Be afraid. Be very afraid. If the aspirations of one automotive supplier come to pass, your child’s first car will not have a steering wheel come 2025, rendering her or him nothing more than a mere passenger inside a tiny commuter pod.
In a comment to my post last month about Professor Gary Waissi’s new piston engine that has no connecting rods between the pistons and the crankshaft, one of our readers asked about similarities to the Bourke Engine, invented by Russell Bourke. Based on the diagrams of the Bourke motor, that seemed like a good question, so I asked Prof. Waissi about it. I received his reply today. Waissi said that while there were similarities between his engine and Bourke’s, there were also substantial differences, resulting in the Bourke engine having more operating friction. Dr. Waissi also said that he hoped to have a two-cylinder prototype of his own design assembled and running by the end of this year. Waissi’s response after the jump.
A few weeks ago, we ran a post about a new computer driven tool developed by Ford that allows them to rapidly prototype sheet metal parts. At the time, I raised the potential that Ford’s Freeform Fabrication Technology might have for enthusiasts working on customizing or restoring cars. Load a sheet of metal in the frame, load a file on the computer, and watch it hammer out a fender for your classic or custom car. Apparently that wasn’t much of a stretch. Engadget reports on a New Zealand man named Ivan Sentch who is using an $800 desktop 3D printer to fabricate the body for a 1961 Series I Aston Martin DB4 replica he is making. Read More >
When cars started getting digitized, first with fuel injection, then electronic ignition and ECUs, some enthusiasts thought that would foretell the end of hot rodding. That’s proved to be a false prophecy, what with developments like the Megasquirt engine management system, high performance “chips” and tuning via the OBD port. Last year, Ford Motor Company, which has been at the leading (some say bleeding) edge of in-car electronics and infotainment, announced the release of the OpenXC Platform. OpenXC is an application progrmaming interface, API, that makes information from the car’s various instruments and sensors available to Android applications. The idea was to open up that information to all the possibilities with which open source application developers and hobbyists might come up. The system is read only, to prevent you from damaging your car, or worse, creating an unsafe driving situation, but in terms of using that information, the possibilities are endless. To promote OpenXC, Ford has released a video of a haptic shift indicator, built into the shift knob, invented by one of their junior engineers, Zach Nelson. When you feel it vibrate, it’s time to shift.
Using a haptic feedback motor from an Xbox 360 controller, an Arduino controller, and an Android based tablet with some USB and Bluetooth hardware Nelson created a programmable haptic shift indicator that he then built into a custom shift knob that he had designed in a CAD program and printed out with a MakerBot Thing-O-Matic 3D printer.
Using engine speed, throtle position, and other engine control data, Nelson programmed different modes that tell the driver when it’s ideal to shift up (or theoretically, down as well, I suppose, if you add in data from the traction control systems). Programmed for performance, the shift knob will vibrate when approaching redline and if economy is what the driver is after, it will buzz at the best shift point for optimum fuel mileage, it can even have a tutorial mode to help drivers learn how to shift a manual transmission. For “fun”, Nelson installed a LED display on the top of his custom shifter that shows the gear position.
As part of the open source ethos, Nelson and Ford have made all of his design files, the firmware, the Android application for programming the device, and the CAD file for the shifter knob, available to the public with links at the OpenXC site. The idea is to let enthusiasts further develop the idea.
OpenXC will be available for a growing number of Ford vehicles. In the video, Nelson says that the latest car he’s tested it on is the Shelby GT500 Mustang. He talks of his sense of accomplishment when his invention worked with the 662 horsepower muscle car. My guess is that in that particular app, he had it programmed to shift at redline.
TTAC has recently addressed the issue of police using scanning technology to read license plates and then store their street locations. When the story broke, it centered on a few counties in Northern California, but the American Civil Liberties Union has just released documents that show that the practice is widespread across the United States and that few of the police agencies or private companies that are scanning license plates and storing that data, making it possible to retroactively track drivers, have any meaningful rules in place to protect drivers’ privacy. There are few controls on how the collected data is accessed and used. The documents reveal that many police departments keep the information on millions of people’s locations for years, or even indefinitely, whether or not they are suspected of a crime. Data on tens of millions of drivers is being logged and stored.
Remote unlocking of your car’s doors via your smartphone , activating horn and lights and remote start, previously part of GM’s paid OnStar service, is becoming a standard feature, GM says. Buy the car, download the app, and the car can be remote-controlled via your smartphone for five years, whether you pay for OnStar, or not. “Thirty-six 2014 model year GM vehicles are compatible with the RemoteLink mobile app,” says GM in a press release, meaning that most of GM’s new cars are permanently on-line, can be reached, tracked, can reveal their locations, OnStar, or not, ignition on, or not. Read More >
Everybody seems to be on the bandwagon for self-driving cars, everybody except the NHTSA. In new guidelines, the NHTSA urges states to allow use of self-driving cars “only for testing and requiring safeguards to ensure they can be taken over by a driver in the case of malfunction,” the Detroit News writes. Read More >
Toyota announced today what it calls the “Big Data Traffic Information Service,” a giant mashup of data harvested from currently 3.3 million of telematics users in Japan, and 700,000 Toyota customers equipped with a Digital Communication Module (DCM), a gizmo that constantly monitors and transmits vehicle data. Combined with other telematics data, the harvest powers navigation and information services. Unlike other systems, Toyota’s on-line platform can also be used by local governments and businesses. Read More >
Some forty years in the making, start-stop technology has arrived on your smartphone. Volkswagen launched an app that stops YouTube videos automatically when you look away from the screen. And it starts again, when you look back. The app uses facial recognition technology to capture when the viewer is looking away, only to resume when eyeballs are back on screen. PWHS (People With Heightened Sensitivities) will not like it: Averting your eyes during a shocking scene on YouTube won’t help anymore. The price of progress, I guess.
But what are the origins of this startling technology? Read More >
Toyota’s CEO Akio Toyoda threw another bucket of cold water on wild fantasies of autonomous cars. Instead of developing cars that drive themselves, Toyota is thinking more of cars that assist you in driving. Read More >
Audi has – via Audi Connect – turned its cars into mobile WiFi hotspots for a few years already. Now comes the killer price: For just $15 a month, you can have all you can eat wireless internet in your car. Read More >
Not only will GM’s OnStar switch from the allegedly ultra-reliable and most dense Verizon network to the allegedly not-so reliable and not-so-dense AT &T network, as Reuters reports. It will also “make each of its cars an Internet hotspot with a high-speed broadband connection,” as Automotive News has it. Read More >
In the world of dealer standards, it is usually the OEMs that write the standards, and it is the dealers who have to pay the usually steep bills. Occasionally, an OEM even is tempted to recoup the steep cost of developing a new corporate identity by marking up the signage sold to its dealers. Dealers hate it. Ford is doing something dealers will love: Ford will offer dollar-for-dollar matching funds to its 3,100 U.S. dealers to upgrade their shops, from new construction to improved digital programs, Ford executives told Reuters. Read More >
Sprint Nextel presents a new “Velocity” in-vehicle communications and entertainment architecture at the LA auto show. You can’t buy it from Sprint, but Sprint hopes your automaker will buy it from them. This did not keep Sprint from taking jabs at its presumptive customers: Read More >