Monthly Archives: October 2016

New car model for self driving

New research from the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute indicates that self-driving cars are more frequently involved in accidents than conventional vehicles. For every million miles driven, autonomous cars had an average of 9.1 crashes, compared to 4.1 for conventional vehicles according to data for Google, Delphi, and Audi autonomous vehicles between 2012 and 2015 and the total accident rate of conventional human-piloted vehicles in 2013.

However, this data amounts to 11 total crashes for self-driving cars. All of these involved Google vehicles (which have been undergoing testing for much longer) but most importantly, the self-driving cars were not at fault in any of the accidents.

“One might conclude that self-driving vehicles are more dangerous, but I don’t think the data actually show that right now,” Brandon Schoettle, one of the study’s authors, told NBC. “They appear to be more likely to be involved in crashes in general (though not at fault and always being hit by conventional vehicles), but the injuries that occurred were less severe, and all minor so far.”

Schoettle went on to point out that no fatalities have occurred in accidents involving self-driving vehicles, and there were no severe crashes such as head-on collisions.

The University of Michigan identifies multiple caveats to be considered when drawing conclusions from their data, including the fact that self-driving cars have only traveled 1.2 million miles total, compared to 3 trillion miles travelled by conventional vehicles in the U.S. every year.  Also, self-driving cars have yet to be tested in dangerous driving conditions, such as in the snow.

Though there isn’t enough long-term data to draw any hard-and-fast conclusions about the safety of self-driving cars, it seems possible that they behave differently than conventional drivers, and we humans haven’t adjusted to having them on the road.

Which software Let Cars Cheat Emissions Tests

The VW Group is coming under scrutiny from the EPA for equipping 482,000 diesel cars from 2009 until 2015 with software that would only have the cars meet emissions regulations when they were being tested.

When the cars were not in a test environment, the EPA says that the device was turned off and the cars are producing 40 times the pollution they were during the tests when being used on the roads. The defeat device is not something that was described by VW to the EPA before the cars went on sale, which is another violation. Apparently, the device had two modes, with one mode that would detect when the car was being tested and restrict the emissions, and another that detected road driving and would have the car producing far more emissions than during emissions testing.

The EPA says VW admitted that the device existed when they were threatened with not being allowed to sell 2016 model year diesels in the US.

New research from the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute indicates that self-driving cars are more frequently involved in accidents than conventional vehicles. For every million miles driven, autonomous cars had an average of 9.1 crashes, compared to 4.1 for conventional vehicles according to data for Google, Delphi, and Audi autonomous vehicles between 2012 and 2015 and the total accident rate of conventional human-piloted vehicles in 2013.

However, this data amounts to 11 total crashes for self-driving cars. All of these involved Google vehicles (which have been undergoing testing for much longer) but most importantly, the self-driving cars were not at fault in any of the accidents.

“One might conclude that self-driving vehicles are more dangerous, but I don’t think the data actually show that right now,” Brandon Schoettle, one of the study’s authors, told NBC. “They appear to be more likely to be involved in crashes in general (though not at fault and always being hit by conventional vehicles), but the injuries that occurred were less severe, and all minor so far.”

Schoettle went on to point out that no fatalities have occurred in accidents involving self-driving vehicles, and there were no severe crashes such as head-on collisions.

The University of Michigan identifies multiple caveats to be considered when drawing conclusions from their data, including the fact that self-driving cars have only traveled 1.2 million miles total, compared to 3 trillion miles travelled by conventional vehicles in the U.S. every year.  Also, self-driving cars have yet to be tested in dangerous driving conditions, such as in the snow.

Though there isn’t enough long-term data to draw any hard-and-fast conclusions about the safety of self-driving cars, it seems possible that they behave differently than conventional drivers, and we humans haven’t adjusted to having them on the road.

Electric Race Car Concept

The mystery is no more. Tonight in Las Vegas, right on the strip and just before the beginning of the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show, Faraday Future—that secretive autonomous electric-vehicle company backed by a rich Chinese investor, loaded with top talent from across the automotive industry, and claiming to revolutionize the car business—has unveiled a new modular platform, more details on its relationship with Chinese technology company Letv, and its first ever concept car. It’s a fanciful sci-fi race car. It’s also the exact car that was leaked, twice, earlier today, but now we have a whole bunch more details on the car and the company’s plans.

First off, the platform. Because, well, that’s the only thing about the FFZero1 concept that’s real at this moment. Faraday has developed its own variable electric-vehicle architecture, a modular platform that it will use for a variety of cars. Faraday says the platform will be outfitted with all the hardware it needs for full Internet connectivity and autonomous driving.

Similar to a Tesla, the batteries will be positioned across the floor of the platform, creating a low center of gravity and increasing stability. However, Faraday says it’s developed a new battery structure that uses units the company calls strings—rectangles of connected battery cells that run the width of the vehicle’s floor. The platform can accept multiple battery configurations, adding or subtracting strings to fit various vehicle types and wheelbases. As Senior Vice President of R&D Nick Sampson explains it, the battery strings operate like Christmas lights—”if one battery goes out, the rest continue to function.”

Except for adjustments to the crumple zones, the front and rear suspension and related architecture will stay the same across all platform configurations. Think of it as an autonomous-ready, all-electric take on Volkswagen’s modular MQB platform, one parent architecture to spawn multiple vehicle types.

“There are a lot of companies who claim modular vehicle design,” Sampson said at tonight’s unveiling. “We’ve optimized it.”

Tips for Replacing Car Mirrors With Cameras

The dream of replacing car mirrors with cameras and displays continues, even though federal safety regulations prohibit the total transition from glass to, uh, backlit glass. BMW is the latest to jump onto the digitized-mirror bandwagon, albeit with a clever twist.

Unlike digitized rearview-mirror concepts from Cadillac and Nissan, not to mention the dozens of concept cars over the years with separate displays depicting left, right, and central rear views, the BMW i8 Mirrorless concept being shown at CES has just one display. Fairly large at 11.8 inches by 3 inches, the screen is mounted where a traditional rearview mirror would be, but it stitches together the feeds from three cameras to offer a panoramic and blind-spot-free view of what’s behind and to the sides of the car.

As BMW puts it, the “image of the traffic behind the car covers a greater viewing angle than could be observed using the interior and exterior mirrors. No adjustment of the camera is necessary.” Beyond a better view, the potential advantages of going digital run deeper. Exterior mirrors are bulky and unkind to a vehicle’s aerodynamic performance, while their internal workings—heaters, blind-spot warning lamps, turn indicators, and power-adjustment mechanicals—add weight. Erase those and replace them with tiny cameras, and the benefits start to roll in. BMW also set up the i8 Mirrorless concept to highlight warnings for potential trouble in its giant rearview screen; the automaker offers the example of a lane change in front of a faster-moving vehicle, during which the i8’s display will flash a warning to call out the potential risk.

Of course, there are some drawbacks to this technology that we can think of. First off, federal safety regulations continue to prohibit the use of cameras in place of mirrors. The 2016 Cadillac CT6’s digital rearview mirror passes muster only because it defaults to a normal mirror; the driver must manually switch the mirror over to its camera-fed mode. In the BMW’s case, such a work-around is impossible, since there is no traditional mirror. The side views come from tiny cameras mounted where the door mirrors used to be, while the central aft view is provided by a camera located above the rear window. Which brings us to our next potential issue: Keeping the cameras clean. If you drive at all on dirty, salted roads, you know that backup cameras easily become obscured in the muckiest of conditions. BMW claims this concept’s cameras feature Gorilla Glass lenses with a special dirt-repellent coating, and that the position of the side cameras is such that “spray water is conducted around the lens.” Let’s file the magically dirt-averse cameras under Stuff We Need to Try for Ourselves. (Nissan has dabbled in grime-resistant paint, but we haven’t tested that, either.)