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Technology Used To Improve Traffic Flow And Road Safety

MARTA project. (Credit: Image courtesy of Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya)

The Research Group in Mathematical Programming, Logistics and Simulation (PROMALS) and the Seat Chair of Innovation and Sustainable Development (Seat-UPC) create technological solutions to improve traffic flow, make driving safer and more comfortable, lower the accident rate and reduce traffic congestion and emissions of contaminant gases.

New advances will see vehicles equipped with sensors and interfaces which gather information on the traffic situation and display it on screen or alert the driver through automated voice announcements. The Seat-UPC Chair is involved in designing and fitting human machine interfaces (HMIs) and running automated tests of the electronic systems used in the MARTA project, which incorporate new technologies such as specialized image recognition applications.

New on-board sensors will be able to monitor the status of mechanical components such as brakes when a vehicle is in motion, while others will provide automatic control of driving speed and the distance maintained from the vehicle in front. Interfaces will enable data to be shared between vehicles, providing updated information on their position and speed every 200 meters. A system of nodes installed in the road network transmits the data to a mobility management center, where they are processed and used to maintain traffic flow by providing real-time information on congestion spots and suggesting optimum routes in the event of an accident.

The PROMALS group, attached to the Department of Statistics and Operations Research at the UPC, is looking at ways of using the data received by the management center. Its researchers are designing simulated traffic scenarios in which to test the new technologies developed under the MARTA project: a recent example is a traffic priority system in which the real-time data are used to determine the ideal intervals between traffic light phases across a given area, which optimizes traffic flow and reduces congestion.

The MARTA project has a budget of over thirty-five million euros and receives funding from the Center for the Development of Industrial Technology (CDTI). The project, scheduled for completion in 2011, is coordinated by the company FICOSA as part of a wider program run by the National Strategic Consortium in Technical Research (CENIT), and brings together experts and researchers from nineteen companies and nineteen scientific centers and national universities.

Source : sciencedaily

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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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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.

Source : http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com

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Calls for ‘speed-limiting’ cars

Speed-limiting devices should be fitted to cars on a voluntary basis to help save lives and cut carbon emissions, according to a new report.

The government’s transport advisers claim the technology would cut road accidents with injuries by 29%.

The device automatically slows a car down to within the limit for the road on which it is being driven.

But campaign group Safe Speed warns against its use, saying it encourages drivers to enter a “zombie mode”.

Ministers are planning to help councils draw up digital maps with details of the legal speed on every road.

The speed-limiting devices will then use satellite positioning to check a vehicle’s location and when its speed exceeds the limit, power will be reduced and the brakes applied if necessary.

The Commission for Integrated Transport and the Motorists’ Forum, which both advise the government, are calling on ministers to promote a wide introduction of the system.

Education ‘important’

John Lewis, from the Motorists’ Forum, told BBC Breakfast he believed the devices would help drivers obey limits and therefore keep their licences.

“But we believe that the system should be a voluntary system, that the drivers decide if they have fitted to their car or not, and that they decide if they want to over-ride the speed limit – that should be their choice,” he said.

There would also be a positive impact on emissions and fuel consumption, he added.

Jon York, fleet manager for British Gas, whose vans are already limited to 70mph, told BBC Radio 5 Live the system had reduced road incidents for the company.

But he said the introduction of technology had to be combined with safety education.

“It does aid road safety, it does reduce incidents, but it is part of a wide-ranging number of initiatives within British Gas and one of those is driver training because you have to change people’s behaviour.”

Overtaking worries

But Claire Armstrong, from the road safety campaign group Safe Speed, said that the devices could be dangerous.

She said truck drivers using speed-limiting devices had been shown to “go into fatigue mode or zombie mode” and stopped paying attention to the road.

“That makes it highly dangerous in those scenarios. So you’ve taken the responsibility away from the driver and that is not [good] for road safety.”

Derek Charters, from the Motor Industry Research Association, has extensively tested speed-limiting technology.

He believes that if all cars were fitted with the system, safety would be improved, and that vehicles without it present a greater danger.

“The last thing you need is one car to be overtaking and then pull back in, in front of the cars in front, because that braking event will then cause everybody to start to slow down, which will then compress the traffic, which then causes an incident,” he said.

Motoring journalist Quentin Willson said he also believed taking away driver control was a “really, really bad thing”.

“Remotely policing the roads from satellites in the sky – I would worry about it an awful lot.”

http://news.bbc.co.uk

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Top Ten Worst Concept Cars of 2008

These are the cars that the executives presenting them couldn’t hide the ‘WTF’ face, and no amount of booth babes could make them attractive. These are the top (bottom) ten worst concept car of 2008.

Most of these cars made this list because they were ugly. So comment away, because beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

A few made this list because they are utterly useless. That’s a tough distinction to make. Many concept cars are not practical, but some stand out as a complete waste of space.

Just like yesterday’s top ten concept cars, these ten bottom-feeders must have been in an auto show or officially recognized by car manufacturer in 2008.

So here is the list (in alphabetical order) of the top ten worst concept cars of 2008:

Bertone BAT 11

1.

Bertone is the styling house for some of the great automotive classics: Lamborghini Miura and Countach, Fiat Dino, Iso Grifo, Citroen XM, and many others. But it hasn’t had a hit in a while. The BAT 11 isn’t one either.

This looks like what would happen if Vespa got to design the Batmobile.

Chrysler ecoVoyager

1.

The idea of removing the B-pillar for an open air experience is great, but it can’t hide the fact you’re still a jellybean.

Dodge Caravan R/T

1.

This is not the way to reclaim your testicles. That’s what the big back seat in the Dodge Challenger is for.

Ford Explorer America

1.

Anyone remember the “Bitter Beer Face”?

Kia Kee

This is the only car that looks good in pastels. It’s hard for this one to look mean, even after running over your grandmother.

Knight KV

Debuting at SEMA, this was Pimp My Ride meets a disputed eastern European country. How paranoid do you have to be before this seems like a good option?

Nissan Nuvu

1.

Yes Nissan it was amazing how fast you could pull off an electric car, but that doesn’t mean you have to design it to look as surprised as we all were.

Renault Ondelios

One big door. Huh? What?

Scion Hako Coupe

McGruff the Crime Dog your vehicle is now ready.

Toyota Yaris Club

Sorry, you’re still not cool , but nice try though.

(Source : http://www.topspeed.com)

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The Year’s Best- And Worst-Selling Cars

 2009 Ford Focus

2009 Ford Focus

Big trucks and small cars see strong sales, but SUVs have been left in the dust.

By Jacqueline Mitchell

In a year when gas prices topped $4 a gallon and automakers ran to Congress seeking a $25 billion bailout, one would assume that low-margin, fuel-sipping small cars are far outselling big gas-guzzlers. Indeed, seven of the 10 best-selling vehicles so far this year are small cars or sedans that get high gas mileage.

But when gas prices go up and the economy heads south, “buyers shift … from what they want to what they need,” says Jeff Bartlett, deputy online editor of autos for Consumer Reports. And what many buyers still need are big pickup trucks, such as the Ford F-150 and Chevrolet Silverado–the two best-selling vehicles in America so far this year.

The F-150 attracted 473,933 buyers this year, making it the No. 1-selling vehicle for 2008–it’s been the best-selling vehicle in America for 27 years running. Another 431,725 buyers drove off Chevrolet lots in a Silverado.

“The pickups are a solution to a need,” says Bartlett, as those who buy the vehicles use them for their towing, off-road and cargo-hauling capabilities.

What Americans don’t need, however, are gas-guzzlers that don’t serve a purpose. Such is the case for the Nissan Armada, which rolls in at No. 5 among the worst-selling vehicles so far this year. Armada sales are off 49.1% this year compared to last year, with only 14,753 buyers purchasing the big and brawny SUV. It gets a combined 14 mpg.

The pickups don’t do much better on fuel economy, but their utility equates to their enduring, strong sales. Buyers who have a choice between an SUV and a smaller car, however, want good fuel economy, according to a survey Consumer Reports conducted in the summer. That’s why the Armada, Bartlett says, “is losing consumer appeal.”

Behind the Numbers

To generate our lists of the best- and worst-selling cars so far this year, we used automaker-provided sales numbers from January to November. The vehicles with the highest unit sales made the list of best-sellers.

To find the worst-selling cars we looked at the lowest sales figures for the same time period, as well as the percentage decrease in sales from 2007 to exclude high-end luxury and performance cars that are produced only in small numbers each year. The vehicles with the lowest sales made the list.

 2009 GMC Envoy

2009 GMC Envoy

As bad of a year as it’s been for sales of the aforementioned Armada, it’s not the worst-selling vehicle in 2008. That title goes to Hyundai Entourage minivan, with only 5,405 sold this year. Not far behind, at No. 4, is the Chrysler Pacifica, a cross between an SUV and a minivan that sold only 6,671 units so far this year, a drop of 87% from the same period a year ago. No turnaround is in the works, either–Chrysler announced at the beginning of the year that production has ceased on the Pacifica, Chrysler Crossfire and Dodge Magnum.

The problem with the Pacifica and other crossover vehicles like it is that consumers have not embraced them as the new family car, says David Thomas, senior editor at Cars.com. “Buyers just aren’t buying them. None of them have done well.”

Joining the Armada, Entourage and Pacifica in the top five worst-selling vehicles are the Mitsubishi Endeavor, with only 5,687 units sold through November, and the Hummer H2, with only 5,721 sold.

No SUV brand is immune from the sales slump. In the second half of the list of the worst-selling cars, all five–the Toyota FJ Cruiser, Jeep Commander, GMC Envoy, Dodge Durango and Hummer H3–are SUVs. Furthermore, all five have seen a staggering percentage drop in sales of around 50% from the same 11-month period in 2007.

The Bright Spots

While consumer interest in most SUVs has waned, many fuel-efficient small cars have seen very strong sales in 2008.

Buyers purchased 352,248 Honda Civics and 184,152 Ford Focus cars this year, ranking sixth and 10th on our list, respectively. The gas-powered Civic gets 29 mpg, but the sales numbers also include the even more efficient hybrid version, which gets a combined fuel economy of 42 mpg.

Joining the two trucks and the Civic in the top five best-selling vehicles so far this year are the Toyota Camry (411,342 sold) and Honda Accord (350,638 sold).

But while gas prices had an impact on the sales of some small cars and hybrid vehicles, they haven’t had as big of an effect as the economic crisis and credit crunch, experts say. In other words, their sales should be much higher.

“We have seen the best deals in terms of rebates and incentives in the last four months, but we are not seeing auto sales go up,” says Thomas. “The economic crisis is stopping people from buying cars.”

Source : http://autos.yahoo.com

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Forecast for Vehicle Demand 2009 in Japan

Forecast for Japan’s Passenger Car & Commercial Vehicle Demand in Calendar Year 2009 :

Motor Vehicles

1. Total Demand for Passenger Cars & Commercial Vehicles

  1. Total sales of passenger cars and commercial vehicles in Japan in calendar 2008 should finish at 5.11 million units, a decline of 4.5% from the previous year. Demand for passenger cars is estimated at 4.25 million units (down 3.3% from 2007); for trucks, at 843,000 units (down 10.1%); and for buses, at 15,400 units (down 1.4%). The decline in sales of both passenger cars and commercial vehicles is attributable to the economic slowdown and sinking consumer confidence caused by soaring fuel prices in the first half of the year, as well as a dramatically deteriorating economy, starting in autumn, resulting from the U.S.-spawned global financial crisis.
  2. The projection for 2009 is that the harsh economic climate prevailing in late 2008 will continue. Stagnant corporate earnings, sluggish consumer spending (due to deteriorating employment and income environments) and other adverse trends are forecast to result in a total demand for passenger cars and commercial vehicles of 4.86 million units, down 4.9% from 2008. Passenger car demand should reach 4.05 million units, down 4.8% from 2008, with demand for trucks and buses totalling 796,000 units and 14,100 units respectively, down 5.6% and 8.4%.

2. Standard & Small-Sized Passenger Cars

  1. Sales of standard and small-sized passenger cars in 2008 should total 2.82 million units, a year-on-year decline of 4.7%. While the introduction of new models yielded positive results in the first half of the year, it is anticipated that the negative factors mentioned above (high fuel prices and the economic downturn) will indeed push the total sales figure for these vehicles below the 2007 level.
  2. Demand for standard and small-sized cars in 2009 is forecast at 2.62 million units, down a significant 7.1% from 2008, reflecting the impact of continued negative trends such as sluggish consumer spending resulting from weak employment and income environments.

3. Mini Passenger Cars

  1. Minicar sales in 2008 are estimated at 1,439,000 units, down 0.6% from the previous year. Despite the favorable impact of new and restyled models introduced in the autumn, the overall drop is chiefly attributable to declining consumer confidence in a deteriorating economic climate.
  2. In 2009, despite an anticipated continued boost from the new and restyled models introduced in late 2008, consumer spending is expected to remain weak owing to the adverse employment and income environments. As a result, total demand in this category in 2009 is forecast at 1,435,000 units, a dip of 0.3% from 2008.

4. Standard Trucks

  1. Standard truck demand in 2008 is projected at 147,000 units, down 14.5% from 2007 owing to a combination of factors, including declines in capital investment, reduced payloads and other trends linked to the surge in fuel prices and the economic downturn. Demand for heavy-duty and medium-sized trucks is expected to finish at 74,500 units, a 16.5% plunge from the 2007 level.
  1. In 2009 sales in this category are forecast at 128,000 units, down 12.9% from 2008, reflecting what is projected to be a continued harsh economic environment. Demand for heavy-duty and medium-sized trucks should stand at 62,000 units, a year-on-year decline of 16.8%.

5. Small Trucks

  1. Small truck sales in 2008 are estimated at 252,000 units, down 14.0% from the previous year owing to various factors including the sharp rise in fuel prices and the deteriorating economy.
  2. Despite the negative economic projections for 2009, the introduction of new models and other positive factors should help bring demand in this category to 250,000 units, a dip of only 0.8% compared to 2008.

6. Mini-Trucks

  1. Mini-truck demand in 2008 should total 444,000 units, down 6.1% from the previous year. The drop is attributable to changes in market structure caused by shrinking numbers of small retailers and farmers (the primary users of these vehicles) as well as an overall decline in business confidence.
  2. In 2009, owing to a continuation of the aforementioned trends, demand in this category is forecast at 418,000 units, down 5.9% from 2008.

7. Large Buses

  1. Sales of large buses in 2008 are estimated at 5,300 units, a gain of 2.9% over 2007. Replacement demand for these vehicles is the main factor behind this growth.
  2. In 2009, however, this growth trend is not expected to continue under the impact of harsh economic conditions. Demand for large buses will likely not exceed 4,200 units, plummeting 20.8% from the previous year.

8. Small Buses

  1. Steady replacement demand will have helped sales of small buses in 2008 to finish at a projected 10,100 units, down 3.5% from 2007.
  2. In 2009 sales in this category should continue to be buoyed by replacement demand, resulting in a final annual sales performance of 9,900 units, a 2.0% drop from 2008.

Motorcycles

1. Total Demand for Motorcycles

A number of negative factors have impacted Japan’s motorcycle market this year, including higher vehicle prices reflecting mandatory compliance with new emissions regulations (enforced in 2006, 2007 or 2008, depending on motorcycle type etc.) as well as a deteriorating economic environment stemming from the global financial crisis. Demand has also declined as a result of stronger crackdowns on illegal parking (starting in 2006) and the chronic shortage of motorcycle parking bays in cities and towns. On the other hand, surging fuel prices have underscored for consumers the economy and convenience of motorcycles in the 51-to-125cc category (or “Class-2 motor-driven cycles” as they are called in Japan) and smaller models. Nevertheless, and despite other positive developments such as new product launches, domestic market conditions are severe. Against this backdrop, total current and upcoming demand is forecast as follows.

  1. Total motorcycle demand in Japan in calendar 2008 is estimated at 570,000 units, down 21.1% from 2007. Declining sales have been recorded in all motorcycle categories except for the aforementioned 51-to-125cc category.
  2. In 2009 sales declines are projected in all model categories, with total domestic motorcycle demand expected to drop to 498,000 units, down 12.6% from 2008.

2. Class-1 Motor-Driven Cycles (50cc & under)

  1. Sales of Class-1 motor-driven cycles in 2008 are estimated at 297,000 units, a 35.2% plunge from the previous year. In addition to higher vehicle price tags resulting from compliance with stricter emissions regulations, this major decline also reflects the impact of stronger crackdowns on illegal parking linked to motorcycle parking bay shortages.
  2. In 2009, as a result of the continued impact of higher vehicle prices, limited parking availability and other negative factors including a shift to bicycle use, sales in this category will likely not exceed 270,000 units, a drop of 9.1% from 2008.

3. Class-2 Motor-Driven Cycles (51cc-125cc)

  1. Demand for Class-2 motor-driven cycles in 2008 should reach 123,000 units, a 22.1% surge over 2007. The factors behind this gain include an increasingly favorable consumer assessment of their economy in the light of soaring fuel prices and, therefore, a wider use of these vehicles for commuting to work or school, as well as a rush of last-minute purchases prior to scheduled vehicle price hikes.
  2. In 2009 demand in this category is expected to plummet 26.8% from 2008 to 90,000 units, as a result of higher vehicle prices caused by mandatory compliance with emissions regulations and, also, a smaller number of models on the market.

4. Mini-Sized Motorcycles (126cc-250cc)

  1. Mini-sized motorcycle sales in 2008 are forecast at 72,000 units, down 12.0% from 2007. Because these motorcycles enjoy particularly high demand in urban areas, the lack of parking bays in cities and towns has been the single most important factor in their diminished sales, with an additional factor being higher vehicle prices resulting from mandatory compliance with emissions requirements.
  2. Because of the continued impact of the aforementioned factors, sales in this category in 2009 are projected to drop to 64,000 units, down 11.1% from 2008.

5. Small-Sized Motorcycles (over 250cc)

  1. Sales of small-sized motorcycles in 2008 should finish at 78,000 units, a drop of 4.7% from the previous year. Although compliance with emissions regulations also resulted in price hikes for vehicles in this category, there was a stronger demand for these larger models for the purpose of recreational use than for models in other categories, especially among middle-aged riders.
  2. In 2009, although demand in this category for recreational purposes is expected to remain firm, negative factors will include increased price tags for models in the 400cc-and-over class as a result of emissions regulations compliance. Overall demand in this category in 2009 is therefore projected at 74,000 units, down 5.1% from 2008.

Source : http://www.jama-english.jp

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