Tech Watch/Feb. 2017

Autonomously Speaking... 

The Venn diagram of what constitutes an autonomous driving company continues to expand, as traditional OEMs and suppliers pair up with non-traditional tech firms, and vice versa. The following are just a few of the more notable pairings and potential technology off ramps:

There is no road ahead for autonomous driving without precise and continuously updated roadmaps; and Microsoft sees at least one route to that future by partnering with dashboard device and map maker TomTom. Microsoft announced the new partnership to integrate TomTom mapping systems—including its High Definition Map and RoadDNA technology for autonomous driving—into Microsoft Azure, a cloud computing platform. Theoretically, Azure could be available as a customizable platform for OEMs and suppliers.

The fruits of that partnership would assist developers in creating applications that sync products with locational awareness, a key aspect of the Internet of Things (IoT). Cars are one of those key Things.

“Intelligent cars could re-route away from accidents, recommend nearby restaurants and find commutes with good cell coverage for work calls. To increase safety and efficiency, data from road conditions, car sensors and driver behavior can inform predictive car maintenance,” Microsoft noted on its blog.

Microsoft sees mapping as more than roads, tunnels and bridges. Its goal is to create the next “world graph”, similar to Facebook’s people graph and LinkedIn’s professional graph, that weaves together just about everything from physical objects and their interconnected devices.

Denso Corp. and NEC Corp. said they would collaborate to develop artificially intelligent and IoT-based driver assistance, autonomous driving and manufacturing services. And the two companies say they’ll also work together to secure it all. NEC, an IT and networking tech firm, will assist Denso creating technology that anticipates hazards and are looking into ways to improve manufacturing via IoT. At the same time, the two businesses say the advent of IoT is creating even greater need for improved security—another focus of the collaboration.


Peugeot’s i-Cockpit, which premieres on the new Peugeot 3008, features mapping systems from TomTom, which is now partnering with Microsoft to integrate mapping systems into its platform Azure.

 
A polypropylene part produced 
in a 3D printer with the assistance of Wolfbite ULTRA, a new material created by Airwolf 3D.


Mobile Conversation, Local Distraction

Sure, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and other voice-activated tools that help us dial up a contact or recite our text messages for us are making the modern ride more enjoyable—at least to some. But know this: Drivers who held onto their 2004 Motorola Razr flip phones to do their car chatting are probably just as safe. 

A Queensland University of Technology study determined that hands-free talking is just as distracting as doing so on a handheld device. Researchers measured the effects of mobile phone distraction on safety, including reaction time and driving performance, in a driving simulator. It’s not the technology that seems to matter, but rather the mere fact that drivers are engaged in conversation. Those drivers, regardless of whether they’re in dialogue via hand-held or hands-free devices, demonstrated reaction times 40 percent longer than those without phones. Their perception of what was happening around them, from pedestrians to other vehicles, also narrowed. 


Printing Polypropylene in 3D

It’s almost impervious to water and other chemicals, which is why parts made of polypropylene adorn nearly every quadrant of today’s vehicles. But those same qualities make printing 3D automotive prototype parts out of the material especially difficult. The plastic can warp or fail to adhere to heated beds or glass build plates, factors that have given ABS or PLA plastics the edge for printing parts in 3D.

Airwolf 3D (airwolf3d.com) has released a new material, Wolfbite ULTRA, which the firm says will bond polypropylene plastic parts to a build plate and yet allow users to easily remove them when completed. The 3D printer maker and materials company says the substance effectively enables manufacturers and designers to rapidly prototype a part from the same material used for the final product and test it before moving into mass production. This eliminates the step of having to create prototypes in ABS or PLA and casting parts in polypropylene via injection molding, says the company.