Tag Archives: autonomous

No Driverless Cars Yet? Blame Human Nature

By some estimates, we should have been relaxing in our autonomous cars by now. But that dream keeps getting pushed back, and Fast Company says they know why: Basic human nature.

Developers tend to assume that people can “partially” pay attention while using a “semiautonomous” car. Levels 2-4 describe certain amounts of autonomy that the vehicles can achieve, but always with the caveat that the driver needs to be ready to take control.

But people don’t behave that way in the car. They either they pay attention, or they don’t. In fact, test drivers of various autonomous vehicles have told me that it’s actually harder for a human to remain ready to take control than it is for them to fully control the vehicle.

The article explains that human reaction time isn’t good enough to wrest control away from a computer quickly enough to avoid accidents, which has made almost-autonomous vehicles–an anticipated stepping stone to full autonomous driving–nearly impossible.

Read the whole story here.

Driverless Buses to Hit Real Roads in Florida

EasyMile self-driving bus on a roadTwelve-passenger, driverless buses will hit real roads in Gainesville, Fla., later this year, marking the first time autonomous shuttles travel among other traffic in the U.S.

Currently in testing on closed courses, the EasyMile electric buses will run four-mile routes between downtown Gainesville and the University of Florida. They’ll have standby operators on board in case anything goes wrong, and riding them will be free during a three-year trial period.

Read the whole story here.

The Future of Fleets

Cover of the January issue of Parking & Mobility magazineFleets of self-driving vehicles are about to become the norm. What does that mean for the parking and mobility industry? We’ll give you a hint: They’re driverless. Autonomous vehicles will change the fundamentals of the entire transportation landscape, and that includes fleets–and the way they interact with parking and mobility facilities and infrastructure.

Jesse Garcia, director, strategy and corporate development with ParkMobile, shares research and predictions for fleets and what upcoming changes will mean in the latest issue of Parking & Mobility, including who will own them, how they’ll operate, what they’ll mean for parking and mobility organizations (particularly in municipalities), and how to prepare for the disruption to come.

“There is much more to the autonomous fleets of the future than simply removing the need for a driver,” he writes. Read more here.

The Future is Here. Almost.

By David M. Feehan

It came much faster than I anticipated–the future, I mean. Two events told me that the future of mobility is closer than I realized, because my wife and I experienced it.

My wife works for a federal agency here in the Washington, D.C., area. A couple of weeks ago, her staff had an off-site meeting and one of her colleagues offered to drive. As they were standing near the surface parking lot adjacent to the building, her colleague summoned his Tesla from the lot, and driverless, it emerged alongside the curb to pick them up. She was, quite frankly, stunned.

Then last week, while doing some consulting work in the Twin Cities, I received a call from my brother. His son just acquired a new Tesla. Would I like to try driving it? Of course, I jumped at the chance.

Along with two of my nephews, Sean, the owner of the Tesla, gave us a brief orientation to the controls and off we went. “My Lord,” I thought, “This feels like it’s rocket propelled.” I’ve driven fast cars before, but this was unlike anything I had ever driven. Then the real “future” experience hit me. I shifted into self-driving mode, and we were navigating down a dark country road with me in the driver’s seat, and with my hands and feet off the controls. The car was literally driving itself.

You can read all you want about autonomous vehicles, but until you’ve actually driven one, especially at night on a winding road with no streetlights, you simply cannot fully imagine this experience.

I have written articles about AVs and when we can expect to be driving them. I have suggested that fully autonomous vehicles could be decades away. I was wrong. Tesla will be selling them within a year. You can buy a Tesla that is about 90 percent self-driving right now.

At first, it’s scary. But I quickly got used to it and I could imagine all of the ways this incredible device could make my travel easier. Suddenly, traffic-clogged commutes wouldn’t be so bad. I would read the morning news and emails on my iPad, or catch a few extra Zs. On a long road trip, I could relax and just enjoy the scenery or engage in conversation with my traveling companions. I wouldn’t have to worry about getting a speeding ticket. The car would automatically obey the speed limit. When I arrived at my destination, the car would find a parking spot and park itself.

The future is here, or almost. And I think I like it.

David M. Feehan is president of Civitas Consultants, LLC.

A Futurist Addresses Urban Mobility

Future mobility in the citySigns that change messages as curb demand flexes, autonomous school buses that also deliver packages, car-free downtown cores, and friendly delivery robots are among the revelations a prominent futurist predicts for urban mobility in the not-too-distant future.

Devin Liddell, chief futurist at Teague, a Seattle-based company working on transportation, outlined his predictions at the Seattle Interactive Conference last week and expanded on his thoughts for GeekWire. Among them:

  • Redesigning drones so they don’t resemble wasps–or scary images from science fiction movies–will be key to getting people to accept them for deliveries and other urban tasks.
  • Dynamic signage that changes curb use from delivery to drop-off and pick-up to parking to other uses as demands change will make a big difference in how the limited space is used.
  • Artificial intelligence will transform the way people get to and around airports, up to and including TSA screening aboard shuttles rather than in long lines.
  • A new form of transportation that’s “faster than walking but lighter and smaller than bicycling and — here’s the rub — makes me look like cool while I use it, or at least not uncool,” will change the way people get around.
  • Delivery robots will help people trust autonomous vehicles, at least once AV technology improves.

Agree? Disagree? Read the whole story here.

Driverless Shuttle Pilots Show Limitations of Technology

autonomous shuttleDriverless shuttles are on the road in Reston, Va., a suburb of Washington, D.C., and while things are going pretty well so far, the pilot has also highlighted why driverless cars may still be some time away.

The shuttles take people to and from remote parking in an area largely under construction. Some project participants say that while they’re working fine with a rescue driver and engineer on board just in case, it’s also become clear that what works in a lab may not be ideal for on-street operation. The vehicles can’t tell if someone opens a door while in motion, for example, and they don’t know what to do about parents loading strollers. They’re also restricted to speeds of less than 25 miles per hour and while that may prevent pedestrian fatalities, it’s awfully slow for getting around.

The Washington Post offers an analysis of the project; read it here.

Sensors and Tech for Autonomous Cars Includes New Lane Tape

We’ve all heard about the LIDAR and sensor and road-following technology in development so cars can learn to drive themselves. As it turns out, that might include new lane-marking tape, and a Canadian company is already on top of it.

3M Canada teamed up with the company that manages Highway 407 in Ontario to start testing new lane tape that’s easier for lane-departure systems–and someday, autonomous vehicles–to read and follow. One of the features of the new tape is a black line on either side of its white body, which will be easier for systems to see on all kinds of pavement. The partners also say the tape performed well through Canada’s winter. They say it seems like a great addition to the roads, especially for the period when human drivers and driverless cars will both need to read the roads.

Read the whole story here.

Researchers Investigate How Passengers Feel About Autonomous Vehicles

How would you react as a passenger in a self-driving car? Would your hands sweat? Heart race? Would your muscles tense? Or would you sit back and relax as the automakers advise? A group of researchers wants to find out.

University of Waterloo experts are recruiting volunteers to go for rides in autonomous vehicles so they can measure signs of anxiety and stress as the car drives in different ways. The car is programmed to drive with different levels of aggression while passengers, who are asked to watch a video, are monitored for signs of distraction and stress. So far, researchers say people get less anxious the more rides they take, and they hope their research will pave the way for cars to react to their passengers’ anxiety and adjust driving accordingly.

Read the whole story here.

Ford Acquires Tech Companies as Part of Mobility Strategy

In what many believe is a step toward a greater role in mobility, automaker Ford this week acquired Journey Holding Corporation, which develops intelligent transportation software, and Quantum Signal AI, which develops robotics–notably a testing simulator for artificial intelligence (AI) systems; it develops systems for the U.S. military. Ford said the buys will help advance its Transportation as a Service (TaaS) platform.

Journey Holding will be merged with TransLoc, which was bought by Ford earlier this year and develops technology for transit operations. Together, the entity will provide micro-transit on demand services. Analysts say this week’s acquisitions will help Ford get closer to its goal of launching autonomous vehicles by 2021.

Read the whole story here. 

Less Parking or More? City Planners on What AVs Mean for Them

Autonomous vehicles (AVs) will reduce the demand for parking in cities. Or they might increase it, depending. Same for the need for driving lanes, which affect the availability of bike lanes and pedestrian pathways. They might make cities more–or less–walkable, too.

The debate over driverless continued this weekend with a Washington Post dive into what AVs might mean for cities. The news outlet asked city planners what they thought the advent of driverless cars will mean for them, and the answers varied widely. Much of the ambiguity stems from the way we’ll use driverless vehicles (Will we share or own our own?), which will depend on pricing, attitudes, fuel, and a host of yet-unknown factors. One thing is clear: Driverless cars will definitely change the way we get around, and that will change the way our cities operate.

Read the whole story here and talk about it on Forum–how will AVs change your city?