Human beings make terrible drivers. They talk on the phone and run red lights, signal to the left and turn to the right. They drink too much beer and plow into trees or veer into traffic as they swat at their kids. They have blind spots, leg cramps, seizures, and heart attacks. They rubberneck, hotdog, and take pity on turtles, cause fender benders, pileups, and head-on collisions. They nod off at the wheel, wrestle with maps, fiddle with knobs, have marital spats, take the curve too late, take the curve too hard, spill coffee in their laps, and flip over their cars. Of the ten million accidents that Americans are in every year, nine and a half million are their own damn fault.
A case in point: The driver in the lane to my right. He’s twisted halfway around in his seat, taking a picture of the Lexus that I’m riding in with an engineer named Anthony Levandowski. Both cars are heading south on Highway 880 in Oakland, going more than seventy miles an hour, yet the man takes his time. He holds his phone up to the window with both hands until the car is framed just so. Then he snaps the picture, checks it onscreen, and taps out a lengthy text message with his thumbs. By the time he puts his hands back on the wheel and glances up at the road, half a minute has passed.
Levandowski shakes his head. He’s used to this sort of thing. His Lexus is what you might call a custom model. It’s surmounted by a spinning laser turret and knobbed with cameras, radar, antennas, and G.P.S. It looks a little like an ice-cream truck, lightly weaponized for inner-city work. Levandowski used to tell people that the car was designed to chase tornadoes or to track mosquitoes, or that he belonged to an élite team of ghost hunters. But nowadays the vehicle is clearly marked: “Self-Driving Car.”
The Obama administration’s nearly $4 billion proposal to boost automated vehicles could help cut back overall fuel use, researchers cautiously predict.
Cars that require little to no human input appear ever closer to reality as automakers like Audi AG, BMW AG, Ford Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. continue developing their own versions of the technology and Google Inc. sends driverless cars around the streets of California. But whether that will lead to a less-congested transportation system—saving fuel and cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions—remains to be seen, according to be transportation experts.
“The impact can be dramatic, but there remains a lot of uncertainty about it,” said Jeffrey Gonder, a researcher at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado. “There needs to be further research to try to more intelligently understand where are the key tipping points in the evolution of the technology, so we can help encourage the beneficial impacts and mitigate the negative impacts.”
Remy International, Inc., manufacturer of Delco Remy heavy duty starters and alternators, as well as Remy light duty starters and alternators, now offers a complete line of high-output alternators, ranging from 170 to 430 Amps.
“Fuel is typically the leading and most variable expense for fleets,” said Randy Andis, Director of Aftermarket Operations. “These alternators provide the highest power density in their class, but the most compelling advantage for our fleet customers is fuel savings. We’re delighted that our 40SI™ model has become a very popular spec for many prominent fleets across the United States.”
“Generating onboard electricity in a vehicle takes horsepower,” said Mike Bradfield, senior staff engineer. “A more efficient alternator results in significant, measureable savings in fuel costs. It’s that simple, and for fleet operators, that savings goes straight to their bottom line – year after year.”
At the Chicago Auto Show, Rand McNally unveils OverDryve, a revolutionary connected-car device that brings advanced luxury-car features to mainstream automobiles. OverDryve™ is an elegant dashboard tablet that provides a combination of entertainment, information, navigation, and safety features. It makes an ordinary drive more engaging, enjoyable and safe – all for less than $400.
Designed with drivers in mind, OverDryve™ provides simple and intuitive access to:
•A voice-controlled smart assistant
•Hands-free calling and texting
•Music from drivers’ favorite sources
•Audible news, weather, traffic and sports
•Forward collision warnings
•A dash camera and available high-resolution wireless backup camera
•Customizable gauge clusters and vehicle information
•Available tire pressure monitoring
•Award-winning trip planning and navigation
•An FM radio
•Wired and wireless connectivity to in-dash radios
•And available roadside assistance and accident notification