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Uber’s Driverless Cars Return to the Road After Fatal Crash

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SAN FRANCISCO — Uber said its autonomous vehicles returned to public roads on Thursday, nine months after one of its self-driving cars killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Ariz.

But Uber’s driverless vehicles are operating at drastically reduced speeds and in less challenging environments than before, the company said, as it eases back into testing and tries to ensure people’s safety.

“We will continue to prioritize safety and proactively communicate our progress until we’ve built a self-driving system that lives up to the promise of making transportation safer and more affordable for everyone,” Eric Meyhofer, who leads Uber’s autonomous vehicle unit, said in a statement.

Uber said it received permission on Monday from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to test its driverless cars again on public roads in Pittsburgh. The company said it planned to put fewer than five cars on the road on Thursday, and slowly add to that over time.

Each car will have two drivers inside, ready to take over in case something goes wrong, Uber said. The operators will work in four-hour shifts, down from eight to 10 hours previously. No passengers will ride in the cars.

The autonomous cars will also go no faster than 25 miles an hour, down from as fast as 55 m.p.h. before. They will operate only on a limited loop in Pittsburgh’s Strip District, a bustling commercial area, and only during daylight hours on weekdays, Uber said.

[The self-driving future is still years away, so some autonomous tech companies are trying smaller vehicles.]

Uber said it was also putting autonomous vehicles back on the streets in Toronto and San Francisco, although those cars will operate in manual mode, which means a human driver will control the vehicles’ movements rather than software.

The company had grounded its fleet of autonomous vehicles in March after one of its cars — with an emergency backup driver behind the wheel — struck and killed Elaine Herzberg, 49, on a street in Tempe.

Getting the cars back on the road since then has been difficult. As Uber worked to make its cars safer, it lowered its expectations for speed and performance, The New York Times previously reported. Even so, the cars struggled to pass safety tests. Last month, the cars were still failing 10 out of 70 safety tests, according to internal documents.

The safety overhaul “required a lot of introspection and took some time,” Mr. Meyhofer said. “Now we are ready to move forward.”

Uber’s autonomous vehicle group will most likely face intense scrutiny over the next several months. The National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation into the fatal Arizona crash is still open.

Uber has pitched autonomous vehicles as a way to reduce the fees it pays to human drivers. But the company is still spending heavily on developing and testing the cars. Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber’s chief executive, has been focused on winnowing unprofitable businesses ahead of taking the company public next year.

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More groups join in support of women in STEM program at Carleton

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OTTAWA — Major companies and government partners are lending their support to Carleton University’s newly established Women in Engineering and Information Technology Program.

The list of supporters includes Mississauga-based construction company EllisDon.

The latest to announce their support for the program also include BlackBerry QNX, CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority), Ericsson, Nokia, Solace, Trend Micro, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, CGI, Gastops, Leonardo DRS, Lockheed Martin Canada, Amdocs and Ross.

The program is officially set to launch this September.

It is being led by Carleton’s Faculty of Engineering and Design with the goal of establishing meaningful partnerships in support of women in STEM.  

The program will host events for women students to build relationships with industry and government partners, create mentorship opportunities, as well as establish a special fund to support allies at Carleton in meeting equity, diversity and inclusion goals.

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VR tech to revolutionize commercial driver training

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Serious Labs seems to have found a way from tragedy to triumph? The Edmonton-based firm designs and manufactures virtual reality simulators to standardize training programs for operators of heavy equipment such as aerial lifts, cranes, forklifts, and commercial trucks. These simulators enable operators to acquire and practice operational skills for the job safety and efficiency in a risk-free virtual environment so they can work more safely and efficiently.

The 2018 Humboldt bus catastrophe sent shock waves across the industry. The tragedy highlighted the need for standardized commercial driver training and testing. It also contributed to the acceleration of the federal government implementing a Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) program for Class 1 & 2 drivers currently being adopted across Canada. MELT is a much more rigorous standard that promotes safety and in-depth practice for new drivers.

Enter Serious Labs. By proposing to harness the power of virtual reality (VR), Serious Labs has earned considerable funding to develop a VR commercial truck driving simulator.

The Government of Alberta has awarded $1 million, and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) is contributing an additional $2 million for the simulator development. Commercial deployment is estimated to begin in 2024, with the simulator to be made available across Canada and the United States, and with the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) helping to provide simulator tests to certify that driver trainees have attained the appropriate standard. West Tech Report recently took the opportunity to chat with Serious Labs CEO, Jim Colvin, about the environmental and labour benefits of VR Driver Training, as well as the unique way that Colvin went from angel investor to CEO of the company.

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Next-Gen Tech Company Pops on New Cover Detection Test

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While the world comes out of the initial stages of the pandemic, COVID-19 will be continue to be a threat for some time to come. Companies, such as Zen Graphene, are working on ways to detect the virus and its variants and are on the forefronts of technology.

Nanotechnology firm ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd. (TSX-Venture:ZEN) (OTCPK:ZENYF), is working to develop technology to help detect the COVID-19 virus and its variants. The firm signed an exclusive agreement with McMaster University to be the global commercializing partner for a newly developed aptamer-based, SARS-CoV-2 rapid detection technology.

This patent-pending technology uses clinical samples from patients and was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The test is considered extremely accurate, scalable, saliva-based, affordable, and provides results in under 10 minutes.

Shares were trading up over 5% to $3.07 in early afternoon trade.

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