Nissan Will Offer Driverless Cars by 2020

Autonomous Nissan Leaf

Making a huge splash in the transportation industry, Nissan has just announced they will offer multiple driverless cars by 2020. The Japanese auto-maker has jumped into the race for “autonomous vehicles” by showing off a driverless prototype of the Nissan Leaf on a military base in Irvine, CA.

“In 2007 I pledged that – by 2010 – Nissan would mass market a zero-emission vehicle. Today, the Nissan LEAF is the best-selling electric vehicle in history. Now I am committing to be ready to introduce a new ground-breaking technology, Autonomous Drive, by 2020, and we are on track to realize it.” – Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn

Oxford/Nissan Driverless Car

Google has long been the name associated with driverless car technology, but according to the press release, Nissan has been working on this innovative transportation technology for years alongside top universities MIT, Stanford, and Oxford.

The vehicles operate differently than the cars developed by Google, in that they utilize laser scanners and artificial intelligence, but do not require internet access.

Both companies however, have similar reasons for developing the technology as it aims at eliminating crashes, reducing carbon emissions, and even offering more mobility and freedom to the elderly.

“Six million crashes in the US per year cost $160 billion and rank as the top reason of death for four- to 34-year olds. And, 93% of accidents in the US are due to human error, typically due to inattention.” – Nissan press release

I love this project for the good that it can do for humanity in many different ways, and I hope that others follow suit and pursue humanity friendly business projects.

Personal Jetpacks Approved for Manned Testflights

Anyone who has seen The Jetson’s has dreamed about having their own personal jetpack. New Zealand based company Martin Aircraft is looking to turn that dream into a reality as they begin test flying their personal jetpack with real-life human pilots.

Recently the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand (CAA) granted the company a special permit allowing them to begin manned test flights, although they “may not be flown more than 20 feet above the ground or 25 feet above water.”

The video below shows a higher altitude test flight done via remote control with a dummy pilot. The test was to demonstrate the emergency ballistic parachute safety system.

“For us it’s a very important step because it moves it out of what I call a dream into something which I believe we’re now in a position to commercialize and take forward very quickly.” – Peter Coker, CEO of Martin Aircraft.

The ultimate goal for the company is to begin commercial sales as early as mid 2015 at a projected starting price of around $100,000.Martin Aircraft Jetpack You may actually begin seeing these as early as 2014 as there has been strong interest to utilize these for first-responder and military missions.

There has been a lot of work being done in the future of personal and public transportation. Elon Musk recently revealed details for his supersonic hyperloop concept as an alternative to the high-speed rail project in California, and even NASA has joined the game working with California-based company, Skytran to construct the first magnetically levitating public transport system

Elon Musk Unveils Details for 800 MPH Hyperloop Super “Train”

Hyperloop Concept

It’s been sometime since Elon Musk first made mention of the hyperloop. The announcement of the 800 mph ultra high-speed super “train” made big news last year when Musk first mentioned the concept, but we haven’t heard any more details since then. That is until yesterday when Musk released the details of his futuristic concept that cover some of the questions concerning the proposed system.

The key advantages of a tube vs. a railway track are that it can be built above the ground on pylons and it can be built in prefabricated sections that are dropped in place and joined with an orbital seam welder. By building it on pylons, you can almost entirely avoid the need to buy land by following alongside the mostly very straight California Interstate 5 highway, with only minor deviations when the highway makes a sharp turn.

Hyperloop Passenger CapsuleThe comparison made to rail is important to note. This concept only began in the first place as a response to California’ s proposed high-speed rail system. Musk believes the project to be among the most costly and least efficient high-speed transport system, and not innovative enough to represent the silicon valley region.

When the California “high speed” rail was approved, I was quite disappointed, as I know many others were too. How could it be that the home of Silicon Valley and JPL – doing incredible things like indexing all the world’s knowledge and putting rovers on Mars – would build a bullet train that is both one of the most expensive per mile and one of the slowest in the world?

Hyperloop-Alpha

The rail system being referenced is estimated to reach over $100 billion in total cost, meaning that the solar-powered hyperloop would be four times as fast and ten times cheaper than this proposal. One innovation will make this even simpler to use than any currently proposed public transport systems, and that is the ability to also transport personal cars. With this idea, a passenger would simply drive their car into the large pod and drive off at the destination, no messing with rental cars or buses.

There must however, be a downside to every story, and this one is no different. With his time being absorbed by CEO duties at both Tesla Motors and SpaceX, Musk has noted it is unlikely that he will be able to build the system himself. By releasing these plans to the public, he hopes that someone with the resources and know-how will be able to carry the idea forward. In a brief glimpse of hope, Musk hinted that if the idea is not picked up initially, he may build a prototype in the 3-5 year range more than likely.

What is the future of public, high-speed transportation?  Do you think we’ll ever see a hypertube type system in place?

First Magnetically Levitating Futuristic Public Transportation Coming Soon

A California based company called Skytran, in cooperation with NASA, is developing the first magnetic levitation (maglev) public transportation system . The futuristic system, developed by Researchers at the NASA Ames Research Center, is comprised of two-seat pods containing a magnet which interacts with a coiled foil in the rail causing the pod to “float” on a cushion of air. This provides not only a smoother ride, but a quieter one as well compared to taxi, bus, and rail.

designed to reduce urban traffic congestion, skytran would provide a greener, less expensive, faster, and more comfortable alternative to cars and bus lines through the use of personal two-seater pods in a point-to-point service which travelers can use to reach specific destinations

Sky Tran

Plans are to eventually outfit the guideways with solar panels which will result in a nearly energy net neutral system. In addition, construction costs are far less than conventional public transit since the guideways are built vertically and will cause smaller and fewer construction zones. The pods are high-speed and can reach up to 150 mph, but will travel closer to 50 mph in city areas.

sky-tran station

Finding a pod will be a lot easier than calling for a taxi and cost about the same. You can request and schedule pods via a smartphone app that lets you enter the pick-up and destination locations beforehand.  The boarding platform will be located on a side ‘acceleration line’ track that prevents traffic jams.

The first of these systems is scheduled to be constructed in Tel Aviv, Israel by 2015 with other future locations in India and Indonesia in consideration.

Images courtesy of designbloom

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UK Scientists’ Plan to Put Humans on Mars

Marstronaut

A recent BBC article details an in-depth conceptual project from scientists at Imperial College London to put the first humans on Mars. This concept is intended to illustrate our current progress towards inter-planetary space travel, as well as the challenges and risks that we must still overcome.

The spacecraft will be designed to rotate in such a way that the 3 person crew of “Marstronauts” could enjoy the resulting artificial gravity. This would help with bone and muscle mass loss, and help the re-orientation of the crew to a life on Mars. The craft could slow its rotation to match the Martian rate of roughly 40% of the Earth’s gravitational  pull.

“There are big, big jumps between a demonstration at one level and putting together the engineering systems for a mission, but they are engineering challenges. They are not fundamentally about making new discoveries.” – Professor Tom Pike

This short video has some great visualizations of the spacecraft design and landing scenario along with some good descriptions of the concepts involved.

“Real life Tony Stark” Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Motors, is working on similar goals for transporting humans to Mars. For Musk, electric vehicles and a Hyperloop super-train are just the beginning in his quest to push the boundaries of science and technology.

His company SpaceX is taking the concept of manned Mars missions to the next level. They envision human exploration and colonization, and quite literally “backing up the biosphere”.

The rockets we’re building right now could certainly send probes to Mars, like the Mars rovers and that kind of thing, but the rockets we hope to build in the future are the ones that could take people and cargo to Mars and establish a Martian base.

Seeing these projects starting to gain legitimacy is an exciting thing to behold. The general public is starting to get behind these ideas, and private space flight is gaining in popularity and capability. There’s no telling what the future holds for Mars colonization, but it should be an exciting thing to watch.

NASA Successfully Tests 3D Printed Rocket Engine Component

3d-printed Rocket Engine

So those kids over at NASA have been pretty busy. This time taking 3D printing even further, NASA has announced they’ve successfully tested a rocket engine fuel injector made using the new technology.

By using a specific technique called selective laser melting (SLM), they were able to cut the manufacturing time down from one year to four months, and reduce the cost by over 70%.

“Nasa recognises that on Earth and potentially in space, additive manufacturing can be game-changing for new mission opportunities, significantly reducing production time and cost by ‘printing’ tools, engine parts or even entire spacecraft” –  Michael Gazar

The term “additive manufacturing” refers to building a product from the ground up using the specific materials and quantities needed. On top of the benefits stated above, this technology also drastically reduces the amount of waste by-product.

Hit the link for more information on NASA’s successful test, as well as a competition from General Electric to create the best design for a 3D printed engine bracket.

 

 

Solar Powered Airplane Flies Flies Across the Country

solar-impulse

Fueled only by the power of the sun, Solar Impulse has just recently finished it’s first cross-country flight. This flight had many stops, and was very slow-going (about two months total), but also set three world records for manned solar-powered flight in the process, including the highest flight (30,300 ft), the longest flight (26 hours), and the farthest flight (693 miles).

There are those who see this and immediately blast it for not being applicable for real-life scenarios due to lacking power, speed, and durability. The thing to keep in mind is that this flight is symbolic of the future potential of solar-powered flight in the same way the the first Wright-brothers flight was symbolic of the future of manned airplane flights.

“Our airplane is not designed to carry passengers, but to carry a message.”  Bertrand Piccard

I believe the message that is send is one of possibility, one that states the future is here and let’s embrace it.

The plane is powered by solar cells that are not necessarily the most efficient, however, they have the best efficiency to weight ratio which is important to getting the most distance from each kWH of energy. The long-term goal is to eventually be capable of perpetual flight without the need of fuel. A worthy goal, but not one that will be attained before the plane’s next adventure to traverse the globe in 2015.

The application of this type of transport in the future is unknown exactly… With high speed rail, hyperloop, and other technologies coming forward, who knows what the future of transportation will be?

 

 

4,000 MPH Hyperloop Super “Train” – NY to LA in 30 Minutes

Hyperloop

With this new Hyperloop super “train”, you’ll be able to get from NY to LA in about the time you can get a pizza delivered.

Now, as someone who studied logistics and transportation, I feel strongly that the U.S. transportation infrastructure is in need of drastic change.

We are already far behind other developed countries, a lot of which are geographically smaller. For Instance, France’s TGV consistently hits 201 mph (322 kmh), Korea’s KTX marks up at 218 mph (350 kmh), and the UK  is developing High Speed 2 planned at up to 250 mph (402 kmh). These are just a three of the thirteen countries that currently have high-speed rail in operation.

It seems Elon Musk, South African-American entrepreneur, and a Colorado company called ET3 believe this as well. The founder of SpaceX and Tesla Motors, is touting the idea of a high-speed tube transport system that he calls a Hyperloop.

…an elevated tube system with a magnetic levitation system similar to high-speed bullet trains. The kicker would be the enclosed tube, which would provide a nearly friction-less surface for individual capsules to travel in.

The 4,000 mph estimate is for long trips cross-country, or inter-continental. That’s one of the best parts, these tubes will be able to be constructed underwater. Connecting Alaska, Hawaii, and even other continents together could perhaps eliminate the need of, or at least severely decongest air travel.

Whether Musk is working with ET3 isn’t specified, but ET3 is referring to their system as the ETT, or Evacuated Tube Transport, not the Hyperloop. Their claim is that construction would be significantly cheaper than freeway and rail, resulting in an estimated $100 fare for a trip from NY to LA… in an hour. *Nice*