Why everyone may have a personal air vehicle
Technology Science & Environment Aircraft Automobile Robot Transport
The idea of having a part car, part plane, part drone parked outside your home may not be as far-fetched as it seems. There really aren’t any technological hurdles to this.
We are going to have personal air vehicles that are both cars and planes, at least that’s Missy Cummings’s vision of the future. It’s basically the intersection of a drone with a robotic car, so that your plane is also your car, but the big leap in technology is that you are actually driving neither, says the Associate Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Drones have a negative bias in the media, says Cummings, because they are essentially seen as spy cameras. But most people don’t realise that when they are on a plane they are effectively travelling on a drone. The fly-by-wire technology that exists on all Airbus and many Boeing craft is the exact same technology that exists on drones.
The reason why drones are the answer to the future is that the truth is we are terrible drivers. Humans inherently have a half-second lag in almost any quick response that they need to have, like a ball rolling out in a street or seeing an aircraft in the sky and you have to take evasive action. Even a half-second delay can mean the difference between life and death, and computers and automated systems don’t have that – they have microseconds.
So, our transportation network of the future, both on the ground and in the air, will actually be safer when we turn it over to computers.
There really aren’t any technological hurdles to this idea, says Cummings. The biggest hurdles we have are psychological and cultural, in terms of giving up the car. But no new tech needs to be developed to have your own personal flying car. What we have to do is improve production and reduce manufacturing costs, and what that means is that we need more robots. So this is almost a self-circular process, where we need robots to build robots to make them cheaper.
Should we worry about the machines rising up and taking over? No, what Cummings says she is worried about is hackers and terrorists who want to do wrong. One of the things she is working on is trying to develop technology that allows any flying robot to be able to fend off any attack and be able to navigate itself without any GPS or any other external signal.
There are lots of different possibilities for what your personal air vehicle could look like. You could own your own in your driveway or garage, and you could jump in it. Or we could have a shared network like the plane version of Zipcar. People should be excited about this: it promises much in terms of safer travel, and in parts of the world where the road and air networks are poor, people will be able to get the goods and services they need.
So, when we look at globalising this concept of personal air vehicles, it means we will see the quality of life improve dramatically for everyone around the world.
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Robot Cars Are a Moral Imperative
Ronald Bailey|Jun. 10, 2014 9:47 am
So tweeted tech venture capitalist Marc Andreessen after the crash that injured and killed comedians traveling on a New Jersey highway with Saturday Night Live star Tracy Morgan earlier this week. More than 90 percent of all traffic accidents are the result of human error. The New York Times is reporting the recent findings by Virginia Tech researchers who are estimating how many fewer deaths and accidents would occur with enhanced driving technologies. From the Times:
But two studies by researchers at Virginia Tech — H. Clay Gabler, a professor of biomedical engineering, and Kristofer D. Kusano, a research associate — suggest how much safer robot cars might be. They found that even cars that are not fully autonomous but which automate some of the most dangerous aspects of driving could have as big an effect as seatbelts have had...
They found that lane-departure warning systems would have prevented 30.3 percent of the crashes caused by lane drifting, and 25.8 percent of the injuries. Rear-end and collision warning systems and automatic braking would have prevented only 3.2 percent to 7.7 percent of crashes, but would have reduced their severity. The number of people injured or killed would have declined in the range of 29 to 50 percent, the researchers concluded.
By comparison, seatbelts have reduced injuries and fatalities by about 50 percent, and are considered the most beneficial auto safety measure of all time, Mr. Gabler said.
In 2012, more than 33,000 people were killed in traffic accidents in the United States. In April, the free-market think tank, the Competitive Enterprise Institute issued a report reviewing the effects that regulation might have on the introduction of self-driving vehicles and warned:
Policy makers must remember that their actions can produce harm. If automated vehicles are demonstrated to be significantly safer than manually driven vehicles, any misstep, convoluted law, or rule that leads to unnecessary higher costs or delays translates to increased injury and death.
The next generation will be shocked at the carnage that we tolerated during the primitive era in which people were actually allowed to drive themselves down highways.
Autosteer keeps the car in the current lane and engages Traffic-Aware Cruise Control to maintain the car’s speed. Using a variety of measures including steering angle, steering rate and speed to determine the appropriate operation AutoSteer assists the driver on the road, making the driving experience easier.
Tesla requires drivers to remain engaged and aware when Autosteer is enabled. Drivers must keep their hands on the steering wheel.
DARPA seeks drone escort for military truck convoys to protect against enemy drones
DARPA is asking for industry's help in developing a agile and mobile drone-defense system that can defeat a raid of self-guided, small unmanned aerial systems (UAS) that are attacking an important moving target like a high-value convoy.
The potential $63 million Mobile force protection project seeks ways to defend against not only today's radio-controlled and GPS-guided weaponized UAS, but also against future UAS that navigate by visual means in large groups to gather intelligence and coordinate attacks against one or more high-value moving targets.
Of particular interest is the ability to counter relatively small fixed-wing or helicopter UAS that weigh less than 200 pounds apiece, DARPA officials say. An MFP system must be able to integrate new approaches and technologies quickly, and work on ground vehicles, surface vessels, and aircraft.
The program's first phase will develop enabling technologies. If viable, the program will move to a second and third phase that will culminate in a prototype system demonstration. This solicitation is only for the program's first phase, which should be worth $3 million for each of several contractors.
The MFP program will consist of three phases, each culminating in an open-air demonstration against continuously more sophisticated threats and challenging scenarios.
An MFP system could include distributed and elevated sensors and effectors networked to form a fused air surveillance picture, be controlled for fast decisive action, and provide several low-risk UAS-neutralization options.
A top-level system MFP architecture would boil down to three steps; sense, decide, and then act using a neutralization web that integrates existing and emerging sensors through a fusion engine.
To demonstrate the system, DARPA experts will use the U.S. Army Maneuver Aviation and Fires Integration Application (MAFIA) as the backbone operating system to enable a system plug-and-play environment, and DARPA will consider only system prototypes that incorporate a MAFIA architecture.
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