Self-driving vehicle testing in Pittsburgh area shifting gears to focus on trucking industry

October 3, 2023
Posted in News

Not long ago, cars topped with a futuristic apparatus could regularly be seen cruising along Pittsburgh’s streets, testing technology that allowed the vehicles to get around without a person steering the wheel.

But such car sightings have become rare as the autonomous vehicle sector has refocused from the hype of the 2010s…

Karen Lightman, executive director of the Metro21 Smart Cities Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, called it “tech-lash.”

“People react out of fear of technology,” Lightman said.

Although there are challenges for passenger vehicles, Lightman said, the technology is poised to improve people’s lives.

“People who are disabled or don’t have access to reliable, safe transportation can be cut off from the rest of the world. They can’t work, get groceries, go to worship, can’t see friends and family,” Lightman said. “There’s a whole chunk of our country that’s disconnected because we don’t have public transportation that serves them.”

“I’m hoping that we’ll see public transportation also become more automated and autonomous, and shared mobility will be a critical part of it,” she added. “If we end up having more single-occupancy vehicles that happen to be autonomous, we’re not improving quality of life. And if it’s just for the rich elite, that’s not sustainable, either. We have to make sure there’s equity in this.”

Scoop: Driverless Cruise cars are already on Houston streets

October 2, 2023
Posted in News

Cruise is testing autonomous vehicles without safety drivers in Houston ahead of a planned expansion into commercial nighttime service by the end of the year.

Driving the news: A spokesperson for the autonomous vehicle company confirmed to Axios Tuesday it is offering driverless ride-hailing service to employees and their friends and family, one of the final steps in its testing process before full commercial service…

A 2017 Texas law preempts local regulation of autonomous vehicles, which has made the state fertile ground for companies’ expansion.

State law requires companies to follow registration requirements, equip the vehicles with a video recording system and immediately notify authorities of a crash.

Carnegie Mellon associate professor Phil Koopman, an expert in AV safety, told Axios’ Joann Muller that “cities need to have a plan for enforcing traffic laws when there is no driver.”

America Is Just Now Entering the Age of Tesla

September 22, 2023
Posted in News

The Jeep Wrangler was built to drive out past where the power lines end. Watch any ad for the car, and you’ll surely see it surmounting boulders and conquering muck in places far from the beaten freeway. Electric-vehicle chargers may be scarce in the wilderness, but even a military-derived four-by-four must keep with the times. To the delight of Earth-loving off-roaders, Jeep has announced that the first all-electric Wrangler is in the works…

“Jobs at gasoline engine manufacturing plants will shift to jobs at electric motor and battery plants.” Jeremy Michalek, Vehicle Electrification Group, is quoted in this story looking at what the rise of electric vehicles means for autoworkers. He notes assembling an EV is a simpler task than building its gasoline counterpart. There’s still welding and painting to be done, but EVs don’t require the spark plugs, engine cylinders and hoses and belts that are part of the typical vehicle assembly process.

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Curb-management innovations: Lessons from smart and zero-emission loading zone pilots

September 18, 2023
Posted in News

Cities are implementing “smart loading zones” to address the growing competition for curb space, driven largely by increasing online orders, ride-sharing, outdoor dining, micromobility needs and open streets efforts.

What makes the zones smart? These designated areas for delivery drivers to load and unload goods are managed by telecommunications and advanced monitoring systems that allow authorized drivers to reserve a space for a limited amount of time through a smartphone app or other mechanism. Other cities are increasing incentives for electric or human-powered delivery vehicles by implementing zero-emission delivery zones.

While such efforts can encourage more orderly curbs, cities have encountered implementation challenges including local business pushback, technical challenges and regulatory barriers.

Here’s what experts and city officials experimenting with curb management strategies say they’ve learned to date.
-Pittsburgh’s gradual SLZ roll-out
In 2021, Pittsburgh received a $100,000 grant from the Department of Energy to establish 20 smart loading zones, said David Onorato, executive director of the Public Parking Authority of Pittsburgh, which oversaw the project.

AI playing increasing role in managing traffic on nation’s roads

September 15, 2023
Posted in News

From traffic signals to traffic flow, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, information on what’s happening on all the roads in Delaware streams into the state’s Transportation Management Center…

That complex system involves traffic lights, cameras and sensors, along with data coming in from weather stations and emergency responder channels, which all coalesce within A.I. The artificial intelligence then makes traffic-management decisions based on that information…

“In any computing system, the more information a system has, the better decisions it can make,” said Stan Caldwell, executive director of the Traffic 21 Institute at Carnegie Mellon University…

Last December, Caldwell spoke about how self-driving vehicles will be communicating with these so-called ‘smart roads’ in the near future. That testing is ongoing in a number of states, including Virginia and Ohio.

“There will be positive impacts and there will be negative impacts,” he said. “And so being able to get that real-world data in a real-world environment is very important for the researchers to be able to help guide the policymakers in how to manage this in the future.”

Your Next Green Car May Run on Gas and Get 100 Miles to the Gallon

September 12, 2023
Posted in News

Sayan Biswas is inventing an unusual kind of green car: one that burns gas…

Squeezing more efficiency out of internal combustion engines is a difficult challenge. Engineers have been designing and redesigning car engines for more than a century, and in recent years progress has slowed. To Biswas, the problem came down to one thing: a better spark plug…

Cars equipped with plasma spark plugs could have a big impact on efforts to tame climate change. But trucks, boats, planes and helicopters may be a bigger opportunity. Unlike cars, all-electric versions of heavier, higher-powered vehicles can’t yet match the range of gas or diesel engines at a reasonable cost.

“Moving heavy vehicles like school buses. construction equipment and big trucks to electrification will definitely be slower,” says Kate Whitefoot, an associate professor of mechanical engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University who studies transportation. “That’s where improving the efficiency of internal combustion engines will be important.”

Officials say $20 million grant can help lower the death toll on the nation’s roads

June 7, 2023
Posted in News

On Tuesday, officials gathered in Pittsburgh to discuss an effort to bring the number down to zero. They plan to use technology to reach that goal.

Key to that effort is a $20 million, five-year grant to establish a new national consortium, known as Safety21, to be led by Carnegie Mellon University. U.S. Rep. Summer Lee, D-Swissvale, announced news of the U.S. Dept. of Transportation grant during a news event at Mill 19, an old Jones & Laughlin steel mill building that’s been converted to a modern research and development hub in Hazelwood…

Robert Hampshire, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of transportation for research and technology and a CMU alum, framed the issue in personal terms by describing the loss of a cousin…

Pittsburgh is uniquely situated to play a role in making roadways safer. The city is the birthplace of autonomous vehicle technology, explained Raj Rajkumar, a CMU professor who will lead Safety21. It’s a history that dates back to 1983.

Park Clean Up Leads to Students’ Developing New Tool for Transit Riders

December 12, 2022
Posted in What's Happening

December 12, 2022

On October 29, after arriving to Phillips Park to help with a local clean-up effort, MCMU Students - Shirui Liang, Maria Manrique, Keziah Virdayantiobility21 UTC Program Manager, Lisa Kay Schweyer was surprised to learn 3 Carnegie Mellon University students (Shirui Liang, Maria Manrique, Keziah Virdayanti) were also there to help with the volunteer activity.  She joined the students while picking up litter and had a chance to share what she does at CMU, hear about their trip on the local bus to the park (and uncertainty of riding somewhere new), and learn more about the students’ interest in transportation and the project they had been thinking about for their Integrated Innovation Institute Design Methods class.

Within a week, the students invited Lisa Kay to meet with the project team to learn more about her experience in helping commuters find non-single occupancy vehicle travel.  From that conversation, and their own experience navigating transit systems, the group decided to work on a way to use technology to make the experience of first-time bus riders less stressful.

The team, Shirui Liang, Kaila Richardson, Dongwen Xu, Siyue Shen, Saisri Akondi, Mei Tamaki, and Ashish Mangal dove in, conducted research, used various integrated innovation methods and conducted testing to finally propose their solution – an “AR Your Guide“! Class presentation - Shirui Liang, Kaila Richardson, Dongwen Xu, Siyue Shen, Saisri Akondi and Ashish Mangal

The solution is an augmented reality feature that can be integrated into existing transportation apps. The design turns the bus searching and riding experience into a “Pokemon Go” like game. It provides users with an interactive guide that leads them to unfamiliar bus stops and instructs people new to bus transportation how to pay, track, and request stops.

The team is hoping that app developers use their work to make this solution a reality.


Mobility21 Research Informs NCHRP Study

March 17, 2021
Posted in What's Happening

March 17, 2021

Resulting from his UTC research in automated vehicle technology and policy, UTC Director Stan Caldwell was invited to participate as an expert panelist in a listening session on Current Research and Gaps in Automated and Connected Vehicles to support the research being performed under NCHRP Project 20-126(01) Programmatic Strategies for State Transportation Agencies Dealing with Issues of Future System Performance.

Stan Caldwell, Executive Director, Mobility21 UTC, Participates at PennDOT STIC Meeting

July 17, 2019
Posted in What's Happening

July 17, 2019

Mobility21 Executive Director, Stan Caldwell, is a member of the State Transportation Innovation Council (STIC).  The STIC meets three times each year in Harrisburg so members can provide feedback on innovations in development, approve Innovation Development Summaries and Deployment Plans, and receive updates on STIC activities, including communication and outreach efforts.

Stan Caldwell, Mobility21 UTC Executive Director, Served on the Southwest Partnership for Mobility Advisory Council

June 21, 2019
Posted in What's Happening

Stan Caldwell, Mobility21 UTC Executive Director served as a member of the Southwest Partnership for Mobility Advisory Council.  This month as a result of the council’s work, a report was released describing the challenges facing the region’s transportation system. Read the report and learn more about the council’s work here:


Smart Mobility Connection Featuring Scott Matthews

January 25, 2019
Posted in What's Happening

January 25, 2019

Mobility21 kicked off the Spring ’19 academic year with a Smart Mobility Connection featuring Scott Matthews. Matthews presented “Applications of Connected Vehicle Technologies to Improve Safety, Mobility & Emissions.”  The talk highlighted ineffective processes for testing emissions and how we can use technology and data to make the process more affordable and efficient.

Link to recording: Video Link