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5G smart transit, Xiamen BRT to go driverless

July 18, 2018

The Xiamen Transportation Bureau has signed an agreement with DT Mobile to build a 5G smart network for the city’s transportation system. The project aims to transform Xiamen into a pilot city for 5G smart transit.

5G is the term used to describe the next generation of mobile networks beyond the 4G networks of today. 5G networks are expected to have always-on capabilities and be energy efficient.

Xiamen Transit and DT Mobile will join hands to create China’s first commercial 5G smart transit system on the current Xiamen BRT system. The new network will make it possible for Xiamen’s BRT to achieve driverless operation.
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HOME FROM THE HONEYMOON, THE SELF-DRIVING CAR INDUSTRY FACES REALITY

July 18, 2018

AT THE BLOCKBUSTER plenary sessions, the chairs stretched so far back that even the most youthful Silicon Valley college dropouts-turned VC hoovers had to squint to see the action up in front. A handful of large projection screens hung between the ballroom’s chandeliers, displaying loop-de-looping flow charts on vehicle safety systems, sensor alignments, liability law.

But despite the best efforts of the downtown San Francisco Hilton’s air conditioners, the air shared by the attendees of this year’s Automated Vehicles Symposium was thick with secrets and doubt. Eight years after Google first showed its self-driving car to The New York Times, the autonomous vehicle industry is still trying to figure out how to talk about itself.

Over the three-day conference, engineers, business buffs, urban planners, government officials, and transportation researchers grappled with how to tell the public that its wonder drug of a transportation solution will have its limitations. For at least a few decades to come.
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Tesla owners’ battery data show it won’t win through chemistry, only a better factory

July 18, 2018

When it comes to winning the battery race, only one thing matters, says Jay Whitacre, a materials science researcher at Carnegie Mellon University. “It’s all cost,” he said by phone. “This is completely an economic battle. The innovation is doing this as cheaply as possible. It’s less about building the cell, and more about building the factories that make the batteries.”

It’s unlikely anything will shake up the market for at least five years, say battery researchers. New battery types take years to move from the lab to production, and there’s still room for improvement in lithium-ion cell design and manufacturing methods. Yet potentially cheaper designs such as “pouch cells” are already popular with rival EV makers. New battery factories larger than Tesla’s are breaking ground in Europe and Asia. Tesla’s clever engineering gives the carmaker an advantage over its rivals, for now. But change may arrive faster than many think.
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Bay Area Agencies See Smart Bike Program as Last-Mile Transit Solution

July 18, 2018

A bicycle sharing program along the SMART train corridor is coming into focus as Marin and Sonoma counties work toward developing a plan.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission — the Bay Area’s transportation planning agency — approved $824,000 for the program for the two counties last November.

The project will provide a network of bikes at Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit stations and key destinations in each city along the rail corridor. The system would provide a way for commuters to get to the train and their jobs — the “last mile” of their journeys.
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Who owns the space under cities? The attempt to map the earth beneath us

July 18, 2018

Historically, the foundation of property law in the US and UK was enshrined in the Latin phrase “Cuius est solum, eius est usque ad coelum et ad inferos” – which roughly translates as: “Whoever owns the soil, holds title up to the heavens and down to the depths of hell.”

Subterranean scholar Dr Marilu Melo of the University of Sydney explains that not all countries behave this way. In Mexico, for example, “property rights are effectively superficial, they do not extend volumetrically into the earth,” she says.

Even in places that have traditionally been ardent defenders of private property, however, once human beings took to the air and started tunnelling underground, the old heaven to hell ideal began to require caveats.
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Silicon Valley startup unveils BlackFly, the latest entrant in race to field a flying car

July 18, 2018

A Silicon Valley startup called Opener is taking the wraps off a single-seat, all-electric flying vehicle known as BlackFly, which the company says will require no formal licensing in the U.S…

Opener says a developmental version of the tandem-wing, eight-rotor craft has gone into the air more than 1,400 times, with the total distance flown exceeding 12,000 miles.

The vertical-takeoff-and-landing aircraft is flown with a joystick, has a pushbutton “Return-to-Home” system for autonomous flight back to its base, and can be outfitted with an emergency parachute.
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The Application Period for the City of Tomorrow: Pittsburgh Challenge has just opened!

July 16, 2018

The Pittsburgh Challenge application period and are looking for mobility innovations that can help us address the central question, “How might we design commutes in Pittsburgh that are seamless, welcoming, and intuitive?” The winning ideas will receive up to $100K to pilot their solution…

The Pittsburgh of tomorrow will be very different from the Pittsburgh of yesteryear. Tomorrow’s city is green and sustainable and built around the needs and realities of real people with real hopes and dreams.

The Pittsburgh City of Tomorrow Challenge will dive deep to understand the mobility barriers that hold the city and people back from reaching their aspirations. Together, industry, City, and people will help to identify needs and select a focus for improvement to bring forward ideas for tangible solutions that can be demonstrated with up to $100,000 pilot funding.
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Uber lays off 100 self-driving car operators in Pittsburgh

July 12, 2018

Uber has laid off 100 self-driving car test drivers in Pittsburgh in the wake of a high-profile crash in Arizona.

The company is replacing them with 55 so-called “mission specialists,” technical specialists trained on both on-road and test track conditions, as it continues to scale back operations in the wake of the crash.

News of the lay-offs was initially reported by Quartz and subsequently confirmed by CNBC.

“Our team remains committed to building safe self-driving technology, and we look forward to returning to public roads in the coming months,” an Uber spokesperson said in a statement.

According to the Quartz report, Uber held a meeting with the 100 operators on Wednesday to inform them that their jobs were being terminated.
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A replacement for traffic lights gets its first test

July 11, 2018

So automotive engineers, motorists, and pedestrians alike would dearly love to know whether an alternative is feasible. Today they get an answer of sorts, thanks to the work of Rusheng Zhang at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and a few colleagues. These guys have tested a way of ridding our streets of traffic lights entirely and replacing them with a virtual system instead, saying that their system has the potential to dramatically reduce commuting times.

First, some background. The problem that Zhang and co tackle is coordinating the flow of traffic through a junction where two roads meet at right angles. These are often uncontrolled, so motorists have to follow strict rules about when they can pass, such as those that apply at four-way stop signs. This causes delays and jams.

To solve the problem, Zhang and co use the direct short-range radio systems that are increasingly being built into modern vehicles. These act as a vehicle-to-vehicle communication system that shares data such as GPS coordinates, speed, and direction. This data passes to an onboard computer programmed with the team’s virtual traffic light protocol, which issues the driver a green or red light that is displayed in the cabin.
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INSIDE X, THE MOONSHOT FACTORY RACING TO BUILD THE NEXT GOOGLE

July 11, 2018

X chief Astro Teller pitches X as a place for making the world better, but he doesn’t hide the benefits for Alphabet, including new revenue streams, strategic advantages, and recruiting value. And while he won’t reveal the moonshot factory’s employee count or operating budget, he makes clear that no matter how much money you might think X spends, it’s piddling compared to the value of what it creates.

All across X, teams pursuing an extravagant array of moonshots are finding their own ways to fail, with similar protected status. Ideas are welcome as long as they involve new ways to solve thorny problems. They come from all over. Some surge from the brains of employees. Others come from Teller or Google cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
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BMW, Daimler, telcos in push to get EU adopt connected car standard

July 11, 2018

BMW, Daimler, Deutsche Telekom and Ericsson have urged the European Commission to back a technology for connected cars they believe would help to speed up the rollout of 5G mobile networks across the bloc.

The call comes as the EU executive prepares to draw up rules to apply to cars connected to the internet, a market expected to be worth billions of euros and which will generate new revenue streams for telecoms operators and equipment makers.

A technology named C-V2X, which enables cars to communicate via cellular networks to other connected devices, is a better option than a rival wifi-based technology known as ITS-G5, the companies said.
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WHY DID THE HUMAN CROSS THE ROAD? TO CONFUSE THE SELF-DRIVING CAR

July 11, 2018

Because in this strange new world of complex interactions between people and robots, it’s as much about machines adapting to humans as it is humans adapting to machines. Determining the intent of pedestrians will help, but it won’t be easy. “Knowing the intent of pedestrians would certainly make [autonomous vehicle] deployment safer,” says Carnegie Mellon roboticist Raj Rajkumar, who works in self-driving cars. “It is, however, a very difficult problem to solve perfectly.”

“Consider Manhattan,” Rajkumar adds. And consider a big group of people crossing, specifically a person on the far side of a group from a robocar. “Among this group, one person is either short or starts running to cross quickly after the vehicle has decided to make a turn. Machine vision is not perfect.” And machine vision can get confused by optics, just like humans can. Reflections, the sun dropping low on the horizon, alternating light and dark patches on the road, not to mention heavy rain or snow, all can bamboozle the machines.
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Derq Teaches Driverless Cars to Safely Navigate Busy Intersections

July 11, 2018

Derq, a Techstars Mobility alum based in Detroit and Dubai, is conducting a yearlong pilot project on Jefferson Avenue and Randolph Street in the Motor City to focus on vehicle- and pedestrian-related risks around intersections.

“We’re concentrating on road safety for regular cars as well as autonomous vehicles,” says Georges Aoude, Derq’s co-founder and CEO. “Our two main applications are intersection safety—predicting red light violations and sending warnings to a vehicle—and pedestrian safety, which involves leveraging cameras from smart cities to predict pedestrian intent.”

Derq’s software monitors vehicle-to-infrastructure and vehicle-to-pedestrian (V2X) interactions to predict and prevent collisions. The company is using patented artificial intelligence-driven algorithms, which Aoude developed while pursuing his aerospace engineering PhD at MIT, to create up to two additional seconds of warning time for vehicles and drivers.
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Ohio officials break ground on world’s largest autonomous car testing facility

July 11, 2018

Ohio’s Transportation Research Center broke ground on what will be the world’s largest autonomous-vehicle testing facility this week, in a boost to business and research on self-driving cars in the Midwest state.

TRC’s 4,500-acre campus in East Liberty will, since the groundbreaking on Monday, now also house the 540-acre, $45 million SMART Center. TRC is North America’s largest vehicle testing center and has evaluated prototypes for new cars, trucks, and motorcycles for safety, energy, fuel consumption, and other criteria for nearly 40 years.
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China’s Didi signs up Continental for purpose-built electric cars

July 11, 2018

The agreement between Didi and Continental follows an alliance that Didi formed with the German company and 30 other auto industry partners in April, including China’s GAC Motor and BAIC Group, as well as Toyota Motor Corp.

“Based on Didi’s practical experience on mobility as well as Continental’s advanced products and technologies … the parties will explore cooperation mainly in the areas of intelligent & connected vehicles (ICV) and customized new energy vehicles,” Didi said in a statement on Tuesday.

A vehicle adapted to Didi’s needs is expected to roll out by 2020, the company said. The two companies signed the agreement in Shanghai on Tuesday.
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Seattle’s Trackless Electric Backbone

July 11, 2018

As some cities have pursued investments in modern streetcars, some critics have pointed to how buses can move more swiftly through mixed traffic compared to streetcars that are limited by where their steel rails allow them to travel.

A trolleybus, in some ways, is a nice half-step between a streetcar and a traditional bus, especially when relatively modest transit investments, like bus-only lanes and signal priority, can help speed vehicles through congested areas.
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To Better Predict Traffic, Look to the Electric Grid

July 9, 2018

Commuters check Google Maps for traffic updates the same way they check the weather app for rain predictions. And for good reasons: By pooling information from millions of drivers already on the road, Google can paint an impressively accurate real-time portrait of congestion. Meanwhile, historical numbers can roughly predict when your morning commutes may be particularly bad.

But “the information we extract from traffic data has been exhausted,” said Zhen (Sean) Qian, who directs the Mobility Data Analytics Center at Carnegie Mellon University. He thinks that to more accurately predict how gridlock varies from day to day, there’s a whole other set of data that cities haven’t mined yet: electricity use.

“Essentially we all use the urban system—the electricity, water, the sewage system and gas—and when people use them and how heavily they do is correlated to the way they use the transportation system,” he said.
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Long Road Ahead: The Promise — and Perils — of Self-driving Cars: Podcast

July 9, 2018

Many companies are trying to crack the code for self-driving cars, which could one day help reduce deaths from traffic accidents. But when? In this wide-ranging interview, Wharton management professor John Paul MacDuffie looks at the major issues. He notes that despite the hype suggesting that autonomous vehicles will arrive within a couple of years, full autonomy for all vehicles is many decades away. “In the next five years, there will be lots of pilot projects and testing, so companies can learn from real-world data and the public can learn about the technology. By 2030, autonomous vehicles will be common in some settings and for some uses. But the roads will still be a complex mix of human-driven and algorithm-driven vehicles.” MacDuffie, who is also director of the Program on Vehicle and Mobility Innovation at Wharton’s Mack Institute for Innovative Management, added: “Throughout, diffusion will be erratic — moving fast at times, slowed up by unexpected constraints at other times. But we’ll feel like [autonomous vehicles] are part of our lives, at least partially, within the next five to 10 years.”
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How Ride-Hailing Could Improve Public Transportation Instead Of Undercutting It

July 9, 2018

OVER THE LAST HALF-DECADE, PUBLIC TRANSIT RIDERSHIP DECLINED nationwide. The number of vehicle miles traveled in cars is rising, and traffic congestion is getting worse in many U.S. cities. At the same time, the century-old taxi industry is struggling, with many taxi companies going bankrupt.

Are ride-hailing companies such as Lyft and Uber to blame? What has been their impact and what should be done?

While ride-hailing threatens public transit, it is also key to its future success — but only with smart policies and the right price signals. As researchers working at the intersection of energy, the environment, and public policy, we have been analyzing transportation trends for decades — and seeing remarkably little innovation. Now we are on the cusp of major transformations. We see ride-hailing through the framework laid out in Daniel Sperling’s new book, “Three Revolutions: Steering Automated, Shared, and Electric Vehicles to a Better Future.”
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Smart Ports: When AI Takes Over Shipping

July 9, 2018

An autonomous truck is expected to arrive at the Port of Long Beach, Calif., seven minutes late after being rerouted to avoid a heavy-traffic zone. Fully automated cranes unloading containers from a self-piloting ship have been monitoring the truck’s route in real time and already have adjusted their loading schedule to account for the truck’s delay.

The above scenario is not merely the stuff of science fiction. Artificial intelligence and machine learning for both automated container port management and trucks and ships is already in use or under development in a few key ways.
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Self-driving shuttles to soon cruise Columbus streets

July 9, 2018

Self-driving shuttles are expected to ferry passengers in the capital city’s downtown streets by the holidays.

The Ohio Department of Transportation, the city of Columbus and Ohio State University are seeking proposals from companies to operate and maintain low-speed, self-driving shuttle service around the downtown riverfront area known as the Scioto Mile. It will be the first autonomous vehicle shuttle service in Ohio.

The timeline is to have the shuttles tested without passengers in October and November. In December, the shuttles would carry people to the key Scioto Mile destinations: Bicentennial Park, the Center of Science and Industry (COSI,) the soon-to-open National Veterans Memorial and Museum and the Smart Columbus Experience Center – a hands-on museum where people can learn about coming technological changes to transportation in Columbus and around the country.
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Gov. Vetoes Driverless Car Bill

July 9, 2018

Concord — A fatal crash involving an self-driving car in Arizona was one of the reasons Gov. Chris Sununu said he vetoed a bill on Monday that would allow for autonomous vehicle testing in New Hampshire by 2019.

House Bill 314 would have allowed companies or individuals to apply for permits with the Division of Motor Vehicles to test fully automated vehicles — those that can navigate roads without any hands-on contact from the driver. To get the permit, the applicant would have to demonstrate that it has an insurance plan of at least $10 million and that each vehicle previously had been tested in a closed environment, among other requirements.
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Peel Region begins Off-Peak Delivery pilot

July 9, 2018

The Region of Peel will begin its first Off-Peak Delivery (OPD) pilot project running July through December, in participation with LCBO, Loblaw, PepsiCo, Walmart Canada, and Weston Foods.

The objective of the project is to help optimize highways and major road networks within Peel and the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area.

Deloitte Canada will be acting as advisors on the project while the University of Toronto, McMaster University, and York University will contribute their expertise through the Smart Freight Centre, an initiative led by the Region.
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Portland tests smart traffic signals in trailblazing effort to put the brakes on congestion

July 9, 2018

Surtrac was developed by Rapid Flow Technologies, a Pittsburgh-based company that emerged from Carnegie Mellon University, where Professor Stephen Smith and his students first tested the technology back in 2012. Rapid Flow Technologies opened in 2015 to market Surtrac technology to U.S. cities. Smith remains a professor at Carnegie Mellon and also is a chief scientist for Rapid Flow.

In an interview, Smith said the technology was tested successfully at nine intersections in Pittsburgh and now is used at 41 more intersections, with more likely to be added. Atlanta also has adopted the smart traffic signals and now has 24 intersections using the technology. Smith said travel time is reduced by an average of 25 percent and the amount of time spent idling in traffic or at a red light decreased by 40 percent.

“Our technology focuses more on the complex problem of urban areas,” he said, “where the dominant flow of traffic is likely to change throughout the day.”
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Self-Heating Battery Improves Charging In Cold Temperatures

July 9, 2018

Researchers at Penn State University have created a self-heating battery. Why? Because cold temperatures (often experienced by drivers outside of California) slow down the charging rate of conventional lithium ion batteries. That means they have to remain plugged in longer to allow drivers enough charge for their daily driving needs. Charging at temperatures below 50º F can also lead to faster battery degradation, the researchers say.
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