Urban Mobility: Smart City Challenge and Hyperloop goes to Nevada

  • Urban mobilityThe U.S. Department of Transportation unveiled the Smart City Challenge last week, where cities with populations between 200,000 and 850,000 can compete for $50 million in transportation funding. It comes out of the five-year transportation funding adopted recently in Washington with $40 million coming from the Federal Highway Administration and $10 million from the department’s private sector partner, Vulcan Inc. Five cities will be chosen in May and the winner announced in June with the focus being on finding the most innovative plans to harness technology that helps develop new mobility strategies.
  • Hyperloop Technologies will set up its first test track to develop its vacuum tube transportation system on 50 acres in North Las Vegas, Nev. Hyperloop equipment will begin arriving this month and testing is expected to begin early first quarter 2016, the company said. The agreement was facilitated by the Nevada Office of Economic Development.
  • Apple Maps is making a comeback in telematics and driving directions. It had been overshadowed by Google Maps and its Waze subsidiary; with recently adopted changes, it’s now become more widely used than Goggle Maps in iPhones. Apple fixed errors as its users submitted them. Changes include adding transit directories for several major cities, and buying out engineering and other talent from several mapping companies.
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is adding new advanced vehicle technologies to vehicles to make them safer. The updated five-star system will enhance crash tests and will take into account whether any of nine vehicle technologies, such as forward collision warning or automatic headlight systems, are being used. The new NHTSA rating system will now go through a 60-day public review process and could be revised before going into effect, as planned, for the 2019 model-year.
  • Korean company Samsung is looking at growing its business through automotive technologies like autonomous vehicles, satellite navigation, and in-car entertainment. Making Android phones for Google hasn’t been enough as the smartphone business weakens, and it wants to take on other technology companies like lawsuit nemesis Apple in autonomous vehicles.
  • One technology company that has already plunged into autonomous vehicles is Delphi. The automotive supplier will be showing off its own self-driving vehicle at CES 2016. Features include improvements in vehicle-to-vehicle including abrupt entry of a car into the lane; vehicle-to-pedestrian which can alert pedestrians about upcoming cars; vehicle-to-traffic light with status reports on yellow and red lights at intersections; blind corner warnings when intersections are at strange angles inhibiting vision of approaching cars; and a ridesharing feature where the driver’s friends and family can be notified of the driver’s location so that a ride can be requested.
  • Ford Motor Co. is testing out an Uber-like service for employees. Its new Dynamic Shuttle Project will provide a fleet of 21 modified Ford Transit vans to Ford employees at its Dearborn, Mich., campus. They’re operating like a cross between a bus system and the increasingly popular Uber ride-share service, helping hundreds of employees schedule rides through a smartphone app. It’s a cross between a shuttle bus system and a ridesharing service like Uber, where hundreds of employees can schedule rides through a smartphone app. It ties in well with a vision shared earlier this year. At the annual Consumer and Electronic Show in Las Vegas last January, CEO Mark Fields declared that Ford now sees itself as a “mobility company,” rather than simply an automotive manufacturer. The automaker announced it was studying 25 different alternative mobility projects – which tied in well with a guest column Ford chairman Bill Ford had published in The Wall Street Journal’s 125th anniversary issue.

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