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Category: Automotive

The Driver’s Way helps drivers in Sierra Leone

The Driver’s Way helps drivers in Sierra Leone

In Sierra Leone, there is a step in learning to drive – playing a board game. The game is called The Driver’s Way and is a “Roll and Move” type game where players to roll traffic-light-themed dice and move model cars around a board.  The game aims to teach learners the rules of the road in a more entertaining way than standard textbooks.

Makes me wonder if there’s an opportunity for a board or teen-oriented video game like this for learners – even children to learn how to drive, walk, and bike in shared traffic spaces. Maybe it could be structured like the Oregon Trail or something quite fun.

Distracted Clackamas driver launched into orbit

Distracted Clackamas driver launched into orbit

Absolutely amazing this was caught on dash cam, even more amazing they lived. Emergency responders had to deploy a rope system to carry the driver 200 feet up the hill.

More information about the software defined car

More information about the software defined car

Modern vehicles are marvels of electronics. Many contain over 200 controllers in domains from infotainment to ride management to engine control. But the software behind our driving experiences has been treated largely as afterthoughts.

Audi is trying a new approach in the Q6 e-tron SUV’s. It allows over-the-air upgrading of the software to all those different domains and controllers.

This involves a new way of working with component suppliers, dealing with regulations that differ country-to-country, and how to get cars certified in all these geos.

The article is a good quick read on the current state of affairs.

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Securing your car with the Konami Code

Securing your car with the Konami Code

Car thieves are nothing if not persistent. Locks can be picked or ripped out. Wireless key fobs have become vulnerable to a number of new attacks.

Univerisity of Michigan students came up with a new method. Instead of relying on wireless fobs and locks, they connect a security monitoring device between the battery and electrical system. It watch for users to make a series of voltage changes on the electrical system before the car can start.

What voltage changes? They might perform some combination of flicking the windshield wipers, turn signal or headlights on and off, or locking and unlocking the doors.

Battery Sleuth’s default mode allows the battery to deliver enough current to power systems like electronics and lights, but not enough to power the vehicle’s starter. Only when it detects the pre-set series of voltage fluctuations in the vehicle’s electrical system does it turn up the juice, allowing the battery’s full power through to the starter.

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Kangaroos 1, Volvo 0

Kangaroos 1, Volvo 0

In 2015, David Pickett, Volvo Australia’s technical lead, was a part of the team that tried to develop the world’s first kangaroo detection and avoidance system by a major car manufacturer.

Volvo’s team spent the next two years searching for a way to make Volvo’s cars detect and avoid/brake for kangaroos before the company admitted defeat to the media in 2017.

Volvo’s camera and radar system were no match for the marsupials. Wallabies proved to be equally challenging.

They look entirely different in full flight than when resting, and they’re fast. They jump in unpredictable ways, maneuvering mid-air to confuse and outrun predators.

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2015 Crosstrek CVT servicing

2015 Crosstrek CVT servicing

Should you service your Subaru Crosstrek CVT with a fluid change? There’s lots of conflicting information, but MrSubaru1387 gives us a great skinny. Long story short:

  • CVT fluid does not perform the same purpose as fluid in a regular transmission – so many arguments on the internet are not correct.
  • Subaru of America says the fluid is lifetime and you do not need to service it with a fluid change unless you’re doing towing or severe driving off-road
  • Some groups say every 30k or 60k. His shop recommends every 125k, my local shop in Oregon says 105k
  • He recommends not touching it until 100k miles and then changing it every 100k (unless you’re doing severe driving – which he would recommend every 50k-ish)

Here’s a video of him doing a CVT service on a Forester with 189591 miles that was having some hesitation off the line. Afterwards it

Crowds attacking self-driving vehicles

Crowds attacking self-driving vehicles

A Waymo driverless taxi was attacked and burned to the ground Feb 10, 2024 in San Francisco’s Chinatown around 9PM PT. A crowd formed around the car, covered it in spray paint, broke out its windows, and set it on fire.

The Verge couldn’t figure out who did it, but I have a pretty good guess where to go look first. It’s not like they’re being subtle about it since they talked about doing exactly this in the New York Times as well as publicly talking about destruction of property.

EVs have 79% more reliability problems than traditional internal combustion engine cars

EVs have 79% more reliability problems than traditional internal combustion engine cars

It’s not been a rosy year for electric vehicles.

EV sales in 2024 are only 9% of vehicles sold – and seem to have reached a plateau. Automobile manufacturers such as Ford’s popular F-150 Lightning, GM, and Renault are quietly cutting production back. Even Volvo that pledged to be 100% electric by 2030 just pulled the plug on it’s efforts with Polestar. It certainly doesn’t help that average EV’s cost several thousand dollars more than gas and diesel powered vehicles.

Only 2 years after pledges to convert 25% of its fleet to electric vehicles by 2024, Hertz decided to sell 1/3 of it’s EV fleet (about 20,000 cars) in January 2024 and replace them with gas-powered vehicles – citing higher expenses related to collision and damages. By March 2024, and embattled Hertz CEO Stephen Scherr ultimately resigned over the fiasco as Hertz now focuses on a return to profitability. They’re not the only rental company quietly replacing EV’s with traditional vehicles.

Other shortcoming are starting to come out. Batteries are physical devices – devices that don’t work well in high temps of the Southwest nor in the cold winter temps of the upper states. There’s also range-anxiety, higher tire consumption and higher road wear due to the heavy weight of EV’s, higher repair costs, rising electricity prices, and now a new issue: reliability.

Now we have a few years of reliability data – and Consumer Reports says it’s not that good. The data says that EV’s have lower reliability ratings than standard gas/diesel powered vehicles. The worst reliability is for full plug-in hybrids that have 146% more issues on average.

EVs had 79 percent more reliability problems than a gasoline- or diesel-powered vehicle, on average. Plug-in hybrids fared even worse; these had 146 percent more issues on average than the conventional alternative. But simpler not-plug-in hybrids bucked this trend, with 26 percent fewer reliability problems than conventionally powered vehicles.

Consumer Reports via Ars Technica

It’s not just Consumer Reports.

Autonomously plowing your fields – from a phone 1500 miles away

Autonomously plowing your fields – from a phone 1500 miles away

At the John Deere booth at this year’s CES in the Las Vegas Convention Center, conventiongoers could do something incredible with an iPhone. They could pushed the PAUSE button on an iPhone and thirteen hundred miles away, in the middle of a field outside of Austin, Texas, a giant, bright green, driverless tractor stopped short. Hit RESUME and the tractor started up again. Put down the iPhone and the tractor resumed tilling the field, all by itself.  

The breadth of what you can do with the tractor via the demo app was limited. You could stop and resume the tractor, as well as increasing or decreasing its speed in a straight line and while turning. There are no turning controls. But what this signals is huge.

In the demo, a farmer first geo-fences the field boundaries and then the tractor can determine its own path based on how wide the tiller is. Tillage is the only job the technology is programmed to handle but John Deere hopes to have a complete autonomous production system supporting every step of the farming process by 2030.

The John Deere spokespeople ballparked such a tractor between $600,000 to $700,000, with the autonomous technology implementation adding a further $100,000 on top of that. Older tractors from the 2020 model year and up can also likely be retrofitted with the tech. The update should “take only about a day” according to a 2022 CNET story.  

There’s no doubt in my mind this is how the future of farming will look. It’s been coming for a long time; and spending long hours out in the field will almost certainly be a thing of the past very soon.

There are already calls that John Deere and other equipment manufacturers will have fully autonomous fleets that they manage and simply send to your fields on a subscription-like basis.

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The Trolley problem is not helpful for autonomous vehicles

The Trolley problem is not helpful for autonomous vehicles

Determining what autonomous driving algorithms do in difficult life-and-death situations is a real problem. Until now, many have likened it to the famous ‘trolley problem‘.

There is a runaway trolley barreling down its tracks. Ahead, on the tracks, there are five people tied up and unable to move. The trolley is headed straight for them but you are standing in the train yard next to a lever. If you pull this lever, the trolley will switch to a different set of tracks. However, you notice that there is one person on the side track. You have two (and only two) options:

  1. Do nothing, in which case the trolley will kill the five people on the main track.
  2. Pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the side track where it will kill one person.

The problem asks which is the more ethical option? Or, more simply: What is the right thing to do?

Analysts have noted that the variations of these “Trolley problems” largely just highlight the difference between deontological and consequentialist ethical systems. Researchers, however, are finding that distinction isn’t actually that useful for determining what autonomous driving algorithms should do.

Instead, they note that drivers have to make many more realistic moral decisions every day. Should I drive over the speed limit? Should I run a red light? Should I pull over for an ambulance?

For example, if someone is driving 20 miles over the speed limit and runs a red light, then they may find themselves in a situation where they have to either swerve into traffic or get into a collision. There’s currently very little data in the literature on how we make moral judgments about the decisions drivers make in everyday situations.

Researchers developed a series of experiments designed to collect data on how humans make moral judgments about decisions that people make in low-stakes traffic situations, and from that developed the Agent Deed Consequence (ADC) model.

The approach is highly utilitarian. It side-steps complex ethical problems by simply collecting data on what average people would consider ethical or not. The early research for ADC claims the judgements of the average people and ethics experts very often match; even if they were not trained in ethics. This more utilitarian approach may be sufficient for some tasks, but inherently is at risk from larger issues ‘If everyone jumped off a bridge, would you?” It’s often referred to as the Bandwagon Fallacy. Decisions made by the masses is something even Socrates argued against in The Republic.

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