Gondolas to work? Pittsburgh Parking Authority could have new focus in coming years, mayor says

January 28, 2020

Gondolas, autonomous vehicles, and yes, even bicycles — the Pittsburgh Parking Authority might get some new assignments if Mayor Bill Peduto can make it happen.

Mr. Peduto floated a plan Monday to turn the Pittsburgh Parking Authority into the “Pittsburgh Mobility Authority,” tasked with the mission of finding unconventional ways of moving people in the 21st-century Steel City.

“It’s not about parking cars. But it’s about marinas along the North Shore. It’s about a gondola system that allows us to get from different areas because of our topography in the most effective, efficient and practical way,” he said. “It’s about the use of driverless vehicles that run on electricity that are part of our inner mobility system. And yes, it’s about bikes because for a lot of people that’s their mode of transportation.”
More>>

Amazon, DHL and IKEA front new group that’s pushing for more electric vehicles

January 23, 2020

Amazon.com, AT&T Inc., DHL Express USA Inc. and other select companies with major delivery fleets and their accompanying heavy carbon footprints are banding together for an electric-vehicle collaboration expected to keep up the pressure on the EV industry and the corporations that dominate American roads.

The group comes together under the guidance of nonprofit sustainable-investing advocate Ceres to help accelerate the transition to EVs, a key component of tackling the climate crisis, they said in a joint release Wednesday.

The Corporate Electric Vehicle Alliance is also expected to nudge the EV market to update and diversify its offerings by signaling the breadth and scale of corporate demand for these options.
More>>

Could this very odd-looking electric car convince you to ditch your SUV?

January 23, 2020

A new electric vehicle called the Canoo, which will launch next year and opened a waitlist for customers on January 21, looks very little like a traditional car…

The basic shape of a car hasn’t really changed over a century, with space for an engine, space for passengers, and space for luggage, all arranged in basically the same configuration. But because powerful electric motors and batteries are smaller than a standard powertrain, the whole shape of the vehicle could transform, if car designers were feeling creative. Canoo designed what it calls a “skateboard,” a thin platform that holds the battery cells, powertrain, and suspension, leaving room for a spacious jelly bean-shaped pod on top. “Inside the vehicle, it is as big as a big Suburban, but the footprint of the vehicle is smaller than a Toyota Prius,” Kranz says.
More>>

Self-driving big-rig trucks coming soon? Waymo set to begin mapping interstates in Texas, New Mexico

January 23, 2020

The Lone Star State may become a little lonelier – at least when it comes to big-rig trucking.

Waymo, the self-driving vehicle division of Google parent Alphabet, is about to start mapping in Texas and New Mexico as a prelude to testing its self-driving big-rig trucks. The mapping minivans, to be followed by the large trucks, will run primarily along Interstates 10, 20 and 45 and through metropolitan areas like El Paso, Dallas and Houston, the company said.

Waymo previously mapped and tested its big rigs in Arizona, California and Georgia. The latest move will add to that footprint as the company moves toward its vision of big rigs rolling down interstates with no one at the wheel, their sensors and computers making them safer than if they have a human in control.
More>>

GIS Drives Superhighway to Analytics Future

January 23, 2020

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is dispatching state police and emergency crews after an accident, clearing the roads after an incident, performing snow removal, and scheduling roadwork. Thanks to the geographic information experts at the commission, now there’s an app for that, too. At least there is in Pennsylvania.

Actually, it’s more like a whole host of applications, backed by data and infrastructure created by a geographic information systems team at the turnpike commission, using technology services from GIS vendor Esri, and working with the commission’s 80 years of data. Although analytics programs have been in place for years, the official project to turn geographic information into internal products that can be used by the multiple departments within the turnpike commission — called GeoAnalytics — is only a little more than a year old. But it already has changed how the organization can leverage geographic information.
More>>

Tech revolution could worsen global inequality: WEF report

January 23, 2020

Global inequality is going to worsen unless governments do more to ensure that those most affected by rapid technological change are not just cast aside and forgotten, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF).

As it prepares for its annual Davos, Switzerland, gathering of leaders this week from the worlds of business, politics and finance, the WEF said it is time to change the fact that a person’s lot in life is still largely determined by his socio-economic status at birth.

The result, it said, is that societies “too often reproduce rather than reduce historic inequalities”.

The WEF yesterday released the findings of its social mobility report. The Global Social Mobility Index benchmarks 82 economies, assessing their levels of mobility in 10 fields including health, education, technology and wages.
More>>

Audi to Test New Connected-Car Technology

January 23, 2020

Audi of America is joining with Qualcomm and the Virginia Department of Transportation to demonstrate a new cellular-based car communications technology that backers say will make roads safer.

The German automaker plans to equip a limited number of Q8 SUVs with cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) transmitters, Audi and Qualcomm said in a statement today.

The V2X communications system would work on certain roads in northern Virginia in a type of test pilot program.

Broadly speaking, V2X technology permits vehicles to send and receive messages from other road users and surrounding infrastructure, such as smart traffic lights, so drivers and vehicles can receive notifications about unseen vehicles speeding through intersections or about stopped traffic ahead. It could even apply emergency braking to prevent a crash.
More>>

A Move to Make Auto-Safety Features Speak the Same Language

January 23, 2020

Last week, the Transportation Department said it would join an effort to get everyone in the auto industry, including safety advocates, regulators, manufacturers, suppliers, dealers, and of course drivers themselves, on the same page, language-wise. “We want to make sure that drivers are aware that these systems are designed to ‘assist,’ not replace an engaged driver,” Secretary Elaine Chao told an annual research conference in Washington, DC.

The DOT endorsed a standardized list of advanced driver-assistance terminology, released late last year by the National Safety Council, AAA, Consumer Reports, and JD Power, the automotive marketing research company. The list clarifies, for example, that even when using “Active Driving Assistance” features (like General Motors’ Super Cruise, Audi’s Traffic Jam Assist, or Tesla’s Autopilot), the “driver is responsible for the primary task of driving.” Translation: Keep your eyes on the road! Some sort of advanced driver-assistance feature is available on almost all new cars sold in the US.
More>>

EXCLUSIVE LOOK AT CRUISE’S FIRST DRIVERLESS CAR WITHOUT A STEERING WHEEL OR PEDALS

January 23, 2020

Its official name is “Origin,” and Kyle Vogt, the co-founder and chief technology officer of Cruise, is clearly excited to be showing it off. With a broad smile, he reaches out and touches a button on the side, causing the doors to slide open with a little whoosh like something out of Star Wars.

Inside are two bench seats facing each other, a pair of screens on either end… and nothing else. The absence of all the stuff you expect to see when climbing into a vehicle is jarring. No steering wheel, no pedals, no gear shift, no cockpit to speak of, no obvious way for a human to take control should anything go wrong. There’s a new car smell, but it’s not unpleasant. It’s almost like cucumber-infused water.
More>>

Port Authority to test cell phone app for bus fares

January 21, 2020

The Port Authority of Allegheny County is set to begin installing equipment on buses this week that will allow riders to pay transit fares using a mobile phone.

The equipment is being installed on 50 buses on seven routes that will be testing the technology, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported on Friday. The app has been under development for more than a year through a $2 million contract with Masabi. The company will receive a declining percentage of each fare as use of the app increases.

The program will go through two rounds of testing before being made available to the public. Initial testing will be done by Port Authority employees and select groups for six weeks to make sure the monitors that read the cell phone app work properly, the Post-Gazette reported. The second round is expected to include some public participation.
More>>

Transportation Secretary Chao Highlights Autonomous Vehicles, Innovative Technologies at TRB Annual Meeting 2020

January 21, 2020

Autonomous vehicles (AV) took center stage at the Chair’s Luncheon of the Transportation Research Board’s annual meeting today. U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao announced “AV 4.0,” a new DOT-White House initiative created to unify AV efforts across 38 federal government entities, focusing chiefly on the potential of increased safety with less human error. One part of this initiative is an expansion of the Partnership for Analytics Research in Traffic Safety (PARTS) program, which is a data-sharing partnership between the government and private sector to collaborate on safety analysis. The program will expand to nearly 70 percent of the U.S. automobile market, allowing private-sector partners to learn from each other and prevent safety issues.

“The potential appeal of AVs is its ability to save thousands of lives every year,” said Chao. “AVs could also restore mobility for millions of people who face transportation challenges, such as the elderly and people with disabilities.”
More>>

Toyota’s hydrogen-powered car will do 400 miles on a single tank

January 21, 2020

The Toyota Mirai will manage over 400 miles on a single tank. It’s the first hydrogen-powered car you can own and is set for launch later this year in Japan, North America and Europe. The only problem is that hydrogen refueling stations aren’t exactly littering the countryside. This second-gen version claims up to 30% more range thanks to a redesigned fuel cell system and new three-tank layout…

Toyota first introduced its hydrogen-powered Mirai sedan back in 2014 and has since sold 10,000 models. A fuel cell mixes hydrogen with the oxygen in the air to generate electricity that can power a motor. The main challenge is a lack of infrastructure. According to the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA), there are currently just 125 hydrogen stations in the EU.
More>>

NYC OKs 9 Providers to Expand 5G Coverage

January 21, 2020

New Yorkers can expect to see metal boxes start to proliferate just above their heads as the city announced ten new franchise agreements (covering nine companies) for providers to install 5G equipment on city-owned street light poles and traffic lights, as well as some privately owned utility poles.

The New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) announced Monday the approval of ten franchise agreements negotiated by DoITT for NYC…

Initially, these companies will be permitted to install 4G and 5G equipment on street lamps, traffic lights and certain utility poles, but the aim is to eventually install the kit on Link NYC public WiFi kiosks, bus shelters and automatic toilets, subject to further city approval.

The new agreements are expected to increase 5G coverage across the five boroughs of New York, building on the eight previous agreements that allowed providers to install street furniture in the city.
More>>

Connected Car Data to Inform Ann Arbor’s Transportation Plan

January 21, 2020

The Ann Arbor Connected Environment (AACE) is considered the largest deployment of connected vehicle technology in North America, boasting more than 2,500 connected vehicles “talking” to some 75 connected intersections…

“What we’ve been trying to do is understand how we can use these new emerging technologies to improve the traffic,” said Huei Peng, director of Mcity.

“Understanding, when, where, how people travel, where are the problems like congestion or safety issues are very important,” he added.

UMTRI quickly formed relationships and partnerships with City Hall to deploy and test technologies, taking the lead to secure grants and other funding to make the urban landscape test bed a reality…

A big part of the project is understanding the depth and origins of congestion in Ann Arbor, a city of about 125,000 that swells significantly with workers serving a medical campus, as well as the traffic generated by the university.
More>>

Ride-hailing service RubyRide adding Sto-Rox pilot to South Hills testing

January 20, 2020

A new ride-hailing service already operating in the South Hills is eyeing a second test area in Pittsburgh’s suburbs.

RubyRide has a pilot program that launched in the Clairton area in late October and will be starting a second pilot Feb. 1 in areas that make up the Sto-Rox School District.

The company charges a monthly fee for as many rides as you’d like and pays its drivers as waged workers instead of gig economy contractors. It draws its funding from several sources including local businesses, organizations, and even employers.

“Our goal is to provide all of the freedom that you have with a car in the driveway without having to have a car in the driveway,” said Jeff Ericson, the company’s CEO and founder.
More>>

Players in autonomous-driving race may bet on ‘lidar as a service’

January 20, 2020

Subscription sales have helped countless software companies rack up big-time revenue. Are autonomous-driving technology startups about to borrow a page from that playbook?

After a year that saw lidar startups strike key partnerships and reel in record levels of venture dollars, their next big challenge is turning to a more pedestrian question: How best to structure their basic business model.

Lidar and perception technology startups are now scrambling to dominate the niche driverless-vehicle market. And some of them are being challenged to bundle their hardware and software solution for mass adoption, gain exposure among self-driving automakers and assist them in reducing costs.

Some in the autonomous industry are looking to the way many companies learned to position themselves as cloud-based software providers and scale operations more effectively by securing a steadier revenue stream that is likely to be more resistant to demand cycles than companies offering direct sales.
More>>

Advances in Satellite Imagery Benefit Alaskan Infrastructure

January 20, 2020

With a staff of only about 600 people, Anderson has had to rely on methods other than in-person inspection to track the condition of roads and bridges in Northern Alaska. Plane flights can help, but the most valuable tool in recent years has been high-resolution satellite imagery, not only for maintaining existing infrastructure but planning future projects.

While using satellites for this sort of coverage is nothing new, the Alaska DOT has been pushing its imagery provider into new areas. “We’ve been supporting the Northern Region for over 20 years,” says Jeremy Hale, senior manager for sales and partnerships at Maxar Technologies, a satellite imaging and spatial intelligence company.
More>>

StreetLight Data ranks 100 metros in first climate impact index

January 20, 2020

StreetLight Data, which specializes in mobility analytics, developed the index due to the transportation sector’s contribution to the growing issue of climate change, according to Vice President of Marketing Martin Morzynski. As cities look to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the transportation sector, StreetLight believes data-driven metrics are most impactful in understanding where to place investments.

The list may come as a shock to some, as New York and San Francisco — which are notorious for congestion — lead the ranking. However, Martin emphasized that the index looked outside those city limits at entire metro regions because of the impact commuters have on GHG emissions.
More>>

Introducing the Latest 5G Trend: Hiding It

January 20, 2020

Many expect the small cell market to explode in the coming years as operators work to improve their wireless networks with 5G technology and millimeter-wave spectrum. But the proliferation of small cells also raises the specter of unsightly and vaguely ominous mechanical gizmos looming over neighborhoods around the country.

“The concept of ‘not in my backyard’ has existed for years,” Fabbri acknowledged.

“Yes, people do not want to see these things,” agreed Peter Raabe, strategy director with wireless networking equipment supplier RFS.That’s why cities from Baltimore to Arvada, Colo., are taking steps to require companies like AT&T, Verizon and CommScope to make some attempt to obscure, disguise or camouflage the small cells they’re installing. “Small Cell Facilities shall use camouflage design techniques including, but not limited to the use of materials, colors, textures, screening, landscaping, or other design options that will blend the Small Cell Facilities to the surrounding natural setting,” according to new regulations in Colorado.
More>>

5G and drones are the power duo ensuring traffic efficiency in China

January 20, 2020

China is making sure it is all geared up and ready to tackle the travel rush that was about to hit Guangdong – one of its busiest southeast provinces – as the Spring Festival intensifies.

The Guangdong Provincial Department of Transportation has leveraged 5G capabilities and drone technology to help monitor road conditions and travel efficiencies.

The combination of the two technologies is certainly progressive, proactive, and tactical as high-speed connectivity will enable real-time data to be captured and analyzed by traffic management authorities.

On the other hand, the drones have been flying above major highways, consistently monitoring traffic conditions in real-time and streaming that data to relevant parties to augment transportation management.

Using artificial intelligence capabilities, the drones can identify traffic jams and accidents and immediately notify related authorities.
More>>

How to Avoid Distracted Driving at Night

January 16, 2020

Cellphones, unsurprisingly, are one of the worst contributors. Texting is particularly egregious in cars, as it’s a visual, manual, and cognitive distraction…

But another culprit you may not have thought of is your own car, says Alex Epstein, director of transportation safety at the National Safety Council.

“Vehicles themselves now have infotainment systems and other technologies that can pull one’s attention away from the task of driving,” Epstein says. “Apps that encourage drivers to use a device while driving for GPS routing, ordering food, finding parking or other tasks are unsafe [as well].”

These risk factors compound when the sun has set. “When driving in the dark, one’s depth perception, color recognition and peripheral vision can be compromised,” Epstein explains.
More>>

Why Creating An AV Business Is 10,000 Times Harder Than Building Self-Driving Tech

January 16, 2020

A first step to optimizing fleets of autonomous vehicles is to think of shared transit as the primary use case and business case for AV fleets. Traffic gurus at MIT developed an algorithm and found that 2,000 10-person vehicles could handle 95% of New York’s 14,000 cabs.

Adopting a shared model for most or all AVs should drive vehicle design (larger, multipassenger vehicles) and feature offers like Wi-Fi and entertainment to make slightly longer journeys more attractive than driving due to the opportunity to get things done during the trip.

Even without algorithmic optimization, mobility services could be more efficient incentivizing and rewarding the smart routing of vehicles (forcing them to take specific routes) and altered travel times to get people to book rides at off-peak times, according to Carnegie Mellon engineering professor Sean Qian. He studied today’s ride-hailing data, but there is no reason these kinds of rules could not be baked into AV booking apps, too.
More>>

Will Qualcomm Overtake NVIDIA in Driverless Cars?

January 16, 2020

Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM), the top mobile chipmaker in the world, generates most of its revenue from the smartphone market. But it’s also been diversifying into new markets, and connected cars are a top priority.

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Automotive modems link cars to 4G and 5G networks, and its Snapdragon Automotive Platforms bundle those modems with a CPU, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, USB, GPS, and audio connections to support infotainment and navigation systems…

NVIDIA’s Tegra chips originally competed against Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chips in the smartphone market, but Qualcomm eventually conquered the market.

NVIDIA abandoned smartphones, but it didn’t abandon Tegra. It pivoted the ARM-based chipset toward high-end automakers instead, which convinced Audi, its subsidiary Lamborghini, and Tesla Motors to install Tegra-powered infotainment and navigation systems in select vehicles in 2012.
More>>

Coming To Your Town: New Homes Built To Be EV-Ready

January 15, 2020

The US will need 9.6 million new electric vehicle charging ports by 2030. Where will all those chargers be located? According to recent research, almost 80% of those will be in single and multi-family residential buildings. That’s a big change. Homes in the US are typically built with wiring for only a few 240V outlets in the garage, just enough to handle a washer and dryer. But the International Code Council (ICC) has foreseen the need for this radical increase in EV chargers, and it approved changes to building standards in a 2020 provision that will allow all new homes built in the US to be EV-ready.
More>>

6 experts predict the most disruptive tech of 2020

January 15, 2020

“Do we really need to have flying taxis? … It would be great if we could do that to help the people in Puerto Rico who are still suffering from the effects of the hurricane and now have had two earthquakes in the past two days … but to have more rich people getting from place to place because they don’t want to be bothered by a car anymore, that bothers me.”

— Karen Lightman, executive director, Metro21: Smart Cities Institute at Carnegie Mellon University
More>>