The automotive industry is rushing towards autonomous vehicles as a futuristic ideal. They haven’t got the autonomous part sorted just yet. However, as part of this push, the technology to drive vehicles remotely via video link has become mature.
In the United Kingdom, there has been great controversy on whether this should be allowed, particularly for vehicles piloted by individuals outside the country’s borders. That came to a head with a Law Commission repot published earlier this year, but since then, innovative companies have continued to work on remote driving regardless. Let’s dive in to the current state of play.
Many EVs can charge 80% of their battery in a matter of minutes, but for some applications range anxiety and charge time are still a concern. One possible solution is an embedded electrical rail in the road like the [eRoadArlanda] that Sweden unveiled in 2016.
Overhead electrical wires like those used in trolleys have been around since the 1800s, and there have been some tests with inductive coils in the roadway, but the 2 km [eRoadArlanda] takes the concept of the slot car to the next level. The top of the rail is grounded while the live conductor is kept well underground beneath the two parallel slots. Power is only delivered when a vehicle passes over the rail with a retractable contactor, reducing danger for pedestrians, animals, and other vehicles.
One of the big advantages of this technology being in the road bed is that both passenger and commercial vehicles could use it unlike an overhead wire system that would require some seriously tall pantographs for your family car. Testing over several Swedish winters shows that the system can shed snow and ice as well as rain and other road debris.
Unfortunately, the project’s website has gone dark, and the project manager didn’t respond when we reached out for comment. If there are any readers in Sweden with an update, let us know in the comments!
Electric cars are very much en vogue right now, as the world tries to clean up on emissions and transition to a more sustainable future. However, these vehicles require huge batteries as it is. For heavier-duty applications like trucks and trains, batteries simply won’t cut the mustard.
One of the primary issues with EVs is that you need to pull over and stop to get a charge. If there isn’t a high-speed DC charger available, this can mean waiting for hours while your battery tops up.
It’s been the major bugbear of electric vehicles since they started hitting the road in real numbers. However, a new wireless charging setup could allow you to juice up on the go.
Over the years, many proposals have been made to power or charge electric vehicles as they drive down the road. Many are similar to the way we commonly charge phones these days, using inductive power transfer via magnetic coils. The theory is simple. Power is delivered to coils in the roadway, and then picked up via induction by a coil on the moving vehicle.
Taking these ideas from concept into reality is difficult, though. When it comes to charging an electric vehicle, huge power levels are required, in the range of tens to hundreds of kilowatts. And, while a phone can sit neatly on top of a charging pad, EVs typically require a fair bit of ground clearance for safely navigating the road. Plus, since cars move at quite a rapid pace, an inductive charging system that could handle this dynamic condition would require huge numbers of coils buried repeatedly into the road bed. Continue reading “Coils In The Road Could Charge EVs While Driving”→
Around the world, governments and city planners have long struggled with the issue of transport. Getting people where they need to be in a timely fashion is key to making a city a comfortable, attractive place to live. As far as public transport is concerned, this typically consists of buses on the roads, and trams and trains on rails.
Down in the city of Adelaide, Australia, things get a little muddled, however. Nestled in a river valley lies a special transportation network known as the O-Bahn, where buses ride on concrete rails and the drivers can even take their hands off the wheel. The system remains a rarity worldwide, and was spawned by a perfect storm of conflicting requirements.
A Child of Circumstance
In the 1970s, the South Australian government found itself backed into a corner. Facing a booming population in the north-eastern suburbs, new transport links with greater capacity were needed to get people to the central business district. Original plans from the 1960s had called for more freeways to be built all over the city to solve the problem. In the face of stiff public opposition, legislation was passed in 1970 blocking the construction of any new freeways for a full decade, forcing the government to consider alternatives.
Despite plans being shelved, a corridor of land stretching from the city to the north-east had already been acquired for freeway construction. This was retained, and studies were commissioned to determine the best transportation solution to suit the needs of the area. The “North East Adelaide Public Transport Review” suggested light-rail or a busway would be the best solution.
Initial plans were proposed to link the north-east with a light-rail tramway that would connect with the existing tramline from the city proper to Glenelg in the west. However, the City of Adelaide protested the plan, believing that extending the existing tramline to the east would damage the city’s carefully planned structure. Plans were made to rectify this by running part of the line underground, massively increasing costs, and the proposal was shelved.
It was at this time, the guided busway in Essen, Germany came to the attention of the state government. Aiming to help reduce congestion by allowing buses to share tram tunnels, it began as a demonstration which later developed into the Spurbus network. The system offered lower cost and higher flexibility than light rail, and avoided the need to carve up the city to hook in to the existing light rail network. Had Adelaide laid out its existing heavy or light rail networks differently, the O-Bahn might not have gotten a look in. However, back in the early 1980s, it was an easy solution in a sea of difficult choices.
Low-slung body style. Four-wheel drive. All electric drivetrain. Turns on a dime. Neck-snapping acceleration. Leather seating surface. Is it the latest offering from Tesla? Nope; it’s a drill-powered electric utility vehicle, and it looks like a blast to drive.
Surprisingly, this isn’t a just-for-kicks kind of build. There’s actually a practical reason for the low form factor and long range of [Axel Borg]’s little vehicle. We’ll leave the back story to the second video below, but suffice it to say that this will be a smaller version of the crawler NASA used to roll rockets out to the launch pad, used instead to transport his insanely dangerous looking manned-multicopter. The running gear on this vehicle is the interesting bit: four hefty electric drills, one for each of the mobility cart wheels. The drills are powered by a large series-connected battery pack putting out 260V at full charge. The universal motors of the drills are fine with DC, and the speed of each is controlled via the PWM signals from a pair of cordless drills. The first video below shows [Axel] putting it through its paces; he didn’t hold back at all, but the vehicle kept coming back for more.
We know this cart is in service to another project, but we’d have a hard time concentrating on anything if we had the potential for that much fun sitting in the shop. Still, we hope that multirotor gets a good test flight soon, and that all goes well with it.
If you have ever been to a hacker camp, you’ll know the problem of transporting all your stuff to your hackerspace village, or to wherever you’ll be basing yourself for the duration. The car park is always too far away, whatever trolley you’ve brought along is never big enough, and the terrain you have to drag everything over feels more like the Chilkoot Trail than a city sidewalk.
[Jana Marie Hemsing] and [Lucy Fauth] have an effective solution to all your hacker camp transport woes, in the form of a motorized platform designed to carry a storage box. Underneath the platform are a pair of hoverboard motors and their controller board reflashed with a custom firmware.
You might be now looking at it and thinking “So what?”, for a single platform is handy but hardly a comprehensive transport solution. What makes this one impressive though is that it’s not a single board, instead there is a swarm of them for which they appear to have implemented some form of optical following system which is teased through the video we’ve placed below the break and with this Tweet, but not in detail yet in the wiki page. A neat train of platforms follows the lead one, transporting everything with minimum fuss. What can we say, except “We want one too!”. There is some code to be found in a GitHub repository, should you be interested in having a go for yourself.