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Ford to build ‘miracle material’ graphene into cars

Graphene is a material used in coating, cell phones and even some sporting goods – and soon, will be used under the bonnet in Ford vehicles, a first in automotive

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It’s in cell phones and even some sporting goods – and soon, for the first time in automotive, it will be under the bonnet in Ford vehicles. Ford Motor Company is announcing the use of graphene – a two-dimensional nanomaterial – in vehicle parts.

Graphene has recently generated the enthusiasm and excitement in the automotive industry for paint, polymer and battery applications.

Dubbed a “miracle material” by some engineers, graphene is 200 times stronger than steel and one of the most conductive materials in the world. It is a great sound barrier and is extremely thin and flexible. Graphene is not economically viable for all applications, but Ford, in collaboration with Eagle Industries and XG Sciences, has found a way to use small amounts in fuel rail covers, pump covers and front engine covers to maximise its benefits.

“The breakthrough here is not in the material, but in how we are using it,” said Debbie Mielewski, Ford senior technical leader, sustainability and emerging materials. “We are able to use a very small amount, less than a half percent, to help us achieve significant enhancements in durability, sound resistance and weight reduction – applications that others have not focused on.” 

Graphene was first isolated in 2004, but application breakthroughs are relatively new. The first experiment to isolate graphene was done by using pencil lead, which contains graphite, and a piece of tape, using the tape to pull off layers of graphite to create a material that is a single layer thick – graphene. This experiment won a Nobel Prize in 2010. 

In 2014, Ford began working with suppliers to study the material and how to use it in running trials with auto parts such as fuel rail covers, pump covers and front engine covers. Generally, attempting to reduce noise inside vehicle cabins means adding more material and weight, but with graphene, it’s the opposite. 

“A small amount of graphene goes a long way, and in this case, it has a significant effect on sound absorption qualities,” said John Bull, president of Eagle Industries. 

The graphene is mixed with foam constituents, and tests done by Ford and suppliers has shown about a 17 percent reduction in noise, a 20 percent improvement in mechanical properties and a 30 percent improvement in heat endurance properties, compared with that of the foam used without graphene. 

“We are excited about the performance benefits our products are able to provide to Ford and Eagle Industries,” said Philip Rose, XG Sciences’ chief executive officer. “Working with early adopters such as Ford Motor Company demonstrates the potential for graphene in multiple applications, and we look forward to extending our collaboration into other materials, and enabling further performance improvements.”

Graphene is expected to go into production by year end, used in parts on the Ford F-150 and Mustang and eventually, other Ford vehicles.  

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Cars connect to traffic lights

New Jaguar Land Rover technology using Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2X) connects cars to traffic lights so drivers can avoid getting stuck at red and help free up traffic flow in cities.

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The world’s first traffic lights were installed exactly 150 years ago outside the Houses of Parliament in London. Since then drivers around the globe have spent billions of hours waiting for green. With Jaguar Land Rover’s latest tech, however, their days could be numbered.

The Green Light Optimal Speed Advisory (GLOSA) system allows cars to “talk” to traffic lights and inform the driver the speed they should drive as they approach junctions or signals.

Widespread adoption of the V2X technology will prevent drivers from racing to beat the lights and improve air quality by reducing harsh acceleration or braking near lights. The goal is for the V2X revolution to create free-flowing cities with fewer delays and less commuter stress.

The connected technology is currently being trialed on a Jaguar F-PACE, as part of a £20 million (R371 million) collaborative research project.

Like all Jaguar or Land Rover vehicles today, the F-PACE already boasts a wide range of sophisticated Advanced Driver Assistance (ADAS) features. The connected technology trials are enhancing existing ADAS features by increasing the line of sight of a vehicle when it is connected via the internet to other vehicles and infrastructure. GLOSA is being tested alongside a host of other measures to slash the time commuters spend in traffic.

For example, Intersection Collision Warning (ICW) alerts drivers when it is unsafe to proceed at a junction. ICW informs drivers if other cars are approaching from another road and can suggest the order in which cars should proceed at a junction.

Jaguar Land Rover has also addressed time lost to searching for a parking space by providing real-time information of available spaces to drivers and developed an Emergency Vehicle Warning to alert motorists when a fire engine, police car or ambulance is approaching. The advanced technology builds on the connected systems already available on the Jaguar F-PACE such as Adaptive Cruise Control.

Oriol Quintana-Morales, Jaguar Land Rover Connected Technology Research Engineer, said: “This cutting-edge technology will radically reduce the time we waste at traffic lights. It has the potential to revolutionise driving by creating safe, free-flowing cities that take the stress out of commuting. Our research is motivated by the chance to make future journeys as comfortable and stress-free as possible for all our customers.”

The trials are part of the £20 million government-funded project, UK Autodrive, which has helped accelerate the development of Jaguar Land Rover’s future self-driving and connected technology. As well as strengthening the Midlands’ position as a hub of mobility innovation. Britain’s biggest car maker, headquartered in Coventry, is working on connected technology as part of its pledge to deliver zero accidents, zero congestion and zero emissions.

Connected technology will link the vehicle to everything around it, allowing seamless, free-flowing traffic that will pave the way for delivering self-driving vehicles.

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Roborace reveals new vehicle

Roborace has given its fans a first look at what the new competition vehicle for Season Alpha will look like at the WebSummmit conference in Lisbon, Portugal.

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DevBot 2.0 utilizes sensors similar to that in Robocar and is also fully electric, but has the addition of a cockpit for a human driver.

Season Alpha will see teams comprising of both a human driver and an AI driver. Lap times from the duo will be compared with that of other human + machine teams to determine a winner.

DevBot 2.0 will be launched in the new year but Roborace CEO Lucas Di Grassi has shared some first glimpses of what 2019 holds for the series in an interview on stage at WebSummit.

Season Alpha will see teams compete starting in Spring 2019 using the DevBot 2.0 vehicles to develop their automated driving systems, with professional drivers teaching the AI how to improve, as well as learning from the AI how to better their own performance.

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