Make electric vehicles lighter to maximize climate and safety benefits

October 19, 2021
Posted in News

With heavier vehicles on the road, safety becomes even more important. Some vehicles already use cameras, radar and other sensors to avoid collisions by monitoring blind spots and driver alertness. These devices keep vehicles in lanes, adjust speeds, control headlights and apply the brakes if there’s a threat of a crash. Deploying such technologies across the entire US vehicle fleet could avoid thousands of fatalities, more than one million crashes and billions of dollars in social costs annually9.

Old ideas to improve street safety should still be encouraged — speed limits, traffic calming road designs and pedestrian-focused infrastructure. Paris, Brussels, Bilbao and other cities have limited speeds on most roads to 30 kilometres per hour.
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Penn researchers identify transit weak spots for SEPTA’s rebranding initiative

October 15, 2021
Posted in News

A team of researchers from Penn’s Center for Safe Mobility is working with SEPTA on the transportation agency’s $40 million effort to rebrand its transit network and improve its ease of use.

Using data from eye-tracking glasses, Stuart Weitzman School of Design associate professor Megan Ryerson and her team of urban planners partnered with the transportation agency to determine which of the city’s stations were most confusing to riders of different transit familiarity, native languages, and physical abilities. The Center’s experimental study is part of SEPTA’s broader “Wayfinding” initiative to create a more intuitive transit system in response to complaints from riders about the lack of consistent branding and route signage. The Penn faculty and alumni involved in the study hope the rebranding changes the way Penn students think about SEPTA.
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One way to cut down air pollutants: call an Uber

October 15, 2021
Posted in News

Vehicles used for ride sharing apps “can reduce cold-start emissions from internal combustion engines. Vehicles emit far more conventional air pollutants when started ‘cold’,” researchers wrote.

A car’s cold start is when a 12 hour period passes where the vehicle was not used and is turned off—then you start it back up. This is when vehicles emit the most pollution, more than half of a ride’s pollutant emissions, making privately owned cars much more polluting because individual owners are turning their cars on and off frequently throughout the day. TNC car trips represent an about 50 percent decline in air pollutants including fine particulate matter mostly because there are less cold starts in between rides.

But, there’s a catch, says Jeremy Michalek, a professor of engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University and an author of the study. Driving your own car may lower the amount of carbon emissions you emit, since carbon emissions directly correlate with how much fuel is burned.
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Self-driving cars: The 21st-century trolley problem

October 11, 2021
Posted in News

If the goal is to get autonomous driving assistance to the masses, Tesla is closer. If the goal is to have cars that safely drive themselves, Waymo is winning…

But by selling its vehicles to the general public, Tesla is able to collect lots of real-world driving data that will be useful in helping solve autonomous driving challenges. Raj Rajkumar, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon University and an autonomous vehicle pioneer, calls Tesla’s data collection an “incredible advantage” but warns that data is “part of the answer, but it’s not the entire answer.” Still, he thinks Waymo ought to collect more of it from regular drivers in regular conditions.

“We should be driving them whenever they can drive themselves and, when they do not, humans drive themselves,” Rajkumar said. “And for a time we collect experience. We understand what works, what does not work, and we refine.”
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Smart Mobility Connection Featuring Destenie Nock

October 8, 2021
Posted in What's Happening

October 8, 2021

Today’s Smart Mobility Connection session featured Mobility21 UTC Researcher Dr. Destenie Nock.   She discussed her project, “Transportation Implications from COVID-19: Food Delivery and Public Transport.” Watch her presentation here.

De Blasio Vowed to Make City Streets Safer. They’ve Turned More Deadly.

October 6, 2021
Posted in News

Traffic deaths have surged this year to their highest level in nearly a decade. Officials blame an excess of reckless driving, but critics say the city has failed to make streets safer…

Even with traffic deaths on the rise, New York’s fatality rate was still far lower than the national average, according to Erick Guerra, an associate professor of city and regional planning at the University of Pennsylvania. “In some ways, Vision Zero is aspirational,” Professor Guerra said. “Even in cities that have success, you still see traffic fatalities.”

Mr. de Blasio insisted that Vision Zero will eventually transform the city’s unruly streets. “It is the right model,” he told reporters. “It’s changed the behavior of drivers and we need to do a lot more to build upon it.”
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Miovision Secures an Adaptive Partner

October 5, 2021
Posted in News

Miovision, which helps municipalities get more out of their road network by providing solutions that collect multimodal traffic data and uncover actionable insights, announced today that it is partnering with Rapid Flow Technologies to become the exclusive Canadian solution provider of the Surtrac adaptive traffic signal control system.

Surtrac adapts the timing of traffic signals – how long they stay green to serve different directions of traffic – second-by-second using advanced artificial intelligence optimization. Seamless integration allows Surtrac to use real-time multimodal traffic data from Miovision’s TrafficLink system to create an optimized plan for how to move vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists through the intersection as efficiently and safely as possible…

“The advantage of partnering with Miovision is the ease of integrating Surtrac into the TrafficLink devices,” said Greg Barlow, CTO of Rapid Flow Technologies. “The combination of the two systems creates a powerful tool for traffic management, capable of detecting and optimizing traffic flows in real-time.”
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Pittsburgh Pilots New Smart Loading Zones To Ease Congestion And Air Pollution From Delivery Vehicles

October 4, 2021
Posted in News

As the amount of stuff you can order online becomes more abundant, something else has grown very scarce: curbside parking for delivery vehicles. According to the World Economic Forum, the number of delivery vehicles in the top 100 cities worldwide will increase by 36 percent by 2030. That new traffic will bring with it more air pollution and congestion to urban centers.

But the city of Pittsburgh’s Department of Mobility and Transportation is trying a new approach to managing curbside delivery parking.

“We’ve seen a dramatic uptick in commercial curb activity in recent years, and that has only increased more dramatically during the pandemic,” said Erin Clark, a policy advisor with the department…

With the help of two grants, Pittsburgh is piloting “smart loading zones,” which use pole-mounted video cameras, machine learning, a short-term fee structure and an app to help drivers get in and out of loading zones more efficiently.
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Taking an Uber is worse for the climate than driving in your own car

September 29, 2021
Posted in News

Trips in ride-share cars are more damaging to the climate, and impose a greater cost to society in terms of traffic congestion and public safety, than journeys in private vehicles, according to a new study from engineering and public policy researchers at Carnegie Mellon University.

The researchers gathered public data on rides with Uber, Lyft, and other services in Austin, Chicago, New York, and cities in California. Using a computer model to simulate 100,000 trips, they painted a representative picture of journey lengths, the time spent in between rides (known as “deadheading”), and the types of vehicles used by drivers…

The main reason for the difference is deadheading, said Jeremy Michalek, one of the study’s authors. On average, deadheading accounted for 43% of total drive time—time spent producing carbon emissions, blocking traffic, and being at risk of accidents that a person driving their own vehicle would avoid.

Ride-shares did beat personal vehicles on one key metric: Air pollution.
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Is Self-Driving Technology The Best Thing To Hit Pittsburgh Since Steel? Local Business Groups Think So

September 28, 2021
Posted in News

Major economic development groups in Pittsburgh recently released a hefty report that outlines a plan for turning southwestern Pennsylvania into a global powerhouse in the autonomous mobile systems industry…

The technology itself is also relevant, Carnegie Mellon civil and environmental engineering professor Corey Harper noted. And it remains an open question how autonomous vehicles will impact communities, he said. Passengers could use the vehicles as part of a more accessible and efficient transit system – or the vehicles could overcrowd roadways and impede public transportation systems.

“One thing we don’t want to do is make some of the same mistakes we made in the past,” Harper said. The interstate highway system, he noted, uprooted entire communities when it cut through predominantly low-income and minority neighborhoods.

This time around, he said, “We want to make sure that we’re not … exacerbating social inequalities that already exist in our transportation system. There’s a big need for input and engagement from community organizations.”
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A life and death question for regulators: Is Tesla’s Autopilot safe?

September 27, 2021
Posted in News

The current NHTSA investigation of Autopilot in effect reopens the question of whether the technology is safe. It represents the latest significant challenge for Elon Musk, the Tesla chief executive whose advocacy of driverless cars has helped his company become the world’s most valuable automaker…

Musk has said a Tesla with eight cameras will be far safer than human drivers. But the camera technology is affected by darkness and sun glare as well as inclement weather conditions such as heavy rain, snow and fog, experts and industry executives say.

“Today’s computer vision is far from perfect and will be for the foreseeable future,” said Raj Rajkumar, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.
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Smart Mobility Connection Featuring Erick Guerra

September 24, 2021
Posted in What's Happening

September 24, 2021

Today’s Smart Mobility Connection session featured Mobility21 UTC Researcher Erick Guerra.   He discussed his project, “What the Heck is a Choice Rider? A Theoretical Framework and Empirical Model.” Watch his presentation here.

What would it take to power airliners with batteries?

September 22, 2021
Posted in News

Before that happens, the industry must overcome a very real technical problem: replacing turbine-driven airliners with similarly sized electric aircraft will require a monumental leap in battery technology.

That’s the conclusion of several Carnegie Mellon University researchers who created hundreds of thousands of design iterations to determine the battery energy density required for electric versions of three aircraft classes: regional airliners, narrowbody jets and widebodies aircraft. The American Chemical Society published the results of the study in a 2020 paper called “Performance Metrics Required of Next-Generation Batteries to Electrify Commercial Aircraft”…

Even small regional aircraft would need batteries with significantly more energy density than exists with today’s technology. Current-generation lithium-ion batteries have an energy density of about 250Wh/kg, according to the paper…

Yet, it’s not until around energy density of 480Wh/kg that a significant number of regional aircraft designs start becoming viable, says Venkat Viswanathan, an associate professor in the department of mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon who co-authored the research.
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CMU preps its fleet of autonomous robots for a search and rescue mission in final round of DARPA challenge

September 20, 2021
Posted in News

The challenge: Collect as many objects as possible in one hour while navigating a cave in Louisville, Ky.

The goal: Create autonomous robots to help with search and rescue missions for military and first responders.

The kicker: There’s only one operator and a fleet that could include a dozen robots, so the machines must be able to move and make decisions on their own.

It’s hard enough to make autonomous robots useful above ground. This CMU team is trying to do it in the depths below.

“At the heart of this challenge, it’s really a problem of exploration,” said Sebastian Scherer, the co-lead for CMU’s team and an associate research professor at the Robotics Institute. “You’re going into an environment that you’ve never been into, so with that comes a lot of uncertainty and the robot needs to be able to decide what do I do when I face uncertainty.”
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Wabtec, Genesee & Wyoming, Carnegie Mellon form consortium for rail sustainability effort

September 17, 2021
Posted in News

Pittsburgh-based Wabtec Corp.; Carnegie Mellon University, known for its engineering curriculum; and shortline and regional railroad operator Genesee & Wyoming announced Friday, Sept. 10, that they have signed a memorandum of understanding to work to create a more sustainable rail freight network.

The parties will work on two fronts — developing locomotive fleets using alternative energy sources such as batteries and hydrogen fuel cells, and advancing current signaling and digital technologies to increase rail capacity and safety.

Elected officials and other speakers hailed the effort as a first step toward “decarbonizing rail freight transport.” U.S. Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-Pa.) noted Pennsylvania’s longstanding transportation leadership role, from the Main Line of Public Works canal-and-rail system of the 1830s to the consummate railroad town, Altoona, Pa., which once employed 16,000 workers in the Pennsylvania Railroad shops complex there.
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Your Batteries Are Due for Disruption

September 17, 2021
Posted in News

The battery, built by a California start-up, Sila, provided the tiny fitness tracker with more power than older batteries while maintaining the same battery life…

While he said this approach gave Sila a significant advantage over his many competitors, Dr. Viswanathan, the Carnegie Mellon professor, said other companies were taking different routes to refining the way lithium-ion batteries are built.

Companies like Sila and QuantumScape already have partnerships with carmakers and expect that their batteries will reach automobiles around the middle of the decade. They hope their technologies significantly reduce the cost of electric cars and extend their driving range.

“If we want to get electric cars into the mainstream, we have to get them down to the $30,000 price point,” said Mr. Singh, the QuantumScape chief executive. “You can’t do that with today’s batteries.”
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September 2021 UTC Faculty Meeting Held

September 14, 2021
Posted in What's Happening

September 14, 2021

Mobility21 hosted the first UTC faculty meeting of the fall semester. The discussion included a review of the updated Mobility21 Data Management Plan.  It also included Katie Behrman from the Carnegie Mellon University Library as the featured speaker.

Smart Mobility Connection Featuring Allante Whitmore

September 10, 2021
Posted in What's Happening

September 10, 2021

Today’s Smart Mobility Connection session featured Mobility21 UTC Researcher Allante Whitmore.   She discussed her project, “Opportunities for Shared Autonomous Mobility Technology in Public Transit Systems To Improve Equitable Transit Coverage.” Watch her presentation here.

How electric autonomous planes could change the logistics industry

September 8, 2021
Posted in News

Will fleets of hybrid-electric ghost planes replace trucks as the delivery’s dominant vehicle? Stan Caldwell, Carnegie Mellon University’s Adjunct Associate Professor of Transportation and Public Policy, thinks it’s feasible. “We’re seeing rapid increase in serious consideration of drones for freight delivery, especially last-mile freight,” he says. ‘Last mile’ is the part of a delivery process that reaches the consumer – normally from a distribution center. Some of the world’s biggest retailers and logistics companies – like Google, UPS and DHL – are already experimenting with drone delivery.

Caldwell thinks delivery systems are becoming less centralized through a few companies, aiding the drone logistics boom. There are many players on the market. “Distribution of systems is a trend in the freight industry. Walmart has delivery drones, and next, your local independent grocery store gets its own.”
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Here’s the robotaxi that will be available on the Lyft app in 2023

September 7, 2021
Posted in News

Motional, the autonomous vehicle company that is a joint venture between Hyundai and Aptiv, revealed more details about its forthcoming robotaxi as well as some of the first images of the vehicle. The company is also working with Lyft and says that by 2023, customers in certain cities will be able to hail rides in this vehicle using the Lyft app…

The Ioniq 5 is an interesting choice for Motional’s robotaxi. Hyundai claims it has nearly 300 miles of range on a single charge and a two-way charging feature that can supply up to 3.6kW of power. It will also be built on Hyundai’s new Electric-Global Modular Platform (E-GMP) that the automaker says will serve as the basis for an entire family of planned EVs.

Motional says that E-GMP will provide “passengers with a spacious, comfortable place to work, relax, or socialize during their driverless ride.”
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Update on Mobility21’s Robotics Institute Summer Scholar, Rayna Hata

September 4, 2021
Posted in What's Happening

September 4, 2021

Mobility21’s RISS Rayna Hata has completed her project centered around the localiation of vision or mobility impaired pedestrians as they cross urban intersections using the PedPal app and has this to say about her experience:

“This summer, I had the pleasure of working in the Intelligent Coordination and Logistics Lab under the mentorship of  Dr. Stephen Smith and Dr. Isaac Isukapati.  While crossing an intersection feels like an easy task, vision-impaired pedestrians face difficulties such as spending multiple cycles of signal changes to understand the intersection or straying off from the borders of the crosswalk. My end goal for this project is to have the app and the device accurately track and guide the pedestrian as they approach and cross the intersection.

This research experience was my formal introduction to the field of robotics research. This experience solidified my interest in pursuing a graduate degree and a career in Robotics upon graduation. I cannot thank Mobility 21 enough for this sponsorship and support, and I am excited to keep working with the lab throughout my school year to complete this project.” 

The Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute Summer Scholars program connects students from across the country and world to contribute to robotics research alongside top CMU researchers. With 43 scholars from 11 countries and 33 home universities, the 2020 RISS cohort is the largest cohort since the inception of the program in 2006. Forty percent of the 2020 participating scholars are from communities underrepresented in STEM.

Research Recap: Spectrum for Connected Vehicles

September 1, 2021
Posted in What's Happening

September 3, 2021

Today, Mobility21 UTC released its latest “Research Recap” for Jon Peha’s project “Spectrum for Connected Vehicles. The recaps are one-page overviews of the UTC funded research that describe the research project’s purpose, approach, key findings, conclusions, contact information for the research team and a link to the final research report.

Seeing the light: Peduto administration aims to reduce light pollution in proposed ordinance

September 1, 2021
Posted in News

An effort to see the Milky Way is underway with a potential new city law that requires softer, subtler lighting in Pittsburgh’s public parks, buildings and along the streets.

Mayor Bill Peduto’s office on Tuesday introduced a “dark sky” ordinance in an effort to reduce light pollution that often upstages the stars, disrupts wildlife and wastes energy…

Currently, the city’s roughly 35,000 LED streetlights blaze at a color temperature of 5,000 Kelvins — a cool daylight-like brightness that disperses a blue light that is much brighter than the warmer, softer 2,700 to 3,000 Kelvins recommended by the International Dark Sky Association.

Streetlights are now available in the lower color temperature thanks to the evolving LED technology, according to Steve Quick, an architect and adjunct instructor with Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Architecture, who also spoke at the press conference.
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Musk says Tesla likely to launch humanoid robot prototype next year

August 31, 2021
Posted in News

Chief Executive Elon Musk on Thursday said the electric automaker will probably launch a “Tesla Bot” humanoid robot prototype next year, designed for dangerous, repetitive, or boring work that people don’t like to do.

Speaking at Tesla’s AI Day event, the billionaire entrepreneur said the robot, which stands around five foot eight inches tall, would be able to handle jobs from attaching bolts to cars with a wrench, or picking up groceries at stores…

“Is the ‘Tesla Bot’ the next dream shot to pump up the hype machine?” said Raj Rajkumar, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.

“I can safely say that it will be much longer than 10 years before a humanoid bot from any company on the planet can go to the store and get groceries for you.”
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Why Are Uber And Lyft So Expensive Right Now?

August 31, 2021
Posted in News

Why have Uber and Lyft become so expensive?

It has everything to do with the pandemic.

“The pandemic demonstrated the volatility of the ride-hailing industry with early sharp reductions in passenger demand and subsequent reductions in driver supply,” said Stan Caldwell, executive director of Carnegie Mellon’s Traffic21 Institute.

Peter C. Earle, an economist at the American Institute for Economic Research, explained that owing to a shortage of drivers, surges (and the higher prices associated with them) have become more common.

Goodbye, Seafood? Inflation and Shortages Have Restaurants Taking Items Off the Menu

Why haven’t all previous Uber and Lyft drivers gotten back behind the wheel as the world has opened back up? One reason could be that they’re actually making more money being unemployed than they are being a gig worker.
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