declined to do so…” Read more Hmmmm… Trump lies through his teeth,”suggests” that a mob invades the Capitol, has everyone stay at his hotel down the street and “Transportation Departmentâ€™s inspector general” goes after Elaine. Sure, her husband should have voted for impeachment, but… C’mon Man!!! Alain
T. Lee, March 4, “Bloomberg reports that Cruise, a self-driving company jointly owned by GM and Honda, is in talks to acquire the startup Voyage. Founded four years ago, Voyage is working to launch a self-driving taxi service at the Villages, a massive retirement community in Florida.
Bloomberg says that “no deal is imminent,” and I don’t have any inside information. But such a deal would be consistent with an ongoing trend: it’s becoming harder and harder for self-driving startups to remain independent.
Voyage was part of a wave of self-driving startups that were founded between 2013 and 2018. Cruise itself was one of the earliest of these companies; it was co-founded in 2013 by its current CEO Kyle Vogt. Others included nuTonomy in 2013, Zoox in 2014, Drive.ai, Optimus Ride, and TuSimple in 2015, Starsky Robotics, Nuro and Udelv in 2016, Voyage, Aurora, and May Mobility in 2017, and Ike and Kodiak Robotics in 2018.
But over the last three years, these companies have suffered a high attrition rate. Cruise was acquired by GM in 2016. This early acquisition was a sign of confidence in Cruise, and GM has since poured billions of dollars into the startup. Similarly, auto parts maker Aptiv acquired NuTonomy in 2017 and has made its CEO the leader of Motional, a joint venture with Hyundai.
Other startups didn’t have such happy exits. Apple acquired Drive.ai in 2019 as the firm was on the verge of shutting down. Trucking startup Starsky shut down last year, and Amazon bought Zoox for a bargain price. Ike sold to its larger startup rival Nuro in late 2020…” Read more Hmmmm… Not listed are the Otto Shenanigans and others. What everyone is realizing is that SafelyDrivenCars are the purview of the legacy OEM and Driverless mobility, while having enormous upside potential, is requiring equally enormous capabilities/investments to get off the ground. So far there is only one that has been able to barely get started, and only after a meticulous,well executed and outrageously expensive “Spring Training”. More @ Detroit News if you have a subscription. Alain
The power of FMCW Lidar + Scale:Why acquiring OURS lidar unlocks the commercialization of the Aurora Driver
Press release, “Feb 26, “… When we acquired Blackmore in 2019, we said it would be a gamechanger for our ability to pursue autonomous trucking because FMCW lidar allows us to see further and faster than ever before. (Long-range sensing? Check!) Since then, we have moved quickly to deploy our trucks in Texas, outfitted with Aurora’s FirstLight Lidar, which allows us to see well beyond 300 meters, measures velocity instantaneously, and is interference-free. Plus, it’s purpose-built to meet the needs of the Aurora Driver, on Aurora’s timeline.
We focused on performance first, and now it”s time to scale. As we look to expand our fleet and commercialize our driverless trucks, FirstLight Lidar must be increasingly scalable’ needs to be smaller and less expensive, but just as powerful. To make that happen, we’re excited to announce that we’re acquiring OURS Technology, a lidar-on-a-chip company that will help us do just that. (Scalability? Check!) And in addition to their cutting-edge tech, we look forward to having their team join Aurora!…” Read more Hmmmm… Interesting. “Interference free” is very important, especially at long distance. The key is to be able to determine one’s relative velocity with the objects in the the lane ahead and especially to be able to reliably determine if one is able to pass under stationary objects (objects whose relative speed = current speed) that are positioned in the lane ahead. That is non-easy.
It needs to be done in real-time and far enough away so that the truck has time to come to a complete stop. Certainly, digital map databases are helpful, But only as long as the stationary object detected ahead is properly correlated to the map database; if it is not, then relegating it as a false positive, as Uber did with Elaine Herzberg, doesn’t have a pretty ending. Stationary object abound in lanes ahead… signs, traffic lights, tree canopies,… Easy to detect and measure location to Evey face point. Surface point underneath in order to measure clearance… not so much. I sure hope this LiDAR helps. If not, then what does it use to justify its expense? Alain
T. Lee., Feb. 27, “Aspiring electric truck maker Nikola has admitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission that nine statements made by founder Trevor Milton were “inaccurate.” Milton was forced to resign from Nikola in September, shortly after the falsehoods first came to light.
Between 2016 and 2020, Milton told a series of whoppers about his fledgling truck maker. At a 2016 press event, Milton took to the stage to unveil a prototype of the company’s first truck, dubbed the Nikola One. During the event, Milton claimed that the truck “fully functions.” In reality, Nikola never got the truck to move under its own power. …” Read more Hmmmm… Is Nikola still in business??? I guess SPACs never go away??? Alain
Staff, Feb. 25, “…Despite the advanced technology, there is a driver at the wheel to take control if necessary since Spanish law does not currently allow vehicles to operate without drivers…” Read more Hmmmm… Just like almost everything else that is printed with “driverless” in the title… It is total BS, click-bait and not even half-baked. So depressing!! I just can’t understand how financially bankrupt systems think that by just adorning their buses with expensive gizmos that don’t improve service frequency or speed and more importantly don’t reduce the cost of their current lousy service deserves and ink or accolades. Only with the removal of the driver is the marginal cost of better service have an opportunity to be negative; else, same bad service requiring more public subsidy. Alain
Fisker gives up on solid-state batteries after ‘breakthrough’ with ‘500 miles range & 1-min charging’
F. Lambert, March 1, “Fisker says that it has given up on solid-state batteries after having announced a â€œbreakthroughâ€ that was supposed to enable â€œ500 miles of range and 1-minute chargingâ€ in its electric cars. After relaunching his electric vehicle startup, Henrik Fisker started making a lot of very ambitious claims about the capabilities of the new companyâ€™s future electric cars.
We have highlighted some of those in a report called: â€œA look at Fiskerâ€™s unbelievable claims about its upcoming all-electric car with â€˜over 400 miles of rangeâ€™ & â€˜9-minute charging.â€ But one of the biggest claims was regarding the batteries that Fisker planned to use.
At first, the company announced that their first car will be powered by a new graphene-based hybrid supercapacitor technology. That idea didnâ€™t stick for long and Fisker instead announced a solid-state battery â€œbreakthroughâ€ for electric cars with â€œ500 miles range and 1-minute charging.â€
As with most battery breakthrough claims, we were skeptical of Fiskerâ€™s announcement. Now, a few years later, Henrik Fisker announced that they have actually given up on the supposed breakthrough over a year ago…..” Read more Hmmmm… Does it seem that the EV sector is substantially over-hyped with Tesla, Nikola, Fisker, … ? Batteries should have won the “power-plant war in “1905” against Stanley’s Steamer and Otto’s ICE. But batteries and sourcing the electrons proved to be a real challenge. After more than 100 years at trying and under the best imagined environmental and political circumstances, smoke, mirrors and the EV sector may be rising out of the ashes. Scaling batteries and electrons to efficiently and environmentally meet the nation’s mobility needs and aspirations remains a very open challenge. We’ll discuss some of this in the Summit’s 14th Session: What will Power SmartDrivingCars? on April 1. Alain
K. Karosec, March 4, “Postmates X, the robotics division of the on-demand delivery startup that Uber acquired last year for $2.65 billion, has officially spun out as an independent company called Serve Robotics. TechCrunch reported in January that a deal was being shopped to investors.
Serve Robotics, a name taken from the autonomous sidewalk delivery bot that was developed and piloted by Postmates X, has raised seed funding in a round led by venture capital firm Neo. Other investors included Uber as well as Lee Jacobs and Cyan Banister’s Long Journey Ventures, Western Technology Investment, Scott Banister, Farhad Mohit and Postmates co-founders Bastian Lehmann and Sean Plaice. …” Read more Hmmmm… If “spinning stuff out” is what is making Uber more valuable, then that may not be saying much about what is being spun out. Alain
4th Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit 11th Episode at noon on March 11, 2021 TO BE followed by 8 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)
Calendar of Upcoming Events:s
4th Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit
The Role of Public Policy in Enabling the Manufacture of Safely-driven Cars and Encouraging the Deployment of Driverless Cars