Build Your Own Electric Car

https://i1.wp.com/f.fastcompany.net/multisite_files/fastcompany/imagecache/1280/poster/2014/06/3031851-poster-model-s-photo-gallery-01.jpgIt’s official: all of Tesla’s electric car technology is now available for anyone to use. Yes, after hinting that he might be willing to do so last weekend, Musk announced this week that his companies patents are now open source. In a blog post on the Tesla website, Musk explained his reasoning. Initially, Musk wrote, Tesla created patents because of a concern that large car companies would copy the company’s electric vehicle technology and squash the smaller start-up.

This was certainly reasonable, as auto giants like General Motors, Toyota, and Volkswagon have far more capital and a much larger share of the market than his start-up did. But in time, Musk demonstrated that there was a viable market for affortable, clean-running vehicles. This arsenal of patents appeared to many to be the only barrier between the larger companies crushing his start-up before it became a viable competitor.

electric_carBut that turned out to be an unnecessary worry, as carmakers have by and large decided to downplay the viability and relevance of EV technology while continuing to focus on gasoline-powered vehicles. At this point, he thinks that opening things up to other developers will speed up electric car development. And after all, there’s something to be said about competition driving innovation.

As Musk stated on his blog:

Given that annual new vehicle production is approaching 100 million per year and the global fleet is approximately 2 billion cars, it is impossible for Tesla to build electric cars fast enough to address the carbon crisis. By the same token, it means the market is enormous. Our true competition is not the small trickle of non-Tesla electric cars being produced, but rather the enormous flood of gasoline cars pouring out of the world’s factories every day…

We believe that Tesla, other companies making electric cars, and the world would all benefit from a common, rapidly-evolving technology platform.

https://i1.wp.com/media.treehugger.com/assets/images/2011/10/tesla-roadster-ev-rendering01.jpgAnd the move should come as no surprise. As the Hyperloop demonstrated, Musk is not above making grandiose gestures and allowing others to run with ideas he knows will be profitable. And as Musk himself pointed in a webcast made after the announcement, his sister-company SpaceX – which deals with the development of reusable space transports – has virtually no patents.

In addition, Musk stated that he thinks patents are a “weak thing” for companies. He also suggested that opening up patents for Tesla’s supercharging technology (which essentially allows for super-fast EV charging) could help create a common industry platform. But regardless of Musk’s own take on things, one thing remains clear: Tesla Motors needs competitors, and it needs them now.

https://i0.wp.com/www.greenoptimistic.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Siemens-electric-car-charging-stations.jpgAs it stands, auto emissions account for a large and growing share of greenhouse gas emissions. For decades now, the technology has been in development and the principles have all been known. However, whether it has been due to denial, intransigence, complacency, or all of the above, no major moves have been made to effect a transition in the auto industry towards non-fossil fuel-using cars.

Many would cite the lack of infrastructure that is in place to support the wide scale use of electronic cars. But major cities and even entire nations are making changes in that direction with the adoption of electric vehicle networks. These include regular stations along the Trans Canada Highway, the Chargepoint grid in Melbourne to Brisbane, Germany’s many major city networks, and the US’s city and statewide EV charging stations.

Also, as the technology is adopted and developed further, the incentive to expand electric vehicle networks farther will be a no brainer. And given the fact that we no longer live in a peak oil economy, any moves towards fossil fuel-free transportation should be seen as an absolutely necessary one.

Sourees: fastcoexist.com, fool.com

News From Space: Robotnaut Gets a Pair of Legs!

robotnaut_movementSpaceX’s latest delivery to the International Space Station – which was itself pretty newsworthy – contained some rather interesting cargo: the legs for NASA’s robot space station helper. Robotics enthusiasts know this being as Robonaut 2 (R2), a humanoid robot NASA placed on the space station to automate tasks such as cleaning and routine maintenance. Since its arrival at the station in February 2011, R2 has performed a series of tasks to demonstrate its functionality in microgravity.

Until now, Robonaut navigated around the ISS on wheels. But thanks to a brand-new pair of springy, bendy legs, the space station’s helper robot will now be able to walk, climb, and perform a variety of new chores. These new legs, funded by NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations and Space Technology mission directorates, will provide R2 the mobility it needs to help with regular and repetitive tasks inside and outside the space station. The goal is to free up the crew for more critical work, including scientific research.

robonaut1NASA says that the new seven-jointed legs are designed for climbing in zero gravity and offer a considerable nine-foot leg span. Michael Gazarik, NASA’s associate administrator for space technology in Washington, explained:

NASA has explored with robots for more than a decade, from the stalwart rovers on Mars to R2 on the station. Our investment in robotic technology development is helping us to bolster productivity by applying robotics technology and devices to fortify and enhance individual human capabilities, performance and safety in space.

Taking their design inspiration from the tethers astronauts use while spacewalking, the legs feature a series of “end effectors” – each f which has a built-in vision system designed to eventually automate each limb’s approaching and grasping – rather than feet. These allow the legs to grapple onto handrails and sockets located both inside the space station and, eventually, on the ISS’s exterior. Naturally, these legs don’t come cheap -costing $6 million to develop and an additional $8 million to construct and test for spaceflight.

robonaut_legsRobonaut was developed by NASA’s Johnson Space Center in collaboration with General Motors and off-shore oil field robotics firm Oceaneering. All that corporate involvement isn’t accidental; Robonaut isn’t designed to simply do chores around the space station. NASA is also using R2 to showcase a range of patented technologies that private companies can license from Johnson Space Center.

The humanoid, task-performing robot is also a NASA technology showcase. In a webcast, the space agency advertised its potential uses in logistics warehouses, medical and industrial robotics, and in toxic or hazardous environments. As NASA dryly puts it:

R2 shares senses similar to humans: the ability to touch and see. These senses allow it to perform in ways that are not typical for robots today.

robonaut_legs2In addition to these legs, this latest supply drop – performed by a SpaceX Dragon capsule – included a laser communication system for astronauts and an outer space farming system designed to grow lettuce and other salad crops in orbit. We can expect that the Robotnaut 2 will be assisting in their use and upkeep in the coming months and years. So expect to hear more about this automated astronaut in the near future!

And in the meantime, be sure to check out this cool video of the R2 robotic legs in action:


Sources:
fastcompany.com, nasa.gov

The Future is Here: The Chevy EN-V

chevy_envImagine a future where cars never crash, never break down, can be dispatched automatically to pick people up, and emit no carbon whatsoever. Well, that’s the idea behind the Chevy EN-V, an “Electric Networked Vehicle” that represents GM’s concept for a next-generation automobile that combines green technology and wireless networking.

Currently under development by General Motors, the vehicle combines four major features, all of which have been in the works for some time. These include autonomous driving, an electric engine, hydrogen fuel cells and mobile applications. Whereas most hybrid vehicles today rely on a combination of gas and electric power cells, this vehicle intends to do away with petroleum altogether.

What’s more, systems such as adaptive cruise control, side blind zone warning and automatic park assist are combined with a new advanced communication technology that allows for the first, fully-autonomous drive in history. Not only is this machine able to drive itself with the passenger in the vehicle, it is capable of being dispatched to an address and driving itself. In short, no driver necessary!

And finally, there’s networking features such as OnStar’s RemoteLink, Chevrolet MyLink, Buick and GMC IntelliLink and Cadillac CUE, all of which comes standard on the vehicle. These allow the driver to obtain directions, remotely lock the doors, and get up to date maintenance and fuel specifications, either through the dashboard display or through their smartphone. These effectively allow the driver to interface with the vehicle through their smartphone.

And it’s a timely creation, given mounting concerns over climate change and the proliferation of wireless technology and applications. And might I say, it’s about freaking time! It seems like only yesterday that GM was doing all it could to bury this kind of technology, buying up the patents and making sure they were staying on the shelf, or electing people who would make sure it wouldn’t see the life of day for another few years. Guess their finally seeing the writing on the wall!

Source: GM.com