Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Reps. DeSaulnier, Smucker introduce bipartisan bill to spur innovative changes to transportation systems

Wednesday, October 4th, 2017

Washington, DC – Today, Wednesday, October 4, 2017, as we recognize National Smart Cities Week, U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Members Representatives Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA) and Lloyd Smucker (R-PA) announced bipartisan legislation that would establish $100 million in new grant funding for cities to invest in and use innovative technologies and solutions for the purpose of improving transportation and mobility. The Moving FIRST Act (H.R. 3901) was introduced to build upon the Department of Transportation’s Smart Cities Challenge, by increasing the funding available and making it an annual grant opportunity.

“Seventy five percent of all Americans are expected to live in urban areas by 2050. We need to invest in the best way to move our people and our goods in ways that reduce congestion, improve public health, and are tailored to the needs of our communities,” said DeSaulnier. “We’ve already seen how smart technologies succeed in the Bay Area and California, and I am proud to partner with my colleague Representative Smucker to create grant opportunities for cities across the nation, and of all sizes, to advance cutting edge technologies.”

“This week is National Smart Cities Week – a perfect time to refocus our efforts in support of innovative and creative solutions to help our cities work better,” said Smucker. “Investments in smart infrastructure projects help move people to job centers, products to market, and connect economic hubs. Expanding initiatives like the Smart Cities Challenge will help kick start improvements in transit and connectivity in cities like Lancaster and Reading. I am glad to work with Rep. DeSaulnier to introduce the Moving FIRST Act and I look forward to continuing my work to improve our nation’s infrastructure.”

H.R. 3901 would make annual grant awards available to communities of all different sizes which seek to advance projects like autonomous vehicle technology and sensor-based infrastructure in order to meet the transportation challenges they face. Specifically, the bill establishes the Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation (SMART) Challenge Grant, which will annually award:

  • A large city with up to $50 million in grant funding
  • A mid-sized city with up to $50 million in grant funding
  • Two rural communities or regional partnerships with up to $20 million in grant funding or 20% of the total funds available

Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Richard Burr (R-NC) introduced companion legislation, S. 1809, in the Senate.

National Smart Cities Week brings together city leaders, innovative companies, and policymakers to engage in a national dialogue to better understand and prepare for the ways new technologies will impact the ‘city of the future.’

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Tri Delta Transit launches new mobile app for security

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017

As of Monday, October 2, Tri Delta Transit is offering ‘Tri Delta Watch,’ a mobile security app that instantly allows riders to notify police or dispatchers of security incidents on buses and at bus stops. The free app allows riders to anonymously send text reports with pictures or videos to dispatchers who can respond to or address the problem. Contacting local police directly is an option of the app, which is made simple via a one-click 911 button for more serious situations.

The free security application is available at the Apple App Store and Google Play for iPhone and Android devices; search Tri Delta Watch. Once downloaded, riders can report suspicious activity, and incidents that might require law enforcement’s presence on board Tri Delta Transit buses.

“Occurrences that might merit the use of the app are extremely rare on our buses,” said Mike Furnary, Director of Marketing. “Having the app is just another means to help us keep it that way.”

Tri Delta Watch and similar security apps are important new components in the industry’s effort to enhance safety for customers and drivers. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security adopted the “If You See Something, Say Something” public awareness campaign in 2010. Transit agencies, including Tri Delta Transit, have launched a variety of advertising and outreach efforts to educate riders about the importance of being vigilant in reporting suspicious, illegal or inappropriate behavior and activities, as well as unattended packages.

The smartphone app allows customers to assist security efforts by reporting suspicious activity in a timely manner. When a rider sees a suspicious situation, with the click of a button, they can directly call police or discretely submit a report with photos or video, incident descriptions, and GPS coordinates to transit officials. If the user chooses to submit a picture or video, the camera flash is automatically disabled to not draw attention to the rider.

The mobile app allows riders to report incidents such as suspicious activity, disruptive behavior, crime in progress, and security or safety issues. Riders may also report immediately threatening situations such as fighting, or attacks on drivers.

Once a report is initiated, real-time two-way communication is enabled. Dispatchers may ask the rider for more details about the situation or provide instructions, as needed. In the event of an active incident, the dispatcher and reporter are able to communicate concerning details about those involved, what bus they are on, and assessment of the suspect’s behavior. The dispatcher can advise and communicate with the customer or contact the appropriate person or agency for assistance if necessary.

“Safety and security begins with all of us,” said Furnary. “If you see something, say something.”

Tri Delta Transit provides over 3,000,000 trips each year to a population of over 250,000 residents in the 225 square miles of Eastern Contra Costa County. They operate 13 local bus routes Monday – Friday, 4 local bus routes on weekends, door-to-door bus service for senior citizens and people with disabilities, and shuttle services to community events. For additional information about Tri Delta Transit, please visit www.trideltatransit.com.

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Contra Costa’s CyberTran awarded U.S. patent for Transportation Internet

Monday, October 2nd, 2017

Rendering of a CyberTran transit station. Renderings courtesy of CyberTran International, Inc.

Ultra-Light Rail Transit system vehicles travel throughout connected rail networks at low, medium and high speeds, direct to destination and at much lower capital deployment and maintenance costs

CONTRA COSTA COUNTY, CA – CyberTran International, Inc. (CTI) offers the most innovative approach to solving the world’s traffic congestion problems. The recent patent approval for fixed guideway transportation systems, with lower cost of ownership and optimized benefits, validates what they’re calling the Transportation Internet technology. This system can be thought of as the computer-controlled technology solution to the problems of mass transit cost overruns and inefficiency.

Artist rendering of a CyberTran vehicle and station with overhead solar panels generating the power to operate the system.

CTI’s Ultra-Light Rail Transit (ULRT) is a mass transit system with the ability to build out Urban Circulator systems, Commuter Rail systems and High-Speed Rail systems and connect them to one network where small rail vehicles carrying up to thirty passengers can travel throughout the network Direct-to-Destination (nonstop). This allows ULRT to serve three separate markets, low, medium and high speeds! Until today all three markets have been served by three separate distinct technologies that can only be connected at transfer points where passengers have to disembark one system only to transfer to another to reach their destination.

Currently, CTI is closing in on funding for the purpose of demonstration and deployment. “Everybody wants to be second, nobody wants to be first,” said Dexter Vizinau, President of CTI.

Transit officials are hesitant to take a chance on a small and innovative company. The BART system started out as a demonstration project and the technology was the first of its kind. Today, CTI has approximately ten cities that are willing to be first, he explained.

In every major metropolitan region of the world, people are stuck in traffic. Today’s solutions aren’t working.

“Expanding today’s transit systems are too costly to build and maintain, yet transit officials continue to approach this as a solution, with little result,” said Neil Sinclair, CTI Board Chairman. “There’s a $78 billion backlog in transit systems maintenance in the U.S. and the only way to pay for it is to raise taxes. In the meantime, we’re all stuck in traffic with no end in sight.” That is, until today.

Overview rendering of the offline CyberTran stations.

“Our patent validates everything we’ve already proven,” Vizinau continued. “Two full-scale prototype vehicles have already been built and tested. The test vehicles have achieved speeds of up to 60 mph and have climbed a 10% grade, which means ULRT can go over the Sepulveda Pass in Los Angeles and also travel up the Grapevine Summit in Southern California. Bullet train systems and L.A. Metro-like systems cannot climb steep grades and therefore either have to tunnel or go around.”

By building out ULRT networks in cities at 35 mph, and then connecting them together throughout a region at 80 mph, ULRT becomes a commuter rail system like BART and Metro in Los Angeles. ULRT can handle the same throughput as BART during rush hour via the Transbay Tube. CTI can then connect regions with a high-speed line. The ULRT System design is flexible and can expand easily. Guideways and civil structures are manufactured offsite and assembled onsite allowing ULRT systems to be constructed more efficiently. CTI can construct long-distance systems in up to a quarter mile per day. The system was designed to reach speeds of up to 150 mph. (See related article)

CyberTran’s ULRT system also operates from solar power. Canopies of solar panels above the guideway can generate more than one megawatt per mile and eight times more energy than the system consumes, and supply renewable energy to surrounding communities resulting in a net gain to CTI.

Rendering of a possible CyberTran station on the second floor of an office building and campus.

Transit officials currently purchase transit systems from foreign companies. CTI plans to manufacture ULRT transit systems for a global market in Contra Costa County. “We’ve been to China five times in as many years. There are six hundred cities in China that can use this,” says Sinclair. Councilmember Rich Kinney of the City of San Pablo states, “West Contra Costa County in particular has to solve the I-80 corridor congestion issue to attract more businesses and jobs to our cities. This is our opportunity to effectively address that issue. May we not continue to kick the proverbial can down the road – it’s time to embrace the full deployment of CyberTran right here at home.”

Earlier this year the city councils of Oakley, Brentwood and Antioch each voted unanimously to join the cities of Richmond and San Pablo to support efforts by CTI to obtain the needed funding for systems in both Western and Eastern Contra Costa County. (See related article) In addition, CTI has the support of U.C. Berkeley in their efforts to bring the technology to market. (See related article)

The next steps for CTI are to obtain funding to build two showrooms and a factory. This calls for one low-speed demonstration track up to 35 mph, and one rapid speed demonstration track up to 150 mph – in curves and with left and right banking. Both demo tracks and factory construction are to be done concurrently. There were no funding programs to support transit innovation, such as ULRT, at the federal level until CTI lobbied Congress to create one. Program legislation was created and approved in 2014 under a Republican-controlled Congress and Senate. CTI was hopeful that President Obama would release the program funding but it did not happen. CTI is hopeful about the President Trump’s infrastructure package and is encouraged by their reception in Washington, D.C.

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Laser-equipped drone helps improve safety, efficiency on Hwy 4 improvement project

Tuesday, September 12th, 2017

Screenshot from drone video of construction work at the Highway 4 and Balfour Road interchange in Brentwood, Tues., Sept. 12, 2017. Courtesy of Alta Vista Solutions.

Emerging drone technology moves construction and engineering into the future

On Tuesday morning, September 12, 2017, the Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA) and Alta Vista Solutions showcased two emerging technologies on a construction project aimed to improve commutes on Highway 4 in Brentwood (aka the Bypass). Engineers piloted drones equipped with light detection and ranging (LiDAR) lasers–a surveying tool that uses a laser to create high-resolution geographical data.

The combination of the two emerging technologies has never been done in construction before and opens untold possibilities for unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology and related jobs in the future.  CCTA featured the system in action by providing a live feed of a drone flight.  The feed from this morning’s drone flight can be viewed at altavistasolutions.com/media – bar .

With assistance from engineering firm Alta Vista Solutions (Alta Vista), who proposed the new method, CCTA is flying the LiDAR scanners to measure the volumes of earth that need to be moved during this $74-million project to rework the Balfour Road interchange. The drones ensure that the cut-and-fill earthwork goes efficiently. With LiDAR’s pinpoint accuracy, CCTA can now make needed calculations and monitor site conditions faster, eliminating the unavoidable guesswork involved in manual surveys. Putting LiDAR on drones gathers 15 gigabytes of precise, high-quality data per month, cutting down drastically on time spent surveying. The drones also improve safety by taking workers out of live traffic.

Drone capabilities enable CCTA to track construction progress firsthand as work on Highway 4 continues.

“We are always looking for new ways to increase safety and efficiency on construction projects,” said CCTA Executive Director Randy Iwasaki. “Drones give us aerial views of the site that were hard to come by before, making it safer for surveyors to do their job and helping us manage the large volumes of dirt that are being used to improve this intersection. This technology also allows us to monitor environmentally sensitive areas without disturbing the habitat.”

“This will change engineering and surveying,” said Ed Greutert, principal engineer at Alta Vista Solutions. “Innovations like combining LiDAR and UAVs are opening doors in infrastructure and making us efficient, effective, and safe in ways we couldn’t achieve before.”

Greutert also addresses fears of job loss as automation increases. “Using technology to do the surveying work can lead people to ask if this is the next step to the robot apocalypse – are drones going to take our jobs?” he speculates. “Not quite. It’s going to change jobs. It’s going to create new jobs in technology—and in the Balfour Road case, help people get to work faster.”

CCTA has faced challenges in being the first to test these technologies together.

“This has never been done. LiDAR on a UAV hasn’t worked until now – there are huge possibilities if we can be creative enough to really tap into them,” Greutert noted.

Handling the unprecedented quantity of data generated has also posed a challenge. However, in recent months, the team has succeeded in processing the hundreds of gigabytes collected.

“There are always challenges to pioneering new technology,” Iwasaki said. “But with the benefits this technology can provide in terms of keeping workers safe and managing a complicated construction project, I believe we’ll start to see more widespread use of drones on construction sites within a few years – especially as we discover new applications that can help save time and money. Right now, CCTA is excited to be leading efforts in this new frontier.”

About the Contra Costa Transportation Authority

The Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA) is a public agency formed by Contra Costa voters in 1988 to manage the county’s transportation sales tax program and oversee countywide transportation planning efforts.  CCTA is responsible for planning, funding and delivering critical transportation infrastructure projects and programs that connect our communities, foster a strong economy, increase sustainability, and safely and efficiently get people where they need to go.  CCTA also serves as the county’s designated Congestion Management Agency, responsible for putting programs in place to keep traffic levels manageable.  More information about CCTA is available at ccta.net.

About Alta Vista Solutions

Alta Vista is a California-based engineering firm that has been recognized as the 20th fastest-growing engineering firm in America by Inc. 5000 and was named by Zweig Group as one of America’s Hot Firms. Alta Vista has quickly differentiated itself by performing customized quality management strategies for some of the most complex infrastructure projects in the world. Over the past decade, Alta Vista has worked with public and private organizations to complete large-scale engineering projects that better serve their regions. Known for engineering services that include engineering, inspection, testing, unmanned aerial systems, quality management, and structural health monitoring, Alta Vista has grown and diversified and has been acknowledged in 2017 by ENR Magazine and other media outlets for using innovative solutions and technologies to deliver infrastructure projects faster, better and more cost effectively.  For more information about Alta Vista, visit altavistasolutions.com.

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