Motional tests autonomous vehicles on public roads with empty driver’s seat

February 26, 2021

Boston-based Motional, which has operations in Pittsburgh, announced Monday that it started operating autonomous vehicles on public roads without anyone in the driver’s seat.

Motional, a joint venture of Hyundai Motor Group and Aptiv, started testing the driverless vehicles in Las Vegas earlier this month. The company reported in a news release that the vehicles safely navigated intersections, unprotected turns and interactions with other road users. Motional still requires “safety stewards,” with the ability to stop the vehicle, to sit in the passenger seat.

“Our Pittsburgh team, of over 200 employees, was critical in our ability to go driverless on public roads,” David Helton, vice president at Motional and based in Pittsburgh, said. “They were instrumental in the vehicle and driverless system development, and rigorous testing and analysis, including as part of our two-year safety evaluation process…We look forward to continuing our innovation in Pittsburgh, as the city is at the forefront of the future of mobility.”
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Roads, transit and tech: How Buttigieg plans to localize the federal transportation agenda

February 26, 2021

He has pledged new federal automotive fuel economy standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and install 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations nationwide by 2030. He wants to move forward on long-awaited federal rules governing autonomous vehicles.

Touting his expansion of bike lanes in South Bend, he will seek to double the funding for the Transportation Alternatives Program, which funds biking and walking mobility. And he has floated funding the Federal Transit Administration at $150 billion, an almost 13-fold increase from its current budget of $12 billion.

“He’s going in the same direction as we are,” said Stan Caldwell, adjunct associate professor of transportation and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University.

“He understands the impact of transportation not just as the movement of people and goods but as community and economic development for a city, and how important it is to a city and a region,” Mr. Caldwell said.
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When Planning Smart Cities, Don’t Forget About Accessibility in Mobility

February 24, 2021

There are many successful use cases where smart cities are implementing mobility projects, using machine learning and AI to analyze data patterns and improve life for their residents. For example, in 2012, Pittsburgh’s city implemented Surtrac, an intelligent traffic signaling system, reducing travel times and emissions by optimizing vehicles’ movement through intersections. Analysis of the project found that the average travel times reduced by 25%, and cars spent up to 40% less time idling. This affected not only citizens’ quality of life but also the environment by reducing emissions.

This is just one example of how a smart city benefits its citizens. Still, smart cities are not just about how the city’s government officials can provide the infrastructure, services, and solutions to benefit its citizens. If that were the core point, it would simply be a digital city, not necessarily smart. A smart city’s very essence depends on its people to improve its services with gathered data, making it more efficient, more inclusive, and more secure.
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Why Are COVID-19 Cases Really Falling?

February 23, 2021

Google mobility trends show we are still well below pre-pandemic trends for travel related to retail, recreation, transit, and workplaces, but there are no obvious declines in mobility since the beginning of the year, apart from brief weather-related dips in some states. But mobility trends may miss more subtle behavior changes such as fewer meetups with people outside one’s household or increases in mask wearing outside the home, and we have seen some favorable trends for those things, according to an ongoing survey conducted by Carnegie Mellon University. Together, all of this likely did contribute to reductions in the Rt—for one thing, we know these prevention measures have effectively crushed the flu (thought to be less transmissible than SARS-CoV-2) this year in both hemispheres.
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The Tesla Mafia: Elon Musk’s Ex-Employees Vie To Become His Top Rival

February 23, 2021

Anderson arrived at Tesla in 2013 to work on the Model X crossover and helped launch Tesla’s pursuit of self-driving technology by leading the development of its Autopilot driver-assist feature. “I liken it to serving in the trenches together,” he says of his time there. “You build a real bond in a high-pressure environment like that.”

The MIT-trained scientist left in 2016 to cofound self-driving startup Aurora Innovation, joined by former Google self-driving car chief Chris Urmson and Carnegie Mellon University AI researcher Drew Bagnell. Aurora has raised more than $1 billion and, in December 2020, acquired Uber’s autonomous unit, boosting the odds it’ll be a major player in autonomous vehicle technology. So far, it’s lined up tech partnerships with Uber, truck maker Paccar and Toyota. The Silicon Valley startup’s valuation jumped to an estimated $10 billion, following the Uber acquisition.
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The Auto Industry Bets Its Future on Batteries

February 19, 2021

Carmakers are engaged in an intense race to acquire the chemical recipe that will deliver the most energy at the lowest price and in the smallest package. G.M.’s announcement last month that it would go all electric by 2035 was widely considered a landmark moment by policymakers and environmentalists. But to many people in the battery industry, the company was stating the obvious.

“This was the last in a wave of big announcements that very clearly signaled that electric vehicles are here,” said Venkat Viswanathan, an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University who researches battery technology.

Battery manufacturing is dominated by companies like Tesla, Panasonic, LG Chem, BYD China and SK Innovation — nearly all of them based in China, Japan or South Korea. But many new players are getting into the game, and investors, sensing the vast profits at stake, are hurling money at start-ups that they believe are close to breakthroughs.
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Biden’s push for electric vehicles puts US in international race to electrify

February 17, 2021

The stakes of the electric vehicle race are about more than economic opportunity and bragging rights.Transportation makes up roughly a quarter of carbon dioxide emissions around the globe, mostly through burning fuel, and experts say to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, it will be critical for as many countries as possible to transition to zero-emissions vehicles powered by renewable energy.

“Transportation is now the largest source of carbon pollution in the United States, and over the last 10 years the grid has gotten a lot cleaner, there’s been a lot more renewables added to the grid. And so the grid has gotten about 33% cleaner over the last 10 years, while gasoline has remained the same old dirty gasoline,” said Constantine Samaras, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.
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Argo AI and Rapid Flow Technologies partner to integrate tech to make driving more efficient

February 16, 2021

Pittsburgh-based autonomous vehicle company Argo AI and Pittsburgh-based software company Rapid Flow Technologies partnered for a pilot project to integrate their technologies.

Rapid Flow Technologies, a Carnegie Mellon University spinout, created an edge computing software called Surtrac. The platform uses video detectors at roadway intersections to collect data, such as the number of vehicles, pedestrians and other road users approaching a traffic light…

“What we are trying to do with Argo is augment that information with actual route information,” Schultz said. “If a vehicle can tell us its route through the next three intersections, then our software has more certain information and can make better optimization decisions.”

The two companies conducted the pilot over several weeks in 2020 with 15 of Argo AI’s self-driving test vehicles…

“The system achieved a 40% reduction in delay, or time wasted sitting at red lights, demonstrating that with self-driving vehicles on roadways sharing information with smart infrastructure, cities can improve traffic flow and cut congestion even further,” Browning wrote in the post.
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The Road Ahead: This Is How To Rent A Car Now

February 12, 2021

The car rental business was already moving toward self-service and a digital-first approach. But the pandemic has accelerated it.

For example, Avis Budget Group customers can manage their entire rental experience through the Avis mobile app, which practically eliminates the interaction with anyone at the rental counter…

Car rental companies have also doubled down on their cleaning initiatives. Enterprise rolled out its Complete Clean Pledge last year, which describes in meticulous detail its cleaning protocol before it rents you a car.Hertz has taken similar steps to upgrade the cleanliness of its vehicles. Its new Hertz Gold Standard Clean program guarantees your vehicle will undergo a 15-point process, including a thorough disinfection, cleaning and inspection.

Sridhar Tayur, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business, says the focus on cleaning has affected the operations of car rental companies — and the customer experience. “The sanitizing of cars between rentals increases the turnaround time between rentals,” he explains.
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Electric Cars Are Coming, and Fast. Is the Nation’s Grid Up to It?

February 5, 2021

Electric vehicles would be even cleaner if utilities switched away from coal and natural gas and leaned more heavily on low-emissions sources like solar, wind or nuclear power.

That combination could have a powerful impact: One recent study by Carnegie Mellon University found that if America’s grid was close to emissions-free, and if about 84 percent of all vehicle travel was electrified, transportation emissions from light-duty vehicles would fall by 90 percent. (The decline in emissions could be even faster and larger, the study found, if policymakers took actions to reduce reliance on driving, such as expanding public transit or encouraging biking and walking.)

“The grid is getting cleaner over time, but it’s still not at zero emissions,” said Constantine Samaras, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon University and a co-author of the paper. “If we want to fully decarbonize transportation, we need to do everything, and do it at full speed: fewer vehicle miles traveled, electrify nearly the entire passenger fleet, and clean up power plants.”
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Biden Wants the Government to Run on EVs. It Won’t Be Easy

February 5, 2021

Moreover, the government turns over its fleet slowly; today, the average government-owned vehicle is almost 15 years old. Aging gas-powered vehicles out of that fleet will take some time.

Which is convenient, because automakers will need time to cook up the government’s order. Three automakers—Tesla, General Motors, and Ford—make electric vehicles in the US. But none complies with the government’s new “Buy American” and unionized labor provisions.

Still, government contracts could give US car companies the certainty they need to ramp up their electric vehicle efforts. “Governments have a lot of purchasing power, and they often lead with innovation to pull along market demand,” says Costa Samaras, a professor of civil and environmental engineering who studies electric vehicle policy at Carnegie Mellon University. To wit: All told, the feds spent $4.37 billion buying, fueling, and maintaining vehicles in 2019. “This is the lowest of the low-hanging electric vehicle fruit,” he says.
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Hang on to Your Car for Now – Then Buy an EV

January 29, 2021

As early as 2023, experts expect, the cost of building an electric car will be on par with the cost of making a similar gas-powered model.

The reason is the rapidly falling cost of producing the battery packs for electric cars. The way the industry measures this is the price per kilowatt hour (kWh). In 2010, the cost for a battery pack was more than $1,000/kWh, according to Bloomberg BNEF. In 2020 it reached $126. When that price falls to $100 it is expected the cost to build an electric car will be no more than the cost to roll a similar gasoline-powered car off the assembly line. That is expected to happen as early as 2023.

Moreover, an analysis by engineers at Carnegie Mellon University anticipates that by 2025 a battery pack price of around $80/kWh will result in EV sticker prices being lower than similar conventional cars.
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Philly transportation needs a universal way to measure racial equity | Opinion

January 27, 2021

In Philadelphia, the city and the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) consider equity in their transportation plans, but they lack a standard method to analyze results and sufficient coordination between entities, resulting in a fractured approach. To remedy this, the city needs a universal transportation equity measure that can be used across transportation projects. Having a universal measure can not only help to better identify vulnerable communities but establish the foundation for a coordinated citywide process for considering equity in city transportation projects…

The city of Philadelphia does not need to start from scratch. We can emulate the success of cities like Seattle, where Sound Transit and the Seattle Department of Transportation rely on a coordinated set of questions from the city’s Racial Equity Toolkit to guide the development, implementation, and evaluation of transportation projects.

The Philadelphia region’s metropolitan planning organization, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC), also has created an equity analysis tool for the region called the Indicators of Potential Disadvantage (IPD).
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Uber is bringing its EV and public transit features to more cities

January 20, 2021

Uber Green, the feature that allows customers to request rides in electric vehicles, is coming to more cities. After initially launching in 15 cities last September, the ride-hail company is bringing the feature to 1,400 additional cities and towns in North America. The new markets include Austin, Calgary, Houston, Miami, New York City, Tucson, Winnipeg, Washington, DC, and hundreds more.

Uber claims that “100 percent” of rides on its platform will take place in electric vehicles by 2030 in the US, Canada, and Europe, and by 2040 for the rest of the world. But rather than pay drivers directly to trade their gas-burning vehicles for electric ones, the company will impose an extra fee on trips completed in an electric vehicle to incentivize drivers to make the switch…

Uber has been linked to rising car congestion and increased pollution in cities. A new study from Carnegie Mellon found that the benefit from people ditching their cars to use ride-hailing services is negated by new vehicles added to the road by aspiring Uber and Lyft drivers.
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CMU team to examine autonomous vehicles for people with disabilities

January 18, 2021

John Tague, chairman of the Pennsylvania Transportation Alliance, uses a wheelchair and understands the daily mobility challenges faced by people with disabilities.

That’s why Mr. Tague is excited that a team from Carnegie Mellon University has received a grant to develop a prototype system for autonomous vehicles that will allow anyone to control most vehicle functions — from summoning the vehicle to their location to controlling the windows and the temperature of the air conditioning — from their cellphones.

The team, based in CMU’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute, was among 10 across the country that received $300,000 grants last week from the federal Department of Transportation to continue developing their ideas to make autonomous vehicles more practical for people with disabilities.

The grant is part the DOT’s Inclusive Design Challenge, a competitive program to improve mobility for people with disabilities. Three finalists will split $2 million to produce their product.
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When Uber and Lyft enter cities, vehicle ownership increases

January 13, 2021

When ridesourcing companies Uber and Lyft show up in urban areas, vehicle registrations per capita increase by 0.7% on average, increasing even more in car-dependent cities. Researchers reporting in the journal iScience on January 6 made this discovery by analyzing data from major US cities between 2011 to 2017, comparing trends in cities where Uber and Lyft entered with those where they didn’t. They also found that Uber and Lyft displace transit more in cities with higher income and fewer children.

“I would have expected people to own fewer vehicles once they gain access to this alternative transportation mode,” says Jeremy Michalek, a professor of engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University and co-author on the study. “But that’s not what we see in the data. One possible explanation could be that there’s an effect on the other side, where somebody who was on the verge of being able to afford a vehicle now has an incentive to buy one and earn some money with it. So vehicle adoption by Uber and Lyft drivers may outweigh the effect of riders getting rid of their personal vehicles.”
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How Much Will Electric Cars Cost In 2025

January 13, 2021

A recently released auto industry report by the Economist publication has shown that consumers will pay far less to purchase an electric car by 2025…

According to the Open Grid Scheduler, prices of electric vehicles will soon rival the regular vehicle prices. All this should happen once the battery prices fall below $100 per kilowatt-hour.

When will the change happen? According to researchers based at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University, electric car battery prices will probably fall to the desired range (under $100 per kilowatt-hour) by 2023, 2024, or 2025.

Many auto industry gurus are convinced that it will happen by 2025. The Carnegie Mellon University team, led by Venkat Viswanathan, first developed a model used to calculate EV battery costs. The model breaks down the individual component costs and subsequently predicts the changes over time.
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Opinion: Electric vehicles aren’t going to take over any time soon

January 13, 2021

It’s meaningless to have the right investment thesis if your timing is bad. No one learned this lesson more in 2020 than all the sad sacks who shorted Tesla…

“There are two bottlenecks that limit their practicality,” says Venkat Viswanathan, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, who is leading a team of battery researchers. “We cannot recharge them well enough today, and the other one is that we cannot get all of the capacity, we cannot get a large amount of the energy out.”

Sadly, there’s no battery equivalent of Moore’s Law, the 1965 observation of Intel INTC, +2.13% co-founder Gordon Moore that processing power in an integrated circuit doubles every two years. Making batteries more efficient, powerful and longer-lasting is the holy grail of the electric vehicle industry, yet for all the progress that has been made, Viswanathan talks of major breakthroughs “in maybe five to 10 years.”
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The pandemic cost public transit dearly. Will Pittsburgh-area riders return in 2021?

January 13, 2021

Stan Caldwell, executive director of the Traffic21 Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, noted that many people still don’t feel safe enough to use transit.

“In my opinion, both locally and nationally, it’s a clear reluctance for people to be in close proximity to other people in an enclosed environment,” Caldwell said. “So we are seeing people taking other modes of transportation, and we are seeing vehicle miles traveled going back up to pre-pandemic levels here in the state of Pennsylvania and nationally.”…

As COVID-19 cases rose, Pennsylvania again mandated telework, unless impossible. And it’s not hard to imagine some companies will use more telework even after the pandemic.

“There was a lot of fear of loss of productivity if that would happen, but I think companies have seen the opposite, have seen increased productivity. So yes, that’s a big concern,” Caldwell said. “And if a system has been reliant on the revenues of that, it changes their revenue models significantly.”
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USDOT awards US$49.6m in grants for 10 ITS projects across the USA

January 11, 2021

ATCMTD was established under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act.

FY 2020 ATCMTD Projects

City of Dallas
S.M. Wright Smart Corridor
$4,000,000

Georgia Department of Transportation
Emergency Vehicle Preemption Using Connected Vehicle Technology
$3,206,809

Maine Department of Transportation
Maine Advanced Signal Control and Connected Vehicle System for Safe, Efficient and Equitable Rural Transportation (MAST) Project
$3,471,615

Metro Government of Nashville & Davidson County, Tennessee (Public Works Department)
Charlotte Avenue/Dr. Martin L King, Jr Blvd Transit Headways and Congestion Management
$1,500,000

Pinellas County Department of Public Works
Pinellas Connected Community
$4,622,880

Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC)
Integrated Safety Technology Corridor
$6,000,000

San Diego Association of Governments
Advancing Connectivity and the Economy Through Technology in the San Diego Region
$9,298,300

University of Michigan Smart Intersections: Paving the Way for a National CAV Deployment
$9,950,098

Virginia Port Authority
Autonomous Truck Ready
$2,102,500

Utah Department of Transportation
Utah Broadly Connected
$5,450,000
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Meet the startup that acquired Uber’s self-driving car technology

January 8, 2021

Aurora Innovation is a company that likes to break barriers in Pittsburgh.

In 2007, one of its founders was part of a winning team for a competition that had autonomous vehicles navigating urban roads. In 2018, Aurora was the first startup to receive authorization from the state’s Department of Transportation to operate autonomous vehicles on public roads.

In 2020, it acquired Uber’s self-driving division — a much higher profile operation that once seemed like the leader to beat…

Founded in 2017, Aurora started off with deep expertise and experience in the self-driving industry, with ties to Google’ self-driving car project, now called Waymo, Uber’s ATG and Tesla’s Autopilot.

It also had ties to Carnegie Mellon University’s robotics program and the school’s team for the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency’s Grand Challenge, a race to develop self-driving technology.
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Personalities of Pittsburgh: Cetin Mericli of Locomation wants to change how the world works

January 6, 2021

Although Cetin Mericli grew up in Turkey, even as a child he knew he wanted to study robotics at Carnegie Mellon University. Mericli invested a great deal of time in his education — completing his bachelor’s degree in computer engineering in 2002, his master’s degree in computer engineering in 2005 and his Ph.D. in 2011. He arrived in Pittsburgh in 2009 and served as a post-doctoral researcher at CMU until 2013, when he joined the National Robotics Engineering Center. He stayed there until 2018, when he founded autonomous trucking company Locomation. In recent months, Locomation completed its first on-road pilot program and secured its first large-scale purchase order.
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QuantumScape EV Batteries Can Be Charged Super Fast. Why That Matters.

December 14, 2020

Electric-vehicle-battery start-up QuantumScape can get its lithium metal solid-state batteries to 80% full in 15 minutes without compromising battery life or safety.

That’s big. If QuantumScape’s (ticker: QS) technology scales up, it means a typical EV with some charge left—and with 200 or 300 miles of designed per charge range—could pick up about 200 miles of driving range in less than 15 minutes. That should be fast enough to alleviate much of the range anxiety consumers sometimes feel when thinking about purchasing a battery powered car…

“These results blow away what was previously thought to be possible in a solid-state battery,” Venkat Viswanathan, battery expert and professor of materials science at Carnegie Mellon University, said in the news release. “This data shows the capability to charge to 80% capacity in 15 minutes, corresponding to an astonishingly high rate of lithium deposition of up to a micron per minute.”
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Can Biden’s climate plan spark cooperation in Pa.? Some see possible common ground in jobs, infrastructure

December 2, 2020

Climate change is one of the four major crises President-elect Joe Biden hopes to tackle after he’s sworn into office in January.

His goal is for the U.S. to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

In Pennsylvania, a high-polluting state with a history of coal and natural gas production, it’s fair to expect pushback on Biden’s plan from the Republican-controlled legislature and industry groups.

But some see a big opportunity for Pennsylvania to lead the charge into the clean energy economy that Biden is calling for.

“If we can figure out a way to do decarbonization in Pennsylvania, especially — a place that has legacy fossil fuel history — we can do it anywhere,” said Costa Samaras, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.
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Gatik raises $25 million for autonomous short-haul delivery trucks

November 30, 2020

Gatik, a startup developing an autonomous vehicle stack for B2B short-haul logistics, today closed a $25 million series A round. The company also announced it will bring a fleet of self-driving vans to Canada as part of a deal with Loblaw, the country’s largest retailer with over 200,000 employees.

Some experts predict the pandemic will hasten adoption of autonomous vehicles for delivery. Self-driving cars, vans, and trucks promise to minimize the risk of spreading disease by limiting driver contact. This is particularly true with regard to short-haul freight, which is experiencing a spike in volume during the outbreak…

Palo Alto, California-based Gatik, which has offices in Toronto, is the brainchild of Carnegie Mellon graduate and CEO Gautam Narang. He cofounded the company in 2017 with CTO Arjun Narang and chief engineer and former Ford computer vision lead Apeksha Kumavat.
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