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.

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.

NANOMATERIALS

May 13, 2016


In recent months there has been considerable information regarding nanomaterials and how those materials are providing significant breakthroughs in R&D.  Let’s first define a nanomaterial.

DEFINITION:

“Nanomaterials describe, in principle, materials of which a single unit is sized (in at least one dimension) between 1 and 1000 nanometres (10−9 meter) but is usually 1—100 nm (the usual definition of nanoscale).”

Obviously microscopic in nature but extremely effective when applied properly to a process.  Further descriptions are as follows:

Nanomaterials must include the average particle size, allowing for aggregation or clumping of the individual particles and a description of the particle number size distribution (range from the smallest to the largest particle present in the preparation).

Detailed assessments may include the following:

  1. Physical properties:
  • Size, shape, specific surface area, and ratio of width and height
  • Whether they stick together
  • Number size distribution
  • How smooth or bumpy their surface is
  • Structure, including crystal structure and any crystal defects
  • How well they dissolve
  1. Chemical properties:
  • Molecular structure
  • Composition, including purity, and known impurities or additives
  • Whether it is held in a solid, liquid or gas
  • Surface chemistry
  • Attraction to water molecules or oils and fats

A number of techniques for tracking nanoparticles exist with an ever-increasing number under development. Realistic ways of preparing nanomaterials for test of their possible effects on biological systems are also being developed.

There are nanoparticles such as volcanic ash, soot from forest fires naturally occurring or the incidental byproducts of combustion processes (e.g., welding, diesel engines).  These are usually physically and chemically heterogeneous and often termed ultrafine particles. Engineered nanoparticles are intentionally produced and designed with very specific properties relative to shape, size, surface properties and chemistry. These properties are reflected in aerosols, colloids, or powders. Often, the behavior of nanomaterials may depend more on surface area than particle composition itself. Relative-surface area is one of the principal factors that enhance its reactivity, strength and electrical properties.

Engineered nanoparticles may be bought from commercial vendors or generated via experimental procedures by researchers in the laboratory (e.g., CNTs can be produced by laser ablation, HiPCO  or high-pressure carbon monoxide, arc discharge, and chemical vapor deposition (CVD)). Examples of engineered nanomaterials include: carbon buckeyballs or fullerenes; carbon nanotubes; metal or metal oxide nanoparticles (e.g., gold, titanium dioxide); quantum dots, among many others.

Nanotube

The digital photograph above shows a nanotube, which is a member of the fullerene structural family. (NOTE:  A fullerene is a molecule of carbon in the form of a hollow sphereellipsoidtube, and many other shapes. Spherical fullerenes are also called Buckminsterfullerenes or buckeyballs, which resemble balls used in soccer.  Cylindrical fullerenes are called carbon nanotubes or buckeytubes.  Fullerenes are similar in structure to graphite, which is composed of stacked graphene sheets of linked hexagonal rings. ) Their name is derived from their long, hollow structure with walls formed by one-atom-thick sheets of carbon, called graphene. These sheets are rolled at specific and discrete angles where the combination of the rolling angle and radius defines the nanotube properties; for example, whether the individual nanotube shell is a metal or semiconductor.  Nanotubes are categorized as single-walled nanotubes (SWNTs) or multi-walled nanotubes (MWNTs). Individual nanotubes naturally align themselves into “ropes” held together by van der Waals forces, more specifically, pi-stacking.

The JPEG below shows a nanoplate material.

NANOPLATE

Nanoplate uses nanometer materials and combines them in engineered and industrial coating processes to incorporate new and improved features in the finished product.

USES OF NANO TECHNOLOGY:

Let’s look at today’s uses for nano technology and you can get a good picture as to where the field is going.

  • Stain-repellent Eddie Bauer Nano-CareTM khakis, with surface fibers of 10 to 100 nanometers, uses a process that coats each fiber of fabric with “nano-whiskers.” Developed by Nano-Tex, a Burlington Industries subsidiary. Dockers also makes khakis, a dress shirt and even a tie treated with what they call “Stain Defender”, another example of the same nanoscale cloth treatment.
    Impact: Dry cleaners, detergent and stain-removal makers, carpet and furniture makers, window covering maker.
  • BASF’s annual sales of aqueous polymer dispersion products amount to around $1.65 billion. All of them contain polymer particles ranging from ten to several hundred nanometers in size. Polymer dispersions are found in exterior paints, coatings and adhesives, or are used in the finishing of paper, textiles and leather. Nanotechnology also has applications in the food sector. Many vitamins and their precursors, such as carotinoids, are insoluble in water. However, when skillfully produced and formulated as nanoparticles, these substances can easily be mixed with cold water, and their bioavailability in the human body also increases. Many lemonades and fruit juices contain these specially formulated additives, which often also provide an attractive color. In the cosmetics sector, BASF has for several years been among the leading suppliers of UV absorbers based on nanoparticulate zinc oxide. Incorporated in sun creams, the small particles filter the high-energy radiation out of sunlight. Because of their tiny size, they remain invisible to the naked eye and so the cream is transparent on the skin.
  • Sunscreens are utilizing nanoparticles that are extremely effective at absorbing light, especially in the ultra-violet (UV) range. Due to the particle size, they spread more easily, cover better, and save money since you use less. And they are transparent, unlike traditional screens which are white. These sunscreens are so successful that by 2001 they had captured 60% of the Australian sunscreen market.  Impact: Makers of sunscreen have to convert to using nanoparticles. And other product manufacturers, like packaging makers, will find ways to incorporate them into packages to reduce UV exposure and subsequent spoilage. The $480B packaging and $300B plastics industries will be directly affected.
  • Using aluminum nanoparticles, Argonide has created rocket propellants that burn at double the rate. They also produce copper nanoparticles that are incorporated into automotive lubricant to reduce engine wear.
  • AngstroMedica has produced a nanoparticulate-based synthetic bone. “Human bone is made of a calcium and phosphate composite called Hydroxyapatite. By manipulating calcium and phosphate at the molecular level, we have created a patented material that is identical in structure and composition to natural bone. This novel synthetic bone can be used in areas where the natural bone is damaged or removed, such as in the treatment of fractures and soft tissue injuries.
  • Nanodyne makes a tungsten-carbide-cobalt composite powder (grain size less than 15nm) that is used to make a sintered alloy as hard as diamond, which is in turn used to make cutting tools, drill bits, armor plate, and jet engine parts.
    Impact: Every industry that makes parts or components whose properties must include hardness and durability.
  • Wilson Double Core tennis balls have a nanocomposite coating that keeps it bouncing twice as long as an old-style ball. Made by InMat LLC, this nanocomposite is a mix of butyl rubber, intermingled with nanoclay particles, giving the ball substantially longer shelf life. Impact: Tires are the next logical extension of this technology: it would make them lighter (better milleage) and last longer (better cost performance).
  • Applied Nanotech recently demonstrated a 14″ monochrome display based on electron emission from carbon nanotubes.  Impact: Once the process is perfected, costs will go down, and the high-end market will start being filled. Shortly thereafter, and hand-in-hand with the predictable drop in price of CNTs, production economies-of-scale will enable the costs to drop further still, at which time we will see nanotube-based screens in use everywhere CRTs and view screens are used today.
  • China’s largest coal company (Shenhua Group) has licensed technology from Hydrocarbon Technologies that will enable it to liquefy coal and turn it into gas. The process uses a gel-based nanoscale catalyst, which improves the efficiency and reduces the cost.  Impact: “If the technology lives up to its promise and can economically transform coal into diesel fuel and gasoline, coal-rich countries such as the U.S., China and Germany could depend far less on imported oil. At the same time, acid-rain pollution would be reduced because the liquefaction strips coal of harmful sulfur.”

CONCLUSION:

I’m sure the audience I attract will get the significance of nanotechnology and the existing uses in today’s commercial markets.  This is a growing technology and one in which significant R&D effort is being applied.  I think the words are “STAND BY” there is more to come in the immediate future.

 

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.

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.


Don’t we all wish we had a crystal ball we could gaze into to “divine” the future?  Sure we do!!   Because technology is generally evolutionary and not revolutionary, it does become easier to look at where we are and consider where we might be in the near or even distant future.  The following digital photographs were provided by Elizabeth Montalbano, contributing writer for Design News Daily.  The descriptive texts are mine.  Let’s take a look and several projections for important technologies that just might touch our daily lives.  I chose these technologies because they seem to be the most promising and varied to play key roles in the engineering profession next year. From developments in electronics to materials to robotics, these technologies, I believe, will make a difference as the source of innovation for design and engineering projects globally.

Printed-Flexible Electronics

Over 3,000 organizations are pursuing printed, organic, flexible electronics, including printing, electronics, materials and packaging companies. While some of these technologies are in use now, there are three sectors which have created billion dollar markets – others are commercially embryonic.   The benefits of these new electronics are numerous – ranging from lower cost, improved performance, flexibility, transparency, reliability, better environmental credentials and much more. Many of the applications will be newly created, and where existing electronic and electrical products are impacted, the extent will be varied.  The total market for printed, flexible and organic electronics will grow from $26.54 billion in 2016 to $69.03 billion in 2026. The majority of that is OLEDs (organic but not printed) and conductive ink used for a wide range of applications. On the other hand, stretchable electronics, logic and memory, thin film sensors are much smaller segments but with huge growth potential as they emerge from R&D.
Photovolltaics

A Michigan State University research team has finally created a truly transparent solar panel — a breakthrough that could soon usher in a world where windows, panes of glass, and even entire buildings could be used to generate solar energy. Until now, solar cells of this kind have been only partially transparent and usually a bit tinted, but these new ones are so clear that they’re practically indistinguishable from a normal pane of glass.

Previous claims toward transparent solar panels have been misleading, since the very nature of transparent materials means that light must pass through them. Transparent photovoltaic cells are virtually impossible, in fact, because solar panels generate energy by converting absorbed photons into electrons. For a material to be fully transparent, light would have to travel uninhibited to the eye which means those photons would have to pass through the material completely (without being absorbed to generate solar power).

So, to achieve a truly transparent solar cell, the Michigan State team created this thing called a transparent luminescent solar concentrator (TLSC), which employs organic salts to absorb wavelengths of light that are already invisible to the human eye. Steering clear of the fundamental challenges of creating a transparent photovoltaic cell allowed the researchers to harness the power of infrared and ultraviolet light.

The TLSC projects a luminescent glow that contains a converted wavelength of infrared light which is also invisible to the human eye. More traditional (non-transparent) photovoltaic solar cells frame the panel of the main material, and it is these solar cells that transform the concentrated infrared light into electricity.

Versions of previous semi-transparent solar cells that cast light in colored shadows can usually achieve efficiency of around seven percent, but Michigan State’s TLSC is expected to reach a top efficiency of five percent with further testing (currently, the prototype’s efficiency reaches a mere one percent). While numbers like seven and five percent efficiency seem low, houses featuring fully solar windows or buildings created from the organic material could compound that electricity and bring it to a more useful level.

Researchers on the Michigan State team believe their TLSC technology could span from industrial applications to more manageable uses like consumer devices and handheld gadgets. Their main priorities in continuing to develop the technology appear to be power efficiency and maintaining a scalable level of affordability, so that solar power can continue to grow as a major player in the field of renewable energy.

Interactive Industrial Robotic Systems

For decades, manufacturers have had very few cost-effective options for handling low volume, high mix production jobs.  No longer.  Meet Baxter – the safe, flexible, affordable alternative to outsourced labor and fixed automation.  Leading companies across North America have already integrated Baxter into their workforce, and gained a competitive advantage for their business in the process.

Baxter is a proven solution for a wide range of tasks – from line loading and machine tending, to packaging and material handling.  If you walk the floor of your facility and see lightweight parts being handled near people, you’ve likely just found a great job for Baxter.  This smart, collaborative robot is ready to get to work for your company – doing the monotonous tasks that free up your skilled human labor to be exactly that.

Graphene

In my opinion, graphene has remarkable possibilities for development of future products.   Graphene has many extraordinary properties. It is about 100 times stronger than strongest steel with hypothetical thickness of 3.35Å which is equal to the thickness of graphene sheet.  It conducts heat and electricity efficiently and is nearly transparent. Researchers have identified the bipolar transistor effect, ballistic transport of charges and large quantum oscillations in the material.

Scientists have theorized about graphene for decades. It has likely been unknowingly produced in small quantities for centuries, through the use of pencils and other similar applications of graphite. It was originally observed in electron microscopes in 1962, but not studied further.  The material was later rediscovered, isolated and characterized in 2004 by Andre Geimand Konstantin Novoselov at the University of Manchester.  Research was informed by existing theoretical descriptions of its composition, structure and properties.   High-quality graphene proved to be surprisingly easy to isolate, making more research possible. This work resulted in the two winning the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010 “for groundbreaking experiments regarding thetwo-dimensional material graphene.”

Self-Driving Automobiles

Self-driving cars are no longer a futuristic idea. Companies like Mercedes, BMW, and Tesla have already released, or are soon to release, self-driving features that give an automobile some ability to drive itself.

Tech companies are also trying to pioneer the self-driving car. Recently, Google announced that it would be testing its prototype of a driverless car on roads this summer in California.  Here are several bullet points that may aid our efforts in understand the status of this technology.

  • Self-driving cars are not some futuristic auto technology; in fact there are already cars with self-driving features on the road.  We define the self-driving car as any car with features that allow it to accelerate, brake, and steer a car’s course with limited or no driver interaction.
  • We divide the self-driving car into two different types: semi-autonomous and fully autonomous. A fully autonomous vehicle can drive from point A to point B and encounter the entire range of on-road scenarios without needing any interaction from the driver. These will debut in 2019.
  • By the end of the forecast period, we expect there will be nearly 10 million cars with one of our defined self-driving car features.
  • Fully autonomous cars are further divided into user-operated and driverless vehicles. Because of regulatory and insurance questions, user-operated fully autonomous cars will come to market within the next five years, while driverless cars will remain a long ways off.
  • The biggest benefits of self-driving cars are that they will help to make roads safer and people’s lives easier. In the UK, KPMG estimates that self-driving cars will lead to 2,500 fewer deaths between 2014 and 2030.
  • But the barriers to self-driving cars remain significant. Costs need to come down and regulations need to be clarified around certain self-driving car features before the vehicles fully take off among mainstream consumers.

CONCLUSIONS:

This post has only considered engineering technological forecast for mostly mechanical and electrical systems.  We have not looked at medical, civil, infrastructure, etc forecasts, of which I’m sure, there could be comparable lists structured.  It might be a good exercise for you to list your own projections and take a look at the end of 2016 to see how many have come to fruition.

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