Thursday, August 25, 2016

Uber beaten by Singapore’s NuTonomy in race to launch first driverless taxi service

As you read this, there are self-driving taxis tootling about the streets of Singapore picking up and dropping off regular folks like you and me. The service, launched by driverless vehicle software startup NuTonomy, hit the streets of the island city-state on Thursday. It claims to be the first company in the world to offer members of the public rides in driverless cars, beating out competition not only from Uber, which is prepping a similar service for Pittsburgh, but also outfits such asGM and Lyft, which also have the same aim. Singapore-based riders will be able to request a NuTonomy taxi using their smartphone – for free at the start – though with only six vehicles on the road at launch, you may have to strike it lucky to have a driverless car come pick you up. More cars will be rolled out in the next two years, according to an AP report.

Martial Herbert, Director of Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Institute Talks with 'To the Point' re: UBER

Watch out Google, Apple, Tesla and Ford. Uber wants to be first with a self-driving car. You can already order one up on your smartphone in Pittsburgh.

Martial Hebert, Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University


After years in the making, CMU and the Oakland Transportation Management Association (OTMA) are ready to unveil their plans to make safety improvements on Forbes Ave, from Craig St to Margaret Morrison St. The $2.175M project will update signals, improve intersections, and add “pedestrian/cyclist safety enhancements,” according to SPC’s Transportation Improvement Program website.

The current dialogue for changing the state of Forbes Ave at CMU, started way back in 2011, when CMU held a well attended public meeting calling for bike lanes, as part of their Master Plan update. Since that time, CMU and OTMA obtained a federal grant to improve the safety of Forbes Ave through the campus.

Safety on Forbes Ave came to the forefront last fall with the death of Susan Hicks, who was riding her bicycle home from the University of Pittsburgh, where she worked.

Self-driving cars reach a fork in the road, and automakers take different routes

The different approaches are rooted in conflicting views of safety and what the public is willing to accept. “It’s almost like asking people before they even really knew what an iPhone was, how the iPhone might change their lives,” said Johanna Zmud, senior research scientist at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute.

Raj Rajkumar, who brought Carnegie Mellon’s autonomous SUV to Capitol Hill two years ago for members of Congress to test-ride, said he is more convinced than ever that introducing safe-driving features — lane-departure warnings, cameras and sensors — gradually is the prudent path. “We are able to drive only because we have common sense when it comes to things we’ve never seen before,” he said. “But computer software does not have that level of cognitive abilities to deal with things it has never seen before.”

Advocates Want FCC to Address Car Hacking Threat

The rulemaking process will take a step forward Wednesday, the deadline for comments on a petition filed in June with the FCC requesting that the agency draft rules for the privacy and cybersecurity practices of automobile and tech companies that use the Direct Short Range Communication service. Responses to those comments are due on Sept. 8.  Harold Feld, senior vice president at Public Knowledge, one of the two groups that filed the rulemaking petition, says automakers aren’t yet in a position to deploy the communications technologies that will enable vehicles to connect to traffic light systems or make payments at gas stations. “You have to have a cybersecurity plan in place,” Feld said. “You have to explain to us how you’re going to handle vulnerabilities.”

Yandex Expands With Toyota in Russian Market for Connected Cars

Yandex NV, Russia’s largest search engine, is expanding its services in the market for connected cars, an emerging battlefield for global technology firms, including Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google.
Yandex this month agreed with Toyota Motor Corp. to install services including maps with real-time traffic information and internet browsers in some premium-model Camrys sold in Russia, said Andrey Strelkov, head of geolocation services at Yandex. Toyota confirmed the agreement. Yandex signed a similar deal with Honda Motor Co. last year. “Cars are set to become the new generation of connected devices, and we are seeking to stake out claim to this market that should be worth billions of dollars in the future,” Strelkov said in a phone interview.

Self-driving cars aren’t going to be so great until we make our maps way better

Uber is rolling out self-driving cars in Pittsburgh, which is cool — but it means that the way we think about maps and addresses is about to get really complicated. For example, here is something that happens to me several times a week: I call an Uber to my apartment building, and the driver gets lost because they can’t find the door. See, the address of my building is on a main street, but the actual entrances are on the sides of the building — and when I drop a pin at those locations, Uber maps them to nonexistent addresses. So the drivers either pull up to the correct building address and don’t see a door, or they pull up to a door that has a wildly different address on it.WELCOME TO THE EGRESS PROBLEM A few months ago, the CEO of a large ridesharing company told me this is known as the "egress problem" — the way we locate buildings on a map doesn’t really describe how people move in and out of those buildings. There are probably a lot of solutions to this problem — you could add a button to the map that lets people mark the actual doors of various addresses, you could predefine set locations at each address for riders and drivers to meet, and so on — but right now it’s a real problem that most people in cities have encountered with some frequency.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Traffic deaths on the rise as distracted drivers roam the roads

Drivers now are not just talking on cellphones — they're texting, using apps to follow directions, even playing Pokemon Go. Stopping this epidemic of distracted driving, safety advocates say, will take a societal shift to render such behavior socially unacceptable. But for now, experts warn, the problem is likely to get worse before it gets better. "That's going to be really hard to enforce," said Ken Kolosh, manager of statistics for the Safety Council, based in suburban Itasca. "The use of phones to the ear is decreasing somewhat, but drivers are more and more likely to do texting and social media and other apps. That is even more dangerous." Traffic fatalities this year are on a pace to reach 40,000, which would be the highest total since 2007. That's a vast improvement from about 55,000 deaths annually in the 1970s, but reverses years of declines that have been attributed to air bags, less drunken driving and more seat belt use.

Ohio Turnpike to Serve as Driverless Vehicle Testing Ground

The Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission officials — in conjunction with several other state agencies — plan to begin testing of such vehicles on the toll road across northern Ohio within the next 12 months. Turnpike Executive Director Randy Cole declined to discuss who in the automotive industry or elsewhere in the private sector will participate, saying that element is still being worked out. “That’s at the request of those involved, for competitive reasons,” he said. Mr. Cole said vehicle automation is likely to be an important technology in the future, and thus it’s important for Ohio and the Midwest to be leaders in its development. “We think the turnpike is the right opportunity for both passenger [vehicle] testing and some of the latest freight technologies as well,” he said. Such testing “can be safely done with normal traffic” on the turnpike, Mr. Cole said, and the toll road has several distinctive features lacking on other Ohio highways that will support it.

UTC Spotlight Conference: Bicycles and Pedestrians: Early Bird Registration Ends September 23, 2016

TRB is sponsoring the 10th University Transportation Center (UTC) Spotlight Conference on Bicycles and Pedestrians on December 1-2, 2016, in Washington, D.C. The conference will focus on the subject of bike and pedestrian safety, encompassing four comprehensive areas: networks and connectivity, data needs, tools to address bike and pedestrian safety, and equity considerations.
The event will be designed to identify critical issues associated with bike and pedestrian safety that will challenge state and local transportation agencies; identify on-going research being conducted by the UTCs and other institutions; identify gaps that may exist in the current research; and promote synergies among academic, government, and private industry in meeting the challenges of bike and pedestrian safety.