As well as cars that drive themselves, the Bosch technical day gave an insight into a world where cars park themselves. Engineers showed off a future development of Park Assist where the car does everything for you. Today this system only takes over the steering, but in future it could do everything. All you do is drive past a bay while the car scans it. Once it accepts it can get in it, the car tells you go into neutral, then push and hold a dashboard button. The car does everything else. What’s more freaky is that the car button doesn’t have to be in the car, so you can actually get out, open an app on your smartphone and then push and hold a button on there. Its pushing the Vienna Convention to the limit – it says someone must always be in control of a car. It doesn’t say they actually have to be in it.
Thursday, 13 June 2013
Had my first experience in an autonomous car yesterday, at a technology presentation by Bosch in Germany. It was easily the most popular of the different displays on the test track, an indication of how interested the media are in the topic even if the public are, so far, less bothered. So the BMW 3-Series Touring is fitted with a range of systems which allow it to navigate itself to a preset destination - in this case, round the test track. The car has a built-in digital map of the environment and can follow that using GPS. However, it can also recognise hazards, so will stop at a junction because it knows it’s at a junction, but will only pull out when it’s safe to do so. It can spot red traffic lights and react appropriately when they go green. All very impressive, but even though there was an engineer behind the wheel just in case, driving at 60mph with one one in control is a strange experience.
Monday, 10 June 2013
I love cycling and regularly do rides of 50 miles or more. My wife is now getting into it as well, to the point where we’re doing the 100-mile RideLondon Olympic legacy event on 4 August. This year we’ve also encouraged our children into cycling – as a way of getting out as a family and keeping fit – and yesterday we did a couple of hours off-road in Thetford Forest. Next we’re all doing a 16-mile charity ride. It’s obviously not far, but my daughter is only seven. The issue we’re now having is carrying four bikes on a car. Hatchback-mounted and roof-mounted ones are great for up to three, but the only option for four is a tow-bar mounted carrier. So I hit the internet last night and got a bit of shock. The cheapest one I could find was Halfords own at £260, though it’s down to £179 at the moment. Lots of reviews saying it’s good for the price, but suggesting it’s heavy and lacks security. Top end one is Thule at nearly £500. Not cheap but it will probably last forever. My experiences with its products in the past have been nothing but excellent. Other issue is as the moment I don’t have a tow-bar fitted so that’s going to be more money.
Wednesday, 5 June 2013
So it was back to the classroom for me this morning, to take a speed awareness course. Regular readers will remember my annoyance at getting snapped by a mobile camera doing 35mph in a 30mph zone, at 4.30pm on a Saturday afternoon when there was not another vehicle or pedestrian in sight in either direction. The four-hour course was well-presented and interesting. It made the very valid point that at 30mph a pedestrian has an 80 per cent chance of surviving if hit, but at 35mph – my crime – that’s down to 50 per cent. Everyone in the room was broadly in the same boat; we’d all be done for ‘marginal speeding’ and were there to be educated about the possible consequences of our actions. Fair enough, it’s cheaper in the long run than three points on my licence and my professional life means I was genuinely open-minded and interested to be there. Not so everyone else; someone on my table spend most of the time doodling pictures of flowers and I heard various comments during the coffee break about ‘taking your medicine’ then getting back to the real world. But what amazed me most was the worrying lack of road knowledge by some in the room. An electronic quiz, anonymous sadly, revealed spectacular ignorance of national speed limits. Two people were convinced it was 80mph on a motorway. I was also interested in the age profile of the group. The majority were in their fifties or older, the sort who passed their test in the post-war decades and have been stuck in their ways ever since. The question was asked by the presenter whether everyone should do the course, not just because they were made to. I voted yes. The fact you can take a test at 17 and have no additional training for the rest of your life – now that’s a crime.
Monday, 3 June 2013
So Friday’s driving experience was a bit of a laugh. This cage is made from steel tubing and bolted to the top of a Mercedes C-Class. All the car’s basic functions – steering, transmission, accelerator and brake – are transferred to controls inside the cage and away you go. The idea is that it lets film makers shoot actors inside the car doing ‘foot down, arse out’ slides while they’re saying their lines, etc and not having to worry about actually controlling the car. First I had a ride in the front passenger seat – very strange when there’s no one next to you – and then had a drive from up top. It was a sod; the controls are best described as crude, there’s no power steering, the wheel doesn’t centre itself and the brakes are appalling. Still good fun though. Film company 20th Century Fox were letting journalists have a go as part of the DVD release of A Good Day To Die Hard, which I think I'm contractually obliged to tell you.
Thursday, 30 May 2013
What with the bank holiday weekend, a family trip away and a lot of working from home for corporate clients – who don’t want me to blog and tweet about what I do for them – I’ve been a bit quiet on social media this last week. Those are the ups and downs of being a freelancer. Sometimes you're out to doing fascinating stuff, sometimes you're just at your desk banging out the words. However, all will change tomorrow when I’m out driving something that looks a bit like this. It's a movie stunt car with a control rig on top, so it's out of shot. Should be fun! I'll post a report on Monday.