Saturday, November 4, 2021

42th edition of the 9th year of SmartDrivingCars eLetter


  Tesla’s handling of braking bug in public self-driving test raises alarms

R. Mitchell, Nov. 3, “Tesla pushed out a new version of the experimental software suite it calls Full Self-Driving to approved drivers Oct. 23 through an “over the air” update.

The next morning, Tesla learned the update had altered cars’ behavior in a way the company’s engineers hadn’t intended.

In a recall report to federal safety regulators Friday, Tesla put the problems like this: The company discovered a software glitch that “can produce negative object velocity detections when other vehicles are present.”

In everyday English, Tesla’s automatic braking system was engaging for no apparent reason, causing cars to rapidly decelerate as they traveled down the highway, putting them at risk of being rear-ended. Forward collision warning chimes were ringing too, even though there was no impending collision to warn about…


Tesla’s response to the glitch raises its own concerns. While its engineers worked to fix the software, they turned off automatic braking and forward collision warning for the software testers over the weekend, the company said. …”  Read more  Hmmmm… At least the AEB was on this time around.  I still contend that previous versions FSD (and autoPilot) had AEB turned off because of AEB’s propensity for false-positives.  Tesla’s problems/challenges is today NOT with FSD.  It is with AEB.  It must solve the AEB’s false-positive problem BEFORE it goes back trying to improve FSD.  A satisfactory AEB is a necessary precursor to any FSD.  To date, Tesla has put the cart before the horse.  It’s not pretty! 


Emergency braking happens because weird things happen while driving.  Disrespecting the system that is supposed to save you when weird things happen is very short-sighted.  Explicitly turning it off is totally irresponsible and potentially criminal.   Alain

SmartDrivingCars Pod-Cast Episode 240, Zoom-Cast Episode 240 AEB&FSD

F. Fishkin, Nov. 6, “Tesla, full self driving and the need for a fix.   Cruise goes driverless in San Francisco,  Waymo Driver heads to NYC while Aurora debuts on Wall Street.    That and more in episode 240 of Smart Driving Cars with Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin. “

   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

  Can Tesla Full Self Driving Drive YOU Home From Work? Uh… No

Dirty Tesla, “…” Read more Hmmmm… Step through and watch  from t=272 to about t=286.

(Disregard that the display is delayed by possibly a half a second (hopefully this is because Dirty Tesla did not properly synchronize his camera footage with that of FSD’s in-car display; else, what is taking so much time in the display pipeline?)

Note that the 1st crossing vehicle is not displayed @ t=278 when it is tiredly in front of Dirty Tesla’s car.  This display behavior happens again with the  pickup crossing @ t =283  , and again at t=286 with another pickup.    Why is it consistently unimportant for a crossing object (one in which its relative speed in the cross direction is non-small and its relative speed in my heading direction is very similar to my speed) to not be in the display pipeline when that object is directly in front of my car?  Yet that object is displayed if it is to the left or to the right of my heading.   Is this symptomatic that FSD disregards objects dead ahead whose relative speed in the heading similar to my speed?  Stationary objects in the lane ahead have this characteristic! 

@ t=347  the driver is puzzled as to why FSD is braking for a very short while… Well it got spooked by the approaching car in the opposite direction.  I might have also tapped the brakes or lifter my foot off the gas (electric… sorry) at that time.

It is surprising that overhead signs and overpasses are not displayed. @ t=429.  I’m sure these objects are detected.  They are directly in the lane ahead. Their relative speed in the heading direction is very similar I’m sure that somewhere in the code these objects are tagged as being “pass under-able” and are thus disregarded.  Again @ t=481, @ t=484,  I sure hope that tagging process has extremely few false positives; else, a parked firetruck might be tagged as “pass under-able”.  Yipes!  Alain

  Cruise launches driverless robotaxi service in San Francisco

R. Bellan, Nov. 3, “Employees of Cruise, the self-driving subsidiary of General Motors, will be the first to jump inside one of the company’s autonomous vehicles that operate in San Francisco without a human driver in the front seat. Certain members of the public will also be able to ride, but they won’t be charged a fare.

Cruise co-founder, CTO and president Kyle Vogt was reportedly the first to ride the driverless AV, and he gushed about it all over Twitter.  …  My first fully driverless pickup! (LONGER) …”  Read more Hmmmm… Congratulations Kyle and Oliver. A totally non-trivial accomplishment.  First Waymo in Chandler, then Cruise in SF.  Hopefully you’ll accept our invitation to come to Trenton where you’ll be able to deliver real improvement in the quality-of-life of many.  Alain 

    Cruise lays out its plan for ‘how’ it will make robotaxis a reality

R. Bellan, Nov. 5,”… “Our fourth-generation compute platform will be based on our in-house custom silicon development,” said Basu. “This is purpose-built for our application. It enables focus and improves processing capability, while significantly reducing piece costs and power consumption. Compute is a critical system from a safety perspective, and has redundancy built into it. Add to that an AV system that is processing up to 10 gigabits of data every second, we end up consuming a fair amount of power. Our MLH chip allows us to run our complex machine learning pipelines in a much more focused manner, which in turn helps us to be more energy efficient without compromising on performance.”…

“To truly cross the chasm from research and development to a beloved product requires more than just artificial intelligence and robotics,” said Oliver Cameron, Cruise’s VP of product, at the event. “A safe self-driving vehicle alone is insufficient and simply the first step on a long, long journey. To truly build and scale a competitive product that is adopted by millions into their daily lives, you need to build a host of differentiated features and tools atop a safe self-driving foundation…” Read more Hmmmm… You also need to address the societal challenges by coming and delivering the Equitable, Affordable, High-quality Mobility services in the Trentons of this world.  Alain

  Cruise Look Under The Hood Reveals Real Details On Extensive Efforts

B. Templeton, Nov. 4, “Cruise, a startup funded by GM and Honda, has received a lot of attention due to that relationship but has not previously revealed deep details on their plans and technology, but today they held a video session to reveal a lot of new details. The session was aimed at recruiting new staff, but was made available to other outsiders. A recording will be available the morning of Nov 5 for the public….” Read more Hmmmm… See especially the Cruise video Cruise Under the Hood 2021 (FULL EVENT) and Brad’s article about the 1st ride.  Alain

  Introducing the Waymo Driver to New York City’s streets

Waymo Team, Nov. 3, “The Waymo Driver has tested in dozens of cities spanning a diverse range of climates and topographies. Starting tomorrow, we’ll build on these learnings as we begin to map in New York City for the first time.

New York City is the most densely populated city in the country, …”Read more Hmmmm… And probably the last place in the US that needs Waymo’s driver.  Driving in Manhattan is all about avoiding moving objects, none of which will be in the maps of stationary objects that Waymo will be building.  Bad enough Waymo is quagmired in a market where they are at best a novelty item or Disneyland side show.  Now they come to Manhattan that is walkable, bikeable and scooterable. Yellow cabs and Black cars abound.  Bus-only lanes everywhere and a great 24/7 subway.  Good luck at thinking that you’ll be greeted with open arms.  Fuhgeddabudit! Alain

Driverless ‘Robotaxis’ Arrive at the Stock Market

S. Wilmot, Nov. 5, “Driverless vehicles have a new public face: Aurora Innovation. AUR 4.06% Its stock will be a barometer of investor sentiment toward a technology that seems likely to change the world, albeit slowly.

The company, which is working on a package of hardware and software to automate driving, made its stock-market debut Thursday following the closure of its merger with a special-purpose acquisition company. The deal raised $1.8 billion before fees, slightly less than hoped when it was announced in July, to fund Aurora through the final two years before its targeted commercial launch. The stock fell 3% on its first trading day but rebounded at the open Friday….

Scalability seems to be a problem with driverless taxis. … ”  Read more Hmmmm… Congratulations Chris on getting a $10.6B valuation at the launch.  A non-trivial accomplishment.   But given all of the build-up and promises, it hasn’t been a spectacular debut for any of you.  

“Scalability” is not the only a problem.  The spark that might ignite it hasn’t even been achieved.  Chandler may be fizzling for lack of customer demand.  Motorless trucks rolling downhill, and driverless trucks operating on a yet-to-open-to-the-public highway don’t seem to be be invigorating the public marketplace.  This technology desperately needs to deliver to someone some tangible societal benefit other than being an NFT

Hurling driverless 18 wheelers next to me down some interstate may be fine after we’ve all grown accustomed to some forms of SmartDrivingCars but this seems to be an unlikely candidate for an initial spark.  Alain

  Electric VW Microbus reboot debuts with psychedelic style

G. Gastelu, Nov. 5, “… The production version hews closely to the original ID.Buzz concept that debuted in 2017 and remains on track for a debut in Europe next year, followed by U.S. sales in 2023…

VW plans to have Level 3 autonomy available for retail models, while a fully autonomous version using technology being developed by Argo will be deployed in ride-hailing services….” Read more Hmmmm…Don’t hold your breath about the “Level 3” version, but a driverless version from Ford/Argo would be really interesting for Trenton.😎  Alain

  Tesla owners say they are wowed — and alarmed — by ‘full self-driving’

M. McFarland, Nov. 4, ”  Tesla owners have been wowed by their cars’ new abilities, but some say they have also been alarmed and frustrated by the accompanying flaws. One second drivers find themselves praising the cars’ skills; the next moment they’re grabbing the wheel to avoid crashing or breaking the law….”  Read more Hmmmm… The Good, Bad and Ugly.  Alain

  Uber prices are still way up, so the company is bringing back carpooling

E. Roth, Nov. 6, “Uber is preparing to relaunch its carpooling service as a way to combat price increases, officials said in a call with investors. Uber Pool was shuttered in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and remained so even as vaccines became widely available and customers returned to the app.

But that could soon change, according to Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who hinted that a new shared rides product could be released soon. Along with its rival Lyft, Uber has been struggling to recover from the pandemic, as drivers fled the platform, wait times increased, and the cost of rides soared…” Read more Hmmmm… Hopefully they’ll do an infinitely better job this time. Ride-sharing is exceedingly desirable from a public policy standpoint.  Alain

  Apple hires Tesla’s former Autopilot software director

A. Hawkins, Nov. 4, “Apple hasn’t been all that vocal about its electric car project, but according to Bloomberg, the iPhone maker is hiring Tesla’s Autopilot software engineer to work on its EVs. Sources close to the matter told Bloomberg that Apple scooped up Christopher “CJ” Moore to work on its self-driving software. He’ll report to Stuart Bowers, another Tesla ex-pat who previously served as the vice president of engineering.

During his time at Tesla, Moore stirred up controversy for calling CEO Elon Musk’s “full self-driving” claims exaggerated. In January, Musk stated that he was “highly confident the car will be able to drive itself with reliability in excess of human this year.” The full self-driving software, currently in beta, does not make a Tesla vehicle fully autonomous, as a driver must keep control of the vehicle at all times….” Read more Hmmmm… Interesting.  Alain

   Tech can’t fix the problem of cars

S. Ovide, Nov. 3, “The promise of electric and driverless cars is that vehicles can become better for the planet and safer for us. Those are worthy goals, although there are significant barriers to getting mass numbers of such cars on the road.

There’s also a risk that devoting our attention to these technological marvels may give us a pass from confronting a deeper question: How can we make our lives less dependent on cars?…”  Read more Hmmmm…Unshareable personal cars is the substantial root-cause of most of the problems while at the same time being the substantial root-cause of much of its success.  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 RfI 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 RfI 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: (
Session 3: 
(Automated Driving Systems):
Session 4: 
(Communications for ADS) :

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

These editions re sponsored by the SmartETFs Smart Transportation and Technology ETF, symbol MOTO. For more information head to  

SmartDrivingCars Pod-Cast Episode 239, Zoom-Cast Episode 239 w/Michael Sena, Editor of The Dispatcher

F. Fishkin, Oct 28, “Will there be an uprising if a crush of electric vehicles results in overwhelmed power grids? The Dispatcher publisher Michael Sena joins Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser & co-host Fred Fishkin to dive into the issues. Plus the latest on Tesla, the Hertz and Uber deals and more.”

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”.

SmartDrivingCars Pod-Cast Episode 237, Zoom-Cast Episode 237 Aurora aTaxi  & aTrucking

F. Fishkin,Oct 18, “Aurora is planning subscription services for autonomous trucking & ride hailing.   Passenger buttons to stop and start are part of Motional’s planned self driving taxi experience.  And Tesla’s Texas insurance rates to be based on real time driving behavior. Plus more in Episode 237 of Smart Driving Cars with Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser & co-host Fred Fishkin.”

SmartDrivingCars Pod-Cast Episode 236, Zoom-Cast Episode 236 w/Russ Mitchell, LA Times Staff Writer

F. Fishkin, Sept. 30, “The Tesla automatic braking mystery.  Los Angeles Times reporter Russ Mitchell joins Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin to to explore the questions surrounding automatic emergency braking in Teslas and other cars.  The systems have to work before there can be autonomous mobility.   Plus GM unveils Ultra Cruise, the 5th annual Princeton Smart Driving Car Summit moves to May and actor William Shatner prepares for liftoff.”

SmartDrivingCars Pod-Cast Episode 235, Zoom-Cast Episode 235 w/Michael Sena, Editor, The Dispatcher

F. Fishkin, Sept. 30, “So what is a car company?    Appearances can be deceiving.   Join The Dispatcher publisher & consultant Michael Sena on Episode 235 of Smart Driving Cars with Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser & co-host Fred Fishkin.  Plus much more on the upcoming summit and mobility for all… “

SmartDrivingCars Pod-Cast Episode 234, Zoom-Cast Episode 234 1st Preview of 5th Princeton SmartDrivingCar Summit

F. Fishkin, Sept. 26, “Tesla reportedly has built 300 thousand cars in Shanghai so far this year despite the chip shortage.  FedEx & Aurora partner for autonomous trucking in Texas.   And dramatic developments in advance of the upcoming 5th annual Princeton Smart Driving Car Summit.   Join Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin.  Tune in to Smart Driving Cars… and subscribe..”

SmartDrivingCars Pod-Cast Episode 233, Zoom-Cast Episode 233 w Prof.  Adriano Alessandrini at the U. of Florence

F. Fishkin, Sept. 18 “What will it take to deliver autonomous mobility for all?  For one thing, improved road systems,  says Professor Adriano Alessandrini at the University of Florence.   The author of The Role of Infrastructure for a Safe Transition to Automated Driving joins Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser & co-host Fred Fishkin for a spirited discussion on that, plus Waymo and new details on bringing new mobility to New Jersey and the upcoming Princeton Smart Driving Car

SmartDrivingCars Pod-Cast Episode 232, Zoom-Cast Episode 232 w Steven Shladover

F. Fishkin, Sept. 4 “Cameras alone aren’t enough to get Tesla or anyone else to driverless mobility.   So says UC Berkeley’s Steven Shladover, a leading autonomous vehicle research engineer.   He joins Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin for that plus the need for more regulation from Washington, Waymo, Cruise, Toyota, Motional and more.  Watch or listen to Smart Driving Cars Episode 232 and subscribe!”

SmartDrivingCars Pod-Cast Episode 231, Zoom-Cast Episode 231 w Michael Sena, Creator of The Dispatcher

F. Fishkin, Aug 27, “What’s wrong with the concept of building electric vehicles on a skateboard type platform?  Consultant and The Dispatcher publisher Michael Sena joins Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin for that…plus Tesla, Waymo and more.   And the next Princeton Smart Driving Cars Summit is on the way.   Watch or listen…and subscribe!   Or listen.”

SmartDrivingCars Pod-Cast Episode 230, Zoom-Cast Episode 230 w/Tim Higgins, author: POWER PLAY: Tesla, Elon Musk and the Bet of the Century

F. Fishkin, Aug 21, “Teslas, Humanoids and Elevators!  What Elon Musk and Tesla delivered at AI Day 2021 was insight into the company’s remarkable technology and that may boost recruiting efforts.  So says Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser who is joined by co-host Fred Fishkin and guest Tim Higgins of the Wall Street Journal,  author of POWER PLAY… Tesla, Elon Musk and the Bet of the Century.   AI Day, the NHTSA investigation and Elon Musk hops on the elevator on Episode 230 of Smart Driving Cars!

Or you can listen to Episode 230 of Smart Driving Cars on Tesla’s AI Day and more with guest Tim Higgins of the Wall Street Journal of POWER PLAY… Tesla, Elon Musk and the Bet of the Century

SmartDrivingCars Pod-Cast Episode 229Zoom-Cast Episode 229 w/Russ Mitchell, Los Angeles Times

F. Fishkin, Aug 18, “With the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration having opened an investigation into Tesla autopilot crashes involving emergency vehicles…Los Angeles Times reporter Russ Mitchell joins Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin for a look at the issues facing Tesla and other vehicle makers.”

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. “

SmartDrivingCars Pod-Cast Episode 226, Zoom-Cast Episode 226 w/Tim Higgins, author: POWER PLAY: Tesla, Elon Musk and the Bet of the Century

F. Fishkin, July 22, “The Wall Street Journal’s Tim Higgins has a new book arriving August 3rd titled POWER PLAY: Tesla, Elon Musk and the Bet of the Century.   You can bet it’s a lively discussion with Tim on the latest Smart Driving Cars with Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser & co-host Fred Fishkin.    Or listen..

SmartDrivingCars Pod-Cast Episode 225Zoom-Cast Episode 225 w/Kevin Biesty, Deputy Director for Policy @ Arizona DoT 

F. Fishkin, July 22, “Chandler, Arizona is the one place where paying customers can take advantage of driverless robo-taxis (from Waymo) to get where they are going.   How did that happen?  What does the future hold?   Kevin Biesty, Arizona’s  Deputy Director for Policy at the Department of Transportation,  joins Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser & co-host Fred Fishkin for an in depth discussion.   Plus.. Ford, Argo, Lyft, Tesla, Mercedes & more. “

SmartDrivingCars Pod-Cast Episode 224Zoom-Cast Episode 224  w/Selika Josiah Talbot, Principal, Autonomous Vehicle Consulting

F. Fishkin, July 19, “Does there need to be a White House appointed autonomous and electric vehicle  czar to open up new mobility possibilities for all?   That’s the view of Selika Josiah Talbott..a government veteran who now heads Autonomous Vehicle Consulting and lectures at American University.   She joins Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser & co-host Fred Fishkin for a deeper look at how the technology can be deployed to improve lives.

SmartDrivingCars Pod-Cast Episode 223Zoom-Cast Episode 223  w/Richard Mudge, Compass Transp.  & Baruch Feigenbaum, Reason Foundation

F. Fishkin, July 15, “Can Tesla (and others) make automatic emergency braking work?    Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser continues his push and is joined by the Reason Foundation’s Baruch Feigenbaum and Compass Transportation & Technology President Dick Mudge along with co-host Fred Fishkin to explore this week’ss Transportation Research Board sessions. “

SmartDrivingCars Pod-Cast Episode 222Zoom-Cast Episode 222  

F. Fishkin, July 11, “Is it time for autopilot to not break the law?   Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser says yes.  And if technology can save lives, prevent injuries and crashes shouldn’t it?  Plus Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos, Waymo, VW and more on Episode 222 of Smart Driving Cars with co-host Fred Fishkin. “

SmartDrivingCars Pod-Cast Episode 221Zoom-Cast Episode 221    w/Mark Rosekind, Chief Safety Innovation Officer, Zoox

F. Fishkin, July 1, “With Zoox the Amazon owned autonomous mobility company out with a comprehensive safety report.. Chief Safety Innovation Officer Dr. Mark Rosekind joins Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin.   What is so different about the Zoox approach to building a vehicle and safety?   What is the company’s vision for future mobility and transportation.    Dr. Rosekind fills us in on those issues and more. 

SmartDrivingCars Pod-Cast Episode 220Zoom-Cast Episode 220    w/John Thornhill, Innovation Editor, Financial Times

F. Fishkin, July 1, “Sociology not technology will decide the electric car race.    That’s a Financial Times headline from a piece written by Innovation Editor John Thornhill…who joins Princeton’s Alain Kornhauser and co-host Fred Fishkin for a lively discussion on that…plus Tesla…autonomous mobility and more.   John is also the founder of


Link to previous SDC PodCasts & ZoomCasts

Recent Highlights of:

Friday, October 29, 2021

  Tesla pulled its latest ‘Full Self Driving’ beta after testers complained about false crash warnings and other bugs

R. Lawler, Oct 24, “Tesla’s decision to test its “Full Self Driving” advanced driver assistance software with untrained vehicle owners on public roads has attracted scrutiny and criticism, and that was before this latest release.

Version 10.3 began rolling out on Saturday night / Sunday morning with a long list of release notes. The list mentions changes starting with introducing driver profiles that can swap between different characteristics for following distance, rolling stops, or exiting passing lanes. It’s supposed to better detect brake lights, turn signals, and hazard lights from other vehicles, along with reduced false slowdowns and improved offsetting for pedestrians.

However, on Sunday afternoon Elon Musk tweeted that Tesla is “Seeing some issues with 10.3, so rolling back to 10.2 temporarily.” Read more Hmmmm…  The problems stem from version 10.3 loading with Automated Emergency Braking (AEB) enabled.  Most everything is OK if AEB is disabled.  Which, of course, is the fundamental problem with AutoPilot and FSD…


Tesla got ahead of itself figuring that autoPilot and then FSD were so much better>   That made their “buggy” and thus  annoying AEB  superfluous.  Rather than fix a lowly “Level 1” system, they simply may have turned it off. 


They may finally realize that the AEB functionality is really needed and it needs to be almost perfect.  Exceedingly few false positives or false negatives.  Wow… Not so simple.  They have a lot of hard work to do to fix what they had previously shoved under the rug.  Alain

Sunday, October 24, 2021

  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

Sunday, October 10, 2021

  A Tesla mystery: Why didn’t auto-braking stop these crashes?  In Spanish

R. Mitchel, Oct 7, “Compared with so-called advanced driver assistance systems such as Autopilot, a forward collision avoidance system is relatively crude. It is designed to answer one question — is a frontal impact imminent? — and respond to danger by sounding a warning and, if necessary, triggering a subsystem called automatic emergency braking. Unlike Autopilot, which must be selected manually and is available only under some driving conditions, automatic emergency braking runs by default unless manually turned off….

Tesla calls its vehicles “the safest cars in the world,” citing their combination of structural engineering and advanced technology. But when it comes to the forward collision avoidance system, Tesla owners have been reporting problems at a substantially elevated rate compared with similarly equipped cars….

“Teslas are running into stationary objects,” said Alain Kornhauser, who heads the driverless car engineering program at Princeton University. “They shouldn’t be.” If the company’s cars can’t avoid crash scenes marked by flares or traffic cones, he said, “how can you trust anything else they do with Autopilot?”…

One possibility, according to Missy Cummings, a former Navy fighter pilot who studies human-machine interaction at Duke University, is that Autopilot is designed to preempt or suppress emergency braking to minimize what’s known as phantom braking.

“I haven’t seen the code to say how Tesla works, but I suspect the AEB is turned off in some situations,” she said. “If it were left on it may detect what are called phantom objects and would be slamming on the brakes.”… ”  Read more Hmmmm…  This story is great and is not what anyone else has written. Thank you, Russ,  for doing all of the research and hard work that you put into this article.

I agree with Missy,  (I haven’t seen the code either), but, rest assured, a perception algorithm is part of each of Tesla’s automated systems that “drive” their cars some of the time, be it its forward collision avoidance system (FCAS), autoPilot or FSD.  They may each have its own or the best one is used in all three, but each has an FCAS; else, Teslas would never know to invoke any of the driving sub-tasks, like slow down or speed up or stay in the lane, or don’t hit me, or …  If a Tesla perception system detects an objects that doesn’t exist and locates it as being  in the lane ahead, i.e. a “stationary phantom object in the lane ahead”, then that perception system will signal to the automated driving system… to slow down and don’t hit it.  If Tesla’s human driver is paying attention to what is going on and, of course, doesn’t see the phantom object (it is phantom = not real), then the alert driver is justified in losing trust that FCAS, autoPilot or FSD is reliable and won’t kill.  The erosion of that trust leads to complaints, demands for refunds and substantial problems for Tesla.  

Tesla has simply gotten ahead of itself in trying to get to Driverless too quickly, rather than making sure that Automated Emergency Braking (AEB) works better than “good enough”.  My guess is, Tesla perception algorithm simply ignores stationary objects detected in the lane ahead  and those detected to be to the side of the lane ahead. 

Ignoring detected stationary objects is perfectly appropriate when following a car ahead.  The car ahead didn’t crash into that detected stationary object ahead, so the coast is clear! I’ll be able to pass under/to the side/over it too!   If the car ahead crashes into that object, Its sudden deceleration is readily perceived by the trailing Tesla’s AEB.  As long as the Tesla has not been tailgating (which a good AEB should disallow), the Tesla should be able to stop in time to avoid crashing into the new pileup ahead. All easy, and likely not the scenario in any of the NHTSA crash investigations.

Not so easy if the Tesla is the lead vehicle, especially if the vehicle that the Tesla was following suddenly changes lanes and is no longer explicitly confirming that the Tesla’s road ahead is traversable,  It is now the Tesla’s job to determine if it can pass under a stationary object in the lane ahead.  That is simply not easy to do reliably.  Not easy to determine the clearance under an overpass/sign/traffic light/tree canopy while approaching said overpass/…  at any significant speed.  If the object is classified as an overpass/sign/traffic light/tree canopy, the chance are really good that “passing under” is a breeze.  However, if classification of the object is uncertain, then all bets are off. 

I strongly suspect that Tesla’s perception algorithm disregards all stationary objects ahead when leading as well as when following.  NHTSA has to tell Tesla to not do that any more!!!  Tesla must go back, essentially to the beginning, and figure out how to reliably determine if it can pass under, beside or over stationary objects detected in the road ahead.  Alain

Friday,October 1, 2021

  Cruise gets the green light to give driverless rides to passengers in San Francisco

A. Hawkins, Sep 30, “Waymo and Cruise, two of the leading autonomous vehicle companies in the US, received permits from the California Department of Motor Vehicles to offer rides to passengers in their robotaxis.

But while Cruise was approved to give rides in its fully driverless vehicles without safety drivers, Waymo only is allowed to deploy its autonomous vehicles with a human monitor behind the wheel. In order to give rides to paying passengers in its fully driverless vehicles, as it does in Arizona, the Google spinoff would need to apply for an additional permit from the California Public Utilities Commission. … ”  Read more Hmmmm… Congratulations Kyle, Robert and everyone else!!!! This is a non-trivial accomplishment!

Given all of the additional knocks on your door that will naturally come your way, we hope that you’ll keep us in mind.  We here in NJ have assembled an enormously welcoming and realistic environment for Deployment to a customer base that will fundamentally benefit and cherish the Equitable, Affordable, High-Quality, Safe Mobility that is delivered by your Driverless Technology.

Hopefully you’ll divert a little bandwidth to our upcoming “5th Annual SDC Summit“, New Jersey’s next step in our process to help you and possibly others get to where you’ve gotten in California.

We are new kids on the block, but we’ve really gotten our act together to work with you and others to catch up quickly and really improve the quality-of-life for many here in New Jersey,  and the rest of the NorthEast.

Again…  Congratulations!  So pleased and so well deserved!   Alain


Alain L. Kornhauser, PhD

Professor, Operations Research & Financial Engineering

Director of Undergraduate Studies, ORFE
Director, Transportation Program
Faculty Chair, Princeton Autonomous Vehicle Engineering

229 Sherrerd Hall
Princeton University
Princeton, NJ
609-980-1427 (c)

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