Monday, July 10, 2017

Auto oddities

My miscellany folder seems to have accumulated way too many items related -- in one way or another -- to cars, traffic, and/or their future.

When I was little, I so wanted one of these ...

You know what's a nuisance? Keeping car tires properly inflated. Even more of a pain is patching or replacing them when one gets punctured. Hence, I was delighted to see "Airless tire concept could change tires forever." Imagine: an airless tire made from biodegradable materials using a 3-D printer. Wonderful!

Governmental entities have the authority, and a reasonable case for, licensing various activities. (Yes, this item involves cars/driving. And not driver licenses. Bear with me.) One likes there to be a solid basis for the practice of, well, many professions -- piloting commercial aircraft comes to mind. But when the state of Oregon decided that a degreed, experienced engineer couldn't call himself an engineer because -- of all the nerve -- without a state professional-engineering license he cited an engineering background while committing math and physics to raise issues with the timing of traffic lights? That was going too far. That was abridging freedom of speech. See "Mats Järlström: I Am an Engineer."

What were they thinking?
Remember the buzz a few years back about an elevated Chinese bus that would cruise over cars, that would speed up traffic flow by not blocking cars in order to take on or drop off passengers? In reality (as anyone thinking for a moment about real-world traffic could have seen), not so good an idea. See "China's Elevated Bus Project Seemed Too Good To Be True -- And It Was." (How bad? Investment-fraud bad.)

There seems to be more and more of a trend toward electric cars. For example, Volvo recently announced that by 2020, they'll produce only electric vehicles (but they include gas/electric hybrids in that category). France plans to ban the sale of fossil-fuel-powered cars starting in 2040. The obvious consequence: we'll need more and more electrical power generation. (Side note: power generation for an electric car fleet was a factor in my 2012 technothriller, Energized.)

Most interest in this vehicular shift being in the name of moving away from fossil fuels, one hopes that clean and renewable sources will generate the electricity required to charge those vehicles. Solar power, for example. (In the case of Energized, solar-power satellites miles across, beaming power to Earth.) But what if the replacement power source creates its own environmental problems: heavy-metal toxic waste? As old solar panels do. See "A Clean Energy’s Dirty Little Secret."

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