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GM faces pushback on U.S. self-driving vehicle plan

May 23, 2019

The largest U.S. automaker said it hoped to deploy no more than 2,500 modified Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicles as part of a controlled on-demand ride-sharing fleet, likely to be based in San Francisco, by the end of 2019.

GM first made the request for a two-year temporary waiver on features like mirrors, dashboard warning lights and turn signals designed for a human driver in a petition filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in January 2018…

In March, NHTSA made the petition available for public comment for the 60 days that ended on Monday.

Several groups, including car dealers and insurers, raised questions posted publicly this week pressing NHTSA to demand more data, require additional safety provisions or deny the petition outright.

The National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies said driverless vehicles without human controls should not be permitted on public roads until data proves the cars are safe.
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Ford Developing Bi-Pedal Robot to Carry Deliveries from Driverless Cars to Your Door

May 23, 2019

Which is why Ford is working on a bi-pedal robot that literally walks deliveries from driverless cars right up to your front door(h/t to Bloomberg). Dr. Ken Washington, Vice President, Ford Research and Advanced Engineering, and Chief Technology Officer published a post on Medium today outlining the program, writing:

Enter Digit, a two-legged robot designed and built by Agility Robotics to not only approximate the look of a human, but to walk like one, too. Built out of lightweight material and capable of lifting packages that weigh up to 40 pounds, Digit can go up and down stairs, walk naturally through uneven terrain, and even react to things like being bumped without losing its balance and falling over.
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Voom targets escooter boom with on-demand insurance for per-trip coverage

May 23, 2019

Though many people will assume that they are sufficiently covered for any damage (physical or otherwise) caused by an ill-conceived scooter stunt, that isn’t necessarily the case. Voom will offer coverage that encapsulates third-party liability, property, and personal accidents, and is designed to serve as an “additional layer” on top of any existing health care coverage the user may have.

“With the rise of on-demand mobility services such as escooters, we discovered that in most cases, riders are not covered in case of an accident,” Voom cofounder and CEO Tomer Kashi said. “And much more importantly, they are not aware of this fact. Voom will ensure that users of unique mobility platforms can grab insurance on-the-go from their mobile devices whether they ride, fly, or sail.”
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Truck drivers don’t think EVs are up to heavy hauling

May 22, 2019

Charging infrastructure is “one of the largest unknowns and sources of anxiety for fleets considering near-term adoption of this technology,” according to a May, 2019, report the North American Council on Freight Efficiency.

Battery technology, too, still has a way to go before long-distance heavy hauling is reliable, affordable but – perhaps most importantly – light enough. A 2017 study by Carnegie Mellon University found that a battery powerful enough to drive a Class 8 semi-truck (i.e. a truck capable of hauling 18,000 kilograms, or 40 tons) over a distance of 1,000 kilometres would require a battery that weighs more than the cargo. That puts these vehicles at a distinct disadvantage compared with internal combustion engines (ICE), and it will likely remain that way for years, auto analyst Dennis DesRosiers said.
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Tesla’s Trouble With Semi Trucks & Another Shakeup Of The Autopilot Team — Is There A Connection?

May 22, 2019

Raj Rajkumar, an electrical and computer engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University, has some insight into this this situation. Other than Tesla itself, Carnegie Mellon is ground zero for autonomous driving development in the world. He tells The Verge that in most road situations, there are vehicles to the front, back, and to the side, but a perpendicular vehicle is much less common. The algorithms using the camera output need to be trained to detect trucks that are perpendicular to the direction of the vehicle.

“Essentially, the same incident repeats after three years,” Rajkumar says. “This seems to indicate that these two problems have still not been addressed.” Machine learning and artificial intelligence have inherent limitations, he explains. If sensors “see” what they have never or seldom seen before, they do not know how to handle those situations. “Tesla is not handling the well-known limitations of AI,” he added.
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Spider hair-inspired sensors could give drones a “spidey-sense”

May 22, 2019

In nature, “mechanosensors” like those spider leg-hairs are perfectly tuned to focus only on the data that the spider needs for survival. They’ll pick up vibrations that indicate a bug is stuck in the web, for example, but won’t concern themselves with lower frequency vibrations that might just be the wind.

Inspired by this, the Purdue team set out to create mechanosensors that will ignore minor forces, and only signal the rest of the machine after that sensation hits a certain threshold. The trick to this is making the sensors out of a material that starts off stiff, but changes shape rapidly when an external force is applied to it. When its changed shape reaches a certain point, conductive particles inside the material come together and allow electricity to flow through. That in turn sends a signal to the rest of the machine, which responds as needed.
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Santa Clara County Redefines ‘Street Smart’

May 22, 2019

Some 500 video cameras mounted on signal poles provide traffic count data, which is used to calibrate signal times for some 1.5 million cars on a daily basis…

The system is also designed for more than cars. Special sensors in the pavement know when a bicycle pedals up to an intersection. The sensors can trigger a change in signal timing to give the cyclist an adequate amount of time to make it through the intersection. “You hear a lot about smart cities and bike lanes, but we started this about 12 years ago,” said Prasad.

Then there are the pedestrians who are trying to walk across 10 lanes of traffic. “These are very large intersections” Prasad explained. “In order to provide them sufficient time we use microwave sensors. That microwave sensor is actually tracking pedestrian movement in the crosswalk. And when the crossing time is about to end, if it still detects a pedestrian, it can provide them an extension.”
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Princeton Summit Bolsters Driverless Cars For All, Including The Mobility Marginalized

May 22, 2019

Professor Alain Kornhauser is a veritable force of nature when it comes to pursuing the cause of the mobility marginalized in the race toward producing and fielding autonomous cars. Speaking with him at his annual Smart Driving Cars Summit that took place last week at Princeton University, it’s the third one to-date (the next one is May 13-14, 2020), his determination and passion were quite evident, and while moderating this important event he managed to cajole and spur the esteemed speakers, keeping them on-track and intently focused on the crucial topics at-hand.

The tag line for the annual event is seeking safe, inclusive, affordable, energy efficient, and environmentally responsible on-demand 24/7 mobility for all people, especially the mobility marginalized.
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The Amazing Ways The Ford Motor Company Uses Artificial Intelligence And Machine Learning

May 21, 2019

Ford Motor Company, along with General Motors, Toyota and Volkswagen, may have started out as automotive manufacturers, but they now refer to themselves as “mobility service” companies. Ford believes “freedom of movement drives human progress.” While it is now a global company, Ford started out more than 100 years ago in Dearborn, Michigan. The company revolutionized manufacturing by introducing the moving assembly line and made car ownership possible for everyday folks and not just the wealthy. Today, the company focuses on technology first and uses artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning in many ways from connected car solutions to the development of autonomous vehicles.
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Self-Driving Trucks Will Carry Mail in U.S. for the First Time

May 21, 2019

The United States Postal Service is going to put mail on self-driving trucks.

Starting on Tuesday morning, letters and packages moving between Phoenix and Dallas will travel on customized Peterbilt trucks run by TuSimple, an autonomous startup based in San Diego. There will be five round trips between the two cites, with the first haul leaving from Phoenix this morning. It’s the first time that the Postal Service has contracted with an autonomous provider for long-haul service.

“This pilot is just one of many ways the Postal Service is innovating and investing in its future,” the USPS said in a press release that cited the possibility of using “a future class of vehicles” to improve service, reduce emissions and save money. After the initial trial, which is expected to last about two weeks, the Postal Service will assess whether to continue working with TuSimple.
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Bolt Mobility Unveils $9,999 Electric Car Designed For Car-Sharing In Cities

May 21, 2019

Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest human, is backing an electric car startup based in Florida called Bolt Mobility. This past week, the company unveiled its first car, the B-Nano, which it says it has been working on in secret for the past two years.

Details about the 2 passenger urban EV are sketchy. According to AutoBlog, the B-Nano — which resembles the Renault Twizy in size and simplicity — is intended to be used much like the two wheeled vehicles used in bike sharing schemes. Short trips of between 2 and 15 miles are its design envelope. No maximum range or top speed is specified by the company.

But the battery — whatever size it is — is engineered to be easily swapped out for fresh battery quickly and easily.
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NASA backs development of cryogenic hydrogen system to power all-electric aircraft

May 21, 2019

The University of Illinois has announced that NASA is underwriting a project to develop a cryogenic hydrogen fuel cell system for powering all-electric aircraft. Funded by a three-year, US$6 million contract, the Center for Cryogenic High-Efficiency Electrical Technologies for Aircraft (CHEETA) will investigate the technology needed to produce a practical all-electric design to replace conventional fossil fuel propulsion systems…

The CHEETA project is a consortium of eight institutions that include the Air Force Research Laboratory, Boeing Research and Technology, General Electric Global Research, Ohio State University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Arkansas, the University of Dayton Research Institute, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Although the project is still in its conceptual stage, the researchers have a firm vision of the technology and its potential.
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Tesla didn’t fix an Autopilot problem for three years, and now another person is dead

May 21, 2019

Radar outputs of detected objects are sometimes ignored by the vehicle’s software to deal with the generation of “false positives,” said Raj Rajkumar, an electrical and computer engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University. Without these, the radar would “see” an overpass and report that as an obstacle, causing the vehicle to slam on the brakes.

On the computer vision side of the equation, the algorithms using the camera output need to be trained to detect trucks that are perpendicular to the direction of the vehicle, he added. In most road situations, there are vehicles to the front, back, and to the side, but a perpendicular vehicle is much less common.

“Essentially, the same incident repeats after three years,” Rajkumar said. “This seems to indicate that these two problems have still not been addressed.” Machine learning and artificial intelligence have inherent limitations. If sensors “see” what they have never or seldom seen before, they do not know how to handle those situations. “Tesla is not handling the well-known limitations of AI,” he added.
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City councils and operators lock legal horns over 5G infrastructure

May 21, 2019

A growing number of disputes about the installation of 5G equipment risks delaying 5G’s roll-out in the UK, a new report has claimed.

City leaders and legal experts say the Electronic Communications Code, which regulates the legal relationship between landowners/occupiers and operators and was updated in 2017 to smooth the way for the implementation of 5G, is hindering rather than helping.

Alicia Foo, a property lawyer and partner at Pinsent Masons who represents both operators and landowners, told the Guardian: “More and more cases are clogging up the tribunals than ever was the case under the old code.”

Theo Blackwell, London’s chief digital officer, said the Code is ambiguously worded and lacks practical guidance.
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Self-driving electric wheelchairs to be tested at Narita Airport

May 20, 2019

In a bid to help those with limited mobility get to the gate, Tokyo Narita International Airport is set to welcome a number of self-driving wheelchairs to its floors. With the ability to navigate the airport all on their own, the new wheelchairs are hoped to streamline foot traffic in one of Japan’s busiest airports and form part of a wider plan to boost mobility options at such facilities.

From checking in, to moving through security, to walking briskly to make that connecting flight, navigating an airport can require passengers to cover quite a bit of ground. This can be demanding enough with a heavy bag or two in tow, and particularly so for the elderly or those with mobility issues.

It is with this in mind that Japan’s largest airline, All Nippon Airways, has teamed up with Panasonic to explore new mobility solutions designed specifically for airports.
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Speed cameras are coming to Philadelphia’s deadliest road

May 20, 2019

Speed cameras are coming to Roosevelt Boulevard. Philadelphia City Council passed a bill today to put the devices in several locations along the nearly twelve mile stretch of road.

“Roosevelt Boulevard is arguably the most dangerous stretch of highway and the deadliest here in Philadelphia, if not in the nation,” said Jana Tidwell of AAA.

She testified in support of the bill, which passed unanimously, citing the 139 deaths there between 2013 and 2017.

Sponsor Cherelle Parker says the cameras will photograph any car going more than 11 miles per hour over the speed limit.

“Vehicles going between 11 and 20 miles over the speed limit are going to be fined $100, vehicles going between 21 and 30 miles over the speed limit are going to be fined $125 and vehicles going more than 30 miles over the speed limit are going to be fined $150,” she said.
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VW WILL MAKE ITS OWN BATTERIES TO POWER AN ELECTRIC FUTURE

May 20, 2019

Whichever company is helping VW run its plant will likely play a key role. That’s because building batteries for cars requires exquisite control of materials and manufacturing. Many smartphones use one battery cell, so if minor differences between two cells result in slightly different capacities, it just means somebody gets a few more minutes of Twitter time than somebody else. But even minor differences in the capacity or quality of the 500 or so cells that make up a pack can undermine the performance or safety of the entire vehicle. (Tesla uses smaller cells than most; its batteries contain 5,000 or more cells.) “Cells have to be identical from a quality perspective,” says Jay Whitacre, who runs the Scott Institute for Energy Innovation at Carnegie Mellon University. “Only the very best producers can make lithium-ion batteries for automotive use.”
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Ohio, Pennsylvania plan interstate system for managing road work

May 20, 2019

Announced last month by the state of Ohio, the project, called the Work Zone Reservation and Traveler Information System, or WZRTIS, is a partnership between the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission, an autonomous and connected vehicle initiative called DriveOhio, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission…

An early planning document shows states plan to build the system using “an open platform to ensure future scalability to local municipalities, partners, and other state transportation agencies. Agencies would have the ability to integrate the WZRTIS into their own [information technology systems], operational, and data systems and processes, and would manage ongoing maintenance and operations.”

Talks on this project originated, Newbacher said, through a body called the Smart Belt Coalition, a group of state government agencies and universities from Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan.
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Utilities offering heat pump, e-bike, e-mower rebates

May 20, 2019

Green Mountain Power is launching two new rebate programs to help customers save on heating, cooling, and even their commute.

GMP customers can get a $400 rebate when they buy a cold climate heat pump.

Customers can also get a $200 rebate when they buy an electric bicycle at participating Vermont bike shops. They can also get free consultations to help decide what type of electric bike or electric cargo bike is best for their commute based on road conditions, safety features, and a rider’s experience.
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Power to the people: DC residents could soon issue parking tickets

May 20, 2019

A new pilot program that’s part of an overhaul of transportation safety in D.C. would let some residents issue parking tickets on their own.

The Citizen Safety Enforcement Pilot Program is part of a larger “Vision Zero” omnibus bill introduced by Ward 6 Councilman Charles Allen last week.

“It would start small,” Allen told FOX5. “Just 10 people per ward to be trained, make sure that they’re ready to go.”

Those selected would then use an app from the city to take a picture of the infraction on their phone.

“When they see a vehicle that is blocking a bike lane, blocking a crosswalk, blocking a fire hydrant,” Allen said, “they would have the ability, using an app on their phone, to be able to take a picture, and actually have a ticket that would be issued.”
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RoadBotics Aims To Help Municipalities Better Decide Which Roads To Pave And When

May 20, 2019

Street maintenance can be a Sisyphean task. Like in the myth of the Greek king sentenced to push a boulder up a hill for all of eternity, the work of paving and filling potholes and cracks is never really done.

But Pittsburgh company RoadBotics is working to make the task a little less maddening for municipalities, by creating a detailed, interactive map of road conditions.

Each of the company’s drivers is equipped with two smartphones. One phone is affixed on the car dashboard and continuously takes a high definition video of the roadway. The other phone tells the driver the route to take, following municipality-owned and maintained roads.

After the drive is complete, the video is uploaded to a company cloud. Then, the artificial intelligence takes over.

“It basically chops up that video into images,” said Shane Witt, a business development representative at RoadBotics. “So you get an image for every 10 foot length of road.”
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ADOT asks public to choose next freeway safety messages

May 20, 2019

The Arizona Department of Transportation is asking the public to vote for their favorite highway safety message.

The two messages with the most votes will be displayed throughout the state. Those who would like to participate can vote on the department’s contest website through Monday.

The department received more than 3,200 submissions and narrowed the list down to 15 before opening the contest for a public vote.

“One of the interesting things about the contest is seeing the messages submitted and what really matters to people when it comes to transportation safety,” ADOT Director John Halikowski said in a press release.
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DHL launches its first regular urban drone delivery service

May 20, 2019

International express delivery service provider, DHL Express, and intelligent autonomous aerial vehicle company, EHang, have entered into a strategic partnership to jointly launch a fully automated and intelligent smart drone delivery solution to tackle the last-mile delivery challenges in the urban areas of China.

The new customised route, which has been exclusively created for a DHL customer, covers a distance of approximately 8km between the customer premises and the DHL service centre in Liaobu, Dongguan, Guangdong Province.

Using the most advanced unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in EHang’s newly-launched Falcon series, the solution overcomes the complex road conditions and traffic congestion common to urban areas. It reduces one-way delivery time from 40 minutes to only eight minutes and can save costs of up to 80 per cent per delivery, with reduced energy consumption and carbon footprint compared with road transportation.
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Cambridge study finds driverless cars working together can speed up traffic by 35%

May 20, 2019

When the cars were not driving cooperatively, any cars behind the stopped car had to stop or slow down and wait for a gap in the traffic, as would typically happen on a real road. A queue quickly formed behind the stopped car and overall traffic flow was slowed.

However, when the cars were communicating with each other and driving cooperatively, as soon as one car stopped in the inner lane, it sent a signal to all the other cars. Cars in the outer lane that were in immediate proximity of the stopped car slowed down slightly so that cars in the inner lane were able to quickly pass the stopped car without having to stop or slow down significantly.

Additionally, when a human-controlled driver was put on the ‘road’ with the autonomous cars and moved around the track in an aggressive manner, the other cars were able to give way to avoid the aggressive driver, improving safety.
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Self-driving tech attracts investors, but Uber still relies on its drivers

May 20, 2019

The company has adjusted its thinking about the role drivers will play in the self-driving future. Should self-driving vehicles flood the streets, Uber now believes it may always need some humans behind the wheel to help meet demand. But profitability will remain a challenge so long as it continues to split the fare from every ride with contractors while also pouring money into incentives for drivers and discounts for riders – tactics Uber relies on to fend off competition.

Uber now hopes it can grow to a scale where the volume of rides will help sustain the business, allowing it to fully dominate markets without big expenditures on rider discounts or driver incentives. That’s a tough prospect in places like the US, where Uber has to compete with rival Lyft’s prices.
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