Rubén M.Cenzano

Chartered Civil Engineer specialised in Transportation

Ingeniero de Caminos especialista en Transporte

V2I: towards the end of traffic lights @ITS_Congresses

Posted On Monday, 31 October 2016

Audi is currently rolling out technology that allows its vehicles in the USA to communicate with traffic signals (a.k.a V2I -vehicle to infrastructure, not to get confused with V2V or vehicle to vehicle). The first phase will be rolled out in 5 to 7 cities although these have not been disclosed yet.

Traffic lights are an imperfect solution for an imperfect world. Drivers are required to stop at red lights while a row of cars crosses another that is green, increasing congestion and pollution while wasting energy and time.

This idea is based on a scenario where sensor-laden vehicles pass through intersections by communicating and remaining at a safe distance from each other, rather than grinding to a halt at traffic lights. This approach based on slot-based intersections is flexible and can be designed to accommodate pedestrian and bicycle crossing with vehicular traffic.

The model provides a performance breakthrough: all safety requirements being equal, traffic efficiency is doubled with respect to current state-of-the-art traffic lights. With today's traffic volumes, queues would vanish and travel delays would be cut to almost zero.

The idea behind this approach was developed by different universities, including MIT (in conjunction with the Swiss Institute of Technology (ETHZ), and the Italian National Research Council (CNR)), and Texas, and it is shown in the following videos:

However, until technology arrives at that stage, it is still some years to come, which might be covered by developments such as Green Light Optimal Speed Advice (GLOSA), as shown in the ITS Europe Congress held recently in Glasgow.

pedestrians and death risk related to speed; driverless oportunities @WorldResources

Posted On Friday, 28 October 2016

The coming of autonomous vehicle technology shows great promise for eliminating traffic deaths and serious road injuries. The ultimate reason for death and serious injury from traffic crashes is that the human body can sustain only so much force, a key principle of the Safe Systems Approach, which aims to improve planning so that transport systems themselves eliminate traffic deaths and injuries that arise due to human error.

For the most part, how quickly vehicles can react to incidents on the road and what speeds are safe for all road users will determine the overall level of road safety for all. Currently, many countries and cities do not have proper speed limits in place.

It is clear that if all vehicles are connected and automatically driven (without human control), the network would be more efficient, safer and faster. Would it be then the case to reduce the speed to increase safety (or at least perceived safety) or would we fully rely on technology?

Mercedes' driverless cars will kill pedestrians over drivers

Posted On Thursday, 27 October 2016

The ethical conundrum of how A.I.-powered machines should act in life-or-death situations has received more scrutiny as driverless cars become a reality, but the car manufacturer believes that it’s safer to save the life you have greater control over.

"You could sacrifice the car. You could, but then the people you’ve saved initially, you don’t know what happens to them after that in situations that are often very complex, so you save the ones you know you can save", Christoph von Hugo, Mercedes’ manager of driver assistance systems, told Car and Driver. "If you know you can save at least one person, at least save that one. Save the one in the car".

However, Hugo went on to say that the whole discussion may become moot. Computer-driven cars will be able to react in ways that human drivers will not be able to handle. Besides, most of the time the car will prioritize not crashing in the first place.

"This moral question of whom to save: 99% of our engineering work is to prevent these situations from happening at all", Hugo said. "We are working so our cars don’t drive into situations where that could happen and [will] drive away from potential situations where those decisions have to be made".

It’s not clear whether Mercedes will run afoul of future car regulations. Germany has outlined three rules that it expects manufacturers to abide by:
1) property damage always takes precedence over personal injury, 
2) the car cannot classify people based on age and other attributes, and 
3) the manufacturer is always liable. 

As these rules are fleshed out, German officials could be forced to clarify whether manufacturers are allowed to prioritize the driver.

It must be also noted that in Germany, it is illegal to reduce human life to a value that is processed by some cost function of an algorithm. This means a driverless car which is going to crash and (potentially) kill two people, being only one person on the car, it is illegal that any algorithm decides that it is better to kill one person than two people.

On these grounds, Volvo already announced months ago that they will accept liability for self-driving car crashes.

Finally, a recent academic research found that people were in favour of minimizing trauma in general, but for maximizing vehicle occupant safety if they, themselves, were the occupant.

new 113m boat lift in China it is now fully functional

Posted On Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Scotland claims to have an impressive rotating boat lift connecting two canals between Edinburgh and Glasgow.

However, things in China work at a different scale. It has been recently opened the new boat elevator to save the Three Gorges Dam (113 m.), lifting vessels up to 3,000 tons in a process of 40 minutes, which prevents existing complex system of locks and more than five hours of travel.

driverless car, Google, Uber and laws

Posted On Monday, 10 October 2016

Uber unveiled the first fourteen Ford Fusion (of up to a hundred) to be used for transporting passengers in Pittsburgh. The vehicles have a driver ready to take the controls in an emergency, accompanied by a co-pilot with a laptop taking notes. The Ford Fusion adapted by Uber is a first attempt, and one that will continue through the collaboration with Volvo (the other brand Uber is working with) to incorporate more vehicles.

Furthermore, Uber is experimenting with an unlimited $200/month flat rate service in Manhattan, where Uber already has succeeded with other types of flat rates associated with individual trips, setting a $5 price for each trip during peak hours and also linking with their Uber Pool share-ride service. 

Google is also experimenting with similar shared services through Waze Rider in San Francisco, which allows users to find other passengers to join them for a set, $0.54/mile fee -not to make profit but sharing the costs.

On the other hand, Ford has begun framing itself as a mobility company rather than a mere car company, where they plan to sell completely self-driving cars by about 2025, after first providing them via ride-hailing service, in 2021.

And finally, the Governor of California recently legalized the testing of self-driving vehicles without a driver on board, and no pedals or steering wheel under real traffic conditions, based on the guidelines provided by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). 

Europe: traffic congestion and public transport

Posted On Thursday, 6 October 2016

According to the latest Eurostat’s Urban Europe Report, London (U.K.) has the worst traffic congestion in Europe —but its citizens are also among the most satisfied in Europe with their public public transport.

The average driver in the London area loses 101 hours a year in traffic, 28 more hours than an average driver in the second worst city, Stuttgart (Germany). However, this hasn’t stopped most people within London’s official borders from being satisfied with public transport —an impressive result considering that the city has some of the highest fares in the world.
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