How Boston is embracing smart tech to make its roads safer, close the digital divide, and combat climate change

September 22, 2021

Partnerships with the many universities in the Boston area are essential in helping Boston reach its digital transformation goals. Esquivel said the city coordinates with local universities on research projects for students and to “answer some of the questions that we have.”

Universities bring “extra capacity” in the form of skills, expertise, and even labor to help cities design and execute research studies, Daniel O’Brien, director of the Boston Area Research Initiative, told Insider.

BARI is a multiuniversity partnership with the city that participates in urban research and public policy. The organization is housed at Northeastern University and each year hosts a conference to bring together researchers, policymakers, and community leaders.

“We aim to identify opportunities for data technology to reshape communities in the 21st century,” O’Brien said. “We’re thinking about how do we use these tools to enhance the things we really care about in society, including equity, justice, democracy, sustainability, and resilience.”
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Ohio cuts ribbon on World’s Most Connected Highway: The 33 Smart Mobility Corridor

September 22, 2021

Scissors in hand, public and private sector partners from across Ohio and around the globe opened the world’s most connected highway Wednesday in central Ohio. The 33 Smart Mobility Corridor, a living lab of The Beta District, runs from the City of Dublin on the east end through the City of Marysville, past industry partner Honda’s manufacturing and vehicle development operations, and concludes at the gates of the Transportation Research Center (TRC) Inc. in East Liberty. The 33 Smart Mobility Corridor is the premier location for developing and testing smart mobility technology that has the potential to enhance safety, reduce congestion, and improve fuel economy.
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Route 33 Smart Mobility Corridor is live: Start your (connected) engines

September 22, 2021

The 33 Smart Mobility Corridor has gone live after five years of planning and development for testing connected-vehicle technology.

State and local officials announced the opening of the project Wednesday at the Transportation Research Center in East Liberty – one anchor of the 35-mile stretch of state Route 33 through Marysville and Dublin. Crews have installed 432 strands of fiber-optic broadband cable in a redundant loop, plus 63 roadside units to communicate with onboard equipment on the first 200 vehicles of a planned 500…

State and local government agencies and Ohio State University teamed up to win a $5.9 million federal grant for the project in 2016. The scope has since moved away from testing autonomous trucks in favor of equipment that can send safety and traffic alerts to drivers.

Honda R&D Americas Inc., the research arm of Honda Motor Co., has deployed more than 200 connected vehicles on the corridor. Honda has extensive operations along the stretch.
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What would it take to power airliners with batteries?

September 22, 2021

Before that happens, the industry must overcome a very real technical problem: replacing turbine-driven airliners with similarly sized electric aircraft will require a monumental leap in battery technology.

That’s the conclusion of several Carnegie Mellon University researchers who created hundreds of thousands of design iterations to determine the battery energy density required for electric versions of three aircraft classes: regional airliners, narrowbody jets and widebodies aircraft. The American Chemical Society published the results of the study in a 2020 paper called “Performance Metrics Required of Next-Generation Batteries to Electrify Commercial Aircraft”…

Even small regional aircraft would need batteries with significantly more energy density than exists with today’s technology. Current-generation lithium-ion batteries have an energy density of about 250Wh/kg, according to the paper…

Yet, it’s not until around energy density of 480Wh/kg that a significant number of regional aircraft designs start becoming viable, says Venkat Viswanathan, an associate professor in the department of mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon who co-authored the research.
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Volocopter teams with Urban Movement Labs to explore Los Angeles market

September 22, 2021

The German eVTOL developer announced the collaboration this week, along with its upcoming presence at the CoMotion LA conference in November. According to a press release, its work with Urban Movement Labs will help inform a policy framework that envisions urban air mobility (UAM) “as a safe, sustainable, and equitable multi-modal transportation component in Los Angeles” — part of the UAM Partnership that Urban Movement Labs announced in December 2020…

“We are executing a community-first strategy to engage with community-based organizations and inform a policy framework that will guide the development of UAM infrastructure in the City of Los Angeles,” explained Sam Morrissey, Urban Movement Labs executive director. “Through our partnership with Volocopter we can explore specific pilot projects to advance a future UAM network that reflects what we hear from Angelenos and establishes standards for future UAM operation.”
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Longest AV Shuttle Route in North America Launches in Canada

September 21, 2021

Whitby, a township near Toronto, has launched a 6-kilometer (roughly 3.7 miles) AV shuttle route along its waterfront, making the route the longest in North America. Known as the Whitby Autonomous Vehicle Electric (WAVE), the pilot project has entered its testing phase, and will begin service with transit riders later this year…

The pilot represents the first of its kind in Canada to integrate an AV shuttle with an existing transit service and smart infrastructure, and will function as a learning opportunity to study the operational, financial and technical integration of autonomous and transit systems.

One area of study, said Austin, is to examine how effectively AVs can be used to extend transit service into areas with less housing and business density, which are not always suitable for large, fixed-route buses.
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Why We Can’t Afford to Ignore the Needs of Non-Drivers With Disabilities

September 21, 2021

People with disabilities who don’t drive are being left behind by accessibility efforts that ignore their unique and diverse needs — and centering them can carry benefits for everyone, a new study argues.

After interviewing more than a hundred Washington state residents with mobility challenges who can’t or don’t use a car, researchers at the Disability Rights Washington found that respondents “overwhelmingly” cited “the poor condition or absence of sidewalks” as the biggest barrier to getting where they needed to go, followed closely by problems with curb cuts, crosswalks and intersections.

What they want: Frequent and reliable fixed-route transit; zoning changes to make a range of accessible housing options abundant in well-connected neighborhoods; and a revamped planning processes to center the needs of non-drivers.
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Walmart picks up Argo AI for retailer’s first multi-city autonomous delivery service

September 21, 2021

Walmart Inc., the world’s largest retailer, is looking to start delivering goods autonomously to customers, and it’s partnering with Pittsburgh-based autonomous vehicle (AV) company Argo AI and the Ford Motor Co. to do so.

When it launches as a pilot program in Austin, Texas, Miami and Washington, D.C. later this year, the new service will be the first in the nation that spans multiple cities, Argo AI said. The service will use modified Ford Escape vehicles equipped with Argo’s self-driving software and hardware to deliver goods and groceries to customers who request the service during checkout on Walmart.com.

And while Walmart’s inventory includes items of varying sizes, only those that can fit in the back portion of the vehicle will be able to be delivered autonomously as Argo will have safety drivers in the front seats of the vehicles.
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NASA Lab Studies Sleepiness and Use of Automated Systems

September 21, 2021

Drowsy driving accounts for a large proportion of car crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. So, you might think self-driving cars would fix that. After all, computers just don’t get sleepy.

But today’s vehicles are only partially automated, requiring the human driver to stay alert, monitor the road, and take over at a moment’s notice. A new study conducted by the Fatigue Countermeasures Lab at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley suggests this passive role can leave drivers more susceptible to sleepiness – especially when they’re sleep deprived.

The research was carried out to help understand how humans interact with autonomous systems, such as those used in aircraft and in spaceflight systems. The findings will contribute to the agency’s research around the safe introduction of automation in aviation and the growing complexity of advanced systems. They also suggest drowsy drivers may be an important consideration for safe introduction of self-driving features in cars.
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Walmart, Ford, Argo announce plans to launch autonomous vehicle delivery service

September 21, 2021

Walmart, Ford and self-driving startup Argo AI are collaborating on a plan to deliver customer orders in autonomous vehicles.

Using Ford’s vehicles, Argo’s self-driving technology and Walmart’s retail and customer base, the three companies plan to offer an autonomous vehicle delivery service in Miami; Austin, Texas; and Washington, D.C.

Argo has headquarters in the Strip District, but Pittsburgh isn’t on the list of cities where the initial integration testing will roll out later this year.

The partnership, announced Wednesday, is meant to speed up last-mile delivery service — the part of the delivery process where the product moves from a store or warehouse to a customer’s doorstep. The team-up will help each company learn how autonomous tech can play a role in customer’s expectations for next-day or same-day delivery, officials said.

Argo, Ford and Lyft are partnering to deploy autonomous vehicles on ride-hail networks in Miami this year.
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Whether Coding Bootcamps Or College Programs Are The Future For Automotive Or Aerospace

September 20, 2021

According to a Mayuko – a YouTuber who frequently posts on the topic – there are bootcamp campuses in over 85 cities across the United States and Canada with 83% of graduates being employed in programming jobs with an average starting salary of just under $67,000 USD. On average, the tuition is $13,584 with programs taking approximately 15 weeks…

And so the assumption is that the better money is spent on traditional, university programs where the experienced staff and defined coursework blaze a path toward enlightenment and stable earnings.

Maybe so. Maybe not.

According to US News and World Report, 2021’s top five universities for undergraduate degrees in Software Engineering are Carnegie Mellon University, MIT, UC-Berkeley, Georgia Tech and Illinois. The average out-of-state tuition for these fine institutions surpasses $45,400 per year, thereby ringing up a 4-year, total tab of nearly $250,000 after room, board, books, etc.
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CMU preps its fleet of autonomous robots for a search and rescue mission in final round of DARPA challenge

September 20, 2021

The challenge: Collect as many objects as possible in one hour while navigating a cave in Louisville, Ky.

The goal: Create autonomous robots to help with search and rescue missions for military and first responders.

The kicker: There’s only one operator and a fleet that could include a dozen robots, so the machines must be able to move and make decisions on their own.

It’s hard enough to make autonomous robots useful above ground. This CMU team is trying to do it in the depths below.

“At the heart of this challenge, it’s really a problem of exploration,” said Sebastian Scherer, the co-lead for CMU’s team and an associate research professor at the Robotics Institute. “You’re going into an environment that you’ve never been into, so with that comes a lot of uncertainty and the robot needs to be able to decide what do I do when I face uncertainty.”
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GM invests in Oculii, radar software maker for self-driving cars

September 20, 2021

General Motors Co’s venture capital arm has invested millions of dollars in Oculii, a U.S. startup maker of software for radar sensors used in self-driving cars, Oculii co-founder Steven Hong said.

GM can use Oculii’s low-cost software to boost the resolution of radars and scale up its partially automated vehicles and full self-driving cars, he told Reuters in an interview…

Tesla Inc eliminated radar sensors from its volume models this year, rekindling questions about the safety and performance of its advanced driver assistant system.

Radars, which measure the distance between objects, enable a car to accelerate or brake to match its speed with that of the vehicle in front. Radars also work well in adverse lighting and weather conditions.
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Robotic vehicle firm plans manufacturing facility

September 20, 2021

A robotics company that produces driverless vehicles for grocery, pizza and prescription deliveries said Aug. 26 it intends to spend $40 million to put a manufacturing facility and test track in the Las Vegas area.

Nuro, a firm founded in 2016 and based in Mountain View, California, announced it will build the manufacturing plant for the company’s next-generation autonomous vehicle in North Las Vegas and its closed test track at the nearby Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
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Enterprise Teaming With Microsoft on Connected Car Technology

September 20, 2021

Enterprise Holdings announced an expanded partnership with Microsoft to bring connected car technology to the company’s car rental, exotic vehicles and commercial truck rental fleets in the United States.

The car rental giant has already added the technology to hundreds of thousands of vehicles, with as many as 350,000 vehicles expected to be connected by the end of the year. The company plans to fully convert its U.S. fleet to connected vehicles over the next five years…

Enterprise Holdings believes connected car technology enhances the overall customer experience through streamlining tasks, including checking fuel levels, odometer readings and improving the check-in and checkout processes.

Through onboard sensors, connected cars have the technology to share specified vehicle information to Enterprise’s systems, which streamlines communications with connected vehicles from its Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) partners.
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NEW BRIDGE INSPECTION TECHNIQUES INCREASE SPEED, EFFICIENCY, AND SAFETY, BUT HOW DO YOU CHOOSE THE RIGHT ONES FOR THE JOB?

September 17, 2021

In the end, how do we take advantage of technology in the field of bridge asset management and inspection?

Have a plan in place. Where will the drone be most effective and what is the end goal for the drone? Is it something that an inspector could not accomplish?

How will this be used in future asset management? For overall structure modeling, specific defect tracking, or maybe gaining access to specific locations?

Understand the end documentation goal. How will files be organized and post-processed? Do clients want to see or use the digital twin model for asset management, rehabilitation, or new design purposes?

Ensure the bridge and site are both put to consideration. Will it be possible for the drone to obtain the data inspectors and engineers need given potential site constraints such as traffic or weather?
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Wabtec, Genesee & Wyoming, Carnegie Mellon form consortium for rail sustainability effort

September 17, 2021

Pittsburgh-based Wabtec Corp.; Carnegie Mellon University, known for its engineering curriculum; and shortline and regional railroad operator Genesee & Wyoming announced Friday, Sept. 10, that they have signed a memorandum of understanding to work to create a more sustainable rail freight network.

The parties will work on two fronts — developing locomotive fleets using alternative energy sources such as batteries and hydrogen fuel cells, and advancing current signaling and digital technologies to increase rail capacity and safety.

Elected officials and other speakers hailed the effort as a first step toward “decarbonizing rail freight transport.” U.S. Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-Pa.) noted Pennsylvania’s longstanding transportation leadership role, from the Main Line of Public Works canal-and-rail system of the 1830s to the consummate railroad town, Altoona, Pa., which once employed 16,000 workers in the Pennsylvania Railroad shops complex there.
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Locomation convoy plan doubles down on autonomous trucking challenge

September 17, 2021

Autonomous trucking startup Locomation is pursuing with two Class 8 trucks what others are trying to accomplish with one: ultimately operating without a driver in either cab.

The 3-year-old company is based in Pittsburgh, home of Carnegie Mellon University, a launch point for many of the brightest minds in robot cars and trucks. Founder Cetin Mericli is one of that group…

TuSimple (NASDAQ: TSP) and other Level 4 high-autonomy competitors are focused on robot trucks that eventually will have no human driver in the cab. Locomation is literally doubling down on that, starting with its human-guided autonomous convoy.

The company eschews the term platooning, which has been used for decades to describe leader-follower trucking, Locomation expects to launch the first of four phases — 250 pairs of trucks and drivers — in 2022, with 60,000 Locomation-equipped trucks by 2025.
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Your Batteries Are Due for Disruption

September 17, 2021

The battery, built by a California start-up, Sila, provided the tiny fitness tracker with more power than older batteries while maintaining the same battery life…

While he said this approach gave Sila a significant advantage over his many competitors, Dr. Viswanathan, the Carnegie Mellon professor, said other companies were taking different routes to refining the way lithium-ion batteries are built.

Companies like Sila and QuantumScape already have partnerships with carmakers and expect that their batteries will reach automobiles around the middle of the decade. They hope their technologies significantly reduce the cost of electric cars and extend their driving range.

“If we want to get electric cars into the mainstream, we have to get them down to the $30,000 price point,” said Mr. Singh, the QuantumScape chief executive. “You can’t do that with today’s batteries.”
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Rise of the Smart Trailer

September 17, 2021

Advances in telematics and data analytics are redefining the technology-enabled freight trailer.

The proliferation of inexpensive sensor tags, cameras and data collection hubs combined with real-time reporting and the transition to faster wireless networks have greatly enhanced trailer monitoring capabilities.

These changes are driving a new generation of “smart” trailers that are gathering far more data and business intelligence than just a few years ago.

And with that has come a significant shift in how fleets can manage, measure, allocate and optimize an asset that was once dismissed as “just a dumb box” but is now increasingly recognized as a key factor in supply chain velocity — one that is ripe for improvement.
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Cities Have New Tool to Improve Transportation Data Privacy

September 15, 2021

New forms of mobility, and the growth of movement and other data generated and collected by the thousands of bikes, scooters, ride-hailing vehicles and even delivery bots, has led to new concerns around personal privacy.

As such, the Mobility Data Collaborative — made up of public- and private-sector organizations, in partnership with the Future of Privacy Forum — has developed a new tool to help cities navigate the shifting world of transportation data.

“The main goal of this is to enable mobility data sharing, but in a responsible way that takes into consideration individual privacy, which may or may not be regulated by privacy laws, depending on the jurisdiction,” said Chelsey Colbert, policy counsel at the Future of Privacy Forum. “It also takes into consideration community interests and community equities, and encourages that transparency to the public.”
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Driverless cars to arrive on European streets next year

September 15, 2021

From next year, you’ll be able to ride in a driverless car in Europe. It won’t be driven by a lidar-equipped computer, however, but piloted remotely by a human ‘teledriver’ sitting in a control room somewhere distant.

This, at least, is the vision of Vay, a Berlin-based startup that is today emerging from stealth mode to unveil its plans for the future of mobility.

Its concept is a way of getting at least some of the benefits of autonomous vehicles out to customers faster, says Thomas von der Ohe, cofounder and CEO.

Vay hasn’t yet revealed which city it will roll out the service in first — but says it has been working with regulators in multiple cities, and is “super close” to receiving the necessary permissions to roll out a fully-remote fleet. It’s been testing the technology for two years on Berlin streets, with safety drivers still present in the cars.
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Nissan tests an EV motor-magnet recycling breakthrough

September 15, 2021

Nissan and Waseda University in Tokyo have been working together since 2017, and today, they announced that they are starting the testing of a recycling process that recovers high-purity, rare-earth compounds from electric vehicle motor magnets…

Nissan claims that it’s been able to recover 98% of a motor’s rare-earth elements using their new recycling process.

The automaker also says the method slashes the recovery process by around 50%, compared to the current method, because there is no need to demagnetize, remove, or take apart the magnets.

Nissan is aiming to launch its new recycling process by mid-decade.
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There is no Li-ion battery recycling standard, but that may be about to change

September 15, 2021

Lithium-ion battery development and production is rapidly escalating worldwide, yet there’s no standard when it comes to battery designs, materials, and chemistries. And that affects the ability to recycle Li-ion batteries – a vital final stage of their life cycle. But this may be about to change in the US.

The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory yesterday announced that it’s signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), which represents US energy storage manufacturers. Or as NEMA describes itself, “We are the US electroindustry.”

Under the MOU, Argonne and NEMA will work together to develop recycling standards for Li-ion batteries in order to help manufacturers understand what materials and designs will be more recyclable. To date, manufacturers have focused on producing Li-ion batteries cheaply and efficiently, so they now need to turn their attention to batteries’ end-of-life.
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Hyperloop prototype to be built, tested in Colorado

September 15, 2021

A new testing facility for an experimental transportation technology known as hyperloop is set for Pueblo, Colorado.

Swiss-American startup Swisspod recently announced an agreement with Transportation Technology Center Inc. (TTCI) to build and test a full-scale prototype of its hyperloop system at a facility near the city.

TTCI will provide engineering insight and operational and test plan support. The partnership with TTCI will advance Swisspod’s global expansion strategy, company officials said…

The test track in Pueblo will study Swisspod’s technology patents that are part of the hyperloop’s propulsion system. Swisspod will also build a full-scale capsule and operational infrastructure for cargo transportation at the site.

TTCI is a railroad equipment testing and training facility located in Pueblo and is a subsidiary of the Association of American Railroads.

The test track will be built at the 23,000-acre PuebloPlex, a decommissioned U.S. Army chemical depot on land about 20 miles east of Pueblo.
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