Tag Archives: robotics

Uber in the Air

Urban mobility. What is it, and how can we achieve it? Consider what would happen by taking transportation off the road – and moving it into the air. Several companies, including Uber, are working on new initiatives for flight-based transportation. Using electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles (VTOL), Uber’s goal is to develop transportation that makes lives easier, commutes shorter, and cities cleaner.

Working with a number of different companies and governments, Uber is developing a long-term strategy and infrastructure for drone-based air transportation. In a partnership with Brazilian aerospace conglomerate Embraer, Uber announced a joint venture called Uber Elevate to develop small VTOLs. On-demand aviation would change commuting considerably. A network of VTOLs could provide rapid transportation between, and within, cities.

Instead of driving hours on the ground, a commute becomes only minutes in the air. For example, the average San Francisco resident spends roughly 230 hours/year commuting between work and home! In Sydney, Australia, and Los Angeles, California, residents spend an entire seven working works each year commuting! In other countries, the estimated commute time is even longer – Mumbai has an average commute time of 90 minutes. Long commutes raise stress levels, absorb valuable resources, and cut short our free time.

Want a ride?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Poll students: How much time do they spend commuting each work to work and school?
  2. Show the Uber Elevate concept video: https://youtu.be/JuWOUEFB_IQ
  3. A longer video explanation can be found at: https://youtu.be/nuFSh7N0Nhw
  4. What are the students’ opinions of this new service? Would they use it?
  5. Discuss the importance of clearly defining a target market.
  6. For Uber Elevate, who is the target market?
  7. Divide students into teams and have each team develop a profile of a target market. Include demographics, psychographics, behaviors, values, attitudes, etc.
  8. Based on the target market profile, what makes this product unique for these customers?

Source:  Brandchannel.com, Reuters News Service

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Uber Autonomous Car Accident

Autonomous cars have clocked thousands of hours and millions of miles without having an accident. In fact, one of the original reasons for developing autonomous cars was to lower automobile accident rates. (According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2016 more than 37,000 people died in traffic-related accidents in the U.S. alone.)

Yet, despite all the precautions, technology, testing, training, and resources, an autonomous car operated by Uber (with an emergency backup driver behind the wheel) hit and killed a pedestrian on a street in Tempe, Arizona. This is the first reported pedestrian death that is linked to autonomous driving, and a stark reminder that the technology is still in an experimental stage. Although the technology has been around now for close to a decade, there are many unpredictable situations that the cars have not yet been programmed to handle. Many of these situations also present ethical dilemmas, as well as life-and-death decisions.

Uber has suspended testing the autonomous cars in Tempe, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Toronto. Toyota has also suspended its autonomous driving program.

What will be the impact on the public perception and the technology?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss the pros and cons of autonomous cars with students.
  2. Show a video from Uber that explains its autonomous car project: https://youtu.be/27OuOCeZmwI
  3. Discuss public relations and crisis communications.
  4. Have student go online to read comments and stories about the accident.
  5. What statements did Uber make? What additional statement were made by other autonomous car companies?
  6. Did Uber take appropriate action following the accident?
  7. Divide students into teams. Have each team prepare a crisis communications plan for Uber. Include in the plan: spokespeople, news outlets, key message statements, timing of responses, social media, etc.

Source:  New York Times, Wall Street Journal, other news sources

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The Robotic Dog that Can Open Doors

Robotic technology is advancing by leaps and bounds. But the ultimate in robotic technology today undoubtedly comes from Boston Dynamics, a spin-off from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (previously owned by Google; now owned by Japanese conglomerate SoftBank). The company has a variety of robots with two legs, four legs, and wheels. These robots seem to be able to do nearly anything. They can run, leap, fly, walk, and climb buildings.

The newest robot is SpotMini and it has the ability to open doors. While that might sound pretty simple, it is actually a very complicated robotic task. And, in a recent video highlighting SpotMini, having a human wielding a hockey stick makes opening a door even more complicated! (Spoiler Alert: Spot eventually gets the door open.)

In this case, the robot does almost all the moves autonomously. A human handler drove the robot to the door, then commanded it to open the door. The robot was able to automatically correct for the forces of hockey stick and tail-pulling. While Spot has very limited abilities, robotics are entering into areas such as security, food delivery, as well as answering questions and interacting with humans in public places.

Before you worry about robots taking over the world though, remember that they are designed to help humans. Even if we shove them with hockey sticks.

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss the concepts of products, product line, and product mix.
  2. Bring up Boston Dynamics’s Web site: http://www.bostondynamics.com,
  3. Show the latest video of SpotMini opening doors: https://youtu.be/aFuA50H9uek
  4. Other videos are on Boston Dynamics’ YouTube page: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7vVhkEfw4nOGp8TyDk7RcQ
  5. Make sure to watch Atlas do a back flip! https://youtu.be/fRj34o4hN4I
  6. Using Boston Dynamics, illustrate the concepts of products, product lines, and product mix.
  7. Divide students into teams. Have each team come up with an example of other companies and state the products, product line, and product mix.

Source:  Simon, M. (20 Feb. 2018). Watch a human try to fight off that door-opening robot dog. Wired.

 

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