Robot Trucks Get U.S. Tests, Raising Self-Driving Safety Stakes

January 14, 2022

J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc.., Uber Technologies Inc.’s freight division and FedEx Corp. are among the operators testing automated big rigs as a lack of drivers has caused ports to back up and intensified the supply-chain squeeze gripping the U.S. economy. While self-driving trucks are still years from winning regulatory approval, pioneers of the technology see it as a long-term solution to an increasingly intractable labor problem…

Labor leaders say that lawmakers need to address the impact on safety and the workforce before allowing automated trucks to be widely used.

“We would be naive to to think we could stop the technological advancement. That’s never been our goal,” said Greg Regan, president of the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department. “But we have to make sure it’s implemented in a safe way and we have to make sure that we’re also looking at the economic impact of deployment.”

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg praises smart city innovation at CES

January 14, 2022

Smart cities and the capabilities of connected infrastructure were a focal point of U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s virtual address to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week.

“In our lifetimes, we could see truly smart cities built on the connected technology showcased at CES, where cars, buses and infrastructure all communicate with each other to plot safer routes and use less energy,” Buttigieg said.

He also praised cities and states for their innovative responses to the pandemic, noting that “some of the most important innovations were deceptively low-tech.” He pointed to the ways that local leaders have encouraged more walking and biking, in addition to the new ways that cities have used outdoor space for dining. He also said that small solutions like self-healing pavement to reduce potholes “may do more for Americans in our lifetime” than highly exclusive commercial space travel.

There’s no evidence electric vehicles fare worse than gas-powered cars in long traffic jams

January 14, 2022

Jeremy Michalek, co-founder of the Vehicle Electrification Group and an engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University, said cold weather can cut an electric vehicle’s range, in miles, by as much as half, citing a study he co-authored. But range is a function of a moving car.

While idling, a gas-powered vehicle, assuming a full tank of 15 to 18 gallons, could take anywhere from about a day to up to a week to burn through that gas, Michalek said. A stationary Tesla Model 3, he said, could exhaust its battery in as little as eight hours or as much as a few days, depending on the wattage of the heater.

So which would fare better stuck in a daylong traffic jam like the one in Virginia? It depends, Michalek said, on how comfortable someone needs to be, whether the car has a heat pump and other factors.

All change please? GILLIG finds tech partner for self-driving buses

January 14, 2022

RR.AI, a unit of self-driving technology startup Robotic Research, and U.S. bus maker GILLIG said on Monday they will jointly develop driver assistance systems and self-driving technology for commuter buses in the United States.

Making taxis autonomous has proved more difficult and expensive to develop than expected, but investors have pumped money into trucks and other commercial vehicles where automation could be viable sooner. read more

RR.AI and GILLIG said they would jointly develop Level 4 autonomous vehicle technology for buses, which would allow a vehicle to drive itself under certain circumstances, such as in a depot, but most of the time a human driver would be needed.

They said the technology could protect drivers through safety features, including automatic emergency braking, precision docking, blind spot detection and pedestrian avoidance.

Amazon and Stellantis partner to deploy smarter cars, cleaner vans

January 14, 2022

Amazon.com Inc and Stellantis NV (STLA.MI) said Wednesday they will collaborate to develop cars and trucks with Amazon software in the dashboards, and deploy electric vans made by Stellantis on Amazon’s delivery network.

The agreements expand Amazon’s efforts to get a bigger foothold in the transportation industry, and could help Stellantis close the gap with Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) in developing vehicles with sophisticated, software-powered infotainment features that are connected to the data processing cloud…

Amazon and Stellantis said they will work together to develop software for the “digital cockpit” infotainment systems of Stellantis vehicles that will start launching in 2024. Stellantis said it will use Amazon’s Alexa technology for voice controlled features, “navigation, vehicle maintenance, ecommerce marketplaces, and payment services.”

Big ecommerce delivery fleet operators such as Amazon will be key to determining winners and losers as established automakers compete with startups to electrify the world’s package delivery system.

Can blockchain tokens drive smarter commuting choices?

January 12, 2022

As part of its 2022 Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) program, the Department of Transportation is looking for research on using blockchain-based apps to incentivize more efficient use of transit.

In a Jan. 6 presolicitation, the Federal Transit Administration described using a gamified blockchain concept that would make more efficient use of scarce resources like parking spaces and reward commuters who consider alternatives to driving.

This proposed SBIR research project, called “blockchain-enabled transit incentivization,” calls for evaluating the feasibility and effectiveness of managing transit options with blockchain-based incentives, such as a tokenized gamification through a smart phone application…

Should the technology be commercialized, state and local transit agencies could use it to encourage use of public transit and other mobility options and manage their scarce parking or curbside resources. Businesses, building complexes and universities could use it to promote more efficient use of on-site parking and transit options.

As the world looks to electrify vehicles and store renewable power, one giant challenge looms: what will happen to all the old lithium batteries?

January 12, 2022

Abbott’s team at the Faraday Institution in the UK is investigating the robotic disassembly of Li batteries as part of the ReLib Project, which specialises in the recycling and reuse of Li batteries. The team has also found a way to achieve direct recycling of the anode and cathode using an ultrasonic probe, “like what the dentist uses to clean your teeth,” he explains. “It focuses ultrasound on a surface which creates tiny bubbles that implode and blast the coating off the surface.” This process avoids having to shred the battery parts, which can make recovering them exceedingly difficult.

According to Abbott’s team’s research, this ultrasonic recycling method can process 100 times more material over the same period than the more traditional hydrometallurgy method. He says it can also be done for less than half the cost of creating a new battery from virgin material.

After I-95 fiasco, a ‘road weather’ expert digs into snow, ice and jackknifed trucks

January 12, 2022

As a senior research associate at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute working on freight, transit and heavy-vehicle safety, Alden has explored the physics, environmental considerations and technologies affecting this specialized realm…

Q: What does your research show us about ways that these kinds of situations might be prevented? Is there hope on that front?…

Foremost is probably good communication. We’ve been working for years at Virginia Tech Transportation Institute on what’s called “connected vehicle systems,” where a device in your car could provide information about these types of things in real-time, inside the vehicle. So you’re not relying upon your cellphone or any other way of getting that information. You don’t have to worry about the signs above the road. That’s really important. Not only does it tell you you’ve got problems ahead, it lets you know where you can go. And if you encounter slippery roads, you can report that.

Volvo To Start Selling Its First Autonomous Vehicle This Year

January 12, 2022

In collaboration with Luminar Technologies, Volvo announced an autonomous driving system called Ride Pilot on Wednesday at the Consumer Electronics Show. Volvo customers in California will have access to Ride Pilot as a subscription service at some point after 2022.

Based on comments made by Volvo’s Chief Technologies Officer Henrik Green, Ride Pilot would exceed the Society of Automotive Engineers criteria for Level 3 vehicle autonomy. Green told The Verge, “We will not require hands on the steering wheel and we will not require eyes on the road.” This would put the Swedish automaker’s autonomous system more than a step above Tesla’s Level 2 FSD Beta, which requires a driver to be prepared to take control of the vehicle at a moment’s notice.

How Indy Autonomous Racing Got Real at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

January 12, 2022

“Ladies and gentlemen, start your software.” And with those history-making words, uttered by Karen Chupka, EVP of CES, Consumer Technology Association, the world’s first ever race for autonomous race cars got booted up at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Officially this was the second round of the Indy Autonomous Challenge (IAC) but as it turned out the first “race” held last October at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was only time trials where nine autonomous race cars drove one-at-a-time around the famous oval.

This time the organizers created a head-to-head elimination race with two cars on the track at a time—somewhat similar to how drag races are conducted…

A jubilant Prof. Sergio M. Savaresi, founder of the winning team from Politecnico di Milano in Italy, said “We’re Italians—racing is in our blood” What’s the betting some of these students end up working for Ferrari’s F1 team? Several students and faculty from the University of Alabama also assisted the Italians.

A new bill could put fully autonomous vehicles on PA roads. Does it pass the business ethics test?

January 11, 2022

With a disruptive tech that still lacks widespread public trust, there remain questions of the ethics behind fully allowing driverless trucks and cars on the road. John Hooker, a professor of business ethics and social responsibility at CMU’s Tepper School of Business, told Technical.ly that this is a subject his classes discuss frequently.

“In the ethics world, we have two principles that apply to an issue like this,” he said. “One we call utilitarian principle and the other is the autonomy principle.”

The utilitarian principle has to do with maximizing benefit with respect to releasing this level of autonomous vehicle on the road. That principle should be easy enough to satisfy, he said, given the incredible danger that human-operated vehicles pose today.

Smart cities, self-driving race cars and space travel: Buttigieg wants innovative tech and the government to work together

January 11, 2022

Buttigieg said the public sector needs to be intentional about the role it plays and announced that his department is establishing a set of six principles, the first of its kind, to support and regulate innovation in the transportation sector…

One of Buttigieg’s principles addresses safety issues such as these. Specifically, the DOT will create new testing standards and a national incident database for crashes involving self-driving cars.

The principles also ensure equitable access to transportation and support communities and workers impacted by the technological shift in the industry. In the case of electric and autonomous vehicles, the DOT is working with organized labor groups to evaluate and address the consequences such vehicles might have on the workforce.

Under the new principles, public, private and academic sectors will collaborate with one another, Buttigieg said, noting that policies should have the flexibility to change as technology continues to advance.

Via, city of Arlington launch on-demand service to provide transportation to discharged hospital patients

January 11, 2022

The city of Arlington, Texas, and Via have launched of a new on-demand transportation service to provide rides home for discharged hospital patients who otherwise would lack the resources to travel home independently.

The program will serve patients of a major North Texas hospital and is an extension of the city of Arlington’s Via Rideshare service, which has provided affordable on-demand rides as part of the city’s public transit network since 2017.

Via says this service marks a first-of-its-kind initiative in the U.S. between a publicly funded microtransit service and a major hospital, and provides a model for how public transit and healthcare organizations can collaborate to address health inequities and reduce barriers to accessing care.

The service is a stride forward in the city of Arlington and Via’s shared vision to enable local healthcare providers to leverage the city’s public on-demand microtransit service.

Self-Driving Vehicles Are Here—If You Know Where to Look

January 11, 2022

According to two women leading efforts to commercialize autonomous vehicles, the technology has well and truly arrived—and while it might be limited to certain niches for now, they believe it could become a lot more common in the next few years.

Jody Kelman oversees the autonomous driving division of the ride-sharing company Lyft, which has been testing self-driving taxis in Las Vegas since 2018.

Aubrey Donnellan is a cofounder and the chief operating officer at Bear Flag Robotics, which retrofits tractors to make them autonomous…

Both Kelman and Donnellan say that understanding how humans interact with autonomy will be crucial to guaranteeing both safety and successful adoption. “The companies that are doing this, that are worth their salt, kind of ironically put the human at the center of their robotic innovation,” Donnellan says.

Electric, autonomous delivery vehicle boom expected on city streets as inventories and orders grow

January 11, 2022

Thousands of new electric delivery vehicles will be humming through city and suburban streets, according to announcements made at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this week. FedEx said it reserved priority production for 2,000 BrightDrop vans, adding to the 500 the company ordered from the General Motors subsidiary last year. Walmart wants 5,000…

Indigo Technologies, also exhibiting at CES, showed designs for two urban electric vehicles for the rideshare and delivery markets, one that’s similar to a minivan and the other like a small SUV…

Silicon Valley startup Udelv released a video debuting its autonomous delivery vehicle, which it said can carry up to 2,000 pounds and make 80 stops per delivery cycle…

Swedish electric truck manufacturer Volta Trucks is taking pre-orders for its electric 16-ton Volta Zero, which it markets for city-center freight delivery. The company announced that its vehicles will integrate HERE Technologies’ navigation services, which include route planning, precise geolocation and battery range prediction.

A Chinese Company Says It Will Be Selling Driverless Cars by 2024

January 10, 2022

This week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, two companies announced development of a car with Level 4 autonomy, with plans to put the vehicle on the Chinese market in 2024.

Mobileye is an an Israeli subsidiary of chipmaker Intel (who knew?) that develops self-driving cars and advanced driver-assistance systems…

Geely, meanwhile, is a carmaker based in Hangzhou, China. Founded in 1997, the company’s full name is Zhejiang Geely Holding Group; they’re the largest private automaker in China, and reportedly sold over 1.3 million cars in 2020. Among Geely’s holdings is Swedish carmaker Volvo, as well as an electric vehicle brand called Zeekr that was launched in March of 2021.

The new self-driving car will be a collaboration between Geely and Mobileye, and will be produced under the Zeekr brand. To be clear, the car still won’t quite approach the put-your-feet-up driverless vision.

John Deere’s Self-Driving Tractor Stirs Debate on AI in Farming

January 10, 2022

DEERE & CO. helped mechanize agriculture in 1837 with the first commercially successful steel plow. On Tuesday, the company unveiled a machine that could prove just as transformative: a fully autonomous tractor.

John Deere’s new 8R tractor uses six pairs of stereo cameras and advanced artificial intelligence to perceive its environment and navigate. It can find its way to a field on its own when given a route and coordinates, then plow the soil or sow seeds without instructions, avoiding obstacles as it goes. A farmer can give the machine new orders using a smartphone app…

Self-driving tractors could help save farmers money and automate work that is threatened by an ongoing agricultural labor shortage. But automating more of farming, and adding AI, may also stir debate around replacing workers as well as ownership and use of the data it generates.

Pa. transportation secretary, senator unveil bill to allow self-driving cars to be tested without someone behind the wheel

January 10, 2022

Forty years ago, Pennsylvania became a leader in self-driving vehicles when it deployed one to help clean up the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island in Harrisburg.

Now, Carnegie Mellon University President Farnam Jahanian said Wednesday, it’s important to change state law to allow continued development of self-driving cars and trucks in Pennsylvania.

Mr. Jahanian spoke in strong support Wednesday of bi-partisan legislation that will allow companies to test self-driving vehicles on Pennsylvania roads without a driver available to take over in an emergency. State Transportation Secretary Yassmin Gramian and state Sen. Wayne Langerholc, R-Johnstown and chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, unveiled the proposed legislation at a news conference at Mill 19 at Hazelwood Green.

The bill, Senate Bill 965, was introduced Wednesday with nine co-sponsors, including two Democrats.

What the Pandemic’s ‘Open Streets’ Really Revealed

January 10, 2022

To get a better understanding of the relationship between Covid-era open streets and urban inequality, myself and Yuqing Zhang, a student at Cornell’s Department of City and Regional Planning, examined the geography of pandemic-inspired road closures. In our research, we found a total of 163 different programs during 2020 and 2021 across 157 U.S. municipalities (41 cities contained multiple programs, and several counties organized programs). California launched the most programs, with 37, but 35 states ultimately closed off streets to vehicular traffic. Of these, the majority (84%) were designated as temporary (a total of 18 are being considered for permanent status, as of summer 2021), and the vast majority (94%) lasted less than six months. These findings comport with the 2020 Menino Survey of Mayors from Boston University, which found that of the mayors surveyed, “very few … plan to make these closures permanent.”

GM aims to launch personal self-driving car by mid-decade -CEO

January 10, 2022

General Motors Co (GM.N) aims to introduce a “personal autonomous vehicle” by mid-decade, Chief Executive Mary Barra said on Wednesday.

The self-driving vehicle for personal use is being co-developed with GM’s majority-owned Cruise, Barra said at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, in a remote keynote message focused on the twin themes of vehicle electrification and autonomy.

Barra said GM’s expanding portfolio of electric vehicles, including the 2023 Chevrolet Silverado electric pickup and the BrightDrop commercial vehicle range, also features two new Chevrolet crossovers, a $30,000 Equinox EV and a slightly larger Blazer EV, both of which will be introduced in 2023.

GM’s new Ultra Cruise hands-free driving system will also debut in 2023 on another new EV, the Cadillac Celestiq ultra-luxury sedan. Barra said Ultra Cruise will use Qualcomm’s (QCOM.O) new Snapdragon Ride compute platform for advanced driver assistance.

Tesla Delivers Over 300,000 Cars in Q4 2021 Beating Wall Street Estimates by a Margin

January 7, 2022

Tesla on Sunday reported record quarterly deliveries that far exceeded Wall Street estimates, riding out global chip shortages as it ramped up China production.

It was the sixth consecutive quarter that the world’s most valuable automaker posted record deliveries.

Tesla, led by billionaire CEO Elon Musk, delivered 308,600 vehicles in the fourth quarter, far higher than analysts’ forecasts of 263,026 vehicles.

Tesla’s October-December deliveries were up about 70 percent from a year earlier and nearly 30 percent higher from record deliveries the preceding quarter.

Mack Trucks begins production of LR Electric

January 7, 2022

Mack Trucks’ first fully electric Class 8 vehicle, the Mack LR Electric, has entered serial production at Mack’s Lehigh Valley Operations facility in Macungie, Pennsylvania. Mack announced the launch of the LR Electric in 2018 and delivered its first demonstration truck to the New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY) in September 2020 to undergo real-world testing. Having passed its evaluation cycle, the LR Electric is now greenlit for production and delivery to customers…

The LR Electric has a GVWR of 66,000 lbs. and a stated range of 70 miles (113 km), with a charge time of 90 minutes at a rate of 150 kW. The company also claims that the LR Electric’s energy consumption can be as low as 0.3 kWh/ton-mile.

Largest electric vehicle charging station in Western Pennsylvania installed

January 7, 2022

The largest electric vehicle (EV) charging station in Western Pennsylvania was recently installed in Pittsburgh.

The station, in the city’s Second Avenue Parking Plaza, includes 15 dual-hose Level 2 chargers. The chargers can fully charge a vehicle in six to eight hours and can charge 30 EVs simultaneously.

By 2026, the Second Avenue Parking Lot will be the city’s main electric fleet charging depot. A total of 70 electric vehicles will be charged.

Currently, the city operates 26 fully electric sedans and recharges them using five level 2 solar charging units. With the completion of the new charging station, the solar units are to be installed throughout the city for public use.

By the end of 2023, the city plans to install multiple charging sites and purchase 70 additional EVs. This will help the city reach its goal of converting to a 100 percent fossil-fuel-free fleet, increasing vehicle electrification, and reducing transportation-related emissions by 2030.

Why putting solar canopies on parking lots is a smart move

January 7, 2022

This is how it typically goes with solar arrays: We build them on open space rather than in developed areas. That is, they overwhelmingly occupy croplands, arid lands and grasslands, not rooftops or parking lots, according to a global inventory published last month in Nature. In the United States, for instance, roughly 51 percent of utility-scale solar facilities are in deserts; 33 percent are on croplands; and 10 percent are in grasslands and forests. Just 2.5 percent of U.S. solar power comes from urban areas…

A typical Walmart supercenter, for instance, has a five-acre parking lot, and it’s a wasteland, especially if you have to sweat your way across it under an asphalt-bubbling sun. Put a canopy over it, though, and it could support a three-megawatt solar array, according to a recent study co-authored by Joshua Pearce of Western University in Ontario.

Autonomous Truck Trends for 2022 and Beyond: Can Autonomy Safely Address the Driver Shortage?

January 7, 2022

When does a technology really grow? When it is attached to a need. When it comes to the movement of freight, one megatrend driving the need for better technology is the driver shortage.

What would most revolutionize trucking over the next few years? The most obvious answer is autonomous trucking. But when will this technology become operational? Will it take decades? A decade? Or can we get there in the next few years? That is the core question.

And the answer to that question depends upon just what type of autonomous technology you are talking about. Are we talking about assisted driving technology? Autonomous trucks in truck yards? Autonomous truck conveys? Or autonomous trucks moving on the Interstate? Those technologies all have different timelines surrounding their viability.