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Old 08-20-2014, 09:53 AM   #21
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ERD50 wrote:

"So for say 1,000 cars, that was $700,000 that went to individuals... for what?"
Agreed, subsidy plus bad policy leads to waste and distortion.
Darn decimal points! That should have been $7 Million in my post, but the point was made.

And I don't think I've seen any purchase subsidy that wasn't bad policy - the money had an extremely low (likely negative - even on environmental terms - 'Cash for Clunkers' anyone? let's not go there!) ROI, and could have been used to do sooooo much more good (the positive part of this - please use it to do the most good for the environment).

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In a perfect world, business pioneers would invest , reap the future rewards, and move technology forward without intervention from anyone.
The world is far from perfect, but this happens every day. Who is pushing Apple, Intel, Honda, Samsung, etc - other than a competitive market and profits?


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My thinking was more along the lines of developments coming from the space program, and darpa, stuff like that. Early work by nasa or it's contractors may have jump-started the processes and material science that intel, etc later exploited. Would space-x be where it is without nasa?

Jet engines, nuclear technology, synthetic rubber, etc moved forward dramatically during WW2. All would likely happened anyway, but when?

Maybe catalyst is the word that works better than subsidy.
Right, as I mentioned, there are some areas where a big player (and sometimes the only one big enough is someone like the US govt), is needed to make the initial push, or put research into areas that private companies may not pursue - sometimes because it would not be patent-able so would not provide a competitive advantage to a private company.

One example of govt expenditure with some positives IMO (though far from perfect, but probably 'good' to 'very good' overall) would be the 'Energy Star" ratings. The govt came up with (far from perfect) standardized power consumption measurements, and companies need to post those numbers in a standard form that is pretty understandable by the average consumer. I'm a little less sure that they should have created limits - I think if they legislated that the power consumption labels be the most prominent part of any advertising and product displays, that competitiveness might have driven it just as well, maybe better?

And I think that govt funding of research into new technologies, to take them to the point of proving feasibility, can be a positive. One group doing some of the R&D for the industry can bring economy of scale, and bring those advances to market faster. I rant against purchase subsidies, but if a govt funded research program appears to make sense and is being run reasonably efficiently, I think I can support that.


edit/add: On "Energy Star" - I breezed through the BIG TV display at Costco the other day. It's pretty amazing to see how low the power draw is on these monster (relative to the old CRT models) TVs - IIRC many were down around $18 a year to operate. And that label shows a range for similar models, and I don't recall any of those TVs being pegged near the top end (which I assume is the regulated limit?). If they were responding only to regulations, they'd probably get to the limit and stop putting any more time/$ to lower it further. So it seems competition here is working.

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Old 08-24-2014, 09:21 PM   #22
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So what other green ideas have potential? Thoughts?
I think there's a lot of progress to be made in mass transit--for environmental reasons and reducing commute times. The best ones use the same right-of-ways as highways/roads, but get above the clogged traffic.
1) There have been several concepts that use a light overhead rail and small individual cars (4 seats). The "stations" are little more more than sidings: the user enters the intended destination, a pod shows up, and it takes them right to their destination. No long wait, no transfer to another mass bus, etc. The throughput of a single rail going each way is tremendous because everything is automated (the pods are traveling 60 MPH and about 10 feet apart). A single rail of this type can carry more people than 4 lanes of highway, and be built at much lower cost.
2) Similar to the above, but you supply your own "pod"--a light drivable vehicle you use to go the first miles to the "station" where you join the main artery into town. The pod goes on a platform or clamps to an overhead trolley, and the platform/trolley has the brains/motor to operate on the light rail system.

An electric car that still leaves the driver crawling along the freeway at 5 MPH with all the other miserable souls is no big advancement.
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Old 08-24-2014, 09:34 PM   #23
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Another green wave I'd love to see: things that are designed to be maintained/fixed/kept in service. The amount of embodied energy that is in a washing machine or dryer is tremendous, but the machines aren't made to last, they are not designed to be serviced, and replacement parts are (now) typically model-specific, expensive and not kept in stock for more than 10 years. So, people throw them out and buy new ones.

And the situation is worse with cars. The same parts rust out on nearly every car, why not make them easily replaceable? And why does it take 2 hours of labor to change out a windshield wiper motor? And why not put the interior door panel on with exposed screws rather than fragile hidden plastic clips? I'd gladly pay a bit more for a car that was made to be kept around for a couple of decades.
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Old 08-25-2014, 04:43 AM   #24
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Kramer wrote: Thanks for posting. What about self-driving cars? In 20 years, ....
ERD50 wrote: Yes, but as you say they are probably a ways out.
I think you guys are underestimating the impact of this innovation of self-driving cars. My prediction is that if you could peak 50 years into the future, the change you would notice most is self-driving cars and how they have changed how we build cities and real estate and the things that are automated (like same-day instant deliveries) that we have to do manually now.
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Old 08-25-2014, 08:10 AM   #25
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...........And the situation is worse with cars......... I'd gladly pay a bit more for a car that was made to be kept around for a couple of decades.
I think I found one for you.

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Old 08-25-2014, 09:47 AM   #26
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I think there's a lot of progress to be made in mass transit--for environmental reasons and reducing commute times. The best ones use the same right-of-ways as highways/roads, but get above the clogged traffic.
1) There have been several concepts that use a light overhead rail and small individual cars (4 seats). ...
Yes, I think the whole Personal rapid transit (PRT) idea has a lot of potential. I think the personal safety issue could be a tough one - ever feel uncomfortable when you are alone in an elevator with a shady-looking character? That could be a real problem with little cars with just 1-4 people in them.

The regular rapid-transit in Chicago has a big advantage over the commuter trains, instead of waiting 20 minutes, or an hour or two for a train, the RT arrives every few minutes at peak times, 10 minutes most of the day, and I think 20 minutes in off-hours. PRT would be even better.

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Another green wave I'd love to see: things that are designed to be maintained/fixed/kept in service. ...
+1

There is a flip side to this though. I've had people moan about how nothing is repairable these days, you just buy a new one. Yes, but I was involved in high volume manufacturing, and the techniques that make these products as small and cheap as we want just do not lend themselves to being repaired. It takes specialized equipment and experience and special profiles for each application to replace a BGA style part (tiny solder pads on the bottom side, hundreds of them, all invisible - they are 'bulk' soldered by applying solder paste with a screen, and then heating the entire thing, and that repair often fails.

But, I do think we could make things much more modular. One recent success - bought a replacement smartphone for DD, and it didn't come with a charger. Finally! The standardization on USB charging pushed by Europe has hit critical mass - just reuse your old charger, and you can share a charger across several devices because they are more standardized. And if a device dies, just re-purpose the charger it came with. A win-win-win!

But yep, all these specialized front panels with switches and electronics that burn out, and make the whole darn unit often cheaper to replace than repair is a real enviro-mess. I'd like to think of some reasonable way to promote better repair-ability on products, especially big ones like major appliances, but it's tricky w/o micro-managed gov't regs.

One example - Apple laptops, and many phones. They have gone to these non-user-swappable batteries. Now some people want the sleek size that Apple can offer by making the battery the way they do, that's fine. I just wish they could come up with a second line of less, sleek, but more modular laptops, so I had a choice to get one with a swappable battery. But that's not 'sexy', so I don't expect it.

And I'd like a car with easy to replace parts, but I do think we are a small enough market, I just don't expect to see it.


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I think you guys are underestimating the impact of this innovation of self-driving cars. My prediction is that if you could peak 50 years into the future, the change you would notice most is self-driving cars and how they have changed how we build cities and real estate and the things that are automated (like same-day instant deliveries) that we have to do manually now.
I don't think we are underestimating them. I won't even guess what we will have in 50 years, I was addressing the more near term. In 50 years, other developments may make self-driving cars a non-issue. I thought I was being pretty positive about what they could be doing in the near future (drive to your door for car-sharing was one example).

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Old 08-25-2014, 10:23 AM   #27
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The regular rapid-transit in Chicago has a big advantage over the commuter trains, instead of waiting 20 minutes, or an hour or two for a train, the RT arrives every few minutes at peak times, 10 minutes most of the day, and I think 20 minutes in off-hours. PRT would be even better.

That is nice. One thing I noticed about the better public transit systems in Europe is that the only schedule one needs is the time the trains start to run in the morning, and when they stop running late at night. Other than that they run so frequently, that no schedule is needed. Very nice.
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Old 08-25-2014, 10:27 AM   #28
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Conservation is a big Greenie plus, IMHO. And the cost is often nothing or very little. For example, in my home the hot water to the shower first goes past the kitchen sink. So, if I shower after I do the morning dishes, I get almost instant hot water. This is much better than showering before breakfast when I have to waste several gallons of hot water as it works its way through the pipes to the bathroom.
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Old 08-25-2014, 10:54 AM   #29
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That's the idea. But, smaller--like a Nash Metro!

Keep making the same body panels, bumpers, light covers, etc for at least ten years. Make all the body parts removable and replaceable without a torch. Lots of access panels. For starters--how about an oil filter than is easy to reach and oriented with the gasket at the top?

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Yes, I think the whole Personal rapid transit (PRT) idea has a lot of potential. I think the personal safety issue could be a tough one - ever feel uncomfortable when you are alone in an elevator with a shady-looking character? That could be a real problem with little cars with just 1-4 people in them.
Yep, I think it would have to be point-to-point, no stopping to pick up more people.

But, in case of trouble--maybe if anyone inside presses the "Cops" or "Medical help" button, the "pod" goes directly to a police station/ER.
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But yep, all these specialized front panels with switches and electronics that burn out, and make the whole darn unit often cheaper to replace than repair is a real enviro-mess. I'd like to think of some reasonable way to promote better repair-ability on products, especially big ones like major appliances, but it's tricky w/o micro-managed gov't regs.
-ERD50
Two ideas come to mind.
1) A "Universal Common Appliance" standard/label that manufacturers voluntarily sign on to. Components (motors, pups, timers, control boards, switches, etc) would be standardized across manufacturers, required tools for diagnostics/service would be standardized/minimized, access to subcomponents would be simplified, etc. If a manufacturer wants the label, they adhere to the standards.
2) Do it as a single company effort. With the exception of the cabinet, most components of a washer/dryer can be shipped UPS, so the company could sell parts online from a single location. The advertising would stress the easy serviceability of the models, online videos show how to do anything that needs to be done, and customers get a guarantee of parts availability and low prices (show them the list) when they buy. Heck, maybe have onboard diagnostics that download a troubleshooting tree to a USB memory stick plugged into the front of the appliance. Whether you want to fix it yourself or have someone else do it, you'll save a bundle if the parts are reasonably priced and the labor hours are minimized. And, it is better for the environment.
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Old 08-25-2014, 03:39 PM   #30
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That's the idea. But, smaller--like a Nash Metro!
...............
OK, here is your dream vehicle.
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Old 08-25-2014, 05:09 PM   #31
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OK, here is your dream vehicle.
I'd be fine with something along that concept (not THAT spartan though). Now those are the things the govt could have spent invested money to turn into hybrids - with their start-stop and high miles 6 days a week, it sure would have been more of a test ground then subsidies for hybrids that sit idle most of the day. And they'd have access to all the maintenance and cost and savings records

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... in Europe ... the only schedule one needs is the time the trains start to run in the morning, and when they stop running late at night. Other than that they run so frequently, that no schedule is needed. Very nice.
I was thinking about if our commuter trains, which are BIG honkin' beasts, could run smaller, lighter cars more often, like that - but then you stop traffic at a zillion crossings in the 'burbs (not in the city, almost all crossings are above street grade), which is a pain and a safety issue. The Rapid Transit is under/over ground.

I was just inspired about that 'common front panel' thought I had a few posts back - hold on, I've got to tie a few thoughts together here:

I recently ordered this little thing for $15 with shipping (and that was w/o 'prime' - Item Subtotal: $9.97 - Shipping and Handling: $4.99),

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

it pulls all the available engine info in real time, not just the fail codes, and transmits via bluetooth to your tablet/smart-phone. I already had a code reader, paid $56 for it, and that old one does far, far less. But it needs buttons, and a display, etc., so that drives up the cost. But this little guy leverages on the fact that I already have a tablet, just install a free app, and now I've got something far more useful, for far less money.

OK, so imagine that various mfgs came up with a few standard sizes of touch panels, and maybe some w/o touch, but a few standard buttons. You would not need high quality graphics, most wouldn't need color, so these things could be cheap. They should all use a standard connector inside (USB?), and all be easily removed/replaced. With that kind of standardization, lots of companies would compete for business, and the price would come down. And since the panel would be firmware driven, just reprogram it for different uses. You could even pull one from otherwise unrepairable appliances, and use them to replace a bad panel in another appliance.

As examples, a simple, small one for things like dishwashers, maybe a larger one for simple microwaves, and bigger ones for more feature-rich microwaves. They could go in washers, dryers, stoves, fancy-refrigerators (ours is old-school), car radios, tv remotes, just about any product you interface with.

Wouldn't that make more sense than every single product having a different control panel that costs a fortune to replace if it has a simple fault (and often ends up scraping the whole darn appliance)? I could see the EU pushing for this in the same way they pushed for USB charger standards for cell phones.

-ERD50
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Old 08-25-2014, 05:26 PM   #32
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OK, here is your dream vehicle.
My apologies, I posted the luxury sport utility version. Here is a true spartan car.
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Old 08-25-2014, 07:48 PM   #33
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Old 08-25-2014, 08:53 PM   #34
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After installing my light colored metal roof this past winter, I am a big believer in them saving me money and being more Eco friendly. Despite a recently enacted 10% increase in electrical rates, my summer cooling bill has been on average 15% lower than last year. I do not get the morning "heat up" that I normally did with the asphalt shingles.


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Old 08-25-2014, 09:49 PM   #35
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Kramer: "What about self-driving cars? In 20 years, these will be becoming mainstream."
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In today's Washington Post an autonomous drive through D.C. The video states "could be" 6 - 8 years. I think there will be some push back to overcome.

Driverless vehicles? Even in D.C. streets? An autonomous car takes a capital test run. - The Washington Post
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Old 08-26-2014, 08:53 AM   #36
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Kramer: "What about self-driving cars? In 20 years, these will be becoming mainstream."
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In today's Washington Post an autonomous drive through D.C. The video states "could be" 6 - 8 years. I think there will be some push back to overcome.

Driverless vehicles? Even in D.C. streets? An autonomous car takes a capital test run. - The Washington Post
Fascinating article. It's amazing how capable these are, and also how difficult it is to adjust to unusual situations. A cop (or maybe a citizen in an emergency situation) gets out in the crosswalk to direct traffic - can a computer and video interpret those hand waves? Did that truck stop to unload, or talk to someone on the sidewalk for a minute? Go around them
or wait?

It's hard to imagine how far computing and sensors will advance in 20 years, so I won't rule anything out. But I think the article makes sense, these ideas will catch on a little at a time as something that helps us drive safely, and will grow and grow. By the time we are talking full autonomy, there may be other options, making that moot.

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Old 08-26-2014, 08:53 AM   #37
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In today's Washington Post an autonomous drive through D.C. The video states "could be" 6 - 8 years. I think there will be some push back to overcome.
For sure there will be issues to overcome. How does a driver manually override the computer in case of emergency or malfunction (the equivalent of a pilot disabling the autopilot feature of an aircraft)? Can hackers break into the self-driving car's computer and sabotage it (the high tech version of cutting a brake line)? What will be the policy about impaired "operators" of a self-driving vehicle (not just drunk or stoned but reading, texting, et cetera)? How much redundancy is required to be built in to minimize the chance of tragedy in case of a malfunction? What about traffic controls (barricades, traffic cops) that aren't programmed into the computer? How do they know to pull over when an emergency vehicle is approaching?
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Old 08-26-2014, 10:30 AM   #38
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One idea I've wondered about is the prospect if 3D printing parts out of aluminum, titanium, or other material instead of shipping finished parts from say Cleveland to Yellowknife. That would save warehousing, stocking labor, pulling, packaging, and physical transportation for the parts purveyor. They would get a fee of some size for software use to instruct the printer for that exact part. Turbocharger housing stuck in transit due to weather? Not if it's just emerging from the printer.
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Old 08-26-2014, 10:30 PM   #39
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For sure there will be issues to overcome. How does a driver manually override the computer in case of emergency or malfunction (the equivalent of a pilot disabling the autopilot feature of an aircraft)? Can hackers break into the self-driving car's computer and sabotage it (the high tech version of cutting a brake line)? What will be the policy about impaired "operators" of a self-driving vehicle (not just drunk or stoned but reading, texting, et cetera)? How much redundancy is required to be built in to minimize the chance of tragedy in case of a malfunction? What about traffic controls (barricades, traffic cops) that aren't programmed into the computer? How do they know to pull over when an emergency vehicle is approaching?
That is why I think the major hurdle will be legal, not technical. Who is responsible for what? Now the legal responsibility in all cases rests on one person - the driver.

There is a precedent of sorts. What if there are two drivers such as a ladder fire truck (guy driving the tiller, or rear end of the truck). In MD anyway, the law ignores that. Even if the tiller man screws up the driver up front takes the legal heat.

But that doesn't work for everybody. I sure am not willing to take the heat for some software programmer who didn't anticipate a skydiver landing in front of the car. So while the technical issues may be largely solved in a few years, the legal ones are going to take a while longer than that.

So if the manufacturer advertises an autonomous vehicle, that means I can get in it and ride drunk, stoned, asleep, or simply not paying attention to anything outside. It is going to be a long time before that happens, if ever.
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Old 08-27-2014, 12:53 AM   #40
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That is why I think the major hurdle will be legal, not technical. Who is responsible for what? Now the legal responsibility in all cases rests on one person - the driver.
There are major efforts underway in multiple countries on developing a legal framework (and yes it is a major issue for self-driving vehicles). Much of the framework already must be developed in order to allow upcoming automation features in human-driven cars. If the overall rate of accidents drops significantly, as most are predicting, then accident costs should decline overall.


For the problem of testing unknown or uncommon conditions, test environments have been developed. Google has created a simulation of the entire California road system:

Google has built a Matrix-like simulation of California to test its self-driving cars | ExtremeTech
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Google, it has emerged, has built a “Matrix-style” simulation of the entirety of California to test its self-driving cars. While this in itself isn’t massively surprising given Google’s history as a software company (though it is a bit scary), the company is also petitioning California’s state officials to allow safety testing within the Matrix, instead of testing on real roads. This might sound a little terrifying — imagine if Ford started selling a car that had never been road-tested — but it makes quite a lot of sense for a self-driving car, where there are millions of conditions that need to be tested — conditions that are essentially impossible to test in real-time on real roads. “In a few hours, we can test thousands upon thousands of scenarios which in terms of driving all over again might take decades,” a Google spokesperson told the Guardian.

Information about Google’s Matrix-like simulation of California was obtained by the Guardian – via a freedom of information petition to California officials, and then some further information from a Google spokesperson. Google has built the entirety of California’s road system (about 172,000 miles) in software, along with accurate simulations of traffic, pedestrians, weather, and so on. There’s no word on the hardware being used to create the Google Matrix, but it’s probably a fairly large cluster of servers.
It's still early days for self-driving cars (think cell phone technology in 1983) but I think it is good to think through the ramifications. It really is a society-changing technology where land transportation becomes an automated commodity.
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