ASEE First Bell – Breaking news in the engineering and technology field

Leading the News

Mercedes Deploys First Autonomous-Driving City Bus.

Mashable Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/18, Jaynes) reports that Mercedez-Benz on Monday deployed the industry’s first autonomous-driving city bus, dubbed the “Future Bus,” on a 12-mile route through Amsterdam. The Future Bus operates with Mercedes’ CityPilot autonomous driving system, enabling the bus to autonomously switch lanes, arrive at bus stops, pass through tunnels, interact with traffic signals, and brake for pedestrians and obstructions.

CNET News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/18) reports that the Future Bus can also stop, load, and unload passengers along its route without human intervention. Engadget Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/18) says that because of regulations, a human operator will still sit behind the wheel of the Future Bus; however, the article suggests that the endeavor is “a major milestone towards implementing driverless vehicles in cities around the world.”

TechCrunch Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/18, Etherington) reports the CityPilot platform was developed from a version of the Mercedes’ Highway Pilot autonomous trucking technology, but unlike the Highway Pilot program released two years ago, the City Pilot program faced challenges of maneuvering in an urban environment. Additionally, Mercedes “put a lot of time into designing the vehicle’s interior” and, according to the company’s official press site, will have displays for media and entertainment and a forested canopy ceiling.

PC Magazine Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/18, Brant) posits that the future of self-driving cars remains uncertain, but Mercedes’ Future Bus puts the technology “much closer to reality, even in the US.” The article notes that start-up Local Motion has already deployed small autonomous buses in Washington, DC, and two California cities are developing self-driving, on-demand bus systems for short-distance routes.

Higher Education

OSU Student Electric Motorcycle Team Succeeds In Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.

WCMH-TV Share to FacebookShare to Twitter Columbus, OH (7/15, Gelber) reports on Ohio State’s 30-member student electric motorcycle team, Buckeye Current, and the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. The team was “able to overcome problems with the cooling system and motor issues in time for a highly successful 11-minute 16-second run.” Team leader Sean Harrington said that given “156 curves and a wet track” the motorcycle had to “accelerate at a top speed of up to 120 mph to get through the turns.” Harrington displayed the machine at the OSU Center for Automotive Research.

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Research and Development

Virginia Tech Professor Leads Team In Developing Nanostructured Materials With Scalability.

Phys (UK) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/18) reports on a study published in Nature Materials describing “a new process to create lightweight, strong and super elastic 3-D printed metallic nanostructured materials with unprecedented scalability.” The research was led by Virginia Tech assistant professor of mechanical engineering Xiaoyu “Rayne” Zheng. The materials have a “hierarchical 3-D architectural arrangement and nanoscale hollow tubes.” Zheng said the achievement is “unprecedented.”

UTEP wins NSF Grant To Boost Computer Science Program.

The El Paso (TX) Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/18, Anderson) reports the University of Texas at El Paso has been awarded a $1.9 million grant from the National Science Foundation “to encourage more students to pursue computer science careers.” The money is to be used to improve introductory courses and to “re-imagin(e) what it means to learn, whose knowledge counts, and what counts as knowledge in the context of computer science.”

University Of Wyoming Wins NASA Grant To Support Low-Temperature Flame Research.

The Wyoming Tribune Eagle Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/18, Mast) reports on research at the University of Wyoming Department of Mechanical Engineering on “what is in a flame and how it can help in future technology.” The focus is on “low-temperature flames.” The article describes the lab and the equipment used to study flames. The lab has received “up to a $750,000 grant from NASA” for the research.

Industry News

Sources: Audi To Refocus On Electric Cars, Digital Technologies.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/18) reports two unnamed sources at Audi alleged that the car manufacturer will follow its parent company, Volkswagen, in refocusing its business roadmap on digital technologies and electronic cars. In a Wednesday closed-door conference, Audi chief executive Rupert Stadler will outline the details of the carmaker’s reshaped business roadmap.

Property Purchased For Michigan Autonomous Car Testing Facility.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/18) reports that the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and the Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response Trust (RACER) announced on Monday that they jointly agreed purchase a former General Motors plant and convert it into an autonomous car testing facility. The organizations purchased the property for $1.2 million.

The Detroit Free Press Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/18, Dolan) says the nonprofit entity American Center for Mobility will develop and operate the facility. Its CEO, John Maddox, said in a statement that the purchase “is a major milestone for the American Center for Mobility as we continue to lead the effort to create a national center for connected and automated vehicles and emerging mobility technologies.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Germany To Require Black Boxes For Self-Driving Cars.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/18) reports that “Germany plans new legislation to require manufacturers of cars equipped with an autopilot function to install a black box to help determine responsibility in the event of an accident.” According to the proposal, “manufacturers will also be required to install a black box that records when the autopilot system was active, when the driver drove and when the system requested that the driver take over.” Reuters reports that “under the proposal from Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt, drivers will not have to pay attention to traffic or concentrate on steering, but must remain seated at the wheel so they can intervene in the event of an emergency.”

The Verge Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/18, Golson) says that “given that many cars – we’ve seen this from Tesla in particular – already have these sorts of systems,” the black box requirement “should be one of the less-controversial items from an automaker perspective, though privacy advocates may raise concerns.”

Bidness Etc. Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/18, Khan) reports that information from the black boxes “would help determine the responsibility in case of accidents in autonomous cars.” The article points out that “for the proposal to be passed as law, it needs vote of approval by ministries.” The transport ministry will send a draft to other ministries this summer. Also reporting on the story are Ars Technica Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/18), PC Magazine Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/18), Digital Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/18), Jalopnik Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/18), and Drum (UK) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/18).

EPA, NHTSA: Fuel Efficiency Falling Short Of 2025 Goal.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/18, Mufson) reports the US is unlikely to meet the Administration’s fuel efficiency standard of 54.5-miles-per-gallon by 2025, according to a technical assessment report issued by the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Monday. The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/18, Harder, Nagesh, Subscription Publication) reports that the study cited the increase in SUV and pickup sales amid dramatically lower gas prices as a hindrance to reaching the mileage targets. However, the report said the industry has the technical ability to reach the targets despite these challenges.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/18, Vlasic, Subscription Publication) reports that release of the report “sets up a battle between car companies and environmental groups to influence the final mileage rules.” If the fuel economy number remains below federal targets, environmentalists say it will translate into higher levels of carbon dioxide emissions and “undercut efforts to curtail greenhouse gases agreed to by the Obama administration” at the Paris climate accord. The Detroit Free Press Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/18, Snavely) says the draft report from the EPA and NHTSA “will come as a disappointment to automakers” who argue that federal fuel economy benchmarks should be relaxed. But Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, said in a statement that the report “shows that automakers are developing far more technologies to improve fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, at similar or lower costs, than we thought possible just a few years ago,” and that there are no actual technological barriers to achieving the fuel economy standards by 2025.

The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/18, Cama) reports that this draft technical report does “not constitute a decision to tighten the rules or even a proposal to do so, but the finalized version of it is likely to weigh heavily on the evaluation.” Meanwhile, the AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/18, Durbin, Krisher) reports that “if gas prices stay low and consumers keep buying less-efficient vehicles like SUVs, the government could lower those standards.”

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/18, Lippert) also provides coverage.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Washington Fifth-Grade Teachers Work With Engineers On Developing Design Challenges For Classrooms.

The Covington & Maple Valley (WA) Reporter Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/18) reports on the Washington STEM and Washington MESA Engineering Fellows program and the six fifth-grade teachers from the Kent School District who are participating this year. The program “brings engineering expertise directly into fifth grade classrooms around the state.” The teachers are working with “professional engineers and college/graduate engineering students to design and implement engineering design challenges that are integrated with their local curriculum.”

Alabama District Builds STEM Center To Boost STEM-Based Learning.

WRBL-TV Share to FacebookShare to Twitter Columbus, GA (7/18) reports on the creation of the Dyer Family STEM Center at Phenix City Intermediate School at which teachers Jennifer Hall and Ronneeke Gamble will work to “propel STEM-based learning and critical thinking for all students.” Hall and Gamble attended the 2016 Discovery Education Summer STEMmersion conference to learn ways of implementing the STEM center. The Phenix City Schools are implementing STEM education in elementary schools with “learning labs.”

Sioux Falls District To Use State Grant To Build “Maker Spaces” In Schools.

The Sioux Falls (SD) Argus Leader Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/18, Raposa) reports the Sioux Falls School District will receive one of the state’s 18 classroom innovation grants, and the largest at about $100,000. The grant will pay for “teacher training, customized learning and access to virtual education.” It will help to build “maker spaces” in elementary and middle schools.

King Defends Proposed Rules Under ESSA.

Politico Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/18, Stratford) reports that in response to concerns raised by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) regarding proposed rules under ESSA, Secretary King in an interview said, “We want states to be able to move quickly towards broadening the definition of educational excellence beyond just math, English and graduation rates,” but, he added, “we do want to make sure states have time to have thoughtful conversations with stakeholders. So we’re listening carefully to the feedback around timeline.” In response to concerns about summative ratings, King said ESSA “requires the identification of schools for comprehensive support, schools for targeted support and, by definition, schools that are in neither of those two categories. That’s three categories,” so, “the regulation requires that states have a system for summative ratings with at least three categories.” King said that he agrees with Alexander that “States should decide how they approach their ratings system.”

Monday’s Lead Stories

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