Cars

Mysterious startup Faraday Future has finally unveiled its long-awaited electric car

 

After years of anticipation, the mysterious electric vehicle (EV) startup Faraday Future has finally unveiled its first production model, the FF 91.

The company, which is based in the US but financed by Chinese consumer electronics giant LeEco, showed off a prototype of its first actual car at CES in Las Vegas on Tuesday after years of only teasing glimpses of its auto technology – and if the FF 91 can do everything Faraday Future says it can, Tesla could have a formidable EV competitor.

The FF 91 looks to be something of a futuristic hybrid, somewhere between a sedan and an SUV, but offering the interior of a luxury vehicle and the performance of a high-end sports car.

The vehicle, which can be reserved for a “fully refundable” $5,000 deposit, is expected to enter production in 2018, and offers an electric motor capable of 783 kW, equivalent to a 1,050-horsepower engine.

 

Faraday Future FF 91Faraday Future FF 91

 

That grunt helps the FF 91 get from 0 to 60 miles per hour (96.6 km/h) in just 2.39 seconds, which Faraday Future says makes it the world’s fastest-accelerating car – beating the Tesla Model S P100D, which takes 2.5 seconds.

Aside from raw speed, the company also says the car is packed with a record-breaking 130 kWh battery, capable of lasting for 482 miles (775 kilometres) when driven at a speed of 55 mph (88.5 km/h).

The battery itself is capable of recharging more than 500 miles every hour (804.6 km), but the home charger kit the car comes with will make things slower, achieving a 50 percent recharge in about 4.5 hours at 240V.

Faraday Future is packing the vehicle with a huge number of technological features designed to adapt to the driver, such as cameras that unlock the car when your face is recognised – and interior settings such as seating positions and light levels to match user preferences.

In terms of assisted driving, the FF 91 offers what Faraday Future calls a “Driverless Valet” parking feature, which lets you exit the vehicle and watch as the car finds and parks itself in an available space – plus pick you up later from a designated spot at a particular time.

Showing this feature off at the CES unveiling, the company only had mixed success though. In a demonstration filmed in a public parking lot, the car drove itself into an empty space, but in a separate on-stage demo, the vehicle failed to move when prompted, causing Faraday Future SVP of engineering to awkwardly joke “Okay, it seems like it’s a little bit… lazy tonight.”

Sampson later explained the malfunction was due to the unusual dimensions of the stage area, blaming the steel structures above the car for interfering with the car’s signals.

 

Faraday Future FF 91Faraday Future FF 91

 

But far more significant than any live demo jitters are the concerns over the stability of Faraday Future itself.

While the specifications and finishes make the FF 91 look very compelling, there are widespread doubts over whether Faraday Future can actually deliver the vehicle to market like it promises.

The company was beset by a string of ongoing controversies throughout 2016, including the departure of several key executives and allegations that the company was embroiled in a financial meltdown.

Most damning of all however, was the revelation in November that construction on the company’s massive factory in Nevada – presumably where the FF 91 would be built – was on hold over missed payments.

At CES, Faraday Future was defiant but did not address the issues directly, with Sampson merely stating, “Despite all the naysayers and the skeptics we will persist”.

But while the spirit on show is admirable, it’s not sure if persistence will be enough.

Automotive analyst Mike Ramsay from Gartner wasn’t necessarily convinced by the company’s FF 91 unveiling, pointing out that the 130kW battery pack would make the car extremely heavy, and be very expensive.

“This is a must impress situation,” he told Chris Baraniuk at BBC News. “Even if everything had been going perfectly, it is very difficult to be a start-up carmaker, particularly when you are coming from a tech background… [The FF 91] still seems like it’s more in the realm of fantasy than reality.”

We hope not, because the car looks pretty amazing to us in terms of the prototype (despite the parking malfunction).

And if it can actually be delivered, greater competition in the EV market will force Tesla and other car manufacturers to deliver better, more affordable electric vehicles – which is something the world needs right now.

Alas, if Faraday Future does produce the FF 91, it definitely won’t come cheap. Early estimates put a likely price at US$180,000 or more, so you might want to start saving up now.

 

[ScienceAlert]

January 5, 2017 / by / in , , , , , , , , , , ,
China’s NextEV to sell a premium electric crossover at a ‘Toyota price’ by 2019

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Chinese startup NextEV surprised the auto industry late last month by introducing an all-electric, limited-edition supercar named EP9 (pictured) that set several records on Germany’s famous Nürburgring track. The company will use the proceeds from selling six examples of the coupe to develop its first mass-produced model.

Marketed under the Nio brand, the yet-unnamed car will take the form of a battery-powered crossover aimed directly at the Tesla Model X. It will be equipped with a 70-kilowatt-hour battery pack that will offer up to 330 miles of range, though industry trade journal Automotive News reports the final figure might be a little lower because the European testing cycle is wildly optimistic. NextEV has never built a production car, but it learned a lot about designing an electric drivetrain by competing in Formula E.NextEV believes it will be able to significantly undercut its main rivals on price. The crossover will be positioned as an alternative to BMW- and Audi-badged models, but it will launch with what company co-founder Jack Cheng promises will be a “Toyota price.” Whether he’s referring to the Yaris, which carries a base price of $15,250, or the Land Cruiser, which sits on top of the Toyota hierarchy with an $84,325 price tag, is anyone’s guess at this point.

Beating Tesla has become a buzzword in among startups who specialize in electric vehicles. NextEV is no different, and it promises to offer much better customer service than its American rival, especially on the Chinese market. “I have a Tesla. It took me three months to install a charger at home,” affirmed William Li, the businessman who co-founded NextEV.

Cheng told Automotive News that the company’s crossover will be sold in the United States starting either in late 2018 or early 2019. By that point, the premium electric crossover segment will begin to get crowded. Audi, Mercedes-Benz, and Jaguar are racing to enter the market, and Chinese-funded startup Faraday Future hopes to sell a battery-electric crossover sooner or later, though recent reports claim it’s running into funding issues.

Read original article on DigitalTrends.

December 6, 2016 / by / in , , , , , , , , , ,
Watch a fully autonomous Tesla drive through the city and find a parking spot

Fully autonomous Teslas are getting closer to reality. Yesterday, the electric carmaker announced that all new vehicles will come with extra hardware to support “full self-driving capabilities,” and this morning, the company posted a video showing exactly what that hardware can do.

The self-driving software is not finished and has yet to be approved by regulators, but the four-minute clip is nonetheless impressive, showing a Tesla leaving a garage, driving across town, and finding its own parking spot — all autonomously. There is someone sat in the driver’s seat, as per current legal requirements, but they never touch the wheel. Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who posted the clip to Twitter, notes that the car is even smart enough to driver past a disabled parking spot, knowing it’s not allowed to park there. He also highlighted the car’s summon function:

 

 

 

All of this technology is a long way from being implemented, but it does raise some interesting questions. Like, what happens if you summon a Tesla on your phone then get on a train — will the car follow you round indefinitely, or will it only drive to the initial summon location? And when is someone going to mod this function so owners can whistle to call their Tesla, like summoning a horse in a video game? It’s all to come.

[The Verge]

October 21, 2016 / by / in , , , , , , , , , ,
Customize Your Car Without Visiting a Showroom

 

Frantz Lasorne, co-founder of Visionaries 777, discusses how his company brings products to life using virtual and augmented reality, the launch of the car configurator and his outlook for the industry. He speaks to Bloomberg’s Rishaad Salamat and Haidi Lun on “Bloomberg Markets.” (Source: Bloomberg)

October 13, 2016 / by / in , , , , , , , , , , ,
Auto industry heads into fierce software race

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Two weeks ago some fellow tech investors and I took a trip to Amsterdam for a large conference on the future of computing, hosted by Nvidia. The company has emerged as one of the leaders in graphic processors, a technology being adopted by companies behind the machine learning revolution. One thing that struck us all was just how much of the conference was devoted to the automotive industry.

Surely other industries could share the spotlight? Especially given that only six percent of Nvidia’s revenues are expected to come from automotive this year, compared to a whopping 56 percent from gaming. So why spend so much time on cars?

One simple reason is that Europe is still the home of many of the world’s car manufacturers. Volvo, Renault, and Audi were all there as both speakers and potential customers for the new Nvidia kit. But underneath the slick auto-demos in the keynote is an industry in flux. Nvidia, and other similar suppliers, know that they have the opportunity to claim a whole new level of relevance in the automotive market, as software and automation eats the car.

2015 and 2016 have been crazy years for the industry. Car manufacturers and their suppliers have been scrambling to consolidate and to snap up exciting startups.

So far, the total value of automotive-supplier deals in 2015 and 2016 has been $74.4 billion. Comparing this to the $17.7 billion annual average that we saw in the previous 10 years, it is clear that something has changed. The number of transactions valued at $500 million or more rose to 18 in 2015 — three times the average for the previous 10 years – and there have been 11 such deals in 2016 so far.

It’s not only the volume of acquisitions that raises eyebrows, but the car manufacturers are acquiring different kinds of companies.

The auto suppliers have been gearing up on software. Continental acquired Elektrobit’s automotive software division in 2015 for $665 million. Similarly, Harman International Industries acquired two software companies in 2015, paying $780 million for Symphony Teleca and $170 million for Red Bend Software, which produce connected devices and over-the-air updates. The same goes for Intel, which acquired two companies this year, Yogitech and Itseez, for their advanced assisted driving software, robotics, and autonomous machines division.

The manufacturers are doing the same. General Motors bought Cruise Automation for $1 billion in 2016; while Toyota hired the full 16-person team from Jaybridge Robotics, and plowed $1 billion into the Toyota Research Institute. Uber paid $680 million for Otto in the same year that the startup was founded, allegedly to gain access to the pool of former Google, Apple, and Tesla staff that Otto had hired.

Defence and fear is at the heart of most of these acquisitions. Even though the incumbents are globally established brands, they fear the loss of influence that might unfold over the next decade.

The squeeze is coming from all directions. Car companies once “owned the consumer.” They built brands that stood for safety, performance, and sex-appeal. They still do. Their long-held position at the top of this chain allowed them to push liability and warranty claims to their suppliers and control their distributors. This is all changing. New operators are stealing their consumers, and changing their expectations.

Uber, Didi, and Lyft are new brands in transportation, but they play by very different rules to companies like Volkswagen, Mercedes, and BMW. In the new world order, they control coordination and hold the brand, while car manufacturers become their hardware suppliers.

A similar squeeze is coming from below. Since Henry Ford’s Model T, innovation has come from big car brands building cheaper cars, with better engines and smoother curves. Nowadays the innovation that drives the market comes from software and electronics. Software in cars now runs in 12-24 month cycles (similar to that in smartphones), and 90 percent of innovations and new features come in the form of software and electronics. This is increasingly where the value lies: 10 years ago the cost of electronics and software contributed to 20 percent of total costs of a car – today that has risen to 35 percent.

On top of this, traditional car makers are getting direct competition from Tesla, Apple, Google, and Baidu, who are tearing up the rulebook on what a car company looks like, coming in with huge pedigree in software and data. Short product-cycles and a software-focus is second nature for these companies, and if they can introduce these into the automotive industry, the incumbents will find it hard to keep up, especially when it comes to the advent of autonomous driving, whenever that might be.

Traditional car manufacturers are convinced that the race for automation will play a key part in determining their position in the market for the coming decades. What is clear is that they cannot get there alone. The deep-learning elements needed for self-driving will need to come from outside. Startups like the recently acquired Cruise Automation, Five.ai, Drive.ai, and Adasworks will join the race alongside more established suppliers like Nvidia, Delphi, and Autoliv. Assisted driving pure-play MobilEye is also well positioned to succeed.

The immediate future of the automotive industry will be very different from the past. We will see a lot of new companies entering the fray, with many likely to get acquired early on. The real winners will be those who build the components of the automated driving stack, as they will be in high demand by car manufacturers looking to protect their own position in the new world.

Sam Myers is a principal at London-based VC firm Balderton Capital. Prior to joining Balderton, he worked with the investment team at DN Capital, investing in early-stage software, digital media, eCommerce, and consumer mobile companies. He started his career as a strategy consultant with the Monitor Group, working with clients across Europe, USA, and Latin America.

[VentureBeat]

October 10, 2016 / by / in , , , , , , , , , ,
The Mind-Blowing Number of Things a Formula 1 Driver Does During One Lap

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Nico Rosberg is constantly fiddling with the dials and buttons on his steering wheel as he nabs pole position at Baku.

 

Mercedes-AMG driver Nico Rosberg saw more than 215 mph as he nabbed pole position at the 2016 European Grand Prix. His 1:42.758 qualifying lap was nearly a second faster than Force India’s Sergio Perez, the next-fastest qualifier.

You’d think that turning such a quick, clean lap would require absolute concentration on the ABCs—acceleration, braking, and cornering. But this annotated cockpit video shows a different scene: Rosberg constantly fiddling with the myriad adjustment dials and buttons on his steering wheel.

It’s mind-boggling. This video, uploaded to Vimeo by user “Mark4211,” highlights every tiny adjustment Rosberg makes as he hurtles around Baku City Circuit. He’s opening and closing the drag-reduction flap (DRS), which diverts air around the rear wing to increase straight-line speed. He’s tweaking the Brake Migration (BMIG) setup, adjusting how the car’s brake-by-wire system adjusts front-rear braking balance on the fly. He’s making microscopic adjustments to brake balance (BBal), portioning out left-right braking strength perfectly for every turn.

Oh, and he’s upshifting and downshifting, steering and braking, nailing apexes and braking zones, and generally making it all look easy.

Keeping track of this many car adjustments, at that speed, requires superhuman concentration and brain power. Makes you realize how stupid we look when we drift out of our lanes while playing with our radios.

 

[Popular Mechanics]

October 4, 2016 / by / in , , , , , , , , ,
How the Connected Car Will Defend Against Hackers

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Within the next five years, a quarter of a billion vehicles with connected features will travel on roads across the globe. How will we protect them?

 

Automakers are rushing connectivity into their cars. Features like 4G LTE and Bluetooth are now standard on many makes and models, and they’re keeping on-the-go motorists connected to their lives beyond the vehicle. In the coming years, our cars will connect more with the broader Internet of Things (IoT) and integrate seamlessly with smartwatches, smart houses, and smart cities. All those connections are potentially dangerous, warns Josh Corman, director of the Cyber Statecraft Initiative for the Atlantic Council, a Washington, D.C., think tank that analyzes global economic, political, and technological challenges. He says automakers are equipping cars with these connected features faster than they can defend them from cyberthreats. Sooner or later—and he argues it will be sooner—they are due for a reckoning.

Corman likens the scope of the connected-car threat to that of another promising development once widely used in building materials—until its cancer-causing effects were discovered. “When they first introduced asbestos, you were an idiot not to use asbestos everywhere,” he said of the building material. “It was a fire retardant. It was lightweight. It was inexpensive. Asbestos had clear benefits. There are obvious benefits in the IoT, but when it comes to putting connectivity in these cyberphysical systems, or in these cybersafety use cases, we’re going to look back on this point in history and say, ‘What were we thinking?’ “

He’s not alone. In April, the Government Accountability Office released a study that suggested the Department of Transportation needs to define its role in preventing and responding to real-world cyberattacks on vehicles. The report said hackers could potentially attack a large number of vehicles—and that they could do so from anywhere in the world, a development made clear last year when researchers working from a residence in Pittsburgh remotely commandeered control of a Jeep Cherokee traveling along a highway in St. Louis.

“When we see some confidence-shattering cybersecurity failure that leads to a loss of life, you’ll see people aggressively disconnecting things.” —Josh Corman, the Atlantic Council

That research set off alarm bells within the Department of Homeland Security, but the capabilities of car hackers have been well known in the auto industry since 2010, when researchers with the University of Washington and the University of California San Diego first demonstrated it was possible for outsiders to breach software systems in a vehicle and gain control. From those early stages, automotive cybersecurity has mushroomed into a massive potential pitfall. With 112 million vehicles now connected around the world, by 2023 the industry will be spending $759 million per year to grapple with those concerns, according to financial-services company IHS Markit. The number of connected vehicles is expected to double by 2025 to a quarter of a billion, according to Gartner, a global technology consulting firm.

“Cybersecurity will be one of the toughest challenges that the auto industry will face in the next decade or two,” said Colin Bird, senior analyst with IHS Markit. “Especially as more vehicles with telematics and embedded modems make connected cars an attractive target to cybercriminals, terrorists, and nation-states.”

Confronting the Threat by Sharing Intelligence

So far, car-hacking exploits have remained in the realm of white-hat researchers who have demonstrated any number of security holes in the security of a dozen automakers. But federal officials know they may not always be so fortunate and that they need to fortify cars against system-wide attacks.

In response to the GAO report, officials from the DOT have been writing the blueprint for a new cybersecurity policy that will be revealed “soon,” a spokesperson told Car and Driver. In the meantime, the Federal Automated Vehicles Policy released by the department addresses cybersecurity as it relates specifically to highly automated vehicles.

That document instructs OEMs that detection, response, and recovery options should be used to address threats and enable a quick response to events—actions that almost none are capable of today. Much as federal officials have urged automakers to share information on safety concerns related to autonomous vehicles, the government likely will expect the same when it comes to cybersecurity failures.

“Cybersecurity is another example of where we intend to push this sharing,” said a senior DOT official who requested he not be identified. “There are a number of places where we’re trying to encourage and help foster an environment where they don’t have to make the same mistakes their neighbor made.”

1475260689-syn-pop-1475259044-security-charlie-miller

Charlie Miller, above, was one of two researchers who figured out how to remotely commandeer control of a Jeep Cherokee in 2015, an exploit that put the industry on edge.

Such sharing is already underway. A group that is one of the few existing bulwarks against car hackers, the Automotive Information Sharing and Analysis Center (Auto-ISAC), commenced operations in January 2016. Composed of members from major automakers and some suppliers, the group logged and shared more than 30 actionable threats in its first months, according to Jon Allen, the group’s executive director.

In July, Auto-ISAC published its set of best practices for automakers and suppliers. The document acknowledges that “a future vehicle with zero risk is unobtainable and unrealistic” and emphasizes ways that automakers and suppliers can assess risks, detect threats, and manage responses. NHTSA referenced the group’s best practices as a document that should be leaned on for guidance for highly automated vehicles, and it’s possible it will again make that recommendation when it comes to protecting the overall vehicle fleet.

But there’s one problem: Right now, almost every automaker lacks the ability to detect real-time threats at a broad level and initiate a response. While the OEMs have fortified defenses with the addition of software that’s supposed to identify and quarantine potential hacking attempts discovered on vehicle networks, no major automakers have the ability to preserve such network traffic in real time, nor the capability to capture data for follow-up investigations.

Corman, who founded iamthecavalry.org, a grassroots organization that analyzes the convergence of cybersecurity and public safety, published a Five-Star Automotive Cyber Safety Program that serves as another set of best practices. The third of those five stars recommends that automakers develop a method for evidence capture, something akin to a black box, that would track intrusion attempts and sabotage on the vehicle’s Controller Area Network bus.

But designing such a data recorder isn’t as simple as it is for the airlines. “One of the first things hackers do is delete the logs to hide their tracks, so you can’t simply try to do an evidence recorder,” Corman said. “You need to do it in a way that incorporates all the hard-fought and hard-earned lessons we’ve had in the private sector.”

Reversal on Working with Independent Experts

If fortifying vehicular security and sharing information are two of the industry’s best defenses against hackers in the connected-car age, so is doing something that once seemed unthinkable: getting outside help from the independent researchers who thus far have pioneered the fledgling cybersecurity field.

Three automakers currently either offer bug bounties or run coordinated disclosure programs, which provide independent researchers an avenue to contact and work with companies to identify and neutralize vulnerabilities before divulging them to a wider audience. Tesla Motors offers a gold coin—a symbolic gesture that’s highly sought within the white-hat hacker community—and a factory tour to researchers who find and share vulnerabilities. General Motors started a coordinated disclosure program in January, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles followed in July.

“We’ve learned we’re really good at working with automotive electronics and automobiles, but we didn’t necessarily know how to work with hackers on our own.” —Jeff Massimilla, General Motors

 

Those are developments encouraged by Auto-ISAC—and they amount to a seismic shift from how automakers treated researchers a year earlier. In 2015, automakers in general through their lobbying group, and General Motors specifically, said independent researchers should not hold the legal right to study the software in their cars, arguing the millions of lines of code that run almost every vehicle function were protected by copyright law. But researchers and do-it-yourself tinkerers secured an exemption in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that mostly preserved their access to vehicles to continue peeking under the hood.

General Motors began to change its stance last summer, when hacker Samy Kamkar told the company he found a flaw in an OnStar smartphone app that allowed him to remotely start vehicles. Within a matter of months, GM reversed its stance to distance itself from independent researchers and established its coordinated disclosure program. Within its first 48 hours of operation, the automaker received a large number of submissions, some of which included reports of bugs the company hadn’t previously known.

“Through that interaction, we understood not only the importance of working with researchers, but that it was important to provide them a clear and defined way to interact with us,” said Jeff Massimilla, chief cybersecurity officer at GM. “They’re probably as apprehensive to work with us as we might be to work with them. And we’ve learned we’re really good at working with automotive electronics and automobiles, but we didn’t necessarily know how to work with hackers on our own. We got a lot of guidance on our program, and it’s been great. I can’t get into statistics, but it’s provided actionable intelligence, and we’ll continue to mature that program.”

General Motors CEO Mary Barra addresses vehicle security at the Billington CyberSecurity Summit, held in July in Detroit.

A Catastrophe Waiting to Happen

Intelligence sharing through Auto-ISAC and coordinated-disclosure programs run by automakers are two strong pillars for defending cars, but that may not be enough to thwart attacks. Corman says the DOT’s upcoming framework for handling cyberthreats should have some teeth. In the same way that systems checks for commercial aircraft are mandatory after a certain number of flight hours, that kitchen safety codes in restaurants are mandatory, and that seatbelts and airbags have become mandatory in the auto industry, he says regulations that set minimum standards for automotive cybertechnology are needed.

“None of those were voluntary,” he said. “I know there’s this fear that the heavy hand of government may not understand their sector well, but this is a reminder these things aren’t just cyber anymore. It’s cyberphysical systems. It’s cybersafety impact. It’s where bits and bytes meet flesh and blood.”

The number of reported vulnerabilities may soon increase. October 1 is the end of a yearlong stay in the implementation of the ruling in the copyright case, meaning researchers who may have felt afraid to report their findings for fear of being prosecuted or sued by automakers will be in the legal clear to share their knowledge.

Three automakers hosting coordinated disclosure programs is perhaps a good start, but what about the rest of them? At a time when the number of embedded connections in vehicles is increasing, the already deployed fleet is devoid of defense, and dongles that plug in to OBD-II ports are increasingly exposed as vulnerable, most automakers and aftermarket suppliers have no means to receive outside help.

Malicious actors aren’t waiting around for disclosure programs anyway, but the lack of clarity could slow the discovery of fixes for dire problems. Security flaws are crises waiting to happen, and a single breach that causes an injury or death could mean the connected-car age ultimately is short-lived.

“When we see some confidence-shattering cybersecurity failure that leads to a loss of life, you’ll see people aggressively disconnecting things,” he said. “Sometimes it takes a catastrophe to really get the hint. The issue I have is when that happens, the response times will be very long and very painful.”

[Popular Mechanics]

October 4, 2016 / by / in , , , , , , , ,
How Technology Can Prevent Children From Dying in Hot Cars

Photo: General MotorsGeneral Motors announced a feature in its 2017 GMC Acadia sport-utility vehicle that will remind a driver that someone might be in the back seat if the rear door was previously opened.

 

Since 1998, nearly 700 babies and other children in the United States alone have died of heatstroke after being accidentally left in a hot vehicle. More than 25 cases have been reported this year. Half of those deaths resulted from children who were left in the cars by caregivers. In 30 percent of the cases, the child entered an unattended, unlocked vehicle.

When outdoor temperatures exceed 30 °C, a vehicle’s internal temperature can rise to 67 °C in as little as 20 minutes. Heatstroke occurs when a person’s temperature exceeds 40 °C, causing internal organs to shut down and damaging cells.

The auto industry is slowly taking action to prevent such deaths. General Motors announced a rear-seat reminder feature in its 2017 GMC Acadia sport-utility vehicle. It notifies the driver at the end of a trip that the rear door was previously opened, prompting the driver to check the backseat before exiting. Car seat manufacturer Evenflo offers technology on the Advanced SensorSafe Embrace DLX infant seat that plays a tone to remind a driver that a child is still in the seat. These are two solutions, but there are several other features that might help prevent tragedies.

A DUAL APPROACH

According to a CNN report, in 2012 the U.S. government warned that “new devices intended to prevent children from dying of heatstroke in parked vehicles are unreliable and should not be used as stand-alone measures to prevent such tragedies.” And, the report noted, no aftermarket devices protected against a child entering an unlocked vehicle. Four years later, this is still the case.

Being a retired systems engineer, I have examined this problem from several perspectives. First, there is the need to detect when a child is left in the vehicle—whether it be through sensors in a car seat or the floor, or rear seats. The system of sensors must produce some kind of alert to warn either the driver, a caregiver, a nearby adult, or first responders in a timely manner so they can remove the child before the symptoms of heatstroke set in. Automakers must also examine cars’ existing technologies or look at new ones in the works, and assess how these can be applied to protect children.

Whether children are left in a car seat or hide in an unattended vehicle, any technology designed to protect them must be able to send out a warning. The technologies needed for each of the following problems are different.

  1. To prevent children from being forgotten in car seats, the seats themselves can be built with sensors to capture biometric data about the child, including weight, respiration, heart rate, and movements, and also whether the child is breathing out carbon dioxide. This information can be transmitted in real time to a caregiver’s smartphone.

A timer can begin either when the driver shuts off the engine or exits the car without removing the child, while sensors monitor the interior temperature of the vehicle. Collectively these would be intended to sense the presence of an unattended child left behind in a car and produce some type of alert, whether by activating the car horn or car alarm or sending a message to the caregiver’s smartphone.

  1. Whenchildren enter an unattended, unlocked vehicle and cannot get out, sensors could be installed to detect movement, screams, banging, and other noises, and send an alarm. Multiple video cameras would need to cover several areas of the vehicle’s interior, including the floor between rows of seats and, in hatchback vehicles, the storage area behind the backseat—where children may hide. An easily accessible switch could be installed for children to activate an alarm themselves. Or a feature could be added that would automatically unlock the doors when the engine has been off for a period of time and is empty of any front-seat occupants but sensors detect that children are still in the back.

Once technologies that can detect unattended children are implemented, then the next step is to interface them with what is already installed in vehicles. That includes video cameras, the horn (which can act as an alarm), and Bluetooth technology (which can send messages to a driver’s smartphone). Cars can already sense when doors are opened or closed and when seat belts are engaged or not engaged, and they can display outdoor temperatures. Many are also equipped with safety components such as a latch for exiting the rear compartment or trunk. A systems solution would integrate all of these technologies toward the common goal of saving children’s lives.

Elden, a retired professional engineer, is an IEEE life senior member and a member of the IEEE Society on Social Implications of Technology. To reach him, email [email protected].

[The Institute]

September 24, 2016 / by / in , , , , , , , , , ,
A Google self-driving car involved in crash in Mt. View today

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A Google self-driving Lexus RX 450h was involved in a crash with a van in Mountain View, Calif. on Friday afternoon, according to local police. Another driver ran a red light and crashed into the car. Thankfully, nobody was injured in the accident.

TechCrunch has reached out to Google for more information.

Two local TV stations, KRON and KPIX, reported that the Google autonomous vehicle had been “in control,” or in its self-driving mode at the time of the crash.

However, the self-driving car was reportedly manned by a Google employee who took over its operation, and applied the brakes when the other car’s driver began crossing an intersection, possibly running a red light.

The crash comes just after the U.S. Department of Transportation made some major autonomous vehicle policy announcements earlier this week, as TechCrunch then reported.

Among other things, the DOT called on self-driving auto makers and related technology firms to prioritize safety, and share data with the government and each other within reason.

Generally, DOT officials say they want to ensure the U.S. can be a leader rather than a laggard in autonomous vehicles, while protecting the traveling public.

Article updated to reflect that another car collided with it.

[TechCrunch]

September 24, 2016 / by / in , , , , , , , , ,
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