Work Zones Cause Crashes—but Only Sometimes

June 29, 2022

Road construction zones are a headache for drivers and a hazard for workers, but, when it comes to safety, a new study suggests the likelihood of crashes increases when the work zones are long, the roads are busy, and the time is during daylight hours.

The study by a team of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University, which was published in the journal Analytic Methods in Accident Research, provided new insights into a common problem for transportation agencies, said Sean Qian, one of the study’s authors and a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

For years, he explained, transportation officials have observed that crashes increase in road construction zones. That would make sense given the amount of disruption that work zones cause, including new traffic patterns, narrower lanes and the nearby construction activity.

Pennsylvania Study Looks at Work Zone Crashes, Risk Factors

June 28, 2022

New research from the Carnegie Mellon University’s College of Engineering, in partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), found that work zones more than 1.8 miles long could increase crash risks; and that road work scheduled for night hours do not increase crash risks.

“So far, we cannot say what mitigation efforts can lead to the safest work zones; this will be our next step. But this provides insights on under what conditions a work zone can lead to more crashes, and when a work zone does not,” said Sean Qian, professor of civil and environmental engineering and director of the Mobility Data Analytics Center…

If lengthy work zones on heavily traveled roads have shown increased accident risk during day hours, transportation officials may want to consider steps to make these work zones safer as a result, say researchers.

Self-driving cars crash, too, but figuring out what it means requires much better data

June 24, 2022

“The data released today is a good start, but it doesn’t provide an apples-to-apples comparison of advanced vehicle safety,” National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy said in a statement. “What NHTSA provided was a ‘fruit bowl’ of data with a lot of caveats, making it difficult for the public and experts alike to understand what is being reported. Independent analysis of the data is key to identifying any safety gaps and potential remedies.”

But given the wide disparity between each company’s abilities to obtain and verify crash reports, the data is likely to remain unstandardized for quite some time.

“Standardization would be premature,” said Raj Rajkumar, a professor of computer and electrical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. “Just the ‘catch-all’ policy where carmakers are required to report all ADAS incidents captures the core information.”

Teslas running Autopilot involved in 273 crashes reported since last year

June 21, 2022

Tesla vehicles running its Autopilot software have been involved in 273 reported crashes over roughly the past year, according to regulators, far more than previously known and providing concrete evidence regarding the real-world performance of its futuristic features.

The numbers, which were published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for the first time Wednesday, show that Tesla vehicles made up nearly 70 percent of the 392 crashes involving advanced driver-assistance systems reported since last July, and a majority of the fatalities and serious injuries — some of which date back further than a year. Eight of the Tesla crashes took place prior to June 2021, according to data released by NHTSA Wednesday morning…

“It revealed that more crashes are happening than NHTSA had previously known,” said Phil Koopman, an engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University who focuses on autonomous vehicle safety. He noted that the reports may omit more minor crashes, including fender benders.

Global clean energy forum to be held in Pittsburgh

June 21, 2022

Pittsburgh will be the site of the inaugural Global Clean Energy Action Forum from Sept. 21-23 with an audience and participants that will come from all over the world.

The forum is a convening of the 13th Clean Energy Ministerial and the 7th Mission Innovation Ministerial, plus private sector, government, nongovernmental and educational leaders. The event, which is hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy, was announced in November 2021. It will be focused on Rapid Innovation and Deployment of clean energy technologies in power generation, fuel, transportation, buildings and other industries.

Data likely shows Teslas on Autopilot crash more than rivals

June 21, 2022

In a June 2021 order, NHTSA told more than 100 automakers and automated vehicle tech companies to report serious crashes within one day of learning about them and to disclose less-serious crashes by the 15th day of the following month…

Raj Rajkumar, an electrical and computer engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University who studies automated vehicles, said he wouldn’t be surprised if Tesla was found to have had a high number of crashes involving its driver-assist systems. Tesla, based in Austin, Texas, stopped using radar in its system and instead relies solely on cameras and computers — a system that Rajkumar calls “inherently unsafe.”

The system’s computer, he said, can recognize only what’s in its memory. Flashing lights on an emergency vehicle, Rajkumar said, might confuse the system, as would anything that the computer hasn’t seen before.

“Emergency vehicles may look very different from all the data that the Tesla software had been trained on,” he said.

To convince more drivers to go electric, the Biden administration wants chargers that work for all EVs

June 17, 2022

On Thursday, the administration proposed rules that would, among other things, mean that any charging station built with federal money must accommodate any electric car…

That infrastructure has improved a lot. But there are still real barriers, especially for anyone who doesn’t have a driveway, said Jeremy Michalek at Carnegie Mellon University. That was him when he first got an electric car.

“I could not count on being able to charge it every day,” he said. “It depended if I got the spot in front of my house or not. And I had to run an extension cord up the stairs to plug it in.”

Kind of a hard sell. “If you don’t have off-street parking, you need to know that you are going to have access to public chargers and be able to reliably charge your vehicle,” Michalek said — both near your home and along the highway.

All signs point to a ‘growing appetite’ for digital twins: report

June 15, 2022

There is a “growing appetite” for digital twin technology across all major sectors, including smart cities, according to the report, particularly as organizations seek to digitize and improve their operations. The growing pressure among cities and corporations to decrease emissions is also accelerating the pace of such digital innovation, it states…

Karen Lightman, executive director of the Metro21: Smart Cities Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, also cautioned city leaders against falling for the technology’s “hype,” particularly as the definition of a digital twin can vary widely.

The technology does offer many possible upsides to smart cities for certain applications, according to Lightman, who said she’s most excited about its use cases around transportation and physical infrastructure. But before they turn to the technology, she advised local leaders to first “really focus on what is the problem you are trying to solve.”

Carnegie Mellon University awarded $10.5M Army contract to study aircraft flaws

June 14, 2022

Carnegie Mellon University’s (CMU) Auton Lab recently signed a three-year, $10.5 million U.S. Army contract to use artificial intelligence (AI) tools to provide early warning of emerging aircraft flaws and eventually apply this knowledge to other predictive maintenance, including medicine.

The Army hopes AI can be used to solve problems associated with complex devices, including combat and non-combat equipment. It also aims to make this AI approach more accessible for various public and private applications.

“The idea behind this is to take the AI capabilities to the next level,” Artur Dubrawski, CMU’s Robotics Institute alumni research professor of computer science and Auton Lab director, said.

Researchers will address gaps in knowledge and technology. Work also will be performed at Georgia Tech Research Institute, the University of South Carolina, and the University of California.

The Pittsburgh-based U.S. Army AI Integration Center will coordinate the application of the developed technology in military equipment maintenance.

How Much Better Are Electric Cars for the Environment?

June 13, 2022

Jeremy Michalek, a professor with Carnegie Mellon University, who directs the Vehicle Electrification Group, told Newsweek that electric vehicles in the United States tend to have lower carbon footprints on average than gasoline or diesel cars, although there are exceptions.

One 2016 study authored by Michalek and colleagues contains maps showing that in general, “plug-in vehicles tend to reduce carbon emissions for city drivers in the Southwest, Texas and Florida, especially when compared to a typical gasoline car, whereas plug-in vehicles tend to increase carbon emissions for highway drivers in rural counties of the Great Planes, the Midwest and the South, especially when compared to gasoline hybrids, which are very efficient,” he said.

“These maps are from the past, however. EVs have an advantage going into the future. As the power grid gets cleaner, as we expect it to, EVs will get cleaner as well. The most important factor for electric vehicle life cycle emissions is coal retirement. The more coal that retires, the cleaner EVs look.”

Teslas Are Braking for No Reason, But That’s Not Autopilot’s Only Problem

June 13, 2022

Of course, we can’t ignore the human component in these situation; had the drivers been paying attention, they likely would have realised the beginning of a dangerous situation and been able to make evasive manoeuvres to prevent a crash. After all, drivers are technically supposed to have their hands on the wheel and their butts in a seat in order to engage Tesla’s driver-assist software.

But as Raj Rajkumar, an electrical and computer engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University who studies automated vehicles, told CBS News: “It’s very easy to bypass the steering pressure thing. It’s been going on since 2014. We have been discussing this for a long time now.” We at Jalopnik covered all sorts of ways a driver could add steering wheel pressure without actually having their hands on the wheel. And that pressure sensor was only added after Tesla was called out for it; the company initially avoided installing one to save money.

Autonomous transit — From the moon to your red light

June 6, 2022

By now, everyone in Pittsburgh has most likely witnessed autonomous vehicle testing on our local streets. At the beginning of the autonomous revolution, it was easy to focus solely on cars. According to Venture Beat, in 2019, five manufacturers tested 55 different autonomous vehicle models in Pittsburgh alone.

However, the development of autonomous transit systems is much more all-encompassing. Even the sky isn’t the limit. We see autonomous transportation technology, in Pittsburgh, in everything from space exploration to intelligent traffic systems that include the stoplights on our streets.

Let’s look at some of the unique applications and advancements Pittsburgh companies are testing and improving for autonomous transportation:..

CMU’s Traffic21 Institute and Rapid Flow Technologies spent several years developing and deploying the Surtrac adaptive traffic signal control system, the market’s most advanced adaptive traffic signal system. The Surtrac adaptive traffic signal system is unique in optimizing traffic flows in complex, dynamic environments.

How Smart Roads Will Change the Way You Drive

June 3, 2022

Cities and states are embracing smart road technology to improve traffic management, save energy, and create a safer driving experience…

It’s a simple concept—use smart technology to manage traffic signals and other activities designed to keep cars moving as rapidly as legally possible. As a result, drivers get where they’re going faster, there are fewer accidents, road deterioration is minimized, and the air quality improves.

As a proof of concept, Carnegie Mellon University ran a pilot project in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, using various adaptive traffic signal technologies. In this test, motion sensors were tied to traffic signals, which themselves were connected via signal-to-signal communications. The results? There was a 40% reduction in the time spent stopped at traffic lights and a corresponding 26% decrease in travel times. That also contributed to a 21% reduction in exhaust emissions, so it was a win-win, across the board.

Self-Driving ATVs Are Coming

June 1, 2022

A team of researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) are bringing us one step closer to achieving self-driving all-terrain vehicles (ATVs). The team rode an ATV through various different environments including tall grass, loose gravel, and mud to gather data on how the ATV interacted with these types of off-road environments.

The ATV was driven aggressively at speeds up to 30 miles per hour. It slid through turns, went up and down hills, and got stuck in the mud while gathering important data like video, the speed of each wheel, and the suspension shock travel from seven types of sensors.

After collecting all of the data, it was compiled into a dataset called TartanDrive. It includes about 200,000 real-world interactions, and the team believes it’s the largest real-world, multimodal, off-road driving dataset. The data could later be used to train a self-driving vehicle for off-road navigation.

Wenshan Wang is a project scientist in the Robotics Institute (RI).

Try these ride-hailing tips on your next trip

May 30, 2022

Most of my ride-hailing experiences have been uneventful — except for one recent trip to the airport. On a rainy afternoon, I failed to connect with my driver, which precipitated a soggy 20-minute delay. That got me thinking: Maybe I could benefit from some advice.

I asked academics, travelers and ride-hailing experts. And much like the ride-hailing industry itself, the answers I received were all over the map.

“The best strategy today is to have access to many services and to use each one when it best fits your trip needs,” says Stan Caldwell, executive director of Carnegie Mellon University’s Traffic21 Institute, which focuses on transportation issues.

For example, he says savvy travelers should consider using Uber or Lyft to get from home to a transit hub. Or they should use the ride-hailing services late at night when mass transit isn’t running. On other trips, a Zipcar rental or even a bike share or scooter might be more appropriate.

‘Elon Musk’s Crash Course’ Takes A Cursory Look At Engineering And Regulatory Failure

May 27, 2022

A new documentary film published by the New York Times NYT -5% and now streaming on Hulu tries to take a look at Elon Musk’s efforts to promote and sell automated driving on Tesla TSLA -6.9% vehicles, but falls short of what it might have been.

At a running time of 74 minutes, “Elon Musk’s Crash Course” tries to cover a lot of ground, but it ultimately seems like it spends too much time on some topics and not enough on some of the most important…

Viewers could learn some important lessons about what it actually takes to create, test and validate an automated vehicle if the film had included interviews with the likes of Carnegie Mellon University computer science professor Phillip Koopman or Ann Arbor based-attorney Jennifer Dukarski. Instead we get a lot of words from friends of Brown explaining how interested he was in technology and why he was so adamant about testing the limits of his car.

Going Nowhere Fast? Smart Traffic Lights Can Help Ease Gridlock

May 25, 2022

Smith, a faculty member at CMU’s Robotics Institute who studies the use of artificial intelligence to coordinate large systems in transportation, manufacturing and other fields, developed traffic signals equipped with individual computers and software with AI capabilities, which can use cameras, radar or inductive loop detectors in the pavement to spot approaching vehicles and adjust their timing…

Since then, Smith’s company, Rapid Flow Technologies, has installed its Surtrac smart traffic management technology in 22 North American cities.

Unlike some other smart traffic systems, which update the timing of lights every few minutes based on recent traffic, “We generate the timing plans in real time,” Smith explains. “So, we watch the traffic that’s approaching the intersection. And then in real time, we generate a signal timing plan for moving that traffic through the intersection. So, we’re actually scheduling the actual traffic on the road.”

Will we see self-driving buses on the new bus rapid transit being built in Pittsburgh?

May 20, 2022

Just moments into an interview with Vincent Valdes, executive director of Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission (the group that decides how to spend federal transportation dollars, locally) Valdes brought up the idea of autonomous buses along the BRT route…

Stan Caldwell does a lot of research on technology trends in automated vehicles with his Traffic 21 Institute initiative. He works at Carnegie Melon University and invited Channel 11 to the Navlab, where they’ve been doing research on this type of technology since the 80s.

While they’re not testing any automated buses here, CMU is researching what automation would mean for transit.

“The role of the drivers will be elevated because they still have to take care of the duties of the passengers, maintaining safety of passengers and everything around the vehicle but they also will have to manage the technology,” said Caldwell.

Which is some of the concern for bus riders when Jennifer asked them if they’d ride an autonomous bus.

Signals along ‘Smart Spines’ optimize traffic flow

May 16, 2022

By revamping close to 150 city intersections with adaptive signaling technology, Pittsburgh plans to improve traffic flow and decrease idling times for city buses.

The initiative will incorporate technology from Rapid Flow Technologies’ Scalable Urban Traffic Control program (Surtrac), an artificially intelligent adaptive signal control system first deployed in 2012, into eight high-priority traffic corridors, or “Smart Spines,” throughout Pittsburgh.

Surtrac uses cameras, sensors and radar technology to first capture real-time traffic conditions at each intersection. With that data, it creates an optimization plan for moving traffic through the intersection, which it then sends to the signal controllers in a specific intersection, to nearby signals and to connected vehicles.

“The original application was to decrease congestion and idling time in the neighborhood of East Liberty” where a number of redevelopment projects were already in progress, said Stan Caldwell, executive director of Carnegie Mellon University’s Traffic21 Institute.
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Toyota reinvesting in collaborative safety research

May 9, 2022

To adapt to a swiftly changing mobility ecosystem, Toyota announced on April 27 a new five-year, $30-million investment in its Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Collaborative Safety Research Center (CSRC). Created in 2011, the CSRC focuses on foundational safety research, and the $85 million apportioned over its first ten years funded research including the factors that lead to distracted driving, and developing tools and testing procedures related to advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS)…

The nine new projects will engage the expertise of: University of Massachusetts – Amherst; Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; University of Iowa; Virginia Tech; and Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis.

Electric vs. Gas Cars: What Are the Hidden Environmental Costs of EVs?

May 2, 2022

3. Local Climate
Extreme heat and cold have negative effects on the efficiency of electric vehicles. EVs in more extreme climate areas in the U.S. can use up to 15% more energy on average, according to Carnegie Mellon University’s Department of Engineering and Technology. In the very coldest areas, it can be as much as 40% more energy use. Cold weather slows down the chemical reactions that take place inside the lithium-ion batteries that power all-electric cars, and it requires more power for auxiliary electrical systems such as heating. That extra energy use could translate to higher emissions if that power is drawn from fossil-fuel-burning power plants.

But EV battery technology is consistently advancing. Battery packs that take less time to charge and are more energy-dense are in development. EVs are also already built with cooling systems to mitigate the effects of extreme heat on their batteries.

Allegheny, Indiana, Fayette lead 10-county region in number of slow internet connections

April 29, 2022

Allegheny County, followed by Indiana and Fayette counties, had the highest number of homes and businesses with internet connections in a 10-county region with connections so slow they didn’t even qualify as broadband, according to a new study by a Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission-led coalition of nonprofits…

“Rural areas were frustrated by the complete lack of access,” Laura Stephany, health policy director, Allies for Children, said during a briefing Monday about the study. “This is an issue of equity. It’s also an economic development issue.”..

The Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, Allies for Children, and the Metro21 and Traffic21 initiatives at Carnegie Mellon University, collaborated to form Southwest Pennsylvania Connected, a group to advise applicants for funding from the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Through the law, some $65 billion will be available to broadband installation and expansion projects in the U.S., with priority given to areas with slow speeds and high poverty recipients without access.

Pittsburgh Technology Council starts apprenticeship program to increase diversity in STEM industry

April 27, 2022

“There’s no reason this [apprenticeship program] can’t work for tech jobs,” said Ms. Russo, who described the program Friday as part of a presentation by Carnegie Mellon University and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to encourage women and minorities to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

“How is someone who has been disconnected going to go through a program like this with no pay?” she added. “We’re taking all of the barriers away.”…

During Friday’s discussion, Ms. Russo said the Pittsburgh Technology Council identified some problems it hadn’t realized previously. For example, it’s not an easy commute from a place like Monessen to Pittsburgh, so the agency is looking at what it can do to help ease transportation concerns.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation secretary, Yassmin Gramian, told Ms. Russo to contact her after the meeting to see what the state might do to help address that problem.

When will robots take our jobs?

April 27, 2022

“Moving pallets around, moving forklifts around, moving boxes around in fulfillment centers—that’s an area where we’ve seen just massive robotic explosion,” says Matthew Johnson-Roberson, director of the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. Amazon operates its own in-house robotics company to push the tech forward. And a growing cadre of startups, such as Berkshire Grey, Covariant, Dexterity, and Plus One Robotics, are offering automation services to the rest of the industry…

Goods have a long way to travel to and from warehouses, and the work of truckers is grueling. One of the job’s downsides is the monotony of highway driving—but such dull duties are, again, the sweet spot for automation. Several well-funded companies, including Aurora, Plus, TuSimple, and Google sister company Waymo, are testing automated driving systems.

Some companies have proposed first automating the highway part—which comprises over 90% of long-haul trucking—and using human drivers to handle the trickier navigation around cities.

As Some Americans Celebrate End Of Travel Mask Mandates, Most Say ‘Not So Fast’

April 26, 2022

Yet despite vocal proponents of the new rule, several polls suggest a majority of the public isn’t ready for masks to come off.

An early April Harris Poll showed that 60% of Americans supported extending air travel mask mandates.Flying in spite of the risks may be the new reality, though the Justice Department is appealing the ruling.

A recent flash poll conducted by OnePulse just before the ruling also found that 60% of respondents believed the government should extend mask mandates. Nonetheless, 61% said they would wear masks voluntarily if mandates ended…

“I believe air travel will continue to increase as we move from a pandemic to endemic posture,” said Stan Caldwell, associate professor of transportation and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College.