Search results for "driverless"

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IBM Watson launches a “Siri for Cities” app as more tech companies clamor for smart cities where “things” can communicate and supply data
The IT industry is pushing relentlessly to institutionalize smart cities by installing internet-connected lampposts, digital signage, building facades, and more. IT research and advisory firm Gartner predicts that by 2020, 2.9 billion connected "things" will be in use in the consumer sector. IBM Watson jas joined the breakneck race with the launch of its “Siri for Cities,” a cognitive computing platform that enables users to ask complex questions about city services. By speaking into their smartphones, laptops or Apple Watches, residents can inquire about fire and police services to parking and waste collection. The app supplies responses by drawing upon a database of FAQs, but IBM has outfitted the technology to interact with the language of more in-depth questions, analyse swaths of data, and respond in a concise, evidence-based manner. The mobile app will be piloted in Surrey, Canada, to create a centralized hub for the city. Purple Forge, a digital agency hired by the local government, is working to integrate these capabilities into the pre-existing “My Surrey” app, which streams hyper-local news, events, job listings, bike routes, parking information, and more in real-time. “IBM Watson’s learning abilities are such that the technology builds its knowledge and improves as citizens use it, much in the same way humans learn,” said Bruce Hayne, chair of Surrey’s Innovation and Investment Committee. “This pilot is expected to enhance customer experience by increasing the accessibility of services while providing the city with insight into opportunities for improvement and reduction to service delivery costs.” Reliant on data and interactivity, IBM’s new gadgetry overlaps noticeably with Google’s recently launched Sidewalk Labs, an independent company that aims to develop and incubate new technology to address urban ills. After acquiring Titan and Control Group, Sidewalk Labs announced its first initiative: resuming the work of Link NYC to convert New York City’s unused phone booths into public WiFi hubs. According to the FCC, 55 million people in the United States lack broadband internet access. The WiFi hubs will be tall, thin pillars with digital tablet interfaces and large ads slapped on the sides to keep them free to use. Through Titan’s ad network, Link NYC could bring $500 million in ad revenue to the city over the next 12 years, the DeBlasio administration has predicted. Meanwhile, City Science researchers at MIT’s Media Lab are building mobility networks for “multi-modal transit.” One initiative is a search and recommendation engine for a variety of energy-saving transit modes, such as car-pooling and bike-sharing, determined by weather, traffic, and past user patterns. Researchers are angling for further energy cutbacks by designing and prototyping electric scooters, driverless cars, and compact bike-lane vehicles.
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This fake town by the University of Michigan to become testing ground for developing smarter driverless cars
Researchers the University of Michigan just one-upped a recent virtual SimCity project for testing smart technologies of future cities. A tangible, 32-acre testing ground for driverless cars called MCity pits autonomous vehicles against every conceivable real-life obstacle, minus the caprice of human drivers. The uninhabited town in the university's North Campus Research Complex contains suburban and city roadways, building facades, sidewalks, bike lanes and streetlights. Recreating street conditions in a controlled environment means teaching robotic vehicles to interpret graffiti-defaced road signs, faded line markings, construction obstacles and other quotidian surprises which AI is still ill-equipped to handle. By dint of moveable facades, researchers can create any condition—from blind corners to odd intersections—to develop more conscientious self-driving vehicles. Vehicles will navigate city terrain from dirt to paving brick and gravel roads, decode freeway signs, and make split-second braking and lane-change decisions in a High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane at peak hours. "We believe that this transformation to connected and automated mobility will be a game changer for safety, for efficiency, for energy, and for accessibility," said Peter Sweatman, director of the U-M Mobility Transformation Center. "Our cities will be much better to live in, our suburbs will be much better to live in. These technologies truly open the door to 21st century mobility." MCity is the first major project of a part governmental, academic, and commercial partnership called the University of Michigan Mobility Transformation Center. The initiative is backed by million-dollar investments from companies like Toyota, Nissan, Ford, GM, Honda, State Farm, Verizon, and Xerox, who will no doubt be affected should driverless cars go mainstream. The testing center is is also tinkering with vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) connectivity to investigate whether it aids individual vehicles in making better decisions. The university aims to eventually deploy 9,000 connected vehicles across the greater Ann Arbor area.
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Real-life SimCity in New Mexico to become testing ground for new technologies that will power smart cities
A simulation video game can become a powerful innovation lab for new urban technologies, where researchers can test-drive every outlandish “what-if?” in a controlled environment. The Center for Innovation, Technology and Evaluation is launching a full-scale SimCity—a small, fully functioning ghost town equipped with the technology touted by futurists as the next generation of smart cities. Resembling a modest American town with a population of 35,000 spread over 15 miles, the virtual metropolis is sited on a desolate stretch of land in southern New Mexico. Set to be wired with mock-up utilities and telecommunications systems as realistically as possible, the quintessentially mediocre town will even have a gas station, big box store, and a simulated interstate highway alongside its tall office buildings, parks, houses and churches. The town will also be sectioned into urban, rural and suburban zones. From nuclear war to natural disasters to a stock market crash or a triple whammy of all three, the ho-hum hypothetical town will soon play host to driverless cars and packages delivered by drones, alternative energy power generation and never-before-tested public monitoring, security and computer systems. The goal of CITE is to provide the opportunity to test large-scale technology experimentations in real-world conditions “without anyone getting hurt,” said Bob Brumley, managing director of Pegasus Global Holdings, the Washington state-based technology development firm behind the concept. Brumley estimates that support infrastructure, including electric plants and telecommunications, will take 24 months to create, while the city will be fully built between 2018 and 2020. The uninhabited virtual city affords possibilities to test otherwise non-starter ideas hampered by safety and feasibility concerns in the real world, where human beings are the most fickle of variables. “It will be a true laboratory without complication and safety issues associated with residents. Here you can break things and run into things and get used to how they work before taking them out into the market,” Brumley told Wired. One of numerous experiments he envisions involves deploying a fleet of driverless freight trucks controlled by a centralized wireless network. Testing on a real freeway, on the other hand, would be too hazardous. Other ideas range from simple practicalities—having small drones drop off packages on doorsteps—to cataclysm readiness—simulating, a large-scale, real-time attack on energy, telecommunications and traffic systems, or the effect of a “massive electromagnetic pulse attack on all the integrated circuits in our economy.” Brumley estimates an initial investment of $550–600 million in direct investment, with an estimated total cost of $1 billion over the next five years as the city grows in size and complexity. We can only hope that their servers don’t crash.
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The Shortlist> Top Five Competitions of the Week
Are you eager to put your architectural design skills to the test? Here are some exciting upcoming competitions that will be sure to present you with the type of challenge you’ve been waiting for. AN's editors have combed through our online listing of architecture and design competitions to bring you five of the most interesting competitions happening right now. If you’d like your competition to be included in the listing, please submit it here. QueensWay Connection: Elevating the Public Realm. The Emerging New York Architects committee has announced its sixth biennial ideas competition. QueensWay Connection supports Friends of the QueensWay and the Trust for Public Land in their attempts to revitalize an abandoned elevated railway and turn it into a greenway. The competition, which is looking to supplement the ongoing feasibility study by offering ways the park can be activated and turned into a viable green space, is open to design students and professionals who have completed their education within the past 10 years. Cash prizes of up to $5,000 will be awarded. Submission Deadline: January 1, 2014. Louisville Children's Museum CompetitionDesigning a Louisville Children's Museum, Revitalizing a Downtown Edge is an ideas competition sponsored by the Construction Specifications Institute and the American Institute of Architects. Louisville lacks a museum dedicated to children specifically between 2-13 years of age, and the competition seeks designs for the museum, which will consist of a 5-level structure including space for up-to-date exhibits, a Museum Shop, play space, auditorium, and administration offices. The top three entries will earn cash awards of $6,000, $3,000, and $1,000 and entries from the final round will be on exhibit at Museum Hotel 21c in downtown Louisville. Registration Deadline: February 10, 2014. Submission Deadline: February 10, 2014. Seattle Design Jam. The Seattle Design Jam competition is all about physical outdoor constructions. Through interactive structures and exhibits, the competition encourages public curiosity and discussion about the festival's theme: Design in Health. Through the creation of an urban playground, Design Jam will explore physical, mental, social, and nutritional health. The competition is searching for ideas that contribute to an urban playscape within the festival space. Submissions must be physical installations, and the use of recycled or reused materials is strongly encouraged. The grand prize consists of $500 and a one month Makerhaus Studio membership. Registration Deadline: September 15, 2013. Submission Deadline: September 20, 2013. 2014 Ed Bacon Student Design Competition. How will driverless cars shape the Philadelphia of tomorrow? Advances in driverless technology will cause major transformations for American cities in the coming century. The annual competition, which challenges university-level students to address design issues that relate to global urban centers, aims to explore how roadways, sidewalks, intersections, signage, traffic signals, and the relationship between buildings, roadways, pedestrians, cyclists, and vehicles will change. First prize will receive a $5,000 award and an awards ceremony will be held in Spring 2014. Registration Deadline: October 3, 2013. Submission Deadline: November 1, 2013. Suburbia Transformed 3.0. To explore the aesthetics of landscape experience in the era of sustainability, the Suburbia Transformed 3.0 recognizes residential works that venture beyond "green" to address  the aesthetic quality of human experience in the process. The call for entries is searching for built and unbuilt residential landscapes and the jury will choose up to twelve projects in each category: built work; professional visionary (unbuilt) work, and student visionary (unbuilt) work. Winning submissions will be exhibited at the James Rose Center and will become part of a traveling exhibition focused on contemporary residential design. Registration Deadline: February 18, 2014. Submission Deadline: March 20, 2014.
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Meet the Mod Pods
The ULTra system planned for London's Heathrow Airport, shown here on a test track, will run rubber-wheeled vehicles along a concrete guideway.
Courtesy Advanced Transportation Systems

Imagine this commute: You leave your office and walk a few blocks to a transit station. An elevator takes you one flight up from the street to a room outfitted with glowing touch screens. It’s rush hour, so people are going and coming, but they’re moving through fairly quickly. At one of the screens, which depicts a map of the city dotted with other stations, you select your destination and swipe a fare card. The computer selects the quickest route between the two points and issues you a number. Glass doors slide open and you step out onto a platform where podcars—small, driverless vehicles—are arriving and departing. One pulls up bearing your number and flashing your destination. Another passenger disembarks and you step aboard. Maybe you are traveling with one or two friends, but not many more than that, because the car only seats six. The doors shut and the pod backs out of its berth automatically, gaining speed along an access way before merging into a stream of traffic—into a gap between two other cars that takes less than a second to close. You don’t notice this feat of coordination because you are sitting back in a plush seat, relaxing, surfing the internet, or just watching the city go by. The car runs along quietly, turning from one elevated guideway to the next. It is driven by electricity and emits no pollution. It bypasses all other stations, never stopping until reaching your destination, where you alight in perhaps a much better mood than if you had driven yourself or taken a subway.

heathrow's system will include 18 battery-powered pods connecting terminal 5 to the business parking lot. 
COURTESY advanced transportation systems

This idea—known most popularly as personal rapid transit (PRT)—may sound far-fetched, but it is quickly becoming a reality in more than one municipality around the world. London’s Heathrow Airport will begin operating a PRT system known as ULTra as soon as next spring, connecting its business car park to Terminal 5, with more stations planned for the future. It will include 18 battery-powered cars running on solid rubber wheels along a U-shaped concrete guideway. “We didn’t set out to devise a PRT system,” said Martin Lowson of Advanced Transport Systems, the designer of ULTra. “We set out to design the best possible transport for the 21st century. When you ask what do people want from transit, everyone comes to the same conclusion: They want it now, they want to go where they want to go without stopping, and they want it to be sustainable.”

On a more ambitious scale, Foster + Partners is developing a PRT system as the primary mode of transportation for its Masdar project—a carbon-neutral city of 70,000 currently under construction outside of Abu Dhabi. The firm has placed the podcars on terra firma and moved all pedestrian spaces up on a raised deck. It has also done away with the guideway. Instead, the vehicles will follow sensors embedded in the road. “We started initially looking at track systems, then moved onto the sensor-driven systems,” explained Gerard Evenden of Foster + Partners. “By taking the vehicle off the track, you increase maneuverability and the flexibility of the system.”

PRT systems are also in the works for existing cities. This year the Swedish government announced plans to install systems in four of its cities: Stockholm, Södertälje, Umeå, and Uppsala; and South Korea announced similar plans for Suncheon. On the home front in California, the city of San Jose issued an RFP in August seeking consultants to help it develop PRT around its airport. Officials in Ithaca, NY, and Mountainview and Santa Cruz, CA, have also expressed interest in the modality. And just to prove that it’s not exclusively a pipe dream, a 2007 report issued by New Jersey found that PRT had the potential to “address certain transportation needs in a cost-effective, environmentally-responsible, traveler-responsive manner.”

Vectus is a rail-based podcar system being developed in Sweden.
Courtesy Vectus Intelligent Transit

On paper, it’s easy to see the allure of PRT. For one, it offers some of the benefits of the automobile—on-demand, nonstop travel to your destination—while at the same time soaring above traffic on dedicated guideways, like a monorail. Unlike monorail or light rail, however, which travel in corridors, the system can be laid out in a grid pattern extending in multiple directions to better service an urban area. The small vehicles are cheaper than large train cars and thus their guideways can be built lighter and at less cost. The smaller vehicles also offer the benefit of easier braking, which drastically reduces the headway necessary between cars, allowing them to run closer together. And the system is significantly greener than automobiles or conventional rail: The lightweight vehicles require little energy to move, their nonstop trajectory avoids using the energy wasted in stopping and starting at red lights or multiple stations, and they emit no pollutants at the point of usage.

Like many ideas that sound fresh or even futuristic today, PRT has been around for a long time. Several transit-oriented thinkers in the United States came up with the idea more or less simultaneously in the 1950s, but the system didn’t pick up steam until the ‘60s, when a report by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) entitled Tomorrow’s Transportation posited that current modes of transit would not be able to remedy the growing congestion in American cities and strongly endorsed PRT as the answer in 1966. The report sparked a rash of research and development in the ‘70s. PRT systems were drawn up for several cities—including Los Angeles, Houston, Boston, and Tucson—and a number of vehicle and guideway designs were constructed in test facilities.

america's original prt system, in morgantown, west virginia, opened for service in 1972. 
brian m. powell

At the Foster + Partners–designed Masdar, podcars will ferry passengers and freight 23 feet below the city’s pedestrian causeways. 
courtesy foster+partners

The only such system to ever be implemented in an urban setting was a federally funded, quasi-PRT system designed to connect the three disparate campuses of the University of West Virginia in Morgantown. While it had most of the features of a true PRT system—vehicles running direct from origin to select destination on a dedicated guideway, with no intermediary stops—the cars were quite large, capable of moving up to 21 people each. Unfortunately, planners rushed the project to an October 1972 completion date so that President Nixon could ride it at the system’s inaugural ceremony. While the world was watching, the system failed, and dealt a deadly blow to PRT. After that, the federal government wouldn’t go near the pods. Engineers later ironed out the kinks, though, and the Morgantown PRT has been operating efficiently ever since.

The HUD report stimulated the development of PRT systems in other countries as well, including Japan, France, and what was then West Germany. The West German system, known as Cabintaxi, was the most thoroughly tested of any PRT system. Designed as a transit option for the city of Hamburg, it featured cars running both atop and suspended below a box girder, allowing two-way traffic on a single guideway. Cabintaxi was ready for deployment by 1980, when a recession hit and the West German government withdrew funding.

The only other PRT system to come this close to implementation was TAXI2000, originally developed at the University of Minnesota by Dr. J. Edward Anderson. In the early 1990s, the Raytheon Company—a defense contractor—purchased the system in order to win a contract from the Northeastern Illinois Regional Transportation Authority to develop a demonstration PRT system for Rosemont, Illinois. Rather than build on Dr. Anderson’s designs, however, Raytheon started from scratch, putting the project in the hands of its radar engineers. As a result, the guideway grew three times as wide, the cars four times as heavy, and the system so inordinately expensive that the project was shelved.

But the failure of PRT to take hold can’t be blamed entirely on economic doldrums and engineering snafus. The system itself presents major concerns that have given city planners reason to pause. As a new modality, it has no record of success to hearten those about to invest millions of dollars in implementation. There is also no hard data indicating that people will feel comfortable in a driverless pod. And the elevated guideway would change the face of any city perhaps more than its citizens would accept. Recent advances in computing technology, however, have made automatic control much more reliable than it was in the ‘70s, and driverless trains in Europe are now racking up good marks for safety. “It’s not the technology that’s the problem. It’s all the hoops you have to run through to get acceptance,” said Jerry Schneider, a PRT advocate and member of the Advanced Transit Association. “What we need is a cowboy like Ted Turner who can afford to lose the money if it doesn’t work out.”