Colorado Mayor Wants All Electric Car Chargers To Be Universal

May 10, 2021
Posted in News

A gas-powered car can refuel at any pump, but electric vehicles need special chargers. Tesla, for example, built fast chargers for its own drivers, and another luxury brand, Rivian, is planning its own exclusive network of chargers. But all this has created concerns that electric vehicle drivers are going to have to deal with a frustrating patchwork of charging stations. Sam Brasch of Colorado Public Radio reports on one small-town mayor who’s decided to push back.

BRASCH: Rivian is installing thousands of universal chargers, but only slower ones that can take hours to recharge a car. Some agree with Mayor Wood that all fast chargers should work with all vehicles. Costa Samaras of Carnegie Mellon University says that would help drivers feel comfortable on long road trips, no matter what they’re driving.

COSTA SAMARAS: If you want the same functionality as today’s gas station network, we’ll need something that’s more standardized.
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Automakers and universities team up to fix AV industry’s talent gap

May 7, 2021
Posted in News

When the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) at Ohio State University began over 30 years ago, it focused on traditional subjects like the transmissions, noise and vibrations from internal combustion engines, with some attention paid to what was then a growing trend of automotive electronics.

Now, with the advent of autonomous vehicles (AVs), its focus has changed.

“What used to be a predominantly mechanical engineering discipline with some electronics sprinkled in has become an industry that depends on computing power, computer science, electrical and electronic systems and electrochemical energy storage,” Giorgio Rizzoni, CAR’s director and an OSU mechanical and aerospace engineering professor, said…

Some community colleges and other groups are also getting in on the act.

Pima Community College in Tucson, Arizona, launched the first-ever autonomous driving certificate program for truck drivers in 2019, in partnership with self-driving truck company TuSimple.
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Will Elon Musk’s Starlink Fix Internet Issues in Western Pa.?

May 3, 2021
Posted in News

Starlink, owned by the Tesla CEO, has put more than 1,400 satellites into orbit, building a network — or constellation, as the company calls it — to provide Internet service to people across the country. Launches from Florida began in 2019 through a partnership between SpaceX and NASA. So far, there have been 10 this year. Eight of those carried Starlink satellites…

The satellites will work with a ground network called gateways, which will be placed up to 700 miles apart and utilize fiber optic cable, according to Karen Lightman, executive director of Metro21: Smart Cities Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. Internet service will then be connected via dishes placed on homes and buildings.

“They’re considered a carrier of last resort because there’s a gap” in Internet service, Lightman said. “Nobody’s filling it because the Comcasts and the DQEs and the AT&Ts are like, ‘We’re not going to lay fiber. There’s nobody living there for 200 miles.’ But you can do it with satellite.”
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Feeding the Needy with the Help of Machine Learning

May 3, 2021
Posted in News

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have set up a data sharing partnership between the Penn Hills School District and the Allegheny County Department of Human Services. This was done in order to serve those students who used to rely on free breakfast and lunch at school. Along with all the data gathered, the researchers at the Carnegie Mellon University loaded the address information into the computer and identified the locations and the routes.

According to Stephen Smith, who developed the delivery algorithms and is currently serving as the research professor in the Robotics Institute, “The existing bus routes used to transport students weren’t ideal for meal distribution for a number of reasons. Stopping every few blocks isn’t very efficient, and we needed areas where shuttles could safely stop, park and hand out food to groups of people. Our goal was to identify stops and routes to reach as many people as possible.”
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Joby touts a 10,000 flight cycle eVTOL battery. Can it deliver?

April 28, 2021
Posted in News

During an IPO Edge webinar last week, Joby Aviation founder and CEO JoeBen Bevirt made a bold claim: that the company expects to get at least 10,000 flight cycles out of the lithium-ion batteries in its eVTOL air taxis, making the cost of replacing batteries “essentially insignificant” in the context of Joby’s overall operating economics…

Venkat Viswanathan, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University who last year analyzed Joby’s maximum range estimate for Forbes, finds Joby’s flight cycle claim to be credible.

“Batteries today can go somewhere between 1,000 to 2,000 cycles with full charge,” he said. “Basically that 10,000 flight cycles simply means somewhere between 1,500 to 2,000 cycles on the battery pack, which is certainly doable with today’s battery technology.”

According to Viswanathan, “battery cycle life has been improving tremendously over the past few years,” so it’s reasonable to expect that cycle life estimates would have increased since Uber Elevate shared its cost calculations two years ago.
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Are user fees a middle-class tax hike or a fairer way to pay for infrastructure in Pittsburgh region?

April 26, 2021
Posted in News

“We have a grasp of what this stuff costs, but we don’t have a grasp on long-term financing of it,” said Stan Caldwell, adjunct associate professor of transportation and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University.

As the Highway Trust Fund has eroded over time, project fixes have been kicked down the road, and user fees have become more disconnected from the people who pay them, transportation experts said.

Drivers who use the Pennsylvania Turnpike complain their tolls fund urban public transit projects in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, and public transit advocates complain federal transit spending remains too low. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, created a task force last month to look at alternatives to the gasoline tax.

“The federal government is not addressing this, and so therefore the states have to keep doing it on their own and keep coming up with their own plans to fill in the gaps,” Mr. Caldwell said. “The system we have now, it can be argued, is a result of a lack of addressing this at the core.”
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Smart Mobility Connection Featuring Ümit Özgüner

April 23, 2021
Posted in What's Happening

April 23, 2021

Today’s Smart Mobility Connection session featured Mobility21 UTC Researcher Ümit Özgüner.   He discussed his project, “Research on pedestrian vehicle interaction.” Watch his presentation here.

INFRASTRUCTURE OF THE FUTURE As cities adopt smart infrastructure, it’s becoming a growing opportunity for local tech firms.

April 21, 2021
Posted in News

It was in the early 2000s when Jim Misener, chair of the SAE C-V2X Technical Committee, first started to watch short-range communication come into form and the emerging ability for cars to “talk” to surrounding infrastructure. “Smart cities” had not yet become a common term.

Misener said the technology peaked SAE International’s interest, and the organization, which develops global standards, quickly set to work creating a set of standards to shape the way cities deploy smart infrastructure.

Since then, companies developing smart infrastructure have popped up across the nation and in Pittsburgh in what has become an emerging industry as cities look to upgrade and transform their aging infrastructures.

Now, this growing sector may get an additional boost with President Joe Biden’s proposed $2 trillion infrastructure plan.

Karen Lightman, executive director of Metro21: Smart Cities Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, praised the Biden administration’s recently proposed American Jobs Act for its dedication to expanding broadband coverage.
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BMW’s Virtual Factory Uses AI to Hone the Assembly Line

April 19, 2021
Posted in News

Encouraged by recent progress in AI, some startups are focused on having robots learn in simulation how to perform fiendishly difficult tasks like grasping irregular objects, technology that could eventually help automate much ecommerce and logistics work. This often uses an AI approach called reinforcement learning, which involves an algorithm experimenting and learning, from positive feedback, how to achieve a specific goal.

“This is definitely the way to go,” says Ding Zhao, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University who focuses on AI and digital simulations. Zhao says simulations are crucial to using AI for industrial applications, partly because it is impossible to run machines through millions of cycles to gather training data. In addition, he says, it’s important for machine-learning models to learn by experimenting with unsafe situations, such as two robots colliding, which cannot be done with real hardware. “Machine learning is data-hungry, and collecting it in the real world is expensive and risky,” he says.
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As rainstorms grow more severe and frequent, communities fail to prepare for risks

April 16, 2021
Posted in News

“The take-home message is that infrastructure in most parts of the country is no longer performing at the level that it’s supposed to because of the big changes that we’ve seen in extreme rainfall,” said Daniel Wright, a hydrologist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and co-author of the study.

He points to the 2014 National Climate Assessment, which found heavy downpours increased 71 percent in the Northeast, 37 percent in the Upper Midwest, and 27 percent in the Southeast from 1958 to 2012. It may cost more initially to build for bigger storms, but it’s less expensive than making fixes later, said Constantine Samaras, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.

“The place that we want to get to is designing for the future rather than designing for the past,” he added.
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Roadbotics Data Helps Inform Local Area Paving Plan

April 14, 2021
Posted in What's Happening

April 14, 2021

Roadbotics, a Mobility21 UTC funded spinoff company, demonstrates impact of technology on local transportation in Bethel Park.  “It takes all the guess work out of it,” said Consolmagno, public works chairman. “Instead of people calling up and saying, ‘Hey. How about paving my road?’ This independent audit gives us a firsthand view.” Read the full article here.

Technology plays key role in decarbonizing freight rail: Wabtec exec

April 13, 2021
Posted in News

GEBHARDT: “What we’ve seen is that the cost continues to come down and the supply chains to grow in order meet the needs overall…

“How do we make sure that we can get hydrogen where we need it? How do we make sure it’s green hydrogen? How do we go ahead and charge these battery-electric locomotives, looking at that whole ecosystem? What’s exciting to me is that for rail, there’s a couple of thousand fueling stations in the U.S. … They would be easier to transition to electrification and to hydrogen than, say, the tens of thousands of gasoline fueling stations for automobiles and for trucks today.

“We think it’s a much more practical challenge, and that’s why we’re excited about Freight 2030. Carnegie Mellon has a lot of logistics capability, a lot of AI capability on how to do the planning for all of that.
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Will apps like PayPal and Venmo make financial inequality worse?

April 13, 2021
Posted in News

Given the cleanliness concerns spurred by the Covid-19 pandemic, mobile payments have generally been used for contactless transactions and thus are better for public health, said Beibei Li, associate professor of IT and management at Carnegie Mellon University. For underbanked customers, in particular, mobile payment apps allow consumers to access their money without needing to go to an ATM, which can be inconvenient for people in low-income communities with fewer ATM locations nearby, Li said…

Li noted that, according to her research examining payment apps and other mobile banking apps, consumers were able to better manage their money, including incurring fewer overdraft and late credit card payment fees.

“It seems like these mobile applications are able to facilitate better for people’s financial management in general. We definitely see that there is a benefit for disadvantaged [groups],” Li said.
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Testing how navigable SEPTA is, with glasses that see what riders see

April 12, 2021
Posted in News

Cameron Adamez was outfitted with Tobii Pro eye-tracker glasses on a recent Friday afternoon and dispatched to the caverns beneath City Hall Station on a mission from SEPTA to find out just how difficult it is to get around its rail transit system.

Adamez was a volunteer test subject in an experiment designed and conducted by Megan Ryerson, the UPS chair of transportation at the University of Pennsylvania, to generate data for SEPTA planners overhauling the system’s way-finding: the maps, signs, and branding that clue riders where to go for what line.

“I think of it as epidemiology for navigation,” said Ryerson, an associate professor of both city and regional planning and electrical and systems engineering at Penn.

“We wanted to determine whether people are understanding the way-finding signage, how they are navigating the space from a human perspective,” she said.
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MIT Analysis Predicts Lithium-Ion Battery Costs Will Drop

April 9, 2021
Posted in News

The cost of lithium-ion battery technology has fallen dramatically over the last three decades, claims a recent analysis conducted by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). And, they predict that further steep declines could be possible in the near future.
According to Jessika Trancik, an associate professor at MIT’s Institute for Data, Systems and Society who conducted the analysis, the cost of these batteries has dropped by 97 percent since they were first commercially introduced in 1991…

“Battery costs determine price parity of electric vehicles with internal combustion engine vehicles,” adds Venkat Viswanathan, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, who was not associated with the MIT analysis. “Thus, projecting battery cost declines is probably one of the most critical challenges in ensuring an accurate understanding of adoption of electric vehicles.”
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The professor who built a self-driving car decades ago

April 9, 2021
Posted in News

Decades before the race to build a self-driving vehicle became a multibillion-dollar contest between tech giants such as Tesla Inc and Google, a South Korean professor built an autonomous vehicle and test-drove it across the country — only for his research to be consigned to the scrapheap.

Han Min-hong, now 79, successfully tested his self-driving car on the roads of Seoul in 1993 — a decade before Tesla was even founded…

Raj Rajkumar, an engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute, who reviewed the 1990s footage for Agence France-Presse, said that it “appears to be on par with some of the best work on autonomous vehicles during that period.”

“The professor and a colleague are not even in the driver’s seat — very bold, confident, but very risky thing to do,” he added. “It is unfortunate that funding for that project was cut. In hindsight, that was certainly not a wise decision.”
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Smart Mobility Connection Featuring Justin Starr

April 9, 2021
Posted in What's Happening

April 9, 2021

Today’s Smart Mobility Connection session featured Mobility21 UTC Researcher Justin Starr.   He discussed his project, “Using a Virtual Racing League to Learn Artificial Intelligence Autonomy as a Skilled Trade.”  Watch his presentation here.

With all eyes on Biden in Pittsburgh, 13 local experts diagnose the region’s biggest infrastructure needs

April 6, 2021
Posted in News

President Joe Biden traveled to Pittsburgh Wednesday to make his case for a sweeping infrastructure investment across the country. Even before he arrived, jockeying for how to spend the money in Pittsburgh was underway. Several local representatives, including state Reps. Austin Davis and Summer Lee, wrote a letter promoting an extension of the Martin Luther King East Busway and the last leg of the Mon-Fayette Expressway.

At one of Biden’s campaign stops in Pittsburgh, Biden looked directly at Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and a handful of other politicians and told them he would be back because Pittsburgh was so important to the country. “Less than 100 days and here he is making this major major speech in Southwestern Pennsylvania,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s a big supporter of our building trades and infrastructure and putting people to work.”…

PublicSource talked to 13 local experts, academics, politicians and nonprofit leaders to ask: What are the most pressing infrastructure needs for the Pittsburgh region?
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Why Joe Biden is pitching his infrastructure plan in Pittsburgh, where he launched and ended his campaign

April 6, 2021
Posted in News

When Joe Biden began his presidential campaign, he chose a Pittsburgh union hall for his first rally. He returned to the city for his first event after accepting the Democratic nomination last summer. And on the night before Election Day, he closed his campaign at the Steelers’ home stadium, Heinz Field.

Now, as he launches his second major initiative as president — a potentially $3 trillion infrastructure plan that could be his most ambitious legislation — Biden is returning Wednesday to the Southwestern Pennsylvania city long associated with labor unions and heavy industry…

“We’re a template for what you can do to do it right,” said Karen Lightman, executive director of Metro21, which connects research and development at Carnegie Mellon University with real-world uses in the Pittsburgh region. But despite all the high-tech advancement, she said, “we also have incredible, decaying infrastructure.”
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Green Building Alliance Hosts Inspire Speaker Series

April 1, 2021
Posted in What's Happening

April 1, 2021

Lisa Kay Schweyer, UTC Program Manager, participated in the Green Building Alliance’s Inspire Speakers Series session on Mobility, Health, and Justice in the Clean Transportation Revolution.  Speakers discussed the local context of Pittsburgh’s mobility evolution and its future, and  projects happening in our region and in other parts of the country to address the multi-faceted issue of clean transportation.

Fighting Has Broken Out Over How Long Lithium Metal Can Sit on the Shelf

March 31, 2021
Posted in News

The issue is calendar life — how many years a battery can be useful, regardless of whether the vehicle in which it’s installed is driven or not. The paper, written by nine authors at Stanford University led by Yi Cui, a materials scientist, found that in extreme testing, lithium-metal batteries lose up to 25% of their lifetime capacity just sitting around.

Major automakers including General Motors and Volkswagen are relying on pure lithium-metal batteries to make next-generation electric vehicles ultra-affordable and allow them to crack the mass market. But the paper waves a gigantic red flag, suggesting that researchers need to heed this potential flaw in order to ensure that lithium-metal batteries work for a full guaranteed lifetime. “If you lose 25%, it’s game over,” said Venkat Viswanathan, a professor at Carnegie Mellon. “At 20%, you already lose the useful life of the battery.”
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Is A Mileage-Based User Fee A Likely Replacement For The State’s Gasoline Tax?

March 29, 2021
Posted in News

Nobody likes the state’s 59-cent-a-gallon gasoline tax, one of the highest in the nation, and with more electric and fuel-efficient cars, the gas tax is not bringing in the revenue to repair our roads.

That’s why we get proposals to toll bridges, and nobody likes that either. Is there an alternative?

“It’s actually pretty simple to think about which is instead of paying by the gallon, you pay by the mile you drive,” says Carnegie Mellon University professor Scott Matthews.

It’s called a mileage-based user fee — get rid of the gasoline tax altogether and replace it with a fee based on how many miles you drive. The more you drive, the more you pay.

A Carnegie Mellon University study of this fee found on average that most Pennsylvanians drive around 10,000 miles each year and pay $200 in gas taxes.
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Managing AI in Transportation Webinar Provided Preview of Executive Education Course

March 26, 2021
Posted in What's Happening

March 26, 2021

Transportation industry leaders presented a preview of the upcoming executive education program from Heinz College and Traffic21, Managing Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Transportation.” Stan Caldwell, Executive Director of Traffic21/Mobility21 UTC, Mark Kopko, Director of the Office of Transformational Technology for PA Department of Transportation, Summer Fowler, Chief Information Officer at Argo AI and Allanté Whitmore, a Ph.D. candidate earning a joint Ph.D. in Civil Engineering and Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University discussed how AI is impacting all facets of transportation as well as the challenges and opportunities that private and public sector professionals face in managing this new technology.  View the presentation here.

Study reveals plunge in lithium-ion battery costs

March 26, 2021
Posted in News

Now, MIT researchers have carried out an exhaustive analysis of the studies that have looked at the decline in the prices these batteries, which are the dominant rechargeable technology in today’s world. The new study looks back over three decades, including analyzing the original underlying datasets and documents whenever possible, to arrive at a clear picture of the technology’s trajectory…

“Battery costs determine price parity of electric vehicles with internal combustion engine vehicles,” says Venkat Viswanathan, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, who was not associated with this work. “Thus, projecting battery cost declines is probably one of the most critical challenges in ensuring an accurate understanding of adoption of electric vehicles.”

Viswanathan adds that “the finding that cost declines may occur faster than previously thought will enable broader adoption, increasing volumes, and leading to further cost declines. … The datasets curated, analyzed and released with this paper will have a lasting impact on the community.”
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H. Scott Matthews and Prithvi S. Acharya: Nothing is certain, except for the death of fuel taxes

March 26, 2021
Posted in News

Gov. Tom Wolf recently announced a commission to study the phaseout of Pennsylvania’s gasoline tax. Achieving Mr. Wolf’s vision is possible, and quickly, but will require tough compromises in the Pennsylvania Legislature and a commitment to an entirely new way of getting transportation revenue. The result will be a sustainable funding strategy, based on vehicle miles driven, rather than on the outdated metric of gallons consumed, which embraces technology in modern cars…

The U.S. Department of Transportation is expected to shortly call for a national MBUF pilot, and, with a newly announced commission to assess the future of transportation funding, Pennsylvania has once again shown its commitment to working toward a solution. We propose a three-step approach to improved roadway funding in the medium- to long-term.
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