Saturday, May 29, 2021
21st edition of the 9th year of SmartDrivingCars eLetter

  The Future of Mobility is Slowly Coming into Focus

M. Sena, June 2021, “…Mobility-as-a-service would provide the business model to tie everything together, perhaps as an extension of your phone/broadband subscription. Private car ownership would soon be a relic of a bygone age.


This is an interesting narrative, but is not a correct one. Even before COVID-19 changed how people have been living outside of China since Friday, the 13th of March 2020, the picture of everything happening in high density cities was a rumor that companies like WEWORK spread to build their houses of cards. …


One effect of changes that have occurred in where people live and work in and around big cities is a phenomenon that was already well underway before the pandemic but has sped up: the demise of inner city buses. I wrote about this in the December 2018 issue of THE DISPATCHER, Is It Time to Throw the Bus Under the Bus?. I wrote:
We need to start thinking outside the bus. If a city is serious about providing a useful bus service, it needs to run them everywhere and often, including at night. It must, therefore, get rid of cars driving and parking on its streets. ..


One effect of changes that have occurred in where people live and work in and around big cities is a phenomenon that was already well underway before the pandemic but has sped up: the demise of inner city buses. I wrote about this in the December 2018 issue of THE DISPATCHER, Is It Time to Throw the Bus Under the Bus?. I wrote:
We need to start thinking outside the bus. If a city is serious about providing a useful bus service, it needs to run them everywhere and often, including at night. It must, therefore, get rid of cars driving and parking on its streets. … What cities are doing today all over the world is neither providing an adequate service to their citizens nor using the money allocated for transport in a cost-effective way…


Bite the bullet and get private cars off the big city streets
The reasons that people who live in cities began to buy cars was that they needed them to get to their jobs, the ones that began moving out of the cities in the ‘60s to ‘campuses’ where there were no transit links. Then they needed them to drop off their children to day care centers since both parents worked. Then they needed them to drop off their older children…


As I said, it is not buses that will meet the need. Neither is it roads filled with taxis. There are taxis offering rides in Trenton and Scranton, but they are not replacing buses because they are too expensive and are often unavailable when demand for them is highest. The Uber/Lyft model can be better at meeting demand, but they are still too costly…”

Read more  Hmmmm…   Enjoy the whole issue.  It is enormously well written! Also listen/watch the SDC Pod/Zoom Cast 216- below with Michael.  Alain


SmartDrivingCars Pod-Cast Episode 216, Zoom-Cast Episode 216    w/Michael Sena, editor The Dispatcher

F. Fishkin, May 28 , “The Future of Mobility is Slowly Coming Into Focus.  That’s on top in the June edition of The Dispatcher.   From Sweden, publisher Michael Sena joins Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin for that plus better batteries, May Mobility, Tesla and more.  “Alexa, play the Smart Driving Cars podcast!“.  Ditto with Siri, and GooglePlay …  Alain


SmartDrivingCars Pod-Cast Episode 215, Zoom-Cast Episode 215    w/Cade Metz, Correspondent, NY Times & Ken Pyle, editor,

F. Fishkin, May 27 , “The Costly Pursuit of Self Driving Cars Continues On and On and On.  That’s the headline of a NY Times story this week.  The reporter, Cade Metz, also the author of a new book on artificial intelligence, joins Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser, co-host Fred Fishkin and guest Ken Pyle of Viodi View..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 initiative

  The Costly Pursuit of Self-Driving Cars Continues On. And On. And On.

C. Metz, May 24, “…  So what went wrong? Some researchers would say nothing — that’s how science works. You can’t entirely predict what will happen in an experiment. … It’s not an experiment if you can predict the outcome.  Why bother doing it??? 

More importantly, Mother Nature is involved and you don’t know what she is going to throw at you.  Which is why simulations are not the complete answer…  They’ll only regurgitate what you told them to do (which is somewhat useful because they implicate together the things that you thought you knew, giving you new insights.).  The challenge is, She’s not involved in the simulation but She is every time you do it…  But that’s life and that’s what makes it exiting and worth living….  The self-driving car project just happened to be one of the most hyped technology experiments of this century, occurring on streets all over the country and run by some of its highest-profile companies….

Self-driving tech is not yet nimble enough to reliably handle the variety of situations human drivers encounter each day. It can usually handle suburban Phoenix, but it can’t duplicate the human chutzpah needed for merging into the Lincoln Tunnel in New York or dashing for an offramp on Highway 101 in Los Angele  … True!   But getting it to work in the Nevada desert and then Pheonix is an enormous accomplishment.  Frank didn’t just roll out of the womb and make it in New York. He also went through “..the blues…” where he could actually sing and be appreciated in the “..small towns…” before he made it in NYC.  It took GM about ’12 seconds’ to realize that the required human chutzpah was way to much to get started and they were outathere.   

“If you look at almost every industry that is trying to solve really, really difficult technical challenges, the folks that tend to be involved are a little bit crazy and little bit optimistic,” he said. “You need to have that optimism to get up every day and bang your head against the wall to try to solve a problem that has never been solved, and it’s not guaranteed that it ever will be solved.”  … Absolutely true. By definition! (I also like to say that you need to be fundamentally stupid; else, you would have known how hard it was going to be and you would have just played golf or video games in your parent’s basement…)

“These cars will be able to operate on a limited set of streets under a limited set of weather conditions at certain speeds,” said Jody Kelman, an executive at Lyft. “We will very safely be able to deploy these cars, but they won’t be able to go that many places.” … Yup!! There is absolutely nothing bad about that.   Go someplace else.   It doesn’t need to be much tougher that “Chandler”. It doesn’t really need to be any “bigger” than “Chandler”.

Waymo needs what Chandler doesn’t have.. Customers … Definition: folks whose quality-of-life can be substantially improved by what Waymo’s Technology can readily deliver today. )

That’s the market side of this initiative that Silicon Valley seems to have forgotten.  Cool Technology doesn’t happen, just because it is Technology.  Technology happens because it is Cool.  Cool is the value proposition, not Technology: else we’d have Segways and people wearing GoogleGlass all over the place. 

Assisted Driving (what I call Self-drivingCars, or, sorry, SAE Level 1 and Level 2, or Tesla AutoPilot) are Cool (That technology delivers Comfort and Convenience to those that can afford and wish to buy cars).  The buyer/customer just relies, for the most part, that engineers are making sure that the Technology works.  Customers demand that the Technology adds to what they already enjoy (Cool).  Their attention span is really short.  The “lipstick” wears off quickly.

For Driverless… not so much Cool in Chandler.  Maybe as a fling, or a tale, but actually, the negatives, largely outweigh the positives, think GoogleGlass.  Few move or stay in Chandler unless you have a car (~70% Households have 2 or more cars). ‘everyone’ has their own car.  So while the Waymo technology might work in Chandler, it doesn’t have enough Waymophiles (customers for whom Waymo substantially improves what they already have for themselves) to make it a Go. 

However, take “Trenton”.  70 % of the households have one or zero cars.  Many more Trentonians have the opportunity to appreciate the incremental value that Waymo will bring to their lives.  They will more easily become Waymophiles if Waymo delivers in Trenton what Waymo has well demonstrated the “Cool” that it can deliver in Chandler.  Even if Waymo shuts down until the few roads that it uses are plowed the few times it snows in Trenton.  Trenton is Waymos’s (Ford/Argo & GM/Cruise as well) “New York“.

In short… While Chandler is an ideal place for Waymo to start getting its Technology working, Trenton is a great place for them to deliver societal value, which is supposed to be the fundamental mission of these Google “X.Projects” … …”
…X’s primary output is breakthrough technologies that have the potential to transform people’s lives and become large, sustainable businesses.

It is time that Waymo begins to take what they’ve accomplished and actually begin to deliver primary output.  “Read more  Hmmmm…  Excellent.  Comments in line above.  Also Listen/Watch PodCast above.  Alain

  Driverless – The VOD of Today?

K. Pyle, May 27, “It was an honor to be on the Smart Driving Car podcast with Cade Metz, Fred Fishkin, and Alain Kornhauser for a thoughtful discussion of what makes driverless different than an Internet app. Inspired by Metz’s recent New York Times article, The Costly Pursuit of Self Driving Cars Continues On and On and On, the focus of the discussion was on the challenges of crossing the chasm to mass adoption of driveless. Metz is also the author of the book, Genius Makers: The Mavericks Who Brought AI to Google, Facebook, and the World.

As alluded to in the above video, driverless is similar to cable television, broadband, or video on demand in the salad days of those markets. All of those technologies had to slog through on a market-by-market basis, learning the nuances of their particular Operational Design Domains (ODD)). …”  “Read more  Hmmmm…  Excellent. Nice to have you contribute your perspective.  Alain

Note:  In comparison with the above three articles, everything else this week is really minor.

  Tesla activates cabin camera for monitoring drivers using Autopilot

N. Bormey, May 28, “…” Read more  Hmmmm… It is about time.  Thank you, Elon.  Think of the fundamental value of “over-the-air”updating… Fixing something “everywhere” as soon as you’ve decided to fix it… “Priceless“!  

  Take a ride now on autonomous shuttles coming to Indy next month

M. Sullivan, May 27, “.New Shuttle Service with No driver…” Read more  Hmmmm… Nice, but why is the “No Driver” part of the story.  If it was really good and really valuable, then it would focus on the incredible value that this mobility was going to offer.  Again, the thinking is that the “Cool” part is the “Technology” instead of the “Mobility” part.  Unless, the “Mobility” is really not all that valuable and the best thing that one has to show is “Technology” hoping that carries the day.  Alain

  Russia’s Sberbank unit unveils self-driving vehicle FLIP

Staff, May 27, “..”, Read more  Hmmmm…Nice, but again, the essence of what would make this a no-brainer and disruptive and game changing and Cool … has…”…so far has only been tested on closed tracks.”  Alain

WIRED  When Driving Is (Partially) Automated, People Drive More

Aarian Marshall, May 27, “… In new research released this month, Hardman and postdoctoral researcher Debapriya Chakraborty suggest that making driving less terrible leads to a natural conclusion: more driving.

…Using data from a survey of 630 Tesla owners, with and without Autopilot, the researchers found that motorists with partial automation drive on average 4,888 more miles per year than similar owners without the feature. The analysis accounted for income and commute, along with the type of community the car owners live in….”  Read more  Hmmmm…Maybe???  Or.. sample bias… Those who drive more have a greater propensity to buy something that delivers added value while driving, than folks who don’t drive much. 

Take a set of People, P{} = PA{} + PB{}.  PA{} drive a lot, PB{}, not so much. Each P{} buys a Tesla.  Some buy with, PA{w}, PB{w}.  The rest buy without, PA{w/o}, PB{w/o}. 

Sum up the distance driven by each P{} before they bought new teslas…

Postulate:  AverageBeforeDistance(PA(w} + PB{w}) >> AverageBeforeDistance(PA(w/o} + PB{w/o})

maybe not the whole 4,884 miles difference, but a heck of a lot of it. And we didn’t even ask about how much they drove after buying the Tesla. 

The real question is how much driving changed after someone bought a Tesla with versus without AutoPilot.  In my quick read of the paper it did not seem to me that they had access to data reporting milegage driven before purchase. Consequently, one can’t really suggest that the (main) reason for the difference is AutoPilot, especially given the self-reflective aspects.  There are many other reasons why some people drive more than others, only one of which is:  driving is/has become easier. 

I hope that I’m wrong here because this study is going to be quoted as gospel by many in order to add weight to their thesis. 

Finally, ‘more travel’ is good because people have improved their quality-of-life more than they would have by traveling less … an option that they explicitly rejected as less beneficial to them when they chose to travel more.   Alain

  Tesla is no longer using radar sensors in Model 3 and Model Y vehicles built in North America

K. Korosec, May 25, “…Tesla Model Y and Model 3 vehicles bound for North American customers are being built without radar, fulfilling a desire by CEO Elon Musk to only use cameras combined with machine learning to support its advanced driver assistance system and other active safety features…..”  Read more  Hmmmm…Wow!! I can’t get away from feeling that this is really dangerous. 

Yes… We don’t have radar in our heads…

And, yes, … I continue to argue that if LiDAR was all that good, God, she would have implanted one right in the middle of out forehead.  I’m with Elon on this one….

And, yes, … Having two independent systems telling you different things doesn’t really help in determining which one is right (if either.)  If you really believe one system is better, go with that system and abandon the other.  The favored system will “always” win the tie breaker; so don’t bother with the redundant one.

Which seem to be Elon’s view here… less is better, especially when ‘the more’ never have a chance at being relevant. 

However, I’m still nervous.  But slowly getting on-board … What I really do NOT want out of my radar is that it cries “Wolf” when there is no “Wolf” and I have to use something else, my cameras, to rest comfortably again.  The radar in this case is superfluous… I should have just used the cameras to tell me there is an object and that I can pass underneath it, no problem, or I need to apply the brakes now!

Radar is really good at giving me approach speed… of fundamental value when I’m trying to not rear-end the car moving in front of me.  However, when that approach speed is essentially the same as my current speed (the object near my lane ahead is stationary), then radar is not really good at also telling me if I can readily pass under, to the side or over that stationary object.  This wouldn’t matter much if one didn’t encountered stationary objects very often. 

Unfortunately, most objects encountered as one drives are stationary (parked cars, trees, telephone poles, buildings,…).  For most, I can readily pass to the side (telephone poles, … ), underneath (overpass, … ) or over (a bump, … ). 

Even though rare, a stationary object, dead ahead, that can’t be passed under is mission critical.  It doesn’t happen often, but it must be addressed.  But if an object above is mistakenly thought to be unpassable under, then brakes come on when they shouldn’t.  Not acceptable!  This “false positive” rate for radar must be such that “SAE members” have decided to address this circumstance by implicitly assumes that is can pass under the object ahead and explicitly disregards the radar information.  This is what happened with Joshua Brown, Elaine Herzberg, Walter HuangWilliam Warner/Everette Talbot, and…. 

That inability to reliably determine that aspect of the stationary object ahead renders Radar to be essentially useless, if not downright costly.

Elon may if fact be making another good, if not brilliant, call here.


More On….

See (confidential)  from (5/15/21).  Then Re-see:

  Pop Up Metro USA Intro 09 2020

H. Posner’77, Sept 13, 2020.  “Creating Value for Light Density Urban Rail Lines”  . See slidesSee video Hmmmm… Simply Brilliant.  Alain

   4th Annual Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit  It is over!!!  Now time to actually do something in the Trentons of this world.  

  Making Driverless Happen – The Road Forward (Updated)

K. Pyle, April 18, ““It’s time to hit the start button,” is Fred Fishkin’s succinct way of summarizing the next steps in the Smart Driving Car journey. Fiskin, along with the LA Times’ Russ Mitchell co-produced the final session of the 2021 Smart Driving Car Summit, Making It Happen – Part 2. This 16th and final session in this multi-month online conference not only provided a summary of the thought-provoking speakers, but also provided food for thought on a way forward to bring mobility to “the Trentons of the World.”

Setting the stage for this final session, Michael Sena provided highlights of the Smart Driving Car journey that started in late December 2020.  Safety, high-quality, and affordable mobility, particularly for those who do not have many options, was a common theme to the 2021 Smart Driving Car Summit. As Princeton Professor Kornhauser, the conference organizer put it,…..” Read more  Hmmmm…. We had another excellent Session.  Thank you for the summary, Ken!  Alain


Ken Pyle‘s Session Summaries of 4th Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit:
15th Session    Making it Happen – Part One: Elected Officials’ Role in Creating a Welcoming Environment in the Trentons of this World

14th Session    What Will Power Safely-driven Cars

13th Session    Improving the Moving of Goods

12th Session    3/18/21 Human-centered Design of Safe and Affordable Driverless Mobility

11th Session    3/11/21  Incentivizing Through Regulation

10th Session    3/04/21  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

Kornhauser & He, April 2021 “Making it Happen:  A Proposal for Providing Affordable, High-quality, On-demand Mobility for All in the “Trentons” of this World”

Orf467F20_FinalReport “Analyzing Ride-Share Potential and Empty Repositioning Requirements of a Nationwide aTaxi System

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

 C’mon Man!  (These folks didn’t get/read the memo)

Sunday Supplement



Calendar of Upcoming Events

The 2021 TRB Annual

Automated Road Transportation Symposium

Virtual on July 12-15, 2021



5th Annual Princeton  SmartDrivingCar Summit

Fall 2021

Live in Person

To be Announced



June 9, 2021, Fully virtual

On the More Technical Side

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


 R. Shields, 22 – 25 March, “Recordings from the conference:

Session 1 plus opening: (Regulatory):
Session 2: (
Session 3:
(Automated Driving Systems):
Session 4:
(Communications for ADS) :

Read more  Hmmmm…  Russ, thank you for sharing!  Alain