Thursday, November 9, 2017

Lunch at Logan

Need a Lyft?

Uber to pay Mass. drivers for improper toll charges

Local cab companies feeling the pain from Lyft, Uber

"Dropping off a friend at Logan? It could cost you" by Adam Vaccaro Globe Staff  August 27, 2017

The Massachusetts Port Authority has agreed to study imposing a fee on drivers who pick up or drop off passengers at Logan International Airport, part of a deal with environmentalists seeking to curb congestion and air pollution amid a surge in airline traffic.

The Conservation Law Foundation, a Boston environmental group, says these trips could be reduced by charging people for driving to Logan.

They can't see the forest for the trees through all the spew. Those plane trips exhale more greenhouses gases in one flight than I do in an entire year of driving.

Such fees are not unusual elsewhere in the world, especially in the United Kingdom, where more than a dozen airports have implemented tolls over the last decade. It’s rare in the United States, though some transportation specialists predict such tolls are destined to make their way across the pond.

“I believe that a pick-up and drop-off charge for private automobiles will be the next major charge for US airports,” said Ray Mundy, a transportation professor at the University of Missouri St. Louis. “The rationale is to encourage more and more people to use high occupancy vehicles and public transportation. It also has the effect of raising revenue for airports. I think those two rationales will overcome resistance to charging people for pick-up and drop-off.”

He can't $mell and I just lost my appetite.

At most airports, including Logan, Uber, Lyft, and taxi drivers already pay fees that are passed on to the customer, Mundy noted. “We’re only a half-step away from saying private automobiles, we’re going to start charging them as well,” he said.

Those arguments are unlikely to be persuasive to passengers, said Charlie Leocha, founder of Travelers United.

“You can imagine what the passenger perspective is: ‘Hell no,’ ” said Leocha, who lived in Boston before launching the Washington, D.C., advocacy group. “From a passenger point of view, it’s one more system of nickel-and-diming.”

Now I don't have enough for lunch.

Massport chief executive Thomas Glynn cautioned that the fee study is but one aspect of a broader review the agency is conducting of ways to limit vehicle trips. Moreover, he suggested he isn’t sold on the idea.

Glynn also said there is a “fairness” consideration, since many drivers heading south or west after leaving Logan already pay tolls for the harbor tunnels, which may seem like an airport fee to them.....

Just cancelled my flight.



"One of the Boston area’s most prominent female executives has taken on a new assignment: board member at the Massachusetts Port Authority. Governor Charlie Baker has appointed Laura Sen, the former chief executive at Westborough-based BJ’s Wholesale Club, to the seven-member Massport board....."

She will clean the place up, right?

All clear for departure.....

"A plane crash reported during the weekend in the waters off the Maine coast wasn’t a crash at all. California-based airplane manufacturer ICON said Tuesday that one of its A5 amphibious aircraft landed in the water and was lifted by crane onto a yacht by its owner. Witnesses who saw the plane skip across the water thought they’d witnessed a crash and notified the York Police Department, which responded accordingly on Friday. The incident was reported by several media outlets. The Police Department notified the Federal Aviation Administration. An FAA spokesman said Monday that there’s no investigation and the landing was a ‘‘routine event.’’

Two if by sea?

"The largest container ship ever to reach the United States has docked in Virginia. The French-owned CMA CGM Theodore Roosevelt arrived in Norfolk on Monday from Asia after setting another record as the largest ship ever to traverse the newly expanded Panama Canal. At 1,200-feet, the vessel is longer than the new USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier, and can carry the equivalent of 14,400 20-foot-long cargo containers. That’s nearly 10 percent more than the COSCO Development, a huge ship that broke the previous record in May. The Port of Virginia is one of only four East Coast ports with the 50 feet of depth at low tide desired for these massive ships. More are seeking funds to deepen their channels."

Haven't been through there in a while.

"The ride-hailing service has unveiled an artist’s impression of the sleek, futuristic machine it hopes to deploy for ride-sharing by 2028. The battery-powered aircraft looks like a cross between a small plane and a helicopter, with fixed wings and rotors. It was presented at a technology conference Wednesday in Lisbon. The vehicle is intended to soar over traffic congestion, sharply reducing city travel times. Uber hopes it will eventually cost commuters less than using their own car....."

Meet George Jetson!

At least there is no need to look out for pedestrians:

"MIT engineers develop ‘socially aware’ robot to keep pace with pedestrians" by Ben Thompson Globe Correspondent  August 30, 2017

Polite robots running various errands could someday join the people who stream through downtown areas, striding or rolling along without jostling people or getting in their way, thanks to research underway at MIT.

MIT engineers have developed a small robotic vehicle that can seamlessly move with people in public spaces. The technology could eventually lead to robots that perform a variety of delivery and transportation tasks.

And spy on you, too.

The autonomous robot uses “socially aware navigation” software to keep pace with foot traffic and observe the “general codes of pedestrian conduct,” the Massachusetts Institute of Technology News Office said.

The robot, described as a “knee-high kiosk on wheels,” completed testing at MIT’s Ray and Maria Stata Center that demonstrated its capability to avoid collisions with people while keeping up with average walking speeds.

“Socially aware navigation is a central capability for mobile robots operating in environments that require frequent interactions with pedestrians,” said MIT graduate student and researcher Yu Fan Chen. “For instance, small robots could operate on sidewalks for package and food delivery. Similarly, personal mobility devices could transport people in large, crowded spaces, such as shopping malls, airports, and hospitals.”

Chen is the lead author of a research paper on the robot’s programming that will be presented at an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers conference in September.

Fellow MIT graduate student Michael Everett, former postdoctoral researcher Miao Liu, and MIT professor of aeronautics and astronautics Jonathan How co-wrote the study.

MIT said the researchers dealt with three of four main autonomous movement challenges using fairly standard approaches, while developing a new method for the fourth.

Open-source mapping algorithms were used to locate the robot in the environment, “off-the-shelf” sensors were used for its perception, and controls similar to those employed in autonomous cars helped direct the robot.

The fourth problem, engineering the robot to successfully navigate around changing pedestrian conditions, proved the most difficult.

“The part of the field that we thought we needed to innovate on was motion planning,” Everett said. “Once you figure out where you are in the world, and know how to follow trajectories, which trajectories should you be following?”

People rarely stick to straight, predetermined paths, tending to weave and wander, veering off to greet a friend or grab a coffee. That’s a challenge for robots that had been unsolved.

Currently, “people don’t find [robots] to fit into the socially accepted rules, like giving people enough space or driving at acceptable speeds, and they get more in the way than they help,” Everett said.

To solve the motion planning problem, the researchers used a reinforcement learning approach, in which the robot was trained through simulations showing the robot how to take certain paths while following social norms.

“We want it to be traveling naturally among people and not be intrusive,” Everett said.

This method keeps the robot readjusting its path every one-tenth of a second, allowing it to roll at a typical walking speed of 1.2 meters per second without colliding with pedestrians or having to stop and reprogram its route.

Everett said the robot “trained” in the Stata Center’s hallways, rolling alongside students going about their everyday activities.

“One time there was even a tour group, and it perfectly avoided them,” Everett said.

The research team eventually hopes to put the robot in even more crowded pedestrian environments, training it in how to deal with larger groups.

“There may be a social rule of, ‘Don’t move through people, don’t split people up, treat them as one mass,’ ” Everett said. “That’s something we’re looking at in the future.”