Most people don’t know much about the Transportation Research Center, the second largest vehicle testing site in the U.S. Established in 1962, it’s now credited as being a major force behind autonomous vehicle development; the cars and other vehicles are tested and researched on the site’s miles of track. You’ve probably seen photos of cars going through their paces here, often covered in skins to make them unrecognizable.
Columbus CEO recently ran a story about the center and Brett Roubinek, the former NASCAR driver and radio host who now runs it. “Under Roubinek’s care, TRC has added an unprecedented capability to the organization—the $45 million SmartCenter, an automated and connected vehicle testing facility with over 1.1 million square feet of pavement and more than 20,000 linear feet of underground electrical conduits for holding wires,” it says. It’s a fascinating look into a place not a whole lot of people know about, and the research that may revolutionize transportation.
Read it here.
Much was written when Teslas under a new “Smart Summon” feature started crashing in parking lots–which was exactly where the feature was designed to work. This week, Wired took a shot at breaking down what that means for autonomous vehicles (AVs) in general, and why parking lots and garages will prove especially tricky for driverless cars. Among their findings:
- As designed now, AVs will likely lose their GPS signals in underground garages, leaving them to find their way without a main source of direction. While they can use cameras to navigate, experts fear tight spaces like garages might leave those systems not as helpful as they are on roads.
- Parking lots aren’t like highways, where other cars are all traveling in the same direction and around the same speed. Parking means bikes, people, and all sorts of vehicular movements and maneuvers.
- Parking lots, in particular, are less defined than roads–Teslas seem to be having a hard time figuring out what’s pavement and what’s grass, for example.
- Finally, parking lots are a uniquely human experience, with lots of nuance and rule-bending.
“In fact, parking lots are one of the most human places you could put a car that doesn’t need a human to drive,” the article says. “Their rules are not always consistent, and drivers, moreover, don’t always follow them. They’re full of little people-to-people interactions: a wave to let the dad behind the stroller know that that you’re going to stop and let him cross; a nod to tell the other driver to inform him that you’re waiting for this woman fiddling with her keys to finally pull out of her spot.”
Read the whole story here.
A new book suggests that autonomous cars will not only cart us around, but run our errands for us when we’re not even on board. This weekend, Engadget took a look at that, considering all the things we use our cars for that have nothing to do with going from point A to point B, and asking if shared cars are realistic for everyone.
“Do any of these people have kids?” writes columnist Andrew Tarantola. “Have they seen how much equipment, junk, and random stuff hauling around a human child generates? Have they thought about the logistics of moving all that stuff from car to car? No, of course they haven’t. Half the reason for having a car is that it is a mobile base for you and all the stuff you don’t know where else to put.”
“A car isn’t just a transportation device,” he continues. “It’s also a space. A location. A car is one of the few things that can be a means to a location and an independent location itself.”
There’s more to read and think about in the article, here. For more on what AVs might really mean to us, see what #IPI2019 keynoter Larry Burns, PhD., had to say in our interview.
Waymo, formerly known as Google’s self-driving car project, is getting ready to launch a robotic taxi service outside Phoenix, Ariz., stocked entirely with its autonomous vehicles. A story from Citylab says while the cars may drive themselves, there will be lots of humans behind the scenes, ready to jump in to help.
Teams in four different areas–technicians, dispatchers, fleet response, and rider support–in nearby Chandler, Ariz., will stand ready to intervene if and when the cars need it. Citylab explains, “What humans lack in regularity, precision, and relentlessness, we (typically) make up for with manual dexterity, adaptability, and excellent visual sensors. Anywhere Waymo can’t quite make things work automatically, in come the people. Humans are the masking tape, the glue, the putty, the clamp. Humans are the hack.”
Read the whole story here.