Some behind the scenes tech at how a Waymo computer system can process the world around it in full 360 degrees. With so many eyes on the road, and each item's location and speed being tracked and predicted, how could there be any doubt that this is not just almost equivalent to what a human could do, but is actually two or three orders of magnitude more than a human could accomplish. This tech knows how fast all the cars and peds are moving, simultaneously, on a very busy street! It even knows if a car is about to run a red light and slows down to just miss it, and then continue. This will save lives. AV will save lives and should be embraced sooner, not later. PRISM Engineering is supportive of a full adoption of implementing AV tech in Smart Cities that can take advantage of Vision AV0, where autonomous vehicles and grade separations are the answer to reducing vehicle fatalities. We need this sooner than later.
Bike and Pedestrian Fatalities Higher than Ever in USA. Current Methods of Safety Not Working to Reduce Fatalities
If there are 37,000+ vehicle related deaths each year in the USA, and Pedestrians account for 15% of these, and they used to be only 11%, then this 4% increase represents 1,500 MORE pedestrian deaths each year compare to just 10 years ago. The 37,000+ number is also at a peak.
Obviously, whatever is the mainstream safety push for transportation is not working to even bring down the number of fatalities each year in the USA, in fact, it is going the opposite direction. Current methods are clearly not working and should be reconsidered as a whole. Nobody quite understands this counter-intuitive result, but the Governor's Highway safety Association is aware of it. Here is what they are saying:
"IT IS ALARMING," says GHSA* executive director Jonathan Adkins, "and it's counter-intuitive." (*Governor's Highway safety Association).
We need to pay attention to the facts, the accident history. "There's been an assumption that, because of increased safety of vehicles as we move toward semi-autonomous vehicles, that traffic deaths were going to go down," Adkins says. "We're seeing just the opposite, unfortunately, with a particular spike as it relates to pedestrians and cyclists."
from NPR's Pedestrian Fatalities Remain At 25-Year High For Second Year In A Row:
New traffic methods for PEDS/Bikes have not moved the needle. They LOOK good, but... Cycle Tracks and XWalks are not solving it. PED bridges are not cutting the fatalities (UP! to 40k / year in USA) ...no improvements! "Vision Zero" as currently envisioned seems beyond reach. We need new Engineered & real solutions that will eliminate mixing of vulnerable travel modes with vehicles. J-Walkers, PEDS crossing paths with vehicles, cyclists mixing with cars/trucks assuming safety, while traveling along side some incompetent or risk-taking drivers: HUMAN factors... and not Improving.
The assumption that any kind of "new and improved" traffic control device specifically for PEDS or BIKES will make them safer needs to be questioned, since the accident fatality data does not bear this out. The needle has been moving in just the opposite direction, and we can no longer assume that more striping, different striping, or even complete streets will make pedestrians safer. What needs to happen is a realization that MORE pedestrians mingled with Vehicles on roadways where cars/trucks can hit people directly, is turning out to be a dangerous thing.
1) In order for AV to be effective and yield safety results (VisionAV0) for cars, bikes, and peds, you need a new roadway INFRASTRUCTURE, a smart one, and that also separates the modes of travel.
2) No longer is it safe to mix pedestrians, bikes, and cars / trucks in the same real estate on the roads, without barriers or grade separations. Our accident rates and data prove this. They are going up in recent years despite new traffic controls, and are currently unacceptable. 40K fatalities each year in the USA is a terrible statistic, unacceptable, and status quo is no longer acceptable especially when we CAN find a solution(s).
3) New solutions are required. It will require planning and engineering coordination at all levels of government... civil engineering and transportation planning to bring this together in a meaningful and effective way. While I don't necessarily agree with Bill Ford's assessment that this will take lots of time, it doesn't have to...because as a Traffic Engineer who's main goal is the safe movement of people, I want to see safety first, capacity and throughput second. We have a huge safety problem NOW. We need to take action for safety's sake, use the latest technology, not put lipstick on a pig, but redesign and retool our infrastructure in smart ways... and AV can help and is in fact, the answer to our safety problem.
Daimler Mercedes Benz is one of the leaders in AV. Thinking away ahead, and planning, implementing. Thinking society too.
GM is Launching Robocars with NO STEERING WHEELS or PEDALS next year in 2019.
In case anyone is wondering how fast this is coming... GM is also in the running. But there many others. In fact, ALL car companies are in on the action and are attempting to define how this is all going to play out, because their very existence depends on it. And in their defense, they own it, they are in the driver's seat. They have the vehicle technology which is so advanced, that companies like Apple and Google are literally playing catch up. While Google and Apple think about and work on making software that controls some robotics in the car, the real tech is in the engine,
from the WIRED article:
"After more than a century making vehicles for humans to drive, General Motors has ripped the heart out of its latest ride, and is now holding the grisly spectacle up for all the world to see: A car with no steering wheel. And it plans to put a fleet of these newfangled things to work in a taxi-like service, somewhere in the US, next year.
And no, this robo-chariot, a modified all-electric Chevrolet Bolt, doesn't have pedals either. This is GM's truly driverless debut, a car that will have to handle the world on its own. No matter what happens, you, dear human passenger, cannot help it now.
Terrifying? Maybe. But it's also a major step in GM’s aggressive bid to maintain its big dog status as the auto industry evolves away from individual ownership and flesh-and-blood drivers. And it’s just the beginning for the Detroit stalwart. “We’ve put together four generations of autonomous vehicles over the course of 18 months,” says Dan Ammann, GM’s president. “You can safely assume that the fourth generation won’t be the last.”
While Waymo, Uber, and others in this..." (read more at WIRED.COM)
Encourage, Don't Hamper, Green Solutions
It's Green! It's Electric! Part of an Active Lifestyle.
But San Francisco is basically banning E-Scooters after complaints by some pedestrians who think the riders are "very rude." With all the transportation challenges SF has, does this seem like the right focus?? It is more or less being shut down because SF is impounding most of these scooters.
This has already been tried in China with varying success, but bad actor renters among the many who have rented are causing some grief, where those riders leave the scooter in the wrong places after using it. If that could be solved... but this is like trying to solve bad human behavior by going after a company who can't control the behavior of the users/renters. It would be akin to going after AVIS car rentals when their customers park in the wrong places, speed, or block a bike lane, etc. We have a law enforcement solution for that: called getting a ticket. Scooter riders could get a ticket. It could be part of the rental agreement too.
The SOLUTION seems easy enough:
Many cities are impatiently shutting down bike sharing companies, confiscating their bikes and impounding them, because of bike or scooter clutter after some users leave them in undesirable areas. And some residents have an aversion to something new that is left around like clutter.
The solution seems easy. The Bike Rental Companies can have these renters return the bikes to an appropriate area or face a steep surcharge (like 50 bucks on their credit card). Then the company can have their staff come pick up the rental bike immediately after the $50 charge, and get it relocated to an appropriate parking area. EASY!
UBER Autonomous Car FAILED in 2018, but...given ANY other car, the same accident would have happened.
Yes, this UBER car completely FAILED to even slow down, BUT... a human would have failed to slow down too, in fact, by the time a human could have possibly even seen this pedestrian, they could not get their foot on the brake in time, or swerve the wheel in time. Read on...
Bloomberg Forensic crash analysts who reviewed the video said a human driver could have responded more quickly to the situation. Really?
Bloomberg Analyst states that UBER car should have detected pedestrian in median, and BRAKED. Really?
There is a lot of LIABILITY to go around here, in Road Design, in Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety too.
Maybe it is just me, but this median is attractive. It actually looks like a park.
It looks like park with trees and pathways and rocks.
It looks inviting. But its in the wrong location. And at night, there is a serious problem with lighting in the wrong places, and pathways leading to a JWALK situation without a crosswalk or warning signs. At the ground level, it is confusing for both pedestrians and drivers who may see a ped crossing in a strange place, unexpected.
A Dead-End sidewalk, with no safe way out, and no warnings for peds already in the median.
Sure, there is a sign there that says NO PEDESTRIANS and USE CROSSWALK (see photo below), but look at what direction it is facing. It is facing west, perpindicular to the sidewalk, to warn pedestrians on the other sidewalk to not come over into the median. In other words, if you are a pedestrian from the bridge on that side of this one way segment of road, you will not see this sign. You have no warnings on the bridge. In fact, if a pedestrian tried to view this sign they might interpret it to mean, "continue forward to the crosswalk" (in the direction of the arrow) rather than cross to leave the median. Then the pedestrian has this beautiful paved brick pathway that leads them, not to a crosswalk, but to a curb, faced with a decision to cross four lanes of high speed traffic without a crosswalk, without a warning, without a street light.
I can see many pedestrians making a serious mistake with this kind of design and lack of guidance. I believe there is serious liability here.
Architects, Planners and Engineers in their quest to make beautiful transportation facilities need to also think about safety in design and how the user will use the feature or facility. They must also think about if the transportation "art" is confusing, especially from a safety standpoint. This particular design should have had fences, no paved pathways to confuse, and certainly some guidance to peds. The pathways in no case should have connected directly to the curbs of the roadway as if to lead a pedestrian there. The bridge should not have encouraged pedestrians to use the median side of the bridges, as this can only lead to this dead end, on both bridges!
Also, a pedestrian seeing a paved pathway, a short cut, and a sign that says in effect "don't use me" is a very mixed message.
Grant Johnson, TE
Sources: All street view and aerial photos from Google Maps. Illustrations by Grant Johnson, TE
Often depicted in way over simplified conceptual drawings, the Autonomous Vehicle is consistently misunderstood.
Autonomous Vehicles: In order for there to be compelling reason to incur the impact and expense of potentially retooling the entire vehicle industry, there would need to be compelling improvements to safety, capacity / efficiency, as well as the environment. The autonomous vehicle has in principle, the capacity to improve all three, but the conceptual illustrations one can find today on the internet when searching for "autonomous vehicles" leave much to be desired... they generate more questions than answers in one's mind. They are confusing. Such as why does a picture show all this "connectivity and sensors" from each vehicle, but the traffic pattern on the freeway is identical to existing conditions? Where is the benefit? Capacity increase? Or why would one think that it would be a good idea to show vehicles criss-crossing past each other at right angles in an uncontrolled intersection, narrowly missing bumpers, as if that is a safe idea or design? Logically, it's not. A roundabout would be a much better idea, lower speeds, and significantly reduced conflict points (goes from 9 potential conflicts down to just 1). In fact, it doesn't make any sense to introduce such a fallible and dangerous situation where serious injury can take place if technology fails in any way. Also, what about bikes and pedestrians in such a situation? Its as if there were no serious thought put into these concepts when it comes to having Complete Streets.
UBER Autonomous car hits pedestrian. news makes it look like autonomous is not safe
what components are in an autonomous car ?
Stopping Sight Distance = PERCEPTION TIME + REACTION TIME + BRAKING TIME
Autonomous vehicles theoretically change this equation to: SuperFast PERCEPTION TIME + SuperFast REACTION TIME + BRAKING TIME where the braking time remains the same because it is a function of tires, speed, friction, etc., but the Perception Time is a fraction of what humans need to make a decision that they need to brake...theoretically, and the Reaction Time is greatly shortened because no human foot has to move from the floor to get above the pedal to push it.
Any Autonomous Vehicle solution MUST also take into consideration the entire body of transportation modes, especially pedestrians and bikes. A pedestrian or cyclist will never be in the autonomous category, so these are mixed transportation use situations.
Good examples of extreme traffic situations can be found in China where density is consistently very high throughout urban cities. n Chongqing China there are residential and business skyscrapers that go on and on for miles and miles, averaging 30 stories tall.
THIS is a compelling reason to implement such an expensive change for the benefit of all, including drivers of vehicles. 90% of residents in Chongqing do NOT own or drive a car. As one watches the video of regular drivers on these massive 9-lane roadways, one can think of what benefit would come to the system if all vehicles were autonomous. In my view, safety would not only improve, but efficiency as well and capacity could be tripled as vehicles perfectly coordinate the merging, with tighter headways, and regulated speeds.
So What will an Autonomous Vehicle transportation system look like? What must it look like?
First of all, it must be safe for pedestrians. In the China video above, the pedestrians are completely separated from the vehicle traffic, because it is not safe or practical to ever have these meet in such high numbers. So there must be separation. There must be grade separation (or in the case of the China video above, a complete separation of vehicle traffic by tunnel if necessary). Grade separations are expensive, but to have a truly autonomous system and remove the human error factor that introduces accidents, often fatal accidents, a separation is needed. If a car is going 60 mph autonomously, and a child runs in front of it, the car no matter how automated, cannot stop in time, and fatality may occur, traffic will come to standstill, etc. We grade separate freeways, and now all roads with autonomous vehicles will need some method of separation in order to achieve the desired levels of safety, of capacity, of efficiency, even the environment and air quality. Fences. Ped and Bike bridges. Even signal systems tied in to the autonomous computer system, coordinated and optimized for safety of peds and bikes.
The future of traffic engineering will be to develop solutions that actually make sense, are safe and efficient, and which can take existing right-of way and turn it into a system where cars are separated from the pedestrians and bikes to improve safety, capacity, efficiency and air quality.
From LA TIMES: The bullet train will require about 20 miles of tunnels under the San Gabriel Mountains between Burbank and Palmdale, involving either a single tunnel of 13.8 miles or a series of shorter tunnels. As many as 16 additional miles of tunnels would stretch under the Tehachapi Mountains from Palmdale to Bakersfield. The state will probably opt for twin bores — one for each of two parallel tracks. That means as many as 72 miles of tunneling before 2022.
Can it meet that schedule?
"No way," said Leon Silver, a Caltech geologist and a leading expert on the San Gabriel Mountains. "The range is far more complex than anything those people know."
Cycling is Eco-Friendly, and so is this solar powered Bike Trail
PRISM Engineering thinks this is pretty cool and a great way to encourage more recreational biking without the need for expensive lighting. This glow in the dark bike trail is found near Lidzbark Warminski in northern Poland, and sets a standard for what is possible now with long lasting glow in the dark materials. It was the creation of TPA Instytut Badań Technicznych Sp. z o.o. who specialize in making the synthetic materials (see below)
The bike trail is made from a synthetic material that glows in the dark for up to ten hours, depending on sunlight during the day. This technology is entirely dependent upon and utilizing solar power. More info at: http://www.tpaqi.com/
photo sources: TPA Instytut Badań Technicznych Sp. z o.o.
Solar Roads is an idea whose time has come
So I give this idea a hearty thumbs up. Instead of the petroleum-based asphalt as an overlay, use these. Then it may even be possible to run the electric vehicles we all dream of using someday, and put the gasoline engine to rest. If the sun can power all this, why not?
Federal Government gives them $750,000:
Indiegogo raises over $2.2 M for their Idaho company: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/solar-roadways#/
The STRADDLING BUS extends just outside the box space of two lanes, and does not impact those two lanes, keep as is, but this special bus travels overhead. WATCH
I think the idea has legs (pun intended). However, if we are going to avoid all of the at-grade traffic problems that will inevitably occur with this new device, it would be necessary to build a more separated facility. In my opinion, this thing FAILS on the corners, on the turns. It seems like a perfect idea for any straight corridor. So maybe the train could just operate on straight paths ONLY, and transfers could take place at perpendicular locations. This would avoid the conflicts of curves mixed with at-grade traffic, which I think is a critical fail. Its kind of like LRT, but elevated, but unlike LRT it has a much much bigger footprint that has to be accommodated. This means loss of capacity for at-grade traffic, to stop nearly all traffic at intersections while this thing navigates a turn.
More newspaper articles on this development, click READ MORE
Grant Johnson, registered Traffic Engineer, shares insights and experiences from around the world.