Ford uses robots for truck test drives (VIDEO)
Ford has begun using driverless technology to test the toughness of its trucks, our sister site, Equipment World, reported.
The automaker worked with Autonomous Solutions to develop the robotic test driving system, which is the first in the industry.
The system uses a robotic control module to steer the vehicle and control acceleration and braking, cameras and GPS tracking to keep the test trucks on a programmed path and onboard sensors to detect surroundings such as a person or animal.
The robotic system could allow Ford to create more rigorous test tracks for its trucks.
Check out the video below to see the robotic test driving system in action.
House Democrats introduce $5.5 billion bridge-funding bill
Democrats in the House of Representatives have introduced a bill that would allow $5.5 billion to be spent on bridge repairs in the United States, according to a report from The Hill.
The bill, known as the Strengthen and Fortify Existing Bridges (SAFE Bridges) Act, would affect more than 150,000 bridges that are classified as structurally deficient. (More details about these structurally deficient bridges are available in our 2012 Bridge Inventory.)
The proposed bill comes nearly a month after the Interstate 5 bridge in Washington collapsed into the Skagit River, sparking discussions about a need for increased infrastructure funding.
Congressman Nick Rahall (D-WV) referred to the collapse as a “nightmarish scene” and a “dramatic wakeup call” that should create debates about transportation funding.
“Congress simply cannot keep hitting the snooze button when it comes to needed investment in our nation’s bridges or think that these aging structures can be rehabilitated with rhetoric,” Rahall said.
Congress currently spends about $54 billion annually on transportation projects–an amount that transportation advocates have said is barely enough to maintain the transportation system and definitely not enough to make improvements.
House Appropriations Committee releases $44 billion USDOT, HUD budget
The House Appropriations Committee yesterday released a $44 billion budget for the departments of Transportation (USDOT) and Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
According to a release from the committee, the fiscal year 2014 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development funding bill is “$7.7 billion below the fiscal year 2013 enacted level,” “$13.9 billion below the President’s budget request” and “approximately $4.4 billion below the level caused by automatic sequestration cuts for these programs.”
The bill calls for $15.3 billion in discretionary appropriations for USDOT.
The bill outlines funding for transportation safety programs and agencies. It includes $828 million in both mandatory and discretionary funding for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), $572 million for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, nearly $41 billion from the Highway Trust Fund for the Federal Highway program, $11.8 billion for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), $1.16 billion for the Federal Railroad Administration, $184.5 million for rail safety funding, nearly $2 billion for the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), $8.6 billion in state and local transit grant funding from the Mass Transit Account, $1.82 billion for Capital Investment Grants and $326 million for the Maritime Administration.
The bill also calls for a total of $28.5 billion for HUD.
The Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Subcommittee is scheduled to consider the bill today.
I-5 temporary span opens to traffic (VIDEO)
The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) announced this morning that the Interstate 5 temporary span is now open to traffic, though the bridge has some restrictions.
WSDOT is routing freight haulers carrying oversize or overweight loads around the temporary section of the bridge; maps and details about those detours are available at wsdot.wa.gov/Construction/PugetSound/detourmap. Vehicles that do travel over the new span are limited to a speed of 40 mph between State Route 20 and College Way.
The span temporarily replaces the portion of the I-5 bridge that collapsed into the Skagit River last month after it was struck by an oversize truck. A permanent span will eventually replace the temporary portion.
The temporary span was completed within the time frame WSDOT previously estimated.
The video below shows a time lapse of the span’s completion.
WSDOT awarded Max J. Kuney Construction of Spokane, Washington, the $6.87 million contract to build the permanent span replacement. WSDOT announced that the contractor will likely begin work on the bridge this week and have it ready for installation sometime between Labor Day and October 1.
For more information about the I-5 Skagit River Bridge replacement, visit wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/I5/SkagitRiverBridgeReplacement.
Is the car the cigarette of the future?
How would you feel if you were shunned in the not-too-distant future for doing something we do every day now and don’t think twice about?
What if playing golf, going to a restaurant or mowing your lawn meant you would be treated as a pariah?
One man says it could happen if you drive a car.
The man is Jaime Lerner, described as “a visionary architect and urban planner” and former mayor of Curitiba, Brazil’s eighth largest city with a population of more than a million and some serious inner city population density.
Our car culture is going to become a thing of the past, he says. Car exhaust, he says, is the new second-hand smoke, and “the car is the cigarette of the future.” People will still use them, he concedes, but those people will be like the smokers huddled awkwardly outside of office buildings or restaurants and being frowned upon by the multitudes passing by.
CityFix’s Luis Gutierrez sees Lerner’s vision this way: “Imagine standing in a 50 square meter room with one person smoking a cigarette. Now imagine standing in that same room with 50 people all crammed in tight together, all smoking cigarettes, and you can’t leave. For Lerner, that might as well be the experience of being stuck in traffic: jammed in with no escape, forced to steadily breathe in exhaust fumes. But he predicts that the public backlash against increasing traffic is not far off.”
With the Olympic Games and soccer World Cup coming to Brazil, the country’s notorious big-city traffic jams aren’t going away just yet, and No Smoking signs won’t clear the air.
Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation discusses infrastructure investment at bridge collapse hearing
The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies met Thursday for a hearing, where the committee examined the Interstate 5 bridge collapse in the context of the overall status of the nation’s transportation infrastructure.
AASHTO Journal reported that Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) chaired the hearing, “Crumbling Infrastructure: Examining the Challenges of our Outdated and Overburdened Highways and Bridges.”
Testimonies included those from Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez, U.S. Department of Transportation Under Secretary for Policy Polly Trottenberg and U.S. Government Accountability Office Physical Infrastructure Issues Director Phillip Herr.
Murray discussed how the I-5 bridge collapse affected the community, and she pointed to a local need for infrastructure investment.
“Unfortunately, this is the kind of disaster we can expect to happen more often when our roads and bridges fall into disrepair,” Murray said. “It certainly should be a wakeup call that we need to invest in, repair and rebuild our aging roads, bridges, and highways.”
Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), the subcommittee’s ranking member, looked at funding for infrastructure investment. Collins cited the Federal Highway Administration , which estimates a $100 billion to maintain highway infrastructure for the next 15 years and a $170 billion annual investment to continue to improve and “meet future demands.”
“This will prove extremely difficult,” Collins said, “given that the revenues collected for the Highway Trust Fund already do not support the current level of federal spending.”
Collins added that previous proposals to use war savings for transportation funding might be impractical.
Trottenberg agreed with Murray on the need for infrastructure investment. Trottenberg said she has seen progress made with improvements to the transportation system in the United States.
“Despite increased use, the condition of our nation’s highways and bridges has improved overall in recent years, as a result of new technology and techniques used in the design and construction of projects, as well as condition monitoring,”Trottenberg said.
Mendez assured the hearing’s attendees that the FHWA and state transportation departments are working to keep roadways safe.
“I can assure you that if we identify a bridge that is unsafe, we will take immediate action at the state level, whether we restrict it or close it,” Mendez said.
Herr testified that 25 percent of bridges on U.S. roadways were classified as deficient in 2012.
The full webcast is available for viewing at appropriations.senate.gov.
The I-5 bridge that collapsed last month is expected to reopen sometime this week.
Hyundai launches R480LC-9A, R520LC-9A crawler excavators
Our sister site, Equipment World, has reported on Hyundai Contruction Equipment’s launch of the new R480LC-9A and R520LC-9A production-class crawler excavators.
A low emission, low noise Tier 4 Interim Cummins QSX11.9 engine powers each of the machines, which have a high power-to-weight ratio and rapid torque rise.
Each excavator boasts a 108,420-pound and 114,820-pound operating weight, respectively.
Features include a variable speed fan clutch, two-stage auto decel system and three engine modes: power, standard and economy. Also included is a new hydraulic system, which delivers fine touch and improved control.
The cabs are designed with a high strength steel frame, slim tubing, a skylight and larger windows and scratch- and fade-proof safety glass for high visibility. Customizable features include an adjustable seat, console and armrest. The seat is integrated with the console.
Other cab features include height-adjustable ergonomic joysticks; an advanced audio system with USB, AM/FM stereo and MP3; an enhanced climate control system; and heated seats. An optional smart key system is also available.
The display cluster uses digital gauges to show temp, fuel and maintenance item monitoring, and it enables the operator to adjust work modes and engine power or set the boom speed and arm regeneration.
Hyundai simplifies maintenance on the new excavators, which have extended lube intervals of 250 hours, 5,000-hour long life hydraulic oil and 1,000-hour extended life hydraulic filters.
USDOT to create high-speed rail safety rules
The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) will create the guidelines, which will govern trains that can reach up to 200 mph. The standards will also help with the development of California’s high-speed rail and the Northeast Corridor.
Senate Transportation Committee discusses rail safety, NTSB calls for shunting use after track worker’s death
Following the May 28 death of a track worker who was struck by a Metro-North train in Connecticut, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) has scheduled a hearing with the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation for tomorrow at 10 a.m., where the committee will discuss ways to improve passenger and freight rail safety.
The hearing will be available for viewing as a webcast at commerce.senate.gov.
The worker’s death spurred investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to issue an “urgent safety recommendation” on Monday. The agency suggested the railroad quickly begin using a safety technique called “shunting,” according to The Courant.
The Senate Transportation Committee hearing and NTSB recommendation come about three weeks after Track Foreman Robert Luden, 52, was struck and killed by a New York-bound train traveling at about 70 mph. Luden had been doing construction work at the site where he was struck.
Investigators have not yet determined the cause of the accident, but NTSB said on Monday that a student controller had turned off the track’s closed signal the day of the accident without the approval of track workers.
The agency has suggested the railroad use a technique known as “shunting” to prevent future accidents like the one that killed Luden. Shunting involves workers attaching a device to the track on which they are working. The device signals to rail dispatchers that the track is closed. When the workers have finished making repairs to the track, they remove the device to let the dispatcher know it has reopened.
Many railroads already use shunting, but Metro-North does not include the technique in its safety protocol. However, Metro-North spokeswoman Marjorie Anders said the railroad is in the process of implementing the suggestions from NTSB.
HOTless in Seattle
It appears some road planners in the Seattle area assumed that drivers would be willing to pay their way out of congestion.
A pilot project was designed for high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes at State Route 167 in metro Seattle. But the use projections were way, way off. So can we use this data to expand the HOT lane debate?
The project created ten miles of tolled HOT lanes (the only HOT lanes in the Pacific Northwest). They were converted from HOV lanes in 2008 for $18 million. Five years later it seems the lanes are being used about two-thirds less than Washington DOT predictions. New HOT lanes may now be headed for a ‘hold.’
Income from the Seattle HOT lanes appears to be there, so the lanes are not being subsidized. But if usage is so far below projections we surely need to go back and rethink the basic premises of these lanes.
The base idea is, of course, that as regular lanes back up, drivers can slide over into the tolled HOT lanes. And then as the regular lanes back up even more, the HOT lane price goes up. The driver switching to a HOT lane pays (into state transportation coffers, if the deal works as it should) for a quicker ride and the congested regular lanes are not as congested as they might have been.
But if drivers would rather stay in the congested regular lanes (and a lot of these drivers make some really good money), rethinking is needed.
Less driving is also a factor. But if the projection were wrong here too, the whole HOT lane raison d’etre would seem to be shaky at best. The irony of course is that fewer cars on the road means less congestion so less need to drive in a HOT lane.
The data showing the shortfalls in HOT lanes is valuable stuff–the sort of numbers planners can get to grips with. We can’t deal with congestion by hoping less vehicles will be on the road; we need planning to find a way to fight the problem. Perhaps we need more lane miles. So, Seattle guys, get to tweaking. If this way isn’t the best way, what is?