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Infrastructure in the News 6.20.17

NEWS

 

The Economist: Taking flight

http://www.economist.com/technology-quarterly/2017-06-08/civilian-drones

Starting a riot at a football match. Revealing an unknown monument in the desert near Petra. Performing at the Super Bowl. Sneaking drugs and mobile phones into prisons. Herding elephants in Tanzania. What links this astonishing range of activities? They are all things that have been done by small flying robots, better known as drones.

 

The Fiscal Times: Opinion: How Highway Tolls Can Make US Infrastructure Great Again

http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Columns/2017/06/20/How-Highway-Tolls-Can-Make-US-Infrastructure-Great-Again

You’d be forgiven for missing the White House’s “infrastructure week” earlier this month. It was full of speeches and splashy events but overshadowed by Former FBI Director James Comey’s Senate testimony. When we do finally get around to focusing on the president’s infrastructure plan, the provision eliminating tolling restrictions on interstate highways deserves particular attention. It is a good idea, but it requires some work to sell.

 

Newsweek: Future Of Transportation: Lyft's New Shuttle Service Sounds Just Like A City Bus

http://www.newsweek.com/lyft-shuttle-bus-627360

On June 6, Stefan Heck posted a joke about Silicon Valley's self-absorbed mission to disrupt the world, even where it may not need disrupting.

 

USA Today: Planes are more efficient, but that doesn't mean they're 'green'

https://www.usatoday.com/videos/tech/2017/06/16/planes-more-efficient-but-doesnt-mean-theyre-green/102927736/

Advances in aviation technology are reducing fuel burn, but many concepts still have a long way to go.

 

Wall Street Journal: Turning Unconnected Cars Into Connected Ones

https://www.wsj.com/articles/turning-unconnected-cars-into-connected-ones-1497881559

Connectivity is a watchword for cars of the future. The ability to wirelessly communicate with traffic lights and other vehicles on the road is a Holy Grail for auto makers and equipment suppliers racing to develop self-driving functionality. (Full Text After State News)

 

Wall Street Journal: Your Next Car May Be a Living Room on Wheels

https://www.wsj.com/articles/your-next-car-may-be-a-living-room-on-wheels-1497881613

Imagine rearranging the seats in your car to watch a movie on a big screen in the dashboard. Or controlling functions like air conditioning by touching the window. Or replacing rearview mirrors with cameras that give you a live-action look at the surrounding traffic. (Full Text After State News)

STATE NEWS

 

The Herald Bulletin: Gas tax increase means $2 million for Madison County

http://www.heraldbulletin.com/news/local_news/gas-tax-increase-means-million-for-madison-county/article_ab9b8e98-5558-11e7-83a2-130ff93e8ac3.html

Starting July 1, Indiana motorists will be paying a higher price for gasoline, but the increase in revenues will be a windfall for local units of government.

 

New York Times: New York Governor Urges Commuter Discounts for 'Summer of Agony'

https://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2017/06/19/us/19reuters-new-york-train.html

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo urged transit officials on Monday to discount fares for some Long Island commuters because of disruptions planned during Amtrak's summer repair program at Pennsylvania Station, the busiest U.S. train hub.

 

New York Times: A Streamlined Way to Build Projects Runs Into New York Politics

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/19/nyregion/a-streamlined-way-to-build-projects-runs-into-new-york-politics.html

By now, it has been well established that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio diverge on many issues, leading to sharp words over who is to blame for subway delays, competing plans for financing affordable housing and even a disagreement over saving a beloved white-tailed deer.

 

Portland Tribune: Regional leaders endorse state transportation funding plan

http://portlandtribune.com/pt/9-news/363570-244284-regional-leaders-endorse-state-transportation-funding-plan

Leaders from throughout the metropolitan region endorsed the transportation funding plan being considered by the 2017 Oregon Legislature in an opinion piece published in the Tuesday issue of the Portland Tribune.

 

The Sacramento Bee: Is the Uber phenomenon killing transit in Sacramento?

http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/transportation/article156720119.html

The opening of the Golden 1 Center downtown last fall was billed as a rare opportunity for Sacramento Regional Transit to attract new riders. The agency stepped up its game, scrubbing trains, bolstering security and improving customer service.

 

Wall Street Journal: Mayoral Candidate Massey Says He Can Solve NYC’s Transit Woes

https://www.wsj.com/articles/mayoral-candidate-massey-says-he-can-solve-nycs-transit-woes-1497908788

Republican mayoral candidate Paul Massey says he has the solution to New York City’s transit woes. (Full Text After State News)

 

Washington Post: Lawmakers call for overhaul of Metro governance, funding

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/lawmakers-call-for-overhaul-of-metro-governance-funding/2017/06/19/9e38c3f4-550a-11e7-840b-512026319da7_story.html?utm_term=.ef00d521fca4

A group of Maryland lawmakers has proposed an overhaul of the Washington-area subway system that would give the struggling rail network the dedicated funding its leaders say it needs.

 

WTOP: Va. panel: Raise taxes for transit, and maybe more for Metro

http://wtop.com/dc-transit/2017/06/va-panel-raise-taxes-transit-maybe-metro/

Virginia should raise a variety of taxes and dedicate that new money to keeping up or expanding transit systems across the state, according to the final report of a panel tasked with figuring out a solution to the commonwealth’s transit capital funding issues.

Wall Street Journal: Turning Unconnected Cars Into Connected Ones

https://www.wsj.com/articles/turning-unconnected-cars-into-connected-ones-1497881559

Connectivity is a watchword for cars of the future. The ability to wirelessly communicate with traffic lights and other vehicles on the road is a Holy Grail for auto makers and equipment suppliers racing to develop self-driving functionality.

 

Even though fully connected vehicles may not be on the market until the next decade, auto makers and suppliers are giving drivers a taste of what tomorrow may bring.

 

Several manufacturers are adding wireless features onto some new vehicles, such as alerting drivers to low tire or oil pressure and updating touch-screen systems without a service visit. But drivers of older cars can get these new features, too: Some companies are promoting a simple workaround that can add those services to older cars that were never designed for it.

 

“Connectivity can be added to existing vehicles,” says Ben Hoffman, chief executive of Movimento, a software provider acquired in January by auto-parts supplier Delphi Automotive PLC. It plans to tap into latent demand for connected services among drivers of the 264 million cars and light trucks already on the road in the U.S., according to data provider IHS Markit .

 

Retrofitting uses a technology that few drivers actually see but has been standard on all vehicles made since 1996: diagnostic access points, called OBD-II ports, typically located under the steering column. Palm-size devices known as dongles—typically used by repair-shop technicians—plug into the ports and can be linked to cellular or Wi-Fi signals via smartphone.

 

Dongles allow drivers to do things like export trip data to spreadsheets, automatically inform emergency contacts if the car is in an accident and offer 3G wireless connections. Future uses could include collecting data on traffic flows and potentially allowing drivers to avoid red lights by using smart grids to time their trips.

 

Some IT experts warn that these devices are more vulnerable to hackers precisely because they are a workaround for cars lacking advanced software and security. “Dongles add a lot of risk,” says Craig Smith, research director of transportation security at Rapid7 , a Boston-based security-data and analytics provider. “They are designed for vehicles built at a time when the manufacturer assumed there were no vulnerabilities.”

 

Auto makers and suppliers say that those flaws are overstated and that the devices are a good medium-term solution—a bridge to next-generation vehicles, says Mary Gustanski, Delphi’s vice president of engineering and program management.

 

The market for connected-car technology using diagnostic ports is expected to grow to $1.6 billion by 2020 from $160 million in 2013, according to Frost Sullivan, a market-research firm in San Antonio. Insurance companies, which offer dongles to monitor driving patterns in exchange for premium discounts, are expected to connect 27 million vehicles by the end of the decade, Ptolemus Consulting Group estimates.

 

Wall Street Journal: Your Next Car May Be a Living Room on Wheels

https://www.wsj.com/articles/your-next-car-may-be-a-living-room-on-wheels-1497881613

Imagine rearranging the seats in your car to watch a movie on a big screen in the dashboard. Or controlling functions like air conditioning by touching the window. Or replacing rearview mirrors with cameras that give you a live-action look at the surrounding traffic.

 

Those are just some of the ideas car makers and designers are kicking around as they imagine a driverless future. When cars can largely navigate roads on their own, there’s no need for the interior design to rigidly follow the model established in the early days of automobiles. The inside of driverless cars might look more like living rooms or meeting places on wheels, with a focus on flexibility and entertainment.

 

Industry officials say fully autonomous and shared-mobility vehicles may be a decade or more away, but increasingly high-tech interiors will start showing up in the next few model years. On the latest luxury-car models, information has begun to move from digital instruments behind the wheel to head-up displays projected on the windshield, so drivers can monitor things like speed and turn-signal indicators without looking down. And other amenities are in the works, such as seats that fully recline or rotate 180 degrees, dashboard ice chests and ambient lighting.

 

“Sci-fi is really not fiction anymore—it’s really here,” Ralph Gilles, head of design at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, said recently at an industry conference. Mr. Giles talked up the idea of cars becoming more of a “third space” outside the work and home.

 

The idea is showcased in his company’s Portal concept vehicle, featuring removable seats and a retractable steering wheel, which made its debut at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year in Las Vegas.

 

Closer than they appear

One of the biggest changes on the way is in visual-display technology, which will transform vehicles inside and out, says Carter Cannon, a product manager for electronic integration at International Automotive Components Group.

 

External side-view mirrors will disappear as digital camera images migrate to interior screens, similar to those that rearview cameras use now. And back-seat buttons and switches will move from arm rests to touchscreen-like side windows to control functions such as back-seat air conditioning.

 

“Information will move above the belt line and become displayed on the glass,” Mr. Cannon told attendees at an industry conference in May. All this will free up the cabin for further design changes.

 

Another design change that promises to radically reshape the driving experience: movable seats. This change may be anything from giving people more-flexible storage options, all the way up to completely remaking the interior of the car to suit different purposes.

 

For an idea of what’s possible, consider a concept car from auto supplier Yanfeng Automotive Interiors, which made its debut at the Detroit auto show earlier this year. The XiM17 (short for “Experience in Motion 2017”) showcased several different seating configurations depending on the mode selected: driving, family, lounge and meeting.

 

The driving mode is fairly standard, but in the other setups, the car retracts the steering wheel and radically reconfigures the cabin. The family mode creates a home-theater experience: The front seats rotate inward and the rear seats slide together into a bench, so that everyone can watch an elongated screen at the center of the dashboard. The screen, about 10 by 36 inches, would be used for instrument displays when not showing movies.

 

“It’s a living room on wheels,” says David Muyres, an executive director in the North American unit of Yanfeng, in which Chinese auto maker Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. owns a 70% stake through subsidiaries.

 

The XiM17’s meeting mode envisions the car as an extended office. To create space, it collapses the rear seats, rotates the passenger seat 180 degrees and slides the driver’s seat back to the rear. Stowaway trays in a center console provide perches for laptops and can be combined into a single center table.

 

Lounge mode offers an LCD-like screen on the ceiling that can show images while music plays on a multispeaker audio system and LED lights on the floor pulsate and flash to the beat.

 

Other companies are coming up with ways to make sure that passengers will have plenty of snacks for their new home theater or meeting space on wheels. Sweden-based Dometic Group AB, which already supplies center-console mini-refrigerators to luxury brands such as Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, has sketched out concepts for door-mounted bottle coolers, dashboard-embedded ice chests and compact microwave ovens for truck cabins.

 

Cleaning up

Of course, there’s a downside to turning cars into entertainment centers or other multiuse spaces: lots of dirt and other messes. Those could be an even bigger problem for one group of self-driving vehicles in particular—those used by shared-mobility services like Uber, which will carry multiple passengers and for more hours of the day.

 

So auto makers will need to come up with carpets and seat cushions that can hold up to greater added wear and tear, and cope with messy one-time riders who have little or no ownership of a particular car. Possible solutions include more-resilient fabrics that can be cleaned easily.

 

“The interiors of these vehicles are going to have to be puke-proof,” says Ralph Gilles, head of design at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV.

 

Already, auto makers are looking to service industries such as airlines and hotels to learn how to better maintain shared spaces. At a recent industry conference, Tim Boundy, an interior-engineering technical fellow at General Motors Co., highlighted the need for “odor management” and other solutions. Among his intriguing suggestions: “self-cleaning cup holders.”

 

Wall Street Journal: Mayoral Candidate Massey Says He Can Solve NYC’s Transit Woes

https://www.wsj.com/articles/mayoral-candidate-massey-says-he-can-solve-nycs-transit-woes-1497908788

Republican mayoral candidate Paul Massey says he has the solution to New York City’s transit woes.

 

Amid a rise in delays on subway lines and commuter railroads, Mr. Massey, a former real-estate executive, said his campaign would roll out “five transformative projects” in the coming weeks to ease commutes and improve infrastructure.

 

One Massey proposal promises “an immediate solution” to the planned closure of the subway’s L line, which is slated to shut down for 15 months beginning in 2019 to undergo critical repairs. Mr. Massey said he would also find a way to connect the G train, which runs in Brooklyn and Queens, directly to Manhattan.

 

In another proposal, Mr. Massey said he would expand the PATH system, a railroad connecting New Jersey and Manhattan, to Staten Island. PATH isn’t run by the city, but by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

 

Mr. Massey said Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat up for reelection this year, hadn’t done enough for riders and commuters.

 

“His neglect of our city infrastructure is a travesty and it is making life a nightmare for New Yorkers,” Mr. Massey said in a statement.

 

The subway system isn’t controlled by the mayor. It is controlled by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

 

Mr. de Blasio has directed $2.5 billion in city dollars toward the MTA’s roughly $30 billion capital plan to help pay for infrastructure and subway improvements.

 

Dan Levitan, a de Blasio spokesman, noted that the mayor had launched a city ferry system and had helped expand the city’s bike share system in recent years.

 

“We are happy to compare his transit record against anyone,” Mr. Levitan said.

 

The announcement from Mr. Massey came with scant details about how much the initiatives would cost, how they would be paid for or whether the city would have the authority to institute them. A spokeswoman for the campaign said those details would be unveiled in the coming days and weeks.