Your local delivery man may soon get a flying robotic sidekick

Very soon, your town could be patrolled by a fleet of ultra-quiet electric mother-ship vans, traveling down main arteries, pausing only at optimally calculated locations, then releasing a fleet of autonomous drones to make strategic drops throughout the hinterlands.

You may have seen the video released late last year by online retailer Amazon, featuring an octocopter delivering a package from the company’s front door to that of a happy suburbanite. The notion generated the expected terror from the aluminum foil sombrero set, but the fears went further, and for good reason: Do we really trust the decision-making abilities of a company that sells this?

Source : Jim Meyer, http://grist.org

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The Practical Path to Driverless Cars

As Silicon Valley races toward the future of driving, Tampa is keeping a more manageable pace.

 

Jason Bittner is into “trip-chaining,” he says, in his personal life as well as his professional one. His job is director at the University of South Florida’s Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR, pronounced cutter, not cuter) — home, Bittner says, to the largest collection of full-time faculty studying public transportation in the country. That’s 43 faculty researchers and about as many student-researchers, working on 180 projects, as well as a new division devoted entirely to driverless cars called the Autonomous Vehicle Institute, which Bittner was integral in developing. This is how far ahead CUTR plans: there are 23 saplings planted on the front lawn.

 

By the time those saplings mature, driverless cars may be here, and, like horseless carriages a century and a half earlier, they will be a quantum leap removed from their predecessors. We are just now taking the first baby steps towards that leap. Only four states (California, Florida, Michigan, and Nevada) allow driverless cars. And the federal government has only authorized a handful of public-road test beds — Tampa has one — for so-called “connected vehicles,” which are not necessarily driverless.

 

Source : RICHARD MORGAN, The Atlantic Citylab

 

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Mobility trends and auto insurance

I was invited by the organizers of the Insurance Canada Technology Conference to participate on a couple of panels and my talks focused on mobility changes impacting auto insurance. I discussed two trends, enabled by technology, that are already having on effect on auto insurance, although many in the insurance industry have not yet “felt” them. The first of these trends is car sharing. And while we’ve discussed this trend is previous newsletters, a refresher might be useful.

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The intelligent energy storage revolution

A few days ago, Tesla announced with great fanfare that it is building a “Giga Factory” for battery production in the southwestern United States. There are even rumours that Apple might be involved. What does this mean? Well, for one thing, the availability of good batteries at an affordable price is the main bottle neck to serious penetration of the electric car in the marketplace. Range anxiety, the idea that once in a while your electric car might not be able to get you where your heart so desires, is the single most important factor that holds consumers back from acquiring an electric car.

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A driverless city

Can you imagine what your city would be like if all the vehicles on its roads (passenger cars, buses,trucks,…) moved about autonomously? In total, 15 student teams let their imaginations take them where few automakers and urban planners dare to go. These teams tackled the following question: What would Philadelphia look like if cars, buses, taxis and other vehicles drove themselves around the city,communicating with each other and with the people who summon them to get to work or play?

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Autonomous vehicles: How interested is the Government of Ontario?

At the end of 2013, several contacts based in Ontario sent us a document entitled “A pilot project to safely test autonomous vehicles – summary of proposal”. Having been involved in the area of transportation evolution and autonomous vehicle technology for a while, we were clearly intrigued. We admit that we read the document several times because we wanted to understand precisely what the Government of Ontario was stating or alluding to through this document.

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zoox: Thinking outside the box

“I’m certain that none of the horse and carriage guys became providers of automobiles” says Michael (Mik) Harrison-Ford, Chief St rategy Of f icer at zoox (zoox.co), discussing how automobile manufacturers today are having difficulty moving too far away from their current thinking. That’s where zoox come sin : design, engineering and creativity without the boundaries imposed by existing platforms. Approximately three months ago, Tim Kentley-Klay, the organization’s founder, formalized zoox-an organization that aims to develop “mobility for our time”.

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SuperHub: Connecting mobility

We took advantage of the fact that we were in Barcelona for EVS27 to meet with several members of the SuperHub team. The SuperHub project (http://superhub-project.eu) was introduced in a previous newsletter but for the benefit of those who missed that issue,we will provide a summary description.

SUPERHUB (SU stainable and Persuasive Human Users moBility in future cities) is a multi-year project co-financed by the European Commission that involves 20 partners from a variety of fields, including transit and other transport agencies, telecommunications, academia and local government. Simply put, SuperHub is an open source platform and mobile app able to help a user plan customized urban routes by combining all mobility offers in real time.
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Seeking sustainable mobility

Traveling is always an eye opener. After several weeks on the road, we’re back with an even stronger conviction that MARCON’s new mobility model is the optimal way to a cleaner, more efficient and universally accessible transportation in the future. But we have also come to the conclusion that it not only can, but it must evolve to a financially self-sufficient and sustainable public transportation system. Governments cannot tax their citizens any more than they already are. Quite the opposite, governments must deliver better value to their citizens.
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Transit in the new mobility landscape

The Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA) held its 2013 fall conference this week in Calgary. We were invited to talk to the hundreds of delegates in attendance about the role of transit in a new mobility landscape. We were pleased to hear Michael Roschlau, CUTA’s President and CEO, talk about the changing mobility (shared multi-modal autonomous) and the opportunities that are presented to transit.

Transit is one of the rare visionary industries in this country that are laying the groundwork required to seize the opportunities that the new mobility (accompanied by autonomous vehicle technology and connectivity) landscape will present. In fact, when asked who believes that autonomous vehicle technology will be on our roads in the foreseeable future, over 3/4 of the transit delegates in our well-attended session raised their hands. Metrolinx and TransLink have already demonstrated interest in the new mobility landscape and are actively considering the opportunities presented to them.
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