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.

FARADAY FUTURE FFZERO1

January 5, 2017


I certainly had no idea engineers and automobile manufacturers have been working on autonomous or driverless automobiles for years. Experiments have been conducted on automating automobiles since the 1920.  Very promising trials took place in the 1950s and work has proceeded since then. The first self-sufficient and truly autonomous cars appeared in the 1980s, with Carnegie Mellon University‘s Navlab and ALV  projects in 1984 and Mercedes-Benz and Bundeswehr University Munich‘s Eureka Prometheus Projects in 1987. Since then, numerous major companies and research organizations have developed working prototype autonomous vehicles including Mercedes-BenzGeneral MotorsContinental Automotive Systems,  Autoliv Inc., Bosch, Nissan, Toyota, Audi, Volvo, Vislab from the University of Parma, Oxford University, and Google.  In July 2013, Vislab demonstrated the BRAiVE, a vehicle that moved autonomously on a mixed traffic route open to public traffic.  

As of 2013, four U.S. states have passed laws permitting autonomous cars: NevadaFloridaCalifornia, and Michigan.  With the intensity involved, I’m quite sure there will be others to follow.   In Europe, cities in Belgium, France, Italy and the UK are planning to operate transport systems for driverless cars, and Germany, the Netherlands, and Spain have allowed testing robotic cars in traffic.

There is absolutely no way progress could be accomplished without technologies such as GPS, proximity sensors, visual cameras and of course the software necessary to drive each system and integrate each system so success may result.  These technologies will continue to improve over the next few years.  I heard a comment yesterday that indicated if your son or daughter is under ten years old, he or she may never have the need for a driver’s license.  Time will tell.

CLASSIFICATIONS OF DRIVERLESS VEHICLES:

The American Society of Automotive Engineers has developed five stages or classifications of autonomous automobiles.  These stages are as follows:

sae-classifications

FARADAY FUTURE FFZERO1:  THE CAR

I would like to introduce to you now the FARADAY FUTURE FFZERO1.   Future’s 1,000-horsepower concept car should make Tesla very, very nervous.  The media announcement was made just this week and is as follows:

LAS VEGAS — With a thumping bass soundtrack in a lengthy airplane hangar-like building in Vegas, Faraday Future unveiled their new FF 91 electric “super car” on 4 January 2017.

The automaker was criticized at last year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) for showing off their FFZERO1 concept car, which turned out to be more style than substance. This year’s unveiling of the FF 91 was different, in that they attempted to show off a real vehicle that consumers will be able to order soon.

Filled with more hyperbole and superlatives than a car show and tech conference combined, Faraday Future promises the fastest acceleration for a production automobile at 0-60mph in 2.39s with a whopping 1050hp. They also laid claim to the most advanced battery technology in the industry, and boldly claimed they would disrupt all aspects of the car industry.

Faraday Future even dared to put themselves on a roadmap of “historical steps in technology,” equating their electric vehicle to the creation of the electric motor by Michael Faraday, alternating current by Nikola Tesla and even the internet by Tim Berners-Lee.  Digital pictures that follow will indicate the overall design of the vehicle. The first JPEG shows the initial rollout and introduction at the CES 2017 this week.

unveiling-and-media-announcement

faraday-concept

faraday-2

faraday-1

DESCRIPTION:

First off, although it’s a concept high-performance one-seater, it rides on FF’s new Variable Platform Architecture (VPA) on which it will base all its future cars. Essentially, it’s a skateboard-style chassis with that allows FF to easily scale up or down the platform for different vehicle types.  Moreover, with this layout, FF can have one, two or three motor setups, making for front-, rear- or all-wheel drive. And, from a safety standpoint, the structure also makes for larger crumple zones. While the variable chassis is all well and good, you won’t spend any time interacting with it, really. You will, however, spend lots of time in the FF cabin. Thankfully, that’s been as well thought out as the platform.

Inside the FFZERO1, just like future FF production cars, the steering column has been fitted with a smartphone. This allows it to become the focal point for the interface between the driver and the car — from sitting behind the wheel or from inside the owner’s home. When commanded by that smartphone, the autonomous FFZERO1 (oh, yeah, it can drive itself, too) can come retrieve the driver.     More of that as we move along.

The driver sits at a perfect 45-degree angle that is most beneficial to circulation in a seat derived from NASA designs. There, the driver can easily view the propeller-shaped, asymmetric instrument panel. Moreover, in this electric race car, the driver wears an unique Halo Safety System with integrated head and neck support, oxygen and water supply — combined into a prototype helmet.

Rethinking where passengers are placed in a vehicle, since all the power components are beneath the driver rather than in front, Faraday Future designers pushed the driver near the front and shaped around the single seat a “perfectly aerodynamic teardrop profile.” This is accented by FF’s soon-to-be signature ‘UFO line’ that runs around the center of the vehicle. This mystical line and is, as FF put it, “intended to give the sense that this vehicle is not completely of this world.”

Combining form and function, FF has created aero tunnels that run through the interior length of the vehicle. These allow air to flow through the car rather than around it. More than accentuating the alien look of the thing, the tunnels also dramatically reduce drag and improve battery cooling. This does away for any need of bulky, space-stealing radiator.  This is truly an innovative design and one that surely will be copied by other manufactures.

Amazingly, all of this was pulled together in just 18 months when the team of multidisciplinary experts from the technology, automotive, aerospace and digital content came together to create a new line of electric cars. Apparently working nights and weekends, FF was able to take the all-digital FFZERO1 and turn it into the concept model you see today.

The FFZERO1 unveiling comes after news of FF’s plans to invest $1 billion, reportedly backed by the Chinese, in the creation of a 3 million-square-foot manufacturing facility in North Las Vegas. FF plans to break ground on this phase one investment in the next few weeks, ultimately employing 4,500 people.

Now, if you’re anything like me, you’re already wondering how such a team and design happened to come together so quickly and create something that seems not only promising but also industry-changing. Is Faraday Future the cover for the long-rumored Apple Car set to debut in 2019? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

SELF-DRIVING:

A very impressive demonstration was the self-parking capability of the vehicle itself.

self-parking

The company demonstrated a self-parking capability in the lot outside, showing the car searching the aisles for an empty space and then backing in to it.

COSTS AND AVAILABILITY:

Faraday plans to release the FF91 in 2018. To pre-order, hopefuls will need to provide a refundable $5,000 (£4,080) deposit.  Prospective buyers were told they would be able to connect to the forthcoming car via a virtual “FFID” account.

“For the car to have a 130-kWh battery pack, it would be very heavy, and very expensive – extremely expensive to have a battery that size.”  On stage, Faraday executive Peter Savagian explained that the FF19 would be chargeable from various electrical standards. He added its range would extend to 482 miles (775km) when driven at 55mph. Many analysts expect interest in electric vehicles to continue to rise in coming years. “We estimate around one in 10 vehicles will be electric or hybrid by 2020, at around 8 million vehicles,” said Simon Bryant at analysts Futuresource.  I personally feel this is very optimistic but time will certainly tell.  I do not plan on owning a driverless vehicle in my lifetime but who knows.

As always, I welcome your comments.


I want us to consider a “what-if” scenario.  You are thirty-two years old, out of school, and have finally landed a job you really enjoy AND you are actually making money at that job. You have your expenses covered with “traveling money” left over for a little fun.  You recently discovered the possibility that Social Security (SS), when you are ready to retire, will be greatly reduced if not completely eliminated. You MUST start saving for retirement and consider SS to be the icing on the cake if available at all.  QUESTION: Where do you start?  As you investigate the stock markets you find stocks seem to be the best possibility for future income.  Stocks, bonds, “T” bills, etc. all are possibilities but stocks are at the top of the list.

People pay plenty of money for consulting giants to help them figure out which technology trends are fads and which will stick. You could go that route, or get the same thing from the McKinsey Global Institute’s in-house think-tank for the cost of a new book. No Ordinary Disruption: The Four Global Forces Breaking All the Trends, was written by McKinsey directors Richard Dobbs, James Manyika, and Jonathan Woetzel, and offers insight into which developments will have the greatest impact on the business world in coming decades. If you chose stocks, you definitely want to look at technology sectors AND consider companies contributing products to those sectors.  The following list from that book may help.  Let’s take a look.

Below, we’re recapping their list of the “Disruptive Dozen”—the technologies the group believes have the greatest potential to remake today’s business landscape.

Batteries

energy-storage

The book’s authors predict that the price of lithium-ion battery packs could fall by a third in the next 10 years, which will have a big impact on not only electric cars, but renewable energy storage. There will be major repercussions for the transportation, power generation, and the oil and gas industries as batteries grow cheaper and more efficient.  Battery technology will remain with us and will contribute to ever-increasing product offerings as time goes by.  Companies supplying this market sector will only increase in importance.

Genomics

genomics

As super computers make the enormously complicated process of genetic analysis much simpler, the authors foresee a world in which “genomic-based diagnoses and treatments will extend patients’ lives by between six months and two years in 2025.” Sequencing systems could eventually become so commonplace that doctors will have them on their desktops.  This is a rapidly growing field and one that has and will save lives.

Material Science

advanced-materials

The ability to manipulate existing materials on a molecular level has already enabled advances in products like sunglasses, bike frames, and medical equipment. Scientists have greater control than ever over nanomaterials in a variety of substances, and their understanding is growing. Health concerns recently prompted Dunkin’ Donuts to remove nanomaterials from their food. But certain advanced nanomaterials show promise for improving health, and even treating cancer. Coming soon: materials that are self-healing, self-cleaning, and that remember their original shape even if they’re bent.

Self-Driving or Autonomous Automobiles

self-driving-vehicles

Autonomous cars are coming, and fast. By 2025, the “driverless revolution” could already be “well underway,” the authors write. All the more so if laws and regulations in the U.S. can adapt to keep up. Case in point: Some BMW cars already park themselves. You will not catch me in a self-driving automobile unless the FED and the auto maker can assure me they are safe.  Continuous effort is being expended to do just that.  These driverless automobiles are coming and we all may just as well get used to it.

Alternate Energy Solutions

reneuable-energy

Wind and solar have never really been competitive with fossil fuels, but McKinsey predicts that status quo will change thanks to technology that enables wider use and better energy storage. In the last decade, the cost of solar energy has already fallen by a factor of 10, and the International Energy Agency predicts that the sun could surpass fossil fuels to become the world’s largest source of electricity by 2050.  I might include with wind and solar, methane recovery from landfills, biodiesel, compressed natural gas, and other environmentally friendly alternatives.

Robotic Systems

advanced-robotics

The robots are coming! “Sales of industrial robots grew by 170% in just two years between 2009 and 2011,” the authors write, adding that the industry’s annual revenues are expected to exceed $40 billion by 2020. As robots get cheaper, more dexterous, and safer to use, they’ll continue to grow as an appealing substitute for human labor in fields like manufacturing, maintenance, cleaning, and surgery.

3-D Printing

3-d-printing

Much-hyped additive manufacturing has yet to replace traditional manufacturing technologies, but that could change as systems get cheaper and smarter. “In the future, 3D printing could redefine the sale and distribution of physical goods,” the authors say. Think buying an electric blueprint of a shoe, then going home and printing it out. The book notes that “the manufacturing process will ‘democratize’ as consumers and entrepreneurs start to print their own products.”

Mobile Devices

mobile-internet

The explosion of mobile apps has dramatically changed our personal experiences (goodbye hookup bars, hello Tinder), as well as our professional lives. More than two thirds of people on earth have access to a mobile phone, and another two or three billion people are likely to gain access over the coming decade. The result: internet-related expenditures outpace even agriculture and energy, and will only continue to grow.

Artificial Intelligence

automation-of-knowledge

It’s not just manufacturing jobs that will be largely replaced by robots and 3D printers. Dobbs, Manyika, and Woetzel report that by 2025, computers could do the work of 140 million knowledge workers. If Watson can win at “Jeopardy!” there’s nothing stopping computers from excelling at other knowledge work, ranging from legal discovery to sports coverage.

 

The Internet of Things (IoT)

iot

Right now, 99% of physical objects are unconnected to the “internet of things.” It won’t last. Going forward, more products and tools will be controlled via the internet, the McKinsey directors say, and all kinds of data will be generated as a result. Expect sensors to collect information on the health of machinery, the structural integrity of bridges, and even the temperatures in ovens.

Cloud Technology

cloud-technology

The growth of cloud technology will change just how much small businesses and startups can accomplish. Small companies will get “IT capabilities and back-office services that were previously available only to larger firms—and cheaply, too,” the authors write. “Indeed, large companies in almost every field are vulnerable, as start-ups become better equipped, more competitive, and able to reach customers and users everywhere.”

Oil Production

advanced-oil-technology

The International Energy Agency predicts the U.S. will be the world’s largest producer of oil by 2020, thanks to advances in fracking and other technologies, which improved to the point where removing oil from hard-to-reach spots finally made economic sense. McKinsey directors expect increasing ease of fuel extraction to further shift global markets.  This was a real surprise to me but our country has abundant oil supplies and we are already fairly self-sufficient.

Big Data

big-data

There is an ever-increasing accumulation of data from all sources.  At no time in our global history has there been a greater thirst for information.  We count and measure everything now days with the recent election being one example of that very fact.  Those who can control and manage big data are definitely ahead of the game.

CONCLUSION:  It’s a brave new world and a world that accommodates educated individuals.  STAY IN SCHOOL.  Get ready for what’s coming.  The world as we know it will continue to change with greater opportunities as time advances.  Be there.  Also, I would recommend investing in those technology sectors that feed the changes.  I personally don’t think a young investor will go wrong.

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.

HYPERLOOP

May 11, 2016


I think the most enduring and beneficial technology is evolutionary and not necessarily revolutionary.

The concept of “additive” manufacturing, specifically Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), began in a humble fashion. Carl Deckard and Joe Beaman, a professor at the University of Texas, Austin, began work in 1989 while Deckard was working on his Master’s Degree and later on his PhD.  Today, “additive” manufacturing is a multi-million dollar business with immense possibilities.

Henry Ford’s model “T” came long before the sleek Lamborghini.

Wilber and Orville struggled for years to design, produce and fly their bi-wing marvel. The evolutionary result is the Lockheed/Martin F-35, the Lockheed/Martin F-22 Raptor, the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, the Boeing 777, the Airbus 380 and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

A newly employed engineer for Texas Instruments (TI) named Jack Kirby recorded his initial idea for integrated circuits in July of 1958.  The concept was successfully demonstrated on 12 September 1958.  Kirby won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2000.  Rest is history.

Tetris, Wii, Minecraft, Super Mario Brothers had their start in October 1958 when a physicist named William Higinbotham created what is thought to be the first  video game.  It was a very simple tennis game similar to the classic 1970 came of Pong.

You get the picture—you know where I’m going.  Technology is, for the most part, a process that evolves as need arises.  I want to take a look at a fascinating, new technology now being called “Hyperloop”.

CONCEPT:

The Hyperloop is a conceptual high-speed transportation system originally put forward by entrepreneur Elon Musk.  The concept incorporates reduced-pressure tubes in which pressurized capsules ride on an air cushion driven by linear induction motors and air compressors.  If you look at the digital photograph below you will see the proposed speed is around 760 miles per hour. (Faster than a 57 Chevy!) Please note also the comparison in miles per hour with other transportation systems.  The only faster passenger mode of transportation is the now-retired Concord.

The Hyperloop is a very high speed, inter-city transportation system conveying passengers and cargo with a yearly projected target capacity of fifteen (15) million passengers.  Mr. Musk envisioned the system as an alternative to the California High-Speed Rail project, thus taking direct aim at the California plan for a sixty-nine (69) billion dollar high-speed train.  Musk said the Hyperloop system would cost merely six ($6) billion and move people between San Francisco and Los Angeles in about half an hour rather than three hours.

Hyperloop Concept

A picture of the passenger pod is given as follows:

THE PASSENGER POD:

Passenger Pod

The climate controlled capsule travels inside of a reinforced ‘tube’ pathway, rendering the Hyperloop Transportation System weather independent and earthquake safe thanks to the use of pylons.

The futuristic transit system would consist of low-pressure steel tubes with aluminum capsules or pods supported on a cushion of air.  The tubes, which would be outfitted with solar panels for power, would be built on elevated tracks alongside Interstate 5 in California.  The entire structure would be elevated as much as one hundred feet above intended routes.

The concept is further demonstrated with the digitals that follow.



Concept and Elevations

Concept and Route

HISTORY:

From late 2012 until August 2013, an informal group of engineers at both Tesla and SpaceX worked on the conceptual foundation and modeling of Hyperloop, allocating full-time effort toward the end.   An early design for the system was then published in a white paper posted to the Tesla and SpaceX blogs.   The permanent team is shown in the JPEG below.  As you can see, the team is now in place and working to test the theories and operating principals.

In December 2015, the company announced plans to begin testing on an open-air track in Nevada beginning in January 2016, with hopes of reaching speeds of 700 mph (1,100 km/h) by the end of the year.  Hyperloop Technologies or HT, procured fifty (50) acres of land and fabricated tube sections in order to build a test track in the Nevada desert. The test track is approximately 0.62 mi (1 km). The initial testing explores the ability of the company’s linear electric motor to accelerate the test vehicle to 335 mph (539 km/h). Thereafter the company plans to construct a full-scale 1.9 mi (3 km) test track where levitated pods will pass through low-friction tubes. The first test was very successful and occurred on 10 May 2016. In other words, today.

The Hyperloop Team

OBSTICLES:

First, let’s talk about air. If you travel quickly, air piles up in front of you. The faster you go, the more the air piles up in front and the more resistance develops. This means you have to push even harder. And it’s not what we physicists call a “linear effect”. The faster you go, the worse it is. Bumping up your speed from 10 MPH to 20 MPH doesn’t take nearly as much effort as bumping it up from 110 MPH to 120 MPH. It’s why railway cars like the ones on the Shinkansen in Japan are so streamlined: to help the air flow over them and reduce how much piles up in front.

The second problem you get with high-speed transport is friction between you and the road, where “road” can be an actual road or rails or cushiony magnetic field. Steel wheels on rails produce a lot of friction and heating. Maglev trains get around that by having the trains float on a magnetic field. There are magnets in the track and magnets in the train that repel each other.

The biggest issues are speed and scale. The Hyperloop was pitched as faster as and cheaper than alternatives like cars and trains, but even small shifts in those numbers can dramatically change how it stacks up. It’s easy to imagine safety concerns limiting Hyperloop speeds to just a fraction of its theoretical top speed or right-of-way issues keeping stations far from urban centers. Would we still be excited about the Hyperloop if a 30-minute trek became a three-hour one?  What if it cost $60 billion instead the promised $6 billion? After enough setbacks, it might not be worth developing the technology at all. Those deployment details are life-or-death issues for the Hyperloop, but as long as the tests are focused on small-scale loops, it’s not clear we’ll ever get answers to them.

Some feel the biggest hurdle isn’t the tech behind Hyperloop; it’s the land rights and every other bureaucratic obstacle that goes along with building enormous infrastructure projects.  I personally feel this may be the biggest problem—red tape associated with the project.  The actual placement of the tubes and the route itself could be in the courts for years, maybe decades. I’m sure there would need to be environmental impact studies associated with selecting the route and this could tie the project to the state and Federal government.  The Fed is basically non-functioning  at this time so delays should and must be expected.   This is the country we live in.

THE FUTURE:

HT is very aggressive and has proposed routes as given below.  As you can see, they intend to criss-cross the country with high speed service.  Very aggressive.

Potential Routes

CONCLUSION:

This IS a project to watch and with today being the first test there is cause to be optimistic.  Let’s wish Mr. Musk and his team the very best of luck.

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