Category Archives: Transportation

Study finds Uber, Lyft reduce car ownership

ANN ARBOR — In areas where Uber, Lyft and other on-demand ride services operate, consumers may buy fewer cars and even take fewer trips, according to a new study.

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Rocket Fiber To Provide Free Wi-Fi On QLine

DETROIT — The Detroit-based gigabit internet and technology service provider Rocket Fiber will provide free wi-fi service on the QLine streetcars when they begin operations Friday, May 12, the companies announced.

The services include network-based technology to incorporate into the QLine main office at the Penske Technical Center and public wi-fi at the stations and trains.

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LTU study finds ‘tow plows’ will clear snowy roads faster

SOUTHFIELD – With winter driving season just ahead, there’s hope that new technology can clear snow off roadways faster – and save taxpayers money.

A research report developed by Lawrence Technological University faculty says the state could shave almost $5 million off its annual snowplowing bill by deploying tow plows – trailers that swing out diagonally from the back of snowplow trucks that let them move snow off two lanes in one pass.

The report makes that projection after more than two years of testing and analysis with the state’s current fleet of 14 tow plows.

The report says that if state and county road maintenance officials had 42 tow plows in their snow removal arsenal – the number required to cover the entire state – it would save $4.8 million in personnel and other operating costs in a typical winter. That’s because the plows could clear snow from more lanes faster.

And there would be even more savings in avoiding winter travel delays and accidents, according to Nishanthra Bandara, LTU assistant professor of civil and architectural engineering, principal investigator on the study.

Tow plows “can plow a 24-foot-wide path down a road, meaning you can clear a three-lane freeway in two passes instead of four or five,” Bandara said.

The study, commissioned by the Michigan Department of Transportation, saw the tow plows tested in seven snowstorms between January 2014 and March 2015. Most of the tests were conducted on I-96 and US-23 in the Brighton area.

Bandara said he drove behind the tow plow in a truck outfitted with a road friction measuring device manufactured by the Danish pavement engineering consulting firm Dynatest. The device showed that the tow plow did just as good a job of clearing snow as a conventional plow truck.

The MDOT currently has 14 tow plows in 11 road maintenance garages around the state. Just using those regularly, the report showed, could save the state $1.4 million a year in snow removal operating costs. And if state and county road officials make the investment to fully deploy tow plows, the projected saving goes up to $4.8 million.

The study also included cost analysis of travel delays avoided in several snowstorms. By analyzing travel speeds on I-96 near Lansing when tow plows were tested, the report estimated more than $100,000 in travel delay costs avoided – in just one snowstorm.

Dozens of state highway departments, toll road authorities and private contractors around the country have adopted tow plows, the survey found. States using tow plows include Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, and Utah.

The report’s other authors were Elin Jensen, associate dean of graduate studies and research in LTU’s College of Engineering, and Frank Holt, retired senior vice president of Dynatest’s office in Westland.

State officials are enthusiastic about using tow plows, which cost about $90,000 each and are manufactured in Missouri.

“This study says to me that this new tool is safe and effective,” said Melissa Howe, region support engineer in maintenance field services for the MDOT. “We’ll see direct savings, and savings on the part of drivers in delays avoided.”

The cost of the study was $195,224, 80 percent of which was paid by the Federal Highway Administration.

Lawrence Technological University, http://www.ltu.edu, is a private university founded in 1932 that offers more than 100 programs through the doctoral level in its Colleges of Architecture and Design, Arts and Sciences, Engineering, and Management. PayScale lists Lawrence Tech among the nation’s top 100 universities for the salaries of its graduates, and U.S. News and World Report lists it in the top tier of best Midwestern universities. Students benefit from small class sizes and a real-world, hands-on, “theory and practice” education with an emphasis on leadership. Activities on Lawrence Tech’s 107-acre campus include more than 60 student organizations and NAIA varsity sports.

Ford Dynamic Shuttle Service Moves From Experiment To Pilot

DEARBORN — Ford Motor Co. says its Dynamic Shuttle service for its Dearborn employees will move to an on-demand pilot this month, providing smart ride-hailing technology and premium customized shuttles.

Dynamic Shuttle is part of Ford Smart Mobility, an initiative announced in January to experiment with alternate forms of mobility, connectivity and advanced vehicles.

Providing a platform to test new ideas, the pilot ultimately could help Ford develop mobility that improves the lives of people in cities struggling with traffic gridlock and few public transit options.

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Tomorrow’s Transportation Connected, Shared, Says LTU Symposium

SOUTHFIELD — A capacity crowd of more than 300 heard about the future of transportation Tuesday night at the third annual installment of Lawrence Technological University President’s Symposium Series, “Exploring the Role of Technology in Solving Transportation Issues.”

Kirk Steudle, director of the Michigan Department of Transportation — who is also a Lawrence Tech graduate and a board member of The Engineering Society of Detroit — moderated a panel of experts who offered a fascinating glimpse at the connected, greener, safer, more shared future of mobility.

Steudle said the Michigan Mobility Initiative has united the MDOT, the Michigan Economic Development Corp., MichAuto, the Michigan University Research Corridor and Business Leaders for Michigan in an effort to create test sites for connected and automated vehicles of the future.

Among them are Mcity, the University of Michigan’s autonomous vehicle test village, and Smart Corridors, 125 miles of test highways for vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, including sections of I-94, I-696 and US-23. The corridor will test having the roads talk to cars and vice versa, exchanging information like red light violation warnings, work zone warnings, weather and pavement conditions.

There are also advances in providing truckers information on where to park to take required breaks, and truck platooning, using technology to create safe “trains” of closely following trucks.

“There are 450 companies in southeast Michigan that are in automotive R&D,” Steudle said. “That’s more than the rest of the world combined. This is the home of the auto industry. This is the place that put the world on wheels. And it is the place that is going to reinvent how we move.”

Summed up Steudle: “The future looks very interesting. It looks differnet. It looks connected. It’s more automated. It’s multi modal.”

Dr. Jay Baron, president and CEO of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, said the future isn’t only about the connected car — it’s about the connected car factory, which will be greener, more sustainable, smarter and more flexible.

Cars of the future will feature amazing technology, he said — electrically powered accessories, advanced control systems and transmissions, more efficient engines, advanced materials.

Echoing other speakers, Baron also predicted a future of shared cars, in which you might take a small car to work but have easy access to a larger car for a vacation.

And all this high tech will require plenty of brainpower, Baron said: “If you want a job in engineering research, think Michigan first.”

Michael Ford, CEO of the Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan, spoke about the transit study now under way by his agency, formed by the state Legislature in 2012. The RTA’s board — two each from Wayne, Washtenaw, Oakland and Macomb counties, one from the city of Detroit and one from the governor’s office — plans to be on the ballot in November 2016 with a regional mass transit funding proposal.

Metro Detroit’s much-maligned mass transit system now has 156,000 average daily riders. And Ford pointed out that from an economic development standpoint, “even if you don’t use mass transit you still benefit from it.” He said both young millennials and seniors “want to be able to get to where they want to go without
having to have a car.”

Chuck Gulash, director of the Collaborative Safety Research Center of Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North America Inc. in Ypsilanti, talked about the Japanese automaker’s efforts in researching the future of transportation. Included is everything from small urban vehicles to robots to artificial intelligence to research into automated driving. Toyota’s approach with the CSRC, which is funded through 2021, is to share its research results openly. The CSRC is working with 19 universities in its efforts, including the University of Michigan, Michigan Technological University and Wayne State University.

And, Gulash said, “We are hiring and are here at LTU recruiting.”

The next speaker, Douglas E. Patton — executive vice president of engineering and chief technical officer at Denso International America Inc. in Southfield, as well as the current president of ESD — spoke next, offering a “reality check” on autonomous driving.

“To me, it’s sleeping in the back seat,” he said. “If I can’t sleep in the back seat it’s not really autonomous.”

By that yardstick, Patton said, autonomous driving is a long way off. He offered the Society of Automotive Engineers’ five levels of autonomous driving, from Level 0, no automation, to level 5, full automation in all driving situation and all weather conditions.

Patton said today’s most advanced vehicles look like level 2, partial automation, or level 3, conditional automation with the driver in the loop.

Denso provides a lot of the systems that will eventually be used in autonomous driving — powertrain control systems, informatoin and communication systems, driving control and safety systems.

And he said to get to real autonomous driving, “the technology has to work all of the time, every time, 100 percent of the time, in all conditions. Ninety-nine percent of the time is not an option.” He said barriers to autonomous vehicles lie not just in technology challenges, but consumer acceptance and liability issues. But he said eventually, advanced technologies will sharply curtail accidents.

J. Gary Smyth, executive director of global research and development laboratories at General Motors Co., said the automaker’s tech efforts now focus on six key areas: propulsion and emissions; connected vehicles; advanced materials; sensors, processors and memory; manufacturing technology; and business analytics.

He said the highways of the future look more shared, electric, autonomous, and connected.

He predicted “a lot more” electric vehicles, as advanced batteries ease range anxiety, and many more electric-gas hybrids, including a 2016 Chevrolet Malibu that will get almost 50 mpg in the city.

He said technologies now under development include vehicle prognostics — predicting when parts will fail — and more vehicle autonomy and communications.

“We will get to autonomous, but it will take much longer to get to driverless,” he said — but eventually, he predicted cars would become “horizontal elevators,” where you push a button and you’re there.

He also predicted far more car sharing among the young.

“We have gone from a society that wanted to own things to a society that just wants access,” he said. “All I want is access but I want it 24-7.” An example of this trend is the move from record albums to CDs to iTunes to streaming. “People want streaming like access to cars,” he said.

Smyth also said southeast Michigan is “the hub of intelligent vehicles.”

In the Q&A that followed the presentations, the panelists were asked which college course was most valuable to them in their careers. Smyth said design, Baron answered communications, Patton and Steudle said systems engineering, Gulash said business, while Ford said philosophy, because “it taught me how to
think.”

Steudle said systems engineering taught him “how things fit together. In my job right now there are so many unrelated related things that you don’t realize are related.” Also, he recommended communications courses, “so you can stand up here and give a speech.”

LTU Event Studies Future Of Transportation Infrastructure

SOUTHFIELD — “The Future of Transportation: Roads,
Bridges and Transit” is the topic of this year’s President’s
Symposium at Lawrence Technological University on
Tuesday, Sept. 22, at 7 p.m.

The panel discussion will be moderated by Lawrence Tech
alumnus Kirk Steudle, director of the Michigan Department of
Transportation. The panelists will be:

• Jay Baron, president and CEO of the Center for Automotive
Research.
• Michael Ford, CEO of the Regional Transit Authority of
Southeast Michigan.
• Chuck Gulash, director of the Collaborative Safety Research
Center of Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North
America Inc.
• Douglas Patton, executive vice president for engineering
and chief technical officer for Denso International America
Inc.
• J. Gary Smyth, executive director of the North American
Science Labs, Global Research and Development of General
Motors Co.

The panelists will be asked how technology can help solve transportation issues.

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Gentherm Profits More Than Double, Revenue Up 23% In 2014

NORTHVILLE — Gentherm Inc. (NASDAQ: THRM), the automotive thermal management equipment supplier, posted net income of $70.1 million or $1.95 a share, in 2014, up from $33.8 million or $94 cents a share in 2013. Revenue was $811.3 million, up from $662.1 million in 2013.

In the fourth quarter, net income was $19.8 million or 55 cents a share, up from $11 million or 31 cents a share in the fourth quarter of 2013. Revenue was $205.2 million, up from $182.3 million in the fourth quarter of 2013.

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Michigan Tech, Calumet Firm Get $2.1M To Develop New Natural Gas Tank

HOUGHTON — Michigan Technological University and REL Inc., a Calumet-based technology company with a focus on material-process development, have been awarded a $2.1-million, three-year investment from Southwestern Energy Co. of Houston, Texas.

The grant will ask an interdisciplinary team of Michigan Tech researchers and REL engineers to design, build and test a new compressed natural gas tank for light-duty trucks that takes up less cargo space.

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DTE, MGM, DoE Install 24 EV Chargers In Casino Ramp

DETROIT — The headquarters of the Detroit utility DTE Energy and the MGM Grand Casino already share a parking ramp that spans the two landmarks on the western edge of downtown Detroit.

Now, they’re sharing green technology, too.

DTE and MGM Wednesday unveiled a set of 24 electric and plug-in hybrid vehicle charging stations on the sixth floor of the parking ramp. While they’re intended for use by DTE employees who drive plug-ins, if they should happen to be available, casino guests with EVs and PHEVs are welcome to use them at any time.

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Michigan Roads: Where The Rubber Meets The… Rubber?

HOUGHTON — Since the 1960s, Sun Belt states have built their roads using asphalt mixed with crumb rubber made from ground-up scrap tires. This rubberized asphalt not only provides a market for old tires, it is also quieter and longer lasting than conventional asphalt pavement. But will it work in a four-season climate? Especially in places where winter comes early and stays late?

To find out, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has awarded several grants to study rubberized asphalt, including two totaling $1.2 million to Michigan Technological University. One will fund a study aimed at reducing emissions and odor. The other will test a new technology that could, among other things, lower energy costs and make life easier for road crews.

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