August 20, 2014

Elcano self driving trike project targets sub-$1000 price and achieve the equivalent of 1000 mpge

The Elcano Project aims to make self-drive real for students and hobbyists. The Elcano Project provides a blueprint for building your own experimental automated vehicle using electronics and sensors costing under $1000. A tricycle with an electric helper motor under 750 Watt and top speed under 20 mph is legally a bicycle, and thus street-legal without license, registration or insurance.

The goals of the Elcano Project are:
* Make autonomy available to non-specialists.
* Produce an experimental vehicle and electronics costing less than $5,000 total. A fully enclosed road-worthy production vehicle should cost less than $10,000.
* Generate public demand for road automation.
* Encourage high fuel efficiency (1000 mpg / 0.25 L/100 km) through ultra-light automated vehicles.
* Set standards for cooperative automation using a scalable distributed Traffic Management System.

The long term vision is not a single self-driving vehicle, but a collection of such vehicles that communicates with each other. Automatic vehicles can take instructions from a roadside Traffic Management Computer that manages a section of roadways. These computers would link together to form a distributed, scalable Traffic Management System; such a system can reduce congestion.

China's Baidu is believed to be working on unmanned self driving bicycles. The Elcano project shows that the self driving bicycle concept is real and would be very worthwhile.

Recumbant trikes are super-energy efficient [ IEEE Energy and Autonomous Urban Land Vehicles (10 pages)]

The vehicle that minimizes power consumption looks like a three wheeled recumbent motorcycle enclosed by a streamlined body. It might be 0.8 meters wide, 1.2 meters high and 3 meters long. A tandem version might double the length. These pod cars would be primarily designed for commuting. If used by a family or group, several pods can be electronically linked to each other and function as a single vehicle. A shopper can attach a second vehicle to carry purchases.

About 50 times more energy efficient than a car

Spacex is valued at ten billion dollars and Elon Musk has a net worth of about $16.5 billion

Spacex has raised an addition funding of about $200 million. The investment values Spacex at about $10 billion.

Launches currently cost under $60 million for a low-Earth orbit launch on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 craft. Spacex has made progress to reusable rockets. Reusable rockets cost bring the cost of launches to between $5 million and $7 million.

SpaceX has generated $4 billion in contracts. The Spacex launch manifest for upcoming launches is just under 40 missions planned between now and 2018.

In early 2012, approximately two-thirds of Spacex [wikipedia] was owned by its founder Elon Musk. The ten billion valuation would mean that Elon Musk spacex shares are worth about $6.6 billion

Elon Musk has about 28% of Telsa. So has $8.5 billion of the Tesla 32.4 billion market value company. He has 33 million shares.

Solar City is worth 6.68 billion. Musk has 20.7 million shares. $1.45 billion.

Elon Musk is worth about $16.5 billion.

This would put Elon Musk as about the 55th wealthiest person in the world on the Forbes list

August 19, 2014

China's pebble bed nuclear reactor gets a prototype helium fan

[World Nuclear News] A prototype helium fan for use in China's HTR-PM high-temperature gas-cooled reactor has successfully completed testing. A demonstration plant based on twin HTR-PM units is currently under construction at Shidaowan, Shandong province.

The purpose of the helium fan can be compared to that of the main circulation pump in a pressurized water reactor: to provide sufficient flow of coolant during the reactor's start-up, operation and shut down to take away the heat generated by the reactor core. The HTR-PM features pebble bed fuel and helium coolant.

Work began on two demonstration HTR-PM units at China Huaneng Group's Shidaowan site in December 2012. China Huaneng is the lead organization in the consortium to build the demonstration units together with China Nuclear Engineering Corporation (CNEC) and Tsinghua University's Institute of Nuclear and New Energy Technology (INET), which is the research and development leader. Chinergy, a joint venture of Tsinghua and CNEC, is the main contractor for the nuclear island.

The demonstration plant's twin HTR-PM units will drive a single 210 MWe turbine. It is expected to begin operating around 2017. Eighteen further units are proposed for the Shidaowan site, near Rongcheng in Weihai city.

DARPA GXV-T seeks to develop revolutionary technologies to make future armored fighting vehicles more mobile, effective and affordable

[DARPA] For the past 100 years of mechanized warfare, protection for ground-based armored fighting vehicles and their occupants has boiled down almost exclusively to a simple equation: More armor equals more protection. Weapons’ ability to penetrate armor, however, has advanced faster than armor’s ability to withstand penetration. As a result, achieving even incremental improvements in crew survivability has required significant increases in vehicle mass and cost.

The trend of increasingly heavy, less mobile and more expensive combat platforms has limited Soldiers’ and Marines’ ability to rapidly deploy and maneuver in theater and accomplish their missions in varied and evolving threat environments. Moreover, larger vehicles are limited to roads, require more logistical support and are more expensive to design, develop, field and replace. The U.S. military is now at a point where—considering tactical mobility, strategic mobility, survivability and cost—innovative and disruptive solutions are necessary to ensure the operational viability of the next generation of armored fighting vehicles.

GXV-T’s technical goals include the following improvements relative to today’s armored fighting vehicles:

* Reduce vehicle size and weight by 50 percent
* Reduce onboard crew needed to operate vehicle by 50 percent
* Increase vehicle speed by 100 percent
* Access 95 percent of terrain
* Reduce signatures that enable adversaries to detect and engage vehicles

Ground-based armored fighting vehicles and their occupants have traditionally relied on armor and maneuverability for protection. The amount of armor needed for today’s threat environments, however, is becoming increasingly burdensome and ineffective against ever-improving weaponry. DARPA's Ground X-Vehicle Technology (GXV-T) program seeks to develop revolutionary technologies to enable a layered approach to protection that would use less armor more strategically and improve vehicles’ ability to avoid detection, engagement and hits by adversaries. Such capabilities would enable smaller, faster vehicles in the future to more efficiently and cost-effectively tackle varied and unpredictable combat situations.

Minerva project is revolutionizing education with a intense group based online system

Minerva Schools at KGI is a startup online for-profit university. [wikipedia] Its founders, who include former Snapfish president Ben Nelson, referred to it as "the first elite American university to be launched in a century", and they began teaching students in the fall of 2014. Minerva’s policy is to admit students without regard to national origin. Tuition cost $10,000. The target market is the developing world's rising middle class who aims for an elite American education.

The Minerva Schools at KGI offers a reinvented university experience for the brightest, most motivated students from around the world. Combining an interdisciplinary curriculum and rigorous academic standards, an accomplished faculty versed in the science of learning, an advanced interactive learning platform leveraging cutting-edge technology, and four years of immersive global experience, Minerva will deliver an exceptional liberal arts and sciences education for future leaders and innovators in every discipline. The Minerva Schools at KGI were established by KGI in alliance with Minerva Project. The relationship between KGI and Minerva Project, the offering of an undergraduate program through the Minerva Schools at KGI, and 12 concentrations have been granted WASC approval.

The Minerva Project website is here

Minerva Schools at KGI
Admit Founding Class admitted their first class in March 2014.
Only 45 students were admitted out of 1,794 applications received to date, the Minerva Schools at KGI’s admissions rate of 2.5% makes Minerva the most selective undergraduate program in U.S. history.

Baidu's unmanned self-driving bicycles for China should have a prototype by the end of this year

Google’s driverless cars have been in the technology and futurist news for years, but Chinese search giant Baidu recently revealed development of unmanned autonomous bicycles. Self-driving cars face more regulatory and safety hurdles. Automated bikes are much more well-suited to most of Asia, where bicycle ownership outstrips car ownership.

Update - Nextbigfuture has looked at several self driving robotic trikes and bicycle projects. Technologically this is feasible and there are strong economic benefits for doing it.

A prototype for the world’s first unmanned bike should be revealed before the end of this year, according to Techweb. The bike can reportedly identify its owner in some way, and presumably putts around using an electric motor. Sources told Techweb the bike sans rider can sense its environment well enough to avoid obstacles and navigate complicated road conditions.

Baidu deep learning laboratory (Institute of Deep Learning, Idl) is developing unmanned bike will come out during the year, which may be the world's first unmanned bike in the true sense.

China has 551 million bike riders, of which 181 million use electric bikes.

The bikes could be used for package delivery and for old people or young people who cannot drive themselves. Self balancing technology could be used or tricycles could be used.

Harold White spoke at the 17th Mars Society Conference

Harold's White talk starts at 22 minutes of this video.

If you look at the video, be prepared it is low quality video and low quality audio.
At 39 minutes there is discussion of the warp field interferometer test experiments

At 55 minutes there is discussion of the Emdrive and Cannae drive experiments. First is discussion of the torsion pendulum which is already used for ion drive tests.
At 58 minutes the main discussion of the Cannae drive experiments.

He thinks there might be some Q thruster physics going on in part of the device.