Friday, September 30, 2016

PennDOT Secretary: PA has quickly become a national leader in autonomous vehicles.

Another project that excites Richards is the increased use of autonomous, or driverless, vehicles.

“Pennsylvania has quickly become a national leader here,” especially in light of work done at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, she said. “My kids think it’s really cool.”

She said driverless cars offer many potential benefits, including a huge drop in highway-related deaths, which totaled 1,200 in 2015 in the state, and other traffic problems. “DUIs may become a thing of the past,” Richards said, referring to cases of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. Furthermore, driverless cars can increase mobility and social involvement for disabled people and senior citizens, she said.

Udacity's Self-Driving Car Engineering Degree Lures Over 11,000 Hopefuls

Silicon Valley online education platform Udacity has already received more than 11,000 applicants for its so-called nanodegree in self-driving car engineering, Udacity president and Google X founder Sebastian Thrun said.

The high number of applicants - for 250 spots in the course - underscores the pressing need for talent by technology leaders such as Alphabet's Google and Apple, traditional car companies and automotive start-ups, as they race to develop production-ready autonomous-driving vehicles within the next decade.

Udacity is hoping to reach and train international talent who cannot access a degree from prestigious U.S. universities with top-notch engineering and robotics departments such as M.I.T., Carnegie Mellon and Stanford.

German carmakers and technology firms form 5G telecoms association

German car makers Audi, BMW and Daimler on Tuesday launched an alliance with mobile telecoms network equipment firms Ericsson, Huawei, Intel, Nokia and Qualcomm to accelerate development of the infrastructure needed for self-driving cars. The pact is another example of Germany's premium carmakers collaborating to build technology expertise necessary to take on new rivals like Uber and Google which are also working on autonomous driving technology.

The new alliance, branded the 5G Automotive Association, will "develop, test and promote communications solutions, support standardization and accelerate commercial availability and global market penetration," the founders said in a statement.

Pennsylvania DOT announces plan to improve traffic management on I-76

PennDOT secretary Leslie S. Richards has announced a long-range, comprehensive, multi-modal transportation management plan designed to enhance travel along the Interstate 76 (Schuylkill Expressway) corridor between King of Prussia and Philadelphia. The plan includes expanded public transit, improved traffic management on I-76 and local roads, and potential trail improvements.
“The importance of this corridor to the Philadelphia region cannot be overstated and it’s imperative that we take advantage of new technologies and partner with SEPTA [Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority] and other key stakeholders to offer citizens more attractive options for travel between Philadelphia and the northwest suburbs,” says Richards. “This corridor-wide strategy consists of several elements to improve travel whether you’re driving on the expressway, riding SEPTA’s regional rail, or bicycling along the Schuylkill River Trail."

Wheelchair users will have more access to Uber rides

The vehicle, one of a number of adapted Caravans in service in Philadelphia, is Uber’s answer to the ongoing problem of providing car service to people with mobility problems. The company is making adapted Caravans available for lease by drivers. Uber’s peer-to-peer business model, which largely depends on drivers using their own vehicles to provide rides, means the vast majority of vehicles available through its service are not wheelchair-accessible. The leasing offer incentivizes drivers to get these Caravans on the road. “Initial phase, we hope to see dozens of these WAV [Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles] hitting the street,” said Jennifer Krusius, Uber’s general manager for Pennsylvania.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

'Absolutely amazing!': CMU Driverless Cadillac laps Capitol Complex in Harrisburg

Carnegie Mellon University showed off the autonomous vehicle they have spent 30 years developing by having it drive people around the Capitol Complex in downtown Harrisburg. The event was held in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Safety Symposium. Raj Rajkumar, engineering professor and co-director of the Connected and Autonomous Driving lab, said they've been working on autonomous vehicle technology since the 1980s. Carnegie Mellon University has won competitions and developed leading experts in the area.

Rajkumar said their three goals are to reduce driving deaths caused by human error, increase productivity during driving time and give elderly and disabled people the ability to travel easily.

Take a self-driving ride in CMU's ride with News 8's Brian Roche

In this 8 On Your Side report, Brian Roche shows you what it's like to ride in Carnegie Mellon University's self-driving car. It was part of a test run for lawmakers at the Pennsylvania State Capitol.

VIDEO: CMU Driverless car cruises Harrisburg searching for support

Wednesday researchers from Carnegie Mellon University brought theirs to the Capitol. It begs the question: What does the future hold for cars and drivers in Pennsylvania? You probably didn’t even know you were sharing the road with a self-driving car in Harrisburg. The researchers say that’s kind of the point.

The Cadillac — bought off the lot and fitted with the necessary equipment — was in the Midstate courtesy of CMU’s Traffic21 Institute. Researchers there want to promote the technology to lawmakers. “We see this industry developing, we see it developing in Pennsylvania,” said Stan Caldwell, executive director of the program. “How can we be prepared for this? How can we make sure that this is happening, but happening safely?”

A look at CMU's role in the creation of self-driving cars

“The college has developed a tremendous body of work during the past 30 years in the area of self-driving technology, and we will continue our efforts in shaping the future of transportation,” dean of the College of Engineering James Garrett said in an interview for the Engineering magazine.

As this field advances, more updates will be added to auto production. For example, parking assistance and adaptive cruise control are now in commercial vehicles.

“Features of automated self-driving cars will appear incrementally and organically, with vehicles eventually driving themselves. This will make the cars affordable and encourage public adoption,” Professor Raj Rajkumar of electrical and computer engineering and the co-director of the GM Collaborative Research Lab at Carnegie Mellon said in an interview for the Engineering Magazine.

Pitt joins Carnegie Mellon, city in White House MetroLab network

The University of Pittsburgh has joined Carnegie Mellon University and the City of Pittsburgh in the MetroLab Network, a White House initiative that has created 40 city-university partnerships designed to bring innovation, analytics and data to city government.

MetroLab, part of the White House's Smart Cities Initiative, was launched last September. In its city-university partnerships, the university serves as a research and development arm, and the city tests technologies and policies that the school develops.Pitt's first three contributions to the network are The District Energy Initiative, a “grid of microgrids” concept within and around the city of Pittsburgh that will create a more efficient and sustainable energy ecosystem for the region; the 2nd Avenue Solar Canopy and Direct Current Microgrid and Electric Vehicle Car Charging Station, which will help Pittsburgh switch part of its fleet of vehicles from gasoline to electric power; and the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center, which Pitt maintains.

Smart Dispatch readers should Sign Up for TransportationCamp Pittsburgh 2016, November 19th.

Date: November 19, 2016
Place: Carnegie Mellon University, Porter Hall

If you’re involved or interested in transportation, now’s the time to engage, and the TransportationCamp PGH unconference is the place to do it. Bring your ideas and lead a session! Be a part of shaping the explosive pace of change in technology, shared use mobility, the integration of transportation and the built environment, and a host of other issues. Join us November 19th.

Paul Mackie, Mobility Lab to speak at Traffic21, October 6th, Smart Transportation: Small Changes for Big Impact

Thursday, October 6, 2016, Noon-1 p.m. Hamburg Hall 1206
Lunch will be provided.

Paul Mackie, Communications Director of Mobility Lab, will discuss how small changes can make a big impact towards improving traffic, local business, the environment, and quality of life. To get the best and most equitable public transportation possible in Pittsburgh, it’s key for the city’s creative minds and forward-thinking leaders to learn lessons from other industries that went from failure to success.

4th Annual Oakland Transportation Fair, October 7th

Please join Oakland Transportation Management Association for a networking luncheon with interactive displays to learn more about how new technologies and moving beyond transportation demand management can make a real impact on mobility.

Our Keynote speaker is Paul Mackie of Mobility Lab.

The Day's Schedule:

11:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.- Networking & Interactive Displays
12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.- Luncheon with Keynote
1:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.- Networking & Interactive Displays

How Tesla's Updated Autopilot Blocks Inattentive Users

One Model S owner recently took to the highway to test out the Autopilot improvements and how it goes about alerting drivers to hold the wheel when necessary. While cruising on a relatively straight stretch of tarmac with little traffic and clearly marked lanes, it takes four minutes and 27 seconds for Autopilot to instruct the driver to hold the steering wheel.

Alongside this alert, the edge of the digital gauge cluster begins to flash white and soon, starts to beep. If the alert is ignored, there are then two further sets of beeps before a red alert warns the driver that Autosteer is unavailable for the rest of the drive and that the driver needs to take control of the steering.

Uber is researching flying short-haul urban transportation

Uber’s Jeff Holden said on stage that his company is seriously researching how it might use vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft to provide personal transportation service that can literally rise above traffic in cities. And while the idea sounds crazy, Uber’s not the only company enjoying this particular fit of madness: Airbus detailed its own plans to create self-flying taxis earlier this year, and Google’s Larry Page is pitting two startups against each other to create flying cars with VTOL tech via investments in each, to name just a couple of high-profile examples. Uber’s plan would likely start out with piloted vehicles , but most VTOL concepts foresee a time when they can be piloted autonomously like many of the rotored commercial drones we see in use today. VTOLs themselves are actually similar to commercial and consumer drones in a number of ways, including their multi-rotor design.

Self-driving cars will stay in the slow lane, drivers say

The self-driving revolution may be stuck in the slow lane for some time, according to a Kelley Blue Book poll out Wednesday. Some 62% of those surveyed in by the auto-valuation outfit "don't think all vehicles will be fully autonomous in my lifetime." More surprisingly, a third of Gen Z respondents (ages 12 to 15) agree, which means we will still be driving ourselves towards the end of this century."This shows that while many of us have been reading a lot about progress being made on self-driving cars of late, to most people it's still like a flying car, something out of The Jetsons," says Kelley Blue Book senior analyst Karl Brauer. "But we also learned that while it's hard to get people on board, any level of exposure changes perceptions quickly."

VW patents autonomous tech that puts the driver in control

If, for instance, VW's autonomous vehicle were to approach a slow-moving car ahead, the system would ask the driver if he or she would like to pass the vehicle or remain in the same lane. The small touchscreen on the gearshift knob would then display an option for the driver to push if he or she would like to pass the vehicle.

VW's patent also indicates that the system will respond to various input commands from the driver. Putting a palm over the gearshift knob, for example, will turn the self-driving technology off and put the driver in complete control of the vehicle. While the patent shows the touch-sensitive surface on the top of the gearshift knob, the tech could go anywhere in the vehicle, as long as it's in an easy-to-reach place for the driver. VW's approach to give drivers some control over self-driving tech is a nice deviation from the norm.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

White House to Spend $80 Million to Develop Smart Cities

The money pledged today builds on the Obama administration’s “Smart Cities Initiative” launched a year ago.

“If we can reconceive of our government so that the interactions and the interplay between private sector, nonprofits, and government are opened up, and we use technology, data, social media in order to join forces around problems, then there’s no problem that we face in this country that is not soluble,” President Obama said in a statement.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Ford F-Series integrates 7-camera system to improve safety

In particular, a combination of seven cameras help drivers navigate with a trailer. The "trailer reverse guidance," which uses three high-resolution cameras, allows the driver to check out a wider range of angles in the blind spot of the trailer, monitoring for obstacles as the truck backs up. "The system presents a color-coded bird's-eye representation of truck and trailer on the console touch screen," according to Ford. "Yellow or red means the trailer angle is too tight and there is a risk of jackknifing." The system, Shaw said, is the only one of its kind available for a trailer.

Apple is in talks with McLaren for a potential acquisition, report says

Apple is said to be in acquisition talks with car manufacturer McLaren and Lit Motors. McLaren told the BBC that the company isn’t having any investment discussion with Apple right now, but the NYT wrote that Apple and McLaren have been talking about a potential investment. McLaren’s statement could mean that it’s an acquisition instead of an investment, it has closed, or the discussion has ended. Time will tell which way Apple will turn.

LA first in the nation to reveal how it will make shared, self-driving vehicles a key part of our public transit future.

The report is groundbreaking because it makes LA the first U.S. city to specifically address policies around self-driving cars. Autonomous vehicles have logged millions of miles on U.S. streets, but when it comes to aggressively planning for them, American cities are woefully unprepared. A report from the National League of Cities that surveyed the long-term transit plans of 68 large cities showed that only six percent even mentioned self-driving cars. Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Transportation solicited grant proposals from 78 U.S. cities as part of the Smart City Challenge in an effort to get cities thinking about this future.To prove to you that LA is thinking about autonomous vehicles in a different way, consider that this plan was authored by an architect. Ashley Z. Hand was brought on as part of a year-long LADOT fellowship which ended last month (she is currently the co-founder of CityFi, a smart city advisory practice). She says she believes space is the key to solving a lot of LA’s transportation problems.

Self-Driving Hype Doesn’t Reflect Reality

“These statements are aspirations, they’re not really reality,” says Raj Rajkumar, a professor of engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, who collaborates with General Motors Co. “The technology just isn’t there.…There’s still a long way to go before we can take the driver away from the driver’s seat.”

Dr. Rajkumar is hardly alone in his skepticism. Mary Cummings, a professor of mechanical, electrical and computer engineering at Duke University, says a fully autonomous car “operates by itself under all conditions, period.” She adds, “We’re a good 15 to 20 years out from that.”

Friday, September 23, 2016


In 2015, 14.77 million gallons of E85 were sold in California, with Propel selling 9.3 million of those gallons, or 63% of the market, according to California Air Resources Board data. Previously, ethanol production leaders Minnesota and Iowa led the nation; according to revenue records these states sold 13.1 million gallons each in 2015.

Propel’s study is a comprehensive survey of the state’s low carbon fuel customers and was conducted at the pump while customers filled up. More than 970 surveys were completed at 11 Propel locations in the San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento, Los Angeles, Fresno, Inland Empire and San Diego.

Mercedes-Benz Reveals Electric, Autonomous Trucks and Commercial Vehicles

“We are presenting our vision of urban transport. Just like with long-distance haulage, our goal is to achieve more safety and efficiency than ever before – and also to be free of local emissions,” said Wolfgang Bernhard, who heads Daimler Trucks. “This will make our cities even more pleasant to live in, despite rising populations and an increased need for transportation.”

“Against the background of urbanization and digitalization, the transport of the future needs to be made more intelligent, flexible and sustainable,” said Volker Mornhinweg, head of Mercedes-Benz Vans. “In the future customers will need more than a van on four wheels. They’ll need intelligent system solutions precisely tailored to their needs.”

For example, the company is introducing its PRO Connect for vans web-based service. It allows fleet supervisors to manage maintenance in real-time and receive notifications concerning needed repairs before costly breakdowns occur.

Uber Rival Grab Partners with Self-Driving Car Startup NuTonomy

Grab said its data showed drivers in Singapore are less likely to accept a passenger booking request originating from or destined for remote locations, highlighting the need for robo-cars that can meet transportation needs in far-flung areas.

“Our view of self driving vehicles is it’s a supplementary solution to some of the issues that we are unable to solve with existing supply,” Lim Kell Jay, head of Grab Singapore, told reporters.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Self-driving Uber vehicles spotted on the streets of San Francisco

These self-driving cars seen in downtown SF seem to be the same as those used in Uber’s self-driving pilot program in Pittsburgh. Uber recently deployed a fleet of 14 Ford Fusions equipped with radar, cameras and other sensing equipment developed by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University’s robotics center.

Get Ready for Freeways That Ban Human Drivers

“Behind the wheel, we are only human and we are expected to screw up,” said Raj Rajkumar, co-director of the General Motors-Carnegie Mellon Autonomous Driving Collaborative Research Lab in Pittsburgh. “There will come a point in time where we should not be allowed to drive.”

US DOT unveils 'world's first autonomous vehicle policy,' ushering in age of driverless cars

"Today, we put forward the first federal policy on automated vehicles," said US Department of Transportation's Secretary of Transportation, Anthony R. Foxx. "The most comprehensive national, automated vehicle policy that the world has ever seen."

The highly-anticipated policy for autonomous vehicles focuses on what the department calls "highly automated vehicles," in which a driver is able to regain control—like Tesla's Autopilot. The guidelines also set performance standards for self-driving cars and offers guidelines for how states can legislate autonomous vehicles.

Carnegie Mellon's Driverless Cadillac was featured at the event. 

Barack Obama Pens Op-Ed in Pittsburgh PG: Self-driving, yes, but also safe

That’s why my administration is rolling out new rules of the road for automated vehicles – guidance that the manufacturers developing self-driving cars should follow to keep us safe. And we’re asking them to sign a 15-point safety checklist showing not just the government, but every interested American, how they’re doing it.

We’re also giving guidance to states on how to wisely regulate these new technologies, so that when a self-driving car crosses from Ohio into Pennsylvania, its passengers can be confident that other vehicles will be just as responsibly deployed and just as safe.

Regulation can go too far. Government sometimes gets it wrong when it comes to rapidly changing technologies. That’s why this new policy is flexible and designed to evolve with new advances.

CMU's Jon Peha Solving the Money Gap of Connected Vehicle Infrastructure Deployment

Jon Peha, T-SET UTC researcher at Carnegie Mellon and professor of electrical and computer engineering and engineering and public policy, discusses communication between cars and infrastructure and the roles of government and the telecommunications industry in the connected space.

Traffic21 Director Chris Hendrickson on CAV Policy and Implications; 9/29 LIVESTREAM

Connected and Automated Vehicles in Pennsylvania: Demonstrations and Public Policy Challenges
September 29, 2016

Live cast here:

This talk will discuss initiatives to demonstrate connected and automated vehicles in Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh remains a worldwide leader in such demonstrations with Carnegie Mellon's Traffic21 Institute activities, the City of Pittsburgh's p4 Initiative, the Uber Advanced Technologies Center, and new legislation for on-road autonomous vehicle demonstrations. Public policy challenges will also be discussed, including issues of technology transition, vehicle regulation and liability.


TransportationCamp Pittsburgh 2016

An Unconference
Date: November 19, 2016, 8am - 5pm
Place: Carnegie Mellon University, Porter Hall
Childcare provided by Whetstone Workgroup

If you’re into transportation, now’s the time to engage, and the TransportationCamp PGH unconference is the place to do it. Bring your ideas and lead a session! Be a part of shaping the explosive pace of change in technology, shared use mobility, the integration of transportation and the built environment, and a host of other issues. Join us November 19.
Welcome to the Burgh!

Fed guidelines for self-driving cars won't get in Pa.'s way

“It’s validated everything we’ve done up to this point,” Leslie Richards said.

The 114-page National Highway Traffic Safety Administration guidelines provide safety points that manufacturers should meet, offer a blueprint for state regulation, and divide federal and state oversight.

“For PennDot, this helps them and gives them some regulatory certainty,” said Costa Samaras, a Carnegie Mellon University assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering.

Lyft Cofounder: Most of Our Rides Will Be Self-Driving Within 5 Years

"I would argue that what's happening with other companies is more of a marketing stunt," Zimmer tells Inc. He declined to state names of companies to which he was referring, saying, "Not gonna be specific, but I think you can make your guesses."

He describes these unnamed efforts as examples of features similar to Tesla's "autopilot" mode. What would truly be impressive, he says, would be demonstrating vehicle technology that eliminates the need for a steering wheel altogether.

Tesla Fixes Security Bugs After Claims of Model S 'White Hat' Hack

Tesla Motors has rolled out a security patch for its electric cars after Chinese security researchers uncovered vulnerabilities they said allowed them to remotely attack a Tesla Model S sedan.
The automaker said that it had patched the bugs in a statement to Reuters on Tuesday, a day after cyber-security researchers with China’a Tencent Holding disclosed their findings on their blog.
Tencent’s Keen Security Lab said on its blog that its researchers were able to remotely control some systems on the Tesla S in both driving and parking modes by exploiting the security bugs that were fixed by the automaker.

Singapore Sees World's First Self-Driving Taxis

Karl Iagnemma, co-founder and chief executive officer at nuTonomy, discusses conducting open to the public trials of self-driving taxis and what he's found out from the tests. He speaks to Bloomberg's Haslindad Amin on "Daybreak Asia."

Electric cars are greener in France than in China

Countries that use cleaner sources of energy can help maximize the benefits of an electrically charged car. Norway, for example, is an almost completely hydro-powered nation while France relies heavily on nuclear and renewable energy. China on the other hand is still mostly coal-powered. That means an electric car in China is only 15% cleaner than a fossil fuel car, compared to a worldwide average of 40%, according to a Bloomberg News analysis.

Building a better highway: Driverless car lane from Vancouver to Seattle proposed

At first, self-driving vehicles would share the High Occupancy Vehicle lane on I-5 to Richmond, B.C. and Highway 99 into Vancouver, according to the report. After early adopters pave the way and the masses begin to acquire autonomous vehicles, the lane could be dedicated exclusively.

“They’re safer,” Tom Alberg, managing director of Seattle-based Madrona Venture Group and one of the report’s authors, said in an interview Tuesday evening at the Fairmont Hotel, as the Emerging Cascadia Innovation Corridor Conference wrapped up. “Allowing them into the HOV lane would be an incentive for more people to get into an autonomous vehicle over time.”

California's proposed DMV rules for driverless cars could change in the wake of federal guidelines

“You can imagine how the California DMV would be struggling, with no technological background or engineers at their disposal, trying to figure out whether a particular autonomous vehicle is or is not safe enough to be deployed,” said Robert Peterson, a law professor at Santa Clara University.

“I expect they will conform their guidelines to the federal guidelines and probably [breathe] a great sigh of relief that they are now off the case,” he said.

Jean Shiomoto, director of the California DMV, confirmed as much. Shiomoto said during a panel discussion Monday that the agency does not have the “expertise on staff” and has relied on NHTSA for guidance and expertise in autonomous vehicle research.

The New Yorker Commentary: Pittsburgh "a perfect proving ground" for Uber tests

Uber’s program is in the early days of development. Michael Wagner, a robotics researcher at Carnegie Mellon University, told me that building a successful autonomous fleet—one that handles unexpected driving situations reliably and safely—takes an enormous amount of technical work. Wagner runs a company that tests the robustness of complicated software, including in consumer electronics and aerospace systems. “You don’t always know you’ve built it until you’ve gone out and done a whole lot of testing on it,” he said. In Uber’s case, the testing has been happening on Pittsburgh’s streets. For the past several months, fourteen test cars have been making daylong trips around the city, collecting information about the surrounding environment as they go. (According to Uber, one three-hundred-and-sixty-degree sensor generates more than a million data points per second.)

Repairs to Fire-Damaged Pittsburgh Bridge Pose Unexpected Challenges

Cessna said more than a dozen experts from across the country—including pros from Lehigh and Carnegie Mellon universities—are collaborating to design the bridge’s repair. On Sept. 15, experts recommended installing a second bracing system at the top of the pier, which bears the arched truss. The secondary bracing system offers redundancy to the one already planned, but that plan set the repair back a bit more since those parts also must be fabricated.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

10th 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. Register for the meeting through September 23, 2016 to receive the Early Bird Registration Rate.

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.

Feds seizing oversight of driverless vehicles

But Mr. Obama, in an op-ed published in today’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, made it clear that the federal government has a role here.

“And make no mistake,” he wrote. “If a self-driving car isn’t safe, we have the authority to pull it off the road. We won’t hesitate to protect the American public’s safety.”

The “15-point safety assessment” in the policy is intended “to set clear expectations for manufacturers developing and deploying automated vehicle technologies,” the White House said. “It allows for varied methodologies as long as the objective is met.”

The safety points include how and where the vehicle functions; response to a system failure or crash; testing and verification; data recording; privacy considerations; adherence to traffic laws; and human interface.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Uber won't need permit from PUC for self-driving cars until it starts charging

Uber can continue to offer rides in its fleet of self-driving cars in Pittsburgh without an additional permit as long as the service remains free, the Pennsylvania Utilities Commission said Thursday.

The ride-sharing giant started offering rides in self-driving Ford Fusions on Wednesday. The rides are free “for now,” according to the email to users selected to participate in the pilot, during which Uber employees sit behind the wheel.

The company has not said when or if it would start charging for self-driving rides.

Meet the startup that two of Google’s top self-driving engineers left to create

Zhu has been at Google as the self-driving team’s principal software engineer for most of his career, after a brief internship at Intel in 2005. Ferguson, on the other hand, joined Google in 2011 as the principal computer-vision and machine-learning engineer on the self-driving project and started his career at Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute. (Carnegie Mellon, of course, has been at the forefront of autonomous car innovation and home to Uber’s research and development lab in the area.)

PA PUC calls for "Vigorious Public Discussion" on Uber and Self-Driving Vehicles

The [PA] state Public Utility Commission issued a statement Thursday calling for “vigorous public discussion” on rules for self-driving vehicles. Uber can operate its self-driving vehicles with passengers as long as it doesn’t charge a fee, but it would need PUC approval once it begins charging.

“Any business offering transportation services to the general public for compensation must secure proper authority from the PUC before beginning that service, and clearly demonstrate the technical ability to operate safely,” the PUC statement said. “To date, no entity has applied for such authority in Pennsylvania, and the Commission has not authorized any use of fully autonomous vehicles for transportation services that fall under the jurisdiction of the PUC.”

Automakers may be beating Silicon Valley with robot cars, violating the laws of disruption

With trillions of dollars potentially at stake, Silicon Valley has rushed into the latest commercial rage: to dominate personal transportation with robot cars. While the valley’s most hallowed high-tech names, the self-described industry disruptors—Apple, Google, Tesla, Uber—have attracted most of the attention, they appear to be flailing at execution, and hyping their capabilities. The names to beat, at least at this juncture, are supposedly dowdy incumbent carmakers such as GM, BMW and Volvo.

“Silicon Valley companies are finding that technological and financial disruption of the automotive industry is not straightforward,” said Raj Rajkumar, an expert on self-driving technology at Carnegie-Mellon University, who consults for GM.

Thursday, September 15, 2016


Carnegie Mellon University President Subra Suresh joined Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto Wednesday for the first official ride in an Uber self-driving car, as the company rolled out its high-tech innovation in the home of autonomous vehicles. The commercial application of autonomous driving has drawn national attention in recent days, highlighting the formative role Carnegie Mellon research has played in field that could ultimately save thousands of lives a year.

“Universities like Carnegie Mellon have the power to change the world. This demonstration is a very good example of that,” Suresh said. “This is why innovation is so closely connected to research universities. For several decades, CMU has pioneered the technology behind autonomous vehicles.”

Driverless Car Valley: The Pittsburgh Model for Innovation

Clearly, the city has other advantages, most notably Carnegie Mellon University and its expertise in robotics. Both Uber and Google have done much hiring from there. The point, though, is that Pittsburgh was able to leverage a natural competitive advantage through smart and aware government that was encouraging of innovation and jobs it can create.

Boston inks deal to test self-driving vehicles on city streets

“If this technology is going to yield benefits for the consumer, we want to make sure it works in the city of Boston,” said Chris Osgood, the city’s chief of streets. “We want to make sure we’re doing our due diligence and understanding what the implications are. How do we set up the right policies and take the right approach to this so it’s going to have the biggest net benefit?” The partnership with the Switzerland-based WEF, which will be formally announced [yesterday], will lead to a yearlong collaboration aimed at studying and implementing tests and policies for self-driving cars. That includes putting autonomous vehicles on the streets of Boston soon, the city said.

Ford exec declares urgent need for driverless-car ethics

“These cars will have the ability to process data and make decisions much faster than we will as humans,” said Bill Ford, executive chairman of Ford Motor Co., which has promised to have robot taxis on the road by 2021. “No individual company is going to program these vehicles with a set of ethics that isn't bought into by society at large.” The discussion to set robot-car ethics must include the auto industry, government, universities and ethicists, said Ford, who commented to reporters Tuesday after a speech at the company's headquarters in Dearborn, Mich. With self-driving cars set to hit the road over the next five years, the need for this discussion is urgent, he said. “How do you want these vehicles to behave?” Ford said during his speech. “Whose lives are they going to save?”

Uber riders in Pittsburgh can hail self-driving Ford Fusions in test program

Many experts predict that it will be years, if not decades, before the public is being driven around in fleets of fully driverless vehicles under any condition. 
“Because vehicles are driving at 70mph on the highway, if something goes wrong, things could go wrong very bad, very quickly,” said Carnegie Mellon engineering professor Raj Rajkumar. “This technology needs to be ultra-reliable before we can take the human out of the driving equation.”

VIDEO: Ford previews the future of self-driving vehicles

This week, Ford invited members of the tech and automotive press to check out the latest developments, including the first rides in its autonomous vehicles. CEO Mark Fieldsalready revealed the company is targeting 2021 for the release of a "Level 4" vehicle that's fully self-driving, without contrivances like steering wheels or pedals. For now, it's testing vehicles like these Ford Fusions on its Dearborn, MI campus, the Mcity test track in Ann Arbor, and on public roads in Arizona, Michigan and California.The video gives you a taste of what the vehicle actually "sees" on its test route, thanks to a combination of cameras, radar and LIDAR units.

China’s electric vehicle industry shaken by phantom bus scandal

China’s booming electric vehicle industry, a flagship for Beijing’s technology ambitions, has been rocked by scandal after five companies were caught collecting millions of dollars in subsidies for buses they never made. The affair of the phantom buses has prompted questions about whether it might disrupt the ruling Communist Party’s financial support to an industry it is spending heavily to promote. “Definitely, the government will keep a closer eye on this,” said Zeng. “I think it’s a good thing. All the money can be used more properly. Companies that are real and invested money in R-and-D will benefit.”

The Finance Ministry said last week four companies reported inflated manufacturing figures, while the fifth, Gemsea Bus Manufacturing Co. in the eastern city of Suzhou, made no electric buses at all. Gemsea collected 261 million yuan ($40 million) in public money.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

USDOT hosts 2016 Summit for Safer People, Safer Streets on 9/16

Remarks from Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx
Mayors Challenge Awards Winners Leadership Panels
Table-top discussions around Challenge Activities
Mix & Mingle with Pedestrian and Bicycle Resource Organizations
A conversation about pedestrian and bicycle fatality trends and data tools
Presentation and discussion of what’s next from USDOT

The event is geared towards participants in the Mayors’ Challenge, but we welcome elected officials and staff from any local governmental entity to participate. We also invite pedestrian and bicycle resource partner organizations to participate.

Dunkin’ Donuts helps Pittsburgh electric car owners recharge

Anthony Lambkin, national manager for electric infrastructure at Nissan North America, says Dunkin’ Donuts, a brand recognized for its ready-made baked goods, coffee drinks and fast service, is a perfect fit for the fast-charging stations. As he explains, a typical home or workplace charger can take from four to six hours to recharge a car. Fast chargers, on the other hand, can recharge an EV battery up to 80 percent in 30 minutes. “That’s the perfect amount of time to go in and get a cup of coffee, get a donut, get back to your car, and get on your way again,” says Lambkin.

Pittsburgh International Airport partners with Duolingo

After a 40 percent spike in international traffic in 2016, Airport Authority CEO Christina Cassotis said in a released statement that the partnership could lead to opportunities for signage and translation improvements for travelers. Duolingo heard about the airport's initiative to expand international coverage and reached out, asking to become a sponsor.

"As we look to improve customer service and provide additional amenities for an increasingly global society and as we work to showcase more of our region's innovation, we hope this is the first step in a long relationship with Duolingo and other successful tech firms in the region," Cassotis said.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Uber’s Pittsburgh Project Is a Crucial Test for Self-Driving Cars

Raj Rajkumar, a professor at CMU who is collaborating with General Motors on automated vehicle technology, says the Pittsburgh experiment will raise public awareness about how driverless systems work. “Most people of course will be thrilled to be part of the process,” he says. But he adds that Pittsburgh will be a challenging setting, given its weather and the complexity of its roads. He also notes that automated cars are still incapable of dealing with the unexpected. “This is an early testing version,” he says. “It's going to be a long time before you take the driver out of the equation.”

Monday, September 12, 2016

This is why senior citizens get into accidents — and here's what we can do about it

It turns out that a lot of the problem is turning — a third of all fatal accidents involving seniors take place at intersections, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Some 35 percent of all of their traffic violations occur because of failure to yield, and one in four are due to improper left turns. Neglecting to stop at a traffic signal is the other most common issue. An AAA/Carnegie Mellon study points out that accident fatality rates climb sharply after age 65. And, eek, look at this: For drivers 75 to 84, the rate of traffic deaths per 100 million miles driven is about the same as it is with teen drivers. For 85 and over, the death rate is four times that of teens. Here are 10 telltale signs that an older driver in your family should probably surrender the keys.

Self-Driving Cars to Cut U.S. Insurance Premiums 40%, Aon Says

Premiums for U.S. auto insurers may drop more than 40 percent once the use of automated vehicles has been fully adopted by 2050 and driving becomes safer, according to insurance broker Aon Plc.
“We as an industry need to act quickly to ensure that we have the products available to align to the new paradigm,” Paul Mang, head of analytics at Aon, said at a press conference in Monte Carlo on Sunday. “Autonomous driving clearly moves the business mix to fleet products and commercial lines.”

Tesla Autopilot's Upcoming Shift To Radar Could Have Prevented Fatal Model S Accident, Elon Musk Says

In a conference call, Musk claimed that with the improved radar system of the technology, Autopilot would be able to see large metal objects across the road and determine if the object does or does not pose a threat.  One of the main challenges to using radars combined with cameras for Autopilot is how to prevent false positives, as a high number of such would lead to an unappealing experience of the vehicle braking too often for the wrong reasons. To address this, Tesla Motors will implement a more detailed point cloud, use that point cloud to determine if an object is moving and therefore a threat to collision, and utilize fleet learning to determine objects that are safe to drive through such as bridges and road signs. Musk thinks that the Autopilot improvements will significantly increase the safety of passengers, though he added that road accidents will likely not be gone for good.

"Perfect safety is really an impossible goal," Musk said. "There won't ever be zero fatalities. There won't ever be zero injuries."

Self-Driving Cars Can Learn a Lot by Playing Grand Theft Auto

A team of researchers from Intel Labs and Darmstadt University in Germany has developed a clever way to extract useful training data from Grand Theft Auto. The researchers created a software layer that sits between the game and a computer’s hardware, automatically classifying different objects in the road scenes shown in the game. This provides the labels that can then be fed to a machine-learning algorithm, allowing it to recognize cars, pedestrians, and other objects shown, either in the game or on a real street. According to a paper posted by the team recently, it would be nearly impossible to have people label all of the scenes with similar detail manually. The researchers also say that real training images can be improved with the addition of some synthetic imagery.

Apple puts brakes on self-driving cars

In a retrenchment of one of its most ambitious initiatives, Apple has shuttered parts of its self-driving car project and laid off dozens of employees, according to three people briefed on the move who were not allowed to speak about it publicly. The job cuts are the latest sign of trouble with Apple’s car initiative. The company has added resources to the project — code-named Titan — over the last two years, but it has struggled to make progress. And in July, the company brought in Bob Mansfield, a highly regarded Apple veteran, to take over the effort...

...Apple employees were told that the layoffs were part of a “reboot” of the car project, the people briefed on it said. An Apple spokesman declined to comment.

Sidewalk Labs’ Role in Columbus Smart City Program Appears Limited For Now

As a sweeping program to test new transportation technology in Columbus, Ohio gets underway, Google affiliate Sidewalk Labs is on track to have only narrow involvement—limited to a logistics system for non-emergency medical travel, according to program officials and a document the company submitted to the city.... 

...Looking ahead, the program will not only be about deploying high-tech hardware. “We have groups that are involved in a lot of the mapping and the geospatial work that needs to be done, public policy, urban and regional planning, law,” Carla Bailo, assistant vice president for mobility research and business development at The Ohio State University, said last week.

No Driver? Bring It On. How Pittsburgh Became Uber’s Testing Ground

Uber came to Pittsburgh in early 2015, drawn by the engineering talent at Carnegie Mellon. The university started a robotics department 30 years ago, when driverless cars seemed like a fantasy, but robotics has since proved crucial for the systems that let vehicles navigate streets on their own.
By this decade, the university’s expertise in computer science had attracted not only Uber but also General Motors, Google and Intel, some of which embedded at Carnegie Mellon. Google and Uber later opened research centers, hiring dozens of Carnegie Mellon professors and graduate students.

Friday, September 9, 2016

The Virtuous Cycle Between Driverless Cars, Electric Vehicles And Car-Sharing Services

At first glance, the three are distinct business categories with unique technical, strategic and market challenges. A virtuous cycle, however, links them. Each has the potential to reinforce the others and, together, massively disrupt the technology and business of personal mobility. Ultimately, such reinforcement might mean the difference between lackluster adoption and breakout success.

Volkswagen Is Gearing Up to Mass-Produce Electric Cars in China

"As we aim to be at the forefront of e-mobility, Volkswagen Group is looking forward to explore all options to set up a close and mutually beneficial partnership with JAC," Mueller said in a statement. "We believe this cooperation would not only benefit our two organizations, but would also be of great value to our customers, a sound environment and the Chinese society in general." "Together, Volkswagen Group and JAC will thoroughly explore all options how to concentrate our resources, including existing and future model platforms, technologies and other expertise, to achieve a competitive product strategy as soon as possible," VW China chief Jochem Heizmann said.

Volpe Webinar 9/23: From Transit to Access: Rethinking How Cities Connect Their Residents to Opportunity

Friday, September 23, 2016
12:00 p.m. - 12:45 p.m.

Ben Hecht
President and CEO, Living Cities

For generations, low-income people from around the world have viewed American cities as the best path to a better life. In recent decades, however, the promise of opportunity has been outstripped by reality. Moreover, when opportunities exist to further one’s education or get a better job, it can take too long, cost too much, or there may be other barriers—such as lack of access to broadband or child care. Our assumptions about how people access opportunity have remained largely static, tied to a mental model that causes us to repeatedly focus on traditional means of access, such as public transit or a car, and fails to harness all that technology can offer. We need a New Urban Practice: a fundamentally different way of solving problems and riding trends of change that can move the needle on poverty and economic opportunity in cities.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Head of CMU's Robotics Lab, NREC, Says Self-Driving Cars Are ‘Not Even Close’

Herman Herman: The objectives of companies like Uber, and our objectives as a university, are different. Uber as a company has to worry about its valuation. I think part of the reason that they released the news about these autonomous taxis is marketing. Technically, I’m not sure if it’s ready. They still have to have engineers in the car. So, for technical reasons, it’s not there. But for non-technical reasons, they decided that it’s a good idea to start talking about it.

At CMU, our focus is technical work. Would things have gone better if there was cooperation between CMU and Uber? I’m not sure. I think that we are good at doing what we do, and Uber has to do what it thinks it has to do from a technical and non-technical perspective. Having a partnership that’s forced just because someone thinks it’s a good idea might actually be worse anyway.

Traffic21's Women in Transportation Fellow, Ngani Ndimbie, awarded Pittsburgh 40 under 40

Ngani Ndimbie, The Traffic21 Institute's Women in Transportation Fellow has been named one of Pittsburgh's Magazine 2016 40 under 40.  Ngani is a MS Candidate in Public Policy and Management at the Heinz College at Carnegie Mellon University.

Watch a Volvo executive play chicken with a self-driving truck in an underground mine

Volvo just released a short, highly produced video of its autonomous truck driving itself through an underground mine as a demonstration of its technology in rough conditions. It also features a Volvo executive risking his life by playing chicken with the driverless vehicle.But in a statement accompanying the video, Holmström admits the stunt made him nervous. “No matter what type of vehicle we develop, safety is always our primary concern and this also applies to self-driving vehicles,” he said. “I was convinced the truck would stop but naturally I felt a knot in my stomach until the truck applied its brakes!” The specially equipped Volvo FMX is still just a concept, but the Swedish automaker says it hopes to roll out a whole fleet as part of a project aimed at improving the transport flow and safety in mines.

India Will Soon Stop Importing Petroleum Products, Says Union Minister Nitin Gadkari

With the Centre focusing more on developing alternative fuel economy, India will soon stop importing petroleum products, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said. "We are going to develop this country where our import of petroleum will be zero. We are promoting alternative fuel like ethanol, methanol, bio-CNG... this will boost the rural and agriculture centre and create huge employment," Mr Gadkari, the Road Transport and Highways Minister said on Tuesday.

Germany is gearing up to lay down the ethical foundations for self-driving cars

In an interview with Wirtschaftswoche published Thursday, transport minister Alexander Dobrindt stated there will be three key rules:

(1) “It is clear that property damage takes always precedence of personal injury.
(2) “There must be no classification of people, for example, on the size, age and the like.”
(3) “If something happens, the manufacturer is liable”

Dobrindt has created an ethics commission to work out the specifics in terms of regulation, but the above rules will serve as a starting point for future laws.

NVIDIA, Baidu Team Up on Services for Autonomous Vehicles

The partnership will combine Baidu’s cloud platform and mapping technology with NVIDIA’s self-driving computing platform to develop solutions for HD maps, Level 3 autonomous vehicle control, which requires some input from a driver and automated parking. “We’re going to bring together the technical capabilities and the expertise in AI and the scale of two world-class AI companies to build the self-driving car architecture from end-to-end, from top-to-bottom, from the cloud to the car,” NVIDIA’s Huang said. 

Civil Maps Debuts Augmented Reality Maps for Self-Driving Cars

“We are excited to showcase the power of augmented reality maps for fully autonomous driving,” said Sravan Puttagunta, Chief Executive Officer of Civil Maps. “As the providers of the world’s most sophisticated, cost-efficient 3D maps for autonomous machines, we see AR as the key link that will help passengers become comfortable with how AVs perceive and move through the world. The use of localization data in combination with AR is an extremely promising area for our own growth, as well as for the race to bring fully autonomous vehicles to market.”

Alphabet and Chipotle Are Bringing Burrito Delivery Drones to Campus

The experimental service, to begin this month and last just a few weeks, is a test by Project Wing, a unit of Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc. Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. and the Blacksburg, Virginia, university have agreed to participate. The Federal Aviation Administration approved the venture, the most extensive test yet in the U.S. of what many companies -- including Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. -- hope will eventually become routine drone deliveries of products. Amazon has begun a round of trials at a location in the U.K. "It’s the first time that we’re actually out there delivering stuff to people who want that stuff,” said Dave Vos, who heads Project Wing.

Sony Will Finally Make Electric Vehicle Batteries

While it’s late to the electric vehicle market, Sony’s entrance is well timed. Production capacity of global leaders for electrified vehicle batteries, Korea’s LG Chem and Samsung SDI and Japan’s Panasonic and Sanyo, is more or less locked up for years to come, opening a door for Sony to enter. The company’s new VC7 battery is arriving soon and will match the capacity specifications of the other leading suppliers. Its tiny size would make it easy to adapt to any battery pack.

Google driverless driverless cars to automatically detect police vehicles

The firm's driverless cars will have technology installed which will allow approaching police cars to be identified- triggering an alert to have the Google vehicles move out the way without disruption.
It is also expected to identify whether the car approaching and the current situation may require a response. Once the police car is detected, the car will manoeuvre to make room for the approaching vehicle. A supporting US patent filing revealed that Google has hoped for a system that will recognise emergency services’ flashing lights. The sensors would be made to identify red or blue colours, as well as that of ambulance vehicles.

Michigan Moves to Not Require Human in Driverless Test Cars

Michigan would no longer require that someone be inside a self-driving car while testing it on public roads under legislation passed unanimously Wednesday by the state Senate, where backers touted the measures as necessary to keep the U.S. auto industry's home state ahead of the curve on rapidly advancing technology...
...The lead sponsor of the legislation, Republican Sen. Mike Kowall of White Lake in suburban Detroit, said driverless car technology could be as big for Michigan as Henry Ford's creation of the assembly line.

"We're moving into the next century," he said told senators. "With your assistance, we're going to secure Michigan's place ... as the center of the universe for autonomous vehicle studies, research, development and manufacturing."

Volvo Cars, Autoliv team up to develop autonomous driving

Chinese-owned Volvo Cars and Sweden-based automotive safety group Autoliv say they are creating a jointly-owned company to develop autonomous driving software for Volvo cars. The carmaker said Tuesday the new company, which has yet to be named, will develop advanced driver assistance systems and autonomous driving systems. In a joint statement, Autoliv CEO Jan Carlson said it was "a recognition" that "autonomous driving is the next step to transform road safety." The company's initial workforce will be of 200, and is set to start early next year. In August, Volvo Cars announced it was teaming up with ride-sharing company Uber to develop next-generation driverless cars, in a $300 million project.

India’s Mahindra, Ola Team Up as Uber Looms

The tie-up comes as Ola, which is owned by ANI Technologies Pvt., faces increasingly intense competition from Uber in India’s growing market for ride-hailing services. Uber has identified India as its next battleground after its costly battle for riders in China ended with it selling its operation there to Didi Chuxing Technology Co. Under the initial pact with Mahindra, Ola drivers will get discounted prices on Mahindra cars and more attractive loan terms including zero down payments. The drivers will also receive subsidized vehicle insurance premiums and comprehensive maintenance packages, as well as accident insurance and scholarships for their children.

Ola hopes the alliance will draw more drivers into its fold as it plots to fend off competition from Uber. Ola has previously announced plans to add 100,000 drivers to its existing base of 450,000 drivers by the end of December.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Drive less, earn a bike: Employers thinking big with TDM programs

When Sonos wanted to move its Santa Barbara headquarters into a new downtown location, the wireless speaker company became very aware of the potential traffic impacts. But rather than do just the minimum of transportation demand management outreach to employees about non-driving options, Sonos went full-on with an ambitious commuter program, called SmartRide, which gave employees the option to ultimately earn themselves a brand-new bicycle.

Sonos’ SmartRide program was more than a new bicycle – the company chose to offer employees two paths. In the “fast cash” option, employees could cash-out of their parking, receiving some of that money instead as a daily bonus for their non-driving commutes. After a certain number of biking commutes, the employee would receive $600 toward a new bicycle at a local bike shop. The “flexible” option keeps driving to on-site parking as an option, has lower cash bonuses for active trips, and requires more trips in order to earn the bicycle credit. A vacation-day raffle, with entries generated through biking trips, was also integrated into the system.

USDOT open data on traffic fatalities - Mapbox responds with commute tool

Traffic fatalities in the U.S. jumped 7.2% to 35,092 last year, the sharpest increase in about 50 years. Yesterday the NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) released final 2015 data on vehicle crashes in the United States. The Department of Transportation (DOT), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the White House also issued an unprecedented call to action asking for help analyzing fatality data to find ways to prevent these tragedies:
Despite decades of safety improvements, far too many people are killed on our nation’s roads every year. Solving this problem will take teamwork, so we’re issuing a call to action and asking researchers, safety experts, data scientists, and the public to analyze the fatality data and help find ways to prevent these tragedies. — U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

Responding to this call, we created the map below to show where fatal crashes have occurred over the last five years. Enter your address and the destination of your commute to see fatal crashes that occurred along your route between 2011 and 2015. Toggle between additional information, such as alcohol, excessive speeding, cyclists, or pedestrians involved and compare the differences between the years.

USDOT's Connected Vehicle Pilot Program starts Phase Two

USDOT has awarded three cooperative agreements, collectively worth more than US$45m to initiate the design/build/test phase of the CV Pilot Deployment Program at the test sites in southern Wyoming, New York City, and Tampa. Managed by the USDOT’s Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office (ITS-JPO), the program is a national effort to deploy, test, and operationalize cutting-edge mobile and roadside technologies and enable multiple connected vehicle applications. These technologies and applications have been brought together in innovative ways to have an immediate impact – to save lives, improve personal mobility, enhance economic productivity, reduce environmental impacts, and transform public agency operations.

Millions of used electric car batteries will help store energy for the grid. Maybe.

In four or five years, the batteries in the roughly one and a quarter million EVs currently on the road are going to start to wane. EV owners will either replace them, or replace the cars entirely. That means we’ll have a lot of used batteries on our hands — batteries with plenty of life left in them, but which are no longer suitable for EVs. What to do? One possibility is repurposing them to serve as grid-connected energy storage. Storage is valuable to the grid for many reasons, including its ability to smooth out fluctuations in supply, allowing for more integration of variable renewable energy.

Liebreich and McCrone say this is a promising path:
Once a battery’s performance has degraded by around 30 percent, it could become available for stationary storage. Upcoming research by BNEF’s advanced transportation team will suggest that by 2018 these second-life batteries could cost as little as $49 per usable kilowatt-hour to repurpose, compared to the current new stationary battery price today of around $300 per kilowatt-hour. If so, they will further support the economics of both renewable energy and electric vehicles, accelerating the uptake of both.

The Road Ahead: Driverless Vehicles, Cities, and Architecture

Questions are emerging about how AVs could change the form and structure of cities, towns, and roadways. Much of the research—at venues including MIT, IIT, and Carnegie Mellon University—has examined this autonomy in tandem with other evolving trends and technologies. Exploiting the joint potential, self-driving seems a natural fit with electric powering; hyperconnectivity; sharing models (as in Zipcars, urban bike fleets, and cyber-facilitated car pools); and operative algorithms, akin to the dispatch programs that optimize elevator service based on passenger destinations.

Self driving cars in more chaotic driving patterns

Carnegie Mellon professor Raj Rajkumar, one of the world's leading experts on self-driving cars, says that traffic patterns like in Vietnam, as well as China and his native India, pose a big challenge for autonomous vehicles.  Eventually, he believes technology will be able to handle it. But it’s going to take a long time to get there. More than a decade, reckons Rajkumar. “Sensors on self-driving cars will have some inaccuracies to deal with, and also will require a good amount of computing power. Designing, implementing and testing these will take time,” he says.
Perhaps more importantly, Rajkumar explains, the industry will need to “decipher” the way traffic works in places like Vietnam. Unlike in the US where drivers obey clearly established rules of the road, drivers in Vietnam use implicit rules.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Driverless Trucks Will Likely Alter Industrial Building Design, Site Selection

Municipalities, developers and even investors need to start considering the commercial real estate impact of trucks that don’t need drivers, says Joe Dunlap, who leads the supply chain services practice at real estate services firm CBRE. An autonomous cargo vehicle, combined with robotic unloading and warehouse interior operations, would alter distribution center design and site selection decisions. Self-driving vehicles significantly expand the hours of service trucks can provide for warehouses, as current federal regulations restrict the number of hours a driver can work to about 400-500 miles per day, according to an April 2016 CBRE report. Large warehouses currently have to be somewhat close to large population hubs so that drivers aren’t putting in too many expensive hours; but with no human labor involved, these trucks can be located in cheaper, remote areas, Dunlap says.

Electric Vehicle Sales In The US Rise By Largest Amount Ever In August

Overall, 93,197 plug-ins have been sold, which is up 29%over the 72,270 moved last year. With the current pace of recent sales, we expect that 2016 gain to close out the year much higher yet. Leading the way, as it often as done year, was Tesla Motors – selling around 5,000 Model S and Model X all-electric vehicles by our estimate during the month. But we should note that August was also the first time in history that 6 different automakers delivered more than 1,000 vehicles in the same month.

GM's Answer to Autopilot - SuperCruise, forces driver's eyes on road

When General Motors starts selling a new Cadillac sedan next year, it plans to equip the car with G.M.’s answer to Tesla Motors’ Autopilot. Like Autopilot, G.M.’s SuperCruise feature will be designed to steer a car for long stretches of highway driving, pass other vehicles, brake for traffic, speed up and change lanes — all with minimal effort by the driver. There is one thing the G.M. system will force drivers to do, though, that Tesla’s system does not: keep their eyes on the road.
Unlike Tesla, G.M. has chosen to place a camera, near the rearview mirror, that monitors the driver’s actions. 

“Through the driver’s eyes, you can detect his or her level of attention,” Mark Reuss, G.M.’s executive vice president for global product development, said in July at an auto technology conference in Detroit.

California DMV Issues Autonomous Vehicle Testing Permit to Baidu

Baidu, which earlier this year announced the formation of an autonomous driving team in the US, Baidu USA, is to begin testing its autonomous technologies in California. The California Department of Motor Vehicles awarded the company an Autonomous Vehicle Testing Permit earlier this week. Baidu USA joins 14 other companies that are testing autonomous vehicles in California, including Google, Tesla Motors, Ford, Honda, Nissan, GM Cruise, Zoox and According to Jing Wang, SVP of Baidu and general manager of Baidu’s Autonomous Driving Unit, the company plans to start autonomous vehicle testing on California’s roads ‘very soon’.

What’s Driving the Massive Surge in Traffic Deaths?

On Monday, the across-the-board spikes prompted an unprecedented “call to action” from the White House, and the Department of Transportation released its annual figures three months earlier than usual in hopes of drawing more attention to the sharp reversal in what had been long-term trends over decades toward safer roads.

“We are in a bad place,” Rosekind (shown below) said last month in San Francisco. “This is a bad situation, and we should be desperate for new tools that will help us save lives.”

Delphi, Mobileye plan self-driving system by 2019

In announcing the plans last week, Mobileye Chairman Amnon Shashua said partnering with Delphi -- separately from automakers -- will speed the industry's move to the technology "without the need for huge capital investments." The industry is moving toward safety systems that eventually will enable vehicles to autonomously negotiate an entire trip door to door. But some observers remain skeptical that the complex technology will be ready soon, or that ordinary motorists will have access to it. "I don't think anyone will sell Level 4 vehicles to consumers in 2020 or 2021," said Sam Abuelsamid, an analyst with Navigant Research, "With the possible exception of Tesla, every manufacturer will want to keep very tight control of their vehicles to make sure they work and are maintained properly."

Making Cities for and with People

Thursday, September 8, 2016
12:00 - 12:45 p.m. (ET)
Volpe, The National Transportation Systems Center

Join Jeff Risom, partner and managing director at Gehl Studio, for his talk at Volpe, "Making Cities for and with People," as part of The Future of Transportation series.  Webinar available.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

President Obama to visit Pittsburgh for Innovation Conference

President Barack Obama is heading to Pittsburgh in October to host the Frontiers Conference that the White House is convening along with the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University to explore the future of innovation. Speakers will include some of the world’s leading innovators, who will discuss reasons to invest in science and technology frontiers, according to the White House.

CMU president Subra Suresh said it will be a landmark event that will shine a national spotlight on life-enhancing technological breakthroughs.
In announcing the conference, the White House highlighted Pittsburgh’s achievements in innovation. They include the following:

• The city’s effort to partner with CMU on self-driving technology to construct a 30-minute loop for autonomous shuttles between Hazelwood and Pittsburgh’s urban jobs core.

• The city’s plans to modernize its traffic signal technology in order to reduce congestion, drive times and auto emissions.

Metro21 and Traffic21 Present: Emerging Data Sources and Urban Informatics

The Metro21 and Traffic21 Speaker Series is pleased to announce an upcoming seminar on Emerging Data Sources and Urban Informatics by Vonu Thakuriah, founding director and principal investigator of the Urban Big Data Centre in Glasgow. You won’t want to miss this event!

Title: Emerging Data Sources and Urban Informatics
Time/Date: Tuesday, September 6, 12:00-1:20PM
Location: Hamburg Hall A301
Lunch provided

Piyushimita Thakuriah (Vonu) is the Ch2M Chair of Transport and Professor of Urban Studies and the School of Engineering in the University of Glasgow, UK. She is the founding Director and Principal Investigator of the Urban Big Data Centre, a consortium of 7 universities funded by Research Council UK’s Economic and Social Research Council. Vonu’s research interests lie in smart, socially-just and sustainable transport and in Urban Informatics or the analytics of emerging sources of Big Data to understand complex urban problems.

The specific objective of this talk is to describe emerging sources of urban Big Data and the challenges that arise with their use, with a focus on detection of short-term episodes and events in cities, medium-term changes due to fluctuations in the economy or policy changes (e.g., the economic recession), and longer-term structural changes in the urban environment, and land-use and consumption patterns. 

California has proposed a new rule allowing for true driverless car testing

The new rule is a revision of one that is proposed in Assembly Bill 1592 in California that would allow for the testing of truly driverless cars in the state, reportsTechCrunch. The revision says the state will soon allow:

"the testing of autonomous vehicles that do not have a driver seated in the driver's seat and are not equipped with a steering wheel, a brake pedal, or an accelerator."

This will be a boon for driverless car makers as currently all driverless vehicles need to have both a human behind the wheel and a steering wheel in the car itself.

In Light of Recent Cyclist Deaths on PennDOT roads, New PA License Plates Help Fund Bicycle Safety Efforts

The new “Share the Road” special fund registration plate designed to help fund bicycle safety is now in stock and being shipped to interested vehicle owners, PennDOT announced. The new plates were authorized by Act 36, referred to as the David (Dave) Bachman Act, which was enacted in June in memory of a PennDOT employee who served as the Department’s first Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator. All proceeds from the sale of the new plate fund PennDOT’s bicycle and pedestrian safety efforts, as well as highway infrastructure signage for bicyclists with the purpose of wayfinding and/or safety. The “Share the Road” plate uses the same colors as standard plates -- blue, white and yellow, with addition of an image of the shared lane marking including two chevrons, a bicycle silhouette and the words “Allow 4 Feet to Pass.” The bottom of the plate reads “Share the Road.”
Applicants may order a plate by completing Form MV-917, “Application for Share the Road Registration Plate.” The cost of the plate is $40. This plate may also be personalized for a fee of $100 in addition to the $40 plate cost.

China bans small electric vehicles on streets

Beijing has announced a ban on small electric vehicles plying on its streets after it was found that many of the vehicles lacked proper brakes and lights, and users often flouted the speed limit fixed for them. According to China Radio International on Tuesday, first time offenders will be fined 10 yuan and issued a verbal warning to keep their vehicles off public areas, EFE news reported. The ban comes barely a day after Beijing Consumers’ Association published a study that said 19 out of the 20 electric vehicles investigated did not have proper brakes and 16 of them flouted the 20 kmph speed limit fixed for them. Many of these vehicles also lacked lights, increasing the risks for other drivers and wayfarers after dark.


Electric vehicles won't just change how we get around. They'll transform large swathes of how our economy operates. That's the thinking behind a new article from Michael Liebreich and Angus McCrone of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, in which they point out that similar economy-wide shifts have happened many times before:

Liebreich and McCrone say, history is full of examples of how innovation in one area of our economy can lead to much broader shifts in sometimes hard-to-predict places. And because cars are a form of "keystone species" in our economy, they are a prime candidate for initiating a similar phase shift. Here are just some of the areas of economic/societal activity most likely to be impacted by the electrification of the transport sector.

Google Takes on Uber With New Ride-Share Service

Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc., began a pilot program around its California headquarters in May that enables several thousand area workers at specific firms to use the Waze app to connect with fellow commuters. It plans to open the program to all San Francisco-area Waze users this fall, the person said. Waze, which Google acquired in 2013, offers real-time driving directions based on information from other drivers.

Unlike Uber and its crosstown San Francisco rival Lyft Inc., which each largely operate as on-demand taxi businesses, Waze wants to connect riders with drivers who are already headed in the same direction. The company has said it aims to make fares low enough to discourage drivers from operating as taxi drivers. Waze’s current pilot program charges riders at most 54 cents a mile—less than most Uber and Lyft rides—and, for now, Google doesn’t take a fee.

The Looming Threat To Uber's Plan for World Domination

There are other benefits to no longer having to own a car. Parking, and all the headaches that come with trying to find a spot, or getting a ticket for not feeding the meter, will vanish. Some estimates suggest that 30 percent of drivers are looking for a parking spot at any given time. If driverless cars can communicate to each other through technology, they will be able to tell other cars when their spot will be available, and they will obviously park themselves. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University told me that parking spaces in cities could become a thing of the past, as vehicles will travel to the outer areas of a metropolis to wait for passengers, completely eradicating traffic (and traffic jams) near parks and walkable shops.

Alphabet, Tesla Have Early Lead in Crowded Race to Develop Self-Driving Cars

Working in Alphabet's favor: The company launched its self-driving car project roughly a decade ago with the help of some very smart Stanford and Carnegie Mellon engineers, and since then, its cars have logged more than 1.5 million miles in autonomous mode in California, Texas, Arizona and elsewhere. That's given Alphabet a big lead in collecting real-world info on how self-driving cars function, one that could grow further as more miles are logged.

Obama to Guest-Edit Wired Magazine

At Mr. Obama’s direction, the issue will focus on the future, the magazine said. Its theme will be frontiers: personal, local, national, international and beyond. (Think precision medicine, urban planning, civil rights, climate change and space travel.) The president is no stranger to science, technology and Silicon Valley, subjects central to Wired’s coverage.That theme will also serve as the subject of a White House conference, a convening of innovators, to be held in Pittsburgh earlier in October and to be co-hosted by the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University.

Tesla enters car insurance business as self-driving cars prepare to disrupt the industry

Electrek has learned that Tesla is entering the car insurance business starting with new programs in Australia and Hong Kong. The new program is called InsureMyTesla and it features custom insurance plans for the company’s vehicles underwritten by bigger insurers partnering with Tesla.
In Hong Kong, Tesla is partnering with AXA General Insurance and in Australia, the automaker released its new plan with QBE Insurance.

How Seniors Can Get a Lyft or Uber Without a Smartphone

GreatCall, a technology company that provides products and services to enable older adults to remain independent, has teamed up with Lyft to provide on-demand and scheduled rides for its customers in five pilot markets. The service works with GreatCall’s Jitterbug phone, a cell phone designed to be easy to use for older adults, with a simple interface and health care apps. 

The new service allows GreatCall customers to dial a live operator and get an on-demand or scheduled ride without needing to download and navigate the Lyft app. Expanding accessibility to easy-to-use and on-demand transportation to seniors is quickly becoming one of the hottest trends in health care and technology, as evidenced by recent home care companies, including 24Hr HomeCare, making the jump into this type of transportation.

Tesla loses ‘Head of Data Science’ to upstart competitor Faraday Future

Gregory Ryslik joined Faraday Future from Tesla this week as the electric vehicle startup’s ‘Head of Data Science & Analytics’.  FF has been surprisingly successful in siphoning talent from Tesla. CEO Elon Musk has been joking about Apple’s hiring of people being fired from Tesla, but he is not joking about Faraday. The company has been able to hire an impressive number of top Tesla executives including founding member Nick Sampson, also the company’s top manufacturing leaders: Andrew De Haan, Tesla’s former Director of Global Supplier Industrialization and Faraday’s plant Director, and Faraday’s Global Vice President of Manufacturing, Dag Reckhorn, who held the Director of Model S Manufacturing position at Tesla from 2009 to 2013.

Tesla Gets Extension After Missing NHTSA Deadline For Autopilot Death Investigation

On July 8, NHTSA submitted an information request to Matthew Schwall, Tesla's director of field performance engineering, requesting data from Tesla as part of the NHTSA investigation into Autopilot that was due August 26.

The document requests that Tesla state how many alleged defects the company is aware of that relate to Forward Collision Warning or Automatic Emergency Braking. It also asks for any tests Tesla has done or plans to do of those two Autopilot systems as well as any changes Tesla may have made that could result in the alleged defect.

Tesla did not complete the information request on time, asking NHTSA for a one-week extension. A NHTSA spokesperson told Businesss Insider that Tesla was granted the extension and that Tesla must submit the requested data by Friday.

Tensions mount as Uber eyes self-driving cars and Google tests ride-hailing

Uber Technologies Inc. and Google were seen as allies after the search giant invested $258 million in the ride-hailing firm in 2013. But the companies are starting to act more like competitors.

A top Google executive who held a seat on Uber’s board announced his resignation this week after Uber allegedly shut him out of meetings to limit his knowledge of the company’s plans for self-driving vehicles. Google, meanwhile, is expanding its reach into ride-hailing by reportedly turning its navigation app Waze into a potential competitor to Uber.

Unlike Uber, which takes a cut of the fare and compensates drivers, the Waze program requires riders pay their drivers for only the cost of gas — typically 54 cents per mile, the IRS’ mileage reimbursement rate.

Neither Uber nor Google responded to requests for comment.

Texas Instruments adds Wi-Fi to help connect cars to EV charging stations

Texas Instruments (TI) introduced the first reference design that adds Wi-Fi connectivity to an electric vehicle (EV) charging station. Electric vehicle owners will be able to remotely monitor and control the charging of their vehicles from just about anywhere with Wi-Fi, presenting dozens of potential use cases from home automation to checking the availability of nearby public charge points.

ITS America, transportation leaders urge FCC to reject call for stay of safety spectrum

ITS America and other leaders in the intelligent transportation community have united to call on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to deny a request by Public Knowledge and the New America Foundation for an emergency stay on the use of dedicated short range communications in the 5.9GHz spectrum band. The petition was made in a joint FCC filing by the Intelligent Transportation Society of America, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers. “It is essential that the intelligent transportation revolution, powered in no small part by the 5.9GHz safety spectrum, continue.” said Regina Hopper, ITSA president and CEO. “From saving lives to reducing emissions to easing traffic congestion, the full promise of intelligent transportation is transformative. Such a move would be reckless and unwarranted, undermining the clear public interest.”

Uber turns on electric vehicles in the UK, starting with 50 cars in London

“The cars through this partnership are for rent, not for purchase, and will be at rates lower than the cheapest rentals in the market for other private hire vehicles (in order to encourage drivers to make the switch from their existing vehicle),” a spokesperson from Uber tells us. “Obviously running costs are quite a bit lower too – although how much lower obviously depends what car they are switching from.” Uber is starting first with 50 vehicles in London and — if all goes as planned — it will expand the service to another UK city in coming months, and projects to have “hundreds” of all-electric vehicles on the roads in the UK by next year.

NATSO asks DOT to work with existing business on alternative fuel corridors

NATSO, the national association representing travel plazas and truck stops, has called on the Department of Transportation to work with private, exit-based businesses within the confines of the existing law that prohibits the sale of fuel and other commercial services at rest areas as it seeks to identify and establish stretches of the National Highway System as alternative fuel corridors. “NATSO members’ locations are well positioned to play a vital role in establishing alternative fuel corridors,” said NATSO President and CEO Lisa Mullings. “The best way to accomplish the administration’s objectives of increasing alternative fueling infrastructure throughout the country is for the government to work with existing exit-based establishments to install such infrastructure at privately-run businesses, including travel plazas and truckstops. State governments should not provide transportation fuel paid for with tax dollars.”

Chinese tech giant Baidu has unveiled an electric self-driving car: Chery EQ

Although Baidu had been using a modified BMW 3-series for its self-driving car tests, the company has decided to use a modified Chery EQ - a small four-door hatchback manufactured in China. The Chery EQ is a fully electric car. Baidu spokesperson has confirmed that the car is part of the company's fleet. The details of the deal between Baidu and Chery were not disclosed. The Chery EQ costs $9,000 and has a range of 120 miles. The car's low price tag is probably one of the reasons why Baidu chose it to be part of its fleet. There are reports that Baidu has ordered at least a thousand units of the Chery EQ to be added to its fleet. The company has released a photo showing a Chery EQ with a sensor tower on its roof along with Baidu's logo.

This Start-Up Makes Sure Driverless Cars Don't Run You Over

But unlike most self-driving test cars on the road today,'s system also includes an electronic billboard strapped to the roof, a bit like a digital highway information sign. It appears intended to reassure pedestrians that the car senses their presence, using words and emoji, according to TechCrunch. When the car is stopped it a crosswalk, for instance, the sign displays a "Safe to Cross" message, to reassure pedestrians that it won't run them over.