Archive for the ‘transportation’ Category

In the Future, Smart People Will Let Cars Take Control

December 4, 2007

As the baby boomers cruise into their golden years, I have good news for them — and for everyone else in danger of being run over by these aging drivers. The boomers will not be driving like Mr. Magoo. An electronic chauffeur will conduct them on expressways, drop them at the mall entrance and then go park their cars.

If you doubt this prediction, I don’t blame you. The self-driving car ranks right up there with the personal hovercraft as the futurist vision that never comes true.

Source:  New York Times


Plans to Fix U.S. Rail Could End Road & Sky Gridlock

November 26, 2007

Nestled between the seaside bluffs of Southern California’s Torrey Pines and the concrete arteries of Interstate 5 is the low-profile campus of General Atomics, home to the only magnetic levitation, or maglev, train in the United States.

The company’s Electromagnetic Systems Division built the test track here three years ago, basing it in part on a design for a maglev rocket launch system developed by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

General Atomics’ director of maglev systems, Sam Gurol, has promised me a rare ride on this prototype train, which is not really a train at all, but rather a single, open chassis with no seats. The track looks a little like the guideway to the Walt Disney World monorail in miniature—just 400 ft. long and raised 2 ft. to 5 ft. off the ground.

Source:  Popular Mechanics

Honda’s production fuel-cell vehicle getting rave reviews

November 15, 2007

2008 Honda FCX Clarity

This is big. Huge. Honda has made a production hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicle. Sure, experimental models have been buzzing around L.A. for a while (the city of Los Angeles leased several).

But this will be more available to Joe (or Joan) Public. Provided he (or she) lives near a hydrogen-equipped filling station like the ones in Santa Monica, Torrance and Irvine.

The car is Accord-sized (though rear head room looks a little tight) and has a fuel cell stack and battery pack much smaller than previous Honda fuel cell cars. It really looks like the company got it right with this one.

The car will go on sale next summer.

Source:  Los Angeles Times

Taking a Whack at Making a Car

November 14, 2007

IAN A. BRUCE presses an Italian-made alligator-skin boot onto the accelerator of his three-wheel thrill machine and careens around a corner. The agile metal box tilts precariously to one side, leaving Mr. Bruce nearly horizontal to the ground.

“The experience is like driving a jet fighter,” he shouts over the engine. “It’s truly a new kind of vehicle.”

The machine, which has one wheel in front and two in back, is a hybrid of a motorcycle and a car, and it underscores a trend: vehicles of the future are as unorthodox as the entrepreneurs who are trying to create them.

A generation of digital-era Henry Fords, unabashed and brimming with confidence, has emerged. Born of Silicon Valley and the dot-com culture, they are trying to apply to carmaking the same entrepreneurial spirit that built the information superhighway.

Most of the inventors are not carmakers by background or training. But they are cocksure, backed by millions of dollars in venture capital and cloaked in the righteousness of environmentalism. To their critics, they are flying at high speed around a blind curve, destined to become reality-check crash-test dummies.

Source:  New York Times

Man wants to build electric car infrastructure

October 29, 2007

Shai Agassi, a Silicon Valley technologist who was in competition to become chief executive of SAP, one of the world’s largest software companies, has re-emerged with a grand plan to reinvent the world’s automobile industry around battery-powered all-electric cars.

Others are developing green cars, like the Tesla and Chevrolet Volt. However, Mr. Agassi is not planning to make cars, but instead wants to deploy an infrastructure of battery-charging stations in the United States, Europe and the developing world.

The new system will sell electric fuel on a subscription basis and will subsidize vehicle costs through leases and credits.

“We’re basically saying this is just like the cellular phone model,” he said. “If you think of Tesla as the iPhone, we’re AT&T.”

On Monday, he plans to announce in New York City that he has raised $200 million from private venture partners, including the Israel Corporation, a large Israeli transportation and technology holding company, Vantage Point Venture Partners, as well as a group of private investors including Edgar Bronfman Sr., the liquor magnate, and James D. Wolfensohn, former head of the World Bank. Israel Corporation’s $100 million investment was announced earlier this year.

Source:  New York Times

GM to lend SUVs to prove hydrogen fuel holds water

October 20, 2007

Operation driveway

More than 100 Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell electric vehicles will be deployed by General Motors in the streets of Los Angeles, New York City and Washington, DC in the largest market test of fuel cell vehicles of its kind.

The goal of what GM is calling the “first large-scale market test” of fuel-cell vehicles is to introduce the two coasts to a technology that is viewed by many as too expensive and difficult to use — which, according to GM, it isn’t.

Fuel cells convert hydrogen to electricity in a chemical reaction whose only byproduct is water. In the Equinox, the cell powers an electric motor that can run for about 150 miles on one tank of hydrogen.

GM representatives met with prospective test drivers in Los Angeles last week, looking for a cross section in terms of age, location and driving habits. The Equinoxes will be delivered beginning in January for a three-month test period. The vehicle and fuel will be free, and GM will provide 24/7 roadside assistance.

Source:  Los Angeles Times

Spyder luring admirers into its web

October 11, 2007

Zooming down the highway on a three-wheeled machine that resembles a snowmobile on tires, J.P. Patterson is used to turning drivers’ heads.

And like any good salesperson, he knows how to draw attention to his product. Last weekend, Patterson pulled the Can-Am Spyder, with its two wheels in front and one in the rear, into a Springville area motorcycle club full of bikers. Within seconds, a crowd was gathering for a closer look.

“It’s like being a celebrity everywhere you go,” said Patterson, sales manager for Ken’s Service and Sales in Elma. “Actually, it’s like being a bodyguard for a celebrity. They don’t want to talk to you, they want to see it.”

A few Spyders should start appearing on Buffalo area roadways by the end of this month, as the first buyers take delivery of a limited number of them. A bigger rollout of the Spyders is scheduled to begin next spring, with New York as one of 11 states where they will initially be sold.

The Y-shaped roadsters are assembled in Quebec by Bombardier Recreational Products, or BRP, with a base sticker price of $15,000. Two area dealers that sell other BRP products, Ken’s and an Akron business, Buck’s Motorsports, are awaiting their first Spyder shipments.

Full article:  Buffalo News

Welcome to the transport of tomorrow

October 11, 2007

Personal Rapid Transport from Advanced Transport SystemsPersonal Rapid Transport from Advanced Transport Systems

When Heathrow Terminal 5 opens next year, a network of up to 18 driverless pods will ferry people between the main terminal and its car parks, where each pod will be controlled by an internal computer and onboard sensor systems.

Welcome to the pioneering world of personal rapid transport (PRT) – a feasible technological solution to the chronic problem of traffic congestion, offering public transport with the privacy of a car.

Basically, a driverless four-seater vehicle (call it a podcar if you like) that automatically runs on a guideway over a dedicated network, lighter than light rail and running on a fraction of its energy, PRT has been the ambition of a select group of engineers since the late 1950s. But only now are the first networks being constructed.

Source:  Guardian

Airship may link historic English cities

October 6, 2007


A futuristic passenger airship could provide commuters with a new link between two historic cities.

The Skycat helium balloon would float passengers from Cambridge to Oxford in an hour.

The project is being developed at the Cardington sheds in Bedfordshire, the home of the UK’s airship industry.

But Advanced Technologies Group must find funding and get permission to use the airspace before the 21st Century airship gets off the ground.

Source:  BBC News

New Electrobike to make its debut next month

September 26, 2007


Electrobike calls it the world’s fastest hair dryer, but its Pi electric bicycle isn’t even in the same league. It has half the wattage of a Conair — just 750 watts, or about 1 horsepower.

That’s the federally mandated limit for an electric bicycle like the Pi, which does triple duty: It’s a traditional pedal pusher, a motor-driven bike and an art piece. You can ride it as long as your legs and lungs hold out. Or just nudge the throttle with your thumb and let the 36-volt pack of nickel metal hydride batteries do the heavy breathing. Or you can park it in the living room between your Eames chairs and Albero sofa and admire its arching architecture.

One look at it, and you know: Pi occupies a rarefied space in the world of two wheels. It isn’t just the heady Euclidean name, Ayn Randian design or ultra-green cradle-to-cradle engineering that makes it so unique. It’s also where it’s sold.

Pi isn’t available at bicycle, scooter or motorcycle shops. Beginning next month, it’ll be for sale exclusively through Design Within Reach, a nationwide 65-store chain that offers super-stylish furniture and accessories at supposedly affordable prices. With its midcentury modern profile and $7,500 price tag, Pi fits the bill.

Source:  Los Angeles Times (with video of bike in action)