Friday, August 13, 2021

31st edition of the 9th year of SmartDrivingCars eLetter

  CMU’s Posner Lays Track for Future of Rail Transit

M Henninger, Aug 11, “A bright orange, battery-powered train breaks the lush green stillness of Rockhill Furnace, Pennsylvania, as it traverses track originally laid in 1876. At the helm in a bright green/yellow safety vest, Meg Richards tweaks the throttle and brakes as the two-car train passes by baseball fields, crosses streets and completes the day’s test run.

Along for the ride, Henry Posner III, the chairman of Railroad Development Corporation (RDC) and an adjunct instructor at Carnegie Mellon University, sits eager to demonstrate his vision for a rail-based mass transit system in the United States. The original concept for Pop-Up Metro — a battery-powered, modular train that can be inserted onto existing infrastructure — evolved in parallel with his Department of History class, The American Railroad-Decline and Renaissance in the Era of Deregulation.

“There are more possibilities for railroads than you might think,” said Posner, who together with his wife, University Trustee Anne Molloy, is also a generous benefactor of CMU. “A lot of urban areas in this country have underutilized freight lines that could also support transit service. People might not have considered these opportunities because it’s been perceived as too expensive, too lengthy and too risky. With Pop-Up Metro, you can do that project quickly on a demonstration basis. You don’t have to spend $100 million.”…” Read more Hmmmm… Watch video.  Fantastic for those not ready for SmartDrivingCars and those that are, inducing yours truly.  Alain

  SmartDrivingCars Pod-Cast Episode 228Zoom-Cast Episode 228 Planes, Trains & Automobiles

F. Fishkin, Aug 13, “Planes, trains and automobiles.    From battery powered electric light rail to the confusion over the difference between driver assistance and self driving to Amazon’s new 1.5 billion dollar U.S. air cargo hub…the focus is on the latest in mobility.   Join Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin for episode 228 of Smart Driving Cars. ” 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


CPUC, Nov 23, ’20, “This decision creates two new autonomous vehicle programs that authorize fare collection (deployment programs), one for drivered autonomous vehicles and the other for driverless autonomous vehicles. Among other requirements, applicants to the existing driverless pilot program and the new driverless deployment program must submit Passenger Safety Plans that outline their plans to protect passenger safety for driverless operations.
In addition, the decision establishes four goals that apply to both the existing pilot programs and the new deployment programs; 1.) Protect passenger safety; 2.) Expand the benefits of AV technologies to all of Californians, including people with disabilities; 3.) Improve transportation options for all, particularly for disadvantaged communities and low-income communities; and 4.) Reduce greenhouse gas emissions, criteria air pollutants, and toxic air contaminants, particularly in disadvantaged communities. The Commission will collect data to monitor permit holders’ progress toward each of the goals….” Read more Hmmmm…  I included this one because I messed up the link to the paper. …

Sorry for not reporting this sooner, and thank you Doug Coventry for bringing it to my attention.  It is must reading for any jurisdiction making regulations regarding the provision of autonomousTaxi mobility. 

Its four goals are laudable, especially the 3rd, even if it may end up violating part of the 4th.  Moreover, the clauses of the 3rd should be re-ordered to be: … Improve transportation options for disadvantaged communities, low income communities and those with disabilities, and, if possible, for all… This also reduces the goals to 3 important ones, … safety, the environment and improved mobility for those that have been left behind by the personal automobile

Of course, one wants to improve mobility for those that drive their own personal car; however, that is a entrenched well-served set of customers that are not readily going to flip from driving their car to something that isn’t really better and may largely be perceived as no cigar.  Certainly, the public sector should in no way use public resources to give car drivers yet another good but inferior choice as was done with many public transportation investments that actually provide inferior mobility to those that were to be attract as customers. These systems are rebuffed by many that they were intended to be taken off the road for the trips they already make, let alone deliver quality-of-life benefits by providing mobility to new places that they couldn’t previously access. 

A properly designed Operational Design Domain focused on from and where low income communities want to go is, to my mind, where the best opportunity exits for these safe, environmentally responsible systems .  In such ODDs these driverless aTaxis can actually improve quality-of-life; and thus, deserve accommodation and promotion by public agencies such as CPUC.  Alain

Do You Know How Well Your Car Drives Itself?

S. Carty, Aug. 11, “You don’t have to go deep down an internet rabbit hole to find evidence that humans will push boundaries.

The relatively recent introduction of semi-autonomous technology in cars has led to all sorts of documented bad behavior, from folks putting water bottles on their steering wheel to drivers letting Jesus take the wheel as they climb into another seat. The former can trick a car into thinking a driver’s hands are where they should be; the latter is wildly dangerous….

But ultimately, people will continue doing stupid things for stupid prizes like adrenaline rushes and internet infamy. “Any safety feature sort of puts constraints on the driver or the vehicle,” says Mindell. “People will try to push those limits, even if it’s for no other reason than making YouTube videos.”  Read more Hmmmm…  Since drivers will continue to try to mis-behave and use products irresponsibly, it is up to the products themselves to protect themselves from such misbehaviors.  These are supposedly such intelligent products, they should also be sufficiently intelligent to sense that they are being misused and either stop the misbehavior or turn off the functionality that is being misused.  If children play with toys inappropriately, some of us just took away the toy.  And only gave it back when the value of the proper enjoyment of the toy to the kid was greater than that gained by the mis-use of the toy.

I’m confident that Tesla can add to AutoPilot sufficient intelligence for it to know when it is being mis-used.  What Elon needs to do is disable its use when it is misused… Does one really need to go faster than 14 mph over the speed limit?  Does one really need to pass on the right?   Does one really need to completely space out when behind the wheel (or yoke)?  One MUST stay in the driver’s seat paying attention to what is going on.  Alain

  It’s Not Just Tesla: All Other Driver-Assist Systems Work without Drivers, Too

D. Vanderwerp, Aug 11, “Most new cars have very similar driver-assistance capabilities. Not that a consumer would know, given all the names automakers attach to these aids and the distinct indicators each employs. Lane-keeping or centering assistance uses one or more cameras to detect lane markings and applies appropriate nudges to the steering to keep the vehicle between the lines. Adaptive cruise control in most cases uses radar to track vehicles ahead and adjusts your car’s speed to the flow of traffic. Together these two features can steer, accelerate, and brake a car. The best examples might even lull drivers into believing the computers are capable of handling the driving for extended periods. That’s a mistake. None can be trusted to mind the road and avoid obstacles to the point that a driver is not required.  .”  Read more Hmmmm…  A very good article.  As I commented above, these systems must become much more intelligent about prohibiting mis-use.  It is fine that Car & Driver did all of this on a “closed course”.  The systems have good enough GPS receivers to know that they are on closed courses and not public highways and could readily let those that are not on public highways do as they wish; however, on public highways it should be much more difficult to misbehave.  Impossible to completely control as there will always be someone who thinks that they are being cute enough, but that needs to be made much more of a rarity. Alain

  For Many, Hydrogen Is the Fuel of the Future. New Research Raises Doubts

H. Hitachi, Aug 12, “It is seen by many as the clean energy of the future. Billions of dollars from the bipartisan infrastructure bill have been teed up to fund it.

But a new peer-reviewed study on the climate effects of hydrogen, the most abundant substance in the universe, casts doubt on its role in tackling the greenhouse gas emissions that are the driver of catastrophic global warming.

The main stumbling block: Most hydrogen used today is extracted from natural gas in a process that requires a lot of energy and emits vast amounts of carbon dioxide. Producing natural gas also releases methane, a particularly potent greenhouse gas….” Read more  Hmmmm…  The abstract of the paper concludes: “…Our analysis assumes that captured carbon dioxide can be stored indefinitely, an optimistic and unproven assumption. Even if true though, the use of blue hydrogen appears difficult to justify on climate grounds…”  Whew!!! Alain

  Don’t buy the latest climate-change alarmist

B. Lomorg, Aug 9, “The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change just released its latest climate report, and reactions from politicians and media pundits could not have been more predictable.

Fitting the apocalyptic narrative many have spun lately, the always-breathless Guardian literally summarized this scientific report as finding mankind “guilty as hell” of “climate crimes of humanity.” (Needless to say, the report never says any such things.)

UN Secretary-General António Guterres called the findings a “code red for humanity,” saying we can only avert catastrophe by acting in the next couple of months. Of course, the United Nations has a long history of claiming catastrophe is right around the corner: The first UN environment director claimed half a century ago that we had just 10 years left, and the then-head of the IPCC insisted in 2007 that we had just five years left.

In contrast to the hyperventilating media, the report is actually serious and sensible (and very, very long). It doesn’t surprise, since it is a summary of already-published studies, yet it reconfirms that global warming indeed is real and a problem.

But it also highlights how much one-sided thinking takes place in the climate conversation. Since the heat dome in June, there has been a lot of writing about more heat deaths. And the IPCC confirms that climate change indeed has increased heatwaves. However, the report equally firmly, if virtually unacknowledged, tells us that global warming means “the frequency and intensity of cold extremes have decreased.” 

This matters because globally, many more people die from cold than from heat. A new study in the highly respected journal Lancet shows that about half a million people die from heat per year, but 4.5 million people die from cold…..” Read more  Hmmmmm….  None of this is easy.   We still have a lot of hard work to do.  Alain

  Watch Plus Testing Level 4 Autonomous Truck without a Driver

J. Ramey,Aug. 11, “Autonomous tech developer Plus has recently completed a real-world demonstration of its Level 4 autonomous truck technology on a traffic-filled highway. The company tested the truck without a driver behind the wheel, and also without any other remote operator who could take control of the truck if needed. The test took place on the Wufengshan highway in the business hub of the Yangtze Delta region, with Plus being the first company to be granted a special permit to test Level 4 vehicles in the country….”  …” Read more Hmmmm… See video.  Whoa!!! Wait a minute… totally irresponsible… “… tested… without driver behind the wheel, and also without any other remote operator who could take control of the truck if needed…”  If true…

1.  totally irresponsible because this was a test. Its results would have been just as valid had there been no disengagements by the “driver” even if something unexpected happened.  Plus does not earn more points by irresponsibly not having an attendant on-board ready to take over and save the day should something bad begin to happen. Hopefully no one else does tests this way in the US or Europe.  It’s not OK in China, either.

2.  Good thing this took place in China; although, not really… Plus was totally irresponsible for doing this in China as well as everywhere else. 

3.  I’ve been on traffic-filled highways in China.  The video shows a truck with some traffic.  “traffic-filled” is unadulterated hype.  The video actually looks staged.   Only a few other cars around.  No other trucks.  Truck passing to the right of “left-lane hangers”.  Again, my limited experience of riding in China, is that in light traffic conditions some Chinese drivers drive very fast and, it is not New Jersey… very few “left lane hangers”. 

4.  Steering wheel is very jerky.  Is that the way professional truckers steer?  Seems like some improvements are needed in their lateral control algorithm. 

5.  Hard to believe that the Chinese government would really let them test like this unless it was staged.  Alain

  Take a look at the forked road in Yosemite that tricked Tesla’s autopilot system

G. Kay, Aug.. 12, “… The driver, known on Reddit as BBFLG, posted about his experience in a Reddit thread. He said his Tesla Model X crashed into a boulder when it tried to navigate the forked road. ..” Read more  Hmmmm…  Very nice that this person posts warnings where AutoPilot may not work as well as expected, so as to help Tesla improve AutoPilot and contribute to the message that AutoPilot requires that the driver remain alert and ready to override mistakes that AutoPilot may, and surely will, make. 


But how bad of a driver do you need to be? or how clueless do you need to be? to be approaching the pictured fork at 25 mph and improperly negotiate that fork, or have plenty of time to grad a hold of the wheel and save the day!????   That doesn’t completely absolve Tesla because its automated Emergency Braking System should have seen the bolder ahead and should have stopped the Tesla from hitting it, irrespective of AutoPilot/FSD/orAnythingElse!!!  C’mon Elon/Tesla, get that AEB system working properly.  It’s giving you a very bad name!!!  You MUST stop Teslas from crashing into stationary objects!!!!!!! C’mon, you can do this!!   Try leading in that for a change.  Moreover, this article is completely Click Bait.  Alain

  Motional to begin testing driverless vehicles on streets of LA

J. Daleo, Aug, 11,”… Autonomous vehicle (AV) company Motional, a joint venture between Hyundai Motor Group (OCTUS: HYMTF) and global technology company Aptiv (NYSE: APTV), announced an expansion of its West Coast operations, including new investments in an operations facility and road testing in Los Angeles, a new San Francisco Bay Area office, and a doubling of its California team’s size.

Motional has seen rapid growth over the past 18 months, during which time the company has finalized its joint venture, extended its operations in Asia to Seoul, South Korea, and grown its headcount by nearly 150%. Looking ahead, the company is set to begin public testing and road mapping in Los Angeles this month with its new robotaxi, the Hyundai IONIQ 5. It’s the company’s first round of testing in the city, complementing ongoing trials in Boston, Pittsburgh, Las Vegas and Singapore….”  Read more Hmmmm…  Nice; however, it is still a “gonna” and will have attendants on board, so it is still testing, not doing.  Hopefully their ODD will include Watts and not just the “Brentwoods of LA”.  Alain

  Automated Vehicle Systems Outlook, 2021 Update

D. Hall, July 26, “Listen to Alain Kornhauser, Ph.D., Faculty Chair of Autonomous Vehicle Engineering at Princeton University and one of the authors of Automated Vehicle Systems Outlook, 2021 Update discuss this research report with host, R. Dale Hall, FSA, CERA, MAAA, CFA, SOA Managing Director of Research.”  Read more Hmmmm… Nice, of course. 😁  Alain

  Survey Cites Cautious Consumer Acceptance of AVs

J.  Irwin, Aug. 11, “… Almost half of consumers in the U.S., U.K. and Germany believe it will be more than three years before fully functioning autonomous vehicles are available, a survey shows.

The survey by Klas, a provider of edge intelligence solutions, also shows nearly 20% of respondents would be willing to pay an additional $10,000 to obtain AV technology….”  Read more Hmmmm… Another essentially useless survey because it is unlikely that the survey properly described “fully functioning autonomous vehicle” or what “available” means, else 100% of those surveyed would have said “>3 years”!

If available means “the next time you are considering buying a new car, the availability of a car that can take your 12 year old to little league practice and bring her home all by herself, is a buyable option on your list”… No one will say… anything but “> 3 years”.  Most will probably say… “not in my lifetime”.  I’ll say… “not in my kid’s lifetimes”! 

Sure.. I can buy a Tesla today.But a Tesla is not any where near a “fully functioning ” anything.  Again… “not in my kid’s lifetimes”! Alain

  Daimler and Bosch to end joint “Robotaxi” development project

M. Merano, Aug. 11, “Daimler has stated that its partnership with Bosch to develop self-driving taxis is coming to an end. The German car manufacturer and Bosch confirmed the news with Süddeutsche Zeitung, a German publication.

According to Daimler, the two companies are in the midst of ending their joint project, dubbed “Athena.” Bosch also confirmed that discussions for the end of the joint venture were being held. While the partnership appears to be concluding, the companies’ individual ventures into self-driving systems don’t seem to be at an end.

Daimler reportedly told the German publication that both parties agreed to “focus on their individual development paths in the future in the highly complex development environment of fully automated and driverless driving in an urban environment.” Inside sources familiar with the inner workings of Project Athena have also reported that Daimler employees who had been working on the project have already been assigned to other teams. …”  Read more Hmmmm… Not the best news about the future of autonomousTaxis.  Given that aTaxis are fundamentally disruptive to Daimler’s and Bosch’s current markets and they each have much more to gain by making Automated Emergency Braking and Intelligent Driver Assist systems (Safe-drivingCar and Self-drivingCar & Truck technology).  Driverless aTaxis (and driverless Trucks) are way too hard of a distraction to them.  Likely nothing but negative RoIs for them.  So, for them this makes a lot of sense.  They really have no chance of being among the few winners in this dog fight.  Alain

  Amazon’s $1.5 billion US air cargo hub is open for business

K. Korosec, Aug. 11, “Amazon’s $1.5 billion air cargo hub in Northern Kentucky opened Wednesday, the latest effort by the e-commerce giant to connect a network of 40 sites and control all aspects of delivery as demand for speed and convenience accelerates.

The Amazon Air Hub operations, located at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, will be the center of its U.S. cargo network. The hub opened after more than four years of planning and construction. Amazon said the U.S. hub will eventually operate a dozen flights per day and process millions of packages every week….”  Read more  Hmmmm…  Impressive.  Alain

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

Sunday Supplement



More On….

Re-see:    Pop Up Metro USA Intro 09 2020

H. Poser’77, Sept 13, 2020.  “Creating Value for Light Density Urban Rail Lines”  . See slides,  See 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 SlidesGlenn 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

Calendar of Upcoming Events

5th Annual Princeton  SmartDrivingCar Summit 

Fall 2021

Live in Person

Tentaively: November 2 (evening) -> 4, 2021

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: (Cybersecurity):
Session 3: (Automated Driving Systems):
Session 4: (Communications for ADS) :

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