Leading the News
DOT Announces 10 Official Proving Grounds For Autonomous Vehicle Testing.
There is continuing coverage of the Transportation Department’s designation of 10 places as official autonomous vehicle testing sites, mostly from regional and local sources reporting on some of the specific sites. Coverage also characterizes the action positively as one of former Transportation Secretary Foxx’s final legacies. The 10 successful applicants are: the Thomas D. Larson Pennsylvania Transportation Institute in Pittsburgh; the Texas-wide Texas AV Proving Grounds Partnership; the US Army Aberdeen Test Center in Aberdeen, Maryland; the American Center for Mobility at Willow Run in Ypsilanti, Michigan; the Contra Costa Transportation Authority and GoMentum Station in Concord, California; the San Diego Association of Governments; the Iowa City Area Development Group in Iowa City, Iowa; the University of Wisconsin-Madison; the Central Florida Automated Vehicle Partners; and the North Carolina Turnpike Authority.
Fortune (1/20) reports “the 10 proving ground pilot sites are meant to encourage testing and information sharing around automated vehicle technologies,” having been chosen “from a competitive group of more than 60 applicants.” Fortune calls it “notable that Arizona, where a number of companies such as Ford, Google’s Waymo, and GM-owned Cruise Automation are currently testing on public roads, is omitted from the list.”
Transport Topics (1/20, Elfin) reports, in one of his final acts as transportation secretary, Anthony Foxx stated Thursday that “the designated proving grounds will collectively form a community of practice around safe testing and deployment…openly shar[ing] best practices for the safe conduct of testing and operations as they are developed, enabling the participants and the general public to learn at a faster rate and accelerating the pace of safe deployment.”
TechSpot (1/20, Knight) reports “it’s certainly encouraging to see the government get behind the advancement of self-driving technology although the impact this program will have could be minimal,” as many major automakers and tech industry “players already have their own testing facilities.” TechSpot also notes intra-industry competition could get in the way of government-promoted collaboration.
Former GM Factory In Michigan Selected For Self-Driving Car Testing. The AP (1/20) reports on the autonomous vehicle proving ground in Ypsilanti, Michigan, “at the site of a former General Motors plant…where B-24 bombers were made during World War II.” According to the AP, the site “will be available for use by private industry, government, standards bodies and academia,” with companies “able to lease office space, garages and other amenities.”
MLive (MI) (1/20, Haynes) reports the president and CEO of the American Center for Mobility, John Maddox, said “Being chosen by the U.S. Department of Transportation is a big point for us.” Maddox also “compared the national proving grounds to the national laboratories established by the Department of Energy.”
Three Midwest Locations Make List Of Official Self-Driving Car Proving Grounds. The ChicagoInno (IL) (1/20, Dallke) reports that in addition to the testing site in Michigan, the Transportation Department chose two other Midwestern groups for the official proving grounds program: Iowa City, Iowa’s Iowa City Area Development Group and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Noting that a Chicago-area site is “missing from the list,” the story points out that while Chicago has potential for self-driving development with “the second most self-driving car jobs in the US, only behind the Bay Area,” in the last two years the city government has introduced measures to put a damper on autonomous vehicle operation within the city.
UI Labs To Offer MOOC On Digital Manufacturing.
Chicago Tribune (1/20) reports that Goose Island-based UI Labs will offer its first massive online open course (MOOC), “Digital Manufacturing and Design Technology,” which will offer about 40 hours of instruction via the online course platform Coursera. Tim Leyh, the executive director of the Center for Industrial Effectiveness at the University at Buffalo, said the course will take students through technology’s role in the process from design to disposal and that he hopes it impacts small and medium manufacturers who may not be able to experiment with digital processes like their larger competitors. The Tribune reports writes that UI Labs CEO Caralynn Nowinski Collens “said the course is part of UI Labs’ strategy of addressing an evolving workforce as her organization strives to encourage innovation in manufacturing.” The course’s videos and readings will be free, but assignments and the opportunity for a completion certificate are $49 per month.
Professor Urges Administration To Lead Higher Education’s Transition To Online Colleges.
In a Wall Street Journal (1/22, Subscription Publication) op-ed, Yale University computer science professor David Gelernter concedes face-to-face college instruction is better than online-based instruction but when the higher-education world inevitably fails, the estimated 90 percent of colleges that close could be reformed as Internet campuses. Gelernter suggests ways that colleges can structure Internet-based courses, campuses, and mentoring programs to overcome traditional universities’ shortcomings and calls on the Administration for leadership in higher education’s transition to the Internet.
Column: Navient Accusations Mirror Mortgage Crisis Abuses.
In a column in the New York Times (1/21, Morgenson, Subscription Publication), Gretchen Morgenson writes about the “ugly allegations lodged against Navient, the nation’s student loan servicing behemoth, by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Wednesday,” and lists a number of aspects of Navient’s operations that the CFPB says it failed at. She writes that the alleged abuses echo “how the mortgage foreclosure machine chewed up and spit out troubled borrowers, adding junk fees and costs of unnecessary services to the amounts they owed.”
California Commission Reaffirms City College Of San Francisco’s Accreditation.
The Los Angeles Times (1/20, Xia) reported California’s Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges reaffirmed the accreditation of City College of San Francisco for a full seven years. The state’s commission, which oversees 113 community colleges in California and Hawaii, was scrutinized by ED on its panel findings and procedures, and the panel’s past accreditation revocation decisions have been called into question. City College disputed the oversight commission’s sanction for five years, and interim chairman Susan Lamb called the final decision a welcomed end to the “nightmare.” The Times notes the California Federation of Teachers filed a lawsuit against the commission for inappropriately delaying its decision to reaffirm City College’s accreditation.
Researcher Sues University Of Hawaii After Lab Blast Causes Her To Lose Arm.
The AP (1/20) reported Thea Ekins-Coward is suing the University of Hawaii for failing to provide adequate safety training and adherence to safety codes which resulted in a lab explosion causing her to lose her right arm. Investigators believe the cause of the blast was a buildup to static electricity, that once discharged caused the damage. The University has refused to comment.
Research and Development
New Report Details Robotic Silicon Sleeve To Aid Heartbeat and Circulation.
Yahoo! Tech (1/21) reports that research conducted at Harvard and Boston Children’s Hospital and led by Ellen Roche the National University of Ireland Galway has developed a silicon-construction robot that wraps around the human heart like a sleeve and is able to aid in pumping and circulation without any contact with blood and in a manner that may provide safer alternatives to traditionally used ventricular assist devices, or VADs, which can also require potentially dangerous blood thinners. The research was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
New Horizons To Explore Kuiper Belt Object After Successful Pluto Mission.
SPACE (1/22, Weitering) reports that NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, having completed its successful mission to Pluto two years ago, is heading 1 billion miles beyond the dwarf planet to explore the icy outer reaches of the Kuiper Belt. “The new target was discovered by the Hubble Space Telescope in June 2014, and it was dubbed 2014 MU69.” which New Horizons is scheduled to reach in January 2019. In an interview, Kelsi Singer of the New Horizons science team said that MU69 “has a special kind of orbit that makes it possibly a type of object that is primordial and left over from early solar system formation,” providing a chance to “look at what the building blocks of the solar system were like.”
NASA Uses New Horizons Images For Pluto Video. The Daily Mail (1/20) reported that “NASA has released a stunning video of what it would be like to travel to Pluto” using images from the New Horizons probe. Engineers superimposed “low-resolution color from the Ralph color camera aboard New Horizons” onto 100 photo frames “to give the best available, actual color simulation of what it would look like to descend from high altitude to Pluto’s surface.”
Air Force To Equip F-35 With AI To Control UAV “Wingmen.”
Scout (1/20, Osborn) reported that in an interview, Air Force Chief Scientist Gregory Zacharias gave an update on efforts to equip the F-35 with “improved ‘artificial intelligence” to control nearby drone ‘wingmen.’” He “said that technology was progressing quickly at the Air Force Research Lab” and that such ‘teaming’ is expected to emerge in the near future.” Advances in computer processing and AI technology are facilitating progress, which has also been aided by the fact that the F-35’s existing systems already possess some built-in AI capabilities. As envisioned, the pilots would control a group of UAVs, with AI streamlining operation and supplying the pilots with the most pertinent information.
Traditional Retailers Compete With Amazon For Sales, Tech Talent.
MarketWatch (1/20, Garcia) reported that traditional retailers such as Macy’s are not just competing with Amazon for retail sales but also “for the tech talent they need to turn their businesses into the multiplatform, ease-of-use, e-commerce-enabled selling machines that customers want to buy from.” While Amazon, which plans to create 100,000 new jobs by mid-2018, recruits to college students, MarketWatch said “Retailers could be a bit late in making their pitch to prospects” and face the challenge of convincing graduates to work in retail. Walmart, which plans to create 10,000 new jobs, appeared on Glassdoor’s “Looking Ahead: 5 Jobs Trends to Watch in 2017” report, which highlights the retailer’s “Silicon Valley research facility aimed at attracting machine-learning experts to help automate pricing and logistics.”
Amid Privacy Concerns, Engineer Designs Echo “Kill Switch”.
In another report summarizing how users can protect themselves amid “growing privacy concerns” around smart speakers, Tech Times (1/22) briefly details how to use the innovative, Echo “kill switch” recently designed by SparkFun Electronics engineer Shawn Hymel. Requirements for the DIY assembly, which allows users to immediately shut down the smart speaker using a simple voice command, include a “Particle Photon mini-board, some wires…a breadboard that has a USB port” and an IFTTT applet. Other privacy suggestions include muting the device when not in use and regularly deleting recordings through the Alexa application. The report cautions that deleting individual recordings could result in a “less personalized experience and poorly tailored responses from Alexa.”
Amazon Continues Building On Early Smart Speaker Lead.
Investor’s Business Daily (1/20, Deagon) last week briefly discussed Amazon’s dominance over Google Home manufacturer Alphabet in the current smart speaker race – the report specifically highlighting how Amazon continues to build upon its “big early lead” with the popular Amazon Echo device. Although IBD acknowledges Amazon is in part reaping the benefits of a two-year head start, having launched the Echo in 2014, the report also suggests Google will need to prioritize integration and third party partnerships to avoid slipping even further behind. Edison Investment Research analyst spoke to that point in a research note last week, arguing, “Google has to act quickly as Amazon is on the brink of becoming the industry standard for controlling smart home devices.” Regarding the Echo’s expansive presence at CES earlier this month, Windsor elaborated, “everyone was integrating with Echo, with Google Home and Apple HomeKit barely present.” In a similar report, Business Insider (1/20) concludes that Amazon has so far “outflanked Alphabet, Microsoft and even Apple” with its digital assistant, and at CES further cemented its top position in announcing new deals “with LG, Dish Network (DISH), Whirlpool (WHR), Huawei and Ford (F).”
Engineering and Public Policy
Renewable Energy Advocates Concerned About Trump Administration’s Plans.
The AP (1/22, Bussewitz, Mulvihill) reports President Trump’s election has created an “open question” for states that are pursuing greater reliance on renewable energy. Trump has “expressed doubts about whether climate change is real” despite scientists agreement that it is happening and that consumption of fossil fuels is a large reason for it. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Trump’s nominee to pick the Energy Department, is a “contradictory figure,” an oil promote that also “oversaw a huge expansion of wind-energy production while governor.” According to the AP, “renewable energy accounts for 15 percent of the electricity generated in the United states,” and “29 states have set targets for boosting their reliance on such power.” A 2015 report from the Energy Department said the cost of wind power fell over 40 percent from 2008 to 2015, with solar panel prices declining more than 60 percent in that period.
New York’s Wind Energy Plans Target 280 Square Miles Off Long Island.
Newsday (NY) (1/22, Harrington) reports New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s ambition to develop offshore wind energy in a 280 square-mile area 15 miles off Long Island. A study of the area could result in three separate wind farms in the water over the next decade. “Greg Matzat, a senior adviser to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, which is leading the state effort, said each of three 800-megawatt wind farms could cost from $2 billion to $3 billion, and place 100 separate turbines in water no more than 200-feet deep.”
California Big Three Utilities Seeking $1B To Support Electric Cars, Boost Demand.
Bloomberg News (1/20, Chediak) reports that California’s utilities are seeking more than $1 billion to spend on electric car-charging stations. Southern California Edison asked state regulators on Friday for permission to collect $570 million from customers over five years in part to cover the cost of equipment supporting about 1,800 charging stations for electric trucks. PG&E requested $253 million “for efforts including charging systems for electric buses and delivery trucks,” while San Diego Gas & Electric said it was applying for $246 million for similar programs. The utility industry is looking to electric car-charging as an area of growth as rooftop solar weakens power sales.
Wisconsin Coal Plant To Be Idled For Half The Year.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (1/20) reports We Energies “in response to low natural gas prices and flat demand for electricity” is planning “to roll back operations at its coal-fired Pleasant Prairie Power Plant in Kenosha County.” The facility has not “been called on much during the spring and fall in recent years, utility spokesman Brian Manthey said,” and the reason for that is “in the wholesale power market, natural-gas-burning plants are called on first because the fuel is cheaper than coal.” The power company has also not “seen power demand grow much.”
Massachusetts Bill Would Require Complete Renewable Use By 2050.
The AP (1/21) reported a bill from Massachusetts state Reps. Sean Garballey and Marjorie Decker would commit the state to obtaining 100 percent of its energy from renewable resources. The bill requires total renewable electrical generation by 2035 and a phase out of fossil fuels across all sectors by 2050.
Panasonic Showcases Smart City Technology For Denver Neighborhood Project.
The Denver Post (1/22) spotlights Denver’s Pena Station Next smart city development. Some technologies are still in development but others, such as bus shelters, will be “much more robust,” said George Karayannis, vice president of CityNow, Panasonic’s smart-city arm and Enver’s partner in the project. Smart LED street lights, a solar parking area, and microgrid storage is almost finishing while blanket Wi-Fi coverage and smart parking and the smart bus stop are coming.
South Carolina Students Take Part In STEM Opportunity Program.
The Orangeburg (SC) Times And Democrat (1/22) reports that over 150 students from Oragneburg and Calhoun counties will take part in a STEM career opportunity program. Students without post-graduate plans will attend sessions on careers in STEM fields. Joni McDaniel, a regional workforce advisor with the SC Department of Commerce, highlighted the varied career opportunities for students who attended.
Markerspace Increases Students’ Comprehension, Critical Thinking, Communication, and Collaboration.
The Uniontown (PA) Herald-Standard (1/21) reported Rachel Whittaker offers a new approach to hands-on learning. Through the creation of a “markerspace,” Whittaker is able to increase students overall retention of school material. The markerspace, according to Whittaker, helps promote the four C’s– critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity. By having students work together to create models that recreate a story’s scene, students are able to increase comprehension and use existing knowledge to supplement the exercise. As schools are cutting art programs, teachers are turning to low cost alternatives to allow students to have a creative outlet.
Robotics Competition Bolsters STEM Training In Schools.
Newsday (NY) (1/21) reported students from Long Island and surrounding areas participated in the VEX Robotics Competition. Students from around the nation compete to see which team’s robot can complete the assigned task most efficiently and correctly. Martha Giraldo Riordan, associate director of the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program and the Science and Technology Entry Program at Adelphi, explained that the competition helps prepare students for future careers in the STEM field. Students also learn presentation and coding skills in their endeavors.
Indiana Elementary Offers Students New STEM Programs.
The Merrillville (IN) Post-Tribune (1/16) reports that elementary schools in Valparaiso, Indiana have all implemented various aspects of STEM education into their curriculum. Students use iPads, LEGO, and blueprints to understand and visualize how products are made and how robots function. The $4.4 million in funding for the program was passed by voters in 2015 on a seven year basis.
Friday’s Lead Stories
• Researchers Develop Protocol To Update Automobile Software To Reduce Hacking Vulnerability.
• ED Clarifies Legality Of Online Courses Under SARA.
• AAAS Names Geosciences Researcher Michelle Kominz As New Fellow.
• Northwestern University Chemists Create New Nanomaterial.
• Anita Borg Institute Promotes Chicago’s Women In Technology.
• IET Chair Calls For UK Prioritization Of Global Strategy For Idea Sharing.
• NHTSA Investigation Finds No Evidence Of Defects In Tesla Electric Cars.