Mobility of the future

Quite some time has passed since I wrote my last article on this blog. Even though the numbers of visitors is certainly less than during times in which I wrote a lot of posts, there always are at least a few checking on different previously written posts according to the statistics.

Some time ago I posted some information about the idea of an air propelled vehicle for use in urban areas. That in mind and taking a more general view on the mobility of the future questions arise: What other sustainable technologies are there that could contribute to a wide-ranging solution for the need of individual mobility?  Are they economically feasible? Do they give way to new problems? Who will be able to use these technologies? What are the resources needed for their production as well as for their operation?

Most established automobile companies are investigating the possibilities of electric propulsion since many years. While different kinds of electric engines can drive vehicles with efficiencies over 90% at very high acceleration rates with no direct emissions from the engine the problem remains the storage of the energy.

Tesla Motors, basically one of the most advanced, if not THE most advanced producer of electric cars, for instance, claims their batteries provide enough energy to propel the Tesla Model S for ca. 500km. While this might not seem bad, the realistic range will probably be lower due to non-ideal influences like additional friction losses and handling of the car by the driver. However, their new charging technologies promise a charging speed of 110km kWh worth of range per charging hour and there are 62 supercharger stations in Europe, 112 supercharger stations in North America and 17 in Asia provided by Tesla Motors, that can charge half of the battery in only 20 minutes.

tesla superchargerConsidering these recent developments and innovations by Tesla Motors and keeping in mind that they will keep developing and improving their products, there is a lot to learn and to catch up for competitors within the automotive industries.  But while the risk of profit losses might hold them back the technological advances in the area of alternative mobility solutions, in particular electromobility, inevitably move forward.

An alternative to storing the energy in heavy accumulators would be to generate them in a fuel cell. I believe that this technology has a great future once the necessary infrastructure has been established. Cars driving on hydrogen hardly have emissions and drive on hydrogen and oxygen. The production of the hydrogen and its distribution certainly has to be taken into account when striking an energy balance.

Electric_car_sharing_MilanApart from new technologies new approaches have to be made. An era of renewed, innovative ways of mobility require a new mentality and a new approach. It could for instance start with more car sharing concepts – especially in urban areas. This would tackle the problem of pollution in busy city centers and further increase the public awareness of alternative mobility concepts. And most of all the change of concept can be seen as an opportunity rather than a risk. In recent years we have become spoiled with flexible and individual mobility while often forgetting about the problems of conventional cars driven by fossil fuels. While keeping the advantages of flexibility and individualism the rise of new concepts like car sharing in urban areas will enhance the efficiency of our collective mobility and furthermore with this change of awareness hopefully new room will be given to new and innovative ideas not only in technologies, but especially in concepts and ways of thinking. After all technology should foster human interaction.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Albert Einstein:

“Concern for man and his fate must always form the chief interest of all technical endeavors. Never forget this in the midst of your diagrams and equations.”

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The AirPod

Could this be the mobility option for the future? A small vehicle that drives on air: The AirPod.
Despite its problems it is an exciting and innovative concept, which is why I decided to post this article.

The french company MDI (Motor Development International) has developed a concept of a car that drives on compressed air. It’s a result of the company’s studies on pollution and urban mobility.

According to MDI this concept could be the future of urban mobility due to its environmental friendliness, small prize and size and innovative design. There are different designs apart from the AirPod: The One FlowAir, Mini FlowAir, City FlowAir and Multi FlowAir.

Here are some specifications for the AirPod*:

  • Turning radius: 1.9 m
  • Tare weight: 220 kg
  • Power: 4 kW
  • Recharging time: 1.5 min (at compressor station)
  • Stock pressure: 350 bar
  • Tank capacity:  175 l
  • Maximum speed: 80 km/h
  • Maximum range: ca. 100 km
  • Energy consumption: 7 kWh / 100 km

*The specifications are taken from the official website

The concept has not yet made its way to commercial production and there are several points of criticism, i.e. not all the specifications above have been verified.

For more information check out the company’s website.

The AirPod in action

AirPod interior

ASIMO – The Most Advanced Humanoid Robot

What looks more like someone in a space suit is nothing less than HONDA’s most advanced humanoid robot “ASIMO”. (Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility). ASIMO, however, was not made for space but rather to be a helper to people. He has a wide range of abilities that enable him to fulfill his purpose. Here are just mentioned a few:

  • recognize moving objects, postures, gestures, its surrounding environment, faces, voices
  • interaction with people, i.e. handshakes, following someone, interpreting voice commands, identifying people by their voice
  • walking speed of 2.7 km/h and running speed of 6 km/h
  • autonomously avoids obstacles
  • climbs stairs
  • carries trays and prevents spilling its contents
  • pushes and freely controls carts

The first version of ASIMO was unveiled in 2000. Since then it has been updated and improved (the specifications above refer to the latest release).

Sources: http://asimo.honda.com and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ASIMO

ASIMO conducting the Detroit Symphony Orchestra

ASIMO serving a tray

Technologies of the future?

Since in my last article I posted about Moore’s law which states an exponential growth of computing power in microprocessors, the question remains as to what extent other technologies will develop within the years to come.

The driverless Google car:

“The system combines information gathered from Google Street View with artificial intelligence software that combines input from video cameras inside the car, a LIDAR sensor on top of the vehicle, radar sensors on the front of the vehicle and a position sensor attached to one of the rear wheels that helps locate the car’s position on the map. As of 2010, Google has tested several vehicles equipped with the system, driving 1,609 kilometres (1,000 mi) without any human intervention, in addition to 225,308 kilometres (140,000 mi) with occasional human intervention. Google anticipates that the increased accuracy of its automated driving system could help reduce the number of traffic-related injuries and deaths, while using energy and space on roadways more efficiently.”

Autonomous car by Google

The Iron Man

“It’s fantasy versus reality, and the spread is shrinking. The latter, the XOS, is the latest and arguably most advanced exoskeleton in existence, developed by one-man idea factory Steve Jacobsen and the engineers at Sarcos, a robotics company he started in 1983 that was recently purchased by the defense giant Raytheon. […] In the past seven years, a handful of engineers have taken the military’s 40-year-old fantasy of mechanically enhanced soldiers that can carry heavy loads and begun to make it real. Funded with millions from the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), Jacobsen and others have finally begun marrying artificial muscles and control systems into suits that could soon be available to soldiers, firemen and the wheelchair-bound.”

Exoskeleton by Stephen Jacobson

I would love to try out one of those technologies or even both! They will both surely open lots of new opportunities in many different areas.
If you have any other interesting technologies, please post them!