When Honda introduced ASIMO back in 2000 as a humanoid robot, it marked a landmark achievement in technological robotics. Recently, the Japanese automaker launched their follow-up with their first offering to the fast-growing European robotic lawn mower market with the introduction of Honda Miimo, the company’s first commercial robotic product for domestic use.
For all intents and purposes, Honda Miimo is a lawn mower, except that its more than just that. As a robotic lawn mower, Miimo operates what Honda is calling a ’continuous cutting’ system, typically mowing just 2-3mm of grass at a time, several times each week.
Whereas a traditional lawn mower needs to collect cuttings, Miimo creates clippings that are so small that they are dispersed into the lawn root system, which, in turn, breaks down quickly to act as a natural fertilizer, improving the health and quality of the grass that few lawn mowers in its market can replicate. Miimo also delivers excellent environmental benefits, including the fact that it doesn’t produce CO2 and is quieter than most gas models.
Suffice to say, Miimo takes the way robotic lawn mowers do their business in an entirely different light. Once installed, it needs minimal human interaction when it’s doing its job, which means that all of us can enjoy the rest of our day without having to worry about cutting our lawns.
For a company that has been working in the development of robotics since 1986, Honda’s follow up to ASIMO represents the first step towards giving its customers with robotic solutions to their everyday chores, something that would ring music to the ears of a lot of people.
We have just received word that the testing process of these “connected” cars is not only a Mercedes job, as the DOT has brought in 3,000 vehicles to test their crash-avoidance skills. This is actually the second phase of product testing, but the first time that the DOT will actually test the Wi-Fi communication between these vehicles.
Once all of this information is gathered, the DOT will crunch the numbers and is expected to make a decision on continuing testing this technology or not sometime in 2013. the goal of this testing phase is to find out “how to apply the technology in an effective way in the real word,” according to David Strickland, NHTSA Administrator.
Now, don’t confuse this progress with movement toward automated vehicles. This is just one of the many major steps toward legalizing autonomous cars, but not the final decision. If this test goes well, then this does set the ball moving slightly faster on automated cars.
To read the DOT’s full press release, click past the jump.
Rolls-Royce is breaking new company ground with the launch of its latest app , which has been designed to help you find used Rolls-Royce models without so much of a hassle.
The app is called the Provenance Pre-owned Stock Locator and follows the Provenance app that Rolls-Royce launched last year for its certified pre-owned vehicle program. Among the features of the PPSL app include easy-to-navigate search filters, as well as a feature that allows users to be able to make direct auto comparisons.
The app works in such a way that users can search for certain Rolls-Royce models in a specific country. From there, they can specify the exact model depending on a number of variables, including the car’s model, age, mileage, budget, or color.
For all the neat features of the app, it does have one caveat. The app will only cater to the highest grade models, which will be determined by a team of factory-trained technicians, who, in turn, will subject the car to a comprehensive road test before grading them.
The PPSL app can be accessed on the company’s official homepage and is available for the iPad, PCs, Macs, and most smartphones.
Cops in Maryland are quickly cutting down on their time spent running license plates by using what are called automatic license plate readers (ALPR). These nifty devices scan your plates automatically and check for insurance, validity, and other key safety issues. This is all well and good, according to civil liberties watchdog, the ACLU, but what they do with said information has the ACLU up in arms.
The ACLU has growing concerns with how long the information is retained in these ALPRs and worries that this ever-rowing data may eventually allow the government to precisely predict every move you make. So for all of you conspiracy theorists that think the gummament is watchin’ ya, this is just another nugget to keep in your head.
In a released statement, the ACLU says:
“If license plate scans, which are typically stamped with a location, time, and date, were used just for these purposes and deleted shortly thereafter, privacy concerns would be minimal to non-existent. After all, police can run license plates against these databases themselves. ALPR technology simply cuts down on the time and manpower required to perform these functions on a large scale.
The privacy issues arise with the retention of the information. A police officer will not forever remember the exact location and time of an innocent motorist’s travels. With ALPR technology, those details can be stored indefinitely, creating an ever-growing historical record of the daily comings and goings of every Marylander. As ALPRs become more ubiquitous and that record becomes longer and more detailed, it will become possible for the government to determine a person’s exact movements during any given time period.”
However, the police taking records of our license plate activity is one of the more primitive tracking devices that the government has access to in order to track us. There are many more active and precise devices that we all use on a daily basis that allows the government to keep tabs on us.
To see what other devices the government can use to track us, simply click past the jump.
Back in May, we announced that Audi was eliminating the traditional rearview mirror from its R18 Le Mans cars, due to its lack of rearward-facing glass. We also made it clear that a lot of additions to new cars come from successful experiences in the racing world. Well, the R18s ended up garnering a 1-2-3 finish in that race.
As expected, with success comes commercialization, and Audi has announced that its upcoming R8 e-tron will boast this digital mirror technology. This system will consist of a 7.7-inch AMOLED screen mounted in the traditional mirror’s spot. The “mirror” uses a rear-mounted camera to send a video feed, giving the driver a slightly wider field of vision than the average rearview mirror.
Here’s the issue though, the NHTSA’s law book still requires a mirror made from reflective glass to be mounted to all passenger cars. The law specifically states “Each passenger car shall have an inside rearview mirror of unit magnification” and it defines a “unit magnification” as “a plane or flat mirror with a reflective surface through which the angular height and width of the image of an object is equal to the angular height and width of the object when viewed directly at the same distance except for flaws that do not exceed normal manufacturing tolerances. For the purposes of this regulation a prismatic day-night adjustment rearview mirror one of whose positions provides unit magnification is considered a unit magnification mirror. ”
The issue is in the verbiage is that the phrase “ a plane or flat mirror with a reflective surface...” eliminates an LED screen, as it is not a reflective surface. Now, the law becomes nullified is the car comes with side-view mirrors that have 49 square-inches of reflective surface and offer a complete view of the rear end of the vehicle. Those mirrors would be huge for this supercar, so we doubt that exemption will be valid.
We’ll have to see exactly how Audi plans to get around this, or if the NHTSA makes adjustments to its laws.
To say that Honda has fallen behind the times in terms of automotive creativity is about as obvious as saying Fiat and Mini are overusing their respective flagship models. While nearly every other automaker is creating numerous ways to safely use your smartphone in the car and also using it to connect to cool things like Pandora radio, Facebook, and whatever other online stuff you love, Honda has been delivering the stats quo for years, sans adding light smartphone connectivity in the 2012 CR-V .
Finally, Honda has decided to get with the times and is introducing HondaLink, which is essentially a Ford Sync copycat. Then again, aren’t all of the modern connectivity systems just copying Ford’s innovative idea?
This new HondaLink system will debut in the 2013 Honda Accord and allows its user to do things like connect to Aha radio, tether and control a smartphone, listen to news, text message via speech, and even hear twitter and Facebook feeds over their audio system.
In reality, this system is actually using technology that Ford has been for the past half century, but the fact that Honda finally unburied its head and realized that it is sub-par is a miracle in itself. Maybe this new system can help Honda recoup some of the sales it has been losing to more innovative companies, like Hyundai and Kia , and earn some of its buyers back.
To help us better understand the system, Honda released a quick video describing its features, which you can see above. Click past the jump to check out Honda’s full presser on HondaLink.
Smart TVs, as well as the Xbox Kinect, PlayStation Move, and the Nintendo Wii have already mastered the art of taking hand and body gestures, and translating them into functions. Now it looks as if this same technology may make it to the automotive realm.
Rumors began swirling a few months ago when Microsoft placed a help wanted ad that alluded to the use of body movements for various automobile controls. Now there is actually a little confirmation that at least one company is actually working on this technology. Harmon, creator of automotive audio systems and other aftermarket electronics, released a concept car that actually uses various body motions to control different features.
You want to turn the radio on, simply wink, adjusting the volume is as easy as tilting your head slightly. You can even skip tracks on a CD or change stations on the radio by tapping your hand on the steering wheel. Oh, and if you want to make a Bluetooth hands-free phone call, just make the universal hand signal for a telephone – you know, thumb to the ear with your pinky extended.
This technology isn’t completely new, as Cadillac’s CUE system uses some of this technology, but you still have to contact the screen, much like a Smartphone or tablet. The full use of gestures and infrared sensors to control a car’s various features is supposed to help avoid driver distraction by eliminating the need to search for buttons to press or knobs to turn.
Where we see this failing is the fact that the learning curve on most gesture-based systems is typically very steep and requires a ton of memorization. We can see new owners reaching for their car’s manual to see how to turn up the volume and putting their car into a ditch.
To say the least, this will definitely require some very intense planning to accomplish. Harman claims that the system should be ready for production in about two to three years.
In the early years of the automotive industry, the interior was simply somewhere to park your behind as you drove around. In the modern era, car interiors are becoming more like a second home, as they are now featuring climate control, TVs, huge sound systems, plush fabrics, and much more. Due to the constantly changing automotive world, automakers need to make sure that they are producing the best interiors possible, or risk losing sales to the competition.
Ford has taken this competition to a new level, as it is now using a robotic system to determine the quality of its cars’ interiors. This new robotic touch system is called Robotized Unit for Tactility and Haptics (RUTH). For those on the same vocabulary level as me and needing a more plain English description, this is a robot that uses sensors to determine the pain, pressure, or heat that a human’s skin would feel when touching something, which then turns that touch sensation into scalable data.
The above video shows Ford engineers describing RUTH as she touches and probes multiple points throughout the cabin of the all-new Ford Fusion . RUTH then uses data that Ford has collected from thousands of customers around the world and determines if the pieces it tests meet the collective wants of Ford buyers. From there, Ford engineers can adjust the texture, feel, softness, or even temperature of something in the cabin.
RUTH has been in commission in Ford North America since January 2012 and it looks like it is a complete success, at least according to the video. With advancements like this, it is easy to see why Ford was able to keep its head above water through the automotive recession.
Formula One has always been about one thing: To be the world’s largest racing series where up and coming technologies can be previewed, developed, and tested before eventually funneling down into everyday production cars.
However, tracing the history of Formula One has always been a challenge. Until now. Thanks to the creative mind of Ruf Blacklock, we can now see the 62 year history of Formula One compressed into a short, yet extremely sweet, 60 second video.
Showcasing basic 3D outlines of the vast majority of F1 designs, the video helps to capture the rapid changes which the series has undergone in the past six decades, with major advancements including the addition of rear wings, and the varying capacity of engines also been demonstrated throughout.
In addition to this, Blacklock also put together an awesome infographic for our enjoyment capturing the development of Formula One, with the legendary Monza circuit being the basis for this extensive circle of F1 development.
Follow the jump to see the infographic in high-definition!
We do our best to keep you in the loop when it comes to new and cool developments in the automotive world. One of the hottest topics going right now in the U.S. is automated driving. Though it is still several decades away from being a national reality, although some states are legalizing autonomous cars, we are still seeing some progress. The leader in this technology to date in the U.S. is the Google Prius, but other automakers - such as Cadillac and Ford - sniffing around the automated car sector.
In Japan, however, they are taking the bull by the horns and setting up an outline for national implementation of an autonomous driving system. According to a report from Tech-On, the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism (MLIT) is starting to piece together how to make automated driving a reality in as little as eight years.
Starting immediately, the MLIT will start piecing together the problems related to automated driving and neatly package it in an interim report that is due for release in March of 2013. Some of the issues at hand have to include: driver attentiveness, driver override ability, handling of accidents, and infrastructure development.
The MLIT has already employed the help of Toyota , Nissan , Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. (A.K.A. Subaru ), Honda , and Mazda in this project. Heading up the entire team is Yasuo Asakura, a professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology.
For now, this is all just talk and we will see if anything ever comes of it. If this is actually a serious deal, it could drastically accelerate the timeframe that we in the industry have set for automated cars. We will keep a close eye on this situation and update you if any new details come up. Until then, enjoy your steering wheel, while you still can.