Autonomous Vehicle Technology coming to Merriweather District

Some famous person once said, the future will be here before we know it.  Well, the development of Merriweather District presages a bright future for Columbia. Rouse’s Columbia was always at the cutting edge of community development. The introduction of autonomous parking, with GREEN building design, and recovery of the surrounding ecosystem as we finish Rouse’s city, makes us a leader once again. 

“Our partnership with Howard Hughes Corporation will transform Merriweather District into the first city in the country to be built for, and operate, fully-autonomous parking technology,” said Anuja Sonalker, Founder and CEO of STEER. “The benefits are infinite.”

Merriweather District Groundbreaking includes announcement of autonomous parking amenity for Downtown Columbia neighborhood [Excerpts]

by Jean Moon (Columbia Patch), April 30, 2018

The Howard Hughes Corporation and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan broke ground today on the first urban, walkable neighborhood to be created within the Merriweather District, celebrating The Howard Hughes Corporation’s continued transformation of the district and the revitalization of Downtown Columbia.

Planned development of Area 3, Merriweather District (image by Howard Hughes Corporation)

The development of a new office building to be anchored by Tenable Inc., one of the largest and fastest-growing cybersecurity companies in the country, marks the latest milestone in Downtown Columbia’s emergence as a vibrant commercial hub for technology and innovation.

In addition, plans were announced for a neighborhood amenity to harness the emerging technology of autonomous parking. The Merriweather District buildings will be powered by STEER technology, the first fully-autonomous parking solution transforming everyday cars into driverless vehicles that self-park. This integration will transform the Merriweather District into the first city in the country to be built for automated self-parking cars.

Aerial view of planned development of Area 3, Merriweather District (image from Downtown Columbia, DTC Partnership)

“The Merriweather District is designed to be a dynamic live-work-play destination with access to unique offerings, great restaurants and an iconic entertainment venue within a beautiful, walkable environment” [said John DeWolf, President, Columbia, The Howard Hughes Corporation.]

https://patch.com/maryland/columbia/merriweather-district-features-cybersecurity-giant

STEER Autonomous Parking Video (click to play)

Level 4 Autonomous Parking Coming to Merriweather District in Columbia MD [Excerpts]

by Bryan Jonston (Auto Connected Car News), May 1, 2018

Click on logo for company website

STEER built the first fully-autonomous parking technology to transform everyday cars into driverless vehicles. The first application of STEER’s technology is a Level 4, highly autonomous and cybersecure parking solution – drivers simply exit the car at a destination, and the car parks itself in a designated parking lot. When consumers are ready to go, just summon the car via a mobile app.

The Merriweather District, a Howard Hughes Corporation project, will be the first high-density, mixed-use neighborhood to adopt STEER and power a truly tech-forward experience for residents, businesses and consumers.

“Our partnership with Howard Hughes Corporation will transform Merriweather District into the first city in the country to be built for, and operate, fully-autonomous parking technology,” said Anuja Sonalker, Founder and CEO of STEER. “The benefits are infinite; Merriweather residents can save time and gas getting to and from their cars; reduce stress and frustration hauling bags of groceries in inclement weather; and corporate partners will benefit from increased employee productivity by saving time and frustration looking for and walking from the parking lot to work.”

http://www.autoconnectedcar.com/2018/05/level-4-autonomous-parking-coming-to-merriweather-district-in-columbia-md/

How Autonomous Vehicles Will Shape Cities

By Brooks Rainwater (National League of Cities), June 1, 2018

Today in America, autonomous vehicles (AVs) are already on our streets, with pilots taking place in cities nationwide. Technology like this can be utilized to make all of our lives better — but even if our hands are off the wheel, we must drive this future together.

Mobility: Tap taxis to tackle isolation

While most automakers don’t plan on selling AVs to the public before 2020, Lyft, Uber and Nutonomy have all started piloting driverless technology in select cities across the country. If you live in a city, your first ride in an autonomous vehicle will very likely be in a self-driving taxi. These taxis have the potential to provide a cheap and inclusive way for people who are isolated—such as the elderly and disabled—to get around.

Prototype Uber driverless taxi (click on image for Uber website)

Sustainability: Weaving a microtransit mesh

If your first experience riding an AV isn’t in a taxi, then it’ll be in a driverless minibus. Unlike the taxis, minibuses have pre-programmed routes and can carry multiple people at once. They will be an economical part of our autonomous future.

A driverless shuttle began operating this fall at the University of Michigan’s Mcity test facility in Ann Arbor (click on image for Mcity website)

Jobs & the Economy: A human touch on robot delivery

You may have expected that a drone would be delivering your takeout burritos, but it turns out robots on sidewalks will probably be doing it first. Autonomous robots will likely be a boon to local restaurants and shops, allowing them to more easily compete with megaliths like Amazon and provide customers with almost instant deliveries.

Autonomous robot (from CitiesSpeak, National League for Cities)

Urban Transformation: Rethinking buses, bikes, and barriers

Just as robots will likely be embraced by local businesses, robots will also likely serve a municipal role. Autonomous street patrol officers and ushers will become a go-between for residents and their built environments, and city infrastructure will become a flexible fabric with which residents can communicate.

Before long, we can expect to see thousands of autonomous vehicles on roadways, autonomous buses and transit vehicles providing rides, and autonomous conveyors shuttling back and forth on sidewalks making deliveries.

https://citiesspeak.org/2018/06/01/how-autonomous-vehicles-will-shape-cities/ 

Volvo pioneers self-driving garbage truck (click to play video)

Featured image at top of post

from the Volkswagen Group, currently testing autonomous parking at Hamburg Airport.

https://www.volkswagenag.com/en/news/2018/04/autonomous_parking_ready_for_series_vehicles_soon.html

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The Howard County Bikeway needs your support

Howard County has developed a comprehensive Bicycle Master Plan, called Bike Howard, and “the Bikeway” has been identified as the top priority for jump-starting the project. But funding to implement the Plan has been minimal and suggests a serious lack of commitment to encouraging bicycle travel in the County. Here’s what you need to know about Bike Howard and the Bikeway. At the end of this post, there’s a link to tell County Executive Kittleman and the County Council of your support for the Plan.  

Howard County Bicycle Master Plan

In April of 2016, Howard County adopted its first Bicycle Master Plan. The Bicycle Master Plan provides guidance for both transportation and recreational bicycling, both on-street and off-street. Recommendations are provided in the general areas of infrastructure improvements, policy and programs.

Goals and objectives are:

  • Identify and develop countywide system of bicycle facilities to foster connectivity within and between the following: villages, communities and neighborhoods throughout the County, as well as neighboring cities and counties, parks and recreation centers, schools and educational institutions, commercial and employment centers, and regional and local transit facilities.
Howard County Times editorial, May 24, 2017

Continue reading The Howard County Bikeway needs your support

Is the future of transportation coming to Maryland?

High speed inter-city rail transportation in the United States is nearly nonexistent. Amtrak’s Acela Express in the Northeast Corridor, capable of speeds up to 150 mph, averages just 65 mph due to limitations of the existing track. But two proposals for trains using very different technology could radically change the future of transportation in the Northeast Corridor. Here’s an introduction to these game-changing technologies.

Elon Musk to start hyperloop project in Maryland, officials say

by Erin Cox and Sarah Gantz (Baltimore Sun), October 19, 2017

Maryland has given transportation pioneer Elon Musk permission to dig tunnels for the high-speed, underground transit system known as a hyperloop that Musk wants to build between New York and Washington.

Hogan administration officials said Thursday the state has issued a conditional utility permit to let Musk’s tunneling firm, The Boring Co., dig a 10.3-mile tunnel beneath the state-owned portion of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, between the Baltimore city line and Maryland 175 in Hanover.

It would be the first portion of the underground system that Musk says could eventually ferry passengers from Washington to New York, with stops in Baltimore and Philadelphia, in just 29 minutes. Maryland’s approval is the first step of many needed to complete the multibillion-dollar project.

Continue reading Is the future of transportation coming to Maryland?

The future of transportation is “Complete Streets”

Transportation has been in the news a lot lately. Governor Hogan announced his intention to spend $9 billion on a massive highway project. Howard County is holding public hearings on how to upgrade our public transit system. Columbia Association just held its annual BikeAbout. And Horizon Foundation is holding its Open Streets event Sunday October 1st.

We need to think of these aspects of transportation as an integrated whole or else we’ll waste a lot of money without fully supporting our community needs. Contrary to Governor Hogan’s approach, Howard County has committed to a “Complete Streets” policy, and the Open Streets event will demonstrate what that is.  Here I attempt to make sense of it all. Continue reading The future of transportation is “Complete Streets”

Howard County is a bicycling community – Join the fun!

As temperatures cool, more and more people are bicycling, for fun, exercise, and basic transportation. Howard County provides numerous opportunities to join the movement. There are several events coming up in the next few weeks and organizations that are devoted to cycling. Our transportation infrastructure is changing to support a more walkable and bikeable community. Bicycles are now available on demand for short trips around Columbia.

Come join the fun. There are no excuses not to. Continue reading Howard County is a bicycling community – Join the fun!

Howard County has a “Dakota Access” pipeline right in our back yard

Who knew we have petroleum pipelines running through Howard County MD? On a recent doctor visit out Dorsey Hall Drive in Ellicott City, I discovered these signs for a petroleum pipeline managed by Colonial Pipeline Company. Surprised by my finding, I decided to do some research. Come to find, there are numerous natural gas and hazardous liquid (petroleum) pipelines throughout Howard County and the USA.

Colonial Pipeline right of way (ROW) looking south across Dorsey Hall Dr. and US29 (left) and headed north to Marriottsville and Dorsey Junction in Woodbine (right) [photo by Harry Schwarz]
Map showing pipelines traversing Howard County, MD; The Colonial pipeline is indicated by the red line (map by National Pipeline Mapping System (NPMS) Public Viewer)

Pipeline Basics

by The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, US Dept of Transportation (PHMSA)

The energy transportation network of the United States consists of over 2.5 million miles of pipelines. That’s enough to circle the earth about 100 times. These pipelines are operated by approximately 3,000 companies, large and small.

Most hazardous liquid and gas transmission pipelines are located underground in rights-of-way (ROW). A ROW consists of consecutive property easements acquired by, or granted to, the pipeline company. The ROW provides sufficient space to perform pipeline maintenance and inspections, as well as a clear zone where encroachments can be monitored and prevented. Continue reading Howard County has a “Dakota Access” pipeline right in our back yard

Our car-centric culture endangers people and our planet

We allocate an awful lot of space to accommodate the automobile and they are a major cause of global warming. To create a sustainable future, we will need to lessen our dependence on cars and develop alternative means of transport. 

Howard County is beginning to build this future with consideration of  public transportation, development of bike trails, and implementing shared usage of roads. Columbia is grappling with the same issue as we plan for downtown development and rejuvenation of our village centers.

The United States had a very different infrastructure about 100 years ago, until cars took over the roads. How we became a car-centric nation, and what it might look like to share our roads and encourage alternatives to the car are the subject of these articles.

Howard County Complete Streets Policy (DRAFT – October 2016)

Vision: “To ensure that Howard County is a place for individuals of all backgrounds to live and travel freely, safely, and comfortably, public and private roadways in Howard County shall be safe and convenient for residents of all ages and abilities who travel by foot, bicycle, public transportation or automobile, ensuring sustainable communities Countywide.” – Allan H. Kittleman, Howard County Executive, Council Resolution 35-2016.

Scope:  The County shall approach every transportation improvement and project phase as an opportunity to create safer, more accessible streets for all users of all ages and abilities, including people who walk, bike, take the bus, and drive cars and trucks. These phases include, but are not limited to: planning, programming, design, right-of-way acquisition, subdivision and land development, new construction, construction engineering, reconstruction, operation, repair, and maintenance. This applies to both new and retrofit projects.

https://www.howardcountymd.gov/Departments/County-Administration/Transportation/Complete_Streets

When city streets were a public space

By Nov. 4, 2015

Hester Street, 1914 Manhattan, Lower East Side
Hester Street, 1914 Manhattan, Lower East Side

It’s strange to imagine now, but prior to the 1920s, city streets looked dramatically different than they do today. They were considered to be a public space: a place for pedestrians, pushcart vendors, horse-drawn vehicles, streetcars, and children at play.

“Pedestrians were walking in the streets anywhere they wanted, whenever they wanted, usually without looking,” Norton says [Peter Norton, the author of Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City]. During the 1910s there were few crosswalks painted on the street, and they were generally ignored by pedestrians.

As cars began to spread widely during the 1920s, the consequence of this was predictable: death. Over the first few decades of the century, the number of people killed by cars skyrocketed.

As deaths mounted, anti-car activists sought to slow them down. In 1920, Illustrated World wrote, “Every car should be equipped with a device that would hold the speed down to whatever number of miles stipulated for the city in which its owner lived.”

The November 23, 1924, cover of the New York Times shows a common representation of cars during the era — as killing machines. (New York Times)

The turning point came in 1923, says Norton, when 42,000 Cincinnati residents signed a petition for a ballot initiative that would require all cars to have a governor limiting them to 25 miles per hour. Local auto dealers were terrified, and sprang into action, sending letters to every car owner in the city and taking out advertisements against the measure.

Most notably, auto industry groups took control of a series of meetings convened by Herbert Hoover (then secretary of commerce) to create a model traffic law that could be used by cities across the country. Due to their influence, the product of those meetings — the 1928 Model Municipal Traffic Ordinance — was largely based off traffic law in Los Angeles, which had enacted strict pedestrian controls in 1925.

Ultimately, both the word jaywalking and the concept that pedestrians shouldn’t walk freely on streets became so deeply entrenched that few people know this history. “The campaign was extremely successful,” Norton says. “It totally changed the message about what streets are for.”

[For more on the auto industry’s campaign to assure that cars had primary use of roads, read the whole article at the link below.]

http://www.vox.com/2015/1/15/7551873/jaywalking-history

Murder Machines: Why cars will kill 30,000 Americans this year

by Hunter Oatman-Stanford (Collectors Weekly), March 10, 2014

“If a kid is hit in a street in 2014, I think our first reaction would be to ask, ‘What parent is so neglectful that they let their child play in the street?,’” says Norton [Peter Norton, the author of Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City].  In 1914, it was pretty much the opposite. It was more like, ‘What evil bastard would drive their speeding car where a kid might be playing?’ That tells us how much our outlook on the public street has changed—blaming the driver was really automatic then.”

1909 Cartoon (Library of Congress)
1909 Cartoon (Library of Congress)

As cities attempt to undo years of car-oriented development by rebuilding streets that better incorporate public transit, bicycle facilities, and pedestrian needs, the existing bias towards automobiles is making the fight to transform streets just as intense as when cars first arrived in the urban landscape.

“The fact that changes like redesigning streets for bike lanes set off such strong reactions today is a great analogy to what was going on in the ’20s,” says Fried. “There’s a huge status-quo bias that’s inherent in human nature. While I think the changes today are much more beneficial than what was done 80 years ago, the fact that they’re jarring to people comes from the same place. People are very comfortable with things the way they are.”

http://www.collectorsweekly.com/articles/murder-machines/

The U.S. Ended Up Much More Car-Dependent Than Europe

Between the 1920s and 1960s, policies adapting cities to car travel in the United States served as a role model for much of Western Europe. But by the late 1960s, many European cities started refocusing their policies to curb car use by promoting walking, cycling, and public transportation. For the last two decades, in the face of car-dependence, suburban sprawl, and an increasingly unsustainable transportation system, U.S. planners have been looking to Western Europe.

The numbers show the need for change. In 2010, Americans drove for 85 percent of their daily trips, compared to car trip shares of 50 to 65 percent in Europe. Longer trip distances only partially explain the difference. Roughly 30 percent of daily trips are shorter than a mile on either side of the Atlantic. But of those under one-mile trips, Americans drove almost 70 percent of the time, while Europeans made 70 percent of their short trips by bicycle, foot, or public transportation.

https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2014/02/9-reasons-us-ended-so-much-more-car-dependent-europe/8226/

How the Dutch Got Their Cycle Paths

by Mark Wagenbuur, who blogs at BicycleDutch

[The Dutch became a car-centric nation similar to the United States, but then they chose a different road.]. 

Featured image at top of post

From Greater Aukland (2014) – http://transportblog.co.nz