Travel tech

Facebook Innovation Could Affect Car Industry

Last week the Facebook organization announced its Incubator that it launched called GitHub as a means to distribute its own open source software projects. Incubator servers as a testing ground for new open source projects. This is going to be a kind of testing ground for the over 400 projects that have been released to date. In fact if we look at it through a more critical lens we can kind of begin to see the motivations behind doing something like this and why they would release an open source platform. Lets look at what Facebook does and why they are who they are at all.

When we consider what the place of open source is today and how Facebook makes its money we see that they are going after something that is very cool and has the appeal of today’s youth. More over we see that for the most part Facebook is not and really has never been a tech company.  What I mean by that is the fact that they never really produced any ground breaking and innovative technology. What they did was essentially be a cooler version of That is really it if you think about it and cut through the muck.

Another reason why it seems obvious why Facebook would do this and make a platform like this is that they are going to have the pick at a lot of young and good talent that are just giving them free innovation. That is a real bummer when we look at what it takes to be in this regard and how we can imagine it going in the future.

“This is very perspicuous on Facebook’s part to use the Incubator as a beta stage. Crappy software, is one of the top three secretary threats,” she told Linux Insider, because companies are pushing software and applications and projects out the door quickly to keep up with Jones es.”

Basically, “its good to see Facebook focused on the whole life cycle of open source software. Knowing that a project is in beta is a valuable and actionable data point. Along with information about community size, project activity, code size, and documentation. What may be confused is that the myriad projects is the open source universe don’t all follow the same practice as Facebook–or as one another–vis-a-via project maturation.” 

When we get down to the nitty gritty of this we can see that Facebook more than anything is generating press for themselves and are perpetuating this story as a means to make themselves out to appear more so as something that they are not. This being the case it becomes obvious in light of the fact that they really are more than anything an advertising company. In more ways than one there is very few plays they have going forward, or any divergent business business moves. They have their role on the internet and it is pretty cemented. So they can kind of sit back and do advertising things of this nature and ensure their place in investment circles.


Are Cars Keeping the Radio from Technological Extinction?

While most entertainment media tends to fly out of date at the speed of technological advancement (breakneck in our internet era), somehow the average person has maintained a long-standing relationship with radio, a media platform that has remained relevant for an astounding 80 years. What makes it possible for radio to live on in a digital age?

pandMany people attribute radio’s longevity to the automobile. Drivers like to listen to the news and pre-mixed music while they drive, and though satellite and digital radio do threaten to kill land-based FM and AM (and autonomous vehicles threaten the existence of all forms of radio), if the past is any indicator, radio will live on far into the future.

Pew Research Center recently released a report that found that the number of Americans listening to online radio (from Pandora to Google Play Music) has doubled since 2010. Smartphones make tuning in that much easier, and many cars now have infotainment systems that also enable online radio listeners to easily access their favorite stations. In fact, that same study found that 35% of American adult smartphone owners listen to online radio in the car, which is up from 21% in 2013 and up even more substantially from 6% in 2010.

While radio forms have proliferated in the past decade, good old-fashioned FM remains relevant in even the youngest millennials’ lives; Pew reported that its study in 2014 found that 91% of Americans ages 12 and older had listened to AM/FM radio in the week before they were surveyed.

That said, many are feel that it’s time to phase out of FM; UK Culture Minister Ed Vaizy believes that the UK will soon grow tired of FM and hopes to double the amount of local digital transmitters in the country within the next two years. The Minister has also voiced intentions to double the amount of digital radio-equipped vehicles by 2017.

While that kind of progress would likely spell the end of FM, it’s much less likely that internet radio will die out anytime soon. The expansion and development of the cloud allows it to connect the internet with many major appliances in our lives, and people will likely find internet radio as accessible as FM when they’re driving.

car stereoAccording to Sirius XM, one of the global leaders in satellite radio services, has revealed that currently 75% of the new cars in America come factory-installed with Sirius XM. Sirius hopes to double the amount of cars equipped with its satellite radio propensity by 2025, which would bring the company to about 185 million vehicles.

“I joined the company in 2004 when it had 600,000 subscribers,” stated Patrick Reilly, now Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications at Sirius XM. “Now we have more than 30 million, despite the growth of streaming competitors and the advent of the connected car.”

“I was recently talking to a few automotive senior managers that are now seriously looking into [for example] providing a Spotify flat rate with purchase of a new car,” said Chris Fangmann, Director and CTO of Global Manufacturing Industry at IT firm CSC. Fandmann says Spotify is another popular iteration of digitized radio services.


Musk Expects Apple Car by 2020

According to Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, Apple Inc. is likely to become a major competitor in the electric vehicle industry as soon as 2020.

Musk claimed that Apple will “probably make a good car and be successful,” at the Code Conference on Wednesday. He went on to state that “They should have embarked on [the car] project sooner.”

elon muskJust last fall, various media outlets reported that Apple would be developing an electric car with the intentions of shipping it in 2019. A “ship date” is a bit of an ambiguous deadline that could mean anything from the time when engineers sign off on a project to when that project is finished. Apple has yet to confirm directly that it is currently working on a car.

“It’s great [Apple is] doing this, and I hope it works out,” continued Musk, which incited many audience members to laugh. Musk explained that his market will be large enough for many competitors to find success simultaneously. He also predicted that many more traditional auto makers would become more competitive in electric vehicle markets, while Google would likely not make cars itself but instead license its technology to others.

“I don’t think any of the car companies have made a great electric vehicle, yet,” Musk stated. Mr. Musk has shared that he has plans to discuss Tesla’s plans in autonomous vehicles but is not yet ready to enter into that conversation. He repeated that Tesla has received somewhere around 400,000 preorders for the upcoming Model 3, which will cost somewhere around $35,000 (other media outlets have guessed prices as high as $40,000). Mr. Musk hopes to make half a million cars by 2018 and one million cars a year by 2020.

Musk made a whole host of predictions during his speech, but perhaps the most exciting of all was his prediction that fully autonomous vehicles will be technically possible within the next two years. He added that regulators will take an additional year to approve of such broad use of unprecedented technology in public spaces.

spacex rocketMusk is not just the CEO of Tesla. He also is the founder and chief executive of rocket maker Space Exploration Technologies Corporation. Musk has reiterated plans to send a rocket to Mars as soon as 2018 and a manned rocket to the red planet as soon as 2024. The rocket will hopefully arrive by 2025. Musk promised to announce more in a space conference in September.

Finally, Musk announced his plans to relaunch one of the rockets that he successfully landed after takeoff. He said that the launch should be expected to occur within the next couple of months. Musk is attempting to develop a rocket that can be reused because, as he has often explained, most of the costs of space travel are made up of the costs of creating the rockets themselves. His rockets cost around $35 million each.

One of the most notable things about Elon Musk is his ambition to retire and ultimately die on Mars. “If you’re going to choose where to die, then Mars is not a bad choice,” he has famously stated.

Smart Cars and Insurance

Autonomous car technology continues to proliferate in current models and make headlines in terms of what we can expect in the future, but how will this affect car insurance? Last year was the first year that premiums went up after what was a several-year streak of declines, but drivers may not have to deal with the disappointment long term.

Insurer Swiss Re and technology group Here have claimed that car insurance premiums will likely undergo major decreases due to automatic crash-avoidance systems being built into cars and reducing the likelihood of impacts. According to the two companies, premiums in the 14 largest car markets in the world can be expected to drop by margins around $20 billion by 2020.

aeb2And the effects of autonomous driving technology on insurance are already becoming apparent. For example there are two different versions of a currently available model of the Ford Focus. One has an automatic braking system that can sense if there is risk of an impact, and the other does not. The difference in insurance quotes between the two cars can span as much as a third according to a survey conducted by The Observer. 

This difference is only becoming more apparent. Just in 2015 alone, 1.5 million new cars came with self-activating safety systems like collision warning and technology that ensures that drivers stay in the right lane. This is a significant number of vehicles; here were only 2.63 million new cars registered in 2015 all together. The new technologies are meant to make driving both easier and safer, reducing the risk of accidents that comes with driving and hopefully eventually reducing insurance premiums along with the risk.

One of the most crucial safety features to be commonly found in new cars is autonomous emergency braking or AEB. AEB uses laser, radar and camera to stop a car automatically if there is risk of a collision. The basic systems work at speeds up to 20 miles per hour. According to Thatcham Research, motor insurers’ automotive research center, three out of every four accidents happens at speeds under 25 miles per hour.

While many different auto makers have created such systems for their newer models, they tend to go by different names. Volvo calls its AEB “City Safety,” Honda calls it the “City Brake Active System,” Ford calls it “Active City Stop” and Volkswagen calls it “City Emergency Braking.” Regardless of the name, the technology tends to be basically the same.

aeb3According to a study conducted in 2015 by Euro NCAP and Australasian NCAP, both of which are international bodies that assess car safety, AEB has brought down collision rates by somewhere around 38 percent. Insurance claims have consequently been reduced on vehicles outfitted with AEB, and insurers are starting to offer discounts to drivers with said vehicles.

Thatcham Research has released an estimate that a car’s insurance might be lowered up to 10 percent due to being equipped with AEB and other autonomous safety technology. It remains to be seen whether this makes up for the cost of implementing the technology, but it’s impossible to put a price on increased safety.

EV Sales Indicate Current Trends

While last March may have broken records in terms of plug-in sales, April reports show steady results as well.

The two top market contenders? As usual, the electric vehicles that the data indicate are beings old in the highest volumes are the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid and the Nissan Leaf batter-electric hatchback.

chevy voltThe Volt was drastically redesigned for its 2016 iteration, but sold only in particular regions. Now its becoming available as a 2017 model all across the country, and its deliveries last month were 1,983. That’s 118 up from March, when it sold 1,865. The four-month total sales for the Chevy Volt number 5,940, making this period the highest selling period for the Volt ever. If the Volt can keep up this pace, the total number of Volts delivered will cross the 100,000 mark over this upcoming summer; for an electric vehicle, this is a major achievement.

The Nissan Leaf didn’t quite sell at Volt numbers, but it sold enough to make a name for itself among the successful electric vehicles of our times. The 2017 model got a range boost from its predecessor, graduating from 84-miles combined to 107 miles, the increase owing largely to the more spacious 30-kilowatt-hour battery pack available in the SL and SV models.

April sales weren’t quite as robust as those of March for the 2017 Nissan Leaf; last month’s total numbered at only 787, whereas the month before it hit 1,246. Unfortunately for the Leaf, its four-month total of 3,718 is relatively modest when compared with its best period turnout; in 2013, the Nissan Leaf hit 7,272.

The elephant in the room (Tesla) ought to be addressed, as the ambitious EV manufacturer is never far from the mind when plug-ins are discussed. Tesla Motors refuses to break out its sales of Model S and Model  luxury electric cars by either month or region, so it’s impossible to compare its sales with those of its EV competitors.

bmw i3Also in the running is the BMW i3; its recent sales have diminished in light of the company’s preparation to release a longer-range 2017 version, but that doesn’t diminish the allure of an electric BMW. Ford is also sporting a pair of Energi plug-in hybrid models that will likely attract some attention and buyers.

Not to be forgotten is the Volkswagen e-Golf, which managed to grow in sales substantially during the latter half of 2015. While things looked promising in December, the model’s sales have since dropped down to significantly lower numbers, to the point that the e-Golf isn’t quite in the running anymore in terms of sheer volume. Whether this is due in part to the Volkswagen scandal is up for debate.

That said, the Audi A3 e-tron hasn’t lost much of its competitive edge amidst all the controversy. Its April sales brought its year-to-date total to 1,228, putting the model in good standing as a 2016 high roller.

Many EV automakers that don’t quite have the numbers in terms of volume have seen significant growth of plug-in sales in terms of percentages. The trend towards EVs may still be fighting an uphill battle, but it seems to be gaining momentum.

What is a Rotary Engine?

When you hear the term “rotary engine,” think of an internal combustion engine like the engine in most cars, but with a unique twist.

Your car (which we’re assuming is not completely electric) most likely uses a piston engine. Integral to the piston engine is the cylinder, where the intake, compression, combustion and exhaust processes happen. Intake involves taking in the fuel, compression involves mixing the fuel with the appropriate amount of air, combustion involves burning the air and exhaust involves getting rid of the unnecessary byproducts of the chemical reaction responsible for making your car move.

rotary engine2In a rotary engine, all these four processes still occur, but not within one cylindrical housing. Instead, each process occurs in its own part of the housing. It’s kind of like having four cylinders, each of which is dedicated to one of the four jobs. The piston then moves continuously from one cylinder to the next.

The rotary engine design was thought up by engineer Dr. Felix Wankel, prompting it to be called a Wankel engine or Wankel rotary engine.

Ok so back to basics: Much like a piston engine, Wankel or rotary engines need to create pressure by combining air and fuel and the burning that combination. Piston engines contain that pressure in the cylinder and then forces pistons to move back and forth. The pistons are connected to rods and crankshafts which then turn the piston motion into rotational motion that forces the wheels to roll.

In a rotary motion, the pressure of combustion is contained in a chamber that is sealed by one face of a triangular rotor, which takes the place of the pistons. The rotor is in motion in such a way that each of its three peaks are always in contact with the housing, creating three separate volumes of gas. As the rotor moves around the chamber, each of the three volumes of gas alternately expands and contracts. This expansion and contraction creates the vacuum that allows for air and fuel to enter the engine, the compression that allows for the appropriate amount of pressure to build up to the point of powering the car, and the expulsion that leads to the exhaust.

mazda rotary engineThe Maza RX-8 has a rotary engine and Mazda in general has been a pioneer in the production of rotary engines for consumer markets. The RX-7 hit the market back in 1978 and became likely the most widely sold rotary-engine car to date. Even before the RX-7, there had been the production of successful rotary-engine cars, trucks and busses since 1967.

Now the newer Mazda RX-8 (released circa 20011) has an award winning rotary engine called the RENESIS that won International Engine of the Year. It had a naturally aspirated, two-rotor engine that produced 250 horsepower, making it truly a one-of-a-kind vehicle.

So who knows, maybe rotary engines will be the way of the future. It’s worth considering that the Mazda RX-8 gets about 16 mpg in the city and 23 in the highway, so if the rotary engine doesn’t offer fuel efficiency there may not be a place for it in our future.


Overview of Internal Combustion Engines

Internal combustion engines burn fuel inside of them. In a car engine, this fuel is generally gasoline. The gasoline is ignited, the fuel releases energy and the energy moves the car.

This is by far the most common method by which an internal combustion engine works, but there are other methods. For example, diesel engines and gas turbine engines function slightly differently. We’ll get more into that later.

Just know that the reason internal combustion engines have been all the rage for so long is that they’re so efficient; a relatively small engine and use a relatively small amount of fuel to create rapid motion in large, heavy machines.

spark ignitionInternal combustion engines can be sorted into many different categories: spark ignition engines run off of petrol or gasoline, while compression ignition engines run off of diesel. These engines can each be further characterized into 2-stroke or 4-stroke engines. Then there are rotary and reciprocating engines. Rotary engines involve a rotor that rotates inside the engine to produce power. Reciprocating engines have a piston that reciprocate within a cylinder. The reciprocating motion of the piston is then converted into the rotary motion of the vehicles wheels, allowing them to spin and the car to move. Automobiles generally use reciprocating engines, which are the most common type of engines.

So to double back, reciprocating engines are those that can be classified into two types, the afore mentioned spark ignition and compression ignition engines. “Reciprocating engine” has actually become synonymous with internal combustion engines.

Spark ignition engines burn fuel by generating a spark with the spark plug located in the cylinder head of the engine.

Compression ignition engines burn fuel by exerting high amounts of pressure on the fuel. Once the pressure exceeds a certain point, the fuel begins to burn. This is easiest to perform on diesel engines.

Now for the difference between two stroke and four stroke engines: if an engine is “two-stroke” it implies that for every two strokes of the piston inside the cylinder, the fuel is burnt. In other words, for every single rotation of the wheel, the fuel burns. Four-stroke engines burn fuel of revery four strokes of the piston inside the cylinder, meaning that each time the fuel is burnt there are two rotations of the wheels of the vehicle. Think of the stroke as the distance traveled by the piston inside the cylinder i.e. the length of the cylinder.

compression ignitionAs you would assume, a 4-stroke engine is more fuel efficient than a 2-stroke engine because it rotates the vehicle’s wheels twice for every time the 2-stroke engine rotates the wheels once. However, 4-stroke engines are never actually twice as fuel efficient as 2-stroke engines; generally there are other hiccups along the way when it comes to combusting the fuel and converting that energy into movement that don’t enable perfect efficiency in 4-strokes, but it’s still better than 2-stroke.

That’s all for now, hope you enjoyed learning about internal combustion engines and feel free to comment!

Hackers Find Way to Remotely Control Jeep Cherokee

In July of 2015, one reporter from Wired magazine signed up for a risky ride that he knew would spiral out of his control, even as he kept his position behind the wheel of a Jeep Cherokee.

The plan was for writer Andy Greenberg to drive along a St. Louis highway and wait for hackers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek to take control of the car’s stereo, air conditioning, windshield wipers, transmission, and brakes from their house, 10 miles away.

Miller and Valasek had recently discovered a zero-day hacking technique that gave hackers control of any Jeep Cherokee on the road using the Jeep Cherokee’s built-in internet connection. Using their technique, Miller and Valasek can control a vehicle’s dashboard functions, steering, brakes, and transmission.

Stealing online information

Stealing online information

Greenberg was brave enough to embark on his doomed journey without knowing exactly what the hackers had in store for him. He knew only that they wouldn’t do anything life threatening. Still, they duly reminded him, “no matter what happens, don’t panic.”

As planned, the second Greenberg pulled onto the highway, the Cherokee started to misbehave. A picture of the two hackers in their signature track suits appeared on the car’s virtual display, the air conditioning started blasting cold air, and the radio started blasting music from a local hip hop station. The dashboard did not respond to any of the poor author’s attempts to adjust settings to a normal level.

That’s when the hackers cut his transmission. Greenberg began to fight off the panic that the hackers warned him against as the Jeep Cherokee slowed to a crawl on a freeway overpass. A line of cars began to accumulate behind Greenberg and honk at him angrily. As the highway began to slope upward, it seemed Greenberg had not only stopping to worry about, but actively falling backwards.

At this point Greenberg tapped out; he begged the hackers to stop, and accordingly they relinquished control over the car. The experiment was over.

Greenberg, Miller and Valasek had all met two year prior when Greenberg bravely volunteered to drive a hacked Ford Escape and a Toyota Prius through South Bend, Indiana. For that run, the hackers hacked from the backseat with their laptops and laughed at Greenberg as they took over the steering wheel and jerked his seatbelt around. In that experiment, the hackers at least had to be present in the car, where they needed to wire into the vehicle’s onboard diagnostic port to do any real hacking.

jeep cherokeeNow, only two years later, they can do some real damage over the Internet. The two have since shared their findings at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas. Their discoveries have prompted sponsorship of an automotive security bill that will heighten the security standards for cars and trucks equipped with online capabilities.

In the midst of this terrorist-activity-riddled era, this legislation is more necessary than ever. After all, Miller and Valasek could fully kill the engine, abruptly engage the brakes, disable the brakes, and hijack the wheel when the vehicle is in reverse. The potential for harm that could be done with these capabilities is immeasurable.

The Physics Behind Your Car Brakes

You may not have ever taken the time to really wonder how your car brakes work, but I’m sure if they ever broke you’d realized that you never fully appreciated them. Someone takes the time to think about the best way and most reliable way to engineer your car’s stopping abilities; let’s see how they figured it out.

First of all, it’s important to keep in mind the obvious fact that, when you press down on your brakes, you’re not actually transmitting the force necessary to slow down the huge hunk of metal traveling at high speeds down a freeway that is your car.

When you push down on your brake pedal, your car transmits that force to its brakes by using something called brake fluid. It multiplies the force you transmit through mechanical advantage and hydraulic force multiplication.

We can’t go much further than this without first going over the concepts of leverage, hydraulics, and friction.

Leverage is easier shown than verbally explained, so here’s a simple graph:


Because the right side of the lever is half as long as the left side of the lever, the right end of the lever has a potential force twice that of the left side. This force is enacted via half the distance that the left end moves.

The hydraulic system is perhaps simpler to explain. Force at once point is transmitted into force at another through the use of an incompressible fluid. A piston is pressed down into a cylinder of liquid which is connected to another cylinder through a tube that also contains liquid. The downward force of the piston in the first cylinder transmits to upwards force in the second cylinder as it fills up. Oil is almost always the kind of liquid used for this sort of thing.

So long as an incompressible fluid is used, this is a very efficient way of transmitting force; almost no force is lost between the movement of the first piston and the movement of the second. Another big benefit of hydraulic systems  is that the pipe connecting the cylinders does not have to be straight; it can loop around so it fits wherever so long as the connection between the two cylinders isn’t disrupted.

The pipe can also fork, so that one cylinder can transmit force to multiple cylinders. This is the aspect of hydraulic systems that makes force multiplication and division possible. To multiply or divide force, all you need to do is change the size of one piston and cylinder relative to another.

hydraulic systemIf one cylinder is larger than the other, when downward force is applied to the smaller cylinder, upward force will in turn be created in the larger that is greater to the extent that the larger is larger. This may seem like it doesn’t quite add up, but keep in mind that the smaller one will still need to be depressed a lot to raise the larger one a little.

This discrepancy in force is how you can hit the brakes with your puny legs and slow down a car that weighs thousands of pounds!

Gadgets Any Modern Traveler Needs to Stay Safe

Traveling is one of the most exhilarating, eye-opening experiences out there. However, it is not without its disadvantages; traveling through unfamiliar places can be dangerous for the unprepared, and amateur travelers are easily spotted by thieves and con artists. Luckily, the modern era has yielded some new devices to help safeguard the vulnerable traveler. The following devices aren’t just cool; they’re a legitimate investment in any traveler’s safety.led road flares

LED Road Flares

If you’re planning on covering a large distance on your trip and you’ll be in a vehicle that is less than reliable, it makes a lot of sense to invest in some state-of-the-art safety equipment. If your car breaks down or you get in an accident at night, it could legitimately save your life to bring the right gear.

Namely, electronic road flares that can help other drivers know exactly where your vehicle is and help police and roadside assistance to find you. The Aervoe LED road flare has a rechargeable battery, can flash for up to 60 hours and can be seen for up to half a mile. That’s a huge improvement on combustible flares, which were one-use, released toxic chemicals and only lasted half an hour.

Bluetooth Headset

Although this piece of technology is closely associated with the corporate world, travelers have a real use for it as well. Given that it’s illegal to use handheld devices while driving in a wide variety of states, it’s dangerous to take your eyes off the road, any road trip is going to put you at perilous odds in the driving-accident numbers game.

This wireless headset allows you to communicate with your phone regarding making and receiving calls. If you get a newer model, you can even have your text messages read to you or check your phone’s battery.

That’s not only useful to drivers; having a headset means if you’re ever in a situation where you want to have your hands free and your technology safely tucked away, you can be prepared.satellite phone

Satellite Phones

This is a must-have for those travelers interested in exploring extremely rural or out-of-the way areas. Opt into service providers like Iridium, Globalstar and Thurya to access coverage basically anywhere in the world; because your coverage derives from satellites as opposed to earthbound tower antennas, you’ll be paying for the peace of mind that comes with knowing you can always call for help if you need it.

Water Filters

Depending on where you’re traveling, bringing a portable water filter can be the difference between seeing the world and staring at the inside of a bathroom stall. Do a little research to figure out exactly what you’re going to need; buy a LifeStraw if you think you’ll be sipping water directly out of rivers, or invest in a SteriPen Traveler if you want to disinfect water one cup at a time via ultraviolet light. There are also pump-activated and gravity-powered water filters that allow you to store more filtered water at once.