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Suzuki aims at the moon

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The next vehicle to drive on the moon could very well be a Suzuki, if the team from Hukato, Suzuki and ispace technologies has its way.

Hukato is competing for Google’s Lunar XPRIZE, often called Moon 2.0, and it aims to be the first privately funded lunar exploration team. It has received a significant boost this month as Suzuki announced its support of this all-Japanese team.

The Lunar XPRIZE of $20 million will be awarded to the first privately funded team of space explorers that can safely land a lunar rover on the surface of the moon and have the vehicle travel at least 500 metres, while recording high resolution images.

The deadline for this feat is 31 December 2017, although teams must have booked a space flight before the end of 2016 to remain in contention.

For the trip to the moon, Hukato has enlisted the support of ispace technologies, a high-tech start-up that develops interconnected micro-robots that will one day explore space for exploitable resources. Once on the moon, however, the task will fall on Suzuki to help design and build a craft that can manoeuvre the rocky and powdery surface in one sixth of the gravity of the earth.

According to Hukato, they enlisted the help of Suzuki because of its globally recognised expertise in building highly manoeuvrable compact vehicles, often with four-wheel drive. Suzuki, in turn, was enthused by the Hukato’s bold vision and the opportunity to contribute to the future of society, as it has done since its inception 107 years ago.

Suzuki’s has already started working with Hukato on weight saving and drivability and is drawing on its expertise that has made compact vehicles like the Swift a global best-seller, with sales of over 5 million units, and with vehicles such as the Jimny, a perennial favourite for off-road driving.

Weight saving will be crucial for the launch and transport phase and is seen as the primary concern for keeping the cost of the launch as low as possible. Here Suzuki has contributed its specialist knowledge of weight-saving design and the use of modern materials, such as carbon fibre.

To aid the rover’s drivability on the powdery surface of the moon, called regolith, Suzuki will utilise its knowledge of traction control and four-wheel-drive and its ability to build these technologies into very compact vehicles.

Hukato’s current rover design is called the Pre-Flight Model 3 and it features solar panels for energy, high-definition 360 degree cameras, a full carbon-fibre hull and custom-designed wheels designed for grip.

Cars

Why sports cars make us feel good

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Forget romance, fine dining or an epic boxset binge – new preliminary research reveals that driving a sports car on a daily basis is among the best ways to boost your sense of wellbeing and emotional fulfilment.

The study measured “buzz moments” – peak thrills that play a vital role in our overall wellness – as volunteers cheered on their favourite football team, watched a gripping Game of Thrones episode, enjoyed a passionate kiss with a loved one or took an intense salsa dancing class. Only the occasional highs of riding a roller coaster ranked higher than the daily buzz of a commute in a sports car.

Working with neuroscientists and designers, Ford brought the research to life with the unique Ford Performance Buzz Car: a customised Ford Focus RS incorporating wearable and artificial intelligence technology to animate the driver’s emotions in real time across the car’s exterior. 

Watch the video here https://youtu.be/AFpt6jziFsU

“A roller coaster may be good for a quick thrill, but it’s not great for getting you to work every day,” said Dr Harry Witchel, Discipline Leader in Physiology. “This study shows how driving a performance car does much more than get you from A to B – it could be a valuable part of your daily wellbeing routine.”

Study participants who sat behind the wheel of a Ford Focus RS, Focus ST or Mustang experienced an average of 2.1 high-intensity buzz moments during a typical commute; this compared with an average of 3 buzz moments while riding on a roller coaster, 1.7 while on a shopping trip, 1.5 each while watching a Game of Thrones episode or a football match, and none at all while salsa dancing, fine dining or sharing a passionate kiss. 

For the research, Ford took one Focus RS and worked with Designworks to create the Buzz Car:

From concept, design and installation to software development and programming, the Buzz Car took 1,400 man-hours to create. Each “buzz moment” experienced by the driver – analysed using a real-time “emotional AI” system developed by leading empathic technology firm Sensum – produces a dazzling animation across almost 200,000 LED lights integrated into the car. The Buzz Car also features:

  • High-performance Zotac VR GO gaming PC
  • 110 x 500-lumen daylight-bright light strips
  • 82 display panels with 188,416 individually addressable LEDs

Driver state research

Researchers at the Ford Research and Innovation Center in Aachen, Germany are already looking into how vehicles can better understand and respond to drivers’ emotions. As part of the EUfunded ADAS&ME project, Ford experts are investigating how in-car systems may one day be aware of our emotions – as well as levels of stress, distraction and fatigue – providing prompts and warnings, and could even take control of the car in emergency situations.

“We think driving should be an enjoyable, emotional experience,” said Dr Marcel Mathissen, research scientist at Ford of Europe. “The driver-state research Ford and its partners are undertaking is helping to lead us towards safer roads and – importantly – healthier driving.”

Activity Buzz Moments *
Roller Coaster 3
Driving 2.1
Shopping 1.7
Game of Thrones 1.5
Football Game 1.5
Kissing 0
Salsa Dancing 0
Dining 0

* Average number of high-intensity buzz moments per participant

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Car that sees round corners

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Jaguar Land Rover is leading a £4.7 million (approximately R79 million) project to develop self-driving cars that can ‘see’ at blind junctions and through obstacles.

Britain’s biggest carmaker is leading a project called AutopleX to combine connected, automated and live mapping tech so more information is provided earlier to the self-driving car. This enables automated cars to communicate with all road users and obstacles where there is no direct view, effectively helping them see, so they can safely merge lanes and negotiate complex roundabouts autonomously.

Chris Holmes, Connected and Autonomous Vehicle Research Manager at Jaguar Land Rover said: “This project is crucial in order to bring self-driving cars to our customers in the near future. Together with our AutopleX partners, we will merge our connected and autonomous research to empower our self-driving vehicles to operate safely in the most challenging, real-world traffic situations. This project will ensure we deliver the most sophisticated and capable automated driving technology.”

Jaguar Land Rover is developing fully- and semi-automated vehicle technologies, offering customers a choice of an engaged or automated drive, while maintaining an enjoyable and safe driving experience. The company’s vision is to make the self-driving car viable in the widest range of real-life, on- and off-road driving environments and weather.

AutopleX will develop the technology through simulation and public road testing both on motorways and in urban environments in the West Midlands. Highways England, INRIX, Ricardo, Siemens, Transport for West Midlands and WMG at the University of Warwick join the AutopleX consortium, which was announced as part of Innovate UK’s third round of Connected and Autonomous Vehicle Funding in March 2018.

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