Leading the News
Analyses: Autonomous Vehicle Tech Exhibits “Dominate” CES.
The AP (1/8, O'Brien, Nakashima) reports, “The smartphones and other small machines that used to dominate the annual CES gadget show have been overshadowed in recent years by...automobiles,” as “major automakers like Toyota, Kia, Hyundai and Ford have a noticeable presence at” CES. The AP cites how “Toyota says it’s developing self-driving mini-buses that can serve as bite-sized stores,” and automotive supplier Bosch touted work on technology “to help guide drivers to vacant parking spots.”
The Detroit Free Press (1/8, Reindl) similarly says, “One of the hottest discussion topics at this week’s CES conference...is when companies expect to boot their so-called safety drivers out of their autonomous vehicles.” GM VP for global strategy Mike Ableson “said Monday during a CES panel on autonomous driving that the company still aims to have these heavily modified Bolts up and running for commercial service sometime in 2019.” Also on Monday, Toyota Research Institute head Gill Pratt “explained how the Japanese automaker is aiming to demonstrate a true self-driving vehicle – one without a human babysitter – in time for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics.”
Speaking on Bloomberg TV Bloomberg Markets European Open (1/8), Bloomberg analyst Alistair Barr said autonomous vehicles and augmented reality would be the focus at CES, citing Nvidia’s partnership with VW and Uber.
WSJournal Analysis: Car Makers Tout Driverless Tech Despite Commercialization Challenges. A Wall Street Journal (1/8, Higgins, Subscription Publication) analysis highlights challenges in the commercialization of self-driving cars, citing regulatory issues and setbacks during testing. Today at CES, Ford CEO Jim Hackett is expected to outline his vision for the deployment of test autonomous vehicles.
Analyst: Driverless Cars Aim To Look And Act “More Human.” Mashable (1/8) analyst Pete Pachal writes, “We already know self-driving is real, it works, and it’s coming faster than we ever thought,” but in order to convince the public of this, car makers are focusing on making driverless vehicles that look and act “more human.” Pachal cites how Nvidia touted the power and compact size of its new Drive Xavier processor, which Pachal says “will help with consumer acceptance.” Pachal also cites driverless designs of Toyota’s “Platform 3.0” self-driving concept car, Aptiv’s self-driving car, and Koito’s headlight that integrates LIDAR sensors.
Virginia Colleges Award State Record Number Of Bachelor’s Degrees In 2016-17 School Year.
The AP (1/8, Press) reports the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia released research Friday indicating “that students earned a total of 54,508 bachelor’s degrees in the 2016-2017 school year, with the majority – at nearly 38,000 – conferred by the state’s public colleges.” The number of bachelor’s degrees awarded by Virginia colleges last year was the highest in the state’s history. The number of science, technology, engineering, math, and health degrees awarded last year – 24,405 – was also a state record. The most popular majors at Virginia public colleges, according to the research, “were psychology, biology and business administration, unchanged from the previous year.”
New Webinars, Feb. 2018 — Voices on Women’s Participation
This free webinar series will explore major themes from the NSF-supported TUEE (Transforming Undergraduate Engineering Education) Phase III workshop, Voices on Women’s Participation and Retention. Each webinar offers tools to broaden female participation and retention. Webinar topics include encouraging men to serve as gender equity allies, inspiring and developing mentors and role models, and how to evolve organizational culture and effect change on your campus. Learn more and register today!
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Research and Development
North Carolina Leads States In Industry-Funded University Research.
Inside Higher Ed (1/8, Seltzer) reports a new report released Monday found “significant differences in the levels of industry-funded university research taking place in different states.” The report, released by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, said North Carolina had the highest level of industry-funded university research. North Carolina universities “drew 12.1 percent of their research funding from industry. On the other end of the spectrum, universities in Nevada drew the lowest percentage of research funding from industry sources – 1.7 percent.” The top five states were North Carolina, Georgia, Kansas, Ohio, and Missouri, while the bottom five were Rhode Island, Nebraska, Hawaii, South Dakota, and Nevada.
Pentagon Offers Funding To Develop Better Drones.
PC Magazine (1/8, Humphries) reports the Department of Defense is “offering funding to revolutionize drones in terms of power, maneuverability, materials, and communication.” As a result, the Defense Enterprise Science Initiative (DESI) was created to support “use-inspired basic research performed by university-industry teams.” DESI offers “funding in key areas of research that could have a significant impact on future capabilities. Research managers at the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) identified four areas to focus on this year:” power beaming; highly-maneuverable autonomous UAV; Soft Active Composites with Intrinsic Sensing, Actuation, and Control; and Metamaterial-based Antennas. These areas of research “combined predict a future where UAVs mimic nature, using advanced smart materials to remain lightweight and highly maneuverable while being packed with sensors, highly-capable at communication regardless of where they are in the world.”
NASA Funding Project In Which Skiers Measure Back Country Snow Depth For Downstream Water Flow Models.
The AP (1/5, Joling) reports NASA is “funding research that recruits citizen scientists on skis, snowshoes and snowmobiles to measure snow depth in backcountry locations of the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.” Data collected “will be incorporated into computer models that calculate how much water will end up in the region’s rivers and reservoirs.” The AP reports that Oregon State University civil engineering professor David Hill and Alaska and University of Washington researchers have received “one of 16 NASA citizen science grants for the project” and quotes Hill saying, “Our initial model runs show that citizen science measurements are doing an amazing job of improving our simulations.”
Hyundai To Test Fuel-Cell SUV “NEXO” For Autonomous Driving.
Bloomberg News (1/8, Kim, Welch) reports that Hyundai said Monday at CES “it will start testing a fuel-cell powered sport utility vehicle for autonomous driving...with a goal to bring a model to the market by 2021.” Hyundai said the fuel-cell SUV named NEXO “will be used to try out the driverless technology it is developing with Aurora,” and that the NEXO will have “a maximum driving range of 370 miles, about 40 percent more than the fuel-cell Tucson.”
ONR Featured New Technology At Science Fiction Day.
In an article titled “How The US Navy Is Turning Sci-Fi Warfare Into Reality,” SPACE (1/8, Howell) reports on technologies highlighted by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) at its Science Fiction Day on January 2. “High-energy, solid-state laser weapons,” autonomous vehicle technology, and virtual reality technology were featured, as well as ONR robotics developments. The US Navy’s “amphibious robot testing, such as the Ship-to-Shore Maneuver Exploration and Experimentation Advanced Naval Technology Exercise,” is mentioned.
Univ. Of Houston Team Developing Predictive Model To Prevent Oil, Gas Accidents.
The Houston Chronicle (1/8, Stuckey) reports that a University of Houston team, led by Subsea Systems Institute Director Ramanan Krishnamoorti, have been “working on a predictive model that could alert oil and gas company employees when a problem might arise...and how to mitigate it.” Krishnamoorti said, “we are trying to apply fundamental science and engineering processes to predict when a catastrophic event might occur and to develop new methodologies to monitor the process.” The team received a $1.2 million grant last month, which was funded by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine’s Gulf Research Program. The aim of the model is to prevent events such as the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon incident.
IBM Reveals New 50-qubit Quantum Computer At CES.
Mashable (1/8, Morse) reports IBM’s 50-qubit quantum computer prototype was on display at this year’s CES conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. Almaden Research Center VP and Lab Director Jeff Welser explained said that the computer “could be a real game-changer in terms of what we can do with AI.” Mashable adds that IBM “has placed a working quantum computer on the cloud” and, “according to a press release, IBM is also working with commercial partners in the finance, materials, automotive, and chemistry industries by allowing them access to the groundbreaking computing power these devices offer.”
Engineering and Public Policy
FERC Rejects Perry Plan To Prop Up Nuclear, Coal Power In Struggling Markets.
The Washington Post (1/8, Mufson) reports that the five-member Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, four of whom were appointed by President Trump, “on Monday unanimously rejected a proposal by Energy Secretary Rick Perry that would have propped up nuclear and coal power struggling in competitive electricity markets.” The commission “said that it shared Perry’s stated goal of strengthening the ‘resilience’ of the electricity grid and it directed regional transmission operators to provide information to help the commission examine the matter ‘holistically.’”
In an updated version of its coverage, the Washington Post (1/8, Mufson) reports that former Obama Energy Department consultant Paul Bledsoe, said, “This outright rejection of subsidies for coal and nuclear shows that Commissioners of both parties have little interest in manipulating electricity markets in favor of any fuel source.”
The New York Times (1/8, Plumer, Subscription Publication) reports that critics of Mr. Perry’s proposal argued it would “upend competition in the nation’s electricity markets,” and maintain that blackouts “usually occurred because of problems to transmission lines, not because power plants had insufficient fuel on site.”
A front-page story in the Wall Street Journal (1/8, Puko, Subscription Publication) says the FERC ruling stops, at least temporarily, a proposal that could have cost consumers billions more on their electricity bills to provide more revenue to coal and nuclear plants.
Oil, Gas Drillers Mainly Attracted To Offshore Drilling Opportunities In Eastern Gulf Of Mexico.
Reuters (1/8) reports that President Trump’s proposal for offshore oil and natural gas leasing extends to “nearly all of America’s offshore waters,” however, industry says it is mainly interested in drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, which is currently cordoned off by the Pentagon “due mainly to the Defense Department’s concerns oil development would interfere with extensive military testing and training exercises in the area.” Oil and gas drillers are attracted to the area’s existing infrastructure, including “a sprawling network of existing platforms, pipes and ports [that] could ease the path to new reserves.” the American Petroleum Institute and Independent Petroleum Association of America both expressed interested in the region on behalf of their members. Likewise, Royal Dutch Shell “told Reuters in October that ‘we have appetite and we are interested’ in the eastern Gulf.”
The New York Times (1/8, Subscription Publication) editorializes that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s proposal “to roll back safety regulations for offshore drilling rigs put in place after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon blowout” reveal the Trump Administration’s “fealty to the oil and gas industry.” The Times also criticizes Zinke’s proposal “to open up vast areas of America’s offshore federal waters to oil drilling.” The publication asserts that the safety regulation rollbacks would lighten the energy “industry’s responsibilities, and in so doing suggest a return to a more permissive regulatory era.”
Analysis: Trump Administration Backing Away From H-1B Visa Proposal.
McClatchy (1/8, Ordoñez) reports the U.S. Citizens and Immigration Services on Monday “reversed course” on a proposal that would have prevented H-1B visa holders from keeping their visas longer than 6 years. According to the article, the announcement signals that “the Trump administration appears to be backing away from a policy change that could have forced foreign tech workers out of the country” in the face of “intense pressure from the business and technology communities.” The article mentions that the H-1B visa program “has been controversial, as companies such as Disney, Southern California Edison and the University of California, San Francisco have been accused of using the program to lay off American IT workers.”
Waze, DOT Team Up On New Project.
The Hill (1/8, Zanona) reports, “The Department of Transportation (DOT) is teaming up with the popular navigation app Waze on a new initiative designed to make the nation’s roads safer, the agency announced Monday.” The department is starting two projects, one of which will be in partnership with Waze, meant to integrate crash data with traffic data collected from crowd-sources. In a statement, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said, “Advances in data science have the potential to transform the Department’s approach to safety research and provide insights that can help improve highway safety.” Regarding the non-Waze project, which analyzes anonymous GPS data and speeds, the DOT said, “Every year speeding is a contributing factor in traffic fatalities, and in 2016 10,111 roadway deaths involved speed.”
Connecticut Students Receive $6,000 NASA Grant For Robotics Competition.
The Houston Chronicle (1/6, Lytton) reported that students from The Gunnery boarding school “received a $6,000 grant from NASA to compete in the FIRST Robotics Competition — For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology” last month. The Gunnery, located in Connecticut, “was the only school in the state to receive a starting grant from NASA this year, although two others got sustaining grants.” At the competition, which will be held at Fairfield University in March, students will compete against peers from schools across New England to build a robot to complete specified tasks. In last year’s competition, “teams had to build a robot that could climb a wall, place a gear on it and throw a ball.”
AP Computer Science Course Expansion Attracts More Female, Minority Students.
The Washington Post (1/8, Anderson) reports female, black, and Latino students are underrepresented among Advanced Placement computer science exam takers, underscoring “a problem that has bedeviled educators for years and hindered efforts to diversify the high-tech workforce.” With the National Science Foundation’s support, the College Board and university computer scientists developed a new course that would “appeal to a broader audience.” The expansion “is helping to draw more girls and underrepresented minorities into a field of growing importance for schools, universities and the economy,” but gender and racial imbalances persist. Still, “education leaders said the data show a significant advance in a quest to banish the stereotype that computer science is mainly for coding geeks who tend to be white or Asian American boys.” Universities, meanwhile, are monitoring the developments, as they “have struggled for years to broaden the demographic base of students in computer science beyond white and Asian American men.”
Maryland Elementary School Girls Attend STEM Program.
The Baltimore Sun (1/8) reports more than 60 “enthusiastic fourth-grade girls and their accompanying adults participated in a fun filled ‘STEM Girls Count!’ program at Anne Arundel Community College” in Maryland on Dec. 2. The girls, who were selected by their elementary schools’ teachers and principals, “engaged in a variety of hands-on activities that highlighted careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.” The Sun notes the event was co-hosted by the Anne Arundel County branch of the American Association of University Women, Anne Arundel County Public Schools, and Anne Arundel Community College.
Texas All-Girls Computer Clubs Seek To Close STEM Gender Gap.
The Waco (TX) Tribune-Herald (1/8) reports that according to the national nonprofit Girls Who Code, the overall gender gap in the computer science field “is expected to worsen by 2027, with only 22 percent of the computer science industry expected to be women, a decrease from 37 percent in 1995.” In the past six months, Midway High School and the Waco-McLennan County Library in Texas introduced new computer science clubs connected to Girls Who Code that are “open to intermediate, middle and high school girls” in hopes of bridging the “gender gap in science, technology, engineering, arts and math education at an earlier age, local school officials said.” Meanwhile, Twin Cities Television-PBS and the National Science Foundation awarded a $10,000 grant to help the Girls Scouts of Central Texas host SciGirls, “an all-girl, one-year pilot coding program serving a similar role as Girls Who Code for about 10 McLennan County Girl Scouts groups ages 8 to 13.”