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.

New Car

The Probe is dying… I’ve been spending too much recently to keep it going, so I’ve traded it in for something a bit more family friendly.
Ford Mondeo (not quite that model, as it’s got a manual box), which is 5 years old with 50,000 miles on it.
Hopefully this will mean lower maintenance costs for a while, but still be as much, or even more fun to drive as the Probe, but of course I’ve still got the bike for big fun.


My car failed its MOT today – little things, but they have to order in the parts, so it’s got to go back in next week for the repairs. The bike is back running again, after I found the problem – I went by the old adage “If you think it’s electrical, check the electrics. If you think it’s fuel, check the electrics.” I checked the electrics, cleaned and gapped the plugs, but still nothing. Turned the petcock from auto to prime, and she fired up :-D.
I’ve just got to reconnect the vacuum hose to the right place on the carbs, and then book that in for the MOT and get her taxed, and it’s on the road for the summer :-D. Then it’s just deciding where to go first. I really fancy the Viaduct De Millau, but maybe I’ll start with somewhere closer to home.
It’s nearly a year since I was out of the country, and I’m getting the wanderlust again – still hoping for that trip to India over the summer, but if nothing else a few days on the bike might help, and I need to start planning so I’ve got something to look forward to.