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On the road to cleaner, greener, and faster driving

Researchers use artificial intelligence to help autonomous vehicles avoid idling at red lights

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Written by Adam Zewe, MIT News Office

No one likes sitting at a red light. But signalized intersections aren’t just a minor nuisance for drivers; vehicles consume fuel and emit greenhouse gases while waiting for the light to change.

What if motorists could time their trips so they arrive at the intersection when the light is green? While that might be just a lucky break for a human driver, it could be achieved more consistently by an autonomous vehicle that uses artificial intelligence to control its speed.

In a new study, MIT researchers demonstrate a machine-learning approach that can learn to control a fleet of autonomous vehicles as they approach and travel through a signalized intersection in a way that keeps traffic flowing smoothly.

Using simulations, they found that their approach reduces fuel consumption and emissions while improving average vehicle speed. The technique gets the best results if all cars on the road are autonomous, but even if only 25 percent use their control algorithm, it still leads to substantial fuel and emissions benefits.

“This is a really interesting place to intervene. No one’s life is better because they were stuck at an intersection. With a lot of other climate change interventions, there is a quality-of-life difference that is expected, so there is a barrier to entry there. Here, the barrier is much lower,” says senior author Cathy Wu, the Gilbert W. Winslow Career Development Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and a member of the Institute for Data, Systems, and Society (IDSS) and the Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems (LIDS).

The lead author of the study is Vindula Jayawardana, a graduate student in LIDS and the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. The research will be presented at the European Control Conference.

Intersection intricacies

While humans may drive past a green light without giving it much thought, intersections can present billions of different scenarios depending on the number of lanes, how the signals operate, the number of vehicles and their speeds, the presence of pedestrians and cyclists, etc.

Typical approaches for tackling intersection control problems use mathematical models to solve one simple, ideal intersection. That looks good on paper, but likely won’t hold up in the real world, where traffic patterns are often about as messy as they come.

Wu and Jayawardana shifted gears and approached the problem using a model-free technique known as deep reinforcement learning. Reinforcement learning is a trial-and-error method where the control algorithm learns to make a sequence of decisions. It is rewarded when it finds a good sequence. With deep reinforcement learning, the algorithm leverages assumptions learned by a neural network to find shortcuts to good sequences, even if there are billions of possibilities.

This is useful for solving a long-horizon problem like this; the control algorithm must issue upwards of 500 acceleration instructions to a vehicle over an extended time period, Wu explains.

“And we have to get the sequence right before we know that we have done a good job of mitigating emissions and getting to the intersection at a good speed,” she adds.

But there’s an additional wrinkle. The researchers want the system to learn a strategy that reduces fuel consumption and limits the impact on travel time. These goals can be conflicting.

“To reduce travel time, we want the car to go fast, but to reduce emissions, we want the car to slow down or not move at all. Those competing rewards can be very confusing to the learning agent,” Wu says.

While it is challenging to solve this problem in its full generality, the researchers employed a workaround using a technique known as reward shaping. With reward shaping, they give the system some domain knowledge it is unable to learn on its own. In this case, they penalized the system whenever the vehicle came to a complete stop, so it would learn to avoid that action.

Traffic tests

Once they developed an effective control algorithm, they evaluated it using a traffic simulation platform with a single intersection. The control algorithm is applied to a fleet of connected autonomous vehicles, which can communicate with upcoming traffic lights to receive signal phase and timing information and observe their immediate surroundings. The control algorithm tells each vehicle how to accelerate and decelerate.

Their system didn’t create any stop-and-go traffic as vehicles approached the intersection. (Stop-and-go traffic occurs when cars are forced to come to a complete stop due to stopped traffic ahead). In simulations, more cars made it through in a single green phase, which outperformed a model that simulates human drivers. When compared to other optimization methods also designed to avoid stop-and-go traffic, their technique resulted in larger fuel consumption and emissions reductions. If every vehicle on the road is autonomous, their control system can reduce fuel consumption by 18 percent and carbon dioxide emissions by 25 percent, while boosting travel speeds by 20 percent.

“A single intervention having 20 to 25 percent reduction in fuel or emissions is really incredible. But what I find interesting, and was really hoping to see, is this non-linear scaling. If we only control 25 percent of vehicles, that gives us 50 percent of the benefits in terms of fuel and emissions reduction. That means we don’t have to wait until we get to 100 percent autonomous vehicles to get benefits from this approach,” she says.

Down the road, the researchers want to study interaction effects between multiple intersections. They also plan to explore how different intersection set-ups (number of lanes, signals, timings, etc.) can influence travel time, emissions, and fuel consumption. In addition, they intend to study how their control system could impact safety when autonomous vehicles and human drivers share the road. For instance, even though autonomous vehicles may drive differently than human drivers, slower roadways and roadways with more consistent speeds could improve safety, Wu says.

While this work is still in its early stages, Wu sees this approach as one that could be more feasibly implemented in the near-term.

“The aim in this work is to move the needle in sustainable mobility. We want to dream, as well, but these systems are big monsters of inertia. Identifying points of intervention that are small changes to the system but have significant impact is something that gets me up in the morning,” she says.  

This work was supported, in part, by the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab.

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Business & Economy

Campus 365 provides cloud-based seamless solutions to educational institutions 

With its ERP software and pioneering technological innovation, Campus 365 is disrupting the education sector and making education more effective and accessible

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Just as technology, and particularly the digital era, has disrupted and improved most major segments of India’s economy, education and training is also undergoing a tech revolution. Education Technology, more commonly known as EdTech, possesses the power to bridge the learning gap thanks to technology’s ability to eliminate geographical barriers. As much as digital adoption is the need of the hour, it is critical to retain a few unparalleled benefits of a traditional classroom setup such as group discussion, personalised support from educators and creating opportunities to work on peer collaborative assignments.

Armed with a mission to empower schools with tools that serve people in the most human, helpful way, Campus 365- an ed-tech start-up incubated by NASSCOM 10000 startup based out of Gurgaon, is providing cloud-based solutions to schools and colleges to manage and track their daily activities seamlessly. With user-friendly mobile apps to help students, parents, and teachers maintain the academic cycle, Campus 365 provides a 360-degree outlook to stakeholders assisting them in making productive decisions to escalate their progress.

“We all know that the introduction of EdTech is transforming the learning process in schools. Initially, technological abilities were not needed for students but these skills are now of much importance. Today, students should have good knowledge of online communication to attend classes, check emails, and submit assignments online and our school ERP gives our students a dedicated platform for this to make them future-ready. We at Campus 365 believe that technology is a powerful instrument that can elevate education to an advanced level, allowing students to learn and collaborate in new ways and we are constantly working towards it” said  Mayank Singh Co- Founder and CEO of Campus 365.

Campus 365 is India’s largest all-in-one app for teachers, schools, and coaching institutes to manage their online and offline classrooms in one place. This online teaching and institute management app helps users create tests & quizzes, share study material & homework, chat with students, take live online classes, record live lectures, teach using digital whiteboard, automate attendance, and much more.

Empowering 1000+ institutes globally, Campus 365’s mission is to enhance student learning by bringing innovation to education. Campus 365 partners with schools and colleges across the country to provide students with a holistic learning experience that makes them future-ready. The company offers a high-quality, end-to-end solution for every stakeholder involved in a child’s learning journey. Campus 365 tackles some of the most critical aspects of School management and reduces school staff workload. By doing so, the company ensures that school teachers nurture the young minds of tomorrow and that the school support staff enjoys using the Campus 365 School ERP engine’s superior apps. Campus 365’s innovative school management software solutions are aimed at providing the best of School ERP features and safety measures to school-going children.

Campus 365’s team is founded with a deep-rooted passion toward delivering value to not just schools, but to parents and teachers as well, who ensure that children are always walking on the path of constant innovation. Today, Campus 365 is used by schools around the world – from kindergarten to higher studies schools and non-profit schools.

Campus 365 has simplified the managing of day-to-day activities such as attendance marking, alerts through mobile applications, fees payment reminders, parent-teacher notifications, and holiday schedules. Every team member in Team Campus 365 has some experience in School and College Management Process and it is also one of the reasons why the company puts concerted efforts into optimising the School and College Management Software. Breaking complex software and making them user-friendly is the top priority of Team Campus 365.

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Microsoft announces winners of Future Ready Applications Hackathon held across six cities

The hackathon was held in Delhi NCR, Bangalore, Chennai, Pune, Hyderabad, & Kochi

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  • The top three winners of the hackathon from each city received cash rewards of INR 50,000, INR 30,000, and INR 20,000 respectively

Microsoft today announced the winners of the Future Ready Applications hackathon. In Hyderabad, more than 250 participants joined the 8-hour-long in-person event open to all Microsoft customers and pro developer community in India. The participants came up with new age, innovative apps which were built on cloud-native architectures leveraging the Microsoft Azure platform.

The event also provided an opportunity for the participants to interact and engage with subject matter experts across Microsoft, its key partner organizations, Tech Influencers and Microsoft Valuable Professionals across India. Participants showcased innovative solutions to solve real-world business challenges around four key themes – fintech, e-commerce, sustainability, and developer velocity.

The hackathon saw an overwhelming response from startups, and enterprises from the technology sector focused on building customer experience and developer velocity as a theme. Developer professionals with industry experience ranging from 3-15 years representing leading technology companies like Accenture, EY, TCS, WIPRO, Cognizant amongst others participated in the event.

The top three winners from Hyderabad were:

Microsoft FRA Hackathons Winners Hyderabad
PositionTeam NameSolutionCategory
WinnerGROUP I: Aravind Palisetty, Srikanth Mudili, Vasanth KoradaDevFocus with AzureDeveloper velocity
Runner UpGROUP J: Srinu, Irfan Ali Zaidi, Ravitej Nerella, Chaitanya Venkata Manikanta ChintalapatiPick & ParkSustainability
Second Runner UpThought Solvers:·        Rishi BFinancial Management Applications through AzureFin Tech

The winning teams were shortlisted based on their innovative idea and their presentations. In addition to the reward for winners, all the participants were given $200 Azure credit coupons and participation certificates.

Aparna Gupta, Executive Director, Customer Success, Microsoft India, said,“At Microsoft, we are committed to designing solutions and providing the right skills and resources for pro and citizen developers to grow and thrive in a digital economy. The Future Ready Applications hackathon was organized to bring India’s brightest technical minds together to collaborate, connect and innovate. Congratulations to all the hackathon winners. We are very excited to see the innovative thinking and the potential of scale of some of these applications that will enable businesses in India to solve for challenges, innovate and grow on cloud.”  

Microsoft Azure platform hosts more than 200 products and cloud services which can help developers solve today’s challenges and design solutions for the future. Our goal is to empower developers to harness the power of the cloud, enabling them to move from idea to code; code to cloud and cloud to the world.  A series of initiatives focused on developers have been launched to empower the community like the Blogathon Challenge, Azure Developer League, virtual training days, cloud skills challenge across the Azure community present in 100 Indian cities.

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Takeda becomes a signatory of the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) in India

As a signatory, Takeda has committed to adopting the Ten Principles of the UNGC which are derived from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

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Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited, a global values-based, R&D-driven biopharmaceutical leader announced that its India operations has become a signatory of the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), the largest sustainability initiative globally.

As a signatory, Takeda has committed to adopting the Ten Principles of the UNGC which are derived from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Labour Organization’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, and the United Nations Convention Against Corruption. 

Ratnesh Kumar, Executive Director, UN-GCNI said, “The commitment to support UNGC Principles & Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has encouraged socially responsible organizations to join the Global Compact initiative. We are delighted to welcome Takeda India into the GCN family and look forward to jointly pursuing goal-oriented initiatives towards the advancement of UN Global Compact’s mandates.”

Speaking on the announcement, Ms. Serina Fischer, General Manager for Takeda in India said, “Takeda is proud to have a values-based culture as its strong foundation. Our Global Code of Conduct is based on principles that are organized around Patient-Trust-Reputation-Business in that order. It embodies the spirit of Takeda — what we stand for and how we conduct ourselves. We are proud to become a signatory to adopt the Ten Principles of UNGC which is another step in bringing our global code of conduct to life and at the same time enables us in contributing to sustainable development goals (SDGs) while advocating for responsible business practices.” 

“We’re focused on accelerating Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) initiatives across our business and look forward to working with the UNGC to make more progress toward the sustainable development goals (SDGs). Takeda in India is already a member of the UNGC’s Centre of Excellence for Governance, Ethics and Transparency (CEGET) and Anti-Corruption Collective Action Work Group (ACCA) focused on shaping governance transparency and anti-corruption initiatives” said Dr. Ruchi Sogarwal, Head of Public Affairs and Patient Advocacy for Takeda India.

Over the years, with its journey in India, Takeda has been a key industry leader in establishing ethical practices as a global corporate and is currently working to bring effective aid to rare disease patients in the country.

Ten Principles of the UNGC:

Human Rights

Principle 1: Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights.

Principle 2: make sure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses.

Labour

Principle 3: Businesses should uphold the freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining.

Principle 4: the elimination of all forms of forced and compulsory labour.

Principle 5: the effective abolition of child labour.

Principle 6: the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.

Environment.

Principle 7: Businesses should support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges.

Principle 8: undertake initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility.

Principle 9: encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies.

Anti-Corruption

Principle 10: Businesses should work against corruption in all its forms, including extortion and bribery.

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