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Beta hopes its electric vertical aircraft deal with UPS validates this new mode of transport

April 16, 2021

Beta Technologies, which agreed to sell electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft to United Parcel Service, sees the deal as a major milestone for the acceptance of eVTOLs as commercially viable.

“UPS is a step function change for our business,” Beta founder Kyle Clark told CNBC ahead of Wednesday’s announcement. “It telegraphs to the entire business community that electric vertical aircraft are real.”

Beta Technologies will design and build 10 of its Alia-250 eVTOLs to be delivered to UPS in 2024, pending certification from the Federal Aviation Administration. The aircraft is powered by an electric battery. It has five propellers, allowing it to take off vertically like a helicopter and then fly like a plane. It can carry 1,400 pounds. It can travel up to 250 miles at 170 mph once fully charged, a process that takes 50 minutes.

UPS, headquartered in Atlanta, plans to test the eVTOLs in its Express Air delivery network to replace small planes that can carry 500 to 3,000 pounds.
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NTSB picks mandatory collision avoidance and connected vehicle technologies as one of most wanted transportation safety improvements

April 16, 2021

The National Transportation Safety Board has released its 2021 – 2022 Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements; one of the 10 items in the list was “Require Collision Avoidance and Connected Vehicle Technologies on All Vehicles”.

These technologies include forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking, which can warn the driver of an upcoming hazard and act if the driver doesn’t respond. Connected-vehicle technologies allow vehicles to relay important safety information to each other to avoid crashes.

Most passenger vehicles and commercial vehicles (such as heavy-duty trucks and school buses) on the road today are not equipped—nor required to be equipped—with such technologies. Consumers are often unaware of the availability and capabilities of these technologies.
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As rainstorms grow more severe and frequent, communities fail to prepare for risks

April 16, 2021

“The take-home message is that infrastructure in most parts of the country is no longer performing at the level that it’s supposed to because of the big changes that we’ve seen in extreme rainfall,” said Daniel Wright, a hydrologist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and co-author of the study.

He points to the 2014 National Climate Assessment, which found heavy downpours increased 71 percent in the Northeast, 37 percent in the Upper Midwest, and 27 percent in the Southeast from 1958 to 2012. It may cost more initially to build for bigger storms, but it’s less expensive than making fixes later, said Constantine Samaras, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.

“The place that we want to get to is designing for the future rather than designing for the past,” he added.
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China’s Legislation on Autonomous Cars Rolls out

April 16, 2021

In China, on March 24, 2021, the Ministry of Public Security of China issued the Draft Proposed Amendments of the Road Traffic Safety Law (the “MPS Proposed Amendments”). The MPS Proposed Amendments clarify the requirements related to road testing of, and access by, vehicles equipped with automated driving functions, as well as regulating how liability for traffic violations and accidents will be allocated.[3] This marks the first time China has proposed specific legislation for autonomous cars at the level of the Road Traffic Safety Act. This is a significant milestone…

Taken together the MPS Proposed Amendments and Shenzhen Draft Regulations can be seen as the beginning of China specifically legislating in respect of autonomous cars.

This article will provide an introduction and brief commentary on the main provisions of the MPS Proposed Amendments and the Shenzhen Draft Regulations.
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Why Shares of These Electric-Vehicle Start-Ups Got Crushed in March

April 16, 2021

Here’s how these three companies’ stocks fared in March, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Decarbonization Plus Acquisition (NASDAQ: DCRB), a special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC) that is in the process of merging with electric-truck start-up Hyzon Motors, fell 10.9% in March.

Hyliion Holdings (NYSE: HYLN), a maker of electric and hybrid powertrains for heavy trucks that went public via a SPAC deal in 2020, fell 29.4% in March.

Property Solutions Acquisition (NASDAQ: PSAC), a SPAC that is in the process of merging with luxury EV start-up Faraday Future, fell 14.4% in March…

Hyliion went public after completing a merger with a SPAC last year. The Texas company, led by Thomas Healy, an engineer trained at Carnegie Mellon University, designs hybrid and fully electric powertrains for heavy trucks that are then built and distributed by established truck-industry partners, including Tier 1 auto supplier Dana (NYSE: DAN).
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VIRGINIA TAKES INNOVATIVE APPROACH TO TRANSPORTATION PROBLEM-SOLVING

April 14, 2021

The Commonwealth is focusing on performance-based planning, using today’s readily available big data to identify transportation problems at a corridor level. Performance-based planning provides a holistic approach to problem identification and serves as the basis for targeted solutions that most effectively address underlying transportation issues…

This approach begins with combing through transportation data sets to identify key problem areas. The Commonwealth, in turn, engages with the public to validate these data points and incorporate travelers’ input into the process. Following validation, a stepwise approach centered on targeted solutions begins. The first step is to maximize the efficiency of existing infrastructure—this entails a corridor-level review of operations upgrades to the interstate (including cameras, changeable message signs, towing and quick clearance of incidents, motorist assistance patrols, ramp metering, and variable speed limits), as well as improvements to parallel facilities (e.g., signal upgrades and coordination) that can become de facto interstates during incident situations.
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Toyota Takes a Special Route To Autonomous Driving With Independent Updates

April 14, 2021

Toyota president Akio Toyoda has been driving the conversion of the car manufacturer into a software-driven mobility company since he took office in 2009. This Thursday, an important technological step for the realization of his project followed. The world’s largest car manufacturer presented its first two vehicles, the built-in technology of which should open higher levels of autonomous driving: the new generations of the fuel cell car Mirai and the Lexus hybrid vehicle LS500h.

But Toyota is taking a different approach.

While many manufacturers want to offer hands-free driving on level 3 of the five-level scale for fully automatic robotic cars this year, Toyota drivers still have to lend a hand in some situations on the motorway. This corresponds to the second stage, in which the driver has to keep an eye on the traffic at all times.

“Toyota’s principle is automation with a human touch,” said Head of Technology Masahiko Maeda…
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State’s new drone fleet to help with investigations, inspections

April 14, 2021

A federal innovation grant is helping the Wyoming Department of Transportation and Wyoming Highway Patrol launch a statewide drone program.

Lt. Matt Brackin, the Highway Patrol’s first certified pilot, said options are endless for how drones will help in their everyday work.

“From a crash reconstruction standpoint it will be invaluable for us,” Brackin said.

Rather than keeping a highway closed for hours while investigators measure and collect evidence, now they can fly a drone over the scene to capture images and reopen the highway more quickly and continue the investigation elsewhere.

Software can stitch together photos of the scene, allowing investigators to estimate speeds and directions of the vehicles involved.

Because Brackin works in Teton County his drone will also be used for avalanche-related highway work.
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Tech Giants Enter Their Chips in the Race for Self-driving Cars

April 14, 2021

ADAS and other autonomous driving technologies can apply automatic braking, park your car, adapt cruise control to road conditions, monitor blind spots, watch out for pedestrians, and more. These advanced functions are the result of innovations in embedded technology and chip design.

To achieve the very best in this technology, however, chips must be designed specifically for self-driving cars or advanced driver-assist systems, and there are plenty of chipmakers doing just that: it’s a market expected to be worth $7.77 billion by 2025.

Samsung…

Qualcomm…

NXP Semiconductor…

GlobalFoundries
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AI safety system offers autonomous vehicle drivers seven seconds warning

April 14, 2021

To make self-driving cars safe in the future, development efforts often rely on sophisticated models aimed at giving cars the ability to analyse the behaviour of other traffic. But researchers have now asked: what happens if the cars come across a complex situation they have never seen before and cannot handle alone?

A team working with Prof. Eckehard Steinbach, who holds the Chair of Media Technology and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Munich School of Robotics and Machine Intelligence (MSRM) at TUM, is taking a new approach.

They claim that thanks to artificial intelligence (AI), their system can learn from past situations where self-driving test vehicles were pushed to their limits in real-world road traffic. Those are situations where a human driver takes over – either because the car signals the need for intervention or because the driver decides to intervene for safety reasons.
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There’s Another Way to Pay for Infrastructure Projects

April 13, 2021

Increasingly, our roads and bridges, drinking water and sewer pipelines, buildings, ports and hospitals are outfitted with sensors and other data collection systems. An urban internet of things is emerging, and its data have the potential to generate an incredible amount of added value. We can harness this technology to deliver insights that will make financing more efficient and to develop the next generation of public-private partnerships.

Sensors can pull data on water flow, traffic congestion, air pollution and more—all of which can be processed to illuminate how to deliver services more efficiently and cost-effectively. The data are attractive to insurance companies because they help to hedge risk, and to investors because the information can give rise to new revenue streams, or create value well beyond the infrastructure itself.
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Technology plays key role in decarbonizing freight rail: Wabtec exec

April 13, 2021

GEBHARDT: “What we’ve seen is that the cost continues to come down and the supply chains to grow in order meet the needs overall…

“How do we make sure that we can get hydrogen where we need it? How do we make sure it’s green hydrogen? How do we go ahead and charge these battery-electric locomotives, looking at that whole ecosystem? What’s exciting to me is that for rail, there’s a couple of thousand fueling stations in the U.S. … They would be easier to transition to electrification and to hydrogen than, say, the tens of thousands of gasoline fueling stations for automobiles and for trucks today.

“We think it’s a much more practical challenge, and that’s why we’re excited about Freight 2030. Carnegie Mellon has a lot of logistics capability, a lot of AI capability on how to do the planning for all of that.
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Will apps like PayPal and Venmo make financial inequality worse?

April 13, 2021

Given the cleanliness concerns spurred by the Covid-19 pandemic, mobile payments have generally been used for contactless transactions and thus are better for public health, said Beibei Li, associate professor of IT and management at Carnegie Mellon University. For underbanked customers, in particular, mobile payment apps allow consumers to access their money without needing to go to an ATM, which can be inconvenient for people in low-income communities with fewer ATM locations nearby, Li said…

Li noted that, according to her research examining payment apps and other mobile banking apps, consumers were able to better manage their money, including incurring fewer overdraft and late credit card payment fees.

“It seems like these mobile applications are able to facilitate better for people’s financial management in general. We definitely see that there is a benefit for disadvantaged [groups],” Li said.
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Research: Technology Will Help Provide ‘Barrier-Free Mobility’

April 13, 2021

New research compiled by the Autonomous Vehicle Alliance (AVA), the Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America), and AARP examines how technology can provide “barrier-free mobility” to people with age-related or physical impairments – helping them navigate their immediate surroundings when they enter and exit the vehicle.

The research outlines three “opportunity areas” where technology can increase and improve mobility options:

Merging the physical world with digital wayfinding tools…

Understanding the impact of Universal Design language on AVs…

Coordinating vehicle design language with infrastructure…

The research also includes “journey maps” detailing how people with varied ability levels – prosthetic limbs; white cane; hearing loss; etc. – would navigate various trips that include an accessible vehicle.

Many of the findings also suggest applying common functionality and design language to other vehicles in the mobility mix, such as buses and streetcars, would better serve people of all abilities.
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SAE and Argo AI collaborate on robotics for autonomous vehicles training program

April 13, 2021

Warrendale-based SAE International, in partnership with Pittsburgh-based Argo AI and Clemson University, launched a 12-week Robotics for Autonomous Vehicle Systems bootcamp.

The idea for the training program stemmed from a discussion between Frank Menchaca, chief growth officer at SAE International, and Bryan Salesky, CEO of Argo AI…

Menchaca said Salesky told him that while autonomous vehicle companies may see a stream of students coming from elite schools like Carnegie Mellon University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the industry need to increase that pipeline.

SAE referenced a study completed by Boston Consulting Group and Detroit Mobility Lab that reported that the autonomous vehicle industry is expected to create more than 100,000 mobility industry jobs, including about 30,000 engineering jobs, over the next 10 years…

The bootcamp targets both students coming out of four-year engineering degree programs, as well as entry-level working engineers who want to upskill.
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OOIDA calls for mandatory disclosure of ADS safety reports

April 12, 2021

The continued reliance on voluntary reporting from automated driving system manufacturers is not going to cut it, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association says.

In formal comments sent to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration earlier this month, OOIDA said that any process to advance automated technology should be met with mandatory data transparency from manufacturers.

“NHTSA must employ standards that ensure safety performance above all else,” OOIDA President Todd Spencer wrote. “Given the fact that there have already been a number of crashes involving ADS failures on our nation’s roads, NHTSA must develop standards that are based on documented research and testing data. The continued reliance on voluntary safety reporting from ADS manufacturers will not effectively build trust, acceptance, and confidence in testing and deployment of these systems.”

In December, NHTSA published a notice looking at the development of a framework for Automated Driving System safety.
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GM to Make Electric Version of Chevy Silverado Pickup

April 12, 2021

The full-size Chevy Silverado pickup will be designed “from the ground up” as an electric vehicle, the company said Tuesday. GM said it would be built at its Detroit-Hamtramck plant, where the company also intends to make the GMC Hummer EV sport-utility vehicle and an autonomous vehicle for its Cruise driverless-car division.

GM estimates the Chevy electric vehicle would have a range of more than 400 miles on a single charge, roughly matching the range a Silverado would travel on a single tank of gasoline.

During an appearance at GM’s Detroit plant on Tuesday, GM President Mark Reuss said the electric Silverado would be sold to individual customers and commercial fleets, which he expects to drive early demand for plug-in trucks.

The choice of the Detroit plant for manufacturing electric vehicles solidifies GM’s commitment to making its hometown a hub of future technology amid bets big on driverless and electric vehicles.
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VW will switch to mass-producing electric vehicles with bidirectional charging next year

April 12, 2021

Volkswagen has confirmed that it will switch all of its MEB-based electric vehicles to support bidirectional charging starting next year.

It could give a big boost to vehicle-to-grid technologies…

The automaker could produce as many as 300,000 vehicles with the capacity next year.

It would result in big enough EV fleets with the capacity to have big impacts on the electric grid.

Volkswagen plans to be involved in the process to make sure it benefits everyone involved, including the electric vehicle owner.

Furthermore, bidirectional charging also offers other advantages, like the potential to provide backup power to your home when needed.
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Testing how navigable SEPTA is, with glasses that see what riders see

April 12, 2021

Cameron Adamez was outfitted with Tobii Pro eye-tracker glasses on a recent Friday afternoon and dispatched to the caverns beneath City Hall Station on a mission from SEPTA to find out just how difficult it is to get around its rail transit system.

Adamez was a volunteer test subject in an experiment designed and conducted by Megan Ryerson, the UPS chair of transportation at the University of Pennsylvania, to generate data for SEPTA planners overhauling the system’s way-finding: the maps, signs, and branding that clue riders where to go for what line.

“I think of it as epidemiology for navigation,” said Ryerson, an associate professor of both city and regional planning and electrical and systems engineering at Penn.

“We wanted to determine whether people are understanding the way-finding signage, how they are navigating the space from a human perspective,” she said.
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Illinois DOT Explores Initiatives to Reduce Bridge Strikes

April 12, 2021

The Illinois Department of Transportation is pursuing two pilot initiatives meant to reduce bridge strikes by large trucks.

Bridge strikes occur when truckers traverse under a span that is too short to accommodate the height of their vehicles.

One initiative, called “audible turn-by-turn navigation,” would enable IDOT to electronically share authorized route details through a cloud-based app that is compatible with mobile devices. Currently, drivers tend to read information on mobile phones or printed documents for route details. IDOT’s system would allow drivers to hear route instructions without having to glance away from the road.

The second initiative under development is the HawkScan oversize vehicle measurement system, which is stationed at the westbound Maryville weigh station on Interstate 70 and uses cameras and sensors to measure freight loads as trucks approach the scale. Measurements from the cameras and sensors are then used to verify permit details.
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MIT Analysis Predicts Lithium-Ion Battery Costs Will Drop

April 9, 2021

The cost of lithium-ion battery technology has fallen dramatically over the last three decades, claims a recent analysis conducted by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). And, they predict that further steep declines could be possible in the near future.
According to Jessika Trancik, an associate professor at MIT’s Institute for Data, Systems and Society who conducted the analysis, the cost of these batteries has dropped by 97 percent since they were first commercially introduced in 1991…

“Battery costs determine price parity of electric vehicles with internal combustion engine vehicles,” adds Venkat Viswanathan, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, who was not associated with the MIT analysis. “Thus, projecting battery cost declines is probably one of the most critical challenges in ensuring an accurate understanding of adoption of electric vehicles.”
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Lime rolls out affordable rent-by-the-minute electric mopeds in its first US city

April 9, 2021

Lime is expanding its vehicle lineup to include seated electric scooters (often referred to as mopeds) in addition to standing electric scooters and electric bicycles.

All of Lime’s various micromobility vehicles are offered as part of the network’s shared vehicle fleet and can be rented by the minute. Some also offer subscription models.

After announcing earlier this year that electric mopeds would be added to its fleet, Lime is now making good on its promise.

The first city in the world to receive the Lime mopeds is Washington DC.

Paris will be the next city to have its streets graced by the electric two-wheelers, and an inside source informed Electrek that the Paris launch is expected to begin around mid-April.

Pricing for the electric mopeds rentals in Washington DC is $0.39 per minute, plus $1 to unlock the scooter. And just like a your friendly neighborhood dealer, the first ride is free (up to 15 minutes).
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The professor who built a self-driving car decades ago

April 9, 2021

Decades before the race to build a self-driving vehicle became a multibillion-dollar contest between tech giants such as Tesla Inc and Google, a South Korean professor built an autonomous vehicle and test-drove it across the country — only for his research to be consigned to the scrapheap.

Han Min-hong, now 79, successfully tested his self-driving car on the roads of Seoul in 1993 — a decade before Tesla was even founded…

Raj Rajkumar, an engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute, who reviewed the 1990s footage for Agence France-Presse, said that it “appears to be on par with some of the best work on autonomous vehicles during that period.”

“The professor and a colleague are not even in the driver’s seat — very bold, confident, but very risky thing to do,” he added. “It is unfortunate that funding for that project was cut. In hindsight, that was certainly not a wise decision.”
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Pandemic accelerating shift toward electric vehicles

April 9, 2021

Part of Mr. Biden’s $2 trillion proposal, which he released Wednesday in Pittsburgh, calls for spending $174 billion to bolster the use of electric vehicles through investments in a number of areas…

The president’s proposals came directly on the heels of a report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine reviewing fuel efficiency that estimated a major changeover to electric vehicles by 2035. At the same time, the Pennsylvania Public Interest Research Group called for more electric vehicles for environmental benefits.

The National Academies study concluded that zero-emission vehicles such as electric vehicles “could bring the most fundamental transformation in the 100-plus-year history of the automobile,” said Gary Marchant, Regents Professor of Law and director of the Center for Law, Science, and Innovation at Arizona State University. He chaired the 16-member committee — which included Kate Lightfoot, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University — that wrote the 457-page report.
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A traffic manual ‘to fall asleep by’ stirs road rage

April 9, 2021

An 862-page manual governing traffic signs and signals that one analyst calls “a good book to fall asleep by” has ignited a pitched battle over how the federal government approaches transportation policy.

On one end are backers of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, who include some of the roughly 350 volunteers who spend hundreds of hours offering feedback to the Federal Highway Administration, which issues the book.

On the other are pedestrian advocates, bicycle coalitions and advocates for multimodal transportation. They say the manual, first published in 1935, is a relic of an era when the automobile was king.

Both sides say the premise of the manual is solid. It’s why stop signs look alike and a driver from Texas can travel to Chicago and recognize the same signs and signals in both places.

But the manual that was described as sleep-inducing by a person close to its production is now undergoing its first update since 2009, and much has changed since then. Micromobility in the form of scooters and rental bikes has skyrocketed; motor vehicles are increasingly autonomous.
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