April 23, 2014, 6:19 pm

Tomorrow’s Cargo Ships Will Use Augmented Reality to Sail the Seas

By Raymond Refuerzo

By 2025, the first batch of autonomous vehicles will be driving through your neighborhood. But what about cargo ships? Wired tells us more about this story.

The massive tiller and towering consoles are gone, replaced with minimalist workstations facing floor-to-ceiling windows that serve as a vast head-up display. The ship’s navigation information is overlaid in front of the crew, along with other vessel’s routes and obstacles that could be obscured by fog or rain. At night, thermal cameras display live video over the window to let watchmen keep tabs on what’s ahead.

After inputting the ship’s destination, the navigation system determines the most economical route and uses a sea ice analyzer to avoid a Titanic redux.

The bridge concept was developed by the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and Rolls-Royce. Beyond its multi-ton, high-dollar luxury barges, Rolls has a storied history in maritime development, building and developing engines, along with a host of other marine and aviations systems.

The bridge of the future also extends to tug boats, with the OX concept that automatically detects the captain and then configures the workstation to both their size and needs. The user interface is fully adjustable for usability and visibility, and places augmented reality markers on the ship it’s towing to help with deckhand placement, predict the route of the vessel, and get real-time winch information.

But autonomous systems are going to make their way into large vessels in the near future, and VTT and Rolls-Royce are already working on the first round of systems, which initially include remote controls that can be commanded from the bridge or on land.

Photo Credit: VTT

April 23, 2014, 5:11 am

Do We Really Need a New Rearview Mirror? Nissan Thinks So

By Raymond Refuerzo

It’s just a matter of time before the rearview mirror is obsolete, but Nissan is keeping it alive with a mirror-video hybrid that can toggle between a traditional mirror and a screen with the flick of a switch. Wired shares this report.

Nissan is simply calling it the “Smart” rearview mirror, and it combines the simplicity of a rearview mirror with the unobstructed view of a back-up camera.

A 1.3-megapixel video camera mounted out back streams a live feed to an LCD monitor hidden inside the mirror. When your lanky friend or latest Ikea shopping binge blocks rearward visibility, you swap to video mode, getting a clear view of what’s behind. Even better, there are no headrests or massive body pillars in your way, and the streaming video is augmented so it looks like the same mirror reflection you’re accustomed to.

The Smart rearview mirror can also compensate for sun and headlight glare, and is just the latest in a string of advanced driver assistance systems from Nissan. In addition to now-common back-up cameras, Nissan pioneered “around-view” monitors that provide a bird’s-eye view of a car’s surroundings, along with lane departure warning and emergency braking systems, which can both be incorporated into the Smart mirror. But Nissan’s not the first to ditch the rearview mirror for a camera.

Audi used a similar system on its Le Mans race car last year, and Nissan is doing the same thing during this year’s race, equipping its hybrid-electric ZEOD RC racer with its new rearview camera.

For the rest of us, the mirror will make it to market in Japan in 2015. But because of strict laws in the states, it could be a while before the system will find its way to a Nissan dealer near you.

Photo Credit

April 22, 2014, 4:47 pm

Armstrong Forensic Engineers | Charles O. Funk, Ph.D., P.E.

By admin

Dr. Charles Funk is an accomplished Professional Engineer and consultant with forensic experience in both accident reconstruction and fire cause and origin investigation. His major practice areas include the forensic investigation of vehicular and non-vehicular collisions involving people, objects, and vehicles as well as the forensic investigation of residential and commercial fires. He holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Drexel University and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan.

April 21, 2014, 8:39 pm

A Truck Tire That Self-Inflates When Its Pressure Drops

By Raymond Refuerzo

Aperia’s Halo an ingenious system that knows when you need air, and then adds it. Wired tells us more.

The five-pound device bolts to the center of the truck’s wheel. Inside, a pump captures energy from a pendulum that swings with the wheel’s rotation. Aperia likens it to a self-winding watch. The rotation produces the pumping action, which works at any speed. Two air lines connect the pump to the tire; whenever an internal sensor detects low air pressure, the system sends air to the tire.

peria cites Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration data that shows how more than half of all truck tires are under-inflated, which drives up tire maintenance costs by 10 to 15 percent. According to their calculations, properly maintained tire pressure can save up to $2,200 per truck per year–a figure that doesn’t include the savings from greater fuel efficiency and safety.

After a two-year testing period that included 8 million miles of testing, the company is ready to launch its system for Class 7 and 8 tractors and trailers. Aperia says it’s good for truckers of all stripes traversing any environment between -40 and 257 degrees Fahrenheit and promises that each system is good for around 500,000 miles of travel. Additional hardware cane relay the tire inflation info to a screen in the cabin.

Photo Credit

April 21, 2014, 6:59 am

Armstrong Forensic Engineers | Steven A. Rundell, Ph.D., P.E.

By admin

Dr. Rundell is a consulting biomechanist and mechanical engineer based in Armstrong’s Detroit office. His major practice area involves the forensic investigation of accidents resulting in traumatic injury. He holds a B.S. and M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Michigan State University and a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from Drexel University.

Dr. Rundell is a licensed Professional Engineer and has published numerous peer-reviewed journal articles and abstracts. He has presented scientific findings at both medical and engineering conferences. Most recently, Dr. Rundell has performed research related to the failure of spinal implants, mechanical causation of spinal disc herniations, and lower extremity forces generated during rear-end automobile collisions.

April 20, 2014, 5:29 pm

America’s Trains Are Finally Getting Automated Safety Systems

By Raymond Refuerzo

Southern California’s Metrolink has become the first commuter rail system in the country to implement a new automatic safety system in revenue service.Wired reports.

The system, dubbed positive train control, uses GPS to monitor train movement, alert conductors and dispatchers about potential collisions, and even take control of the train to prevent a crash. It’s especially useful if crews are working on the track, switches are left in the wrong position, or engineers disregard instructions from dispatchers.

But most importantly for Metrolink, it fulfills the requirements of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, which requires rail operators to install positive train control by December 31, 2015. Passage of the requirement became a priority shortly after a Metrolink train collided with a Union Pacific freight train in Chatsworth, California, in 2008. It was reported that the train’s engineer was texting immediately before the crash, and the Metrolink train ran a red light.

It may seem like common sense to install electronic fail-safes that prevent rail accidents, but implementing the technology is extremely complex. Unlike the collision-prevention systems found on modern automobiles, positive train control requires extensive electronic communication with dispatch and coordination with other rail carriers to work properly. That’s a major concern for rail operators.

It also is expensive. The PTC system is currently operational on selected trains running between Los Angeles and Riverside. Installing the technology  on all 52 locomotives and 476 signals throughout the system, which covers a wide swath of Southern California, will cost nearly $211 million. A full scale rollout of positive train control by the entire rail industry could cost more than $10 billion.

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April 16, 2014, 3:36 am

How Implants and Prosthetic Limbs Get Recycled and Reused

By Raymond Refuerzo

Every year, millions of pacemakers, metal hips, and prosthetics outlast the bodies they’re designed for. But these medical devices could very well go on to have a second-life—in cars, wind turbines, and even another person. Gizmodo tell us more about this report.

The implants are, after all, full of valuable metals like titanium or cobalt alloy. Cremation makes the metals easily recoverable, writes Frank Swain in a fascinating investigation into the afterlife of medical devices.

The Dutch company Orthometals, for example, collects 250 tons of metal every year from European crematoriums and sells it all to car and airplane manufacturers. The city of Bristol in England has even proposedrecycling these metals into road signs. And, in the U.S., Implant Recycling sells crematorium metal back to medical device makers. So there’s never telling where grandma’s old hip might end up.

For more complicated devices like pacemakers and prosthetic limbs, charities are at the forefront of a growing movement to repurpose them in developing countries. The UK charity Pace4Life goes to funeral parlors, where it collects pacemakers for use in India, and the Tennessee-based Stand With Hope sends prosthetic limbs to Ghana—just to name a few.

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April 15, 2014, 3:20 am

Magical, Retractable Tire Studs Only Deploy When You Need Them

By Raymond Refuerzo

Finnish tire company Nokian is showing off a set of tires that do exactly that, allowing drivers to deploy metal studs at the push of a button for on-demand grip in even the worst polar vortex. There’s a lot of snow and ice in Finland. Wired looks at this story.

Nokian has a few decades of experience with this stuff. It made the world’s first snow tire, and its tires were on anAudi RS6 that hit 208 mph on ice.

The tire is based on Nokian’s Hakkapeliitta 8, which uses metal studs. The tire’s sipes–or grooves–are designed to eject liquid and slush while compressing surface snow to provide a stable surface. Several patent applications, however, offer tantalizing clues to technology that would make Q proud.

First, there’s a communication system that transfers data from the tire to a “mobile communicator.” Yes, that could be something so simple as a tire pressure monitor that pushes a message to your smartphone. But that patent, and another for “vehicle monitoring system tool,” could be combined with Nokian’s “system and method of converting and communicating operational characteristics of tires” that could alert the tire to a frozen surface or loss of traction, then deploy the spikes.

More interesting is a patent for “a coil system and voltage rectifiers for communication and inductive powering of devices inside rotating tyre of a vehicle.” It outlines a method of storing and deploying energy inside of a tire using a combination of receiver coils and serial capacitors.

And then there’s a patent simply titled, “spike for tire.” It outlines the design of a “a tire which has improved clawing force (ice traveling performance) and reduced weight.” There are any number of things this could mean, but as long as we’re speculating, it isn’t unreasonable to think that engineers designing a tire with electrically or pneumatically deployed spikes would want the spikes as light as possible to minimize the amount of energy needed to actuate them, and the aforementioned energy storage system would be just the ticket.

Photo Credit: Nokian

April 14, 2014, 4:55 pm

Volvo Thinks Magnetic Roads Will Guide Tomorrow’s Autonomous Cars

By Raymond Refuerzo

We live in a world where satellites and microprocessors can tell us how to get anywhere we want to go, but Volvo believes the future of transportation lies with something much simpler: magnets. Wired looks at this story from Volvo.

Volvo argues that magnets, unlike electronic transmission, are unfazed by poor weather conditions or obstacles in the road, so they can reliably guide vehicles along the road. It recently completed a research project to test the theory, using a road embedded with magnets and a vehicle outfitted with specialized sensors to determine how accurately and reliably the car could discern its position.

Volvo tested its theory at its test grounds in Hällered, Sweden. One of the biggest challenges was developing sensors capable of receiving data while speeding over a small magnet. Engineers calculated that a car traveling just over 90 mph would need a sampling rate of at least 400 readings per second. Typical magnetic sensors can only handle about three samples per second and need to be within centimeters of the magnet they’re detecting.

Volvo first tested the sensor system, mounted to an S60, on a “forest road consisting of a layer of stones of various sizes and on top of that a thick layer of soil had formed over the years,” according to a report on the project. Engineers lined the road with neodymium magnets 20 mm in diameter and 10 mm thick, and ferrite magnets 30 mm in diameter and 5 mm thick. They were placed in plastic tubes buried vertically in the road, with the mouth of the tube just below the surface. The first run with 100 magnets along 100 meters of road proved the system, when coupled with data collected from the car (speed, for example), could calculate the car’s position to within 10 cm when traveling just under 45 mph.

 Further testing on a paved roadway, onto which engineers glued the magnets to the asphalt. The results were similar, but more compelling because the installation was far easier–and could be applied to existing roads. The sensors calculated the car’s position to the same margin, at speeds exceeding 90 mph.

Photo Credit

April 13, 2014, 8:18 pm

Why More Americans Are Riding Public Transit Than Ever Before

By Raymond Refuerzo

Americans are using public transit more than ever, according to a study that further proves people are increasingly comfortable riding buses and trains. Wired shares this story.

According to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), Americans took 10.7 billion trips on public transit last year, matching a ridership record set in 2008. The association has attributed the ridership gains to new infrastructure and a recovering economy, singling out cities that opened transit lines in recent years for ridership increases.

 Indeed, nearly 60 percent of trips taken on transit are work commutes. It’s true that employment rates, gas prices and expanded access affect ridership in the short term. But in the long term, increased public transit ridership is a trend that’s been ongoing for nearly two decades. Overall, ridership is up 37.2 percent since 1995—more than population growth.

Meanwhile, Americans are driving less: Vehicle miles traveled per capita have fallen since 2004. Car ownership is increasingly expensive, and congestion makes it less attractive to drive in an urban environment.

It appears that, slowly but surely, Americans are embracing the idea that railway tracks can take them the same places highways do and transit stops can exist alongside parking garages.

Perhaps the biggest sign of a cultural shift is that transit ridership isn’t just growing in cities like New York and Washington, D.C., where taking a subway or bus has long been faster and more convenient than driving on many routes.

Photo Credit: onesevenone/Flickr

April 10, 2014, 9:31 pm

Crash This Ducati, and an Airbag Goes Off in Your Suit

By Raymond Refuerzo

Riding gear with airbags are one of the greatest safety innovations for motorcyclists since body armor and back protectors. But until now, they’ve had to rely on sensors mounted inside the suit to detect a crash. That changes with the introduction of Ducati Multistrada D-Air, the world’s first motorcycle that wirelessly integrates with airbag riding jackets. Wired features this story.

Ducati and Dainese have teamed up to create a specially equipped version of the Multistrada equipped with a passive safety system that uses sensors built into the touring-adventure bike’s stock electronics. The sensors are constantly monitoring the Multistrada’s dynamics–accelerating, braking, or worse, falling over–and if these systems detect a crash, it sends a wireless signal to the Dainese D-Air jacket to deploy the airbag in a scant 45 milliseconds.

The system connects with both the rider and the passenger’s airbag-equipped gear, but for now, the system is only available on the D-Air Multistrada and only in Europe, with sales beginning in May.

Photo Credit: Ducati

April 9, 2014, 8:29 pm

LCD Soundsystem Frontman Has a Cure for NYC Subway’s Brutal Noise

By Raymond Refuerzo

The rhythm of an approaching subway may be music to commuters’ ears, but one legendary electronic musician has had enough with the dissonant beeps of New York’s turnstiles. Wired tells us more.

James Murphy, the DJ, producer, and former frontman for LCD Soundsystem, told the Wall Street Journal that he’s composed a new soundtrack for turnstiles over the past 15 years.

Murphy confessed to a “love affair” with the subway, although he admitted at times it “sounds quite brutal.”

So he devised a new system. Instead of an electronically generated beep, every turnstile would play a pleasing tone. Each station would have its own signature set of tones, which would all exist within a chord. That way, when lots of people are passing through the turnstiles, the station would be filled with harmony, which you can listen to over at the WSJ.

Musical signatures aren’t unheard of in public transit. The Seoul Metro, for instance, plays different jingles when trains are arriving and departing, and when a train approaches a transfer station. The alarms on the MTA are purely functional, and are intended to let riders know if a MetroCard has been approved.

Photo Credit: Jeff Berman/Flickr