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Joe Tremblay

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Komatsu Developing Artificial Intelligence

Komatsu is developing a system of artificial intelligence to be used in large-scale construction sites. The artificial intelligence is being developed in an attempt to gather more data on the heavy equipment used in the construction sites and, more importantly, to increase the safety to equipment operators and ground personnel. Komatsu is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of heavy equipment, mining equipment, and other construction equipment. Komatsu is developing the artificial intelligence system along with NVidia, who is well-known as a computer hardware developer in industries such as commercial, retail, and medical. The construction artificial intelligence system, dubbed SmartConstruction, will have the capability to control heavy equipment and can identify and distinguish between ground personnel, inanimate objects, and heavy equipment around the entire construction site. Komatsu will be using NVidia’s Jetson computing platform as a basis for the artificial intelligence development. The Jetson platform is very small, about the size of a credit card, and powerful to compute virtual surroundings taken from the individual cameras used in all of Komatsu’s construction equipment. In addition to ground level cameras, drones will be used overhead the construction site to provide real-time updates as to local positioning of resources, equipment, and personnel. The drones will be operated by SkyCatch, another feature provided by NVidia as part of their Inception Program Startups. The first locations to use the new artificial intelligence technology will be in Japan, where an aging workforce and lack of qualified labor bring strong demand for computer-controlled equipment. In Japan, the technology will be fine-tuned and validated. However, the entire world will benefit from the new technology and after test runs are completed, the AI technology will be released worldwide. Komatsu is anticipating that SmartConstruction will decrease the dangers typically found in construction and mining work sites, all while increasing productivity and reducing costs to the end-users. -taken from www.sae.org

Caterpillar’s UTV Now Available

Caterpillar Heavy Equipment has recently entered the Utility Vehicle (UTV) market with two brand new vehicles. The Caterpillar UTV’s are similar in size and capability to existing UTV’s such as the Polaris Ranger, Kawasaki Mule, or John Deere Gator. This is the first ever attempt by Caterpillar to make a vehicle that fits within this market. The Caterpillar CUV82 is a gasoline-powered utility vehicle with bench seating, a tubular cage surrounding the occupant compartment, and a small pickup bed over the rear wheels. The CUV82 will have a top speed of around 45 mph and can carry 1000 lbs of cargo with a 2000 lb towing capacity. The CUV102D is the bigger brother to the CUV82 and will be powered by a small displacement diesel engine. The CUV102D has similar load rating capacities and can travel approximately 25 mph. The Caterpillar UTV’s are designed to be used by work force as support for operations or as a farm utility vehicle, similar to offerings from other heavy equipment manufacturers, such as Bobcat and John Deere. Both Caterpillar utility vehicles will share similar drivetrains including continuously variable transmissions (CVT). Options include either two or four-wheel-drive and the option to add lockers to the four-wheel-drive version for use in rough off-road terrain. Ground clearance for both models is 10.5 inches. Caterpillar has contracted Textron Specialized Vehicles in Thief River Falls, Minnesota to manufacture their utility vehicles. Textron manufactures their own line of utility vehicles, as well as vehicles under other name brands such as Arctic Cat. Caterpillar and Textron developed the utility vehicles collaboratively and Caterpillar while taking into consideration recommendations from customers and dealerships on included functionality, features, and capability. The Cat ‘Utes were tested extensively and thoroughly as part of their development and a new version with seating for an entire crew will be released in Fall 2018. The Caterpillar UTV’s are on sale now. taken from www.sae.org

Polestar is Making Performance Vehicles

Volvo is working on developing a new performance brand of vehicles. The brand, Polestar, has big plans to create a series of electric hybrid luxury and performance vehicles that will be completely stand-alone from Volvo. The first vehicle, the Polestar 1, will be revealed in the next couple of years as a performance two-door sedan that seats four. The Polestar 1 will be primarily an electric powered vehicle, however will also have a small internal combustion engine for extended range. The Polestar 1 will have about 600 horsepower, about 740 ft-lb of torque, and will be designed as a true driver’s car with many high-performance features and sports car styling.  The 600 horsepower rating will come from a fully electric drivetrain that delivers power to the wheels with specialized torque vectoring technology that will allow the car to distribute wheel torque to individual wheels and reduce the likelihood of tire slippage during heavy acceleration. According to Polestar, the Polestar 1 will be the first car to incorporate specialized Ohlins electronically controlled suspension and the chassis will be super lightweight because it will be formed from sheets of carbon fiber. Polestar and Volvo are taking aim at a new generation of mid-sized electric or hybrid vehicles that provide high-performance and low emissions. Other vehicles in this category are being developed by major brands, however Tesla may be the only true competitor to Polestar when the Polestar 1 comes out until other manufacturers join in the competition. Polestar is developing the Polestar 1 on scalable architecture which will allow their engineers to share similar chassis and design concepts between several different models of vehicle. Polestar has plans to eventually offer other electric hybrid vehicles in their lineup, including a sport utility vehicle dubbed the Polestar 3. Production of the Polestar 1 will commence in China in time for a mid-2019 release date. -taken from www.sae.org

Ford and General Motors are Developing New Electric Cars

Are gasoline and diesel powered vehicles a dying breed? A look into the future shows that electric vehicles will take over the need of all fossil-fueled vehicles, however estimates on when this transition will begin to take effect vary across the board. Certainly the benefits of electrical vehicles are very apparent, including reduced pollution, higher efficiency, and reduced maintenance costs. However, there are still some very large obstacles in the way of transitioning from old fossil fueled vehicles to high-tech, electrical vehicles. Primarily, new infrastructure must be put in place to “re-fuel” electric vehicles, or in other words, re-charge the electric vehicles when batteries are depleted. Also battery production and replacement at end-of-life are important considerations, especially considering that the cost of batteries is very high, and high-capacity car batteries only currently provide relatively short range for vehicle mileage. Regardless, transitioning to electric vehicles is imminent. General Motors and Ford have seen the writing on the wall. Both companies have big plans in place to increase electric vehicle production significantly between now and 2020. The companies are planning on introducing both hybrid and full electric vehicles as part of new vehicle lineups in the upcoming years. Both companies are also learning the market trends based off of current hybrid and electric vehicles, such as the Chevrolet Bolt, in an effort to identify what drives consumers spending and desires. Ford has plans for many new hybrid or electric vehicles in the next several years, including a hybrid F150 pickup truck and other popular models. GM is planning a total of 20 new electric or hybrid vehicles by the year 2023 and has already begun plans for production and manufacturing. Transitioning away from fossil fueled vehicles will certainly not happen overnight, however. Infrastructure, as well as consumer acceptance of electric vehicles, are huge obstacles that will need to be overcome first. -Read More: www.machinedesign.com

New Device to Stop Semi Underride

The topic of vehicle underride has been discussed in many forums lately. Perhaps the most severe underride impact occurs between small passenger cars and large semi tractor trailers. Such an impact between small and large vehicles produces damage that is lethal to the occupants of the smaller vehicle in many cases. A group of underride researchers is testing a new product designed to reduce passenger vehicle damage in underride impacts with large trailers. The product is designed to resist underride impacts to the sides of the trailer, in the case of an accident where a passenger vehicle t-bones the trailer. The product is called Angel Wing and is produced by Airflow Deflector Inc. The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety has performed impact tests against the Angel Wing  product at 35 mph and 40 mph impact speeds. The results of the test show that the Angel Wing effectively reduces the amount of underride to smaller vehicles, reducing the risk of decapitation type injuries to the vehicles occupants. Angel Wings are effectively large structural pieces that take up the space underneath a trailer’s main deck, behind the rear dual axles of the tractor and in front of the dual axles of the trailer. The concept of adding material in the area between the axles of the semi is not a new one, as many current trailers have large panels taking up this space currently. The difference between these large panels and Angel Wings is that Angel Wings are structural. The large panels in this area of many trailers currently is simply a panel to help reduce air turbulence under the semi in an attempt to increase fuel economy. Angel Wings may accomplish an increase in fuel economy as well as provide resistance to underride during impacts. The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety has been investigating many methods to reduce underride between passenger vehicles and semis and will be continuing testing of these devices designed to reduce injury during accidents.   Taken from www.iihs.org

New Battery Design Shows Promise

Automobile fuel sources are going through a series of improvements as of lately. With improvements to alternative energy sources such as electric battery power, the future of automobile energy consumption is rapidly changing. Battery technology in itself is rapidly changing, and the concept of a battery having a fixed positive terminal, negative terminal, and fixed size is thrown out the window by a new start-up company from Finland. The company’s name is Tanktwo, and they are revolutionizing the shape and functionality of battery cells. Their design incorporates a sphere with six zones of contact. The idea is that the battery spheres would each be very small and have programmable zones to orientate proper battery polarity automatically when placed next to another battery sphere. The overall effect is a small array of battery cells that all align themselves to the appropriate polarity using computers located on each individual cell. The array of cells is located in a larger container, or battery module, acting similarly to other fuel cells aside from the fact that the fuel inside the cell is simply made up of little individual batteries. The possibilities of this concept show great promise in the automobile industry as a compromise to the obvious limitations presented by current battery designs and the limitations to electric vehicles. Batteries used in electric vehicles are severely limited in their functionality because of the need to slowly recharge the battery when the battery is depleted. This requires the automobile to essentially be parked for an extended period of time. Imagine if battery “refueling” stations simply removed the small spherical batteries from a vehicle’s battery module and replaced them with pre-charged, automatically orientating and assembling cells, and the automobile was instantly ready for use again. The small spherical batteries could then be re-charged and re-used again without dealing with replacing large, heavy, expensive batteries. The concept needs a lot of refining before it can be successfully implemented, but many large auto makers are taking notice to the concept. -taken from www.sae.org

Motorcycle Helmet Laws

Should motorcycle riders be required to wear helmets? The question has been asked many times and has a different answer depending on the context, and location in that it was posed. Legally, there are many states in the US that require motorcyclists to wear helmets. However, there are even more states that don’t require helmets for almost any age of rider and even a few that have no helmet laws at all. The requirement for riders to use helmets is somewhat controversial and has been debated by both sides over and over. The main argument being a demand for individual rights and freedom versus that of keeping riders safe in the event of an accident. Currently, there are 19 states, including the District of Columbia that require all motorcyclists to wear helmets while riding motorcycles. Another 28 states require riders to wear helmets under certain circumstances. These circumstances are usually associated with the rider’s age; younger riders under the age of 18 in these states are required to wear helmets, while those 18 and over are not required to wear them. There are three states, Illinois, Iowa, and New Hampshire, that do not require helmets at any age for any rider. See the map below for more information on which states have helmet laws and those that do not. Motorcycle riders who do not wish to wear helmets often argue that a requirement to wear helmets violates their individual rights of freedom. Additionally, non-helmet wearing riders may argue that helmets hinder their view of the road, are uncomfortable, and are unappealing appearance-wise. Ultimately, riders who choose not to wear helmets are accepting that they may have an increased risk of injury during an accident, but this is their own choice. Advocates for helmet laws wish to require all riders to wear helmets to reduce the risk of head injuries during accidents, in an attempt to regulate transportation in much the same way that seatbelts are required in all passenger vehicles. Regardless, the topic creates controversy on both sides of the debate. Read more: www.iihs.org

Rear Passengers Less Likely To Wear Seat Belts

A new study carried out by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has shed new light on the topic of seat belts and rear passengers. The study determined that the mindset of adult passengers in motor vehicles is that the rear seats are automatically safer than the front seats and that, in many cases, seatbelts are optional when riding as a passenger in the rear of a vehicle. The study showed that approximately 28 percent of individuals who participated did not wear their seat belts while in the back seats of a vehicle. 91 percent of individuals who participated claimed that they would wear seatbelts while in the front seat, however. Interestingly, of those who admitted not always using safety belts while in the back seat of a vehicle, approximately 4 out of 5 individuals stated that they would not use seat belts at all while on short trips, such as during ride-shares, taxis, or Uber. The mindset that the rear seat is automatically safer than the front seat may have come from the early advent of seat belts in vehicles during the 1960’s and 1970’s. During this time, the rear seat was considered safer than the front seats because none of the seats were required to have seat belts. Without any seat belts, the rear seat is technically safer because the occupant is less likely to impact the hard dashboard in the event of an impact. However, with safety belts now required by federal law, the rear seat is basically just as dangerous as the front seat during a car accident. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study identified that the age group of adults who were the least likely to wear seat belts while in the rear of a vehicle was those individuals 35 to 54 years of age. Only 60 percent of these individuals reported to wear seatbelts in the rear of a vehicle, compared to 76 percent 55 years old or older, and 73 percent of those aged 18 to 34 years. –from IIHS