Rolls-Royce envisions crewless drone freight ships – Digital Trends

This is the other end of the technology spectrum from that ghost ship full of rats that was all over the internet recently. There has to be story potential in stowaways or pirates upping their game to keep up.

Rolls-Royce envisions crewless drone freight ships | Digital Trends.

The bike will always get through

The Manchester Evening News had one of their commuter races and, as usual, the bike won.

The car wasn’t far behind, but even if it had won it wouldn’t be as good a commuting vehicle as the bike. Add up the costs of commuting by car for a year and you’d have to be buying a carbon fibre or titanium framed cycle brand new every January before two wheels were more expensive than four.

(The cyclist’s name is Wayne Ankers. Must….. Resist…….)

The Government has declared war on pedestrians, cyclists and the environment!

Not really- or at least, not formally- but they have, in the shape of Decentralisation Minister Greg Clark, echoed motorists self-pitying rhetoric as justification for yet more regressive policies. Two parking related policies- one encouraging more sensible use of space in new builds the other attempting to encourage more people onto public transport- have been “relaxed”. So we’ll get more suburban sprawl and more urban jams and the people who’ll suffer because of this aren’t the drivers or the politicians hoping to win their votes.

There is no war on motorists. There have been policies which have attempted to reduce congestion, and many of us would like drivers to take more responsibility for the damage they, collectively and individually, cause, but that’s not a war. If it were a war it would be fair to say that the motorists are winning. They kill thousands of people every year and injure scores more- and quite often get away with it, receiving minor or no punishment. They have newspapers and politicians on their side and a prejudice amongst the public which somehow paints the far less dangerous cyclist as the great evil of the highways.

If the Government really wants to make life easier for “decent, ordinary motorists” then some tough love would be a better prescription than the constant coddling they do at the moment. More actively punish dangerous drivers- such as the idiots who talk on their mobile whilst driving. Enforce parking restrictions more rigorously, particularly around schools at the start and end of the day. Close some roads and reduce the speed limit on others. Make short, inefficient, road clogging car journeys a thing of the past. (I don’t know how to go about that last one, but millions of journeys every year are walking distance and millions more are cycling distance. The pointlessness of these journeys- and the health and wealth benefits of doing them by foot or pedal- needs to be made clearer to drivers.)

We’re not at war with drivers, no matter how much they behave like the enemy. But we should be at war with the sort of selfishness and blindness which gives rise to dumb phrases such as “the war on motorists”.

The XR3 hybrid is ugly but efficient

The XR3 diesel electric hybrid three wheeler has a claimed consumption of 125 miles to the gallon (US gallon, I assume) and is soon going to be mass produced. The XR3 started out as a set of plans so you could build your own. I found it whilst browsing the designer’s other creations such as the XR2 recumbent bike.

It’s cool that such a car is going into production, but does it have to look like one of the background vehicles from a 1980’s science fiction movie?

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What should the US do with General Motors?

The United States government has bailed out General Motors and now holds a majority stake in the company. Should they use that power to demand some serious changes to the company’s output and outlook? Michael Moore has a vision for a reconfigured GM that involves mass transit and renewable energy.

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C,mm,n- the open source eco car

C,mm,n (pronounced common) is a Dutch project to design an intelligent electric car which can be built, and modified, by anyone. Some of the pages haven’t been translated yet, so I don’t know whether some of my questions have been answered or not. I’d like to know if they’re working on a drivetrain that could be transplanted into other bodies, ripping out the fossil fuelled motor and putting an electric one in its place, or whether the car only really works as a whole.

And if you built one of these for personal use, would you still get the government’s proposed grant for buying an electric vehicle?

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The Ampera, Vauxhall’s electric car

Vauxhall have unveiled their planned electric car, the Ampera. It’s actually a hybrid of sorts. The wheels are driven by electric motors and an overnight charge will be enough for a journey of around 40 miles, after which a petrol powered generator takes over.

It’s certainly better looking than a Prius, in concept car mode anyway. What they really need to do is give it a felx fuel engine, or one of the multi fuel motors Lotus have been working on.

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No congestion charge for Manchester

The results of the congestion charge referendum are in and the answer is a sound NO. Oh well. I voted yes, because I don’t have a car and if I did I wouldn’t be so dumb as to drive it into the centre more than once or twice a month- and any improvements to public transport would be to my benefit. The proposals for improving cycling infrastructure were a bit poor, but any investment is good.

Still, even without more cycle lanes I’ll still get to sail past the lines of standing traffic on the way into town. Maybe I need a sign that says “Don’t blame me, I voted against congestion” just to taunt them.

Thoughts from Paris

It would have been nice to have someone to share Paris with, but I love the freedom to just head off in a direction because it looks interesting and chase down whims. My feet didn’t appreciate it, but the blisters will go down.

Every time I visit another city or country- and I’ve visited more in the last year than the previous decade- I seek out hidden corners and interesting museums. And then I vow that I should do the same when I get back to Manchester. I’m making the vow again, let’s see if I can keep to it.

Comparing Manchester to three capitals- London, Paris and Budapest- and New York is to risk diminishing it. It doesn’t have the scale, and it certainly doesn’t have the grand boulevards, of Paris, Budapest and NYC. As the first industrial city it is one of the most important places of the last two centuries, but it’s a sort of geek history, lacking the populist narratives of bombardment, occupation, liberation and unrest. Nonetheless, it punches above its weight, and it’s home. Certainly, if someone were to fund it, I’d move to Paris or Manhattan. But that’s not going to happen so I’m staying put and seeing if a few of the better foreign ideas make it to the dirty old town.

The first thing we need to do, which may come about because of the congestion charge, is sort out public transport. Even London is doing a better job of it than we are. Budapest probably did it best- one ticket for bus, tram, RER and Metro. Oxford Road may be the busiest bus route in Europe, but only because there are so many different companies competing for business on it. Stagecoach charges twice as much as Finglands for the same service with vehicles that are only slightly better. Meanwhile, radial routes suffer. It’s not impossible to get from Withington to Chorlton, but it’s not exactly easy either. Let’s re-regulate the buses and/or subsidise the secondary routes.

Budapest and Paris were both more bike friendly than Manchester. The proliferation of Velib bike stands in Paris meant that even people British non-cyclists might label as “normal” could be seen pottering around on two wheels. Next time I visit I’m packing jeans and a backpack and braving the mad French drivers. In Manchester we’re tolerated at best. One only has to read the comments on any Manchester Evening News story about bikes to gauge the low opinion too many drivers have of us I’m sure some of the commenters have chosen to pick on cyclists because it’s no longer acceptable to be openly racist. Few of the suggestions arising from these discussions would be much practical use. The only way to make cyclists safer, for themselves and others, is to get more of them onto the streets.

I’ll do my part, promoting cycling wherever possible and just getting out there as much as possible. I’ll also see what I can find out about the cycling part of the council’s pre congestion charge plans and report on them over at Two Wheels Good.

Solar planes can stay in the air for days

The Zephyr is a prototype solar powered unmanned aerial vehicle which recently unofficially broke the world endurance record for unmanned flight. Obviously, it’s being developed for military use, but the company behind it are predicting civilian implementations. It’ll be a long time before the equipment is able to carry large payloads around the world, but high flying drones could be used for pollution monitoring and other forms of information gathering.

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Formula Zero- the hydrogen fuel cell racing series

Motor racing is often a testing ground for features that eventually make their way into everyday vehicles. So a zero emission karting series bodes well. The karts run on electric motors powered by fuel cells and compete to see not which is fastest but also which is most efficient. A British team placed third overall in a recent race, behind Dutch and Spanish entries.

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Pimp my Prius

A trio of Swedish customisers have spent over $180,000 blinging up a Toyota Prius. Of course, all those mods add weight and energy requirements, so it’ll certainly be a lot less efficient than a standard version.

Plus, most of what they’ve done just serves to make a dull car ugly.

It’s about time somebody stepped up to make Prii more attractive, but this certainly isn’t the way.

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Greenbird- wind powered record attempt

Wind cars are the future, according to the team behind Greenbird, a land yacht which is due to attempt to break the world record for a wind powered land vehicle. Greenbird uses a rigid wing rather than the traditional sail in its effort to exceed 116mph.

I can see wind vehicles as a a viable transport method for the great expanses of Australia, Africa and even the US midwest. Rigid sails and some sort of computer control would cut down on the need for tacking, but there’d still need to be a bit of room given to the vehicles, so they couldn’t cope with crowded roads. Throw in some photovoltaic panelling and combined dynamos/motors in the wheels for electric drive at either end of the journey and it might work.

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Algae powered adventures in Chicago

In a piece of brilliant education a Chicago science teacher ran a project with his students to see if they could create enough biodiesel from algae to run a VW camper on a 20 mile round trip from their school to the Sears tower and back again. The algae “farm” was set up in a corner of the classroom, using fluorescent lamps to double for sunlight, and the resulting liquid separated in a centrifuge at a proper lab. A writer for Jalopnik was along for the ride as the battered old vehicle puttered its way through the windy city’s heavy Friday traffic.

Obviously the small scale set up the students used was probably carbon negative overal, with its reliance on pumps and artificial light, but large scale algae farms could benefit from natural light and wind or solar PV to power any motors.

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The Oxford Road Green Corridor

Plans are in place to close sections of Oxford Road to all traffic but special buses (and bikes?). The scheme won’t begin for around five years and is dependent upon the introduction of a congestion charge and the access to funds that will allow.

Oxford Road is already officially the busiest bus route in Europe. Perhaps it’s time to let them take some of it over. The planned closed section covers the only part of the road that I regularly cycle on, from around the University all the way into the centre, so I hope they intend to stick a cycle lane into the mix.

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