Tag Archives: transportation

Tesla pays back $451 million – nine years ahead of time

The electric car maker Tesla has said thank you very much for the loan to the US Government and repaid the entire $451.8 million loan – nine years ahead of the payment plan.

“Following this payment, Tesla will be the only American car company to have fully repaid the government,” Tesla said in a press release.

How’s that for rubbing the other car makers’ noses in it?

The news is likely to send Tesla’s stocks rising still higher, after the company has seen their market price double in the last 12 months.

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Hyundai’s engineers build wobbly flying car – plus driveable pokemon

Each year at the Hyundai Idea Festival, the South Korean company challenges its engineers to come up with new and interesting ways for people to get from a to b.

The concept is ‘unique concepts for single-person future mobility’ so the sky’s the limit.

This year one group of engineers took this literally by presenting a one-person flying car. Being a prototype, the vehicle seemed to wobble as much as actually fly.

Closer to ground, but at the same time much farther afield, another group of engineers presented something that can…well, it can really best be described as what would happen if you crossed the Pokemon Pickachu with a bee and a Segway.

Don’t believe me? Well take a look here:

BigDog robot tosses cinderblocks like tennisballs. What do you mean why?

Boston Dynamics have built the rather famous BigDog walking robot. Originally designed as an equipmnet carrying all-terrain robot, the boys in the lab decided to give it a little add-on. And hey presto, the robot can now fling around cinderblocks in a way that can really be summed up in the words ‘terrifying’ and ‘awesome’. OK, you could add that it looks a bit bambiesque as well 🙂

See it in action here:

Boeing drone goes green

Boeing seem to be working on a new, environmentally friendly way to carry out espionage and potentially even assasinations of terrorists and the like.

The company’s Phantom Eye unmanned aircraft recently completed its first test flight using liquid hydrogen for fuel. The only biproduct of its engines was liquid water.

Phantom Eye climbed to an altitude of 4,080 feet and reached a cruising speed of 62 knots.

Cracks in the wings? Keep the plane flying, manufacturer says

The world’s largest passenger plane, the Airbus A380 airplane, is causing some Australian engineers a few sleepless nights at the moment.

The engineers in question have reported that they had found small cracks in the wing ribs of A380s operated by Singapore Airlines and Qantas Airways. According to the BBC, Singapore Airlines have said it has repaired the wings of two of its A380s.

Manufacturer Airbus recommends that airlines check for cracks, but at the same time say they don’t present a real danger.

“We confirm that minor cracks were found on some noncritical wing rib-skin attachments on a limited number of A380 aircraft. We have traced the origin. Airbus has developed an inspection and repair procedure, which will be done during regular, routine scheduled four-year maintenance checks. In the meantime, Airbus emphasizes that the safe operation of the A380 fleet is not affected.”

So, no problem, right?

Not quite, if you ask the Australians.

Steve Purvinas, secretary of the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association, told the BBC that:

“We can’t continue to gamble with people’s lives and allow those aircraft to fly around and hope that they make it until their four-yearly inspection.”

So, are we dealing with a simple little hiccup that doesn’t really mean anything, or is it time to don the hard hats and get ready for hundred ton planes dropping out of the sky?

Great advances in fuel efficiency made just to keep the needle from dropping at double speed

A recent MIT study explores the strange fact that scientists over the last twenty years have been making advances in leaps and bounds when it comes to fuel efficiency.

The reason that’s strange is that at the same time, we, the consumers haven’t noticed that increase.

According to the study, called ‘Cars of Steroids’, the reason for this is that the average car has been growing rapidly in size and weight over the years, meaning that any advance in fuel efficiency has been almost equally matched by the size of the car that the fuel is meant to push forward.

Your future car can tell your ass from your elbows

In the future, your ass might help protect your car from being stolen.

Yep, that’s right. Your ass.

Engineers at Japan’s Advanced Institute of Industrial Technology have come up with a system that can recognize a person when they sit down in a car seat. So far the system has a 98 per cent success rate.

The team behind the novel idea aren’t kidding around. They want to commercialize their prototype as an anti-theft product and have it rea(r)dy in two to three years if car companies agree to collaborate.

Of course, this might make for the best motivation ever for people who don’t want to put on weight. Because if they do, their car might simply refuse to start.

But imagine the commercials:

The new, improved Toyota Hiace. It really can tell your ass from your elbows….

The US using more and more drones – at home – now with maths

In a recent article in the Washington Post, journalist William Booth takes a closer look at how the US is using unmanned drone aircraft within its own borders. A lot of the usage actually happens just around the border. The Mexican border, to be specific.

The Predator drones used for most of these operations are mostly looking for illegal immigrants and drug runners. According to the article, the drones helped catch a total of 4,865 undocumented immigrants and 238 drug smugglers in the first 10,000 flying hours.

A little bit of math shows that that equals just under half an undocumented immigrant and a fiftieth of a drug smuggler per flying hour.

If you take a look at the number of illegal (ie. undocumented) immigrats the US catches at its border with Mexico, the math shows us a couple of things.

In 2011, 327,577 illegal immigrants were caught at the border in question. Compare that with the number caught with the help of the drones and you see that it’s a measly 1,5 per cent.

Now the drones in question are $20 million a pop, and the US Government has spent $240 million on drones for border patrols. That figure does not include the cost of actually running them in what is often a desert environment, one never know as the friendliest of places for mechanical or electronic equipment.

Now it’s very possible that the US Government has more drones than the one’s it has purchased for $240 million. But let’s for argument’s sake say that they’ve bought 240 / 20 = 12 Predator drones. If we spread them out across the US-Mexican border, they would each have to cover about 3169 / 12 = 264 kilometres of border each. For people in the UK (well, for everybody else as well) that equals about 2,75 times the entire border between Scotland and England.

Of course, the drones haven’t been bought to simply patrol a stretch of border, but perhaps the numbers can give some sort of idea that the 12 drones are either a sign of the future, with plenty more drones on the way, or just a big waste of money.

Here’s something Chinese you CAN see from space: an aircraft carrier

Can you see the Great Wall of China with the naked eye, if you’re looking at it from space? Maybe not, but you would be able to if you were using a satellite. Now a Denver satellite company have spotted something Chinese from space. The object is one of the country’s ‘experimental’ and ‘research oriented’ aircraft carriers.

According to China Daily, the vessel in question was performing a series of tests that included the first take offs and landings by aircraft at sea.

According to the newspaper there vessel is:

“[…] an Admiral Kuznetsov class aircraft carrier measuring 304.5 meters long, and having a displacement of 58,500 tons, has been refitted for research and training in China.”

It is, however, unclear what sort of research needs an aircraft carrier capable of carrying 33 fixed-wing aircraft and 12 helicopters. Anyone want to as Taiwan if they have an idea what it might be used for?