Finding a spot may get a little easier — you now can access all of the city’s parking data

July 15, 2019

The Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center — a joint open-data project among the city, Allegheny County and University of Pittsburgh — is making city parking data publicly available.

There are over 4.3 million transaction entries to comb through.

This isn’t the center’s first project. Since 2015, it’s been making all kinds of local data accessible under the direction of Bob Gradeck, project director at the center, which is housed in Oakland on Pitt’s campus…

Burgh’s Eye View, for example, is a city map application that lets users drill into crime, property and 311 data by clicking on a given intersection.

The app was built within the city’s Department of Innovation and Performance. To make the parking data more accessible, any developer can access this data and build an app that lets users click and learn.

Created by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University’s CREATE Lab, the SmellPGH app lets users report and track strange odors around the city.

Why so few Pittsburghers want Mayor Peduto’s proposed autonomous shuttle

July 10, 2019

At a June meeting, dozens of residents showed up to hear updates on a city proposal that would ferry autonomous shuttles through Oakland, Greenfield, and Hazelwood. By and large, residents were skeptical of the autonomous-vehicle proposal. Several of them sported buttons reading, “Not Sold on AV.”

Public-transit advocates think the city’s money and effort would be better spent procuring additional bus service from Hazelwood, and that the small shuttles can’t adequately serve the growth that the city is hoping to see in the corridor.

But the city believes the project, called the Mon-Oakland Connector (MOC), can provide an improved and important transit connection between its two largest universities and the growing tech industry. Leaders also see a chance to help boost development in this corridor and make upgrades to provide flood relief.

Flying blind: Apps help visually impaired navigate airport

July 10, 2019

Navigating airports can be tricky. They’re loud, crowded and not always laid out intuitively. They’re even more challenging for visually impaired people.

Chieko Asakawa knows those challenges firsthand, and she has also devised a remedy.

Asakawa has been blind since she was 14 and is now an IBM Fellow and a professor in Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute. This spring, she and other researchers at Carnegie Mellon launched a navigation app for Pittsburgh International Airport that provides turn-by-turn audio instructions to users on how to get to their destination, be it a departure gate, restaurant or restroom.

Pittsburgh is one of a growing number of airports around the globe to provide wayfinding apps. The Pittsburgh app, called NavCog, was first used at the Carnegie Mellon campus and works almost like an indoor GPS.

Sebastian Thrun, the godfather of the self-driving car industry, explains how Larry Page taught him to be a visionary, not just an ‘expert’

July 10, 2019

Waymo launched the first commercial autonomous ride-hailing service in the US, Waymo One, in parts of Arizona in 2018.

But, Sebastian Thrun, the man who birthed Waymo into the world back when self-driving cars was just a crazy idea inside of Google, says the whole thing might not have happened if Google founder and then CEO, Larry Page, didn’t have a stubborn streak.

Back in the mid-2000’s, Thrun was having a spectacular career in robotic vehicle academics first at Carnegie Mellon (still famous for its research which is why its home to rival Uber’s program) and then at Stanford.

In 2005, his Stanford team won the $1 milion prize DARPA challenge with a robot vehicle called Stanley that drove through the desert at high speeds.

Fast-track Baltimore from Charm City to ‘Smart City’

July 2, 2019

Smart city technologies empower cities to operate more efficiently by leveraging technology and “internet of things” (IoT) sensors that deliver sustainable solutions to economic growth and improve the lives of citizens. Consider this a call-to-action to fast-track Charm City into “Smart City” fully connected for the digital world.

One need look no further than our rust-belt neighbor to the west, Pittsburgh, to find an American city that successfully made such a transition. Pittsburgh, once in dire economic straits after the decline of American steel, found a way to reinvent itself into Fast Company’s 2019 “Smart City of Future” through outstanding technology investments that transformed the city into an ecosystem of innovation.

By leveraging real-time traffic flow data to determine when traffic lights should turn red or green, thanks to smart traffic light technologies, intersection wait times in Pittsburgh have fallen by up to 40%, travel times by as much as 25% and auto emissions by up to 20%.

This computer vision tech actually sees around corners

July 1, 2019

A group of computer vision researchers from the US, Canada, and Europe have developed a technique to see around corners. It’s the first time researchers have been able to capture shapes of curved objects using non-line-of-sight (NLOS) imaging techniques.

“It is exciting to see the quality of reconstructions of hidden objects get closer to the scans we’re used to seeing for objects that are in the line of sight,” said Srinivasa Narasimhan, a professor in the Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute. “Thus far, we can achieve this level of detail for only relatively small areas, but this capability will complement other NLOS techniques.”

The research is being conducted with the support of the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency’s REVEAL program. Participating researchers are from Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Toronto and University College London.

You Say Your AV Is Safe? Show Me

July 1, 2019

Arguing credibly about the safety of any autonomous vehicle (AV) requires somewhat more proof than a company like Waymo, Uber or GM declaring that its robocars are safe for commercial deployment. The automaker must be able to demonstrate that its AI-driven vehicles meet specific and rigorous standards…

Against this backdrop, Underwriters Labs, currently developing a “Standard for Safety for the Evaluation of Autonomous Products” — UL 4600 — said the members on its Standards Technical Panel (STP) met in person for the first time on June 12 and 13, to review and discuss the initial draft standard.

EE Times last week caught up with Phil Koopman, co-founder & CTO at Edge Case Research, a principal technical contributor to the draft.

The minutes of the first meeting are yet to be made public. Koopman, however, described the first meeting as “very positive and constructive.” He said the members hit all the main issues of UL 4600 that must find solutions.

Waymo hires former CEO and technical team from failed robotics startup Anki

July 1, 2019

Alphabet-owned self-driving startup Waymo is hiring the former CEO of Anki, the robotics startup that sold millions of AI-infused toys and burned through more than $180 million in venture capital before failing earlier this year.

Boris Sofman will head up the trucking division at Waymo, bringing along a dozen engineers from Anki’s original technical team.

“While I’ve spent the last fifteen years working in robotics, it was autonomous driving that first sparked my attraction to the field and was the focus of my thesis at Carnegie Mellon,” Sofman wrote in a LinkedIn post today, first spotted by Axios.

“Throughout the last decade, I would look over at what was happening at Waymo and be inspired by the progress they were making, and the inevitable impact their technology would have on everyone’s lives in the years to come.”

On Pothole Patrol in South Jackson

July 1, 2019

One of the tools Montgomery used to its advantage was RoadBotics, a road-survey product that uses artificial intelligence to evaluate road conditions for local governments and organizations responsible for maintaining roads. RoadBotics assessed the road every 10 feet, took photos, and showed engineers areas where the pavement was in bad condition, he said.

“It was a great tool for us. We had about $15 million dollars of streets that were in disrepair, and we knew we didn’t have enough money to rank those streets. RoadBotics provided that,” he said.

#At RoadBotics, certified technicians collect images using smartphones mounted to the windshield of a car. These photos are analyzed by the company’s artificial intelligence that rates the images on a scale of one to five, with one being in good condition and five being roads that need immediate repair.

A.I. and DIY: Inside Montgomery’s blue-collar approach to ‘smart city’ government

July 1, 2019

STAR Watch launched late last year. A few months earlier, a separate initiative brought in artificial intelligence to gauge the quality of Montgomery’s streets.

The city was facing $15 million worth of immediate street work, until a team from Pittsburgh-based startup RoadBotics used windshield-mounted smartphones and machine-learning technology to detect faults in the roads and give each stretch of street a quality grade. It found that the worst streets needed a total of $4 million in repairs.

“Our previous system … you had different opinions on what was a bad street and what was a good street,” Public Works Director Chris Conway said. “It could vary district to district, neighborhood to neighborhood depending on who looked at it. Using an artificial intelligence device and system, you may not agree with it but it’s consistent across the board.”

How automation could make airports more efficient

July 1, 2019

Transportation authorities, airlines, tech companies, and others are experimenting with ways to automate and streamline airport pain points.

Curbside pick-up and drop-off: Ride-hailing services account for 62% of airport transportation for business travel, leading to increased congestion.

In response, airports are contemplating using AVs to reduce low-occupancy vehicle traffic, including a shuttle-type AV pilot at Denver International Airport…

Security: The TSA allocated $71.5 million for adding more than 145 machine learning–based CT scanners into security checkpoints to expedite carry-on baggage inspections.

The further expansion of this technology could automate the detection of firearms, knives, explosives, lithium ion batteries and other prohibited items.

Metro21: Smart Cities Institute at Carnegie Mellon University and the Pittsburgh International Airport developed a model for estimating security wait times and distributing passengers across checkpoints.

Voices in AI – Episode 90: A Conversation with Norman Sadeh

July 1, 2019

Episode 90 of Voices in AI features Byron speaking with Norman Sadeh from Carnegie Mellon University about the nature of intelligence and how AI effects our privacy.

Listen to this episode or read the full transcript at

Transcript Excerpt
Byron Reese: This is Voices in AI brought to you by GigaOm I’m Byron Reese, today my guest is Norman Sadeh. He is a professor at Carnegie Mellon School of Computer Science. He’s affiliated with Cylab which is well known for their seminal work in AI planning and scheduling, and he is an authority on computer privacy. Welcome to the show.

Pittsburgh’s city planning director leaving post

June 25, 2019

Raymond W. Gastil, one of the early, key national search hires of the administration of Mayor Bill Peduto, is leaving his post as Director of City Planning to direct the Remaking Cities Institute at Carnegie Mellon University.

Gastil leaves the position after a little more than five years, a period in which the city has undergone dramatic change.

Gastil served as a policy point man in a number of major policy initiatives by Peduto. He helped to set up a new Affordable Housing Task Force as well as lead the planning department as it worked to establish a new Riverfront Zoning Ordinance, or RIV, updating the standards to develop along much of the city’s riverfront land, a still-new regime expected to helped to protect the rivers’ ecology an public places while enabling new development.
More>> and Carnegie Mellon to found driverless vehicle research center

June 25, 2019, a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based driverless car startup founded by former executives from Google’s and Uber’s autonomous technology divisions, today announced that it’s teaming up with Carnegie Mellon University to form a new center for autonomous vehicle research: the aptly named Carnegie Mellon University Argo AI Center for Autonomous Vehicle Research. says it’ll pledge $15 million over five years to fund faculty leaders and support graduate students conducting studies in pursuit of their doctorates. Additionally, the company says it’ll provide Carnegie Mellon students engaged in autonomous vehicle research access to data, infrastructure, and platforms like Argoverse, a curated corpus of more than 300,000 vehicle trajectories and 290 kilometers of recorded road lanes…

Ramanan will serve as the Center’s faculty leader along with Simon Lucey, an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute specializing in computer vision. The team’s other founding members include John Dolan, David Held, and Jeff Schneider.

Florida municipalities to use road sweepers to collect pavement assessment data

June 25, 2019

One of the leading manufacturers of street sweepers in North America, Elgin has partnered with Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) spinoff company RoadBotics to offer Florida’s 400-plus municipalities the ability to collect road condition data during regular cleaning operations, exclusively using the company’s street sweepers. At a time when they are facing mounting pressure from citizens to address potholes and other poor road conditions, the partnership aims to help local government officials managing road maintenance budgets to make data-driven road improvement decisions.

Founded in 2016 by Mark DeSantis, Dr Benjamin Schmidt, and Dr Christoph Mertz, from the Robotics Institute at CMU, RoadBotics has been developing artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to revolutionize how governments and engineering firms make data-driven pavement management decisions. The company’s pavement assessment technology works by mounting a smartphone to the windshield of a vehicle, in this case, a street sweeper.

Scientists Use Lasers to See Around Corners

June 21, 2019

Your pathetic human eyes can only see what’s right in front of them, and it’s not hard to fool people. Robots, on the other hand, are already learning how to see around corners. This will no doubt come in handy during the robot apocalypse when machines need to hunt down fleeing humans, but in the meantime, it could be a real boon to self-driving cars and other autonomous technology.

Researchers have, in the past, used computational methods to detect large objects around a corner. But professor Ioannis Gkioulekas from Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute says this is the first time anyone has been able to resolve millimeter and micrometer-scale shapes without line-of-sight. So, this is a completely new application of so-called non-line-of-sight (NLOS) tech.

The climate stakes of speedy delivery

June 21, 2019

The big picture: Consumers have gotten hooked on speed — and the efficiencies that e-commerce injected into retail are getting erased because now there are more deliveries of smaller numbers of packages.

With this trend, emissions have grown:

The annual sustainability report from UPS, one of the biggest enablers of the e-commerce boom, says it emitted 13.8 million metric tonnes of CO2 while delivering 5.1 billion packages in 2017, by ground and air.
Emissions from FedEx, the other major shipper, were 15.1 million metric tonnes in 2017. The U.S. Postal Service emitted about 4.3 million metric tonnes of CO2 in 2016. (Numbers from both include all mail, including e-commerce and personal packages and letters.)
Together, that’s equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions of just over 7 million cars, per an EPA calculator. It’s almost the combined total number of cars in the states of Illinois and Tennessee. It’s also about 0.5% of the total 6 billion metric tonnes of U.S. CO2 emissions per year. That’s “not huge, but it’s big. And it’s growing,” says Costa Samaras of Carnegie Mellon University.


June 21, 2019

It’s hard enough to teach a machine to understand nuanced aspects of human behavior, like the friendly wave one driver might give another to motion that, yes, sure, you can cut in front of me right now. But teaching an autonomous system to handle the subtleties of each culture’s specific driving mannerisms is even harder.

“In Pittsburgh, for example, we have something called a Pittsburgh left turn, and that’s the local culture,” Raj Rajkumar, who studies autonomous vehicle technology at Carnegie Mellon, told WIRED in 2017, when Waymo began to test its vehicles in Michigan snow. “Boston has a driving culture where people double-park willy-nilly. Autonomous vehicles need to be taught to deal with all these situations.”

Most self-driving companies say this tech is crucial. Elon Musk disagrees.

June 21, 2019

Radar waves will bounce under a tractor-trailer, according to Frankenberg, the radar startup CEO, making the car think there’s a clear path ahead. Cameras can struggle to differentiate a white side of a truck from a bright sky overhead.

“The system would be better and have higher reliability if it included lidar,” said John Dolan, a professor at the Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute. “It’s definitely going to see a large truck or vehicle that’s crossing in front of you.”

A Daimler research paper on state-of-the-art radar concluded that radar isn’t sufficient for full self-driving, and developments are needed to comprehensively understand stationary objects. In March 2018, a man died using Autopilot when his Model X crashed into a concrete barrier on a California highway.

Smart Cities Council Winners Ready for the Future

June 21, 2019

The winners of the 2019 Smart Cities Council Readiness Challenge have some traits in common: They are all looking to leverage 5G, widespread use of Wi-Fi and artificial intelligence to modernize their cities and add efficiencies to city operations…

Montgomery launched its smart city initiative in January 2017 with its OpenData portal, which includes the city’s smart city strategic plan. And more recently, Montgomery successfully partnered with several innovators of advanced technology such as RoadBotics to reduce costs, minimize processing times and deploy AI to improve accuracy in planning and reporting.

RoadBotics surveyed 200 miles of Montgomery’s 1,100-mile road network. The company combines AI with smartphones to scan the roadways and generate timely and objective reports that help the city’s engineering team make proactive, data-driven decisions in the upkeep and maintenance of the city’s roads. By using these AI techniques, Dias says the city streamlined the inspection process to 30 days — a substantial time reduction from the six to eight months it used to take, doing it manually.

Uber ATG enters two new collaborations with leading US research institutions

June 19, 2019

Safe AI Lab, Carnegie Mellon University: Smarter Testing

Testing self-driving vehicles demands rigor, especially given its practical challenges of real-world testing. For example, when we drive on a physical test track, it’s important that each test is as effective as possible in order to make the best use of time and resources. To get the most from this testing, ATG is supporting the research of Dr. Ding Zhao and the Safe AI Lab at CMU.

Here, machine learning is used to extract the most important interactions from a large body of observed data. This process of clustering and understanding distinct observed maneuvers could enable greater focus on the key scenarios that test self-driving vehicles in the most relevant ways. Working with Uber ATG’s real-world observed behaviors will allow the Safe AI Lab and Uber to advance this research at an entirely new scale.

“My team is developing methods to efficiently deploy autonomous vehicles by synthesizing tests from public road usage that can be applied to proving grounds using machine learning,” says Dr. Zhao.

Self-Driving Cars Have a Problem: Safer Human-Driven Ones

June 19, 2019

“We are sentient beings, and we have the ability to reason from first principles, from scratch if you will, while AI on the other hand is not conscious, and doesn’t even understand what it means that there’s a physical world out there,” says Raj Rajkumar, a professor of engineering at Carnegie Mellon University who collaborates with General Motors Co.

Machines are already a huge help to drivers. Take automatic emergency braking, or AEB. That’s when your car stops itself if it detects that you’re about to hit another vehicle or other obstacle. According to new data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, AEB reduces rear-end crashes by 50%, and reduces crashes with injuries by 56%. In the U.S., there were 1.7 million such rear-end crashes in 2012, resulting in 1,700 deaths and 500,000 injuries, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. Mass deployment will take many years, but the NTSB has estimated that this technology could eventually reduce fatalities and injuries from rear-end crashes by 80%.

Smart about Smart Cities

June 19, 2019

A technologically sophisticated transportation system is, for many, a defining feature of a ‘smart city.’ Transportation, however, is just one element. Smart cities touch on all aspects of society, from economy, to environment, housing, education, health care and community engagement. In my view, the most important aspect of successful smart cities is smart people.

From that perspective, a smart city should enable people to collaborate, innovate, and achieve more. It is not enough for technologies to simply do things for people. Technologies enable us, but they should not substitute what a community does for itself. It is about expanding our horizons, and not about limiting our options.

Truly smart cities allow for communities to grow and progress. Community members are critical stakeholders in envisioning and co-creating a smart future.

Pittsburgh self-driving safety firm Edge Case announces $7 million in funding

June 17, 2019

A Pittsburgh company working to make self-driving cars see better and ultimately be safer announced Thursday it raised $7 million in its first round of investment funding.

Edge Case Research, based in Lawrenceville, said the money will be used to expand its Hologram software that helps identify bugs in the software used by autonomous vehicles and will allow it to grow its staff of about 40 employees to about 60.

The investment was led by Chris Urmson, co-founder and CEO of the self-driving car company Aurora Innovation, which has offices in Pittsburgh and California, and ANSYS, a Pittsburgh-based simulation software company.

Edge Case CEO Michael Wagner said the investors are part of an “ecosystem” that together will work to advance technologies to make self-driving cars a reality.

Elgin, RoadBotics Team to Offer Pavement Assessment

June 12, 2019

Elgin Sweeper has partnered with RoadBotics, Inc., to offer Florida’s 400-plus municipalities the ability to collect road condition data during sweeping operations.
Elgin Sweeper Company and RoadBotics Inc. have partnered to offer Florida’s more than 400 municipalities the ability to collect road condition data during sweeping operations, exclusively using Elgin Sweeper street sweepers. The partnership between the sweeper manufacturer and the road assessment company is designed to help local government officials make data-driven road improvement decisions.

According to Mike Higgins, vice president and general manager at Elgin Sweeper, Elgin, IL, the partnership with RoadBotics will enable many of the company’s municipal customers across Florida to receive important data about the conditions of their roads as they sweep.