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‘Move fast and break things’ won’t work for autonomous vehicles

July 30, 2021

Recently-proposed legislation to authorize a “Highly Automated Systems Safety Center of Excellence” intended to review the safety of automated technologies is a good idea. But other proposals would grant the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) the power to initially exempt 15,000 self-driving vehicles per manufacturer from safety standards written with human drivers in mind. This would escalate to 80,000 per-manufacturer within three years. This is a bad idea.

Suppose that each of the 80,000 autonomous vehicles deployed by a given manufacturer for testing carries an average of 1.5 passengers. This means that 120,000 people are experimenting with this new technology on public roads, not counting the pedestrians, cyclists and others who unwittingly share those roads in this experiment…

So, let us fund a center tasked to develop the appropriate safety and security standards for autonomous vehicles. But let’s not put those vehicles on the road until they can meet those standards.
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Electric trucks can travel (short) distances

July 30, 2021

The state of California passed the regulation in June 2020, mandating that most of the heavy-duty trucks sold by 2035 have zero emissions. The state also has an extensive voucher system to subsidize the cost of purchasing a new electric vehicle…

Other US states follow California’s initiative. In July 2020, 15 states signed new regulations requiring all new medium and heavy vehicles to have zero emissions by 2050.

Short-range electric trucks appear to be relatively close to commercial reality, but some researchers say that expanding the range of electric trucks may not be technically or economically feasible in the short term. I warn you that there is no such thing.

Venkat Viswanathan, a mechanical engineer at Carnegie Mellon University, said: And as batteries get cheaper and lighter, trucks that can travel up to about 500 miles between charges look more realistic, says Viswanathan.
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EV startup Rivian announces $2.5 bln funding round led by Amazon, Ford

July 30, 2021

Electric car startup Rivian said on Friday it has closed a $2.5 billion fundraising round led by investors Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O), Ford Motor Co (F.N) and T. Rowe Price.(TROW.O)

The announcement came the day after the California-based company said it was exploring building a second U.S. assembly plant. Reuters, citing unnamed sources, reported on Thursday that Rivian’s planned plant, dubbed “Project Tera,” will include battery cell production…

Rivian, which has a plant currently in Normal, Illinois, said it has raised about $10.5 billion to date. It will seek a valuation of well over $50 billion in a potential public listing later this year, a source previously told Reuters.

Automakers are racing to develop EVs as China, Europe and other countries and regions mandate lower carbon emissions. Rivian aims to compete when it rolls out its R1T pickup and R1S SUV, as well as a delivery van for Amazon.
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Streetlight sensors to monitor pedestrian safety arrive in Arlington

July 30, 2021

Smart technology streetlight sensors have been installed in the Clarendon neighborhood of Arlington, as part of a pilot program to improve public safety in the area.

The sensors can’t identify personal information about someone. Instead, optical, audio and environmental sensors collect information about the radius of location between pedestrians…

The data will help implement changes, such as improved pedestrian safety and flow, and better safety response times through detection of environmental events.

“I think the opportunity for us to tread very carefully into this space, to make sure we’re looking at the privacy aspect…to make sure we’re looking at the value that we’re getting very carefully and thoughtfully, helps the county to have a real life example of, ‘Is this useful to us?’” said Hartell.

The goal is to have the findings from the sensors posted to an open data portal by the fall.
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WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE — Floods.

July 30, 2021

But there’s a divide among climate change experts about whether fortifying infrastructure against the impact of climate change detracts from the larger fight: stopping climate change.

Much of our current infrastructure is already past its prime and should be repaired so that it can withstand extreme weather, said Constantine Samaras, director of Carnegie Mellon University’s Center for Engineering and Resilience for Climate Adaptation. When aging roads and bridges get washed out in a flood, rebuilding them amounts to a sort of climate tax. It’s better to upgrade things ahead of time, he said.

Even if lawmakers and the administration don’t want to admit it, much of the spending on roads and bridges and transit and waterways is a climate bill in disguise, he said. “The infrastructure we have right now was generally designed for the weather and climate of the 20th century,” Samaras said.
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Parking Startups Are Cashing In on America’s Traffic Surge

July 28, 2021

Before the pandemic, the industry was in crisis, says Eran Ben-Joseph, a professor of urban planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of ReThinking a Lot: The Design and Culture of Parking. The rise of such ride-sharing services as Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc. had meant that many parking garages at stadiums and the like were forced to retrofit their spaces for other uses, such as mini-distribution centers for packages.

Post-pandemic, though, parking companies are benefiting from a renewed love of personal space. “I do think right now there’s a little bit of a psychological issue with taking public transit or taking Uber,” Ben-Joseph says. He also thinks parking apps in particular may be benefiting from the lack of desire to touch kiosk screens or hand over cash to an attendant.
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Tesla Semi electric truck is finally about to go into production

July 28, 2021

After years of delays, Tesla is finally about to start production of Tesla Semi, its all-electric semi-truck.

The whole truck industry is watching.

While there are already a few electric trucks on the road, none of them have the specs enabling longer range hauling in a class 8 semi-truck, like the Tesla Semi is promising.

When launching Tesla Semi in 2017, the automaker said that the electric truck’s production versions, a class 8 truck with an 80,000-lb capacity, will have 300-mile and 500-mile range options for $150,000 and $180,000, respectively.

It would also have the lowest cost of operation of any semi-truck, making it extremely disruptive in an industry where every cent counts…

Now sources familiar with the matter told Electrek that the drive axle production line is ready and the general assembly line is going through its final debugging before starting production.
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Self-driving project Waymo to open Pittsburgh office in Bakery Square

July 28, 2021

Waymo, the former Google self-driving car project, is opening an office in Pittsburgh.

It plans to collocate with Google’s local headquarters in Bakery Square and hire a team of about 20 workers to focus on its autonomous technology for moving people and goods. To kick off its new office, Waymo is bringing on expertise and employees from Shadyside-based RobotWits, which provides planning and decision making technologies for self-driving vehicles…

“I am absolutely thrilled that the RobotWits team will be joining Waymo,” said Mr. Likhachev. “I am equally excited about the fact that this initiates Waymo’s presence in Pittsburgh, a city of robots that has vast research and development in robotics in general and autonomous vehicles in particular and produces massive engineering talent.”

Mr. Likhachev and two other employees from RobotWits will be joining the Waymo team, Mr. Chandra said.
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New algorithm may help autonomous vehicles navigate narrow, crowded streets

July 28, 2021

It is a scenario familiar to anyone who has driven down a crowded, narrow street. Parked cars line both sides, and there isn’t enough space for vehicles traveling in both directions to pass each other. One has to duck into a gap in the parked cars or slow and pull over as far as possible for the other to squeeze by.

Drivers find a way to negotiate this, but not without close calls and frustration. Programming an autonomous vehicle (AV) to do the same — without a human behind the wheel or knowledge of what the other driver might do — presented a unique challenge for researchers at the Carnegie Mellon University Argo AI Center for Autonomous Vehicle Research…

While at CMU, Killing teamed up with research scientist John Dolan and Ph.D. student Adam Villaflor to crack this problem. The team presented its research, “Learning To Robustly Negotiate Bi-Directional Lane Usage in High-Conflict Driving Scenarios,” at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation.
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Microgrids gaining interest, Pittsburgh International Airport the latest to build one

July 28, 2021

Pittsburgh International Airport recently built its own microgrid to generate solar power and natural gas on site. Over the years, microgrids have grown more and more popular.

“Microgrids are local power grids that can disconnect from the traditional centralized grid and operate autonomously,” explains Destenie Nock, assistant professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.

The airport will use the microgrid as its primary power source but remain connected to the main grid in case of emergency.

“As we see more extreme weather events with climate change and more instances of deep freezes like we saw in Texas, more businesses, companies, hospitals, airports want to make sure they all reliably have power when they need it and they’re not dependent on some power plant really far off in the distance,” she says.

Nock says microgrids make facilities like airports more resilient and protect public safety.
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Argo AI teams up with Lyft to offer driverless ride-hailing service

July 27, 2021

Pittsburgh’s self-driving startup Argo AI is partnering with Ford Motor Co. and ride-hail company Lyft to offer robotaxi service in Miami by the end of the year and in Austin in 2022.

Initially, the Ford Escape hybrids will have a safety driver and Lyft users will be able to choose whether they want a self-driving vehicle.

Argo AI will gather data from the rides to improve its service. In exchange, Lyft will receive a 2.5% stake in the company. Ford will fuel, service and clean the robotaxi fleets under the partnership.

“This collaboration marks the first time all the pieces of the autonomous vehicle puzzle have come together this way,“ Lyft Co-founder and CEO Logan Green said in a statement.
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Study dispels myth that electric cars pollute as much as gas-powered cars due to ‘dirty’ grid

July 27, 2021

A new study by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) is debunking that with “a global comparison of the life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions of combustion engine and electric passenger cars.”

The ICCT looked at the entire life cycle from sourcing of the battery materials to the production of the vehicle, both BEVs and ICEs, and then compiled driving data in different markets to get an average life-cycle emission from the use of the vehicles.

The group then used the electricity mix of each region (Europe, US, China, and India) to develop average lifetime emissions.

It resulted in battery-electric vehicles having far fewer emissions than gasoline-powered cars in all markets:
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Mobileye tests self-driving cars in New York City

July 27, 2021

ntel Corp (INTC.O) unit Mobileye on Tuesday said it was testing self-driving vehicles in New York City, including the bustling Manhattan borough, in an effort to prove its technology can handle jaywalkers, construction zones and even horse carriages.

Mobileye Chief Executive Amnon Shashua said the company has begun testing camera-only vehicles in New York City in the past weeks. It is currently testing one car, with plans to add a second one later this year, a spokeswoman said.

“It’s really a huge headache to test here in New York City,” Shashua said at a news briefing, listing a range of driving challenges in the nation’s most populous city, including light pollution at night, aggressive driving, cars that are double parked and pedestrians ignoring traffic rules.

Shashua said the ability to navigate the city’s streets was a crucial step towards commercializing autonomous vehicles that can handle a range of driving environments.
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Why business and academia need each other for better A.I.

July 27, 2021

Greater adoption of artificial intelligence by business depends on universities doing more fundamental research with their corporate partners.

Take self-driving cars. Advances in neural networks, the software that recognizes and acts on patterns by sifting through huge quantities of data, have let companies like Google’s Waymo and General Motors’s Cruise develop autonomous vehicles that are better than a few years ago…

Still, self-driving cars are years, and possibly decades, from widespread use. The best way to accelerate the needed innovation is cooperation between academics and business, explained Martial Hebert, Carnegie Mellon University’s (CMU) dean of computer science.
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The traffic light gets a dazzling, 21st century makeover

July 27, 2021

Yet, maybe it’s worth asking: Has that design gone unchanged because these traffic signals are a timeless design? Or have we just not thought of anything better yet?

Now, more than 100 years later, the Moscow-based design firm Art. Lebedev Studio believes that they’ve created a better alternative to the classic stop light—with a flexible design that could be expanded to metal stop signs and yield signs, too.

Their new stop light has already garnered attention from two cities in Russia, which have requested to test it in a limited capacity.

Instead of stacking red, yellow, and green lights on top of one another—with each light’s relative position signaling when it’s time to stop or go for color-blind drivers—the studio developed a stop light that’s one continuous panel. And so that entire panel turns red, yellow, and green.
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NoTraffic Raises $17.5M To Make Dumb Intersections Smart

July 26, 2021

In North America, NoTraffic Founder and CEO Tal Kreisler told Karen Webster, some 99 percent of traffic lights are running on old school timing plans that do little more than automate the police officer who used to stand at those intersections and wave cars through. Even worse, the vast majority aren’t connected to anything.

“So there’s no data at the intersection, no computing power. The traffic controller, which is the brain of the intersection, is still running on the same computing power computers had 40 years back,” Kreisler told Webster.

It’s a problem that NoTraffic was founded to solve, with a combined hardware-software solution designed to fit into any intersection in the world and be up and running in less than two hours. A solution that announced this week it has raised $17.5 million in Series A funding for its 21st-century traffic management platform.
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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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