Autonomous Race Car Crashes Before It Starts

A future filled with autonomous vehicles got a temporary setback this week when a self-driving race car drove directly into a wall before crossing the start line. The spectacular fail took place during the live broadcast of the Roborace autonomous-vehicle race series. Swiss-based Acronis SIT Autonomous fielded the directionally-challenged car, which sustained significant damage in the wall crash. The team was not immediately able to determine the cause of the vehicular mishap.

Why Almost Everyone in Russia Has a Dash Cam

Wired

How is it possible that a dozen different motorists around the Russian city of Chelyabinsk were able to capture video of a massive meteor flying through the sky? Because almost everyone in Russia has a dash-mounted video camera in their car.

The sheer size of the country, combined with lax — and often corrupt — law enforcement, and a legal system that rarely favors first-hand accounts of traffic collisions has made dash cams all but a requirement for motorists.

“You can get into your car without your pants on, but never get into a car without a dash cam,” Aleksei Dozorov, a motorists’ rights activist in Russia told Radio Free Europe last year.

Do a search for “Russia dash cam crash” in YouTube — or even better, Yandex.ru, the county’s equivalent of Google — and you’ll find thousands of videos showing massive crashes, close calls and attempts at insurance fraud by both other drivers and pedestrians. 

A combination of inexpensive cameras, flash memory and regulations passed by the Interior Ministry in 2009 that removed any legal hurdles for in-dash cameras has made it easy and cheap for drivers to install the equipment.

And it’s turned into an online phenomenon.

YouTube content policing means some of the most disturbing videos get pulled from U.S. video sites almost immediately, but as Marina Galperina reported at Animal New York last year, sites like the Ru CHP LiveJournal community are filled with disturbing videos of profanity-laden fist-fights, massive crashes and gruesome deaths, all captured on camera and shared for the world to see.

But then there are times like today, when dash cams catch a once-in-a-lifetime meteor falling from the sky, from every possible angle — something that couldn’t have happened just a few years ago.

Very Smart Flying Car

The Terrafugia TF-X is an autonomous flying car under development by Boston-based Terrafugia. The TF-X seats four passengers and uses an engine combined with two electric motors for propulsion. Unlike the previously proposed Transition, the TF-X is capable of vertical take-off and landing by extending its retractable wings attached with pusher propellers while aerial thrust is provided by a ducted fan at the rear. It will be able to fit in a single car garage.

Powered by two plug-in hybrid 600-horsepower electric motors and a 300-horsepower fuel engine, the TF-X is planned to have a flight range of 500 miles (805 km) with a cruising flight speed of 200 mph (322 km/h) without the need to refuel or recharge. Road speed is currently unknown.

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1
  • Capacity: 3
  • Powerplant: 2 × TFX POD Hybrid Electric, 670 hp (500 kW) each

Performance

  • Range: 430 nmi (500 mi, 800 km)

The ‘Can-Opener’ bridge in Durham, North Carolina

 

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At 11 foot 8 inches, the Norfolk Southern–Gregson Street Overpass, located in Durham, North Carolina, United States, is a bit too short. The federal government recommends that bridges on public roads should have a clearance of at least 14 feet. But when this railroad trestle was built in the 1940s, there were no standards for minimum clearance. As a result, trucks would frequently hit the bridge and get its roof scrapped off.

Durham resident Jürgen Henn has been witnessing these crashes for years from across the street where he worked. Wishing to share these hilarious mishaps with the rest of the world, Henn set up a video camera in April 2008 and began recording them for his ever popular website 11foot8.com. By the end of 2015, more than one hundred trucks had their tops violently ripped off. These scalping videos, which are also available on his Youtube channel, have racked up millions of views bringing this particular bridge —nicknamed ‘the can opener’— a fair amount of international fame.

 

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As Jürgen Henn explains in his website, the bridge cannot be raised because doing so would require the tracks to be raised for several miles to adjust the incline. North Carolina Railroad doesn’t want to pay for the enormous expense it would entail. The bridge cannot be lowered either because there is a major sewer line running only four feet under the street.

Instead, the city authorities installed an alert system that detects when an over-height truck tries to pass under and flashes yellow warning lights several feet ahead of the bridge. But many drivers either do not pay attention or fail to heed the warning, and crash into the bridge. The railroad department, who owns the bridge, installed a heavy steel crash beam in front of the bridge that takes most of the impact, protecting the actual structure of the train trestle. This crash beam is hit so often that it had to be replaced at least once.

As far as both parties are concerned —the city of Durham and North Carolina Railroad— adequate steps have been taken to solve the problem. The railroad authorities’ concern is with the bridge and the rails above, not the trucks. Hence, the beam. The city, on the other hand, has posted prominent “low clearance” signs from 3 blocks away leading up to the trestle, over and above the automatic warning system that is triggered by vehicles that are too tall.

Apparently, these measures are not enough to prevent accidents. On average there is one crash every month.

When Henn interviewed a few drivers as they deflated their tires to lower their vehicles enough to free them, some told him that they didn’t know their trucks’ heights, while others insisted they didn’t see the signs.

Durham officials are now trying out a new tactic. A few months ago, they installed a traffic signal at the intersection before the bridge, and hooked up the height sensor to it. When an over-height truck approaches the intersection, the light turns red, and stays red for a long time. The light eventually turns green, but the city hopes that the long delay will give the drivers enough time to realize their truck will not fit under the bridge. Unfortunately for the drivers, and to the delight of the rest, the bridge continues to shave the tops of over-height vehicles.

 

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Automobile safety tips from decades past

Popular Science magazine had many articles devoted to automobile safety back in the 1930’s, 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s.  The car explosion in those decades revealed many problems and concerns as cars became bigger and faster.  Many of the tips Pop Sci brings up from back in the day could be utilized in today’s world of mass automobile use.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

Keep your eyes on the road!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

 

If this cover image doesn’t terrify you into driving safely, we don’t know what will. According to the illustrator, driving 30 miles and hour is as dangerous as driving on the roof of a building.

Manitoba Public Insurance should start preaching these same basic rules.  I don’t know about the one of suspecting every pedestrian of suicide.

1. Learn to judge the conditions of the road and the drivers. 2. It isn’t how fast you can go, it’s how fast you can stop. 3. Keep one car length between you and the car in front of you for every 10 miles on your speedometer. 4. Suspect every pedestrian of suicide. 5. Every intersection is a crash point, so slow down. 6. Signal properly. 7. Expect the worst from the other car.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

Get those brakes checked regularly

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

Speed limits in certain States back in 1960 was 30 mph.  That would be about 52 kph.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

Keep those tires up to date and checked out regularly

1955 Lincoln Futura: the concept car that would become the original Batmobile

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The Lincoln Futura is a concept car promoted by Ford’s Lincoln brand, designed by Ford’s lead stylists Bill Schmidt and John Najjar, and hand-built by Ghia in Turin, Italy — at a cost of $250,000 (equivalent to $2,200,000 in 2016).

Displayed on the auto show circuit in 1955, the Futura was modified by George Barris into the Batmobile, for the 1966 TV series Batman.

The Futura’s styling was original by 1950s standards — with a double, clear-plastic canopy top, exaggerated hooded headlight pods, and very large, outward-canted tailfins. Nevertheless, the Futura had a complete powertrain and was fully operable, in contrast to many show cars. Its original color was white, and was one of the first pearlescent color treatments, using ground pearl to achieve the paint effect. The Futura was powered by a 368 cubic inch Lincoln engine and powertrain; the chassis derived from a Continental Mark II.

The Futura was a success as a show car, garnering favorable publicity for Ford. It was released as a model kit and a toy, and in a much more subdued form its headlight and tailfin motifs would appear on production Lincolns for 1956 and 1957, such as the Lincoln Premiere and Lincoln Capri. The concave front grille inspired the grille on the 1960 Mercury Monterey and the 1961 Ford Galaxie.

 

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The Futura played a prominent part in the 1959 movie It Started with a Kiss, starring Debbie Reynolds and Glenn Ford. For the movie, it was painted red, as the white pearlescent finish did not photograph well.

The concept car was subsequently sold to auto customizer George Barris. Having originally cost $250,000, the Futura was sold to Barris for $1.00 and “other valuable consideration” by Ford Motor Company. As the car was never titled and was therefore uninsurable, it was parked behind Barris’ shop, sitting idle and deteriorating for several years.

 

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In 1966 Barris was asked to design a theme car for the Batman television series. Originally the auto stylist Dean Jeffries was contracted to build the car for the show in late 1965, but when the studio wanted the car faster than he could deliver, the project was given to Barris. With the short notice, Barris thought the Futura might work well, and using Jeffries’s initial car, decided that its unusual winged shape would be an ideal starting point for the Batmobile. Barris hired Bill Cushenberry to modify the car’s metalwork. Barris went on to build three fiberglass replicas using the frames and running gear from 1966 Ford Galaxie cars for the show circuit, three of which were covered with a felt-like flocking finish in the 1970s. Barris later acquired a fourth replica, a metal car built on a 1958 Thunderbird.

Barris retained ownership of the car, both after its conversion to the Batmobile, leasing it to the TV studio for filming and after production of the TV series ended, displayed in Barris’ own museum in California. It has also been displayed in the Cayman Motor Museum on Grand Cayman Island.

Barris sold the Batmobile to Rick Champagne at the Barrett-Jackson collector car auction on Saturday, January 19, 2013 in Scottsdale, Arizona for US4.62 million dollars.

 

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The Traffic Girls of Pyongyang

The capital city of North Korea, Pyongyang (pop. 3,255,388) is one of the most mysterious cities in the world.  This is due to the fact that the Communist rulers of North Korea control the country and city with an iron-fisted resolve.  No foreign tourists or journalists, and very few diplomats from other countries.  Only 6-8 countries have missions staffed with diplomats in Pyongyang.

But one truth has been established about the day-to-day activities on the streets of Pyongyang.  The Traffic Girls of Pyongyang.

In these pictures the main characteristic is the lack of traffic.  Especially relative to western and other Asian societies.  There is virtually no traffic.  North Korea is an economic basket case.  So only government elites and upper bureaucrats get to drive cars.

Therefore the Traffic Girls must not get to overly stressed out.

The giant monstrosity in the background of this picture is the Ryugyong Hotel.  A 105 floor skyscraper that began construction in 1987.  Construction was halted for many years but resumed in 2009.  It then stopped again in 2014.

 

 

 

Introduced in 2009, some intersections are equipped with traffic control podiums.
Podium features:
– umbrella for shade and rain
– heated pad in base for keeping feet warm
– light for illumination of traffic controller
– reflective paint for visibility

Some basic information on the Traffic Girls.

There are slightly more than 50 posts in Pyongyang.

Each post is assigned six traffic controllers, with the post staffed from 7:00AM to 10:00 PM.

The post’s six traffic police are split into 2 groups which rotate duty.

Each group shift is 2-3 hours. A traffic controller is on duty for 30 minutes at a time, relieved every 30 minutes.

They work 6 days a week, with Sundays off. They also may have to work holidays.

Intersection control
The basic rules are:
If traffic officer is facing you or has back to you, stop do not proceed – cross traffic has right-of-way.
When traffic officer raises baton, a right-of-way change is imminent.
Baton held out indicates a turn through intersection is permitted.

Requirements to be a Pyongyang Traffic Girl:
– unmarried
– attractive
– healthy
– between the ages of 16 – 26
– at least 1.65 meters (5’4″) tall
– high school graduate

The intersections staffed by the traffic police are called ‘posts’.
Inspired by Ed L.

Strange Airports

Courchevel International Airport (Courchevel, France)

Background:
Getting to the iconic ski resort of Courchevel requires navigating the formidable French Alps before making a hair-raising landing at Courchevel International Airport. The runway is about 1700 feet long, but the real surprise is the large hill toward the middle of the strip.
Why It’s Unique:
“You take off downhill and you land going uphill,” Schreckengast says. He adds that the hill, which has an 18.5 percent grade, is so steep that small planes could probably gain enough momentum rolling down it with no engines to safely glide off the edge. Landing at Courchevel is obviously no easy task, so pilots are required to obtain certification before attempting to conquer the dangerous runway.

 

Congonhas Airport (Sao Paulo, Brazil)

Background:
Most major cities have an airport, but rarely are they built just 5 miles from the city center, especially in metropolises like Sao Paulo. Congonhas’ close proximity to downtown can be attributed in part to the fact that it was completed in 1936, with the city experiencing rapid development in the following decades.
Why It’s Unique:
While having an airport only 5 miles from the city center may be a convenience for commuters, it places a strain on both pilots and air traffic control crews. “It becomes a challenge in terms of safety to just get the plane in there,” Schreckengast says. “Then you throw on noise restrictions and these terribly awkward arrival and departure routes that are needed to minimize your noise-print and it becomes quite challenging for pilots.” Fortunately, Sao Paulo’s many high-rise buildings are far enough away from the airport that they aren’t an immediate obstacle for pilots landing or taking off.

 

Don Mueang International Airport (Bangkok, Thailand)

Background:
From a distance Don Mueang International looks like any other midsize airport. However, smack-dab in the middle of the two runways is an 18-hole golf course.
Why It’s Unique:
Schreckengast, who has worked on consulting projects at this airport, says one of the major problems is that the only taxiways were located at the end of the runways. “We recommended that they build an additional taxiway in the middle, from side to side, and they said ‘absolutely not, that will take out a green and one fairway.’” The airport and the course were originally an all-military operation, but have since opened up to commercial traffic. Security threats, however, have limited the public’s access to the greens.

 

Madeira International Airport (Madeira, Portugal)

Background:
Madeira is a small island far off the coast of Portugal, which makes an airport that is capable of landing commercial-size aircraft vital to its development. This airport’s original runway was only about 5000 feet long, posing a huge risk to even the most experienced pilots and limiting imports and tourism.
Why It’s Unique:
Engineers extended the runway to more than 9000 feet by building a massive girder bridge atop about 200 pillars. The bridge, which itself is over 3000 feet long and 590 feet wide, is strong enough to handle the weight of 747s and similar jets. In 2004, the International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering selected the expansion project for its Outstanding Structure Award, noting that the design and construction was both “sensitive to environmental and aesthetic considerations.”

 

Gibraltar Airport (Gibraltar)

Background:
Between Morocco and Spain sits the tiny British territory of Gibraltar. Construction of the airport dates back to World War II, and it continues to serve as a base for the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force, though commercial flights land on a daily basis.
Why It’s Unique:
Winston Churchill Avenue, Gibraltar’s busiest road, cuts directly across the runway. Railroad-style crossing gates hold cars back every time a plane lands or departs. “There’s essentially a mountain on one side of the island and a town on the other,” Schreckengast says. “The runway goes from side to side on the island because it’s the only flat space there, so it’s the best they can do. It’s a fairly safe operation as far as keeping people away,” he says, “It just happens to be the best place to land, so sometimes it’s a road and sometimes it’s a runway.”

 

Kansai International Airport (Osaka, Japan)

Background:
Land is a scarce resource in Japan, so engineers headed roughly 3 miles offshore into Osaka Bay to build this colossal structure. Work on the manmade island started in 1987, and by 1994 jumbo jets were touching down. Travelers can get from the airport to the main island of Honshu via car, railroad or even a high-speed ferry.
Why It’s Unique:
Kansai’s artificial island is 2.5 miles long and 1.6 miles wide—so large that it’s visible from space. Earthquakes, dangerous cyclones, an unstable seabed, and sabotage attempts from protestors are just some of the variables engineers were forced to account for. As impressive as the airport is, Stewart Schreckengast, a professor of aviation technology at Purdue University and a former aviation consultant with MITRE, cautions that climate change and rising sea levels pose a very real threat to the airport’s existence. “When this was built, [engineers] probably didn’t account for global warming,” he says. “In 50 years or so, this might be underwater.”

Cool Hotdog Cars

“Wienermobile” is a series of automobiles shaped like a hot dog on a bun which are used to promote and advertise Oscar Mayer products in the United States. The first version was created in 1936 by Oscar Mayer’s nephew, Carl G. Mayer, and variants are still used by the Oscar Mayer company today. Drivers of the Wienermobiles are known as Hotdoggers and often hand out toy whistles shaped as replicas of the Wienermobile, known as Wienerwhistles.

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The Oscar Mayer Wienermobile has evolved from Carl Mayer’s original 1936 vehicle to the vehicles seen on the road today. Although fuel rationing kept the Wienermobile off the road during World War II, in the 1950s Oscar Mayer and the Gerstenslager Company created several new vehicles using a Dodge chassis or a Willys Jeep chassis. One of these models is on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. These Wienermobiles were piloted by “Little Oscar” (portrayed by George Molchan) who would visit stores, schools, orphanages, and children’s hospitals and participate in parades and festivals.
In 1969, new Wienermobiles were built on a Chevrolet motor home chassis and featured Ford Thunderbird taillights. The 1969 vehicle was the first Wienermobile to travel outside the United States. In 1976 Plastic Products, Inc., built a fiberglass and styrofoam model, again on a Chevrolet motor home chassis.
In 1988, Oscar Mayer launched its Hotdogger program, where recent college graduates were hired to drive the Wienermobile through various parts of the nation and abroad. Using a converted Chevrolet van chassis, Stevens Automotive Corporation and noted industrial designer Brooks Stevens built a fleet of six Wienermobiles for the new team of Hotdoggers.
With the 1995 version, the Wienermobile grew in size to 27 feet long and 11 feet high. The 2004 version of the Wienermobile includes a voice-activated GPS navigation device, an audio center with a wireless microphone, a horn that plays the Wiener Jingle in 21 different genres from Cajun to Rap to Bossa Nova, according to American Eats, and sports fourth generation Pontiac Firebird taillights.

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There are currently eight active Wienermobiles, six of which are the full-sized familiar models (the other two are the Mini and the food truck versions) with each assigned a part of the country. The “hotdogger” position of driving the Wienermobile is open to U.S. citizens, and the job lasts from the first of June until the following first of June. Only college seniors who are about to graduate are eligible. Both current hotdoggers and Oscar Mayer recruiters visit college campuses across the country in search of the next round of hotdoggers. Candidates are screened from an average of 2000 applicants. Every March, a pool of thirty final-round candidates are brought to Kraft Foods and Oscar Mayer headquarters in Madison, Wisconsin, for interviews. Each vehicle can hold two hotdoggers, and twelve people are chosen. Currently there are about 300 hotdogger alumni.

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They apparently come in all sizes.