|Good morning || November 7, 2019|
Leading the News
Amazon To Invest $40M In New Robotics Innovation Hub Near Boston
The AP (11/6) reports Amazon announced Wednesday “plans to open a $40 million robotics innovation hub west of Boston,” in Westborough, Massachusetts. The company “says the expansion will create about 200 tech and advanced manufacturing jobs.”
Seeking Alpha (11/6, Betz) reports the hub will “will include a new 350,000 square foot facility that will be in addition to Amazon Robotics’ current North Reading site.” Springfield (MA) Republican (11/6) reports that the Westborough site opens in 2021, joining the North Reading site, “Amazon said the locations will serve as the company’s epicenter of robotics innovation.”
The Worcester (MA) Business Journal (11/6) reports Atlantic Management purchased the former AstraZeneca “site in 2017 for $6.5 million. It was last assessed at $14 million.”
Amazon Robotics Chief Technologist Tye Brady told the MetroWest (MA) Daily News (11/6, Malachowski), “We are going to completely re-do” the former AstraZeneca site. He added, “I can guarantee it’s going to be a world-class, state-of-the-art facility.” Brady said, “There’s a breadth of talent we have here in Massachusetts. ... We live in the hub of the robotics universe.”
Homeworld Business (11/6) reports Brady said, “We’re excited to grow our teams in Massachusetts and take advantage of the talent and regional connectivity that MetroWest offers. ... This will be a world-class facility, where our teams can design, build, program, and ship our robots, all under the same roof. This expansion will allow us to continue to innovate quickly and improve delivery speed for customers around the world.”
Supply Chain Digital (11/6, Galea-Pace) quotes Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) as saying, “Massachusetts is home to a nation-leading innovation economy with a highly educated and skilled workforce, and we are proud of the life-changing research and high quality of life that attracts leading companies to invest and grow here.” Baker added, “We are pleased that Amazon plans to increase their substantial presence with a state-of-the-art robotics facility, creating 200 new jobs and employing over 4,000 skilled workers throughout the Commonwealth, furthering its continued investment in the state’s economic growth and development.”
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Former ASEE Member Wins Nobel
ASEE is happy to claim Nobel Prize winner John Goodenough as a former member, proof that educators and researchers find value in being an ASEE member.
Research and Development
MIT, University Of Illinois Researchers Develop Bipedal Robot That Corresponds To A Human Operator
TechCrunch (10/30) writes that bipedal robots “are excellent in theory for navigating human environments,” but “naturally are more prone to falling than quadrupedal or wheeled robots.” Now, to “bridge that gap,” MIT and University of Illinois-Champaign researchers have “put together a sort of hybrid human-robot system,” creating a bipedal robot called “Little Hermes” that is “is hooked up directly to a human operator” and that “stands on a pressure-sensing plate and wears a force-feedback vest.” The robot “generally follows the operator’s movements” and “after interpreting those movements in terms of center of gravity and force vectors,” makes a corresponding move nearly simultaneously.
Teen Wins $25K National Prize For Inventing Solution To Cars’ Blindspots
CNN (11/6, Elassar) reports, “A 14-year-old from West Grove, Pennsylvania, won a $25,000 prize for creating a prototype designed to eliminate a car’s blind spots.” Alaina Gassler “told CNN she first noticed the problem when she realized her mom didn’t like driving their family’s Jeep Grand Cherokee because its A-pillars caused blind spots.” Gassler’s project “uses a webcam, projector, 3D printed adapter and retroreflective fabric to make a car’s A-pillars invisible by displaying the image of the blind spot behind them onto the pillar.” Gassler “won the $25,000 Samueli Foundation Prize for her design,” which, according to the Society for Science & the Public, is “the top award in the Broadcom MASTERS, the nation’s premier science and engineering competition for middle school students.”
Report: Uber AV In Last Year’s Crash Couldn’t Detect Jaywalkers
In continuing coverage, Fox News (11/6, Rogers) reports that the NTSB released a study stating that the “Uber self-driving car that struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona in 2018 was unable to detect jaywalkers.” The report states that, “according to data obtained from the self-driving system, the system first registered radar and LIDAR observations of the pedestrian about six seconds before impact, when the vehicle was traveling at 43 mph.” When the “vehicle and pedestrian paths converged, the self-driving system software classified the pedestrian as an unknown object, as a vehicle, and then as a bicycle with varying expectations of future travel path.” It also states that at “1.3 seconds before impact, the self-driving system determined that an emergency braking maneuver was needed to mitigate a collision.”
However, Roadshow ’s (11/6, Szymkowski) Sean Szymkowski writes that earlier reports revealed that “Uber had disabled the car’s factory automatic emergency braking system, and its own autobrake feature for fear of potentially erratic behavior.” Szymkowski reports that investigators also “found there was no system in place to alert the human safety driver of an oncoming object.” Szymkowski calls this a “stinging revelation” that “piles on more unflattering looks for the ride-hailing company.”
The Arizona Republic (11/6, Randazzo) reports Uber released a statement in response to the release of the new reports, saying, “We regret the March 2018 crash involving one of our self-driving vehicles that took Elaine Herzberg’s life.” Uber said, “In the wake of this tragedy, the team at Uber ATG has adopted critical program improvements to further prioritize safety. We deeply value the thoroughness of the NTSB’s investigation into the crash and look forward to reviewing their recommendations once issued after the NTSB’s board meeting later this month.”
Ars Technica (11/6, Lee) further explained what changes Uber has made to its AVs following the crash. According to ArsTechnica, “Uber has redesigned its radar to work on different frequencies than the Volvo radar, allowing the Volvo emergency braking system to remain engaged while Uber is testing its own self-driving technology.” Uber said, according to the article, that it has also “redesigned other aspects of its software.” Ars Technica reports that the vehicles “no longer has an ‘action suppression’ period before braking in an emergency situation” and “the software no longer discards past location data when an object’s classification changes.”
Volkswagen Open To Autonomous Vehicle Partnerships
Bloomberg (11/6, Rauwald) reports that Alexander Hitzinger, senior vice president for autonomous driving at Volkswagen, has said that the automaker is interested in working with one or more partners on developing autonomous-vehicle systems in order to compete with established leaders in the space such as Waymo. Bloomberg says joint projects with Ford and other partners could help lower costs. Hitzinger said, “We do have to catch up in some fields, but we’re not massively far behind here, and as VW Group we can really generate very large economies of scale. And this will be a scale game.”
Cold Storage Batteries Being Tested As Solutions To Power Gap Left By Renewables
The Financial Times (11/7, Middlehurst, Subscription Publication) describes how efforts by battery companies and energy companies develop storage solutions able to bridge the power gap left by renewable energy.
New Poll Suggests Women Increasingly In Tech, But Not Industry Leadership
Reuters (11/6, Finn) reports that tech firms “are hiring more women and narrowing the gender gap,” but “female leaders said the multi-trillion dollar industry was still failing to put them in its boardrooms,” according to a recent poll by “Europe’s largest technology conference.” A Web Summit poll of 600 women in the tech industry “showed nearly half, or 42%, believed gender ratios had improved in the last year,” while “one in three were “unsure” if representation was better.” The conference’s findings “suggest the sector is starting to respond to allegations last year of sexism at tech firms such as Facebook and walkouts by Google employees in response to claims of inequality and sexual misconduct.”
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New University Of Michigan Study Shows Russian Web-Censoring Tightening
The AP (11/6) reports that, according to a recent study, Russia “is succeeding in imposing a highly effective internet censorship regime across thousands of disparate, privately owned providers in an effort also aimed at making government snooping pervasive.” A study conducted by University of Michigan researchers and released on Wednesday “says the model can be easily exported to other nations, and it challenges the notion that decentralized internet service can prevent large-scale censorship of the types imposed by Iran and China.” The AP says, “Seven years of publicly available data reviewed by the researchers, who call their lab Censored Planet, attests to the Russian government’s increasing success at getting privately owned internet providers to block online addresses used by critics of President Vladimir Putin and independent news outlets.”
KT, Hyundai Heavy To Collaborate On 5G-Based Smart Factory
YonHap News (KOR) (11/6) reports telecom operator KT Corp. and “leading shipbuilding conglomerate Hyundai Heavy Industries Group” are bolstering collaboration “to develop advanced smart factory solutions based on the 5G network to improve efficiency and safety,” the companies said on Thursday. Senior executives from both companies met at KT’s Seoul office “to share the latest technology development, including the automatic robot management system based on cloud computing space, a voice-recognition robot and other smart factory solutions, and discussed future strategies, the companies said.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Editorial: Prioritizing Public Safety Might Have Helped Contractors, Engineers Avoid FIU Incident
Engineering News-Record (11/6) states that “in the paper world of contracts, only contractors are responsible for means and methods.” However, “in the real world, partly as a result of NTSB investigations and civil lawsuits – but unstated by the board – design engineers face expanding liability.” Engineers “will always be the first ones consulted when it comes to protecting human life” and “few collect fees commensurate with that awesome liability.” But, according to the Engineering News-Record, “recognizing how wide that responsibility stretches, and keeping the obligation to public safety front of mind, might have helped overcome the false sense of security and group-think that obscured the” FIU bridge collapse.
NTSB Dismissed FIGG’s Theory On FIU Bridge Collapse
Engineering News-Record (11/6, Judy, Ichniowski) reports that the NTSB’s report “made quick work of dismissing FIGG’s contention – submitted to the agency in September via a 344-page report – that the bridge collapsed primarily due to construction errors, specifically the intended roughening of cold joints.” According to the article, “FIGG based its opinion on an analysis performed by forensic engineers Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates (WJE) that claims the contractor’s failure to roughen key cold joints decreased the structure’s shear capacity in the region that collapsed by an estimated 78%.” However, “while noting that the contractors failed to roughen the cold joints, the NTSB addressed this theory by stating: ‘Even if the cold joint surface of nodal region 11/12 had been roughened to a 0.25-inch amplitude, node 11/12 would not have had sufficient capacity to counteract the demand load for interface shear—and the bridge would still have been under-designed and could have failed.’”
New Jersey Governor Announces Initiative To Increase Computer Science Instruction, Starting In Kindergarten
NJ Spotlight (11/6) reports that New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) is “taking further steps” this week “to amp up computer science instruction in areas like coding and programming – even down to the lowest grades.” NJ Spotlight said Murphy “announced a five-point plan that would press ahead on detailed standards for computer science in every grade from kindergarten to 12th, as well new credentialing and training for educators.” Murphy “also proposed an additional – if modest – $2 million to expand state grants to districts to bolster their most advanced high school classes, especially those where money is tight.”
Arkansas High-School Computer Science Enrollment Up
The Crossett (AR) Ashley News Observer (11/6, Hogan) reports that Arkansas “saw a 22 percent increase in the number of high school students enrolled in computer science classes in a single year.” Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) “announced the increase from this academic school year over last year last week.” The News Observer says, “Expanding computer science has been a keystone issue in Hutchinson’s gubernatorial plans for the state.”
Analysis: States Hold Competing Definitions Of “STEM,” Hampering Education Efforts
The Seventy Four (11/6, Ingram) writes that the Next Generation Science Standards “have been adopted by 20 states and the District of Columbia” and “another 25 states have versions of those standards with some variations.” However, “Five states have entirely different approaches,” and “unlike with Race to the Top and the Common Core, there are currently no financial incentives for states to sign on to the science standards.” The Seventy Four says, “States also have separate individual working definitions of STEM commonly approved through their legislatures,” and “there’s no guarantee that these different conceptions of STEM actually line up with one another.” According to one researcher, the Seventy Four writes that “without a clear working understanding of STEM, the U.S. risks unnecessary barriers to preparing students for the future.”
Wednesday's Lead Stories
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