PennDOT gets $8.4 million federal grant to study self-driving vehicles in work zones

September 19, 2019

PennDOT on Wednesday received an $8.4 million federal grant that it will use over four years to develop a system to allow self-driving vehicles to navigate safely through work zones.

The grant was the largest of eight awards worth nearly $60 million announced by U.S Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to study various safety factors for self-driving vehicles…

In its application, PennDOT said it plans to work with a team of consultants to develop computer simulations of self-driving vehicles moving through construction zones, followed by controlled tests at a test track at Penn State University in State College and live tests at active construction sites.

PennDOT has assembled a nine-member team for the project, including Carnegie Mellon University and PPG Paints.
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New RoadBotics president talks rapid expansion plans for the AI company

September 16, 2019

Ben Schmidt, who took the reins at RoadBotics last week from former CEO Mark DeSantis, said he has plans in place to scale the company significantly…

RoadBotics employs 50 people at its East Liberty office, and Schmidt said he expects that headcount to rise to about 60 to 75 people in the next few months. He said the company has no plans to move out of its fourth floor offices at the Beauty Shoppe coworking space.

Schmidt said RoadBotics, which currently has over 150 government clients both domestically and internationally, intends to “rapidly expand.” The company’s clients are concentrated on the East Coast, and Schmidt said he’s hoping to gain more clients across the country.

While most of the company’s customers are medium to large local governments—including in Savannah, Georgia and South Bend, Indiana— Schmidt said he wants RoadBotics to increase its small government clients and partnerships with engineering firms in the infrastructure management industry.
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Ohio Announces DOT Grant for Automated Driving Program

September 12, 2019

The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded an Ohio-based team of industry, academic and community partners a $7.5 million grant to develop self-driving vehicles.

The grant, which the Ohio Department of Transportation announced Sept. 10, will be used to develop and deploy automated transportation systems on the state’s rural roads and highways.

DriveOhio and the Transportation Research Center (TRC) will lead a team of partners, including Ohio State University, Ohio University and the University of Cincinnati, to test the safe integration of automated driving systems over four years…

The total investment in this project will be $17.8 million: $7.5 million from the federal government and $10.3 million from the partners in matching funds.
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Spotting a fire truck ahead is easy for people, but not so for self-driving cars

September 9, 2019

The sensors on a Tesla and other cars are relatively good at following a vehicle in the same lane and adjusting speed to maintain a safe distance. But when a vehicle changes lanes — known as the “cut-out scenario” — it can leave the trailing vehicle’s sensors struggling to assess what’s ahead.

“The cut-out is one of the hardest scenarios,” said Phil Koopman, an engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University and co-founder of Edge Case Research, a Pittsburgh-based autonomous vehicle technology company. “There’s no question about that.”

The radar and camera system on the Tesla involved in the Jan. 22, 2018, crash in Culver City, California, didn’t “see” the fire truck in time to brake, according to the NTSB. The car’s automatic braking system didn’t activate, though it gave the driver a collision warning 0.49 seconds before impact, the investigation found.
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Autonomous Vehicles Are Reshaping The Tech World

September 9, 2019

“Automakers are finding out this is too big a job for any one company, so they’re finding ways to pay for development and propagate this technology into the market gradually to help pay for the rest,” said Roger Lanctot, director of the automotive connected mobility practice at Strategy Analytics. “None of them can solve all the problems on their own.”

Some of these partnerships are in place simply to reduce cost or as a response to a short-term shortage of something very specific, according to Stan Caldwell, executive director of the Transportation Center for Safety, Traffic21 and Mobility21—U.S. Dept. of Transportation-affiliated research institutes focused on transportation safety.

Today, nearly all the major automotive OEMs have close alliances with at least one other car company, often to share the cost of the AV platform or the effort of developing an artificial intelligence (AI) pilot for the new, connected cars. The mesh of automotive partnerships helps spread costs over a wider area.
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Machine learning can help us predict landslides caused by climate change

September 6, 2019

Christoph Mertz, the principal project scientist at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute, started taking pictures of the hills overlooking Pittsburgh’s West End on his smartphone.

“Every day, for months, I was collecting images of these hillsides,” Mertz said. “I wanted to see if I could use these pictures as a way to predict the next landslide.”

For Mertz, Pittsburgh was a prime location for this work. In 2018, Allegheny County experienced an unprecedented number of landslides, resulting in damage to at least 131 properties. By the end of the year, PennDOT estimated that the cost to fix all of the county’s landslide-related damage was about $40 million. Not only does this amount look daunting, it seems wholly unanticipated. Last year, the City of Pittsburgh exceeded its allotted $1 million annual landslide remediation budget in just a few months. However, according to Karen Lightman, executive director of Metro21: Smart Cities Institute, 2018 wasn’t an outlier—it’s the new normal.
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Study finds big benefits in embracing vehicle safety tech

September 6, 2019

Alerting drivers to potential threats through “driver-assist” warning systems has been shown to reduce the odds of a crash. Using cameras or radar, each tool detects potentially dangerous anomalies, such as drifting from a lane, and alerts drivers to the threat.

A study by Carnegie Mellon University researchers published in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention lays out the costs and benefits of three driver-assist technologies: blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning and forward collision warning. The researchers find that, if these warning systems were installed on all cars in the US, the resulting reduction in crashes would put a lot of money back into consumers’ pockets.

“We don’t have to wait for a future with fully self-driving cars to realize a lot of the benefits of sensing and automation,” said Corey Harper, a presidential postdoctoral fellow in Civil and Environmental Engineering, who led the research. “A lot of crashes can be avoided with today’s tech.”
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Climate Change Is Causing More Landslides, Machine Learning Can Help Predict Where

September 3, 2019

Christoph Mertz, the principal project scientist at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute, started taking pictures of the hills overlooking Pittsburgh’s West End on his smartphone.

“Every day, for months, I was collecting images of these hillsides,” Mertz said. “I wanted to see if I could use these pictures as a way to predict the next landslide.”…

For Mertz, Pittsburgh was a prime location for this work. In 2018, Allegheny County experienced an unprecedented number of landslides, resulting in damage to at least 131 properties. By the end of the year, PennDOT estimated that the cost to fix all of the county’s landslide-related damage was about $40 million. Not only does this amount look daunting, it seems wholly unanticipated. Last year, the City of Pittsburgh exceeded its allotted $1 million annual landslide remediation budget in just a few months. However, according to Karen Lightman, executive director of Metro21: Smart Cities Institute, 2018 wasn’t an outlier — it’s the new normal.
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Here’s the Real Reason DARPA Is Looking for ‘Underground Urban Tunnels’ for ‘Research and Experimentation’

August 30, 2019

Jared B. Adams, DARPA’s chief of communications, told TIME via email that the agency is looking for new technology to explore these spaces because they can be “significant challenges” in combat situations or during disaster responses….

Although the technology being developed by the DARPA competitors isn’t as exotic as demogorgons, it seems to be on the cutting edge of underground technology. The winner of the first event was Team Explorer, which used robots to map and search research mines in Pennsylvania for objects in a simulated mine disaster. According to Carnegie Mellon University, which is working on the project with Oregon State University, the team designed and built two ground vehicles and two drones for the purpose.
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A Cave Is No Place for Humans, So DARPA Is Sending In the Robots

August 27, 2019

utside its cavernous passageways, the mine’s entrance is emblazoned in red lettering that reads “Safety Research Coal Mine.” This site is just one of two mine systems at the Bruceton Research Center in Pittsburgh. They were once part of a full mine system but were split apart for research purposes after the U.S. Bureau of Mines leased 38 acres of land from the Pittsburgh Coal Company in 1910.

For more than a century, the U.S. government has been using these facilities to create and assess technologies that will help keep miners safe. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health’s (NIOSH) Pittsburgh Research Laboratory tests everything you could imagine, from how coal dust behaves to how to improve rescue missions when disaster strikes.

But tests were put on hold for eight days this August. Instead, the mines served as a testbed for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) latest endeavor: The Subterranean Challenge, or Sub-T for short.
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Can we travel the world without destroying it?

August 27, 2019

Are we due another revolution in human flight, one which powers air travel with zero-carbon technology? The great hope is that electric aeroplanes could oust the current fleet of commercial airliners which rely on fossil fuels.

Electric batteries are replacing combustion engines in road vehicles at such a rate that by 2030, electric cars are expected to make up one-third of the car market.

Meanwhile, most electric aeroplane prototypes are grounded on the drawing board. Venkat Viswanathan, Shashank Sripad and William Leif Fredericks – all experts in mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University in the US – believe it’s because batteries can’t store as much energy per weight as liquid fuels. This, they say makes batteries relatively heavy for aviation. As they explain:
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Carnegie Mellon and Oregon State team wins first leg of DARPA Subterranean Challenge robot competition

August 27, 2019

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) kicked off the Subterranean Challenge in December 2017, with the goal of equipping future warfighters and first responders with tools to rapidly map, navigate, and search hazardous underground environments. The final winner of the four-event competition won’t be selected until 2021, but Team Explorer from Carnegie Mellon University and Oregon State University managed to best rivals for the initial prize.

On four occasions during the eight-day Tunnel Circuit event, which concluded today, each team deployed multiple robots into National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health research mines in South Park Township, Pennsylvania, tasked with autonomously navigating mud and water and communicating with each other and a base station for an hour at a time as they searched for objects.
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Finding big savings in driver-assisted safety tech

August 22, 2019

Driver-assisted safety systems reduce the likelihood of crashes. How much would society benefit if they were installed on all cars? More than $20 billion, according to research from CMU…

The average crash represents more than $160,000 in combined private and public costs, according to recent research by Samaras and colleagues…

The study, led by CEE Ph.D. graduate Corey Harper and published in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention, lays out the costs and benefits of three driver-assist technologies: blind-spot monitoring (BSM), lane-departure warning (LDW), and forward collision warning (FCW). The researchers find that, if these warning systems were installed on all cars in the US, the resulting reduction in crashes would put a lot of money back in our collective pockets.
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1 big thing: Curbing roadside chaos

August 21, 2019

State of play: This mismatch of supply and demand has spurred cities and suburbs to think about treating curbs like a public utility and charging for access to them. That includes designating more zones for ride-hail pickup and drop-off, deciding where e-bikes and e-scooters should dock — and charging more when demand is high.

Enter tech: A slew of startups see a golden opportunity to restore order to the curb with maps, data, sensors and apps.

CurbFlow has entered a 3-month pilot project with Washington, D.C.’s Department of Transportation to monitor curbside parking.
Passport, a curbside payment software platform, has pilots in Charlotte, Detroit and Omaha to analyze scooter usage patterns to determine how to charge for curb space.
Inrix, an analytics firm, partnered with nonprofit Open Transport Partnership’s SharedStreets to create a standard for street-level data, including curbs.
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Village Utilizes State of the Art RoadBotics for Street Assessment

August 21, 2019

Beginning on Friday, August 2, 2019, RoadBotics, and industry leader in road assessments will conduct an assessment of Skokie’s streets. During the assessment period, a RoadBotics certified operations technician will drive all 145 miles of Skokie’s road network using a passenger vehicle equipped with a windshield-mounted smartphone. After the data is gathered, RoadBotics will upload the collected video to its secure cloud for analysis by a cutting-edge machine learning technology that will identify road surface damage.
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DENSO Launches First Smart Mobility Ecosystem In Dublin, Ohio

August 16, 2019

DENSO announced today it is investing $1.42 million to launch a Smart Mobility Ecosystem in Dublin, Ohio, designed to enhance transportation. In the project, DENSO is working with a coalition of municipal, state, business and academic partners to test and implement infrastructure technologies, create value-added mobility services, and gather previously untapped data that are vital to increasing road and pedestrian safety and reducing travel times…

DENSO is currently working with the following partners in Ohio to implement its Smart Mobility Ecosystem:

The City of Dublin, an innovative municipality that will beta-test a strategically targeted transportation corridor that includes both roundabouts and signalized intersections.

The Ohio State University, whose researchers at its Center for Automotive Research will provide a range of smart mobility solutions, including data services and analytics.
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Advanced traffic management is the next big thing for smart cities

August 16, 2019

Advanced traffic management technologies such as adaptive traffic control and traffic analytics can improve safety and significantly decrease traffic congestion levels and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

For example, Pittsburgh deployed Rapid Flow Technology’s Surtrac system at 50 intersections across the city. The decentralized system uses a combination of video detection and radar to detect vehicle traffic and adjust signals in real-time using artificial intelligence-driven software. Results from the implementation have been substantial: travel times have been reduced by 26 percent, wait times at intersections are down 41 percent and vehicle emissions have been reduced by 21 percent…

Navigant Research estimates that the global market for advanced traffic management will be worth more than $1.1 billion in 2019. Annual revenue is expected to grow to nearly $3.8 billion by 2028, representing a compound annual growth rate of 14.2 percent.
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US robotics teams gear up for DARPA mine challenge

August 16, 2019

Explorer, a collaboration between Carnegie Mellon University and Oregon State University, is one of the teams competing. Comprised of around 30 faculty, staff members and students, the team will be using a pair of ground robots and a pair of drones to take on the missions. Explorer has been testing its robots ahead of the SubT Challenge at the Tour-Ed Mine in Pennsylvania.

“This is a task that requires robot autonomy, perception, networking, and mobility for us to be successful,” said team co-leader Sebastian Scherer, from Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute.
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Carnegie Mellon’s prestigious computer science school has a new leader

August 9, 2019

The incoming dean of Carnegie Mellon University’s renowned School of Computer Science is a roboticist and head of CMU’s Robotics Institute who has been a university faculty member for 35 years.

Martial Hebert has served as the institute’s director since 2014 and is known among colleagues as a top researcher in the areas of computer vision, robotics and artificial intelligence…

Carnegie Mellon officials said computer science faculty and students have spearheaded development of self-driving cars, and that is an area in which Martial Hebert was a key researcher.
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Too much rain is messing with pipeline operators’ infrastructure plans

August 7, 2019

Costa Samaras, an engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University, said companies building energy infrastructure have to adhere to safety standards, but very few of the standards have been updated to account for how the climate is changing.

As a result, most new infrastructure isn’t designed to withstand the conditions it will face decades from now.

Take storm drains, for example.

The state says a drain has to handle a certain size storm, an engineer looks up how much average rainfall is associated with that storm in that spot and then determines how big the pipe has to be to carry that amount of water under a road.

“The challenge is that that information is based on the rainstorms in the 20th century,” he said. “That is fine if the rain patterns don’t change, but the rain patterns are changing.
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Will you make your flight? Pittsburgh International now has technology to tell you

August 1, 2019

Few things can get the heart racing and the stomach gurgling like waiting in a long airport security line and freaking out over whether you will make your flight.

Pittsburgh International Airport has found a way to ease your mind — or confirm your worst fears.

Airport officials have teamed with Oakland-based software firm Zensors to tell travelers how long they will be waiting to clear security, give or take a couple of minutes…

Anuraag Jain, head of product at Carnegie Mellon University spinoff Zensors, said the project is the start of efforts to use artificial intelligence to help travelers in the often stress-filled airport environment.

“We’re applying deep learning in a way that can really become a game changer for passengers and airport operations,” he said in a statement. “We’re excited to help turn Pittsburgh into the world’s smartest airport.”
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City having college students perform cyberattacks to find vulnerabilities

July 31, 2019

The City of Pittsburgh is taking steps to protect drivers from a possible cyberattack.

Last year, the city partnered with Carnegie Mellon University to fend off potential hackers in its smart traffic system…

“We looked at wireless vulnerabilities, radio frequencies, the website itself and the cameras themselves,” said Madison Oliver, one of four CMU students who worked on the project.

She said the goal was to find vulnerabilities in the system and warn the city where problems could occur.
For security reasons, city of Pittsburgh officials and CMU declined to release any specific vulnerabilities found in the traffic system.

CMU faculty adviser Kyle O’Meara said ransomware and malware attacks have garnered more media attention but an attack on infrastructure could be very dangerous.
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Allegheny County releases interactive map locating landslides

July 30, 2019

Allegheny County will roll out a comprehensive website charting the locations of landslides and slide-prone areas across the county and offering information that municipalities and residents can use to detect, prevent and remediate slides.

The county Landslide Portal includes an interactive map showing the locations of reported slides, areas susceptible to slides and roads owned by the county and the state. It also provides information on the causes, types and effects of slides, best practices for dealing with them and contact information for emergency management coordinators for each municipality…

County Executive Rich Fitzgerald last year established a landslides task force headed by Shanley and Emergency Services Chief Matt Brown. It included state and federal conservation officials along with representatives from the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University.
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‘Why not fly over it?’ Uber picks New Jersey firms in ambitious bid to beat traffic congestion

July 29, 2019

Two local companies are in the vanguard of building Uber’s latest venture of dominating cities’ skies through air taxis, a project called Uber Elevate…

But that independence comes with regulatory risks, something that Rahul Mangharam, associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s school of engineering and applied science, is researching solutions for.

“It’s going to be a very congested sky,” said Mangharam, who studies urban air mobility, specifically regarding drones delivering food or packages. “You want to make sure that each flight plan is safe by design, and that even if they do mess up for some reason, they have a fallback option.”

Mangharam and his doctoral students created Fly-by-Logic, an unmanned system that coordinates air traffic for small aerial vehicles such as drones or air taxis. They test the system at the Pennovation Center in Grays Ferry, and it works like a three-dimensional GPS for the sky…

With the lack of regulations or formal systems in place, Mangharam doubts that air taxis will be officially available by Uber’s ambitious 2023 date.
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Gatik begins using robot vans to haul goods between Walmarts in Arkansas

July 26, 2019

Retail giant Walmart today revealed that it has launched a pilot with Gatik — a two-year-old startup developing an autonomous vehicle stack for B2B short-haul logistics — to ferry customer orders between select store locations in Bentonville, Arkansas. The announcement comes months after the Arkansas legislature approved a Walmart-backed proposal allowing companies to test self-driving vehicles on public roads and highways.

The collaboration marks the latest in a series of driverless delivery efforts kicked off by Walmart in recent years…

The Palo Alto, California-based startup (which has offices in Toronto) is the brainchild of Carnegie Mellon graduate and CEO Gautam Narang and CTO Arjun Narang, brothers and cofounders who have worked together in the field of robotics, AI, and machine learning for over 10 years.
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