U.S. Transportation Secretary Announces $8 Million Grant At Special Traffic21 Conference At Carnegie Mellon

November 14, 2019

Carnegie Mellon University welcomed the transportation secretary as it celebrated a landmark day for one of its groundbreaking programs.

Carnegie Mellon University celebrated the 10th anniversary of its Traffic21 program on Thursday.

The program’s goal is to design, test, and develop technology to address traffic problems in the Pittsburgh area.

CMU’s groundbreaking program has already made a major impact on the community.

“The work of Traffic21 and its university transportation center has resulted in three spinoff companies that have created hundreds of technology jobs in Pittsburgh, attracted tens of millions of dollars in private investment,” noted CMU president Farnam Jahanian at a special two-day conference that began Thursday.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Says CMU Research Will Help Address Automated Vehicle Concerns

November 14, 2019

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao said Carnegie Mellon University is leading the way in automated transportation research on a visit to Pittsburgh Thursday, citing $8.4 million Department of Transportation grants the university received in conjunction with PennDOT.

“Pennsylvania received the largest of the automated driving system’s grants,” Chao said during a Thursday-afternoon speech at CMU. “This demonstration project will study the safe integration of automated driving technology into work zones. That’s so important, because a disproportionate number of roadway workers and first responders are hurt in work zones.”

Chao spoke at an event celebrating the 10-year anniversary of Traffic21, an institute at CMU intended to create an “intelligent transportation system” in the Pittsburgh region.

Chao said new transportation technology like automated vehicles will only grow in the future, though she recognized the public’s distrust of and uncertainty about it.

CMU celebrates 10 years of Traffic21 innovations

November 14, 2019

What started 10 years ago after late Pittsburgh philanthropist Henry L. Hillman saw an article in the Wall Street Journal about reducing traffic congestion has grown into a research institute that regularly produces world-class transportation innovations and has spun off several thriving businesses.

Carnegie Mellon University celebrated the 10-year anniversary Thursday of Traffic21, its transportation research institute that has spearheaded research in self-driving vehicles and smart traffic signals and helped communities and organizations solve traffic problems. The university is the host of a 10-Year Anniversary Symposium on Thursday and Friday to discuss emerging transportation technology and how best to deploy it.

Unique service helping areas with limited public transportation

November 14, 2019

What happens if you rely on public transportation to get work, but it doesn’t get you close enough?

There’s a service in the airport corridor that’s looking to expand its coverage area to help more people, and Carnegie Mellon University is helping them figure out the best way to do it…

CMU professor Sean Qian and his students are studying whether pickup and dropoff locations should change or if they can create an app so riders can report their location.

It’s the second year the university is doing what it calls a Smart Mobility Challenge to help suburban communities dealing with mobility issues.

“It’s very exciting that CMU researchers such as me … that we can use the technologies that was in the research in the university, and then we can try to apply the technology and test the technology in the real-world environment,” Qian said.

With all of the amenities of a mini city, research takes flight at Pittsburgh International Airport

November 13, 2019

Carnegie Mellon University’s research partnership with Allegheny County Airport Authority began six years ago where most trips start: in the parking lot.

In 2013, School of Computer Science Research Professor Alex Hauptmann pulled into Pittsburgh International Airport’s giant parking lot. Round and round he drove, up and down the lanes. Minutes passed, as did dozens of filled parking spots. Finally, he found an empty one. And an idea.

“There had to be a better way,” Hauptmann remembers. “So I approached the airport with a concept to make parking easier.”

Hauptmann and his students developed an app that used real-time parking information that detected available spaces, tracked cars and enabled navigation.

And so began a collaboration between the university and Pittsburgh International that has since produced nearly a dozen other projects, from understanding how people get around the airport to what they buy.

Federal Report On Fatal Uber Crash Reveals The Tech Wasn’t Equipped To Detect Jaywalkers

November 13, 2019

Raj Rajkumar, an expert on autonomous cars at Carnegie Mellon University, said the past decade of self-driving car development has been like an arms race, and the 2018 fatality was a wakeup call.

“Every company in the space basically got a slap in the face and said ‘Hey, can this happen in our context,'” Rajkumar said. “‘What are we doing to prevent a tragedy like this from happening?'”

Rajkumar said some self-driving car companies have misrepresented how long it will take to perfect the technology.

“Self-driving is not a simple activity, it’s quite complex,” Rajkumar said. “It’s going to take time, many years, so ‘customer beware.'”

Microsoft wants to teach drones, robots and drills how to think

November 6, 2019

A Microsoft partner based near that company’s Redmond, Wash., headquarters wants to use it for tractors and Carnegie Mellon University deployed the software as part of a mine-exploration robot that recently won a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency challenge. Microsoft has also suggested the software could work well for drones that check power lines and wind turbines and for disaster recovery operations where autonomous devices scout out the situations that may not be safe for human rescuers.

“The industry is fixated on autonomous driving and that’s it, but if you look around you in the world, you can find literally hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of scenarios where automation can improve things,” said Gurdeep Pall, Microsoft vice president, business AI. “A lot of these folks who build these systems are mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, etc. They are not AI people. We are bringing AI to these engineers in a way that they can operate.”

Guide to autonomous vehicles: What business leaders need to know

November 6, 2019

Few technologies have been more anticipated heading into the 2020s than autonomous vehicles. Tantalizingly close and yet still perhaps decades from market adoption in some use cases, the technology is as promising as it is misunderstood.

You’ve heard the consumer hype, but what gets less ink are the transformative changes that autonomous vehicles will bring — in some cases already are bringing — to the enterprise.

Affecting sectors as disparate as shipping and logistics, energy, agriculture, transportation, construction, and infrastructure — to name just a few — it’s hard to overstate the impact of the diverse and versatile set of technologies lumped into the decidedly broad category of ‘autonomous vehicles’.

This guide will help you sort the hype from the business reality and tell you all you need to know about the autonomous vehicle revolution on the ground, in the air, and even at sea.

How autonomous systems use AI that learns from the world around it

November 4, 2019

If a mine collapses or an earthquake strands people underground in a subway car, first responders can’t rush into that unknown subterranean environment without potentially endangering themselves.

A rescue team must ensure an area is structurally sound and air is breathable before pushing forward — ­­which sometimes means help moves slower than anyone would like.

In a competition sponsored by DARPA, teams are designing autonomous robots that can explore and map these potentially dangerous underground landscapes and also identify objects of interest to first responders like survivors, backpacks, cell phones or fire extinguishers.

“With a robot, you’re able to take much more risk and potentially move much faster in a rescue,” said Sebastian Scherer, Carnegie Mellon University associate research professor and co-leader of Team Explorer, which took first place in the initial leg of that Subterranean Challenge using Microsoft’s AirSim technology to train its robots to recognize objects in a simulated mine.


October 30, 2019

Cities are architectural triumphs where the vibrancy of life sparks daily. They are pillars of human achievement, and bulwarks to the chaotic natural world. Though too like the natural world, they are places of hardship and inequality. But for the first time, with the advent of incredible new technologies, our cities are becoming unspeakably “smart,” where digital intellect crossed with human compassion helps actualize the world we care to dream. We’re seeing the upswing of momentum; of technology, mobility, and design.

These are the partners taking action, whose initiated projects are enacting real change. Whether it’s integrating sustainable infrastructure, taking savvy approaches to micromobility, or using big data analytics to inform legislative policy for the betterment of all, each partner is doing something bold and unique that is leading us into the land unknown.

As part of the 2019 Momentum Awards, Newsweek is proud to present the Top 100 Smart City Partners.
Including CMU’s Metro21: Smart Cities Institute

Aurora CEO Chris Urmson Says There’ll Be Hundreds Of Self-Driving Cars On The Road In Five Years

October 30, 2019

Chris Urmson, CEO of self-driving car company Aurora, predicts there will be hundreds or maybe thousands of self-driving vehicles on the road within five years, “delivering packages or moving people around.”

Rather than crowd your driveway, these robot vehicles will be parts of large taxi fleets and cargo delivery services, he said. “I think both economically, it’s going to make much more sense as part of a fleet, and socially I think it’s better that these are shared resources,” he told attendees at the Forbes Under 30 Summit.

The 15-year veteran in the still-nascent field of autonomous driving made his bones in the DARPA Challenges that ran from 2004 to 2007, then became an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University, noted for its artificial intelligence and robotics research, before joining Google to lead its self-driving car project.

Surtrac allows traffic to move at the speed of technology

October 30, 2019

Artificial intelligence is giving more Pittsburgh drivers the green light.

Developing and deploying the technology to keep the traffic flowing took a team of researchers and roboticists from Carnegie Mellon University together with the help of city engineers and funding from foundations.

It all started because Henry Hillman, the late Pittsburgh business leader and philanthropist, was frustrated with traffic signals that wouldn’t turn despite a lack of traffic. In 2009, he reached out to then-CMU president Jerry L. Cohon, to promote the idea that Pittsburgh could be used as a test bed for transportation systems. Not only could it help make traffic move more smoothly, but technology could be developed and spun off, thereby creating more jobs in Pittsburgh.

Their conversation became the impetus for CMU’s Traffic21 Institute, a multidisciplinary research institute with the goal to design, test, deploy and evaluate information and communications-technology-based solutions to address transportation problems. The center is directed from CMU’s Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy.

‘Look Who’s Driving’ to examine self-driving car technologies, safety concerns

October 24, 2019

“We had a panel last Friday at Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley, and one thing that impressed me was how careful the panelists are being,” said Chris Schmidt, co-executive producer of NOVA…

‘Look Who’s Driving’ examines machine learning
“Driving is the most complex activity that adults on the planet regularly engage with,” said Raj Rajkumar, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). “That’s a high bar for technology to overcome.”…

“The fact that so much money is flowing into this technology reflects the optimism of the researchers, who are knocking down problems one by one,” said Schmidt. “While Level 5 autonomy won’t be anytime soon, as Martial Hebert [dean of CMU’s School of Computer Science] notes, it’s a question of when and where it will be deployed.”

Look Who’s Driving airs at 9:00 p.m. tonight on PBS.

Ansys adds partners to work toward electric planes

October 16, 2019

Venkat Viswanathan, an associate professor in the mechanical engineering department at Carnegie Mellon University, said the potential benefits of electric flights are wide-ranging — from more environmentally friendly flights to more regional flights to creating new markets for local travel and even using the technology to eventually improve people’s commute to the airport.

“It’s almost like going backward in time where we’re bringing back sort of the joy of air travel. That’s the promise of electrifying regional air travel,” he said, referring to ideas that might open up new travel options.

Before the market gets there though, he continued, a lot has to change.

On the technology side, companies would need lighter batteries, better charging structures, battery packs with longer lives, among other things.

“A lot of people are trying to assess where things will go,” Mr. Viswanathan said. “There’s a lot of questions but there’s an undeniable opportunity around electrification of aviation.”

Apple is suffocating mobile-payment rivals

October 16, 2019

Consumers in the US and Europe still like to buy things with debit and credit cards, but Apple isn’t giving up. As iPhone sales stall, the Cupertino-based company is looking to squeeze more profit out of services like payments. Among those efforts is its credit card, which is designed to reward customers more for using the mobile wallet than the flashy titanium payment card.

Perhaps the giant smartphone maker’s biggest advantage is its grip on the iPhone’s near-field communication (NFC) technology…

Apple’s decision to restrict access to NFC is clearly a strategic one, said Tim Derdenger, who teaches at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business. The lack of access impedes startups as well as giants like Amazon, which operates Amazon Pay. “They don’t want rivals launching a wallet,” Derdenger said. “If they opened it up, it would mitigate their market position.”

Think California’s Preemptive Blackouts Are Scary? Buckle Up

October 16, 2019

At midnight on Wednesday, California’s largest utility begun cutting off power to customers across the northern part of the state…

“It’s long past time for us to get serious about reducing the impact of our infrastructure on climate change, and also getting ready for the impacts of climate change on our infrastructure,” Costa Samaras, the director of Carnegie Mellon’s Center for Engineering and Resilience for Climate Adaptation, told Earther. “In the power sector, that means big energy efficiency and deep building retrofit efforts, local distributed solar and storage, and transmission lines that aren’t as big of a fire risk and can handle extreme heat days. There are always questions of ‘how will we pay for it,’ but there is also a very large costs associated with doing nothing, which it looks like the Bay Area is paying now.”

Experts laugh at Elon Musk’s claim that he is close to perfecting driverless car technology after Tesla owners who used ‘summon’ function continue to share videos and photos of their smashed vehicles

October 7, 2019

Elon Musk has been ridiculed for claiming he’s on the brink of perfecting a fleet of self-driving taxis after Tesla owners reported that their cars crash on summon mode.

The CEO of Tesla says that the fleet will be ready by the end of next year, but that has been called into question after the release of Tesla’s Smart Summon technology.

Raj Rajkumar, from Carnegie Mellon University, says that the California company’s new feature is ‘far from perfection’ and he can ‘only laugh’ at Musk’s timeline.

Many Tesla owners using the summon function, which calls their car to them without anyone in, have experienced several close calls and nasty fender benders.

Steering away from one-person car commutes: Officials seek to change Pittsburgh’s transportation habits

October 7, 2019

The city also is in the process of designing ways to move traffic more efficiently.

East Liberty already has some smart traffic signals, which change according to motor vehicle and pedestrian traffic at intersections. The Surtrac system that controls the lights was developed at Carnegie Mellon University. The city expects to install similar controls at about 150 intersections beginning next year.

In addition, a $10.9 million federal grant is helping the city develop a series of “smart spines” to move traffic in six busy corridors that empty Downtown.

The spines would be on Penn, Liberty, Fifth, Forbes and Second avenues and Bigelow Boulevard. They would feed traffic, vehicular and social media information into the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center led by Pittsburgh and Allegheny County and operated by the University of Pittsburgh.

Ms. Ricks stressed that the spines — which are in design and should begin to roll out next year — aren’t aimed only at motor vehicles.

Edmonton is testing out Canada’s first smart traffic signals — so how do they work?

October 4, 2019

Olga Messinis, director of traffic operations for the city of Edmonton, introduced Wednesday the technology behind new adaptive traffic signals from the corner of Edmonton’s bustling entertainment and arena district. During hockey games, concerts and other special events, it not unusual to see police managing traffic at that intersection…

Councillor Andrew Knack, who has long championed improved transportation solutions, noted that when similar technology was deployed in Pittsburgh, those corridors saw about a 20 per cent reduction in vehicle travel time.

“If this works the way we’ve seen in a spot like Pittsburgh, then this could be rolled out across the city,” Knack said. “So LRT intersections, all arterial roads — to me, there’s really no limit to where we want to put this, assuming it works the way we think.”

In the Mon Valley, public transit limitations are felt by residents who’ve left Pittsburgh’s core

October 2, 2019

As Pittsburghers move to the Monongahela River Valley for affordable rents, transit activists describe the need for more robust options to help them stay connected to neighbors and services in their old communities…

One fix for an hourlong bus ride would be adding or extending bus lines to provide more options. But this can be costly and cumbersome.

“Cities like Pittsburgh traditionally have more transit access in the more dense urban core and in the more dense urban neighborhoods,” said Stan Caldwell, executive director of Carnegie Mellon’s Traffic21 institute.

Public transportation works most efficiently in highly populated areas, according to Caldwell. As cities gentrify, he said, residents move from the urban core and start to lose access to the traditional transit systems from their old neighborhoods.

“[I]t’s difficult because people are more dispersed and you don’t have a density to get the effectiveness of transit,” Caldwell said.

Driverless cars could spell the end for downtown parking – and cities need to plan ahead

October 2, 2019

Imagine a scene from the near-future: You get dropped off downtown by a driverless car. You slam the door and head into your office or appointment. But then where does the autonomous vehicle go?

It’s a question that cities would be wise to consider now. Self-driving cars may be on the roads within the next decade or two.

Automakers and specialized startups alike are aggressively developing automated vehicles (AVs), while government agencies explore ways to reduce regulatory barriers. Ride-hailing companies such as Lyft and Uber plan to operate some AVs, but others could become private robotaxis that drop owners off wherever they like and pick them up later.

Without policies to encourage sharing, it’s possible there could be many private AVs on the road. We are civil and environmental engineers who collaborated with Chris Hendrickson, director of Carnegie Mellon’s Traffic21 Institute, to examine the potential effects of private AVs on cities.

Who’s Driving The Autonomous Drive Technology Jobs Market?

October 2, 2019

Indeed’s data does provide an interesting insight into where AVs are being developed, and while some of them are unsurprising some might not be where you expected. Of course the Silicon Valley heartland of San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara California is first, with 31.8% of all job listings, but Pittsburgh, PA and Detroit-Warren-Dearborn put the Rust Belt in second and third place with 14.9% and 16.4% respectively. Then it’s back to California, with San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward in fourth with 9.4% of listings and then another surprise as the Portland, OR area boasts 2.8% of listings, edging out the Boston-Cambridge, MA hub at 2.6%.

It’s no real surprise that autonomous vehicles are mostly being developed on the coasts, with talent pools like the legendary Carnegie Mellon robotics program in what locals affectionately call Roboburgh and the Detroit-area auto industry heartland providing the exceptions.

Tesla’s ‘Smart Summon’ Will Fetch Your Car—Sometimes

October 2, 2019

But according to at least one expert, Smart Summon doesn’t mean that Tesla is close to doing what CEO Elon Musk has promised: unleashing a fleet of self-driving robot taxis by the end of next year. “If Tesla is having some trouble in an uncontrolled situation [like a parking lot], and that [Smart Summon] feature is far from perfection, then Tesla having full self-driving cars at the end of next year? I can only laugh at that,” says Raj Rajkumar, who studies autonomous technology at Carnegie Mellon University.

One large hurdle for Tesla’s self-driving ambitions is driving speed, says Rajkumar. For a summon feature, the vehicle’s sensors only need to be able to “see” a few dozen feet away. At slow parking-lot speeds—around 5 mph—that limitation might be OK. But at faster speeds, vehicles cover meters in matters of seconds.

Building a car that can quickly “see” and then “react” to sudden road obstacles—something that fell off the back of a truck, or a person—might be a matter of life or death.

Uber and Lyft Induced Congestion Give a Preview of Driverless Car Hell

October 1, 2019

We’ve been fantasizing about self-driving cars for decades; the luxury of napping, watching TV, or reading while a robot car takes us to our destination. The first truly autonomous car debuted in the 1980s from Carnegie Mellon University’s Navlab project, and in the last four decades transportation has rapidly evolved into chauffeur-esque services like Uber and Lyft. But what are the real implications of this impending driverless future? New data from Uber and Lyft might give us a window to our unregulated driverless future: increased congestion and emissions…

New studies show that ride-hailing companies are the biggest contributors to congestion in the San Francisco Bay Area. Uber and Lyft released a joint report last month showing that their services have contributed to a significant increase in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in the main urban cities they operate of up to 13 percent since they started service.

The death of a promising battery startup exposes harsh market realities

September 27, 2019

According to former employees, all of whom requested anonymity, Khosla Ventures lost confidence that Pellion could make enough money serving a niche market. The lithium-metal technology worked for products like drones, but the big money in the battery world is in the automotive sector. Investors weren’t willing to sink the money needed to develop the battery for electric vehicles.

“There are two camps in the battery world,” says Venkat Viswanathan, a battery expert at Carnegie Mellon University. “One that understands the problems and knows lithium-metal batteries are a long way off. Another that understands the problems, has some solutions, and knows that lithium-metal batteries will be in the market soon.”