RETURN OF X-PLANES

April 22, 2017


In the April 2017 issue of “Machine Design” a fascinating article entitled “NASA’S Green Thumb for Green Aviation” was presented. This article was written by Carlos M. Gonzales and encouraged me to explore, at least through NASA’s web site, the status of their “X-Plane” program.  Aviation is definitely a growth industry. Millions upon millions of individuals travel each year for business, recreation, and tourism.  There is no doubt that aviation is the “Greyhound Bus” for the twenty-first century.

The aviation system is the high-speed transportation backbone of the United States and global economies. Global aviation is forecast to grow from today’s three point five (3.5) billion passenger trips per year to seven (7) billion passenger trips by the mid- 2030s, and to eleven (11) billion passenger trips by mid-century. Such growth brings with it the direct economic potential of trillions of dollars in the fields of manufacturing, operations and maintenance, and the high-quality jobs they support.

At the same time, international competition for leadership of this critical industry is growing, as more nations invest in developing their own aviation technology and industrial capabilities. Such massive growth also creates substantial operational and environmental challenges. For example, by mid-century the aviation industry will need to build and fly enough new aircraft to accommodate more than three times as many passenger trips while at the same time reducing total emissions by half from that new hardware. Moreover, large reductions in emissions and aircraft noise levels will be needed, if not mandated. To meet those demands, revolutionary levels of aircraft performance improvements – well beyond today’s technology – must be achieved. In terms of air traffic control and the National Airspace System, maintaining safe and efficient operations is a continuing and growing challenge as the system expands, and especially as new business and operational models – such as unmanned aerial systems – are introduced. Enabling aircraft (with pilots aboard or not) to fly optimized trajectories through high density airspace with real-time, systemwide safety assurance are among the most critical operational improvements that must be achieved.

In looking at global growth, we see the following:

These numbers would be very frightening without the aviation industry deciding to be pro-active relative to the sheer numbers of passenger miles anticipated over the next two decades.  That’s where NASA comes in.

NEW AVIATION HORIZONS:

In FY 2017, NASA plans to begin a major ten-year research effort to accelerate aviation energy efficiency, transform propulsion systems, and enable major improvements in air traffic mobility. The centerpiece of NASA’s ten-year acceleration for advanced technologies testing is called New Aviation Horizons, or NAH. It is an ambitious plan to build a series of five mostly large-scale experimental aircraft – X-planes – that will flight test new technologies, systems and novel aircraft and engine configurations. X-planes are a key piece of the “three-legged stool” that characterizes aviation research.

  • One leg represents computational capabilities – the high-speed super computers that can model the physics of air flowing over an object – be it a wing, a rudder or a full airplane.
  • A second leg represents experimental methods. This is where scientists put what is most often a scale model of an object or part of an object – be it a wing, a rudder or an airplane – in a wind tunnel to take measurements of air flowing over the object. These measurements help improve the computer model, and the computer model helps inform improvements to the airplane design, which can then be tested again in the wind tunnel.
  • The third leg of the stool is to actually fly the design. Whether it’s flying an X-plane or a full-scale prototype of a new aircraft, the data recorded in actual flight can be used to validate and improve the computational and experimental methods used to develop the design in the first place. This third leg makes it possible to lower the risk enough to completely trust what the numbers are saying.

With NAH, NASA will:

  • Demonstrate revolutionary advancements in aircraft and engine configurations that break the mold of traditional tube and wing designs.
  • Support accelerated delivery to the U.S. aviation community of advanced verified design and analysis tools that support new flight-validated concepts, systems and technologies.
  • Provide to appropriate organizations and agencies research results that inform their work to update domestic and international aviation standards and regulations.
  • Enable U.S. industry to put into service flight-proven transformative technology that will solve tomorrow’s global aviation challenges.
  • Inspire a new generation of aeronautical innovators and equip them to engineer future aviation systems. Of the five X-planes, NASA has determined that three subsonic aircraft will be enough to span the range of possible configurations necessary to demonstrate in flight the major enabling fuel, emissions and noise reducing technologies.

The graphic below indicates possible designs for aircraft of the future.  All of these craft are now on the drawing board with computational prototyping underway.

INDUSTRY:

U.S. industry plays an integral role in the NAH initiative, leading the design, development and building of all X-planes under contract to NASA. Industry will be a research partner in the ground test and analysis, as well as the flight tests of the X-planes. Industry also partners in the advancement of the physics-based design and analysis capabilities. Through the lead and partnering roles, U.S. industry will be fully capable of confidently taking the next steps in commercializing the transformational configurations and technologies. The Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company has already been awarded a preliminary design contract for the Quiet Supersonic Technology demonstrator. As indicated in a white paper published by the Aerospace Industries Association and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, “The U.S. government must support robust, long-term Federal civil aeronautics research and technology initiatives funded at a level that will ensure U.S. leadership in aeronautics. Congress should support NASA’s ten-year Strategic Implementation Plan at least at the levels recommended in the fiscal year 2017 NASA Budget request to sustain a strong economy, maintain a skilled workforce, support national security, and drive a world-class educational system.”

UNIVERSITIES:

NASA has already launched the University Leadership Initiative, which provides U.S.-based universities the opportunity to take full independent leadership in defining and solving key technical challenges aligned with the NASA Aeronautics strategy. Solicitations and proposals are managed through the NASA Research Announcement process; the first round of awards will be made in Fall 2016. These awards could lead to new experiments that would fly onboard one or more X-planes. In addition, NASA is formulating new mechanisms for direct university and student participation in the X-plane design, development and flight test process. The objective is to ensure U.S. universities remain the leading global institutions for aviation research and education, and to ensure the next generation workforce has the vision and skills needed to lead aviation system transformation.

POSSIBLE CONFIGURATIONS:

As mentioned above, NASA, industry and universities have already begun looking at possible configurations.  The most promising on-going programs are given below.

As you can see, the designs are absolutely striking and “doable” relative to existing technology.  The key goals are to:

  • Produce environmentally sound or “GREEN” designs lessening air pollution.
  • Create better fuel usage and conservation.
  • Extend flight range
  • Structure designs so minimal airport alternations will be necessary
  • Improve passenger experience

Tall orders but keep in mind NASA got us to the moon and back.  Why do we feel they will not be able to meet the goals indicated?  As always, I welcome your comments.

ORDORIFOUS REALITY

January 14, 2017


My company is working on a project involved with capturing methane from the decomposition of organic material in landfill sites.  Research preparatory to accepting the job reviled very interesting facts.  Let’s take a look.

NUMBERS:

The U.S. has 3,091 active landfills and over 10,000 old municipal landfills, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. However, in the “good old days,” every town (and many businesses and factories) had its own dump.  This is somewhat disturbing since these landfills were unregulated.  Upregulation without standards can create situations where effluent can creep into groundwater possibly polluting wells and other sources of potable water.  That has now changed for the better.  The two digital maps below will indicate location and concentration of approved landfill sites.  You certainly can notice the greatest concentration is from the Mississippi River east where population densities are greatest.  This is certainly to be expected.

landfill-map2

landfill-map

Municipal solid waste (MSW) – more commonly known as trash or garbage – consists of everyday items people use and then throw away, such as product packaging, grass clippings, furniture, clothing, bottles, food scraps and papers. In 2010, individuals in the United States generated about 250 million short tons (230 Mt) of trash.   In the United Stateslandfills are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the states’ environmental agencies. Municipal solid waste landfills (MSWLF) are required to be designed to protect the environment from contaminants that may be present in the solid waste stream

Some materials may be banned from disposal in municipal solid waste landfills including common household items such as paints, cleaners/chemicalsmotor oilbatteriespesticides, and electronics. These products, if mishandled, can be dangerous to health and the environment.  Safe management of solid waste through guidance, technical assistance, regulations, permitting, environmental monitoring, compliance evaluation and enforcement is the goal of the EPA and state environmental agencies.

A typical landfill site looks pretty much as follows:

landfill-storage

You are correct—a big, very big mess.

CODES AND REGULATIONS:

Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) part 258 addresses seven major aspects of MSWLFs, which include the following:

  • Location restrictions—ensure that landfills are built in suitable geological areas away from faults, wetlands, flood plains or other restricted areas.
  • Composite liners requirements—include a flexible membrane (i.e., geo-membrane) overlaying two feet of compacted clay soil lining the bottom and sides of the landfill. They are used to protect groundwater and the underlying soil from leachate releases.
  • Leachate collection and removal systems—sit on top of the composite liner and removes leachate from the landfill for treatment and disposal.
  • Operating practices—include compacting and covering waste frequently with several inches of soil. These practices help reduce odor, control litter, insects, and rodent, and protect public health.
  • Groundwater monitoring requirements—requires testing groundwater wells to determine whether waste materials have escaped from the landfill.
  • Closure and post-closure care requirements—include covering landfills and providing long-term care of closed landfills.
  • Corrective action provisions—control and clean up landfill releases and achieves groundwater protection standards.
  • Financial assurance—provides funding for environmental protection during and after landfill closure (i.e., closure and post-closure care).

TIME LINE FOR METHANE PRODUCTION FROM LANDFILL:

Collection of methane does not occur the first day garbage is dumped into a landfill.  The chart below will indicate the constituents and a typical timeline for production CH (4).

time-line

We are after the methane so as you can see, after two years, approximately, we have roughly twenty percent (20%) of the effluent available for reclama.

Typical characteristics and quantities from decomposition of an established landfill are as follows:

typical-characteristics-and-quantities

HOW WE DO IT:

The JPEG below will indicate a very rough schematic of a landfill site with wells “sunk” to receive mechane and basic piping necessary for the accumulation of mechane.  Well systems consist of a series of vertical LFG extraction wells (perforated or slotted collection pipes) that penetrate to near the bottom of the refuse or to near the depth of saturated waste. Well systems are often recommended for landfills or portions of landfills that exceed 12 m (40 ft.) in depth. The design of a well-system requires an estimate of the rate of LFG production and the radius of influence of the wells. A well- system, either active or passive, is useful for layered landfills where vertical LFG migration is impeded. Because of the variability of landfill refuse, design procedures are difficult to apply to LFG collection systems. Vertical LFG collection wells are typically installed once filling operations have been completed, and are commonly spaced at a frequency of one per acre and are constructed using an auger type drill rig. As a general rule, where LFG collection efficiency is important, it is generally advisable to develop a tighter grid of extraction points with smaller spacings operated at a lower vacuum. It has been found that a vacuum of 10 to 25 inches of water column (in wc) represents a reasonable balance between maximizing zones of influence and minimizing air intrusion into the site. Operating at higher vacuum levels tends to extend the zone of capture beyond the limits of the waste burial and increase the potential for atmospheric air intrusion that could create a landfill fire/explosion hazard. The radius of the capture zone for a vertical extraction well may range from around 50 feet to 200 feet and is strongly dependent on localized landfill conditions. LFG recovery rates from an individual extraction well may range from approximately 10 to 50 cubic feet per minute (cfm).

A depiction of a typical well is shown as follows:

well

Each well must meet EPA standards and have the ability to capture all affluent so contamination of ground water does not occur.  Well extraction piping and well placement patterns may look as follows:

well-extraction-piping

A cross-section of a typical site indicates multiple wells with the landfill area.  The digital below will give you some idea as to schematic piping and flow.

methane-collection

As you can see, after accumulation, the affluent must be cleaned to remove methane.  Constituents possible within the “mix” are as follows:

organic-contaminants

Some of these contaminants are cancer-causing so they must be dealt with prior to collection.

You will notice in our example above; the collected and scrubbed methane is used to fire generators used to produce electricity.  This electricity may be sold back to the grid or used for industry and/or homes.

Examples of LFG Energy Projects:

Projects can vary significantly depending on the size of the landfill, the energy end-user, and other factors. Currently operational projects include:

  • Apex (50 million tons of waste) Las Vegas, NV – CC Landfill Energy LLC is building a plant that will produce 11 megawatts (MW) of electricity for NV Energy, a utility that serves approximately 2.4 million customers.
  • Puente Hills (123 M tons) Whittier, CA – The largest LFG-to-electricity program currently in production, Puente Hills produces 50 megawatts, enough to power roughly 50,000 homes. Additionally, some of Puente Hills’ gas is used to fuel garbage trucks.
  • Rumpke Sanitary (36 M tons) Colerain Township, OH – This landfill site hosts the largest landfill-to-gas facility in the world, recovering approximately 15 million standard cubic feet of LFG per day, which is then distributed by Duke Energy Corporation.
  • Newton County Landfill Partnership (19 M tons) Brook, IN – More than 1.1 million standard cubic feet of gas is captured from Newton County Landfill per day. The energy is used by a nearby factory to make egg cartons.
  • Atlantic Waste (15 M tons) Waverly, VA – This site has in place a 20-mile pipeline to Honeywell’s Hopewell plant. The landfill provides 20 percent of the energy used at the plant.

CONCLUSIONS:

Methane extraction is not only possible but is being accomplished across the United States.  The very short list above indicates those states and cities in which technology is being applied to provide usable energy from old-fashioned garbage.

BMW I NEXT

November 3, 2016


I think we are all aware that automotive trends point towards autonomous vehicles; i.e. “self-driving” cars.  Personally, I’m not too thrilled about the prospects and feel the reality of one in my driveway is down the road, if ever.   With that being the case, BMW, INTEL, and Mobileye have teamed up to bring autonomous vehicles to the BMW product line.  I must admit, this appears to be one “mean ride”.  Let’s take a very quick at the styling to date.

i-next

i-next2

As you can see, the styling is truly beautiful. Each company represents leadership in automotive technology, computer vision, and machine learning and share the opinion that automated driving technologies will make travel safer and easier.  No doubt, easier is a given but I have yet to be convinced safer is right around the corner.  There are significant challenges to overcome before road-worthy vehicles such as the i NEXT receives certification and goes into production for the buying public.

The goal of collaborative effort is to develop future-proofed solutions that will enable drivers to reach the so called “eyes-off”, or level 3, and ultimately the “mind-off” or level 4 by 2021. This would transform “getting there” to leisure and/or work time. BMW said the new i NEXT model will be the basis for future fleets of fully autonomous vehicles that will drive on both highways and in urban environments, which are far more challenging. A BMW spokesman said it expects a steering wheel and pedals to remain in the fully self-driving vehicle, in case the driver wants to be in control. I personally feel even these will be removed if the concept proves itself with greatly improved safety. By doing so, cost savings may be accomplished and reduction in system complexity.

While BMW lends its automotive expertise to the collaboration, INTEL is providing computing power ranging from its INTEL Atom to INTEL Xenon processors, which deliver up to one hundred (100) teraflops of power-efficient performance without having to rewrite code. Mobileye is developing software algorithms, system-on-chips, and customer applications based upon processing visual information for driver assistance systems.

BMW is actively revamping company concepts to assure direct competition with the likes of new OEM Tesla, along with the usual suspects, Audi and Mercedes-Benz. In March, the company showed its future ideas regarding vehicle autonomy via its Vision Next 100 concept cars. This was likely an overly obvious foreshadowing of the iNext platform.

Harald Krueger, BMW CEO told annual shareholders in Munich that the upcoming vehicle with “cutting-edge” electric drive-train and all new interior will be able to drive itself. The new release, along with BMW’s current “i” line are all efforts to compete in the luxury car electric vehicle market. This will be an addition to the line which already includes the i8 PHEV and the i3 BEV/REx. Krueger said:

i Next is set to be “our new innovation driver, with autonomous driving, digital connectivity, intelligent lightweight design, a totally new interior and ultimately bringing the next generation of electro-mobility to the road.”

In addition to this, as companies are realizing that car ownership is continually diminishing in “big city” environments, BMW has announced its jump onto the bandwagon of car-sharing and ride-sharing ventures. Its first delve into the scene is a car-sharing situation in Seattle, with the possibility of more such services to come.

The numbers are showing that Tesla is dominating the European market and lighting a fire under established automakers. Mercedes has been luckier than BMW with being ahead of the game, launching new product lineups and a multiplex of new models. BMW’s sales in the first quarter of 2016 only gained marginal success compared to that of Mercedes.

In an attempt to try to regain momentum and push ahead, BMW has cut prices by approximately six percent (5.9%) across the board. This is partly since the company’s available models are all “older” models, in direct comparison to the competitors. Nevertheless, BMW is reportedly still on par with 2016 projections.

Krueger, in his stockholder’s address, assured that for the seventh consecutive year, his company is on target. While, unfortunately, above target needs to be the goal when factoring in the accelerated growth of the dominant competition.

Krueger concluded:

“After our first quarter, we are on track for the full year. We have always stressed that our centenary is a springboard to the future.”

CONCLUSION:   I marvel at the technology.  There is absolutely no way any company or companies could have developed a vehicle such as this as far back as five (5) years ago.  The technology was just not there.  Hopefully, BMW is successful, but as I mentioned earlier, there are tremendous hurdles and challenges before the rubber hits the road.  I certainly wish them success.

INTELLIGENT FLEET SOLUTIONS

October 16, 2016


Ever been on an Interstate?  Ever travel those highways WITHOUT seeing one of the “big rigs”?  I don’t think so. I have a commute every day on Interstate 75 and even at 0530 hours the heavy-duty truck traffic is significant.  As I travel that route, I pass two rest stops dedicated solely for drivers needing to take a break.  They are always full; lights on, engines running. (More about that later.)

Let’s take a very quick look at transportation in the United States to get calibrated as to the scope and breadth of the transportation industry. (NOTE: The following information comes from TruckInfo.net.)

  • How big is the trucking industry?
    The trucking companies, warehouses and private sector in the U.S. employs an estimated 8.9 million people employed in trucking-related jobs; nearly 3.5 million were truck drivers. Of this figure UPS employs 60,000 workers and 9% are owner operators.  LTL shippers account for around 13.6 percent of America’s trucking sector.
  • How many trucks operate in the U.S.?
    Estimates of 15.5 million trucks operate in the U.S.  Of this figure 2 million are tractor trailers.
  • How many truckers are there?
    It is an estimated over 3.5 million truck drivers in the U.S.  Of that one in nine are independent, a majority of which are owner operators. Canada has in excess of 250,000 truck drivers.
  • How many trucking companies are there in the U.S.?
    Estimates of 1.2 million companies in the U.S. Of that figure 97% operate 20 or fewer while 90% operate 6 or fewer trucks.
  • How many miles does the transportation industry transports good in a year?
    In 2006 the transportation industry logged 432.9 billion miles. Class 8 trucks accounted for 139.3 billion of those miles, up from 130.5 billion in 2005
  • What is the volume of goods transported by the trucking industry?
    The United States economy depends on trucks to deliver nearly 70 percent of all freight transported annually in the U.S., accounting for $671 billion worth of manufactured and retail goods transported by truck in the U.S. alone. Add $295 billion in truck trade with Canada and $195.6 billion in truck trade with Mexico.

As you can see, the transportation industry, moving products from point “A” to point “B” by truck, is HUGE—absolutely HUGE.    With this being the case, our country has established goals to improving gas mileage for passenger cars, light trucks and heavy-duty trucks.  These goals are dedicated to improving gas mileage but also goals to reduce emissions.  Let’s take a look.

Passenger Car and Light Truck Standards for 2017 and beyond

In 2012, NHTSA established final passenger car and light truck CAFE standards for model years 2017-2021, which the agency projects will require in model year 2021, on average, a combined fleet-wide fuel economy of 40.3-41.0 mpg. As part of the same rulemaking action, EPA issued GHG standards, which are harmonized with NHTSA’s fuel economy standards that are projected to require 163 grams/mile of carbon dioxide (CO2) in model year 2025.  EPA will reexamine the GHG standards for model years 2022-2025 and NHTSA will set new CAFE standards for those model years in the next couple of years, based on the best available information at that time.

The Big Rigs

On June 19, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced major increases for fuel efficiency of heavy-duty trucks. Part of President Obama’s comprehensive Climate Action Plan, Phase 2 of the Heavy-Duty National Program tightens emission standards for heavy-duty trucks and includes big rigs, delivery vehicles, dump trucks and buses.  The updated efficiency rule for trucks joins a growing list of fuel efficiency measures, including the President’s 2012 doubling of fuel efficiency standards for cars and light-duty trucks (CAFE standards), as well as expected aircraft rules, following the agency’s finding that aircraft emissions endanger human health.

While the miles per gallon (mpg) rating of cars and light duty trucks has increased over the last decade or so, the fuel efficiency of heavy-duty trucks has held at 5 mpg for over four decades. Conversely, the average passenger vehicle reached 24 mpg in 2010.  Under CAFE, cars and light duty trucks are set to reach 54.5 MPG by 2025. 

According to EPA, heavy-duty trucks are the fastest growing emissions segment of the U.S. transportation sector; they are currently responsible for twenty percent (20%) of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, while comprising just four percent (4%) of on-road vehicles.  Heavy duty trucks power the consumer economy, carrying seventy percent (70%) of all U.S. freight – weighing in at 10 billion tons of everything from food to electronics, building materials, clothes and other consumer goods.

As you can see, the goals are not only reduction in fuel usage but improvements in emissions.  There are companies and programs dedicated to meeting these goals.  The reason for this post is to indicate that people and companies are working to provide answers; solving problems; providing value-added to our environment and even our way of life. One such company is Intelligent Fleet Solutions.

The big questions is, how do we meet these goals?  The burden is up to companies manufacturing the engines and design of the cabs and trailers.  Alternate fuels are one answer; i.e. using CNG (compressed natural gas), biofuels, hydrogen, etc. but maybe not the entire answer.

One manner in which these goals may be met is reducing engine idle while trucks are at rest.  The following chart will explain the dilemma and one target for reduction in petroleum consumption.

gas-usage-at-idle

This chart shows petroleum consumption of various vehicles at idle.  Notice: diesel engine consumption can use up to 1.00 gallon per hour when idling.  Question, can we lessen this consumption?

Companies designing and manufacturing devices to contribute to this effort are being introduced helping to drive us towards meeting really tough café goals.  One such company is Intelligent Fleet Solutions. Let’s take a look.

INTELLIGENT FLEET SOLUTIONS

What if the vehicle you drive could automatically alter its performance by doing the following?

  • Governing maximum speed in Class 8 vehicles
  • Optimizing acceleration
  • Providing for a more efficient cruise

If you look carefully at the following brochure you will see a device that provides all three.  The DERIVE program is downloaded into your vehicle’s ECM (Electronic Control Module) allowing control from generic to specific.  You are in control.  The program is contained in a hand-held pendent that “jacks” into the same receptacle used to reset your check engine light.  Heavy-duty trucks may have another port for this pendent but the same process is used.  The great part—the software is quick loading and low cost.  A driver or owner has a payback considerably less one year.  My friend Amy Dobrikova is an approved reseller for DERIVE technologies. Please contact her for further information at 765-617-8614.

derive

derive-2

CONCLUSIONS:  Intelligent Fleet Solutions performs a great service in helping to preserve non-renewable fossil fuels AND lessening or eliminating harmful effluent from our environment.  “Solutions” recognizes the fact that “all hands must be on deck” to solve emission problems and conserve remaining petroleum supplies.  This company embodies the fact that America is still THE country in which technology is applied to solve problems and insure specific goals are met.  Intelligent Fleet Solutions is a great contributor to that effort.  Check them out at intelligent-fleet.com

MY CAR–MY COMPUTER

September 8, 2016


In 1964 I became the very proud owner of a gun-metal grey, four-cylinder Ford Falcon.  My first car. I was the third owner but treated my ride as though it was a brand new Lamborghini.  It got me to and from the university, which was one hundred and eight (108) miles from home.  This was back in the days when gasoline was $0.84 per gallon.  No power breaks—no power steering—no power seats—no power door locks—no power windows—no fuel injection.  Very basic automobile, but it was mine and very appreciated by its owner.  OK—don’t laugh but shown below is a JPEG of the car type.

ford-falcon

Mine was grey, as mentioned, but the same body style.  (Really getting nostalgic now.)

I purchased instruction manuals on how to work on the engine, transmission and other parts of the car so I basically did my own maintenance and made all repairs and adjustments.  I can remember the engine compartment being large enough to stand in.  I had the four-cylinder model so there was more than enough room to get to the carburetor, starter/alternator, oil pan, spark plug wires, etc etc.

Evolution of the automobile has been significant since those days.  The most basic cars of today are dependent upon digital technology with the most sophisticated versions being rolling computers. Let’s now flash forward and take a look at what is available today.   We will use the latest information from the Ford Motor Company as an example.

Ford says the 2016 F-150 has more than 150 million (yes that’s million) lines of code in various computer systems sprinkled under the hood.    To put that in some perspective, a smartphone’s operating system has about twelve (12) million lines of code.  The space shuttle had about 400,000 lines.  Why so much software in a truck?  According to the company, it’s part of the Ford Smart Mobility plan to be a “leader in connectivity” mobility, autonomous vehicles, the customer experience, and data analytics.  Ford says it wants to be an auto and mobility company—in other words, hardware is becoming software, hence a moving computer to some degree.  This is where all up-scale cars and trucks are going in this decade and beyond.

If we look at vehicle technology, we get some idea as to what automobile owners expect, or at least would love to have, in their cars.  The following chart will indicate that. Quite frankly, I was surprised at the chart.

what-drivers-want

This is happening today—right now as you can see from the Ford F-150 information above.  Consumers DEMAND information and entertainment as they glide down the Interstates.   Let’s now take a look at connectivity and technology advances over the past decade.

  • Gasoline-Electric Hybrid Drivetrains
  • Direct Fuel Injection
  • Advanced/Variable/Compound Turbocharging
  • Dual-Clutch Transmissions
  • Torque-Vectoring Differentials
  • Satellite Radio and Multimedia Device Integration
  • Tire-Pressure Monitoring
  • ON-Star Availability
  • On-Board Wi-Fi
  • The Availability of HUM— (Verizon Telematics, a subsidiary of the biggest US wireless carrier, has launched a new aftermarket telematics vehicle platform that gives drivers detailed information on their car’s health and how to get help in the event of an emergency or car trouble.)
  • Complete Move from Analog to Digital Technology, Including Instrumentation.
  • Great Improvements in Security, i.e. Keyless Entry.
  • Ability to Pre-set “Creature Comforts” such as Seat Position, Lighting, etc.
  • Navigation, GPS Availability
  • Safety—Air Bag Technology
  • Ability to Parallel Park on Some Vehicles
  • Information to Provide Fuel Monitoring and Distance Remaining Relative to Fuel Usage
  • Rear Mounted Radar
  • Night Vision with Pedestrian Detection
  • Automatic High-Beam Control
  • Sensing Devices to Stop Car When Approaching Another Vehicle
  • Sensing to Driver and Passenger Side to Avoid Collision

All of these are made possible as a result of on-board computers with embedded technology.  Now, here is one problem I see—all of these marvelous digital devices will, at some point, need to be repaired or replaced.  That takes trained personnel using the latest maintenance manuals and diagnostic equipment.  The days of the shade-tree mechanic are over forever.  This was once-upon-a-time.  Of course you could move to Cuba. As far as automobiles, Cuba is still in the 50’s.  I personally love the inter-connectivity and information sharing the most modern automobiles are equipped with today.  I love state-of-the-art as it is applied to vehicles.  If we examine crash statistics, we see great improvements in safety as a result of these marvelous “adders”, not to mention significant improvement in creature comforts.

Hope you enjoy this one.


Our two oldest granddaughters attend Georgia State University in Atlanta, Georgia.  Great school and they have majors that will equip them well after graduation.  (No gender studies, basket weaving or quilting classes with these two.)  We visit them frequently, always enjoying our time together but dreading the commute to Atlanta. Love ‘hotlanta’ but absolutely HATE the congestion and that congestion begins about twenty (20) miles outside the city.   When the Braves, Falcons, Hawks, or Gladiators (Ice Hockey) are in town the congestion is doubled.  Interstate 75 is the main route to most of central Florida so summer-time travel is wonderful also.   You get the picture.

This got me to thinking, what is the monetary cost of travel?  Please note, I said monetary; not the cost of stress on one’s system, physical and mental. Data published in April of this year by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) puts the impact of being stuck in traffic into stark terms with a single data point: traffic congestion on the U.S. National Highway System added over $49.6 billion (yes that’s with a “B”) in operational costs to the trucking industry in 2014. That’s just added shipping costs for trucks delivering goods to clients and customers.  This does not include domestic agony experienced by a family of four trying to get to grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving dinner. The ATRI said congestion resulted in a calculated delay totaling more than 728 million hours of lost productivity, equaling 264,500 commercial truck drivers sitting idle for a working year.  More than a dozen states experienced increased costs of over one billion dollars ($1B) each due to congestion.  Traffic congestion tended to be most severe in urban areas, with eighty-eight percent (88%) of the congestion costs concentrated in only eighteen percent (18%) of the network mileage and ninety-five percent (95%) of the total congestion costs occurring in metropolitan areas.  The analysis also demonstrates the impact of congestion costs on a per-truck basis, with average increased costs of $26,625 for trucks that travel 150,000 miles annually.  At one time, traffic congestion was considered an indicator of growth, but                                                                                   above a certain threshold, congestion starts to become a huge drag on possible growth. Specifically, congestion seems to slow job growth when it gets to be worse than about thirty-five (35) to thirty-seven (37) hours of delay per commuter per year (or about four-and-a-half minutes per one-way trip, relative to free-flowing traffic).  A similar threshold exists when the entire road network gets too saturated throughout the course of the day (for transportation wonks, that’s at about 11,000 ADT per lane).  Above that four-and-a-half-minute threshold, however, something else happens: The quality of life of people making those commutes starts to decline. Now, if you have to spend a miserable hour or two five days a week just getting to work, you’re either going to require higher wages to compensate you, or you’re going to look for another job. And if congestion makes it harder to match the right workers to the best jobs, that’s economically inefficient, too.

When categorizing the delays impacting business, we see the following:

  1. Freight Delivery – market size, vehicle/fleet size, both cross-country and local
  2. Business Scheduling – delivery time shifts, reconfiguration of backhaul operations, use of relief drivers. Using Atlanta as an example, repair and replacement facilities, at one time, could accommodate an average of ten (10) clients per day.  Now, that’s down to six (6) per day due to congestion.  That’s money lost.
  3. Business Operations – inventory management, retail stocking, cross-docking
  4. Intermodal Connection Arrangements – access to truck/rail/air/sea interchange terminals.  Transportation must be scheduled and delays for any reason cost firms for rescheduling.
  5. Worker Travel and Compensation – worker time/cost, schedule reliability, “on-the-clock” work travel
  6. Business Relocation Issues – smaller dispersed location strategies, moves outside of major markets, shifts to production elsewhere
  7. Localized Interactions with Other Activities – land use/development and costs passed on to employees.

Each of these seven classes of business delays affect specific areas of the supply chain.  These systematic differences are important because they vary by industry, affect the ability of affected industries to mitigate congestion costs through work-around operational changes, and ultimately affect local economic competitiveness in different ways.

ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS:

Congestion also affects environmental areas. No one will be surprised to learn that areas with the largest number of cars on the road see higher levels of air pollution on average. Motor vehicles are one of the largest sources of pollution worldwide. You may be surprised to learn, however, that slower moving traffic emits more pollution than when cars move at freeway speeds. Traffic jams are bad for our air.  It seems intuitive that your car burns more fuel the faster you go. But the truth is that your car burns the most fuel while accelerating to get up to speed. Maintaining a constant speed against wind-resistance burns more or less a constant amount. It’s when you find yourself in a sea of orange traffic cones — stuck in what looks more like a parking lot than a highway — that your car really starts eating up gas. The constant acceleration and braking of stop-and-go traffic burns more gas, and therefore pumps more pollutants into the air.

The relationship between driving speed and pollution isn’t perfectly linear although one study suggests that emissions start to go up when average freeway speed dips below forty-five (45) miles per hour (mph). They also start to go up dramatically as the average speed goes above 65 mph. So, the “golden zone” for fuel-consumption and emissions from your vehicle may be somewhere between 45 and 65 mph. Stopping and starting in traffic jams burns fuel at a higher rate than smooth rate of travel on the open highway. This increase in fuel consumption costs commuters additional money for fuel and contributes to the amount of emissions released by the vehicles. These emissions create air pollution related to global warming.

This leads to a dilemma for urban planners trying to develop roadways that will reduce congestion with an eye to reducing the pollution that it causes. Laying out the traffic cones for massive freeway expansion projects sends air-quality plummeting, but the hope is that air-quality will improve somewhat once the cones are gone and everyone is cruising along happily at regular freeway speeds. Ironically, since the average freeway speeds for non-congested traffic hover around seventy (70) mph and above (with states like Texas looking to increase their speed limits), air-quality is unlikely to improve — and may actually worsen — once those highway improvements are finished.

ROAD RAGE:

This is horrible but we see news releases everday concerning drivers that just “lose” it.  Eight out of ten drivers surveyed in the AAA Foundation’s annual Traffic Safety culture Index rank aggressive driving as a “serious” or “extremely serious” risk that jeopardizes their safety. Although “road rage” incidents provide some of the most shocking views of aggressive driving, many common behaviors, including racing, tailgating, failing to observe signs and regulations, and seeking confrontations with other drivers, all qualify as potentially aggressive behaviors. Speeding is one of the most prevalent aggressive behaviors. AAA Foundation studies show that speeding is a factor in one-third of all fatal crashes.

Despite a strong public awareness and understanding of aggressive driving, many people are willing to excuse aggressive behaviors.  Half of all drivers in our Traffic Safety Culture Index admitted to exceeding both neighborhood and highway speed limits by more than fifteen percent (15%) in the past thirty (30) days.  More remarkable, a quarter of drivers say they consider speeding acceptable. Much of the road rage we see results from having been in bumper-to-bumper traffic previously.  THAT is a proven fact.

CONCLUSIONS:

Traffic hurts—our economy, our environment, our relationships with family and coworkers, and physical health.  As always, I welcome your comments.


As you probably know, I don’t “DO” politics.  I stay with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).  In other words, subjects I actually know something about.  With that being the case, I do feel the technical community must have definite opinions relative to pronouncements made by our politicians.  Please keep in mind; most politicians have other than technical degrees so they are dependent upon input from individuals in the STEM professions.  That’s really what this post is about—opinions relative to Senator Sander’s Energy Plan. (NOTE: My facts are derived from Senator Sander’s web site and Design News Daily Magazine.  Mr. Charles Murray wrote an article in March detailing several points of Sander’s plan. )

Sanders’ ideas seemingly represent a growing viewpoint with the American population at large. He fared fairly well in the Iowa caucuses and won the New Hampshire primary election although history indicates he will not be the Democratic candidate facing the GOP representative unless Secretary Clinton is indicted by the FBI.  I personally feel this has a snowball’s chance of happening.    Sanders’ popularity provides an opportunity for engineers to weigh in on some of the hard issues facing the country in the energy arena. We want to know:  How do seasoned engineers react to some of his ideas? Let’s look first at a brief statement from “Bernie” relative to his ideas on energy.

“Right now, we have an energy policy that is rigged to boost the profits of big oil companies like Exxon, BP, and Shell at the expense of average Americans. CEO’s are raking in record profits while climate change ravages our planet and our people — all because the wealthiest industry in the history of our planet has bribed politicians into complacency in the face of climate change. Enough is enough. It’s time for a political revolution that takes on the fossil fuel billionaires, accelerates our transition to clean energy, and finally puts people before the profits of polluters.”

                                                                                                — Senator Bernie Sanders

THE GOALS

Bernie’s comprehensive plan to combat climate change and insure our planet is habitable and safe for our kids and grandkids will:

  • Cut U.S. carbon pollution by forty percent (40%) by 2030 and by over eighty percent (80%) by 2050 by 1.) putting a tax on carbon pollution, 2.) repealing fossil fuel subsidies and 3.) Making massive investments in energy efficiency and clean, sustainable energy such as wind and solar power.
  • Create a Clean-Energy Workforce of ten (10) million good-paying jobs by creating a one hundred percent (100%) clean energy system. Transitioning toward a completely nuclear-free clean energy system for electricity, heating, and transportation is not only possible and affordable it will create millions of good jobs, clean up our air and water, and decrease our dependence on foreign oil.
  • Return billions of dollars to consumers impacted by the transformation of our energy system and protect the most vulnerable communities in the country suffering the ravages of climate change. Bernie will tax polluters causing the climate crisis, and return billions of dollars to working families to ensure the fossil fuel companies don’t subject us to unfair rate hikes. Bernie knows that climate change will not affect everyone equally – disenfranchised minority communities and the working poor will be hardest hit. The carbon tax will also protect those most impacted by the transformation of our energy system and protect the most vulnerable communities in the country suffering the ravages of climate change.

THE PLAN:

  1. Acceleration Away from Fossil Fuels. Sanders proposes a carbon tax that he believes would reduce carbon pollution 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050. He also wants to ban Arctic oil drilling, ban offshore drilling, stop pipeline projects like the Keystone XL, stop exports of liquefied natural gas and crude oil, ban fracking for natural gas, and ban mountaintop removal coal mining.  Ban fossil fuels lobbyists from working in the White House. Massive lobbying and unlimited super PAC donations by the fossil fuel industry gives these profitable companies disproportionate influence on our elected leaders. This practice is business as usual in Washington and it is not acceptable. Heavy-handed lobbying causes climate change skepticism. It has no place in the executive office.
  2. Investment in Clean Sustainable Energy. Sanders proposes investments in development of solar, wind, and geothermal energy plants, as well as cellulosic ethanol, algae-based fuels, and energy storage. As part of his move to cleaner energy sources, he is also calling for a moratorium on nuclear power plant license renewals in the US.
  3. Revolutionizing of Electric Transportation Infrastructure. To begin ridding the country of tailpipe emissions, Sanders wants to build electric vehicle charging stations, as well as high-speed passenger rail and cargo systems. Funds, he says, would also be needed to update and modernize the existing energy grid. Finally, he is calling for extension of automotive fuel economy standards to 65 mpg, instead of the planned 54.5 mpg, by 2025.
  4. Reclaiming of Our Democracy from the Fossil Fuel Lobby. Sanders wants to ban fossil fuel lobbyists from the White House. More importantly, he is proposing a “climate justice plan” that would bring deniers to justice “so we can aggressively tackle climate change.” He has already called for an investigation of Exxon Mobil, his website says.

COMMENTS FROM ENGINEERS:

  • As engineers we should recognize the value of confronting real problems rather than dwelling on demagoguery. Go Bernie.  This comment is somewhat generic but included because there is an incredible quantity of demagoguery in political narrative today.  Most of what we here is without specifics.
  • “Without fuel, we have no material or energy to manufacture anything. Plastics, fertilizer (food), metals, medicine –- all rely on fuel … We are not going to reduce our need for fuel by eighty percent (80%) without massive technology breakthroughs.”  I might add, those breakthroughs are decades away from being cost effective.
  • “I like the idea of renewable energy and I think there are many places in which we are on the right track. A big question is how fast it takes to get there. The faster the transition, the more pain will occur … The slower the transition, the more comfortably we’ll all be able to adapt.”
  • “Imagine if we had rolling power outages throughout the United States on a daily basis because of the shutdown of coal or nuclear power plants.”
  • Another engineer wrote that “the actual numbers of death and cancer risks associated with all the nuclear disasters from Three Mile Island to (Chernobyl) and the Fukushima plant pale in comparison to the result of death and misery of coal and fossil fuel power plants supplying most of our electricity today and for the foreseeable future.”
  • Another commenter said that “for Sanders to rid the US of fossil fuels, he must be one hundred percent (100%) in favor of nuclear energy. No amount of wind, solar, or geothermal will ever replace an ever-growing energy need.”
  • Little or no attention in the forum was paid to the issue of intermittency –- in particular, whether a grid that’s heavy in renewables would be plagued by intermittency problems and, if so, how that might be solved. Intermittent problems where no electrical power will NOT be tolerated by the US population.  I think that’s a given.  We are dependent upon electrical energy.  This certainly includes needed security.

As a parting shot we read: “I am suggesting that folks carefully examine the record of those yelling the loudest, and then decide what to believe,” noted reader William K. “As engineering professionals, we should always be examining the history as well as the current.”

I would offer a sanity check:  WE WILL NEVER COMPLETELY REMOVE OURSELVES FROM THE PRODUCTS PROVIDED BY FOSSIL FUELS.  We must get over it.  As always, I welcome your comments.

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