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The Smart Transportation Dispatch

   Carnegie Mellon University

Deadly collapse in Italy turns spotlight onto aging bridges around the world

“It is really sad. I knew that bridge, I passed across that bridge a few times. It was a famous bridge for Italian engineering,” says Matteo Pozzi, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.

The bridge, Pozzi explains, was built by Riccardo Morandi, a civil engineer, whose designs in the 1960s were somewhat pioneering as they used reinforced concrete instead of the more expensive steel more commonly used at the time. Pozzi says that over the years people learned more about problems with the concrete of the bridge, and how it could deteriorate over time, “but it was still a landmark for Genoa.”

Ivanka Trump tours Astrobotic, meets Girls of Steel robotics team during Pittsburgh visit

Presidential adviser and first daughter Ivanka Trump took in Pittsburgh’s robotics scene Tuesday.

The president’s daughter visited Astrobotic, a space delivery company in the Strip District, talked with the Girls of Steel robotics team and met with leaders from some of the city’s top tech companies, said Brian Kennedy, senior vice president for operations and government affairs at the Pittsburgh Technology Council, which helped organize the visit.

Kennedy said Trump talked about the need to educate students and train workers for jobs in the high-tech economy…

Edge Case Research, a company searching for bugs in self-driving car software, had its office in a former ice-making factory. Nearby, Carnegie Robotics sits on the site of the former Heppenstall Steel Company mill and RedZone Robotics, which sends robots into sewers, works out of the old Geoffrey Boehm Chocolates factory.

Many of the companies have spun out of Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Engineering Center in Lawrenceville.

Rolling robots could be coming to a Dallas sidewalk near you

On its website, Marble describes its autonomous delivery devices as “your friendly neighborhood robot.” The company is in discussions with retailers to transport customers’ purchases. It has not publicly announced any clients, said Jackie Erickson, Marble’s director of communications and government relations, but many suggested Dallas as a test market.

The startup, founded by three Carnegie Mellon University graduates, is testing its robots about an hour east of San Francisco in Concord, Calif. It’s discussing pilots with Arlington and with a city in Nevada, Erickson said. Last year, it ran a meal delivery pilot in San Francisco with Yelp 324, a food delivery business that the online review company acquired.

Erickson said Marble would like to have its robots in Dallas in the fall or winter. She said “robot ambassadors” would initially tag along with the deliveries. Customers open the robot by punching in a special code that they receive after their purchase.

Tiny iEV X Electric Car Expands To Fit Passengers & Stuff

If you live in Bozeman, Montana, you might not feel the need of a 254-pound single seat micro car that is just 31 inches wide and 63 inches long. But if you live in a crowded European city like Amsterdam, the German engineered iEV X electric car may be just the ticket. It’s small enough that you might be able to slip it into an elevator and take it to work or park it in your apartment.

But what if you want to take someone with you on your journey around town? What if you need to carry a brief case or loaf of bread with you? What then? No worries, friends. The iEV X can expand to 75 inches so your passenger can make use of a tiny jump seat that stows behind the driver. Need even more room? Press a button and car stretches out even more to a whopping 87 inches. When extended, the sides of the vehicle are open to the elements, but in a world where doors are an option on the Renault Twizy, that should be no problem for space-conscious Europeans.

Elon Musk says Tesla will open part of its self-driving software to the public as a safety measure

Tesla CEO Elon Musk told a hacker conference in Las Vegas he plans to “open source” the software Tesla uses to secure autonomous-driving features from hacks or takeovers, eventually allowing other carmakers to use it.

It’s a bid to make autonomous vehicle software safer by opening the software to more scrutiny, he told a private audience of around 100 people on Friday at DEFCON, an annual cybersecurity defense conference held in Las Vegas.

“I think one of the biggest concerns for autonomous vehicles is somebody achieving a fleet-wide hack,” he said according to people who attended. Musk confirmed the decision in a tweet on Saturday, writing it was “extremely important to a safe self-driving future for all.”

How smart cities will improve trucking and the supply chain

While pie-in-the-sky dreams of utopian smart cities fill the media waves, we wondered about what a smart city would mean for commercial transportation and the supply chain.

Gerry Mead, executive director of innovation for Phillips Industries, tells FreightWaves, “To me the first step and most important is cooperation. A smart city from a truck perspective really involves what solutions does it solve from a transportation perspective. In this case, ours would be trucking. The obvious would be driver retention. One could say more like driver utilization. As their utilization rises so does their paycheck. It’s also a win-win for the trucking companies as more utilization equals more revenue and less driver turnover, as one would believe they would stay as they earn a better living. How? Let’s look ahead at the possibilities if things were what we call ‘SMART,’ or as I just plainly call them, ‘connected.’”

The Continued Transition to Electric Vehicles in U.S. Cities

The International Council on Clean Transportation has released a report that assesses the U.S. electric vehicle market. This report identifies current actions and practices in electric vehicle marketing, and examines links between various electric vehicle promotional actions and electric vehicle uptake.


During a recent event in Hannover, VW’s Chief Digital Officer Johann Jungwirth expressed doubt about Europe’s place on the driverless map. Presenting the latest updates to the company’s self-driving car Sedric, he outlined plans to roll out autonomous vehicles in several U.S. cities, followed by China, Singapore and the Middle East. More local options seemed less likely: “And then comes Europe. We would love to [come earlier] since it’s our home market, but the legislation just isn’t there,” he said.

His words echo the actions of many European contemporaries. When considering where to carry out trials, many automakers currently favour alternatives such as California’s hot bed of innovation over the cold shoulder of regulations across the pond.

The main hurdle for Europe remains the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic – a treaty ratified by most of the continent. Dating back to 1968, it calls for a driver to be in control of a vehicle at all times.

Scooter Startups Roll Into Trouble as Cities Slow Their Expansion

As shared-scooter companies Bird Rides Inc. and Lime, flush with investors’ cash, race into new cities around the U.S., they are finding city officials emboldened to enact regulations that limit the companies’ rapid growth. Urban authorities from Miami to Portland, Ore., are capping their numbers at a few hundred per company, or in some cases blocking the deployment altogether.

This could prove a big challenge for Bird and Lime, which have drawn nearly $900 million of investment between them with ambitions of launching thousands or tens of thousands of scooters on the streets of hundreds of U.S. cities. Sixteen-month-old Bird was recently valued by investors at $2 billion, and 20-month-old Lime at $1.1 billion—the two fastest U.S. startups to pass a $1 billion valuation, according to data tracker PitchBook. The closely held companies don’t disclose financial data.


Law enforcement and transportation safety experts are utilizing a new tool to better understand what causes accidents so they can help prevent them in the future.

The Rutgers University Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation is using software called Numetric to better analyze crash data in a more holistic way. The information is shared with the state Department of Transportation, local police departments and nonprofit pedestrian and bicycle safety groups.

According to Numetric CEO Nate Bowler, the program allows safety experts to quickly look at large amounts of crash data and figure out where crashing are occurring, what some of the root causes are.

Smart Columbus, COTA seek app to plan/pay for trips by bus, car, ride-share or all of the above

Smart Columbus and COTA are seeking bids from software developers to build the nation’s first all-in-one, door-to-door app to plan trips and decide whether to use car, bus, cab, ride-share, scooter or all of the above – and then pay for each leg at once.

The multimodal trip-planning app is one of the main projects under the $40 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant toward technology to make the city’s transportation system more efficient, safer, greener and better at connecting people with jobs. The specific app budget will depend on bids and negotiations.

Self-Driving Cars Are Surprisingly Secure

Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek made headlines at the Black Hat conference a few years ago by hacking remotely into a Jeep Cherokee and steering it into a ditch. Since that time, this dynamic duo has worked with several self-driving car companies to prevent such shenanigans.

Black Hat Bug ArtAt the Black Hat 2018 conference, they revealed a surprising fact: self-driving cars are tougher to hack than their less-smart counterparts, and they’re getting tougher.

“We spent a lot of time hacking cars, trying to make them do unsafe stuff,” said Valasek. “Since we stopped that, we’ve worked at self-driving car companies. Now we’re in the protector role. We’ll define self-driving cars, demystify them, and debunk things you’ve seen in the news. We’ll tell you how attacks could happen, and how we could secure them. We want everyone to be secure.”

Considering Ways to Prevent America’s Deadliest Type of Bike Crash

Crashes involving motorists passing bicyclists were the leading cause of cyclist deaths on America’s roadways in recent years.

These types of incidents killed at least 675 of the roughly 2,400 people who died in bicycle crashes between 2014 and 2016, according to federal data cited during a presentation this week. The passing incidents can occur when a driver strikes a bicyclist from behind, or passes too closely causing the cyclist to lose control.

On Monday, the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center held an online seminar where experts discussed some of the factors involved in these passing, or “overtaking,” crashes and different types of policies and street design features that might help to prevent them.

Traffic Data in Tampa Gets the AI Treatment

Lane closures, hazardous road conditions, traffic accidents and other motorist concerns in Tampa Bay, Fla., are getting a new set of eyes and analysis, in the interest of making roadways safer.

The city is involved with a pilot project using Waycare technology to better analyze traffic-related data coming from its own infrastructure — sensors, cameras, and other devices — as well as data points flowing from sources like Waze and even in-vehicle telematics, to provide real-time information about traffic conditions.

Can electricity use predict a bad morning commute?

Why are some morning commutes so much worse than others?

New research shows that nighttime and early-morning energy use can be a good predictor of morning traffic congestion.

Sean Qian, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, and Ph.D. student Pinchao Zhang created a model that mined data on electricity consumption from 322 homes in Austin, Texas, and used artificial intelligence to predict what traffic would look like the next morning.

The anonymous electricity data was collected by Pecan Street Inc., which had enrolled hundreds of homes in the Austin area in an advanced metering infrastructure, or smart meter, program that tracks energy consumption. Travel time data came from the National Performance Management Research Data Set.

Can dynamic pricing help ease Pittsburghers’ parking headaches?

Dynamic pricing was first tested in Pittsburgh in 2013, when Mark Fichman and Stephen Spear, both professors at Carnegie Mellon University’s [CMU] Tepper School of Business, designed a pilot program to see if dynamic pricing would make it easier to park near the university.

Using data they gathered, Fichman and Spear started submitting requests for rate adjustments to PPA every month to balance the supply and demand for parking on four streets adjacent to CMU.

“[If the] price is too low … the parking gets all filled up and basically you arrive there and you can’t park,” Fichman said. “If the price is too high, no one parks there. So finding the right price is kind of key.”

Volvo truck and car companies collaborate on live vehicle data

Geely-owned Volvo Cars has announced it will be sharing real-time traffic information with Volvo Trucks in a bid to improve safety levels and reduce accidents and incidents on the road. The pilot scheme is currently limited to those new vehicles from the Swedish manufactures that are sold in Sweden and Norway, but the two companies say there are plans to expand the venture to other manufacturers and countries in the future.

The research study—known as Connected Safety—is the first time that Volvo Cars has shared its safety-related data with another company, and it is the first step towards what the company calls “a critical mass of connected vehicles that could have a significant impact on overall traffic safety.”

The Future of Cities Looks Smart

The Smart City Challenge—which was a relatively modest financial investment for the federal government at 0.07 percent of DOT’s budget in 2015—demonstrates how public policy can play a valuable role in promoting technological innovation in cities across the country. Although Columbus was the sole winner of the 2016 competition, numerous other cities—regardless of whether they applied to DOT’s challenge or not—are beginning to incorporate smart technologies into their communities to solve pressing urban issues. Beyond the direct award, the competition propelled a wave of nonprofit and private entities to work alongside local governments in developing innovative solutions and creating forward-looking policies on managing smart technology. From a federal policy perspective, issuing another challenge or competition could be a worthwhile endeavor to both accelerate existing projects, and inspire innovation in cities across the country.

In the second part of this series, we’ll look at how five cities are pioneering innovative uses for smart technology.

IoT on Wheels: An Era in Transportation

The transportation industry is the second-largest segment investing in the Internet of Things (IoT), spending approximately $78 billion since 2016. The implementation of IoT in smart transportation has rapidly changed the trucking industry with the help of mobile and connectivity advancements. The IoT in smart transportation has rapidly changed the trucking industry with the help of mobile and connectivity advancements. Smart gadgets are playing the vital role as they carry out the important operations and make work more efficient and safer. The following infographic tells how IoT has benefited the transportation industry:

Bosch and Foreca Collaborate to Bring Predictive Road Services to Driverless Cars

Environmental factors outside of the control of autonomous vehicles can cause unforeseen dangers to arise. To address such hazards, Bosch and Foreca have teamed up on an important program that aims to make local road conditions easier to predict.

Interestingly, Finland-based Foreca specializes in weather forecasts and is currently contracted by Microsoft to provide weather-related content for its websites. The company has also worked with BMW and Daimler on automotive projects involving weather predictions for cars.

Tech solutions wanted to help keep motorcyclists safe on roads

ARLINGTON, Va. — Local researchers are exploring and encouraging new technology to try to slow the rise of motorcycle deaths in the U.S. that jumped 5 percent between 2015 and 2016.

The Motorcycle Technology Evaluation Challenge, or MotoTEC, is inviting vendors with market or near-market ready products to apply to work with researchers from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.

Potential ways to improve motorcycle safety could include early warning systems that collect information from roadside sensors or other vehicles on the road to be displayed in the driver’s peripheral vision from inside the motorcycle helmet.


When a Scale customer—like self-driving car developers Cruise, Zoox, Lyft, Nutonomy, Nuro, or Voyage, or self-driving truck builders Embark and Starsky Robotics—sends data to be labeled, that data doesn’t get shared with other Scale clients. This is too bad, because autonomous driving systems could always use more data to train on, more images of the real world that help them refine their robobrains. It’s doubly too bad when it comes to edge cases, the unusual but dangerous happenings that all cars should be prepared to handle.

Semi-autonomous car safety systems flawed, study finds

Cars and trucks with electronic driver assist systems may not see stopped vehicles and could even steer you into a crash if you’re not paying attention, an insurance industry group warns.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, in a paper titled “Reality Check,” issued the warning Tuesday after testing five of the systems from Tesla, Mercedes, BMW and Volvo on a track and public roads. The upshot is while they could save your life, the systems can fail under many circumstances.

Steering the future in the right direction

As part of a commitment to be leaders in the future of transportation technology, five state agencies and seven academic institutions in Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania formed a multi-state partnership…

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) also are founding members of the Smart Belt Coalition.

“We recognize that our customers do not see agency boundaries and that we must work with other agencies to prepare for connected and automated vehicles while delivering safety, mobility and customer value,” said Leslie Richards, PTC Chair and PennDOT Secretary of Transportation.

Pennsylvania has taken a leading role to lay the groundwork for highly automated vehicles (HAV). Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh has been researching this technology for decades and has played a key role in attracting important HAV players to Pittsburgh. PennDOT began working with the university on this topic in 2013, and in 2016 formed an Autonomous Vehicle Task Force to develop guidance and proposed legislation to oversee HAV development in a safe and effective manner.

The next major innovation in batteries might be here

In its discharged state, the Pellion battery has its lithium ions sitting snugly inside the cathode. The magic happens when the battery is charged for the first time, and the lithium ions travel from the cathode and deposit as a layer of lithium metal on the copper anode. The first charge is carried out in a state when the battery is completely sealed from the outside environment, and thus the newly formed layer of lithium metal is protected. This configuration is called “zero-lithium” or “lithium-free.”

“It is quite an impressive feat,” says Venkat Viswanathan, a battery expert at Carnegie Mellon University.

A Google, Uber Self-Driving Veteran Raises $40 Million For Robot Truck Startup Kodiak

A week after Uber shut down its autonomous truck program a former member of both that effort and Google’s Self-Driving Car project is resurfacing with a robot semi-truck startup that’s hitting the road with $40 million in Series A funding.

Don Burnette, who left Uber in March, and ex-venture capitalist Paz Eshel co-founded Kodiak Robotics in April to compete for business in an increasingly attractive target for autonomous vehicle tech: long-haul trucking. The Mountain View, California-based startup will use the funds to staff up on engineers and field a test fleet of AI-enabled big rigs loaded with laser Lidar sensors, radar, cameras, and computers.

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