Its sightings last month left many baffled, and now, car company Ford has explained why and how it sent a “driverless” car through the streets of Courthouse and Clarendon.
In a Medium post today (Wednesday), John Shutko, Ford’s Human Factors Technical Specialist for Self-Driving Vehicles, said the company was working with Virginia Tech to test ways for driverless cars to more effectively show its intentions to pedestrians and other road users.
Ford joined with the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute to test the technology — an animated light bar in the windshield of the video — and to see how those around reacted when they saw a car with no one in the driver’s seat.
“Anyone who has crossed a busy street likely knows the informal language between pedestrians and drivers,” Shutko wrote. “A driver might wave her hand to indicate to the pedestrian it’s okay to cross, or a pedestrian could throw up his hand like a stop sign to signal he plans to cross first. But what happens in the future, when self-driving vehicles operate without drivers – and in some cases, without anyone even in the vehicle itself?”
After being first reported by ARLnow.com, and famously further investigated by NBC4 reporter Adam Tuss — who was startled to discover a person in a seat costume inside — VT admitted it was behind the driverless car.
Ford said people are put in the cars — and dressed as car seats — for safety reasons, as self-driving technology is still in the early stages of testing and development.
— Ford Motor Company (@Ford) September 13, 2017
The vehicle, a Ford Transit Connect van, had a light bar on top of its windshield. The bar pulsed white light back and forth when yielding, blinked rapidly before accelerating after a stop, or stayed solid when driving normally.
“Virtual reality testing with customers shows it takes a couple of exposures to signals like these before people truly understand what they mean,” Chutko wrote. “It takes even longer for signals to become ingrained in people’s brains – second nature, if you will. Through our testing, we believe these signals have the chance to become an accepted visual language that helps address an important societal issue in how self-driving vehicles interact with humans.”
Ford said it has logged more than 150 hours and around 1,800 miles in its tests in dense urban areas. Chutko said the time is right to create an industry standard for autonomous vehicle communications and to start to educate the public.
Man Struck By Car Near Ballston Metro — A man was struck by a vehicle on Fairfax Drive near the Ballston Metro station yesterday. The incident happened between 5-5:30 p.m. Numerous witnesses immediately called 911 or rushed to the man’s aid. His injuries were reported to be not life threatening. [Twitter, Twitter]
Driverless Car Research Is Legal in Va. — Virginia law does not explicitly ban the kind of “driverless” car research conducted by Virginia Tech on the streets of Clarendon and Courthouse. While the Virginia Tech van was driven by a man in a seat costume, it is also legal to test legitimately self-driving cars in the Commonwealth. [NBC Washington]
Video: Weekend Apartment Fire — The Arlington County Fire Department has posted video of the apartment fire on Columbia Pike over the weekend. A 27-year-old man was arrested and now faces numerous charges in connection with the blaze. [Facebook]
Courthouse-Based Nonprofit Up For National Award – The Organization for Autism Research is one of 15 finalists in the country for a $50,000 prize that recognizes “innovative ideas for engaging people over 50 in improving the lives of vulnerable children and youth.” OAR, based in Courthouse, launched its Hire Autism initiative earlier this year, an online portal to connect adults with autism seeking work and potential employers. Online voting is open through August 31. [Hire Autism]
Nearby: McLean Residents Want New Potomac Span — Civic leaders in McLean are pressuring officials to expedite a new American Legion Bridge span across the Potomac River. The existing bridge is clogged with Beltway traffic, sending congestion onto local streets, residents say. There is an existing proposal to extend Beltway High Occupancy Toll lanes between the Legion bridge and the I-270 spur in Maryland. [InsideNova]
VT Says It Is Behind ‘Driverless’ Van — The “driverless” van seen driving around Clarendon over the past week was actually a Virginia Tech research project designed to record the “real world reactions” to a vehicle without a driver. However, there was a driver: a man dressed as a car seat. The mystery was solved in real time on Twitter yesterday and quickly went viral. [NBC Washington, Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, Twitter]
Retired Colonel Saved By Quick-Acting EMS Crew — Firefighters and EMS personnel from Arlington and Alexandria helped to save the life of a retired U.S. Army colonel who went into cardiac arrest in his home in Crystal City. The crew used defibrillators to revive him. [Facebook, WJLA]
(Updated at 4:40 p.m)
Students at Virginia Tech’s Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center have joined Arlington County planners in brainstorming ideas to revitalize the Rosslyn waterfront.
Rosslyn residents and visitors currently have no direct walkway to the Potomac River or even a path to reach the Key Bridge to get into Georgetown, without crossing busy roads and on-ramps.
“Most cities and counties have recognized the value of their waterfronts as a gathering place,” Arlington’s planning supervisor for urban design and research Kris Krider said in a news release. “But the waterfront below Rosslyn has little pedestrian access and must overcome the barrier of busy highways and large numbers of drivers . . . who just whiz by with seemingly no interest in stopping to explore the area.”
Virginia Tech associate professor Paul Kelsch and doctorate student Jodi LaCoe developed three options the students could choose from as the base for their designs:
- Bike, Bathe, and Beyond — “a connection to existing bike paths leading people to the site in addition to some form of bathing.” This could include things like a structure for storing one’s bike; showering and heading to work; a new spa along the bike path; or swimming in a cleaner Potomac River or a public pool.
- A Food-Boat Wharf — “a place where future food boats could moor along the river’s edge and sell to Rosslyn workers looking for a delectable waterside lunch.”
- Urban Drive-In Theater — entertainment for people “coming by foot, bike, or car to watch movies or other performances.”
In all, 18 students submitted their designs, with most of them electing to base their ideas on the “Bike, Bathe and Beyond” program. According to the county’s website, the suggestions include:
Paige proposed moving the parkway farther inland, cutting into the slope with a large retaining wall that supports a new traffic circle for access to the Key Bridge. The former roadbed is utilized for storm water management and two swimming pools along the waterfront for lap and family swimming. The former eastbound lane of the parkway provides vehicular access and parking for the new facility.
Charlston seeked to explore and provide a connection between the perceived boundaries of the Rosslyn business district and the Rosslyn waterfront. At present time, the transportation infrastructure within Rosslyn acts as a hindrance to convenient access to the Potomac River. By occupying the void beneath Key Bridge and connecting the Mount Vernon Trail and the Potomac Heritage trail, this project aims to bridge the gap between the city and the river’s edge.
This project is designed as a place of seclusion in the midst of the Rosslyn Business Improvement District. The bike path connects to the city sidewalks and provides a way to traverse the steep hill. The existing George Washington Memorial Parkway is pushed into the Potomac to create a secluded water channel and clear land for development. The bath is set into the hillside and contains spa facilities as well as a series of indoor pools for year round relaxation.
Sebastian’s project is situated in the coastal side of the Mount Vernon Trail facing the Arlington riverside. The goal is to encourage users of the trail to use the project as a station in their commute or exercise regimen throughout the year. The building features an outside pool fed by a constructed wetland and a sports facility meant for everyday use.
(Updated at 3:50 p.m.) A new neighborhood bar and restaurant is coming to Rosslyn.
“Quinn’s on the Corner” is billing itself as “a perfect destination for amazing food and drink in a cool neighborhood setting.” It will be located on the ground floor of the 1776 Wilson Blvd office building, at the corner of Wilson and N. Quinn Street.
There’s no word on an opening date yet. Restaurateur Reese Gardner, who’s also behind Copperwood Tavern and the forthcoming Dudley’s Sport and Ale in Shirlington, said lease negotiations are not yet finalized.
Quinn’s will feature an outdoor patio, Irish and Belgian beers on draft and, for college football fans, will be a Virginia Tech Hokies bar. From the restaurant’s Facebook page:
Welcome to Quinn’s “on the corner.” Rossyln’s perfect destination for amazing food and drink in a cool neighborhood setting. Come enjoy a snack, burger or house specialty from our European inspired menu featuring a fusion of Irish & Belgium favorites.
Our 22 foot Oak bar will be serving up traditional Irish and Belgium drafts, seasonal cocktails and a huge selection of Irish Whiskeys. The dining room will feature comfortable pub style seating amidst over-sized windows, roll up garage doors and warm wood decor.
The spacious 48 seat wrap around patio is a perfect setting for dining Al fresco.
For your entertainment pleasure, Quinn’s has multiple large HD TV’s and we will be featuring sound for all of the Virginia Tech Hokie football games, local team sports, and all special sporting events.
The Quinn’s concept is inspired by the vibrant corner of Quinn and Wilson Blvd., and the amazing feats of Saint Edel Quinn, an Irish woman with a great zest for life who was selflessly dedicated to helping children. Rumor has it, that Edel enjoyed a pint of beer each night for every child that she helped that day.
Car on Fire Spotted Driving Down Street — Yesterday evening, an Arlington County Fire Department unit radioed dispatch to report that they had just seen a car with flames visible from the engine compartment drive past them on Carlin Springs Road, its driver oblivious to the fire. The fire engine was able to turn around, catch up with the driver near the intersection of Wilson and Glebe, pull the car over and extinguish the flames. [Twitter, Twitter]
Wrong Man on Iwo Jima Memorial? — The Marine Corps is investigating claims that a Navy corpsman identified as one of the men who raised the flag in a moment depicted by Arlington’s Iwo Jima Memorial was not, in fact, in the original photo. [USA Today, Associated Press, New York Times]
USS Arlington Returns Home — The sailors and Marines aboard the USS Arlington have returned to Norfolk after a seven-month overseas deployment assisting in the fight against ISIS. [Marine Corps Times, WAVY]
Former Top Federal IT Official Dies — Greg Ambrose, who had served in senior information technology posts at the departments of Defense, Homeland Security, State and Veterans Affairs, died early Tuesday morning. Ambrose took his own life at a Rosslyn condominium after posting on Facebook about a woman who had left him for another man. [FCW, Twitter]
Arlington, Virginia Tech Join ‘Smart City’ Network — “Virginia Tech and Arlington County have been accepted into the MetroLab Network of 35 city/county-university partnerships that works to bring data, analytics and innovation to local government.” [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Joseph Gruber
It’s five months away, but registration is open for the annual Arlington Police, Fire and Sheriff 9/11 Memorial 5K.
Early bird registration, through June 6, is $35. It’s $40 after that.
The race will take place on Saturday, Sept. 10 in the Pentagon City area. It is limited to 5,000 runners.
“Since its inception, the Arlington Police, Fire & Sheriff 9/11 Memorial Race has had over 30,000 runners cross its finish line and has raised over $500,000 for 9/11-related charities,” notes the race website.
Race organizers are also helping to promote a race this weekend in Alexandria.
The Run for 32 is being held at Cameron Run Regional Park (4001 Eisenhower Avenue) on Saturday, April 16. Held in remembrance of the victims of the 2007 Virginia Tech school shooting, the race helps to raise money for the Koshka Foundation, which was founded by one of the shooting’s most critically injured survivors.
Veterans Day Ceremony in Clarendon — Members of local American Legion posts gathered at the Clarendon War Memorial on Monday to dedicate a temporary plaque bearing the name of six fallen servicemembers who hailed from Arlington. [Patch]
Fewer Trains Makes for Crowded Commute — Metro commuters who had to work on Veterans Days experienced delays and crowding due to Metro running on a reduced holiday service schedule. [Washington Post]
Parents Keep Pushing for FLES — Parents whose children are in elementary schools that don’t yet have the Foreign Language in Elementary School program are keeping up the pressure on school and county officials. “Despite paying the same tax rate… we are not receiving the same education,” said one Taylor Elementary parent. FLES provides elementary students with just over two hours of Spanish language education a week. [Sun Gazette]
Solar Lab at Va. Tech Ballston Building — In addition to helping to lower energy costs for the building, a solar panel array on the top of the Virginia Tech Research Center in Ballston is serving as a laboratory for graduate students. [Virginia Tech]
Krusinski Case Goes to Trial — The case against Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, the former chief of the U.S. Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention and Response branch who was accused of grabbing the breasts and buttocks of a woman in Crystal City, goes to trial today. A jury is expected to start hearing arguments in the case this morning.
Photo courtesy Peter Golkin
Parents of Gymnasts Want New Facilities — Despite a tight county budget, parents of Arlington gymnasts are calling on the County Board to fund new gymnastics facilities. Heather Cocozza, a representative of the Arlington Tigers competitive boys gymnastics team, claims that a new gymnastics facility can actually make a profit for the county. [Arlington Mercury]
APS Ranks Among Top High Schools — Arlington’s public high schools have ranked in the top 2 percent of all high schools in the country, according to the Washington Post’s “Challenge Index.” In the Washington region, H-B Woodlawn ranked #4, Washington-Lee #10, Yorktown #14 and Wakefield #62. [Arlington Public Schools]
Vacant Retail Space May Become Conference Facility — A vacant 13,000 square foot retail space on the ground floor of the new 800 N. Glebe Road office building in Ballston would become a conference facility, under a proposal that’s under consideration by the Arlington County Board. The nearby Bluemont Civic Association has expressed concerns about the change. [Sun Gazette]
The fundraiser will run from 5:30 to 9:00 p.m. at SoBe in Clarendon (3100 Clarendon Blvd). A $10 donation will buy attendees a wristband entitling them to $2.50 domestic beers, $3.50 rail drinks, $3.50 house wine and food specials. There will also be a 50/50 raffle and DJ Antonio Ernesto will perform.
All proceeds from the event will go to the Sandy Hook Support Fund, says co-organizer Colleen Whalen.
“As a Virginia Tech alum, I know what it’s like for a community to suffer loss from a tragic event such as what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary,” Whalen said. “It was the outpouring of support from communities around the world that helped my Virginia Tech family cope with our own tragedy.”
A local company, Project DC Events, is helping Whalen organize the happy hour. Whalen said she’s trying to build on the success of a previous Virginia Tech alumni-organized fundraiser for Sandy Hook, held at Whitlow’s last month.
“It’s kind of a second push for people who were unable to attend, or were already out of town for the holidays when the first one took place,” she told ARLnow.com. “Although some of the organizers went to Virginia Tech, we are trying to promote to a larger audience, not just Hokies.”
ACFD Food Drive Ends Friday — The Arlington County Fire Department’s food drive, which began on December 1, will end this Friday, December 21. So far, ACFD has collected more than 1,200 pounds of food for the Arlington Food Assistance Center. Non-perishable food can be donated at all Arlington and Falls Church fire departments, and at the county government building at 2100 Clarendon Blvd.
County Hopes Residents Remove Snow to Avoid Fines — Arlington officials are reminding residents that it could be another year that snow piles up and needs to be removed from sidewalks. The county hopes residents follow the snow removal ordinance that was put in place in 2010. Failure to remove snow is a civil infraction that holds fines of $50-100, and moving snow from private property into public areas (like streets) is a Class 4 misdemeanor. So far, no tickets have been issued under the ordinance. [Sun Gazette]
Sandy Hook School Fundraiser — Whitlow’s (2854 Wilson Blvd) is hosting a fundraiser tonight (December 19) to raise money for families affected by Friday’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. The effort was spearheaded by alumni from Virginia Tech who were students during that school’s deadly shooting in 2007. All proceeds from the event will go to the Sandy Hook School Support fund. There will also be a table set up for patrons to make cards to be sent to the community in Connecticut. [Hokies for Sandy Hook]
Yorktown Hosts South County in Semifinal — In high school football action, the Yorktown Patriots will take on the South County Stallions tonight in a Northern Region Division 5 semifinal playoff game. The contest is a home game for Yorktown. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Yorktown lost to South County in the regional championship game last year. [Sun Gazette]
APS Awarded for Green Initiatives — Arlington Public Schools has “earned a Platinum Certification as a Virginia School Board Association (VSBA) Certified Green Schools Division.” The school system also placed first in VSBA’s Green Schools Challenge for large school divisions. [Arlington Public Schools]
Award for Affordable Clarendon Development — VPoint, the affordable apartment building built atop a Clarendon church, has been named the “Best Affordable Housing Development” in Virginia at the 2012 Governor’s Housing Conference. “The award is presented to a housing development that is innovative in its concept and design and exceptional in meeting the needs of the intended community,” according to a press release. [Arlington County]
Honors for Arlington VT Students — Arlington resident Liam O’Neill has been selected to be a member of the Marching Virginians marching band at Virginia Tech. O’Neill is a percussion musician and a sophomore majoring in building construction. Another Arlington native, Michelle Sutherland, has been named to Virginia Tech’s Order of the Gavel, an honor society for leaders of major student organizations. Sutherland, a junior majoring in political science, is editor of the Collegiate Times, the school’s student newspaper.
Save Your Profile Information Today — If you’re a registered user of ARLnow.com, please save any user profile information or avatars you’re currently using on the site. Changes will be made to the site this weekend and your information may be lost.
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
Paws to Read Coming to Cherrydale — Paws to Read, a program that allows children to practice their reading skills by reading books aloud to dogs, is making its debut at the Cherrydale Branch Library next month. The ‘Paws’ dogs will be at Cherrydale the afternoon of Saturday, Nov. 10 and for one Saturday each month afterward. The program is intended for children from K-5. [Arlington Public Library]
Controversy for Fmr. Arlington Official — Former Arlington Deputy County Manager Kenneth Chandler has resigned as City Manager of Portsmouth, Va. The resignation came as the city council was preparing to fire him for the bungling of the resignation of the city’s former fire chief. [Virginian-Pilot]
Resident Pens Va. Tech Cookbook — Krista Gallagher, a Pentagon City resident, has co-written a recently-published cookbook for Virginia Tech alumni. The book, “A Taste of Virginia Tech,” compiles recipes from various restaurants around Blacksburg. Gallagher will participate in a book signing event at Bailey’s Pub and Grille in Ballston (4238 Wilson Blvd) at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 8, before the nationally-televised Virginia Tech-Florida State football game. [A Taste of Virginia Tech]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
Cybersecurity Center to Open in Ballston — Virginia Tech and defense contractor L-3 Communications are set to jointly open a cybersecurity research center in Ballston on Friday. The center will be located at the Virginia Tech Research Center building at 900 N. Glebe Road. [Washington Post]
Arlington Gearing Up for Nov. Election — In anticipation of election day on Nov. 6, Arlington County is encouraging residents to register to vote and, if necessary, vote absentee. The deadline for voter registration is Oct. 15, and the deadline for absentee ballots is Oct. 30. This year, the county is also allowing voters to cast their absentee ballot in person, at three absentee polling places: Courthouse Plaza, Barcroft Sports and Fitness Center, and the Madison Community Center. [Arlington County]
Generals, Patriots Win — The Washington-Lee Generals and the Yorktown Patriots both emerged victorious in local high school football action over the weekend. Yorktown defeated the Stuart Raiders 41-3, and Washington-Lee downed the winless Wakefield Warriorts 49-14. Bishop O’Connell, meanwhile, suffered its first loss, at the hands of the visiting DeMatha Stags. The Stags won 41-10. [Sun Gazette]
New Books By Arlington Authors — Two recently-released books by Arlington authors are receiving good reviews. Radical Chapters by Arlington resident and McClatchy Washington Bureau reporter Michael Doyle received an upbeat review by Palo Alto Weekly. The book details the life and times of a Roy Kepler, who was both a prominent peace activist and a groundbreaking bookstore owner. Darkbeast, by Arlington author Morgan Keyes, has picked up a number of good reviews on Amazon.com. The novel follows twelve-year-old Keara, who runs away from home rather than sacrifice Caw, her magical raven darkbeast.
Flickr pool photo by Maryva2
One light went in this week on southbound Glebe Road at N. 9th Street, and another on the northbound side at N. Vermont Street. According to the Department of Environmental Services, it was part of a site plan development with the new construction on the west side of Glebe Road.
New buildings in the area, including the recently opened residences at The Jordan and the Virginia Tech Research Center building, which houses commercial tenants such as The Greene Turtle, have brought additional pedestrian traffic. It’s expected to increase even more once the office building at 800 N. Glebe is completed.
DES spokeswoman Shannon Whalen McDaniel says that’s why it was necessary to put in traffic lights, to establish a safe pedestrian connection between the new construction on the west side of Glebe and the businesses and Ballston Metro station on the east side.
Currently, the lights are still covered up. If all goes according to plan, they should be turned on by the end of the month.