Virtual Roads – Part Two

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I was referring to Sat Navs in the previous blog, but virtual roads come to their own in video games and simulations. Firstly we need to mention racing games.

video-games-1557358_1920Gran Trak 10 in 1974 was confusingly the first arcade game to simulate car racing (there seems to be no Gran Trak 9, 8 and so on). It boasted very low-resolution, black and white graphics. In a mere two years violence became linked to race cars with the game, Death Race in 1976. Evidently the people at Exidy who made the game felt they were giving the public what they wanted and there was a notable jump in sales for the arcade machines.

These games didn’t create an actual world for a player to explore like games do now, they just scrolled in one direction. The first game that could be said to do this was Atari’s Super Bug released in 1976. The game name, “The Driver” might remind today’s players of Guitar Hero, in that the game required you to match the steering wheel and brake actions with the movements on screen. So it’s part, Simon Says and part driving simulator or driving aid?toyota-967011_1280

The first to include a real circuit of track was 1982’s Pole Position created by Atari in the US and Namco elsewhere. The track it used was Fuji Speedway in Japan.

vr-3460451_1920Racing games seemed to be slow lane for about a decade until Super Mario Kart in 1992. Games had now acquired 3D imagery but had probably lost a sense of reality. The big thing about Super Mario Kart that it created a genre of fun character-based race games or “Kart games.”

Vehicle combat games would begin in 1983 with the Spy Hunter series and would spawn some releases as Knight Rider and Starsky and Hutch. In them it was not enough to race, you had to cause significant damage to your opponent.

The Surprising Story of Realistic Traffic

We take for granted that we a driving game will include realistic simulation of how the traffic will act at a certain point or under certain conditions, but there is an interesting origin story of how that came to be.

girl-3959203_1920.jpgIt goes back even before video games to 1946 where the Monte Carlo method which relies on random sampling to create likelihood from which an algorithm can be built up. The Goal is to aid logistics and road planning to avoid bottlenecks. Municipalities wanted to know how fast emergency services could get to certain points, and so on. It was natural for video game developers to digitalize these algorithms so that the cars on a road or track, to have cars around the POV vehicle behave in a realistic manner in response to obstacles and road conditions.

These algorithms are still used by cities and states in 2019. Those planning a road will create computer simulations to predict traffic on roadways, bridges, tunnels, etc. and it then check them in dry, wet or even icy conditions. Perhaps these models will eventually create a map that can tell you the best time of day to make a trip. Who knows?

 

 

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Virtual Roads – Part One

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Where do we start with virtual roads? Well to define what we mean by the term virtual road, it’s easier to think of as a map. It could be an existing road, or it could be a route one takes to get someplace—like directions. To understand why the fancy term, virtual road, we need to consider the history of roads.

Surprising Origin of Routes & Roads

In England a traveller might observe that some roads meander about from town to city and other roads go directly from place to place without regard to any obstacle. To the citizen of the UK these are known as Saxon roads and Roman roads, because modern roads were either built on top of one or the other.

holidays-1283014_1920Saxons built their roads along the path of least resistance, which generally means a bridge ends up at the best historical place to ford across the river long before the bridge existed. It also means that a lot of the roads in England were built where a cow pushed aside the brush making it easier for humans to pass as well.

Roman roads, on the other hand, are professionally surveyed. They were an important part of the empire, not only for efficient commerce, but because the faster you could move an army the better control you could maintain. So, when Romans encountered stream, they bridged it, when they encountered a mountain, they tunnelled though it. Roman roads are straight, city to city, and they withstand the test of time.

But before anyone bothered to build a road, prehistoric man had rough directions from one civilized spot to another—most of which were built along water sources. Therefore, the earliest formal routes to get places start in about 1160 BC where the trails of seasonal rivers, also used as roads were placed on a map. The oldest road map used in a commuting sense goes back to 235BC. It shows a number of towns along the Black Sea.

Maps, Past & Future

There are other names worth mentioning in the history of road mapping such as McNally’s Road Map of New York (1904) and Michelin (their first road map was in 1910) but instead I want to concentrate on using tech to imitate the road, rather than just giving a plan of the road.

android-1869510_1920.jpgA moving map display was first introduced in the 1950s using paper chart. The only problem is that they could only navigate one specific road, so if you had to travel somewhere obscure you were out of luck. Using a cell phone as a guide to where you are has some similarities to using a moving map display, except of course you are not confined to one road. With larger devices, such as the iPad, there’s room to change the display and allow for something resembling a Sat-Nav when using Google Maps.

Ah, Google Maps, certainly one of the most used systems to work out where you are. It began in 2004 as a downloadable desktop program by Where 2 Technologies. It began by two brothers, Lars and Jed Rasmussen, and quickly added some of the processes of Keyhole, a program acquired at a similar time. Google Maps as we recognize it today began in February 2005 programmed using Javascript and XML. In 2012 Google announced it had 7,100 employees and freelancers which worked in the mapping process and in 2017 it had a billion users worldwide.

When Google Maps was created though Sat Navs had been going for a least twenty years. A Honda built with the “Electro Gyro-Cator” in 1981. Instead of using satellites it used “inertial” navigation systems, meaning that the information couldn’t be updated, Read Only Memory in other words. Cassettes allowing information to be changed would come along in 1983.

Since computer tapes retailed at $20 (the equivalent of $60 today) it is unlikely that many people paid to get their navigation device updated.

The first system which relied on a satellite came along in 1990 and wouldn’t gain a voice until two years later. It relies on a vector map which each house or street encoded as its geographical co-ordinates. The Navigation Data Standard ensures that all SatNavs use the same system and will be updated as and when needed. There are many ways to store the road database, not just ROM but also a flash memory, a hard disk or a CD.

There are other things that can be done with a virtual road. This is the subject of the next article.

 

 

What’s News: Ford to discontinue Flex

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  • Ford Motor is eliminating the Ford Flex in its redo of the vehicle lineup through 2020
  • Ford is shifting toward trucks and SUVs where it’s more dominate in the market.
  • This will eliminate about 450 employees at Ford’s Oakville Assembly plant in Ontario, Canada.
  • Also discontinued this month, the Lincoln MKT — a crossover built at the plant.

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Cheesy Car Ads

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What makes 50s car ads cheesy? It could be that look to a lifestyle we no longer recognize such as men in hats and women in headscarves, or it could be the convoluted way they say things. Some examples can be seen below.

What about “super-sonic sleekness exciting the most spirited imagination”? (The Oldsmobile’s Golden Rocket) or even “the way it looks, handles and makes you feel” (Mustang). Indeed no one seems to advertise a car nowadays on how the car handles, possibly because it is a subjective thing. But it certainly gave the 50’s driver a good reason to part with their dollars.

When in doubt maybe you might describe your car as the “greatest ever” as a ’73 version of the Volvo decided to do. (There’s some strange copy in their advert “the more comfier you are (sic), the safer you and your family are”). It might just be wishful thinking?

car-hop-4398145_1920Some pieces of copy might need you to become more interested in cars than you really are. “The best thing to happen to the 6 cylinder engine” – Chrysler Dodge. Why does it need to be a 6 cylinder engine? Would it be not so good if it was 7 cylinders? The 6 cylinder is apparently set at 30 degrees to produce a “bigger manifold system”. We’re not sure on the science, or really what they are going on about. To save a trip to the dictionary, the word manifold means “many and various” so it has the same meaning as system really.

It seems bizarre that advertisers would ever show cross-sections of cars to the public just to make them sell, but you need to remember that this might just possibly be the only car the driver would buy in their lifetime and it helped them to know it was reliable, even if they didn’t understand all the jargon involved. It was a case of “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” – if a picture of a car’s inside worked before it must surely work again?

You’d worry nowadays if an engine said it had “hurricane power” but that seemed to be all right for the Willys-Overland Jeepster. For those who have not heard of the vehicle a Jeepster only was manufactured for two years as was designed as a cross between a convertible and a SUV. Put like that, it’s no wonder they didn’t catch on.

7g1zht0uxthxtiYou’ve got to love it when advertisers decide to highlight the most mundane items –for instance a Foam-Rubber Seat in a Mercury with the name “Lounge-Rest.” (Leather had yet to become the most obvious material for car seats). Strangely the carburettor has been nicknamed “Econ-O-Miser” because it doesn’t use that much gas, which seemed a common theme in writing copy for these types of advertisement.

A big thing seemed to be the way cars could “go for miles” on just thimblefuls of gas – this was before things like the Lanham Act, so it was much easier to lie at that time. Not that today’s advertisers tell the whole truth.

 

Cars in Time

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If you’re trying to be accurate or simplify tracking when things happen in relationship to each other one of the best techniques is to build a timeline. For example Henry Ford was born in 1863, so they would stick in other events that happened in the 19th Century possibly and continue into the 20th and 21st Centuries.

The problem is that you only can see which events happened when. If the goal is to give a clear context then you need an element of scale. In our Henry Ford example, it would be good practice to work out an event we can relate to that establishes when 1863 actually occurred. For instance, WWII’s Pearl Harbor in 1941 was halfway between when Henry Ford was born and 2019 – it gives a better idea to how long ago 1863 was.

A generation is a cohort of people who were born roughly the same time and whose upbringing was shaped by large events and the resulting cultural responses to them. Each generation lasts about 30 years. So another way to think of a timeline is by the number of generations that have passed between events.

Cars needed to have red flags in front of them in 1896 which was four generations ago (doesn’t seem as long as near as that!) or halfway between Sputnik falling to Earth and The Bridge Over The River Kwai winning an Oscar in 1958 and now.

The first car which didn’t need a crank to start was patented in the US in 1903 which was slightly less than four generations ago or halfway between President John F Kennedy being sworn in, the release of 101 Dalmatians in cinemas and The Bay of Pigs in Cuba in 1961 and 2019.

The introduction of the assembly line began the Ford Motor Company in 1913. This is about 3 and a half generations ago, or half way between the Vietnam protests, and the debut of Batman and the release of the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine in 1966 and 2019.

The first automatic transmission of gears was in 1939 by General Motors. This is just over 2 and a half generations ago, or half way between Pink Floyd’s The Wall concert, the film releases of Alien and Life of Brian in 1979 and 2019.

Electric fuel injection began in 1966 (note that the half way points for Henry Ford being born, cars needing to have red flags in front of them and a car which didn’t need a crank being patented has already happened at this point, and this is the half-way point for the assembly line). This is slightly more than 1 and a half generations ago or half-way between Bill Clinton being made president, the release of Jurassic Park and the first launch of Endeavour in 1993 and 2019.

The first mass produced Hybrid car, the Toyota Prius was launched in 1997 (note that all the half-way points above have now happened.). This is slightly less than one generation ago or half-way between Barrack Obama becoming president and the premier of Breaking Bad in 2008 and 2019.

You should now have a clearer idea of when events happened! Or quite possibly you are even more confused. It might be worth reading the article again, just to see if it makes any more sense the second time! Just a thought. Or Check out this timeline online.

 

Getting Business Done With Your Car.

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Would it shock you to know that only 17% of people commute by car?!?! It does us.

Sure in part it’s a tribute to how popular commuting by motorbike, bike, train, etc. And of course, working from home has become very popular. But cars transporting workers to jobs is only one way in which cars are involved in business.

car-438029_1920.jpgAnother way to view vehicles and business is when they transport goods to consumers, delivery vehicles, or transporting people to do business away from the office. An example of the latter would be if your business involves visiting people in their own homes as a tradesman or salesperson.

There are also company owned vehicles which could be delivery vans, or work trucks, etc. but are also the company car. This is a sign of status; and an employee is advancing in the world. Companies can treat the car as an expense and write off many of the costs. (We should pointed out that only business use can be included as an expense, so you can’t get money back on ferrying your children around, visiting friends or relatives, popping down the looking store and so on.)

oldtimer-2436018_1920.jpgFor some hypocritical reason, even though an employer can write off these vehicles an employee who uses there vehicle to get to and from work cannot. Employers can, in some instances, write off more than just the lease cost. In the case of a work truck, the cost of the insurance can also be deducted.

coffee-mobile-2715696_1920.jpgMany businesses chose to lease a vehicle instead of owing it. It’s not recommended you do this if you are in the taxi business however, LOL. The good thing about leasing it that you pay the current market value for leasing rather than having a car which value depreciates the minute it is bought. You also don’t need to worry about down payments for the vehicle and worrying out whether all your cars are insured properly, you can let a third party handle that.

Despite the amount of people employed in the virtual world it seems that the link to the car and being able to visit your client or your contact won’t get away and if they are located nearby, why wouldn’t you?

There are still two types of vehicle in business.

The first is a vehicle that’s been wrapped in advertising. Many companies, and small business, are seeing their vehicles as a moving billboard and double dipping. Not only can they transport employees and good to market, they can increase brand awareness.

But the last and most interesting way to combined cars and business is the mobile office!

Business professionals are spending more and more time in their vehicles. In large cities this could mean hiring a driving service, which leaves hands and eyes free for checking emails or scheduling appointments, etc. In most of the less urban areas this looks like portable office equipment.

Here are some examples of the required equipment if you’re interested in taking your business mobile. Of course, you’ll need a laptop and cell phone. But there’s a couple more handy items that may not have leapt to mind.

Mobile Printer Wheel Desk14dc7982-0c9a-4c32-9eb5-bb534b685efa.jpg._CB328546843__SR300,300_

Work Station Work station

Battery Backup,  Steering Wheel Desk ,

Car Organizer  Car Organizer

 

Behind the Wheel

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By Paul Wimsett (UK Desk: So read it with an accent.)

Is steering more complicated than it should be? It’s all right for complicated turns and for parking but it’s hard for a learner driver to keep on the straight and narrow using a steering wheel. It should be noted that what allows you to steer isn’t just the steering wheel but also the steering column, the axels and the front wheels of a car (and in the case of 4 by 4 cars in difficult terrain, the back wheels).

What exactly is the steering column? Well it attaches the wheel to the rest of the mechanism. It also provides the mounting for various functions such as the transmission gear selector. To help with safety this column can collapse in an emergency.

The piece that causes this to happen is known as the “tolerance ring.” This part is designed to become unmoored from its housing. There are several federal regulations which must be applied to any steering column in the US. In China the regulations are more strict and requires an additional anti-theft mechanism in the column.

steering-wheel-801994_1920.jpgSteering depends on getting the series of linkages absolutely right and although a driver behind a wheel seems blind to the rest to the car it is better to see the whole machine as guiding you to where you want to go. The axel part is divided into the pinion, which appears like a cog, a steer arm and a fusee. To be even more precise there is also the Worm and roller gearbox and the Pitman arm. Too much jargon can be annoying though, so it might be best to leave things there.

Why might a car become hard to steer?

Well, the one most drivers seem to refer to first is icy terrain or something like rainy conditions. But setting aside environmental factors, things like lack of air pressure in your tires, your fluid level and a faulty pulley on your power safety unit may also make a difference as can un-lubricated axles. Maybe it’s just the steering wheel itself which is sticking, but even this can cause accidents.

If you find that the steering is harder than usual, it is definitely a good idea to take the car in for a service, as there might be more than one thing wrong. Should you be gearing up for a long journey it is recommended that you find out if there any potential steering problems.

Here’s a fact about holding a steering wheel which might just save your life, or at the very least save you from excess pain. A warning though it is rather distasteful. It seems that the old way of holding the wheel – in a ten to two position is incompatible with cars with air bags. To save your arms it is recommended that you hold the wheel in a quarter to three position, in order to be on the safe side.

 

Best of the Web: Tiny Toyota, it’s a thing.

Toyota is getting serious about electric cars and plans to have a portfolio of electric-driven models come 2025. Serving as the dawn of this new era is this little dude, which the Japanese automaker calls the Toyota Ultra-Compact Battery-Electric Vehicle.

This is not a concept, nor a drill. This electric city car is headed to production, the automaker said in the model’s online debut on Thursday. Like its size, the Ultra-Compact BEV is meant for short-distance travel. Drivers won’t be getting too far on a full charge, since there’s enough range to take drivers 62 miles, Toyota estimates. Then again, the automaker underscored this wasn’t designed to be a long-distance hauler.

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