Leading the News
Boeing Invests In UAV Tech Developer Near Earth Autonomy.
Reuters (10/19, Ajmera) reports that The Boeing Company said Thursday it had invested in Near Earth Autonomy. The company develops “technologies including sensor suites, three dimensional mapping and survey, and collision detection and avoidance that enables aircraft to operate autonomously,” and Boeing “said the two companies will also explore products and applications for emerging markets such as urban mobility.” This marked the first investment by Boeing’s new venture capital division, Boeing HorizonX, which was established in April.
Bloomberg News (10/19, Hull) reports that the company did not specify the amount of the investment, but the company’s recent “sale of about $10 million in equity” would likely “value the company at $40 million to $50 million.” Near Earth Autonomy CEO Sanjiv Singh said, “Sometimes it makes more sense to fly than to drive, because you can just hop over things. The demand for air travel is increasing, and the number of pilots is decreasing. When you think about disasters like Puerto Rico, where so many of the roads are washed out, autonomous aircraft could help to deliver supplies and bottled water.”
University Of Houston Launching New Data Science Center.
The Houston Chronicle (10/19, Ellis) reports that University of Houston officials announced Thursday that the school “will start an on-campus data science center,” covering “cyber and physical security, drug development and discovery, sustainability and health care.”
University Of Washington Tacoma Using Economic Theory To Keep Students On Path To Graduation.
The Seattle Times (10/19) reports, “The University of Washington Tacoma is using the behavioral theory of a Nobel Prize-winning economist to keep students on track to graduate,” explaining that behavioral economist Richard Thaler “who won a Nobel Prize this year for work that documented how human behavior is irrational when it comes to money — and in many other life choices,” the paper reports that Thaler’s work “is the inspiration for a program at the University of Washington Tacoma that aims to ‘nudge’ students to keep them on track to graduate from college.”
Accreditation and Professional Development
Formal Complaint Filed Over Westinghouse’s Use Of Unlicensed Engineers.
The Charleston (SC) Post and Courier (10/19, Brown) reports that environmental activist Tom Clements with the group Friends of the Earth, has filed a “formal complaint” with the SC board of professional engineers over Westinghouse’s decision to not use “professional engineers to draft the construction blueprints” for the pair of $9 billion VC Summer nuclear reactors that were later abandoned by SCE&G and Santee Cooper. According to other engineers who worked on the project, the “lack of professional oversight of the blueprints contributed to thousands of design revisions, construction setbacks, schedule changes and the ultimate demise” of the expansion. The Post and Courier previously uncovered that Westinghouse believed it was legally entitled to “disregard the state law that requires professional engineers to sign off on construction drawings and engineering calculations” because “federal licenses from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission superseded any state engineering law.” But NRC “told The Post and Courier that authority fell to South Carolina and other states.”
Research and Development
Uber Uses Fake City To Train Autonomous Vehicles, Safety Operators.
Business Insider (10/18, Muoio) reports, that Uber is now testing its autonomous vehicles in “a fake city it built in Pittsburgh called the ALMONO.” According to the article, the ALMONO has a roundabout, fake cars, and roaming mannequins “that jump out into the street without warning,” and the city is used to train vehicle operators before they are allowed to monitor Uber’s autonomous vehicles in the real world. Uber vehicle operator Rick McKahan said, “In most situations, we simulate those in such a way that they’re worse than anything you would see out on public roads.” Inc. Magazine reports that the training program for vehicle operators is “fairly rigorous,” requiring three weeks to complete and passing multiple written assessments and road tests.
Illinois Colleges Partnering On New Tech Hub.
The Chicago Sun-Times (10/19) reports the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign are launching “a new partnership as part of the Illinois Innovation Network – a group of high-tech research and academic institutions, startups and ‘innovation-driven enterprises.’” The project “will bring around 100 faculty, researchers and students” from the schools together “to develop and commercialize groundbreaking technology in fields ranging from cancer research to the production of clean water.”
US Army’s Sando Expects Electric Fighting Vehicles.
Alphr (UK) (10/19, Beall) reports that US Army Deputy to the Commanding General Donald Sando said that some of the service’s “brigade combat teams will be all-electric” within 10 years. Sando said that the effort will require industry input, and that there are “plenty of people who say we can’t do it.” Sando said that the development will be necessary, adding that he would be surprised if the Next-Generation Combat Vehicle (NGCV) did not use “electric or hydroelectric” resources. The service awarded a $700 million contract to a team including SAIC and Lockheed Martin for two demonstration vehicles in the next five years. The NGCV will eventually replace the M1 Abrams tank, the M2 Bradley fighting vehicle, or both. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command commander Cedric Wins said that within the next 20 years, “it’s hard to believe if industry moved in the direction of electric-powered vehicles that the Army would not be somewhere near there.” Wins added that a “brigade combat team consumes 2,000 gallons of fuel per day,” and therefore, “We’ve got to think about other ways.”
New Vehicle Technology Goes Beyond Mere Driving To Solve Larger Social Problems.
The New York Times (10/19, Boudette, Subscription Publication) reports Ford engineers Doug Martin and John Rollinger want to commercialize technology that collects water droplets from a car’s air conditioning system and stores it for human consumption with a “spout mounted near the front console.” The Times says this method of producing clean drinking water from a car “points to a wider change rippling through the global auto industry” where cars are adding “more computing power and adopt[ing] new technologies” that “do much more than take us from Point A to Point B.” Kelley Blue Book senior director Karl Brauer compares cars today to “when the iPhone came out 10 years ago,” saying that “cars are going the same way. They are going to serve us in ways and are going to be able to do things that we haven’t even conceived of yet.” Vehicles could also be used as moving Wi-Fi hotspots, for power generation, and even to control smart homes.
Vestas And Tesla Partner In $160 Million Australian Project.
Reuters (10/19) reports Vestas will help construct “the world’s first utility-scale project that uses battery technology to store power from both wind and solar sources, it said on Thursday.” The aim of the project, which is in Australia, is to “bring down the cost of renewable energy production and help secure a steady supply of renewable power to the grid regardless of weather conditions.” The project “will use batteries supplied by U.S. electric carmaker Tesla Inc” and “is expected to generate enough power to supply more than 35,000 average Australian homes.” Bloomberg News (10/19, Shankleman) reports Vestas Asia Pacific president Clive Turton said, “Renewables are often seen as not so reliable because we can’t control what we produce; Control is what we are addressing here.”
Ford To Have 600 Electric Vehicle Charging Stations In Its Facilities In Next 2 Years
The Detroit Free Press (10/19, Lawrence) reports that Ford announced Thursday that “it will increase the number of workplace charging stations from 200 to 600 in the next two years and that its network of stations at 50 facilities will double within the next year.” Making the announcement, Ford “said more than six in 10 of its employees who bought or leased an electric vehicle said its charging network influenced their purchase or lease decision.” Ford Sustainability and Vehicle Environmental Matters Manager Steve Henderson “said there is a connection between being able to charge at work and greater acceptance of electric vehicles,” as “workplace charging availability can provide peace of mind for consumers concerned about the still limited number of public charging options.” Henderson adds, “Work is the second most likely place people charge their electric vehicles. If we give people the ability to charge when they’re at work, we can significantly up the potential for mass market adoption of electrified vehicle technology.” The Free Press writes that Ford “is placing significant bets on wider acceptance of electric vehicles,” adding that it “announced earlier this month that it would invest $4.5 billion in the electric vehicle arena and introduce 13 new electric vehicles globally in the next five years.”
Intel, Amazon Partner On Voice Recognition Tech.
Engadget (10/19) reports Intel and Amazon are partnering “to combine the former’s silicon and smarts with the latter’s Alexa voice platform.” Intel has introduced the Intel Speech Enabling Developer Kit “to provide a ‘complete audio front-end solution for far-field voice control.’” Twice (10/19) quotes Intel’s smart-home group general manager Miles Kingston saying, “There’s a lot of engineering involved in getting speech recognition at high degrees of speed and accuracy to deliver the best customer experiences. … The Intel Speech Enabling Developer Kit is based on a new architecture that delivers high-quality far-field voice even in the most acoustically challenging environments.”
CNET News (10/19, Brown) reports Intel “hasn’t had a lot of luck transitioning to the mobile chips business, but it doesn’t intend to let the same thing happen in the growing smart home market.” Kingston is quoted saying, “We feel that the home is extremely connected, but not really smart yet.” Kingston said, “Imagine devices with microphones that can listen for anomalies – glass breaking, a baby crying, a dog barking. I don’t want to say ‘always listening,’ because that’s concerning, but that it’s listening for more than just a wake word [like ‘Alexa’].” Eventually, Kingston says, Intel “will release more Alexa development kits that add new and different features for smart home device makers. Intel’s kits could technically work with voice platforms from other companies like Google, Apple and Samsung, but Kingston wouldn’t comment on any future plans to support Amazon’s competition. Intel itself will be competing against the other Alexa development kits already out there.”
Engineering and Public Policy
FERC Puts Forward New Proposals For Energy Grid Cybersecurity.
Bloomberg News (10/19, Malik) reports, “U.S. grid operators will have to take measures to guard against the risk of being infected by malware from electronic devices like laptops and thumb drives under proposals put forward by” the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Bloomberg says, “The aim is to mitigate cyber-security risks that could affect the reliability of the grid, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said in a release on Thursday.”
FERC Staff Sees No Winter Grid Threat. E&E Publishing (10/19, Subscription Publication) reports “this winter will likely bring few major risks to energy markets, with predicted warm weather meaning moderate demand for fuel and electricity, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission staffers said today in a report” that challenges “the accelerated timeline for a grid rule proposed by the Department of Energy.” FERC staff said, “At this time, we do not see major risk factors that would likely lead to significant market disruptions during this winter.” The grid’s wintertime reliability “has been the focus of regulators and operators since 2014, when a polar vortex and extreme cold snaps strained the power industry.”
Poll: California K-12 Schools Must Do More For Non-College-Bound Students.
EdSource (10/18) reports that according to a recent Berkeley IGS/EdSource poll, “California’s public schools should be doing much more to prepare students who don’t go to college to enter the workforce.” However, respondents “are divided in their assessment of how well schools are doing in providing that preparation.” Voters surveyed “also expressed strong support for community colleges and other institutions to offer more vocationally oriented apprenticeship programs that may not lead to a college degree but prepare students for specific jobs.”
Baltimore’s Digital Harbor Foundation Works To Inspire Kids To Play With Tech.
Politico Magazine (10/19) reports that the nonprofit Digital Harbor Foundation laboratory in Baltimore “has a serious mission to inspire children living in the city’s core to play with technology as eagerly as they do video games.” The piece reports that five years ago “Digital Harbor turned a shuttered Baltimore rec center into a vibrant tech center and now regularly draws dozens of kids a week to take courses that promote STEM education…without making it sound like work.”
Column: Citizenship Demands Science Literacy.
In his Seattle Times (10/19, Large) column, Jerry Large writes that while job preparation “is a good reason for making a high-quality math and science education more broadly available,” “an understanding of math and science has become crucial in our political and personal lives.” Large says the “increasingly complex world” in which we live “demands” a well-educated public, and “we’re not where we need to be in preparing Americans with a solid base of understanding” in math and science.
Thursday’s Lead Stories
• DHS Warns Of Vulnerability In “Widely-Used” Wi-Fi Security Protocol.
• Clemson Grad Students Unveil Redesigned BMW MINI.
• GE, Apple Teaming Up To Develop Industrial Apps.
• Raytheon Opens New Engineering Facility In New Mexico.
• Iowa Gov. Reynolds Holds Press Conference Urging Trump To Preserve Ethanol Quotas.
• Lego Unveils “Women In NASA” Set.