Thursday, May 26, 2016

Pittsburgh files for $50M transportation grant in Smart City Challenge

The Department of Transportation will give $40 million to the winning city; Vulcan Inc., a private entity run by Seattle billionaire Paul Allen, has pledged $10 million. Nearly 80 cities applied for the grant. The other finalists are Denver, San Francisco, Portland, Ore., Kansas City, Mo., Columbus, Ohio, and Austin, Texas. Stan Caldwell, a professor of transportation and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University who helped with Pittsburgh's application, was optimistic about the city's chances. Cooperation among city and county officials as they finalized Pittsburgh's proposal gives it an advantage, Caldwell said. “It's been a very collaborative process,” he said.

June 9: Bicycle Crash Data Workshop and Hack Night

With the recent release of 10 years of crash data in Allegheny County, a number of different organizations are interested in exploring traffic safety in our community. Please join us for an evening of civic hacking on June 9.

Partners in the event include: Allegheny County, Bike Pittsburgh, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon’s Traffic21 Institute, the City of Pittsburgh, Open Pittsburgh, and the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center at the University of Pittsburgh.

The economics of active transportation oriented development

In addition to the building case studies, the report features five examples of infrastructure projects to show how active transportation infrastructure can have positive economic impacts for cities and regions. Public health and environmental goals can be aligned with these investments, and they can create opportunities for the real estate industry to develop the types of projects outlined earlier in the report.

Four in 10 drivers unaware of how connected their car is

Consumers are still in the dark about the benefits of car connectivity with four in 10 drivers (39%) unaware that these features exist in their own vehicles. New research from TNS and the BearingPoint Institute, which surveyed 3,700 connected car owners in Europe, shows there is clear excitement about connected cars, in particular navigation, driver assistance and in-car entertainment. Almost six in 10 respondents (59%) saying that connected features influenced their choice of vehicle and 32% saying it was an important criteria at purchase.

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technology A ‘Scam’: Tesla Co-Founder

Marc Tarpenning, a Tesla co-founder, shared his thoughts on hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Tarpenning called hydrogen fuel cell vehicles “a scam” on an Internet History Podcast. Fuel cell technology, which has been around for over 100 years, runs on the electricity created from bonding hydrogen and oxygen. The only byproducts of fuel cell cars are heat and water, proponents of the technology say about its environmentally-friendly attributes. Nevertheless, some are not a fan of the technology. Tarpenning said hydrogen is uniquely bad. “There’s a saying in the auto industry: Hydrogen is the future of transportation and always will be. And it’s a scam as far as I can tell, because the energy equation is terrible,” the executive said. Further, Tarpenning argues that hydrogen is difficult to get, compress and use in fuel, even when it is very abundant. He added that on a planet where people live, all the hydrogen is very reactive.

“It’s bound up into water, wood and everything else,” said the Tesla co-founder.

Are Headlights on Cars a Thing of the Past?

Do driverless vehicles really need to function in complete darkness? After all, human-piloted cars do just fine with headlights and streetlights. But the abilities of LiDAR—particularly the ability for cars with the technology to do just fine in low-light conditions—is another proof point that driverless vehicles will be safer than those driven by humans. Imagine never worrying about a deer or moose lurking up ahead, out of the range of your headlights, and drivers with poor night vision will never be afraid to drive at night again. Not to mention the increased mobility the technology poses to passengers who are elderly, handicapped, or otherwise unable to drive or even uninterested in driving themselves.

Further: the ability of a vehicle to function perfectly well in complete darkness speaks to its ability to function perfectly well (all on its own and without human intervention) in daylight hours, too.

Tech Crunch: We need more driverless car accidents

Accidents... ... are vital learning exercises. Google’s driverless vehicles cover more than 10,000 miles a day, in addition to the three million miles of computer-simulated driving taking place daily. But these real-life tests are crucial.

The only way to fully understand our world is to explore it by taking risks.

Driverless cars won’t just change who or what is behind the wheel — they hold the potential to change where we drive, which in turn can change our commutes, vacation plans and how we connect with family and friends. Driverless cars are positioned to forever change the world in which we live… but before they can do that, they must fundamentally and fully understand that world. And the only way to fully understand our world is to explore it by taking risks.

Wireless charging: the key to unlocking an electric vehicle revolution

Consumers, most of whom are still fairly unfamiliar with electric vehicles, have certain anxieties about them. One, so-called "range anxiety," is the worry that batteries won't carry them as far as they want to travel (or might want to travel — one never knows). The other is the hassle of plugging in the car every night. For people in apartments or condos, there may not be outlets. And even for people with garages, it's still kind of a pain in the ass. Pumping gas at gas stations is a pain, too, but at least it's only once every week or two.

Alex Gruzen, the CEO of the wireless charging tech company WiTricity, told me one automaker has done an internal survey of its plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle (PHEV) owners and discovered that 70 percent of them never plug in. They use the vehicles as ordinary hybrids, sacrificing an enormous amount of fuel economy (which they paid extra for!) just because nightly plugging in is a hassle.

SEPTA, Uber team to ease suburban parking crunch

This summer SEPTA’s testing whether partnering with Uber can boost ridership and mitigate a parking crunch at some of its busiest stations. Riders taking Uber to or from 11 Regional Rail stations in the four counties surrounding Philadelphia will get 40 percent off the cost of their Uber ride. The discount can be no more than $10 per trip. The discount, a pilot program for what could become a permanent arrangement, will be in effect from Memorial Day to Labor Day and will give SEPTA insight into how ride sharing could affect ridership.

“We will be studying it this summer,” said Erik Johanson, director of Business Innovation. “People are already doing this so we know there’s a market for it.”

Self-driving truck acts like an animal

"Traditionally, the aim has been to try to separate and differentiate all conceivable problems and tackle them using dedicated functions, which means that the system must cover a large number of scenarios. You can cover a large number of different cases, but sooner or later the unexpected occurs, and that's when an accident could happen," says Ola Benderius. His team of researchers have instead chosen to regard the self-driving vehicle as a completely new type of vehicle. A vehicle that is more like an animal, a biological organism, than a technical system.

"Biological systems are the best autonomous systems we know of. A biological system absorbs information from its surroundings via its senses and reacts directly and safely, like an antelope running within its herd, or a hawk pouncing on its prey on the ground. Before humans walked the earth, nature already had a solution, so let's learn from that," says Ola Benderius.