Transportation is changing rapidly. The United States Department of Transportation has a new plan released to fast-track the adoption of autonomous vehicles. It is at the doors already. By adjusting the "standards" for vehicle safety to remove certain items like steering wheels, foot pedals, etc., a truly autonomous car can be made, taking the human driver element and removing it altogether!
Under current US safety rules, a motor vehicle must have traditional controls, like a steering wheel, mirrors, and foot pedals, before it is allowed to operate on public roads. But that could all change under a new plan released on Thursday by the Department of Transportation that’s intended to open the floodgates for fully driverless cars.
The department, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “intends to reconsider the necessity and appropriateness of its current safety standards” as applied to autonomous vehicles, the 80-page document reads. In particular, regulators say they will look to change those safety standards “to accommodate automated vehicle technologies and the possibility of setting exceptions to certain standards — that are relevant only when human drivers are present.”
PRISM Engineering sees the whole landscape changing, and rapidly. The status quo in transportation planning is outdated already. Traffic Engineers and Transportation Planners are going to be updating all of their methods to morph into what will be the future of transportation: autonomous smart and programmed driverless vehicles. It is going to require a wholesale revision to street systems, sidewalks, bike paths, and freeway systems. It is going to see a repurposing of roadways that only need 7 foot lanes instead of 12, unless the width of the vehicles are widened to 10 feet, which would be nice. Vehicles are going to travel much closer together, much much closer, so you will have a greatly enhanced capacity, and if travel demand remains the same, you are going to see all congestion completely disappear. Capacity will be increased, 10 fold, or an order of magnitude.
H2O is the output "exhaust" from the onboard Fuel Cell that generates the onboard electricity. What a system! It is here.
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The world’s first hydrogen fuel cell train rolled into the station. The Coradia iLint, built by Alstom in Salzgitter, Germany, is equipped with fuel cells which convert hydrogen and oxygen into electricity, thus eliminating pollutant emissions related to propulsion.
Bike and Pedestrian Fatalities Higher than Ever in USA. Current Methods of Safety Not Working to Reduce Fatalities
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).
from NPR's Pedestrian Fatalities Remain At 25-Year High For Second Year In A Row:
After two years of marked increases, the number of pedestrian fatalities in the U.S. is holding steady with nearly 6,000 pedestrians killed in 2017, according to estimates from the Governors Highway Safety Association.
That's a 25-year high, GHSA says. While the rise "appears to be tapering off," the group said, the "continuation of pedestrian fatalities at virtually the same pace ... raises continued concerns about the nation's alarming pedestrian death toll."
Autonomous Vehicles (AV) are the biggest disruptor to come along, ever. Just think about it. It will change so many industries. It will change Traffic Engineering, and Transportation Planning, I can see that, and so I am looking at all of our technology and investment in how we see traffic, and it will all come undone. It will all become in years, irrelevant. When humans are taken out of the equation for driving, everything changes. There is no more speed limit, for instance. No more 85th percentile thinking. No more radar studies. No more accident history. No more guard rails, or pavement markings or signs as we now know them. No more need for signals, that's for humans too. What we will have are SYSTEMS, but these systems need to be developed with humans in mind, and transportation connectivity. A whole new custom system for all cities, in all states and provinces, in every single country throughout the world. This is a huge industry in the making. It is not the end. It is a disruption, and we all need to adapt. Taxi drivers, bus drivers, truck drivers will very soon be a thing of the past. Schools will be different. Cars will be different, will be a service industry. Safety and security of these new systems need to be worked out. We would not send our kids on buses where we knew they might be kidnapped. We would not want a woman to be alone in a AV POD with a group of menacing men, on a long ride to somewhere. We need to think all this through, in how to make this safe and harmonious. There is a LOT more to think about and plan for, when we are talking about society. Its not just about getting from point A to point B. Soccer moms will no longer be driving their kids to the games, but maybe that introduces new problems. Will the kids behave on the way? Will they get lost or miss their stop? Who will help them in an emergency? Will the parents just ride with their children in an AV POD, or will they have their own AV POD? There are thousands of questions on HOW it will roll out.
Ford's Executive Chairman Bill Ford says Not so Fast...
In this video Bill Ford is pragmatic, explaining that you need more than just AV tech on the road, you also need smart cities... trust and ethics, job displacement, etc.
PRISM Engineering is also looking at the big picture from an Infrastructure Engineering and Transportation Planning standpoint, and understands the following:
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.
Mercedes SMART car (AV) https://electrek.co/2017/08/30/mercedes-daimler-unveils-new-all-electric-autonomous-smart-prototype/
"Who's afraid of defining the future?" asks Wilko Stark, the man tasked with pulling Daimler and its flagship brand, Mercedes-Benz, into the future.
from the article:
"Part of Daimler's future plans include an onslaught of 10 new electric models by 2022, and a fair bit of autonomy to with them.
Wilko Stark, in charge of this at Daimler says "We have a clear rollout plan in which kind of cities we’re going to enter. First of all, for self-driving cars, the weather conditions should be pretty good. It’s probably more in the South. And we have to build up a good relationship with the city; that’s quite important. They are all, everywhere, interested in self-driving cars. Everybody is knocking on our door, but they are of course looking for electric vehicles. And you have to build up a different approach from Lyft or especially Uber, because we want to define and develop a future together with the cities. In the next decade we will begin to see self-driving cars in major cities in Europe and the US."
GM is Launching Robocars with NO STEERING WHEELS or PEDALS next year in 2019.
"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
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.
I think punishing companies is the wrong approach. Cities need to PLAN BETTER FACILITIES for parking bikes or scooters, if they are going to actively encourage people to get out of their cars! This is exactly what many involved with Transportation policy and planning are trying to do, get people out of their cars to make it more safe, more green... I believe it would be more helpful to find ways to accommodate and encourage entrepreneurs thinking outside of that box... not punishing them because of a few loose ends.
If e scooters are deemed a safety issue, there are surely more important safety issues that need to be solved first, like truly doing things to eliminate the 37,000+ fatalities with vehicles every single year in the USA.
The SOLUTION seems easy enough:
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!
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Here's a video of a NEW YORKER sharing his experience comparing
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...
Let's be reasonable... there is liability on all sides enough to go around. No human could have stopped in time, there wasn't enough PERCEPTION TIME, or REACTION TIME, let alone braking time. Total distance needed to stop: 300 feet according to Caltrans. The pedestrian lady shows up on camera at 100 feet. This is also when a human could see her. 60 feet is just the perception time for a human at 40 mph. Also we know from several studies that humans can't see so well at night. In fact, in testing, humans 65 and older can only begin to see a pedestrian in the dark at about 65 feet. Young people 18-30 at 105 feet. This correlates with the video. You can only perceive what you can see.
Let's also not forget about the environment. It practically INVITED this lady to cross the street where she did, at about the most dangerous place you could jaywalk, she was on a sidewalk in the median that actually LED HER THERE. The median was decorated just like a park, and had a sidewalk that led to it from the bridge, but had no way out except to JWALK. This is a liability too. It is a pedestrian trap.
Illustration: Grant Johnson, TE
Bloomberg Forensic crash analysts who reviewed the video said a human driver could have responded more quickly to the situation. Really?
When I read this sensational article, I cringed at the bold statement. I too reviewed the video. The pedestrian was wearing DENIM pants and a BLACK shirt. Her bike was behind her and had no visible reflectors. I could see that there were only THREE lane stripes visible between the vehicle and the pedestrian, a distance of about 100 feet on Mill Ave. This would be the beginning of perception if a driver is alert. Reviewing the "Safe Stopping Sight Distance" standards from Caltrans Highway Design Manual Table 201.1 , it states that a vehicle traveling 40 mph (the speed of the UBER car) would need 300 feet of distance to safely stop. There was only had 100 feet. How is it then that these analysts are stating that a human could have responded quicker, when the traffic engineering knowledge in place says that more than three times the distance would be needed (300 feet needed to prevent collision) ?
Bloomberg Analyst states that UBER car should have detected pedestrian in median, and BRAKED. Really?
False. First of all, there is a little grove of trees and thick brush between the car's vantage point (below) and where the pedestrian/bike wouold have been in the median before entering the road. Is that how we humans drive, when we see a pedestrian near the edge of a roadway, we begin to brake? Hardly. We sail on past unless they enter the road. Why would programmers make autonomous vehicles brake whenever they saw a pedestrian that is not in the road? Its ridiculous to assume that, or that there would be a human behavior prediction model on random things. Also, there is no way software using lidar could effectively detect a human behind a grove of trees and bushes blocking the view, anymore than it could detect a pedestrian about to come around the corner of a building. It would ignore it just like a human would ignore it because they actually can't see it at all, in the dark.
STUDIES on VISIBILITY at NIGHT with DARK CLOTHES
The pedestrian hit by the UBER car was wearing a black shirt, and Levis.
Visibility of a Young Person: Age 18-30 = 105 feet
Visibility of an Old Person: Age 65+ = 65 feet
Source: Olson PL, Sivak M
These are measurements while driver is looking slightly to the left of lane, and this visibility is also related to the fact that headlights are slightly aimed more to the right than they are to the left, a safety feature for not blinding oncoming traffic.
When a pedestrian gets in front of us, then is the time that we will brake, not when they are behind trees and bushes where we can not see them or prepare for their entry into the road, because they are hidden. These newspaper analysts are assigning blame to autonomous technology as if a human could have done a better job of it, as if they know, ...they don't know. The fact is, when pedestrians suddenly enter a high speed road into oncoming traffic, it takes a certain significant distance for a driver to first,
1) PERCEIVE that they need to brake, then
2) REACT by engaging their foot to the brake (or alternatively, swerving), and then the
3) BRAKING time after the first two time periods to bring the vehicle to a stop, a time which depends on weather, tires, friction, weight of vehicle, etc etc.
The first step, in this case at 40 mph, takes 60 feet to perceive. The second step takes at least that long again, to react and move a foot to the brake, so the vehicle has effectively already moved 120 feet, at least, before the vehicle even begins to mechanically slow down by the braking process. The pedestrian is not even seen before 105 feet by a young driver, 65 feet by an old drive, so this pedestrian will be hit at FULL SPEED in ANY case with a human driver. You can't brake for that which you can not see. UBER had a chance to improve on this with LIDAR, but UBER did fail to deliver on shaving down that 120 perception and reaction time. On an autonomous vehicle this is theoretically supposed to be a near zero time, instantaneous computer processing, so they say. Was UBER software still trying to calculate what in the world it was seeing? If it knew, it could have saved this woman, like no other human possibly could. So I say, let's not bag on UBER and autonomous, let's be reasonable and hope for better autonomous reactions in highly confusing situations in the future.
Street Lights (luminaires) are in the Wrong Place. Lighting LIABILITY.
What appear to be pedestrian pathways are leading to darkened areas of the road at night. Why were these pathways built and not properly supported with signage and lighting? Why would they intersect the road at a location where drivers would least expect a pedestrian to cross (JWALK)?
I find it strange that there is a paved walkway / pathway in the median that leads to the street in two locations (the X path in the median), but the street lamps are positioned between these, effectively making the intersection of these pathways with the roadway completely in the dark at night. Coupled with trees and bushes, you have a serious visibility problem. This is the liability: Expectations.
There is a lot of LIABILITY to go around here, in Road Design, in Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety too.
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.
After taking a tour with Google street view, I could see that there is a sidewalk that is on the adjacent bridge that actually leads pedestrians into this DEAD END median "park" complete with pathways with no way out, except to JWALK.
See the pedestrians on the sidewalk that leads to the median which is just past the freeway ? There is even a pedestrian sitting booth in the side of the bridge here, a bridge with no way out up ahead. It is a beautiful walkway on the bridge, but with deadends at both ends of the bridge. Why are pedestrians using it?
If you build it, they will come.
Note: this bridge is one-way traffic for the SB traffic, Mill Ave.
A Dead-End sidewalk, with no safe way out, and no warnings for peds already in the median.
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.
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
Often depicted in way over simplified conceptual drawings, the Autonomous Vehicle is consistently misunderstood.
In my view, to be fair, a pedestrian was walking their bike across two lanes of a four lane boulevard that had a large median, in the dark, no crosswalks, becasue it was nowhere near an intersection opening (she was crossing a left turn bay first, an area where pedestrians are never expected. Technically, the pedestrian walking her bike was jaywalking in a high speed area, in the dark. In the video the bike is visible at a distance of about 60-100 feet (only three dashed stripes visible, 72 feet distance) . However, for a 45 mph roadway, the Safe Stopping Sight Distance is 360 feet. The car was traveling 40 mph, and a human would need 300 feet to stop in time. There is no way this was possible for a human driver to avoid even if they had seen her 200 feet back instead of 100. By the time a human's foot lifts from the floor to press the brake pedal, at least one second has gone by. They would have already hit this pedestrian before the vehicle even had a chance to slow down. Thne formula for this is dPRT = 1.47 Vt (US Customary), which means there is at least 60 feet of travel distance at 40 mph before the driver would even PERCEIVE that they need to hit the brake. Then there is the time for the foot to lift from the floor to the pedal and hit the brake. The pedestrian in the mean time, in this case, is hit, with or without an autonomous vehicle.
The cyclist/pedestrian did not look at the approaching car, until the last second, it was as if they were oblivious to the dangers of crossing a street, a straight street, where it would be extremely easy to see oncoming headlights. Who is at fault? In my view, absolutely the pedestrian. Because it was dark, this pedestrian was not readily visible with headlights. Yes, the UBER car's lidar or radar most certainly should have picked this up in the dark as it does not need light to function, but it failed on that. This is irrelevant as to why this accident happened, it would have happened with a regular driver and a regular car. A human would not have been able to react in time based on our most basic standards of road design. This is a completely unfair story and writeup, painting some narrative that driverless cars are more dangerous than human drivers. Not if this accident would have happened otherwise. How often pedestrians in the path of moving vehicles at night, have been hit. How dangerous it is for a pedestrian to cross a street in the dark, with oncoming traffic, and fail to yield the right of way, while remaining mostly invisible?
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.
Sidewalks are necessarily very wide, from 10 to 20 feet, to accommodate numerous pedestrians. The video to the right shows an area of the massive City of Chongqing where vehicle traffic has been completely separated from pedestrian traffic as a need. There are so many pedestrians in the area of skyscrapers, that it was not practical to have these interact with vehicles via crosswalks controlled by signal. There is not enough capacity.
The solution in this video was to literally BURY the traffic in a submerged roadway, and build a pedestrian square that extended numerous blocks and built on top of the submerged four lane road. The pedestrians never hear the traffic below, and safety is greatly enhanced.
So What will an Autonomous Vehicle transportation system look like? What must it look like?
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.
This concept, "Hyperloop," serves the elite. It does not serve the masses. Bottom line: A very expensive and sexy solution for the elite, very fast for them too, and paid for by the masses who are taxed to pay for this, which will not solve their specific traffic problems. Same with High Speed Rail. It serves the few, paid for by the many.
I lived in China for nearly 3 years and saw the country that has the most kilometers of high speed rail track, by far. China has 19,000 kilometres (12,000 miles) of HSR as of December 2015, accounting for two-thirds of the world's total. I personally worked as Chief Site Engineer on their most advanced and modern HSR construction project to date. The fact is, out of the nearly 1.5 billion people there, only a small small handful of China's citizens actually use the HSR systems. In 2015, over 1.1 billion trips were made on bullet trains in China, or an average of 3 million trips per day, or 1.5 million round trips. This amounts to about 1/1000th of the population using HSR on a daily basis. HSR conservatively serves less than 1% of the people no matter where it is built, and leaves 99% of the local population without the benefit. These systems, though very fast, are typically paid for by government via taxation, for fares so low as to make them irrelevant to paying for it. HSR fares are still typically out of reach to the masses being signficiantly more expensive than automobile travel where the costs can be shared with multiple passengers. Yet who pays for the HSR system?
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."
Governor Jerry Brown says that the $68 billion project will present an effective alternative to using cars and airplanes to travel from Northern California to Southern California. But it will cost more than $68B by the time the tunnels are constructed through the 30 mile distance through mountainous terrain crossing the San Andreas Fault where the North American Plate converges with the Pacific Plate. Its a huge unknown until the digging begins, which isn't scheduled to begin for another decade. That $68B cost is going to potentially serve 5M passengers a year that travel from LA to SF, if we are to assumed the airlines go out of business on that trip, an unlikely scenario. Still, if the HSR were able to absorb ALL passengers, and there were enough trains to serve the same, how long would it take to recoup the $68B with fares of only $80??? Those 5Million trips could bring in $400M per year, is all. and if that scenario came true, it would take 170 YEARS to get it back if the people who used HSR, paid for HSR. But the masses will pay for this.
A moving target of cost and value, the HSR is always undergoing cost adjustments (always upward) because there are so many unknowns. As a traffic engineer, I support alternative diverse modes of travel, as long as they are reasonable and truly accessible and useful to the masses. Bike and ped and local bus systems are, viable alternatives to the automobile. However, HSR is different and serves a much smaller niche. I am interested in the movement of people in general. I do not think that even in China, their massive 12,000 miles of HSR serves well their masses. It has cost them half a trillion US$ to build. Most do not ride it, can't afford the fares, don't need it, and the same will likely be true here in the USA. Most people need to make shorter and more random trips on a daily basis, trips that have little to do with the singular limited pathway of a Bullet Train connecting north and southern CA. If I say, make a trip to Disneyland down in LA, I am going to probably take a CAR and carry the 5 members of my family that way, and it is going to cost me less than a hundred bucks in gas. If I felt like splurging, I could take a bullet train at a cost $450 for just one direction for a family of 5, but we would have to also PLAN around the trains schedule and station locations, suitcases in hand and parking costs for the car, unknown...possibly a hundred miles away! It seems to be more complipcated, and not worth the hassle and cost to the mainstream. But the mainstream will be paying for this. Californians as a whole will be paying for this, as federal funding in the near future likely gets diverted to other interests in the USA.
Cycling is Eco-Friendly, and so is this solar powered Bike Trail
Grant Johnson, registered Traffic Engineer, shares insights and experiences from around the world.
AV Transportation Planning
Bike And Ped Safety
New Mode Of Travel
New Transportation SYSTEM
Night Driving Lidar
Outside The Box
Self Driving Car