China’s ambition to powerthe world’s electric cars took a huge leap forward this week

June 14, 2018

In a public offering on June 11 in Shenzhen, battery giant Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd. (CATL) raised nearly $1 billion to fund ambitious expansion plans, and its stock has been shooting up every day since. Thanks largely to the company’s new plants, China will be making
70 percent of the world’s electric-vehicle batteries by 2021, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF)…

China is already the world’s largest car market, but its domestic businesses sell only a small fraction of vehicles and components globally.  “China sees EVs as the way to assert their global dominance in automotive,” says Venkat Viswanathan, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon, whose work focuses on
batteries. “To make it work you need scale, and they do scale better than anyone else.”
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Elon Musk’s Boring Co. asked to build Chicago high-speed transit between O’Hare and downtown

June 14, 2018

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel will formally announce Thursday that his administration is entering one-on-one negotiations with Musk company to build the high-speed system that will utilize electric vehicles running through twin underground tunnels, said Adam Collins, the mayor’s spokesman.

The effort has been met with some skepticism from experts.

“The concept of car elevators on skates add a bunch of engineering challenges, such as reliability and safety of the elevator, loading and unloading times, and the number of dedicated areas in a city you’d need to do this at scale,” Constantine Samaras, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, told Forbes earlier this year.
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Massive growth in Big Infrastructure could spell inspection changes

June 14, 2018

Thus, the biggest challenge of all when inspecting Big Infrastructure is size. Infrastructure like pipelines, utility poles, and the like are big, vast, and require a close and considered look. Yet, the devil is always in the detail. For example, those hundreds of thousands of bridges around the world carrying across ravines, rivers and roadways all need someone to go look – closely and carefully – and see how they’re holding up.

RoadBotics has learned a few things about the challenges of inspecting Big Infrastructure. The company uses AI and standard smartphones to inspect road surfaces and other assets accurately and inexpensively for private and public organizations across the US and around the world. What has been learned from this, arguably, is transferable to any inspection regime, particularly those short on people, money, and time:

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Waymo has been testing self-driving cars with 400 riders in Phoenix for a year. Here’s what it’s learned so far

June 14, 2018

Through their experiences, Waymo has learned a few things:

  • It needs to get better at designating specific pick-up entrances at a store so that frustrated riders won’t have to lug shopping bags through the hot sun to reach a car
  • On narrow streets, riders prefer to cross the road to reach a car, instead of having it drive to the end of a road, turn around and come back
  • It needed to figure out how to accommodate people with service animals (it figured this out after a query from a passenger)
  • The best way to wake sleeping passengers is with a little chime sound.

Not all the rides have been seamless, which is kind of point of this experimental phase.

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NYC DOT Chief: Feds Are Forgoing City Input on Self-Driving Vehicles

June 14, 2018

Polly Trottenberg, commissioner of the city’s department of transportation, told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Wednesday that, to date, the feds have not “meaningfully involved” cities in developing policies for the vehicles.

“I urge you to enlist cities as partners,” she added.

Trottenberg specifically called for the U.S. Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to engage with cities more directly going forward.
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Free Power From Freeways? China Is Testing Roads Paved With Solar Panels

June 13, 2018

Now, such roads are finally becoming viable. Prices have fallen drastically in recent years — thanks in large part to soaring Chinese production, a solar panel costs a tenth of what it did a decade ago. Road builders in China even want to design solar roads that can wirelessly recharge electric cars running on them, emulating a recent American experiment.

China’s leaders in solar road development are Pavenergy and Qilu Transportation. The two companies are working together here in Jinan, in Shandong Province, with Pavenergy making panels for Qilu, a large, state-owned highway construction and management company that operates the highway.
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PennDOT To Discuss Regulations With Autonomous Vehicle Operators

June 13, 2018

“To make sure that the regulations aren’t too onerous,” he said. “We want safety and security for our citizens, but we also want companies who feel that Pennsylvania is a place where they can do innovative things.”

There are five entities that test self-driving cars in Pittsburgh: Aptiv, Argo AI, Aurora Innovation, Carnegie Mellon University and Uber.

Aptiv, Aurora and Uber declined to comment. In statements made to 90.5 WESA, both Argo AI and Carnegie Mellon University said they look forward to continuing discussions with city and state officials to ensure safe testing and safe deployment of self-driving vehicles.
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Four Communities Selected for Inaugural Georgia Smart Communities Challenge

June 13, 2018

Four Georgia communities developed and will implement smart design solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing the state. The projects, which tackle housing, traffic congestion, sea level rise and shared autonomous vehicles, are supported through the Georgia Smart Communities Challenge.

This new Georgia Tech-led initiative brings together industry and public agencies to help local governments implement smart development. The strategies developed by the selected communities will serve as models that could be implemented elsewhere across Georgia.

The program provides seed funding and access to technical assistance, expert advice and a network of peers. A Georgia Tech researcher will advise and conduct research in support of each group’s goals.
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Ford’s ‘self-driving’ vans are now delivering food in Miami

June 13, 2018

Ford has retrofitted a fleet of its Transit vans with touchpad-accessible lockers, from which Postmates customers with the right access code can retrieve their food. The lockers are varying sizes to accommodate different types of deliveries. (Some even have cupholders.) Audio prompts and light displays are used to guide customers to the appropriate locker.
The pilot is underway in Miami and Miami Beach, with “over 70 businesses” participating, including restaurants and hardware stores, the company said in a Medium post. The vans are manually driven by human drivers for now, as Ford is just using them to test different methods of food delivery. Eventually, the automaker says it will deploy a fully self-driving delivery service by 2021. “Ultimately, we are testing how businesses and consumers interact with a self-driving vehicle,” Ford says.
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Annapolis Junction firm to bring first automated car parking lots to Columbia

June 13, 2018

The parking tech is not available yet, but STEER has an active waitlist where drivers can sign up to get access upon release. The company plans to set up its first parking operation in Columbia’s Merriweather District by next August, thanks to a partnership with development firm Howard Hughes Corp…

The Merriweather District will be home to multiple designated STEER drop off and pick up points, where drivers can exit and return to their vehicles. They will be able to send their cars to be parked and call them back via a mobile app. All of the new parking garages in the area will also have STEER-designated spaces for the automated vehicles. Sonalker said most vehicles manufactured in 2012 or later should be eligible for STEER technology integration.
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LinkedIn’s ‘Your Commute’ brings transit time to your job search

June 11, 2018

The new option is available via LinkedIn’s mobile apps, and it offers the ability to see an estimate of your commute from your home to the office while driving, walking, or taking public transportation. For now, you’ll have to enter your address each time you want to see an estimate. However, LinkedIn says it will soon allow you to save your address locally so you won’t have to type it each time.
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These Smarter Stoplights Could Be Lifesavers

June 11, 2018

“The video, it’s talking to you,” says Mark de la Vergne, Detroit’s chief of mobility innovation. “Before, you would just get numbers. Now, we know where they are crossing. We know when they are crossing. We know how many people are driving through a red light. That’s going to help us inform a lot of our work in the next few years.”

Like many cities’ signals, Detroit’s newest intersection lights can prioritize signals for emergency vehicles such as ambulances and police cars. But they can also help make crossings safer for cyclists and pedestrians. The lights can extend green signals for cyclists who wouldn’t otherwise be able to clear the intersection in time, and the system can alert Waze users or connected vehicles that jaywalkers are ahead.
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GM and Tesla diverge on autonomous paths

June 11, 2018

Autopilot. The name connotes a futuristic vision, the automotive equivalent of soaring carefree through open skies.

Contrast that with Super Cruise, which suggests an enhanced version of cruise control, relief from road-trip tedium, like a good audiobook.

The two brand names reflect the diverging visions of autonomy that Tesla Inc. and General Motors are offering today’s consumers: Tesla’s Autopilot, defined by a promise to stretch the boundaries of technology, vs. GM’s Super Cruise, characterized by the limits it places on both man and machine.

Which vision consumers embrace could have broad implications for how quickly and aggressively autonomous technology is deployed across the industry. And the events of recent weeks and months are sure to shape that conversation.
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What We’ve Learned From Tesla Autopilot and Self-Driving System Crashes

June 11, 2018

The crashes involving Tesla vehicles striking stationary objects—the crash attenuator in California, a stopped fire truck in Utah in May, and another fire truck in California in January—show the limitations of relying on just cameras and radar, says Raj Rajkumar, director of the Connected and Autonomous Driving Collaborative Research Lab at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Camera-based systems have to be trained to recognize specific images, and if they encounter something in the real world that doesn’t match their expectations, the radar has to pick it up, Rajkumar said.

Tesla’s system missed the fire trucks, and there was also an incident reported in China where a Tesla crashed into a stopped garbage truck. The company’s technology appears to work well with moving objects, but not stationary ones, Rajkumar said.

“Consumers need to be extremely cautious about the claims being made,” Rajkumar said. “There’s a lot of hype.”
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More eyes in the sky: ODOT testing drones to monitor traffic, road conditions

June 11, 2018

Drones will monitor traffic and road conditions along the Dublin-to-Marysville stretch of Rt. 33 in a research project complementing smart mobility tests of driverless and connected vehicles.

The $5.9 million, three-year study also will test ways to manage the traffic of unmanned aircraft systems themselves, looking toward a future of package delivery and air taxis, the Ohio Department of Transportation said.

DriveOhio, which is ODOT’s smart mobility coordinating center, and Ohio State University’s College of Engineering are leading the project that starts July 1.
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Waymo wants its driverless cars in Europe, but it could face challenges

June 11, 2018

Alphabet’s Waymo hopes to launch the first US self-driving taxi service this year in Phoenix, Arizona, and potentially San Francisco, California. Depending on how these test runs go, Waymo could end up a household name in America.

Now, we’ve learned that Waymo’s CEO also hopes to expand his company’s driverless taxis to Europe, though it could face stiff competition from local, more mainstream car brands.

John Krafcik, speaking at the Automotive News Europe Congress in Turin, Italy, told the audience that, “There is an opportunity for us at Waymo to experiment here in Europe, with different products and maybe even with different go-to-market strategies,” Reuters first reported.
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Ohio State Takes Electric Cars For A Spin At Smart Columbus Event

June 11, 2018

For the first time, The Ohio State University on Thursday gave the public a chance to test out electric vehicles for themselves.
Around 250 Ohio State students, faculty and staff pre-registered for the chance to take an electric car out for a spin at the Smart Columbus Ride and Drive Roadshow.

Attendees had 13 electric vehicles to choose from, including the Nissan LEAF and Tesla Model X.

Ohio State Center for Automotive Research senior associate director Maryn Weimer says exposing people to electric vehicles could help them decide to make the switch down the road.
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GE launches AiRXOS to focus on unmanned vehicle management systems

June 11, 2018

Autonomous drones and vehicles will ultimately need traffic management systems and GE smells an opportunity.

GE launched a company called AiRXOS to focus on traffic management for unmanned aircraft systems. AiRXOS, set up as a subsidiary of GE, will create systems for government agencies, aviation authorities and the private sector to manage drones. The company will feature infrastructure, software and hardware and services.
Autonomous vehicles and drones are likely to become an air space issue. GE has already won enough deals to manage and control unmanned aircraft vehicles (UAVs) to create a company. AiRXOS has been selected to develop UAV operations, automation and infrastructure.
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The market for driverless cars will head towards monopoly

June 11, 2018

THE race to bring driverless cars to market is fierce and crowded. All the leading carmakers are in the field: on May 31st SoftBank’s Vision Fund said that it would invest $2.25bn in the autonomous vehicle (AV) arm of General Motors. So are tech upstarts, from Uber to Tesla to Waymo, Alphabet’s self-drive division and the leader in driverless technology, which recently announced plans to add 62,000 minivans to the fleet of cars that will make up its autonomous ride-hailing service. Intense competition has both benefits and costs, but will probably prove short-lived. Thanks to powerful economies of scale, the roads may soon be ruled by no more than a handful of firms.
The advantages of scale begin with data.
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How to Build a Smart City

June 8, 2018

Our latest Freakonomics Radio episode is called “How to Build a Smart City.”
We are in the midst of a historic (and wholly unpredicted) rise in urbanization. But it’s hard to retrofit old cities for the 21st century. Enter Dan Doctoroff. The man who helped modernize New York City — and tried to bring the Olympics there — is now C.E.O. of a Google-funded startup that is building, from scratch, the city of the future…

DUBNER: It’s really interesting to see places that have had a good turnaround. I think of Pittsburgh, which was a hardcore industrial manufacturing, natural-resources city. And it took a while, but now they are the capital of autonomous-vehicle research. They’ve built up a lot of industries that were totally unrelated to what they’d been known for.

DOCTOROFF: I think we’re seeing it more and more as people recognize that they, again, have to build off their competitive strengths. So what Pittsburgh’s competitive strength?

DUBNER: Carnegie Mellon’s pretty good.

DOCTOROFF: Carnegie Mellon was the biggest component of it. And I think the city and the university and the not-for-profit sector kind of worked together to develop a strategy.
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Atlanta eyes airport innovation lab

June 8, 2018

Other airports — including San Diego’s and Munich’s in Germany — have adopted innovation labs to work on ideas on how to improve the airport experience or use space and resources to test innovations in fields such as mobility. Pittsburgh last month agreed to partner with Carnegie Mellon University’s smart cities institute for similar innovation work, building on projects including parking efficiency and a smartphone-based navigation system for the visually impaired.
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Daimler fights Tesla, VW with new electric big rig truck

June 8, 2018

Daimler AG (DAIGn.DE) unveiled on Wednesday an all-electric big rig truck it promises to have in production in 2021, as the German automaker mounts a major challenge to European and American rivals, including new entrants like Tesla Inc (TSLA.O).

Truck buyers anticipate global regulation to curb pollution from trucks and see advantages from lower fuel and maintenance costs of electric vehicles, but a fleet technology switch is far from certain given challenges of cost, charging infrastructure, range, and the potential for heavy batteries to constrict payloads.

Daimler’s Freightliner eCascadia is an 18-wheeler with a 250-mile (400 km) range, aimed for regional distribution and port services, while Tesla has said that its Semi – which it expects to build by 2020 – will be suited to longer-distance runs with a 500-mile range.
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GM Plans to Roll Out Self-Driving Technology to All Cadillacs in 2020

June 8, 2018

General Motors Company (GM – Get Report) is about to go all-in with semi-autonomous driving.

The auto giant announced on Wednesday, June 6 that it will expand its Super Cruise hands-free driver assistance feature to all Cadillac models in 2020 and then to other GM brands in 2023. GM will also offer vehicle-to-everything communication, better known as V2X, in Cadillac models starting in 2023.

Originally rolled out in April 2017, Super Cruise is currently available only in the 2018 Cadillac CT6. The technology uses a combination of infrared lights known as LiDAR mapping, in-car cameras, radar sensors and GPS to navigate the vehicle. However, Super Cruise only works on freeways while other semi-autonomous driving technology, such as the Tesla (TSLA – Get Report) Autopilot, can work on city streets although the company advises against it.
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City Leaders Envision Future With Driverless Cars

June 6, 2018

Brooks Rainwater, director of NLC’s Center for City Solutions, told Route Fifty that many city leaders wanted to get in front of this issue after being surprised by the sudden popularity of services like Uber and Lyft.

“Many mayors and city councils, after they saw what happened with ride hailing, have been at the front end of this conversation,” Rainwater said.

While AV policy remains in its infancy, Pittsburgh and San Francisco have substantial pilots up and running, and some states have already preempted city authority to regulate self-driving vehicles.

For those reasons, NLC teamed with the Bloomberg Aspen Initiative on AVs to conceptualize four, city-first approaches to a driverless future. The report was released Thursday.
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Pittsburgh, Ford announce challenge program to find mobility solutions

June 6, 2018

Mayor Bill Peduto and John Kwant, vice president of Ford City Solutions, announced Tuesday that Pittsburgh will be the first city to work with Ford’s City of Tomorrow Challenge. The new program calls on the public to identify and then offer solutions for mobility problems with the help of a team of private experts, with one or two ideas receiving a total of $100,000 to move ahead to a demonstration project…

Mr. Kwant said Ford’s decision to kick off the program here evolved after Ford’s announcement in February 2017 that it would invest $1 billion over five years in Pittsburgh-based Argo AI to develop technology for a self-driving vehicle. He called Pittsburgh “the ideal partner” because of its leadership in areas such as smart traffic signals through Carnegie Mellon University.
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