DISTRACTIONS

October 18, 2017


Is there anyone in the United States who does NOT use our road systems on a daily basis?  Only senior citizens in medical facilities and those unfortunate enough to have health problems stay off the roads.  I have a daily commute of approximately thirty-seven (37) miles, one way, and you would not believe what I see.  Then again, maybe you would.  You’ve been there, done that, got the “T” shirt.

It’s no surprise to learn that information systems cause driver distraction, but recent news from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety indicated the problem may be worse than we thought. A study released by the organization showed that the majority of today’s information technologies are complex, frustrating, and maybe even dangerous to use. Working with researchers from the University of Utah, AAA analyzed the systems in thirty (30) vehicles, rating them on how much visual and cognitive demand they placed on drivers. The conclusion: None of the thirty-produced low demand. Twenty-three (23) of the systems generated “high” or “very high” demand.

“Removing eyes from the road for just two seconds doubles the risk for a crash,” AAA wrote in a press release. “With one in three adults using the systems available while driving, AAA cautions that using these technologies while behind the wheel can have dangerous consequences.”

In the study, University of Utah researchers examined visual (eyes-on-the-road) and cognitive (mental) demands of each system, and looked at the time required to complete tasks. Tasks included the use of voice commands and touch screens to make calls, send texts, tune the radio and program navigation. And the results were uniformly disappointing—really disappointing.

We are going to look at the twelve (12) vehicles categorized by researchers as having “very high demand” information systems. The vehicles vary from entry-level to luxury and sedan to SUV, but they all share one common trait: AAA says the systems distract drivers.  This is to me very discouraging.  Here we go.

CONCLUSIONS:

I’m definitely NOT saying don’t buy these cars but it is worth knowing and compensating for when driving.

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In preparation for this post, I asked my fifteen-year old grandson to define product logistics and product supply chain.  He looked at me as though I had just fallen off a turnip truck.  I said you know, how does a manufacturer or producer of products get those products to the customer—the eventual user of the device or commodity.  How does that happen? I really need to go do my homework.  Can I think about this and give you an answer tomorrow?

SUPPLY CHAIN LOGISTICS:

Let’s take a look at Logistics and Supply Chain Management:

“Logistics typically refers to activities that occur within the boundaries of a single organization and Supply Chain refers to networks of companies that work together and coordinate their actions to deliver a product to market. Also, traditional logistics focuses its attention on activities such as procurement, distribution, maintenance, and inventory management. Supply Chain Management (SCM) acknowledges all of traditional logistics and also includes activities such as marketing, new product development, finance, and customer service” – from Essential of Supply Chain Management by Michael Hugos.

“Logistics is about getting the right product, to the right customer, in the right quantity, in the right condition, at the right place, at the right time, and at the right cost (the seven Rs of Logistics)” – from Supply Chain Management: A Logistics Perspective By John J. Coyle et al

Now, that wasn’t so difficult, was it?  A good way to look at is as follows:

MOBILITY AND THE SUPPLY CHAIN:

There have been remarkable advancements in supply chain logistics over the past decade.  Most of those advancements have resulted from companies bringing digital technologies into the front office, the warehouse, and transportation to the eventual customer.   Mobile technologies are certainly changing how products are tracked outside the four walls of the warehouse and the distribution center.  Realtime logistics management is within the grasp of many very savvy shippers.  To be clear:

Mobile networking refers to technology that can support voice and/or data network connectivity using wireless, via a radio transmission solution. The most familiar application of mobile networking is the mobile phone or tablet or i-pad.  From real-time goods tracking to routing assistance to the Internet of Things (IoT) “cutting wires” in the area that lies between the warehouse and the customer’s front door is gaining ground as shippers grapple with fast order fulfillment, smaller order sizes, and ever-evolving customer expectations.

In return for their tech investments, shippers and logistics managers are gaining benefits such as short-ended lead times, improved supply chain visibility, error reductions, optimized transportation networks and better inventory management.  If we combine these advantages we see that “wireless” communications are helping companies work smarter and more efficiently in today’s very fast-paced business world.

MOBILITY TRENDS:

Let’s look now at six (6) mobility trends.

  1. Increasingly Sophisticated Vehicle Communications—There was a time when the only contact a driver had with home base was after an action, such as load drop-off, took place or when there was an in-route problem. Today, as you might expect, truck drivers, pilots and others responsible for getting product to the customer can communicate real-time.  Cell phones have revolutionized and made possible real-time communication.
  2. Trucking Apps—By 2015, Frost & Sullivan indicated the size of the mobile trucking app market hit $35.4 billion dollars. Mobile apps are being launched, targeting logistics almost constantly. With the launch of UBER Freight, the competition in the trucking app space has heated up considerably, pressing incumbents to innovate and move much faster than ever before.
  3. Its’ Not Just for the Big Guys Anymore: At one time, fleet mobility solutions were reserved for larger companies that could afford them.  As technology has advanced and become more mainstream and affordable, so have fleet mobility solution.
  4. Mobility Helps Pinpoint Performance and Productivity Gaps: Knowing where everything is at any one given time is “golden”. It is the Holy Grail for every logistics manager.  Mobility is putting that goal within their reach.
  5. More Data Means More Mobile Technology to Generate and Support Logistics: One great problem that is now being solved, is how to handle perishable goods and refrigerated consumer items.  Shippers who handle these commodities are now using sensors to detect trailer temperatures, dead batteries, and other problems that would impact their cargos.  Using sensors, and the data they generate, shippers can hopefully make much better business decisions and head off problems before they occur.  Sensors, if monitored properly, can indicate trends and predict eventual problems.
  6. Customers Want More Information and Data—They Want It Now: Customer’s expectations for real-time shipment data is now available at their fingertips without having to pick up a telephone or send an e-mail.  Right now, that information is available quickly online or with a smartphone.

CONCLUSIONS: 

The world is changing at light speed, and mobility communications is one technology making this possible.  I have no idea as to where we will be in ten years, but it just might be exciting.

V2V TECHNOLOGY

September 9, 2017


You probably know this by now if you read my postings—my wife and I love to go to the movies.  I said GO TO THE MOVIES, not download movies but GO.  If you go to a matinée, and if you are senior, you get a reduced rate.  We do that. Normally a movie beginning at 4:00 P.M. will get you out by 6:00 or 6:30 P.M. Just in time for dinner. Coming from the Carmike Cinema on South Terrace, I looked left and slowly moved over to the inside lane—just in time to hit car in my “blind side”.  Low impact “touching” but never the less an accident anyway.  All cars, I’m told, have blind sides and ours certainly does.  Side mirrors do NOT cover all areas to the left and right of any vehicle.   Maybe there is a looming solution to that dilemma.

V2V:

The global automotive industry seems poised and on the brink of a “Brave New World” in which connectivity and sensor technologies come together to create systems that can eliminate life-threatening collisions and enable automobiles that drive themselves.  Knows as Cooperative Intelligent Transportation Systems, vehicle-to-vehicle or V2V technologies open the door for automobiles to share information and interact with each other, as well as emerging smart infrastructure. These systems, obviously, make transportation safer but offer the promise of reducing traffic congestion.

Smart features of V2V promise to enhance drive awareness via traffic alerts, providing notifications on congestion, obstacles, lane changing, traffic merging and railway crossing alerts.  Additional applications include:

  • Blind spot warnings
  • Forward collision warnings
  • Sudden brake-ahead warnings
  • Approaching emergency vehicle warnings
  • Rollover warnings
  • Travel condition data to improve maintenance services.

Already The Department of Transportation “Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communications: Readiness of V2V Technology for Application”, DOT HS 812 014, details the technology as follows:

“The purpose of this research report is to assess the readiness for application of vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications, a system designed to transmit basic safety information between vehicles to facilitate warnings to drivers concerning impending crashes. The United States Department of Transportation and NHTSA have been conducting research on this technology for more than a decade. This report explores technical, legal, and policy issues relevant to V2V, analyzing the research conducted thus far, the technological solutions available for addressing the safety problems identified by the agency, the policy implications of those technological solutions, legal authority and legal issues such as liability and privacy. Using this report and other available information, decision-makers will determine how to proceed with additional activities involving vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V), vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I), and vehicle-to-pedestrian (V2P) technologies.”

The agency estimates there are approximately five (5) million annual vehicle crashes, with attendant property damage, injuries, and fatalities. While it may seem obvious, if technology can help drivers avoid crashes, the damage due to crashes simply never occurs.  This is the intent of an operative V2V automotive system. While these “vehicle-resident” crash avoidance technologies can be highly beneficial, V2V communications represent an additional step in helping to warn drivers about impending danger. V2V communications use on-board dedicated short-range radio communication devices to transmit messages about a vehicle’s speed, heading, brake status, and other information to other vehicles and receive the same information from the messages, with range and “line-of-sight” capabilities that exceed current and near-term “vehicle-resident” systems — in some cases, nearly twice the range. This longer detection distance and ability to “see” around corners or “through” other vehicles and helps V2V-equipped vehicles perceive some threats sooner than sensors, cameras, or radar.  This can warn drivers accordingly. V2V technology can also be fused with those vehicle-resident technologies to provide even greater benefits than either approach alone. V2V can augment vehicle-resident systems by acting as a complete system, extending the ability of the overall safety system to address other crash scenarios not covered by V2V communications, such as lane and road departure. A fused system could also augment system accuracy, potentially leading to improved warning timing and reducing the number of false warnings.

Communications represent the keystone of V2V systems.  The current technology builds upon a wireless standard called Dedicated Shor- Range Communication or DSRC.  DSRC is based upon the IEEE 802.11p protocol.  Transmissions of these systems consists of highly secure, short-to-medium-range, high-speed wireless communication channels, which enable vehicles to connect with each other for short periods of time.  Using DSRC, two or more vehicles can exchange basic safety messages, which describe each vehicle’s speed, position, heading, acceleration rate, size and braking status.  The system sends these messages to the onboard units of surrounding vehicles ten (10) times per second, where they are interpreted and provide warnings to the driver.  To achieve this, V2V systems leverage telematics to track vehicles via GPS monitoring the location, movements, behavior and status of each vehicle.

Based on preliminary information, NHTSA currently estimates that the V2V equipment and supporting communications functions (including a security management system) would cost approximately $341 to $350 per vehicle in 2020 dollars. It is possible that the cost could decrease to approximately $209 to $227 by 2058, as manufacturers gain experience producing this equipment (the learning curve). These costs would also include an additional $9 to $18 per year in fuel costs due to added vehicle weight from the V2V system. Estimated costs for the security management system range from $1 to $6 per vehicle, and they will increase over time due to the need to support an increasing number of vehicles with the V2V technologies. The communications costs range from $3 to $13 per vehicle. Cost estimates are not expected to change significantly by the inclusion of V2V-based safety applications, since the applications themselves are software and their costs are negligible.  Based on preliminary estimates, the total projected preliminary annual costs of the V2V system fluctuate year after year but generally show a declining trend. The estimated total annual costs range from $0.3 to $2.1 billion in 2020 with the specific costs being dependent upon the technology implementation scenarios and discount rates. The costs peak to $1.1 to $6.4 billion between 2022 and 2024, and then they gradually decrease to $1.1 to $4.6 billion.

In terms of safety impacts, the agency estimates annually that just two of many possible V2V safety applications, IMA (Integrated Motor Assists) and LTA (Land Transport Authority), would on an annual basis potentially prevent 25,000 to 592,000 crashes, save 49 to 1,083 lives, avoid 11,000 to 270,000 MAIS 1-5 injuries, and reduce 31,000 to 728,000 property-damage-only crashes by the time V2V technology had spread through the entire fleet. We chose those two applications for analysis at this stage because they are good illustrations of benefits that V2V can provide above and beyond the safety benefits of vehicle-resident cameras and sensors. Of course, the number of lives potentially saved would likely increase significantly with the implementation of additional V2V and V2I safety applications that would be enabled if vehicles were equipped with DSRC capability.

CONCLUSIONS: 

It is apparent to me that we are driving (pardon the pun) towards self-driving automobiles. I have no idea as to when this technology will become fully adopted, if ever.  If that happens in part or across the vehicle spectrum, there will need to be some form of V2V. One car definitely needs to know where other cars are relative to position, speed, acceleration, and overall movement. My wife NEVER goes to sleep or naps while I’m driving—OK maybe one time as mentioned previously.  She is always remarkably attentive and aware when I’m behind the wheel.  This comes from experience gained over fifty-two years of marriage.  “The times they are a-changing”.   The great concern I have is how we are to maintain the systems and how “hackable” they may become.  As I awoke this morning, I read the following:

The credit reporting agency Equifax said Thursday that hackers gained access to sensitive personal data — Social Security numbers, birth dates and home addresses — for up to 143 million Americans, a major cybersecurity breach at a firm that serves as one of the three major clearinghouses for Americans’ credit histories.

I am sure, like me, that gives you pause.  If hackers can do that, just think about the chaos that can occur if V2V systems can be accessed and controlled.  Talk about keeping one up at night.

As always, I welcome your comments.


One of the best things the automotive industry accomplishes is showing us what might be in our future.  They all have the finances, creative talent and vision to provide a glimpse into their “wish list” for upcoming vehicles.  Mercedes Benz has done just that with their futuristic F 015 Luxury in Motion.

In order to provide a foundation for the new autonomous F 015 Luxury in Motion research vehicle, an interdisciplinary team of experts from Mercedes-Benz has devised a scenario that incorporates different aspects of day-to-day mobility. Above and beyond its mobility function, this scenario perceives the motor car as a private retreat that additionally offers an important added value for society at large. (I like the word retreat.) If you take a look at how much time the “average” individual spends in his or her automobile or truck, we see the following:

  • On average, Americans drive 29.2 miles per day, making two trips with an average total duration of forty-six (46) minutes. This and other revealing data are the result of a ground-breaking study currently underway by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and the Urban Institute.
  • Motorists age sixteen (16) years and older drive, on average, 29.2 miles per day or 10,658 miles per year.
  • Women take more driving trips, but men spend twenty-five (25) percent more time behind the wheel and drive thirty-five (35) percent more miles than women.
  • Both teenagers and seniors over the age of seventy-five (75) drive less than any other age group; motorists 30-49 years old drive an average 13,140 miles annually, more than any other age group.
  • The average distance and time spent driving increase in relation to higher levels of education. A driver with a grade school or some high school education drove an average of 19.9 miles and 32 minutes daily, while a college graduate drove an average of 37.2 miles and 58 minutes.
  • Drivers who reported living “in the country” or “a small town” drive greater distances (12,264 miles annually) and spend a greater amount of time driving than people who described living in a “medium sized town” or city (9,709 miles annually).
  • Motorists in the South drive the most (11,826 miles annually), while those in the Northeast drive the least (8,468 miles annually).

With this being the case, why not enjoy it?

The F 015 made its debut at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas more than two years ago. It’s packed with advanced (or what was considered advanced in 2015) autonomous technology, and can, in theory, run for almost 900 kilometers on a mixture of pure electric power and a hydrogen fuel cell.

But while countless other vehicles are still trying to prove that cars can, literally, drive themselves, the Mercedes-Benz offering takes this for granted. Instead, this vehicle wants us to consider what we’ll actually do while the car is driving us around.

The steering wheel slides into the dashboard to create more of a “lounge” space. The seating configuration allows four people to face each other if they want to talk. And when the onboard conversation dries up, a bewildering collection of screens — one on the rear wall, and one on each of the doors — offers plenty of opportunity to interact with various media.

The F 015 could have done all of this as a flash-in-the-pan show car — seen at a couple of major events before vanishing without trace. But in fact, it has been touring almost constantly since that Vegas debut.

“Anyone who focuses solely on the technology has not yet grasped how autonomous driving will change our society,” emphasizes Dr Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars. “The car is growing beyond its role as a mere means of transport and will ultimately become a mobile living space.”

The visionary research vehicle was born, a vehicle which raises comfort and luxury to a new level by offering a maximum of space and a lounge character on the inside. Every facet of the F 015 Luxury in Motion is the utmost reflection of the Mercedes way of interpreting the terms “modern luxury”, emotion and intelligence.

This innovative four-seater is a forerunner of a mobility revolution, and this is immediately apparent from its futuristic appearance. Sensuousness and clarity, the core elements of the Mercedes-Benz design philosophy, combine to create a unique, progressive aesthetic appeal.

OK, with this being the case, let us now take a pictorial look at what the “Benz” has to offer.

One look and you can see the car is definitely aerodynamic in styling.  I am very sure that much time has been spent with this “ride” in wind tunnels with slip streams being monitored carefully.  That is where drag coefficients are determined initially.

The two JPEGs above indicate the front and rear swept glass windshields that definitely reduce induced drag.

The interiors are the most striking feature of this automobile.

Please note, this version is a four-seater but with plenty of leg-room.

Each occupant has a touch screen, presumably for accessing wireless or the Internet.  One thing, as yet there is no published list price for the car.  I’m sure that is being considered at this time but no USD numbers to date.  Also, as mentioned the car is self-driving so that brings on added complexities.  By design, this vehicle is a moving computer.  It has to be.  I am always very interested in maintenance and training necessary to diagnose and repair a vehicle such as this.  Infrastructure MUST be in place to facilitate quick turnaround when trouble arises–both mechanical and electrical.

As always, I welcome your comments.

VOLVO ANNOUNCEMENT

July 7, 2017


Certain portions of this post were taken from Mr. Chris Wiltz writing for Design News Daily.

I don’t know if you are familiar with the VOLVO line of automobiles but for years the brand has been known for safety and durability.  My wife drives a 2005 VOLVO S-40 with great satisfaction relative to reliability and cost of maintenance.  The S-40 has about 150,000 miles on the odometer and continues to run like a Singer Sewing Machine.   The “boxy, smoking diesel” VOLVO of years-gone-by has been replaced by a very sleek aerodynamic configuration representing significant improvements in design and styling.  You can take a look at the next two digitals to see where they are inside and out.

As you can see from the JPEG above, the styling is definitely twenty-first century with agreeable slip-stream considerations in mind.

The interior is state-of-the art with all the whistles and bells necessary to attract the most discerning buyer.

Volvo announced this past Tuesday that starting in 2019 it will only make fully electric or hybrid cars.  “This announcement marks the end of the solely combustion engine-powered car,” Håkan Samuelsson, Volvo’s president and chief executive, said in a statement.  The move is a significant bet by the carmaker indicating they feel the age of the internal-combustion engine is quickly coming to an end.  Right now, the Gothenburg, Sweden-based automaker is lone among the world’s major automakers to move so aggressively into electric or hybrid cars. Volvo sold around half a million cars last year, significantly less than the world’s largest car companies such as Toyota, Volkswagen, and GM, but far greater than the 76,000 sold by Tesla, the all-electric carmaker.

Every car it produces from 2019 forward will have an electric motor.   Håkan Samuelsson indicated there has been a clear increase in consumer demand as well as a “commitment towards reducing the carbon footprint thereby contributing to better air quality in our cities.”  The Swedish automaker will cease production of pure internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles and will not plan any new developments into diesel engines.

The company will begin producing three levels of electric vehicles (mild, Twin Engine, and fully electric) and has committed to commercializing one million Twin Engine or all-electric cars until 2025.   Between 2019 and 2021 Volvo plans to launch five fully electric cars, three of which will be Volvo models and two that will be high performance electric vehicles from Polestar, Volvo’s performance car division. Samuelsson said all of these electric vehicles will be new models and not necessarily new stylings of existing Volvo models.

Technical details on the vehicles were sparse during a press conference held by Volvo, but the company did offer information about its three electric vehicle tiers. The mild electric vehicles, which Volvo views as a stepping stone away from ICEs, will feature a forty-eight (48) volt system featuring a battery in conjunction with a complex system functioning as a starter, generator, and electric motor.   Twin Engine will be a plug-in hybrid system. During the press conference Henrik Green, Senior VP of R&D at Volvo, said the company will be striving to provide a “very competitive range” with these new vehicles, which will be available in medium range and long range – at least up to 500 kilometers (about 311 miles) on a single charge. Green said Volvo has not yet settled on a battery supplier, but said the company is looking at all available suppliers for the best option.  “When it comes to batteries of course it’s a highly competitive and important component in all the future pure battery electric vehicles,” he said. Samuelsson added that this should also be taken as an invitation for more companies to invest in battery research and development. “We need new players and competition in battery manufacturing,” Samuelsson said.

This new announcement represents a dramatic shift in point of view for Volvo. Back in 2014 Samuelsson said the company didn’t believe in all-electric vehicles and said that hybrids were the way forward. Why the change of heart? Samuelsson told the press conference audience that Volvo was initially skeptical about the cost level of batteries and the lack of infrastructure to for recharging electric cars. “Things have moved faster, costumer demand has increased, battery costs have come down and there is movement now in charging infrastructure,” he said.

Top of Form

VOLVO did not unveil any details on vehicle costs. However, earlier reports from the Geneva Motor Show in March quoted Lex Kerssemakers , CEO of Volvo Car USA, as saying that the company’s first all-electric vehicle would have a range of at least 250 miles and price point of between 35,000 and $40,000 when it is released in 2019.

I think this is a fascinating step on the part of VOLVO.  They are placing all of their money on environmental efforts to reduce emissions.  I think that is very commendable.  Hopefully their vision for the future improves their brand and does not harm their sales efforts.

FARADAY FUTURES

February 12, 2016


Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water, another all-electric automobile emerges from “drawing board” to concept car with hopes of becoming reality.  Faraday Future–which suggests you call it FF for short–says it will launch its battery-electric vehicle sometime during 2017, model FFZERO1. This is a very aggressive timetable and one which draws considerable skepticism from informed individuals in the automotive industry.

Future was established in 2014 and is currently based in Gardena, California. Since its inception in 2014, the company has grown to 750 employees globally.  Over the past eighteen (18) months California-based Faraday Future (FF)  has drawn an incredible hype with plans to “redefine the automotive experience by delivering seamlessly connected electric vehicles and future mobility solutions that will fit the needs of tomorrow’s population.”   Former automotive design-team leaders were recruited from BMW and Tesla Motors.   This Chinese-backed company has huge ambitions to change the future of the automotive industry and take on other electric rivals. Faraday says it is targeting the highest energy density and specific vehicle energy on the market with its battery pack. That would likely take the total energy capacity to over 100 kilowatt-hours, given Tesla’s recent announcement of a 90-kWh pack option for its Model S sedan.

FF plans to use a single pack design, smaller than current large packs to provide greater crumple zones, but will offer different pack capacities inside this single form factor. The batteries sit in horizontal rows, and the scalable factor of the platform comes from the ability to add or take away rows for different sized models. Nick Sampson, senior VP at FF and head of R&D said the batteries would operate like Christmas tree lights — if one pack goes out the “strand” keeps working. Other specifics–cells grouped into modules, replaceable cells or modules, safety measures to prevent any short in a faulty cell from propagating to adjacent cells–have been seen before in various other makers’ pack designs.

Are you ready for this one—“The 1,000-horsepower FFZero1 includes the ability to exceed 200mph (321 kph) and accelerate from zero to 60mph in less than three seconds. It also includes a helmet to provide oxygen and water to the driver.”  Other key features are as follows:

  • The adjustable chassis can accommodate strings of batteries that are more easily changed than single batteries. The number of batteries would depend on car size
  • A helmet to provide oxygen and water to the driver. (This really blows my mind.)
  • ‘Aero tunnels’ incorporated into the design to channel air through the vehicle for reducing drag and cooling the batteries.

Faraday made a deal with the State of Nevada for a billion dollar factory, securing over $330 million in tax incentives and eventually bringing 4,500 jobs to the state. FF revealed at CES (Consumer Electronic Show-2016)  plans to break ground on the new three million square-feet factory in just a few weeks, with the Mayor of North Las Vegas and Governor of Nevada present at the event.

Let’s take a look at the FFZERO1 displayed at the recent show.

FARADAY BODY STYLE

FARADAY BODY STYLE(2)

FARADAY BODY STYLE(3)

As you can see, this is truly a car of the future and apparently that future begins in 2017. Please keep in mind, if this vehicle is commercialized at all, there will have to be involvement with the DOT.  Approvals will have to be given.  Maintenance protocols will have to be developed. Spare parts will have to be designated.  In other words, there is a great deal of extremely important work needing to be accomplished prior to the first vehicle being sold.  I may have missed it but I saw no price mentioned in any of the press releases for the product.  I suppose if you have to ask you cannot afford one.  Time will tell.

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