Most people have heard about Google's self-driving cars, but they probably dismiss it as a fantasy that anything could ever come to reality. However, the fact is that these cars are being tested on California and Nevada roads and have logged over 300,000 miles without incident, unless you count that one in the parking lot when a human was driving.
Now, Google is looking to make the vehicles even safer and has hired the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration deputy director to help them in this quest. Ron Medford has an impressive resume and has worked in the government for more than 40 years, with his most recent job being deputy director of the NHTSA.
Google really wants to get these cars on the road and they will need to pass stringent safety testing if they are to be allowed. Bringing on Ron Medford is an important step to meet these requirements. Medford is both excited to be joining Google, he's also saddened by leaving the NHTSA, an agency that works to save lives:
"While I am excited to embark on this new adventure, I am deeply saddened to leave this agency and the many incredible staff who have committed your lives to making people safer on our roadways. I am at a loss for words to describe the emotion and gratitude I feel for the people I have come to know and admire at NHTSA," Medford wrote.
Our in-house storage editor, Chris Ramseyer, might just love this news, as he is a big fan of F1. Well, it looks as though the on-board cameras are about to get an injection of quality, with the standard-definition cameras being switched with high-def cameras.
The F1 broadcasts in HD, but the on-board cameras in the cars are much lower quality, technology has improved enough to consider putting HD cameras in the cars. Formula One Supporters Association talked to F1 journalist Christian Sylt, who had a look at future plans that include the possibility of HD cameras in the vehicles.
Also teased was multi-channel formats offering different views of the track and an interactive 3D replay feature. All of this might not happen, but we should expect some of it in the near future.
Los Angeles Metro, thanks to a $3.6 million contract with energy company VYCON, will capture and repurpose kinetic energy of their own trains. The new system is set to use flywheel technology, which will store energy generated by braking trains that enter the Westlake and MacArthur Station.
Once captured, it will use the energy to power their acceleration upon departure. VYCON claims that this new system will help reduce energy consumption, as well as lower power demands during peak train hours.
LA Metro already generates two megawatts using solar power, according to project manager Frank Castro. But this new Wayside Energy Storage Substation (WESS) will provide another two megawatts to the system. This is great to see, but it saddens me that it only involves a $3.6 million contract to get it going - for that money, every city in the United States should be incorporating this technology.
I'm based in Australia and Skyfall doesn't reach Aussie cinemas for another week yet, and I seriously can't wait. But this latest news, is that the production of Skyfall required a complete decimation of a classic 1960s era Aston Martin DB5.
Filmmakers wanted to go down a different route rather than just green screen it and had the movie studio contract the services of Augsburg-based 3D printing company Voxeljet, who made replicas of the sweet-looking ride. The company used a huge industrial VX4000 3D printer which spat out 1:3 scale models of the car, all so they could blow it into pieces.
The car was made up by 18 pieces, and were shipped to Propshop Modelmakers in London where they were assembled, painted, chromed and outfitted with fake bullet holes. The final product was used in Skyfall during a high-speed action sequence, resulting in the perfectly-made car blowing into smithereens.
Tesla have just received a huge grant from the California Energy Commission to the tune of $10 million, which will help the luxury electric car maker expand manufacturing capacity for their upcoming Model X SUV.
Tesla's terms of the agreement with Commission will match the $10 million grant, with $50 million if their own money and spend the entire lump sum to keep Model X production rates high when it reaches manufacturing in 2014. This plan involves the hiring of 700 more workers with the manufacturing starts.
If there are no problems between now and the production of the Model X SUV, Tesla will be much closer to their goal of producing a truly mainstream electric vehicle. The Model X SUV won't be that goal, but it is definitely getting closer. The new Model X SUV will hopefully fall into the same price range as the Model S, which ranges between $50,000 and $70,000. Tesla's VP of Finance, Mike Taylor, said:
Too often we're portrayed in the press as only producing an electric sports car. I think that misses the point of what Tesla Motors is trying to do and why it's important for California. Our mission has always been to aggressively promote electric vehicles for the masses.
If you were itching to use your phone to make some calls during a flight, you might want to take a look at Dubai-based Emirates, who have just started allowing passengers to use their phones to make calls on its A380 aircraft.
The service is compatible with normal phones in conjunction with OnAir, who is the company that provides Wi-Fi service for the airliner. There is a limitation, through Federal Aviation Administration rules, that the phones can't be used over the United States, where the service will cease working within 250 miles of US soil.
Emirates have been on the forefront of pushing technology in their aircraft for quite sometime, as they equipped their Airbus fleet with phones and fax machines all the way back in the 90s, and in 2006 the airline even offered in-seat e-mail and text messaging to all passengers. The first call with the new in-flight phone service was made on October 2, and was placed to China, said Emirates.
It was only last month that Google's self-driving cars hit 300,000 test miles without an accident, and now we're looking at California getting the self-driving cars hitting their roads. California governor, Jerry Brown, signed a new law that will see the cars hit Californian roads.
The new law signed in will see trials of the self-driving cars on California's roadways, with one condition - there has to be a licensed human in the driver's seat to take over in the case of an emergency. Brown said at the signing ceremony at Google's Mountain View-based HQ - "today we are looking at science fiction becoming tomorrow's reality".
Google did some modifications to a Toyota Prius, which sports video cameras, radar sensors, a laser rangefinder and detailed maps - using all of this data to drive itself. Google's self-driving vehicles also sport a failsafe mechanism that allows the driver to take control by grabbing the steering wheel or pressing the brakes.
I haven't travelled too much in my life, with my first big international trip being Computex earlier this year. But, I plan on getting onto many more planes in my future, and we're finally seeing the beginning stages of airlines accepting that offering in-flight Wi-Fi is a must.
The Verge are reporting from a memo to crew members that they "obtained", that the company is set to offer in-flight wireless networking early next year, with the memo stating:
Customers, especially those traveling for business, with everything else being equal, will choose the airline that offers connectivity, even if the service is spotty or expensive.
JetBlue have chosen to go with ViaSat for their in-flight Wi-Fi, ditching the idea of going with an option like Gogo, which the company says is slow and unsatisfactory. The Verge's source states that there will be an initial trial of the service, and after the trial the service will remain free for "basic email and browsing" purposes.
Google's self-driving cars pass learners test, have logged over 300,000 test miles without an accident
Imagine a self-driving car, want to go on that long drive but don't want to sit behind the wheel and concentrate for 8 hours straight? Well, the future is self-driving cars, and search, mobile OS and cloud giant, Google, with their self-driving car project has been a success.
The self-driving car project has hit the milestone of 300,000 test miles without an accident. The cars have been spotted in Mountain View around the Google Plex, on highways, and more. Too bad I live in one of the smallest states of Australia, I'd laugh if I saw one of these on the road, but feel jealous all at the same time. Google have talked about the self-driving project, where they've said:
Our vehicles, of which about a dozen are on the road at any given time, have now completed more than 300,000 miles of testing. They've covered a wide range of traffic conditions, and there hasn't been a single accident under computer control.
Qualcomm have found a new partnership with French carmaker Renault, where the two companies will begin field trial of its revolutionary wireless electric vehicle charging (WEVC) technology.
If the trial is successful, it could eventually lead to a wider adopton of all-electric vehicles, as well as other potential uses in many different markets. Drawbacks in the way of widespread charging stations have really stopped this type of technology from impacting our day-to-day lives, or making it into vehicles in bigger numbers, but it looks like WEVC could change all of this.
Qualcomm's technology uses a concept involving inductive power transfer from tow coils tuned to create a magnetic field to "move" the power from one location to another. In order for the vehicle to be wirelessly charged, it requires a charging mat that gets embedded in the ground, and a receiver to be installed on the underside of the vehicle.
Australian airline Qantas are set to provide Apple iPads to use as in-flight entertainment, the move follows a successful test run from late-2011. Qantas would put iPads in their entire Qantas 767 fleet starting from Q4 this year, starting on flights based on Australia's east-coast routes.
Qantas have 23 Boeing 767-300 aircraft, meaning the company is looking at providing at least 5,000 iPads, without including units for spare tablets in case of one malfunctioning. The in-flight content is set to be provided by Panasonic's eXW solution dubbed Qstreaming. Qstreaming uses an onboard server to stream over 200 hours of on-demand entertainment to the iPads via strategically placed Wi-Fi access points.
Part of the test run late last year included the suggestion that Qantas would allow customers to use their own iPads with the service, but the company is still assessing whether or not to allow the option. I don't see why they should hold back, just allow them to download the app itself onto their iPad.
Considering Android is mostly on smart devices such as smartphones and tablets, it does get baked into all sorts of different devices. But, this news is somewhat different. The next device to see Android get its OS is in the Boeing 787 Dreamliner passenger jets.
Two models are destined to be fitted, the first is Panasonic's eX3, and the Thales TopSeries Avant. Details on the Thales model were unveiled alongside a demonstration at the Farnborough International Airshow just recently.
The TopSeries Avant model will sport 10- and 17-inch versions, but there's no details on the display type, nor the resolution. Performance-wise, we should find a dual-core, ARM-based processor rocking inside, backed up by 1GB of RAM, and 256GB of storage. The central server will feature 32 cores in either an Intel Xeon, or AMD Opteron-based processor, 128GB of RAM, and 4TB of storage.
We know that the US government, and many others, use drones for 'security' purposes, but mostly for spying and intel gathering activities. But, even at the size they are now, they can't really be seen all that well to the unsuspecting eye.
What if they could get small enough to fly right next to you without you even noticing? Surely, I jest. But, it's no lie, or trick. Vanessa Alarcon was a college student when she attended a 2007 anti-war protest in Washington, D.C. and heard someone shout "Oh my God, look at those". Alarcon told The Washington Post:
I look up and I'm like, 'What the hell is that?' They looked like dragonflies or little helicopters. But I mean, those are not insects.
There was a lawyer at the protest at the time who confirmed they did look like dragonflies, but that they "definitely weren't insects". Back in 2006, Flight International reported that the CIA had been developing micro UAV's all the way back in the 1970's, and even had a mock-up in their Langley headquarters since 2003.
Loved the purr of the FedEx vans just as you were about to get that heavily-anticipated delivery? Well, if you're based in Washington, D.C., you might miss out on the sound of the old FedEx trucks, as the company has just upgraded two of them to electrically-driven motors.
FedEx are working with gas-to-EV converters, Amp, with two of them already getting the switch, and if the initial testing goes well, the company could upgrade a further 9,000 vans. Amp Electric Vehicles identified fleets such as FedEx's are perfect candidates for the conversion thanks to the shorter daily range requirements, and usual poor gas mileage.
Considering the amount of deliveries FedEx would do each and every day, this is a great step toward a greener company, and a greener Earth. Tom Hanks would be proud, as would Wilson.
Computex 2012 - We've just finished with the Ford press conference where they've unveiled their Evos concept car, which is fully Internet-connected and intertwined with the cloud. It's also powered by Microsoft's SYNC technology which can do more things than you can poke a stick at.
Ford is committed to be an electronic leader and working with Microsoft in the new Ford Focus. The new Focus features Sync powered by Microsoft, with better fuel economy, newer design safety features and interiors. Sync connects the car with the driver's personal devices and controls those devices via voice. So far Sync is powered in 4 million units all around the world now it will be available in Taiwan with traditional Chinese and Mandarin language support. Ford hope to see this number increase to 9 million by 2015.
Ford is also introducing App Link that controls apps in drivers personal devices and lets the driver control the device via voice.
Ford Evos concept car features cloud computing give a boost to driver's experience and performance with devices powered by iOS, Android and Blackberry- anything between tuning in radio to syncing with your clock, meeting schedule, getting a new shortcut tagged by your friends, tagging your car's present location and also mapping direction to your Facebook profile's events.
The future is here, nearly. After Google's try at an autonomous car driving the streets of Las Vegas, Volvo have done something even more impressive. Volvo were impressive in the way that they platooned three cars behind a lorry for 200 kilometers on a busy Spanish motorway.
Don't know what platoon means outside of a first-person shooter like Battlefield 3? The term "platooning" means, in effect, queueing cars behind e ach other with a lead car as a pace setter. The technique is also known as road-training.
It involved several research partners alongside Volvo, with the latest version of the project codenamed SARTRE (Safe Road Trains for the Environment). The first public road test for the SARTRE took to the roads outside of Barcelona, Spain at the end of last week. The cars travelled at 85 kilometers per hour (roughly 52 miles per hour) at varying distances from each other.
Voice control is gaining momentum everywhere thanks to Apple's Siri: Samsung's upcoming Galaxy S III is going to feature a Siri alternative. Google has voice search. Now, Nuance, the people behind the Dragon software, is showcasing a new technology to allow for natural language processing. Nuance technology is already seen in Ford's Sync and My Ford Touch.
The current Nuance system recognizes about 10,000 voice commands, but can't cope with anything outside of that pre-programmed library. The new technology being showcased is called Dragon Drive and will use Nuance's cloud-based servers to allow natural language processing, similar to how Apple's Siri works.
The technology is moving forward slowly and starting with an SMS service. The SMS service will allow users to send and receive text messages. As more people get used to the technology and the technology advances, Nuance will bring the technology to services like navigation, traffic updates and music playback.
Dragon Drive is said to do some of the processing locally and some in the cloud as opposed to Apple's Siri. This, combined with Nuance's multiple telco grad facilities worldwide, is said to alleviate any latency that was present with Siri. Mike Thompson, executive vice president and general manager of Nuance Mobile says that models should hit the showroom floors sometime this summer.
Electric cars and the charging stations needed to charge them aren't cheap and aren't widely available. It's kind of the same situation as the chicken vs the egg. Which came first? The electric car industry is in a similar place--to sell electric vehicles, there need to be charging stations, to put in charging stations, a business has to make money and have customers.
This is where GE's new WattStation Connect software comes into play. The new software will allow users who own a WattStation charger to charge other people money to charge up their car. Charges can be assessed by the hour, per kilowatt hour, or even a flat fee. Additionally, companies can allow their employees to charge for free while charging other people.
The software also allows owners to broadcast the location of the EV charging station to entice more "customers." GE is pairing the service with PayPal which will be used to process the payments for charging. Unfortunately, since the charger is a level 2 charger, most vehicles will need to be parked for several hours, so I'm not too sure how keen people will be to have strangers parked in their drive for that long.
If you see a car with a red license plate and infinity symbol, steer clear as that car is one of Google's self-driving cars driving itself around. Drivers of Nevada will soon be driving through Las Vegas with the likes of cars that no longer need them. Just do Google a favor, don't honk at any cars with said red license plate.
"It gets honked at more often because it's being safe," said Nevada DMV Director Bruce Breslow. But, after proving itself in test drives through Carson City and Las Vegas, the vehicle has received a license to drive itself around, with a few learners restrictions. The vehicle will be required to have two people in it at all times.
One person is required to sit in the drivers seat to take control in case a glitch occurs. The other person is required to monitor a computer screen which displays its planned route and keeps tabs on traffic lights and road hazards. The driver can stop autonomous mode with a push of the brake pedal or a movement of the steering wheel.
"They're designed to avoid distracted driving," Breslow said. "When you're on the Strip and there's a huge truck with a three scantily clad women on the side, the car only sees a box." Breslow believes that these cars will be available in 3 to 5 years and at that point they will feature a green license plate.
Rumors about an upcoming Apple iPad Mini refuse to die. This week, rumors are point to Apple releasing another new iPad even though the iPad 3 came out less than a month ago. This new iPad is dubbed the iPad Mini and, pretty obviously, would be smaller than the current generation of iPads.
The current 3rd generation iPad features a 9.7-inch screen and a resolution of 2048 x 1536. The rumors place the new iPad mini with a 7.85-inch screen and a 1024 x 768 display. This is likely so that Apple can sell a version of the iPad at a cheaper price and better compete against the upcoming Windows 8 tablets.
A site is claiming that reports out of China that manufacturers Foxconn and Pegatron both started receiving orders from Apple for the smaller iPad. If you believe this site, the factories will have 6 million iPad Mini units ready to go by Q3 of this year meaning that you could have one in your hands by early- to mid-summer.
The late Steve Jobs wasn't a fan of a smaller screened device: "If you take an iPad and hold it upright in portrait view and draw an imaginary horizontal line halfway down the screen, the screens on the 7-inch tablets are a bit smaller than the bottom half of the iPad display," he said. "This size isn't sufficient to create great tablet apps in our opinion." This begs the question to why the iPhone and iPod Touch are seemingly easy to use.
Clarion has something pretty cool in the works. If you're an Android fanatic and can't get enough of it with just your smartphone and tablet, you can now get it on your car radio. Clarion has the dubbed the Mirage a "smart car stereo" and it comes with a 6.5-inch touch screen. Ironically, it also comes with Facebook and Angry Birds already installed.
Just what we need--to be encouraging Facebook and AB while driving. Ultimately, the Mirage is an AVN-style double-DIN player with an SD slot, USB port, and Bluetooth. Curiously, they seem to have forgotten a CD drive. Even though this stereo runs Android, it should be able to accept plugging your iPhone or iPod into it via USB to play music.
It also has built-in GPS, radio, and the awesome ability to display photos as a slideshow. Once again, why they have a distracting feature like that is beyond me. As for right now, this product is being marketed directly to manufacturers, so you can't pick it up for personal use quite yet. Hopefully, we will soon see something like this as a default in-dash system.