Towering 45 feet above Lawrenceville, NREC’s latest robot is its tallest

January 10, 2019

Sometimes secretive about its projects, Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Engineering Center isn’t exactly hiding its tallest robot.

The 45-foot robot has been visible since autumn on NREC’s grounds in Lawrenceville.

“I can see it from my bedroom window in Polish Hill,” said Gabriel Goldman, technical lead for the project.

The machine is a prototype for a larger floating robot the Army Corps of Engineers will call ARMOR 1. It will bind 3,600-pound concrete blocks into mats that will be sunk into the Mississippi River to shore up its banks.
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Aurora, the hot self-driving startup, will be worth $2 billion after an investment by Sequoia

January 9, 2019

The startup Aurora — which is not yet two years old but has made waves in the autonomous-driving industry with a highly regarded executive team from Tesla, Uber, and Google — is slated to be valued at over $2 billion in a new fundraising round, Recode has learned.

Sequoia Capital is expected to lead a financing round of at least $500 million in the company, according to people familiar with the matter. The investment, which hasn’t closed, is shaping up to be the biggest commitment yet by Sequoia, arguably the most prestigious venture capital firm in Silicon Valley, into the booming, capital-intensive world of self-driving car technology in the US.
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Beijing’s takeover of US subway car market raises concerns

January 9, 2019

The warnings sounds like the plot of a Hollywood spy thriller: The Chinese hide malware in a subway rail car’s security camera system that allows surveillance of Pentagon or White House officials as they ride – sending images back to Beijing.

Or sensors on the train secretly record the officials’ conversations. Or a flaw in the software that controls the train – inserted during the manufacturing process – allows it to be hacked by foreign agents or terrorists to cause a crash.

Congress, the Pentagon and industry experts have taken the warnings seriously, and now the Washington, D.C.-area subway system, known as Metro, will do the same. The transit agency recently decided to add cybersecurity safeguards to specifications for a contract it will award later this year for its next-generation rail cars following warnings that China’s state-owned rail car manufacturer could win the deal by undercutting other bidders.
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Packages could be delivered by robodogs riding in robotaxis, Continental hopes

January 9, 2019

A challenge for delivery robot concepts is the need for the bots to travel long distances between drop-off locations, such as moving across an area of several city blocks. Then, of course, the robots need to be small and maneuverable enough to actually make a delivery to a home or place of business. Continental’s approach to this challenge is to break it down into two components: One driverless vehicle about the size of a small car, and a number of smaller delivery robots. The robots can be transported inside the vehicle and then deployed to actually make the delivery.
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The self-driving car industry just acknowledged it has an image problem

January 9, 2019

That gives a good sense of why driverless companies felt the need to form a wide-ranging consortium whose aim is to change the way the public views the industry. Partners for Automated Vehicle Education, or PAVE, which was unveiled at the CES technology trade show in Las Vegas, includes carmakers Audi, General Motors, Volkswagen, Toyota and Daimler; driverless technology companies Waymo, Cruise, Aurora and Zoox; and computer chip makers Intel, Nvidia and Mobileye.

The group said it will “seek to bring realistic, factual information to policymakers and the public so consumers and decision-makers understand the technology, its current state and its future potential – including the benefits in safety, mobility and sustainability.”
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Autonomous car hits autonomous robot in bizarre collision

January 9, 2019

In a unique car accident, a self-driving Tesla Model S hit and destroyed an autonomous Promobot, the robot model v4, on Jan. 6 in Las Vegas. The incident took place at 3000 Paradise Road, Las Vegas.

At 7 p.m., the Promobot’s engineers transported robots to the Vegas’s Congress Hall to prepare their booth at the Consumer Electronics Show, being held Jan. 8-11. All the robots were moving in a line. But one of them missed its way and drove to the roadway of the street parking lot.

At that moment, it was hit by a self driving Tesla car.
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AV Testing Advances Without Standards

January 9, 2019

The failure of the AV START Act in the United States Senate did more than just delay U.S. federal regulations for self-driving car technology that has yet to progress beyond the pilot-test stage…

“We need a good functional safety standard. FMVSS doesn’t say a thing about AVs and there is no functional safety standard for autonomy,” said Philip Koopman, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, who specializes in safety testing and validation of autonomous vehicles. “With or without AV START, in 2019 we need to see the industry come together and see how these things can be made safe. If the industry can get together on safety, that would do more to move things forward than regulations. If it could give the government a realistic idea of direction and timelines, that would get NHTSA closer to mark as well.”
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AAA Acquires Largest Autonomous Vehicle Test Site in the Country

January 8, 2019

The largest autonomous vehicle test site in the United States has been acquired by AAA of Northern California, Nevada and Utah, one of the most familiar car-club brands in the country.

GoMentum Station, an AV testing site in Concord, Calif., in the Bay Area, has been bought by the West Coast AAA organization, in a move to continue and expand the numerous AV testing projects, which range from self-driving personal cars to shuttle vehicles.

GoMentum Station was under the management of the Contra Costa (County) Transportation Authority (CCTA), which is still heavily involved in the facility’s operations…

“As a private not-for-profit organization with a broad national network, we believe we can leverage our history as a transportation advocate to build upon the work of CCTA at GoMentum, and ensure this technology is developed safely,” he added, in an email.
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Ford Breaks With Auto Rivals By Committing To C-V2X Vehicle Communications Tech

January 8, 2019

The battle to determine which technology wins out for vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communications has taken a definite turn toward cellular radio-based systems with an announcement from Ford at CES 2019. The Dearborn-based automaker is the first announce a definitive timeline for introduction of C-V2X communications beginning in calendar year 2022.

For the past couple of years, Ford has been indicating its support for the technology solution championed by Qualcomm in North America and Hauwei in China. This is a definite blow to supporters of dedicated short range communications (DSRC) such as Toyota. Until the emergence of C-V2X a few years ago, most of the industry and regulators seemed to be behind DSRC.
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Daimler speeds up self-driving trucking technology

January 8, 2019

Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler, the world’s biggest maker of commercial vehicles, will spend €500m and create 200 new jobs to accelerate autonomous technology for trucking.

The group announced the investment as it unveiled the Freightliner Cascadia, which will go on sale in 2019 and be the first truck in North America to feature partially-automated assistance, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Daimler Trucks chief executive Martin Daum pledged to take the lead in autonomous vehicles with a goal of deploying “highly automated driving” within a decade.
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The City Has To Decide Where to Hide 10,000 5G Nodes

January 7, 2019

As it enables the next generation of cell phone connectivity, which comes with lofty promises to be much faster than even your at-home internet, the city of Dallas is trying to avoid an eyesore problem. For a fully built-out 5G network, the city will need some 10,000 small cell sites. It’s not like previous generations, which required only the big towers. But if you were listening closely on Wednesday during a briefing of the City Council, Dallas Assistant City Attorney Don Knight snuck in an interesting point about the small cells.

As it turns out, he said, they’re not that small.
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Robot cars go from luxury glamour to utilitarian reality

January 7, 2019

Four years ago, Daimler dazzled with a self-driving luxury lounge in Las Vegas with a concept vehicle boasting a sleek interior that promised to pamper its well-heeled passengers into the automotive future.

This year the Mercedes-Benz maker is back at the annual Consumer Electronics Show, though with a more utilitarian slant: a bubble-like autonomous shuttle designed to reliably ferry people and goods around town at limited speeds.

The move from glittery luxury concepts to box-shaped people movers underscores a shift in the race toward autonomous vehicles. While driverless cars might not populate public roads for some time, shuttle services in confined areas have started to look more feasible, at least over the next few years.
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ODOT launches new parking information system to help truck drivers save time

January 7, 2019

The Ohio Department of Transportation has launched a new truck parking information system that displays available parking spots on digital signs.

The goal is to help truck drivers find safe, legal parking much faster.

A $25 million federal transportation grant paid for the new system in 8 states total; Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin…

“If the sign says zero we know not to even bother to pull into there because at a certain time of night it just gets jammed up in there with the amount of trucks that try to get off the road to find a spot to sleep,” said David Maurer Jr., who has been driving semi trucks for 30 years.

ODOT says the parking information can also be found on the OHGO website and app.
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Ohio tests state-of-the-art smart technology to make roads safer, especially in bad weather

January 7, 2019

When driving in inclement weather conditions or heavy traffic, imagine if your vehicle could warn you about icy roads ahead or if a driver a few cars in front of you suddenly slams on their brakes.

This futuristic-sounding technology is currently being implemented in Ohio as part of the largest-ever research project involving connected vehicle technology, which is shaping the future of transportation nationwide, according to the Ohio Department of Transportation.

The technology allows vehicles, traffic lights, crosswalks and other infrastructure to communicate crucial information, including letting drivers know that a car at the upcoming intersection will run a red light or that a pedestrian is on the sidewalk ahead where a driver plans to make a right turn, creating a safer and smarter travel experience.
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GM and DoorDash to deliver food in self-driving cars

January 7, 2019

General Motors’ subsidiary Cruise Automation, which makes technology for self-driving cars, has teamed up with food delivery company DoorDash to test out driverless deliveries.

During the tests, there will a be a “safety driver” in the automated Chevrolet Bolt EV, but that person will be there only to take over in the event of an emergency. The car will mostly drive on its own. The test program will take place within San Francisco, where Cruise is based.

Ford has also been testing so-called driverless deliveries in partnership with Domino’s Pizza and online food delivery company Postmates in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Miami. But, in Ford’s case, the cars are driven by humans and only look like driverless vehicles. In Ford’s tests, the drivers are instructed not to interact with customers. The purpose of those tests is to see how customers respond to deliveries when there is no delivery person involved.
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Cubic acquires Gridsmart to expand intelligent traffic management portfolio

January 7, 2019

Cubic has acquired US technology company Gridsmart Technologies in an $87 million deal and will use its video tracking solution to help reduce congestion.

Gridsmart’s Bell Camera offers horizon to horizon tracking with a fisheye lens for intersection actuation, data collection and situational awareness. The solution is also expected to track vehicle trajectory from approach through the centre of the intersection to exit.

The acquisition will also help advance Cubic’s NextCity vision of creating a smarter future in transportation.
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Sacramento gets ready for 5G test drive

January 7, 2019

In October, Sacramento, Calif., became one of the first cities in the world to go live with the 5G wireless network, the next generation of cellular technology. Benefits the city expects include, of course, making available a high-speed, high-capacity telecommunications network, but also smart city applications to improve public safety and mobility.

To make 5G use possible, the city entered a public/private partnership with Verizon in which the company will install intelligent traffic technology at “problem area” intersections and set up Wi-Fi in parks.

According to the 2017 contract between the company and city, Sacramento is deferring up to $2 million in lease payments on Verizon’s 101 small-cell towers on city-owned assets over 10 years, while Verizon gets streamlined permit approvals for wireless and wired network deployments.
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TomTom debuts end-to-end autonomous driving system at CES 2019

January 7, 2019

This week, Dutch GPS company TomTom announced they would be moving into the realm of autonomous vehicles in a partnership with Japanese automotive components manufacturer Denso.

The collaboration will produce an autonomous driving system which is capable of both perceiving objects in the environment and planning a path from one location to another. The aim is to achieve Level 2 automation which will work on highways and other major urban roads using TomTom’s end to end mapping system. TomTom will contribute a high definition map which will work together with in-car sensors from Denso like cameras or radars for localization and perception functions, which should make the system reliable and safe.
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2019 is the year to stop talking about ethics and start taking action

January 4, 2019

There’s a better way to help designers and engineers act more ethically when developing technology–educate them.

That’s the idea behind a series of ethical tech classes that have sprung up in places like Carnegie Mellon University, where computer science professor Fei Fang began teaching a class called Artificial Intelligence for Social Good. The idea: If computer science students can learn to think about the potential impact of their code, they’ll be more likely to make ethical decisions. The Mozilla Foundation is also throwing its weight behind this idea, with a multi-year competition that offers cash prizes to encourage professors to come up with ways of teaching ethics to computer science students that won’t make them fall asleep at their desks.
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VW’S MOBILE CHARGERS COULD HELP EVS CONQUER THE WORLD

January 4, 2019

Volkswagen thinks it has part of the solution. Last week, the German automaker unveiled its mobile charging station concept, which could appear in its hometown of Wolfsburg as early as the first half of this year, and elsewhere starting in 2020…

“This is probably more expensive than just having a charging station, but this concept of ‘mobile charging’ might induce some folks to become EV buyers who are worried about a place to plug in,” says Costa Samaras, a civil and environmental engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University who studies electric vehicles and systems. But Samaras notes that kind of charging and range anxiety can’t be patched by mobility alone. “Ultimately, the problem will have to be solved with both widespread public charging and battery improvements that increase the range between charges,” he says.
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Smoking weed: When is someone too high to drive?

January 4, 2019

Roadside testing for THC is also logistically difficult.

Blood, for instance, needs to be analyzed in a lab, and collecting urine gets complicated.

In Canada, which legalized recreational pot just this year, law enforcement will test drivers with a saliva test called the Dräger DrugTest 5000, but that isn’t perfect, either.

Some private companies are trying to develop a sort of breathalyzer for marijuana. But Jonathan Caulkins, a drug policy researcher at Carnegie Mellon University, said, “There are fundamental issues with the chemistry and pharmacokinetics. It’s really hard to have an objective, easy-to-administer roadside test.”
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Aptiv partners with AI company Affectiva

January 4, 2019

Autonomous vehicle company Aptiv entered into a commercial partnership with Affectiva, a Boston-based startup that creates human perception artificial intelligence to identify the cognitive state of vehicle occupants, according to a news release from the company.

Affectiva, which spun out of MIT Media Lab, uses its technology to determine in real time if a person in a vehicle is paying attention to the road or if they are distracted. The sensing tech takes into account changes in eye movement and facial expression.
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Why the West Coast Is Suddenly Beating the East Coast on Transportation

January 4, 2019

When New York City’s transportation commissioner returned from a recent trip to California, she seemed downright jealous. There were electric scooters in Oakland. New train lines in Los Angeles. Self-driving cars in the Bay Area. She tried them all.

“It is an incredibly exciting time to be in urban transportation,” the commissioner, Polly Trottenberg, told a breakfast gathering of powerful New Yorkers, pointing to California’s progress.

Her glee signaled a noteworthy and sobering shift. Wasn’t it her city that was once the envy of the nation when it came to transportation?

Not anymore. The subways on the East Coast that allowed New York, Washington and Boston to thrive are showing their age and suffering from years of neglect, while cities on the West Coast are moving quickly to expand and improve their networks.
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Robocar Tech Faces ‘Major Pain’ in 2019

January 4, 2019

In assessing who’s ahead in the race to first commercially deploy AVs, companies, pundits and media have been using the number of hours each company spent on robocar testing on public roads as the yardstick.

This might be the wrong criterion. Phil Koopman, safety expert and professor at Carnegie Mellon University, stressed that to deploy AVs, the industry must “get past the notion that road testing is enough to ensure safety.”

The industry today is “still trying to get vehicles to work properly on an everyday basis,” Koopman observed. This hardly ensures the safety of AVs. “No reasonable amount of road testing will address the gap between ‘seems to work pretty well’ and ‘safe,’” he stressed. “True safety isn’t just about the everyday stuff — it is also about handling edge cases, component failures, and other rare but critical events.”
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Amtrak and Megabus tout free WiFi. So why is service patchy — or nonexistent?

January 3, 2019

Services like Amtrak and Megabus provide free WiFi by working with mobile carriers to tap into cellphone networks along their routes, meaning signals are often at the mercy of available cell towers. There’s also the problem of bandwidth on crowded buses and trains. For that reason, Megabus and Amtrak limit access to streaming music and video — though Megabus, for example, lets riders pick from a limited set of movies and TV shows through its app.

Meanwhile, savvy entrepreneurs have taken advantage of the shortcomings in the companies’ networks. Alex Gizis, chief executive of Connectify, a technology company that developed the Speedify app, said he most often hears from customers on Amtrak and Megabus. The app patches weak Internet signals by tapping into WiFi and mobile networks at the same time.
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