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A driverless future


A driverless future

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Swedish car-maker Volvo is testing a prototype, self-driving car on public roads, ahead of a large scale pilot programme which will see one hundred self-driving Volvos navigating the streets of Gothenburg.

Andreas Ekenberg, the company’s active safety engineer, gave a ‘hands off’ demonstration of the technology.

“We now activate the system and I do that by pressing a button here on the steering wheel and the system is now active,” he explained. “So I can remove my feet from the pedals and my hands from the steering wheel.”

The ‘Drive Me’ project will focus on a number of areas, such as: how autonomous vehicles can improve traffic efficiency and road safety; infrastructure requirements; typical traffic situations suitable for autonomous vehicles; customers’ confidence in the cars; and how surrounding drivers interact with a self-driving car.

These cars will make use of technology that has been developed for Volvo’s active accident avoidance system – passive safety – such as cameras, radar and laser together with map data. In addition, those features will be joined by a cloud connection and a traffic control centre by 2017.

At the moment, the test vehicles cannot change lanes automatically, but this will be possible once the cloud connection and traffic control centre are in place.

Another feature will be the self-parking function, consisting of fully-automated parking, without a driver in the car. This allows the driver to leave the car at the parking entrance while the vehicle finds a vacant spot and parks by itself.

Susanne Planath, the Swedish Transport System’s regional market and planning manager spoke of one benefit of the autonomous cars.

“If autonomous driving was to be fully implemented our expectations or our hopes are that we can see close to zero crashes in the system and of course that would be a large benefit,” she said. “Of course we aim at making them autonomous but that doesn’t take the responsibility away from the driver.”

Hong Kong EcoCube: an innovative way of recycling

Famous for its food and restaurant culture, Hong Kong discards millions of tonnes of food each year. With space at a premium in the city, one inventor has decided to tackle food waste by creating a self-sustaining ecosystem.

In a city as densely populated as Hong Kong, waste levels increase with each passing minute. According to the city’s Environmental Protection Department, 4,912 million tonnes of solid waste were disposed of in landfill sites in 2011. As a result, landfill space is expected to run out by 2020.

Many locals are now more aware of the importance of recycling. But one social enterprise company, Aubree Ltd, has taken it a step further and created a device that mimics a real ecosystem and recycles food.

It’s called the EcoCube and, according to its creator Jack Cheng, it turns waste into something valuable.

“So here we have a new food waste device and we use the concept of an ecosystem,” he explained. “Here you can see the insect, this one (is a) black soldier fly; it will lay eggs and then hatch into the larvae. These larvae will eat the food waste and then crawl out to become the fish food. And then we also collect this fish poo to grow the vegetables.”

Some of larvae escape their fate as fish food and grow into flies, thus repeating the cycle. The water in the fish tank will then work as a fertiliser and will be used to irrigate the vegetables.

Zhu Jingxiang, Associate Professor at the School of Architecture at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, was responsible for the design and structure of the EcoCube .

He says space is limited and needs to be used wisely on the island, hence the compact structure of the cube.

“We have to utilise each inch of space, so we cannot say we make a large courtyard in between the houses,” he said. “We have to realise everything in a vertical situation. So they are much more interrelated.”

One EcoCube is situated at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and another at the Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education.

The company hasn’t sold any EcoCubes yet, but they are expected to fetch around €18,500 ($25,758 USD).

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