Pittsburgh Reveals the Downside of Self-Driving Cars

Wider inequality. More sprawl. Worse transit. Those are some of the outcomes we could see from self-driving cars in cities, according to a Pittsburgh-based transit advocacy group.

In its new report, Pittsburghers for Public Transit argues that public concerns about equity, the environment and job security aren’t playing a larger role in the conversation about autonomous vehicle deployment.

“The introduction of AV is presented as a panacea to our transportation, environmental and economic woes,” the report says, as it cautions about all that can go wrong for the public, especially lower-income people.

Pittsburgh has been a key testing ground for the technology. With the support of Mayor Bill Peduto, Steel City is currently allowing five companies to test driverless vehicles on public roads. The public has been exposed to risks associated with being guinea pigs in an AV lab, yet not a single public meeting has been held to address public concerns, says PPT.

App-based ride service launches for Columbus community

Central Ohio Transit Authority (Cota) has announced an on-demand shared microtransit pilot programme in partnership with mobility developer, Via.

Called Cota Plus, the new service is available in Grove City, a community outside of Columbus experiencing rapid growth and increased need for connections to Cota’s other existing fixed-transit system.

Development of the Cota Plus app comes after Columbus competed against 77 cities nationwide to win the US Department of Transportation’s smart city challenge. The department tasked Columbus with developing an “integrated, first-of-its-kind smart transportation system that would use data, applications, and technology to help people and goods move more quickly, cheaply, and efficiently”…

“There is increased demand for greater mobility options across many of our Central Ohio communities, including Grove City,” said Joanna Pinkerton, president/CEO of Cota.

Google Maps now displays bike-sharing locations in 24 cities

In selected cities, Google Maps will now show bike-sharing stations and display how many bikes are available at each one. Or, if you’re using a bike and you need to return it, you can see whether there is an empty space at a nearby station.

The system makes use of a feed of global bike-share information from transit data company Ito World. The feature has been tested in New York City for the last year and now it’s rolling out to 24 cities in 16 countries.

This adds to Google Maps’ real-time travel information for buses and trains to make your commute more efficient. Similarly to the bike-sharing information, there’s also real-time information on the availability of EV charging stations.

Interstate rivalries: States loosen regulations to woo driverless cars companies

Ohio has opened the country’s largest test track for driverless vehicles, complete with Teslas swerving through intersections, headfirst collisions and cheering engineers.

On July 1, Florida began allowing autonomous vehicle tests without backup drivers, a move widely seen as an effort to make the state a leader in self-driving cars.

In Phoenix, the nation’s first commercial self-driving taxi service ferries passengers everywhere. Some vehicles have safety drivers; others have no drivers at all…

Industry analysts say these interstate rivalries are being fueled by a lack of Washington regulation. The Federal Automated Vehicles Policy includes no rules, but only guidance for states.

Some worry that the varied rules from state to state could hinder car manufacturers, but others, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, welcome the patchwork approach.

NREL/Volvo Partnership Demonstrates Approach To Quantify Automated Vehicle Fuel Savings

Automated control of cars may enable drivers to rack up more fuel savings than if they were completely in charge, according to a new study conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Volvo Cars. Placing a number on the fuel efficiency of such vehicles is challenging, as fuel economy is typically measured in a laboratory setting, but that doesn’t work for automated vehicles.

This challenge motivated NREL to develop an objective approach for quantifying real-world efficiency impacts from automated vehicle technologies. NREL partnered with Volvo Cars to demonstrate the approach. The researchers leveraged on-road data from Volvo vehicles driving around Gothenburg, Sweden, and compared fuel efficiency for cars that used adaptive cruise control (ACC) to those that did not.

Three models of IoT network ownership for smart cities

The Municipal IoT Blueprint report comes via the Wireless SuperCluster of the Global City Teams Challenge, operating under the auspices of the National Institute of Standards and Technology. It was created as a way to help cities make sense of the opportunities and challenges in IoT, according to David Witkowski, who serves as the co-chair of GCTC Wireless Cluster and is co-editor of the blueprint together with Tony Batalla, CIO of the city of San Leandro, California.

The blueprint, available as a free pdf, says that IoT networks have the potential to greatly improve municipal operations on a number of fronts. But first, cities have to decide how those networks will be owned and operated.

Alphabet Unveils App to Provide Air-Traffic Control for Drones

The company that brought you free digital maps and email wants to do the same thing for your drone.

Wing LLC, an offshoot of Alphabet Inc.’s Google, on Tuesday unveiled a new app it calls OpenSky that it hopes will become the basis for a full-fledged air-traffic control system to manage the expected growth of this new class of flying devices.

It’s been approved to manage drone flights in Australia, where it is free. Wing has been working on demonstration programs with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and is also holding discussions with other countries on getting its app approved, according to James Burgess, Wing’s chief executive officer.

PROPULSION TECH: How to Get to Hybridization

Driven in part by a demand for increased efficiency and new waves of global legislation, hybridizing or electrifying a vessel is quickly becoming necessary for organizations. In fact, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) rules and guidelines for the marine industry call for reduced emissions globally, and some ports around the world have established ambitious goals to reduce emissions to zero percent.

Early adopters of electrification and hybridization are already reaping the rewards and realizing positive returns on investment – including real savings and benefits to their fleets. Furthermore, they have also gained the knowledge and experience to continue to grow and develop even more hybrid solutions. Considering this, an increasing number of organizations are beginning to evaluate how they can move towards hybridization in their marine applications.

Roadbotics raises $7.5M in latest investment round

RoadBotics, the Pittsburgh-based startup working to standardize road assessment through A.I., announced Tuesday that it had raised $7.5 million in its latest investment round.

Leading the way was Radical Ventures, an A.I.-focused venture capital fund. Other investors include Hyperplane Venture Capital and Wharton Alumni Angels of Silicon Valley…

RoadBotics was formed from the research of Christoph Metz, conducted at Carnegie Mellon University. The company currently has more than 150 customers in 23 states and 11 countries.


Johnson-Roberson and Vasudevan, who jointly direct the University of Michigan and Ford Center for Autonomous Vehicles, cofounded Refraction AI, the latest self-driving outfit to announce plans to change the way people and their things move about the planet. While a juggernaut like Waymo can take on everything from robotaxis to trucking, this 11-person startup is focused on the local food-delivery market. “Trying every­thing would be a death sentence,” Johnson-Roberson says.

He has been making robots since 2003, when, as an under­graduate at Carnegie Mellon, he worked on the first Darpa Grand Challenge, a seminal event in the self-driving space. Sixteen years on, with self-driving vehicles still struggling to enter commercial service, he’s eager to see robots have a real role in the world, beyond the Roomba that vacuums his house. “It feels like a bummer that we don’t have anything,” he says.

So Refraction, which came out of stealth mode last week, will avoid the hard parts of driving by acting not like a car, but like a bicycle.