The Case for Flying Cars as a Climate Solution

April 17, 2023
Posted in News

Venkat Viswanathan thinks there’s a “straight shot” from today to the technologies needed to build that future, despite all the jokes about flying cars being fantasy. The professor at Carnegie Mellon University is obsessed with building the batteries that will power these zero-emission aircraft…

Viswanathan has worked with next-generation battery companies such as QuantumScape Corp., 24M Technologies Inc., and Aionics Inc., and concluded that aviation is “the most important problem that batteries can address,” he told the Zero podcast…

The problem is that it’s hard to beat jet fuel when it comes to the right combination of weight and power needed to lift a plane (with passengers and cargo) off the ground. To make a battery that is powerful but light enough to accomplish the same feat is bound to be extremely expensive.

That’s why Viswanathan believes the first application will have to be in the luxury market.

When Will Cars Be Fully Self-Driving?

April 12, 2023
Posted in News

Around now, we should be relaxing in the driver’s seat of our autonomous cars, streaming a TV show or perhaps even taking a nap while the vehicles drive us safely to our destinations.

That was the prediction several years ago by some auto-industry executives and technology experts. But after billions of dollars in research-and-development spending, autonomous-vehicle technology hasn’t advanced anywhere near the point where it can replace human drivers…

The Wall Street Journal gathered three experts to discuss the future of autonomous vehicles: Alexandre M. Bayen, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of California, Berkeley; Raj Rajkumar, a professor in the electrical and computer engineering department at Carnegie Mellon University; and Juergen Reers, a senior managing director at consulting firm Accenture who is part of its mobility practice.

Hydrogen hub, carbon projects face internal, external hurdles

March 28, 2023
Posted in News

The head of the public-private partnership that is shepherding Pennsylvania’s application for a potential hydrogen hub centered around the Pittsburgh region said success isn’t just about winning funding but a real pathway to decarbonization.

Team Pennsylvania Foundation President and CEO Abby Smith told a Carnegie Mellon University Energy Week audience Wednesday afternoon that she hopes the $8 billion in federal funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to start up between eight and 10 hydrogen hubs around the country not only does that but also helps to build relationships between companies, governments and communities that become the starting point for future projects…

Destenie Nock, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, said the focus should be on a wider scope of industrial development than a single plant to make the biggest impact and to provide a voice consistently throughout the process and not just at certain points.

What To Expect When You Rent A Car Now (You’ll Be Surprised)

March 13, 2023
Posted in News

One of the most surprising recent developments has been with Hertz, which has charged forward with EV adoption.

Stan Caldwell, who teaches transportation and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College, says it’s one of the standout trends of 2023. In September, Hertz announced it would order up to 175,000 EVs from GM over the next five years. Just a few days later, it announced a deal with BP to expand the number of charging stations.

“Hertz is not only incorporating more EVs into their fleet through its five-year deal with GM, but also getting into the charging infrastructure business with BP Pulse,” he says.

Hertz’s ambitions seem clear: It wants travelers to think of Hertz when they think of renting an EV, and with such speedy EV adoption, it may get its wish.

Pittsburgh’s street infrastructure is getting a smart tech upgrade

February 28, 2023
Posted in News

With a $28.8 million investment grant award that came from a combination of federal, city and state funding, the Steel City is welcoming the SmartSpines project, which will use advanced transportation technologies to modernize traffic signals. The goal is to improve “safety, efficiency, system performance, and infrastructure return on investment.”

These changes won’t happen all at once. According to the City’s website, the project will happen in three phases over the next two years. During that time, changes will include new vehicular signal heads, new pedestrian countdown signs, and new accessible pedestrian signs.

Drivers can also look forward to smart software implementation such as a cloud-based user priority system for the Pittsburgh Regional Transit Bus Rapid Transit project, an adaptive signal system that detects and optimizes movements on a “per-person” basis, an advanced traffic management system, and an advanced traffic signal performance measures software platform.

Tesla Recalls More Than 300,000 Vehicles Over ‘Self-Driving’ Safety Concerns

February 22, 2023
Posted in News

U.S. safety regulators have pressured Tesla into recalling nearly 363,000 vehicles with its “Full Self-Driving” system because it can misbehave around intersections and doesn’t always follow speed limits…

Raj Rajkumar, a professor of computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, doubts that Tesla can fix all of the problems cited by NHTSA with a software update. The automaker, he says, relies only on cameras and artificial intelligence to make driving decisions, a system that will make mistakes.

“Cameras can miss a lot of things,” Rajkumar said. “These are not straightforward issues to fix. If they could have fixed it, they would have fixed it a long time back.”

Most other companies with self-driving vehicles use laser sensors and radar in addition to cameras to make sure vehicles see everything. “One sensing modality is not perfect by any metric,” Rajkumar said.

Electric Vehicles Are A Status Symbol Now

February 17, 2023
Posted in News

“You’re talking about renters who may not have the option to install charging infrastructure,” Jeremy Michalek, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University and the director of its Vehicle Electrification Group, told me. “And even if they have charging infrastructure this year, renters tend to move, and they don’t know whether they’ll have that access next year. Even a lot of homeowners don’t have off-street parking, and relying entirely on public charging infrastructure is a whole different ball game.”

For those who can plug in at home, everyday driving gets better—no more service-station pit stops to top off the dinosaur car. If you can’t charge at home or at work, car ownership may get more annoying. As Michalek noted, fast-charging stations aren’t meant to be treated like gas stations.

The Inconvenient Truth About Electric Vehicles

February 14, 2023
Posted in News

For those who can plug in at home, everyday driving gets better—no more service-station pit stops to top off the dinosaur car. If you can’t charge at home or at work, car ownership may get more annoying. As Michalek noted, fast-charging stations aren’t meant to be treated like gas stations. Using them can mean driving a few miles to the closest one, possibly waiting in line for a plug, then waiting to actually get the electricity into your car (that time is decreasing as the tech gets better, but it’s still much longer than pumping a liquid fuel for a minute or two).

The cost is more than the time and the nuisance. Fast-charging in public is marked up and costs more than charging at home.

Tesla’s Pickup Truck Is Coming Soon. Maybe.

February 13, 2023
Posted in News

More than three years after Elon Musk stunned the auto industry with an electric pickup truck that looked more like a stealth fighter than a way to haul two-by-fours and drywall, Tesla said last month that it would begin building the vehicle by the end of 2023.

The announcement has helped fuel a recovery in Tesla’s share price, but also revived a debate about whether the often-delayed pickup, called the Cybertruck, is a work of genius or evidence of Mr. Musk’s hubris…

These challenges probably help explain why Tesla is two years behind schedule in manufacturing the Cybertruck, which the company plans to produce at its factory in Austin, Texas.

“Tesla thinks they can solve any problem and don’t have to learn from anyone else,” said Raj Rajkumar, a professor of engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, “and then they get stuck in a corner.”

Ohio State researchers developing app for pedestrian safety

January 23, 2023
Posted in News

After working with the City of Marysville and observing data from one of their smart intersections, these professors, including Professor Levent Guvenc, Ph.D. who teaches mechanical and aerospace engineering, noted pedestrians’ movements can be quick and unpredictable, and they are often hard to see.

They asked themselves how could drivers be alerted to pedestrians without necessarily needing to see them first.

That’s where their app development started.

Most cellphones people use have GPS systems and Bluetooth capabilities allowing them to connect to each other.

From those capabilities, Doctor Guvenc and his team at the Ohio State University’s College of Engineering created an app for pedestrians and drivers to keep everyone on the road safe.

Drivers and pedestrians who download the app will be able to get alerts that tell drivers, for example, to slow down because there is a pedestrian they may not be able to see around their vehicle.

Destination unknown? Pittsburgh’s autonomous vehicle industry seeks a new course after a disastrous season.

January 16, 2023
Posted in News

“We’re definitely in a colder period now,” said John Dolan, a systems engineer and professor at the CMU Argo AI Center for Autonomous Vehicle Research. “A bit of an autonomous driving winter perhaps, as we’ve seen with some of these recent closures. I just don’t know how it’s going to go in the future.”

Pittsburgh put itself on the autonomy map in 2007, when Carnegie Mellon University’s Tartan Racing team won the DARPA Urban Challenge, a 60-mile driverless race. Notable alumni of the CMU team include Urmson; Raj Rajkumar, director of Mobility21, a smart transportation initiative; Bryan Salesky, founder and CEO of Argo AI; and Dave Ferguson, co-founder and president of Nuro, another AV company.

In 2008, General Motors revitalized an early 2000s partnership with CMU to advance driverless technology. The industry really started rolling a few years later. “In the middle 2010s, I was getting contacted on almost a weekly basis by reporters asking about what was going to make the difference,” said Dolan. “What were the gaps in autonomous driving technology? When were things going to be broadly deployed on roads?”

Electric planes sound like a fantasy but they may be the future for short-haul in Australia

January 13, 2023
Posted in News

The main obstacle for long-haul operators is weight. Two decades before the Wright brothers’ first flight in 1903, a two-man crew took the airship La France on the first round trip by an aerial vehicle.It carried a 435kg zinc-chlorine battery on its 8km journey – the equivalent of hauling around a grand piano.

A modern battery this massive would still provide only a fraction of the power required for a commercial passenger aircraft with 150 or more seats.

In January Carnegie Mellon University’s Prof Venkat Viswanathan wrote an article for Nature on the future of batteries in aviation which has become a call-to-arms for engineers in the industry. Viswanathan and his coauthors concluded that it was possible to make significant gains in battery chemistry for use in aviation by 2030 – but only if everything went right along the way. And even then, they would still not be capable of powering the largest passenger aircraft.

What Happens to the Future of Electric Cars if Tesla Dies?

January 13, 2023
Posted in News

Tesla revolutionized the way the world sees and drives EVs—but with its back against the wall and the financial situation looking more and more bleak by the tweet, we might very well soon find ourselves in a situation where the biggest name in the game has gone belly up.

Let’s be clear: there’s a fairly low chance of that happening… but what if it does?

To understand the impact Tesla’s disappearance would have on the future of EVs, it’s important to wrap our minds around how exactly we got here.

“I give Elon Musk a lot of credit. He almost single-handedly made electric vehicles glamorous and sexy,” Ragunathan “Raj” Rajkumar, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and autonomous vehicle researcher at Carnegie Mellon University, told The Daily Beast. “People associated them with the person who was transforming the automotive industry and doing the right thing for the planet.”

We asked 17 smart people to predict the future of transportation in 2023

January 6, 2023
Posted in News

Here at The Verge, we keep our unwavering eyes always on the future, which is why I thought it could be cool to reach out to a bunch of my favorite smart people in transportation to get their predictions for 2023…

Raj Rajkumar, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon University

There will be an ongoing retrenchment of the AV industry. Expect more layoffs in the large AV companies and at least one more high-profile flameout like Argo AI. Emphasis will dramatically shift from full autonomy and robotaxis to ADAS++ and high automation features. I, for one, am very bullish on the viability and appeal of advanced autonomy (as opposed to full autonomy, which will still take time).

Some existing partnerships between OEMs and high-profile AV startups will f(l)ail since the latter are unable to deliver. This will be particularly true for startups that only depend on cameras as their AV sensors.

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.

 

How Uber and Lyft are transforming U.S. cities

December 7, 2022
Posted in News

Over the last decade, the meteoric rise of ridesourcing services like Uber and Lyft have transformed the urban landscape, affecting travel patterns, car ownership, and congestion, and more broadly, the economy, the environment, and equity.

The ways in which Uber and Lyft are redefining mobility is the focus of a new policy brief series, ” Uber and Lyft in U.S. Cities: Findings and Recommendations from Carnegie Mellon University Research on Transportation Network Companies (TNCs).”

The brief series, a compilation of studies conducted by Jeremy Michalek, the lead author, and other Carnegie Mellon Engineering researchers, delves into the implications and opportunities that TNCs present…

On the plus side, the researchers found that TNCs have increased economic growth, employment, and wages for intermittent jobs in U.S. cities.

“However, Uber and Lyft affect different kinds of cities differently, and that is important to understanding their impact,” explains Michalek.

All routes lead to cleaner air

November 8, 2022
Posted in News

One of the longest running smart transport projects is in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. In July 2012, the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University deployed its adaptive traffic signal technology, Surtrac in nine traffic junction sites in the East Liberty area of the city.

The AI/robotic system treats traffic control at these junctions as a single machine scheduling issue…

Stephen F Smith, research professor and director of the Intelligent Coordination and Logistics Lab, The Robotics Institute, Carnegie Mellon University explained: “At the beginning of each planning cycle, a given intersection perceives the approaching (or already queued) traffic from its local sensors and builds a prediction of when it expects each approaching vehicle to arrive at the intersection. Then, in real-time it constructs a “signal timing plan” (a schedule of ‘green’ times for each intersection phase) that moves all of the sensed traffic through the intersection in a way that minimises cumulative wait time.

Gov. Wolf signs legislation permitting driverless vehicles on public roads into law

November 4, 2022
Posted in News

With the stroke of Gov. Tom Wolf’s pen, House Bill 2398 has now become law following months of negotiations and the bulk of it will take effect in July 2023. Late last month, the bi-partisan bill passed the House with a vote of 119-79 in favor after making its way through the Senate with a vote of 29-20 in favor…

The bill’s adoption is the result of work from a coalition of advocates, including Pittsburgh-based AV companies, research firms, universities and PennDOT. Opponents of the bill have expressed concerns over the potential labor implications it carries especially as it relates to claims that there aren’t enough protections for unions and workers, like truck drivers, that the implementation of this technology is set to impact the most.

“I encourage the General Assembly to ensure that Pennsylvania workers are supported in the event that highly automated vehicles cause disruption to the current and evolving workforce,” Wolf said.

Self-driving car company’s sudden shutdown is a ‘shock’

November 1, 2022
Posted in News

A promising autonomous vehicle company that had raised billions of dollars has suddenly folded.

Argo AI, headquartered in Pittsburgh, had been considered an up-and-coming startup. News of its shutdown came as its main backers, Ford and Volkswagen, decided to no longer invest.

“The shutdown of Argo AI was a big shock to the Pittsburgh community, especially because they were kind of seen as a Cinderella story for autonomous vehicle companies, growing up with homegrown talent and getting on the national stage, being based here in Pittsburgh,” said Stan Caldwell, Executive Director of Traffic21, a traffic research institute with Carnegie Mellon University…

With that said, he doesn’t expect the industry to take a downward turn.

“I believe the industry is still going to be thriving, here in Pennsylvania and nationally,” he said. “But this has just been such a volatile industry. This is a very new industry. And there are a lot of players that continue to come in and out.”

Self-driving car company’s sudden shutdown is a ‘shock’

October 31, 2022
Posted in News

Argo AI, headquartered in Pittsburgh, had been considered an up-and-coming startup. News of its shutdown came as its main backers, Ford and Volkswagen, decided to no longer invest.

“The shutdown of Argo AI was a big shock to the Pittsburgh community, especially because they were kind of seen as a Cinderella story for autonomous vehicle companies, growing up with homegrown talent and getting on the national stage, being based here in Pittsburgh,” said Stan Caldwell, Executive Director of Traffic21, a traffic research institute with Carnegie Mellon University…

“I believe the industry is still going to be thriving, here in Pennsylvania and nationally,” he said. “But this has just been such a volatile industry. This is a very new industry. And there are a lot of players that continue to come in and out.”

Your Car’s Driving Assistance Tech Isn’t Meant to Be Used Alone—Here’s Why

October 25, 2022
Posted in News

A new study finds that drivers using driver assistance features often treat their vehicles as fully self-driving.

“These applications still require the human to keep their eyes on the road and hands ready to take over the wheel, just as we have been doing with traditional cruise control for decades,” Stan Caldwell, a professor of transportation and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University told Lifewire in an email interview…

Vehicles that you can buy currently can have levels 1 and 2 automation and include applications such as automated lane keeping, adaptive cruise control, and automated emergency braking, Caldwell said.

“Level 3 automation is coming, and already on some roads in Germany with Mercedes, where eyes can be off the road, but the human driver still may have to take over,” he added. “My concern is that if people are already over-relying on Level 2 automation, the situation may get worse.”

Mobility21 UTC Researcher Publishes Policy Brief on Mixed Autonomy Era of Transportation

October 19, 2022
Posted in What's Happening

August 15, 2022

Mobility21 UTC researcher Carlee Joe-Wong co-authored the recently published policy brief, “Mixed-Autonomy Era of Transportation: Resilience & Autonomous Fleet Management.”  Read the full policy brief here.

Tesla will remove more vehicle sensors amid Autopilot scrutiny

October 14, 2022
Posted in News

Tesla Inc said on Tuesday it will remove ultrasonic sensors from its vehicles starting this month, as it moves ahead with using only cameras in its safety and driver-assistant features.

Tesla vehicles now have 12 ultrasonic sensors on the front and rear bumpers, and short-range sound sensors are mainly used in parking applications and to detect close objects…

Tesla said it will remove ultrasonic sensors from the Model 3 and Model Y globally over the next few months, followed by the Model S and Model X in 2023.

The transition will temporarily limit automated parking features, but not affect crash safety ratings, Tesla noted.

“It remains to be seen whether this will be ‘two steps forward and one step backward’ or the other way around,” said Raj Rajkumar, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon University

Drones could make last-mile package deliveries greener

October 11, 2022
Posted in News

Using drones for the last mile of package deliveries uses less energy and creates fewer emissions than conventional means, a new study shows.

As consumers, we’ve gotten used to the immediacy of deliveries. Order a product one day and have it at your house the next. But the logistics behind this massive movement of goods—and its environmental impact—mean that better solutions are needed to balance consumer demand and the energy consumption of “last-mile” deliveries.

To address this issue, researchers looked at what they refer to as “an increase in the demand for last-mile delivery while trying to reduce the environmental impacts of the transportation sector.”

Many companies are exploring using autonomous vehicles to perform last-mile delivery, says Thiago Rodrigues, a PhD candidate in civil and environmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.

Using AI and robots to speed up optimization of new battery development

October 7, 2022
Posted in News

A team of researchers at Carnegie Mellon University has developed a new approach to speeding up the process of creating ever more optimized batteries. In their paper published in the journal Nature Communications, the group describes how they paired a unique type of robot with an AI learning system to create ever more useful non-aqueous liquid electrolytes.

As sales of handheld devices have skyrocketed and car makers have turned to electric vehicles, demand for batteries that last longer and charge more quickly has risen as well. Unfortunately, the science of developing new batteries to serve such needs has lagged—it typically involves the use of intuition on the part of chemists along with persistence. Such efforts can take years. In this new study, the researchers in Pittsburgh sought to speed up the process by using automation techniques.