The Smart Transportation Dispatch
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The Smart Transportation Dispatch

   Carnegie Mellon University

Why that report ranking Pittsburgh among the nation’s worst traffic may be wrong

Pittsburgh isn’t as dense has Boston, but it does share many similarities to the Massachusetts capital, including its relatively small size (in terms of area) and high percentage of commuters that walk to work. Pittsburgh has about 11 percent pedestrian commuters and Boston has 15 percent. This suggests these cities aren’t sprawled out in a way that makes long drives to work necessary, as they are in Houston or Atlanta.

According to the Brookings Institute, Pittsburgh’s average distance to commute is 8.1 miles. Cities like Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, and St. Louis easily eclipse that mark, as do several cities that weren’t included in the Inrix study. Pittsburgh is also denser than Atlanta, Houston, and Dallas.

Some also questioned why travel speed was weighed into the study at all. Bike Pittsburgh director Scott Bricker noted on Twitter that commuters care about overall travel time, not how fast they are going.

Volvo’s first driverless electric bus begins trial in Singapore

Sweden’s Volvo Buses began trial services for its first full-sized driverless electric bus in Singapore on Tuesday, in what its president has dubbed “the world’s first.”

Speaking to CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” Hakan Agnevall, the president of Volvo Buses, said the vehicle is the “first full-sized, autonomous electric bus in the world.”

The 12-meter long Volvo 7900 electric bus is jointly developed by the Swedish automobile firm, together with Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (NTU), whose researchers will oversee the artificial intelligence developments of the vehicle.

“We really think that autonomous (vehicles) can really transform public transport,” Agnevall told CNBC on Tuesday. “It’s about safety, it’s about operational efficiency, and it’s also about creating new opportunities for urban planning.”

Prosecutors Don’t Plan to Charge Uber in Self-Driving Car’s Fatal Accident

Arizona prosecutors said Tuesday that they had not found evidence to charge Uber with a crime in connection with an accident in which one of its autonomous cars hit and killed a pedestrian in Tempe a year ago.

On March 18, 2018, a Volvo sport utility vehicle, one of several self-driving vehicles that Uber was testing, was traveling about 40 miles per hour when it hit Elaine Herzberg, 49, as she was walking her bicycle across the street at night, the authorities said.

While the car was in autonomous mode, a safety driver was sitting in the driver’s seat.

The Yavapai County Attorney’s Office, which reviewed the case, said in a letter dated Monday that there was “no basis for criminal liability for the Uber corporation.”

Study: Who will control the data for autonomous vehicles?

Self-driving cars, like many inventions of the data-driven age, collect huge volumes of data, relating to the performance of the car and geospatial information. Who will, and who should, own this data? A new study assesses the importance.

Researchers from Dartmouth College have questioned the ownership of data in relation to autonomous vehicle technology. As self-driving cars advance, there will be a vast quantity of data amassed from navigational technologies. This leads to important questions that need to be asked about data privacy, ownership, cybersecurity and public safety. This is in the context of the mapping data being collected and analysed by the companies that manufacture the navigation technology.

Some self-driving car systems have trouble detecting darker skin, study says

Last year, Microsoft, IBM, and Amazon were called out for using facial recognition technology that was biased against people with dark skin. Well, it looks like self-driving cars could have the same problem.

An analysis from Georgia Tech researchers found that systems used by self-driving cars to detect pedestrians had trouble picking out people with darker skin tones.

Looking at footage from the Berkeley Driving Dataset, with video from New York, Berkeley, San Francisco, and San Jose, researchers were able to study how systems would react to different types of pedestrians.

They took eight image recognition systems commonly used in autonomous vehicles and evaluated how each picked up skin tone, as measured on the Fitzpatrick skin type scale. They found “uniformly poorer performance of these systems when detecting pedestrians with Fitzpatrick skin types between 4 and 6,” which are darker skin types.

State Government and Adelaide City Council to jointly fix Adelaide High School’s pedestrian crossing

The riskiest school crossing in Adelaide will get a major safety upgrade, under a deal between the State Government and Adelaide City Council.

The two tiers of government have agreed to fix the West Tce junction in front of Adelaide High School, which links Currie St with Glover Ave.

They have each committed $500,000 to the project, although a start date is yet to be set.

Last year research by Carnegie Mellon University, in conjunction with the State Government, revealed the crossing was the most risky traffic location for Adelaide students, recording scores of crashes each year.

PennDOT Releases Two RFIs for Automated Vehicles and Truck Platooning

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation recently released two Requests for Information on vehicle platooning and automated work zone vehicles.

Pennsylvania Vehicle Platooning Request for Information (RFI)

Pennsylvania Highly Automated Work Zone Vehicle Request for Information (RFI)

Could new software solve Dublin’s traffic problem?

Morrill’s Corner in Portland is one of the Maine city’s busiest traffic junctions. Some 33,000 cars pass through it each day, and it doesn’t take much imagination to visualise the kind of chaos and holdups that can occur. Except they don’t anymore, or at least not as much as they used to.

Portland’s city authorities installed a traffic management system called Surtrac, developed by Rapid Flow Technologies, a tech startup that spun out of Carnegie Mellon University. Since the software was installed, Morrill’s Corner has become much less of a traffic hotspot.

In fact, the Portland city managers estimate that they’re saving those 33,000 cars and drivers a combined 156 hours a day, or as many as 41,000 hours per year. That’s one junction. That’s less time stuck in traffic, more time spent at work, or at home with the kids…
Now, EY is trying to bring Surtrac’s benefits to Dublin.

How to Prepare Students for Jobs in the Self-Driving-Car-Industry

One thing all of those companies seem to have in common, says John M. Dolan, principal systems scientist at Carnegie Mellon University and a self-driving vehicle researcher in the school’s Robotics Institute, is the value they place on employees with that broad skill set.

“Generally speaking, it’s not enough to be just a programmer or an engineer,” Dolan says. “You might be hired to write the code or design the hardware, but they expect you to be able to understand the big picture.”

All three experts interviewed for this story emphasized that the self-driving car/autonomous vehicle industry is still in its infancy, and that it is evolving quickly and often in unpredictable ways. With that caveat in place, they offered the following advice for students and educators:

Park City’s ‘Smart’ Traffic Signals Became ‘Dumb’ Ones, Causing Traffic Jam

Traffic on S.R. 224 was backed up for several miles in the 5 p.m. hour Tuesday, after UDOT lost connection with the adaptive traffic signals in Park City. The signals trigger the red, yellow and green traffic lights at intersections to adjust for traffic demand, so that when there’s more traffic going one way at an intersection, signal timing is adjusted to accommodate more cars. Park City Transportation Planning Manager Alfred Knotts says when UDOT lost connection to the adaptive signals, the traffic signals went back to giving each light an equal amount of run time.

Toyota experiment uses cameras to create city maps for self-driving cars

Self-driving cars usually benefit from having detailed road maps, but creating those maps can be agonizingly slow when it requires cars loaded with exotic hardware. Toyota researchers and Carmera might have an easier solution: use off-the-shelf cameras to get the job done. They’re planning a “proof of concept” project where they’ll use both Toyota Safety Sense-based cameras and run-of-the-mill dashcams to generate map data in downtown Tokyo. The months-long experiment will mix visual and existing digital map data to spot road markings, curbs and other details an autonomous vehicle would need to recognize while plotting its route.

Where Is Amazon Headed With Its Self-Driving Car Initiatives?

The list of companies pursuing self-driving vehicles keeps on growing. On it, you find many companies that might initially come as a surprise—including Amazon.

Amazon’s statement about its recent investment in self-driving vehicle startup Aurora tells you something about the company’s thoughts on the future of the technology. “Autonomous technology has the potential to
help make the jobs of our employees and partners safer and more productive, whether it’s in a fulfillment center or on the road, and we’re excited about the possibilities,” it states.

However, the deal is far from being Amazon’s only recent foray into self-driving technology.

Cities Use Intelligent Transportation Tools to Better Manage Extreme Weather

City governments have made significant investments in intelligent transportation systems, a part of which focuses on effectively managing traffic during significant weather events such as hurricanes and snowstorms, drawing lessons learned from recent catastrophes.

Bhide says Tampa Bay “dodged a bullet” with Hurricane Irma in 2017, and while there was no serious flooding following that storm, the city lost power for five days. In a separate project, Bhide says the city will test the ability of solar panels to generate power at traffic intersections.

By using solar power, the city hopes it can generate reserve power so the traffic lights can work following a storm.

Is It An Electric Bicycle? An Electric Scooter? An Electric Moped? No, It’s A SURU!

But if Amarok is no longer there, SURU picks up where it left off with an affordable, well-engineered e-bike. I always have a hard time calling an e-bike an e-bike. It carries over much from its bicycle origin, but it isn’t a bicycle. It’s really an electric vehicle that takes its roots in the bicycle world. Until we find a better word for it, though, we’ll just have to call it an e-bike…

You could actually say the SURU is a moped with motorcycle wheels. The reason is that they are 3× stronger. They are good for 100 km/h (60 MPH). Brakes and spokes are approved by the US Department of Transportation (DOT). The only bicycle components are the pedals and pedal crank.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao Addresses Autonomous Tech, Infrastructure at AASHTO Briefing

Widespread adoption of autonomous vehicle technologies depends largely on public trust, according to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

Autonomous technology can take a variety of forms in transportation, from lane-departure warning systems and automated brakes to truck platooning. Automated technologies have, however, raised public concern over security and privacy.

Chao, who delivered remarks at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ legislative meeting Feb. 27, said she has urged manufacturers and Silicon Valley technology leaders to educate consumers in an effort to dispel apprehensions.

“The promise of automated vehicles will never be realized if the public does not have confidence in the safety, security and privacy of these new emerging technologies,” Chao said. “It is even more important that automated vehicle manufacturers put safety first and embrace transparency, which will build consumer trust.”

Growing Metros Need Tech, Transit to Reduce Congestion

Where traffic congestion is concerned, Nashville, Tenn., may not be on par with the likes of Boston or Los Angeles, but that doesn’t mean commuters aren’t feeling its effects. According to a recent report, the metro area ranks in the top 20 for most congested cities in the nation, and officials there think technology and new transit options might help alleviate some of that pressure.

In this central metro region of 1.9 million residents, traffic congestion jumped 20 percent from 2017 to 2018, according to a recent traffic congestion report by traffic analysis firm INRIX. In fact, commuters spent 87 hours in traffic in 2018. And the inner-city average speed is now about 17 mph.

Tesla’s promise of ‘full-self-driving’ angers autonomous vehicle experts

Dean Pomerleau, of Carnegie Mellon University, who in 1995 drove a minivan that steered itself across the country, told CNN Business he has “grave concerns” about Tesla’s practices on autonomous driving.
“Claiming its vehicles will soon be ‘feature complete’ for full self-driving is one more step in the unconscionable practices that Tesla is already engaged in with Autopilot — overselling its capabilities and reliability when marketing its vehicles and then blaming the driver for not reading the manual and paying constant attention when the technology inevitably fails,” Pomerleau said.

Mayor Peduto, self-driving car companies announce “Pittsburgh Principles”

Mayor Bill Peduto announced Monday what he billed as a novel set of policies for self-driving cars, covering issues including safety, transparency and data sharing. The agreement binds the city and a host of the leading companies in the emerging field.

Mr. Peduto was joined by one of Carnegie Mellon University’s leading experts in the field and industry leaders Aptiv, Argo AI, Aurora Innovation and Uber, for the signing of an executive order. Those companies are testing their technology on city streets.

“There was a lot of give and take on all sides — proprietary interests of industry, requests of what would be expected in return for use of public right of way,” Mr. Peduto said from a podium positioned in front of five self-driving cars parked in the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown.

Building Worse Self-Driving Cars With Better Disengagement Rates

California’s caveat requiring self-driving tech companies to report on disengagement rates — the occasions wherein a safety driver is forced to take control of the vehicle during public testing — has become the de facto statistic for measuring industry progress and competitiveness. Flawed as this metric may be, the alternative is to have no statistical frame of reference at all. Surely, something is better than nothing… right?

No, not quite right. Optimizing an error mitigation metric in such a dynamic and vague environment as “public roads” is a recipe for statistical success at the expense of a viable product. Here are some of the tactics companies could pursue, intentionally or otherwise, to build a worse autonomous car with a better disengagement rate.

BMW and Daimler to join forces on driverless technology

BMW and Daimler say they will work together on autonomous driving, a collaboration closely following their “urban mobility” merger launched six days ago.

The luxury rivals in carmaking said they have agreed on a “long-term strategic co-operation” with a goal of developing and scaling future technology more rapidly. The plan includes working on autonomous technology for both highways and urban areas…

Herbert Diess, chief executive of the Volkswagen Group, told the Financial Times last week that “it’s a possibility” that VW, too, would co-operate with BMW and Daimler on autonomous technology.

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