The Crash-Proof Car

When cars won’t let drivers make mistakes, crashes may become a thing of the past

11 min read
The Crash-Proof Car
Photo: Dan Saelinger; Prop Stylist: Dominique Baynes

You’re sitting behind the wheel of your car, but instead of looking at the road, you’ve been staring at your phone, perhaps reading a new e-mail message or texting a friend. Suddenly, the driver in the car ahead of you slams on the brakes. Rather than becoming a victim of distracted driving, you feel a gentle deceleration as your car comes to a stop on its own, easily avoiding a collision. You might look up to see what the holdup is, but that’s the extent of your concern. And your car starts itself up again as soon as the road is clear.

While this isn’t a realistic portrayal of your commute just yet, this future is coming—and some of the technology that will make it possible is already present in today’s cars. The more advanced models can warn of obstacles, adjust the distance to a car ahead, and activate the brakes when a distracted driver doesn’t. And this is just the beginning. According to research firm IHS, by 2055 roughly 90 percent of the cars in the United States will be able to drive themselves in some, if not most, circumstances.

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2022—The Year the Hydrogen Economy Launched?

The Inflation Reduction Act and the war in Ukraine pump billions into clean hydrogen R&D

5 min read
A man in a blue lab coat looks at equipment in a lab

A technician at Plug Power in Concord, Mass., secures a connector before a test of a hydrogen electrolyzer on 5 July 2022.

Adam Glanzman/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Among the technological visions that seem perpetually futuristic (think commercial nuclear fusion and maglev trains), the hydrogen economy has always been tantalizing. Hydrogen produced from renewable energy or nuclear power, with minimal greenhouse-gas emissions, could be piped or transported pretty much anywhere, using mostly existing infrastructure. It could power trucks, cars, planes, and ships and generate electricity, either in fuel cells or combustion turbines. In short, it could do anything fossil fuels do now, but with substantially reduced climate impact.

Now, after decades of false starts and overly optimistic projections, several factors are giving an unprecedented lift to clean hydrogen. In the United States, sweeping legislation capped a series of moves by the country’s Department of Energy (DOE) over the past year to drive down the cost of low-carbon hydrogen and stimulate demand for the fuel. And in Europe, a looming fossil-fuel crisis has sent officials scrambling to find alternatives to the 155 billion cubic meters of Russian natural gas that EU countries imported in 2021.

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Boston Dynamics’s founder thinks creatively with $400 million AI Institute

12 min read
Marc Raibert, an older white man with a bald head and a short white beard and glasses, gestures as he speaks on a stage. He is wearing formal pants and a flower-print short sleeve shirt.

Marc Raibert, founder and chairman of Boston Dynamics, speaks at a Hyundai Motor Group news conference during CES 2022 in Las Vegas.

Steve Marcus/Reuters/Alamy

Last week, Hyundai Motor Group and Boston Dynamics announced an initial investment of over US $400 million to launch the new Boston Dynamics AI Institute. The Institute was conceptualized (and will be led) by Marc Raibert, the founder of Boston Dynamics, with the goal of “solving the most important and difficult challenges facing the creation of advanced robots.” That sounds hugely promising, but of course we had questions—namely, what are those challenges, how is this new institute going to solve them, and what are these to-be-created advanced robots actually going to do? And fortunately, IEEE Spectrum was able to speak with Marc Raibert himself to get a better understanding of what the Institute will be all about.

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GPIOs: Critical IP for Functional Safety Applications

Understand the safety mechanisms in an automotive-ready GPIO IP library suite to detect the faults in GPIO cells

1 min read
GPIOs: Critical IP for Functional Safety Applications

The prevalence and complexity of electronics and software in automotive applications are increasing with every new generation of cars. The critical functions within the system on a chip (SoC) involve hardware and software that perform automotive-related signal communication at high data rates to and from the components off-chip. Every SoC includes general purpose IOs (GPIOs) on its periphery.

For automotive SoCs, GPIO IP is typically developed as Safety Element out of Context and delivered with a set of Assumptions of Use. It is important that the GPIO blocks are treated as a safety related logic. In this role, GPIOs need safety analysis to mitigate any faults occurring in them before the result of fault occurrence causes a system-wide failure.

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