Printed, Shared, Driven?
Studies continue to show that car-sharing services are exacerbating urban congestion. And while scooter-sharing might be seen as an acceptable alternative, they carry their own risks – particularly in city streets.
One alternative may be in-between those modes of transportation, such as what’s on offer from BICAR. The single-person, three-wheel, all-electric vehicle with a windshield and canopy is solar powered. And one way to make it available to urban users might be through limited production via 3D printing.
The company making it, Share your BICAR AG (shareyourbicar.com), teamed up with Zurich University of Applied Sciences’ (zhaw.ch/en/university) School of Engineering, a technical university in Switzerland, and German RepRap GmbH (germanreprap.com), a 3D printing firm specializing in large-capacity builds. BICAR opted for one such platform, going with German RepRap’s x1000 3D printer, which has a print volume of 1000 x 800 x 600 mm (X, Y, Z). German RepRap uses an open material platform that harnesses fused filament fabrication additive manufacturing technology.
Share your BICAR, which is located in the ZHAW school, credited German RepRap’s 3D printer in making the design/manufacturing process relatively straight-forward and quick, without sacrificing quality.
"With traditional processes, components with complex structures and bionic shapes, as shown on the BICAR, are usually very difficult or even impossible," said Adrian Burri, co-inventor and managing director of Share your BICAR AG.
The company says BICAR will be available for purchase in fall 2020.
The Risk, Reward of Driverless
Drivers are plenty comfortable with jumping in a Lyft or Uber driven by someone else, so long it isn’t an algorithm. But how people feel about driverless vehicles is a somewhat complicated calculation.
Researchers at the University of Washington (washington.edu) studied how Americans perceived the cost of commute time changes depending on who's behind the wheel. The team found people considered a ride-hailing service at least 13% "less expensive" in terms of time compared to driving themselves. But when the researchers told people the ride-hailing service was driverless, the cost of travel time increased to 15% more than driving a personal car. The latter stat suggests that, at least for the time being, people would rather drive themselves than have an autonomous vehicle drive them. The survey asked people across the continental U.S. to select between a personal car or a ride-hailing service for a 15-mile commute trip. Half the 502 respondents were told that the ride-hailing service was driverless.
"The idea here is that 'time is money,' so the overall cost of driving includes both the direct financial costs and the monetary equivalent of time spent traveling," said senior author Don MacKenzie, a UW associate professor of civil and environmental engineering who also heads up its Sustainable Transportation Lab. "The average person in our sample would find riding in a driverless car to be more burdensome than driving themselves.”
The data also “highlights the risks of making forecasts based on how people say they would respond to driverless cars today,” MacKenzie notes.
Bezos On Board
More than a quarter of American adults have access to a smart speaker at home, with the vast majority supplied by Amazon using its voice assistant, Alexa, according to a 2019 survey by Voicebot.ai. Millions of General Motors vehicles will soon follow suit, as the automaker announced Alexa will ride shotgun in new vehicles starting in mid-2020. New Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac vehicles will come with Alexa integration as a feature in the infotainment system, while an upgrade will be available for Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC models going back to 2018.
GM joins Audi, BMW, Ford, Lexus and Toyota, which have Alexa integration on some or all models, in the U.S. GM says its research shows customers want the same voice command system that’s in their home to accompany them on the road.
“Bringing the Alexa experience to our vehicles is an example of how we are listening to our customers’ feedback, and offering them the voice technology of their choice,” said
Santiago Chamorro, vice president for Global Connected Services at GM.
The Alexa Auto Software Development Kit is also listening – particularly when users request quizzing the system on the latest news or control of their smart home appliances, such as thermostats and lights. In the car, drivers and passengers can ask for directions to specific locations or for general points of interest, play specific music or podcasts, or make calls if their contacts are shared with Alexa.
One Person’s (Autonomous) Trash…
The SmartCan (smartcan.app) is a fully autonomous vehicle – not for humans, mind you – but for their trash. Made by Internet of Things firm Rezzi (rezziot.com), the motorized garbage bin rolls itself to the curb for pickup and then returns to its home base after it’s been emptied. SmartCan’s human masters simply set a time for it to migrate to the curb via an app and it knows when to return based on the vertical movement associated with trash collection.
SmartCan’s mechanical structure was manufactured by Protolabs (protolabs.com), including the main body fabricated from sheet metal, the drive train assembly and its 3D-printed plastic cover. The 3D printing and CNC service provider helped shave about six months off the SmartCan’s production time, the companies say.
"Much like what autonomous robotic vacuum cleaners have done for keeping a clean home and what smart doorbells have done for home security, SmartCan completes the recurring task of taking out the garbage," said Vicki Holt, president and CEO of Protolabs. "We’re seeing more and more autonomous products in the consumer electronics industry, aimed at reducing time spent doing less desirable things and enabling more time for valued activities."
Rezzi plans to bring SmartCan to market by late 2020.
Regardless of who ultimately brings it to market, autonomous garbage collection (finally) represents unequivocally good technology news.
To know that 3,000 cars have been delivered since October 2015 would undoubtedly result in a shrug: in 2017 Toyota delivered 387,081 Camrys, so that 3,000 is less than one percent, and this is in one year, not just over two.
The Buick LaCrosse has been Buick’s top-line car since it was introduced in 2004 as a 2005 model sedan.
Although all OEMs and suppliers do their utmost best to assure nothing but top-notch quality is achieved for their vehicles and systems, sometimes things simply go wrong because, well, that’s just how the Universe is.