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ScienceDaily

Security software for autonomous vehicles

Before autonomous vehicles participate in road traffic, they must demonstrate conclusively that they do not pose a danger to others. New software developed at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) prevents accidents by predicting different variants of a traffic situation every millisecond.

A car approaches an intersection. Another vehicle jets out of the cross street, but it is not yet clear whether it will turn right or left. At the same time, a pedestrian steps into the lane directly in front of the car, and there is a cyclist on the other side of the street. People with road traffic experience will in general assess the movements of other traffic participants correctly.

“These kinds of situations present an enormous challenge for autonomous vehicles controlled by computer programs,” explains Matthias Althoff, Professor of Cyber-Physical Systems at TUM. “But autonomous driving will only gain acceptance of the general public if you can ensure that the vehicles will not endanger other road users — no matter how confusing the traffic situation.”

Algorithms that peer into the future

The ultimate goal when developing software for autonomous vehicles is to ensure that they will not cause accidents. Althoff, who is a member of the Munich School of Robotics and Machine Intelligence at TUM, and his team have now developed a software module that permanently analyzes and predicts events while driving. Vehicle sensor data are recorded and evaluated every millisecond. The software can calculate all possible movements for every traffic participant — provided they adhere to the road traffic regulations — allowing the system to look three to six seconds into the future.

Based on these future scenarios, the system determines a variety of movement options for the vehicle. At the same time, the program calculates potential emergency maneuvers in which the vehicle can be moved out of harm’s way by accelerating or braking without endangering others. The autonomous vehicle may only follow routes that are free of foreseeable collisions and for which an emergency maneuver option has been identified.

Streamlined models for swift calculations

This kind of detailed traffic situation forecasting was previously considered too time-consuming and thus impractical. But now, the Munich research team has shown not only the theoretical viability of real-time data analysis with simultaneous simulation of future traffic events: They have also demonstrated that it delivers reliable results.

The quick calculations are made possible by simplified dynamic models. So-called reachability analysis is used to calculate potential future positions a car or a pedestrian might assume. When all characteristics of the road users are taken into account, the calculations become prohibitively time-consuming. That is why Althoff and his team work with simplified models. These are superior to the real ones in terms of their range of motion — yet, mathematically easier to handle. This enhanced freedom of movement allows the models to depict a larger number of possible positions but includes the subset of positions expected for actual road users.

Real traffic data for a virtual test environment

For their evaluation, the computer scientists created a virtual model based on real data they had collected during test drives with an autonomous vehicle in Munich. This allowed them to craft a test environment that closely reflects everyday traffic scenarios. “Using the simulations, we were able to establish that the safety module does not lead to any loss of performance in terms of driving behavior, the predictive calculations are correct, accidents are prevented, and in emergency situations the vehicle is demonstrably brought to a safe stop,” Althoff sums up.

The computer scientist emphasizes that the new security software could simplify the development of autonomous vehicles because it can be combined with all standard motion control programs.

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Materials provided by Technical University of Munich (TUM). Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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ScienceDaily

Fuel cells for hydrogen vehicles are becoming longer lasting

Fuel cells are gaining in importance as an alternative to battery-operated electromobility in heavy traffic, especially since hydrogen is a CO2-neutral energy carrier if it is obtained from renewable sources. For efficient operation, fuel cells need an electrocatalyst that improves the electrochemical reaction in which electricity is generated. The platinum-cobalt nanoparticle catalysts used as standard today have good catalytic properties and require only as little as necessary rare and expensive platinum. In order for the catalyst to be used in the fuel cell, it must have a surface with very small platinum-cobalt particles in the nanometer range, which is applied to a conductive carbon carrier material. Since the small particles and also the carbon in the fuel cell are exposed to corrosion, the cell loses efficiency and stability over time.

An international team led by Professor Matthias Arenz from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry (DCB) at the University of Bern has now succeeded in using a special process to produce an electrocatalyst without a carbon carrier, which, unlike existing catalysts, consists of a thin metal network and is therefore more durable. “The catalyst we have developed achieves high performance and promises stable fuel cell operation even at higher temperatures and high current density,” says Matthias Arenz. The results have been published in Nature Materials. The study is an international collaboration between the DCB and, among others, the University of Copenhagen and the Leibniz Institute for Plasma Science and Technology, which also used the Swiss Light Source (SLS) infrastructure at the Paul Scherrer Institute.

The fuel cell — direct power generation without combustion

In a hydrogen fuel cell, hydrogen atoms are split to generate electrical power directly from them. For this purpose, hydrogen is fed to an electrode, where it is split into positively charged protons and negatively charged electrons. The electrons flow off via the electrode and generate electric current outside the cell, which drives a vehicle engine, for example. The protons pass through a membrane that is only permeable to protons and react on the other side on a second electrode coated with a catalyst (here from a platinum-cobalt alloy network) with oxygen from the air, thus producing water vapor. This is discharged via the “exhaust.”

The important role of the electrocatalyst

For the fuel cell to produce electricity, both electrodes must be coated with a catalyst. Without a catalyst, the chemical reactions would proceed very slowly. This applies in particular to the second electrode, the oxygen electrode. However, the platinum-cobalt nanoparticles of the catalyst can “melt together” during operation in a vehicle. This reduces the surface of the catalyst and therefore the efficiency of the cell. In addition, the carbon normally used to fix the catalyst can corrode when used in road traffic. This affects the service life of the fuel cell and consequently the vehicle. “Our motivation was therefore to produce an electrocatalyst without a carbon carrier that is nevertheless powerful,” explains Matthias Arenz. Previous, similar catalysts without a carrier material always only had a reduced surface area. Since the size of the surface area is crucial for the catalyst’s activity and hence its performance, these were less suitable for industrial use.

Industrially applicable technology

The researchers were able to turn the idea into reality thanks to a special process called cathode sputtering. With this method, a material’s individual (here platinum or cobalt) are dissolved (atomized) by bombardment with ions. The released gaseous atoms then condense as an adhesive layer. “With the special sputtering process and subsequent treatment, a very porous structure can be achieved, which gives the catalyst a high surface area and is self-supporting at the same time. A carbon carrier is therefore superfluous,” says Dr. Gustav Sievers, lead author of the study from the Leibniz Institute for Plasma Science and Technology.

“This technology is industrially scalable and can therefore also be used for larger production volumes, for example in the automotive industry,” says Matthias Arenz. This process allows the hydrogen fuel cell to be further optimized for use in road traffic. “Our findings are consequently of importance for the further development of sustainable energy use, especially in view of the current developments in the mobility sector for heavy goods vehicles,” says Arenz.

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Materials provided by University of Bern. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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ProgrammableWeb

Altitude Angel announces Surveillance API

Altitude Angel, an unmanned traffic management tech provider, has announced a surveillance API. Through the API, integrators can share and receive flight data. The data comes from sensors and other devices in close to real-time so a genuine picture of covered airspace is seen.

“By offering our surveillance API to developers and manufacturers, we’re taking another significant step towards providing a single-point-source-of-truth which is needed to realise routine, automated drone flights,” Richard Parker, Altitude Angel CEO and founder, commented. “By using this API, implementors can benefit from the tremendous ‘fusion’ capability in the system and will receive enhanced position data back. Data can then be routed into other functions offered by the GuardianUTM cloud platform, including tactical conflict resolution and Airspace Alerts.”

The company expects the API to be used by commercial drone manufacturers, flight app developers, and drone fleet operators. These users will push position reports to Altitude Angel for distribution through the API. When the Altitude Angel data is supplemented with other data in the network, a holistic view of the sky arises.

Position reports are only available from users that have registered and been authenticated with the API. The data collection infrastructure is intended for use by drone detection sensors, ATM sensors (e.g. radar), and software developers that can connect observed vehicles. To learn more, visit the developer portal.

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Author: <a href="https://www.programmableweb.com/user/%5Buid%5D">ecarter</a>

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IEEE Spectrum

Battle of the Video Codecs: Coding-Efficient VVC vs. Royalty-Free AV1

Video is taking over the world. It’s projected to account for 82 percent of Internet traffic by 2022. And what started as an analog electronic medium for moving visuals has transformed into a digital format viewed on social media platforms, video sharing websites, and streaming services.

As video evolves, so too does the video encoding process, which applies compression algorithms to raw video so the files take up less space, making them easier to transmit and reducing the bandwidth required. Part of this evolution involves developing new codecs—encoders to compress videos plus decoders to decompress them for playback—to support higher resolutions, modern formats, and new applications such as 360-degree videos and virtual reality.

Today’s dominant standard, HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding), was finalized in 2013 as a joint effort between the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) and the Video Coding Experts Group (VCEG). HEVC was designed to have better coding efficiency over the existing Advanced Video Coding (AVC) standard, with tests showing an average of 53 percent lower bit rate than AVC while still achieving the same subjective video quality. (Fun fact: HEVC was recognized with an Engineering Emmy Award in 2017 for enabling “efficient delivery in Ultra High Definition (UHD) content over multiple distribution channels,” while AVC garnered the same award in 2008.)

HEVC may be the incumbent, but two emerging options—VVC and AV1—could upend it.

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ScienceDaily

Security risk for e-scooters and riders

Micromobility vehicles, such as e-scooters, zip in and out of traffic. In San Antonio alone, over 12,000 scooters are on the road. For this reason, micromobility is seen as an alleviating trend to help tackle traffic congestion.

However, new research out of UTSA finds e-scooters have risks beyond the perils of potential collisions. Computer science experts at UTSA have published the first review of the security and privacy risks posed by e-scooters and their related software services and applications.

“We were already investigating the risks posed by these micromobility vehicles to pedestrians’ safety. During that study, we also realized that besides significant safety concerns, this new transportation paradigm brings forth new cybersecurity and privacy risks as well,” noted Murtuza JaAccording to the review, which will soon appear in the proceedings of the 2nd ACM Workshop on Automotive and Aerial Vehicle Security (AutoSec 2020), hackers can cause a series of attacks, including eavesdropping on users and even spoof GPS systems to direct riders to unintended locations. Vendors of e-scooters can suffer denial-of-service attacks and data leaks.

“We’ve identified and outlined a variety of weak points or attack surfaces in the current ride-sharing, or micromobility, ecosystem that could potentially be exploited by malicious adversaries right from inferring the riders’ private data to causing economic losses to service providers and remotely controlling the vehicles’ behavior and operation,” said Jadliwala.

Some e-scooter models communicate with the rider’s smartphone over a Bluetooth Low Energy channel. Someone with malicious intent could eavesdrop on these wireless channels and listen to data exchanges between the scooter and riders’ smartphone app by means of easily and cheaply accessible hardware and software tools such as Ubertooth and WireShark.

Those who sign up to use e-scooters also offer up a great deal of personal and sensitive data beyond just billing information. According to the study, providers automatically collect other analytics, such as location and individual vehicle information. This data can be pieced together to generate an individual profile that can even include a rider’s preferred route, personal interests, and home and work locations. Jadliwala, an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science who led this study.

“Cities are experiencing explosive population growth. Micromobility promises to transport people in a more sustainable, faster and economical fashion,” added Jadliwala. “To ensure that this industry stays viable, companies should think not only about rider and pedestrian safety but also how to protect consumers and themselves from significant cybersecurity and privacy threats enabled by this new technology.”

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Materials provided by University of Texas at San Antonio. Original written by Milady Nazir. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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IEEE Spectrum

Should Yellow Traffic Lights Last Longer?

Mats Järlström’s six-year crusade to make yellow traffic lights safer for drivers could finally be paying off.

In mid-October, an Institute of Transportation Engineers appeals panel agreed with the Oregon consultant’s claims that a long-standing, widely used formula for setting the timing of yellow traffic lights doesn’t adequately account for the extra time a driver might need to safely and comfortably make a turn through an intersection.

The three-person ITE panel findings [PDF] didn’t suggest what the timing should be. A separate ITE committee will propose recommended practice for so-called “dilemma-zone situations for left-turn and right-turn movements” that the organization’s board must then approve. According to ITE Chief Technical Director Jeff Lindley, that process is underway and ITE could publish guidelines during the first quarter of 2020.

“It’s a historic moment,” Järlström said of the appeal panel’s decision. “This is a very conservative area of technology. There are many traffic signals that need to be changed. We want to change it so all of them are consistent, not only in the U.S. but through the world.”

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IEEE Spectrum

BMW’s Autonomous “Extended Traffic Jam Assistant” Needs Supervision

A test drive in New York City traffic proves that humans still need to be in the loop