Path to Autonomy The Future of Infrastructure and Smart Cities

By Jeff DeCoux, John Cowan and Laura Roman

“The Second Law of Thermodynamics defines the ultimate purpose of life, mind, and human striving: to deploy energy and information to fight back the tide of entropy and carve out refuges of beneficial order.” – Steven Pinker

“Eternity is in love with the productions of time.” – William Blake

The 19th century’s Industrial Revolution bore great engineering feats, technological advancements and visions for architectural wonders. Among them was the use of steam and water power, machine tools and the rise of the mechanized factory system, plus the great Great Western Railway (GWR), designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

PINNs will become the critical infrastructure required to advance intelligent and autonomous solutions for city resilience. PINN clusters will be deployed within cities, on highways, across military installations and in rural communities to accelerate the nation’s digital infrastructure buildout. The goal is to have tens of thousands of PINNs deployed by mid-2022.

PINN Pilot Launch

PINN clusters as part of the pilot will be deployed in five cities, starting in Austin, Texas, which is a leader in the US for utilizing renewable energy. Each PINN will support CPU, FPGA, GPU, MLU to then support advanced artificial intelligence. Each PINN will have the ability to capture, process and analyze over a petabyte of data/month, providing ample compute for new advanced algorithms and complex artificial intelligence experimentation. PINNs will enable Intelligent and Autonomous cities and open up a substantial opportunity for research and development. Connected and autonomous systems require maximum tolerable latency that cannot be supported by current computing and network architectures. Ground and low-altitude autonomous systems require sensor fusion at fixed positions to address non-cooperative traffic. This includes high-profile systems like self-driving cars, flying taxis and helper robots. It will also include a background of devices that largely remain unnoticed as they perform routine activities.

PINNs are designed to deliver a multitude of advanced edge sensors and computing capabilities. Accelerating the Connected and Autonomous Vehicle (CAV) market is among the first major initiatives. More than 40,000 people die in the US alone in traffic-related fatalities annually, with countless more severely injured. The Autonomy Institute is aligned with the aspirations of the Vision Zero Network, committed to eliminating all traffic fatalities and severe injuries, while increasing safety, healthy and equitable mobility for all.

Achieving the goals of initiatives like Vision Zero and others will depend on new data processing solutions. These solutions will connect and combine real-time video, thermal and radar sensor data with moving traffic data from cars, trucks, bicycles, pedestrian and other modes of transportation. This will inform traffic control and related support environments, such as EMS and law enforcement.

Today, the expected latency from street level to the public cloud is untenable for real world applications. But, the future ITS will require unprecedented low-latency, high performance computers and network capacity interconnected close to traffic control, signaling, sensors, cameras and cars. 

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