Oct 012017

U.S. Congress Advances Smart-Vehicle START Legislation for U.S. Roadways

U.S. Senate has agreed to pass legislation this week on October 5, 2017 for lifting regulations on manufacturers of self-driving cars.  Introduced by Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) and Senator Gary Peters (D-Mich.), the bi-partisan legislation known as the American Vision for Safer Transportation through Advancement of Revolutionary Technologies (AV START) Act, removes regulatory barriers to “smart car” manufacturers, while ensuring enhanced safety measures for manufacturers and consumer protections, and for state and local research on traffic safety and law enforcement in the new age of advances in autonomous vehicle technologies (including legislation measures on automated trucking, smart vehicle consumer education, and protections for drivers with disabilities). The AV START Act also strengthens cyber-security policies designed to protect autonomous vehicle riders and the information such smart vehicles utilize.

“Self-driving vehicles will completely revolutionize the way we get around in the future, and it is vital that public policy keep pace with these rapidly developing lifesaving technologies that will be on our roads in a matter of years,” said Senator Peters, in his statement on the original bill. He emphasized that the industry has the potential to create thousands of new jobs.

“The biggest costs of cars are gas, insurance, maintenance (or, when you take a taxi the driver). Robocars (operated by full-automation robots) bring all of these costs down to practically zero. With 90% fewer accidents, insurance costs will drop 90% or more. Autonomous driving means you don’t need to pay for a human being behind the wheel, which is by far the biggest cost when one takes a taxi,” according to Futurism.com, “since Google announced its first self-driving car prototypes back in 2012.”

“Given that approximately 93% of all accidents have been attributed to human error, the senators and others have emphasized that self-driving cars aren’t just a job creator or a cool way to get around—they could save millions of lives,” Futurism.com reports, and in complete agreement with this statistical attribution to driver human error, I also discussed in a #DistractedDriving segment on #FoxNews #HappeningNow (FoxNews.com Editor’s Pick, November 17, 2016) entitled, “Can technology stem the rise of traffic fatalities?” with more than 17,700 fatalities estimated in the first six months of 2016, a 10.4 percent increase over the same period in 2015! 

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AV START Act is “expected to utilize some provisions from a similar bill that was passed in the U.S. House of Representatives earlier in September 2017. That bill allowed manufacturers to produce an initial load of 25,000 cars in the first year. After three years, if they can prove that Artificial Intelligence (AI) vehicles are at least as safe as human-directed cars, that will increase to 100,000 annually,” according to Futurism.com, as “American policymakers and manufacturers alike have been hurrying to get aboard the self-driving train—so to speak. 

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Around the country and the world, self-driving cars are rapidly multiplying. The UK will be testing “platoons” of driverless semi trucks by the end of next year. Uber already uses them to pick up passengers in Pittsburgh and Arizona, Lyft is introducing them in San Francisco, and the city of Sacramento is seeking to make their city a driverless car testing ground. Tesla CEO Elon Musk even believes that most cars in production will be autonomous within ten years.”

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“Ford Motor Co has begun to develop new transportation service applications using a software platform developed by Autonomic Inc, a small Silicon Valley startup,” reports Reuters on October 9, 2017.

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Future of Smart Cars is Here Right Now!

Ride-hailing service Uber is moving forward now in carrying passengers with Ford Fusion self-driving cars with driver backups in Pittsburgh immediately. Ride-sharers will not have to pay Uber, if they allow self-driven fully-autonomous car capabilities for their trips!

Ford is putting driverless fully-automatic “smart cars” on the roads in 5 years (2021), radically changing everything we as national transportation policy officials understand about the billion-dollar ride-hauling market, like Uber and Lyft.

Interestingly, Gartner Technology projects autonomous vehicles are more than a decade away, as this widespread map of emerging future technology cycles for 2016 revealed!

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Automotive Smart Mobility technology will even alter everything we know about commercial transportation technology transfers for highway safety and security, specifically tied road traffic congestion and fully autonomous vehicle loads, as well as, future passenger engagement in relation to “drinking and driving” or “texting and driving.”

Uber has a self-driving research lab in Pittsburgh and is working on autonomous vehicles technology – known as “smart cars” – with Ford and Volvo. 

Why Pittsburgh for such a technology leap launch of “smart cars”? Uber sees nearby Carnegie Mellon as a university think-tank competency poll of specific knowledge for innovation in the Material Genomic Initiative, a White House Office of Science and Technology Policy strategic launch in 2014, alongside Gartner Technologies’ “Internet of Things” strategic outlook for the future.

900 - U.S. Congress Advances Smart-Vehicle START Legislation for U.S. Roadways

Ford announced on August 16, 2016 the automaker plans to deliver high-volume, fully autonomous vehicle for ride-sharing in five years by 2021.

Working with four startups on autonomous vehicle development, Ford has doubled the size and scope of its internal Silicon Valley team at its Palo Alto research facility.

Ford is expanding its Research and Innovation Center in Palo Alto, California, adding two new buildings and 150,000 square feet of research laboratory space. Established in 2015, Ford’s Silicon Valley Research and Innovation Center allows the automaker to double the size of its Palo Alto campus by the end of 2017.

“The next decade will be defined by automation of the automobile, and we see autonomous vehicles as having as significant an impact on society as Ford’s moving assembly line did 100 years ago,” said Mark Fields, Ford president and CEO. 

“We’re dedicated to putting on the road an autonomous vehicle that can improve safety and solve social and environmental challenges for millions of people – not just those who can afford luxury vehicles.”

Autonomous vehicles in 2021 are part of Ford Smart Mobility, says the automaker’s plan, aiming to be “a leader in autonomous vehicles, as well as in connectivity, mobility, the customer experience, and data and analytics.”

Ford is working with Stanford University, MIT, the University of Michigan, and Achen University in Germany on the automaker’s Smart Mobility technologies, moving people, ideas and things through grand-challenge areas of information technology, biotechnology, wireless technology, microtechnology, cognitive technology, and mobility and elder technology.

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Ford Aims for Smart Car Innovation and Market Leadership in Five Years

Ford’s first fully autonomous vehicle will be a Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE)-rated level 4-capable vehicle without a steering wheel or gas and brake pedals, as well as, significant advancements in connectivity, mobility, driving customer experience, and vehicle data analytics.

The auto manufacturer is making a huge commercial technology transfer leap after more than a decade of internal research and development to specifically design and manufacture smart cars available in high volumes by 2021 for commercial mobility services, such as Uber and Lyft ride-sharing and ride-hailing services.

“Ford has been developing and testing autonomous vehicles for more than 10 years,” said Raj Nair, Ford executive vice president, Global Product Development, and chief technical officer. “We have a strategic advantage because of our ability to combine the software and sensing technology with the sophisticated engineering necessary to manufacture high-quality vehicles. That is what it takes to make autonomous vehicles a reality for millions of people around the world.”

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In California, Arizona and Michigan, Ford aims to triple its 2016 autonomous vehicle test fleet to 30 self-driving Fusion Hybrid sedans, larger than any automaker worldwide with plans to build 90 self-driving Fusion Hybrid vehicles.

Ford was the first automaker to begin testing its vehicles at Mcity, University of Michigan’s simulated urban environment, the first automaker to publicly demonstrate autonomous vehicle operation in the snow, and the first automaker to test its autonomous research vehicles at night, in complete darkness, as part of LiDAR sensor development.

Strategic alliances, joint venturing, license contracting, and partnerships drive the automaker’s inorganic growth and autonomous vehicle commercial technology transfer leap to Uber and Lyft ride-sharing and ride-hauling services. Ford announced that it is strategically investing in or outright buying four companies: (1) Ford is investing in Velodyne, the Silicon Valley-based leader in LiDAR sensors. (2) Ford is acquiring SAIPS, an Israeli computer vision and machine learning company for its expertise with artificial intelligence and computer vision. Ford says this partnership will help its autonomous vehicle learn and adapt to the surroundings. (3) Nirenberg Neuroscience LLC will have an exclusive licensing agreement with Ford. Ford says Dr. Sheila Nirenberg has cracked the neural code the eye uses to transmit visual information to the brain. Niremberg’s research will help bring more human-like intelligence to Ford’s autonomous vehicles. (4) Ford has invested in the Berkeley, California-based Civil Maps to further develop high-resolution 3D mapping capabilities.

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To deliver an autonomous vehicle in 2021, Ford announced in its press release four key investments and collaborations that are expanding its strong research in advanced algorithms, 3D mapping, LiDAR, and radar and camera sensors, the automaker details as follows:

Velodyne: Ford has invested in Velodyne, the Silicon Valley-based leader in light detection and ranging (LiDAR) sensors. The aim is to quickly mass-produce a more affordable automotive LiDAR sensor. Ford has a longstanding relationship with Velodyne, and was among the first to use LiDAR for both high-resolution mapping and autonomous driving beginning more than 10 years ago.

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SAIPS: Ford has acquired the Israel-based computer vision and machine learning company to further strengthen its expertise in artificial intelligence and enhance computer vision. SAIPS has developed algorithmic solutions in image and video processing, deep learning, signal processing and classification. This expertise will help Ford autonomous vehicles learn and adapt to the surroundings of their environment.

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Nirenberg Neuroscience LLC: Ford has an exclusive licensing agreement with Nirenberg Neuroscience, a machine vision company founded by neuroscientist Dr. Sheila Nirenberg, who cracked the neural code the eye uses to transmit visual information to the brain. This has led to a powerful machine vision platform for performing navigation, object recognition, facial recognition and other functions, with many potential applications. For example, it is already being applied by Dr. Nirenberg to develop a device for restoring sight to patients with degenerative diseases of the retina. Ford’s partnership with Nirenberg Neuroscience will help bring humanlike intelligence to the machine learning modules of its autonomous vehicle virtual driver system.

Civil Maps: Ford has invested in Berkeley, California-based Civil Maps to further develop high-resolution 3D mapping capabilities. Civil Maps has pioneered an innovative 3D mapping technique that is scalable and more efficient than existing processes. This provides Ford another way to develop high-resolution 3D maps of autonomous vehicle environments.

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Silicon Valley Expansion

Ford also is expanding its Silicon Valley operations, creating a dedicated campus in Palo Alto, in colloboration with Uber’s self-driving research lab in Pittsburgh.

Adding two new buildings and 150,000 square feet of work and lab space adjacent to the current Research and Innovation Center, the expanded campus grows the company’s local footprint and supports plans to double the size of the Palo Alto team by the end of 2017.

“Our presence in Silicon Valley has been integral to accelerating our learning and deliverables driving Ford Smart Mobility,” said Ken Washington, Ford vice president, Research and Advanced Engineering. “Our goal was to become a member of the community. Today, we are actively working with more than 40 startups, and have developed a strong collaboration with many incubators, allowing us to accelerate development of technologies and services.”

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Since the new Ford Research and Innovation Center Palo Alto opened in January 2015, the facility has rapidly grown to be one of the largest automotive manufacturer research centers in the region. Today, it is home to more than 130 researchers, engineers and scientists, who are increasing Ford’s collaboration with the Silicon Valley ecosystem.

Research and Innovation Center Palo Alto’s multi-disciplinary research and innovation facility is the newest of nearly a dozen of Ford’s global research, innovation, IT and engineering centers. The expanded Palo Alto campus opens in mid-2017.

Clearly now in Pittsburgh, late at night, entrepreneurial market-marking challenger, Lyft, appealing to a late nightlife scene of younger millennials, as “your fully-autonomous friend with a smart car,” will eventually in weeks perhaps months later spring into a full-force autonomous-vehicle market substitute assault on Uber, the deep-pocket technology-leap strong-holder on the Pittsburgh ride-share market, appealing to a mature evening rush-hour clientele of Generation XYZs, baby-busters, and baby-boomers, as everyone’s private fully-autonomous smart car driver, Johnny Cab (below).”

Photo Credits: Ford Motor Company, Uber, Lyft, New York Daily News, Vanity Fair

900 - U.S. Congress Advances Smart-Vehicle START Legislation for U.S. Roadways


Oliver G. McGee III is a teacher, a researcher, an administrator, and an advisor to government, corporations and philanthropy. He is former department chair (2016-17) and professor of mechanical engineering at Texas Tech University. He is former professor of mechanical engineering and former Vice President for Research and Compliance (2007-08) at Howard University. Dr. McGee is former Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs of the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), Inc. He was Professor and former department chair (2001-2005) of the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering & Geodetic Science at Ohio State University. He is the first African-American to hold a professorship and a departmental chair leadership in the century-and-a-quarter history of Ohio State University’s engineering college. Dr. McGee has also held several professorships and research positions at Georgia Tech and MIT.

McGee is the former United States (U.S.) Deputy Assistant Secretary of Transportation for Technology Policy (1999-2001) at the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and former Senior Policy Advisor (1997-1999) in The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. He is a NASDAQ certified graduate of UCLA John E. Anderson Graduate School of Management’s 2013 Director Education and Certification Program, and NYSE Governance Services Guide to Corporate Board Education’s 2003 Directors’ Consortium (on corporate board governance).

McGee is a 2012-13 American Council on Education Fellow at UCLA Office of the Chancellor Gene Block. He is a 2013 University of California Berkeley Institutes on Higher Education (BIHE) graduate. He is also an Executive Leadership Academy Fellow of the University of California, Berkeley Center of Studies in Higher Education (CSHE) and the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education (AAHHE), Inc. McGee is an American Association of State Colleges & Universities’ (AASCU) Millennium Leadership Initiative (MLI) Fellow – educational leadership and management development programs for prospective university chancellors and presidents.

Education Background: Ohio State University, Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Civil Engineering, University of Arizona, Masters of Science (M.S.) in Civil Engineering, University of Arizona, Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Engineering Mechanics, Aerospace Engineering (Minor), The University of Chicago, Booth School, Masters of Business Administration (M.B.A.), The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, Certificate of Professional Development (C.P.D.), Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy – Certificate of Fund Raising Management (C.F.R.M.).

Partnership Possibilities for America – Invested in STEEP Giving Forward, founded by McGee in 2010, is based in Washington, DC.

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