Make electric vehicles lighter to maximize climate and safety benefits

October 19, 2021

With heavier vehicles on the road, safety becomes even more important. Some vehicles already use cameras, radar and other sensors to avoid collisions by monitoring blind spots and driver alertness. These devices keep vehicles in lanes, adjust speeds, control headlights and apply the brakes if there’s a threat of a crash. Deploying such technologies across the entire US vehicle fleet could avoid thousands of fatalities, more than one million crashes and billions of dollars in social costs annually9.

Old ideas to improve street safety should still be encouraged — speed limits, traffic calming road designs and pedestrian-focused infrastructure. Paris, Brussels, Bilbao and other cities have limited speeds on most roads to 30 kilometres per hour.

Penn researchers identify transit weak spots for SEPTA’s rebranding initiative

October 15, 2021

A team of researchers from Penn’s Center for Safe Mobility is working with SEPTA on the transportation agency’s $40 million effort to rebrand its transit network and improve its ease of use.

Using data from eye-tracking glasses, Stuart Weitzman School of Design associate professor Megan Ryerson and her team of urban planners partnered with the transportation agency to determine which of the city’s stations were most confusing to riders of different transit familiarity, native languages, and physical abilities. The Center’s experimental study is part of SEPTA’s broader “Wayfinding” initiative to create a more intuitive transit system in response to complaints from riders about the lack of consistent branding and route signage. The Penn faculty and alumni involved in the study hope the rebranding changes the way Penn students think about SEPTA.

One way to cut down air pollutants: call an Uber

October 15, 2021

Vehicles used for ride sharing apps “can reduce cold-start emissions from internal combustion engines. Vehicles emit far more conventional air pollutants when started ‘cold’,” researchers wrote.

A car’s cold start is when a 12 hour period passes where the vehicle was not used and is turned off—then you start it back up. This is when vehicles emit the most pollution, more than half of a ride’s pollutant emissions, making privately owned cars much more polluting because individual owners are turning their cars on and off frequently throughout the day. TNC car trips represent an about 50 percent decline in air pollutants including fine particulate matter mostly because there are less cold starts in between rides.

But, there’s a catch, says Jeremy Michalek, a professor of engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University and an author of the study. Driving your own car may lower the amount of carbon emissions you emit, since carbon emissions directly correlate with how much fuel is burned.

How 3 college friends built a $1 billion business selling used cars

October 11, 2021

While the auto resale market was flourishing in the U.S., the same couldn’t be said for Southeast Asia. It was famously opaque, with several middlemen making it difficult for buyers and sellers to get the best deals.

Tan wanted to change that. So, returning to Singapore in 2015, he teamed up with his classmates from Carnegie Mellon’s School of Computer Science to create an algorithm that would do just that.

“I wouldn’t say that I tricked my co-founders into founding the company together, but I think I sold the opportunity that this could be much more interesting than whatever they were doing,” said Tan.

The trio was onto something. In a region with a vast and growing, digital-savvy middle class, price-sensitive consumers were increasingly opting for second hand models.

Self-driving cars: The 21st-century trolley problem

October 11, 2021

If the goal is to get autonomous driving assistance to the masses, Tesla is closer. If the goal is to have cars that safely drive themselves, Waymo is winning…

But by selling its vehicles to the general public, Tesla is able to collect lots of real-world driving data that will be useful in helping solve autonomous driving challenges. Raj Rajkumar, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon University and an autonomous vehicle pioneer, calls Tesla’s data collection an “incredible advantage” but warns that data is “part of the answer, but it’s not the entire answer.” Still, he thinks Waymo ought to collect more of it from regular drivers in regular conditions.

“We should be driving them whenever they can drive themselves and, when they do not, humans drive themselves,” Rajkumar said. “And for a time we collect experience. We understand what works, what does not work, and we refine.”

Commerce secretary signals feds could invest in Pittsburgh’s bid to become self-driving powerhouse

October 6, 2021

As trade and technology talks between the U.S. and the European Union came to a close in Pittsburgh Thursday, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said EU leaders left the city “blown away by what they saw.”

“Anyone who comes to Pittsburgh and sees it, it’s not just one robotics company. It’s not just that [Carnegie Mellon University] is here. It’s a vibrant and deep ecosystem of technology innovation,” Raimondo told reporters…

Raimondo said she chose Pittsburgh as the meeting site to highlight the city’s technology sector.

“I am a believer in how unbelievably innovative, productive and leading-edge that Pittsburgh is,” she said.

Pittsburgh has become a center for the autonomous mobility sector, thanks largely to technological breakthroughs at local universities. Today, the region is home to about 70 firms or corporate divisions that specialize in autonomous systems such as those found in self-driving cars, according to a recent study.

Pop Up Metro aims to provide affordable passenger operation

October 6, 2021

Rail entrepreneur Henry Posner wants to make passenger service more affordable and more available. He calls it Pop Up Metro, and to do it, he’s betting on batteries, remanufactured British multiple unit cars, and a bold business model to reduce the risk to potential rail operators.

If it were anyone but Posner, this project might be seen as a crackpot idea with little chance of success. But Posner is the co-founder of Railroad Development Corporation (RDC), which owns Iowa Interstate Railroad along with operations in England, France, Germany, Belgium, and Peru…

The Pittsburgh entrepreneur sees a variety of opportunities for low-cost passenger operations. A lightly-used branch line or short line railroad could co-exist with transit by running freight at night and passenger service during the day, a concept he calls temporal separation. Smaller communities and transit agencies, or larger agencies looking to extend service to less-populated areas, are candidates for Pop Up Metro.

De Blasio Vowed to Make City Streets Safer. They’ve Turned More Deadly.

October 6, 2021

Traffic deaths have surged this year to their highest level in nearly a decade. Officials blame an excess of reckless driving, but critics say the city has failed to make streets safer…

Even with traffic deaths on the rise, New York’s fatality rate was still far lower than the national average, according to Erick Guerra, an associate professor of city and regional planning at the University of Pennsylvania. “In some ways, Vision Zero is aspirational,” Professor Guerra said. “Even in cities that have success, you still see traffic fatalities.”

Mr. de Blasio insisted that Vision Zero will eventually transform the city’s unruly streets. “It is the right model,” he told reporters. “It’s changed the behavior of drivers and we need to do a lot more to build upon it.”

Miovision Secures an Adaptive Partner

October 5, 2021

Miovision, which helps municipalities get more out of their road network by providing solutions that collect multimodal traffic data and uncover actionable insights, announced today that it is partnering with Rapid Flow Technologies to become the exclusive Canadian solution provider of the Surtrac adaptive traffic signal control system.

Surtrac adapts the timing of traffic signals – how long they stay green to serve different directions of traffic – second-by-second using advanced artificial intelligence optimization. Seamless integration allows Surtrac to use real-time multimodal traffic data from Miovision’s TrafficLink system to create an optimized plan for how to move vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists through the intersection as efficiently and safely as possible…

“The advantage of partnering with Miovision is the ease of integrating Surtrac into the TrafficLink devices,” said Greg Barlow, CTO of Rapid Flow Technologies. “The combination of the two systems creates a powerful tool for traffic management, capable of detecting and optimizing traffic flows in real-time.”

Pittsburgh Pilots New Smart Loading Zones To Ease Congestion And Air Pollution From Delivery Vehicles

October 4, 2021

As the amount of stuff you can order online becomes more abundant, something else has grown very scarce: curbside parking for delivery vehicles. According to the World Economic Forum, the number of delivery vehicles in the top 100 cities worldwide will increase by 36 percent by 2030. That new traffic will bring with it more air pollution and congestion to urban centers.

But the city of Pittsburgh’s Department of Mobility and Transportation is trying a new approach to managing curbside delivery parking.

“We’ve seen a dramatic uptick in commercial curb activity in recent years, and that has only increased more dramatically during the pandemic,” said Erin Clark, a policy advisor with the department…

With the help of two grants, Pittsburgh is piloting “smart loading zones,” which use pole-mounted video cameras, machine learning, a short-term fee structure and an app to help drivers get in and out of loading zones more efficiently.

Taking an Uber is worse for the climate than driving in your own car

September 29, 2021

Trips in ride-share cars are more damaging to the climate, and impose a greater cost to society in terms of traffic congestion and public safety, than journeys in private vehicles, according to a new study from engineering and public policy researchers at Carnegie Mellon University.

The researchers gathered public data on rides with Uber, Lyft, and other services in Austin, Chicago, New York, and cities in California. Using a computer model to simulate 100,000 trips, they painted a representative picture of journey lengths, the time spent in between rides (known as “deadheading”), and the types of vehicles used by drivers…

The main reason for the difference is deadheading, said Jeremy Michalek, one of the study’s authors. On average, deadheading accounted for 43% of total drive time—time spent producing carbon emissions, blocking traffic, and being at risk of accidents that a person driving their own vehicle would avoid.

Ride-shares did beat personal vehicles on one key metric: Air pollution.

Is Self-Driving Technology The Best Thing To Hit Pittsburgh Since Steel? Local Business Groups Think So

September 28, 2021

Major economic development groups in Pittsburgh recently released a hefty report that outlines a plan for turning southwestern Pennsylvania into a global powerhouse in the autonomous mobile systems industry…

The technology itself is also relevant, Carnegie Mellon civil and environmental engineering professor Corey Harper noted. And it remains an open question how autonomous vehicles will impact communities, he said. Passengers could use the vehicles as part of a more accessible and efficient transit system – or the vehicles could overcrowd roadways and impede public transportation systems.

“One thing we don’t want to do is make some of the same mistakes we made in the past,” Harper said. The interstate highway system, he noted, uprooted entire communities when it cut through predominantly low-income and minority neighborhoods.

This time around, he said, “We want to make sure that we’re not … exacerbating social inequalities that already exist in our transportation system. There’s a big need for input and engagement from community organizations.”

A life and death question for regulators: Is Tesla’s Autopilot safe?

September 27, 2021

The current NHTSA investigation of Autopilot in effect reopens the question of whether the technology is safe. It represents the latest significant challenge for Elon Musk, the Tesla chief executive whose advocacy of driverless cars has helped his company become the world’s most valuable automaker…

Musk has said a Tesla with eight cameras will be far safer than human drivers. But the camera technology is affected by darkness and sun glare as well as inclement weather conditions such as heavy rain, snow and fog, experts and industry executives say.

“Today’s computer vision is far from perfect and will be for the foreseeable future,” said Raj Rajkumar, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.

Three Ways AI Is Improving Assistive Technology

September 27, 2021

Accessible mobility is another challenge that assistive technology can help tackle. Through AI-powered running apps and suitcases that can navigate through entire airports, assistive technology is changing how we move and travel. One example is Project Guideline, a Google project helping individuals who are visually impaired navigate their way through roads and paths with an app that combines computer vision and a machine-learning algorithm to aid the runner alongside a pre-designed path.

Future runners and walkers may one day navigate roads and sidewalks unaccompanied by guide dogs or sighted guides, gaining autonomy and confidence while accomplishing everyday tasks and activities without hindrance. For instance, developed and spearheaded by Chieko Asakawa, a Carnegie Mellon Professor who is blind, CaBot is a navigation robot that uses sensor information to help avoid airport obstacles, alert someone to nearby stores and assist with required actions like standing in line at airport security checkpoints.

Oshkosh invests in Carnegie Foundry to build upon autonomy and robotics capabilities

September 24, 2021

Oshkosh Corporation, a leading developer and manufacturer of mission-critical vehicles and essential equipment, and Carnegie Foundry, a robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) venture studio headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pa., announced a strategic partnership and Oshkosh Corporation investment in Carnegie Foundry to accelerate innovation in autonomy and robotics.

Carnegie Foundry has an existing relationship with the National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC) at Carnegie Mellon University, a world leader in autonomous robotics and artificial intelligence. The new partnership will build upon this relationship and will complement Oshkosh’s ongoing work in autonomous vehicles and equipment.

What would it take to power airliners with batteries?

September 22, 2021

Before that happens, the industry must overcome a very real technical problem: replacing turbine-driven airliners with similarly sized electric aircraft will require a monumental leap in battery technology.

That’s the conclusion of several Carnegie Mellon University researchers who created hundreds of thousands of design iterations to determine the battery energy density required for electric versions of three aircraft classes: regional airliners, narrowbody jets and widebodies aircraft. The American Chemical Society published the results of the study in a 2020 paper called “Performance Metrics Required of Next-Generation Batteries to Electrify Commercial Aircraft”…

Even small regional aircraft would need batteries with significantly more energy density than exists with today’s technology. Current-generation lithium-ion batteries have an energy density of about 250Wh/kg, according to the paper…

Yet, it’s not until around energy density of 480Wh/kg that a significant number of regional aircraft designs start becoming viable, says Venkat Viswanathan, an associate professor in the department of mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon who co-authored the research.

Whether Coding Bootcamps Or College Programs Are The Future For Automotive Or Aerospace

September 20, 2021

According to a Mayuko – a YouTuber who frequently posts on the topic – there are bootcamp campuses in over 85 cities across the United States and Canada with 83% of graduates being employed in programming jobs with an average starting salary of just under $67,000 USD. On average, the tuition is $13,584 with programs taking approximately 15 weeks…

And so the assumption is that the better money is spent on traditional, university programs where the experienced staff and defined coursework blaze a path toward enlightenment and stable earnings.

Maybe so. Maybe not.

According to US News and World Report, 2021’s top five universities for undergraduate degrees in Software Engineering are Carnegie Mellon University, MIT, UC-Berkeley, Georgia Tech and Illinois. The average out-of-state tuition for these fine institutions surpasses $45,400 per year, thereby ringing up a 4-year, total tab of nearly $250,000 after room, board, books, etc.

CMU preps its fleet of autonomous robots for a search and rescue mission in final round of DARPA challenge

September 20, 2021

The challenge: Collect as many objects as possible in one hour while navigating a cave in Louisville, Ky.

The goal: Create autonomous robots to help with search and rescue missions for military and first responders.

The kicker: There’s only one operator and a fleet that could include a dozen robots, so the machines must be able to move and make decisions on their own.

It’s hard enough to make autonomous robots useful above ground. This CMU team is trying to do it in the depths below.

“At the heart of this challenge, it’s really a problem of exploration,” said Sebastian Scherer, the co-lead for CMU’s team and an associate research professor at the Robotics Institute. “You’re going into an environment that you’ve never been into, so with that comes a lot of uncertainty and the robot needs to be able to decide what do I do when I face uncertainty.”

Wabtec, Genesee & Wyoming, Carnegie Mellon form consortium for rail sustainability effort

September 17, 2021

Pittsburgh-based Wabtec Corp.; Carnegie Mellon University, known for its engineering curriculum; and shortline and regional railroad operator Genesee & Wyoming announced Friday, Sept. 10, that they have signed a memorandum of understanding to work to create a more sustainable rail freight network.

The parties will work on two fronts — developing locomotive fleets using alternative energy sources such as batteries and hydrogen fuel cells, and advancing current signaling and digital technologies to increase rail capacity and safety.

Elected officials and other speakers hailed the effort as a first step toward “decarbonizing rail freight transport.” U.S. Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-Pa.) noted Pennsylvania’s longstanding transportation leadership role, from the Main Line of Public Works canal-and-rail system of the 1830s to the consummate railroad town, Altoona, Pa., which once employed 16,000 workers in the Pennsylvania Railroad shops complex there.

Locomation convoy plan doubles down on autonomous trucking challenge

September 17, 2021

Autonomous trucking startup Locomation is pursuing with two Class 8 trucks what others are trying to accomplish with one: ultimately operating without a driver in either cab.

The 3-year-old company is based in Pittsburgh, home of Carnegie Mellon University, a launch point for many of the brightest minds in robot cars and trucks. Founder Cetin Mericli is one of that group…

TuSimple (NASDAQ: TSP) and other Level 4 high-autonomy competitors are focused on robot trucks that eventually will have no human driver in the cab. Locomation is literally doubling down on that, starting with its human-guided autonomous convoy.

The company eschews the term platooning, which has been used for decades to describe leader-follower trucking, Locomation expects to launch the first of four phases — 250 pairs of trucks and drivers — in 2022, with 60,000 Locomation-equipped trucks by 2025.

Your Batteries Are Due for Disruption

September 17, 2021

The battery, built by a California start-up, Sila, provided the tiny fitness tracker with more power than older batteries while maintaining the same battery life…

While he said this approach gave Sila a significant advantage over his many competitors, Dr. Viswanathan, the Carnegie Mellon professor, said other companies were taking different routes to refining the way lithium-ion batteries are built.

Companies like Sila and QuantumScape already have partnerships with carmakers and expect that their batteries will reach automobiles around the middle of the decade. They hope their technologies significantly reduce the cost of electric cars and extend their driving range.

“If we want to get electric cars into the mainstream, we have to get them down to the $30,000 price point,” said Mr. Singh, the QuantumScape chief executive. “You can’t do that with today’s batteries.”

Tesla must deliver Autopilot crash data to federal auto safety watchdog by October 22

September 10, 2021

A professor of electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, Phil Koopman, characterized NHTSA’s data request as “really sweeping.”

He noted that the agency asked for information about Tesla’s entire Autopilot-equipped fleet, encompassing cars, software and hardware Tesla sold from 2014 to 2021 (not just the 12 vehicles involved in the emergency responder crashes).

He said, “This is an incredibly detailed request for huge amounts of data. But it is exactly the type of information that would be needed to dig in to whether Tesla vehicles are acceptably safe.”

The National Transportation Safety Board, another federal safety watchdog, has called on NHTSA to impose stricter standards on automated vehicle tech including Tesla Autopilot.

How electric autonomous planes could change the logistics industry

September 8, 2021

Will fleets of hybrid-electric ghost planes replace trucks as the delivery’s dominant vehicle? Stan Caldwell, Carnegie Mellon University’s Adjunct Associate Professor of Transportation and Public Policy, thinks it’s feasible. “We’re seeing rapid increase in serious consideration of drones for freight delivery, especially last-mile freight,” he says. ‘Last mile’ is the part of a delivery process that reaches the consumer – normally from a distribution center. Some of the world’s biggest retailers and logistics companies – like Google, UPS and DHL – are already experimenting with drone delivery.

Caldwell thinks delivery systems are becoming less centralized through a few companies, aiding the drone logistics boom. There are many players on the market. “Distribution of systems is a trend in the freight industry. Walmart has delivery drones, and next, your local independent grocery store gets its own.”

Autos and semiconductors are at the heart of the global supply chain crisis. Here is what experts say is next for the pivotal sectors.

September 7, 2021

But there is a bright side: necessity is breeding invention, especially in the chip-starved auto sector. Companies like Ford are trying to find opportunities in developing a built-to-order business model, one that might be more resilient to external crunches.

Toyota, likewise, is re-evaluating the merits of its “just in time” business, which tries to maximize efficiency by having all parts delivered only when they are needed and not a moment sooner.

“Toyota is the best-known company for the just-in-time model,” said Soo-Haeng Cho, professor of operations management and strategy at Carnegie Mellon University. “Just-in-time is more doable when [companies] have local suppliers.”

Toyota traditionally relied heavily on local Japanese suppliers, but as supply shifted to Chinese firms, the company became “more exposed to these kinds of disruptions,” Cho added.

Here’s the robotaxi that will be available on the Lyft app in 2023

September 7, 2021

Motional, the autonomous vehicle company that is a joint venture between Hyundai and Aptiv, revealed more details about its forthcoming robotaxi as well as some of the first images of the vehicle. The company is also working with Lyft and says that by 2023, customers in certain cities will be able to hail rides in this vehicle using the Lyft app…

The Ioniq 5 is an interesting choice for Motional’s robotaxi. Hyundai claims it has nearly 300 miles of range on a single charge and a two-way charging feature that can supply up to 3.6kW of power. It will also be built on Hyundai’s new Electric-Global Modular Platform (E-GMP) that the automaker says will serve as the basis for an entire family of planned EVs.

Motional says that E-GMP will provide “passengers with a spacious, comfortable place to work, relax, or socialize during their driverless ride.”