On Tuesday September 11, three days before Hurricane Florence was predicted to hit the southeast coastline, residents began stocking up on supplies, preparing their homes, and heading inland. While the storm was re-categorized in severity several times, local ordinances continued to warn residents of the impending damage and urged them to get out while they could. This proved wise. The intense winds and historic levels of rainfall brought by Florence leveled homes and has left entire neighborhoods and swaths of major roadways like Interstate 40 completely submerged in flood water.
To expedite the evacuation, eastbound lanes on Interstate 26 and southbound Interstate 77 were reversed, doubling the amount of cars able to travel towards safety at one time. The vigilance of our Traffic Operators in tracking weather reports, press conferences, and updates from southern departments of transportation, helped us relay this closure information to residents in timely fashion. These major shutdowns, along with literally hundreds of other smaller road closures, remain high priority for operators across all of our offices at all times of day and night. As could be expected, the roads leading back to the coast aren’t likely to all open up at once so we remain diligent in following and reporting the re-opening of all routes.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation is encouraging drivers to use real time travel-based apps over traditional GPS, since they are more likely to have the most recent routing updates. The TrafficCarma app will indeed have all the latest travel data along with user comments on traffic, accidents, and closures. We’re committed to providing the most up to date travel information for residents eager to return home. Our thoughts are with everyone affected by Florence and we wish you safe travels.
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While they seem to take up the lion’s share of space in the spotlight, autonomous vehicles and Tesla gossip don’t wholly define the broad, bright future of the automotive industry. There are countless technologies in production aimed at redefining how we interact with our cars and how our cars interact us and the world around them. But we’ll keep this brief.
The following are three recent innovations that embody the three major areas of automotive innovation: safety, efficiency, and personalization.
The Shrinking Car
Israeli engineers are developing what they call the “City Transformer”. It’s electric and comes equipped with all the standard features found in your current car. But with the tap of a button, it shrinks down to fit in a motorcycle-sized parking spot. Four City Transformers could fit into a standard parking spot.
Separated Sound Zone
A series of speakers throughout the car target specific seats while neutralizing sound coming from all other speakers will allow the driver and passengers to enjoy their respective entertainment unobtrusively.
Jaguar’s Autonomous Pod with Eyes
To address the distrust much of the public expresses towards autonomous vehicles, Jaguar poses a clever, albeit kind of spooky, addition to driverless vehicles. Eyes affixed to the front of a vehicle are designed to provide a sense of predictability by showing pedestrians that it is indeed aware of their presence.
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The same technology that helps the military detect landmines could soon help autonomous vehicles (AVs) stay in their lane during poor driving conditions. Currently AVs rely on radar, LiDar sensors, and cameras to see their surroundings. But when visibility is low due to inclement weather, time of day, or if road markings are unclear, these systems run into trouble. This is where ground-penetrating radar (GPR) steps in.
Created by researchers at MIT and first put to use by US Armed Forces in Afghanistan in 2013, GPR produces a map of what lies beneath a road by way of electromagnetic pulses. These pulses reach 10 feet into the Earth and reflect off dirt, rocks, pipes, etc. to produce a map of the underground road composition. Comparing this imagery to surrounding subterranean geology tells a vehicle where the road is, even if it can’t be seen by a driver. This mapping has been shown to be accurate within a few centimeters even at highway speeds at night during a snowstorm.
The company leading the development of GPR for the driverless world is a startup called WaveSense. Their slogan “When other sensors go blind, WaveSense keeps you safe.” denotes their aim to fill the gap left by current optical sensor systems. So it’s not to say that LiDar, radar, and camera systems won’t have their place in the future of autonomy, just that GPR will help AVs paint a fuller picture of the world around (and beneath) them.
The automotive industry is on the edge of profound transformations and the reliability of driverless navigation remains the main hurdle left to clear for AVs to meet performance standards and gain public trust. No doubt GPR will be a major factor in making the leap.
Below is a video demonstrating GPR:
Matt joined our team of dedicated traffic operators back in 2015. When he got his start, our East Coast operations were headquartered in a tiny building in the suburbs of Newtown Square, Pennsylvania. Today they work out of an expansive coworking office called The Mill
in downtown Wilmington, Delaware.
“It’s crazy to see how much the company has evolved in just a few years of me being here. And not just in terms of clients and coverage, but our team and workspace too. Seeing as how much the sophistication and impact of our work has grown, it’s cool to see that reflected in our environment. I really like our new space here in Delaware.”
Matt keeps watch over our southern markets–Virginia, Atlanta, Georgia, Florida, and the Carolinas. After spending most of his time here at TrafficCast watching these markets, he has gained a rich understanding of the region’s roadways and traffic patterns.
But even with his high level of intuition and know-how, Matt says he couldn’t do it alone. The team around him is a huge factor in his efficacy (as it is with all our operators). In fact, when asked what he enjoyed most about his day-to-day here there was little hesitation.
“Our team. I like the work, of course. It’s engaging and I know it’s helping people everyday. But I really enjoy the team I work with. We have a good time, we collaborate well and we’re always helping each other produce the most accurate info. Teamwork is crucial in this.”
When he’s not at work, Matt likes to spend his time making music, going out with friends, or just relaxing at home with his girlfriend, Sam, and their two cats, Dexter and Yuna.
The term “connected cars” is one you’ll often hear alongside the latest advancements in the auto industry–like driverless cars. But the concept isn’t actually all that new. The first iteration of a connected car hit the market back in 1996 with the introduction of OnStar. Cell phones of the time weren’t as reliable or prevalent as they are today, so OnStar gave drivers in a pinch a way to communicate with a call center with reliability. Two decades later and cell phones are far away from what they used to be–and so are connected cars. Today, having your vehicle connected to bluetooth and GPS has become standard. In an age of rapid advancement, we quickly become accustomed, even jaded, to the kind of tech that would raise eyebrows just a few years ago. But if we zoom our perspective out a bit, the headway made in just 20 years is nothing short of astounding. And the technologies to define the next phase of connected cars promise to be even more impressive and impactful.
Here are a few of the most talked about technologies currently in development:
Vehicles that communicate with one another will be able to share data of travel speeds, construction, road hazards, and more. Plus, getting “cut-off” by other drivers will be a thing of the past since you’d know what they to you plan to do before they do it. This ought to ease driver tension while also reducing congestion and accidents by preventing unpredictable and frustrating stop-and-go situations.
Many experts believe that all new vehicles will be equipped with vehicle-to-infrastructure capability as early as 2023. This would allow your car to communicate with things like traffic signals, parking meters, and gas pumps to name a few. You could find parking quickly and conduct transactions without leaving your car. You’d also kiss waiting at red lights with no other cars in sight goodbye.
You read that right. While this certainly won’t be of interest to some drivers, vehicle-to-brain technology will have practical applications. Communication will be delivered by way of a driver-worn headset fitted with electrodes. This would allow your vehicle to alert you of abrupt lane changes or sound off an alert when it detects you getting drowsy.
If you’ve been following the transportation industry lately, you’ve noticed our future is edging closer and closer to science-fiction. And it’s happening rapidly. Just a few years back self-driving cars sounded like a pipe dream–now they’re driving around several major cities. A decade ago, electric cars seemed impractical due to short range charges. Today, batteries last much longer, charging stations are way more prevalent, and some countries are even developing solar powered roads to charge electric cars as they drive. With these changes (along with everything else in this technology-driven age) we know better than to say “never” to even the seemingly far-fetched ideas. It’s a healthy perspective when wading through the latest mobility news.
Here are 3 modes of transportation set to change the world:
Originally the idea of Twitter’s favorite entrepreneur, Elon Musk, the Hyperloop concept is a sealed capsule propelled through a vacuum tube by way of magnetic levitation. This low pressure chamber eliminates drag, allowing the capsule to travel at extremely high speeds. Since Musk’s initial proposal of the idea back in 2013, several other companies have taken on development of the hyperloop, including Virgin Hyperloop One whose capsule currently clocks in at speeds near 400 mph. This would cut a four-day truck haul down to 16 hours. The hyperloop would also be open to regular commuters as well. It’ll be years before a hyperloops are prevalent, but the CEO of HTT says their system will be open by 2020.
Urban transport pods
You’ve heard of self-driving cars, but what about pods? Rather than purchasing their own self-driving cars, commuters could one day hop into an autonomous shuttle, type in their destination, and kick back until they arrive. London has been trialing driverless pods for over a year with the goal of understanding how they would fit into the city’s existing travel infrastructure. They’ve ferried over 5,000 passengers and according to a survey of 1,000 passengers, 43% said they felt confident about the technology. Similar transport pods are being tested in Dubai, Germany, and France. It’s still unclear when pods would be running regularly through cities, but given the rapid advancement of the tech and public approval, we could see them in the 2020’s.
We’ve all been hearing about driverless cars since before the Jetsons. But it wasn’t until recently that we began seeing the first signs that this method of transportation will not only be possible, but likely quite prevalent. Large, luxury automakers like Rolls-Royce and Aston-Martin have revealed their concepts for personal-use flying cars, both of which can hit speeds of 200+ mph. Uber and NASA have also teamed up to develop flying taxis. Their ride-sharing network could go public as early as 2020.
Many of the conversations in transportation today revolve around driverless cars, and for good reason–autonomous tech stands to completely transform the way travel and how we live. But it’s going to be at least a few years before they’re available to consumers. That’s not to say vehicles aren’t already undergoing some radical changes though. There are some exceptionally cool and helpful technology features available in new cars today. True, some may only be available in higher-end vehicles currently, but it likely won’t be long until they transition to vehicles for the masses.
Below are a few of our favorites we think you should keep an eye out for the next time you find yourself on the car lot:
People are afraid of things that go bump in the night–especially when it involves their car. If you’ve ever experienced that “I hope something doesn’t jump out in front of me right now” kind of anxiety, you’ll be happy to hear about night-vision for vehicles. Audi’s night vision assistant highlights pedestrians and animals using thermal imaging. BMW, Mercedes, and Cadillac also have their own form of night vision available in some models.
Blind Spot Alert
Not checking your blind spot is dangerous. Checking your blind spot going 70 miles per hour on the highway doesn’t feel all that much safe either, but it’s a necessary evil. Fortunately new blind spot detection features are making for safer merging. Mercedes-Benz has a new blind spot assist will audibly warn the driver if they try to merge with someone in their blind spot and even apply the brakes if needed.
Many automakers are adding WiFi connectivity to new models, turning cars into rolling hotspots. This is great for passengers who want to play music, watch videos, or just browse the internet without draining their battery. Or if you find yourself in a new town or city and looking for something to do, you can park your car and investigate rather than looking for WiFi.
This is a small sample of some of the coolest technology that’s come to vehicles recently. To stay on top of all the newest technology and other transportation news, follow us on Twitter.
Jake Ritzheimer, TrafficCast International, East Coast Operations