Category Archives: Auto Technology

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Self-Driving Cars – A Reality?

Like the Industrial Revolution of years gone by, we are on the cusp of another revolution that is set to change everything. The Automation Revolution has slowly been on its way for decades, but it is only now that we are finding uses for automated technology that are beyond factories. Human resources staff can use software to automate payroll and other tasks; we can develop scripts and macros to automate a lot of jobs on the computer. Logistics is also a field heavily impacted by automation as robotics help pack and dispatch goods. There are more examples of automation right now than before. That trend will carry on moving upwards as well.

How does this affect cars? Well – easily. Self-driving cars are becoming more commonplace in conversations taking place regarding automation and the future of driving. The near future as well – Lyft, one of the ride-hail apps that compete with Uber and others wants the majority of its trips to be in self-driving cars within four years. That’s not long away. Not at all.

As with anything remotely, new safety will always be a question and that’s true for self-driving cars as well. Tesla’s Model S was involved in a fatal crash that raised concerns over the true safety of driverless cars. However, that was during a test-phase, using prototype code with a prototype car, but still – these tests shouldn’t have life or death at the end of them! Technology isn’t perfect, and concerns over coding and glitches have been raised – especially so if a flaw with an automatic driverless car means a crash! The Tesla case was strange, as the driver was reported to have been watching a DVD at the time – but what we do know is that neither the car, nor the driver noticed the dangerous situation occurring. Truly a worry. It does look like anyone in possession of a driverless car will need to be ready to assume control at any point and any driver under the influence will still need one of the top DUI lawyers – any driver will still need to have their wits about them in a driverless car. Just in case…

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Google, on the other hand – are making massive advances with safe driverless cars. Tesla’s Elon Musk is arguing for self-driving cars to refuse to let humans take the wheel, as human error should be removed from driving. Google are taking a bit of a different approach. Google’s cars have been involved in accidents, but most of them have been due to other human drivers. It’s a strong point in favor of an AI chauffeur. By 2030 it is expected that self-driving vehicles will make up the majority of car sales in the United States. It will certainly reduce the amount of road traffic accidents, but unfortunately, they cannot be wiped out. Nearly all road collisions are caused by human error; this won’t happen if cars are not controlled by humans. However, will self-driving cars be totally safe? No – the road is dangerous, but self-driving cars will be a reality, and they will be safer.

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The Best Safety Features On Today’s Roads

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Source: Wikimedia

These days, cars come with all kinds of techie bells and whistles. Some of these are genuinely useful and practical, whereas others are useless gimmicks. However, one thing we literally can’t get enough of is safety features. With airbags and emergency braking now becoming universal standards, manufacturers are pushing towards new frontiers of vehicle safety. Here are some of the recent technologies that are making our roads safer…

Blind Spot Detection

On the surface, blind spot detection is a pretty simple feature. It’s basically just a light on your wing mirror that blinks whenever a vehicle or other object is in your blind spot. In some cars, it also gives out an auditory alert so that you know not to change lanes just yet. As simple as the concept is, this is a real game changer for vehicle safety. Countless fatal car accidents are caused by improper lane changing. We’re sure you can think of at least one time where you’ve gone to change lanes, only to suddenly jerk back when you suddenly realize there was a car in your blind spot. This will also avoid any incidents involving cyclists and pedestrians somewhere outside your field of vision.

Rear-View Cameras

This is another remarkably simple feature, and comes as standard in many cars these days. If you’ve been driving with the help of a rear-view camera for long enough, it might be pretty mind-boggling to think about how we managed to get by before this tech hit the market. Seeing everything behind you on a screen is incredibly handy for getting out of tight parking spaces, and saves you from hitting anyone or anything as you reverse out of your driveway. The government recognizes the value of this, and in 2014, the NHTSA made rear-visibility tech mandatory for all new vehicles, effective May 2018.

Lane-Keeping Assist

Here’s another piece of tech designed to cut down on the amount of accidents caused by poor lane changing. When it’s activated, lane-keeping assist technology will stop you from drifting off into another driver’s lane. Cameras detect the lane markings in order to keep you in the center of yours. If the system detects that you’re straying too far to the left or the right markings, it will subtly adjust your steering and get your car back into the proper position.

Heads-Up Displays

One of the things that makes driving inherently dangerous is that you’re constantly having to glance away from the road, and look down at a phone or an infotainment system to check your map. This is not only irritating, but extremely dangerous as well. However, increasingly common heads-up displays are gradually phasing this problem out, by projecting navigation information onto the windshield, right in front of your eyes. With this tech in place, you’ll never have take your eyes off the road even for a fraction of a second. This may sound trivial, but in high-risk situations, a moment is all it takes to turn a drive into a potentially fatal catastrophe!

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What Do Self-Driving Trucks Mean For The Freight Industry?

A couple of decades ago, self-driving vehicles were the stuff of science fiction; the kind of thing that’s only seen in over-the top, action-packed films. However, today, they’re getting very close to becoming a reality. While most companies experimenting with this technology are focussing on consumer passenger vehicles, one firm, Daimler, has begun testing for the first-driving semi-truck. Here, we’ll take a closer look at what this means for the company, and the trucking industry as a whole.

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Source: Pixabay

Although most of the news we see has been focussing on Google’s self-driving project, Daimler has been making considerable strides forward, and just might beat Google to their place in the market. Perfecting the technology for a self-driving freight truck is a marginally simpler affair, as long-haul trucks spend the majority of their time on long stretches of highway and freeway. As a result, Google’s struggling towards its target to release their self-driving vehicles by the year 2020, while Daimler’s Freightliner Inspiration truck has already been officially licensed to operate on public highways in Nevada, USA.

The initial reaction from many people who work in the long-haul and truck servicing industries has been one of panic. With self-driving trucks that are becoming so sophisticated so quickly, many in these sectors assume that their jobs are at risk. While it’s uncertain what this tech will mean for these kinds of jobs, it’s clear that self-driving trucks are far too valuable to turn back on themselves. In the US, heavy trucks represent around 20% of total transportation fuel, but self-driving trucks may be capable of reducing fuel bills by 4-7%. With most long-haul trucks travelling hundreds of thousands of miles through their useful life, this translates into thousands of dollars in savings for the industry every year! Regardless of what it means for workers, the money is simply too much to turn away from.

Daimler, in partnership with Peloton Technology, is leading the way in developing truck platoons that can further reduce the massive cost of fuel, and haul more freight at a time than was ever possible before. While a whole convoy of driverless trucks might sound pretty over the top, it’s technically very feasible. There would be a lead truck, with a single driver in the cab, whose job it would be to lead a convoy of twelve or so trucks along their route. Peloton’s platooning technology allows two or more trucks to connect through a cloud infrastructure, and uses safety features such as active braking, which is already something found in a range of consumer vehicles on the road. While the lead driver would have control over all the trucks in this model, drivers would still be needed to negotiate highway exits, tricky urban streets, and backing up into loading bays. While this is expected to help with the western world’s truck driver shortage, it’s still unclear if any working truckers will lose their jobs to driverless tech.

Self-driving cars still have a long way to go before they become a common sight on our roads, but self-driving trucks are speeding on towards mass production.