Leading the News
Researchers: Autonomous Cars Are Rule-Based, Don’t Understand “Social Graces.”
The AP (5/11) reports researchers say the most difficult aspect of deploying autonomous vehicles is teaching them to understand “reckless, lawbreaking human drivers.” Carnegie Mellon University computer engineering professor Raj Rajkumar, who leads the University’s self-driving car research, explained that people have “an endless list of these cases where we as humans know the context, we know when to bend the rules and when to break the rules,” but autonomous vehicles don’t have the same understanding. The AP says that, “although driverless cars are likely to carry passengers or cargo in limited areas during the next three to five years,” experts believe “it will take many years before robotaxis can coexist with human-piloted vehicles” because programmers are still figuring “out human behavior and local traffic customs.” Further, teaching a vehicle to make use of that “knowledge will require massive amounts of data and big computing power that is super expensive at the moment.” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (5/11, Grantham) reports “the industry creating the technology for autonomous vehicles has morphed from a collaborative space of free-flowing ideas into a high-speed road race where the winners will seize a market expected to reach $77 billion by 2035.”
Survey: Americans Losing Confidence In Higher Education System.
Politico Morning Education (5/11) reports that according to a new survey from the New America think thank, “Americans — especially young Americans — see college as necessary to get a good job and move up in society,” but “the vast majority don’t believe the higher education system is helping students succeed.” The article reports that only 13% of millennial respondents have confidence in the higher education system, compared with nearly a third of baby boomers.
Research and Development
Human- And Cost-Related Challenges Of Developing Self-Driving Cars Examined.
The AP (5/11, Krisher) reports one of the “migraines for the people developing” autonomous vehicles and “self-driving robotaxis,” the inevitable integration of autonomous vehicles on the same public roads as “reckless, law-breaking human drivers.” As Carnegie Mellon University computer engineering professor Raj Rajkumar says, “There’s an endless list of these cases where we as humans know the context, we know when to bend the rules and when to break the rules.” Moreover, “aggressive humans who make dangerous moves” on the road or highway, or those who consciously take advantage of an autonomous vehicle’s hesitance, make it difficult to teach machines how to react to such behavior. These challenges also make data collection and management extremely expensive, with John Zeng of LMC Automotive Consulting estimating that the computing power to collect and process the amount of data generated by about one hour’s worth of driving costs, at present, more than $100,000 per vehicle.
USAF Seeks More Agility In Buying And Fielding Simple, Cheap UASs.
IHS Jane’s 360 (5/11, Wasserbly) reports that Reid Melville, the unmanned air systems strategy lead for the US Air Force Research Laboratory, said at AUVSI’s annual Xponential meeting that the Air Force, in Jane’s words, “wants to be more agile in its systems acquisition and be capable of quickly buying and fielding simple and cheap unmanned aerial systems (UASs) that would complement higher-end USAF platforms.”
Researchers: “Inverse Designing” Spontaneously Self-Assembling Materials.
Phys (UK) (5/9) reports, “Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin are exploring how molecular simulations with the latest optimization strategies can create a more systematic way of discovering new materials that exhibit specific, desired properties.” The article adds, “More specifically, they did so by recasting the design goal to the microscopic, asking which interactions between constituent particles can cause them to spontaneously ‘self-assemble’ into a bulk material with a particular property.” Citing The Journal of Chemical Physics, the piece says “they decided to zero in on how composite particles spatially organize themselves.”
Trump Orders ED, Other Agencies To Review Cybersecurity, Workforce-Development Efforts.
Benjamin Herold writes at the Education Week (5/11) “Digital Education” blog that President Trump has signed an executive order intended “to bolster the nation’s cybersecurity, including through a multiagency review of related education and workforce-development efforts.” ED and other federal agencies are directed to focus on “strengthening federal information-technology networks and protecting critical infrastructure from cyberattacks.”
Israel Tests Wireless Charging Roads For Electric Vehicles.
Scientific American (5/11) reports that the Israeli government “is collaborating with Israeli start-up ElectRoad to install a public bus route in Tel Aviv, using an under-the-pavement wireless technology that eliminates the need for plug-in recharging stations.” Although “still in its infancy,” the technology “could clear the three biggest hurdles – cost, weight and range – that have held back the widespread adoption of battery-powered vehicles for more than a century.” First, though, ElectRoad “will have to demonstrate that its ‘inductive charging’ technology can be scaled up cheaply enough to be adopted on roadways worldwide.”
Judge Refers Uber-Waymo Trade Secrets Case To Federal Prosecutors.
USA Today (5/12, Cava, Weise) reports from San Francisco that Uber “suffered a potentially major setback in a court case that could affect the development of self-driving cars Thursday night when the judge referred the case to the U.S. Attorney for an investigation into the possible theft of trade secrets by an Uber executive.” US District Judge William Alsup “said the case must stay in court and not go to a private arbitrator as Uber had wanted. ‘The court takes no position on whether a prosecution is or is not warranted, a decision entirely up to the United States Attorney,’ Alsup wrote in his order.”
Bloomberg News (5/11, Rosenblatt, Blumberg) reports that Judge Alsup “asked federal prosecutors to investigate the claims in the case, a dramatic turn in a closely watched fight that could influence the future of driverless cars.” According to Bloomberg, “the specter of a possible criminal inquiry has hung over the case for weeks, ever since a lawyer for the engineer at the center of the dispute, Anthony Levandowski, said he could potentially be the subject of a criminal investigation.” The attorney “cited Waymo’s explosive allegations that Levandowski downloaded thousands of proprietary files at the Alphabet Inc. unit before he left. He later joined the ride-hailing giant.” Levandowski “has refused to testify in the lawsuit, citing his constitutional right against self-incrimination.”
The AP (5/11) reports that Waymo “has sued Uber alleging that the ride-hailing company is using stolen Waymo technology to develop its own self-driving vehicles.” The AP adds that “the high-stakes corporate espionage case revolves around Waymo’s allegations that Uber’s work on self-driving cars has been riding on trade secrets stolen by” Levandowski. Waymo “contends that before leaving Google early last year, Levandowski downloaded 14,000 documents containing details about a navigational tool called Lidar that robotic cars need to see what’s around them.”
Reuters (5/11, Levine) reports that Judge Alsup “rejected Uber’s bid to send its high-profile trade secret dispute with Alphabet’s self-driving Waymo unit to a private legal forum, a setback for the ride services company.” The judge “also partially granted Waymo’s bid for an injunction against Uber over its self-driving car program,” but “Alsup filed his injunction opinion temporarily under seal, meaning its scope and details could not immediately be learned.” The Guardian (UK) (5/12, Wong) and the Financial Times (5/12, Waters, Subscription Publication) also report.
Apple Continues To Grow Due To Expanding Services, Consistent Brand Loyalty.
Bloomberg News (5/11, Webb) evaluates Apple’s product and services offerings heading into the highly anticipated launch of the tenth anniversary iPhone, discussing Apple CEO Tim Cook’s 2010 comment that “all the company’s gadgets could fit on a table, arguing such focus resulted in better products.” Now offering 27 products, Bloomberg says Apple’s innovative approach lies with its services despite the constant churning of new-and-improved iPads, iPhones, etc. UBS analyst Steven Milunovich notes that Apple’s strength lies with its expanding service offerings and its brand loyalty, explaining in a research note title “Ecosystem Growth Suggests Antifragility” that, “while hopes are high for iPhone 8 sales, the recent jump in Apple shares was driven by greater belief in the company’s franchise value.”
Engineering and Public Policy
California Officials Question Whether Trump Administration Would Derail Unified Electric Grid Efforts.
The San Francisco Chronicle (5/11) reports that for years, officials in California and other Western states discussed merging their electricity grids into one “vast, integrated power market” as a way to tap into efficiency and keep costs down. However, with President Trump in office, California legislators are “start[ing] wondering whether combining grids could expose the state’s climate and energy policies to a new line of attack from a hostile administration.” A new report from Yale University Law School’s Environmental Protection Clinic said that because the California Independent System Operator, which runs 80 percent of California’s grid, is already subject to federal oversight, a unified Western grid will “face no more federal threat” than the current system.
New York Develops Traffic Exposure Model As Part Of “Vision Zero” Plan.
Atlantic’s CityLab (5/11, Bliss) explores the redesign mechanisms that decrease pedestrian injury rates in dangerous intersections, noting that as “most improvement projects involve multiple design changes, it’s hard to know exactly what helped, and by how much.” The New York City Department of Transportation and data science nonprofit DataKind developed and analyzed a predictive safety model incorporating traffic exposure, intersection complexity, and estimated car volume, but ultimately found that no single engineering approach “stood out as a statistically significant driver of lower crash rates,” despite data showing lower pedestrian rates after redesigns. Officials involved in the project suggested that “a few more years” of data and development could achieve the “holy grail” of analysis sought by the city, as DataKind is also collaborating with Seattle and New Orleans on similar projects. All three cities have signed “Vision Zero” pledges to achieve zero traffic fatalities.
Progress Being Made On Introducing Larger UVAs Into National Airspace System.
The Aviation International News (5/11, Carey) reports that at the Xponential 2017 conference Michael Francis, United Technologies Research Center chief of advanced programs “conceded” during a workshop co-sponsored by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics that the aerospace industry “really were totally off the mark” in assuming that thought large UAVs would lead the way in entering civilian, controlled airspace. Instead, there has been a “‘rapid proliferation’ of small drones” and the FAA has already produced a regulation on commercial uses of drones weighing less than 55 pounds. Still, progress is being made toward introducing larger UAVs into the US National Airspace System. These effort are being “led by the NASA UAS Integration in the NAS Project.” Aviation International News adds that the project has led to the constriction of NASA’s Ikhana Predator B testbed and it is “contributing to minimum operational performance standards (MOPS) being developed by RTCA Special Committee 228.”
Maryland Regulators Approve Two Major Offshore Wind Projects.
The Baltimore Sun (5/11, Dance) reports that Maryland regulators approved ratepayer subsidies for two major offshore wind farms. Officials had been expected to choose between one of two “vying proposals, but surprised many by giving both the green light, saying they would ‘position Maryland as a national leader in offshore wind energy.’” The two companies, U.S. Wind and Skipjack Offshore Wind LLC, “have until May 25 to accept a set of conditions, requiring certain levels of job creation and investment, that the commission laid out in its decision.” The AP (5/11) also provides coverage.
US News Sees “Record Demand” For Upcoming National STEM Forum.
U.S. News & World Report (5/11) reports that US News & World Report announced today “that the sixth annual STEM Solutions National Leadership conference is on track to be one of the largest gatherings of STEM leaders to date.” This year’s list of 140-plus speakers “represent a range of industries and backgrounds.” Brian Kelly, editor and chief content officer of U.S. News, is quoted saying, “STEM encompasses a wide range of issues within our communities and our local, regional and national economies. We designed a rich program to showcase all the various ways to support STEM learning and workforce development.”
Middle School Project Creates 3D-Printed Prosthetic Arm.
The Rochelle (IL) News-Leader (5/11) reports that after “many months of planning, preparation and trial and error,” Kings resident Jake Hubbard was presented with a “new prosthetic arm inside the technology lab at Rochelle Middle School Wednesday morning.” Hubbard’s prosthetic was made “with new technology using a 3D printer and some help from students, teachers, and community members.” The project to create the prosthetic “first began last year after the school had been awarded a $25,000 grant through Monsanto’s ‘America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education’ program.” A portion of the funding was used to purchase a 3D printer for the technology lab at RMS.
ABC News (5/11) reports a group of middle school students have helped “an Illinois farmer who lost his hand in a 2013 machinery accident” have “a new prosthesis to show off around town.” Hubbard “met with some of the 20 or so people who helped create his 3-D prosthetic hand, including eighth-graders at Rochelle Middle School in Illinois and their tech-lab teacher Vic Worthington.” Hubbard is quoted saying, “This is going to fill that void in my life so I have something to wear when I’m with my family and we go places and do things. … It’s very exciting.”
Blue-Collar Stigma Holds Back Career And Technical Education.
Education Week (5/11) reports students in career and technical education “are happier with their high school experience, and more likely to finish high school, than students who don’t take CTE classes.” However, the career-oriented approach to learning “hasn’t managed to shake the old stigma that it’s a pathway to blue-collar work for students who aren’t college material.” That image problem “could be one reason that enrollment in career-tech-ed hasn’t soared, even as policymakers increasingly laud it as a promising route to college, and to good jobs in expanding industries.”
Thursday’s Lead Stories
• Microsoft’s Build Conference Focuses On AI, Cloud Services.
• Arizona State University Students Finish Mobile Dental Clinic.
• MIT Researchers Demonstrate 3D Printing Construction Process.
• Google Acquires Owlchemy Labs VR Game Studio.
• Interior Department Moving Forward With Plans To Conduct Seismic Surveys In Atlantic.
• Schools Shifting Focus Of Career And Technical Education Programs.