Let Your Fingers Do The Driving

There should be an image here!If drivers are yakking on cell phones and don’t hear spoken instructions to turn left or right from a passenger or navigation system, they still can get directions from devices that are mounted on the steering wheel and pull skin on the driver’s index fingertips left or right, a University of Utah study found.

The researchers say they don’t want their results to encourage dangerous and distracted driving by cell phone users. Instead, they hope the study will point to new touch-based directional devices to help motorists and hearing-impaired people drive more safely. The same technology also could help blind pedestrians with a cane that provides directional cues to the person’s thumb.

“It has the potential of being a safer way of doing what’s already being done — delivering information that people are already getting with in-car GPS navigation systems,” says the study’s lead author, William Provancher, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Utah.

In addition, Provancher says he is “starting to meet with the Utah Division of Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired to better understand how our technology could help those with vision impairments. It could be used in a walking cane for the blind,” with a moving button on the handle providing tactile navigation cues to help the person walk to the corner market, for example.

The system also could help hearing-impaired people get navigation information through their fingertips if they cannot hear a system’s computerized voice, says University of Utah psychology Ph.D. student Nate Medeiros-Ward, the study’s first author. “We are not saying people should drive and talk on a cell phone and that tactile [touch] navigation cues will keep you out of trouble.”

Medeiros-Ward is scheduled to present the findings Tuesday, Sept. 28 in San Francisco during the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society’s 54th annual meeting.

The study “doesn’t mean it’s safe to drive and talk on the cell phone,” says co-author David Strayer, a professor of psychology at the University of Utah. “It was a test to show that even in situations where you are distracted by a cell phone, we can still communicate directional information to the driver via the fingertips even though they are ‘blind’ to everything else.”

Provancher, Medeiros-Ward and Strayer conducted the study with Joel Cooper, who earned his psychology Ph.D. at the University of Utah and now works in Texas, and Andrew Doxon, a Utah doctoral student in mechanical engineering. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation and the University of Utah.

‘Channels’ Carry Information to the Brain

Provancher says the study was based on a “multiple resource model” of how people process information, in which resources are senses such as vision, hearing and touch that provide information to the brain.

“You can only process so much,” he says. “The theory is that if you provide information through different channels, you can provide more total information. Our sense of touch is currently an unexplored means of communication in the car.”

But does humanity really need yet another way to provide information to drivers who already are blabbering on cell phones, texting, changing CDs or radio stations, looking at or listening to navigation devices and screaming kids — not to mention trying to watch and listen to road conditions?

“The point is, it will help everybody,” Provancher says. “We all have visual and audio distractions when driving. Having the steering wheel communicate with you through your fingertips provides more reliable navigation information to the driver.”

Provancher says motorists already get some feedback through touch: vibration from missing a gear while shifting or a shimmying steering wheel due to tire problems.

“You can’t look at two things at the same time,” says Strayer. “You can’t look at graphic display of where you should go and look out the windshield. It [touch-based information] is a nicer way to communicate with the driver without interfering with the basic information they typically need to drive safely. They need to look out the window to drive safely. They need to listen to the noise of traffic — sirens, horns and other vehicles. This tactile device provides information to the driver without taking their attention away from seeing and hearing information they need to be a safe driver.”

The new study says automakers already use some tactile systems to warn of lane departures by drowsy drivers and monitor blind spots. But these devices generally twist the steering wheel (assisted steering), rather than simply prompting the driver to do so.

Drivers on Cell Phones Often Don’t Hear Directions, but Can Feel Them

The study was conducted on a driving simulator that Strayer has used to demonstrate the hazards of driving while talking or texting on a cell phone. Two of Provancher’s devices to convey information by touch were attached to the simulator’s steering wheel so one came in contact with the index finger on each of the driver’s hands.

During driving, each index fingertip rested on a red TrackPoint cap from an IBM ThinkPad computer — those little things that look like the eraser on the end of a pencil. When the drivers were supposed to turn left, the two touch devices gently stretched the skin of the fingertips to the left (counter clockwise); when a right turn was directed, the TrackPoint tugged the skin of the fingertips to the right (clockwise).

Nineteen University of Utah undergraduate students — six women and 13 men — participated in the study by driving the simulator. The screens that surround the driver’s seat on three sides displayed a scene in which the driver was in the center lane of three straight freeway lanes, with no other traffic.

Four driving scenarios were used, each lasting six minutes and including, in random order, 12 cues to the driver to move to the right lane and 12 more to move left.

In two scenarios, the simulator drivers did not talk on cell phones and received direction instructions either from the simulator’s computer voice or via the fingertip devices on the steering wheel. In the two other scenarios, the drivers talked on cell phones with a person in the laboratory and also received direction instructions, either from the computer voice or from the touch devices on the steering wheel.

Each participant did all four of the scenarios. The results:

  • In the two scenarios without cell phones, the drivers’ accuracy in correctly moving left or right was nearly identical for those who received tactile directions through their fingertips (97.2 percent) or by computerized voice (97.6 percent).
  • That changed when the drivers talked on cell phones while operating the simulator. When drivers received fingertip navigation directions while talking, they were accurate 98 percent of the time, but when they received audio cues to turn right or left while talking on a cell phone, they changed lanes correctly only 74 percent of the time.

Strayer says the findings shouldn’t be used to encourage cell phone use while driving because even if giving drivers directional information by touch works, “it’s not going to help you with the other things you need to do while driving — watching out for pedestrians, noticing traffic lights, all the things you need to pay attention to.”

A Touch of Product Development?

Provancher has patents and wants to commercialize his tactile feedback devices for steering wheels and other potential uses.

“If we were approached by an interested automaker, it could be in their production cars in three to five years,” he says, noting he already has had preliminary talks with three automakers and a European original equipment manufacturer.

In addition to possible devices for the vision- and hearing-impaired, Provancher says the technology could be used in a handheld device to let people feel fingertip-stretch pulses — rather than hear clicks — as they scroll through an iPod music playlist. He also says it might be used as a new way to interact with an MP3 music player in a vehicle, or to control games.

Provancher set the stage for the tactile navigation devices in two research papers this year in the journal Transactions on Haptics, published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Haptics is to the sense of touch what optics is to vision.

In one of those studies, Provancher tested a haptic device that stretched the fingertip skin in four horizontal directions (right, left, front, back) and found that relatively faster and larger (one twenty-fifth of an inch) movements conveyed direction information most accurately.

In that study, Provancher also mentioned other possible uses for such devices, including allowing command centers to direct emergency responders and urban soldiers to incident locations, or directing air traffic controllers’ attention to important information on a computer screen.

Lee J. Siegel @ University of Utah

[awsbullet:Garmin gps navigator speech]

Testing The Chevy Volt By Jay Leno

Jay Leno is a car buff and his Big Dog Garage hosts amazing vehicle from the past, including a Stanley Steamer and also a 1916 Owens Magnetic. Both the Steamer and the Magnetic were vehicles that were ahead of their times and were the world’s first green vehicles. Neither the idea behind the Steamer nor the Magnetic ever made it to the big time, but maybe this time around it will be the Chevy Volt that makes the dream of a semi electric vehicle come true.

Jay Leno takes the new Chevy Volt out for a spin and also questions Volt Chief Engineer Andrew Farah on what may be of concern to some shoppers who may  be considering buying a Volt when they hit the street in late 2010.

Listen to what Jay has to say about the Volt. It seems that he is very impressed with the car and enjoyed his test ride.

Just click the link below to view the video.

Comments welcome.

Testing The Chevy Volt By Jay Leno


The Nissan Leaf – 100% Electric Vehicle Is Coming In 2012

Over at Nissan there’s a web site for its new vehicle called the ‘Leaf’ with an entry date sometime in 2012. Nissan states that its new Leaf will be 100% electric with zero emissions. The car, according to Nissan, will have a 100 mile range and can reach an 80% charge rate in about 30 minutes. But as stated on the web site, most users will charge the vehicle overnight while they sleep.

So what does the Leaf look like? Here is a photo from the Nissan site:

As you can see from the photo, the car resembles a Toyota Prius.

If you purchase a Leaf you will also need to buy a home charging station, and a 220 volt connection. The vehicle is going to a select group of folks for testing purposes in 2010. Nissan indicates that it is working to have charging stations in place by the time the car goes into production. However, on its site it only states that there will be ‘lots’ of stations available. :-)

Nissan also states that the Leaf will have the performance of a V-6 gasoline engine with a top speed of 90 m.p.h. Battery life is expected to be about five years. After the sixth year the battery is expected to retain about 80% of its charge.

So what do you about the Nissan leaf? Is it something you’d be interested in buying?

Comments welcome.

Source – Nissan Leaf site

GM Volt To Get 230 MPG In The City

GM is making a claim that the Chevy Volt, when it finally is introduced in late 2010, will get 230 MPG in city driving. That’s what GM is saying, but is this really true or just marketing hype? According to a recent article it also states the following:

Henderson said that GM is confident that the combined highway and city mileage for the Chevy Volt, due to go on sale in late 2010, will be in the triple digits. Expressed in electrical terms, the performance will be 25 kilowatt-hours for 100 miles.

“Having a car that gets triple-digit fuel economy, we believe, will be a game changer for us,” Henderson said.

Other plug-in electric sedans are also expected to have triple-digit fuel efficiency once they come to market. The all-electric Tesla Motors’ Roadster, which is available now, advertises triple-digit fuel economy as well.

The EPA model is being developed for cars used in different climates and a mix of electric and gas driving conditions, GM executives said. City mileage will be better for the Volt because the extended-range electric power train runs for 40 miles on battery alone and then uses an internal combustion engine to recharge batteries.

The cost of fueling a Volt will be significantly less than gassing up at the pump, Henderson said. In Detroit, where off-peak electricity rates are 5 cents a kilowatt hours, it will cost about 40 cents to recharge batteries overnight.

On the cost of the car itself, Henderson said that GM has not priced the Volt but that it will be expensive because it is a first-generation product. Unconfirmed estimates are said to be around $40,000.

GM is still not even in the ball park if their car comes with a $40k price tag. Even if gas goes back to $4 a gallon, and taking in consideration that the average car price is about $25k for a fairly nice vehicle, $15k buys a lot of gas. Just my 2 cents.

What do you think?

Comments welcome.


Where In The Blink Is Blekko?

I recently read an article about a new kid on the block known as Blekko, that is receiving funding to start a new search company. Interesting. They must have something up their sleeve that may make Blekko different, since the company has received over $17M in funding. So I went over the Blekko site and there was a cute picture on the page, a link back to TechCrunch and a blog entry for the hiring of coders.

According to TechCrunch they state that:

This is a hard space to find a niche in, but the money at stake if you succeed is staggering.

Blekko, the stealth search engine we’ve been covering since early 2008, has raised a third round of financing – $11.5 million from USVP and CMEA. That brings the total amount of capital raised to $17.5 million, including a $1 million credit line. Their last round was in March 2008.

We took a look at Blekko in late May. The company wants absolutely no press at all while they continue to bake the product, but we think there is something interesting under the hood. And apparently a few investors agree.

So since the folks at Blekko do not want any press coverage, please do not read this article! LOL

What do you think? With Microsoft trying to promote Bing, and with Yahoo on the ropes, will another stab at a new search engine work? Can new search company take on and beat Google at their own game?

Comments welcome.


Bing Had Michael Jackson Buried As Soon As He Died

The wannabe your search vehicle Bing was unable to deliver when Michael Jackson died. The latest search engine from Microsoft buried the story by TMZ under a layer of other news at the bottom of the page. Microsoft admits it even ranked the story low in their  xRank result.

According to one news source it states:

Microsoft has aggressively marketed Bing, launching it in a storm of advertising on television and online. Microsoft also beat Google to searching “tweets” from Twitter users; the microbloging site which has gained popularity for its ability to break trending news online.

Yet in the wake of Michael Jackson’s death, Bing’s search result architecture couldn’t keep up with the public demand for instant news.

Microsoft admits their mistake:

“By most reports, Bing did not deliver the best experience for our customers soon after TMZ posted the news on their blog,” Bing senior product planner Jacquelyn Krones explained.

I believe Google has little to fear from Bing.
Comments welcome.

Microsoft’s ‘Bing’ Goes Live In Beta

Bong, bong, bong, no BING! Microsoft has launched their latest rendition of their new search vehicle called Bing in beta format. The new search is designed to replace Live Search and according to their web site will make finding such things as travel, shopping, health and local stuff easier to find. When you enter into the Bing site you will notice a plain Jane search box similar to what Google has.

But will Bing be enough to garner market share against the likes of Google? That question will be answered as more folks start to use the new search engine. Over at TechCrunch they state:

My thoughts on Bing: I like it. And I’d consider using it as my search engine. But like many people I’m used to Google and I know how to find the things I’m looking for. Bing returns very different results for a lot of queries, which is great. But it also means spending time learning how to use Bing to get what you need out of it. I’ll spend that time because it’s my job. But for most people, they’ll stick to what they know, and that’s Google.

That says it all. I tried Bing and it works just fine. But whether I change from Google to Bing can not be answered as of yet.

Try Bing and let us know what you think.

Comments as always are welcome.

Try Bing here.

Can Someone Steal Your Car With Another Remote?

Most newer vehicles now come with key less remotes that at a click of a button open up your vehicle. So I found it interesting over the weekend when someone asked whether another remote could open their car? You see, once you have been labeled as a geek, you are supposed to be an expert in everything electronic. Over the years I have fixed items since as paper shredders, radio’s, electronic watches and other items that have been shoved in front of me.

So when I was confronted with a question concerning remote key less entry into a car, I must admit I didn’t know the answer. Sure, I suspected that the code must be encrypted and that the signal had to change at each use, but that was just a guess on my part. So I did some investigating and here is what I found.

The key code for your remote keyfob is stored in the vehicle itself. Each time the keyfob is pressed and different code is provided which prevents other remotes from opening your vehicle. As I suspected this information is encrypted. So in a nutshell, it would be highly unlikely for another remote to open your car.

But here is something else I also learned. Those commercials where the driver just pushed a start button with no key, also is interesting. This system works by using a smart card which the driver keeps on their person or in a purse. With the proper smart card the car starts when the button is pushed.

Comments welcome.


Tesla Electric Roadster Is On Hold

I have been following the Tesla electric car every since it was shown by the builders back in 2006, at Monterey, CA. The introduction of the electric roadster caused some excitement and also attracted the likes of Gov. Arnie of movie fame as well as the founders of Google. Pre orders were taken and the pricey vehicle of $100k + seemed like it was well on its way to production. The company even opened a showroom to show off the electric wonder.

Another model was also introduced called the Tesla S with a lower price tag of $60k + and was hopefully going to add to the orders. But it now seems that a very bad economy and Tesla layoffs may have doomed the vehicle for now. According to the article it states that:

Tesla is trying to raise $100 million to add to the $146 million it has already raised. Backers include  Tesla is also waiting for a low-interest loan from the Energy Department, which the company cannot use until it passes an environmental review. Tesla will focus its efforts on making the Roadster, which has a one-year waiting list. It will also increase power-train sales to other car companies, a business that Mr. Musk said was profitable.

This makes one wonder how GM is coming with its electric vehicle called the Volt and whether or not GM will have the funds to produce the car. The economic downturn, which most of us know is really a recession, is most likely to kick our economy right in the butt.

GM has already received $25 Billion from us taxpayers. But that amount may not be enough to cover the cost of the new car. Only time will tell.

Comments welcome.


Buy A GM Volt – Get A $7500 Tax Credit

As we are all aware of, the recent bailout package was filled with ‘pork’ and one of the porkers was a tax credit provision for those buying an electric vehicle which includes the GM Volt. The Volt is a electric car that you just plug in at night to recharge. The charge will take you about 40 miles or so. Once the charge runs out, the driver pushes the car to where they are oing. :-) Just joking. There is a built into small gas motor that will recharge the batteries to get you going again. Max distance is said to be about 400 miles on  about 7 gallons of gas and electric combined.

So GM not only got a $25 billion dollar loan, but now a tax incentive for folks to buy a Volt. I guess congress felt this was the time to go for broke and get in all the pork they could. Seems like another $150 billion was added to the original $700 billion. Seems fair to me.

Back to the Volt. It is nice to see are tax money being spent wisely on a GM experiment that may just help in working out the kinks during our transition to energy independence. Gee. I’m starting to sound like a politician. :-)

The tax credits are for any electric vehicle. It starts at $2300 hundred and goes up as the wattage increases.

Comments welcome.


Chevy Volt – First Look

You have got to love it. GM is working hard at making the Chevy Volt a reality for the American public. So there is much interest if GM can pull it off by 2010. Rumor has it that GM may unveil the real deal on September 15 &16, 2008, which is the Centennial for GM and they are planning a huge celebration.

The Volt is going to be an electric powered vehicle which you plug in to charge and supposedly will run for about 40 miles per charge. Included is a small gas engine to supplement the electric if a longer trip is planned.  At the website that is showing the sneak peek of the Volt, there was one interesting comment.

The poster stated that there is no way the Arabs will allow GM to produce this vehicle and that they would buy GM to keep it off the market.

What do you think of the Volt? Will it actually go into production?

Comments welcome.

Sneak peek Chevy Volt


GM-Volt… I Am On The Waiting List

A few months ago I was wondering around and spotted a story about the Chevy Volt from GM, and stopped for a look-see. Beside the ability to run on electricity, which I believe is going to be the future of motor vehicles, the Volt is just flat out great looking. It has been a while since I have seen a car that could actually turn heads. So I signed up for email information to be sent as the Volt progresses.

Today I received my first alert on what is going on with the Volt, plus I updated my contact information and was placed on a unofficial waiting list. I am 20,604 on the wait line. But please do not tell my wife. She is already going nuts since I am looking at buying a new car next year when my KIA Sportage lease expires. I am on another list as well. This list is for KIA’s new vehicle the Soul. Take a peek here.

Back to the Volt. So what’s happening with the Volt? Well according to GM this:

We have been waiting patiently to see the production redesign of the Chevy Volt concept.  Speculation recently indicated that GM would reveal the car at their Centennial celebration on September 16th.

Today, the Detroit News is reporting that the September 16th revelation will be a sneak peek only for GM workers who will not be allowed to bring in cameras.

Sources within GM told the reporter that the production car won’t actually be shown to the public until the LA Auto Show in November or the Detroit Auto Show in January.

A consumer focus group in California was shown the production version last month and the response was “very positive” per GM spokesperson Karla Coleman.

So there you have it. The Volt lives and GM looks like they are in fact on track to build a new vehicle which hopefully will hit the market in 2010.

So what do you think? Will the Volt be as good as GM says? Will it be able to compete against the Toyota Prius

Comments welcome.

GM Source #1

Electronic Stability Control – Why You Want It

Known as ECS [Electronic Stability Control] is a feature on some new cars that can help drivers avoid accidents. In the April 2008 edition of Consumers Magazine they will only give the coveted top car honors to a vehicle that employs ESC no matter how high other vehicles rate. The folks at CM feel that ESC is the best safety improvement for motor vehicles since the seat belt became a mandatory safety feature.

So what is ESC? Basically it is a computer controlled system that uses the anti-lock braking system to apply the brakes to individual wheels, control engine power and also add traction control to maintain vehicle stability. The vehicle senses driver input and can correct slides, under steer and over steering.

Does it work? Sure does. Though many companies offer ESC as an option, the KIA Sportage I leased in 2007 came with it. Last week during a heavy rain storm I was coming down a major artery in which a vehicle pulled in front of me while making a left hand turn. I swerved to avoid the collision and the vehicle took over with the ESC system. No skid, so slide, just straight through traction back in the direction I originally was coming from. The ESC system I have also comes with traction control to help in mud or snow situations.

ESC is so good that the feds are making it a mandatory features in all 2012 vehicles.

Comments welcome.

[tags]esc, stability, vehicle, option, mandatory, 2012, safety, slids, skids, roll overs, [/tags]

'Operation Target Practice' – What's The Real Reason?

Have you ever noticed that the first thing that happens in todays paranoia world is that people become suspicious anytime the US Government announces anything. So what we have is a big, really big piece of space junk that may be the size of a school bus which weighs between 5,000 to 10,000 lbs. making a re-entry sometime around the 6th of March. What we also have is a missle that will be launched from a ship to destroy this junk before it hits planet earth.

On the surface this seems like a sound decision. After all, I don’t think anyone would want this big of a piece of metal hitting our homes, a school yard, or anywhere else people could be injured.  But as soon as the announcement was made, the news folks jumped on this and immediately the conspiracy theories started to fly.

Rumors are that the US just wants to test its missile to see if it works or not. Another rumor is that the satellite is full of hazardous fuel and must be destroyed. Than there is the rumor that this satellite is so secret that it can’t fall into enemy hands and must be vaporized? Or you have the one that China did it so why can’t we? Interesting. But what is the real, real reason?

Could it be that this satellite was launched to actually see if we could find Elvis? But after launch the space vehicle was taken over by aliens that the US government doesn’t want us to know about? Or is it just what it is. Blowing it out of the sky may just prevent injury to any of us down below.

Comments welcome.

[tags]satellite, missile, re-entry, vehicle, hazard, waste, spy, secret,  [/tags]

Tada! It’s The Tata

Looks like it is not just notebook computers entering the ultra-cheap market, we are now seeing what has been deemed the birth of the worlds “cheapest” car. Obviously referring to new vehicles here, this Nano as it is called, is going to open up a whole new way of doing things for sure. Despite the possibility of new challenges for automakers here in the States, Japan and elsewhere.

I think this is incredibly cool and I say this as I live in a neighborhood where there are three Hummers just on my block alone. Could a tiny car like this work in here in the West? Definitely, however not likely with anyone of any height though. That and we need to remember that this thing is going to face a lot of flack overseas, despite likely outselling anything else out there in regions where cars are at a premium. But once we get aside the fact that for more developed countries, this car is not a blanket fit, I think something like this could find a very serious niche here on the North American open roads of the US and Canada.

Gaining acceptance here in the West will present a problem that I seriously doubt this Tata Nano would ever be in compliance with – crash safety. Call me old fashion, but I am pretty confident that I could crush this little sucker like a soda can with relatively little speed on a lonely stretch of road as I hit a telephone pole. I would challenge anyone to tell me that you are going to walk away from that accident. Open to being wrong here, but I tend to doubt that I am.