Sunday, October 24, 2021

40st  edition of the 9th year of SmartDrivingCars eLetter

  Amazon’s self-driving cars are coming to downtown Seattle. Safety advocates are not pleased

K. Long,  Oct 19, “… But an announcement Monday from Amazon’s self-driving car unit Zoox that it will soon start testing its autonomous vehicles in downtown Seattle drew criticism from transportation-safety advocates. The early promise of the technology, they said, has been overshadowed by a string of crashes and near-misses, due in part to lax oversight of the rapidly growing sector…” Read more Hmmmm…  First news out of the box from the home town paper is this.  So discouraging. You just can’t win. 😭    Alain

SmartDrivingCars Pod-Cast Episode 238, Zoom-Cast Episode 238 w/Chunk Mui, Futurist

F. Fishkin,Oct 18, “With his new book “A Brief History of a Perfect Future..Inventing the World We Can Proudly Leave Our Kids by 2050“,  author and futurist Chunka Mui informs us how rapidly advancing technology can solve many problems including mobility and transportation.  The questions?  And a surprise offer from Chunka (keep watching) …in Episode 238 of Smart Driving Cars with Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser & co-host Fred Fishkin.   Or you can listen to episode 238 of Smart Driving 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:  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

  Tesla fans cry foul as Biden administration moves toward Autopilot regulations

M. McFarland,Oct. 22. “But President Joe Biden’s administration appears to want to change that, with the appointment of Missy Cummings, a Duke University engineering professor who studies autonomous systems and has been critical of Tesla and the federal government’s handling of driver-assist systems like Autopilot. Cummings will be a senior advisor for safety at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Government’s laissez faire approach to these increasingly common technologies has long led to calls for better safeguards and action in the wake of headline-grabbing deaths. Cummings’s appointment is the latest indication of the Biden administration’s desire to step in….  ” Read more Hmmmm… This is an excellent appointment.  She has been appropriately critical and certainly has the resume for the appointment.  Congratulations, Professor Cummings.  Hopefully you’ll help make AEB mandatory and NOT turn-offable!  (See below)

Here is what Dirty Tesla  posts…”It seems some people are getting AEB on the highway 😬 if using V10.3, turn off AEB in the settings. You must do this before the start of every drive. Rollback should happen soon

No wonder Teslas are crashing into stationary objects…  the AEB is turn-offable and Tesla Bros are recommending that it be turned off.  Seems as if turning off AEB is a premeditated action by Tesla drivers.  Premeditation of something bad happening is not an accusation one wished to face.  Turning off AEB may be OK for the best drivers when they are driving.  It is NOT in any way, shape or form acceptable should some FSD, AutoPilot or any other automated driving system be driving.  Plus, If Dirty Tesla recommends actions that lead to bad outcomes, can Dirty Tesla be dragged into the subsequent litigation?

Missy/NHTSA you MUST force Tesla to at least disengage both FSD and AutoPilot if AEB is disengaged.  How can FSD or AutoPilot work well enough to be put in the hands of consumers if the AEB is so flawed that consumers want to turn it off.  Who put that cart ahead of that horse?   Not a pretty sight. 

In all of these Tesla crashes with stationary object…  truck trailer stalled across lanes ahead, parked fire truck, emergency vehicle, police car, tree, … was it the AEB that  failed to work properly? Or was it that Tesla and/or SAE members approved AutoPilot/FSD designs that enable the AEB to be turned off without without also disengaging AutoPilot and FSD.  Hopefully this is NOT the case with GM’s SuperCruise, Daimler’s Dystronic Plus, Subaru’s EyeSight, …” 

Allowing the AEB to be disengaged is totally irresponsible of Tesla.  It is one thing to not have a supervisory system making sure that the driver remains engaged in the driving task and is prepared to intervene should AuotPilot/FSD fail to drive properly.  It is totally irresponsible to have the AEB  not engaged when these systems are driving. 

Missy/NHTSA, please fix this!  Teslas are really good cars; however, this is fundamentally irresponsible of Tesla.   Alain

  Lyft’s first-ever safety report reveals over 4,000 assaults between 2017-2019

A. Hawkins,  Oct 22, “Ten people were killed in physical altercations and over 4,000 people were assaulted during Lyft rides from 2017-2019, the company revealed in its first-ever safety report. Also during that period, 105 people died in fatal vehicle crashes involving a Lyft car.

The report was long overdue, coming at least two years after Lyft originally said that it would be published. It represents the first set of publicly available data regarding the safety of Lyft’s ride-hailing platform and how it compares to national US averages. The company is currently facing multiple lawsuits from victims of sexual assault and rape….

While the numbers appear to paint a dark picture of the ride-hailing industry, Lyft insists that serious incidents are “statistically rare” in its vehicles. “The type of safety incidents detailed in this report occurred on 0.0002 percent of rides,”…” Read more Hmmmm…  This put a lot of things in perspective.  It says.. in that 3 year period, Lyft delivered About 20 Billion person trips.  On a typical day in the US (pre Covid) there are about 1.1B person trips or about 400B in a year.   So over those 3 years,  Lyft served about 0.2% of person trips.  That is a non-trivial accomplishment, but ride-hailing is a very niche business.  These are human drivers paying attention and not misbehaving.  This is actually pretty good compared to the general population of drivers, as is reported.  That certainly must have made releasing the report much easier.  Alain

  ‘Driverless’ Tesla crash in Texas wasn’t actually driverless, NTSB says

A. Hawkins,  Oct 22, “Now, the agency has released a new preliminary report further refuting the claim that the driver seat was unoccupied at the time of the crash. According to the document:

With the assistance of the [event data recorder] module manufacturer, the NTSB Recorders Laboratory repaired and downloaded the fire-damaged EDR. Data from the module indicate that both the driver and the passenger seats were occupied, and that the seat belts were buckled when the EDR recorded the crash. The data also indicate that the driver was applying the accelerator in the time leading up to the crash; application of the accelerator pedal was found to be as high as 98.8 percent. The highest speed recorded by the EDR in the 5 seconds leading up to the crash was 67 mph.,”…” Read more Hmmmm…  Read the NTSN Preliminary Report.  The question still remains.   Why didn’t the AEB prevent the crash into the tree?  Was it disengaged?  Does Tesla automatically disengage the the AEB once a certain speed is reached? Why doesn’t Tesla first develop a good AEB before allowing the accelerator to be put to the floor and achieve speeds of 67mph in residential streets?  Bad things happen if one misbehaves while driving these things.  Alain

  Zoox Isn’t Afraid Of Getting Wet

E. Shilling, Oct. 19, “Autonomous car testing is usually done in dry climates — Arizona and Nevada, mostly — for the simple reason that, when it rains, snows, sleets, or otherwise isn’t sunny and dry, that could pose problems for cars with no human drivers, possibly delicate sensors, and software that may not know how to react. But Zoox, one of the startups chasing the robotaxi dream, said it would start testing its autonomous tech in Seattle, precisely because it rains a lot there. If these cars are ever going to be a thing, they’ll have to deal with it eventually in any case.

The cars Zoox will be testing in Seattle are not actually Zoox’s own car but Toyota Highlanders equipped with Zoox tech, according to Bloomberg. The testing will complement testing Zoox is already doing in Las Vegas and California. This, to me, suggests that Zoox is at least willing to confront the fact that autonomous cars will have to know how to handle weather, which isn’t everyone….

Despite Amazon’s money and the new testing, Zoox, like every other autonomous startup, still seems very, very far from deploying a fleet of robotaxis, like years and years away. Or at least a robotaxi fleet that can be deployed anywhere you ask it. Just wait till Zoox starts testing in snow and ice.”  Read more Hmmmm… A slightly more positive presentation.  But, just like the NY Times, you have to find something that isn’t perfect.  What is this about… “… Despite Amazon’s money and the new testing, Zoox, like every other autonomous startup, still seems very, very far from deploying a fleet of robotaxis, like years and years away. Or at least a robotaxi fleet that can be deployed anywhere you ask it. Just wait till Zoox starts testing in snow and ice… ”

Since when is the issue about … “deploying anywhere you ask it…”  Sounds like SAE talk about “Level 5”.  Not only will if be “years & years away”… it will likely be never.  I can’t take my conventional car anywhere anytime.   Everything has limitations.

Zoox, nor anyone else, has ever stated anything about “anywhere”. There is always an Operational Design Domain. If there’s snow on the found, shovel it.  If there is ice, melt it.  None of us can go anywhere today unless those things are done.  Look at what happens in Atlanta… Incredible Images Of Atlanta Essentially Shutting Down After 2 Inches Of Snow Cut it out. Alain

  Plug-in cars are the future. The grid isn’t ready.

W. Englund, Oct 13, ” On a good day, a fair wind blows off Lake Ontario, the long-distance transmission lines of New York state are not clogged up and yet another heat wave hasn’t pushed the urban utilities to their limits. On such a day, power from the two big wind turbines in Vaughn Moser’s hayfield in this little village join the great flow of electricity from upstate as it courses through the bottleneck west of Albany and then heads south, where some portion of it feeds what is currently the country’s largest electric vehicle charging station, on the edge of Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood.

There, at an installation opened earlier this year by a car-sharing company called Revel, on the site of the old Pfizer pharmaceutical headquarters, this carbon-free power can help juice up a whole fleet of sleek vehicles that aim to leave the internal combustion engine behind.

But that’s on a good day. Even now — before this state and the country’s grand ambitions for an electric future are fully in motion — there are too many bad ones.

Seventy-four times last year, the wind across Upstate New York dropped so low that for stretches of eight hours or more barely any electricity was produced. Nearly half the year, the main transmission line feeding the metropolitan area was at full capacity, so that no more power could be fed into it. Congestion struck other, smaller lines, too, and when that happened some of the wind turbine blades upstate fell still….”  Read more Hmmmm…  This a a non-trivial challenge.  Energy is the fundamental enabler.  As Chunka Mui points out during the SDC ZoomCast, getting marginal energy costs towards creates enormous opportunities to improve the environment and quality-of-life. 

Again, just look at today’s Lawrence Livermore Energy Chart.  The transport sector consumes a substantial amount of energy .  Nice to have renewables supply that energy; however, relative to the amount that renewables currently contribute it will be non-trivial for renewables to scale to serve growth is the industried they currently enable.  Enabling them to begin to pitch in enabling part of the transport sector is an enormously heavy lift.  Alain

  Essential Infrastructure for CAVs

O.  Tengilimoglu, Oct. 20, “I am a PhD student at the Institute for Transport Studies, University of Leeds, under the supervision of Professor Oliver Carsten and Dr Zia Wadud. As part of my research, I am reaching out to experts with knowledge in the field to get their views on the essential infrastructural (physical, digital, operational etc.) requirements with regard to Connected and Automated Vehicles (CAVs) operation during their initial period of implementation.

The study aims to develop a conceptual framework for assessing the suitability of road infrastructure based on its capacity to accept automation and connectivity of vehicles as well as physical properties.
I would be grateful if you could spare about 15 minutes to take part in the anonymous survey and share your views. The survey is available online at: …..”  Read more Hmmmm… I encourage you to help out here.  Alain

  GM’s Postcard from Fantasyland

R. Lanctot, Oct. 22, “In the midst of what may well be the greatest electric vehicle debacle of the nascent EV era, General Motors put on a happy face telling investors two weeks ago that all things EV and autonomous were going swimmingly to plan with gumdrops and sugar plums coming on the road ahead. GM claimed before-end-of-year availability for the absurd 1,000-horse-power, 4.5-ton Hummer EV and late 2022 availability for the Silverado EV.

Meanwhile, the General is facing a $1.9B financial hit* from buying back (or repairing) 141,000 Bolt EVs – a reality that GM CEO Mary Barra skirted in a Fox Business interview by referring to “cell replacements” for Bolt EV owners. Those comments clearly sidestepped the reality of a growing number of Bolt owners seeking outright buybacks of their cars after being told not to park them in their garages and discovering their vehicles were also prohibited from some public covered parking facilities including those at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. (*Worth noting battery supplier has accepted responsibility for the battery failure and is compensating GM to the tune of $1.9B – all the more reason for GM to accelerate customer compensation.)… ”  Read more Hmmmm… Nothing is easy.  Alain

  SoftBank-Backed Flock Freight Raises $215 Million

L. O’Neal, Oct. 20, “SoftBank-backed Flock Freight raised $215 million in a new funding round supporting its load-matching technology to help shippers pool their goods on trucks to bypass freight hubs.

The new funding, to be announced Wednesday, will help the six-year-old company hire 300 more employees next year and invest in its shipment-pooling algorithm and machine-learning technology, upping the number of shipments it can process per minute…. ”  Read more Hmmmm… I sold ALK way too early, but at least, I sleep well at night.😎  I was never good at using OPM. Alain

  Critics and supporters come out in force to discuss SpaceX’s plans to launch from South Texas

L. Grush,  Oct. 21, “This week, a vibrant mixture of supporters and critics voiced their opinions about SpaceX’s launch operations in Boca Chica, Texas during virtual town halls — input that will be considered as the government decides the company’s future in the state. More than one hundred people took the time to give their thoughts during the meetings on Monday and Wednesday, with opinions ranging from effusive praise of the company to concerns over SpaceX’s impact on the region’s communities and environment….

However, plenty of nearby residents were adamantly opposed to SpaceX’s plans. Common complaints revolved around access to the nearby beach. Roads are frequently closed in Boca Chica to accommodate major testing and test launches. “They’re not considering us,” a resident said. “My personal experience having to want to go to the beach and the road is always closed, where they have promised that we will not be affected.”

Others denounced the debris that has fallen on the ground during major test failures. One test launch in March ended in an explosion that sprayed chunks of metal and rocket parts across the terrain surrounding the Boca Chica launch site. Apart from that, noise and rumblings from successful launch tests were also a big point of contention….” Read more As ZooX and Missy are finding, even Elon’s biggest vision is under attack.  Alain

  Tesla Notches Record $1.6 Billion Quarterly Net As It Readies Global Production Push

A. Ohnsman, Oct. 20, “Tesla’s robust deliveries of electric Model Ys and 3s helped the Elon Musk-led carmaker post record net income of $1.6 billion in the third quarter, despite component sourcing headaches that have slowed the entire global auto industry, as it prepares to open massive new plants in Germany and Texas.

The company said earnings per share for the three months that ended on September 30 rose more than fourfold from a year ago to $1.44 on a GAAP basis or to $2.09, excluding certain items. Consensus analyst expectations were for $1.67. Quarterly revenue was $13.8 billion, up 57% from a year ago and in line with analysts’ expectations of as much as $13.9 billion. Sales regulatory credits to other automakers, a long-time source of free money, dropped 30% to $279 million…”  Read more Hmmmm… Not bad! Alain

  Opinion: I lead America’s top-ranked university. Here’s why these rankings are a problem.

C. Eisgruber, Oct. 21, “My university has now topped the U.S. News & World Report rankings for 11 years running. Given Princeton’s success, you might think I would be a fan of the list….”  Read more Hmmmm… 😎 Alain

5th Annual SmartDrivingCars Summit:  Deployment of Equitable Affordable, High Quality Mobility throughout New Jersey

Date Change:   Thursday evening, May 5, through Saturday May 7, 2022.  Live in Trenton, New Jersey. 

“Everything” was going well wrt the 5th Summit Nov 18->20; however…

Time is very short, we must focus on the election and the realities of where we remain with Covid really put cold water on some aspects of our vision for November.

Consequently. I’ve become convinced that it is very much better, that we take our time and reschedule for the first week on May 2022 rather than rush for what isn’t as good as could be. 

By May we will have received responses to our upcoming RfP for “Equitable … Mobility in Trenton”.  We will thus have a better idea on “Who”,  from the “What & How” communities, “Want & Can” Deploy “Equitable … Mobility” starting in Trenton with real expectations of scaling throughout New Jersey.

In May the 5th Summit can better achieve its fundamental purpose by allowing all of us in New Jersey to better learn from others around the world  the “Whats & Hows” and have the possible “Whos” get a better appreciation of the “Equitable … Mobility” desires of Trentonians and other New Jersians. 

Rescheduling the Summit to be between the RfP and the RfP steps of our Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) Deployment Process, will better enable our Community Engagement initiative to shape our ultimate  deployment.  We’ll thus deliver even better mobility equitably and best improve quality-of-life in Trenton and throughout New Jersey.   

Please pencil into your calendar the new dates of  May 5 (Thursday evening) though May 7 (Trenton Mobility Festival Saturday). 😎   Please let me know if these dates work for you.

Sorry about the delay, but many will be relieved by this change. Plus, early May is really nice in NJ.😁


This 5th Summit is inspired by the many levels of public-sector, community and neighborhood welcoming and support that now exists in New Jersey for the deployment of equitable, affordable, high-quality mobility. This is now made possible by automated driving technology that is especially targeted to serve those who, for whatever reason, don’t have access to their own personal car.

The Princeton SDC Summits were initiated in 2017 to provide a venue for the open discussion of how technology, in particular automation, can be shaped to improve mobility of people and goods between and within cities. Early on, we realized that this form of mobility could easily provide yet another alternative to those who are fortunate enough to enjoy one or many high quality mobility options.

But, more importantly, it became obvious that substantial improvement in quality-of-life and equitable mobility can readily be made available to the un-served and under-served.  Those who cannot drive themselves, cannot afford the transport alternatives that exist for them, or who live in areas where, for either economic or other reasons, neither public nor private desirable forms of transport are offered.  Furthermore, such initial Operational Design Domains (OODs) can be readily expanded and replicated to allow the vast investments continuing to be made in this technology to actually yield their envisioned societal and financial benefits.

The recently completed 4th Summit set the groundwork for these initial deployments to benefit under-served communities. Communities with many households having access to one or fewer cars and with challenged transit alternatives. We concluded the 4th Summit by envisioning a deployment throughout Trenton, NJ, a community where 70% of the households have access to one or fewer cars.

We believe that Trenton is a perfect ODD to begin to deliver Equitable, Affordable, High-quality Mobility, in addition to being environmentally responsible, safe and comfortable.

The opportunity to expand throughout Mercer County and replicate this deployment scenario throughout the State exists.  This deployment will  serves as a blueprint for the future for many other “Trentons” of this world.

The groundwork set by the 4th Summit and the NJ Autonomous Vehicle Task Force has enabled us to create a “most welcoming environment”  in New Jersey for creating a Public-Private Partnership to deliver this enhanced mobility to the residents of Trenton and all New Jersians. The 5th Summit will focus directly on deployment in Trenton and will take place in Trenton. We also envision its expansion throughout Mercer County and its replication in and around New Jersey’s other major cities.

The Technical portion of the summit will be in the morning, through lunch, of Friday, May 6 and Saturday, May 7.

Sessions will be free of charge but will require advance registration, as seating will be limited.

The Societal portion focused on engaging the customers of this form of mobility, featuring descriptions, discussions, interactions, exhibits and  technology demonstrations, will be free and open to the public, with preference given to Trenton residents on Friday and residents of Mercer County and the rest of New Jersey on Saturday.  Link to Sponsorship Opportunities Link to Draft Program  Link to Registration

 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 

Spring 2022

Thursday (evening), May 5, Welcome Reception (Registration required)

Friday, May 6, Equitable Mobility Innovation Forum (Registration required)

Saturday, May 7, Equitable Mobility Festival (Open to All)

Trenton, NJ
Live in Person

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