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Ford Engineer Discusses Largest Hurdles To Self-Driving Cars.

TechCrunch (3/9, Etherington) reports Ford said it is still committed to its goal of releasing “a fleet of self-driving vehicles in operation by 2021,” but acknowledged there are “significant technical hurdles to overcome between now and then.” Ford’s Chief Program Engineer for Autonomous Vehicle Development Chris Brewer discussed the largest challenges the team is required to overcome before autonomous vehicles are made available to consumers. Brewer highlighted the first issue as “making sure the car components of the self-driving vehicle are still a car in terms of safety, redundancy and reliability.” He said “there has to be some kind of steering control system that relies on simple mechanical control in case a power-steering system in a self-driving car fails.” The other key challenge Brewer outlines is “rigorous testing for endurance in a range of environmental conditions.”

Article posted: 03/10/2017

Engineers Advancing Technology For 3-D Printed Homes.

NBC News (3/8) reports Berikos Khoshnevis, an engineer at the University of Southern California, “is one of a handful of pioneers creating machines that can custom-print buildings.” A company started by Khoshnevis called Contour Crafting has build a prototype that “was able to build a 2,500 square foot house in just 20 hours (compared with seven months on average for a conventional home from start to finish).” NBC adds, “Contour Crafting isn’t alone: San Francisco-based Apis Cor printed a small house in just 24 hours. And a Chinese company called Winsun recently announced they used 3-D Printing to create ten homes in a single day.” The piece highlights the technology’s ability to reduce injuries and benefit the environment.

Article posted: 03/09/2017

Office Of Scientific Research Funds “Bird-Inspired Morphing Vehicles” Research.

The PBS NOVA (2/22, Choi) reports new aircraft wings draw inspiration from early Wright brothers models in a biomimicry blend called “morphing wings” that helps reduce fuel consumption. A $6 million grant from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research will fund Daniel Inman, chair of aerospace engineering at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and colleagues to research “bird-inspired morphing vehicles” and “piezoelectric materials that convert electricity into physical movement as well as shape memory alloys.”

Article posted: 02/23/2017

NASA Scientists Create Computer Chip That Could Endure Venus Conditions.

The Houston Chronicle (2/13, Ramirez) reports that in a new study published in AIP Advances, scientists from NASA’s Glenn Research Center detail a “breakthrough” that could enable a probe to transmit data from the hash environment of Venus for longer than previously possible. According to tests in a machine that mimicked Venus’ environment, the “super durable computer chip” could survive on Venus for weeks – far longer than the 56 minutes sustained by a Soviet space probe in 1985, the last time a spacecraft landed on the planet. The “100-fold increase in the sensitive electronic’s durability” achieved by the researchers “may make a Venus rover no longer a fantasy for scientists around the globe.”

Article posted: 02/14/2017

NASA Simulates Orion-SLS Launch’s Impact On Crew Members.

SPACE  (1/31, Lunsford) reports that earlier this month, NASA engineers for the first time simulated how a launch of the Orion spacecraft on the Space Launch System (SLS) as currently designed would affect crew members. At the Johnson Space Center in Houston, “test subjects, modified advanced crew escape suits and the most current seat design for the crew impact attenuation system underwent simultaneous testing so the human factors engineers can begin understanding” the affect on astronauts. NASA officials, in an image description, explained, “This was the first time this key hardware was brought together to evaluate how launch vibrations may impact the astronaut’s ability to view the displays and controls.” The agency plans to launch the first manned missions of the spacecraft as early as 2021, while the first unmanned missions are scheduled for late next year.

Article posted: 02/01/2017