RideACTA Smart Mobility Challenge Project Results Presentation

September 23, 2020
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Electric air taxis face turbulence before take-off

September 18, 2020
Posted in News

Advances in batteries may help accelerate the widespread adoption of air taxis, with a shift from lithium-ion to a lighter battery made from pure lithium metal on the horizon.

Venkat Viswanathan, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, is developing such a battery in partnership with the US government’s Department of Energy and a battery maker.

He says that the battery will be more energy efficient, up to 30 per cent lighter than standard lithium-ion batteries, and enable air taxis to travel longer on one charge.

“Air taxis [will also be] cheaper to run because it becomes more energy efficient if your battery is lighter,” he adds.
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The utopian promise and dystopian potential of real-time detection of police, fire, and medical emergencies

September 4, 2020
Posted in News

The AI City Challenge was created to solve traffic operations challenges with AI and make smart public transportation systems. One 2020 challenge, for example, focuses on the detection of stalled cars or traffic accidents on the freeway. Roughly 30 teams participated in the inaugural challenge in 2017. This year saw 800 individual researchers on 300 teams from 36 nations; 72 teams ultimately submitted final code.

AI City Challenge has always been an international competition that welcomes teams from around the world. But since its launch, virtually all of the winning teams have been from China and the United States. Teams from the University of Washington and University of Illinois took top honors in 2017. In 2018, a University of Washington team took first place in two of three competitions, with a team from Beijing University in second place. This year, a team from Carnegie Mellon University won a single competition, but teams from Chinese universities and companies like Baidu won three out of four contests, and Chinese teams captured most runner-up spots, as well.
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Project Uses AI to Maximize Meal Delivery to Students in Need

September 4, 2020
Posted in News

In this month’s installment of the Innovation of the Month series, we explore a collaboration between Carnegie Mellon University, Allies for Children and several other community groups in Allegheny County, Pa., applying machine learning technology to addressing the disruption to school meal programs caused by COVID-19. MetroLab’s Ben Levine spoke with Karen Lightman and Stephen Smith at Carnegie Mellon University about the background and development of their project…

Metro21’s sister organization, Traffic21 Institute, offered some startup funding and Allies for Children connected us with the Penn Hills School District, an area where students were particularly vulnerable to food insecurity. Other critical partners to this deployment include the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania, Greater Pittsburgh community Food Bank, ACCESS Transportation Systems and Eat’n Park Restaurants.
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Digital Repository Submitters Tapped for Feedback

August 28, 2020
Posted in What's Happening

August 27, 2020

The US Department of Transportation National Transportation Library Repository & Open Science Access Portal pulled together a small group of frequent users, including Lisa Kay Schweyer, Program Manager from the Mobility21 UTC to join today’s feedback group.  The library is looking to gather information about the development of a new data submission form for research reports and data sets.

Automated trucking, a technical milestone that could disrupt hundreds of thousands of jobs, hits the road

August 28, 2020
Posted in News

You know that universal sign we give truckers, hoping they’ll sound their air horns? Well, you’re going to be hearing a lot less honking in the future. And with good reason. The absence of an actual driver in the cab. We may focus on the self-driving car, but autonomous trucking is not an if, it’s a when. And the when is coming sooner than you might expect…
Steve Viscelli: As truckers like to say, if you bought it, a truck brought it.

Steve Viscelli is a sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania and an expert in freight transportation and automation. He also spent six months driving a big rig.

Jon Wertheim: What segment do you think’s gonna be hit first by driverless trucks?

Steve Viscelli: I’ve identified two segments that I think are most at-risk. And that’s– refrigerated and dry van truckload. And those constitute about 200,000 trucking jobs. And then what’s called line haul and they’re somewhere in the neighborhood of 80,000-90,000 jobs there.
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Penn Hills School District to feed online, hybrid learners throughout upcoming school year

August 26, 2020
Posted in News

Penn Hills School District officials have a plan to ensure students stay fed this coming school year no matter if they come to class or learn online…

Hines commended the food service department for its efforts to ensure no student goes hungry during the covid-19 pandemic.

“I’m really proud of our team because we haven’t skipped a beat,” Hines said. “If there’s a need within a family, we want to meet that.”

Hines also said the summer/spring food distribution was successful due to partnerships with nonprofits Second Chance, Allies for Children, United Way and Carnegie Mellon University.
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Why Excessive AI Politeness Could Be Oddly Inconsiderate, Implications Too For Self-Driving Cars

August 25, 2020
Posted in News

Politeness arises not only among humans, but also can appear when interacting with automation. There is a veritable tsunami of AI systems being developed and fielded, many of which make use of Natural Language Processing (NLP). You are likely familiar with Alexa and Siri, which are prime examples of today’s capabilities at NLP and how such state-of-the-art AI systems interact with humans.

At first, the use of AI NLP was undertaken in a somewhat neutral or non-polite mode…

There are various AI research efforts trying to figure out these aspects, including taking non-polite human utterances and doing an automated translation into polite versions, using Machine Learning and Deep Learning, for which this is a lot harder than you might think (for an interesting study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University on politeness transfer
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Aptiv, Hyundai team up to launch Motional and develop self-driving cars

August 14, 2020
Posted in News

After solidifying a partnership in March, tech provider Aptiv and vehicle manufacturer Hyundai Motor Group announced Tuesday a new name for their joint venture to develop and commercialize autonomous vehicles: Motional…

Motional is designing Level 4 autonomous vehicles, which means the human in the driver seat is not driving the car when the self-driving features are enabled and is not required to take over if something goes wrong.

The company plans to start testing this year and to make its driverless systems and supporting technology available to robotaxi providers and fleet operators in 2022.

Based in Boston, Motional also has offices in Pittsburgh, Las Vegas, Santa Monica, Singapore and Seoul. In Pittsburgh, where Aptiv has been testing self-driving vehicles since 2013, the company is moving its headquarters from O’Hara to Hazelwood Green’s Mill 19.
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Aptiv and Hyundai’s joint venture launches identity as Motional

August 14, 2020
Posted in News

Pittsburgh’s autonomous vehicle sector has a new name to learn.

In March, Dublin-based tech company Aptiv merged its self-driving vehicle team, which operates in part out of Pittsburgh, in a joint venture with Hyundai Motor Group. On Tuesday, that joint venture, valued at $4 billion, officially launched its identity as Motional.

Motional, based in Boston, will continue to operate its Hazelwood Green office, previously part of Aptiv, according to Motional CEO Karl Iagnemma. He said the company, which currently has 220 employees in Pittsburgh, is hiring quickly.

Motional operates a closed course test track in Beaver County.

Iagnemma said the name of the joint venture comes from the combination of “motion” and “emotional.”
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CMU researchers train autonomous drones using cross-modal simulated data

August 11, 2020
Posted in News

A novel method developed by Carnegie Mellon University researchers allows drones to learn perception and action separately.

The two-stage approach overcomes the “simulation-to-reality gap”, and creates a way to safely deploy drones trained entirely on simulated data into real-world course navigation.

Rogerio Bonatti, a doctoral student in the School of Computer Science’s Robotics Institute, says: “Typically drones trained on even the best photorealistic simulated data will fail in the real world because the lighting, colors and textures are still too different to translate…

Bonatti wants to push current technology to approach a human’s ability to interpret environmental cues.

He says: “Most of the work on autonomous drone racing so far has focused on engineering a system augmented with extra sensors and software with the sole aim of speed.

“Instead, we aimed to create a computational fabric, inspired by the function of a human brain, to map visual information to the correct control actions going through a latent representation.”
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Coronavirus Led To Less Traffic, Which Has Been Good For The Air But A Mixed Bag for PennDOT

August 7, 2020
Posted in News

The coronavirus pandemic upended commuting patterns in the Pittsburgh region. In the early months of Pennsylvania’s shutdown, traffic dropped by as much as 50 percent in Allegheny County, according to Streetlight Data. On average, PennDOT officials say vehicular traffic remains about 20 percent lower than normal.

In a recent paper, a Carnegie Mellon University research group documented a drop in air pollutants. Their work showed that less driving meant lower concentrations of emissions such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide. Professor Albert Presto said more surprising was the decrease in fine particulate matter, which are really small particles that can cause big health problems.

“That was the same whether we were in a high-traffic place or a low-traffic place,” he said.
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Leading the Way: A National Task Force on Connected Vehicles

August 7, 2020
Posted in What's Happening

August 7, 2020

Mobility21 UTC Researcher Jon Peha was recently invited to provide his expertise in determining policies to move connected vehicles forward.  His paper, “Leading the Way: A National Task Force on Connected Vehicles” was chosen by Day One, an initiative of the nonpartisan Federation of American Scientists,  as one of the 100 best policy ideas related to science and technology to be enacted.  Read his paper here.

Ohio State receives $1.9 million grant to thwart hackers targeting GPS

August 4, 2020
Posted in News

Ohio State, which will lead the project involving other universities, is seeking an affordable solution as more and more people use GPS to navigate in their cars, autonomous vehicles become more popular and drones rely more on pre-programmed destinations…

“The team at Ohio State has written extensively on positioning, navigation, timing, and resiliency. It’s conducted pioneering work in the field,” said Furchtgott-Roth. “They’ve conducted tests of interference and spoofing and developed techniques to achieve resilient, accurate and assured positioning navigation and timing in many, many difficult environments. So we were so impressed with them.”

Ohio State also was an ideal fit because of the school’s ties to the Transportation Research Center in East Liberty the largest test facility in the country which includes the SMARTCenter, the largest autonomous vehicle proving grounds.
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The Road to Electric Vehicles with Lower Sticker Prices than Gas Cars – Battery Costs Explained

July 29, 2020
Posted in News

The Department of Energy goal for the industry is to reduce the price of battery packs to less than $100/kWh and ultimately to about $80/kWh. At these battery price points, the sticker price of an EV is likely to be lower than that of a comparable combustion engine vehicle.

Forecasting when that price crossover will occur requires models that account for the cost variables: design, materials, labor, manufacturing capacity and demand. These models also show where researchers and manufacturers are focusing their efforts to reduce battery costs. Our group at Carnegie Mellon University has developed a model of battery costs that accounts for all aspects of EV battery manufacturing.
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COVID Pandemic-19 Shows Telecommuting Can Help Fight Climate Change

July 27, 2020
Posted in News

To work out the emissions impact of teleworking, researchers have to consider several factors that can vary from city to city: how people get to work on a normal commute, how far they travel, how much commercial and residential electricity use changes and what power sources are involved, says Constantine Samaras, director of the Center for Engineering and Resilience for Climate Adaptation at Carnegie Mellon University. Working remotely is more likely to have a benefit where it replaces commuting by car, for example. On the electricity side, if teleworking leads to more electricity use in an area and requires additional coal-fueled power plants to come online, it could outweigh the emissions reductions from not driving, says Kenneth Gillingham, an environmental and energy economist at Yale University and lead author of the Joule analysis. On the other hand, if that added electricity comes from renewable energy, telecommuting could offer more significant emissions reductions.
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Are Vehicle Safety Features Actually Reducing Car Accidents?

July 24, 2020
Posted in News

But do cars with advanced safety systems really make everything safer? Most studies suggest they do. For example, the crash involvement rate for vehicles with blind-spot monitoring was 14% lower than the same models without the equipment, according to a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

“The same study suggested that if every vehicle sold in the United States in 2015 was equipped with blind-spot monitoring, 50,000 crashes and 16,000 crash injuries might have been prevented,” says David Braunstein, president of Together For Safer Roads, a coalition of companies dedicated to better road safety.

Corey Harper, a researcher at Carnegie Mellon University, says his analysis suggests the combination of vehicle crash avoidance technologies reduces crash frequency by about 3.5%.

“If vehicle crash avoidance technologies were deployed throughout the light-duty vehicle fleet, we could see crash prevention cost savings of up to $264 billion, assuming all relevant crashes are prevented,” he says.
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The Nation’s Marquee ‘Smart City’ Program Continues to Evolve

July 23, 2020
Posted in News

Don Carter, a research fellow with the Remaking Cities Institute at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, described what’s happening in Columbus as “essentially a research project.”

“We’re going to learn from what worked and didn’t work technically, what worked and didn’t work from a public policy viewpoint,” he said.

“The telephone was a research project originally,” Carter added. “We’re just getting to the threshold, the beginning of the race, as to what this smart city thing might be. The best time to look back on it would be 100 years from now.”
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Offsetting carbon emissions, one ton at a time

July 23, 2020
Posted in News

“I’ve spent my career telling people to fly less. If you told me in the fall how few planes would be in the sky right now, I would have been shocked,” says Megan Ryerson, associate professor of transportation engineering and planning in the Weitzman School of Design. Since the global pandemic has kept people home, air travel has dropped precipitously. The airline industry is one of the biggest buyers of carbon offsets, and is responsible for 12% of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from all transport sources. Logically, it follows that this unprecedented period of reduced jet fuel emissions means less money diverted to a third-party carbon offset provider.

This isn’t the takeaway to consider from the pandemic, argues Ryerson. It’s whether frequent flyers and the airline industry will return to the same travel patterns, rather than harnessing the global pause and reevaluating a new normal for jet fuel emissions and travel in general. “Whether offsets are purchased or built into travel or energy plans should not be a sign or metric of conservation. We’ll see success when we need fewer offsets, and when they are cheaper to buy.”
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Taxis trialled as smart city sensors in China

July 22, 2020
Posted in News

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) are collaborating with Chinese company Environmental Thinking and the cities of Shenzhen and Tianjin to turn taxis into a mobile sensing platform which enables cost-effective, widespread data collection.

They say as few as ten taxis could be effective, although more will improve accuracy, and applications for cities include monitoring traffic congestion, noise and air pollution.

Pei Zhang, Associate Research Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at CMU, said: “Placing sensors all over a city with high density would be expensive and difficult to maintain, but managed fleets like taxis are everywhere and go everywhere in a city.”
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Battery breakthrough gives boost to electric flight and long-range electric cars

July 22, 2020
Posted in News

Now, researchers at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), in collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University, have reported in the journal Nature Materials a new class of soft, solid electrolytes — made from both polymers and ceramics — that suppress dendrites in that early nucleation stage, before they can propagate and cause the battery to fail.

These and other data confirmed predictions from a new physical model for electrodeposition of lithium metal, which takes into account both chemical and mechanical characteristics of the solid electrolytes.

“In 2017, when the conventional wisdom was that you need a hard electrolyte, we proposed that a new dendrite suppression mechanism is possible with a soft solid electrolyte,” said co-author Venkat Viswanathan, an associate professor of mechanical engineering and faculty fellow at Scott Institute for Energy Innovation at Carnegie Mellon University who led the theoretical studies for the work. “It is amazing to find a material realization of this approach with PIM composites.”
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Taxis drive smart city creation

July 20, 2020
Posted in News

Pei Zhang, associate research professor of electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, turned to taxis as a mobile sensing platform. Why? A fleet of taxis has a long operational time, a large spatial coverage, and great potential for data collection…

o gain better data for accurate learning, Zhang and his colleagues developed an algorithm to create the best plan to motivate taxi drivers to drive to less popular areas-to actuate them in order to collect data via monetary incentives…

The actuation system for city-wide crowdsourcing of data reaped positive results. The researchers saw a 40 percent improvement in sensing coverage quality and up to 30 percent increase on ride request matching rates, with only 10 percent of the baseline budget required. They have collaborated with Chinese company Environmental Thinking and currently have 146 deployments in Shenzhen and 19 in Tianjin.
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Pittsburgh’s air pollution levels decreased during the stay-at-home order—but the overall impact remains small

July 14, 2020
Posted in News

As coronavirus spread, so did reports of lowered pollution, apparently due to shutdowns. Climate scientists, including Carnegie Mellon’s Albert Presto, set out to discover if their local air pollution levels supported these claims. In a recently published paper, Presto, an associate research professor in the department of mechanical engineering, detailed Pittsburgh’s pollution levels as coronavirus shut down the city.

The shutdown provided a real-world experiment for researchers to study. Presto and his team were able to observe how pollution levels respond if car usage decreases dramatically. As expected, pollution from cars decreased. This was most apparent during rush hour traffic. Before the pandemic, those busy hours had the highest pollution levels, resulting in a spike twice a day. Now, the spike is nearly gone. Unfortunately, this short change will have no long-term effect on the climate.
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The Intersection Between Self-Driving Cars and Electric Cars

July 14, 2020
Posted in News

New research suggests that the tradeoffs for electric autonomous vehicles aren’t as painful as once thought—and indicates that AVs, whenever and wherever they show up, could contribute to the green-ing of the global car market.

In a paper published in the journal Nature Energy last month, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University project the potential behavior of self-driving cars in cities and suburbs. They find that certain aspects of autonomy do drain car batteries, but smart software and hardware tweaks should make fleets of battery-powered self-driving cars very possible.

“A bunch of commentators used to suggest the first AVs might have to be gas hybrids,” says Shashank Sripad, a PhD candidate in mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon who worked on the paper. “But we believe that, if we want to do electric vehicles, autonomy will be compatible with it.”
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