Apple’s Concept Car: the iMove

Why do all cars seem to follow the same basic engineering scheme? Sure, some break the mold, slightly, but nobody ever tries to redefine everything about the ascetics of an automobile. Well, innovators at Apple have been thinking a lot about this lately.

imoveApple- the company that brings us some of the best computers, phones, and tablets- has spent the last few years thinking about how they can expand their company even further. They decided that the natural answer, of course, would be automobiles. After all, automobiles are rich in technology, and the future of our roads are only going to get more and more tied up in this technological game.

That is why auto designer Liviu Tudoran has been working on an Apple concept car, known simply as the iMove. Early reports claim that this iMove will be powered by a zero emissions electric motor. Not surprisingly, it will also feature some of the best gadgetry that has ever been seen in a car.

In fact, it has been reported that the dashboard of the vehicle will be one large touch screen device! Amazingly, this dashboard will be charged by electricity that is generated from the roof of the vehicle, which will be covered with pyramidal glass receptors.

But the craziest innovation may be the fact that drivers can change the exterior look of their automobile just by pressing a button! Apple has created this innovation by forming the car’s body with photocromic material that is able to change colors at any time. Welcome the road’s new chameleon.

With an anticipated release date of 2020, the iMove has been designed to break the mold of automobiles ascetics. The car doesn’t have the prototypical windshield, doors, or wheels. Instead, its design looks eerily similar to the Macintosh mouse shape that we have at our computers.

This morphed vehicle shape allows the vehicle to have some funky features, including the ability for the  roof to open and close while drivers are on the move.

Reportedly, the iMove will be able to hold as many as three people, and there will be a luggage compartment in the back of the vehicle. According to Redif Business, “Liviu Tudoran feels that Apple Macintosh is an exclusive brand with personality that has a specific range of target buyers- these are people already using the Apple products and are eager to drive more than just a vehicle.”

Is anybody excited for this vehicle? Does it have a future? Comment and let me know what you think.

 

Apple’s CarPlay Has Just Been Released and Some People Are Disappointed

carplayFor years, companies have been falling over themselves trying to connect the growing technological world to the automotive world. There have been prototypes for autonomous cars that communicate amongst themselves on the road, there was the trial run of the infamous Google Glass (still in the works), and there has been endless chatter about bringing the web to vehicle dashboards. Well, Apple has finally released their latest answer to the technology/automotive question: CarPlay.

As many people already know, CarPlay has been one of the most talked about technological upgrades of the year; it is a gadget that creates connectivity between cars and a person’s iPhone. For ravenous onlookers, it’s been a long wait (9 months to be exact) since Apple’s original announcement of the gadget. This week at the Geneva Motor Show, the product was finally unveiled to the public.

And so far, it looks like there are mixed reviews on the device. But whether you like it or not may depend on if you are a “glass is half full” or “glass is half empty” type person.

On the bright side, CarPlay opens up a world that has never before been available, providing maps, messaging, music, and all of the best features of an iOS. Adding to the new plethora of functionality, CarPlay has also established a message control system that will be controlled by the driver’s voice. This feature will allow drivers to listen to their voicemails and go through texts with the help of Siri, the programs speech recognition “personal assistant.”

However, there is some grumbling about the current setup, including the voice activated system. One of the main questions is: why isn’t every app voice activated? Writer Jacob Kastrenakes is one of these critics; he says, “For some reason [messaging] is the only app shown for which Apple has made the interface almost entirely reliant on voice control…It’ll certainly prevent drivers from reading through their text message history when they shouldn’t, but it’s somewhat strange that this appears to be the sole app that Apple has designed this way.”

iphoneOf course, this isn’t the only criticism facing CarPlay. Many people are already complaining that the product does not move as fast as a smartphone or tablet. Then, others are wondering why there are no third party apps like Facebook and Twitter available. Really, all this sounds like is a bunch of nitpicking. And most people seem to be missing the point.

Today, people want their technology and their social media available to them 24-7 with no interruptions. If anything takes away from their full capacity to be plugged in, there is a infantile outcry. They don’t want their freedom to be limited! But what’s really bad about all of this is the fact that people are unwilling to admit that all of this technology may be dangerous. In a 2013 study released from Texas A&M, it was reported that the reaction times of drivers texting and/or using voice to text applications were twice as slow.  “The amount of time that drivers spent looking at the roadway ahead was significantly less when they were texting, no matter which texting method was used.”

The University of Utah released similar findings, too. In a study led by psychology professor David Strayer- who has worked closely with AAA over the years- driving is significantly impacted by hands free technology. He says,  “Our research shows that hands-free is not risk-free. These new, speech-based technologies in the car can overload the driver’s attention and impair their ability to drive safely. An unintended consequence of trying to make driving safer – by moving to speech-to-text, in-vehicle systems – may actually overload the driver and make them less safe.”

Unfortunately, consumers are paying very little attention to these findings. Being plugged in to the rapidly changing, high anxiety world is now what’s most important, and in a twist of irony, it’s the greedy, money driven companies that are showing some restraint.

Congressman Rockefeller Thinks There Should Be a Crackdown on Technology in Automobiles

Jay RockefellerYesterday, Congressman Jay Rockefeller (D-W. VA) convened an unusual all-day forum in Washington to discuss the use of technology while driving a car. Rockefeller, who is in the middle of his final stint in Congress, said, “Why is it so important for kids to drive around and update Facebook statuses? For teenagers, it’s a way of being cool. For those of you who sell cars, it’s a way of you being cool and making a lot of money from that. How many people have died? How many people have almost died?”

facebookRockefeller does make a good point. In fact, a number of states have already moved on this initiative by implementing bans on texting and driving. Of course, this has already been at the center of a number of controversies. Some people believe that laws like this are infringing upon personal freedoms. Others have been highly skeptical about courts and police officers even being able to stop the use of handheld technology. After all, it was just last month that a California judge ruled that a woman driving while using her Google Glass would not be punished, citing that there was a lack of evidence to prove that the device was actually in use.

But did Rockefeller waste everyone’s time in Washington this week? Is he just an old curmudgeon who wants to battle the evil of technology? The answer may be yes. Technology is moving at such a fast rate that texting and driving or updating Facebook and driving may come and go quicker than a gust of wind.

audi-googleAutomakers have already been hard at work incorporating technology into new vehicles, which would make it unnecessary for people to text with their hands while driving. One of the leading manufacturers in this movement is Audi. According to reports, Audi and Google have been teaming up to create in-car, voice activated infotainment systems that would render texting and driving obsolete.

In a report from NBC News, author Keith Wagstaff says, “Imagine a future where you’re racing your Audi through the streets and you get lost. There will be no need to pick up your phone. Instead, you’ll just give a voice command to your dashboard, which will bring up navigation software. You will also be able to send an email to your friend telling him you will be late and play your favorite song to cheer you up — all without taking your eyes off of the road or your hands off of the steering wheel.”

Rockefeller, however, is weary of this blooming technology, as well. He says, “I’m very unhappy. I’m very nervous, not just about deaths but about close-to-death injuries. All for the sake of outdoing each other and making more money.” To many, statements like this only make Rockefeller seem like a technologically challenged man. After all, growing up in this day and age requires the ability to multitask. It requires that people be plugged in 24-7, 365. As Will Smith once said, Parents Just Don’t Understand.

What does everybody think about Rockefeller’s statements?

Will the Transition Into Autonomous Cars Be Too Fast?

Courtesy of carlsagan.com

Courtesy of carlsagan.com

American author and astrophysicist, Carl Sagan, once said, “You have to know the past to understand the present.” So, as we thrust forward into a science fiction like world of autonomous cars and emission free vehicles, it’s time to take a look back at one of the earliest and most influential vehicle types: the Model T Ford. Historically, the Model T will be remembered in both positive and negative lights, but its impact on the world and today’s automotive scene can never be doubted.

From 1908 to 1927, the Model T dominated the American streets, comprising as much as 40 percent of the cars on the road at one point. Popularly referred to at the time as “Tin Lizzie” and “flivver”, the Model T was made affordable to the common man with an asking price of just $300 in 1925. Of course, most people realize that this was made possible by Henry Ford’s development of the cheap assembly line work style, which went down as Ford’s most recognized innovation. However, it wasn’t the only innovation brought about by the Model T Ford. Some others include:

  • Being the first company to use left hand drive, which is still popular here in America. Across the pond, however, they do like their steering wheel to be on the right side of the vehicle.
  • Being the first to have a separate head and block. In a recent article from Popular Mechanics, author Lindsay Brooke says, “The Model T’s engine pioneered the use of a removable cylinder head, and cylinders that were cast integrally with the engine block. Both are mainstays of modern auto engines.”
Courtesy of Time magazine

Courtesy of Time magazine

But with the innovation and progress brought about by the Model T, many historians and critics like to point out the often forgotten negatives. In a recent Time magazine article entitled “The 50 Worst Cars of All-Time,” the 1909 Ford Model T actually came in as the 2nd worst car ever! Some of this had to do with a poorly put together product, but the main complaint with this Model T is that it was given to too many people too soon.

According to the article, “The Model T- whose mass production technique was the work of engineer William C. Klann, who had visited a slaughterhouse’s ‘disassembly line’- conferred to Americans the notion of automobility as something akin to natural law, a right endowed by our Creator. A century later, the consequences of putting every living soul on gas-powered wheels are piling up, from the air over our cities to the sand under our soldiers’ boots.”

For current automakers, there is a lot to learn from the successes and failures of the Model T. Over the next few decades, automakers will be attempting to transform the roads into one that is dominated with autonomous cars. According to a recent IHS report, “In all, there should be nearly 54 million self-driving cars in global use by 2035.” By 2050, it is expected that nearly all cars will have some sort of self-driving component. Fortunately, it seems that many environmental issues have been shored up and that there are a lot of positives going on. But will automakers lead us into potential, unforeseen dangers (as seen with the Model T) by forcing change at too fast a rate? Hopefully, the answer is no because we have already learned from the past and are moving forward in a progressive way. Only time will tell.

Ford Gets Involved in the Autonomous Car Race

Ford's 2014 F-150 Image courtesy of musclemustangfastfords

Ford’s 2014 F-150
Image courtesy of musclemustangfastfords

In 2013, a Ford F-150 sold every 41 seconds, which helped to make the company a 7.6 billion dollar profit. In the years leading up to their financial crisis, Ford may have ridden this success and stayed with the same formula. But, that’s not the mentality that they have going into 2014. Recently, Ford has been getting a lot of publicity for a new line of F-150s that will debut this year. These new trucks have shed an astonishing 700 pounds to the overall truck weight, while still maintaining the full body size.

Across the board, consumers and dealers seem to be excited and are applauding the move. Ford feels the same way; Chief executive Alan Mulally was quoted as saying, “You’re either moving ahead and you’re improving and you’re making [your vehicles] more valuable and more useful to the customer or you’re not.” Even more impressively, this new truck will be able to haul more and tow more because the engine won’t be working as hard to carry excess weight.

This well-received innovation could have been enough for America’s most historic automaker. But once again, it wasn’t. Within the last few days, reports have emerged from the Washington Auto Show saying that Ford is making a serious push in the autonomous vehicle department, as well. At the Auto Show, Ford showcased its automated Ford Fusion Hybrid research car to onlookers that included President Obama. Impressed by theFord displays, Obama said, “When you look at all these cars, it is a testimony to the outstanding work that’s been done by workers, American workers, American designers.”

Moving forward, Ford is propelling this venture by partnering up with two of America’s finest universities- Stanford and MIT- to perform research. Ford higher ups have said that MIT research will focus on ways to predict the actions of other vehicles and pedestrians, while Stanford research will focus on how the vehicle will maneuver in ways to allow sensors to visualize around obstructions.

This investment was very important for the company. In the upcoming years, Ford will be competing with a slew of rival automakers that are all struggling for control of the road’s future. It is believed that by 2025 automated cars will dominate the road (check out more about this here), meaning there is billions of dollars up for grab.

Ford’s chief operating officer Mark Fields agrees, “In the long term, we see a future of connected cars that communicate with each other and with the world around them to improve safety, reduce traffic congestion and

Ford's autonomous research car

Ford’s autonomous research car

achieve major environmental benefits… Our goal is to offer a level of technology in which a driver is still in control and still able to enjoy the driving experience, but in a better, safer and more efficient way.”

Even though the future of innovation is uncertain as far as the roads go, there is one thing that we do know: Ford will be in the mix.

Be Careful Drivers: Google Glass Is Now on the Roads. This Can’t Be Safe, Right?

Cecilia Abadie became the first person to be ticketed for driving with a Google Glass. She rarely takes the device off.

Cecilia Abadie became the first person to be ticketed for driving with a Google Glass. She rarely takes the device off.

In October of last year, Cecilia Abadie was pulled over by a San Diego officer for speeding and wearing a Google Glass while driving…………. Wait, what? What is Google Glass?

The Google Glass, which is slotted for release later this year, is a head-mounted computer display that is attached to the upper right corner of a specialized pair of glasses. The small square monitor is voice activated and designed to display text messages, e-mails, and will feature Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections. At the time of her citation, Abadie was one of 30,000 people that were selected to be “explorers” for the new Google product.

Initial reports about Abadie’s citations quickly gained steam and soon became a national media story. The circumstances were unprecedented and Google was involved; what more could a salivating news reporter want? Over the past few months, debate has raged on about what should be done about these devices when it comes to driving. Well, on Thursday of last week, Commissioner John Blair made the first court decision concerning the potential problem. He dropped all charges against Ms. Abadie and cited that there was a lack of evidence to prove that the Google device was actually in use.

One thing is for sure, this recent decision will be the beginning of a firestorm of political debate. Will we or won’t we allow these devices? And to what extent? Of course, the tekkies have already come out in swarms trying to defend the device.

Google, on the other hand, has side stepped all controversy by being overly diplomatic. In a recent released statement, the company said, “Glass is built to connect you more with the world around you, not distract you from it. As we make clear in our help center, Explorers should always use Glass responsibility and put their safety and the safety of others first.” Not surprisingly, the company didn’t address whether or not the Google Glass is safe to drive with. Instead, they will lean on the courts to decide that.

Check out Good Morning America’s Report:

If history serves any indication, state courts will treat this new device in ways that are similar way to texting and driving. Currently, every state seems to have different interpretations and levels of enforcement when it comes to texting and driving. Unfortunately though, these laws often seem to do nothing except quiet complaints and public murmuring. Take a look at Florida, for example. Last year, Florida joined a growing number of states that were outlawing texting while driving. However, they have already had problems proving that drivers are actually texting. This is because of the inherent loop holes when it comes to “outside technology” and driving. Check out Florida’s official law concerning the matter:

So far, most states haven't cracked down on texting and driving. Don't expect anything different for the Google Glass

So far, most states haven’t cracked down on texting and driving. Don’t expect anything different for the Google Glass

“[Governor Rick Scott’s] bill strictly prohibits reading electronic messages while operating a motor vehicle. However, drivers may still view navigational devices, electronic maps, or safety alerts- such as those regarding weather- without fear of penalty.”

Reports have already come out about drivers side stepping potential tickets by claiming that they are covering up texting by claiming that they are using their map and checking the weather. In essence, the laws mean very little because there is nothing that can be done to prove otherwise. In the end, if states really want to crack down on this potentially dangerous problem, they are going to have to take a stricter stance on both the Google Glass and texting. Until then, be careful on the roads because people really won’t be paying attention.

Are the Roads Too Loud or Too Quiet or Just Right?

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Naturally, electric cars are extremely quiet on the road.

With the emergence of hybrid and electric vehicles, an old debate has been brought to the forefront again: vehicle noise. This is because new hybrid and electric vehicles have become notorious for operating at extremely low decibels. In fact, when these vehicles are traveling under twenty miles per hour, they are near impossible to hear.

Studies performed by psychologist Laura Rosenblum of the University of California back this up, as well. According to Scientific American magazine, “Blindfolded subjects who listened to recordings of cars approaching at five miles per hour could locate the familiar hum of a Honda Accord’s internal-combustion engine 36 feet away. But they failed to identify a Prius, running in electric mode, until it came within 11 feet- affording them less than two seconds to react before the vehicle reached their position.”

Even though there was no concrete evidence linking electric and hybrid cars to pedestrian accidents, studies like the one above had a lot of people worried. Many believed that pedestrians were at greater risk for danger and injury. Advocates for the National Federation of the Blind and representatives from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration spent a great deal of energy to push for increased noise in these vehicles. Their efforts were rewarded when legislation and rules were passed requiring manufacturers to include artificial sounds to electric vehicles when they are traveling less than 18.6 miles per hour. However, this wasn’t a movement without opposition.

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New laws implemented in America have required sound enhancer on hybrid and electric vehicles when they are traveling less than 18.6 MPH

The debate over vehicle sound is not a new one. It’s actually been around for years, for as long as vehicles have ripped through cities and towns across the country. And usually, it isn’t about including MORE sound. Back in 1978, U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. William H. Stewart, said, “Calling noise a nuisance is like calling smog an inconvenience. Noise must be considered a hazard to the health of people everywhere.”

Despite this proclamation from America’s leader in public health issues, vehicle noise actually increased over the next 35 years. Some of this had to do with the emergence of aftermarket exhaust systems, more ferocious engines, larger-wider tires, and thumping stereo systems. Today, purists are fighting the movement to create sound in electric and hybrid cars. They want a return to the days when the quiet countryside ruled. Some opponents of vehicle noise are fanatical in their stance; Dr. Marek Roland-Mieszkowski says, “Noise pollution caused by modified vehicles is a very fast growing problem. They are the weapons of intimidation and acoustical terrorism in the hands of disrespectful and ignorant people.”

But, is this noise really that big of a problem? Or are the complaints coming from curmudgeons that too closely resemble old, bun-haired librarians?

Are quiet cars really a danger to people? Or do we just like to hear the purrs and roars of our engine?

There are a lot of questions with only one real answer: roaring engines will continue to live on.