Mid-day Halloween fun at TrafficCast!

Halloween is for Operators – and one Developer, too.

Adults who not-so-secretly like to dress up for Halloween – that’s us! We are, left to right, Little Mac from Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out video game (Cody), Wilma Flinstone (Pam), Minion (Kelly), Ironic Costume (Josh), Squirrel Girl (Maddie) and White Suburban College-Educated Female Voter (Susan). We took a break from Halloween traffic chatter, which mostly consists of police departments warning drivers to look out for little witches and dragons, to enjoy pizza and costume awards for those who dressed up. Everyone won an award, and received some well-deserved candy. Susan tied with Josh for Laziest Costume!

#Halloween#CrazyCostumes#Whenyouremployerbuysthepizza#traffic    #besafeforhalloween#WilmaFlinstone#Minion#SquirrelGirl#LittleMac#Irony  #WhiteSuburbanCollege-EducatedFemaleVoter

 

Spaces on Wheels: A Glimpse of the Driverless Future

When you no longer have to drive, what will you do during your commute? Space10, Ikea’s research and development divison, and creative agency foam have teamed up to design answers to that question as part of their Spaces on Wheels project.

Once fully autonomous, cars will be more than just modes of transportation–they’ll be whatever we want. As Space10 creative strategist Bas van de Poel puts it, “Autonomous vehicles have the potential to profoundly change urban life for the better, but we also need a more holistic view on how we want to live”.

So the question is: what do we, as a society, feel would enrich our lives? The answers are bound to be varied and many, but Spaces on Wheels is an inspired start. The project offers a glimpse of what transportation could look like in the future. The ideas span from leisure to life-saving. There’s the traveling cafe which allows friends to catch up over coffee while still getting where they need to go; and the mobile health clinic, occupied by medical professionals, is designed to bring basic and life-saving services to remote communities.

There are seven concepts in total, designed either to enhance the commuting experience of individuals or improve communities’ access to essential goods and services.  

Check out the renderings of the Space10 designs below:

TrafficCast hurricane coverage 2018: Florence and Michael presented different challenges

Natural disasters like hurricanes that make roads impassable pose a particular challenge for Trafficcast traffic operators tasked with reporting road closures. This autumn we have been challenged by two particularly different, and very difficult, hurricane events.

Slow-moving Hurricane Florence was September’s challenge, which dropped 36 inches of rain on the Carolinas early in the month. On September 10 and 11, evacuation orders were issued for residents in parts of North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, clogging major highways with those obeying orders to flee. TrafficCast went into high gear, partnering with transportation officials in these states, adding extra staffing and coverage to provide the most accurate information about the implementation of contraflow – all lanes going in a single direction, that is – on I-26 away from Charleston, South Carolina, US-378, and US-501 away from Myrtle Beach.

TrafficCast offices in Wilmington, Delaware; Madison, Wisconsin and Shanghai pitched in to cover the thousands of local closures and eventual re-openings of Interstates 40 and 95 and other major roadways in the affected states.

In addition, we had access to live data through TrafficCast’s BlueTOAD units mounted throughout cities in North Carolina, which alerted us to the tremendous impacts of flooding and evacuation in real-time. We also had access to drone data during the extensive period of flooding following Florence, which was tremendously helpful in determining closure extents.   

month after Florence wreaked flooding havoc on the Carolinas, a different and much more powerful storm affected the Gulf Coast as fast-moving Hurricane Michael slammed into the Florida Panhandle on October 10. Michael left Panama City and Tallahassee crippled and other cities like Mexico Beach virtually obliterated, before quickly moving into Georgia and the Carolinas.

TrafficCast teamed up with Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina Department of Transportation officials before the Category 4 storm made landfall, gaining up-to-the-minute information and confirmation of road closures from these official sources. When I-10 was closed in both directions between Mobile and Tallahassee, along with US-98 closed along the coast, TrafficCast was closely monitoring the situation, as well as confirming the hundreds of local roads that closed in Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas due to the debris and deluge, so residents would know if and when they could access their neighborhoods.

Here’s what it was like from TrafficCast NOC operator Stephen Keller:

Covering hurricane Michael was an exhausting ordeal. The damage was extensive – Michael passed directly over a long stretch of I-10, leaving behind so much debris that the highway was impassable. Many state bridges that connect the (Florida) panhandle were ravaged by winds and rising water. And hundreds of local roads were blocked due to fallen trees and power lines. With so much to cover, we split our duties between several traffic operators: those most familiar with Florida markets took control of the major closures, while others focused on smaller roads. Hundreds of new records came in every hour, and many of them needed hands-on adjustments due to geo-coding issues or premature end times.

During natural disasters, state DOTs and highway patrol might be understandably overwhelmed and miss some coverage. In these situations, social media can be the quickest source of news. By constantly sifting through our media sources, we were able to manually add many closures that would have otherwise not gone into the system. Sometimes, all we had to go on was a photo of a blocked/flooded road, and we had to do some detective work on [Google Maps] street view to figure out exactly where it was taken. Other times, local news was able to report on dozens of closures that our main sources missed. These too, we manually added into our system.

Wireless Charging: How One Startup is Helping Electric Cars Cut the Cord

The future of mobility is electric. We have the technology and given the ever-rising concerns surrounding global warming and fossil fuels, we certainly have the motivation. But with only about 20,000 charging stations across the USabout ⅙ the number of gas stations—electric vehicles aren’t yet practical for widespread use. While more designated charging stations are needed, one startup believes they have the technology to bring simplified car charging to homes, parking lots, and eventually the roads themselves .

WiTricity is working on a form of wireless charging called magnetic resonance. This technology draws energy from the electric grid through a wire which leads into a copper coil on the ground, creating a magnetic field. As a second copper wire attached to the bottom of a vehicle enters this magnetic field, an electric current is generated and used to charge the car’s battery pack. So to charge your vehicle, you simply need to pull into the spot and wait a few hours. WiTricity claims that this method is just as efficient as current cable charging systems. But unlike cables, coils can transfer energy straight through asphalt and pavement, allowing this tech to be used in parking lots and driveways. This capability is at the core of WiTricity’s loftiest goalturning cars into mobile power banks.

WiTricity wants to install their technology underneath roadways so cars can refuel while driving. But they’re being realistic about the complexity of making this happen in the coming years. CEO, Alex Gruzen, says cities and states won’t want to tear up hundreds of miles of roadway to install electric charging. For now, Gruzen has sights on airports and train stations with large stretches of taxi lanes. Cars could charge while they’re in line.  Eventually, WiTricity wants to see electric cars rolling around as giant batteries. They could store up electricity until needed and then divert back any excess directly into the grid either for payment or credits for free for their next refuel. While this practice of redistributing energy to the grid could exist with cable charging, it is likely much simpler and faster via the coil method.   

Check out this video demo of WiWtricity’s wireless charging:

#ev #travel #transportation #tech #fossilfuels

Virtual Reality and Road Safety Education

Virtual Reality (VR)—it’s all fun and games until someone figures out how to use it for the benefit of safety education. And it appears that time is upon us. While still in its infancy, the mainstay of VR has been entertainment, giving users next-level experiences of visual media like video games and films. But since it’s conception (and likely well before it), developers and members of various disciplines have recognized VR for it’s potential educational applications. Since transportation is an industry impacting nearly all members of our society on a daily-basis, it’s the perfect candidate for improvement by way of VR. Recently, two new safety programs have been created to educate pedestrians and drivers alike.

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With the school year underway crosswalks are once again flooded with young children. In Canada, child pedestrian injuries are a leading cause of injury-related death. To combat these unfortunate statistics, researchers at the University of Guelph are implementing a VR program that teaches students when and how to cross streets safely in real-life scenarios. By wearing the VR goggles, children are fully immersed in pedestrian environments and given the chance to test their reaction time and general attention. A digital character acts as the child’s coach, offering positive reinforcements and directions for improvements. This immersive, tailored approach appears to be working. In a study of 130 children aged 7-10, those trained with the VR program made 75 to 98 percent few road safety errors than their counterparts.

Truckers in England have also received their own VR training program. Highway England has created a VR smartphone app that gives users a simulated view from a truck cab traveling down a highway. This application was initially designed for the use of commercial truckers, but Highway England states that it’s equally beneficial to private drivers who will no doubt encounter heavy goods vehicles (HGV) on the road. A few of the scenarios included in the application are: overtaking, tailgating, joining from a ramp lane, and more. The main goal of the application is to develop awareness for blind spots on trucks, which are naturally much larger than those of an average four-wheel vehicle.

We’re still in the early phases of VR technology, but if these programs are any indication, the future of virtual education tools is looking bright. One could imagine VR technology finding its way into mainstream driver’s education at some point in the near future. If it means safer roads, let the games begin.

#vr #virtualreality #gaming #tech #cars