Tag Archives | Cars

Driverless Vans Drive From Italy To China

Road rage could be a thing of the past. USA Today reports:

Across Eastern Europe, Russia, Kazakhstan and the Gobi Desert— it certainly was a long way to go without getting lost.

Four driverless electric vans successfully ended an 8,000-mile test drive from Italy to China — a modern-day version of Marco Polo‘s journey around the world — with their arrival at the ShanghaiExpo on Thursday.

The vehicles, equipped with four solar-powered laser scanners and seven video cameras that work together to detect and avoid obstacles, are part of an experiment aimed at improving road safety and advancing automotive technology.

The sensors on the vehicles enabled them to navigate through wide extremes in road, traffic and weather conditions, while collecting data to be analyzed for further research, in a study sponsored by the European Research Council.

Continues at USA Today

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Google’s Self-Driving Cars Are On California Roads (Now!)

While it's entirely possible that Google's AI cars are actually better driven than many of the human-controlled vehicles they are sharing the roads with, I'm kind of glad I'm not in California! John Markoff reports on the latest scariness from Google for the New York Times:
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Anyone driving the twists of Highway 1 between San Francisco and Los Angeles recently may have glimpsed a Toyota Prius with a curious funnel-like cylinder on the roof. Harder to notice was that the person at the wheel was not actually driving. The car is a project of Google, which has been working in secret but in plain view on vehicles that can drive themselves, using artificial-intelligence software that can sense anything near the car and mimic the decisions made by a human driver...
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Canadian Automaker Develops Car Made Of Hemp

weedA group of Canadian companies have come together to design an electric car, dubbed the Kestrel, with a body sculpted from a super-tough composite produced from mats of hemp. A prototype is being tested, and the first 20 Kestrel cars will be delivered next year. No word on what sort of fumes are emitted by the tailpipe. Via CBC News:

Automotive pioneer Henry Ford first built a car made of hemp fibre and resin more than half a century ago. “It’s not an original idea,” Motive Industries president Nathan Armstrong said.

The Kestrel will be prototyped and tested later in August by Calgary-based Motive Industries Inc., a vehicle development firm focused on advanced materials and technologies, the company announced.

The compact car, which will hold a driver and up to three passengers, will have a top speed of 90 kilometres per hour and a range of 40 to 160 kilometers before needing to be recharged.

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Australians Driving Over 110 MPH to Summon Ghost of Dead Motorcyclist (Video)

Ghost RiderNeil Keene writes in the Daily Telegraph:
It could be one of the most bizarre reasons ever offered by a speeding driver — "A ghost made me do it.'' But that is exactly the story being put forward by superstitious motorists hitting speeds of up to 180km/h on a road north of Newcastle, supposedly to conjure a ghost. Port Stephens police have issued a warning to drivers after it emerged that young people were driving at dangerously high speeds along a stretch of Lemon Tree Passage Rd to conjure the spirit of a 20-year-old motorcyclist killed in a crash with a speeding driver in the area three years ago. A handful of videos have been posted on YouTube, allegedly showing a ghostly bright light appearing in the rear windscreen of cars that start driving at dangerous speeds.Some locals are convinced the light is that of the motorcyclist's ghost, in pursuit of people who drive dangerously.
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Alternative Energy: Turn Your Poo Into Fuel!

Photo: Wessex Water

Photo: Wessex Water

Want an alternative use for the contents of your septic tank?

Mohammed Saddiq has the answer, the poop-mobile! Bristol streets have been the first test run of the methane-powered car which allows an alternative to petroleum fuel. BBC covers the story:

The BBC’s John Maguire is given a tour of the methane-powered car by developer Mohammed Saddiq

A “poo-powered” VW Beetle has taken to the streets of Bristol in an attempt to encourage sustainable motoring.

The Bio-Bug runs on processed methane gas generated as part of the raw sewage treatment process.

Engineers from Wessex Water estimate the waste from 70 homes would generate enough gas to run the car for 10,000 miles (16,100km).

Despite being powered by fuel created from sewage, the car does not smell unpleasant.

“It performs like a normal car – you wouldn’t know it was powered by biogas,” a company spokesman said.

To use biogas as vehicle fuel without affecting vehicle performance or reliability the gas needs to be treated to remove the carbon dioxide content.

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Arizona Turns Off Speed Cameras Due to Privacy Complaints; Admits Design to Generate Revenue

I Can't Drive 55Finally, Sammy Hagar can drive in the State of Arizona worry-free (unless he's wearing that yellow outfit again, he deserves to be pulled over for that). In all seriousness, I've always suspected these cameras were more about making money than any "public safety" concern, and it really looks like the reason for abandonment in Arizona was civil disobedience over ticket payment by a large majority of Arizona's speedsters. (Although apparently there is an incident of murder reported below.) Alex Spillius writes in the Telegraph:
Arizona has turned off every speed camera on its highways after complaints that they violated privacy and were designed to generate revenue rather than promote road safety. A spokesman for Jan Brewer, the state's Republican governor, said she "was uncomfortable with the intrusive nature of the system", which was inherited from her Democratic predecessor. Opening in October 2008, the scheme was first in the United States to use speed cameras across a whole state. Amid objections of Big Brother-ism, numerous cameras were vandalised, while the operator of a van carrying a mobile camera was shot dead in a lay-by in April 2009. The 76 cameras took 2.7 million photographs, but only 16 percent of drivers who received a speeding ticket paid up.
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Flying Car Nears Consumer Availability After Gaining FAA Approval

terrafugia1_1668799cUnfortunately, the price tag for a flying car, set to be sold by Terrafugia in 2011, is in the millions. The other bad news is that Bono will definitely have one, I just know it. The Australian Broadcasting Corp. reports:

The Transition, which is being described as the world’s first flying car, transforms from a vehicle to a winged aircraft in 30 seconds.

US authorities have bent their rules for the aircraft, which could make it much more accessible for people without a pilot’s license.

Anna Dietrich, who works for the company building the Transition, explains how it works: “Once you’ve landed at the airport you can fold up the wings without having to get out of the cockpit,” she said.

“It takes about the same amount of time as putting down your convertible top. Once you’ve done that the power from the engine is directed to the wheels and you now have a street legal vehicle that you can drive to where you actually wanted to go.”

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Is A Plant Poisoning Our Air More Than Cars?

As those of you who regularly visit this site know, the "global warming / climate change" debate is one of the most contentious issues on this site, with I have observed, equal numbers on chiming in on both sides of this issue. Having seen the range of opinion, and paid close attention to the veracity of opinion on this particular issue with disinfo.com readers, I have been meaning to share this article I came across from the informative editor-in-chief over at io9.com, Annalee Newitz. On face value, this article most reminds me of M. Night Shyamalan's The Happening:
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How The U.S. Government Killed The Safest Car Ever Built

500x_rsv_safety_car_openAh, somehow this isn’t even a surprise: the U.S. government commissioned the creation of a car far safer than those offered by auto companies, and then covered it up. From Jalopnik:

Thirty-five years ago, the U.S. government built a fleet of cars that were safer than anything on the road. Twenty-five years ago, the government shredded them in secret. Two escaped the crusher. This is their story.

For a piece of American-built iron from the depths of the Carter administration, the 14 Minicar Research Safety Vehicles had a massive amount of technology. The fender and front fascia were plastic composites that could take a 10-mph smack unscathed. Under the plastic body of the most advanced version were run-flat tires, anti-lock brakes with crash-sensing radar and dual-stage airbags.

Test drives scored about 32 miles to the gallon, but test crashes suggested passengers might walk away from most crashes up to 50 mph with minimal injuries.

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