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PennDOT gets $8.4 million federal grant to study self-driving vehicles in work zones

September 19, 2019

PennDOT on Wednesday received an $8.4 million federal grant that it will use over four years to develop a system to allow self-driving vehicles to navigate safely through work zones.

The grant was the largest of eight awards worth nearly $60 million announced by U.S Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to study various safety factors for self-driving vehicles…

In its application, PennDOT said it plans to work with a team of consultants to develop computer simulations of self-driving vehicles moving through construction zones, followed by controlled tests at a test track at Penn State University in State College and live tests at active construction sites.

PennDOT has assembled a nine-member team for the project, including Carnegie Mellon University and PPG Paints.
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Chicago startup will help test hyperlocal electric vehicle incentive in California

September 18, 2019

The city of Sacramento is preparing to test a hyperlocal electric vehicle charging program that will use a Chicago company’s blockchain software to track customer rewards.

The pilot project will offer blockchain-based “tokens” for charging vehicles when there’s a surplus of solar power on the local grid. The value will fluctuate based on the amount of solar being produced within a specific substation.

The project is a collaboration between the Sacramento Municipal Utility Department and a French utility, Électricité de France. It will use digital ledger software from Chicago’s Omega Grid to track customers’ tokens.
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A Decade of Investments Into EV Infrastructure: Where’d the Money Go?

September 18, 2019

Electric vehicle infrastructure companies have come a long way in the last decade, but they’re still just a small slice of the grid edge investment pie.

That’s the upshot of a new study from Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables that tracks all known investments in companies building out the charging infrastructure and controls to enable a society-wide shift to electric transportation.

EV deployment itself has a robust growth story to tell. The global population of battery-powered passenger cars on the roads, including plug-in hybrids, passed 5 million last year. It has grown at more than 50 percent annually since 2013.

But investments in charging companies have not followed as consistent a trajectory, according to WoodMac’s analysis of disclosed deals. Big years in 2010 and 2011 petered out into several years of doldrums, with deals picking up again in 2017 and 2018.

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Strip District trucker safety startup closes on $8 million financing round

September 18, 2019

A Strip District-based data and analytics company involved with trucker safety has closed on an $8 million Series A financing round.

The financing round for Idelic Inc. was led by Origin Ventures with participation from TDF Ventures, Birchmere Ventures, Bain Capital Ventures and SaaS Venture Capital. Origin Ventures Vice President Scott Stern and Matt Bressler, principal at TDF Ventures, joined Idelic’s board of directors as part of the deal.

Idelic, which developed technology that can predict most big-truck accidents, was founded in 2016 by Carnegie Mellon University alumni Nick Bartel, Hayden Cardiff and Andrew Russell.

The company was built on intellectual property developed over 10 years at Pitt Ohio, a Strip District freight hauling and logistics company that operates a fleet of 4,000 rigs.
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Volvo shows Class 8 electric truck for California partnership

September 18, 2019

Volvo plans to offer an energy-as-a-service package including the truck, charging, electricity, insurance, maintenance and e-consulting services for a single price. It is too soon to know purchase or leasing options, Pope said.

The Volvo LIGHTS program, funded by a record $44.5 million matching grant from the California Air Resources Board, will help reveal how ready fleets are to integrate electric trucks into their regional haul and drayage operations.

The 23 trucks for the LIGHTS program will be day-cab tractors and straight trucks with a 66,000-pound Gross Combination Weight (GCW). Three of the LIGHTS trucks will have 80,000-pound CGW ratings.
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‘Moving forward, we will be building vehicles on top of computers’

September 18, 2019

Truck manufacturers are pushing full steam ahead into connected vehicle platforms, using telematics and data integration to drive value for customers while providing countless other benefits for partners, the community and the OEMs themselves.

Paccar started its digital transformation journey in 2015 with a remote diagnostics platform, said Jamin Swazo, director of marketing, Kenworth Trucks. The company has since expanded from a Paccar engine-only platform to a Cummins engine platform and more recently a connected system for its medium-duty trucks.

The engine health insights Kenworth gleans from telematics data allows the manufacturer “to [provide] better uptime to our customers,” said Swazo, one of several speakers who participated in a forum during the in.sight user conference that is taking place in Houston this week. “And a customer’s uptime translates into good business for us.”
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U.S. to allow drivers to choose ‘quiet car’ alert sounds

September 18, 2019

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Monday proposed allowing automakers to offer a variety of sound choices for electric vehicles and other “quiet cars” to choose from to alert pedestrians.

The agency in February 2018 finalized rules requiring EVs and hybrids to emit alert sounds to warn pedestrians of their approach, extending to 2020 the deadline for full compliance.

The long-delayed rules, which were first demanded by Congress in 2010, require automakers like Tesla Inc, Nissan Motor Co and General Motors Co to add sounds to vehicles when they are moving at speeds of up to 18.6 miles per hour (30 kph) to help prevent injuries among pedestrians, cyclists and the blind.
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Red-light cameras stoke debate of safety tool or cash cow

September 18, 2019

According to the latest data from the National Coalition of State Legislatures, communities in 23 states and the District of Columbia use red-light cameras for traffic enforcement.

But at least 11 states have banned them, including Texas, which did so earlier this year. There, lawmakers including Republican Gov. Gregg Abbott sided with drivers who expressed dissatisfaction with the devices and questioned their effectiveness.

“Common sense says that red-light cameras have never prevented an intersection accident or instance of red-light running. The cameras are silent sentinels,” Gary Biller, president of the National Motorists Association, told The Washington Times…

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), a proponent of cameras, argues that transparency is paramount in securing citizen support for the devices.

“The jury has been in for many years. Red-light safety cameras are a proven, effective tool to make urban roads safer,” Russ Rader, IIHS senior vice president of communications, said in an email. “Public support is a key issue.”
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Czech Republic to launch competition for smart cities

September 18, 2019

The Czech Republic is launching a competition for towns and municipalities to test 5G technologies, following a national strategy approved in May.

“5G technologies are crucial to the development of local governments,” commented the Czech deputy prime minister and minister of industry and trade, Karel Havlí?ek. “As a result, municipalities will be able to work more closely with companies and universities on new systems such as smart transportation, security and digital applications for citizens. All in the spirit of making the Czech Republic a country of the future.”
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Forget About Self-Driving Cars, Just Make A Robot That Can Drive

September 18, 2019

So far, thousands of automotive engineers and AI developers have been toiling away at trying to invent a true self-driving car. Earlier claims that progress would be fast and sweet have shown to be over-hyped and unrealistic.

If you consider this to be a vexing problem, and if you have a smarmy person that you know, they might ponder the matter and offer a seemingly out-of-the-box proposition.

Here’s the bold idea: Rather than trying to build a self-driving car, why not instead just make a robot that can drive?

Well, by gosh, why didn’t somebody think of that already, you might be wondering.

The answer is that it has been considered, and indeed there are some efforts trying to construct such a robot, but overall the belief is that we’ll be more likely to sooner achieve self-driving cars via building driverless cars rather than trying to craft robots that can do the driving for us.
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Report Shows Why the Congestion Pricing Fee Must Be Really High

September 17, 2019

The cost to drive a car into the central business district of Manhattan must be really, really high — and the tolling fees should apply in both directions, a new report by a major regional transportation group suggests.

The study by the Regional Plan Association does not make specific pricing recommendations for the coming congestion fee, but its analysis of potential tolls reveals that a high fee — a peak-period toll of $9.18 to get into Manhattan below 60th Street and the same $9.18 rush-hour fee to get out — would provide greater benefits than lower fees.
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How a State Could Transition From Per-Gallon Gas Taxes to Per-Mile Charges

September 17, 2019

There is a growing consensus among U.S. transportation researchers, and increasingly among state departments of transportation (DOTs), that our main highway funding source—per-gallon taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel—will not be sustainable on a long-term basis. This is due to a number of factors, including increasingly stringent federal fuel economy regulations and the growth of non-petroleum power sources (especially electricity) for both personal vehicles and trucks.

This policy brief makes a number of points about how a state could make an orderly transition from per-gallon fuel taxes to per-mile charges. The discussion acknowledges that mileage-based user fees (MBUFs) currently lack majority support among taxpayers, motorists, and the trucking industry.

To address this challenge, the paper argues that MBUF advocates must do a number of things besides encouraging and drawing lessons from state mileage-based user fee pilot projects.
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What it’s like inside the world’s largest bike parking garage

September 16, 2019

If you’re rushing to catch a train in the Dutch city of Utrecht, you’ll probably show up on a bike—and a massive new bike parking garage is designed to let you store your bike and get to the platform as quickly as possible. Though it’s the largest bike parking garage in the world, with space for 12,656 bicycles, the design means that you can ride inside, find a spot, and be at your train in five minutes or less…

Commuters ride down ramps into a giant bicycle roundabout that leads past rooms of racks, with exits to ride to different levels and color-coded walls to show different routes. “Basically, you can never go wrong as long as you keep cycling,” he says. “You pass all the possible locations.” Each storage space has two levels of racks, all equipped with sensors, so someone riding by can easily see if there’s space available on digital signs.
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After rise of scooters, NACTO updates micromobility guidance

September 16, 2019

More than a year after shared scooters fleets were introduced to cities, the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) has released updated guidelines to manage shared micromobility fleets.

To more nimbly regulate the industry and meet transportation goals, the guide recommends flexible permitting structures, including incentive-based performance clauses around issues like shifting trips or increasing options for underserved communities. The guide also says city streets should be redesigned “to fully realize the potential of shared micromobility” and give users a safe space to ride. That includes a recommendation that cities direct permit fees to infrastructure projects.

The guidelines, developed by NACTO’s steering committee of 81 cities and transit agencies, cover a range of issues, from safety concerns to operational requirements.
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Uber Freight is making trucking more efficient and could help Uber turn a profit

September 16, 2019

Uber’s path to profitability may not come from personal transportation at all. Instead, trucks might be the answer.

The trucking industry drew in revenues of $796 billion in 2018, with trucks moving 71% of the nation’s freight, according to the American Trucking Association, a trade group. Compare that to the global ride-hailing market, which according to Allied Market Research, was valued at just $36 billion in 2017.

Uber is now a player in this market with Uber Freight. Uber Freight launched in 2017, and the program has since expanded to 48 U.S. states, as well as the Netherlands and Germany. Uber says thousands of shippers and almost half a million truck drivers currently use the platform.
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Mercedes-Benz driverless car park ends hassle of searching for a free space

September 16, 2019

There are few tasks as sure to infuriate a motorist as driving around a multistorey car park looking for a space. So it is no surprise that this is being outsourced to computers, and engineers in Germany have built the first licensed driverless valet parking system.

The Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart has the first fully automated driverless car system authorised for everyday use with no human on standby, according to its creators.

The technology uses a combination of cameras and sensors installed in the building and computer devices in the vehicle to guide the car to a suitable space, moving between levels and navigating up ramps and around columns.
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Ryder’s truck-sharing platform will roll into Orlando soon

September 16, 2019

Breaker 1-9: A South Florida company is set to launch a commercial truck-sharing platform in Orlando with the goal of boosting revenue for trucking companies.

Miami-based trucking company Ryder Systems Inc. (NYSE: R) announced Tuesday the expansion of its peer-to-peer truck-sharing platform COOP. The online platform enables fleet owners to rent out unused trucks to other companies.

The product is meant to provide trucking companies with a source of revenue for trucks they aren’t using. Approximately 25% of the commercial vehicles in the U.S. go unused at least one day of the work week, according to Ryder.
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Pittsburgh transplant is poster child for the city’s new economy

September 16, 2019

Ryan Green describes himself as a “scrappy, hustle, business kind of guy,” who moved to Pittsburgh four years ago with little more than a new job in banking and a dream of starting his own business.

The 29-year-old Strip District resident worked at PNC Financial Services for a while before striking out to co-found Gridwise, an app intended to boost earnings for ride-sharing drivers by helping them make smarter decisions.

Gridwise became one of nonprofit small business accelerator Innovation Works’ success stories, and things are paying off for Mr. Green, his clients and his company’s 11 employees. Although the company is not yet profitable, the Gridwise’s app is now used by 70,000 drivers in 32 cities, and the company has raised $2.3 million.
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Waymo CEO Says it Might Deploy its Self-Driving Technology in the Trucking Industry

September 16, 2019

Waymo is already planning to launch a robo-taxi service using a fleet of autonomous driving minivans and SUVs, now the CEO says the company might delay its self-driving technology in the trucking industry.

Speaking at Frankfurt Motor Show on Thursday, Waymo CEO John Krafcik said the company is exploring ways to deploy its self-driving technology in the trucking industry. As reported by Reuters, Waymo is working with industry partners to seize both a commercial opportunity while addressing the shortage of truck drivers that is expected to grow in the next decade.

Krafcik said the company’s self-driving technology for passenger vehicles called “Waymo Driver” is also suited for hauling freight. The technology can also improve safety the efficiency of truck fleets while increasing utilization, as the trucks can operate autonomously 24 hours a day.
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Voyage Snags $31 Million As It Targets A Self-Driving Niche: Retirement Communities

September 16, 2019

Voyage, a Silicon Valley self-driving vehicle startup focused on using the technology to provide transportation at retirement communities, has landed $31 million of new funding to expand its robotic fleet and engineering team.

Led by 31-year-old CEO and cofounder Oliver Cameron, a Forbes 30 Under 30 alum, Voyage said Franklin Templeton was the lead investor in its Series B round, which was also backed by Khosla Ventures and Jaguar Land-Rover and Chevron tech investment funds. The Palo Alto, California-based company, spun out of online university Udacity in 2017, has raised a total of $52 million to date.

That’s a fraction of the billions of dollars invested in R&D by Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo, General Motors’ Cruise and Uber, but Voyage has been building up real-world experience ferrying riders in low-speed autonomous vehicles for two years in programs at The Villages retirement communities in San Jose and central Florida, near Orlando. That particular niche market aligns with where the technology is at the moment, Cameron says.
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New RoadBotics president talks rapid expansion plans for the AI company

September 16, 2019

Ben Schmidt, who took the reins at RoadBotics last week from former CEO Mark DeSantis, said he has plans in place to scale the company significantly…

RoadBotics employs 50 people at its East Liberty office, and Schmidt said he expects that headcount to rise to about 60 to 75 people in the next few months. He said the company has no plans to move out of its fourth floor offices at the Beauty Shoppe coworking space.

Schmidt said RoadBotics, which currently has over 150 government clients both domestically and internationally, intends to “rapidly expand.” The company’s clients are concentrated on the East Coast, and Schmidt said he’s hoping to gain more clients across the country.

While most of the company’s customers are medium to large local governments—including in Savannah, Georgia and South Bend, Indiana— Schmidt said he wants RoadBotics to increase its small government clients and partnerships with engineering firms in the infrastructure management industry.
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City Officials Seek To Mold the Future of Driverless Cars

September 16, 2019

rban transportation experts are trying to get ahead of the introduction of driverless cars — knowing that, if don’t do so, they run the risk of ceding policymaking to automobile engineers and executives.

Toward that end, they’re turning the coming of autonomous vehicles into an occasion to correct many 20th-century planning mistakes: “putting people at the center of urban life and street design, while taking advantage of new technologies in order to reduce carbon emissions, decrease traffic fatalities, and increase economic opportunities,” according to a new manual from the National Association of City Transportation Officials…

The 81-city coalition this week released a Blueprint for Autonomous Urbanism, which builds on a prior report by offering policies on transit, congestion pricing, transportation data, shipping, and safety that prioritize people over vehicles.
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Cox Automotive to invest $350 million in electric truck maker Rivian

September 16, 2019

Electric truck maker Rivian Automotive LLC said on Tuesday that it has received an equity investment of $350 million from Cox Automotive Inc, owner of the Autotrader online automobile market and Kelley Blue Book car valuation service.

Rivian said the two companies will also explore opportunities for partnerships in digital retailing, service operations and logistics. Cox will also add a representative to Rivian’s board of directors.

Michigan-based Rivian, a potential rival to Silicon Valley’s Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) founded in 2009, has raised close to $1.9 billion from investors.

In April, Ford Motor Co (F.N) announced it was investing $500 million in Rivian.
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Federal action pushes Texas bullet train project toward fruition

September 16, 2019

A proposed high-speed railway would transport passengers from Northwest Houston to downtown Dallas in about 90 minutes.

Taking the United States’ first bullet train from the idea phase to actuality is proving to be a slow, drawn-out process.

But the groundbreaking project continues to progress and passed a significant marker last week when Texas Central, the Dallas-based company developing the high-speed train, announced that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) had granted its petition to have a custom set of rules created for the railway that would be used to ensure its safety and govern its system and operations. Texas Central filed the petition for the Rule of Particular Applicability in April 2016.
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The Promise and Peril of Investing in Emerging Tech

September 16, 2019

While the Internet has, to a great degree, collapsed the time and distance that historically constrained government service delivery, commerce, education and more, the conventional wisdom among many technologists and urbanists has pointed to cities as uniquely desirable places of opportunity to build the future.

But the literature around the smart cities movement, even the really compelling stuff, never asks whether we really want to do this, to build those future cities, forgetting Picard’s injunction that “You may test that assumption at your convenience.” Neither technologists nor urbanists asked, but a noted economist did.

MIT Economics Professor David H. Autor gave the prestigious Richard T. Ely lecture at this year’s American Economic Association, which showcased brand-new data that left the assembled group of hundreds of leading economists gobsmacked: Cities, it turns out, are only good places for as few as one in three people to live and work.
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