Monthly Archives: October 2016

Car Futures real innovation

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.

Involved Google vehicles

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.

Bed Mattress Like Nothing

Somewhere out there, there’s a garbage truck driver named Jack who is very good at his job, and also has a great time doing it. In a truck equipped with an automated side loader (normally meant to grab and dump wheeled trashbins, like so), Jack decided to go after the ultimate target: a discarded bed mattress.

After carefully positioning the mattress using the truck’s claw, Jack manages to grab the thing (which flops around like a live fish the entire time, trying to escape the claw’s grasp) and slams it into his bin.

This is one video where you wanna make sure you have the sound on—half the fun is hearing Jack’s pure enthusiasm for his amazing feat. As Jack himself screams: “Ah! I’m awesome!” After a momentary pause to consider what he’s just done, he adds in thoughtfully, “Aw, I’m so cool.” Hard to argue with him.

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.”