Chris Urmson earns Elon Musk’s Pied Piper Award — Next they will share the Theranos Cup

Michael DeKort
5 min readJul 22, 2019


Tonight, I listened to Greg Rogers’ Mobility Podcast with Chris Urmson.

The level these hype these folks are willing to trade in is breathtakingly unethical, unprofessional, immoral, grossly negligent and fraudulent.

These two gentlemen, like most of the industry, believe that public shadow and safety driving is the best method to develop this technology. And that the five lives lost, and the thousands that will be lost needlessly in the future, are necessary. (I do want to note that it is clear there is a paradigm shift of awareness and courage going on. I only hope it moves fast enough to avoid the first death of a child or family or another AV maker goes out of business.)

Right up-front Chris repeated his company’s mantra with regard to their approach in developing this technology. “Safely, quickly and broadly”?

How is that remotely possible using public shadow and safety driving for most of the development and testing?

It is impossible to drive the one trillion miles or spend over $300B to stumble and restumble on all the scenarios necessary to complete the effort. In addition, the process harms people for no reason. This occurs two ways. The first is through handover or fall back. A process that cannot be made safe for most complex scenarios, by any monitoring and notification system, because they cannot provide the time to regain proper situational awareness and do the right thing the right way, especially in time critical scenarios. The other dangerous area is training the systems to handle accident scenarios. In order do that AV makers will have to run thousands of accident scenarios thousands of times. that will cause thousands of injuries and deaths. The solution is aerospace/DoD simulation technology and systems/safety engineering. (Not gaming engine-based systems as they have significant real-time and model fidelity flaws in complex scenarios).

In another part of note Greg Rogers said — “Transparency is huge. . .reducing unnecessary risk . . and in making sure the public can trust in AV developers. How can you convince the public that your vehicles are safe? Then Urmson says they “operate with integrity”.

Do they both actually believe public shadow/safety driving can create a L4 and the deaths that have occurred and the thousands more each AV maker will cause are necessary?

In the final part I want to highlight Chris said in response to informing lawmakers — “Having a perspective supported by data. When the inevitable bad events occurs, they aren’t trapped in a knee jerk reaction.”

Exactly where is the data that public shadow/safety driving is tenable? That safety driving is value added? That the lives lost using it are for the greater good? That handover can be made safe in critical scenarios?

My advice to Mr. Rogers — If you are going to set yourself up as someone who advises lawmakers, NHTSA etc you need to be doing you due diligence. So far you have not done that.

Unless that paradigm shift picks up speed this industry is well on its way to being far worse than Theranos. Why? Because this tech is actually doable and Theranos killed no one.

(In closing I want to posit about what happened to Chris and the rest of the industry. I believe like Elizabeth Holmes, Chris started out with the best of intentions and truly believed he knew the technology he was chasing could be made and that he knew how to do it. Like Holmes, he and the rest of the industry, who are clearly intelligent people, believed they had the right exposure to the right engineering domains and therefore had the requisite experience to build what they wanted to build. (In fairness Ms. Holmes really had no experience at all.) They came from Silicon Valley, knew the right folks, who were part of the same echo chamber, and soon the money came pouring in. Then reality started settling in. That reality was telling them they severely underestimated the task at hand and the experience they had going in. (In Holmes case she found that no technology in existence could be used to make her blood testing machine.) Instead of admitting they were wrong and suffering massive blows to the ego and pocketbook these folks went on a misinformation campaign to avoid severe hits to either. And now we are where we are. Urmson, unlike Musk, has been really clever about this. Instead of doubling down on crazy and promising L4 this year, Chris admitted he was optimistic, as was the rest of the industry, and simply moves the bar out further and further. And since no other AV maker trying to make an L4/5 for the public domain does this any different he looks like he’s doing the best that can be done, is open and honest and simply stringing together epiphanies.)

More in my articles here

Using the Real World is better than Proper Simulation for Autonomous Vehicle Development — NONSENSE


All the Autonomous Vehicle makers combined would not get remotely close to L4


Common Misconceptions about Aerospace/DoD/FAA Simulation for Autonomous Vehicles


SAE Autonomous Vehicle Engineering Magazine-End Public Shadow Driving


The Driverless Vehicle Industry is in Danger of becoming Worse than Theranos


My name is Michael DeKort — I am a former system engineer, engineering and program manager for Lockheed Martin. I worked in aircraft simulation, the software engineering manager for all of NORAD, the Aegis Weapon System, and on C4ISR for DHS.

Key Industry Participation

- Lead — SAE On-Road Autonomous Driving SAE Model and Simulation Task

- Member SAE ORAD Verification and Validation Task Force

- Expert — DIN/SAE International Alliance for Mobility Testing & Standardization (IAMTS) group to create sensor simulation specs

- Stakeholder for UL4600 — Creating AV Safety Guidelines

- Member of the IEEE Artificial Intelligence & Autonomous Systems Policy Committee (AI&ASPC)

- Presented the IEEE Barus Ethics Award for Post 9/11 Efforts

My company is Dactle

We are building an aerospace/DoD/FAA level D, full L4/5 simulation-based testing and AI system with an end-state scenario matrix to address several of the critical issues in the AV/OEM industry I mentioned in my articles below. This includes replacing 99.9% of public shadow and safety driving. As well as dealing with significant real-time, model fidelity and loading/scaling issues caused by using gaming engines and other architectures. (Issues Unity has confirmed). If not remedied these issues will lead to false confidence and performance differences between what the Plan believes will happen and what actually happens. If someone would like to see a demo or discuss this further please let me know.



Michael DeKort

Non-Tribal Truth Seeker-IEEE Barus Ethics Award/9–11 Whistleblower-Aerospace/DoD Systems Engineer/Member SAE Autonomy and eVTOL development V&V & Simulation