Sunday, December 27, 2015

Breaking Bad; The Corruption of the Autonomous Driving Vehicle

Autonomous driving cars are just around the corner and I can't wait! The option to snooze, work, or just snap pix to post on Facebook during my commute is something... I would love to be able to do "safely."   Studies claim a 50% increase in commuting time for the average worker in the Puget Sound Region has happened in just the last 4 years and I have to say I concur. (although I feel the number is a bit low)

Traffic being the issue it is means something has to be done but the traditional options of pushing everyone to mass transit options, building more roads or raising taxes or providing breaks to encourage car pooling has not worked or is simply way too expensive.  The one transportation obstacle that was hurdled (after years of debate over who was going to pay for it) the downtown Seattle Tunnel has been derailed due to the digging machine not performing as expected.  FYI; many experts see a slight easing of congestion issues at best since most of the traffic will simply be moved from another traffic corridor that is going away.

Autonomous cars can go a long way towards reducing congestion. They can safely drive at a much higher density which means a higher rate of thru-put despite only driving at or below the speed limit.  Software can easily create "Car trains" where its determined that several cars will be traveling in the same direction for several miles. Drafting each other, automatically adjusting following distances to account for weight, braking distances, etc. Even putting the vehicle with the largest "frontage" in the lead to help "break wind" could be an option.  A successful car train would save tons of fuel even for the lead car.

Autonomous cars will be safer because driver fatigue, physical limitations and poor driving conditions due to weather, time of day, etc. are eliminated.

Networking Autonomous cars will greatly increase efficiency and safety by greatly reducing the interactions with rogue drivers.  Imagine a setting "Remain in area surrounded by other ADVs"(Autonomous Driving Vehicles)

But there remains a huge psychological road block to ADV's.  It is fear of the unknown and putting the your life on the line to rely on a computer to get you around safely on a crowded freeway is going to be a major hit on anyone's comfort zone.  BSOD visions aside; have computers really advanced that far??

Well, yes. Yes, they have! In fact they have advanced more than far enough to take over a relatively simple task of driving...or is it that simple?? Well, COMPLETELY remove the Human Element and it would be!  In this article the word "safe" and its variants have been used several times and ADV's are, right?....right?

A recent article illustrates how much we do not belong behind the wheel.  It appears that ADV's has suffered from an accident rate higher than normal. This is shocking and will no doubt be used out of context with neighsayers later at least until we delve further and find

The self-driving car, that cutting-edge creation that’s supposed to lead to a world without accidents, is achieving the exact opposite right now: The vehicles have racked up a crash rate double that of those with human drivers.
The glitch?
They obey the law all the time, as in, without exception. This may sound like the right way to program a robot to drive a car, but good luck trying to merge onto a chaotic, jam-packed highway with traffic flying along well above the speed limit. It tends not to work out well.

Yeah... thats right. Most of the accidents are happening because of a flagrant violation of the written law resulting in people rear ending ADV's because they are obeying the traffic laws!  But not surprising!  Despite spending a bankroll large enough that make Bill Gates jealous; Auto makers have not been able to significantly reduce highway deaths.  Now, we have made progress and highway deaths are down 50% despite more miles driven and worse accidents (as a result of excessive speed mind you...) but cars still kill over 30,000 people every year. Ya, that is more than ten times the rate of mass shootings in this country.  So why is a handful of deaths by firearms from people primarily ignoring the law generating so much passion when thousands of deaths are attributed to people ignoring the speed limit (which is a law as well... shocking I know, but its true!! Snopes confirmed) in a car? Well, obviously I cannot out argue the gun or automotive lobbyists so what are our options?

 As the accidents have piled up -- all minor scrape-ups for now -- the arguments among programmers at places like Google Inc. and Carnegie Mellon University are heating up: Should they teach the cars how to commit infractions from time to time to stay out of trouble? 

say WHAT!! Google; I am SHOCKED!! Of all the companies in the World, you were the last (besides Apple) that would take "Lemming over the Cliff" option!  What is the upside to arriving at your destination 10 minutes earlier?  Keep in mind; more autonomous cars could very well lessen that gap but on the flipside...

Excessive speed has so many downsides that listing half of them will cause me to miss the kickoff of the Seahawks game which as we all know is not an option.

Accidents, driver stress,  higher insurance rates and death.  Good luck finding specifics on how many deaths are solely the result of excessive speeds but even low ball figures puts it at 35,000 a year. Wait a second! How can it be 35,000 when there will be just over 30,000 killed this year?(estimate only)   Well the first figure is Highway deaths only.  It does not include deaths on the city and county roads where its open season on pedestrians. I am not going there simply because of the number of incidents involving the number of children under age 6.  It really would ruin my day.

So Google, Apple and whoever, do not cave under the moniker of the all mighty dollar.  Resist the temptation from the dark side.  Stick to your guns.  Add the ability to immediately upload videos of all traffic incidents seen to the proper law enforcement authority and insurance agency.  Do this and eventually the gap between insurance for an ADV  (over 10,000,000 miles without causing an accident) and people who refuse to give up the wheel.

So how much are you willing to pay for that 10 minutes?

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Inconvenience of Public Charging

This picture may not be too clear but as I was walking (padding my Fitbit numbers!) the other day at Marathon Park in Oly, I came upon this guy who had his cellphone plugged into the light pole.  Now a scene like this at the airport is pretty common and accepted but here?  Well at least it wasn't raining!

It is kinda funny how some types of "recharging" is much more acceptable than others. When you compare what we are willing to pay for that convenience (or not in the case above) its even funnier... in an odd sort of way.

Now since this is an Electric Vehicle Blog the title is bound to suggest its about my LEAF but "recharging" comes in several different forms and cars and cellphones only scratch the surface.

We recharge on the road all the time.  Be it fast food, Starbucks, the ultrarich indulgence of Dairy Queen, or power napping at a rest area; we do it simply because we demand satisfaction right now, simply don't want to cook, (that be me) we don't have time to go home,  or its a safety thing.

What I think really needs to happen is a reevaluation of the concept of public "charging" and what we are willing to pay in both time and money for that convenience or privilege (Ok, "I" think its a privilege to drive EV...)

So speed is essential, right?  Well, yeah... most of the time. But is it that essential when you don't have to be in attendance?  We all hate going to a restaurant and having to sit in the lobby for 15 minutes before being seated. Then its 3-5 mins for water, another 3-7 mins to put in the order then 8 to 21 mins waiting on the food and no, I did not pull those numbers off the top of my head.  But those are sit down restaurants that generally fall into two categories but the largest by far is the "destination" category. IOW, we are not out just driving around and suddenly got the munchies. It is something planned and frequently is the only thing we are doing on our journeys  away from home.  So time is not essential as much as the realization that we cannot do anything during those various wait times. It is the very reason why those times are so segmented that dictates we not "lose" our place in line.

Now fast food is much faster but it does have drawbacks anyone who has spilled something on their clothes (like is there anyone out there that hasn't?) will confirm.  The menu options alone require some compromise. I love Big Macs but sometimes I want spaghetti, pasta, meatballs and sauce!  Try eating that on I-5!  Of course, this can be avoided by eating the food at the establishment. Since I work on the road, I do fast food a lot, way more than I should.  In nearly all cases, I have 30 mins to eat from the time I leave work to when I return so fast has to be fast.  So sometimes its a question of finding fast food row, doing a quick browse into which drive thru line is reasonable and moving and so on.  Not always a good indication.  More than once I have gotten into a short line only to find out a short while later that it was short because people simply got tired of waiting and left the time for the establishment next door.

Now after driving EV for more than 8 years, I long since came to the realization that the "speed is essential" part mostly because its unplanned. We did not block out time in our day for that detour. Be it gas, recharging, food, etc.  So it falls into the category of "squeezing it in."

Recently I took a trip with my Son (8 years old with roughly 8 seconds of patience) that was 140 miles round trip in which 2 charging stops were incorporated.  Both were planned, neither felt like a delay, and in both cases, we waited almost no time at all.  Now, to be fair; the first charge was at a DCFC and I wanted to charge longer than the time I was there but another car came in so I decided to cut short my plan.  Our stop consisted of plugging in, using the bathroom and grabbing Hot Chocolate to go which we had done and returned to the car as the other LEAF arrived.  Despite 3 EV parking spaces and only one charging,  he had to wait a bit to park.

Luckily, it was a Walgreens with cars moving in and out rather quickly so he only had to wait a few minutes.  Either way, I left with a GID count of  215. (target was 240)

Now the "A" Plan was to plug in at our destination (Snoqualmie Falls) but that was not to be. It was a gorgeous day in the mid 40's without a cloud in the sky which means the place was PACKED!  So we parked in the overflow lot roughly 3 blocks from the nearest plug.

We spent about 90 minutes there enjoying the raging water and the mist (not so much) which was basically rain falling up which made the mid 40's temps feel like the mid 20's!  But the roughly 600 foot elevation change down and back up did a great job of building an appetite so we created plan B which was to head to town and find a place to recharge both us and the car!

There were 3 L2's in town and one just happened to be around the corner from a place to eat so we parked, walked roughly 1½ blocks, ate and returned 55 minutes later. Jumped in and drove home.  The key takeaway here is that we did not have to use extra time to do any recharging of the car due to our ability to

1) Walk away from the car

2) Use the time to address other needs

Which brings me back to the guy charging his phone.  Now this area does have benches because its quite normal and common for people who just want to sit and enjoy the scenery and the people... in Summer.  The day I took the pix it was December, temps in the low 40's and we two were the only ones there, so guessing his charging was not a "destination" event.

Finally, I do feel that Public charging is an extreme inconvenience when its not planned and because of my job, I do a lot of driving but frequently encounter situations where my 88 mile roundtrip completed successfully several times is not going to work due to weather, rain, traffic, etc... IOW; I have to make an unplanned stop which means finding a charger convenient to that stop which is difficult especially when traffic issues means that any detour (even one of just a few miles) is at least another 30 minutes added to my day which is why I drive at a pace that allows me to get to where I need to go without stopping. This is how much I hate "unplanned" public charging.  Planned Public Charging is simply a part of life no less important that spending time with my Son eating Ice Cream.

So next time you ask "How can you stand to drive 55?"  read this post.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

November 2015 Driving Stats

If you have been following my blogs or Facebook rants, you know that I have been seeing over 21 Kwh available on my LEAF! And the best part is all of this has happened without the normal tools we employ to boost our numbers!

No, I have not been camping out at the local Fast Charger (despite the fact that its free...) In fact, I have only had one fast charge event in the past 2 months and the event was not even long enough to get me to 5 temperature bars from 4!

No, I have not been driving my LEAF a lot. Right now, its slow at work which is pretty typical during the Christmas rush along with two 4 day vacations mixed in as well all adds up to me driving much less than normal.

But despite all this I saw

Now for some firsts;  This is the first time I have seen as much as 21.2 kwh available since July 2nd. This the first time I have seen as much as 274 GIDs since July 1st. Now mind you; This was near the end of a stretch where I averaged over 80 miles a day driving for 10 days.

Previous to this jump (which is still being maintained a week later...) I was seeing GIDs in the 260-264 range with kwh available bouncing between 20.2 and 20.5

Highest Hx since May 1st (97.71)  Highest ahr since May 5th (63.27)

So we have no QCs to speak of, lots of days under 25 miles driven, and MUCH colder weather. All of which had tended to depress my numbers so whats going on??  I was already convinced long ago that my 2013 battery pack was improved over my 2011 pack but this is just weird!

For November the Corolla trudged 687.6 miles draining me for $34.71 resulting in a staggering 5.05 cents per mile managing to completely destroy the notion that we are currently experiencing cheap gas. And yes, the Corolla was driven 400 miles on trips that the LEAF could have done but I am still in "lease mileage reduction" mode at least thru the end of January.

The LEAF zipped for 893.8 miles at a nearly invisible cost of  $23.53 or a miniscule 2.63 cents per mile. This includes $4.55 cents in Blink fees (ya, Blink worked TWICE!)

Unlike last year, Winter has decided to make an appearance this year. We already have significant snowfall, tons of snowboarding pix from my nephew Thomas and it looks like the weather will be around for a while so likely not going to see another record breaking February but one can hope!


Ok, ignore everything I said above!! While writing this I plugged in the car and just went out to get a reading and this!!

Ok garage temp 53.2ยบ,  battery temps nearly the same. I am beginning to form a different opinion on the ideal temperature range for LEAF batteries for some reason...