Self driving cars… and open source systems

So I just watched an interview with George Hotz, you can watch it here:

For those that don’t have the time, George jailbroke the iPhone when he was quite young, and jailbroke the PS3, was threatened by Sony and is a proud proponent that once you’ve bought something that you should own it and be able to do what you want with it.

He’s taking it to the next step, and allowing you to add on a self-driving car system to any car (well, he’s aiming for 50% of the cars sold in the USA next year).  They obviously should have fly by wire controls so that his system uses the built in actuators, but as a sensor and processor platform he’s using the mobile phone.

What’s even more fun is that he’s making this completely open source, he’s crowd sourcing his data (download chffr for your phone) by offering a dashcam that then uploads driving data after it gets home.  All his software is available on github under an MIT license, and he thinks that we’ll have a critical mass of self driving cars in 5 years.

Now I’m looking forward to those days, not because I don’t like driving, but because I enjoy driving, but I don’t like repetitive day-to-day commuting driving, or driving to meetings when I’m thinking about the presentation I have to give and so on.  I would love to be able to have the choice to sit down and tell the car to take me home and have a nap on the way – hey, I’m getting old(er), I deserve a nap now and again.

Take a look at Comma Ai, maybe your next car won’t have to have self driving systems built-in, you’ll be able to buy it as an addon.


Diesel and Petrol vehicles to be banned from sale from 2040

So this has finally hit the headlines, and suddenly everyone is an expert on electric vehicles. I’ve read so much misinformed rubbish today that I despair. The reality is that by 2040 most of the industry will only be producing electric vehicles anyway, Internal Combustion Engines will be seen the same as steam engines are now, well not quite, but heading that way.
If anyone wants a ride in an electric vehicle to see how quiet, rapid accelerating and comfortable they are, then I’d be happy to oblige. As for people that say they’re not practical – I use mine daily, go camping in the woods, do long journeys for work and pleasure and have very few issues.

I don’t visit petrol stations anymore as I have a fuel station on my drive. The fuel is generated directly from the wind and sun, and doesn’t need vast amounts of energy to refine it before it can be used. Yes the second hand market is a bit difficult as there aren’t many people getting rid of them, but it is there – I bought mine 2nd hand. Running costs are minimal, charging at home on a standard rate (not economy 7 that is much cheaper) I pay about 3p a mile. Servicing is minimal, no fluids to change apart from washer fluid, brake pads last years because you hardly use them, regenerative braking makes power to put back in to the batteries. Batteries are expected to last a long time – and when they “wear out” they are fully recyclable into new batteries. Nissan quoted something like £4,000 in 2014 to replace the battery pack in the £26,000 Leaf with a new one, so not particularly expensive if the body is still good after 10-15 years, whenever the battery range is reduced.

Battery technology is improving all the time, but we do need investment into the charging infrastructure, which is the major stumbling point at the moment – so please don’t buy an electric car yet, as you’ll just be filling up the charging stations when I want to use them – no, they’re rubbish and you should stick to your internal combustion engines.

Jaguar vs Badger

A badger tried taking on the big cat on the way home last night. Badger lost the fight, but managed to knock out a front tooth or two from the Jaguar, now I need to find out if wildlife hits are covered by insurance.

I did go back and check on the badger and the poor thing was killed outright, and it’s mate was trying to drag it off the road into the bushes. Quite a sad sight and sorry that the daft animal chose to run straight in front of me in a narrow country road.

Arduino I2C Wire library

I’ve spent most of the evening trying to get I2C working between the Arduino and a couple of I2C devices (a LCD output and a relay board) from Robot Electronics. I finally had to look at the source code for the Wire library that implements the TwoWire serial protocol for the Arduino, and found that the library correctly bit shifts the address one bit towards the MSB, but that means that you have to do the reverse bit shift to quote the address on the bus when making the library calls. It all has to do with the fact that it’s a 7 bit addressing system.

I did finally manage to get it to work by dividing all the addreses by two, so that’ll make it easier when I actually get the 6-7.2V supply working for the servo board for controlling the turnouts on the layout.

Bedtime now.

Arduino model railway control

I’ve been playing with a couple of Arduinos for the last week, and doing some physical computing, interfacing with real devices from the microcontroller. It’s been interesting doing some low level electronics again, and it was a great feeling about half an hour ago to have the model railway running under computer control – using the laptop to send commands over the USB port to the Arduino, which then does PWM to control the speed of the train.

There were a few hiccups along the way – not least of which the Arduino crashed repeatedly when the train started moving – it appears that the power pack I was using didn’t like having its load being PWMed, causing voltage problems. I resorted to running the Arduino off the USB supply, disconnecting the common 12V power input to the board, and just using that external power pack to provide power for the direction change relay and output to the loco. Make sure that you keep the ground connected though, as the Darlington TIP120s need that to be common in order to work.

The eventual use for this project is to automate the model layout in the Corris Railway Museum, and allow visitors to put coins in a slot and the train will then run for a number of returns depending on the coin put in. More coins – the train runs a little quicker. The software allows for reed switches at either end of the line for reversing, as well as reed switches for stations.

The hardware driver circuit is shown here in the schematic below (I know it’s pretty rough, but it’s as good as I can do at short notice), and photo of the really dodgy looking breadboard prototype.

The diodes are 1N4004s and the caps are 0.1μF to protect against reverse current from the inductive loads.

MRCC1Breadboard MRCC1

Chip and pin just as fallible as old system?

A Guardian article about how chip and pin is not really any more secure than the old system, and the only change is that banks are now not paying claims, instead blaming the card owner for giving their cards and pins out. Their argument – you can’t copy these chips!

The article raises some important security concerns. Also, do you believe that reported card crime is down, now that you don’t report it to the police, the bank does that for you after they decide if it’s worth reporting?

And rather than make another post, I just have to link to this article about airport and airline security, and how completely absurd the whole thing is.
Personally, I fell that they’ve already won, by getting us to allow our government to take away civil liberties, whilst most of the voting public either encourage it, or just lay down and take it.
One of the comments near the top of the page, made by a pilot who is also subject to these security checks puts it quite succinctly:

Let’s think about something. I am in my pilot uniform and going through security and about to fly an aircraft and passengers from point A to B. I and my co-pilot will be sealed in the cockpit in front of a security door that cannot be opened from the outside. I will have in my hands the only “lethal” weapon used on 9/11, – the control yoke. So just what is it the TSA is checking me for? A gun? A knife? What? If I had been recuited by ‘the bad guys’ do I need to carry ANYTHING lethal? Of course not! Therefore, I should not have to go through security at all!

Bike passed MOT :-D

My GSX1100F powerscreen passed it’s MOT today, so I’ve just taxed it on-line. I must say that appears to be a government IT system that appears to work – I just typed in the reference number from the registration form, and it found the fact that the bike is insured and that the MOT has been done, and all I had to do was provide a credit card to pay the bill, and my new tax disc is in the post.

Now I’ve really got to do more mileage on it this year than I did last year.

Gatso and bikes

This story really made me chuckle a little today.
v sign biker take by gatso
Basically a guy on a bike had been regularly passing a speed camera above the posted limit, but it was one of those cameras that face the front of the vehicle. Because motorbikes don’t have number plates on the front, this guy thought that he was safe, and at one point even felt cool enough to flick the ‘V’s at the camera while doing 105mph.

This annoyed the local Bedfordshire constabulary, to the extent that they identified the model of the bike with the assistance of BMW, then trawled the DVLA registration database to find out that there were only three of that model of bike locally in the area. (A reasonable assumption from the repeat offences)

They then proceeded to look at each of those and identified Philip Coffey by his leathers and the extra headlights that he had added to the bike.

He was given a years ban from driving for the 10 offences, was let off the 72 penalty points given the ban, and was fined £900 and ordered to pay £600 costs. Of course, as he made his crust by driving buses, he’s lost that job as well.

Now I do consider myself lucky to live in a county where there are no fixed cameras – we have mobile units, but they’re in published locations, and pretty sensible ones if you ask me, well except for the one at Southgate junction, which usually has stationary traffic at any times when I’m going through it. We also have some of the best biking roads in the country, but then most people already know that as attested by the 300+ bikes on the prom every weekend during the summer.

Mind you, auntie beeb has been scaremongering again with her typical tabloid reporting on Week In Week Out this week. They appear to enjoy finding the most extreme, irresponsible arseholes and promoting their antics on television, giving a very distorted view of the biking community.

They also appeared to present a picture which indicates that the number of fatalities was on the increase over a number of years, yet BikeSafe Dyfed-Powys indicates a reduction in fatalities over a number of years.

And one last thing that has been annoying me for a while now:
Birdbox or fake gatso.
(Apologies for the rubbish photo)
It has been vandalised, but it keeps reappearing. Apparently it’s a birdbox…come on – what self respecting bird is going to nest in that thing, that close to the road.

Charlie and Ewan are off again!

Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman are off on a bike trip of a lifetime again – this time it’s the Long Way Down from John O’Groats to Capetown.

Good luck guys, I’m looking forward to another great TV series from this one.

I’ve just booked my GSX in for it’s MOT, so it’s ready for a bit of a trip later on this summer, but I’ve still not decided where… Never mind – I set out for a 2000 mile trip last year with only a weeks planning, and that went great (apart from the camera dying)