Tag Archives: transportation

Coding for cars

road_lightApparently the media and navigation systems of a high-end Mercedes now require more lines of code than a 787 Dreamliner:

Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner, scheduled to be delivered to customers in 2010, requires about 6.5 million lines of software code to operate its avionics and onboard support systems.

Alfred Katzenbach, the director of information technology management at Daimler, has reportedly said that the radio and navigation system in the current S-class Mercedes-Benz requires over 20 million lines of code alone and that the car contains nearly as many ECUs as the new Airbus A380 (excluding the plane’s in-flight entertainment system).

There is a considerably more awesome car than an S-class described in Heavy Weather by Bruce Sterling, but I can’t find my copy to tell you how many lines of code that needed (I remember it was specified somewhere).

[via Charles Stross][image Aitor Escauriaza from on flickr]

Dude, where’s my flying car?

Jetson It’s become a cliche to ask why we don’t have flying cars yet, since they’ve been a dream of science fiction writers and gadgeteers for decades. It’s not easy to build a flying car, that’s why–but Moller International has been working on it for years and has announced that it is in the process of completing its fourth “Jetson”–well, they don’t call it a flying car, they call it a “volantor airframe,” but still–and expects to complete forty of them by 2009. And Moller, as a glance at its website will reveal, has much bigger plans down the road for their flagship design, the M400 Skycar. (Via Gizmodo.)

The two-passenger, saucer-shaped M200G Jetson is designed for operation at up to 10 feet above the ground (so its operators don’t need pilot’s licenses), uses fly-by-wire technology (meaning a computer takes care of all the tricky control stuff and you just have to point it where you want to go) and:

can take-off and land vertically, is the size of a small automobile, operates vibration-free with little noise and is also qualified to travel short distances on the ground as an automobile as well. The prototype M200X has completed over two hundred flights with and without a pilot on board and can be seen flying here. In addition to the M200G, the Company plans to offer the M200E, a kit-built version of its Jetson aircraft with sales beginning in 2010. The M200E will not have the same software enabled altitude constraints as the M200G and the Company expects the M200E to be operable as an Experimental class aircraft.

The eight rotary engines give the Jetson a cruising speed of 75 miles per hour, a maximum speed of 100, a range of 100 miles, and a cargo capacity of up to 250 pounds. The engines operate on unleaded gasoline and can also be configured to run on other fuels.

If you want one, you have to identify yourself as a

Old tech meets high tech in one-man sailing vessel

Project Green Jet proposed design

Although my primary diet as a young fiction-reader was science fiction (Asimov, Heinlein, Andre Norton) and fantasy (Tolkien, Lewis, Lloyd Alexander), there was one most assuredly non-SF or F series that captured my imagination almost as much: Arthur Ransome‘s series of 12 books about English kids “messing about in boats,” which began with Swallows and Amazons (still in print after eight decades, and soon to be both a musical and a motion picture !).

Which is why this (very long) article from Gizmag on sailing in general and something called the Green Jet Project in particular caught my eye (via :

Green Jet uses automated systems controlling non-conventional sails to offer a glimpse of the future of sail – faster, more efficient, less labour intensive with minimal environmental impact. The vision is a superyacht sailed by one man with a touchscreen.

Several screens of interesting information later:

Hydraulic motors will pull the sail to its 55 metre height (top of the rig is 62m) in around 30 to 40 seconds and each sail can rotate through 160 degrees on a pivot point to best catch the wind. Navigation is touch-screen and simple, though the system that sails the boat is far from that, not to mention monitoring an array of weather information systems.

Designer Erik Sifrer is currently seeking backers for the project, which he expects would require more than 70 million euro and three to six years to bring to fruition.

A vast sailing vessel (57 metres, in this case) under the command of just a single person? There’s only one possible response to that vision, if you’re an Arthur Ransome reader: as Nancy Blackett would surely say, “Jibbooms and bobstays!”

(Image: Mides Design)


Uncrashable cars…and one that definitely isn’t

Uncrashable Car graphic “Uncrashable” cars are the long-term promise of the largest road safety research project ever launched in Europe (Via Science Daily):

A truck exits suddenly from a side road, directly into your lane only dozens of metres ahead. Suddenly, your car issues a warning, starts applying the brakes and attempts to take evasive action. Realising impact is unavoidable; in-car safety systems pre-tension the safety belts and arm the airbag, timing its release to the second before impact.

The research project, called PReVENT, has 56 partners and a budget of more than €50 million, and it’s main focus is on relatively cheap and simple technologies like parking sensors and satellite navigation that can be adapted to enhance safety, but some of the more experimental systems being studied in some of its sub-projects, with catchy names like WILLWARN (which uses wireless communication with other vehicles to alert drivers about potentially dangerous situations), LATERALSAFE (which uses active sensing to eliminate the dangers of the blind spot) and COMPOSE, which can automatically brake if a pedestrian steps onto the road, or extend the bumper and raise the hood to keep occupants safer.

Some of these technologies could start to show up on cars within just a few years’ time. (Image: PReVENT.)

North American Eagle If, on the other hand, the idea of an uncrashable car somehow takes all the fun out of driving for you, you might want to follow up on this lead (Times Online via Gizmodo):

Are you fearless? Do you have razor-sharp reactions and the sponsor-friendly good looks of a young Robert Redford? Think you’ve got what it takes to drive a supersonic jet car at speeds of more than 800mph?

If so, you might be just the man (or woman) to take the wheel of the North American Eagle, a 42,500bhp jet car with everything it takes to smash the land speed record, says its maker, except one thing – a driver.

Last week the team behind a joint American-Canadian attempt to win the world record back from the British launched an open contest to find that person.

Read more about the team here, then send a 400-word e-mail listing your credentials and a photo of yourself to landspeedracing@gmail.com.

Tell ’em Futurismic sent you. (Image: landspeed.com.)

[tags]transportation, automobiles, safety[/tags]

A world without trucks?

CargoCap_Halle_460 Trucks are noisy, smelly, intimidating if you’re in a small car, and just generally a nuisance. So why not get rid of them? Transport your goods instead via automated subterranean networks. (Via KurzweilAI.net.)

Sound a little kooky? Maybe, but:

Some Western European countries are getting serious about transporting consumer goods through automated subterranean networks – introducing a fifth transport mode next to road, rail, air and water. This rare combination of low-tech sense and high-tech knowledge could lead to a further economic growth without destroying the environment and the quality of life. Super fast underground cargo transport is a favourite subject of futurologists. Yet, the key to the feasibility of the proposed systems is their very low but constant speed.

The goods would be transported via electric motors at low speeds of under 35 kilometres per hour along what would essentially be an automated subway line. Belgium, Germany and Holland have all explored or are exploring the possibility:

In Belgium, the University of Antwerp designed and proposed an underground logistic system that would transport large 40-ft containers from the newly built container dock in the harbour to an existing marshalling yard and a planned inland navigation hub on the other bank of the river…

In Germany, the Ruhr University of Bochum is working on a rather different concept, called the CargoCap project. The German system is designed for much smaller loads and makes use of unmanned electric vehicles on rails that travel through pipelines with a diameter of only 1.6 metres. Each vehicle, called a ‘Cap’, is designed for the transportation of two European standard pallets…

The German system resembles research that was conducted in Holland almost ten years ago. The Dutch then investigated the possibility of an underground logistic network that spanned the whole country…with one hub for every 1,000 to 5,000 homes, which boiled down to a maximum walking distance of 750 meters to pick up goods…

I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right: the biggest problem will be the initial cost. The proposed Dutch network would have cost 60 billion Euros ten years ago. Which is why nothing more has been done on it. But the German and Belgian systems might actually come to fruition…and make a little more room on the roads.

And after all, it’s not as if something like this has never been done.

(Image: CargoCap.)