How MINI’s startup accelerator URBAN-X is reimagining city life

November 12, 2018

URBAN-X’s goal – shared by MINI and Urban.US – is to find the best startups and most creative founders working on urban innovation and help scale those ideas to 100 cities over the next five years. The program offers startups an immersive five months of help, including business and technical support, product development and branding support, as well as mentorship and connections to customers and investors. “Cities are where the growth is and where the majority of the world’s population currently lives,” says Micah Kotch. “If you want to solve the world’s problems, you have to solve urban problems.”…

The URBAN-X programme worked for RoadBotics, a startup with a simple solution to a long-running problem: maintaining road surfaces. Ever since the Romans laid down roads, someone has had to drive along inspecting the concrete for telltale cracks – first it was via chariot, and now it’s trained pavement engineers in the back of a pickup-truck, notes Mark DeSantis, CEO of RoadBotics.

What Jaguar says about the battery in its new electric car

November 8, 2018

Earlier this year, Jaguar launched a premium electric car, the I-PACE, introducing a new luxury competitor to Tesla. The I-PACE has received good reviews, and its larger battery gave it a longer range on a single charge than the Tesla Model X, based on European standardized tests. A few weeks ago, however, US standardized tests results were published and the I-Pace performed worse than the Model X.

Quartz asked Venkat Viswanathan and his team at Carnegie Mellon University to explain the discrepancy—you can read the story here. For transparency, below are the answers we received from Jaguar in response to our questions.


November 7, 2018

“Tesla and other vehicle manufacturers really need to understand how humans interact with different levels of autonomy,” says Costa Samaras, a civil engineer who studies electric and autonomous vehicles at Carnegie Mellon University. Do drivers use the suggestions? How confident are they in them, and how quickly do they notice and accept them?

Which setting do they use for how aggressive lane changes are?

“These types of partially automated features, where there’s a very visible human in the loop, enables them to get data and eventually make their systems better,” says Samaras.

How MaaS Public Transit Is Changing The World

November 7, 2018

Advances in autonomous mobility, which is a crucial link in deploying affordable MaaS at scale, have the potential to make it vastly easier for public transit agencies to reach new service areas — so-called “gray zones” where public transportation is not practical for economic or geographic reasons. The infrastructure required for these services is much lower, as no new rails or overhead power lines are needed.

A report by Carnegie Mellon University for the city of Pittsburgh recommends autonomous shuttles as a way to expand public transportation because “a single bus costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to own and operate, with about 70% of operating costs coming from wages and benefits to drivers. An autonomous shuttle avoids these costs.”

We Crash Four Cars Repeatedly to Test the Latest Automatic Braking Safety Systems

November 7, 2018

Along those lines, carmakers are also rightfully self-conscious of how often an AEB system acts on a false positive, with the computer applying the brakes in the absence of a threat. In 2015, NHTSA opened a yearlong investigation into 95,000 Jeep Grand Cherokees following reports that the SUVs were braking for no reason. The probe turned up 176 complaints of inexplicable emergency braking, but the agency found no defects and ultimately decided not to issue a recall. For the moment, these annoyances simply have to be tolerated by automakers and their customers. “From a technological perspective, if you’d like to reduce the rate of false positives, the rate of false negatives [crashes in which AEB does not activate] has to go up, and vice versa,” says Raj Rajkumar, co-director of the General Motors-Carnegie Mellon Autonomous Driving Collaborative Research Lab.

Waymo’s Self-Driving Car Plan for California Shows Major Gaps in Oversight

November 7, 2018

Phil Koopman, an engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University who specializes in testing automotive software, backs a similar concept. Regulators and automakers should be working toward a system where companies deploying new technology submit data to a third party that performs some sort of independent verification, he says. That’s the model used by industries with safety-critical missions, such as aviation and chemical plants, Koopman says.

“In every case, we’re relying on the designers to tell us that they did it right,” he says. “There are no external checks and balances. Waymo’s going to deploy these vehicles, and we’re basically taking their word for it that it’s safe.”

A Green Light for AV’s

November 7, 2018

Self-driving vehicles are coming to a street near you. Cities must have a plan to address them…

In Pittsburgh, the relationship between the mayor’s office, Carnegie Mellon University and private sector partners spurred the development of a strong, well-aligned coalition for autonomous vehicle leadership.

Carnegie Mellon is a talent engine for Pittsburgh – and one of the key centers of the global autonomous vehicle ecosystem – attracting and spinning off thriving startups. Early on, Uber partnered with Carnegie Mellon’s robotics department to launch a fleet of self-driving cars on city streets. This relationship soured as Pittsburgh leaders felt the company wasn’t meeting its side of the bargain, backing away from initial promises on free rides and job creation, among others. But it’s not the only self-driving car company in town. Ford-backed Argo AI is testing self-driving vehicles in Pittsburgh, as is autonomous car startup Aurora.

Montgomery wins national Smart City award

November 5, 2018

Montgomery, along with several other cities in the United States, won the 2018 Digital Cities Survey, the Center for Digital Government announced.

The cities received the award for leveraging technology to solve civic challenges, boost cybersecurity, increase transparency and improve overall quality of life. A team of Montgomery and Montgomery County employees, partnering with the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce on the city’s Smart City push, sent in an application to CDG outlining Montgomery’s success in incorporating technology into its everyday processes.

The team highlighted Montgomery’s use of open data to create more accountability and measure daily performance, adoption of energy efficient systems and partnerships with leading civic technology providers, including RoadBotics’ AI-based infrastructure solution and Rubicon Global. They also described strides taken to ready the City of Montgomery for the 5G small cell boom and the launch of the Montgomery Internet Exchange (MGMix).

Portland studies Pittsburgh for technology solutions

November 1, 2018

PORTLAND (Maine) — To become smarter, city officials looked west to Pittsburgh last week.

“We have this canvas, a landscape open to piloting new technology and new ideas,” City Manager Jon Jennings said Oct. 26 about spending almost three days meeting with consultants, staff at Carnegie Mellon University and Pittsburgh officials on applying technology to municipal operations.

Jennings said the trip, where he was accompanied by city Communications Director Jessica Grondin, Planning Director Jeff Levine, Sustainability Coordinator Troy Moon and Public Works Deputy Director Dan Mirabile, followed the city’s replacement of streetlights with more energy-efficient LED bulbs and its installation of Surtrac traffic signals at Morrill’s Corner in early July.

It’s not clear how Lithium Werks’ €1.6 billion gigafactory will make any money

November 1, 2018

Within a year of being founded, Dutch startup Lithium Werks wants to fight with the big incumbents. Two weeks ago, it made an announcement that’s big news for the battery world: it had just signed an agreement to build a new battery factory in the Yangtze river delta, using an investment of €1.6 billion (around $1.8 billion)…

There are a number of types of lithium-ion battery chemistries, each with its own pros and cons. Overall, the biggest growth for lithium-ion batteries is expected in the electric-car sector. But LFP is unlikely to play a big role there, because though LFP batteries are safe and reliable, they can’t pack as much energy in the same volume or mass as batteries made using NMC chemistry. That, says Venkat Viswanathan, a battery expert at Carnegie Mellon University, means LFP chemistry is likely to remain limited to applications like power tools or electric buses.

A powerful new battery could give us electric planes that don’t pollute

November 1, 2018

But he and his colleague, Venkat Viswanathan, are taking a different approach to reach their next goal, altering not the composition of the batteries but the alignment of the compounds within them. By applying magnetic forces to straighten the tortuous path that lithium ions navigate through the electrodes, the scientists believe, they could significantly boost the rate at which the device discharges electricity.

That shot of power could open up a use that has long eluded batteries: meeting the huge demands of a passenger aircraft at liftoff. If it works as hoped, it would enable regional commuter flights that don’t burn fuel or produce direct climate emissions.

Viswanathan, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon, initiated and is leading the research project. He and Chiang are now collaborating with 24M, the lithium-ion battery manufacturer Chiang cofounded in 2010, and Zunum Aero, an aircraft startup based in Bothell, Washington, to develop and test prototype batteries specifically designed for the needs of an advanced hybrid plane.


October 31, 2018

But safety advocates argue such a framework is badly needed. “Most people, when they talk about safety, it’s ‘Try not to hit something,’” says Phil Koopman, who studies self-driving car safety as an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University. “In the software safety world, that’s just basic functionality. Real safety is, ‘Does it really work?’ Safety is about the one kid the software might have missed, not about the 99 it didn’t.” For autonomous vehicles, simply being a robot that drives won’t be enough. They have to prove that they’re better than humans, almost all of the time.

Koopman believes that international standards are needed, the same kind with which aviation software builders have to comply. And he wishes federal regulators would demand more information from self-driving vehicle developers, the way some states do now.

Machine Vision System Spots Roadways in Need of Repair

October 31, 2018

For cities and municipalities, surveying roads that require repair and resurfacing can be tedious, time-consuming work. But a Pittsburgh-based startup is trying to automate some of that process, using intelligent systems to speed up data collection so capital spending decisions can be made more efficiently.

Founded in 2016, Roadbotics is based on a machine vision technology developed at Carnegie Mellon University. Using footage collected from windshield-mounted cameras on cars driving through a road network, the computer vision algorithm has been trained to recognize flaws in road surfaces, including cracks, potholes and spalling. Geotagged road locations are rated on a five-color scale, and the data is collected into a map file that can be loaded into popular GIS imaging software.

‘We turn the lights off… and sit huddled in the corner’

October 31, 2018

For example, the way roads are inspected around the world isn’t very different to how the ancient Romans inspected theirs.

A human inspector, whether in a chariot or a Ford, drives down the road and makes notes – a process that RoadBotics chief executive Mark DeSantis says is subjective as well as “tedious and expensive”.

Mr DeSantis wants to automate the process by fitting cameras to vehicles to monitor the state of the roads as they drive along. Live streaming these images and analysing them in the cloud with image recognition software “is going to change inspection regimes around the world”, he says.

But this “will require a much larger pipe” than currently available, he says, by which he means faster connectivity and a system that enables lots of devices to connect to the internet at the same time in densely packed urban environments – advantages that 5G promises.

How CMU is using Pittsburgh as a “living lab”

October 30, 2018

(Anthony Rowe, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon University)

Rowe said Pittsburgh provides an ideal laboratory for CMU’s work in sensors and control systems, which can influence a wide variety of industries including transportation, smart buildings and microgrids.

One of the projects he said students are working on now involves sensors on top of CMU campus buildings that can collect data over a couple city blocks. The sensors are designed for low-power Internet of Things devices that can sense information from their environments and push it back to a centralized location for different applications. Rowe said one of those applications the students are pursuing is monitoring infrastructure, including the safety and integrity of bridges.

Wi-Fi could get much faster thanks to a proposed change in the wireless spectrum

October 26, 2018

Think of it like the congested highway you use to drive to work suddenly getting new lanes, or getting an entirely new highway to commute on—things hopefully start moving quicker. “It will give people faster Wi-Fi, basically,” says Anthony Rowe, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon University and a member of the institute’s CyLab.

Rght now, many routers work on two different frequencies—either 2.4 GHz or 5 Ghz. The 2.4 band (it’s one small swath of frequencies in that neighborhood) has a reputation for traveling further, but offering slower speeds, mostly due to congestion and interference. The 5 Ghz band is known for not going quite as a far distance-wise, but providing faster speeds, so those episodes of The Good Place don’t need to buffer; there’s more bandwidth in what’s actually three different frequency segments in that frequency region.

The Road to Self-driving Cars Is Full of Speed Bumps

October 26, 2018

On the morning of the 132-mile race, a ramshackle lineup of cars gathered at
The top-scoring vehicle, an entry by Carnegie Mellon University, managed an impressive 7 miles before misjudging a hill — at which point the tires started spinning and, without a human to help, carried on spinning until they caught fire. It was over by late morning. A DARPA organizer climbed into a helicopter and flew over to the finish line to inform the waiting journalists that none of the cars would be getting that far…

But the competition was anything but a disaster. The rivalry had led to an explosion of new ideas, and by the next DARPA Grand Challenge in 2005, the technology was vastly improved. An astonishing five driverless cars completed the race without any human intervention.

Honda partners with universities to investigate human-like AI

October 26, 2018

Artificial intelligence (AI) that reasons like a human remains elusive, but Honda hopes to make inroads. The Tokyo company’s U.S.-based Research Institute today announced a collaboration with three academic institutions — the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the University of Pennsylvania (Penn), and the University of Washington — to advance the field of artificial cognition.

MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence (CSAIL) lab, in partnership with Penn’s School of Engineering and Applied Science and the University of Washington’s Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering, will develop prototypes, working examples, and demonstrations of what Honda calls the “mechanisms of curiosity.” Specifically, MIT CSAIL will focus its efforts on systems capable of predicting future percepts — concepts developed as a consequence of perception — and the effect of future actions, while Penn’s engineering department and the Paul G. Allen School will develop perception models informed by biology and robots that can work safely in human environments.

The U.S. Department of Energy, General Motors and MathWorks Launch EcoCAR Mobility Challenge

October 25, 2018

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), General Motors and MathWorks today announced the launch of the EcoCAR Mobility Challenge, the latest DOE-sponsored Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition (AVTC) revealing the 12 competing universities and the Chevrolet Blazer as the vehicle platform selected for the competition.

The headline sponsors are the U.S. Department of Energy, General Motors, and MathWorks, and the challenge is managed by Argonne National Laboratory, making EcoCAR the ultimate training ground for future leaders in the automotive industry…

The participating universities include:

Colorado State University (Fort Collins, CO)
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (Daytona Beach, FL)
Georgia Tech (Atlanta, GA)
McMaster University (Hamilton, Ontario, Canada)
Mississippi State University (Starkville, MS)
The Ohio State University (Columbus, OH)
University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa, AL)
University of Tennessee, Knoxville (Knoxville, TN)
University of Washington (Seattle, WA)
University of Waterloo (Waterloo, Ontario, Canada)
Virginia Tech (Blacksburg, VA)
West Virginia University (Morgantown, WV)

Peduto Administration Wants To Get Rid Of ‘Dumb’ Street Lights

October 19, 2018

The Peduto administration wants to connect all of Pittsburgh’s roughly 40,000 street lights to the internet, which it says will save money and energy…

“By having that connection to the internet we’re going to be able to evaluate and actually meter that light,” said Pazuchanics. “We expect that there is savings as of result, just of knowing precisely how much energy is actually being used.”

To protect the smart lights from hackers, the city has partnered with Carnegie Mellon University. But Laura Meixell, assistant director in the city’s department of innovation and preformance, wouldn’t go into too much detail.

“We are pretty confident … that we can build a secure system,” said Meixell. “We have vetted that technology … to be able to understand that what we’re getting is best in class.”

The physics of why we don’t have solar-powered cars

October 15, 2018

Will it work? Don’t bet on it, says Jeremy Michalek, a professor of mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University and director of its Vehicle Electrification Group.

Quartz asked Michalek to estimate how far the best solar panels could propel a typical electric car on the market. He broke down the math for us.

Michalek says about 1 kilowatt (kW) of solar energy falls on a square meter of the Earth’s surface on a clear day. That’s all the solar energy available to collect. For a company like Sono, which says it can convert about a quarter of that energy into electricity (although that’s very optimistic), a full site of panels might generate roughly 8 kilowatt hours of energy per day (a best-case scenario with four square meters of solar panels).

Michalek says that’s enough to drive a car like the comparable Nissan Leaf about 25 miles.

Ride-sharing and AVs will prompt cities to rethink the curb

October 13, 2018

Some solutions will be more site-specific:

Airports in San Jose and elsewhere are designating locations outside the flow of traffic for ride-hailing pickups.

The Forbes Avenue Betterment Project in front of Carnegie Mellon includes bump-outs in the street to accommodate pick-ups and drop-offs as well as a bike line to share curb space.

What’s next: In an autonomous vehicle-laden world, the curb will not mainly be used for parking cars. Instead, it will act more as a revolving door, moving people and goods from the street to their destinations in a constant and seamless flow. To ensure a safe and secure curb, we’ll need sensors and advanced wireless connectivity, paired with edge and cloud computing networks.

Karen Lightman is executive director of Metro21: Smart Cities Institute at Carnegie Mellon University.

Tech firm landing at Hazelwood Green. Could gondolas be next?

October 8, 2018

An autonomous vehicle start-up could be moving into the former LTV Coke Works site in Hazelwood, even as planners play with ideas like creating gondola lifts, water taxis, and maybe even light rail as a way to get people there.

Aptiv, a self-driving car start-up, is believed to be the major tech tenant signed by the Regional Industrial Development Corp. to occupy the second of three buildings being erected as part of the Mill 19 project at the 178-acre Hazelwood Green site.

The company currently is based in the RIDC industrial park in O’Hara. In 2015, the firm — then a division of Delphi — acquired Carnegie Mellon University spinoff Ottomatika, which created software and systems for autonomous vehicles.


October 3, 2018

The nascent self-driving space is littered with “partnerships”—Waymo with Avis and Fiat Chrysler, Lyft with Aptiv, Toyota and Uber. But Ike and Nuro have got something different going on. “This type of licensing arrangement seems rather new in the AV space,” says Raj Rajkumar, an electrical and computer engineer who studies autonomous technology at Carnegie Mellon University. It might be a sign that once-unlimited autonomous vehicle startup funding is now limited, and that companies are getting creative with money.

Mobility in Small Towns and the ‘Burbs

October 2, 2018

Town planners and local government decision makers are racing to solve an important task. They need to find the best way to modernize their infrastructure to keep up with what metro areas around them are doing. It is important to remember that a major aspect of a smart city is the way that people move around. In order to modernize the suburbs, the mobility revolution needs to become top priority.

Let’s examine the steps that small governments are taking to make their towns more prepared for the future.

We reached out to Stan Caldwell, executive director of the Carnegie Mellon University research institute Traffic21. Caldwell and his team design, test, deploy, and evaluate information and communications technologies to address the problems facing transportation in the Pittsburgh region and the nation.