Friday, September 23, 2016

Federal Automated Vehicles Policy: Accelerating the Next Revolution In Roadway Safety

September 2016, "Executive Summary…For DOT, the excitement around highly automated vehicles (HAVs) starts with safety.  (p5)

…The development of advanced automated vehicle safety technologies, including fully self-driving cars, may prove to be the greatest personal transportation revolution since the popularization of the personal automobile nearly a century ago. (p5)

…The benefits don’t stop with safety. Innovations have the potential to transform personal mobility and open doors to people and communities. (p5)

…The remarkable speed with which increasingly complex HAVs are evolving challenges DOT to take new approaches that ensure these technologies are safely introduced (i.e., do not introduce significant new safety risks), provide safety benefits today, and achieve their full safety potential in the future. (p6)  Hmmm…Fantastic statements and I appreciate that the fundamental basis and motivator is SAFETY.  We all have recognized safety as a necessary   condition that must be satisfied if this technology is to be successful.  (unfortunately it is not a sufficient condition, (in a pure math context)). This policy statement appropriately reaffirms this necessary condition.  Alain

"…we divide the task of facilitating the safe introduction and deployment (…defines “deployment” as the operation of an HAV by members of the public who are not the employees or agents of the designer, developer, or manufacturer of that HAV.) of HAVs into four sections:(p6) Hmmm…Perfect! Alain

"…1. Vehicle Performance Guidance for Automated Vehicles (p6)…"  Hmmm… 15 Points, more later. Alain

"…2. Model State Policy (p7)   The Model State Policy confirms that States retain their traditional responsibilities…but… The shared objective is to ensure the establishment of a consistent national framework rather than a patchwork of incompatible laws…" Hmmm… Well done.  Alain

"…3. NHTSA Current Regulatory Tools (p7) … This document provides instructions, practical guidance, and assistance to entities seeking to employ those tools. Furthermore, NHTSA has streamlined its review process and is committing to…"   Hmmm… Excellent. Alain

"…4. New Tools and Authorities (p7)…The speed with which HAVs are advancing, combined with the complexity and novelty of these innovations, threatens to outpace the Agency’s conventional regulatory processes and capabilities. This challenge requires DOT to examine whether the way DOT has addressed safety for the last 50 years should be expanded to realize the safety potential of automated vehicles over the next 50 years. Therefore, this section identifies potential new tools, authorities and regulatory structures that could aid the safe and appropriately expeditious deployment of new technologies by enabling the Agency to be more nimble and flexible (p8)…"  Hmmm… Yes. Alain

"…Note on “Levels of Automation”  There are multiple definitions for various levels of automation and for some time there has been need for standardization to aid clarity and consistency. Therefore, this Policy adopts the SAE International (SAE) definitions for levels of automation. )  Hmmm… I’m not sure this adds clarity because it does not deal directly with the difference between self-driving and driverless.  While it might be implied in level 4 and level 5 that these vehicles can proceed with no one in the vehicle, it is not stated explicitly.  That is unfortunate, because driverless freight delivery can’t be done without "driverless"; neither can mobility-on-demand be offered to the young, old, blind, inebriated, …without "driverless".  Vehicles can’t be "repositioned-empty" (which (I don’t mean to offend anyone) is the real value of a taxi driver today).  So autonomousTaxis are impossible.

Also, these levels do not address Automated Emergency Braking  (AEB) Systems and Automated Lane Keeping Systems which are the very first systems whose on-all-the-time performance must be perfected.   These are the Safety Foundation of HAV (Highly Automated vehicles).  I understand that the guidelines may assume that these systems are already perfect and that "20 manufacturer have committed" to have AEB on all new cars, but to date these systems really don’t work.  In 12 mph IIHS test, few stop before hitting the target, and, as we may have seen with the Florida Tesla crash, the Level 2/3 AutoPilot may not have failed, but, instead, it was the "Phantom Level 1" AEB that is supposed to be on all the time.  This is not acceptable.  These AEB systems MUST get infinitely better now.  It is a shame that AEBs were were not explicitly addressed in this document.

"…I. Vehicle Performance Guidance for Automated Vehicles (p11) A. Guidance: if a vehicle is compliant within the existing FMVSS regulatory framework and maintains a conventional vehicle design, there is currently no specific federal legal barrier to an HAV being offered for sale.(footnote 7)  However, manufacturers and other entities designing new automated vehicle systems
are subject to NHTSA’s defects, recall and enforcement authority. (footnote 8)   . and the "15 Cross-cutting Areas of Guidance" p17)

In sum this is a very good document and displays just how far DoT policy has come from promoting v2v, DSRC and centralized control, "connected",  focus to creating an environment focused on individual vehicles that responsibly take care of themselves.  Kudos to Secretary Foxx for this 180 degree policy turn focused on safety.   Once done correctly, the HAV will yield the early safety benefits that will stimulate continued improvements that, in turn, will yield the great mobility, environmental and quality-of-life benefits afforded by driverless mobility. 

What are not addressed are commercial trucking and buses/mass transit.  NHTSA is auto focused, so maybe FMCSA is preparing similar guidelines.  FTA (Federal Transit Administration) seems nowhere in sight.  Alain

The 15-Point Federal Checklist for Self-Driving Cars

C. King, Sept 20. "Federal regulators announced their first safety checklist ever for semiautonomous and driverless cars this week. In the guidelines, the United States Department of Transportation urged automakers and tech companies to prove that their semiautonomous and autonomous vehicles could meet a 15-point list of safety expectations before the autos hit the road.

We broke down the 15 points:

DATA SHARING These giant computers on wheels collect piles of driving data. Carmakers should store that data and share it with regulators who can use the information to reconstruct what went wrong in a crash or system breakdown.  Hmmm… A sanitized version of data that describe the so-called "corner cases" (rare events that lead to crashes or near crashes) should be placed in the public domain so as to not require each developer and investigator to discover these on his/her own.  Alain

PRIVACY Car owners should have a clear understanding of what kind of data is being collected by the vehicles. They should also be able to reject any collection of personal information such as on biometrics or driver behavior.  Hmmm… Also, there should be "hold-harmless" legislation that allows individuals to freely share their driving data without fear of being charge with "running a red light 2 months ago". Alain

HUMAN-MACHINE INTERFACE Carmakers must show how their vehicles can safely switch between autopilot and human control. Hmmm…Necessary but not easy; however, because essentially nothing happens instantaneously, these systems need to anticipate far enough ahead so as to achieve and simple hand off or they should pull over and stop or just stop. . Alain

CRASHWORTHINESS Driverless cars must meet the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s regular standards for “crashworthiness,…” Hmmm…Of course. Alain

CONSUMER EDUCATION Automakers must train their sales representatives …” Hmmm…Of course. Alain

CERTIFICATION Any software updates or new driverless features must be submitted to NHTSA…."Hmmm…OK Alain

POST-CRASH BEHAVIOR Automakers should prove their cars are safe to use again after a crash.  Hmmm…Of course. Alain

LAWS AND PRACTICES The vehicles should follow various state and local laws and practices that apply to drivers.  Hmmm…This is a tough one.  Current laws apply to human drivers in order to obtain, as best as possible,  a human behavior that conforms to the rules of the road and achieves a safe outcome.  Some of these laws, when followed by an algorithm, may have non-safe outcomes.  New laws, our new interpretations of those laws, will undoubtedly be necessary.  Alain

ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS Many human driving decisions carry ethical considerations, so the way a car is programmed also carries ethical consequences. Hmmm…Another very tough one.  Fortunately these are very rare and the whole purpose of the HAV technology is to avoid situations where not even one, let alone two, of these bad outcomes are being confronted at any time.  Alain

OPERATIONAL DESIGN This is similar to a manual that describes where, when and under what conditions a driverless system works. Hmmm…Of course and should be readily available on the vehicle.  Alain

DETECTION AND RESPONSE How will a car respond to other cars, pedestrians, animals and falling trees?  Hmmm…Falling trees??? Really?  Not possible!  Or do they mean Fallen trees? (Let’s please just focus on avoiding the crashes that involve human error.) Alain

FALLBACK The car should be able to change modes safely when there is a technological malfunction. Hmmm…Of course. Alain

VALIDATION Automakers need to develop testing and validation methods that account for the wide range of technologies used in driverless cars. Hmmm…Of course. Alain

Tesla’s major Autopilot update starts rolling out today

J. Rigg, Sept 21, "Tesla CEO Elon Musk has taken to Twitter to announce the latest update to his company’s EVs will begin rolling out tonight. …Autopilot will rely more heavily on radar, rather than these sensors playing second fiddle to camera feeds. The idea is radar is much more reliable than cameras when visibility is poor, such as when you’re driving through snow or fog…."Read more Hmmm…But the Florida crash was at 4:xx in the afternoon with partly cloudy skies???) Alain

Upgrading Autopilot: Seeing the World in Radar

Team Tesla, Sept 11, "...After careful consideration, we now believe it can be used as a primary control sensor without requiring the camera to confirm visual image recognition….Hmmm…What does this mean??? Does it brake if the camera sees something?  If so, then the camera is "a primary control sensor" and they are co-primary …, No??? Alain

"…Therefore, the big problem in using radar to stop the car is avoiding false alarms…" 
Hmmm…yes! AND "false negatives" (which, with respect to vision, motivated this upgrade.) Alain

"…As the system confidence level rises, the braking force will gradually increase to full strength when it is approximately 99.99% certain of a collision. This may not always prevent a collision entirely, but the impact speed will be dramatically reduced to the point where there are unlikely to be serious injuries to the vehicle occupants…." Hmmm…This is so depressing.  Do we really have to wait until 99.99??  Can’t we do this a little earlier so that we have collision avoidance rather than collision mitigation?  This is so depressing! Alain

"…The net effect of this, combined with the fact that radar sees through most visual obscuration, is that the car should almost always hit the brakes correctly even if a UFO were to land on the freeway in zero visibility conditions…." Hmmm…Zero visibility is readily detected ahead and AutoPilot should pull over and stop or just stop before the Tesla enters the zero visibility condition (and inform the driver that it is ill-advised (crazy) to proceed in zero visibility conditions under manual control.  Please! Alain

"…Taking this one step further, a Tesla will also be able to bounce the radar signal under a vehicle in front – using the radar pulse signature and photon time of flight to distinguish the signal – and still brake even when trailing a car that is opaque to both vision and radar. The car in front might hit the UFO in dense fog, but the Tesla will not…" Hmmm…Now you’ve gone too far again.  Calling the system AutoPilot was reckless, suggesting that AutoPilot or anyone can drive in dense fog is totally irresponsible.  Can’t you see it now: "Man crashes Tesla in dense fog; man blames Tesla".  These systems aren’t meant to solve the Fog Problem, at least not yet. Alain

Some other thoughts that deserve your attention

  Siemens presents Riyadh metro train

K. Barrow, Sept 21, "SIEMENS presented the first driverless Inspiro metro train for Riyadh metro Line 1 (Blue Line) to representatives of Arriyadh Development Authority (ARA) at InnoTrans on September 20.

As E&M partner in the Bechtel-led Bacs consortium, Siemens is supplying 45 four-car trains for Line 1 and 29 two-car trains for Line 2 (Red Line) under a turnkey contract which also includes automatic train control systems and electrification for the two lines. …"Read more Hmmm…Driverless trains are now the norm  🙂   Alain

On the More Technical Side

  Public priorities and consumer preferences for selected attributes of Automated Vehicles

Paulina Lustgarten & Scott Le Vine. Under review for presentation at the 96th Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board and publication in Transportation Research Record (2017). Read more

Half-baked stuff that probably doesn’t deserve your time:

Older stuff that I had missed:

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


Calendar of Upcoming Events:



F1/10 Autonomous Racing Competition
Oct 1-2
Wean Hall, Carnegie Mellon U.

Recent Highlights of:

U.S. Signals Backing for Self-Driving Cars

C. Kang, Sept.19, "Federal auto safety regulators on Monday made it official: They are betting the nation’s highways will be safer with more cars driven by machines and not people.

In long-awaited guidelines for the booming industry of automated vehicles, the Obama administration promised strong safety oversight, but sent a clear signal to automakers that the door was wide open for driverless cars.

“We envision in the future, you can take your hands off the wheel, and your commute becomes restful or productive instead of frustrating and exhausting,” said Jeffrey Zients, director of the National Economic Council, adding that highly automated vehicles “will save time, money and lives.”…

The policies unveiled on Monday were designed to walk that line. In a joint appearance, Mr. Zients and Anthony Foxx, secretary of the United States Department of Transportation, released the first guidelines, which outlined safety expectations and encouraged uniform rules for the nascent technology. The instructions signaled to motorists that automated vehicles would not be a wild west where companies can try anything without oversight, but were also vague enough that automakers and technology companies would not fear over-regulation. .."  Read moreHmmm…Here it comes.. Looking for the details.  See also NPR: Feds To Set Rules On Self-Driving Vehicles.     Alain

Here are the details:  DOT+AV+Policy+Fact+Sheets.pdf

key passage:
"emphasizes that semi-automated driving systems – ones in which the human continues to monitor the driving environment and perform some of the driving task – that fail to adequately account for the possibility that a distracted or inattentive driver-occupant might fail to retake control of the vehicle in a safety-critical situation may be defined as an unreasonable risk to safety and subject to recall". Read more  Hmmm….What does that mean?  A truck cuts you off when you are lazily cruising down a roadway at 4:40pm on a clear afternoon. Nothing you could have done if you had your hands on the wheel in this safety critical situation. Does this trigger a recall???


Does this say that the only time that you can be distracted or inattentive is when you are NOT in automated mode. 


What they should have done is deal aggressively with automated emergency braking and automated lane keeping (with an emphasis on making sure that all highways had visible lane markings that would readily enable both humans and vision systems to clearly see the lanes. 

At first blush this seems to be NHTSA & DoT doing a "CA DMV regulations " on this.  They may make it that "NHTSA Level 3" is un-un-recallable, ie DoA, so Google may be right in that it is either Level 2 (close to useless, (except for safety)) or Level 4 "no steering wheel" and the public will really freak out ( ).  More later after I’ve had a chance to digest all of this.  Alain

Sunday, September 4, 2016

  How Do You Buy a Million Cars When You Can’t Make a Dime?   

B. Simpson, Aug 25, "Isn’t this supposed to be a quiet time for business? …Not in transportation technology.

For instance, Ford announced it was working to launch fully autonomous automobiles by 2021. BMW, Intel and Mobileye joined to say they will have vehicles in production for the same target date. Ridesharing titan Uber says it will launch this month driverless vehicles in Pittsburgh, though some employees will be in the car to ensure safety.

Forget the 10 years down the road baloney. We’ll be Level 4 Autonomous in three to five years.

Yet for all the excitement there’s been some downer news…. Lyft was seeking a buyer, despite the $500 million that GM pumped into it …Earlier this year Lyft pledged… to keep its U.S. losses under $50 million a month….Uber told its investors it lost $520 million in the first quarter, and more than $750 million in the second. This after losing about $2 billion in 2015….It’s valuable to keep in mind the shaky foundations of Uber and Lyft because the two have been touted as an important foundation for the growth of autonomous vehicles. Read more Hmmm…Do read more!  It may well be that those that can’t make a dime wont even have the opportunity to buy the driverless vehicles that would allow them to "make a dime".  The real value of the driverless vehicles may well be in their ability to generate operating cash without needing any of the $10B+ expertise/intellectual property amassed by Uber/Lyft in managing self-employed part-timers that aren’t needed.  If that is the case, then the makers of those vehicles will manage them for their own account rather than selling them at cost-plus (or the price of those vehicles will be such that only their maker is making any money). Alain

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Prepare to be Underwhelmed by 2021’s Autonomous Cars

T. Simonite, Aug 23, "BMW, Ford, and Uber have all recently said they plan to have “fully autonomous” cars ready to drive themselves on the road in 2021 (see “2021 May Be the Year of the Fully Autonomous Car”). Ford says its fleet of vehicles will lack steering wheels and offer a robotic taxi service.

But don’t expect to toss out your driver’s license in 2021. Five years isn’t long enough to create vehicles good enough at driving to roam extensively without human input,….

“Probably what Ford would do to meet their 2021 milestone is have something that provides low-speed taxi service limited to certain roads—and don’t expect it to come in the rain,” says Steven Shladover. …Alain Kornhauser, … “By then we may be able to define [a] ‘fenced’ region of space where we can in fact let cars out there without a driver,” he says. “The challenge will be making that fenced-in area large enough so that it provides a valuable service.”…Jeffrey Miller, …says figuring out how sensors limit the situations a vehicle can reliably handle on its own is one of the most crucial challenges for companies working on autonomous driving. Read more  Hmmm…Achievable reality.  Alain

Friday, August 19, 2016

Ford Promises Fleets of Driverless Cars Within Five Years

N. Boudette, Aug 16, "In the race to develop driverless cars, several automakers and technology companies are already testing vehicles that pilot themselves on public roads. And others have outlined plans to expand their development fleets over the next few years.    At a news conference on Tuesday at the company’s research center in Palo Alto, Calif., Mark Fields, Ford’s chief executive, said the company planned to mass produce driverless cars and have them in commercial operation in a ride-hailing service by 2021….
“That means there’s going to be no steering wheel. There’s going to be no gas pedal. There’s going to be no brake pedal,’’ he said. …." Read morHmmm…This is significant because it implies that Ford, (or an entity under its control) will operate and deliver on a day-to-day basis MaaS (Mobility as a Service).  In other words it will both build/assemble and operate mobility’s "Cloud".  The scale economies of such a mobility "cloud" are arguably much more substantial than that of the data storage & computing "cloud".  Think about it!  Alain

Monday, August 8, 2016

Latest to Quit Google’s Self-Driving Car Unit: Top Roboticist

J. Markoff, Aug 5, " A roboticist and crucial member of the team that created Google’s self-driving car is leaving the company, the latest in a string of departures by important technologists working on the autonomous car project.  Chris Urmson, a Carnegie Mellon University research scientist, joined Google in 2009 to help create the then-secret effort. … Read more  Hmmm…Very unfortunate.  What a great job he has done. All the best. Alain

Monday, August 1, 2016

SJMobileye Ends Partnership With Tesla

M. Ramsey, July 26, " A key supplier of semiautonomous car technology ended a supply agreement with Tesla Motors Inc. following a high-profile traffic fatality in May involving one of the Silicon Valley company’s electric vehicles.  Read moreHmmm….And why in all of this isn’t there a discussion of Automated Emergency Braking (AEB) technology/suppliers??  There must be no consumer/regulatory appeal to AEB?  Alain

 Thursday, July 21, 2016

Master Plan, Part Deux

Monday, July 11, 2016

Lessons From the Tesla Crash

Editorial Board, July 11, "A recent fatal crash in Florida involving a Tesla Model S is an example of how a new technology designed to make cars safer could, in some cases, make them more dangerous. These risks, however, could be minimized with better testing (Hmmm….Yes!) and regulations (Still too early, we don’t know enough, yet)

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

May 7 Crash

Hmmm…What we know now (and don’t know):

1.  On May 7, 2016 at about 4:40pm EDT, there was a crash between a Tesla and a Class 8 Tractor-Trailer. The accident is depicted in the Diagram from the Police Report: HSMV Crash Report # 85234095. (1)  Google Earth images from the site.

 2. The driver of the Tesla was Joshua Brown"No citations have been issued, but the initial accident report from the FHP indicates the truck driver "failed to yield right-of-way."" (2) .  Hmmm….No Citations??? Did the truck have a data recorder?  Was the truck impounded, if so, how is the truck driver making a living since the crash? 

Extracting Cognition out of Images for the Purpose of Autonomous Driving

Chenyi Chen PhD Dissertation , "…the key part of the thesis, a direct perception approach is proposed to drive a car in a highway environment. In this approach, an input image is mapped to a small number of key perception indicators that directly relate to the affordance of a road/traffic state for driving….."  Read more  Hmmm..FPO 10:00am, May 16 , 120 Sherrerd Hall, Establishing a foundation for image-based autonomous driving using DeepLearning Neural Networks trained in virtual environments. Very promising. Alain

Friday, March 25, 2016

Hearing focus of SF 2569 Autonomous vehicles task force establishment and demonstration project for people with disabilities

March 23 Hmmm… Watch the video of the Committee Meeting.  The testimony is Excellent and very compelling! Also see Self-Driving Minnesota Alain

Thursday, March 17, 2016

U.S. DOT and IIHS announce historic commitment of 20 automakers to make automatic emergency braking standard on new vehicles

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Motor Vehicle Deaths Increase by Largest Percent in 50 Years

Sunday, December 19, 2015

Adam Jonas’ View on Autonomous Cars

Video similar to part of Adam’s Luncheon talk @ 2015 Florida Automated Vehicle Symposium on Dec 1.  Hmmm … Watch Video  especially at the 13:12 mark.  Compelling; especially after the 60 Minutes segment above!  Also see his TipRanks.  Alain

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