A new metric for designing safer streets

July 26, 2021

A new study published in Accident Analysis & Prevention shows how biometric data can be used to find potentially challenging and dangerous areas of urban infrastructure before a crash occurs. Lead author Megan Ryerson led a team of researchers in the Stuart Weitzman School of Design and the School of Engineering and Applied Science in collecting and analyzing eye-tracking data from cyclists navigating Philadelphia’s streets. The team found that individual-based metrics can provide a more proactive approach for designing safer roadways for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Current federal rules for installing safe transportation interventions at an unsafe crossing—such as a crosswalk with a traffic signal—require either a minimum of 90-100 pedestrians crossing this location every hour or a minimum of five pedestrians struck by a driver at that location in one year. Ryerson says that the practice of planning safety interventions reactively with a “literal human cost,” has motivated her and her team to find more proactive safety metrics that don’t require waiting for tragic results.
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Underserved communities could miss out on access to electric vehicles

July 26, 2021

To meet climate goals, many states and utilities are investing in electric vehicle chargers. But only a few are working to ensure that underserved communities have access to charging and benefit from the cleaner air that electric vehicles provide.

That’s according to a report by Peter Huether of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

“We want to make sure that these communities both benefit from these changes – and certainly are not left behind as we transition our transportation system,” Huether says.

For that to happen, he says utilities and policymakers need to prioritize equity and consider the needs of each community.

Some might want better access to electric vehicle chargers. Others might prefer investments that support electric buses, which can help reduce local air pollution.

So Huether suggests engaging residents in transportation planning.
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In the New China, Didi’s Data Becomes a Problem

July 26, 2021

Beijing is clamping down on technology giants such as Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Ant Group Co. over monopolistic practices and other issues. China was also concerned that Didi and other Chinese companies listing in the U.S. would be required to hand over to U.S. regulators audit documents that could contain sensitive information, the Journal has reported.

Didi’s case is unfolding as China tightens its grip on the data collected by its powerful internet companies. The country passed a new Data Security Law in June that governs data-processing activities within the country, defines core state and important data, and limits such data flows out of China. Beijing has proposed a Personal Information Protection Law aimed at protecting consumers from companies that might exploit their data without their authorization. Draft rules on managing automotive data were released in May. Priorities for protection include information about the flow of people and traffic in military zones, areas related to the Communist Party and certain government sites, as well as precise mapping data.

Driving the moves is the belief that data accumulated in the private sector should be considered a national asset.
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New AAA study reveals how driving changed during COVID-19 pandemic

July 26, 2021

With pandemic restrictions such as non-essential businesses closed and stay-at-home orders in place, the average number of trips for all transportation dropped 40% in April of 2020, the AAA’s 2020 New American Driving Survey found.

For the second half of 2020, daily trips in all transportation categories increased slightly, but still remained lower than the 2019 numbers.

On top of that, daily personal car drips dropped a whopping 45%.

On the other end of the spectrum, the percentage of people who stayed in the same place all day used to range between 9-14% but hit 26% in April 2020. Like most of the other findings, the percentage normalized a little but stabilized at a higher rate than before the pandemic…

The utilization of transit, taxi, and rideshare services also greatly decreased in April 2020. The proportion of people who reported using these services dropped from 5.5% pre-pandemic to 1.7%, and then later rebounded slightly and stayed constant at 2.4%.
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Goodyear testing experimental road tire that doesn’t use air

July 23, 2021

The airless tire may offer sustainable, maintenance-free and longer lasting options, Goodyear said. The company and Local Motors will collect what it calls “experiential data” for viewpoints on ride comfort, noise and more from the Jacksonville Transportation Authority.

“As mobility evolves, we feel that tires can transform the way we move and alternative airless architectures are ideal, particularly in the emerging autonomous transportation environment,” Michael Rachita, Goodyear senior program manager, non-pneumatic tires, said in the news release. “This is an important milestone as we look to advance mobility today and as we look to introduce the first completely sustainable and maintenance-free tires by the end of the decade.”
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Self-Driving Startup Aurora Innovation Is Going Public: Is It a Buy?

July 23, 2021

Where should you invest $1,000 right now?

Self-driving technology start-up Aurora Innovation said on July 15 that it has agreed to go public via a merger with Reinvent Technology Partners Y (NASDAQ:RTPY), a special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC), in a deal that values the combined company at $13 billion.

Investors who have been following the self-driving space have probably had Aurora on their radar screens for a while now. The company’s partnerships with Uber Technologies (NYSE:UBER) and heavy-truck makers Volvo AB (OTC:VLVL.Y)(OTC:VOLV.F) and PACCAR (NASDAQ:PCAR) — all of which are investing in this deal — have helped it stand out in a crowded field…

Aurora’s co-founders are self-driving heavyweights: CEO Chris Urmson was an early leader of the original Google Self-Driving Car Project, which became Waymo; chief product officer Sterling Anderson once ran Tesla’s Autopilot program; and CTO Drew Bagnell is an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s vaunted Robotics Institute, where many leaders in this space were educated.
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The Scorecard on AV Regulation

July 23, 2021

The last six months or so have seen a trickle of activity in AV regulation at multiple jurisdictional levels: state, country and international. We may never see a flood, but a steady stream would be very useful to everyone involved in developing and deploying AVs. What we have so far deserves a review.

The latest event was the announcement of the ISO 22737 standard for L4, limited to low-speed autonomous driving (LSAD). I think it is significant that we have a first ISO standard at the L4 level.

The LSAD regulation follows the German announcement in late May 2021 that includes some L4 use-cases. France quickly followed with its own AV regulation. There are also AV regulations brewing in several other countries.

The next table summarizes most of the AV-related regulation activities I could find. More information is available below the table. There are other countries that are working on AV regulation that are not included in this column.
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FMCSA Plans to Increase Windshield Area to Mount Safety Devices

July 23, 2021

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has issued a proposal to amend its regulations to increase the allowable area vehicle safety technology devices may be mounted on the interior of commercial motor vehicle windshields.

If finalized, the proposal also would make permanent a number of temporary exemptions granted to motor carriers, truck makers and technology companies as far back as 2017. And it would add items to the definition of vehicle safety technology in response to a 2019 rulemaking petition from Daimler Trucks North America…

FMCSA said the expanded location — not more than 8.5 inches (216 mm) below the upper edge of the area swept by the windshield wipers, and not more than 7 inches (175 mm) above the lower edge of the area swept — is expected to keep pace with technological advances and further aid in meeting the statutory requirements.
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SEPTA’s cracking battery buses raise questions about the future of electric transit

July 23, 2021

It’s been nearly a year and a half since a passenger set foot inside one of SEPTA’s Proterra buses, which cost nearly a million dollars apiece when they rolled out in 2019. Most are now gathering dust in a South Philly bus depot, riven by cracked chassis and other defects. The diesel and hybrid buses that SEPTA planned to replace with the all-electric fleet remain in service, with no timeline for the e-buses to return…

Proponents, like engineering professor Jeremy J. Michalek, director of Carnegie Mellon University’s Vehicle Electrification Group, said he worries incidents like the mysterious failure of SEPTA’s ballyhooed battery fleet will scare others away from zero-emission vehicles.

“I definitely worry about those kinds of things,” he said. “If we push too fast, too early, and the technology isn’t ready and people have bad experiences, they may be reluctant to try again. There’s only a few ways to move people around without emissions, and electric vehicles are one of them.”
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Aurora announces plans to become a public company

July 21, 2021

Autonomous vehicle company Aurora Innovation Inc., which is co-headquartered in both Pittsburgh and Palo Alto, announced its plans to become a public company, according to a news release.

Aurora will go public through a special purpose acquisition company merger with Reinvent Technology Partners Y. The company reported that it raised about $2 billion from the transaction and expects to have $2.5 billion cash at the close of the transaction. Aurora reported that funding included a committed private investment in public equity of $1 billion from investors, including its partners PACCAR, Volvo Group and Uber.

Aurora, founded in 2017, reported that the plans to go public would represent an equity value of $11 billion for the company, according to the release.
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Hampton partners with CMU to monitor township air quality

July 21, 2021

Hampton has joined a Carnegie Mellon University-run program to monitor potential changes in township air pollution.

Air quality sensors were installed atop the community center along McCully Road to measure changes in particulates.

The sensors were free to the township through the Greater Pittsburgh Northwest Real-time Affordable Multi-Pollutant (RAMP) Network at CMU…

The RAMP sensors measure carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and fine particulates among others.

Since 2016, the program has deployed air quality sensors across Allegheny County. It provides neighborhood-level air pollution data and is among the largest long-term networks of low-cost pollutant sensors across the country.

Team leaders are Albert Presto, associate research professor at CMU, and R. Subramanian, a CMU research scientist.

Project partners include SenSevere and the City of Pittsburgh Department of Mobility and Infrastructure.
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New USDOT report reveals the secrets behind successful smart cities

July 21, 2021

The US Department of Transportation (USDOT) has released a new report entitled Putting People First – Smart Cities and Communities. The report covers the benefits, goals, challenges, and success factors associated with smart cities and communities (SC&C) and provides some insight into the way forward…

The Putting People First – Smart Cities and Communities report outlines the three hallmarks for establishing an SC&C:

– Networks:They use networks of sensors to gather and integrate data that can be used for various applications and citizen services.

– Connectivity:They use connectivity to enable city officials to interact directly with the community and to monitor and manage city infrastructure.

– Open Data:They are committed to an open data philosophy and routinely share operations and planning data with the public.
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Could the ‘Pittsburgh left’ help Argo AI win the self-driving car race?

July 21, 2021

Different cities, different laws, different customs, different traffic patterns. The kaleidoscopic diversity on city streets across the U.S. and around the world is one reason self-driving cars are not quite yet ready for prime time. The real world is a complicated place for human drivers to find their way around. Robot cars are just getting started.

Yet the driverless technology company Argo AI thinks it’s on the verge of solving the complicated problem well enough to safely introduce a robotaxi service next year. To that end, it’s testing and training its sensors and software in seven different cities all at once, with an intense focus on well-mapped areas it calls “geonets.”..

Take Pittsburgh, which is known for the “Pittsburgh left.” That’s a maneuver wherein the driver of the first car in line at a stoplight signals to turn left. When the light turns green, the driver veers left immediately — making the turn before oncoming traffic goes straight.
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Trucks Are Winning Automation Race

July 21, 2021

Truckers’ pay is rising as companies try to attract more drivers. And as labor costs and inflation surge, and consumers continue their pandemic e-commerce habits, technology is coming to the rescue with automated trucks.

Companies such as Aurora, Waymo, Embark, TuSimple, Plus, and Locomation are all testing autonomous trucks, and Walmart, Target, and Amazon as well as other large retailers are potential purchasers.

Some say that self-driving cars are just around the corner, but driverless trucks will probably be with us first. The advantage of autonomous technology in trucks rather than cars is that trucks travel on fixed routes, generally on major highways, rather than through city traffic. Driving for miles on a highway is easier than navigating in cities.
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How Germany Hopes to Get the Edge in Driverless Technology

July 20, 2021

With its requirement that autonomous vehicles be overseen by humans, the German law reflects a realization in the industry that researchers are still years away from cars that can safely allow the driver to disengage while the car does all the work. The law also requires that autonomous vehicles operate in a defined space approved by the authorities, an acknowledgment that the technology is not advanced enough to work safely in areas where traffic is chaotic and unpredictable…

Raj Rajkumar, who leads the autonomous driving program at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, which has produced many of the leading scientists in the field, said the new legislation would give German companies an advantage. But he said he was concerned that the United States and Europe were both at risk of falling behind China in technology and regulations.

“There is an international arms race between the U.S., Europe and China,” said Mr. Rajkumar, who estimates that fully autonomous vehicles are still a decade away. “China is an authoritarian country. They can pass any rules they want overnight.”
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SCO, Navy Eye More Unmanned Overlord Demonstrations

July 20, 2021

Fresh from a second autonomous unmanned surface vessel successfully transiting more than 4,000 miles, officials from the Navy and the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office say their teams will stay joined at the hip for further fleet demonstrations and operational assessments as they prove out new technologies vital to the Navy’s envisioned distributed fleet.

“The intent is to utilize this time period to do fleet demonstration exercises and operational vignettes to continue to demonstrate in an operational context the utility of these vessels to augment manned combatant capabilities,” Luis Molina, SCO’s deputy director told reporters during a telephone roundtable on Tuesday, referring to his agency’s Ghost Fleet Overlord program.

Overlord is the Pentagon’s premiere — and somewhat secretive — USV development program that the Office of the Secretary of Defense has been using for several years now to inform the technology and capabilities that will one day be onboard most unmanned maritime vessels populating the Navy fleet.
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Mobile Driver’s Licenses Pave the Way for Unified Digital IDs

July 20, 2021

More and more states are rolling out digital driver’s licenses, and experts see that trend continuing as federal standards take shape and citizens embrace an improved government experience.

The COVID-19 pandemic has provided momentum for all things digital and remote. For instance, in health care it led to the rapid adoption of telehealth, which had struggled for years to gain widespread acceptance.

In motor vehicle regulation, the pandemic accelerated what has been a gradual transition to serving customers remotely. “The evolution of mobile driver’s licenses and the recognition of being able to do transactions without exchanging a physical document certainly fits within that,” said Ian Grossman, vice president of member services and public affairs for the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA).
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Toyota buys U.S. mapping, road data firm to bulk up driverless tech

July 20, 2021

Toyota Motor Corp’s (7203.T) research arm said on Thursday it acquired U.S.-based Carmera, a provider of maps and data for driverless vehicles, marking the Japanese car maker’s latest investment in autonomous technology.

The purchase, through newly created subsidiary Woven Planet for an undisclosed sum, underscores Toyota’s push to bulk up its self-driving arsenal as traditional automakers compete with the autonomous ambitions of tech giants including Apple (AAPL.O) and Amazon (AMZN.O).

Buying Carmera will give Toyota access to real-time, high-definition maps and crowdsourced inputs that are essential for autonomous vehicles to locate and navigate themselves, the companies said in a statement.

The two companies have collaborated since 2018 on projects including technology that updates repainted lane markings on high-definition maps with accuracy.
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Texan city to deploy intelligent traffic system from Velodyne Lidar

July 20, 2021

On Wednesday, Velodyne Lidar announced that it will deploy a lidar-based traffic-monitoring system to a dangerous intersection in Austin, Texas, as part of its Intelligent Infrastructure Solution.

The system will create real-time 3D maps of roads and intersections, replacing the current combination of inductive loop detectors, cameras, and radar. Velodyne has joined Nvidia’s Metropolis program and will use Nvidia Jetson AGX Xavier edge processors to interpret the lidar data.

Velodyne will install lidar sensors to monitor traffic, beginning with the intersection of East 7th Street and Springdale Road. Velodyne says this location’s accident history and fatality risk, along with the prevalence of speeding and congestion, make it an ideal place to start.
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Georgia smart road triples V2X infrastructure

July 19, 2021

Dubbed a “green highway of the future,” The Ray is a partnership between state agencies, a family foundation and private companies that aims to advance autonomous vehicle testing. This public-private-philanthropic-partnership was formed in 2019 when Georgia’s Department of Transportation joined the venture. The South Korean car manufacturer Kia, supported by Hyundai America Technical Center Inc. (HATCI), is the latest business to sign onto the venture, joining companies like 3M and Panasonic.

Kia and the HATCI engineering research group will primarily focus on connected vehicle applications such as roadwork zone warnings and freight signal priority, which adjusts traffic lights to accommodate freight traffic.
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Samsung, Qualcomm help launch 6G research center at University of Texas

July 19, 2021

The University of Texas at Austin is launching a 6G research center with the support of major wireless industry players, including AT&T, Samsung and Qualcomm.

Nvidia and InterDigital also are among the five founding affiliates.

Advanced sensing, location, machine learning capabilities and use of terahertz spectrum are a few of the key aspects the research center is focused on for 6G.

Tower company Crown Castle is involved as an affiliate, alongside Intel, Honda, Nextnav (a company developing location and timing technology including high-precision altitude), Western Digital, and industrial automation and test and measurement solutions provider Yokogawa…

The handful of founding companies have each agreed to fund at least two research projects at the center, called 6G@UT, for three years. In addition to funding, they’ll also contribute expertise, working with UT researchers, faculty and students to develop foundational technologies for 6G.
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MIT lab creates digital model and formula of how people move across cities

July 19, 2021

Researchers at the MIT Senseable City Lab have unveiled their latest project, which seeks to understand human mobility in cities. Titled Wanderlust, the project uses large-scale cellphone data to understand the movement of people in the metro areas of Boston, Abidjan, Braga, Lisbon, Porto, Dakar, and Singapore. The result is an interactive digital model which quantifies data through time and space, unlocking a new way of seeing and reading cities.

To undertake the project, the MIT researchers analyzed over 8 billion human mobility traces collected across four continents. In doing so, they found that the flows of movement to all locations in each city followed a predictable, universal pattern. This pattern can be reproduced through a mathematical formula: “The number of visitors to any given location decreases as the inverse square of the product of their visiting frequency and travel distance.” This formula can be simplified to say “people are unlikely to travel far too often.”
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Pilot Seeks Better Micromobility Safety At Intersections

July 19, 2021

Austria-based technology firm SWARCO AG and San Francisco-based micromobility provider Lime are jointly testing a system to reduce the risk of crashes between motor vehicles, e-scooters, and bicyclists at intersections controlled by traffic signals.

The joint pilot project seeks to “optimize” SWARCO’s adaptive traffic light management algorithms in concert with Lime’s ridership data to develop insights and potential countermeasures like adjusted crosswalk timing algorithms to support safer road conditions for motor vehicles and micromobility users alike…

Several state departments of transportation across the country are engaged in similar efforts to improve intersection safety by revamping traffic signal operations.
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Video: HyperloopTT unveils vision for hyperloop cargo with HyperPort

July 19, 2021

Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HyperloopTT) has revealed a vision for a sustainable high-speed cargo and freight transportation solution called HyperPort.

Working with seaport Hamburger Hafen and Logistik AG (HHLA), the companies will present a virtual reality demonstration of Hyperport at ITS World Congress, a mobility trade show, taking place in Hamburg, Germany, on Oct. 11-15.

HyperPort is a solution for port operators to transport containerized cargo hundreds of kilometers in minutes. The system is capable of moving 2,800 containers a day in an enclosed operating environment to eliminate at-grade crossings. This will help to increase reliability, efficiency and worker safety, HyperloopTT said.

The capsules can transport two 20 ft standard or high cube containers or one 40 ft or 45 ft container at airplane speeds.
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Tesla finally begins shipping ‘Full Self-Driving’ beta version 9 after a long delay

July 16, 2021

Tesla began sending out over-the-air software updates for its long-awaited “Full Self-Driving” beta version 9, the definitely-not-autonomous-but-certainly-advanced driver assist system.

As promised by Elon Musk, the software update (2021.4.18.12) began uploading after midnight on Friday, giving thousands of Tesla owners who have purchased the FSD option access to the feature, which enables drivers to use many of Autopilot’s advanced driver-assist features on local, non-highway streets…

The real question is whether it’s ready for primetime. To that, Musk gave a typical muddled response, tweeting that “Beta 9 addresses most known issues, but there will be unknown issues, so please be paranoid.” He added, “Safety is always top priority at Tesla.” Release notes included with the update warn testers that “it may do the wrong thing at the worst time” and to avoid complacence. They also mention improvements to the cabin camera’s driver monitoring to check for attentiveness, along with updated, larger visualizations on the in-car display (as shown above).
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