Could This Be the End of the Road for the Automobile?

SureFly Drone

R. Scott King, BSME, Sr. Automotive / Mechanical Engineer ::::
The Paris Air Show is the preeminent venue for the introduction of new aeronautical technologies. Notable for its display of the latest military and commercial aircraft, the 2017 Paris Air Show unveiled something new: a personal drone-like helicopter called the SureFly.
The SureFly is a personal aircraft designed for two passengers. It utilizes a gasoline engine to operate multiple generators that power eight motor-driven propellers. Similar in design to popular low-cost, commercially-available unmanned drones, the SureFly has a 4000-foot operational ceiling, is controlled by a joy stick, and can utilize GPS for navigation. However, it also has several safety features such as a lithium battery back-up, propeller loss survivability, and an emergency parachute. But perhaps its most intriguing feature is its ability fly autonomously, up to 70 miles, by entering a destination into its touch-screen display and engaging the autonomous flying mode. Continue reading “Could This Be the End of the Road for the Automobile?”

California to Allow Testing of True “Driverless Cars” on Public Streets by Summer 2018

Robert T. Lynch, PE, Sr. Collision Reconstruction Engineer ::::
Currently, regulation of autonomous vehicle (AV) testing and operation on public roadways in California, and most other states, requires a “safety driver” to be behind the wheel to take control of the vehicle in the event of an emergency. A proposed new set of rules, to take effect next year, will allow for testing of fully autonomous vehicles on the road without needing a safety driver. While a necessary step towards a world where autonomous vehicles are projected to be commonplace within the next couple of decades, this is a big win for the AV community as the technology rapidly advances towards a state of full autonomy.
Since 2012, California has enacted regulations pertaining to self-driving vehicles and technology. The state plays a big role when it comes to regulating the technology, as it is where a lot of the AV research and development is occurring. Currently, there are 42 auto manufacturers and technology companies testing 285 self-driving cars throughout the state. Other states are expected to follow California’s lead, as they have with prior regulations of AVs. Continue reading “California to Allow Testing of True “Driverless Cars” on Public Streets by Summer 2018”

Update: Autonomous Vehicle Legislation

Autonomous Vehicles

Justin P. Schorr, Ph.D., Collision Reconstruction / Transportation Engineer ::::
Recently the United States House of Representatives passed H. R. 3388: “Safely Ensuring Lives Future Deployment and Research In Vehicle Evolution Act” or the “SELF DRIVEAct”.

Here are 5 things to know about that Bill:

1. The purpose of the bill is to create a Federal Standard for Autonomous Vehicle development. The text of the bill reads: “The purpose of this Act is to memorialize the Federal role in ensuring the safety of highly automated vehicles as it relates to design, construction, and performance, by encouraging the testing and deployment of such vehicles.” In the short term, the bill, if signed into law, would amend the United States Code to allow the Federal Government to issue National Standards related to Autonomous Vehicles and the environment surrounding their development, testing and deployment.
For anyone following the regulatory developments surrounding the issue, this comes as no surprise given that nearly all related legislation has included the notion that discontinuity in state and local regulations would serve as physical, economical and developmental “road blocks” in realizing an autonomous driving environment. Continue reading “Update: Autonomous Vehicle Legislation”

Recall Update – Autonomous Technology

Product Recall

R. Scott King, BSME, Automotive / Mechanical Engineer ::::
Completely autonomous (self-driving) vehicle technology may not be ready for today’s automotive market place owing to the numerous complexities of vehicle systems, communication, and infrastructure required for full-scale implementation. Despite this, manufacturers seem increasingly willing to incorporate those individual elements of autonomous technology it believes are ready for current production; however, as is true with many new technologies, some of these autonomous features still require refinement. Two recent recalls demonstrate this point.
In early 2015, Acura recalled certain vehicles equipped with emergency “pre-emptive braking”; a feature that automatically applies the brakes when sensors detect an imminent crash. While it is likely safe to assume Honda believed this system was ready for public release, these vehicles were subsequently recalled because of complaints that vehicles were stopping suddenly and automatically without any evidence of an impending crash. Testing revealed that in certain conditions, metallic “chain-link” fences running parallel to the roadway confused the vehicle’s on-board sensors causing them to interpret the fence as a possible crash situation and apply the brakes. Corrective measures that were taken included reprogramming the system’s on-board computers. Continue reading “Recall Update – Autonomous Technology”

Industry Update: A Guide to Challenges Facing Self-Driving Car Technologists


In the minds of many in Silicon Valley and in the auto industry, it is inevitable that cars will eventually drive themselves. It is simply a matter of how long it will take for the technology to be reliably safe.
But as indicated by Google’s challenges with the so-called handoff between machines and humans — not to mention Uber’s problems during recent tests on the streets of San Francisco – there is a lot more work to be done before self-driving cars are ready for the mainstream. Here are some of the challenges facing technologists.
Read the full article here –

Industry Update: Must-Have Automotive Technology for 2017


As you’ve probably already realized, automotive technology has continued to get more and more advanced in recent years. This year, shoppers interested in buying a new car should expect a lot of cool new gadgets and features in their vehicle, even if they aren’t spending a fortune or buying a high-end luxury car. To help you figure out what to get and what to expect when buying a new car, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite must-have technology features for 2017 — items that are increasing in popularity and starting to find their way into a growing number of new cars.
Read the full article here –

Autonomous Vehicles Now Have a New Set of Rules


Robert T. Lynch, PE, Sr. Collision Reconstruction Engineer ::::
Last Week, the US Department of Transportation released a policy paper outlining new rules for autonomous vehicles (AVs), otherwise known as self-driving or driverless cars, as both automakers and technology companies race to put these vehicles into production and on public roadways.
Until now, the federal government has refrained from setting and enforcing rules pertaining to AVs so as to not impede innovation with this rapidly advancing technology, citing similar back-seat approaches to past safety innovations such as seat belts, air bags, and antilock brakes. While the issuance of this AV policy paper prior to mass roll-out of AVs for public use represents a dramatic proactive shift in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) traditional retroactive approach, the intention of the policy paper is not to thwart technological advances in the AV industry, but rather to provide guidance and establish a foundation upon which future Agency action will occur.
Continue reading “Autonomous Vehicles Now Have a New Set of Rules”

The Genesis of Autonomous Vehicles

Autonomous Vehicles

R. Scott King, BSME, Automotive/Mechanical Engineer ::::
It’s almost impossible to avoid the many recent car commercials advertising the latest innovations developed to reduce driver workload and increase safety. Equally common are news stories foretelling the day when drivers will have little else to do behind the wheel than check their iPhones. Indeed, no longer the material of science fiction, auto manufacturers and technology companies are hard at work to ensure that the autonomous vehicle becomes a reality; however, the genesis of this trend began many years ago and has been steadily gaining momentum ever since. Consider for example the automotive electrical system. Early systems had barely enough electrical capacity to blink a spark plug; however, batteries and electronics were soon commonplace, and with them came the foundation for virtually all future technological advances. Continue reading “The Genesis of Autonomous Vehicles”