Honda unveils self-driving car in Detroit

Honda is the latest company to show of its self-driving car. The car maker is working on technology that allows vehicles to drive themselves and are automatically able to signal and change lane.

The prototype car – an Acura RLX Sedan – uses long-range and medium-range radar, a stereo camera and a scanning laser to sense the surroundings.

Eric Blumbergs, Honda’s Senior Engineer, said:
“It is not a driverless car. A driver has to be in the driver’s seat and has to engage the system. And the driver has to be available to re-engage when the system’s complete with its function.”

During a test on the roads of Detroit, the car’s driver took his hands off the wheel as the it entered the freeway. The vehicle automatically accelerated to the speed limit and applied the brakes if it got too close to a car in front of it. When it needed to change lanes, it signalled and waited for an opening.

“We have a goal of zero crashes eventually, and we also have a goal of safety for everyone. We believe this technology can help us achieve those goals (and) give the driver a stress-free and safe driver experience,” Eric Blumbergs added.

Honda has been working on this prototype car in Japan for about a year, but it is the result of decades of safety research.

The electric car has long been heralded as the future of the motor industry, set to replace the traditionally petrol-fuelled machines, but they lack the technology and infrastructure necessary to make it viable – cars need to stop and connect a wire to be charged.

Some experts from London Imperial College believe that wireless electric cars charging technology is not far away. And it is not only cars that could benefit from this technology, but other devices too.

Paul Mitcheson, reader in Electrical Energy Conversion at Imperial College London, said: “The idea of wireless charging in vehicles really captures people’s imagination. But, the idea of maybe charging medical devices is a key aspect where this technology can really have significant impact. And also things like charging your phone in your pocket. These things are not easy to do, but they are possible with this sort of technology.”

So how does this technology work?

The phenomenon of electromagnetic induction was discovered by British physicist Michael Faraday in 1831. He found that when two coils were placed close to each other and power applied to one of them, it produced a magnetic field, which then induced a voltage across the second coil.

The so-called “near-field charging technology” can transfer up to 1.5 kilo watts over a distance of up to 0.5 miles using a lightweight receiver, while its long distance power transfer system can transfer up to 10 mega watts at distances up to five miles. Both operate at over 80 per cent efficiency.

“We’ve got a transmitter, which transmits energy to this receive coil which picks up this energy and can then power various devices like laptops, mobile phones, or even electric cars,” said David Yates, a research fellow at the Imperial College London Control and Power Research Group.

The system will soon be tested on high-speed electric racing cars.

In a completely different but equally innovative development scientists have come up with road-using robot that can survive being run over by a car.

This flexible robot with rubber-like properties can withstand extreme conditions. It has been created by researchers at the universities of Cornell and Harvard, New York.

Its designers say it could lead to a new generation of robots for use in search and rescue missions. The 65-centimetres long robot has no rigid skeleton and is made of a combination of materials like silicon, carbon, and oxygen.

The robot is powered by an electric air compressor system and has been tested walking through flames and in sub-zero temperatures. A battery pack allows it to move for up to two hours.