City planning in the future might have to take into account some technologies that sound like science fiction from the 1960s. Probably no flying cars, but there could be autonomous vehicles and less sprawl. Owning a car might not even be practical. In any case, parking lots will likely be long gone, and here are just a few links on some interesting parking situations.
If you believe in gender stereotypes, then you probably think that men are better drivers than women. However, auto insurance companies are inclined to believe that women are actually safer drivers. It's a hotly debated topic, but it's safe to say that there are lots of bad drivers -- both men and women -- on the road. That's why we need robot cars. Here are a few links to some driving-related studies.
Autonomous vehicles are getting better and better all the time as their software learns to navigate all kinds of terrain. Commercial airlines have been using autopilot systems for years, but nowadays more autonomous cars could be driving next to humans. It's either a really scary idea or a brilliant new way to commute. Here are just a few more links on robot vehicles that are being set loose.
from the felony-interference-of-a-business-model dept
A few folks sent over this recent NY Times article about how the traditional auto sales world was apparently up in arms about a company called TrueCar that seeks to make the process of buying cars easier by providing more info to buyers about what cars are actually selling for, what the dealers' true prices are, and also offering guaranteed "haggle free" prices from certain dealers. To be honest, this really doesn't sound all that different from a few other services online. The last two times I've bought cars, I've been able to get good deals using online services like this and just emailing directly to dealers (and for anyone buying a car, I can't recommend CarBuyingTips.com enough, even with its 90's era web design -- that site has saved me a ton).
However, what's really incredible is how the industry has reacted to this site -- basically freaking out and whining about how consumers actually being informed might put them all out of business. The excuses are typical of what you'll find with an industry that works on a collusion or gatekeeper system when it's finally faced with real competition. They start talking about how real competition is evil and how it will lead to a worse situation with more scams. In fact, TrueCar got hit with claims that what it was doing, in providing consumers with more info, was illegal. They've even had to change their practices in some states -- which really only goes to show just how much car dealers have influenced various state laws in their favor to protect against true competition and an informed consumer.
Others, including Honda, have argued that TrueCar could open the door to unscrupulous dealers trying to sell a more expensive car or more options once they get the customers in the door — which Honda said reflected poorly on the brand. Honda also threatened to cut off marketing dollars to dealers who promoted its cars on the site below the invoice price, a price that is supposed to represent something close to the dealer’s cost (though dealers usually make more money on other manufacturer incentives and programs).
Think of just how convoluted and insane this argument is. Honda doesn't want informed consumers because (wait for it...) informed consumers might lead dealers to try to trick buyers. Seriously. Okay, time to cross Honda off any future potential car list.
It's been a while since the Pontiac Fiero was considered a "radical" car. If you don't remember it, the Fiero had a plastic body -- which some folks said made it unsafe (even though owners of it were more likely to be injured from an engine fire). Plastic cars have continued to improve, and here are just a few more car parts that are being made from environmentally-friendly plastic.
David points us to this fantastic post by Ken Segall, entitled Creativity has many fathers, and analyzing the story of two car commercials that seem quite similar. The first, for the Nissan LEAF, is below:
The second is from Renault, for the Z.E.:
The two ads debuted within days of each other. You might note some similarities. Or, actually, a ton of similarities. My first response was to remember that Nissan and Renault are connected at the hip in a slightly odd non-merger alliance where each company owns a substantial stake in the other. However, the two companies are still mostly separate, and their marketing is apparently entirely separate. More specifically, the two ads were developed by two different ad agencies -- and apparently neither is particularly happy about this, with each suggesting the other "plagiarized" the ad. However, neither has been too vocal about this publicly, and no legal action has been threatened.
Segall digs up the possible reason why, in the form of one more ad... for the Mitsubishi i-Miev. This commercial came out way before the other two:
Yeah, it's kind of tough to claim someone else plagiarized you, when your ad looks like a blatant copy of yet someone else's...
Perhaps the reality is that this idea was just so obvious that three different ad agencies came up with it. It's not hard to see how a brainstorming session might come up with exactly this concept pretty easily. Or perhaps there really was some copying. But, in the end, does it really matter? As Segall notes about all three ads, "Wow, what a fantastic concept."
It seems like custom-built cars are getting more attention, lately. Some car enthusiasts are trying to preserve cool-looking cars that could be considered iconic. Other car builders are trying to retrofit old cars with "green" technologies. Here are a few examples. (And maybe someday Xzibit can pimp-my-ride with a biodiesel hybrid powertrain...)
And so it will come as a great shock to perhaps a couple of loin-cloth clad pygmies somewhere in the Amazon Rainforest when reader JMT alerts us that Disney, all-powerful harborer of their intellectual property, managed to be so inspired by a New Zealand-created supercar (called the Hulme CanAm Spyder) that they pretty much copied the design exactly for their upcoming Cars 2 movie. The link to the New Zealand Herald discusses the situation with the car manufacturer's director, Jock Freemantle:
"Everybody is telling us, 'it's your car'. I have had emails from around the world saying it looks like our car. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery."
Oh, if only Disney had the same perspective as this Kiwi with the possibly single most-fun-to-say name of all time. Why is it that Disney, grim reaper of the copyright/trademark realm, has no problem with this? It's not like this is even the first time the Cars movie series has dealt with this kind of thing, having been through the court system over publicity rights concerning a car in the first Cars movie. Take a look at the image comparison below and decide for yourself how closely Disney's car resembles the CanAm Spyder (hint: if your determination is anything other than "Disney's looks exactly the same, except Disney's looks like they fed a bunch of Skittles to pigeons and then made them fly over the car to, er, color it," then you're insane). The irony of this rip off design bearing the name "Rip" in the movie isn't lost on anyone, either.
To make this as clear as day, the issue is not that Disney used a real life car as inspiration for one of their cartoon movie characters. Rather, the problem is that if the roles in this story were reversed, Disney likely would have pooped its pants as a result from filing a lawsuit with the kind of speed that'd put the Spyder supercar to shame. As one recent commentor put it in an unrelated story, Disney: Sue Thyself.
Lots of folks are working on projects to make car parts out of biodegradable materials. Growing car parts sounds like a cool idea, but there are still some bugs to be worked out (sometimes literally). Here are just a few examples of green materials that might make it into cars someday.
There's been a lot of advancement lately in the field of autonomous cars. The DARPA Grand Challenge a few years ago convinced many people that autonomous vehicles were possible and since then we've been seeing more and more work on concepts around such vehicles, including Google's secret testing of its own autonomous cars and some other researchers doing an autonomous drive from Italy to China. However, with Google, it needed to get special permission to take the car out on the roads, and apparently some politicians in Nevada are working hard to court autonomous vehicle manufacturers to its state. They've put together a bill that would make it easier to get autonomous vehicles on the road in the state, by setting up a process to "authorize" such vehicles, and allow them to operate on Nevada highways.
As Ryan Calo notes in his post (the one linked above) about this, it's great that Nevada is taking a proactive approach, however, he does worry about some of the broad language:
The bill's definition of autonomous vehicles is unclear, even circular. Autonomous driving exists on a spectrum. Many vehicles available today have autonomous features, while falling short of complete computer control. Surely the bill's authors do not intend to require that, for instance, today's self-parking Lexus LS 460L be tested and certified.
Either way, it's exciting to think that such vehicles are getting closer to being available to the public.
Rikuo: whoever wins, more than likely, won't have the time to organize the days off from work - where I am, it's a minimum of 3 weeks notice silverscarcat: Give them an advance warning that you MAY be leaving for that time frame so they can get stuff set up just in case Jay: wait... I thought the psp was region coded... And I need to hack mine to display on my PC... Rikuo: well if it is Jay, I think my hack got rid of it. I was able to play a Japanese visual novel on my European machine silverscarcat: Weird... Cuz I know people from Italy who play Japanese games on their PSPs. Okay... PSPs are region-coded But the disks are region free Rikuo: meaning the system supports a region coded system, but its up to game developers to actually lock down their specific games like with the PS3, last week I got Persona 4 Arena in the mail, almost a full year after the US release. It's the only PS3 game that is region locked lol reading the Amazon reviews for Persona 4 Arena and there's what can only be a troll he's written 1 star reviews for a bunch of games, that barely describe the games and constantly insults his readers oh and admits in many of them to having never played the games WOAH WOAH WOAH, hold the phone Mabel! Getting paid to write fanfiction???? http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-57585662-93/amazons-kindle-worlds-will-pay-writers-to-write-fan-fiction/?part=rss&subj=news&tag=title Okay reading up on it now - points to consider Amazon will own the copyrights to all work submitted