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.

Ford to Partner with Baidu to Develop Driverless Cars

Ford Motor Company has recently announced that it will team up with the Chinese search corporation Baidu for the development of driverless cars within the next half a decade. Market analysts are bullish on the said project as they believe that fully autonomous car technology will be greatly beneficial to the future of the US car manufacturer.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Tesla Unveils Electric-Car Battery With a 315-Mile Range

Tesla Motors Inc. said it is offering its electric vehicles with a battery capable of going up to 315 miles on a charge, the first time a major auto maker has provided that much electric range in a vehicle. The company unveiled new versions of its Model S sedan and Model X sport-utility vehicle with 100 kilowatt-hour batteries; previously the largest battery size was 90 kwh. The upgrade will allow the Palo Alto, Calif-based company to sell a P100 version of those two vehicles with Tesla’s well-known “Ludicrous Mode.” In a conference call, Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk said Tesla will now offer the “fastest car in the world,” and he said the fact the vehicle is an electric one is a milestone that foreshadows the future of the auto industry. Tesla claims the 100 kwh sedan can travel from 0 to 60 miles an hour in 2.5 seconds, while the SUV can achieve it in 2.9 seconds.

Giant Eagle raises its stake in Seegrid, the vision-guided vehicle firm

Seegrid, a Findlay company that makes vision-guided vehicles used in factories and warehouses, said it has received $12 million in additional equity to develop new products and undertake other initiatives. O’Hara-based Giant Eagle, Seegrid’s majority shareholder, provided more than half of the latest funding, according to Jeff Christensen, vice president of products and services. The rest came from new and existing shareholders Mr. Christensen declined to identify. He said the regional supermarket chain has also agreed to provide an additional $13 million on an as-needed basis. Seegrid equips forklifts and other industrial vehicles with cameras and computers that enable them to move safely to and from loading docks, warehouses, production lines and other industrial settings.

Delphi, Mobileye team up for Level 4 self-driving tech

Delphi Automotive and Mobileye, two leading suppliers of autonomous vehicle technology, will collaborate on a broader system that should enable vehicles to achieve full, or Level 4, autonomy by 2019.  Mobileye is the Israeli-based developer of computer vision systems, mapping and machine learning algorithms. Delphi, with a large technical center in Troy, has already created a system of driving software, sensors and radar that have guided a fleet of Audi SQ5's on several cross-country autonomous trips. A key part of what Delphi brings to the partnership are software algorithms that help navigate a vehicle, a technology it acquired in August 2015 when it bought Ottomatika, a startup created at Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute.

How a robot lover pioneered the driverless car, and why he's selling his latest to Uber

“In 30 years, every single new car will be autonomous. That’s completely obvious,” says Levandowski, who was also the engineer responsible for Google’s first driverless car.
“But it will take a long time for the technology to be ubiquitous. It’s probably one of those things where we overestimate it in the short run and underestimate it in the long run.” Levandowski himself could not be accused over underestimating the potential of robotic vehicles. After building Ghostrider, he put the first driverless car on public roads in 2008, and sold a start-up to Google that formed the nucleus of its self-driving car project. His latest venture, an autonomous truck company called Otto that only launched in May, is being bought by Uber for an estimated $680m.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Uber's point man on automated driving came from Ford

In Marakby's 25 years at Ford, he held a number of high-profile engineering jobs. Most recently, he was Ford's director of global electronics and engineering, responsible for electrical components, including infotainment, driver assist and connectivity. Before that assignment, Marakby held key senior management jobs in hybrid vehicle engineering and development and powertrain. The first part of Marakby's job, finding a suitable vehicle for Uber's self-driving cars, is done. He spent the past five months traveling the world, scrutinizing vehicles and speaking with automakers. Marakby picked the XC90, he said, for two major reasons: Volvo's commitment to safety and the vehicle's advanced electronics system.

Thursday 8/25 @ 6pm - Bike PGH MEETUP - Developing Networks That Connect Communities

Bikes are powerful tools that build community. They connect people to places, ideas, and each other. They build networks. Join us for the fourth installment of our Business Meetup series to learn about how The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, Envision Downtown and the Pennsylvania Environmental Council are using bikes to build networks that create communities in different ways. Feel free to invite friends and colleagues.

Now That's a Strong Taxi Lobby: New law passes in MA to tax ride-hailing apps, give the money to taxis

"They've been breaking the laws that are on the books, that we've been following for many years," said Larry Meister, manager of the Boston area's Independent Taxi Operator's Association. The law levies a 20-cent fee in all, with 5 cents for taxis, 10 cents going to cities and towns and the final 5 cents designated for a state transportation fund. The fee may raise millions of dollars a year because Lyft and Uber alone have a combined 2.5 million rides per month in Massachusetts. The law says the money will help taxi businesses to adopt "new technologies and advanced service, safety and operational capabilities" and to support workforce development.

VW eyes transportation deals to boost self-driving car plans

Jungwirth, a former Apple and Daimler manager, acknowledged that VW is a latecomer on new technologies as it pushes into self-driving cars and ride- sharing -- areas where rivals have already made inroads. "We have a massive need to now work with the same passion for detail and the same focus on software and services as on hardware (cars)," said Jungwirth who joined VW last November when it was struggling with the aftermath of its Diesel emissions scandal.

10 cities that are starting to go car-free

In 2015, Oslo announced a plan to ban all cars from its city center by 2019. Now, the country of Norway wants to take the initiative a step further.  According to Time, Norway is preparing a billthat, if passed, would ban the sale of gas-powered cars in the country by 2025. But cities in Norway are not the only ones getting ready to take the car-free plunge. Urban planners and policy makers around the world have started to brainstorm ways that cities can create more space for pedestrians and lower CO2 emissions from diesel. Here are 10 cities leading the car-free movement.

Carshare scheme frees up 35 miles of parking space in Australia

“We estimate that we've freed up more than 55km [35 miles] of parking space in Australia to date through the service, which is clearly having a profound impact on congestion and the flow of traffic in the inner city,” says Passaportis. “For each car shared through the service, up to 10 other privately held cars are removed from the roads.” “We've seen local government in Australia re-commit to carsharing by reviewing and updating their policies over the last 18 months. The City of Melbourne, for example, is now targeting that 30% of households will carshare by 2021. Interestingly, 15% of Sydney’s population that has a driver's license is a member of a carshare scheme.”

USDOT BTS Releases Smartphone App for Pocket Guide to Transportation

 The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) has introduced its most innovative product – a smartphone app for the Pocket Guide to Transportation 2016. The Pocket Guide is a popular, quick reference guide to significant transportation statistics. The new app allows users to take all the informative graphics and tables from the guide with them without having to carry a copy of the Pocket Guide. All of the features of the annual Pocket Guide will be available from both the iTunes App Store for iPhone and iPad and the Google Play store for Android devices. All seven sections – Infrastructure, Moving People, Moving Goods, Performance, Economy, Safety and Environment – plus a new Major Trends section can be found on the app.

As Consumers Flock Towards Connected Cars, Wireless Industry Benefits

Within the IoT boom, the growth in connected cars is leading the pack. During the second quarter of 2016, the connection of cars to cellular networks outpaced the number of new phones connected to cellular networks during that same time period. AT&T saw a connected car onboarding pace double that of the connected tablets pace. At the end of the first quarter of 2016, AT&T counted more than 8 million connected cars on its network and connected more than 50% of the new connected cars in the US. Verizon’s recent acquisitions of connected car technology companies Telogis and Fleetmatics also reflects this increased focus by wireless companies on connected cars. Now consumers just need to figure out how to use all of these exciting new connected-car features.

Rumored Apple car project leader snatched by Faraday Future

Project Titan is well known to be hush-hush – and thus remains unconfirmed by Apple, but as we all know the days when the company could keep its project an actual secret are long and forever gone. Still, we don’t know what exactly Nabbe was doing at Apple – before hooking up with them he was a faculty member at Carnegie Mellon University where he worked in autonomous outdoor navigation, artificial intelligence, computer vision and embedded systems. His prior automotive experience includes some scientific research for Toyota. Now his Linked In profile shows Nabbe has become the Director Strategic Partnerships for Faraday Future, the startup that aims to compete with Tesla in the field of electric vehicles.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Airbus Flying Car Prototype Planned to Undergo Flight Tests in 2017

Tired of dealing with traffic? So is Airbus, and that's why they hope to have a flying taxi service taking to the skies sometime in the near future. The company currently has technology in development that offers commuters an alternative to getting caught in rush hour traffic, an aircraft which some are describing simply as a flying car.

Australia to spend millions making its cities smarter

Malcolm Turnbull’s Liberal government, which won the federal election last month, has revealed a Smart Cities and Suburbs Program, with the intention of bringing local councils and tech firms to the table.
The $50 million program calls for local councils to implement smart city technology to improve cities and suburbs. Federal funds will back part of the project; private and local funding will pay for the rest.

How Tesla Autopilot drove a man with a blood clot to the hospital, and expanded the autonomous car debate

John Dolan, principal systems scientist in the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, said it reminds him of an instance when a man suffering an aneurysm lost control of his car and killed two women walking in a park. Dolan believes that a car that can recognize when a driver is incapacitated, and automatically switch into an autonomous mode, may be the next step. While it would involve limiting false alarms, Dolan said that he has "been gaining experience on how to do that kind of thing with existing advanced driver-assist features."

Friday, August 19, 2016

Pittsburgh Is Going Driverless

For example, the university currently has a project underway with the city to survey street conditions, roadway markings, and signage on a regular basis, using inexpensive cameras. “Good lane markings are useful for autonomous vehicle lane following,” says Chris Hendrickson, the director of the Traffic21 research institute at CMU.
Over the past five years, the university has also helped the city equip fifty streetlights with sensors, antennas, and wireless connections that adapt signal patterns based on traffic flow rather than fixed schedules. According to Pittsburgh’s Smart Cities application, traffic wait time has improved by 40 percent and emissions have been cut an estimated 20 percent in neighborhoods with the special technology. Some of these traffic lights are also able to communicate with connected vehicles about traffic speed and light status, using dedicated short-range communication (DSRC) radios. “Self-driving vehicles and the public will be significant beneficiaries over time," says Rajkumar.

Apps don’t make a city smart

To be truly smart, cities of the future should focus on developing democratic, participatory visions that harness smart technology to a shared agenda. Let’s create a genuinely shared urban commons and an inclusive public realm — not a place where quick adoption of smart technologies just reinforces the dominant-yet-dumb approaches of competition, enclosure, and division.

Uber got this right — Pittsburgh is America’s city of the future

Had Brian Gross been born a decade or two earlier, he might have been one of the many Pittsburgh natives all but forced to leave the city for better opportunities. Instead, the 25-year-old computer scientist in 2012 co-founded AthleteTrax, a startup that offers web-based payment processing and other online services for minor sports leagues, in one of the hottest innovation hubs in America: his hometown. 
“My business partner and I both grew up in Pittsburgh,” Gross, the company’s chief technical officer, told Salon. “We’re old enough to remember the steel days and the rebirth of the city.” Now if the weather permits, he and fellow co-founder and CEO Jon Halpern sometimes work on the roof patio of their office by Carnegie Mellon University that overlooks a row of restaurants and bars. 

Uber’s First Self-Driving Fleet Arrives in Pittsburgh This Month

Near the end of 2014, Uber co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick flew to Pittsburgh on a mission: to hire dozens of the world’s experts in autonomous vehicles. The city is home to Carnegie Mellon University’s robotics department, which has produced many of the biggest names in the newly hot field...
Starting later this month, Uber will allow customers in downtown Pittsburgh to summon self-driving cars from their phones, crossing an important milestone that no automotive or technology company has yet achieved.

The Benefits of Semi-Automated Vehicles

A couple of startups have emerged to help with that transition by enabling regular cars to become driverless. Otto is an effort forged by a team of ex-Google employees, while Oxbotica is an Oxford University spin-out company.
Of course, this transition has not just interested the commercial world, with a number of academic studies also exploring the matter. For instance, one study has examined the ease with which control of the car can alternate between man and machine.
A second study, by researchers from Carnegie Mellon, explores the potential benefits of such a hybrid approach to automation.

Self Driving Cars Will Improve Our Cities. If They Don't Ruin Them

Robin Chase Author of Peers Inc; co-founder Veniam, vehicle mesh & co-founder former CEO Zipcar
Ten years ago I found myself standing outside the Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn, Michigan. I looked out over acres of glinting windshields in a packed parking lot. I’d reached this spot by driving from Ann Arbor on the I-94, where the highway sometimes reaches 12 lanes across, in a little over an hour. Public transit would have taken me three and a half hours. What would Henry Ford think, one hundred years after the birth of the car? Pride or horror?

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Tesla isn't alone with cars that can nearly drive themselves

General Motors delayed the introduction of its Tesla-like Super Cruise system because of safety concerns.
"They don't deploy it because they know that things can fail," said Raj Rajkumar, a computer engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University who leads its autonomous vehicle research.
Automakers have been slowly adding driver-assist features to their vehicles for years in an effort to make occupants safer and meet U.S. and European government mandates. Mercedes introduced adaptive cruise control, which automatically maintains a distance from cars in front, in 1999, four years before Tesla was founded. Ford introduced automatic parallel parking in 2009, six years before Tesla did.

Top Smart Cities in the world today

According to Frost & Sullivan, the global Smart Cities market is projected to reach US$1.56 trillion by 2020. With rapid urbanization and ageing populations, cities are facing increasing strain on infrastructure, transportation, energy and healthcare resources. To address these urban challenges, governments are embracing the concept of the smart city and looking to apply new technologies to improve sustainability, liveability and quality of life for citizens. We take a look at some of the leading smart cities from around the world and their initiatives:

Helsinki rolls out driverless bus pilot

History is being made in Helsinki’s Hernesaari district, as automatic buses take to the streets. Commuters and motorists will have to get used to seeing a pair of driverless mini-buses negotiating traffic in the area as the city tests the robot vehicles through mid-September.
The pilots are among the first in the world, since Finnish laws don’t require vehicles on the road to have a driver. This has made it easier for officials to get the required green light from the transport safety authority Trafi.

Hyperloop Technology to Be Studied as Shipping Tool

Hyperloop technology is fast-tracking into the freight sector.  Hyperloop One Inc., one of two companies racing to build the futuristic speed-of-sound transportation technology, announced a new partnership with DP World, one of the world’s largest port-terminal operators. Hyperloop One and DP World will work together to study the viability of using hyperloop technology to unload ocean-container cargo at the Jebel Ali port in Dubai. Containers would travel swiftly via hyperloop to an inland depot, while minimizing the impact on local surface traffic.

Ohio Turnpike preparing to use drones

The Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission in September will complete its first bridge inspection using an unmanned aircraft system, or drone.
The drone will be used to inspect the Sandusky River Bridge, a 970-foot-long bridge in Sandusky County on either Sept. 13 or Sept. 14, depending on the weather.
Typically, the bridge receives a hands-on inspection by engineering firm AECOM. However, that can prove challenging given the length and width – 102 feet – of the bridge, according to Randy Cole, executive director of the turnpike.

Australia Takes Step Toward V2V Communication Network

Plans to create a connected-vehicle network across Australia take a significant step forward with the government announcing it will assign bandwidth for the project early next year,
The Australian Communications and Media Authority says it will set aside the 5.9 GHz band for the vehicle network, known as Co-operative Intelligent Transport Systems.

Ford will make autonomous vehicles without steering wheels by 2021

Ford will mass-produce autonomous vehicles without steering wheels by 2021, Ford chief executive Mark Fields said today at the Ford Research and Innovation Center in Palo Alto, California.
An investment in Velodyne LiDAR for autonomous vehicle sensors and the acquisition of Israel-based machine learning company SAIPS were also announced.
The cars will be made specifically for ridehailing or ridesharing, Fields said, and will potentially have more impact than Ford’s assembly line.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

UTC Spotlight: August 2016

The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology at the U.S. Department of Transportation has released the latest edition of its newsletter that highlights recent accomplishments and products from university transportation centers (UTCs). This edition's topic is network performance measures and the institution being featured is the University of Oklahoma.

Audi to sell cars that talk to traffic lights

The German carmaker Audi is rolling out technology that will allow its vehicles to communicate with traffic lights.
Audi of America, which is owned by Volkswagen, said select 2017 Q7 and A4 models built after 1 June 2016 would be equipped with the system.
Audi’s version of technology known in the industry as “V-to-I”, or vehicle to infrastructure, displays a countdown before a red light turns to green, with a countdown also appearing when it is too late to get through an approaching signal before it turns red.

Advancing the Smart City movement through big data

Canada is a world leader in this field, and its expertise was on full display in mid-June at the world’s first Strategic Workshop on Big Data and the Built Environment at Ryerson University, sponsored by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), Ryerson University, and the Canadian BIM Council (CanBIM). Researchers, industrial partners and government leaders came together for a two-day event in order to map out the future direction for research and capacity-building across the country...
A range of experts participated in the workshop, including 26 academic and 27 industry participants. The majority of academics were from Canadian universities such as Carleton, York, University of New Brunswick, École Technologique Superieure, University of British Columbia, and Ryerson University. There were also researchers from international institutions such as Carnegie Mellon and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Pennsylvania Creates Task Force to Prep for Arrival of Self-Driving Cars

"We are at the advent of a transformation in transportation that will be similar in scale to the rise of the Internet...aviation...the automobile itself," Cohen told the Pennsylvania State Transportation Commission during its quarterly gathering at a Bucks County hotel.
Research and planning efforts in Pennsylvania - thanks to years of pioneering study at Carnegie Mellon University - have put the state in the forefront of the autonomous vehicle world, along with California, Michigan, Nevada and Florida, he said.
After developing an autonomous Cadillac and testing it on roads in western Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon has turned Pittsburgh into "one of the epicenters of this innovation," Cohen said.

How Many of Our Vehicles Could Be Electric? How Does 87% Strike You?

With all the limits on electric vehicles—battery life, cost, the availability of charging stations—you might expect that at most 50 percent of the vehicles on U.S. roads could be replaced by more-sustainable cars.  Buckle up: It's 87 percent, MIT reckons, in a study published Monday in the journal Nature Energy...

Areas with more extreme temperatures—using heating or cooling systems lowers an electric vehicle’s driving range—and where such larger vehicles as trucks and SUVs are more common will be less likely to increase their use of EVs, said Jeremy Michalek, an engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon and director of the university’s vehicle electrification group. Michalek, who wasn’t involved in the study, said he prefers to focus on the most challenging days for vehicles rather than the average conditions.

Monday, August 15, 2016

New light system in Atlanta designed to help traffic move efficiently

The whole infrastructure project is called "Renew Atlanta," and its general manager is Faye DiMassimo. She explains that the traffic signal part of the project doesn’t just mean buying new equipment; it also means making better use of traffic lights.
“Signal optimization simply means that we're making sure that the timing of the signals is moving traffic through the corridor in an efficient way,” DiMassimo said.
Faye DiMassimo is general manager of ''Renew Atlanta,'' the program that includes funding for new traffic lights. That includes cars – but also bikes and pedestrians.

Worlds collide in autonomous race - Industry and academia hit speed bumps

As companies such as Google race to bring autonomous cars to market, the cultural divide between academic types and corporate types is surfacing publicly. Academics, known for taking long, methodical approaches to problems, appear to be uncomfortable with the pace at which Silicon Valley companies are pushing ahead with autonomous cars.

Turning off red light cameras costs lives, new research shows

Red light camera programs in 79 large US cities saved nearly 1,300 lives through 2014, researchers from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) have found. Shutting down such programs has cost lives, with the rate of fatal red-light-running crashes shooting up 30 per cent in cities that have turned off cameras.

Connected cars need to play well with smart cities

As autonomous vehicles and smart city investments continue their blistering growth, experts say it’s vital that these two connected juggernauts work in better synchronicity.
An article by IT Online discusses recent findings by the International Data Corporation (IDC) its report “Collaboration Between Automotive OEMs and City Leaders for Implementing Connected Car and Smart City Solutions.”
In the report IDC looked at the interplay between these two massively transformational technologies which are generating huge levels of investment.

Pennsylvania steers research into driverless technology

Pennsylvania is already known in the autonomous vehicle world for award-winning research done at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Researchers there are still tweaking their autonomous but manned vehicle — a Cadillac they take for a spin for specific experiments.
John Dolan, a principal systems scientist at the school's Robotics Institute who's involved with several autonomous vehicle projects, said they test the software that maps the car's trajectory and technology that makes sure the vehicle doesn't come too close to parked cars, among other experiments.

France has decided to allow all automakers to test self-driving vehicles on public roads

The decision brings the Hexagon in line with other Western states, and is reportedly part of a plan called New Industrial France Initiative. The respective project involves favoring the development of industrial and manufacturing sectors in the country, which will bring extra earnings to its gross domestic product.
Autonomous cars are not the only transportation-related item on the 34-point plan called “Nouvelle France Industrielle,” which was unveiled in 2013 and is an ongoing project. 


She wants to make an autonomous wheelchair

How much autonomy would you like with your self-driving car? It's a conundrum for Silicon Valley and Detroit—but not for Brenna Argall,, a research scientist at Northwestern University and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.
Argall and her colleagues are working on a smart version of a familiar off-road vehicle: a wheelchair. Backed with $2.5 million in federal grants, they hope to field a commercially feasible model within five years that leaves the user in charge but learns from what it's told, making control simpler, reaction time faster and collision avoidance easier...
As a pre-med student, Argall became fascinated with the (still unrealized) prospect of nanobots chewing up blood clots. She was at robot-centric Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, majoring in math (and getting the pi symbol tattooed on her left wrist). After she opted for a doctorate in robotics, her research remains patient-centric.

Carnegie Robotics, MVS Partner to Deliver Smart Mining Solutions

MVS and Carnegie Robotics have a long history of successful collaboration. The MVS software and the CRL hardware were both developed at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute with the objective of eventual commercialization for mining operations. Together, they have deployed the technologies in mining operations across the globe, including Africa, Australia and Southeast Asia.

Missouri on pace for first solar roads

Solar panel pavement may be the future of Missouri roads.  The Missouri Department of Transportation along with a startup company in Idaho, Solar Roadways are experimenting with the technology that's the first its kind in the country.
MoDOT started the 'Road To Tomorrow Initiative' about a year ago to generate new innovations that have the possibility of creating a new revenue stream for transportation.
One focus is the creation of energy through public roadway.

Toyota Research Institute provides $22M to University of Michigan for AI studies

Toyota Research Institute (TRI), a Toyota R&D organization headquartered in Silicon Valley, is providing $22 million over four years in an initial research grant with the University of Michigan. The funding follows Toyota’s opening of a third research facility for TRI at the U of M campus, which it officially announced in April this year.
The funding is earmarked for artificial intelligence research specifically, and follows similar investments and facilities at Stanford near the Institute’s Palo Alto HQ, and in Cambridge, where Toyota has a similar research agreement with MIT.

Self-Driving Cars Rip Up an Industry's Supply Chain

The auto industry’s self-driving revolution has spurred the biggest two years of car-supplier takeovers in a decade, with more coming as parts makers struggle to keep up with the pace of technological transformation.
The total value of automotive-supplier deals in 2015 and 2016 was $74.4 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, with each of those years far exceeding the $17.7 billion annual average in the previous 10 years.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Andrew Moore: Nobody ‘poaches’ talent from CMU

As dean of CMU’s School of Computer Science, I don’t take lightly the loss of 40 valued employees. We in academia are in a fight with industry for top computer scientists — and the competition gets more bruising by the year. But ultimately this is great for our school, for academia and for industry: The best scientists in the world have the freedom to pursue their careers as they choose. Let’s face it: There’s no way to hire professors in dynamic fields such as computer science and robotics and expect them to stay put for three or four decades.

In our school, we typically see five to 15 faculty members take leaves of absence each year and disappear into industry for a while. Some never return, but many do. I did. Ten years ago, Google recruited me to establish its Pittsburgh engineering center. Two years ago, I returned to CMU as computer science dean. If we in academia play our cards right, many faculty members will be following that same career path — teach and perform research in academia for five or 10 years, then launch a startup or work for a tech firm for a few years, return to academia for another five or 10 years, and so on.

Fully driverless vehicles could soon be on Pennsylvania roads

Pennsylvania lawmakers are considering bills that would allow testing of fully autonomous vehicles on public roads. "In the future, from a testing standpoint, it is very possible that under controlled circumstances ... there is the potential that a vehicle could go down the road without a driver or operator behind the wheel," said Kurt Myers, deputy director for driver and vehicle services for PennDOT.

Pennsylvania Leading the Way in Innovative Transportation

Every year, it’s a privilege at DOT to award TIGER grants – funds that help revitalize communities in innovative and interconnected ways. Last week, you saw Secretary Foxx’s announcement of the 2016 TIGER winners: 40 communities that will receive a share of close to $500 million in TIGER grants nationwide.  Each of those communities has a story to tell. Today, I’m in Carlisle, Pennsylvania to highlight one of those stories – the story of how a community came together to better itself, and how a $5 million TIGER grant will amplify their efforts.

BikePGH's BikeFest August 19th - 28th

BikePGH's annual BikeFest Celebration is Aug 19th-28th. For the uninitiated, BikeFest is BikePgh's annual celebration of all-things-cycling. This event is open to all* individuals and organizations that would like to organize a bike-themed event during the dates of August 19-28th.

You only have 10 days this year to fit in as many events as possible between our BikeFest Kick-Off Dance Party and the region’s largest bicycle ride, UPMC Health Plan PedalPGH.

The USDOT will host three free public webinars on the Connected Vehicle Pilot Deployment Program

Offered by the Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office (ITS JPO), the webinars will explore the insights, challenges, and lessons learned from the Concept Development phase of each of the Connected Vehicle Pilots. Please see the schedule below for each webinar.

Sponsored by USDOT’s ITS JPO, the Connected Vehicle Pilot Deployment Program seeks to combine connected vehicle and mobile device technologies in innovative and cost-effective ways. Ultimately, this program will improve traveler mobility and system productivity while reducing environmental impacts and enhancing safety. The three selected pilot sites are ICF/WYDOT, NYCDOT, and Tampa (THEA). The sites will conduct the pilots in three phases—Phase 1: Concept Development, Phase 2: Design/Build/Test, and Phase 3: Operations.

Uber back in Austin to map streets

Although Uber said they're not testing the self-driving feature in Austin yet, they are using the data gathered from the mapping tests for self-driving research. Apparently, Austin isn't the only city Uber is using for research. Pittsburgh residents have seen the "high tech looking vehicles" around their city for the past several months due to a new partnership with Carnegie Mellon University. After leaving Austin in May 2016 due to the Proposition 1 ruling, Uber has been operating outside the city limits as a ride-sharing service in areas like Pflugerville and Round Rock while their food delivery service, Uber eats, never left the city.

Sustainable PGH hosts Kaid Benfield 9/26 for Lunchtime Talk: “People Habitat: Eight Ways to Think About Greener, Healthier Cities”

September 26th, 2016, 12pm - 1:15pm August Wilson Center for African American Culture, 980 Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15222

Kaid Benfield, senior counsel for environmental strategies at PlaceMakers LLC, based in Washington DC, is one of the nation’s foremost authorities on how cities, towns and neighborhoods can better work — for both people and the environment. He served for over 30 years as senior attorney and director of the smart growth and sustainable communities programs at the Natural Resources Defense Council and is a founder and board member of Smart Growth America. Kaid was named one of the “most influential people in sustainable planning and development” by the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, voted one of the “top urban thinkers” on the leading city planning website,, and named “one of the top 100 city innovators worldwide” by the website Future. Kaid’s latest book is People Habitat: 25 Ways to Think About Greener, Healthier Cities, distributed by Island Press.

You’ll soon be able to lock your BMW with Alexa

BMW is building an Alexa skill for the Amazon Echo as part of its larger BMW Connected cloud architecture. It will allow owners of connected BMW vehicles to check their vehicle’s remaining range and use commands like “lock doors” through the Echo to control their vehicles. Other features in BMW Connected include links between the car and the driver’s iPhone, including providing “time to leave” notifications for appointments that take traffic information into consideration to help with on-time arrivals, as well as transferring navigation destinations from the phone to the in-car nav system. BMW also includes integration with the Apple Watch.

New technology shrinks mechanical LIDAR sensors onto silicon wafers

The sensor is big because it's mechanical — it has moving parts. The section on the top spins around constantly, so the lasers can build up a 360-degree map. This also limits the refresh rate of the LIDAR image: the sensor can only know where something is when it's bouncing a light off it, and although it can accurately infer where an object is based on its past location, direction of travel, and speed, it's still a blind-spot of sorts. Researchers from MIT and DARPA might have a solution though — a new version of LIDAR that shrinks the light-bouncing apparatus onto a chip that's smaller than a grain of rice. Writing for IEEE Spectrum, researchers Christopher Poulton and Michael Watts claim that their prototype sensors "promise to be orders of magnitude smaller, lighter, and cheaper than LIDAR systems available on the market today." They could be the eyes of future robots.

Autonomous driving market seen at $560bn

The report forecasts a break-up in the auto industry as it is today. Alongside OEMs, service providers will also create their own fast-growing and independent industry. As early as 2025, their consumption-dependent revenues and revenues from entertainment, multimedia and information offerings could already exceed what traditional OEMs earn with optional extras. Forecasts indicate that the vehicle market itself will split into three segments: premium, low-cost and drones.
"The business models of mid-range providers like Toyota, VW, SEAT and Citroën are being called into question," said Michael Römer, head of Digital Business Europe, Middle East and Africa at A T Kearney and co-founder of A T Kearney Digital Labs. "Following the example set by technology pioneers such as GM, BMW and Ford, automakers need to forge strategic alliances with partners outside the industry if they want to deliver attractive telematics solutions, for example."

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World: Werner Herzog explores online gaming, self-driving cars and soccer-playing robots

Herzog's new film, Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World, is a new order of business, an awed tour of human life shaped by the internet, from a filmmaker whose passions have always sought out the primordial and pre-technological.

A connoisseur of alien landscapes, Herzog is finally completely out of his element here, exploring techno-hubs and “connectedness” stats in a virtual world where almost nothing filmable happens. The film is nearly all interviews (internet-science pioneers, Carnegie Mellon robot researchers, Elon Musk, recovering internet addicts, etc.), with Herzog off-camera prodding with questions and exuding an unmistakable sense of old-fogey freak-out.

BMW Deploys Self-Driving Technology for Olympic Swimmers in Rio

BMW is using technology originally developed for its autonomous driving systems to help Olympic swimmers scrutinize the minutiae of their form and technique to improve performance. The same LED lights BMW uses in its cars to identify pedestrians and other vehicles are put on swimmers’ limbs to analyze different elements of kick and pull. The LED-based software package helps Team USA coaches provide instant feedback to swimmers like Michael Phelps. The software, along with a new racing wheelchair BMW rolled out for the Rio Paralympics, are among the technology initiatives BMW is showcasing at this year’s Games.

Does entertainment trump security in connected cars?

"The problem," said Nathan Wenzler, principal security architect at AsTech Consulting, "is that the industry is not known for moving quickly. They are redesigning with software that they aren't really familiar with."  To be fair, auto manufacturers are burdened not only with manufacturing a vehicle, but also with being security experts. "They are asked to be software developers, database managers, SaaS managers. They go from making a car to being a Google," said Thuen. There is no turning back from that demand now, so Wenzler said, "The responsibility lies with the manufacturers to design software systems to be secure and protected. They are internet able or internet connected. A lot of developers think that because it's a stripped down version of an operating system that makes it secure. No, you need a lot more than that."

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

2016 MASITE/ITSPA Annual Conference Early Bird Discount Expires Aug 10th

Sunday, August 28, 2016 - Tuesday, August 30, 2016
Last chance to get a sweet discount on registrations. With over 20 exhibitors, 30 technical sessions, an emergency response demonstration, and a roundtable discussion, we've got something for everyone. Check out the preliminary schedule below. Also, to become an Exhibitor, to become a Sponsor, or to submit a nomination for "Best of" Awards, please click below for more information.

Samsung Weighs Move Into Car Tech With Talks for Fiat Unit

Samsung is in advanced talks to buy assets of auto-parts maker Magneti Marelli from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, according to people familiar with the matter. It’s particularly interested in the lighting, in-car entertainment and telematics business and could consider an acquisition of the whole company, the people said, asking not to be identified as the discussions are private.“Samsung has little presence in auto-parts, but this acquisition will fast secure them business competence even as a late comer,” said Lee Seung Woo, an analyst at IBK Securities Co. in Seoul. “Samsung is thinking that it should change its acquisition style. It can’t really start everything from the scratch.”

Lyft now lets riders add an extra stop to their trips

Lyft is giving riders a way to make a multi-stop trip, letting them use the Lyft app to add an extra destination for two-stop trips. The logic is simple: With more users, especially city-dwellers, tapping ride-sharing and on-demand services in place of owning a vehicle, it’s more likely they’ll want some flexibility in how those trips are routed, since a multi-errand excursion is a pretty common occurrence for most. Adding a side-trip is easy enough: You put your first stop in as the destination when requesting your ride, and then tap a new “+” icon next to the destination to add a final drop-off location...It’s a small but smart addition, and one that could also easily translate into a core component of a more automated ride-sharing interaction model in the future.

BMW connects present to future with new app

BMW drivers will be able to coordinate their cars with their mobile devices using the connected technology the automaker is introducing in several European markets. The app accesses a user's calendar to calculate times and routes to destinations and then sends push notifications to nudge the user at the best departure time while offering traffic updates.

Exclusive: What’s Ahead for the Toyota Research Institute

TRI now has three facilities, one in Ann Arbor partnering with University of Michigan, one in Cambridge, Mass partnering with MIT, and one in Silicon Valley partnering with Stanford. TRI focuses on vehicle safety and autonomy features and also mobility beyond cars—looking at robotics applications, especially for an aging population in Japan, and using the modern cloud computing infrastructure to accelerate scientific discovery. In an exclusive interview, James Kuffner, the chief technology officer at the Toyota Research Institute, (part of the original team that built Google’s Self-Driving Car), talked to IndustryWeek about what’s ahead for TRI.

India ride-hailing firm Ola sideswiped as Uber, Didi team up in China

Didi, now worth around $35 billion, last year invested about $30 million in Ola, which is also backed by Japan's SoftBank Group, and the two are allies in an anti-Uber group that also includes U.S.-based Lyft and Southeast Asia-focused Grab. "This (Didi/Uber China) deal changes the dynamics of how they (Didi) will invest in India," said the person, who didn't want to be named because the discussions were private. If Didi invests more in Ola, it's effectively betting against Uber, its new partner in China, the person said. 

GM testing Cruise’s self-driving tech with Bolt EVs on Arizona roads

Cruise’s self-driving Bolt hit San Francisco streets in May, but provided few details beyond acknowledging that it was doing testing. GM has aggressive goals in terms of productizing its Cruise acquisition, however: The Wall Street Journal reported that GM hopes to put self-driving taxis into usage tests in partnership with Lyft “within a year.”

France gives the ahead for autonomous vehicle testing

It sees autonomous vehicles as the future of the automotive industry, saying they are an indispensable step towards making mobility, regulation and security of traffic and transport more efficient and more environmentally friendly.  The government also views autonomous cars as a way to improve road safety, saying that the cars should have a better reaction capacity than humans who may be tired intoxicated or distracted. French automotive manufacturer PSA Group, which controls Peugeot and Citroen, has already participated in a 300km autonomous driving demonstration from Paris to Amsterdam during event set up by the Netherlands for European Union transport ministers.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Latest to Quit Google’s Self-Driving Car Unit: Top Roboticist

Chris Urmson, a Carnegie Mellon University research scientist, joined Google in 2009 to help create the then-secret effort. He took over leadership of the team after Sebastian Thrun, the Stanford computer scientist and founder of Google X laboratory, left in 2013. Johnny Luu, a spokesman for Alphabet, the parent company of X, the company’s research division that oversees the car project, confirmed Mr. Urmson was planning to leave. “Seven years ago, the idea that a car could drive itself wasn’t much more than an idea. Chris has been a vital force for the project, helping the team move from a research phase to a point where this lifesaving technology will soon become a reality. He departs with our warmest wishes,” Mr. Luu wrote in an email message.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Pittsburgh's PGH Lab 2016 Cohort Brings Startups into City Operations

"Before we did this, we went through an extensive semester-long study with Carnegie Mellon University to prototype and build this out, and we looked at best practices everywhere, especially San Francisco," Lam said. "And one of the key points to a successful startup engagement that we learned is that there was engagement with a city champion or designated lead. That's why we picked the products that we picked, because we identified that in order to be successful we needed to identify who the city champion would be for the startup selected."

The Transit App Trying to Beat Google and Apple at Mobile Mapping

Transit App, which helps users plan their commutes by showing them the nearest public-transit options and real-time arrivals and departures, has come up with its own map using a special algorithm created by Dubrau. The maps are available 55 cities, including New York City, Paris, and Australia; the app is available for use in 125 cities*.  Dubrau’s algorithm makes maps a little clearer—for example, recognizing when multiple transit lines run along the same street, even if they’re headed to different stops. That way, the lines can be drawn parallel to one another—a process, he says, that took months to perfect. Smoothed-out curves, he adds, not only keep those lines parallel, but also make the map appear more like the ones public transit agencies hand out.“Google and Apple to me are kind of the Swiss Army knives of mapping. And we think that urban transportation and public transit in particular is complex enough to warrant a dedicated application,” he says. “Transit is not an afterthought.”

Making Columbus transportation ‘smart’ will take years

Essentially, it will take years instead of months to complete the intelligent-transportation initiatives that are at the heart of the Smart Cities program, civic leaders told a Metropolitan Club audience Wednesday. “The whole focus is to deploy the technology by 2018, 2019,” said Aparna Dial, deputy director of the Columbus Department of Public Service. “We’re trying to take a really thoughtful approach. What are the challenges we face day to day as ordinary citizens?”

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

From now on, every government agency will have to consider climate change

The new guidance from the Council on Environmental Quality will ask agencies to not only include climate change in these considerations but actually quantify the climate impacts of their decisions, when possible, in the context of the environmental reviews that are already required by NEPA. 

 The guidance also directs agencies to consider not only direct emissions of a project but also the “indirect” emissions. So, building a new road might encourage more people to drive, leading to more vehicular emissions. If agencies really can’t quantify the carbon consequences of their actions — if, for instance, there simply isn’t a legitimate scientific way of doing so — then the guidance recommends that they conduct a more “qualitative” analysis instead, and explain their reasoning.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Parking Garage of the Future: Big Makeover Coming in Autonomous Age, Let's Plan it Right - Now

What makes this [Nashville development] project most notable is that it’s poised to include what is believed to be the nation’s first parking structure designed for an era in which cars contain valet features like Summon and can park themselves and connect with broader transportation networks.“It’s not even the clients pushing us, it’s the investment group bringing the dollars to the table for the project, and they’re saying, ‘We need you to take this into consideration,’” said Brian Wright, founding Principal of Town Planning & Urban Design Collaborative, the company handling the Nashville project. “It really is a paradigm shift.”

Elon Musk Confirms Tesla Minibus Built on Model X Chassis, Unveiling Next Year

Partly in response to a speculative article at Jalopnik, Elon Musk has confirmed that the planned “high passenger-density urban transport” vehicle referenced in the latest Tesla master plan will be not an electric city bus, but a smaller vehicle built on the Model X chassis.The second Tesla Master Plan refers to the ‘minibus’ being currently under development, and says it “should be ready for unveiling next year,” along with heavy-duty electric trucks.

Fast-Charge Plugs Do Not Fit All Electric Cars

Critics say the disparities hinder widespread adoption of electric vehicles, complicating plugging in.
“It’s like if you could only get gas for your Subaru at Sunoco stations and nowhere else,” said clean transportation advocate Chelsea Sexton. “Who would buy that car?” Yet automakers say they have no interest in developing uniform charging standards and dismiss the implication that different plugs could be slowing sector growth. Instead, many are racing to build out fast-charging infrastructure that fits their cars before new models are released in 2018.

FiveAI to compete with Google, Tesla in driverless car sector

The startup's concept is different from Google and Tesla as FiveAI's project would have a vehicle fitted out with sensors all processed by a central computer capable of "machine learning", that is, capability of picking up information from encounters and applying it to future situations.  "It uses sensors to perceive what is out there, identifying things like road, pavement, street signs, pedestrians and other cars," Forbes quoted Steve Allpress, chief technology officer at FiveAI, as saying. "It builds up a probablisitic picture of what is likely to happen that can see how our own actions and (others') actions will influence possible options in order to then plan the safest route," Allpress said.

One industry could get a $100 billion boost from the rise of driverless cars and car-sharing

Drinking and driving should, of course, always be mutually exclusive, but the rise of car-sharing services and the development of driverless cars could shake things up. That would be great for liquor sales, which have been hit hard by drunk-driving laws in countries like China and Scotland, according to a research note by Morgan Stanley's Adam Jonas and his team. To make their case, the analysts calculated current global alcohol consumption and its monetary value, and compared that with estimated figures under the impact of car-sharing and driverless cars. They found that the booze market could get an extra $98 billion.

6 Things to Know About Uber’s Surrender in China

In a summer of big tech deals, this could be counted as the most unexpected. Uber is selling its China operations to its bitter – and more successful – rival, Didi Chuxing, which controls 80% of China’s ride-sharing market. The repercussions of the deal will be felt far beyond China, affecting everything from Uber’s prospects for an IPO to the fate of its competitors in other markets. The transaction will involve merging Uber China, mostly owned by Uber but also owned by search giant Baidu and others, with Didi’s operations. It resolves a costly battle for users that led Uber to burn through $2 billion in the past two years. Uber gets an 18% financial stake in Didi plus a $1 billion investment from the company. Both companies will hold a seat on each other’s boards.

Hyperloop One opens the world’s first Hyperloop factory

In a company blog post co-founder Josh Giegel said, “The facility is essential as we continue testing and is an incredible asset as we continue on the path towards making Hyperloop a reality. The equipment housed at Metalworks gives us the flexibility and freedom to build rapidly and develop the Hyperloop in real-time.” The company believes having their own factory will allow them to research ways to slash the costs of delivering the technology. The company had another big success in May, earlier this year; they ran a “full-scale test” that saw their test sled hit 116 miles per hour in a mere 1.1 seconds. If all goes well as Hyperloop One builds Devloop, testing of the revolutionary prototype could occur as early as next year.

Verizon Agrees to Buy Fleetmatics in $2.4 Billion Cash Deal

In acquiring Fleetmatics, Verizon will build on a small but growing presence in the commercial fleet management segment, said John Butler, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. The company previously bought Hughes Telematics in 2012 and Telogis Inc. in June to marry its nationwide wireless coverage with commercial-fleet monitoring to offer services such as route and fuel optimization. “One of the most developed Internet of Things markets right now -- and fastest evolving -- is the automotive market,” Butler said in an interview. Verizon, which manages a large number of vehicles of its own for FiOS service installation and repair, “understands this business very well,” he said. “Verizon’s being smart by targeting the vehicle market -- and on the commercial side,” Butler said.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Tesla's Ambitions Run Into The Realities Of Making Cars

"Well, I think it is to be expected that people are going to do things that they've been told not to do with new technology," says John Dolan with the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon. "There were stories years ago about people using lawn mowers to clip their hedges and cutting their fingers off, things like that. There's a legitimate question as to whether or not Tesla did it too early. It's also possible that the traditional automakers would wait until too late to bring a technology out."
People get killed every day in regular cars, so why all the attention over this one fatality? Because it involves a technology that's expected to revolutionize the industry — and Tesla has been way out front. "The way Tesla has handled Autopilot, which is sort of in beta testing out in the real world, is not something that a traditional automaker would do," says Michelle Krebs, a senior analyst with

Uber and Didi now legal in China, but drivers have to play by a new set of rules

Strict government rules have repeatedly tripped up local and foreign internet companies in China. Yet in the fast-moving Chinese tech industry, an “invest first, get approval later” model has prevailed. For Uber and Didi, it appears that ethos has paid off. Analysts said the new law, which will take effect on Nov. 1, signaled a step back from earlier, stricter proposals. According to the rules, drivers must have three years’ experience, be licensed by a local taxi regulator and have no criminal record. Cars with more than 600,000 kilometers, or about 370,000 miles, on the odometer may not be used.

Delphi begins testing first autonomous car service in Singapore

Delphi wants to give you a lift to your metro station. The automotive supplier made headlines earlier this year when it sent one of its self-driving research vehicles coast-to-coast -- both a test and a publicity stunt. The event appears to have paid off, as today it announces it's been awarded a contract by Singapore's Land Transport Authority to spearhead an automated mobility pilot program.
Glen DeVos, vice president of Delphi's services business unit, says the trip caught the attention of Singapore government officials who had been working on ways to make better use of the southeast Asian country's mass-transit system, and alleviate traffic. The 24-hour ride-on-demand service will shuttle people from their homes or offices to mass-transit stations, helping to solve what are known as first-mile/last-mile concerns.

Tesla and SolarCity confirm merger in $2.6BN stock deal

Tesla and SolarCity have confirmed a $2.6 billion all-stock deal that will see the electric automaker and solar panel manufacturer merge. The merger, which Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently called a "no-brainer," had left many investors and analysts feeling a little less sure. While Tesla is best known for its Model S, Model X and Model 3 high-performance electric cars, the company also produces a series of residential and industrial power storage devices called PowerWall, currently assembled at its new Gigafactory facility. SolarCity provides photovoltaic solar systems for both homes and businesses. The merger of the two companies, both founded by Musk, will allow an "esthetically beautiful and simple one-stop solar-plus-storage experience."

Mercedes-Benz uses augmented reality to keep first responders safe

First responders are facing a new threat -- cars. Cutting into a 1994 Tercel isn't the same as cutting into a 2016 Leaf. Whether it's high-voltage cables, batteries in odd locations or other newfangled engineering trickery, being a first responder ain't easy. But Mercedes is hoping to make it a bit easier, using augmented reality. Rescue Assist is an app Mercedes-Benz created for first responders. It provides a wealth of data on all its cars, including commercial brands, so first responders know the best way to enter a vehicle. Now, it's added augmented reality, giving folks a better idea of what parts are where underneath all that sheet metal.

Britain aims for pole position in self-driving cars after Brexit

The UK is already at an advantage over most of Europe in researching autonomous vehicles because it never ratified the Vienna Convention, which requires “every driver shall at all times be able to control his vehicle”.Now with the vote to split from the EU, that lead could be increased with Britain unfettered by European red tape, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). Mike Hawes, chief executive of the society, said: “Britain is already perceived as an attractive test-bed for technologies; Brexit may make it more attractive.” He noted that internet connections to allow autonomous cars to communicate with each other so they can avoid crashes can generate privacy issues for drivers. However, the UK has a more liberal attitude to this subject than much of Europe, meaning that legal issues around testing self-driving cars are likely to be less complicated in this country.

Minority Neighborhoods Benefit From Shared Mobility Systems

“We’re really trying to show that these kinds of services can work in a wide variety of places,” Sharon Feigon, Shared Use Mobility Center’s executive director, said in an interview. “Our vision is a transportation system that connects all the different modes, where transit is the backbone and shared mobility is the first and last mile and filling in the gaps.” The mapping tool also shows many disadvantaged urban neighborhoods lacking shared mobility access can still support such systems because of their high population density, nearby transit and walkability. A benefits calculator lets cities model shared mobility growth scenarios to gauge greenhouse gas emissions, vehicle miles traveled and cost savings. The third tool, a policy database, holds more than 700 shared mobility laws, studies and strategic plans to inform future regulations.

Anne Aylward is Volpe’s New Director and the First Woman to Hold the Position

“The reason Volpe has been so consistent for over 45 years as a leading global transportation research center is the quality of our people,” Aylward said. “Our extraordinary work, across modes and on behalf of the entire transportation community, comes back to the dedication of our staff. It is an honor for me to now have the opportunity to lead them, and to craft a 21st century vision for Volpe.”
As Volpe director, Aylward will continue to develop business opportunities; sustain relationships with key transportation stakeholders within government, industry and academia; and ensure that Volpe staff deliver innovative solutions to challenging transportation problems.

PBS: Can Autonomous Cars Learn to be Moral?

There is some precedent for humans handing over the reins of a powerful and potentially deadly machine: the airplane. For over a century, planes have been aided by some form of autopilot. Initially, planes used gyroscopes to hold a steady course and altitude. Today, nearly all of the regular mid-air controls are handled by a computer. “Autopilots for planes have been very effective and quite successful,” says Aaron Steinfeld, an associate research professor at the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. Steinfeld points out that, since the introduction of modern autopilots, flying grew markedly safer.

PA Governor's School Team Ties 8 AI World Records with Vehicle Routing Problem

Not only did the students think of clever ways to solve routing problems, at present, the team has tied eight world records in artificial intelligence. For comparison, the current record holders for one of these problems, C201, are two post-doctoral researchers funded by the SMARTRANS Programme of the Research Council of Norway. AI Problems and their record breaking solutions are maintained by the Scandinavian logistics company, SINTEF, who standardizes the problems and evaluates new submissions. In order to maintain equivalence between attempts, each program vying for a record must use the same map, with the same number of customers, with the same time windows, same sized trucks, and same amount of cargo, etc…. The current world record solving for 1200 customers investigates “1.2 billion 3-opt moves in 14 seconds, an average of 12 ns per move.”[1] The solution developed by the high-schoolers of PGSS is absolutely identical to the current proposed solution. Efforts are still underway to further optimize the student solution for this problem, as well as a similar VRPTW with randomized customer maps.

How Ford and MIT's Electric Shuttle Experiment Could Improve Ride-Hailing

The automaker says the research will be used to improve its own Dynamic Shuttle project, a service that provides point-to-point rides to employees requesting rides using a mobile app on its Dearborn, Mich., campus. But Ford posits the research project at MIT could also enhance the concept of ride-hailing as a whole because it’s focused on developing predictive algorithms that will direct vehicles to where people are most likely to need them and, hopefully, reduce wait times. In other words, this research could eventually be used for a commercialized, on-demand shuttle service well beyond the borders of Ford’s company campus.

HERE Maps is now HERE WeGo, gets some navigation improvements to go along with the new name

HERE Maps was a pretty descriptive name, but it lacked pizzazz. Starting today, the app is called HERE WeGo, and it's getting a few improvements to make navigation easier. There are even some entirely new navigation options displayed in the app if you happen to be in certain cities.
According to the developers, the new search box goes right to selecting a navigation method without an extra click of the "Find a route" button. The route comparison screen has gotten an overhaul as well.

Samsung, SK hynix to spend more on chips for self-driving cars

Korean chipmakers Samsung Electronics and SK hynix are pouring more resources into producing chips for self-driving cars amid their slowing sales in key sectors such as PCs. SK hynix, the second-largest memory chipmaker next to Samsung, said on July 26 that its car business now makes more than 10 percent of DRAM sales. DRAM chips are used for temporary data storage. “We are also producing chips for ADAS (advanced driver assistance systems) and self-driving cars since 2015,” the company said in a conference call. “We will continue to focus resources into the futuristic technologies.”

Uber Starts Mapping Roads in Mexico

A year ago, Uber hired former Google Maps vice president Brian McClendon, who spent 10 years at Google refining the search giant's maps. McClendon wrote in a blog post that Uber is "doubling down on our investment in mapping" and said accurate maps are "the heart of our service and the backbone of our business." Uber said the mapping focus is on Mexico for now, but the company plans to expand it to other countries soon. The company has also been building up its mapping technologies with its wallet: last year, it bought mapping startup deCarta as well as a subset of Microsoft's mapping business. It also hired dozens of researchers from Carnegie-Mellon University's robotics engineering center and started its own research outpost in Pittsburgh.

Elon Musk's push for autopilot unnerves some Tesla employees

Raj Rajkumar, an autonomous car pioneer at Carnegie Mellon, frequently meets with employees from auto companies at conferences and research events. According to Rajkumar, Tesla employees he has met "say it's an understatement to say [Tesla] is hyperaggressive." When Rajkumar has raised concerns with those Tesla employees about autopilot's technical limitations, the response is they have to "wash their hands of it" because "it's a business decision." Multiple employees told CNNMoney that numbers and data matter above all else for winning arguments with Musk and other top execs.

Latest Round of TIGER Showcases Innovative Infrastructure Nationwide

TIGER can be an avenue to re-imagine the legacy infrastructure of our past. In Pittsburgh, by capping a section of highway that has historically divided the Hill District from downtown, the I-579 Cap Urban Connector Project will restore a key link to opportunity and free up green space in the process.
Baltimore and Pittsburgh exhibit the kinds of creative solutions to persistent issues that we at the Department of Transportation have been highlighting through the Ladders of Opportunity initiative.