Category Archives: Automotives

Scientists Test System To Steer Drivers Away From Dangerous Weather

Each of the test cars driving around Detroit contains onboard equipment that collects, stores, and transmits weather data. In the future, such onboard equipment will be much smaller and integrated into the car design instead of taking up trunk space. (Credit: Copyright UCAR, photo by Michael Chapman)

Scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) are testing an innovative technological system in the Detroit area this month that ultimately will help protect drivers from being surprised by black ice, fog, and other hazardous weather conditions.

The prototype system is designed to gather detailed information about weather and road conditions from moving vehicles. Within about a decade, it should enable motor vehicles equipped with wireless technology to transmit automated updates about local conditions to a central database, which will then relay alerts to other drivers in the area.

“The goal is to reduce crashes, injuries, and deaths by getting drivers the information they need about nearby hazards,” says Sheldon Drobot, the NCAR program manager in charge of the project. “The system will tell drivers what they can expect to run into in the next few seconds and minutes, giving them a critical chance to slow down or take other action.”

NCAR’s road weather system is part of IntelliDrive(SM), a national initiative overseen by the Department of Transportation (DOT) to use new technologies to make driving safer and improve mobility. Officials envision that, over the next 10 years or so, motor vehicles will begin to automatically communicate with each other and central databases, alerting drivers to threats that range from adverse road conditions to nearby vehicles that are moving erratically or are running through a red light. The goal of the DOT is to reduce motor vehicle accidents by 90 percent by 2030.

The national program brings together federal and state transportation officials, motor vehicle manufacturers, engineering and planning firms, consumer electronics companies, and others.

An estimated 1.5 million motor vehicle accidents annually are associated with poor weather, resulting in about 7,400 deaths and 690,000 injuries, according to a 2004 National Research Council report, “Where the Weather Meets the Road.” The report called for improving safety by establishing a nationwide observation system to monitor weather conditions along roads and warn drivers about potential hazards.

For the road weather portion of IntelliDrive, vehicles will use sensors to measure atmospheric conditions such as temperature, pressure, and humidity. An onboard digital memory device will record that information, along with indirect signs of road conditions, such as windshield wipers being switched on or activation of the antilock braking system.

The information will be transmitted to a central database, where it will be integrated with other local weather data and traffic observations, as well as details about road material and alignment. The processed data will then be used to update motorists in the area when hazards are present and, when appropriate, suggest alternate routes.

The incoming data would be anonymous. Officials are working on guidelines to allow drivers to opt out of the system for privacy considerations.

In addition to providing motorist warnings, such a system will alert emergency managers to hazardous driving conditions and enable state highway departments to efficiently keep roads clear of snow. It can also help meteorologists refine their forecasts by providing them with continual updates about local weather conditions.

Motor vehicle manufacturers plan to install the onboard equipment in every new vehicle sold in the United States within a few years as part of a voluntary program to improve driving safety.

On the prowl for bad weather

NCAR scientists and engineers are testing the weather piece of the system by collecting information from 11 specially equipped cars in the Detroit area. Test drivers are on the prowl for adverse conditions, especially heavy rain and snow. Engineers will analyze the reliability of the system by comparing data from the cars with other observations from radars and weather satellites. They will also look at whether different models of cars-in this case, Jeep Cherokees, Ford Edges, and a Nissan Altima – produce comparable measurements of weather and road conditions.

The tests, which began early this month and will run for about two weeks, will help the NCAR team refine its software to accurately process data from motor vehicles. In the future, the team also hopes to study which types of weather information will be most useful and how that information can be clearly and safely communicated to drivers, possibly through a visual display or audio alert.

“The results look very encouraging,” Drobot says. “The tests show that cars can indeed communicate critical information about weather conditions and road hazards.”

Processing a deluge of observations

One of the biggest challenges for NCAR is to determine how to process the enormous amounts of data that could be generated by about 300 million motor vehicles. The center has worked with the Department of Defense, the aviation industry, and other organizations to analyze complex weather observations. But the new system incorporates information from far more sources, and those sources are moving.

NCAR engineers are developing mathematical formulas and other techniques to accurately interpret the information and eliminate misleading indicators. If a driver, for example, turns on the windshield wipers in clear weather to clean the windshield, the NCAR data system will identify that action as an outlier rather than issuing a false alert about precipitation.

“It’s not enough to process the information almost instantaneously,” says William Mahoney, who oversees the system’s development for NCAR. “It needs to be cleaned up, sent through a quality control process, blended with traditional weather data, and eventually delivered back to drivers who are counting on the system to accurately guide them through potentially dangerous conditions.”

IntelliDrive is a service mark of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Source :ScienceDaily (Apr. 11, 2009)


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Activists: Car-Free Days Are ‘A Waste’

Environmental activists on Monday urged the Jakarta Administration to temporarily halt its car-free days on selected city roads, saying a re-evaluation was needed because the event had failed to reduce air pollution and loose regulations have resulted in many violations, including those by senior officials.

“Legally, the car-free days cannot be stopped, but the city administration should halt them temporarily and conduct a review of what went wrong. Honestly, it’s been such a waste,” Selamet Daroyni, the executive director of the Jakarta branch of Indonesian Forum for the Environment, or Walhi, told a press conference.

Selamet said car-free days, generally on Sundays, had failed to achieve the short-term objective of minimizing air pollution and also had failed to encourage Jakarta residents to be more environmentally friendly and less dependent on cars.

“If we perceive this issue from the three success indicators, I’d say these events did not help much,” Selamet said.

He said the indicators were public participation, air pollution reduction and public obedience, including by government officials and law enforcers.

Ahmad Safrudin, of the Committee for Phasing Out Leaded Gasoline, said car-free days merely relocated traffic flow from one place to another without reducing air pollutants.

He said that a report by the Jakarta Environmental Management Board, or BPLHD, that air pollution has decreased significantly was unreliable.

“Jakarta has five air quality monitoring systems, but only one of them is working, so I doubt the report,” he said.

Ahmad said the inefficiency of car-free days had been proven by many violations, with some of the violators being government officials and policemen.

Responding to criticism, Rina Suryani, the BPLHD head of natural resources monitoring, said they had scientific measurements to prove that car-free days had in fact contributed significantly to air pollution reduction.

“In some parts of Jakarta, the air quality has gotten better because of this program,” she said.

Rina said the board could not enforce sanctions against violators because the 2005 bylaw enabling car-free days had not stipulated any.

Jakarta’s car-free days began in September 2007 and are held on the last Sunday of each month.

This year BPLHD has scheduled 22 road closure events.

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February 23, 2009, by Dessy Sagita

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Mitsubishi PHK 300 Karyawan


Selasa, 3 Februari 2009 – 11:45 wib,

TOKYO – Kini giliran Mitsubishi Motors yang berencana memangkas 300 karyawannya di Amerika Serikat (AS). Keputusan ini akibat melemahnya situasi pasar dan nilai tukar yen yang semakin tinggi.

Seperti diberitakan harian ekonomi Nikkei, perusahaan automotif Jepang ini berencana untuk mengurangi 300 karyawan fulltime-nya disebuah pabrik di negara bagian Illiois, AS.

Langkah ini terpaksa ditempuh Mitsubishi akibat perusahaan telah masuk dalam daftar perusahaan yang mengalami kerugian sekira USD223 juta. Kerugian ini merupakan yang pertama kali dialami Mitsubishi dalam tiga tahun.

Menurut Nikkei, keadaan ini akibat melemahnya permintaan di Jepang, Amerika Utara, dan Rusia. Pihak Mitsubishi sendiri belum mengkonfirmasi perihal kabar tersebut. (ton)

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Car sales down 6.9%, bikes 22.9% in India

12 Jan 2009, 1034 hrs IST, PT

NEW DELHI: Domestic passenger car sales declined by 6.9% in December 2008 to 82,105 units, from 88,272 units in the same month previous year.

According to the figures released by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), motorcycle sales in the country, during the month, was down by 22.9% at 335,820 units, against 435,925 units in the year-ago period.

Total two-wheeler sales in December also declined by 15.4% at 461,302 units, compared with 545,485 units in the same month previous year.

Commercial vehicle sales during the month increased by 58.2% to 17,920 units, from 42,961 units during the year-ago period, SIAM said.

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Mazda Pangkas Gaji Manajer Hingga 10%

Selasa, 20 Januari 2009 – 07:04 wib

TOKYO – Mazda Motor akan memangkas gaji bulanan para manajer hingga 10 persen dan mengurangi operasional di pabrik-pabrik utama domestik. Hal ini dilakukan sebagai upaya mengatasi krisis keuangan.

Seperti dikutip dari AFP, Selasa (20/1/2009), Mazda juga akan menghentikan operasional dua pabrik domestiknya di Jepang barat pada Jumat di Februari dan Maret.

Langkah ini merupakan serangkaian langkah pengurangan produksi automotif Jepang dan rival mereka di luar negeri akibat melemahnya permintaan mobil di seluruh dunia.

Sebelumnya, Mazda yang merupakan produsen mobil terbesar kelima Jepang, telah mengurangi gaji bulanan untuk para eksekutifnya hingga 20 persen sejak Desember.

Produsen automotif ini, juga mengumumkan pengurangan 1.500 pegawainya dan memangkas target produksi untuk tahun finansial ini. (Susi Susanti/Sindo/ade)

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Toyota PHK 3.000 Karyawan Kontrak

Foto: Ist

Selasa, 20 Januari 2009 – 11:20 wib

TOKYO – Produsen automotif Jepang, Toyota, dikabarkan sedang mempertimbangkan untuk merumahkan 3.000 karyawan domestiknya.

Keinginan ini diungkapkan juru bicara dari Toyota Motor Corp, Yomiuri Shimbun, sebagaimana dikutip dari AFP, Selasa (20/1/2009). Menurutnya, sekitar 3.000 pekerja kontrak dan pekerja paruh waktu akan dirumahkan pada Maret 2009. Pengurangan jumlah pekerja ini akibat kondisi keuangan perusahaan yang belum menunjukkan kearah pemulihan.

“Kami belum bisa memastikan kelangsungan masa depan kontrak para pekerja tersebut, namun jika melihat rencana produksi dan penjualan yang akan dijalankan pada 2009, maka hal tersebut mungkin saja dilakukan. Tetapi perihal jumlahnya, kami belum bisa memastikan,” kata juru bicara itu.

Para pekerja kontrak ini sebenarnya amat membantu dalam meningkatkan jumlah produksi. Tercatat pada pertengahan tahun pertama 2005, Toyota memiliki 11.000 pekerja kontak. Kemudian merosot pada 2008 menjadi 9.000 karyawan. Dan, jika Maret 2009 nanti tidak ada karyawan yang diperpanjang kontaknya, maka dapat dipastikan Toyota kehilangan 3.000 karyawannya lagi. (ton)

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The Energy Debates: Hydrogen Vehicles

General Motors.

Diagram of the fuel cell and hydrogen tanks in the Chevy Equinox. Credit: General Motors.

By Charles Q. Choi, Special to LiveScience

The Facts

Imagine a car that had water come out its tailpipe instead of pollutants. That is the promise of vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

Hydrogen fuel cells react hydrogen with oxygen to generate an electric current that in turn can drive an electric motor. The only tailpipe emission would indeed be water.

There are no hydrogen cars commercially available from any major company, and their cost is currently too high to make them close to entering showrooms. Yet buses powered by hydrogen are now seen in many cities across the United States. A number of automakers are also leasing hydrogen cars to customers for short periods of time to test their performance, said Spencer Quong, senior vehicles analyst for the Union of Concerned Scientists, a science advocacy group.


The emissions from the hydrogen cars themselves are clean, possessing none of the dirty mix of toxins and carbon dioxide (the major global warming gas) that the burning of gasoline spews forth. The cleanliness of hydrogen is in large part why government and industry support for hydrogen vehicles has reached billions of dollars.

Hydrogen cars, like other cars that run off electric motors, are more efficient than conventional vehicles — roughly twice as efficient as those that rely on gasoline. They are also quieter than regular cars, and their electric motors give full torque when they accelerate, without the delayed revving-up that happens when you step on the gas pedal in a gasoline-engine vehicle.

Hydrogen cars have ranges much like conventional cars. Today’s electric vehicles that rely on batteries, on the other hand, can put in roughly 100 miles before they need recharging.


Hydrogen cars face a host of challenges. While hydrogen fuel cells only emit water, current methods of large-scale hydrogen production often extract it from natural methane gas, generating substantial amounts of carbon dioxide in the process.

Scientists instead would like to generate hydrogen by using electricity to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. However, currently fossil fuels provide nearly two-thirds of the electricity generated in the United States, according to the Department of Energy, which means a hydrogen economy could still emit toxins and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Eventually, if the electric grid becomes more environmentally friendly by adding on wind, solar and other renewable forms of power, so too would hydrogen vehicles grow even greener. However, if hydrogen vehicles were to completely replace the more than 250 million passenger cars in the United States, a dramatic increase in the nation’s electricity generation would be necessary.

Hydrogen cars would need an infrastructure of refueling stations and fleets of tankers. The fuel tanks of hydrogen cars also need further development. Currently hydrogen is stored at high pressure aboard most prototype cars, and it takes a significant amount of energy and money to pressurize the gas, which detracts from the efficiency of the hydrogen economy. Researchers are striving to engineer ways to store hydrogen aboard vehicles at lower pressures, using materials such as carbon nanotubes or metal hydrides, with the aim of significantly reducing the costs of a hydrogen infrastructure.

Converting the United States to hydrogen “would certainly be a major challenge, but you could imagine it done over time,” Quong said. “What’s done in California is really smart — they focus on setting up fueling stations where they know vehicles are going to be, like in Los Angeles, and then scatter other stations across for longer drives.”

Although hydrogen vehicles might conjure up images of the Hindenburg going down in flames, “hydrogen is no more safe or less safe than a gasoline vehicle, just different,” Quong said. If a hydrogen storage tank ruptures, all the gas goes into the air, as opposed to gasoline, which spills all over the ground. Hydrogen is odorless and invisible, so researchers are working on sensors to detect any leaks and avoid any problems.

What do you think?

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