Recently in robots Category

Bryant Walker Smith writes 99 pages saying Automated Vehicles are Probably Legal in the United States:

"This paper provides the most comprehensive discussion to date of whether so-called automated, autonomous, self-driving, or driverless vehicles can be lawfully sold and used on public roads in the United States. The short answer is that the computer direction of a motor vehicle’s steering, braking, and accelerating without real-time human input is probably legal. The long answer, which follows, provides a foundation for tailoring regulations and understanding liability issues related to these vehicles. The paper’s largely descriptive analysis, which begins with the principle that everything is permitted unless prohibited, covers three key legal regimes: the 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic, regulations enacted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the vehicle codes of all fifty US states.

The Geneva Convention, to which the United States is a party, probably does not prohibit automated driving. The treaty promotes road safety by establishing uniform rules, one of which requires every vehicle or combination thereof to have a driver who is “at all times ... able to control” it. However, this requirement is likely satisfied if a human is able to intervene in the automated vehicle’s operation.

NHTSA’s regulations, which include the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards to which new vehicles must be certified, do not generally prohibit or uniquely burden automated vehicles, with the possible exception of one rule regarding emergency flashers.
State vehicle codes probably do not prohibit—but may complicate—automated driving. These codes assume the presence of licensed human drivers who are able to exercise human judgment, and particular rules may functionally require that presence. New York somewhat uniquely directs a driver to keep one hand on the wheel at all times. In addition, far more common rules mandating reasonable, prudent, practicable, and safe driving have uncertain application to automated vehicles and their users. Following distance requirements may also restrict the lawful operation of tightly spaced vehicle platoons. Many of these issues arise even in the three states that expressly regulate automated vehicles.

The primary purpose of this paper is to assess the current legal status of automated vehicles. However, the paper includes draft language for US states that wish to clarify this status. It also recommends five near-term measures that may help increase legal certainty without producing premature regulation. First, regulators and standards organizations should develop common vocabularies and definitions that are useful in the legal, technical, and public realms. Second, the United States should closely monitor efforts to amend or interpret the 1969 Vienna Convention, which contains language similar to the Geneva Convention but does not bind the United States. Third, NHTSA should indicate the likely scope and schedule of potential regulatory action. Fourth, US states should analyze how their vehicle codes would or should apply to automated vehicles, including those that have an identifiable human operator and those that do not. Finally, additional research on laws applicable to trucks, buses, taxis, low-speed vehicles, and other specialty vehicles may be useful. This is in addition to ongoing research into the other legal aspects of vehicle automation."

(Via Marginal Revolution.)

HSR and Self-driving vehicles

Christian Wolmar writes: Innovation ignored at our peril :

"One of the reasons for my scepticism about HS2 is on the basis that it does not take into account future development of technology. Just look at how technology has changed since 1993 when mobile phones had barely taken root, Google, Facebook and Twitter were but twinkles in their founders’ eye and digital TV was just starting. Will there really be enough people wanting to pile into what are likely to be expensive trains in 20 years time to justify the huge expenditure on this project?

And here’s where I stick my neck out. The next big technology, one with such huge implications that it is impossible to being to predict them, is driverless cars. Google, which is investing billions in the project, announced back in August that its fleet of more than a dozen driverless cars had completed 300,000 miles – ten times round the world – without an accident. The cars have driven through San Francisco and through various parts of California and Nevada – where a law has been passed allowing them – and while there are no plans to produce them commercially yet, their time will inevitably come.

Perhaps they will start by being driven only on motorways but even that would have enormous consequences. It would combine many of the advantages of train travel with the flexibility of car use. Think trucks, too. The economics of transport would change as radically as they did when the railways were first developed. The time frame may be a decade or two, but the consequences will be much more far reaching than, say, the much talked about electric cars. The driverless car – or rather motor vehicle – is the innovation that we ought all to be taking into account in our future thinking."


If anyone was wondering why Google is interested in self-driving vehicles ... imagine the future as robot black cabs. The Next Web: London’s black cabs to get free high-speed WiFi hotspots from early 2013

New Yorker on Self-driving vehicles and ethics: Google’s Driver-less Car and Morality:

"‘Ethical subroutines’ may sound like science fiction, but once upon a time, so did self-driving cars."

In the end, "preservation of the driver" is where we will land, as there will never be consensus on ethics (this has been going round and round for thousands of years), but there is a consensus on the ethic of self-preservation. Hopefully this will be a rare occurrence.

Determining the strategy for self-preservation will inevitably be easier than determining the strategy for what others are doing, as the others (a crowd of people, other cars) is much less predictable. If everyone assume the other will do self-preservation, that is more stable than me trying to predict what you will do to avoid hitting me while you try to predict what I will do, ad infinitum. In short, if I assume self-preservation on your part and you assume it on my part, we are likely better off than if we assume possible altruism on each other's part. This might not always be the case though.

Imagine a scenario two cars driving fast around a narrow curve on the side of a mountain which don't detect each other until two late. The best standard routine is for both cars to swerve to their right (or their left, but everyone must agree). If one swerves right and the other left, they collide and kill everyone involved. If I anticipate you will try to be self-preserving, and I am self-preserving, we can call the same (standard) sub-routine. But if on the left is a cliff (down) and the right is a relatively flat piece of land, we might see both altruistic cars going off the cliff, or both selfish cars swerving to the flatland, both scenarios killing everyone. But if both have a standard routine, we can save at least one of the cars. The scenarios are endless.

Marginal Revolution discusses as well.

The Economist on Pilotless aircraft: This is your ground pilot speaking :

"Progress is being made, a conference in London heard this week. It was organised by the Autonomous Systems Technology Related Airborne Evaluation and Assessment (ASTRAEA), the group staging the British test flights. This £62m ($99m) programme, backed by the British government, involves seven European aerospace companies: AOS, BAE Systems, Cassidian, Cobham, QinetiQ, Rolls-Royce and Thales.

It is potentially a huge new market. America’s aviation regulators have been asked by Congress to integrate unmanned aircraft into the air-traffic control system as early as 2015. Some small drones are already used in commercial applications, such as aerial photography, but in most countries they are confined to flying within sight of their ground pilot, much like radio-controlled model aircraft. Bigger aircraft would be capable of flying farther and doing a lot more things.

Pilotless aircraft could carry out many jobs at a lower cost than manned aircraft and helicopters—tasks such as traffic monitoring, border patrols, police surveillance and checking power lines. They could also operate in conditions that are dangerous for pilots, including monitoring forest fires or nuclear-power accidents. And they could fly extended missions for search and rescue, environmental monitoring or even provide temporary airborne Wi-Fi and mobile-phone services. Some analysts think the global civilian market for unmanned aircraft and services could be worth more than $50 billion by 2020."


Driverless Cars

Tim Taylor (Conversable Economist) on: Driverless Cars:

"The fully self-driving car isn't right around the corner. Clearly, costs need to come down substantially and a number of complementary technologies need to be created. However, we do already have cars in the commercial market with cruise control and anti-lock brakes, as well as cars that sense potential crash hazards and can parallel park themselves. Changes like these happen slowly, and then in a rush. As the report [Self-driving cars: The next revolution From KPMG and CAR] notes, "The adoption of most new technologies proceeds along an S-curve, and we believe the path to self-driving vehicles will follow a similar trajectory." Maybe 10-15 years? Faster? "

A pessimistic colleague of mine writes:

the arguments in favor of energy efficiency will be swamped by the added demand. Right now, people don't drive more because it's a pain. If I can drive while sleeping, I'll be more likely to work in one city, commute to another; or, go to the cabin every weekend; or, allow little Johnny to sign up for a soccer league since the car (not me) will drive him; and so on.

automatic-drive cars would make travel much more convenient, which would increase travel demand -- likely, a lot. That's not a benefit for energy consumption.

maybe we'll have electric-only cars, which would help with local emissions but not energy consumption; and, we'll only get those if we require them, which it's not clear we will..

signed,
pessimist.

I agree distances will increase, but the cars will be more efficient as human driving patterns (excessive braking and stop and start, e.g.) will be replaced. There are parallel trends in making cars more energy efficient as well. How this nets out is unclear, but I am more optimistic.

Autonomous race cars

California OKs Driverless Cars

Herbie

Kendra Levine: California OKs Driverless Cars:

This week Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB1298, legalizing driverless cars in California. Some people are concerned about the safety risks of these robot cars. At the signing, Google's Sergey Brin said, "You can count on one hand the number of years it will take before ordinary people can experience this."

(I copied the brilliant use of anthropomorphized vehicle for illustration.)

Alexis Madrigal @ The Atlantic: How Google Builds Its Maps—and What It Means for the Future of Everything - Technology :

"Or as my friend and sci-fi novelist Robin Sloan put it to me, 'I maintain that this is Google's core asset. In 50 years, Google will be the self-driving car company (powered by this deep map of the world) and, oh, P.S. they still have a search engine somewhere.'

Of course, they will always need one more piece of geographic information to make all this effort worthwhile: You. Where you are, that is. Your location is the current that makes Google's giant geodata machine run. They've built this whole playground as an elaborate lure for you. As good and smart and useful as it is, good luck resisting taking the bait. 
"


Chris Urmson @ Official Google Blog: The self-driving car logs more miles on new wheels:

"Our vehicles, of which about a dozen are on the road at any given time, have now completed more than 300,000 miles of testing. They’ve covered a wide range of traffic conditions, and there hasn’t been a single accident under computer control.

We’re encouraged by this progress, but there’s still a long road ahead. To provide the best experience we can, we’ll need to master snow-covered roadways, interpret temporary construction signals and handle other tricky situations that many drivers encounter. As a next step, members of the self-driving car team will soon start using the cars solo (rather than in pairs), for things like commuting to work. This is an important milestone, as it brings this technology one step closer to every commuter. One day we hope this capability will enable people to be more productive in their cars. For now, our team members will remain in the driver’s seats and will take back control if needed.

And while these team members are commuting, many of them will be testing our algorithms on a new type of vehicle we’ve added to the self-driving car family over the past few months to help us refine our systems in different environments and on different terrain: the Lexus RX450h.
"


LInklist: June 15, 2012

Lewis Lehe @ PriceRoads: Nassim Taleb and Infrastructure. He complains about lack of what OR folks would call "slack" in the system. We have so optimized the network that it is no longer robust to slight disruptions.

Alex Tabarrok @ Marginal Revolution The Google-Trolley Problem [will the Google smart car kill the big guy to save five small guys?]

Linklist: May 31, 2012

KurzweilAI shows the press release from Volvo: Volvo’s autonomous cars travel 124 miles in Spain in ‘road train’

[This is interesting technology, I am glad they got it to work technically. I still want and expect autonomous robot cars.]

A podcast makes today's Linklist: Horace Dediu on The Critical Path #40: Awaiting the Big Bang:

"This week, Horace follows up on his discussion of automobiles and road infrastructure by talking about how road networks were rebuilt in European countries to accommodate cycling. That leads to hints about the challenge of re-building energy infrastructure to support new power train technologies. Finally He and Dan also analyze comments made by Tim Cook at the recent D10 conference about Apple TV and disruption of the entertainment industry."

Colin Harris @ streets.mn: Open Streets 2012 is Back:

"Following the inaugural Open Streets Minneapolis event in June of 2011, Minneapolis residents will have another opportunity to explore and enjoy their neighborhood streets without the presence of motorized traffic on June 10th, 2012.  Open Streets events (based on the Ciclovía from Bogotá, Colombia) bring together families and neighbors to bike, walk, socialize, play and shop in their communities in a safe, car-free environment."

Linklist: May 24, 2012

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LA Times: Plan for, autonomous, or self-driving cars passes California senate hurdle.

From JW: Green Car Congress: Google’s technology campaign for autonomous driving:

"Search engine giant Google is looking for partners within in the auto industry to help launch one of the most significant applications of artificial technology over the next several years, the self-driving car.

In a keynote address to the SAE 2012 World Congress on 25 April 2012, Anthony Levandowski, Business Lead for Google’s Self Driving Car Project provided an overview of Google’s autonomous vehicle program and requested that the auto industry partner with Google on the implementation. (Levandowski joined Google in 2007 to launch StreetView—Google Maps with Street View lets you explore places around the world through 360-degree street-level imagery.)

We’re not perfect; the technology is nowhere near ready. We want to set expectations low but we want to encourage dialogue on how we want to move the technology forward.

—Anthony Levandowski

‘For some, driving is a distraction.’ —Allen Taub, former GM VP, Global R&D


Levandowski shared that 32,788 people were killed in the US last year in auto accidents and 90% of those accidents were related to human error. Multi-tasking while driving is only increasing to the extent that people view driving as the distraction. Twenty percent of the food consumed in America is eaten in cars. Google believes that a future state with having computers drive cars can ‘remove a gigantic chunk’ of the US fatalities.

Approximately 1.5 million people/year are killed in auto accidents globally. Google is involved because the company has a strong technical legacy and the company likes to take on problems where the ‘solutions have a high impact on humanity that involve challenging technical problems’.

In addition to the safety impact, Google believes your brain should be able to engage in activities other than driving.

It is a bug, not a feature, that you need to drive all of the time…What if I gave you a pill that allows you to get 10% longer life without any side effects …given how much time we spend in a car, a self driving car is that pill.

—Anthony Levandowski"

SA: Why America's Love Affair with Cars Is No Accident: Scientific American:

"The change in American public opinion from thinking of cars as wildly dangerous vehicles to having a 'love affair with the automobile' was no accident. Instead, it reflected a serious push by the car industry to change people's psychology. Automobiles had to win the battle for hearts and minds before they could take over streets where people had once swarmed."

[Peter Norton's Fighting Traffic is well worth reading.

Linklist: May 8, 2012

Strib: No-frills air carrier is filling in gaps :

"Meet Great Lakes, a no-frills newcomer that believes there's a lucrative opportunity in connecting rural America with bustling airports like MSP. The Wyoming-based airline is in the midst of adding more than a dozen new cities to its local roster, with the Twin Cities serving as its hub for 20 percent of its destinations."
It provides "essential air services" with big government subsidy.

The frequent fliers who flew too much - Los Angeles Times. Matt Yglesias writes:

Back in 1981, American Airlines needed cash. Interest rates were sky high, so rather than borrowing the money, they hit upon a weird idea: sell lifetime passes good for unlimited first-class air travel for $250,000. Add a companion pass for $150,000 more. The resulting program, the AAirpass, turned out to be a huge disaster brilliantly chronicled over the weekend in the Los Angeles Times. Losing millions of dollars a year on its highest-use members, American has in recent years been employing investigators to try to find instances of rule violations that let them cancel members' passes.

I absolutely love this story because it illustrates so much about the business and economics worlds. It highlights the fact that there are a lot of ways to engage in "hidden borrowing" and that this kind of hidden leverage is often very costly. It illustrates the importance of avoiding adverse selection if you want to succeed. And most of all, it illustrates that over and above the structural issues facing the notably unprofitable U.S. aviation industry there also seems to be a problem of systematic mismanagement and repeated blunders.

Amtrak to Use iPhones to Streamline Service - NYTimes.com:

"Old-school train conductors are finally ready to give up their hole punchers to try something new: the iPhone.

Amtrak, the government-owned corporation that oversees the nation’s railroad train services, has been training conductors since November to use the Apple handset as an electronic ticket scanner on a few routes, including from Boston to Portland, Me., and San Jose, Calif., to Sacramento."

Ars: Google gets license to test drive autonomous cars on Nevada roads:

"On Monday, the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles approved Google’s license application to test autonomous vehicles on the state’s roads. The state had approved such laws back in February, and has now begun issuing licenses based on those regulations.

The state previously outlined that companies that want to test such vehicles will need an insurance bond of $1 million and must provide detailed outlines of where they plan to test it and under what conditions. Further, the car must have two people in it at all times, with one behind the wheel who can take control of the vehicle if needed.

The Autonomous Review Committee of the Nevada DMV is supervising the first licensing procedure and has now approved corresponding plates to go with it, complete with a red background and infinity symbol."

The Prospect Park Newsletter sends me to Pete LeBak ... :

"Pete LeBak's barber shop is a neighborhood institution in Prospect Park.  He's been here over 31 years.  Light rail is going in on University Ave. now, and the work has wiped out the parking in front. Access is daunting folks; traffic has slowed to a trickle. So business has cratered.  By the way, that's 'Bug' (short for Ladybug) on the floor in her usual posture. She's about 110 in dog years.  Neighbors and friends are trying to get Pete some press and spread the word to help him make it through the construction gauntlet.  Pete was fixing to move out, but he thought back on the 31 years he'd been there, all the friends he'd made, and it got his back up.  Longtime customers stopped by to beg him not to go. So now he's fighting to stay.  We're rallying the troops."
[the external cost of transportation construction is non-trivial]

Linklist: May 4, 2012

Wired: Get Ready To Kickstart Project Hexapod:

"Meet Stompy. He’s a hexapod – a six-legged robot being built by a team of 15 students and three instructors at Artisan’s Asylum in Somerville, Massachusetts. And if the rendering above didn’t tip you off, Stompy holds two passengers, can walk over a car and takes up nearly two lanes of road. Needless to say, Stompy is awesome."

Bloomberg: 'Jetman' Soars Over Rio: Video

"Yves 'Jetman' Rossy, a record-holding Swiss aerialist, flew his carbon-kevlar jetwing over Rio de Janiero on Thursday morning. During his 11-minute flight he reached a speed of 186 mph and an altitude of almost 4,000 feet."

Amanda Erickson @ Atlantic CitiesGreening Traffic Lights By Turning Them Off :

"But how's this for an idea to make traffic patterns greener (and, proponents say, safer): stop using traffic lights altogether. The so-called "naked streets" movement has gained traction across Europe, even in major cities like London."

[Note to jargon-heads, naked streets = shared space].

Linklist: April 17, 2012

ion: The Mathematical Proof that got a Physicist out of a Traffic Ticket

Schneier on Security: Hawley Channels His Inner Schneier [Former TSA Director seems to be reasonable, what gives?]

Tyler Cowan @ Marginal Revolution: The economics of Robert Caro :

"The Power Broker, by the way, is in my view one of the best non-fiction books ever, so read it if you don’t already know it."
[Agreed, I read it soon after my Riverside, New York-based Aunt Maitie, who was taking Urban Studies courses on the side, gave it to me along with Jane Jacobs when I was an ~11 year old wanna-be City Planner. In retrospect, it was probably the best (and certainly the longest) book I read in elementary school. Admittedly I did want to be Robert Moses, so my take differed from Caro. I read it again later and it made more sense. I assign the New Yorker-abridged version of the book to my graduate students. Jane Jacobs is good too.]

PC Mag: DARPA Seeking to Build (Friendly) Terminators:

" So what will the robot have to do? Quite a bit. For just one of the disaster challenges, DARPA anticipates that the robot will have to:

1. Drive a utility vehicle at the site.

2. Travel dismounted across rubble.

3. Remove debris blocking an entryway.

4. Open a door and enter a building.

5. Climb an industrial ladder and traverse an industrial walkway.

6. Use a power tool to break through a concrete panel.

7. Locate and close a valve near a leaking pipe.

8. Replace a component such as a cooling pump."

Kottke shows a very long Visualization of shipping routes from 1750 to 1855

Yglesias talks about private bike sharing service Splinster [whose site is unavailable]: Will Sharing Apps Make Physical Stuff Obsolete?:

"In a world where information is scarce it's often helpful to have lots of physical redundancy. If it's hard to find out the answer to the question "where's the closest X" then it pays off to stockpile as much stuff (cars, bikes, power tools, etc.) as possible in your garage. That way you know the answer is always "it's in the garage" and this information is valuable even though most of the stuff isn't being used at any given time. But as information grows more abundant, there's less and less need for physical redundancy:"

Linklist: March 27, 2012

Antiplanner: Semi-Driverless Cars Available Soon :

"Continental Automotive, a company that makes tires and other parts, has put together a semi-driverless car for Nevada. Under the rules in that state, which legalized driverless cars last year, a car must successfully go 10,000 miles without an accident before being marketed in the state. Continental’s car, which is based on a Volkswagen Passat, should pass that mark this week."


KurzweilAI: New York to Beijing in two hours without leaving the ground? :

"The Evacuated Tube Transport (ETT) system (U.S. Patent 5950543, assigned to ET3.com, Inc.) would take passengers from New York to Beijing in just two hours. Advocates of Evacuated Tube Transport (ETT) claim it is silent, cheaper than planes, trains, or cars and faster than jets.

How it would work: put a superconducting maglev train in evacuated tubes, then accelerate using linear electric motors until the design velocity is attained. Passive superconductors allow the capsules to float in the tube, while eddy currents induced in conducting materials drive the capsules. Efficiency of such a system would be high, as the electric energy required to accelerate a capsule could largely be recaptured as it slows."


h/t Brendan Nee: Uber Blog » Uberdata: The Ride of Glory:

"One of the neat things we can do with our data is ask about rider patterns: are there weekend riders that only use Uber post-party? What about the workday commuters who use us every morning? It was while playing around with this idea of (blind!) rider segmentation that we came up with the Ride of Glory (RoG)."


Linklist: March 14, 2012

Brendon Slotterback on David Alpert on driverless cars:

"I’ve been meaning to write a “how this urbanist stopped worrying and learned to love the driverless car” post for a while, but I’ve finally been spurred into action by this piece in the Atlantic Cities by Greater Greater Washington founder David Alpert. Right up front I want to say I still have a lot of concerns about how we plan and incorporate robot cars, but on this issue of competing road users, I take a different view."

 

Jarret Walker: quote of the week: hopeful intentions of the u.s. federal transit administration:

"[In reading this, recall that mobility means "how far you can go" or "how much area you can cover" in a given time.  "Accessibility" or "access" means "how many economic, social, and recreational opportunites that you can reach" in a given time.]

"[The U.S. Federal Transit Administration (FTA)] believes improvements to both access and mobility are key features of a good transit investment. FTA agrees a measure that defines accessibility instead of mobility might be a better representation of the kind of benefits transit projects are intended to produce. As noted, however, it has proven very difficult to measure. Although it is relatively easy to specify a measure such as number of jobs within a specified travel time of a single location, creating a broader corridor or regional measure including calculations to and from multiple locations is more difficult and complex. FTA believes a measure focusing on project ridership will indirectly address access improvements since more people will ride a project that has enhanced access to jobs or other important activity centers. Focusing on the way a transit project can enhance an individual’s ability to get places, rather than just travel faster, is a desirable outcome of the evaluation process. FTA intends to continue to explore how best to do so."

The FTA's Notice of Proposed Rule Making [pdf] that 
proposes to shift the criteria for funding 
new transit projects from travel time to ridership, 
a move that Socrates* had some questions about.
Hat tip to Susan Pantell for reminding me
of this passage.

This is indeed hopeful.  I'll lay out a fuller argument on how this agenda might move forward in a coming post.

Question: When FTA refers to the difficulty of aggregating accessibility measures for everyone in a region, do you think they're referring to a logical problem (i.e. the stated task is logically or philophically incoherent), or a data availability problem, or some other kind of problem?  It certainly shouldn't be a processing power problem anymore."

[Surely FTA has heard of person-weighted averages. I am not sure why this should be a problem.]

Linklist: March 7, 2012

YouTube has Videos mentioned by The Transportationist.org all conveniently in one place (of course, not all of them, just YouTube ones).

PCWorld says Robotic Cheetah Sets a New Robot Land Speed Record, Leaves Humans in its Dust:

"The new Cheetah Robot is the latest animatronic creation to come out of DARPA's Maximum Mobility and Manipulation program. It is the fastest four-legged robot in the world, and it can reach speeds of 18 miles-per-hour; the previous land-speed record for a four-legged robot was 13.1mph set by MIT in 1989."

Ars Technica: Maxis announces new SimCity for 2013:

"During a Game Developers Conference presentation to gathered press, Bradshaw noted its been roughly ten years since Maxis last released a core SimCity title, and that the phones in many people's pockets now have the same power as the machines that ran SimCity 4 back then. The new SimCity will take advantage of advances in computer power to be the first truly 3D entry in the series. "This is like an entirely new playground for us, and we're going to take advantage of it," she said."
[It would be nice if they opened up the algorithm.]

Jamais Cascio: Open the Future: Record Battery Energy Density in Context:

"A tech company called Envia Systems has announced that it is able to produce rechargeable lithium-ion batteries (Li-ion, i.e., the standard kind of rechargeable batteries that go in everything from phones to electric cars) with a world-record energy density of 400 Watt-hours per kilogram! (Gigaom has lots of info, and useful background material.) Cool, right?"

Reihan Salam on Ed Glaeser on Infrastructure Spending:

"To that end, Glaeser calls for more user fees, congestion pricing, the decentralization of transportation spending, and, perhaps most interestingly, devoting the Highway Trust Fund to maintenance, leaving state governments to fund new projects themselves. (Here Glaeser is drawing on the excellent work of Matthew Kahn and David Levinson.) It’s a very sensible agenda, and it avoids the twin pitfalls of infrastructure alarmism and misplaced China envy. "

Linklist: February 27, 2012

Mashable: Google To Test Driverless Cars On Nevada Roadways:

"The roads in Nevada are ready for driverless robot cars. Earlier this month, Nevada’s Legislative Commission approved testing of autonomous vehicles on the state’s roadways. The cars will be identifiable by a red license plate."

Lisa Schweitzer in Politico: Opinion: Obama clueless on transit funding:

"His problem? The legislation would eliminate the deficit-plagued Highway Trust Fund as a funding source for transit, walking and biking projects. Money for those projects would instead have to come out of the general fund.

Transit and sustainability advocates are outraged. Don’t the bill’s supporters know how crucial these non-automobile means of travel are to cities?

Unfortunately, the bill is an all-too-predictable backlash against the White House and its apparent cluelessness about the difference between national transportation policy and urban transport policy."


Linklist: February 22, 2012

Robert Bruegmann @ Bloomberg: Driverless Car Could Defy Sprawl Rules:

"The driverless car could well extend that flexibility in dramatic fashion, combining some characteristics of automobiles and public transportation and allowing people more choice in the way they live, whether it involves more compact, high-density cities, more dispersed low-density settlements -- call it sprawl if you like -- or, perhaps most likely, all of the above."

Fanis Grammenos @ Planetizen Choosing a Grid, or Not :

"Breaking the convenient, but outdated, uniformity of the 18th and 19th Century American grids would be a first step in recovering the land efficiency mandated by current ecological and economic imperatives. Pointing in that direction, Savannah’s composite, cellular grid includes variable size streets and blocks for private, civic and religious functions. A second step would be to include block sizes that can accommodate building types and sizes unknown in the 1800s, again defying block uniformity. A third step would be to adapt its streets for the now universal motorized mobility, of cars, buses, trucks, trams and motorcycles, that is radically different from when oxen, equine and legs shared the transport of goods and people."

Eric Jaffe @ Atlantic Cities: The Tale of a Taxi Driver Who Just Won't Stop Driving [He claims he is not a taxi driver, since he doesn't charge (making it up in tips), the court disagreed]

Lynne Kiesling @ Knowledge Problem: Extreme Makeover: Regulation Edition :

"Yes. Hayek’s Pretence of Knowledge meets Smith’s “man of system”, Tullock’s rent seeking, and Olson’s concentrated benefits and diffuse costs. Regulatory complexity creates benefits for politically-powerful special interests, but it creates costs for everyone else, and this ongoing process feeds the egos of our elected representatives who believe they can engineer, design, and manipulate society to achieve their desired outcomes."

Capital Business Blog - The Washington Post: In White Flint, the mall is being turned into a town :

"The plans ultimately call for 5.2 million square feet of buildings, including 1 million square feet offices in three buildings along Rockville Pike, 1 million square feet of retail, 2,500 residential units and a 300-room hotel. The current three-level mall is about 800,000 square feet.

Civic amenities are also envisioned. On the south side of the property the companies have reserved space for the construction of a new elementary school and on the east side plan to build a public park, part of 13.1 acres of open space on the property."

CBC News: TTC chief Gary Webster fired:

"TTC chief general manager Gary Webster has been relieved of his duties, following a vote during a special meeting of transit commissioners Tuesday.

In a motion describing termination "without just cause," the transit commission voted 5-4 to fire Webster, who has worked at the service for 35 years, just two weeks after he expressed open defiance to a subway plan championed by Mayor Rob Ford. His ouster comes a year before he was set to retire.

"This was not how I expected this to end — certainly not how I wanted it to end," Webster told reporters shortly after his termination. "But clearly the choice has been made to replace me as chief general manager and I accept that.""

Joe Soucheray @ Twincities.com: Let's turn I-94 into a tollway. No, I'm serious.:

"About 30 minutes after you cross the Illinois border below Milwaukee, you are offered the tollway option, which is the only way to go. I went last weekend, and before I left, the CP slapped the transponder onto my windshield.

It made me feel big city. I am certain that if I lived in the western suburbs or had to use I-35W, I'd be a MnPASS customer."

[We lack toll roads, a new battle on the urban featuritis war begins, accompanying convention centers, light rail, and NFL Stadia.]


The Transportationist is now also syndicated on Alltop

Linklist: February 20, 2012

David Brin sends me to: Future Day:

"This is a brand new holiday — the first Future Day will be March 1, 2012. Let us all work together to get Future Day off to an incredible start."
[Shouldn't this always be held March 1, Next Year ? At any rate, I hope this holiday is purple. We already have green, orange, red, yellow, and blue holidays].

Calculated Risk: Gasoline Prices: $4.50 per gallon by Memorial Day?:

"High gasoline prices is one reason American are driving less. Brad Plumer at the WaPo discusses a few other reasons: Driving, gas prices and the end of retail
Americans have cut way back on driving in recent years. Total vehicle-miles traveled has stagnated since 2007. One big question is whether this is a temporary blip due to the downturn — unemployed people, after all, don’t commute — or evidence of a long-term structural shift.

Theories for a structural shift generally involve demographics: America’s swelling ranks of retirees don’t drive as much, while kids these days prefer Facebook to motoring around with friends. But there’s another possible factor: the torrid growth of online shopping. Phil Izzo has the numbers, which are striking."


JW sends me to Technology Review: Self-Driving Tech Veers into Mid-Range Cars - Technology Review:

"Fully autonomous self-driving cars are still far from the market, but a wide range of features—including sensor systems that warn of lane departures and imminent crashes, and can even apply the brakes if you don't—are rapidly showing up in midmarket cars."

Silicon Filter: OpenXC: Ford Launches an Open-Source Platform for In-Car Connectivity and Apps :

"Here is the general philosophy behind OpenXC:

What if the user-facing hardware and software was independent from any one vehicle, and could be purchased and installed by consumers as an aftermarket add-on? What if the infotainment hardware was more modular and user-upgradable, and perhaps most importantly, transferable from one vehicle to another?"

[So long as the add-on to vehicle interface technology is static, fine. But what is the likelihood of that?]

PCMag: Nevada Approves Rules for Self-Driving Cars:

"Nevada has become the first state in the United States to approve self-driving cars, a necessary step for Google's vision to become a reality.

In a statement, the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles said that its Legislative Commission today approved regulations allowing for the operation of self-driving vehicles on the state's roadways. Nevada's rules are the next step in a process began last June, when the state passed a bill   that required its DMV to draft the rules.

Autonomous test vehicles will display a red license plate, Nevada officials said. If and when the technology is approved for public use, the cars will carry a green license plate. Nevada's standard licese plates are bluish-gray, with most of the license plate representing mountains fading into a yellowish sky."

Five articles on self-driving cars

Five articles on self-driving cars

Tom Vanderbilt @ Wired: Let the Robot Drive: The Autonomous Car of the Future Is Here

Molly Rants @ CNET News: Self-driving cars: Yes, please! Now, please!


John Markoff @ NY Times: Google’s Autonomous Vehicles Draw Skepticism at Legal Symposium [The first thing we do, let's kill all the ___]

Matt Yglesias @ Slate: Three Barriers To Robot Cars

Jeremy Hsu @ MSNBC: [Sebastian] Thrun leaving Stanford for online startup: "When a Stanford University professor [and autonomous vehicle developer, ed.] first offered a free online version of his "Introduction to Artificial Intelligence" class, he attracted 160,000 students from around the world. Now he has given up his tenured academic position to create a startup that could deliver university-level education for low cost to anyone with an Internet connection."

Linklist: January 21, 2012

JW sends me to Technology Review: Europe's Driverless Car (Driver Still Required) - :

""Driverless" technology will initially require a driver. And it will creep into everyday use much as airbags did: first as an expensive option in luxury cars, but eventually as a safety feature required by governments. "The evolutionary approach is from comfort systems to safety systems to automatic driving," says Jürgen Leohold, executive director for research at Volkswagen Group in Wolfsburg, Germany."

Autoblog: Average U.S. vehicle age rises 12% in the last five years:

"The average age of the approximately 240 million light-duty vehicles on U.S. roads has risen about 12 percent in the past five years, according to automotive data research firm Polk. The average car or light truck on the road last year was 10.8 years old, up from a 9.7-year average in 2006. Cars were, on average, 11.1 years old in 2011, while trucks were 10.4 years old, Polk said."

Linklist: January 17, 2012

| 1 Comment

Kottke sends me to: Koushik Dutta - Google+: The Unintended Effects of Driverless Cars :

"Google has been working on driverless cars for a few years now. The obvious selling point is that the cars will be much safer without a human behind the wheel.

Currently, a car spends 96% of its time idle. Compare that with planes which spend almost their entire lifetime in operation/airborne. Idle planes aren't making money, and they need to recoup their hefty $120M price tag. There is an unforgiving economic incentive to make sure it is always in use.

The proliferation of driverless cars will have a similar effect. Cars will spend less time idle: why would a household buy 2 (or even 3) cars, when they only need 1? Ride to work, then send the car home to your spouse. Need to go grocery shopping, but your kid also needs a ride to a soccer game? No problem, a driverless car can handle that.

What will begin as households cutting back to a single car, will expand. Why would a family need an entire car to themselves? That's crazy! It may start as extended family in the same area sharing cars, then neighbors sharing cars, and then entire apartment/condo complexes in cities offering driverless cars bundled into their HOA/rent.[2]

The operating percent of a car will go from 4% to that 96%. But back to my leading statement: there are unintended consequences. Parked cars will be a relic from the past. What happens to car insurance prices if a driver is no longer part of the equation? And if cars are receiving 20 times more actual use, that would imply that there would be 20 times less cars sold.[1] This is the kind of disruptive change that can reshape the automotive industry. The recent GM/Chrysler bailout may have been for naught.[3]"

Kurzweil notes: A French autonomous car:

"French researchers have developed a self-driving vehicle, IEEE Spectrum Automaton reports.

IFSTTAR, a French R&D organization, and the Embedded Electronic Systems Research Institute at ESIGELEC, an engineering school in Rouen, are developing autonomous vehicle technologies to help test automotive safety systems.

The researchers modified a Renault Grand Espace by adding a “robot driver” to  control the exact trajectory, speed, and behavior of the vehicle and compare the performance of different safety systems.

"



JW sends me to Technology Review: Join the Mobility Revolution with These Five Apps Uber, Waze, NextBus, Avego, Progressive Insurance

"Robot" Road Repair

A headline from Finance & Commerce

In war on potholes, robot patching gets a tryout  intrigued me, but not enough to subscribe ($$$). But I looked up this:

Rosco Spray Injection Patcher

which is cool in a 'how things work' and folk documentary/advertising sort of way.

Robo-blogging

Speaking of autonomous vehicles, TS sends along these videos showing state of the art in robots:

Quadrocpter ball juggling

A Robot That Balances on a Ball


Big Dog

AP says: Driverless car navigates Berlin streets:

"By KIRSTEN GRIESHABER, Associated Press – Tue Sep 20, 10:52 am ET

BERLIN – It can talk, see, drive and no longer needs a human being to control it by remote. The car of the future — completely computer-controlled — is on the streets of Berlin.

All summer, researchers from the city's Free University have been testing the automobile around the German capital.

The vehicle maneuvers through traffic on its own using a sophisticated combination of devices, including a computer, electronics and a precision satellite navigation system in the trunk, a camera in the front, and laser scanners on the roof and around the front and rear bumpers.

"The vehicle can recognize other cars on the road, pedestrians, buildings and trees up to 70 meters (yards) around it and even see if the traffic lights ahead are red or green and react accordingly," Raul Rojas, the head of the university's research group for artificial intelligence, told reporters at a presentation Friday.
"In fact, the car's recognition and reaction to its environment is much faster than a human being's reaction."
The scientists have worked on their research car, a Volkswagen Passat worth euro400,000 ($551,800) with lots of built-in special technology, for four years.
Several other groups have also been working on such technology recently, notably Google, which has been testing a robotic Toyota Prius in Nevada.

"There's a big trend for completely computer-controlled cars — many companies and research centers in several countries are working on it and it is hard to say, who's got the most-developed vehicle at the moment," Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, a professor for automotive economics at the University of Duisburg-Essen, told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Dudenhoeffer estimated that with the technology advances, it could only take another decade for the fully automatic cars to start becoming available for consumers. "Even today's cars are often partially computer-controlled, for example when it comes to parking or emergency brakes.""

JalopnikGoogleCar

CNET: Google driver crashes autonomous car:

"Automotive blog Jalopnik got a tip this week that one of Google's autonomous cars, a Prius, got in a fender bender near the search giant's Mountain View campus. Google issued a statement noting that the car was being driven by its human pilot when the accident occurred."
The crash involved three Priuses and two Accords. That's a full house in California Hold'Em.


(Via David King.)

ionroad

JW sends me this link from Technology Review and writes "If the sensors and technology for collision avoidance systems can be implemented on smart phones it seems a disruptive way to move robotic vehicle technology forward. It bypasses the vehicle manufacturers and potentially the regulators. Clearly the app does not result in a robotic vehicle, but it may further public acceptance and allow the collection of comparative crash record data, two issues which are much more important than the technology and software in my view."

App Provides Extra Eyes on the Road - Technology Review:


iOnRoad for Android detect and tracks cars on the road ahead using a phone's camera and machine vision software. It also draws on a phone's GPS, accelerometer, and orientation sensors to calculate the distance to other cars, and the speed at which they are traveling.

Just place your device in a mount on the dashboard and start up the app. Then your phone will diligently watch the road ahead, and beep a warning if you get too close to the vehicle ahead, alerting you to hastily brake before any damage occurs.

iOnRoad is a clever idea, and it highlights just how powerful and capable smart phones have become. Just few years ago, such an app would struggle on the fastest smart phone.

In practice, however, I found it a bit distracting. During a drive to Cape Cod last week, with the phone mounted beneath the GPS, my windshield felt cluttered. I kept glancing at the phone whenever a car outline changed from green to yellow (depending on how close I was), in addition to checking the GPS. With continued use of the app my eyes would probably stop drifting over to check how far away each vehicle was. Thankfully, I didn't get into any near-collisions, and the road was pretty traffic-free.

The app can also work in background mode, so it'll only sound and show a warning if it detects an imminent collision. So iOnRoad could run behind a GPS app while driving.

The Israeli company behind the app, Picitup, has previously created vision recognition software for to automatically cataloging products (which eBay uses). At first, iOnRoad will be free; and it will be available next month.

David Levinson

Network Reliability in Practice

Evolving Transportation Networks

Place and Plexus

The Transportation Experience

Access to Destinations

Assessing the Benefits and Costs of Intelligent Transportation Systems

Financing Transportation Networks

View David Levinson's profile on LinkedIn

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