Friday, March 19, 2021
11th edition of the 9th year of SmartDrivingCars eLetter

   Tesla’s “Full Self Driving” Beta Is Just Laughably Bad and Potentially Dangerous

M. Hogan, March 19, “A beta version of Tesla’s “Full Self Driving” Autopilot update has begun rolling out to certain users. And man, if you thought “Full Self Driving” was even close to a reality, this video of the system in action will certainly relieve you of that notion. It is perhaps the best comprehensive video at illustrating just how morally dubious, technologically limited, and potentially dangerous Autopilot’s “Full Self Driving” beta program is….” Read more  Hmmmm…  The Video is MUST watch.  This is what I would call a “Semi-SelfDriving Alpha” product in this Operational Design Domain (non-dense city/commercial suburban streets, during daylight, in clear weather with moderate temperature conditions).

Drivers have four (4) “responsibilities”.  1. Feet/foot on/near the pedals, 2. Hand(s) on the wheel, 3. Eyes on the road, and 4. Butt in the driver’s seat (and possibly 5…. Have reasonable cognitive brain functions).  If the Operational Design Domain is a straight lane with a slight downgrade and nothing else around, my “55 Chevy” can “Self-drive” and even be “Driverless”.  I don’t even have to be in it.  However, we must all agree, that we can’t call my “55 Chevy” a “Driverless” car. We can’t even call it a Self-driving because I’m going to need to have my butt is the driver’s seat to do something when the ODD changes (the road turns , …) and it is, at best, Semi-Self driving because my eyes will need to be on the road for me to realize that the “55 Chevy” is about to exit its ODD.  It is going to need help from me to not crash. 

So Elon’s FSD is definitely Semi-SelfDriving because its ODD doesn’t come close to including many of the situations that it found in its video journey above.  It is Alpha because any potential user can be expected to have little if any idea what is required to use this product without getting hurt.  So,  please be very careful out there and don’t stop paying attention to the road ahead!!! Alain

  Empathy –> Trust –> Human-Centric Autonomous Mobility Design

K. Pyle, March 20, “To create successful mobility solutions, one must be willing to empathetically listen to all people and in locations that are convenient for them. This is one of the insights of Henry Greenidge, moderator of the 3/18/21 Smart Driving Car Summit panel, Human-centered Design of Safe and Affordable Driverless Mobility.  As the founder of OurMobileFuture, a former Cruise executive and current Fellow-In-Residence at the NYU McSilver Institute of Poverty Policy & Research, Greenidge brings a big picture view that transcends silos, which is exactly what is needed to create people-serving, autonomous mobility.

Smart Driving Car Summit organizer and Princeton Professor, Alain Kornhauser, set the stage by suggesting the measurement of driverless success depends upon factors such as: …” Read more  Hmmmm…. We had another excellent Session.  Thank you for the summary, Ken.  Alain

Kornhauser & He, March 2021 AV 101 + Trenton Affordable HQ Mobility Initiative

Ken Pyle Session Summaries of 4th Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit:
11th Session    3/05/21  Incentivizing Through Regulation

10th Session    3/05/21  Incentivizing Through Insurance

9th Session    2/25/21  Can Level 3 be Delivered?

8th Session    2/18/21  Who Will Build, Sell and Maintain Driverless Cars?

    Michael Sena’s Slides, Glenn Mercer Slides

7th Session    2/11/21  Finally Doing It
6th Session    2/ 4/21   Safe Enough in the Operational Design Domain
5th Session    1/28/21   At the Tipping Point
4th Session    1/21/21  Why Customers are Buying Them

3rd Session    1/14/21  The SmartDrivingCars We Can Buy Today
2nd Session   1/ 7/21  A Look into the Future
1st Session: 12/17/20  Setting the Stage

  SmartDrivingCars Pod-Cast Episode 204, Zoom-Cast Episode 204  w/Andrew Rose, President, OnStar Insurance Services  

F. Fishkin, March 15, “.With GM aiming to upend the car insurance industry, the President of the automaker’s new OnStar Insurance Services, Andrew Rose joins Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin. What advantages will OnStar insurance bring to the table…and a look at the future of auto insurance..” Alexa, play the Smart Driving Cars podcast!“.  Ditto with Siri, and GooglePlay …  Alain


4th Annual Princeton  SmartDrivingCar Summit

13th Live Episode: Live on Zoom

Improving the Moving of Goods

Help for the drivers and help for the logistics companies

noon ET, Thursday, March 25

Video Summary of 1st Session:  Setting the Stage

   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.

The federal government is investigating yet another Tesla Autopilot crash

A. Hawkins, March 10, “The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating another Tesla crash in which Autopilot was allegedly in use.

The crash took place outside of Lansing, Michigan, when the driver of a Tesla Model Y smashed into a state trooper’s cruiser. Michigan police said the driver was using Autopilot, Tesla’s advanced driver-assistance system (ADAS), at the time of the crash. No one was injured, but the government sent investigators to the scene to determine how Autopilot may have contributed to the crash….” Read more  Hmmmm…  


  Tesla is under scrutiny from feds again over crash with semi truck



F. Lambert, March 16, “Tesla is again under scrutiny from the US federal government over a Tesla vehicle that crashed into the trailer of a semi truck in Detroit….” Read more  Hmmmm…  


It is really hard to believe that Tesla hasn’t fixed its Automated Emergency Braking System (AEBs) so as to reliably be able to determine if it can safely pass under a stationary object in its lane ahead, rather than simply assuming that it can and naively “fuhgeddaboudit“.    Maybe their radars, cameras and “AI” aren’t up to the task and they need LiDAR.  Maybe NHTSA or someone needs to make Tesla liable in these situations until they fix this and put in driver-focused sensors and “AI” that will ensure that the driver is paying attention to the road ahead; else pull over and disable AutoPilot/FSD or whatever Tesla chooses to call these systems. 


Tesla’s AEBs don’t work well enough; the driver MUST remain alert ready to assess: “can I pass under that police car parked or that trailer stopped broadside in my lane ahead?   Alain

  Two states tax some drivers by the mile. Many more want to give it a try.

I. Duncan, March 12, ” Bruce Starr spotted the problem right away: The hydrogen-powered cars General Motors was showing off on the Oregon Capitol grounds wouldn’t need gas. And if they didn’t need gas, drivers wouldn’t be paying gas taxes that fund the state’s roads…. ”  Read more  Hmmmm… Stop right there… By the time Hydrogen-powered cars have anything more than an infinitesimally small market share that they could affect anything, our children may not even be here any longer.  And to use this “fuzz on a tick’s ear” as an excuse to overturn what may well be one of the most elegant (def: simple, effective and pretty much “game proof”) taxing systems ever devised, is truly unbelievable. 

There are only two reasons one would want to change the current gas tax system: 1.  One has a gizmo/service to sell that will be required to collect that tax and paid for by that collected tax (leaving even less to build new roads, so what?!?!) and/or this is a back-door way to increase the tax rate on everyone. 

The beauty of the gas tax is that it is collected from a few “corporates” at the wholesale level who make sure that they are reimbursed by each of the many consumers at the time of their purchase.  The same could be true of electrons (or hydrogen) by placing a meter (electric companies already have meters at each house) on the electric plug that could then be used to add the tax onto the cost of the electricity that is being used to recharge the battery.  (I’ll start making & selling those meters. 😁)

If you don’t want me to get rich on this, and your agenda is to subsidize the sale and use of electric vehicles, then why not just eliminate most of the transaction costs, by keeping the money in the public treasury, allocating it builders” and not tax the electricity used by electric cars . 

Rebates for the purchase of (some) electric cars is/was $7,500.  Fuel taxes average about $0.50/gallon and way most are less than $0.75.  For a car getting 20 miles/gallon, this is a whopping, $0.025 -> $0.375/mile.  That means that means that the $7,500 rebate is equivalent to not paying gas tax for 200,000 -> 300,000 miles of driving;   essentially all of the car’s life. (plus that money is upfront, so there is a time-value-of-$$$ benefit here, too).  So those that are trying to save the planet and worried they won’t be able to build new roads (and maintain old roads) are promoting a, surely burdensome, new taxing structure on gasoline cars, when a trivial ledger shift would do the same and more???  I don’t get it!!  Alain

  Motor Vehicle Deaths in 2020 Estimated to be Highest in 13 Years, Despite Dramatic Drops in Miles Driven

March 4, “For the first time since 2007, preliminary data from the National Safety Council show that as many as 42,060 people are estimated to have died in motor vehicle crashes in 2020. That marks an 8% increase over 2019 in a year where people drove significantly less frequently because of the pandemic. The preliminary estimated rate of death on the roads last year spiked 24% over the previous 12-month period, despite miles driven dropping 13%. The increase in the rate of death is the highest estimated year-over-year jump that NSC has calculated since 1924 – 96 years. It underscores the nation’s persistent failure to prioritize safety on the roads, which became emptier but far more deadly…”  Read more  Hmmmm… This is REALLY bad and a result of people who drove behaving REALLY bad.  Not only did the well-behaving drivers stay home so as to not deflate the “rate per VMT” but the rate itself went up.  Since an overwhelming percentage of crashes are due to driver misbehavior, this data point suggests that those misbehaving misbehaved even more.  More speeding, more texting, more ……”  Not at all good!  Alain

  Autonomous Delivery Robots Are Now ‘Pedestrians’ in Pennsylvania

S. Blanko, march 7, “A Pennsylvania state law has gone into effect giving delivery drones the right to operate on city sidewalks, and it also classified them as pedestrians.
This makes Pennsylvania the latest in a string of states, plus Washington, D.C., to let these delivery robots maneuver around towns….”  Read more  Hmmmm… This to me sounds really bad!   In some/many communities, bicycles and scooters or anything motorized are not permitted on sidewalks.  This might be OK because there really aren’t any of these delivery things anywhere, but they’ll never be able to scale where sidewalks exist for people to walk and few, if any, communities are going to make homeowners put in sidewalks for these things. These things can’t scale.  This won’t end well.  Alain

  ‘You Never Need to Walk Into a Showroom’: Electric Vehicles Are Forcing Car Companies to Rethink Retail

Z. Estrada, March 9, “The days of Southern California’s gigantic car dealerships may be numbered.
That’s because a statewide push toward electric vehicles, which require less maintenance than gasoline-powered cars and can be sold more easily online, is forcing automakers to rethink the retail experience.  … ”  Read more  Hmmmm… What do you think Sheldon???  Let’s see, in the past dealerships helped with keeping what I bought working well.  I was doing all of the work to drive it with comfort and convenience items being limited to “soft Corinthian leather“. Now with all of the Self-driving comfort&convenience features, I’ll have more time to do more in and with my car.  Isn’t there a profit opportunity somewhere in there to provide better customer service and to enhance my experience with the car, rather than to fix my problems???

Also, a major problem that Dealerships may have is: there may well be a perception that they are not welcoming to all. They have a “Mad Men” legacy of catering to only one male-kind. Alain

   GM says U.S. should extend consumer, investment tax credits to boost electric vehicles

D. Shepardson, March 11, “General Motors President Mark Reuss said Thursday the U.S. government should extend new investment tax credits for electric vehicle manufacturing and supply chains and expand consumer incentives to electric vehicle purchases, including for used vehicles….”  ”  Read more  Hmmmm…The new definition of “Self-serving”.  Please look above at a better better way to promote electric cars. 

What the public sector should do is to give the dollar equivalent of those subsidies to the road maintenance and building crews instead of “GM” and promote EVs by not ever having them pay any road user tax. The public sector would then be financially net-neutral, at worse.   Why not also increase the gas tax on gas guzzlers and become very net-positive.  That’s an efficient and likely very effective way to promote EVs   Alain

  Developing an Autonomous Freight Network within the US regulatory lanscape

A. Davis, March, 9, “The US Department of Transportation has taken many steps over the last five years to clarify the Federal, State and local roles and approaches to automated driving.

However, many of these policies are still in the process of being included in regulations and laws and so are not yet final. There have been many discussions about how the Biden Administration will address the developments made in autonomous trucking.  …”  Read more  Hmmmm…  We are about as close to autonomous trucking as Elon is to FSD.  The only thing that we are going to do any time soon is substantially improve the work environment of the 300,000-500,000 trucking jobs.  None are going to be lost, just improved.  Plus if these is an “autonomous freight network”, it can be found in the nation’s freight railroads!  Alain

BMW’s new curved iDrive display is a ‘major step’ toward autonomous driving

A. Hawkins, March 15, “BMW is pulling the curtain back on its next iteration of iDrive, the software and infotainment platform that has served as the centerpiece of the automaker’s in-car experience for the last 20 years…..” Read more  Hmmmm…   True, this is a travelTainment system.  It has very little to do with “autonomous driving”, except it is so distracting to the driver that a Self-drive system is needed for this system to not lead to “driver distraction product liability” claims.  Alain

Should Pedestrians Wear Radar Reflectors So Self-Driving Cars Can See Them?

L. Alter, March 8, “…” Read more  Hmmmm…  Is this week nothing but Half-baked, Click-Bait and/or C’mon Man???  So bad!! Pedestrians today wear black at night.  We can’t even get them to wear light colored clothing so that we have a chance of seeing them and and not hitting them.  While I’m driving my ’55 Chevy (or any car produced before 20xx (xx large)) this Gizmo is useless.

Plus, “all” of the Automated Emergency Braking (AEB) systems on the market today disregard detected objects in the lane ahead whose approach speed is essentially equal to the car’s speed.  That may well be thanks to the SAE who seems to be more concerned positives, driver discomfort and rear-end collisions than not being able to pass under stationary objects detected in the lane ahead.  Alain

   4th Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit  13th Episode at noon on March 25, 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)

Sunday Supplement



Calendar of Upcoming Events:s


4th Annual Princeton  SmartDrivingCar Summit

13th Live Episode: Live on Zoom

Improving the Moving of Goods

Help for the drivers and help for the logistics companies

noon ET, Thursday, March 25

Video Summary of 1st Session:  Setting the Stage



On the More Technical Side

K. Kockelman’s AV Research Group at U of Texas