Military Develops Unmanned Aircraft

The United States Marine Corps is working on a few autonomous aircraft projects to enhance their performance in the battlefield. These aircraft are being designed to drop off supplies and ordinance to troops while located in remote areas that are otherwise difficult to reach without the use of specialized piloting techniques. In recent demonstration flights, autonomous helicopters were able to successfully drop off supplies while located within a test area. The company that is working on the autonomous development, Aurora Flight Science, retrofitted a UH-1H helicopter with autonomous sensors and cameras as well as LIDAR radar in order to be able to fly autonomously. The UH-1H helicopter was first developed in the 1950’s and 1970’s as a general-use helicopter. The UH-1H was made famous during the Vietnam War and is still in use today for many purposes. The Office of Naval Research’s (ONR) Autonomous Aerial Cargo Utility System (AACUS) program is developing a flight apparatus that can be retrofitted to more than just UH-1H helicopters. The goal is to make an aircraft-agnostic system that can be used on multiple flight platforms and can be controlled by a simple tablet-based system on the ground by troop deployments. The ground-based control will be simple enough to use that it will not require any advanced training in order to call in for re-supply missions or other support. Aurora Flight Science’s system allows for vertical flight aircraft to detect and identify multiple hazards in the flight path of the aircraft. After detection, the hazards can be safely avoided using the built-in computers that control the aircraft at all times. The Autonomous Aerial Cargo Utility System has transitioned to the final stages before being used in the field. The United States Marine Corps is now performing experimentation and potential acquisition on the system. Autonomous Aerial Cargo Utility System is also developing a high-performance vertical flight system, named Orion that is capable of flying for approximately 100 hours with a payload of about 1000 lbs. This unmanned aerial vehicle will is being developed under a new contract with the military and will be suitable for deployment anywhere in the world. -taken from

European Union Develops Strict Emissions Standards

The European Union is developing new emissions standards that are aimed at decreasing pollution caused by motor vehicles. New emissions standards are rather widespread, however those being developed in Europe are some of the more stringent standards and many local municipalities are aiming at restricting pollution causing emissions even further. The typical effort behind these standards is to decrease the amount of diesel emissions caused by large long-haul trucks, vans, and buses. In fact, the European Union’s Mobility Package proposal calls for a 15 percent reduction of all CO2 emissions by 2025. Levels of emissions will be 30 percent lower than current 2021 goals by the year 2030. Specific targets for large vehicles, such as trucks and semis, are being developed currently and will be set in place sometime in 2018. Currently, emissions goals cover small passenger vehicles as well as larger vehicles such as delivery vans. The problem with this approach is that the emissions produced by smaller vehicles can be limited by current technology very easily, however emissions produced by larger vehicles is more difficult to control. Large vehicles that travel short trips, such as delivery vans in municipal areas, may be good candidates for electric drivetrains because the range traveled during normal deliveries is on the order of several miles or less. Electric drivetrains produce no emissions, however the range of electric vehicles is limited to the capacity of the batteries, which can be expensive to produce. For long-haul trucking, diesel will still be necessary for some time. Unfortunately, the cost of developing proper infrastructure, as well as unit development costs of batteries and electric drivetrains, will keep diesel as the front-runner for fueling long-range deliveries and cross-country shipping. Other transitional options away from diesel, such as natural gas or hydrogen power, are options that may be worth investigating to reduce emissions from long-range heavy equipment. -taken from

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

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

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:

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

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

Single Vehicle Accidents Are Dangerous

A recent study carried out by AAA Mid-Atlantic found that the majority of automobile crashes that result in a fatality are actually single-vehicle accidents. In other words, crashes caused by the driver are the most lethal type of crash, as opposed to multi-vehicle accidents which are typically considered more dangerous in the public’s view. Common crashes involving two or more vehicles are viewed as typically much more dangerous and common than crashes involving only one vehicle. The thought of being impacted by another vehicle in which the driver has no control over, such as being hit by a car running a red light, is typically much more daunting than a crash in which the vehicle’s own driver is at fault.  Approximately 96 percent of motorists fear the thought of being hit by another vehicle, whereas single vehicle accidents are fatal for more than half of all accidents. Significant data points were taken from statewide accident data in 2015 in the states of Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. Virginia data shows that approximately 474 of 753 traffic fatalities were the result of single vehicle accidents. In Maryland, approximately 275 out of 513, or 54% of fatal accidents were caused by single vehicles. Washington DC had the highest percentage at approximately 74%. Nationwide averages show that single vehicle fatalities take up approximately 55% of fatal crashes.   Single vehicle accidents manifest themselves in different ways. For example, a vehicle rollover is considered a single vehicle accident. Vehicle rollovers are typically extremely dangerous because the occupants can be hit multiple times from multiple directions during the accidnent, causing severe injury at the minimum. Leaving the roadway is also considered a single vehicle crash, or colliding with a fixed object such as a telephone pole or concrete barrier. However, crashes that involve hitting a pedestrian or bicyclist are also considered single-vehicle accidents. These accidents are also often fatal due to the significant injuries that can occur during impact. taken from