Tag: cars

When You Never Leave Your Car, It Can Be Your Doctor (and Doting Parent)

By Veronique Greenwood | May 20, 2011 2:36 pm

Those allergies are going to spike—better roll that window up.

Ford wants to make your car more like a phone. Or maybe like a self-contained living pod that you never have to leave.

Some Fords already feature SYNC, a system the company developed with Microsoft in 2007 that lets you control your phone or media player in your car using voice commands and buttons on the steering wheel. With SYNC, you can make hands-free phone calls, have your texts read aloud to you, and automatically call 911 when an air bag deploys in an accident. But the next generation of SYNC apps will be keeping tabs on your health—only logical, the company says, considering how much time we spend in cars and how much more we probably will in the future.

In fact, they sound almost gleeful about the prospect: “People are spending so much time behind the wheel, and that’s expected to increase as we go forward, with increased traffic density and congestion,” a spokesperson said (via PopSci). “(This is) about seeing the car as more than just a car.”

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MORE ABOUT: cars, dystopia, Ford, SYNC

More Proof That We Live in the Future: Mind-Controlled Cars

By Patrick Morgan | February 23, 2011 4:30 pm

Driving a car using only one’s thoughts is no longer the stuff of science fiction. It may not be ready for commercial use, but scientists have successfully completed a road test of the world’s first mind-controlled car.

Created by researchers at the AutoNOMOS  labs of Freie Universität Berlin, the technology uses commercially available electroencephalogram (EEG) sensors to detect four different patterns of brain activity, which a computer translates to “turn left,” “turn right,” “accelerate,” and “brake.” The road to this achievement was long, as AutoNOMOS says on its website:

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Want the City to Fix a Crater-of-Doom Pothole? There's an App for That

By Patrick Morgan | February 11, 2011 2:24 pm

Doing good is getting easier. Soon, you’ll be able to do your civic duty of reporting potholes without even lifting a finger. The city of Boston is working on a smartphone app that would automatically report potholes to authorities–making it easier to find and fill the more than 19,000 potholes Boston grapples with each year.

The in-development Street Bump app uses a smartphone’s GPS and accelerometer technology to register the moment when a car lurches into a pothole and to identify the location. No need for the driver to call or email city officials, the app just goes ahead and sends the message on its own.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!

How Not to Get a Flat on the Moon: Use a Spring-Packed Super Tire

By Jennifer Welsh | November 15, 2010 1:28 pm

moontireFuture Mars rovers or moon buggies might be riding the wings of Goodyear spring-based tires. This high-tech tire just won a 2010 R&D 100 award, also known as the “Oscar of Innovation,” from the editors of R&D magazine.

The tire was invented last year in a joint effort between NASA and Goodyear, and was tested out on NASA’s Lunar Electric Rover at the Rock Yard at the Johnson Space Center. The spring tire builds upon previous versions of the moon tire, and the improvements enable it to take larger (up to 10 times) rovers up to 100 times further, NASA scientists explained to Gizmag:

“With the combined requirements of increased load and life, we needed to make a fundamental change to the original moon tire,” said Vivake Asnani, principal investigator for the project at NASA’s Glenn Research Centre in Cleveland. “What the Goodyear-NASA team developed is an innovative, yet simple network of interwoven springs that does the job. The tire design seems almost obvious in retrospect, as most good inventions do.”

The tire is made up of 800 helical springs, which simulate the flexibility of an air-filled tire. Because there are so many springs, the tire can’t completely fail all at once, like a punctured air-filled tire would, Asnani said in the Goodyear press release:

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The Secret Knowledge of Taxi Drivers Could Be Added to Online Maps

By Jennifer Welsh | November 5, 2010 11:53 am

beijing-taxiMicrosoft researchers in Beijing are trying to best Google maps by culling knowledge from a mythical beast known as the taxi driver.

The Microsoft folks are trying to improve their online maps using the cabbies’ deep knowledge of Beijing. The problem with typical maps and the directions they offer is that the shortest route isn’t always the fastest route. In big cities, cabbies know which side streets offer shortcuts, and what areas of the city to avoid at which times.

The researchers are trying to rake that data out of the cabbies’ habits by analyzing the GPS data from over 33,000 taxis in Beijing. The group at Microsoft Research Asia, led by Yu Zheng, developed an approach (called T-drive) to analyze and merge this cabbie data with satellite maps to improve the mapping experience and offer faster directions–even if the driver doesn’t engage in the lane swerving, honking, and pedestrian slaloming that give cabbies an edge. taxi_x220As Technology Review reports:

According to the Microsoft researchers, the routes suggested by T-Drive are faster than 60 percent of the routes suggested by Google and Bing maps (which provide essentially the same driving time estimates as each other). Overall, T-Drive can shave about 16 percent off the time of a trip, the researchers say, which translates into about 5 minutes for every 30 minutes of driving.

This approach could work just as well in other dense, cabbie-infested cities. The team is also working on projects that will incorporate real-time accident and traffic data into these “smart” maps.

Technology Review reports that other companies trying to improve maps and directions are taking data from driver’s cell phones in California and Boston, while a person-to-person route sharing application called WAZE allows you to share tips with your social network.

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Image: Flicrk/Boris van Hoytema

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!

The World's Fastest Lawn Mower, a Fire-Throwing Bike, and More Bizarro Vehicles

By Jennifer Welsh | September 30, 2010 4:35 pm

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iPhone App Lets You Tell Drivers Exactly What You Think of Them

By Jennifer Welsh | September 16, 2010 1:33 pm

Who needs to drive with two phones?A new smart phone app aims to get you communicating with the drivers around you, and we don’t mean yelling choice obscenities through the window or shaking your fist of rage when someone cuts you off.

By photographing, typing, or saying a license plate number and state you’ll be able to message the driver–if they’re also signed up for the service, named Bump. The message recipient can choose how they get their messages, through text or the Bump.com website. Bump launches today on iPhones, and an Android app will soon be ready as well.

Venture Beat talked to Bump’s CEO, Mitch Thrower about the idea:

Thrower says his social network for cars brings to mind a classic scene in the film American Graffiti…. Actor Richard Dreyfuss sees a beautiful blonde played by Suzanne Somers in a white T-Bird. She blows a kiss at him. He tries to follow her but can’t catch up. Maddeningly, he never sees her again. Oh, if he had only gotten her license plate.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!, Top Posts

Citizen Scientists Take Charge of California's Roadkill

By Eliza Strickland | September 14, 2010 4:07 pm

roadkill-mapCalifornia science needs a favor from you. Can you drive around until you spot some roadkill, and then–instead of jerking the wheel, squealing in disgust, and averting your eyes–can you instead take careful note of the species and location?

For one year now, helpful motorists have been contributing info to the online California Roadkill Observation System, and lead scientist Fraser Shilling of the University of California, Davis has just released the data from this citizen science survey. The press release reports that over 6,700 roadkill observations were made by 300 people, and the road victims covered 205 animal species “from acorn woodpeckers to zebratail lizards.” Raccoons were the most common casualties.

Shilling hopes the data from this ongoing project will eventually help transportation planners design more wildlife-friendly roads, and is grateful to the motorists who have contributed their time. Like the man known to his friends as Doctor Roadkill, a 69-year-old retired veterinarian named Ron Ringen who has logged more than 1,000 dead animals into the system.

The New York Times reports that Shilling and his colleagues hope to expand the project by building a smartphone app.

They think one would attract new and younger volunteers, speed up the process, and, with built-in GPS function, assure more accurate location information.

Which means you may one day be able to say, “Roadkill? There’s an app for that.”

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Image: UC Davis

Speed Bumps of the Future: Creepy Optical Illusion Children

By Joseph Calamia | September 7, 2010 11:23 am

Today, West Vancouver officials will roll out a new way to keep drivers alert and slow them down: a little girl speed bump. A trompe-l’œil, the apparently 3D girl located near the École Pauline Johnson Elementary School is actually a 2D pavement painting, similar to the one shown here.


In what sounds like a terrifying experience, the girl’s elongated form appears to rise from the ground as cars approach, reaching 3D realism at around 100 feet, and then returning to 2D distortion once cars pass that ideal viewing distance. Its designers created the image to give drivers who travel at the street’s recommended 18 miles per hour (30 km per hour) enough time to stop before hitting Pavement Patty–acknowledging the spectacle before they continue to safely roll over her.

The illusion is part of a $15,000 safety program that will run this week, led by the BCAA Traffic Safety Foundation and the public awareness group Preventable.ca. As drivers approach, the police will monitor the fake girl’s effects. Despite fears that drivers may stop suddenly or swerve into actual 3D children, David Duane of the BCAA Traffic Safety Foundation told CTV news that the bump was meant to bring attention to driver-caused pedestrian injuries, and that the fake girl should not cause accidents:

“It’s a static image. If a driver can’t respond to this appropriately, that person shouldn’t be driving….”

In 2008, Philadelphia used similar, virtual speed bumps–more common in Europe–in its “Drive CarePhilly” campaign. Philadelphia, however, chose a less anthropomorphic route–opting for three spikes.

UPDATE: Preventable.ca answers some questions about the experiment in a new blog post.

Discoblog: For the Driver Who Has Everything: An Augmented Reality Windshield From GM
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Discoblog: AD4HERE: Digital License Plate Ads May Come to California

Image: Handout/Preventable.ca via PhysOrg.com

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Crime & Punishment

Texting-While-Driving Coach Slightly Delays Appalling Crashes

By Joseph Calamia | August 11, 2010 11:37 am

drivingtestIf your car could talk, it might tell you to stop texting. At least that’s what one research team hopes: after paying young drivers to perform texting-like games while driving a simulator, they found that visual warnings from an in-car “coach” helped keep drivers’ eyes on the road.

For high-risk drivers, the warning system “more than doubled their time until a virtual crash,” a University of Washington press release says. That might not sound entirely reassuring. But the researchers say a similar system installed on a real car might help risky drivers avoid a crash altogether.

A team led by Linda Ng Boyle, an industrial and systems engineer at the University of Washington, first had a group of 53 drivers, ages 18 to 21, attempt to drive a simulator while simultaneously playing a matching game. As an incentive to take the game seriously, they paid drivers according to the correct number of matches they made. The riskiest drivers took their eyes off the road for between two and a half to three seconds, compared to moderate and low-risk drivers who would glance off the road for less than two seconds during their longest glances.

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