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XII No.13 - Sunday June 30 - Saturday July 13, 2013


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Update by Saichon Paewsoongnern
 
 
 
Automania by Dr. Iain Corness
 

British GP Silverstone this weekend

Silverstone for the British GP.

The British Grand Prix will be held this weekend at the ancestral home of F1, with the first ever F1 GP held there in 1950 (and won by Dr Farina in the Alfa Romeo).
This is a circuit that the drivers universally like, a circuit that allows cars to pass each other (even without the DRS), and a Grand Prix where it is likely to rain at some point. After all, it is in England, and they cannot possibly go three days on the trot without a good drenching from above!
The new “arena” part of the circuit used for the first time a couple of years back goes from Abbey to Brooklands corners, moving infield and adding an extra 760 m to the track length. You will be heartened to read that Herr Tilke was not involved. Interestingly, this modification was actually built for the MotoGP series, but now incorporated in the F1 series after Bernie, the patron saint of King Midas Dwarf Enterprises, gave it his blessing. Yes, that is the same Bernie who has masterminded such yawnfest circuits as Bahrain and Singapore. But don’t start me.
So who should we look out for? Mercedes is now right up there, and Hamilton was unlucky not to get pole in Canada. Hamilton will be trying for the win but if Vettel’s form is anything to go by, the finger will be raised and the Mercedes cars will be left behind.
Alonso the Savvy Spaniard will complain about something, and then try and scoop up another win! Felipe Massa, who must be on borrowed time, will complain that his car feels different every time he drives it, while all the tail end Charlies will be tripping over each other as usual.
The Qualifying is at 7 p.m. on Saturday 29 and the race is 7 p.m. on Sunday 30 July.


Antonio dislikes BMW!

I came across this interesting snippet that I had stored in my computer - and then lost, to just find it today! This is from the Le Parisien newspaper who reported on “The Unhappy Customer Who Took Hostages At BMW’s French HQ.”
60 year old French retiree Antonio Fontana is obsessed with BMWs. Like, Single White Female obsessed. It started with a BMW he regretted purchasing and ended with him taking hostages at BMW’s French headquarters. But there’s actually more to this story.
According to Le Parisien (translated), Fontana purchased a BMW 530d diesel from a dealership a few years ago, but wasn’t happy with the performance of his vehicle.
And, like any upset consumer, he took the following normal steps:
In 2003, he tried to set himself on fire in front of the BMW dealership where he purchased the car.
In 2005, he left boxes of fake explosives at three BMW dealerships around France, for which he was sentenced to 15 months in prison.
In 2008, he called in a bomb threat to BMW France HQ.
Yesterday, he fired shots at BMW HQ and took a receptionist hostage.
Fontana eventually surrendered to police before harming anyone and now faces more serious jail time.
Look for a billboard campaign from Audi of France proudly proclaiming “AUDI: Our customers don’t try to kill us.”
[Le Perisien]


Pro Series at Bira this weekend

Retro Pro Series action. (Photo courtesy Edd Ellison)

The very professional Pro Series event is on at the Bira circuit this weekend. As opposed to the other promoters, the Pro Series runs generally to time. After getting four hours behind at the last meeting, punctuality is very much enjoyed by drivers and spectators alike.
They have a category for the Retro cars (pre 1985) such as our 1973 BBX/Acorn Pub Ford Escort Mk1, making the car one of the oldest in the class. The driver has also probably passed his use-by date, but at this stage we are still up the sharp end of the grid.
If you would like to come along and barrack for the little Escort, up against cars like Gavin Charlesworth’s 4.4 liter V8 BMW E30, we have a hospitality tent that you can avail yourself of during the afternoon. To find the tent, come into the circuit by the pit entrance (not the main entrance), go through the tunnel under the track and then turn hard right and go up the hill. You will easily see the red AA Insurance tent, with catering done by the Acorn Pub (first floor The Avenue shopping center on Second Road) with burgers, sausages and beer on tap! Yes, you read that correctly! It is a real picnic atmosphere, so bring your kids and friends.
There are many categories running, from 2 liter sedans, trucks, amateurs, and sports cars. We will join you after our race, and a cold beer will certainly go down well!


Automated motoring

Automated Passat.

The technology is here now! Self driving cars are reality. And if you don’t believe me, talk to the owner of a new Ford Focus, a car which parallel parks itself after you select reverse and take your hands off the steering wheel. Not a gimmick - it does it perfectly every time, after the car measures the space to park in and away you go!
I was at a lecture the other day (Automotive Focus Group) and the Thomas Chambers MD of Continental mentioned the coming era of driverless motor cars. I remember that probably 30 years ago, Continental was experimenting with driverless cars, which followed a cable buried in the roadway.
Jeevan Vasagar, a journalist based in the UK, experienced being passenger in a driverless car, a modified Volkswagen Passat. This vehicle was devised by a team at the Free University of Berlin, and their Passat is a highly advanced autonomous car, which it is claimed is capable of navigating a safe path through unpredictable city traffic.
This Passat has a spinning silver cylinder mounted on the roof, a laser scanner, which generates a million data points per second to give the car’s computer a real-time map of its surroundings.
Cameras and radar sensors provide further detail, alongside an ultra-precise GPS based on the navigation systems used in aircraft. According to Jeevan, it will be many years before a car this sophisticated is commercially available, but Germany’s luxury car makers have begun introducing a number of autonomous features that enable some of their leading models to drive and steer themselves.
Daimler, which owns Mercedes-Benz, predicts that at low speeds - such as in traffic jams or parking - cars will operate with full autonomy “in a matter of years”. At higher speeds, several manufacturers plan for highly automated driving within the structured environment of a motorway.
The latest Mercedes S-Class is the most significant advance yet in automated driving for the mass market. The luxury sedan comes equipped with a camera that scans the road ahead and an array of radar sensors. The images it captures are analyzed by an algorithm, allowing the car to alert the driver to danger and take corrective action itself if necessary.
“In critical situations, the driver assistance systems in the car react more quickly than humans ever could,” says Professor Ralf Herrtwich, director of driver assistance at Daimler. “Unlike drivers, they are never inattentive.”
The aim of greater automation is not to take away the pleasure of the open road but to save motorists from some of the tasks that make driving a chore.
Raul Rojas, a professor of artificial intelligence at the Free University of Berlin who leads its autonomous car project, predicts the public transport of the future will be fleets of robot taxis, cheaper and safer than the human kind, operating for 24 hours a day without fatigue.
In a few years time, Professor Rojas suggests, people will use their mobile phones to summon a robot taxi, dropping it off at their destination ready for the next passenger.
There are still technical barriers to the mass production of automated cars. The key problem is vision. The laser scanners used by the Free University’s car cannot pass through a solid barrier, so a pedestrian stepping out from between two parked buses would be invisible until the last moment.
An automated car “does not just need to watch out for other cars”, Professor Herrtwich says. “It needs to check for pedestrians and cyclists, for lanes, stopping lines, traffic signs, and traffic lights. It needs to understand that a lane ends in a few hundred meters or that there is a stalled vehicle on the highway ahead of it.”
It goes without saying that this technology does not just need to be reliable, but affordable within the budget constraints of a typical mass production vehicle.
The Free University’s team is working on improving the computer’s vision, but face a huge challenge replicating the human ability to see.
“Almost a fifth of the brain is just for image processing,” Professor Rojas says. “Computer visual recognition is still very, very primitive.”
One vital question is legal liability, as a BMW spokeswoman says, “Who is responsible for an automated driving system in case of an accident or failure?”
So there are many questions still unanswered, and human reluctance to hand over the “reins”, is just one of them.


HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

British GP Silverstone this weekend

Antonio dislikes BMW!

Pro Series at Bira this weekend

Automated motoring

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