Posts tagged with "Self-Driving Cars":

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How sensing technologies can reshape architecture, public health, and cities

Carlo Ratti is the founder of the Turin, Italy-based firm Carlo Ratti Associati (CRA) and director of MIT’s Senseable City Lab. In both roles, he explores how technology can improve the built environment and, it follows, our lives. Recently in Turin, CRA completed the Agnelli Foundation headquarters, which employs a smartphone app to let occupants set personal temperature preferences that the building translates into individualized “thermal bubbles.” Meanwhile, the Senseable City Lab has been a steady source of data and visualization projects—such as mapping walking, running, and cycling trips in Boston and San Francisco—while dabbling in related fields like robotics. AN talked to Ratti about the opportunities and risks that wired, sensing, and smart architecture will bring.

The Architect’s Newspaper: How do you feel about the term “smart cities”? It has become very loosely defined and can refer to anything from superfast fiber-optic networks to autonomous vehicles.

Carlo Ratti: To be frank, I don’t feel that great about it. As you say, “smart city” is often used in a loose way. Also, too many times it equates to top-down approaches in the implementation of urban technological solutions—à la Masdar or Songdo. Our vision is different. When we started the Senseable City Lab at MIT and our design office Carlo Ratti Associati around ten years ago, we were interested in how our cities could become more “sense-able”: able-to-sense, sensible, and perhaps even more “sensitive.” And this has remained our main focus since then.

In many cases, that “sensing” means collecting masses of data—whether it’s trees, human movement, or ride-sharing potential—to reveal new efficiencies, solutions, or patterns.

We need to go back to the very notion of design. According to Herbert Simon, “the natural sciences are concerned with how things are…design, on the other hand, is concerned with how things ‘ought to be.’” I believe that designers must challenge what exists today, introduce new and alternate possibilities, and ultimately pave the way toward a desirable future. In this process, it is vital to get people’s input, which often happens online. In our latest book (The City of Tomorrow, Yale University Press, 2016), we call this method futurecraft.

But do you think there’s a privacy risk that comes with getting people’s input—their data? Are you concerned about surveillance?

I am very concerned—but more about what is happening in our pockets than about what is happening in our cities. Most of our activities—where we go, how we get there, what we buy, to name just a few—are recorded thousands of times every day and stored somewhere in the cloud. Who controls the data? How can we avoid data monopolies? Such questions are more topical than ever.

I would rather prefer a society where value comes not from data itself, but from what intelligence can extract out of it.

That intelligence can really benefit a society. Your projects Underworlds and Urban Exposures explore the public-health benefits of technology—something that is often overlooked in this discussion.

Both projects focus on data to provide a better understanding of human health in the city—which in turn can inspire policy action. Urban Exposures, for example, combines data from air quality measurement stations and human mobility to estimate human exposure to pollutants in a more accurate way.

Currently, it seems European cities are ahead of American cities when it comes to using technology for the public good.

It’s hard to generalize. Europe is very heterogeneous—Copenhagen or Stockholm are very different than, say, Valencia or Athens. What I often notice in the U.S. is a bias against government spending in public infrastructure—perhaps a soft version of “The Plot Against Trains” described by Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker. At the same time, we will find out soon how the trillion-dollar plan by President Trump on U.S. infrastructure will be spent—hopefully not just on walls...

On that topic, new technologies are creating huge opportunity to change—and profit from—how we move within existing infrastructure. As carmakers and ride-sharing companies race to capture that market, would you like to speculate on what “mobility” will look like in 20, even 50, years?

Autonomous vehicles promise to have a dramatic impact on urban life, blurring the distinction between private and public modes of transportation. “Your” car could give you a lift to work in the morning and then, rather than sitting idle in a parking lot, give a lift to someone else in your family—or, for that matter, to anyone. As a result, a single vehicle can go from one-hour usage per day to 24 hours. Under such conditions—and increased sharing of rides—we have calculated that the mobility demand of a city could be met with just a fraction of today’s vehicles.

There could also be dystopian scenarios, however. Car transportation could become so cheap that it might drain customers from subways and buses, turning our streets into an instantaneous gridlock. The impact of autonomous vehicles will depend on the policy decisions we make. I agree with my friend Robin Chase, founder of Zipcar, when she says that “simply eliminating the drivers from cars, and keeping everything else about our system the same, will be a disaster.”

Beyond urban infrastructure, your firm is focusing on infrastructure at the building scale—interior climate systems specifically. This goes all the way back to a 2011 paper you helped author, but most recently it was the focus of your app-driven design for the Agnelli Foundation headquarters. Why this interest in temperature, occupancy, light, and energy usage?

The 2011 paper shows that a staggering amount of energy is wasted on heating empty offices, homes, and partially occupied buildings. That finding prompted a series of projects where we tried to better synchronize human presence and climate control. The Agnelli Foundation, which opened just a few months ago, is the first application of such ideas at the architectural scale. We equipped a historical office building with digital sensors that monitor variables such as temperature, lighting levels, and matched this data with occupancy information.

When a person gets into a building and sets her preferences in term of temperature or lighting, the building-management system recognizes her and automatically responds by activating the system accordingly. It generates something like a “thermal bubble,” following a person within the building as she moves across the various rooms and corridors. The final outcome is better comfort for users as well as a substantial reduction in energy consumptions—estimated up to 40 percent. When all occupants leave, the room returns naturally to “standby mode” and saves energy, much as a computer would do.

We imagine that more and more buildings will be equipped with sensor networks—making architecture increasingly able to “sense and respond.” By designing climates, we might get closer to the vision of architecture as a third skin—an endlessly reconfigurable space able to adapt to human needs.

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A Michigan facility is the nation’s epicenter for testing self-driving cars

The race is on to develop connected and automated vehicles (CAV) that are viable and affordable. The road to this goal is not a simple one, though. While Silicon Valley is working on the software side of the challenge, the U.S. government is looking back to the place where it all began: Michigan. Specifically, Willow Run in Ypsilanti Township.

Willow Run was a B-52 manufacturing plant during World War II. Today, the site is in the middle of a transition that will make it the epicenter of automated-vehicle research. Willow Run is now home to the American Center for Mobility (ACM), and it has been designated as the first national CAV proving grounds by the Department of Transportation.

At over 500 acres, the center includes a variety of environments designed to simulate real-world situations. These include a 2.5-mile highway loop, a 700-foot-long curved tunnel, two double overpasses, and multiple intersections and roundabouts. Matched with Michigan’s varied and sometimes extreme weather, the center provides everything needed to put new autonomous testing technologies through their paces.

The first task of the facility will be to help establish voluntary standards for CAVs, infrastructure, and autonomous technologies. Along with the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) and SAE International, the center will work to identify the most immediately needed guidelines for safe automated transportation. The center is also working with the University of Michigan’s Mcity, a smaller research facility with its own proving ground. Mcity’s position within the greater university allows researchers access to the school’s engineers, public policy experts, and law, business, social sciences, and urban planning faculty.

As a public-private partnership, the center is also working with companies like Toyota and AT&T. Toyota, which already does automated research at Mcity, recently invested $5 million into the center. AT&T is providing a dedicated LTE cellular network needed for the communication side of the CAV equation.

“As we move forward with the development of autonomous cars, we must remember that not all test miles are created equal,” said Gill Pratt, CEO of Toyota Research Institute, at the announcement of the Toyota-ACM collaboration. “The road to creating a car as safe, or safer, than a human driver will require billions of test miles including simulation, real-world driving on public roads, and closed-course testing where we can expose our systems to extreme circumstances and conditions. The new ACM closed-course facility is a significant step forward in this journey and will accelerate our ability to help prevent crashes and save lives.”

According to the World Economic Forum, 10 percent of vehicles in the U.S. will be driverless by 2026. Before that can happen, new hardware and software will have to be developed to overcome issues of trust, cost, efficiency, and safety. The U.S. government is counting on Michigan’s automotive brain trust to solve these issues and move the country back into the lead position in the automotive industry.

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Driverless cars, bikes, and the future of urban transportation at Smart Cities NYC

This May 3 to May 6, the Brooklyn Navy Yard's Duggal Greenhouse is hosting the inaugural Smart Cities NYC conference and expo. Smart Cities NYC is ambitious in its scope, with a global selection of speakers whose backgrounds include government, the tech industry, academia, real estate/development, and design. Autonomous vehicles, public health, construction technology, resilient urban landscapes, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are just a few of the subjects being discussed. The Architect's Newspaper is covering the first two days of the conference—stay tuned for another article tomorrow! Transportation was a fixture of the first day's programming. At the "Integrated Urban Mobility" panel, the conversation revolved around how car and bike sharing companies were changing cities and their streetscapes. The panel kicked off with an urban design question: How will cities treat curbside parking now that, with the advent of car sharing, it's less necessary? Now that it's free for other uses, "space along the curb [may soon] be very valuable," said Jay Walder, CEO of bike share company Motivate. However, "one of the most challenging things cities need to do" is to determine how to regulate, share, and maintain these spaces as private care ownership disappears. While parking may be a relative afterthought for architects, it was a critical part of the transportation future for the panelists. Aaron Landry, general manager of car2go North America (a car-sharing service), explained how his company minimizes how long its cars occupy curbside space. By predicting and optimizing where car pickups and dropoffs happen, car2go's vehicles are rarely parked for long. Developers are also fighting parking requirements in new developments, instead opting to provide residents with transit subsidies or dedicated car share pickup/dropoff/storage points. Without parking requirements, developers can allot less valuable land to unproductive hardtop. The gradual elimination of parking also led to another major question: If parking meters, registration fees, tolls, and other related taxes disappear with car ownership, how will cities fund road maintenance? "We should absolutely have road pricing," said Walder, referencing tech-driven systems that track where and when individuals drive. Members of this panel, as well as later ones, agreed that such a system would be essential to funding road infrastructure in the future. The panel also tackled how bike and car shares fit into a city's larger transportation system. "We don't compete with the transit system," said Walder, "we're part of it." He stated that 40 percent of Citibike trips start and end near public transit. Similarly, Dan Curtin, vice president of Zipcar's Fleet and Supply Chain, said that private car ownership—not public transport—was Zipcar's primary adversary. In fact, he described how Zipcar customers use more public transit services once they give up their cars. (At a later panel, Michael Masserman, senior director of Federal & International Government Relations at Lyft, said that certain cities subsidize commuters to take Lyft to and from public transport, solving "last mile/first mile" challenges. Masserman also said car ride sharing services like Lyft could replace inefficient bus routes, such as those that run late at night and carry few customers.) Lastly, in cities everywhere "patterns of travel are more fundamentally complex than before," declared Walder. Greg Lindsay, the panel's moderator and Senior Fellow of the New Cities Foundation's Connected Mobility Initiative, pointed to apps like Portland's TriMet that consolidate various "subscriptions" of private and public transit in a single place. In theory, this would let commuters move fluidly between transportation options. Kristof Vereenooghe, CEO of EV-Box, a company that supplies electric charging stations and related services, added that such apps are already common in Europe. Overall, the panel seemed optimistic these changes would steadily snowball into a full transportation revolution. People are realizing the value of short commutes and, in a future of shared commuting, the financially vulnerable can also be freed from the monetary burdens of car ownership. Add developers into the mix of transportation-savvy urbanites, and there's a strong driving force for change. The "Transforming Transportation" panel dealt with a related topic: driverless cars. Dan Galves, chief communications officer at vision-based driver assistance systems company Mobileye, started the panel by saying fully driveless, autonomous, mass-produced cars could be here by 2024 to 2025. As compared to the previous panel, this one was even more bullish on the future: "All this technology is leading to seamless intermodal transportation—faster, safer, more tailored," said Scott Corwin, managing director of Deloitte Consulting's Future of Mobility Leader initiative. And as with a similar panel at another recent transportation conference, the consensus was that networks of shared, driverless, electric vehicles would be the ideal future scenario. But before we get there, the panel agreed that cities would act as crucial testbeds, using their varying and unique layouts to expose weaknesses in autonomous driving systems. One "tremendously huge challenge" does remain, said John Moavenzadeh, head of Mobility Industries and System Initiative at the World Economic Forum. Each city and country has its own "culture" for how to pay for its roads. A road pricing system (also a subject in the previous panel) will be a challenge to create. Corwin helped conclude the panel on a forceful note, saying we "need creative, digitally-based, sustainable, equitable solutions," because there will be no more 2nd Ave. Subways or Robert Moses to fix transportation challenges the old way. Want more technology news for the architecture, engineering, and construction industries? Don't miss The Architect's Newspaper's Tech+ expo, coming to New York City this May 23!
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Driverless vehicle testing facility breaks ground in Michigan

The American Center for Mobility, a non-profit product development and testing facility, has broken ground on a new driverless vehicle testing site in Ypsilanti, Michigan. The 335-acre mock town and highway facility is being built at the former World War II Willow Run bomber factory. The $80-million facility is planned to open in December 2017 and will be made available for private, government, and academic use. The site was picked because it already includes many structures and roadways that will aid in the testing, including wide-lane road and overpasses. When completed, the final campus will include multiple driving situations and settings including areas designated as residential, rural, urban, commercial, off-road, and high speed. The mission of the facility will be to test vehicle safety in a controlled, yet realistic, environment, as well as research mobility technologies. “This is the start of a new era at a site incredibly rich with history,” said John Maddox, president and CEO of the American Center for Mobility. “While there are many well-known transportation and manufacturing innovations at this site, the first use of this property was as a teaching orchard developed by Henry Ford. We’re planting an apple tree here today to honor the heritage and continue the tradition of innovation, education, and good stewardship.” The Willow Run complex was originally built in 1941 by the Ford Motor Company to produce components for the Douglas Aircraft B-24 Liberator heavy bomber. In less than a year, the plant began producing and assembling the entire aircraft. By 1945, when production seized, Willow Run had produced nearly half of the Liberators for the war effort. Along with the plant, an airport was built so the planes could take off immediately after production. After the war, the airport was transferred to civilian use and the plant was bought and sold multiple times. The last owner and operator of the plant was Ford’s rival General Motors. The American Center for Mobility is a joint initiative between the Michigan Department of Transportation, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the University of Michigan, the Business Leaders for Michigan and Ann Arbor SPARK.
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Will the rise of self-driving vehicles signal the death of the traffic light?

The dawn of self driving cars promises to be an exciting new era for transport. However, what exactly lies ahead is still up for debate. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Swiss Institute of Technology (ETHZ), and the Italian National Research Council (CNR) have outlined how traffic signals could be rendered obsolete if automated vehicles get their way. The development is known as "slot-based intersections," and if realized, would significantly reduce queuing, delays, and pollution. If evidence from any science fiction movie is anything to go by, it's that humans have very little trust in automated technology. It's easy to picture: panic as your self-driving car appears to be careering into another, only to miss by a a tiny margin, all perfectly predicted by an automated system of course. https://vimeo.com/106226560 That may be an exaggeration, but Professor Carlo Ratti, Director of the MIT Senseable City Lab and his team have produced a model that shows cars zipping through a four-way intersection both without stopping or slowing down and remaining unscathed. “Traffic intersections are particularly complex spaces, because you have two flows of traffic competing for the same piece of real estate,” he said in a press release regarding the study, published in detail here. “But a slot-based system moves the focus from the traffic level to the vehicle level. Ultimately, it’s a much more efficient system, because vehicles will get to an intersection exactly when there is a slot available to them.” https://youtu.be/4CZc3erc_l4 Trust in such a system would have to be high. Communication between cars would have to be flawless and safety measures for failure would also have to be in place. That said, if implemented, the system would speed up journey time and also reduce pollution by cutting down on the time spent idle at traffic signals. Of course, signal-less interchanges already exist, they're called roundabouts. But the possibility for human error (and hence collisions) still exists in the roundabout, along with the need to give way to others.
"Slot-based intersections are similar to slot-based management systems used for air-traffic control," say the team. "Upon approaching an intersection, a vehicle automatically contacts a traffic management system to request access. Each self-driving vehicle is then assigned an individualized time or “slot” to enter the intersection." Speed limits could also change. If a perfect system can plot every movement, why not travel at the fastest, yet safest, possible speed? This is just one of the questions arising as self-driving cars become more and more likely to enter our lives. Would car lanes also be made thinner? Vehicles won't be making mistakes so why not cram as many in as we can and maximize efficiency? https://youtu.be/sQuJ8GKTjFM In terms of having a central traffic organizing system, getting different car manufacturers to be completely open with each other is another major bridge that would need to be crossed. And as for the more pressing issue of automated vehicles' interaction with humans, MIT's Senseable City Lab responds by saying: "slot-based intersections are flexible and can easily accommodate pedestrian and bicycle crossing with vehicular traffic."
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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.