eTrans Systems, George Mason University Win Fairfax County Transportation and Mobility Hackathon

Jennifer van der Kleut

Teams from Fairfax, Virginia’s eTrans Systems and students from George Mason University’s College of Science led the winners of the Fairfax County Government’s first Transportation and Mobility Hackathon.

Held just before the Thanksgiving holiday, the contest encouraged teams to present innovative solutions to pressing problems such as traffic, congestion, public safety, advancing of connected and automated vehicle technology, and increasing mobility for senior and disabled citizens.

Submissions were judged over many criteria, including potential for scalability and widespread adoption, use of a diverse set of data in its design and approach, the potential for the biggest impact on local safety and quality of life, and how easily organizations could partner to implement the process.

eTrans Systems presented the idea for the E-Walk smartphone application, which would connect the user to traffic infrastructure and nearby connected vehicles in real time. The application would not only help the average cyclist or pedestrian as they approach traffic intersections, but would significantly improve safety for the disabled and visually impaired, who have a tough time finding that crosswalk button or being able to tell if vehicles or other humans are coming in their direction.

As the first-place winner of the Hackathon, eTrans Systems was awarded $3,000 by the Fairfax County Government for further work in developing the E-Walk app.

Runners-up included second-place winners All Traffic Solutions and third-place winners Qlarion.

The top winners in the student category, the team from George Mason University (GMU), presented their artificial-intelligence-driven early crash warning system, which won them a $1,500 prize.

Other entrants included Go Together, Virginia Department of Transportation, Virginia Tech, Fluxity, Edge360 and Old Dominion University.

See video of many of the pitch presentations on the Fairfax County Government’s Hackathon web page.

Image via Pixabay

East Coast DOT’s Get Ready for Connected & Automated Vehicles

East Coast transportation officials gathered this week near Baltimore to catch up with the latest in autonomous activity at the ‘Connected & Automated Vehicles: What States Need to Know’ conference.

The event was organized and led by the I-95 Corridor Coalition, a partnership of state departments of transportation and related agencies in the 16-state region from Maine to Florida. Roads in these states account for 16 percent of the nation’s road miles and 35 percent of vehicle miles traveled.

The conference was designed to explain the importance of connected and automated technology, update officials on activities in the sector nationwide, and help assist states in developing next steps, said Dr. Trish Hendren, executive director of the Coalition.

About 200 registered for the conference at the Maritime Institute in Linthicum, Md.

Much of the conference was devoted to officials from state DOTs and related agencies updating each other on activities within their borders.

Here are some highlights from the first day of the conference –


A number of state DOT officials stressed how connected technology may help save the agency some bucks. Virginia DOT’s Dean Gustafson noted that Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) communications could mean the elimination of various signs and traffic signals that cost as much as $1 billion to develop, install, maintain.

Joah Sapphire, who has worked on the New York DOT’s connected efforts for Global Dynamic Group, suggested that a DOT could look at individual line items and find savings. For example, information gathered through connected tech could help New York reduce the $417 million it spends annually on salt and sand to treat roads during bad weather.

New York is already testing driverless trucks to be used in work zones that could make the space safer for crews, said Sapphire.

Gustafson said that states have to work together so communication systems work across borders. He acknowledged that states can be very competitive, especially when they seek research dollars or revenues from technology.

“It will be hard to compete with Michigan and the auto industry there. And Silicon Valley and venture capital (in California),” said Gustafson, state operations engineer. 

(However, Virginia is no slouch, busy testing with the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, expanding its testbed last year to include parts of Washington Beltway, the Federal Highway Administration working on parts of Virginia’s Connected Corridors, and more ongoing projects.)

Gregory C. Johnson, state highway administrator for Maryland, said that states should look to ways to monetize the V2I technology and the highway land they own. “I’m looking for a state to come up with that magic bullet (of monetization) so I can copy them,” said Johnson.


Gene Donaldson, TMC operations manager with the Delaware DOT, said he has insisted the state install information-gathering technology whenever it lays down highways. And he teased the crowd by saying a certain firm asked Delaware if it could run its autonomous vehicle across the state to Pennsylvania. (The answer was yes as Delaware law doesn’t forbid it, said Donaldson. He wouldn’t name the firm.)

However, he warned that schools aren’t training enough people today in technology already installed, like traffic signals. How do you take advantage of V2I technology if you don’t have staff ready to work with it, asked Donaldson.


Several officials gave reports of strong research they are doing on connected and autonomous technology.

Dr. Gene McHale of the FHWA talked about research conducted in the Washington, D.C. metro area. The FHWA is testing connected vehicle tech with the 5.9 GHz band at nearby air bases and labs, and on I-66 in Virginia. One finding — 22 percent fuel savings when fully automated ‘glide path’ systems are used so vehicles avoid stopping at intersections.

Mark Kopko, manager of advanced vehicle technology with the Pennsylvania DOT, said the state is operating three testbeds with more than 20 intersections equipped with DSRC technology around Pittsburgh. Keystone State’s jewel is Carnegie Mellon, a robotics and autonomous technology leader.

The Pennsylvania legislature could soon consider SB 1268 that will allow NHTSA Level 4 testing, said Kopko. If approved, Pennsylvania will have greater leeway in driverless testing, and it already has plans regarding truck platooning.


Adam Jonas, a transportation analyst with Morgan Stanley, woke up the crowd after lunch with a presentation on the changes coming to the transportation business.

The ‘shared autonomy’ industry will be led by giants like Apple and Google who develop driverless vehicles that offer personalized transportation services akin to what Uber and Lyft are doing today, Jonas predicted.

People worldwide now ride a total of 10 trillion miles annually, said Jonas, and at $1 a mile, the market for transporting people is $10 trillion.

That’s an intriguing figure but the real money comes when the ‘megafleet’ operators sell to advertisers and others the eyeballs of riders sitting in the driverless cars.

Increased safety and reduction in deaths and injuries that connected technology brings will encourage citizens to shift to driverless vehicles and give up some privacy, Jonas argued.

Also, Jonas predicted a public/private partnership between a city and business in 2018 or 2019 will set aside an area exclusive to operating connected and/or automated vehicles. He declined to name the city.


Several speakers suggested the state officials may want to leave comments for the Federal Communications Commission as it considers whether to open up the 5.9 GHz spectrum to Wi-Fi communications.

In brief, the federal government set this section of the spectrum aside in 1999 for transportation safety messages using Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC). Connected vehicle proponents want to keep this space for this use as the technology grows.

Telecommunications firms have asked the FCC to allow them to use at least part of the 5.9 band. These firms say they will use it to offer bandwidth for Wi-Fi as it surges in popularity.

“The wireless community is very vocal,” said Blair Anderson, deputy administrator with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Dr. Gummada Murthy, associate director, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, is fighting to keep the band reserved for transportation-related uses.  

“We don’t want to share it unless you can prove that sharing it will not compromise safety,” said Murthy.

He’s holding a webinar on June 30 for state DOT and local officials that will encourage them to send official comments to the FCC on DSRC.


A number of these East Coast speakers attended last week’s ITS America 2016 conference in San Jose. General impression was the technology was impressive, the number of connected and autonomous projects was impressive, the conference was impressive. Etc.


HERE announced it had been selected by the North Carolina Department of Transportation to provide its real-time traffic data for the state’s roadways. North Carolina joins seven other East Coast states in using Here’s Real-time Traffic Services.

North Carolina DOT chose Here through the I-95 Corridor Coalition’s Vehicle Probe Project that is designed so states and others can purchase, validate and share data.


Interesting to see who is spending some money to catch the eye of East Coast transportation officials. Conference sponsors included Ch2m, HNTB, Inrix, Jacobs, National Energy Research Laboratory (NREL), and WSP/Parsons Brinckerhoff.

Exhibitors included Cambridge Systematics, CATT Lab from the University of Maryland, Consensus Systems Technologies, HERE, Inrix, Kapsch TrafficCom, Kimley-Horn, NREL, and Southwest Research Institute.

The I-95 Corridor Coalition addresses such major topics as alternative transportation system funding, freight supply chain, MAP-21, FAST Act implementation, tolling issues, and connected and automated vehicles.

Live Demos Key to ITS America’s San Jose Conference

Burney Simpson

Hands-on, close-up demos of connected and autonomous vehicle technology will be a key part of the upcoming ITS America 2016 San Jose conference June 12-16 in the city’s McEnery Convention Center.

The conference “Integrated Mobility. Transportation Redefined.” will offer the “#THISisITS Exhibits and Demonstrations,” June 13-15.

The demonstrations include:

Lear Corporation: Intelligent Transportation Navigating Traffic

Visitors can ride in a vehicle and experience vehicle to vehicle (V2V), vehicle to infrastructure (V2I), and cellular communications. There will be examples of warnings, situational awareness, and vehicle tracking information. Cellular communication will be used to demonstrate a variety of remote vehicle commands and tracking technologies. Sign up in Lear Corp. booth 423, event is on Viola Street.

Wave Mobile Solutions Cameras, Data, and Safety Using Light Rail

GRIDSMART and Wave Mobile Solutions will conduct an integrated demonstration of the Gridsmart Technologies’ bell shaped 360-degree camera along with a Wave Mobile Solutions FiberWire 8011 DSRC RSU. The camera and the RSU will be installed at the corner of San Carlos and Market in front of the Marriott. The San Jose VTA Lightrail will be used for a demonstration where the RSU will send out DSRC basic safety messages alerting the light rail and DSRC-equipped vehicles of vehicles, pedestrians or bicycles in the cross walk. Sign-Up at Wave Mobile’s booth 938, and the demo will be in the plaza in front of the McEnery Center.

Heavy Truck Cooperative Adaptive Cruise Control Demonstration Ride – PATH

Visitors can ride in a heavy truck on the SR-87 freeway in San Jose as part of a string of three trucks with the followers’ speed under cooperative adaptive cruise control (CACC). Visitors will experience the use of DSRC vehicle-to-vehicle communication to coordinate the speeds of the trucks. They will also experience the responses of the following trucks when a car cuts in between the trucks.

The demonstration was developed by the University of California PATH Program and Volvo Group under the sponsorship of the FHWA Exploratory Advanced Research Program and the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans). Sign-Up at USDOT booth 407; visitors will be picked up on S. Almaden Street.

Savari Vehicle Predictive Safety

This live in-vehicle demonstration will showcase Savari’s suite of V2V safety applications that include Forward Collision Warning, Blind Spot Warning, Lane Change Assist, and Intersection Movement Assist. Sign-Up in Savari booth 916; the demo will be on Viola Street.

San Jose Valley Transit Authority (VTA) Transit Safety

The VTA will conduct three demonstrations – a Smart Bus Stop, a Transit Vehicle Collision Avoidance System, and an On-Board Passenger Information Monitor.

Smart Bus Stop – VTA, Renesas, and eTrans Systems are collaborating to demonstrate a system that uses DSRC technology to notify bus operators of passengers waiting at bus stops. With this system, when a passenger arrives at a bus stop, the passenger identifies what bus they want, and when the bus approaches, messages are exchanged and the bus knows if it has a valid passenger and must stop.

Collision Avoidance – VTA and Rosco Systems will demonstrate a multi-vision sensor system that provides visual and audible alerts to transit vehicle drivers if a pedestrian or bicyclist are in a danger zone when the bus is moving.

On Board Mobile PIM’s (Passenger Information Monitors) – VTA and Allied Telesis will demonstrate an advanced passenger information monitor that makes graphical geo-coded transit information available to passengers while on board buses and trains. The system will also be interactive with the customer smartphone.

Sign-Up for any of the demos at eTrans Systems’ booth 436; the demos will be conducted in the parking lot.

Renesas Riding Along With Advanced ADAS and Data

Visitors will take a ride in the Renesas Advanced ADAS vehicle to see a series of V2V and V2I applications, including collision warnings, red-light warnings, and road constructions warnings. Advanced camera analytics will generate additional information for passenger safety, and visitors will see the advanced ADAS capabilities built into the Renesas vehicle. Sign Up in eTrans Systems’ booth 436 for the demonstration on nearby Convention Center streets.

The Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America) is an advocate for today’s leading industries marrying tech and transportation to advance safety, efficiency and sustainability and putting “transportation” at the center of the Internet of Things.

States on Front Lines on Driverless Policy: Seminar

Burney Simpson

State legislators will be among the most influential writers of driverless vehicle policy and an upcoming seminar will argue it is essential they are involved as the technology evolves nationwide.

The one-day “Automated Vehicle Policy and Regulation: A State Perspective Workshop” will be held on Wednesday, May 18, at the University of Maryland.

“Most transportation legislation is created at the state and local level. State legislators are on the front lines of the changes we will see with this technology,” said Stanley Young, the conference organizer and advanced transportation and urban scientist with the National Research Energy Laboratory (NREL).

“We need to get state and local officials engaged and aware of the issues as these massive changes occur in society,” said Young.

He notes that driverless transportation has the potential to reduce traffic fatalities and accidents, improve mobility for seniors and people with disabilities, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions as vehicle idling and wasted trips

The seminar runs from 8:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the Howard Frank Auditorium at the Robert H. Smith School of Business, on the school’s College Park campus, near Washington, D.C.

Most states have yet to address autonomous and connected vehicle technology even though it could impact transportation for years to come. This is despite huge media attention on the topic, and a few states that are actively testing the technology.

Transportation experts will have to add autonomous vehicles to their discussion topics which traditionally have focused on highways and transit, said Young.

The workshop brings together a number of nationally-known experts in the driverless field.

Bryant Walker Smith, developer of the Center for Internet and Society website that tracks state legislative activity on driverless technology, will be on the opening panel framing the issues.

Smith will be joined by Robert Peterson, co-author of A Look at the Legal Framework for Driverless Vehicles (See “Send Lawyers, Guns and Driverless Vehicles”), and Frank Douma, who will discuss Minnesota’s initiative on mobility and people with disabilities.

Another panel features state legislators active in autonomous vehicles. State Sen. Mark Green of Tennessee (See “Tennessee Senate Scheduled to Vote on Proposed Driverless Law SB 1561 This Week”), and Del. Glenn Davis of Virginia will discuss their recently enacted legislation designed to build driverless-oriented business and encourage research on the technology (See “Careful Steps on Driverless Laws for Tennessee, Virginia”).

There will also be discussion on the opportunities for merging energy and transportation issues. The seminar will conclude with remarks from Alain Kornhauser, director of Princeton University’s Transportation Research Program.

The workshop is sponsored by the Center for Advanced Transportation Technology (CATT) at the University of Maryland, the I-95 Corridor Coalition, and NREL, a division of the U.S. Department of Energy.

Photo: FBI Press Conference by Jay Baker, 2014

Canada Plans for the Disruption of Automated Vehicles

Barrie Kirk

Barrie Kirk, co-founder and executive director of the Canadian Automated Vehicles Centre of Excellence (CAVCOE), reports from last week’s Toronto conference — Automated Vehicles: Planning the Next Disruptive Technology.

The Automated Vehicles: Planning the Next Disruptive Technology conference was organized by the Conference Board of Canada and attracted a large number of attendees from all levels of government, the private sector and academia.

Highlights included:

  • I had the opportunity to give the keynote address opening the conference. I gave an overview of just what automated vehicles will mean — huge, disruptive changes to our lives, society and the economy. Our cities and our world will look very different in 2030 compared to today. We need this to be actively managed by all levels of government to maximize the benefits to everybody in the 21st century.
  • Antoine Belaieff of Metrolinx, a public transportation agency in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area, spoke about the benefits of AVs for greater mobility, safety, lowering costs, and the opportunities to re-invent trucking and goods movement.
  • Stephen Buckley of the City of Toronto described how AVs can be used to build better cities. He asked: “How do we harness AVs to give us the city we want?”
  • John Eddy of ARUP suggested a government policy of no new lane miles.
  • Antonio Gomex-Palacio of DIALOG described the real opportunities for re-designing cities if we can eliminate personal car ownership. For example, condos are now being built in Toronto without parking.
  • A very interesting session addressed data ownership and data privacy. A key battle is between the different stakeholders who all want to own the data generated by AVs. Also, there is no such thing as 100 percent security of data and this will be an ongoing issue. Another area of concern is “function creep” in which data is collected for one purpose and is then used for something else. This is an area where we need government intervention and standards because, clearly, the market is not addressing this.
  • Karlyn Stanley of Rand Corp. discussed the similarities between data from smartphones and that from AVs and connected vehicles. From a data perspective, an AV is a smartphone on wheels. The auto industry lacks a consensus on protecting data generated by cars. This is made worse by consumers’ willingness to trade personal data to obtain benefits, which is the case with Usage Based Insurance (UBI).
  • Sean Rathwell with Dillon Consulting reported on a recent series of discussions with municipalities. The conclusion is that municipalities are not prepared for the arrival of AVs. Similarly, the transit agencies will be reactive and wait for the technology. Sean also said that current traffic modelling tools are not adequate for analyzing traffic in the AV era.
  • Yves Provencher of PIT Group, in a session of goods movement, described platooning trials in the US and Europe and the work being done by Daimler, Peterbilt and others to develop autonomous trucks. One concept that Yves described is a motorized trailer that could join up with other, similar trailers to form a convoy.

Although Canada has, unfortunately, been lagging behind the U.S. in its preparations for automated vehicles, the overall conclusion from the large number of attendees and the level of interest is that the momentum is building at many different levels.

Linked to this, Canada’s new federal government is developing a new, larger innovation agenda that will be announced in the fall, and the recent budget includes funds for Transport Canada to develop a federal regulatory framework for AVs. It is clear that Canada will be far more pro-active in the AV space in the months and years ahead.

Image by ARUP.

Mobileye, Peloton, Savari Named Top Young Innovators

Burney Simpson

Influential driverless firms Mobileye, Peloton and Savari have been chosen as three of the 60 young firms worldwide that are leading technology innovation.

The list of 60 Young and Reinvented Companies Set to Transform the Technology Marketplace was released recently by ABI Research, an international business research and analysis firm that covers technology.

Firms chosen were not “mega companies driving core markets” but instead were those “smaller–harder to see–young and reinvented companies that are enabling real, sustainable change from the margins of industry,” according to ABI.

Savari was chosen due to its mix of technology in the Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V), and Vehicle-to-Infrastructure communications arena (V2I), said James Hodgson, industry analyst, autonomous driving and location tech, with ABI.

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Savari provides onboard units for vehicles along with the street-infrastructure devices needed for V2I communication to work, said Hodgson.

And Savari has some bottom-line business connections that give it an advantage, he said.

It is on the preferred vendor list of the U.S. Department of Transportation as connected tests rollout. Plus its contract with Cadillac times well as the auto OEM prepares to release the 2017 CTS with V2V communication technology.

Mobileye bends the concept of the 60 list a bit, acknowledges Hodgson, as it is a publicly-traded firm that’s comparably larger than some of the other 60 firms.

He likes what he calls Mobileye’s realistic approach to creating a map of the world by using cameras on vehicles. Mobileye announced at the CES 2016 in January its plan to partner with GM, Volkswagen, and other auto OEMs to create maps for autonomous vehicles.

That lays the groundwork for images that can support semi-autonomous vehicles in the 2025-2030 timeframe.

In comparison, competitors like HERE seek to use LiDAR and other sensors to build maps.

“We’re not ready for that, there aren’t enough vehicles on the road with LiDAR,” argues Hodgson.

The work of Peloton also fits the realistic approach to implementing autonomous and connected technology, said Hodgson.

Peloton’s Truck Platooning System electronically couples pairs of freight-hauling trucks by using V2V communications, radar-based braking systems, and proprietary vehicle control algorithms.

Tests have shown paired trucks save on fuel due to better aerodynamics, and the monitoring of the vehicles means safer driving.

“This technology makes for a safer, more efficient way of moving goods around,” said Hodgson. “This is not 20-30 years from now. It’s achievable in the short term. It can transform its industry.”

Wyoming, Home of America’s Deadliest Highway, Hopes Connected Vehicle Pilot Will Reduce Crashes

Jennifer van der Kleut

One state’s Department of Transportation thinks connected vehicle technology could be the solution to solving the problem of one of the country’s deadliest highways.

Officials say Wyoming’s I-80 is one of the most dangerous highways in America. According to the Wyoming Business Report,  there were 50 injuries and one death on I-80 in April 2015 alone. In June, a family of three was killed on the same road.

Therefore, Wyoming’s DOT (WYDOT) announced this month it is turning to connected vehicle technology to try and improve safety on the highway.

The state is currently preparing for tests of a connected vehicle pilot program, in connection with USDOT. Test cars will be outfitted with technology that will allow the cars to communicate with each other, as well as with state infrastructure.

The Business Report says WYDOT is partnering with the University of Wyoming, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the University of Maryland Center for Advanced Transportation Technology, and Trihydro, an environmental engineering and consulting firm.

Part of the project will consist of installing short-wave communication devices in test vehicles that will allow them to send and receive safety messages.

The second phase of the program will involve installing technology in commercial trucks.

The information they can transmit will include the direction of travel, how fast it is traveling, and whether the vehicle is approaching a dangerous situation, explained WYDOT project manager Ali Ragan.

Though officials say the technology may not be able to eliminate all crashes on I-80 or other similar roads, it may at least help reduce the severity of crashes.

The Wyoming Tribune Eagle reports the technology will also be added to WYDOT’s mobile app, so that even if certain vehicles don’t have the special technology installed, they can view the safety messages through the app.

The first phase of the project is already underway and will continue through September, when the second phase will begin and is expected to last around 20 months. Then a third phase will begin, which will mostly involve analysis of the testing and evaluation of data collected.

U.S. Finalists for Smart City Challenge Announced, Will Now Compete for $40 Million in Funding

Jennifer van der Kleut

At the SXSW Festival over the weekend, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced the seven finalists for a unique challenge that could garner the winning city $40 million in funding to transform their town into a driverless “utopia.”

As Gizmodo explains, the country’s Smart City Challenge is a “fast-track initiative” to get cities thinking more about smart, high-tech solutions to urban transportation–with a particular focus on autonomous vehicles.

After receiving proposals, Foxx announced seven finalist cities that will compete for $40 million in funding from the Department of Transportation (DOT) for the implementation of their ideas.

The seven finalist cities are:

  • Austin, Texas
  • Columbus, Ohio
  • Denver, Colorado
  • Kansas City, Missouri
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Portland, Oregon
  • San Francisco, California

Gizmodo reports that the challenge was initially announced across the country in connection with the DOT’s “Beyond Traffic” report, which warned cities that if they didn’t start preparing for autonomous transportation soon–a big push by the Obama administration, which recently pledged $4 billion to help make it happen–they could find themselves wasting millions on infrastructure improvements that become obsolete as the technology becomes the new norm.

The competition was specifically open to midsize cities with populations between 250,000 and 850,000. Finalists were selected based on “how well their proposals match the DOT’s goals — and how likely they look to succeed,” CNET said.

CNET reports that DOT representatives were “blown away” by the quality of the 78 submissions they received from cities all over the country. In fact, they had initially planned on five finalists, but added an extra two because they were so impressed.

The seven finalist cities will now receive $100,000 each and begin work with some of the world’s most powerful tech companies to fine-tune and streamline their project ideas.

The winning city, to be announced in June, will not only receive up to $40 million in funding from the DOT, but Gizmodo reports they “will receive tools and assistance from several partners, including data storage by Amazon Web Services, driver-assistance tech from Mobileye, a 3D modeling platform from Autodesk, and a V2V communication system from NXP.”

The winner will also get up to $10 million more from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s company Vulcan, “which is focused on vehicle emissions reduction and helping cities to stop climate change.”

“I want our country to lead the world in transportation again,” Foxx said. “Unfortunately we got into this practice of thinking small, and we can’t afford to do it anymore if we’re going to lead the world in economic growth and quality of life and pass along a country that is better than the one we inherited,” Foxx told Gizmodo.

Maryland Moving on Autonomous Vehicles

Burney Simpson

Maryland recently launched the Autonomous Vehicle Working Group to research the impact of driverless technology on safety, insurance, licensing, privacy, cybersecurity, and other major issues.

The group includes about 20 leaders  from its state agencies, along with reps from auto and trucking trade groups.

The second meeting of the working group ended last week with a sense that autonomous technology could impact virtually all ground transportation in the state. Indeed, the group decided to rename itself the Connected and Autonomous Vehicle Working Group to better reflect the growth of connected technology.

During the meeting there were presentations from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) of the Transportation Research Bureau (TRB).

Nat Beuse, NHTSA’s associate administrator for vehicle safety research, discussed the U.S. Department of Transportation’s call for $4 billion in driverless research dollars, its plans to release this year a model state policy on autonomous vehicles, and the Smart Cities competition.


Beuse noted that NHTSA is talking cybersecurity with Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, Md.

Ray Derr, NCHRP project manager, said his organization receives $40 million in pooled funds annually from the states. It is in the midst of several research projects related to driverless technology, including its impact on society, regulations/policies, freight, and transit.

Derr said that trucking freight firms may be early driverless technology adopters as they consider platooning of trucks.

Platooning, also known as tethering, refers to the practice of two or more trucks connected on the highway with Wi-Fi communications technology. The trucks travel closely in tandem, improving aerodynamics and lowering fuel costs by 5 to 10 percent. (See “Truck Slow Down Could Speed Truck Platooning”).


Tethering makes sense for “firms that make multiple runs, where a truck visits the same place several times on the same day,” said Louis Campion, president of the Maryland Motor Truck Association.

Trucks operated by Wal-Mart and other large retailers make these kinds of trips between their stores and distribution centers, Campion said. “This is moving fairly rapidly,” said Campion.

If platooning catches on, trucking firms will need more talented and trained technicians, he said.

Beuse and Derr also made several next-step recommendations.

In the near term, start looking at current laws that will be impacted by the technology, said Beuse.

Keep your eye on aftermarket technology and ‘shade tree mechanics’ that want to install driverless equipment in their vehicles, said Beuse. This is all so new its unknown how the technology will perform.

AVS 2016

Derr suggested working group members attend the Automated Vehicles Symposium 2016 to be held July 19-21 in San Francisco. The event, sponsored by the TRB and the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, will include seminars on issues the working group is considering, said Derr.

In the meantime, check out what such leaders as California and Michigan are doing in the driverless arena, said Derr.

Long term, be prepared for public push back when there are accidents or the technology doesn’t perform as promised by some of its advocates, said Beuse.

In addition, there will be discussion on privacy issues related to the data collected by the state from connected technology.

The Maryland working group is chaired by Christine Nizer of the state’s Motor Vehicle Administration.

Members include reps from Maryland’s departments of disabilities, information technology, aging, legislative services, and others. The Maryland Insurance Administration, the state police, the State Highway Administration, and the Transportation Authority (tolls), are also involved.

There are also reps from AAA–Mid Atlantic, the truck group, and an auto manufacturer’s trade group.

The working group met as Maryland’s legislature failed to pass a proposal that would fund its own study group (See “Autonomous Vehicle-Testing Dollars Entice States”).

Nissan Video: Fossil Fuel is for Fossils

Burney Simpson

Nissan believes our auto future is an all electric, autonomous, and sustainable-powered vehicle – no fossil fuel here –  that generates enough energy to power its owner’s home, according to this new video from the auto OEM.

The vehicles will garner their power from solar/wind/what-have-you sustainable sources.

They will communicate with each other to schedule alternating visits to the Vehicle-to-Infrastructure wireless recharging stations that have been implanted in the streets.

The car will be emission free, so it can drive INTO your office, then take itself to the closest recharging station. That’s apparently right down the hall from the kitchen so you can watch Nessy get a charge up while you get your coffee.

The video makes it look effortless. I expected to see butterflies floating through the model city here that has replaced its parking lots with parks. (By the by, what happens to all the lovely gas stations we enjoy today?)

It’s fascinating that a major auto OEM — revenues of $104 billion in fiscal 2014 —  is working to end the use of fossil fuels to power vehicles. (At least that’s what they say).

And it let’s potential buyers know of one of the major side-benefits of electric vehicles. That is, buy a Nissan Leaf  and get both an economical car and a power source for when the lights go out.

The video by Nissan Europe and Foster + Partners was released at the Geneva Motor Show.

However, the video doesn’t address some of the other radical changes that driverless technology may bring to firms like Nissan.

For instance, by 2030 Mary Consumer will opt for a car-share service instead of buying a car. That means GM’s $500 million investment in Lyft will prove to be farsighted when it evolves into Transport MegaCorp X, and supplies Metropolis Y with 500,00 vehicles that its 10 million residents share.

So it’s possible that Nissan will stop selling cars to consumers. Perhaps by 2030 it will have morphed into an energy company that markets its batteries. Naah, I don’t see that either. But it could become Transport MegaCorp N.

Anyway, check out the ‘Fuel Station of the Future’ video. It’s well made and offers much to think about.



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