Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Uber’s self-driving cars are now picking up passengers in Arizona

Uber has the blessing from Arizona’s top politician, Governor Doug Ducey, a Republican, who is expected to be “Rider Zero” on an autonomous trip along with Anthony Levandowski, VP of Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group. The Arizona pilot comes after California’s Department of Motor Vehicles revoked the registrationof Uber’s 16 self-driving cars because the company refused to apply for the appropriate permits for testing autonomous cars.

Starting today, residents of Tempe, Arizona, can hail a self-driving Volvo XC90 SUV on Uber’s ride-sharing platform. All trips will include two Uber engineers in the front seats as safety drivers, in the event a human needs to take over control from the vehicle’s software. Uber says it hopes to expand the coverage area to other cities in Arizona in the coming weeks. The company first started allowing riders to take trips in its self-driving cars in Pittsburgh last September.

Self-Driving Cars and the Law: States and Carmakers

Areas for State Oversight
  • Certification: Each state must certify that an AV's autonomous technology is safe when all hardware and software are functioning as designed, as well as able to safely operate when hardware/software failures occur.
  • Registration: AVs not requiring a human driver -- even for limited periods -- should be identified as such, referencing their operational design domain (ODD), which outlines the strict conditions under which they may operate without a driver.
  • Drivers: States must sort out the different levels of autonomy, deciding which will require a licensed driver and under what circumstances. Even if a car isn't totally autonomous, should it require a licensed driver if only operating within its ODD?
  • Laws: Sweeping changes to many current laws will be necessary to accommodate cars that, to at least some degree, drive themselves. States will need to reevaluate laws requiring drivers do certain things, like keeping their hands on the steering wheel, carrying driver's licenses, and not texting or performing other distracted tasks.

Monday, February 20, 2017

With Ford venture, a talent war for engineers heats up

Ford’s gigantic bet on building a team to compete with Uber has leaders of Pittsburgh tech firms feeling validated — but also wondering if there will be enough talent to go around. “The competition for people doing this type of work is very fierce,” said Steve DiAntonio, president and CEO of Carnegie Robotics LLC, which spun out from Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute in 2010. “Having now another well-financed organization that wants to hire 200 people by the end of the year — that is a bit of a threat, there’s no doubt about it,” he added. “There’s enough critical mass in this region where you are getting people to jump from one start-up to another.”

9 Startups with Self-Driven Future (Maybe)

Until 10 days ago when Ford announced a $1 billion investment in Argo AI (Pittsburgh), it was just another anonymous tech startup. And it was really new. Argo AI was founded only last November by two AI robotic experts (Bryan Salesky originally from Google, and Peter Rander from Uber). The company cleverly avoided notice entirely, until Ford came calling.
That got us thinking. How many tech startups are out there – waiting to be snatched up, or hoping to become the next Waymo (formerly the Google self-driving car project)?
And more importantly, who are they?

Professors build AI to help autonomous vehicles locate themselves on maps

High-definition (HD) maps meant for machine-to-machine communication must be accurate to within 10 to 20 centimeters. Self-driving vehicles need to continuously update, or register, their location on these maps with an equally high degree of accuracy, according to Fang, who said that the goal of the collaborative research is to enhance car-to-map precision to within 10 centimeters.  "Essentially, we want to be able to precisely match what the car sees with what's in the cloud database. An incredibly precise ruler isn't of much use if your vision is blurry," he explained. 

Ford Wants To Create A Map That Warns Drivers About Potholes

“A virtual pothole map could highlight a new pothole the minute it appears and almost immediately warn other drivers that there is a hazard ahead. “Our cars already feature sensors that detect potholes and now we are looking at taking this to the next level.” As part of its research, Ford is looking into how it could use cameras and storing information in the cloud as part of creating the infrastructure for the map.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Ford Bets $1B on Startup Founded by former CMU Robotics Alumni

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.

"This is likely a realization that Ford is behind relative to companies like GM, Audi, Volvo, Waymo and Uber, and is trying to catch up," said Raj Rajkumar, a Carnegie Mellon computer engineering professor who leads the school's autonomous vehicle research.

CMU spin-off RoadBotics is infrastructure-focused

RoadBotics Chief Scientist Christoph Mertz spent several years at CMU developing prototype road inventory management collection technology. Mertz and RoadBotics’ other founders, DeSantis, Courtney Ehrlichman and Benjamin Schmidt, licensed the technology from CMU’s Robotics Institute and began engineering and product development towards commercialization of a service.

March 8th: Transportation Data User Group Meeting: Western PA Regional Data Center

We’re hosting an open conversation about transportation data. This is one in a series of “Data User Group” conversations organized by the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center. User groups are open meetings designed to build community among data users, identify data publishing priorities, and allow participants to share expertise and build collaboration around the use of data. If you use transportation data, or are interested in using it, please join us.

To kick off the meeting, Adams Carroll, Director of Operations with Healthy Ride will dig into how their system captures data on ridership, and how the organization uses it to enhance bike share services in the City.

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

If Congress lacks the desire to study the issue carefully and tackle it with a comprehensive law, it can go at things piecemeal and still nudge automation along. 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.