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

Leading the News


BMW, Intel, Mobileye To Begin Testing Driverless Cars In 2017.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/4, Cremer) reports BMW, Intel, and Mobileye announced at CES on Wednesday they aim to begin testing “a fleet of around 40 self-driving test vehicles on the road in the second half of this year.” The BMW 7-Series test vehicles will be outfitted “with the latest technology from Intel and Mobileye and prepared for test drives worldwide starting in the United States and Europe.”

The Verge Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/4, Hawkins) notes that BMW announced its intention to partner with chipmaker Intel and Mobileye, which makes driver-assistance systems and sensors for driverless cars, six months ago, when the company “said it hoped to have autonomous vehicles available for purchase by 2021.” However, the companies “aren’t looking to just build self-driving 7 series sedans,” but rather “say they want to develop ‘scalable architecture’ that can be adopted by other automakers and designers to plug into vehicles of different brands.” Each company is also pursuing its “own self-driving projects independent of one another.”

Sources offering additional coverage include CNET News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/4, Shankland), TechCrunch Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/4, Etherington), Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/4, Coppola, King), and Engadget Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/4, Fingas).

Intel Launches “Go” Brand To Offer Self-Driving Car Tech. Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/4, King) reports Intel announced Wednesday it will offer “automakers new products aimed at making its technology crucial to the effort to develop self-driving vehicles,” including “Intel Go” processors “ranging from its smallest Atom chips all the way up to its most powerful Xeon product packaged with other components and software.” According to Bloomberg, the worlds biggest chipmaker is looking to “gain a greater piece of what the industry is targeting as its next big market,” with its chips “already designed into 30 vehicle models that are on the road and are being used in hundreds of autonomous test vehicles.”

According to Fortune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/4, Korosec), the brand “includes a series of hardware and software development kits to help developers and engineers test and improve autonomous driving applications.” The new Go platform will use “sensor data from cameras or radars on the vehicle” along with “high-definition maps and artificial intelligence” to plot a course for the car to take. Intel Automated Driving Group senior vice president Doug Davis explained in a blog post, “The importance of 5G to our self-driving future cannot be overstated. … Automated vehicles will both generate and take in huge amounts of data in order to navigate and react to sudden changes. Today’s communications systems simply were not designed to handle the massive bandwidth required to support this. That’s where 5G comes in, delivering faster speeds, ultra-low latency and vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) connectivity for the era of automated driving.”

Higher Education

For-Profit Sage College Abruptly Closes Amid Accrediting Issue.

The Los Angeles Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/4, McDonald) reports that Sage College, a for-profit institution offering court-reporting and paralegal training classes based in Moreno Valley, California, has closed suddenly “due to a long-simmering accreditation issue.” The piece reports that campus officials said that ED’s decision to withdraw recognition from the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools precipitated the closure. Meanwhile, students say “Sage withheld information and in some cases continued to collect federal student loan funds and tuition payments as recently as a few days before closing.”

The Times of San Diego Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/3) reports that the move leaves hundreds of students “in limbo…without classes, degrees or a clear path forward.” The article touches on the dispute between ED and ACICS, and cites a statement from the school indicating that it was unable to find a new accreditor. KABC-TV Share to FacebookShare to Twitter Los Angeles (1/3) and KGTV-TV Share to FacebookShare to Twitter San Diego (1/4) also cover this story.

University Of Texas-Tyler Engineering Students Taking Part In Connected Health Workshop.

The Tyler (TX) Morning Telegraph Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/4) reports that University of Texas at Tyler engineering students “are getting a firsthand look at how they can make a difference in the medical world through the Smart and Connected Health National Science Foundation Workshop, which kicked off Wednesday.” The event focused on students’ “potential role in a world where everyday technology has changed the face of the medical world.”

Commentary: New York Free Tuition Plan Won’t Benefit Poorest Students.

In commentary for the Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/4, Chingos), Urban Institute Senior Fellow Matthew M. Chingos criticizes New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s newly released plan to offer free tuition at state colleges, noting that while the plan promises to benefit students whose families earn less than $125,000 per year, it “does nothing for low-income students, for whom existing grant aid already covers tuition.” He writes that plans floated on the campaign trail by Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton last year “would have provided benefits to students from families with a wide range of incomes.”

Meanwhile, writing at the Hechinger Report Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/4), Donald E. Heller, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs at the University of San Francisco, writes that the plan “will likely have little impact on increasing postsecondary education attainment rates in the Empire State.” Heller praises the plan for its income cap, but says it is “still likely to focus much of its benefits on subsidizing students who would be attending college otherwise.”

New York Times Praises Plan. A New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/5, Subscription Publication) editorial welcomes the “exciting possibility” raised Tuesday by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo when he unveiled a proposal that would cover tuition at public universities and colleges in New York State for families earning up to $125,000 by 2019. The Times says the plan “recognizes that middle-income families that might not be eligible for student aid based on current measures of need are grappling with student debt, too,” and calls on the state legislature “to make sure that the state funds all of the costs associated with this proposal without hurting the university system.”

Trial Opens Next Week In Maryland HBCU Case.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/4, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that a Federal court in Maryland is set to begin hearing “a trial to resolve a decade-old lawsuit over the lack of investment in the state’s historically black colleges and universities.” Alumni from four of the state’s HBCUs “have been locked in litigation with the state since 2006, aiming to dismantle what they say are the vestiges of racial segregation,” alleging that the state “has underfunded its HBCUs and allowed other state schools to duplicate their programs, placing pressure on enrollment.”

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Research and Development

Researcher Develops Manufacturing Technique For Biocompatible Micromachines.

EurekAlert Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/4) reports that “a team of researchers led by Biomedical Engineering Professor Sam Sia has developed a way to manufacture microscale-sized machines from biomaterials that can safely be implanted in the body.” Using hydrogels, “Sia has invented a new technique that stacks the soft material in layers to make devices that have three-dimensional, freely moving parts.”

Scientists Exploring Possible Use OF Aluminum In Nano Solar Cells.

Drawing from The Rapid City Journal, the AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/4) reports South Dakota School of Mines professor Phil Ahrenkiel “is working to make nano solar cells more efficient and applicable to the commercial market.” He envisions solar cells that could be coated with inexpensive aluminum foil and sewn into clothes or painted on cars.

Industry News

Toyota Plans To Continue Building Human-Driven Cars In Coming Years.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/5, Lippert) reports that Toyota Motor Corp. said Wednesday that it “plans to spend years designing cars in which humans retain a large measure of control, since the goal of turning all driving decisions over to computers seems too dangerous for now.” The company says that the public is unwilling to accept thousands of deaths per year “involving cars controlled by computers,” though it is willing to accept such a fatality rate from accidents mostly stemming from human error. Toyota’s announcement “is casting skepticism on the anticipation stoked by Tesla Motors Inc. and technology companies led by Alphabet Inc.’s Google on the imminent arrival of fully autonomous cars.”

US Auto Industry Reports Record-Breaking Sales In 2016.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/4, Overly) reports about 17.5 million vehicles were sold throughout the US in 2016, an “increase of less than half a percent over the record set in 2015.” According to USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/4), Ford had its best sales year in a decade, selling more than 2.6 million vehicles, while GM and Fiat Chrysler saw a 1.8 percent increase and no change, respectively.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/4, Vlasic, Subscription Publication) reports the US auto industry “sold 1.69 million vehicles during the month of December, an increase of about 3 percent from the same period a year earlier, according to the research firm Autodata.” According to a second USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/4, Bomey) article, compared to sales for December 2015, GM reported US sales growth of 10 percent selling 319,108 vehicles for the month, and Ford posted a sales gain of 0.3 percent to 239,854 units.

According to Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/4), Fiat Chrysler’s US sales fell 10 percent in December, compared to a year earlier, to 192,519 units as it continued to reduce dramatically its previously heavy reliance on fleet sales. However, a separate Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/4, Butters) article reports the 10 percent drop was still better than the projected 14 percent decline expected after Fiat Chrysler discontinued its compact and mid-size sedans.

As it relates to foreign automakers, USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/4, Bomey) reports Nissan Group recorded a sales increase of 9.7 percent in December, compared to a year earlier, to 152,743 vehicles, while Volkswagen Group “suffered deeply in 2016 as its dealers were not allowed to sell diesel vehicles and had to address the damaging effects of its emissions scandal. Although full-year sales of its VW brand declined 7.6 percent to 322,948 vehicles, the company enjoyed a gain of 20.3 percent in December to 37,229 units.” According to Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/4, Woodall), Japan’s Toyota Motor Corp reported a 2 percent gain for December, though analysts expected a decline of 1 to 4 percent.

Lower Prices For Big Screens May Be Driving TV Upgrades More Than New Technology.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/4, Anderson) reports that despite the emergence of new technologies like OLED, QLED, 4K, and HDR are proving to be more incremental improvements than revolutionary redesigns. The AP notes that 4K provides better resolution “but the difference is nowhere as dramatic as the change from older standard definition to HD,” though sales are expected to rise to “about one-third of TV sales in 2017,” while HDR, with its wider range of colors, still has little content available in the format. The AP suggests that what is really driving new TV sales are price decreases, with “lower prices mean[ing] a chance to upgrade to bigger sets,” as Jon Abt, co-president of Abt Electronics retail store believes families have moved from 55-inch models to 65-inch or larger ones, with research firm NPD backing up that claim noting “that 23 percent of all TVs sold were 55 inches or bigger” this past year.

Tesla, Panasonic Begin Battery Cell Production At Gigafactory.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/4, Ajmera) reports Tesla Motors and Panasonic have started mass production of lithium-ion battery cells at Tesla’s gigafactory, which is about one-third complete. The cylindrical “2170 cells” for use in Tesla’s energy storage products and the new Model 3 sedan, have been jointly designed by Tesla and Panasonic, Tesla said Wednesday. Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/4, Randall) reports the news “marks the third successful target Tesla met for the New Year.” Tesla fulfilled its promise to rapidly complete “a massive battery storage project to back up the grid” in California and “promptly rolled out promised software upgrades to cars equipped with new Autopilot hardware.” Bloomberg notes that Tesla in September announced a deal to supply a record 20 megawatts of energy storage to Southern California Edison “as part of a wider effort to prevent blackouts.”

Faraday Future Unveils Prototype Electric Car At CES. In continuing coverage: The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/4) reports Faraday Future showed its prototype electric car at the CES gadget show in Las Vegas, “amid renewed promises to have cars rolling off a new $1 billion assembly line in southern Nevada in 2018.” A demonstration on Tuesday featured the company’s FF91 model “clocking 0-to-60 mph times against Bentley, Ferrari and Tesla vehicles.” Faraday officials say the car’s battery allows a travel range of up to 378 miles.

Engineering and Public Policy

DOE Changing Test Procedures For ACs, Heat Pumps.

The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/4, Wheeler) reports the Energy Department “is making changes to its test procedures for central air conditioners and heat pumps.” The procedures must be followed by manufacturers “to ensure their products comply with applicable energy conservation standards under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975.” The rule will go into “effect in 30 days.”

BLM Aims To Cancel Solar Energy Zones Over Cultural Resource Conflicts.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/4) reports BLM has proposed eliminating four solar energy zones in the San Luis Valley created in 2012 “due to conflicts with cultural and natural resources in the area.” The zone were formed “as a way to streamline the review process for solar proposals.” BLM received input from six Native American tribes connected to the area. “No solar plants have yet been built in the solar zones.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

High School Students Work With Cisco Engineers On Space Experiment.

The San Jose (CA) Mercury News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/4, Gomez) reports 14 students from Andrew Hill High School in San Jose, California, “spent about 14 weeks working side by side with a team of Cisco engineers on an experiment that is scheduled to be launched into space in March.” The Mercury News reports that the “experiment was done in a partnership with Valley Christian High School, which pioneered the program in 2010 with NASA and has helped 23 schools send 77 experiments to the International Space Station.” Danny Kim, director of Valley Christian’s nonprofit Quest Institute for Quality Education, said that this year’s experiment was related to “heat and humidity and how it affects the astronauts.”

ED, California Locked In Standoff Over Science Testing.

Southern California Public Radio Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/4) reports on the continuing impasse between ED and the California Department of Education regarding standardized testing for science, noting that the disagreement “bears striking resemblance to a very similar 2014 impasse” and could threaten the state’s Federal school funding. State officials “want to administer a new statewide science test to all fifth, eighth and tenth graders this spring; a test tailor-made to match the new science standards teachers are following this year,” but the test is still in a “shortened, pilot form.” ED is unwilling to grant a required waiver, “saying California can’t ignore the federal requirement to measure students’ progress in science annually.”

Report Calls For Early-Childhood STEM Research, Training, And Standards.

Education Week Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/4, Zubrzycki) reports the Early Childhood STEM Working Group release a report Share to FacebookShare to Twitter that says “there is a need to link the public’s interest in STEM with its interest in early childhood.” It “calls for developing and promoting high-quality standards for STEM in early childhood that align with” states’ K-12 standards schools, offering fellowships and reshaping preparation programs to improve teacher training, and requiring STEM offerings for preschool accreditation. The report “also calls for more research on early childhood and STEM and better resources to help teachers and parents.”

Wednesday’s Lead Stories

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