Transportation

AT&T has launched a campaign to discourage people from texting while driving using the hashtag #ItCanWait. It encourages drivers to send #x to anyone they are currently texting before they start driving. The #x indicates they are about to drive so they'll stop texting them until further notice.

Demi Lovato did an advertisement with AT&T to promote the #X for the #ItCanWait campaign, demonstrating how easy it is to send #x to pause conversations.

Video Credit: AT&T on YouTube.

As she said: No text is worth a life! Texting while driving causes thousands of accidents per year in the United States. According to the IIHS, people who are talking on cellphones (whether via text or voice) while driving are four times more likely to be injured in an accident.

The worst issue at play here is operation of the phone. Texting requires your full attention because you have to look down at your phone and operate it. Drivers who were dialing numbers and texting got into far more accidents than those who were simply talking. Not to say that talking while driving is acceptable either.

The #X #ItCanWait campaign is directly at teenagers especially. The young generations use smartphones very heavily.

Sadly, the IIHS reported that bans on the use of cellphones while driving had little to no effect on accident rates, indicating that people don't take this seriously enough. This proves the necessity of the campaign.

They said:

Despite any effects on phone use and texting, there is little evidence so far that banning hand-held phone use or texting reduces crashes. A 2009 analysis found that hand-held bans had no effect on insurance collision claim rates. Researchers compared rates of claims for crash damage in three states and the District of Columbia before and after hand-held phone use bans went into effect and found no significant change in claim rates for two jurisdictions relative to comparison states and small, but significant, increases in claim rates in the other two.

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I've been monitoring and writing about battery technology advancements for years, and was let down so many times. This time, a li-ion battery technology that can be recharged to 70% in 2 minutes has been developed, and it can theoretically last 20 years!

NTU's Assoc Professor Chen Xiaodong with research fellow Tang Yuxin and PhD student Deng Jiyang. Image obtained with thanks from NTU.

NTU's Assoc Professor Chen Xiaodong with research fellow Tang Yuxin and PhD student Deng Jiyang.
Image obtained with thanks from NTU.

This technology is facilitated by the use of a titanium dioxide-based gel in the anode, unlike conventional lithium-ion batteries which often contain graphite anodes. Titanium dioxide is an abundant, cheap, and non-toxic material. That is a step in the right direction for battery manufacturing.

According to NTU,

Naturally found in spherical shape, the NTU team has found a way to transform the titanium dioxide into tiny nanotubes, which is a thousand times thinner than the diameter of a human hair. This speeds up the chemical reactions taking place in the new battery, allowing for superfast charging.

The previous advancements usually had a significant flaw, or just didn't make it to the market, or at least not yet. For example: MIT's battery that charges in 20 seconds, and is cheaper than the others.

That was one of few technologies which didn't appear to have any serious flaws. It would be a game changer if it was commercialized.

It could have a great impact on the electric vehicle industry. A key issue affecting electric vehicle adoption is battery charge time. If electric vehicles could recharge quickly enough, they would not need much range. Range is currently an issue because people won't want to sit in a public place for hours waiting for their vehicles to charge.

People rarely drive more than 30 miles at a time, and even if they wanted to do a 400-mile trip in a car that has only 80 miles of range, they could recharge it for 2 minutes every 80 miles (or ever 30-60 minutes). While that isn't difficult, if you think it is, most people won't have to do it anyway.

Some think that electric vehicles must amount to the 300-500 mile range that gasoline-powered vehicles have, but this isn't necessary. Gas tanks are cheap enough to just make them bigger. Most people's gas tanks can last longer than a week, so they don't even bother to refill them daily.

Apart from that, electric vehicles have the other benefit of recharging at home overnight daily so the user won't have to go to a gas station, and they will have their full range every day, unlike gas-powered vehicle users which can't have that luxury.

This Battery Technology's Impact On Electric Planes

The electric plane industry hasn't taken off yet, and is struggling to do so. However, i'm sure that electric planes could benefit from a reduced recharge time. Planes will sometimes need to top up between flights, and time is of the essence in the airline industry.

The ability to recharge to 70% in two minutes might help the airline industry take another big step towards the electrification of planes.

This technology was developed by a team of researchers including Prof Chen Xiaodong, Tang Yuxin and PhD student Deng Jiyang at Nanyang Technology University (NTU) in Singapore.

Source: NTU.

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The Solar Impulse 2 is a solar-powered airplane that will make the first solar flight around the world. The flight will start and end in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE), according to Masdar.

H. E. Dr. Sultan Ahmad Al Jaber, UAE minister of state and chairman of Masdar said: 'Abu Dhabi, Masdar and Solar Impulse have in common a pioneering spirit, a long-term vision and a desire to explore new horizons. We share a commitment to foster the development of technological advances in alternative energy sources in order to contribute to a cleaner, more sustainable future.', according to the Masdar press release.

I agree with that. Masdar's projects are long-term. They don't build temporary or transitional hybrid projects that still rely heavily on fossil fuels. They build self-sustaining solar and wind-powered projects. They are even working on a renewable energy-powered desalination project.

The Solar Impulse Project Paves The Way To A Future Of Clean Transportation

The Solar Impulse project facilitates transportation around the world without reliance on fossil fuels. These are all what I consider long-term projects, because they can be relied on for many years to come, regardless of fuel supply disruptions and scarcity.

These projects also provide proof-of-concept, and hence, motivation to prospective technology developers in the UAE to develop equally (or more) brilliant technology.

As Bertrand Piccard, the co-founder of Solar Impulse said:

'This well-matched partnership will showcase Abu Dhabi as a centre of expertise when it comes to renewable energy and at the same time Solar Impulse will demonstrate the far-reaching applications of clean energy during the first solar-powered flight around the world,”

André Borschberg, the other founder of Solar Impulse continued: 'We have chosen this location as being the best and most suitable departure and return point for the round-the-world tour, due to its climate, infrastructure and commitment to clean technologies.'

The new Solar Impulse 2 is built with a wider wingspan (72 meters, which is greater than that of a 747), it is made from lighter materials, it has more efficient motors, 17,000 solar cells and an improved cabin.

Who said that solar airplanes should be built like traditional ones? I think it was smart to take advantage of the wide wings that aircrafts have, make them even wider, and install solar cells on them. Solar power systems are easiest to integrate into flat surfaces. Curved surfaces require inefficient flexible solar panels.

Despite the wide wingspan, it weighs only 2,300 kg (5,070 pounds). The Solar Impulse 2 will be delivered from the Payerne aerodome in Switzerland near the end of this year. It will be displayed during Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week at the World Future Energy Summit.

Main source: Masdar.

If you fly frequently, i'm sure you would appreciate it if you didn't have to look around outside to find a mode of transportation, so you can get to your gate on time.

Planes at Airport Sheremetyevo. Chauffeur services are a very convenient way to get around and show frequent customers how important they are to the airline industry.

Airport Sheremetyevo.
Image obtained with thanks from Aleksander Markin on Flickr.

Starting at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), American Airlines intends to offer a chauffeur service from gate to gate in partnership with Cadillac. Cadillac will also offer frequent flier points for test driving their cars.

Is This A Response To United Airlines' Chauffeur Service?

United Airlines has their high-value frequent-fliers chauffeured in Mercedes-Benz cars, and Delta chauffeurs them in Porsche cars.

I applaud American Airlines for choosing to support one of their local country's brands. I won't knock Delta and United Airlines for their choices because the Mercedes-Benz and Porsche names are probably very attractive to customers, given the fact that they are loved so much.

According to the LA Times,

By the end of this year, American plans to roll out the chauffeur service at Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport, New York’s LaGuardia Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Don’t be surprised if you don’t see a Cadillac waiting for you when you get off your American Airlines flight. The service is reserved for ConciergeKey club members, which is an invitation-only program for influential, big-spending travelers.

Should Airlines Take On Ground Transit For Travellers?

Services such as Expedia will allow you to sign up for a flight, hotel room, and car, all at once. In person, people often go to airlines' counters to sign up for flights, then they have to figure out transportation and accommodations separately.

In person, you may not want to go through a long list of hotels at an airlines' counter, but maybe airlines could set up several tablets at their counters for their customer who buy plane tickets in person, and they could use those tablets to go through the long list of hotels and chauffeur services to reserve along with their plane tickets.

This would be very helpful to those living in countries with a low rate of Internet access. For example: Only 12% of India's population has Internet access.

Source: LA Times.

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Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors tweeted that it is 'about time to unveil the D and something else'.

Tesla D teaser. Image obtained with thanks from Elon Musk on Twitter.

Tesla D teaser. Image obtained with thanks from Elon Musk on Twitter.

This attracted more than 9,000 retweets and 2,500 favourites, it possibly sent shares up by 3%, and it now has people guessing what the 'D' means. Some think it stands for a Dual-Motor AWD version of the Tesla Model S, or that it refers to driver assistance technology (based on references to it spotted in Tesla software).

As for the shares, Samantha Sharf of Forbes wrote:

This is far from the first time that Musk’s words have set off a cultural firestorm or a big swing in share price. Just last month he quipped, 'I think our stock price is kind of high right now to be totally honest.' Tesla shares dropped 1.8% the day of the comment and were down 15% as of Wednesday’s close.

According to a tip TechCrunch received, the Tesla D may be a HP Model S with beefed up technology (such as a 600 HP motor), and a top speed of 155 MPH, a big step up from the previous models' top speed of 125 MPH.

This sounds like it might contain an enormous battery bank. Maybe even over 100 kWh?

What Kind Of Technology Might Be Behind The Tesla D?

Don't be surprised if this vehicle crosses the $100,000 USD mark, and by far. However, Tesla Motors' innovative designers keep offering better vehicles for the price. For example: The Model S is a nicer car than the Roadster, plus it is cheaper.

The only considerable benefit the Roadster has over the Model S is its acceleration time.

Theoretically speaking, Tesla could release a vehicle which is better overall if they were able to commercialize one of the outstanding new battery technologies (and work out the bugs), but that is a big IF. Some of today's prototypes are that powerful.

As for compromises, they could have dropped some features or made sacrifices in the Tesla D's design to keep the cost of it down. For example: It may have less interior room due to a larger battery bank.

The Tesla D will be unveiled on October 9,  2014.

Source: TechCrunch.

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Electric vehicle battery technology is usually of the lithium-ion chemistry, and it costs $400 to $500 USD per kWh, down from $1,000 a few years ago. They have certainly made strides, and they are set to make even bigger strides in the near future, possibly to $100 per kWh of batteries.

Tesla Model S Drivetrain. Tesla's Gigafactory could make electric vehicle batteries cheap.

Tesla Model S Drivetrain.
Image Credit: Kompulsa.

Tesla Motors has aimed to reduce the cost of lithium-ion battery technology by 30% via their Gigafactory. However, Elon Musk thinks that is conservative, and said that he would be disappointed if he didn't achieve a battery cost of $100/kWh within 10 years. The Tesla Gigafactory will also hire up to 6,500 people.

The Tesla Gigafactory Could Make Electric Vehicles Cheap

The Tesla Gigafactory should reach its full capacity of in 2020, which is 35 GWh of lithium-ion cells, and 50 GWh of battery packs per year, enough to produce 500,000 electric vehicles per year.

The Tesla Gigafactory's cost reductions could lead to a Nissan Leaf battery pack that costs only $2,400, as opposed to the $5,500 it costs now (after a $1,000 discount for turning in the old pack). Nissan Leaf vehicles could cost as little as $18,410 after federal tax rebates at that price!

Also imagine a Tesla Model S 85kWh (265 miles on average) battery pack that costs only $8,500. Compare that to the (estimated) $17,000 to $21,250 that it costs now. Please note that $21,250 translates to an unusually low cost of $250 per kWh.

That $12,750 cost reduction could reduce the cost of the 85 kWh model from $79,900 to $67,150, and that is an awfully nice car.

This cost reduction is likely to lead to the use of larger capacity batteries to extend electric car range to a few hundred miles.

That Much Additional EV Range Isn't Necessary - It's Time To Be More Fair To Electric Vehicles

Gasoline-powered vehicles can achieve over 300 miles per tank on average, but that doesn't mean that they must have that much range. Electric vehicles do not need that much range either.

Most people drive less than 30 miles per day, so most of the electric vehicles on the market can cover that range, including the (relatively) low-priced Fiat 500e and the Nissan Leaf vehicles.

Electric vehicle owners wake up to a full 'tank' every morning: Gasoline-powered vehicles cannot refill their tanks automatically every night like electric vehicles can. You have to drive to a gas station and sit their until it refills.

Electric vehicles can charge overnight while you're fast asleep.

Think about the average range a Tesla Model S could get per day, compared to that of a gasoline-powered vehicle. People don't want to visit odorific gas stations frequently, so they wait until they're running low on gas to stop by.

Most of the time, gasoline-powered vehicles have only a fraction of their 300-mile range, because their tanks aren't kept full.

Source: Green Car Reports.

A Tesla Model S operating system (OS) update (Version 6) may enable you to unlock and start your Tesla Model S using your iPhone, according to an Electrek leak.

Is This Convenient? Do You Need To Unlock Your Tesla Model S With A Phone?

Is it really that difficult to take your conventional keys/remote out of your pocket and press the unlock button? Or is this technology just a cool feature to amuse people?

Whichever it is, it's good to know that they have more options now. What may be inconvenient to you, could be very helpful to another.

It is technically possible to use the iPhone's Touch ID feature to unlock the Tesla Model S. However, this could still take longer than using a conventional remote.

There Is One Major Convenience

If you travel without your car for extended periods of time, you won't need to beg someone to babysit your car. You could just start it from wherever you are to keep the battery charged, as long as this technology enables you to lock the doors while it's running.

If you spend a great deal of time away from home, and away from your Tesla Model S, this feature could be a godsend for you.

Security Concerns Associated With Remote Car Unlocking/Starting

I'm not referring to conventional remote unlocking, but the use of cellphones to do so. Cellphones are among the most stolen (and insecure) mobile electronic devices. It is too easy for people to hack into them and gain access to your car.

They could probably even start it and let the A/C cool it off so they can just hop in and drive off as soon as they get to it. I'm not trying to scare you, but there is a good and bad side to everything, and the bad side in this case may outweigh the good.

Technology is a double-edged sword, and every new technology opens up windows to both potentially harmful and helpful things. However, the usefulness of the technology is what will determine its value to society.

An Android version may be released in a month.

Sources: Mashable and Electrek.

For technology-related news, visit the technology category, and for technology reference material, visit the technology section.

According to AppleInsider, Apple has patented a technology which could help you to find back your car in parking lots.

An iPhone 4S. iPhones may soon be able to help you find back your parking spot in the future.

An iPhone 4S. Image obtained with thanks from Matthew Pearce on Flickr.

Conveniently, this iPhone technology enables you to locate your parking space without a GPS signal or internet connection. This is certainly refreshing, coming from someone whose tablet becomes almost useless the moment his internet connection fails.

The iPhone technology uses the GPS capability of your iPhone to track your location. Once your vehicle is parked, you indicate that and the app records that as your parking space.

According to AppleInsider:

In lieu of GPS, the iPhone relies on onboard sensors to estimate with some accuracy the movement of a user. By combining sporadic GPS signal locks with accelerometer data, for example, an iPhone is able to "look forward" or "look backward" from a given point in time to deduce the location of a user proximate to their car.

Any number of techniques may be applied for tracking purposes, like motion data processing, time stamps, gyroscope data, pedometer data and more. Perhaps most applicable in driving and walking scenarios is the accelerometer, which can be used to determine motion, direction and speed over time.

This iPhone technology also has options such as 'Add To Favourites', 'Share Car Location', 'Set Parking Alert', 'Update Car Location', and last but not least: the address.

A Simple Parking Solution For The Interim

Technology can provide so many conveniences like these, but this invention raised the question: Why didn't property owners just mark parking spaces on the walkway between or behind vehicles in the first place?

For example: There could be a section A, B, C, and D with their section letters marked somewhere appropriate, and then a number for each parking space.

So you would only have to remember C4, for example, when you leave the supermarket. It would be very straightforward. You could just walk straight to the C marker, and then down until you arrive at space 4.

This may not work on vast expanses of land with no parking lots as Apple's invention can, but it is a good start.

Source: AppleInsider.

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Maybe a little, but this private jet has an incredible view. When I first saw a picture of the windowless airplane. It looked almost like it was equipped with enormous windows. It actually uses cameras to provide a high-resolution 360° view of your environment via screens.

Windowless airplane.

A windowless airplane.
Image obtained with thanks from Technicon Design.

That isn't the only option, though. The screens can display any image if the airline sees fit. I would prefer if they stuck to the environment outside, though. Whether it is a cloudy winter day or a sunny one, the bird's-eye view from an airplane is still interesting.

Other Possibilities

Video conferencing on planes: There are multiple screens in this windowless airplane. Due to its somewhat business class seating arrangement, one passenger can have a screen to themselves and use it for whatever they want (if the airline permits that).

Watching movies and TV: These screens are much larger than the traditional ones in 737 jets. They could actually be enjoyable.

Why Not Use Bigger Windows Instead Of Mounting Costly Cameras And Screens On The Airplane?

There is a major benefit to larger windows: They will be clearer (if maintained) than cameras. Cameras have limitations and will always distort images to some extent. To get that distortion down to a level comparable to windows, high-end cameras costing thousands of US dollars each would be required. Then again, how much would it cost to make such a large percentage of a plane's body out of glass or plastic? That could be costly as well.

Glass and plastic usually have a very poor strength-to-weight ratio, so making an airplane out of this material would probably weaken its body or add to its weight. However, Airbus mimicked the bone structure of birds and designed a partially transparent airplane. The reason for this is the light weight and strength of the design. The Airbus design has windows with adjustable opacity to maximize passivity, energy-efficiency, and comfort.

Main Source: Mashable.

Brainstorm Project

The operation and maintenance (O&M) cost of solar-power plants is very low compared to that of fossil-fuelled power plants in general, and this has had a significant impact on the energy market in some regions (such as Texas, United States). The article pertains to that effect and how it could apply to solar-powered planes (especially passenger jets).

Solar-powered planes (which are electric) don't require fuel (unless they're hybrids), therefore, the only other recurrent cost incurred by the planes is maintenance (apart from employee wages and salaries). Longer trips increase fuel consumption as well as wear-and-tear on traditional fossil-fuelled jets, so longer trips tend to attract a higher fee.

My Theory

The distance of a given flight in a solar-powered plane could affect the cost of travel far less than it would in a fossil-fuelled one due to the lack of a fuel cost. Only the maintenance cost, as well as the working hours of flight attendants and pilots would be increased.

I should note that airlines might still set airfare based on distance.

Potential Implications

The cost of fuel affects our decisions profoundly in multiple ways. We can't work too far away from home, or regularly shop at distant malls/plazas. We can't just casually fly to Australia or Europe for a meeting, as that wouldn't be feasible for most people.

This means that if the non-existent fuel cost of solar-powered planes influenced airfares as much as it could, the cost gap between long and short-distance trips would shrink substantially. If airfares aren't too high, people could end up making far more trips around the world to countries that they would otherwise have never seen in their lifetime (for example: More Americans may visit Australia, Korea, New Zealand, and other geographically distant countries), increasing the likelihood of international business ventures, tourism, greater family unit, and even the creation of new families internationally.

This is a purely theoretical article forecasting what the future of aviation may have in store for us. This article is apart of Kompulsa's Brainstorm Project, which aims to spark discussions on important issues we all face today. Feel free to leave a comment below.