Leading the News
Top Car Tech Trends At CES Include Voice Control Systems, Vehicle Connectivity.
Outlining “the coolest car tech from CES,” USA Today (1/10, Jolly) praises Toyota’s announcement of Alexa integration, Jaguar Land Rover’s HomeLink Connect, Gentex’s biometric Driver-Assist feature, Hyundai’s Intelligent Personal Cockpit voice recognition system, Nissan’s “brain to vehicle” technology, Toyota’s self-driving Concept-i car, and Ford’s mini-street for the integration of cars into a “City of Tomorrow.”
Citing the automotive website “Edmunds,” the AP (1/10, Montoya) says the “top car tech trends from CES 2018” include AI-powered infotainment systems, such as Hyundai’s Intelligent Personal Agent voice-control technology and Mercedes-Benz’s “intuitive” operating system that is based on AI. The AP also highlights Nissan’s “brain-to-vehicle” technology, Ford’s use of Wi-Fi hotspots to add vehicle connectivity, and Ford’s “cellular vehicle-to-everything” technology.
Popular Mechanics (1/10) contributor Andrew Moseman lists four CES car trends that he calls “the future of driving”: the construction of smart cities, voice assistant integration into cars’ dashboards, scooter upgrades, and promises to electrify car lineups.
Analysis: Partnerships Announced At CES Aim To Build Smart Cities. U.S. News & World Report (1/10, Soergel) reports on partnerships announced at CES that aim to foster smart cities, such as Panasonic’s announcement of “approval to construct a 90-mile stretch of smart highway infrastructure in Colorado.” Ford also announced “a slew of partnerships on Tuesday that will shift the company’s focus well outside the boundaries of automotive manufacturing,” including a partnership “with Postmates to work on autonomous food delivery.” The article also cites “Samsung’s partnership with Verizon to bring 5G connectivity to Sacramento, Toyota’s announcement that it will partner with Amazon to bring the Alexa smart assistant into its vehicles, [and] Intel’s separate partnerships with the National Football League and Ferrari.”
Chao’s Speech At CES Focuses On Supporting Transportation Advancements. Bloomberg News (1/10, Beene) reports that during a speech at CES in Las Vegas, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said that the DOT will publish four requests for public comments on how to reduce regulatory barriers for transportation advancements in vehicles, trains, buses, commercial trucking, and transit systems. In the speech, Chao said, “Right now there are too many outdated transportation rules, terms and concepts that no longer apply to an automated world.” Chao added, “This request for input will help the government identify which regulations, parts of regulations or terminology need to be updated to allow for innovation to move forward.” The public comments will be used to develop DOT’s third version of the Federal Automated Vehicle Policy, which Chao said would be released over the summer.
Las Vegas Review-Journal (1/10) reports that in the speech Chao also said President Trump’s infrastructure plan will address “transformative technology,” including how to introduce and embed it into the country’s future infrastructure system. Chao added that “we have to think about how to pay for it.” Chao “said the Trump administration would rather offer incentives rather than public dollars to private companies charged with developing the next wave of transportation technology.”
Chao Discusses Importance Of Innovation In Transportation, Expects Release Of Infrastructure Plan In Late January. Bloomberg TV Bloomberg Technology (1/10, 5:04 p.m. EST) featured an interview with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. Chao explained that she was at CES in Las Vegas to promote innovation and creativity. Chao said that within the DOT, the Trump Administration aims to encourage the growth of innovation and to reexamine regulation that may be slowing down innovation. Chao added that while innovation is important, the Administration also wants to make sure it is done responsibly and promotes safety, security, and privacy. Chao noted that this balance has been particularly important as the federal government addresses self-driving vehicles and drones. Chao added that so far, the DOT has issued guidelines on self-driving systems and started a pilot program on drone testing. In addition, the DOT posted a request for information on four modes of transportation to see what regulations are hampering growth in innovation. Regarding the infrastructure bill, Chao said a plan is expected to be released around the State of the Union, which is on Jan. 30.
Chao also spoke to CBS News (1/10) about the infrastructure bill. Chao said she recently had a productive conversation about infrastructure with a bipartisan group of lawmakers. On the topic of public-private partnerships, Chao said that President Trump believes that the private sector should be able to participate in the financing of public infrastructure projects. Chao added that infrastructure bill will include components that address rural America and transformative technology.
Tax Overhaul Targets Elite Colleges In Blue States.
Bloomberg News (1/10, Lorin) reports that Republicans crafting the tax overhaul bill crafted the 1.4% levy on endowment income did so “so narrowly that it ended up as a tax almost entirely on elite blue-state institutions.” Of the 28 colleges likely to have to pay the excise, 22 are “in Democratic Congressional districts, and those schools could pay 90 percent of the $200 million a year the government expects to collect, according to a Bloomberg analysis.” Some college officials call the move “a form of political payback,” Bloomberg reports, noting that “Republicans have long attacked higher education as a bastion of liberalism that is intolerant of free speech, featuring bloated bureaucracies that hoard endowment money while raising fees that now can exceed $60,000 a year.”
Kansas Education Officials Consider Reducing Credit Hours Needed For Bachelor, Associate Degrees.
The Great Bend (KS) Tribune (1/10) reports the Kansas Board of Regents and the Kansas Board of Education are considering “reducing the number of credit hours needed for bachelor’s and associate degrees, and coordinating the price of tuition for dual high school/college credits.”
Former Employees: SLAC Misled, Overcharged Student Loan Borrowers.
BuzzFeed (1/10, Hensley-Clancy) reports that while the Student Loan Assistance Center “has positioned itself as a model actor in the country’s troubled tangle of student debt settlement companies,” four former employees say “for years, it misled and overcharged desperate student loan borrowers, mishandled accounts, and sometimes lied on federal documents.” The former employees, “along with documents and legal filings from a consumer protection lawsuit, paint a picture of a business with a cutthroat, Wild West sales environment that fostered the mistreatment of some of the company’s more than 30,000 customers — while spinning a broken student loan system into pure profit for its owners.”
Research and Development
Autonomous Vehicles Could Go Without Drivers Next.
Detroit Free Press (1/10, Reindl) reports that a main topic of discussion at the 2018 CES conference is autonomous vehicles operating without a driver in the vehicle. The topic has garnered projections and goals from companies such as Toyota, GM, Ford, Waymo, and others. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s autonomous vehicle classification system has been largely followed. The system classifies vehicles able to drive autonomously most the time as “Level 4.” Level 4 vehicles are still equipped with pedals and a steering wheel for manual driving. Toyota Research Institute CEO Gill Pratt said that the company’s future truly self-driving car will be a “Level 4” autonomous vehicle.
University Of Cincinnati To Showcase Sensor Research.
WVXU-FM Cincinnati (1/9) reports that the University of Cincinnati on Friday will host its “third annual Sensor Community Retreat, attended by researchers, community members and students.” The event will showcase “examples of sensor research that’s being conducted at the University of Cincinnati.”
University Of Arizona Startup Tests Mine Safety Technology.
KJZZ-FM Phoenix (1/10) reports that a startup launched by the University of Arizona called GUIA “is testing a mining communication and sensor platform to help save lives” that was “developed by faculty in the U of A College of Engineering and Lowell Institute for Mineral Resources. Known as the SMART Suite 5.0, the technology features sensors that can detect and report on components of worker health and safety.”
Boeing Unveils Prototype Unmanned Electric Cargo Air Vehicle.
Reuters (1/10, Shivdas) reports that The Boeing Company unveiled a prototype “unmanned electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing cargo air vehicle (CAV)” Wednesday that Boeing “said will be used to test its autonomous technology.” The CAV was designed and built in less than three months, and is “powered by an environmentally-friendly electric propulsion system and can carry up to 500 pounds, Boeing said.” Steve Nordlund, Vice President of Boeing HorizonX, which developed the CAV, said that the prototype “presents new possibilities for autonomous cargo delivery, logistics and other transportation applications.”
Aerospace Corp Warns Of “Terrestrial Interference With Critical Satellite Services.”
Space News (1/10, Subscription Publication) reports that research by The Aerospace Corporation planned for release Thursday at a American Meteorological Society meeting warns “that powerful terrestrial signals in the 1675 to 1680 MHz bands could interfere with receivers designed to track the much weaker signals transmitted by navigation and meteorology satellites.” The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) are “considering a proposal that would allow wireless towers to transmit information” in the 1675 and 1680 Mhz frequency range, which has been “traditionally reserved for satellite services.” Dave Lubar of the Aerospace Corporation said, “We are trying to help the public understand that spectrum is involved in the critical information flow that comes from the satellite to a user, public or private, that can’t afford to miss that data.”
Pew Survey: Many Black STEM Workers Report Facing Race-Related Discrimination.
Newsweek (1/10, Dovey) reports that according to a new national survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, there are “drastic differences in how workers of different races feel their ethnicity affects their current position. Results revealed that black workers report far more racial discrimination than other ethnic groups.” The survey indicated that “black STEM workers were more likely than other workers to report that their race or ethnicity had made it harder for them to excel in their career, with 40 percent reporting that their race made it harder to succeed in their field. Only 31 percent of Asians, 19 percent of Hispanics and 5 percent of whites said the same.”
Chinese Workers Leaving Silicon Valley For China-Based Startups.
Bloomberg News (1/10) reports, “U.S.-trained Chinese-born talent is becoming a key force in driving Chinese companies’ global expansion and the country’s efforts to dominate next-generation technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning.” While college graduates in China “once coveted a prestigious overseas job and foreign citizenship, many today gravitate toward career opportunities at home, where venture capital is now plentiful and the government dangles financial incentives for cutting-edge research.” For those reluctant to return to China, Chinese companies such as Alibaba and Tencent are “among those who have built or are expanding labs in Silicon Valley.” However, career opportunities, particularly in tech, are “regarded as more abundant back home.” Venture Firm GGV managing partner Hans Tung said many who once worked in Silicon-Valley “end up finding it’s much more lucrative for them career-wise to join a fast-rising Chinese company,” adding, “At Google, at LinkedIn, at Uber, at Airbnb, they all have Chinese engineers who are trying to figure out ‘should I stay, or should I go back.’”
Korean Researchers Create Efficient OLED For Wearables.
Nanowerk (1/10) reports a team from the School of Electric Engineering at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology “succeeded in fabricating highly efficient Organic Light-Emitting Diodes (OLEDs) on an ultra-fine fiber,” which could have applications in making “high-efficiency, long-lasting OLEDs” for wearables. The work was published in Nano Letters under the title “Weavable and Highly Efficient Organic Light-Emitting Fibers for Wearable Electronics: A Scalable, Low-Temperature Process .”
China “Closing In” On US In Space, Cyber Capabilities.
In an article headlined “In Space And Cyber, China Is Closing In On The United States,” Space News (1/10, Subscription Publication) reports that the US “could soon be unpleasantly surprised as China continues to shore up its domestic capacity to produce high-end weapons, satellites and encryption technologies, a panel of analysts told the House Armed Services emerging threats and capabilities subcommittee.” According to Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO), Chinese satellite manufacturing “is growing at an alarming rate,” and its government subsidies put “our own satellite manufacturers at a competitive disadvantage.” Heritage Foundation Asia Study Center Senior Research Fellow Dean Cheng testified that China is filling the market with cheap satellites “for a price that frankly no country can really compete with.” Cheng also said he expects China to “start moving into” the small satellite space with an eye toward “offering data at very competitive rates, potential[ly] undercutting prices to a variety of users.” Center for Strategic and International Studies Technology Policy Program Fellow William Carter noted that the commercial industry is “driving” the US to “innovate and find ways to cut cost and deliver better capabilities,” and he argued “that there’s probably more reason for optimism about the U.S. commercial space sector today than there has been in a while.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Infrastructure Plan May Be Delayed Past January.
Politico (1/10, Snyder) reports in its Morning Transportation rundown that the Trump Administration may delay the release of its infrastructure principles until after President Trump’s State of the Union address. Politico reports that a group of senators met with Administration officials – including Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, and special assistant for infrastructure policy DJ Gribbin – to discuss the infrastructure plan. Politico mentions that some of the senators said the Administration officials did not detail how the Administration plans to pay for the infrastructure plan.
Infrastructure Proposal Will Reduce Regulations. Transport Topics (1/10, Lamb) reports James Ray, special adviser to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, delivered the keynote address at the annual meeting luncheon of the Transportation Research Board on Wednesday where he “said one of the White House’s goals is to reduce the amount of regulations that can sometimes stymie initiatives.” TT reports Ray “said that typical highway projects can involve as many as 10 federal agencies, but will oftentimes not identify a single point of contact to serve as a liaison,” citing a bridge project that involved 55 agencies.
Proposal To Eliminate Tax Exemption On PABs Spooks Infrastructure Advocates. Roll Call (DC) (1/10, Fischler) reports that a proposal to eliminate the tax exemption for public activity bonds that was included in several versions of the tax bill “sent a shudder through the groups that rely on the financing tool.” While Roll Call acknowledges that the provision was not included in the final bill, the piece stresses the importance of PABs to airports, and to a lesser extent, public transit systems. Roll Call says the decision to include the provision at any point drew a negative response from infrastructure backers “because it contradicted one of Trump’s early ideas for an infrastructure package – incentives for private sector involvement.” Roll Call mentions that 39 House Republicans signed a letter saying, “Given the administration’s stated priority for increasing investment in infrastructure, we believe the elimination of tax exempt private activity bonds would be a step in the wrong direction toward fulfilling the president’s goal.” The letter added that the measure would “make infrastructure projects more expensive.”
States Look For Drilling Exemptions After Florida Decision.
The New York Times (1/10, Davenport, Subscription Publication) reports that within hours of Secretary Zinke’s tweet, governors from other coastal states started demanding their own drilling exemptions. South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster announced plans to ask the Interior for a drilling exemption. New York’s Andrew Cuomo tweeted, “New York doesn’t want drilling off our coast, either. … Where do we sign up for a waiver?” Deputy White House press secretary Hogan Gidley said, “The Secretary is currently in the process of speaking to stakeholders, like Governor Scott yesterday, to determine the most responsible and environmentally sound path forward. … All states have different concerns and needs, which is why this is an ongoing process with a built-in 60 day comment period.” The Wall Street Journal (1/10, Puko, Subscription Publication) reports the governors of North and South Carolina requested their own meeting with Secretary Zinke, while the governors of New York, Oregon and Delaware have made similar entreaties on Twitter. Interior spokeswoman Heather Swift said, “The Secretary is happy to meet with governors whose offices submit meeting requests.” Only the governors of Alaska and Maine have come out in support of the plan. However, USA Today (1/10, King) reports Swift also said, “It’s not appropriate to transfer his comments on Florida to other states.” Reuters (1/10, Valdmanis) reports Delaware Governor John Carney tweeted, “Tourism and recreation along the Delaware coastline account for billions in economic activity each year, and support tens of thousands of jobs.”
The AP (1/10) provides a complete list of the coastal states and the position of their governors on offshore drilling. The state governors listed as supporting the plan include Maine, Mississippi, Alabama, Texas and Alaska. Georgia is undecided, with a spokeswoman saying Gov. Nathan Deal generally supports drilling, but “has some concerns regarding opening up Georgia’s pristine coast.” Louisiana’s governor supports offshore drilling but has not spoken publicly about the plan. The states opposing the plan include New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North and South Carolina, Florida, California, Oregon and Washington.
Missouri Bill Requires High School Students To Pass Computer Science Course To Graduate.
The Missourinet (1/10, Nelson) reports on Missouri’s Republican State Sen. Doug Libla’s bill that requires high school students to complete and pass a course in computer science prior to graduating. Libla said that offering such computer science course would help make students more well rounded. Libla added that “when you’re talking about jobs and economic development in the state of Missouri, how can we let that stand.”
Tennessee District Launching Bus With STEAM Space.
WJHL-TV Johnson City, TN (1/10) reports educators in Johnson City, Tennessee are outfitting a school bus with a STEAM lab. The idea was prompted by a local school board request “to put STEAM space in every school.” The piece quotes Johnson City Public School Foundation’s Amy Stover saying, “Instead of having this expensive technology in every school that may or may not be used every day why not put it on a bus that can go around to each elementary school.” The article reports, “The hope is to save the schools money on expanding space and buying technology.”
Students At Pennsylvania Elementary School Using Carnegie Mellon Flutter Kits For Math.
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (1/10, Varine) reports that students at Heritage Elementary School in Pennsylvania’s Franklin Regional district are using Flutter robotics kits in their math classes. The kits “were developed through Carnegie Mellon University’s CREATE Lab, and are being piloted at three school districts including Franklin Regional.” The goal of the robot systems is “to introduce the programming of robots into elementary curricula by having students program and design their own personal mini-robot with blinking lights and servo motors to power moving parts.”
Wednesday’s Lead Stories
• CES Announcement Reviews Focus On AI Innovations.
• ED Officials Offer Student Advocates Few Details On Tougher Student Loan Relief Standards.
• Colorado Mines Students Work On Mobility Systems For Disabled Veterans, First Responders.
• Pew Research Center: Half Of Women In Tech Experience Workplace Discrimination.
• Experts See Possibility Of Danger In Self-Driving Cars.
• Fort Wayne Community Schools Add STEM Initiatives.