Lawmakers in Nevada made a pretty forward-thinking move a couple weeks ago when they passed a measure ordering new regulations for driverless cars. Many vehicles already participate in once-human-driven activities like parking and skid control, and it’s not long until they’ll be able to navigate, make decisions and drive totally by themselves.
When self-communicating connected cars start appearing on roadways, what will it be like for the humans? Will we tolerate our cars talking behind our backs, deciding when to swerve or apply the brakes? The U.S. Department of Transportation is hosting some test drive clinics to help people prepare. Test drives on racetracks!
By Pierce HooverPosted 07.11.2011 at 3:25 pm 2 Comments
As we continue to work our way west toward the Pacific, we move into states with lower population densities, and greater distances between towns. And, as we are learning, a dot on a map doesn’t necessarily indicate even the bare minimum social center with, you know, stores. On more than one occasion, we’ve rolled into a small farm town to find the businesses on Main Street boarded up, and only a smattering of occupied homes in what was once a thriving community.
By Pierce HooverPosted 07.11.2011 at 3:04 pm 3 Comments
In eastern Kansas, our route took us parallel to a major east-west train track for many miles. Long freight trains passed us every few minutes. My son Nash enjoyed the spectacle, and asserted that we were seeing a much more efficient mode of transportation than cars or trucks. He likely formed this opinion after seeing an ad campaign from one of the major rail lines that touted the efficiency of rail transport on a per mile/per ton basis. With hours of free time for discussion while rolling along at 15 mph, we spent some time debating the future of transportation.
By Pierce HooverPosted 07.11.2011 at 2:39 pm 2 Comments
On July 1, we passed the 2,000-mile mark on our cross-country road trip. For many of those miles, we’ve been playing leapfrog with a group of touring cyclists who are also following the trans-America route, which gives us some cause for comparison. Our vehicle does, after all, have a healthy dose of bicycle in its design.
Cars are already capable of driving and parking themselves while avoiding obstacles, but to do so, they need to see their surroundings. How do you know whether you’re maintaining a safe distance from vehicles around you when it’s dark outside, or when headlights can’t penetrate the fog? A new class of small, sensitive optical sensors could help.
As I was soaked with rain, I started to rethink my design
By Pierce HooverPosted 06.30.2011 at 2:38 pm 0 Comments
When you drive cross-country, especially at the relatively slow speed of 15 mph, sooner or later you'll have to deal with some rain. For the first thousand miles of our journey, which carried us through Virginia and Kentucky, we managed to dodge or wait out most of the violent thunderstorms that swept the middle section of the country in June. Our luck ran out in southern Illinois, where we were subjected to 30-plus hours of persistent precipitation ranging from drizzle to deluge.
By Pierce HooverPosted 06.24.2011 at 1:37 pm 1 Comment
As we passed westward from the steep mountains of Kentucky's eastern section into the rolling hills of its bluegrass country, we finally stopped having to share the back roads with massive coal haulers. Instead, we found ourselves travelling alongside tractors, farm trucks and the occasional buggy. Western Kentucky is home to a population of Amish farmers, known for their throwback, simplistic lifestyle, which is most visibly evidenced (on the road, at least) by their shunning of automobiles in favor of horse-drawn carriages.
We explore the more practical next-gen vehicles that you might actually see on the road in the future
By Pierce HooverPosted 06.15.2011 at 3:30 pm 0 Comments
As with most prototype vehicles, we've had our share of design and mechanical problems. Fortunately, these challenges have--so far--not stopped us, but have slowed our progress, putting us three days behind our original projected schedule. Of course, as Dwight Eisenhower famously said, planning is everything, but plans are nothing.
Virginia's mountains provided the first real obstacles on our trip--but also some windy inspiration
By Pierce HooverPosted 06.15.2011 at 10:10 am 1 Comment
The first line of western Virginia's 3,000-plus-foot peaks presented our first real challenge of the 2001 Ecotour, just as they did to the early pioneers moving westward. (You can make your own connections.) Fortunately, instead of having to slash our way over rhododendron-covered slopes, we could gear down and inch upward on paved roads.