Truck drivers don’t think EVs are up to heavy hauling

May 22, 2019

Charging infrastructure is “one of the largest unknowns and sources of anxiety for fleets considering near-term adoption of this technology,” according to a May, 2019, report the North American Council on Freight Efficiency.

Battery technology, too, still has a way to go before long-distance heavy hauling is reliable, affordable but – perhaps most importantly – light enough. A 2017 study by Carnegie Mellon University found that a battery powerful enough to drive a Class 8 semi-truck (i.e. a truck capable of hauling 18,000 kilograms, or 40 tons) over a distance of 1,000 kilometres would require a battery that weighs more than the cargo. That puts these vehicles at a distinct disadvantage compared with internal combustion engines (ICE), and it will likely remain that way for years, auto analyst Dennis DesRosiers said.

Tesla’s Trouble With Semi Trucks & Another Shakeup Of The Autopilot Team — Is There A Connection?

May 22, 2019

Raj Rajkumar, an electrical and computer engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University, has some insight into this this situation. Other than Tesla itself, Carnegie Mellon is ground zero for autonomous driving development in the world. He tells The Verge that in most road situations, there are vehicles to the front, back, and to the side, but a perpendicular vehicle is much less common. The algorithms using the camera output need to be trained to detect trucks that are perpendicular to the direction of the vehicle.

“Essentially, the same incident repeats after three years,” Rajkumar says. “This seems to indicate that these two problems have still not been addressed.” Machine learning and artificial intelligence have inherent limitations, he explains. If sensors “see” what they have never or seldom seen before, they do not know how to handle those situations. “Tesla is not handling the well-known limitations of AI,” he added.

Tesla didn’t fix an Autopilot problem for three years, and now another person is dead

May 21, 2019

Radar outputs of detected objects are sometimes ignored by the vehicle’s software to deal with the generation of “false positives,” said Raj Rajkumar, an electrical and computer engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University. Without these, the radar would “see” an overpass and report that as an obstacle, causing the vehicle to slam on the brakes.

On the computer vision side of the equation, the algorithms using the camera output need to be trained to detect trucks that are perpendicular to the direction of the vehicle, he added. In most road situations, there are vehicles to the front, back, and to the side, but a perpendicular vehicle is much less common.

“Essentially, the same incident repeats after three years,” Rajkumar said. “This seems to indicate that these two problems have still not been addressed.” Machine learning and artificial intelligence have inherent limitations. If sensors “see” what they have never or seldom seen before, they do not know how to handle those situations. “Tesla is not handling the well-known limitations of AI,” he added.


May 20, 2019

Whichever company is helping VW run its plant will likely play a key role. That’s because building batteries for cars requires exquisite control of materials and manufacturing. Many smartphones use one battery cell, so if minor differences between two cells result in slightly different capacities, it just means somebody gets a few more minutes of Twitter time than somebody else. But even minor differences in the capacity or quality of the 500 or so cells that make up a pack can undermine the performance or safety of the entire vehicle. (Tesla uses smaller cells than most; its batteries contain 5,000 or more cells.) “Cells have to be identical from a quality perspective,” says Jay Whitacre, who runs the Scott Institute for Energy Innovation at Carnegie Mellon University. “Only the very best producers can make lithium-ion batteries for automotive use.”

Ohio, Pennsylvania plan interstate system for managing road work

May 20, 2019

Announced last month by the state of Ohio, the project, called the Work Zone Reservation and Traveler Information System, or WZRTIS, is a partnership between the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission, an autonomous and connected vehicle initiative called DriveOhio, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission…

An early planning document shows states plan to build the system using “an open platform to ensure future scalability to local municipalities, partners, and other state transportation agencies. Agencies would have the ability to integrate the WZRTIS into their own [information technology systems], operational, and data systems and processes, and would manage ongoing maintenance and operations.”

Talks on this project originated, Newbacher said, through a body called the Smart Belt Coalition, a group of state government agencies and universities from Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan.

RoadBotics Aims To Help Municipalities Better Decide Which Roads To Pave And When

May 20, 2019

Street maintenance can be a Sisyphean task. Like in the myth of the Greek king sentenced to push a boulder up a hill for all of eternity, the work of paving and filling potholes and cracks is never really done.

But Pittsburgh company RoadBotics is working to make the task a little less maddening for municipalities, by creating a detailed, interactive map of road conditions.

Each of the company’s drivers is equipped with two smartphones. One phone is affixed on the car dashboard and continuously takes a high definition video of the roadway. The other phone tells the driver the route to take, following municipality-owned and maintained roads.

After the drive is complete, the video is uploaded to a company cloud. Then, the artificial intelligence takes over.

“It basically chops up that video into images,” said Shane Witt, a business development representative at RoadBotics. “So you get an image for every 10 foot length of road.”

Editorial: Route 30 study needs to be realistic

May 16, 2019

North Huntingdon is one of those clogs in the pipes. It has a rich mix of businesses and a lot of traffic. What it needs is a better way for the two to flow together.

The municipality has recognized that and is going to work with Carnegie Mellon University to find out where the artery is clotting and how it can be treated.

Hopefully the $80,000 study comes up with manageable recommendations that can support not just the traffic but the businesses that line the road.

No doubt the study will show best practices and things that would be ideal.

But just like a visit to a cardiologist can result in very good advice about diet and exercise, it only works if it involves changes that can be incorporated easily and sustained for the long haul.

CMU, North Huntingdon to join in Route 30 study to improve mobility

May 13, 2019

“We want to look at the broader issue of mobility,” North Huntingdon Assistant Manager Michael Turley said.

Turley’s challenge to CMU was to find a solution to alleviate congestion, while ensuring safety and anticipating travel demands, said Lisa Schweyer, program manager for Traffic 21, one of the CMU groups that will study the problem….

The mobility challenges presented by North Huntingdon and the Airport Corridor Transportation Association were selected by Traffic 21 and Mobility 21 based on the availability of data to answer their problems. The challenges had to match the strengths of CMU’s Mobility Analytics Center team. The Hillman Family Foundation and the National University Transportation Center at CMU are funding the $80,000 study.

“Smart transportation is not just for Smart Cities,” said Stan Caldwell, executive director of Traffic 21 and Mobility 21.

New App Allows Vision-Impaired Guests to Navigate PIT

May 7, 2019

Airports can be confusing places. Loud, sprawling and ever-changing, even the most confident people sometimes pause and look around to get their bearings.

Now imagine standing in that terminal and being blind.

A group of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University did just that while developing a smartphone app to help vision-impaired people navigate indoor spaces. In fact, one of them didn’t have to imagine at all.

Chieko Asakawa lost her vision as a child.

“She has been working in accessibility for over 30 years at IBM Research,” said fellow researcher Kris Kitani, an assistant research professor at CMU’s Robotics Institute. The two met when Asakawa brought her accessibility work to CMU, where Kitani was researching computer vision, using video and images to understand the world.

5 reasons why autonomous cars aren’t coming

May 5, 2019

Sandstorms, rain, fog and heavy snow can block the view of the cameras. Light beams think that they are barriers and can bounce snowflakes off. It does not show the shape of a thing needed to determine what it’s, although radar is able to browse through the weather.

“It’s like losing part of your vision,” says Raj Rajkumar, a computer engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University.

Researchers are working on laser sensors which use a light beam wavelength to determine through snowflakes, stated Greg McGuire, director of this MCity autonomous car testing laboratory at the University of Michigan. Software also has been developed so vehicles may differentiate between snowflakes and actual obstructions, rain, fog, and other ailments.

But a lot of businesses are still attempting to learn the task of driving a clear day with grip.

There’s Talk Of $2 Trillion For Infrastructure. How Should The U.S. Spend It?

May 5, 2019

WBUR On Point With Meghna Chakrabarti

President Trump and Democratic leaders say they’ll champion a $2 trillion infrastructure package. It’s purely aspirational for now. But let’s think big — how would you spend it?

Tanya Snyder, transportation for Politico. (@TSnyderDC)

Stan Caldwell, executive director of Mobility21 National University Transportation Center, one of five U.S. Department of Transportation university research centers. Professor of Transportation and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University. (@HeinzCollege)

Preventing Landslides: Carnegie Mellon working on spotting hillside issues early

May 1, 2019

Imagine stopping a landslide before it happens.
“They know that there’s a problem, they know it’s affecting mobility, roads are getting shut down, it’s affecting people’s homes,” said Karen Lightman.

Lightman is the executive director of Metro21 Smart Cities, a Carnegie Mellon initiative that joins the research and assets of CMU with municipalities to make living easier…

The city of Pittsburgh is spending millions on remediation and prevention. It’s spend over $500,000 so far this year, with nearly $2 million in awarded contracts…

Turns out, a CMU professor who does work with Metro21 had already been working on the problem.

Christoph Mertz helped start Roadbotics. The company uses a smartphone mounted on a windshield to drive roads, use artificial intelligence to determine their health, then make a recommendation about fixing them before they get too bad.

Mertz is hoping to apply the same technology to hillsides.

New project to ‘revolutionize’ road work-zone safety

April 30, 2019

Gov. Mike DeWine said he’s commited for Ohio to be a leader in transportation technology. To prove it, he’s worked to create a new project that will make roads and workzones safer — both for drivers and the workers.

DeWine entered a partnership with DriveOhio and the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission (OTIC) to create a project that will “dramatically improve” the way Ohio and Pennsylvania manage work zones and increase safety for employees and the traveling public.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) recently awarded a $2.69 million Advanced Transportation and Congestion Management Technologies Deployment grant to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation with the OTIC and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission as co-recipients for their Work Zone Reservation and Traveler Information System (WZRTIS).

The WZRTIS project was originated in the Smart Belt Coalition and will enhance work zone operations and safety by providing accurate, standardized and real-time work zone information across nearly 41,000 miles of roadway through Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Pittsburgh’s driving the driverless future

April 25, 2019

It’s no surprise autonomous vehicle development has rooted itself firmly in Pittsburgh considering Carnegie Mellon University’s claim as the birthplace of self-driving technology…

Currently, four AV companies are testing cars on Pittsburgh public roads, and they are becoming increasingly more visible. Fifty-three percent of cyclists and 61 percent of pedestrians surveyed by BikePGH in February said they interacted with a self-driving car on the road.

And the number of people who work at the region’s AV companies is on the rise: In its 2017-2018 Inflection Point update report, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development reported a 324 percent year-over-year growth in job openings related to autonomous vehicles, with 288 job openings in the AV industry during the 12-month period recorded…

On the following pages, we check in with the companies that are driving Pittsburgh’s position as a leader in the AV revolution to see where they are at.

Tesla gears up for fully self-driving cars amid skepticism

April 24, 2019

Phil Koopman, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, said Mr. Musk needs to show his cars can handle all situations if he wants to claim they can drive themselves. For instance, he wonders if Tesla has a plan for a big truck splashing gallons of grimy water onto a car in a snowstorm, obstructing the cameras.

“The rabbit hole goes pretty deep if you want to make that [full self-driving] argument,” he said.

Tesla already has been offering a system called “Autopilot” that can control cars on a limited basis with constant monitoring by a human driver. On its website, it says the Autopilot system steers your car in its lane and accelerates and brakes automatically for other vehicles and pedestrians in its lane. But questions already have been raised about Autopilot’s reliability after its involvement in three fatal crashes.

5 Reasons Experts Think Autonomous Cars Are Many Years Away

April 24, 2019

When it’s heavy enough to cover the pavement, snow blocks the view of lane lines that vehicle cameras use to find their way. Researchers so far haven’t figured out a way around this. That’s why much of the testing is done in warm-weather climates such as Arizona and California.

Heavy snow, rain, fog and sandstorms can obstruct the view of cameras. Light beams sent out by laser sensors can bounce off snowflakes and think they are obstacles. Radar can see through the weather, but it doesn’t show the shape of an object needed for computers to figure out what it is.

“It’s like losing part of your vision,” says Raj Rajkumar, an electrical and computer engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University.

Here’s what’s bringing 125+ VCs to Pittsburgh next month

April 23, 2019

Investor attendees signed up for the region’s upcoming robotics and artificial intelligence venture fair have increased by 25 percent over the initial event last year and are expected to go even higher as Pittsburgh’s reputation as a hot bed for startups continues to accelerate.

The fair, developed by Carnegie Mellon University and Innovation Works, will be held at CMU’s Swartz Center on May 16. Last year’s was the region’s first venture fair to focus on a specific industry.

“We have 125 investors signed up and could reach 150 by May 10,” said Gary Glausser, IW CIO. “We’re pretty excited and getting some of the top firms who only invest in AI, robotics and machine-learning.”…

“I think the sophistication level and quality of VCs has gone up,” said Mark DeSantis, CEO of RoadBotics which also presented in 2018. “Last year for us was more of a set up for this year. We were pretty far along with our fundraising then, but I wanted to preview it. It got us good contacts and a running start for our Series A round.”

Designers Could Soon Adhere to UL’s Safety Standards

April 23, 2019

Underwriters Laboratories (UL) is doing a cannonball into the deep end of the “autonomous standards” pool.

By the end of this year, designers of self-driving vehicles, mining robots, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and a plethora of other industrial systems featuring autonomy could be adhering to an emerging UL Standard, dubbed UL 4600, that would cover autonomous product safety.

At least this is the goal set by the UL and the Edge Case Research (ECR) – who are collaborating on the still embryonic UL4600…

So, how does UL 4600 differ from SOTIF (also known as ISO 21448)?

Phil Koopman, professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering at Carnegie Mellon Univ. and CTO of ECR, made it very clear, “UL 4600 is not being developed to supplant SOTIF.”

Riccardo Mariani, Intel Fellow and functional safety technologist, who is active in SOTIF development, agreed.

Community buy-in and open dialogue are key in city, academia collaboration

April 23, 2019

In a recent interview with Smart Cities Dive, Karen Lightman, executive director of the university’s Metro21: Smart Cities Institute, said the organization has been successful in assisting Pittsburgh’s pilot programs and initiatives due to the deliberate nature with which it chooses the projects it works on with the city…

“We don’t want to run your streets like we’re Carnegie Mellon,” she said. “We’re a research institute. We’re also not consultants. So we’re not going to run your streets for you but we’re going to show you how to do it efficiently and effectively and then you decide. You make the policy decision, you make the investment and if you want to do this. Again, it’s technology as a tool, not a guide.”

Savannah has been named a finalist for the Smart City Award

April 23, 2019

The City of Savannah has been named a finalist in the Transportation/Infrastructure category for its partnership with the company Roadbotics. It’s a recognition bestowed by International Data Corporation’s 2019 Smart Cities North America Awards. Roadbotics worked with the city to create a database of road infrastructure conditions through machine learning technology that grades every mile of the Savannah road network.

Economic development is priority for Sandy Twp.

April 23, 2019

One of the biggest priorities on Sandy Township’s list is local economic development, according to Manager Shawn Arbaugh…

The township is also planning a five-year capital program for vehicles and equipment, in addition to a 10-year plan for township roads, he said.

RoadBotics, of Pittsburgh, takes hundreds of thousands of photos of roadways and then runs them through a computer modeling system to identify defects, Arbaugh said.

“It’s really great because you have all these photos cataloged so you can always go back and take a look at the defects and repairs needed,” said Arbaugh. “It just gives you a nice mapping of your roadways. So we’re looking forward to partnering with them.”

One of the things RoadBotics doesn’t have any experience with is dirt and gravel roads, Arbaugh said.

“They actually told us they could do those roads for us for free to help develop their software that they’re working on. So we’re going to partner with them later this year on that project,” he said.

North Carolina trying to attract more ‘cleantech’ companies

April 23, 2019

“The Joules Accelerator goes out and tries to identify cleantech early-stage companies that can come back to our region between Charlotte and Raleigh and hopefully engage the community,” said Bob Irvin, executive director of the Joules Accelerator.

“A lot of it is happening out in California, Texas and New York, so we kind of have to bring it here,” Irvin said.

So they did. Eight startups from around the country were selected for this year’s program. One is based in Pittsburgh and has figured out a way to use cell phones to find potholes.

“Roadbotics assesses roads using a standard cellphone and AI (artificial intelligence),” said Roadbotics CEO Mark Desantis.

Their customers are usually cities, which can then save taxpayer money by using technology to be proactive in road maintenance.

Volvo taught its cars to warn each other about icy roads

April 23, 2019

The Swedish company is also offering a “hazard light alert” across Europe. If one vehicle turns on its hazard lights, others get notified. While Volvo has already offered this features for a couple years in Sweden and Norway, they’re now rolling it out to the rest of Europe.

This kind of network-powered safety feature, coming straight from the car—as opposed to a smartphone app—is a “logical next step” in the field, says Christoph Mertz, a principal project scientist at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute. Incorporating this type of technology into traditional cars also represents a type of halfway point between older, low-tech cars at one end of the spectrum, and fully autonomous vehicles, like those operated by Waymo, Cruise, or, at the other.

“You see that the car manufacturers, they’re doing one step after another,” Mertz adds. “Whereas other companies are trying to do autonomy all at once.”

Aptiv opens autonomous mobility center in China

April 23, 2019

U.S. auto-parts supplier Aptiv said on Wednesday it was opening an autonomous mobility center in Shanghai, in a push to position its self-driving vehicles in China.

The center in the world’s biggest auto market would be one of Aptiv’s major autonomous driving engineering hubs, alongside Boston, Singapore, Pittsburgh and Las Vegas, the company said.

The Shanghai unit will focus on Aptiv’s L4 or level 4 technology that will allow cars to pilot themselves without a human driver under certain conditions.

Aptiv said it was in talks with partners for mapping and commercial deployment of its vehicles in China.

The 6 Most Common Traffic Jams in Pittsburgh

April 18, 2019

Bad Red Lights
Sometimes the timing’s just not right, in life and in stoplights. The stoplights at the intersection of Fifth and Penn Avenue out toward Centre Avenue in the East Liberty/Bakery Square corridor are due for an improvement. “That area is going to be a nightmare because it’s only going to get busier,” says Stiller. “They’re going to have to use the smart traffic signals CMU developed.”

Route 19 in the South Hills could also do with re-timed stop lights. The stoplights controlling the intersections of Route 19 with side minor side streets often cause stoppage during peak traffic times. “That light will flip red and stop 50 cars to let two or three out,” he says. “Maybe the side streets should pile up to six or seven cars before you stop a hundred.”