Including select excerpts from the industry blog Smart Driving Cars



Motor-vehicle deaths up 6% in 2016

Press release, Feb. 15,”With continued lower gasoline prices and an improving economy resulting in an estimated 3% increase in motor-vehicle mileage, the number of motor-vehicle deaths in 2016 totaled 40,200, up 6% from 2015 (10% in NJ) and the first time the annual fatality total has exceeded 40,000 since 2007. The 2016 estimate is provisional and may be revised when more data are available. The total for 2016 was up 14% from the 2014 figure….
The estimated cost of motor-vehicle deaths, injuries, and property damage in 2016 was $432.5
billion, an increase of 12% from 2015. The costs include wage and productivity losses, medical
expenses, administrative expenses, employer costs, and property damage….”Read more  Hmmm… Just the facts, mam!  :-( Alain

Motor Vehicle Deaths in 2016 Estimated to be Highest in Nine Years

Press release, Feb. 15, “NSC offers insight into what drivers are doing and calls for immediate implementation of proven, life-saving measures…

With the upward trend showing no sign of subsiding, NSC is calling for immediate implementation of life-saving measures that would set the nation on a road to zero deaths:…”Read more  Hmmm…”Automated Collision Avoidance” or anything having to do with ‘Safe-driving Cars‘ is not mentioned anywhere in the Press Release.  One of us is missing something very fundamental here!!  So depressing!!  :-(   Alain

U.S. Traffic Deaths Rise for a Second Straight Year

N. Boudette, Feb. 15, “Over the last decade, new cars have gotten electronic stability control systems to prevent skids, rearview cameras to prevent fender benders and more airbags to protect occupants in collisions. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on campaigns to remind the public of the dangers of drunken driving, failing to buckle up and texting while on the go.
Despite all that, more Americans are dying on roads and highways than in years, and the sudden and sharp increase has alarmed safety advocates….

“The way to bring down the rise in deaths is with a wide range of the nuts-and-bolts measures, not self-driving cars,” the consumer advocate Ralph Nader’55 said in an interview in October…”
” Read more  Hmmm…Technically, Ralph is correct; however, what would be effective are ‘Safe-driving Cars‘. I am dumbfounded by the malaise of US DoT, NHTSA and the Insurance industry (including insurance regulators) in failing to recognize the virtues that ALWAYS ON Automated Collision Avoidance, Lane Keeping and Speed Limiters would have in actively addressing the inattention and aggressive driving that is fueling this growing carnage on America’s roads.  Technology essentially exists today that works effectively and has a very attractive ROI; yet this article and the NSC fail to even mention it.  I’m totally flabbergasted.  Alain  

Road Warrior: Would you disconnect a safety feature?

J. Cichowski, Feb 16, “If you’ve wondered why road crashes are killing more people now than they were 50 years ago, the National Safety Council trotted out many of the same old reasons this week – speeding, texting, booze, pot, and gas prices low enough to encourage us to drive – and crash – more than ever before.

But in a poll involving 2,001 motorists that accompanied the NSC’s latest figures, the safety group discovered another reason, one that rarely gets much attention:  Drivers are disabling built-in safety features designed to help them either detect or respond to risks….” Read more  Hmmm…Of course they are turned off.  They don’t work well enough.  They must/should be made so well that folks don’t want to turn them off.  This one is on the car manufacturers and NHTSA.  Manufacturers haven’t been serious enough about these things nor made them well enough so that buyers would NOT turn them off and NHTSA has not been vigilant enough to insist that automakers make them well enough.  NHTSA should have “recalls” to entice the auto industry to make these well.  Also, many of these systems are/have been “warnings” and were set such that they had/have way too many ‘false alarms”.  Consequently,  they are simply annoying and they should be turned off.  Again, my point has been that we have simply glossed over ‘Safe-driving cars‘.  No one admits that they don’t drive safely, safety isn’t ‘sexy’, and it doesn’t ‘sell’ (consumers won’t/don’t buy).  We’re all in denial.   In reality, we don’t drive safely, it does end up costing us a lot (and for some, the ultimate) and insurance isn’t doing enough/anything to encourage auto maker to make, and for us to to buy and not turn-off, Safe-driving technology even though this is Insurance’s highest fiduciary responsibility its stock holders.  I simply don’t get it!  :-(  Alain

Young Millennials Top List of Worst Behaved Drivers

T. Johnson, Feb 15, “A new report from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that 88 percent of young millennials engaged in at least one risky behavior behind the wheel in the past 30 days, earning the top spot of worst behaved U.S. drivers. These dangerous behaviors ― which increase crash risk ― included texting while driving, red-light running and speeding. ..” Read more  Hmmm… see also LinkAnd insurers aren’t insisting that these kids only drive ‘Safe-driving Cars’ (cars equipped with Automated Collision Avoidance ,… systems).  i don’t get it.  They need technological oversight.  Alain

  Thune and Peters Announce Joint Effort on Self-Driving Vehicles

Press Release, Feb 13, WASHINGTON – Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) today announced a joint effort to explore legislation that clears hurdles and advances innovation in self-driving vehicle technology. Thune and Peters offered the following joint statement on this new partnership:

“More than any other automotive technology in history, self-driving vehicles have the potential to dramatically reduce the more than 35,000 lives lost on our roads and highways every year and fundamentally transform the way we get around. Ensuring American innovators can safely develop and implement this technology will not only save lives but also solidify our nation’s position as the world leader in the future of mobility….Read more  

Hmmm… ‘Self-driving’ is interesting; however, Automated Vehicles have a broad spectrum which in my mind ranges from 

( Automated Collision Avoidance and Lane Keeping that is on ALL the time ready to spring into action (much like today’s anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control) keeping the driver from getting into a collision-prone situation.  This technology is essentially available now and with encouragement from Congress can most quickly deliver substantial safety benefits.  ‘Safe-driving’s biggest challenge is that ‘safety does not sell’.  Consumers need to be convinced. Congress could help by strongly promoting (without mandating) this safety technology.  A simple beginning is by having NHTSA up its safety standards/ratings to explicitly include Automated Collision Avoidance (ACA) systems that actually work be a part of those ratings.  NHTSA/congress could also encourage the development of after-market ACA systems so as to accelerate the penetration/adoption of these systems into many of the cars, trucks and buses that are on the road today. ), 


(which extends the Safe-driving’s safety benefits and delivers the comfort and convenience of taking hands off the wheel and feet off the pedals some of the time.  Since Self-driving extends Safe-driving, it doesn’t itself contribute additional safety except that it delivers comfort and convenience benefits that sell.  Indirectly it will be getting consumers ‘to buy safety’.  That is why the auto industry is focused on self-driving.  It believes consumers will be willing to pay for technology and thereby pay for the base ACA systems.  In this arena, Congress/NHTSA need only be welcoming.)

and ‘Driverless’

(this extends self-driving to places/conditions/times when it can do it all the time, never needing any human driving assistance.  Driverless will revolutionize mobility in those places/conditions/times by providing inexpensive, sustainable and resilient mobility to ‘everyone’, including freight/goods, in those places/conditions/time.  We are close to having driverless in very limited places/conditions/times.  Congress could really help by supporting the still needed research and development to as rapidly as possible extend driverless to more places/conditions/times.)


Congress Could Make Self-Driving Cars Happen—or Ruin Everything

A. Davis, Feb. 15, “Congress just stepped into the robocar game. In the past two days, a pair of senators started drafting legislation to advance autonomous vehicles, and the House Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection held a two-hour hearing exploring how on the tech might be deployed. For your elected officials, it’s a considerable, if tentative, step into the future of transportation…It could start by revising the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards to reflect autonomous technology. For example, the rules require things like foot-activated brakes. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration can amend the regulations, but it requires several rounds of draft rules and public comments. That takes years. Congress can make the same change quickly with a law, or even a clause tucked into, say, an infrastructure omnibus.

It could also tweak Title 49 of the US legal code, which allows the secretary of transportation to exempt vehicles from federal standards—to a point. The law (specifically section 30113(d) and 30113(e)) limits those vehicles to 2,500 per manufacturer in a 12-month period, and the exemption can’t last more than three years. Federal regulators may be happy to let Google produce a car without a steering wheel or brakes, but without congressional help, that goodwill can only go so far. Read more  Hmmm…Very interesting!! Alain

Autonomous Vehicle Implementation Predictions: Implications for Transport Planning

T. Litman, Jan. 2, “This report explores the impacts that autonomous vehicles are likely to have on travel demands and transportation planning. It discusses autonomous vehicle benefits and costs, predicts their likely development and implementation based on experience with previous vehicle technologies, and explores how they will affect planning decisions such as optimal road, parking and public transit supply. The analysis indicates that some benefits, such as independent mobility for affluent non-drivers, may begin in the 2020s or 2030s, but most impacts, including reduced traffic and parking congestion, independent mobility for low-income people (and therefore reduced need to subsidize transit), increased safety, energy conservation and pollution reductions, will only be significant when autonomous vehicles become common and affordable, probably in the 2040s to 2060s, and some benefits may require prohibiting human-driven vehicles on certain roadways, which could take longer.”  Read more  Hmmm Very nice study; however, Table 6 p11 “Navigation Systems”… 1985 was the absolute beginning, which would be equivalent to 2005 for driverless cars.  Navigation started to move in 1997 (When ALK Inc. 1st put CoPilot on the market) and the adoption was fueled by CoPilot and other after-market products which led to today’s total market penetration over a 30 year span.

The only way to achieve substantial market penetration of either Safe-driving Cars or Self-driving Cars in 30 years (by 2035) is either through Federal Mandates (as was achieved with Airbags) or after-market (as with Navigation).

Driverless Cars could take less time because they will be a fleet -play rather than a consumer-play (but they have yet to start).  There is a lot more in this report worth serious contemplation.  Alain

Ford Bets $1B On Startup Founded By Waymo, Uber Vets

M. Liedtke, Feb. 13, “Ford Motor is spending $1 billion to take over a budding robotics startup to acquire more expertise needed to reach its ambitious goal of having a fully driverless vehicle on the road by 2021.  The big bet announced Friday comes just a few months after the Pittsburgh startup, Argo AI, was created by two alumni of Carnegie Mellon University’s robotics program, Bryan Salesky and Peter Rander.

The alliance between Argo and Ford is the latest to combine the spunk and dexterity of a technologically savvy startup with the financial muscle and manufacturing knowhow of a major automaker in the race to develop autonomous vehicles. Last year rival General Motors paid $581 million to buy Cruise Automation, a 40-person software company that is testing vehicles in San Francisco…” Read more  Hmmm…Very interesting!! Alain

One Reason Staffers Quit Google’s Car Project? The Company Paid Them So Much

A. Barr, Feb 13, “For the past year, Google’s car project has been a talent sieve, thanks to leadership changes, strategy doubts, new startup dreams and rivals luring self-driving technology experts. Another force pushing people out? Money. A lot of it.

Early staffers had an unusual compensation system that awarded supersized payouts based on the project’s value. By late 2015, the numbers were so big that several veteran members didn’t need the job security anymore, making them more open to other opportunities, according to people familiar with the situation. Two people called it “F-you money.”… Read more  Hmmm…They earned it!  Congratulations! Alain

Fully autonomous shuttle service unveiled in New Zealand

Feb 10, “In the same week that Paris launched a driverless shuttle service on a bridge across the Seine, New Zealand has unveiled its own autonomous shuttle trials at Christchurch Airport. In the first on-road research trials in New Zealand, the fully autonomous, electric-powered Smart Shuttle, which can carry up to 15 people, will run on private roads on the airport campus.

The driverless vehicle trial is being conducted in partnership with HMI Technologies, a New Zealand-based Intelligent Transport System provider….” Read more  Hmmm… Congratulations to Paris & Christchurch! Alain

Las Vegas launches the first electric autonomous shuttle on U.S. public roads

D. Etherington, Jan 11, “Las Vegas, transportation beat reporters can’t quit you; CES was like a car extravaganza, and now you’re launching a self-driving, fully electric shuttle on public streets. The shuttles are the result of a partnership between shuttle-maker Navya, fleet logistics provider Keolis and the city of Las Vegas, and began picking up members of the public today, riding a regular route along iconic Fremont Street between Las Vegas Boulevard and Eighth Street — right in the thick of regular traffic.

The route will run between January 11 and 20, and will use Navya’s ARMA shuttle, which previously underwent testing in the U.S. at the University of Michigan’s MCity autonomous testing facility, and which has been deployed in France since 2015…. Read more Hmmm… Old news I had missed.


Google is spinning off its self-driving car program into a new company called Waymo

A. Hawkins, Dec 13, “Today, Google announced that it would be spinning off its six-year-old self-driving project into a standalone business called Waymo, which stands for “a new way forward in mobility,” according to John Krafcik, the CEO of the new company.
It was previously reported that Google would be dropping its plan to build its own vehicle without steering wheels and pedals, instead focusing on creating the self-driving technology that can be installed in third-party vehicles. Krafcik didn’t provide much clarity there, but did state definitively that the new company was still fully committed to fully autonomous vehicle technology.“We are all in, 100 percent, on Level Four and Level Five fully driverless solutions,” he said.Krafcik didn’t comment on a report in Bloomberg that Google would be starting its own ride-sharing service in partnership with Fiat Chrysler using the Italian car maker’s Pacifica minivans as its fleet of self-driving taxis. Google and FCA announced their collaboration earlier this year. Krafcik did confirm that the self-driving Pacificas were still in the build phase, but would hopefully be on the road for testing very soon.It may be too soon to say that Google is abandoning its plans to build it’s own fleet of driverless cars, without steering wheels and pedals. That said, Krafcik made it clear that Waymo “is not a car company, there’s been some confusion on that point. We’re not in business of making better cars, we’re in the business of making better drivers.”…Read more  Hmmm… Boy that is a lot of hedging.  If they are in the business of making better drivers, then all they need to do is to make Automated Collision Avoidance systems that actually work… avoid collisions (aka Safe-driving Cars).  That would make all drivers better drivers, but it wouldn’t do anything for non-drivers… the young, old, poor, blind, those under the influence, …  Has Google abandoned all of those folks and reverted to the ‘dark-side’?  Alain

Say hello to Waymo: what’s next for Google’s self-driving car project

J. Krafcik, Dec 13, “…Today, we’re taking our next big step by becoming Waymo, a new Alphabet business. Waymo stands for a new way forward in mobility. We’re a self-driving technology company with a mission to make it safe and easy for people and things to move around.
We believe that this technology can begin to reshape some of the ten trillion miles that motor vehicles travel around the world every year, with safer, more efficient and more accessible forms of transport. We can see our technology being useful in personal vehicles, ridesharing, logistics, or solving last mile problems for public transport. In the long term, self-driving technology could be useful in ways the world has yet to imagine, creating many new types of products, jobs, and services…On October 20, 2015, we completed the world’s first fully-self driven car ride…Read more   Hmmm… Kudos on the mission, but the terminology remains confusing.  Adding the word ‘fully‘ does not provide enough separation from the run-of-the-mill ‘self-driving’, which can’t chauffeur Steve Mahan “on a sunny Tuesday morning … down an ordinary Austin street‘ .  The ability to offer this enhanced mobility deserves a unique/separate name so that there is no confusion.  I’ve proposed “Driverless“, just like an elevator is driverless!  This technology can’t be really useful in ‘ridesharing, logistics, or solving last mile problems for public transport‘ unless it is Driverless.  Now if you’re only interested in is being useful in ‘personal vehicles‘ then Self-driving is good enough. But, Self-driving doesn’t deliver the societal benefits of ridesharing, logistics, or solving last mile problems for public transport.  It doesn’t even provide incremental Safety benefits (Those are captured by Safe-driving cars that have Automated Collision Avoidance, the fundamental precursor of Self-driving.  Self-driving only delivers comfort and flexibility to the driver that, unfortunately, will substantially increase VMT (Vehicle Miles Traveled), congestion, pollution, energy consumption, sprawl, …   :-(    Alain

On the road with self-driving car user number one

N. Fairfield, Dec 13, “… This time was different. This time I asked if he’d like to go it alone, and be the first passenger for the world’s first fully driverless ride on public roads — no police escort, no closed course, and most importantly, no test driver.
And so, on a sunny Tuesday morning last fall, I watched from the sidewalk as Steve rode down an ordinary Austin street, with everyday traffic. Our software and sensors were in full control. The wind from the open car windows was blowing through his hair, and he was chuckling as he relished the freedom and independence of being alone in a car for the first time in 12 years…”  Read more Hmmm… This is REALY IMPRESSIVE! Important numbers going forward are the personMiles and vehicleMiles of Driverless operation on public roads operating normally  (“no police escort, no closed course, … no test driver” and no external human monitoring.)  Alain

 Google’s Car Diaspora

A. Efrati, Dec 13, “At least a dozen senior members of the Google autonomous car team have departed in the past year, most of them to Uber and to a self-driving car startup that’s right next door to Google’s campus in Mountain View….” Read more Hmmm… Given how valuable each Google employee is to every startup, it is impressive how few have jumped ship.  (Thanks to Glenn Mercer for link) Alain

U.S. DOT advances deployment of Connected Vehicle Technology to prevent hundreds of thousands of crashes

Press Release NHTSA 34-16, Dec 13, “Citing an enormous potential to reduce crashes on U.S. roadways, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued a proposed rule today that would advance the deployment of connected vehicle technologies throughout the U.S. light vehicle fleet. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking would enable vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication technology on all new light-duty vehicles, enabling a multitude of new crash-avoidance applications that, once fully deployed, could prevent hundreds of thousands of crashes every year by helping vehicles “talk” to each other… Read more Hmmm… One must always be well aware of the caveats! Here the caveats are “potential” and fully deployed.. Potential implies that vehicles don’t already have Automated Collision Avoidance (ACA) systems that work (aka ‘Safe-driving Cars’).  If they do, the potential incremental reduction of crashes that this proposed rule would have is a small fraction of what is claimed above.  Moreover, an infinitesimally small portion of what is already a small fraction can’t be achieved until there is substantial deployment.  V2V only avoids crashes between vehicles that BOTH have the mandated technology.  That means that the chances that V2V can play a part is the product of the probability that vehicle A has it and the probability that vehicle B has the technology.  It isn’t until 70% of the vehicles on the road have the technology that there is even a ‘Coin flip’s” chance that V2V could play any part in avoiding a crash (0.7 x 0.7 = 0.49!) That level of penetration isn’t going to happen for at least 25 years given that there is no “retrofit” requirement.

At 33% deployed (which might be achieved in 10-15 years), V2V is only 10% effective at potentially avoiding crashes that haven’t already been avoided by ACA.  In 5 years, adoption may still be less than 10%, making V2V relevant to only 1% of the potential crashes that ACA would not have already not have avoided.   Essentially no value is achieved until we’ve been really successful at deployment/adoption and what’s been adopted/deployed actually works.  Whew!!!

Moreover, this proposed rulemaking is restrictive in that:  “…V2V devices would use the dedicated short range communications (DSRC)…” How obsolete is a DSRC approach going to be before this approach contributes anything measurable?  

I thought that Secretary Foxx had realized that automation was the way to go.  Why didn’t he propose a rule requiring Automated Collision Avoidance system that actually work to be installed in every new car.  At least such systems would eliminate most of the crashes that would have been caused by the drivers of each of the so-equipped vehicles.

So Dec 13 had Google moving forward and DoT/NHTSA moving backwards.  Oh well.  Happy that it is not the other way around.  :-)  Alain

An EU strategy on cooperative, connected and automated mobility

Press Release, Nov 30.  “Today the European Commission adopted a European Strategy on Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems (C-ITS), a milestone initiative towards cooperative, connected and automated mobility…

The Strategy will make it possible to deploy vehicles that can “talk” to each other and to the transport infrastructure on EU roads as of 201To achieve this, the Strategy presents a hybrid communication approach combining complementary and available communication technologies. Currently, the most promising hybrid communication mix is a combination of WiFi based short range communication and existing cellular networks.9…”  Read more Hmmm…At lease they haven’t painted themselves into the DSRC corner. Alain

Michigan law permits cars with no steering wheels

R. Mitchell, Dec 9, “e governor of Michigan signed a legislative package Friday that allows cars without steering wheels or drivers to be tested on the state’s highways.

The plan is to make the state “the epicenter for driverless vehicle technology,” said Gov. Rick Snyder.  Florida already allows testing of completely driverless cars. With the new law, Michigan and Florida now are the most liberal states on laws governing driverless car technology.  Read more Hmmm… There are other parts of this legislation that fund a test center and provide other incentives for this industry, as opposed to a bill forwarded by a  NJ Assembly committee that basically discourages (my opinion)  this technology in New Jersey.  Kudos to Michigan :-)    We’re hurtin’ in NJ  :-(   So depressing!!!! Alain

The Head of CMU’s Robotics Lab Says Self-Driving Cars Are ‘Not Even Close’


J. Peterson, Sept 1, “..To find out what it’s been like to rebuild a top robotics lab after being gutted by one of the most powerful companies in the world, I called up Herman for a candid conversation about what universities can do that corporations can’t, and how CMU has managed to pick up the pieces of what Uber left behind…

Maybe, and maybe not. The objectives of companies like Uber, and our objectives as a university, are different. Uber as a company has to worry about its valuation. I think part of the reason that they released the news about these autonomous taxis is marketing. Technically, I’m not sure if it’s ready. They still have to have engineers in the car. So, for technical reasons, it’s not there. But for non-technical reasons, they decided that it’s a good idea to start talking about it…” Read more  Hmmm…Juicy!  Alain

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. …Mr. Urmson has been unhappy with the direction of the car project under Mr. Krafcik’s leadership and quarreled privately several months ago with Larry Page over where it was headed, according to two former Google employees….
Mr. Urmson said he had not decided what he will do next. “If I can find another project that turns into an obsession and becomes something more, I will consider myself twice lucky,” he wrote. Read more  Hmmm…Very unfortunate.  What a great job he has done. All the best. Alain

HERE appoints Ralf Herrtwich as Head of Automotive Business Group

Press Release, July 28, “HERE, the location cloud company, today announced that it has appointed Ralf Herrtwich to lead the company’s fast-growing Automotive Business Group.

In his role, Herrtwich will focus on bringing the power of HERE’s Open Location Platform into vehicles as well as accelerating the deployment of location technologies to support autonomous driving.

He will start at HERE in the position of Senior Vice President and member of the HERE leadership team on October 1.  Read more  Hmmm…Very unfortunate for Daimler.  What a great job he has done. All the best at HERE. Alain

How $600 In Auto Safety Features Could Save Up To $202 Billion In Crash Costs

A. Ohnsman, July 20, “researchers at Carnegie Mellon University say widespread adoption of some of the building-block technologies needed for fully autonomous vehicles, short of the artificial intelligence, steering controls and advanced sensors they also use, can meaningfully and affordably reduce collisions and road fatalities.In particular, three partially automated crash avoidance features – blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning and forward collision-warning systems – can be particularly effective in reducing nearly a quarter of U.S. vehicle collisions annually, say the authors of the just-issued study. Read more  Hmmm…Very interesting.  Also see read full paper by Harper & Hendrickson.  This is what is gained by just the warning systems.  What additional savings can be gained with Automated versions and when will their costs go down such that they will actually be cheaper than the insurance LOSS that they avoid?  Alain