Pittsburgh Gets a Tech Makeover

Put simply, where the tech world is going — self-driving cars; personal A.I. concierges; robot workers — is where Carnegie Mellon’s faculty and students have been for decades.

Frequently, campus research projects spill into the larger city, like when a professor develops a start-up company (the school encourages entrepreneurship), or the local government allows Pittsburgh to be used as a lab (a number of traffic lights in East Liberty are controlled by a Carnegie Mellon professor and his colleagues, who have developed smart signal technology).

Bikes May Have To Talk To Self-Driving Cars For Safety’s Sake

"Cars have a very regular pattern with the way they move, whereas when people are riding bicycles they change between either acting like cars on the side of the road," says Rowe, an associate engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University. "They might switch and become pedestrians and go up on the sidewalks. They tend to move in a slightly more erratic way. It's much harder to predict."

Rowe wants to make it possible for bikes to feed information to cars, now and in the fully autonomous future. "What we're trying to do is put as much instrumentation on a bike as we can to see if we can predict how it's going to move in the future, so that it could, for example, signal a collision warning system on a car," he says.

Ethics Experts Want Self-Driving Cars Approved Like New Drugs

Instead, the U.S. Department of Transportation should model its self-driving car regulations to an unlikely agency: the Food and Drug Administration. At least that’s what philosophy professors at Carnegie Mellon University David Danks and Alex John London wrote in an oped earlier this year.

Self-driving cars are like drugs in that, in their trial stages, no one knows exactly how they will respond in different environments and circumstances. Driverless cars will have to figure out what “good driving” looks like, which may differ from situation to situation. Similarly, drugs may react differently to given the person or environment, Danks explained in an interview with Jalopnik.

Ethics Experts Want Self-Driving Cars Approved Like New Drugs

Instead, the U.S. Department of Transportation should model its self-driving car regulations to an unlikely agency: the Food and Drug Administration. At least that’s what philosophy professors at Carnegie Mellon University David Danks and Alex John London wrote in an oped earlier this year.

Self-driving cars are like drugs in that, in their trial stages, no one knows exactly how they will respond in different environments and circumstances. Driverless cars will have to figure out what “good driving” looks like, which may differ from situation to situation. Similarly, drugs may react differently to given the person or environment, Danks explained in an interview with Jalopnik.

5 Reasons Pittsburgh is Still Tops in Self-driving Cars

It's important to note that the Bay Area plays an inextricable role in the development of self-driving cars, but Pittsburgh has been its base.

Google, arguably, was the first major company to tackle autonomous cars, testing a self-driving Toyota Prius on California freeways in 2009 and later on city streets around its headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. But Google's pioneering self-driving efforts were lead by robotics scientists from Carnegie Mellon University, located in the heart of Pittsburgh.

Here are five reasons Pittsburgh is and was firmly in control of our self-driving future.


5 Reasons Pittsburgh is Still Tops in Self-driving Cars

It's important to note that the Bay Area plays an inextricable role in the development of self-driving cars, but Pittsburgh has been its base.

Google, arguably, was the first major company to tackle autonomous cars, testing a self-driving Toyota Prius on California freeways in 2009 and later on city streets around its headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. But Google's pioneering self-driving efforts were lead by robotics scientists from Carnegie Mellon University, located in the heart of Pittsburgh.

Here are five reasons Pittsburgh is and was firmly in control of our self-driving future.


This AI Traffic System in Pittsburgh Has Reduced Travel Time by 25%

Surtrac, which started as a project at Carnegie Mellon, piloted at 12 high-volume intersections in 2012. It’s now at 50 intersectionswith another 150 on the way, paid for with a grant from the Federal Highway Administration. In 2015, the project spun out from Carnegie Mellon as a company called Rapid Flow Technologies.

After the pilot, Steve Smith, a robotics professor at Carnegie Mellon and the head of Rapid Flow Technologies, said they could notice a significant difference in traffic flow. But they were quickly informed that they had forgotten about non-motorized traffic.

"We immediately got a lot of feedback from pedestrians, who were feeling left out of the picture,” Smith said.

Tweaks to the system made it so there was a maximum wait time for pedestrians at lights. Researchers and students at Carnegie Mellon are working on a side project to make a mobile phone app to communicate with the lights for people with disabilities who need more time to cross the street.


This AI Traffic System in Pittsburgh Has Reduced Travel Time by 25%

Surtrac, which started as a project at Carnegie Mellon, piloted at 12 high-volume intersections in 2012. It’s now at 50 intersectionswith another 150 on the way, paid for with a grant from the Federal Highway Administration. In 2015, the project spun out from Carnegie Mellon as a company called Rapid Flow Technologies.

After the pilot, Steve Smith, a robotics professor at Carnegie Mellon and the head of Rapid Flow Technologies, said they could notice a significant difference in traffic flow. But they were quickly informed that they had forgotten about non-motorized traffic.

"We immediately got a lot of feedback from pedestrians, who were feeling left out of the picture,” Smith said.

Tweaks to the system made it so there was a maximum wait time for pedestrians at lights. Researchers and students at Carnegie Mellon are working on a side project to make a mobile phone app to communicate with the lights for people with disabilities who need more time to cross the street.


Self-Driving Cars Get Boost With Unanimous Vote by House Panel

"Today’s markup represents the most significant step this subcommittee has taken to date to ultimately enact comprehensive legislation on self-driving technologies and services," said Bob Latta, the Ohio Republican who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection panel. "Our work is not done and we will continue to perfect language as we prepare to move quickly to full-committee markup."

PennDOT Secretary Leslie Richards Named First Female PA Turnpike Chair

“I have had the honor of serving as the commonwealth’s first female transportation secretary since I was named to that post by Governor Tom Wolf in January 2015, and becoming the first female PA Turnpike chair is an equally remarkable privilege,” Richards said. “The first Turnpike commissioners were appointed in the spring of 1937, and accomplishing a milestone like this in an organization that was started more than 80 years ago is undoubtedly historic. I’d like to thank my fellow commissioners for the faith they have shown in me.”