Saturday, December 5, 2009

Guy Negre, a former engineer in the formula race car circuit, is now applying his passion for motor transportation in the field of sustainability. Negre is the owner of Motor Development International (MDI), a company that is developing zero emissions engines that run on compressed air. MDI's most recent attraction is the AirPod, a three passenger transporter that runs off of Negre's patented air compressor engine and and two large air tanks for fuel. Other unorthodox additions to the Air pod are the joystick steering, rear and front doors, and recycled compressor air as AC cooling. Many critics are skeptical as to the saftey and reliability of the new alternative fuel source entering the market. MDIs first order are being put the test as air port transports for AirFrance in January of 2010.


NYC subway car construction

From National Geographic "Ultimate Factories": building a subway car part 2.
(via Core77)

World Solar Challenge

           Although the environmental need for alternatives to oil and gas-based energy is obvious, many people still do not consider this issue a priority. In order for technological advancements to be made and widely implemented, awareness needs to be raised. Once people begin to understand the significance of global warming and the devastation caused by greenhouse gas emissions, policies and technologies will follow as more human energy and time is put into the matter. 
         On that note, the World Solar Challenge, held in Australia, is a competition that features a solar car race. Turning the development of solar technology into a competition both instigates progress and rallies support and awareness. The competition ran from October 24th through the 31st of 2009, and was the 10th run, the first being in 1987. The competition was pioneered by the Australian Tourism Commission. The course is from Darwin to Adelaide, and it spans about 1,864 miles (3000 km). It uses real existing roads, as opposed to many concept alternative-energy vehicles that never make it off of the test track.
          In 1987, GM won the first race with the Sunraycer. It was the world's first race that featured solar-powered cars. The Sunraycer actually led to the development of the GM Impact, an electric concept car. The Impact then led to the EV-1, which was then leased out to a few customers in the 1990's. Now the Chevy Volt, the EV-1's contemporary, is scheduled for release to the market in 2011 (It runs 40 miles on a single charge, then has a gasoline internal combustion engine to extend its range to over 3oo miles). 
          The race is linked to the reality of car driving and use, and is slowly changing the competition rules to make the vehicles more and more functional to everyday use—this year a new rule required entrants to use regular tires, rather than the previously used low rolling-resistance tires, which increased drag on the vehicles. 
         This year's winner was the Japanese Toaki University's Tokai Challenger. The University of Michigan took3rd place, and won the Technical Innovation Award for advances in teh A123 Systems LiFePO4 batteries.
At the starting line.
Tokai University team celebrating the win.
The Tokai Challenger
Australian sunset over the World Solar Challenge race.


Friday, December 4, 2009

Bicycle accommodations and innovations in Germany, Paris, and New York.

The road bicyclist faces a battle in traffic on a daily basis. Many bicyclists complain about almost getting hit by a car or a bus taking a wide turn, or a car opening their door in the bicyclists ongoing path. The design and structure of the bike lanes and roadways are a major contributors to these hazardous situations. Various proposals have been made by cities throughout the world. Paris proposes using a shared bus  and bike lane, separated by a median from all other motorists on the road. 

Similarly, Germany Cycling Federation or ASFC manual written on April, 22, 2004, proposed for a shared bus and bike lane. Since September 1, 1997, cities in Germany have opened up existing designated bus lanes to bicycle traffic in order to increase traffic safety and bicycle use. According to the proposal,  the implementation requires adequate lane width that accommodated for bicycles and buses. Considering the off peak hours for bus traffic, there is a considerable increase in comfort for bicyclists. The proposal suggests that their solution can help avoid issue faced with bike lanes in the middle of the road, where if the bus is on a fixed route, bicyclists have problem merging into the curb side lane to turn onto a street. However, there is always the issue of following proper conduct when introducing bicyclists into a bus lane, which becomes an issue of legislation. 

New York came up with some of its own solutions for bicyclists in different traffic conditions in the city. First released in May of 2009, the Street Design Manual is the product of an inter-agency Task Force headed by the Department of Transportation, Department of Design and Construction, Environmental Protection and various other city agencies, including Mayor Bloomberg's office. The manual is proposes two designs, one is the bike lanes fro inter-city travel and the other is bike path for network bike connections or where there are high volumes or speeds or multiple moving lanes. A bike lane would be a dedicating on-street lane or path for bicycles and a separate system of lanes and ways for buses. These bike lanes would typically have 3 feet of channelization with buffered space. The proposal suggests that with the addition of on-road bike lanes can calm traffic speeds when used on narrow lanes (fig 3). 

The bike path proposal suggests a path that is physically separated from motorized vehicle traffic by an open space or barrier and either with a median that can be preferable on wide or busy streets, on major bike routes, or along long, uninterrupted stretches (fig 4).

Another suggestion is to create a painted buffer behind a "floating" parking lane, a narrow curb or median, or a wider median with landscaping (fig 5). Suggested benefits include reduced or eliminated blocking of the lane by motor vehicles and the swerving of bicyclists into mixed traffic. It also reduces the risk of bicyclists running into a car opening a door on this path. It would be necessary to propose a design which creates connectivity with adjoining bikeways, bike parking, and bicycle destinations. The NY proposal also goes further to accommodate in special circumstances paths designed for shared-use by bicyclists, pedestrians, skaters, wheelchair users, and other non-motorized users. Also focuses on anticipating volumes of low-speed users and high-speed users to minimize conflicts between the two. Most innovative design solution provided in the NYC Street Manual is its sustainability opportunities, in which they propose utilizing recycled content in paving materials. 

More information at

Last updated May 20,2009

Thursday, December 3, 2009

SARTRE - automated car trains

The automotive industry has long been focused on the development of active safety systems that operate preventively, such as traction control and braking assistance programs. But automakers have also gone much further in proposing technology that allows vehicles to be operated without any input whatsoever from the person behind the wheel. Known as autonomous driving, this technology means that the vehicles is able to take control over acceleration, braking and steering, and can be used as part of a road train of similarly controlled vehicles.

The first test cars equipped with this technology will roll on test tracks as early as 2011. The vehicles will be equipped with a navigation system and a transmitter/receiver unit that communicates with a lead vehicle. Since the system is built into the cars, there is no need to extend the infrastructure along the existing road network.

The idea is that each road train or platoon will have a lead vehicle that drives exactly as normal, with full control of all the various functions. This lead vehicle is driven by an experienced driver who is thoroughly familiar with the route. For instance, the lead may be taken by a taxi, a bus or a truck. Each such road train will consist of six to eight vehicles.

A driver approaching his destination takes over control of his own vehicle, leaves the convoy by exiting off to the side and then continues on his own to his destination. The other vehicles in the road train close the gap and continue on their way until the convoy splits up.

The road trains increase safety and reduce environmental impact thanks to lower fuel consumption compared with cars being driven individually. The reason is that the cars in the train are close to each other, exploiting the resultant lower air drag. The energy saving is expected to be in the region of 20 percent. Road capacity will also be able to be utilized more efficiently.

There is still plenty of work to be done before we see road trains hit the streets. A three-year research trial will determine how to build a wireless system without making costly changes to highway infrastructures. Ideally, all vehicles linked in behind the driver move automatically, and cars can exit the platoon whenever they want. The trial will also look at safety issues — for example, how to make sure a car doesn’t end up sandwiched between two giant trucks.

If all goes well with the research trials, SARTRE will begin test runs on tracks in Sweden, the UK, and Spain. Soon after that, public road trials will begin. So if you see a group of distracted drivers moving in a perfectly straight line down the highway, don’t worry — they might be in wirelessly controlled vehicles!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Allan Chochinow of Core 77 reviewed Objectified:

The RUF Dual-Mode Transport System

A dual-mode transport system is one in which specialized vehicles travel under driver control on the street, but can also dock to a guideway (usually a monorail) for automated travel over an extended distance. The concept of dual-mode systems started gaining momentum in the mid-1970s. Palle R. Jensen, an inventor from Denmark, has been developing his "Rapid Urban Flexible" (RUF) system since 1988. The RUF system consists of electric vehicles designed with a triangular groove along the base, allowing the vehicle to dock firmly with the triangular monorail. Because the rail requires just over 8 square feet of operating space, Jensen asserts that it could easily be placed along existing traffic corridors in order to reduce total cost of implementation. A computer system guides entry onto, and exit from, the monorail at about 20 mph—and also controls the vehicles as they move along it, coupling them into aerodynamic "trains" which reduce energy consumption and can reach estimated top speeds of 125 mph. The monorail's shape makes derailments impossible, so this system is much safer than traditional driver-controlled travel. While on the monorail, the vehicles' batteries recharge. This means that the vehicle has maximum battery life for driver-controlled travel to any destination not located along the monorail's route.

Barriers to the implementation of the RUF system include the high cost of building the infrastructure--estimated to be upwards of a billion dollars-- and the limited availability of the specialized vehicles required. Still, the benefits of such a system might be enough to convince cities to consider the RUF dual-mode transport system as a viable option for their communities.

Find out more at the RUF website: