There’s an extra bus cruising through the heart of Times Square this morning – but there’s no one behind the wheel of this vehicle. It doesn’t even have a wheel.
Coast Autonomous, a new entry in the crowded self-driving vehicle market, kicked off a day of demonstrations on Broadway in New York’s crowded Times Square, a symbolic location meant to demonstrate the company’s confidence in its technology. While Coast is only a year old, it has been working on the tech for 15 years, Chief Technology Officer Pierre Lefèvre told Digital Trends.
Indeed, Coast’s tech is behind Navya, the company whose self-driving buses power Keolis vans that have been shuttling folks up and down the Las Vegas strip. And occasionally having minor fender-benders.
Coast’s first vehicle, called the P-1 Shuttle, is a bi-directional van that looks normal from the outside. Inside, it’s basically a bathtub on wheels, with no seats for a driver or passengers and no space for a driver at all. Instead, the interior is just a ring of seats at the windows that circles the cabin, and a space for a door. One wall has a built-in screen for displaying information to passengers; during our demo, it showed diagnostics from onboard computers and lines of code on the status of CAN network components and onboard elements such as oMotorTorque and oParkingBrake. One imagines ride info and ads being posted up there in the future, of course.
Lefèvre said the van’s wheelbase was shorter than Navya’s offering, yet had more room for passengers. It appeared able to hold 10 to 12 passengers comfortably, as long as some riders skipped the seats and stood in the main cabin. With fewer seats, the company claims it can hold up to 20.
Electric motors in the wheel hubs move the P-1 along predefined routes, making the vehicle run quietly and smoothly. In a brief demo on a sweaty Tuesday morning, the vehicle cruised up and down Broadway inaudibly and stopped smoothly – crucial, because it lacks safety gear such as seat belts and grab rails. Lefèvre said the goal is to maximize comfort for passengers, so rather than optimize for speed, it’s optimized to slow down smoothly. And since passengers don’t waste time strapping themselves in, the shuttle shaves precious seconds from picking up and dropping people off.
The Coast Autonomous vehicle is designed to operate in low-speed, mixed-traffic environments. It’s optimized for 10 to 15 mph speeds, though it can go up to 20, using a GPS map for navigation. It relies on a pair of LIDAR sensors at front and rear to map out the road ahead and avoid obstacles.
“We are convinced that the deployment of driverless vehicles in low-speed environments, like our P-1 Shuttle and autonomous golf cart, are much closer to commercialization than self-driving vehicles designed to travel at highway speeds,” said Adrian Sussmann, Coast’s managing director, in a press release about the NYC event. “This is mainly because operating at low speeds is much safer, requires less sensors, and is therefore much more cost effective. We are already seeing significant interest and expect to deploy our first fleets in 2019.”
The New 72nd Street Subway Station Features Art Designed by Yoko Ono
Yoko Ono lives in the majestic Dakota on West 72nd St. Just a few hundred feet away, in Central Park, she helped to create Strawberry Fields – in tribute to her late husband, John Lennon. Both draw a steady stream of photo-snapping visitors.
And now, what’s sure to become another attraction, for tourists, as well as New Yorkers: six mosaics of blue skies and puffy clouds, in the just-reopened subway stop at 72nd and Central Park West.
“I can’t imagine anything better than seeing someone who lives close by, who has the ability to speak around the world, to give such respect to the subway by bringing her work into it,” says Sandra Bloodworth, director of the public art program with MTA Arts and Design.
The mosaics are marked with Yoko and John-type messages, like “Imagine Peace” and “Remember Love.”
“I like the idea very much, first that she got to do this work, and second, what it is: I think it gives you a good feeling to go down into the noisy subway station and you see such a calming image,” says one subway rider.
Adds another: “It’s gorgeous, it’s gorgeous. It’s bright. I was excited walking down the stairs just seeing how great the tiles were.”
The mosaics are a defining feature of the renovated station, which received brighter lighting, digital displays and new-look entrances during a nearly five-month, $28 million makeover.
Ono was among several artists who applied to MTA Arts & Design to decorate the station when it closed in May.
“She’s made everyone mindful of just where they are. That they’re on the Upper West Side,” Bloodworth says.
Ono titled the installation “Sky,” and her name appears on a small marker next to it. The station has been reopened less than a week, but her imprint already is drawing crowds. Still, some riders are still not aware of her involvement.
“I think that’s great. Because you’re keeping someone who’s in the community and actually knows about the community,” said one straphanger.
“Sky” joins hundreds of other works of art throughout the transit system.
“We are the most public museum there is, I believe, on earth. We have the collection of work of well-known artists, emerging artists, mid-career artists,” Bloodworth says.
And now, Yoko Ono. Imagine that.
Four of the six mosaics in the “Sky” installation have been installed. Two more have yet to be unveiled. Riders should expect to see them on the downtown platform by the end of the month.
Transportation museum hosts antique fire trucks
Antique fire trucks will be featured Sept. 16 at the New York Museum of Transportation, 6393 East River Rd.
This year’s gathering, scheduled from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., will also include games and demonstrations for children designed to teach them important lessons in fire safety.
The Genesee Chapter of the Society for the Preservation and Appreciation of Antique Motorized Fire Apparatus in America will have its restored firefighting equipment on display for visitors to enjoy. Visitors will be able to discover the difference between a “fire truck” and a “fire engine,” and find out why firemen wear red suspenders!
The New York Museum of Transportation also features a collection of trolleys, a steam locomotive, horse-drawn buggies, and highway vehicles. Visitors will be able to see several miniature trains in operation on a super-size model railroad.
Admission is $8 for adults, $7 for seniors age 65 and older, and $6 for youth ages 3 to 12 years old.
For more information, go to www.nymtmuseum.org or call (585) 533-1113.
Ralph Lauren marks 50th anniversary with Central Park bash
A 19th-century fountain in Manhattan’s Central Park provided a majestic backdrop for Ralph Lauren’s star-studded 50th anniversary blowout on Friday, a festive celebration of his past and present that included a runway show and a black-tie dinner.
Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg, Kanye West, Chance the Rapper, Robert De Niro, Anne Hathaway, Blake Lively and Jessica Chastain were just a few of the dozens of celebrities gathered to fete Lauren, 78, and his decades atop the fashion world. Not to mention Hillary Clinton, who wore Lauren’s designs at numerous key moments of her presidential campaign — including the white “suffragette” pantsuit she wore to accept the Democratic nomination in Philadelphia.
“I love his clothes,” Clinton said. “You know he really was so generous and kind to help with all of my clothes during the campaign.”
It was Winfrey who had the job of toasting Lauren at dinner. “The real reason we are here is not the show,” she said. “It’s you. You Ralph Lauren, and 50 years of your designing our dreams.”
Winfrey told Lauren that he represented what was great in America. “Your story exalts our collective story,” she said. “Your designs define integrity.”
Old-fashioned trolley cars met guests on Fifth Avenue and shuttled them into the park, where the Bethesda Terrace and Fountain had been transformed into a party space. Guests sipped cocktails and watched, on towering vertical screens, highlights of Lauren shows over the years.
Then, everyone descended a granite staircase to the runway show, where velvet banquettes awaited and oriental carpets lined the floor.
The show, which fittingly began to the strains of Paul Simon’s “New York is My Home,” combined elements from various Lauren collections over the years, and included some older models who had been in early campaigns. And, in a second half celebrating the family, it included many smiling children, some small enough to be carried by the adults on the runway — and one baby fast asleep.
Lauren himself appeared on the staircase at the end, to thunderous cheers. He took a slow victory lap across the room while admirers applauded, hugged him if they were close by, or snapped photos furiously.
At dinner, which took place around the famous fountain, Lauren told the crowd that, contrary to the evening’s glamour, he wasn’t very glamorous at home. “I walk around in a ripped robe, and no towels,” he said.
He was referring to Winfrey’s anecdote, offered in her toast, about how, working in Chicago early in her career, she saw owning Ralph Lauren towels as a symbol of success.
“I vowed, if I ever got me some money I would get me some Ralph Lauren towels,” she said — specifically “bath sheets.” And she did.
Clinton, who sat next to Lauren, told the Associated Press their friendship dated back to the ’90s, when Clinton was working on a project to save American treasures, and Lauren helped save the star-spangled banner that flew over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812.
“Ralph came forward and funded the conservation and restoration of the star-spangled banner,” she said, “and he and I were able to be there years later to once again put it on display and have it properly taken care of. His help made that happen. And we just became friends.”
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