Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Ford Using Robots to Improve "Built Ford Tough" Durability Testing of its Trucks
- Ford is first automaker to develop robotic technology that drives vehicles during new accelerated high-impact on-road and off-road durability testing
- Robotically driven vehicles ideally suited for durability test conditions that could prove too taxing for human drivers
- New technology used to ensure Ford trucks, including the all-new Transit van family, are Built Ford Tough
DEARBORN, Mich., June 15, 2013 – Ford engineers have developed the industry's first robotic test driving program – now in use at the company's Michigan Proving Grounds in Romeo, Mich. – to meet demands that Ford trucks undergo ever more strenuous Built Ford Tough testing with greater frequency.
The pilot program has been used most recently for durability testing of Ford's all-new full-size Transit van, which launches in 2014.
"Some of the tests we do on our commercial trucks for North America are so strenuous that we limit the exposure time for human drivers," says Dave Payne, manager, vehicle development operations. "The challenge is completing testing to meet vehicle development time lines while keeping our drivers comfortable.
"Robotic testing allows us to do both," he says. "We accelerate durability testing while simultaneously increasing the productivity of our other programs by redeploying drivers to those areas, such as noise level and vehicle dynamics testing."
The durability technology includes a robotic control module installed in the test vehicle that controls vehicle steering, acceleration and braking. The module is set to follow a preprogrammed course, and the vehicle's position is tracked via cameras in a central control room and GPS accurate to plus/minus one inch. Should the vehicle stray from its programmed course, engineers have the ability to stop the vehicle, course correct as necessary, and restart the test. Onboard sensors can command a full stop if a pedestrian or another vehicle strays into the path.
The robotically driven vehicles are expected to repeatedly perform tests on torturous surfaces with names like Silver Creek, Power Hop Hill and Curb Your Enthusiasm. The tests can compress 10 years of daily driving abuse into courses just a few hundred yards long, with surfaces that include broken concrete, cobblestones, metal grates, rough gravel, mud pits and oversized speed bumps.
All North American Ford trucks must pass this battery of durability tests before they're certified for customer use. Until now, testing speeds and repetitions for specific scenarios were limited due to restrictions placed on human drivers, who were allowed to drive certain rigorous courses only once a day.
The use of robots now accelerates this testing, allowing an unlimited number of repeats until Ford engineers are satisfied with the results. Robots also allow Ford to develop even more challenging durability tests to build tougher trucks.
Ford engineers worked with Utah-based Autonomous Solutions Inc. to design and manufacture the software and components that enable autonomous, robotic operation of the test vehicle.
"We're very excited to work with Ford for autonomous vehicle testing," said Mel Torrie, CEO of Autonomous Solutions Inc. "The reliability, durability and performance enhancements we've developed with Ford will not only help them reach their safety and accuracy goals, but will also improve vehicle automation in other areas such as mining, agriculture and the U.S. military."
Ford engineers designed and deployed the robotic technology with two goals in mind: protecting human drivers and engineering Ford trucks to be tougher than ever.
"The goal here was not to develop a truly autonomous vehicle that can drive itself on city streets," said Payne. "Our objective was to create a test track solution that allows for this type of intense testing that could take our vehicles to the most extreme limits of their engineering while ensuring the safety of all involved."
Lausanne, June 14, 2013.
A robot that runs like a cat
Thanks to its legs, whose design faithfully reproduces feline morphology, EPFL's four-legged "cheetah-cub robot" has the same advantages as its model: it is small, light and fast. Still in its experimental stage, the robot will serve as a platform for research in locomotion and biomechanics.
Even though it doesn't have a head, you can still tell what kind of animal it is: the robot is definitely modeled upon a cat. Developed by EPFL's Biorobotics Laboratory (Biorob), the "cheetah-cub robot," a small-size quadruped prototype robot, is described in an article appearing today in the International Journal of Robotics Research. The purpose of the platform is to encourage research in biomechanics; its particularity is the design of its legs, which make it very fast and stable. Robots developed from this concept could eventually be used in search and rescue missions or for exploration.
This robot is the fastest in its category, namely in normalized speed for small quadruped robots under 30Kg. During tests, it demonstrated its ability to run nearly seven times its body length in one second. Although not as agile as a real cat, it still has excellent auto-stabilization characteristics when running at full speed or over a course that included disturbances such as small steps. In addition, the robot is extremely light, compact, and robust and can be easily assembled from materials that are inexpensive and readily available.
The machine's strengths all reside in the design of its legs. The researchers developed a new model with this robot, one that is based on the meticulous observation and faithful reproduction of the feline leg. The number of segments – three on each leg – and their proportions are the same as they are on a cat. Springs are used to reproduce tendons, and actuators – small motors that convert energy into movement – are used to replace the muscles.
"This morphology gives the robot the mechanical properties from which cats benefit, that's to say a marked running ability and elasticity in the right spots, to ensure stability," explains Alexander Sprowitz, a Biorob scientist. "The robot is thus naturally more autonomous."
Sized for a search
According to Biorob director Auke Ijspeert, this invention is the logical follow-up of research the lab has done into locomotion that included a salamander robot and a lamprey robot. "It's still in the experimental stages, but the long-term goal of the cheetah-cub robot is to be able to develop fast, agile, ground-hugging machines for use in exploration, for example for search and rescue in natural disaster situations. Studying and using the principles of the animal kingdom to develop new solutions for use in robots is the essence of our research."
Apple releases statement on customer privacy, received over 4,000 government information requests in six months
Two weeks ago, when technology companies were accused of indiscriminately sharing customer data with government agencies, Apple issued a clear response: We first heard of the government's "Prism" program when news organizations asked us about it on June 6. We do not provide any government agency with direct access to our servers, and any government agency requesting customer content must get a court order.
Like several other companies, we have asked the U.S. government for permission to report how many requests we receive related to national security and how we handle them. We have been authorized to share some of that data, and we are providing it here in the interest of transparency.
From December 1, 2012 to May 31, 2013, Apple received between 4,000 and 5,000 requests from U.S. law enforcement for customer data. Between 9,000 and 10,000 accounts or devices were specified in those requests, which came from federal, state and local authorities and included both criminal investigations and national security matters. The most common form of request comes from police investigating robberies and other crimes, searching for missing children, trying to locate a patient with Alzheimer's disease, or hoping to prevent a suicide.
Regardless of the circumstances, our Legal team conducts an evaluation of each request and, only if appropriate, we retrieve and deliver the narrowest possible set of information to the authorities. In fact, from time to time when we see inconsistencies or inaccuracies in a request, we will refuse to fulfill it.
Apple has always placed a priority on protecting our customers' personal data, and we don't collect or maintain a mountain of personal details about our customers in the first place. There are certain categories of information which we do not provide to law enforcement or any other group because we choose not to retain it.
For example, conversations which take place over iMessage and FaceTime are protected by end-to-end encryption so no one but the sender and receiver can see or read them. Apple cannot decrypt that data. Similarly, we do not store data related to customers' location, Map searches or Siri requests in any identifiable form.
We will continue to work hard to strike the right balance between fulfilling our legal responsibilities and protecting our customers' privacy as they expect and deserve.when.eng("eng.pr.init")when.eng("eng.perm.init")
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As you have perhaps heard by now, Kanye West's baby sprang from Kim Kardashian's loins on Saturday. Born one day before Father's Day and three days before Kanye's Yeezus album release, the much-anticipated infant could go platinum by the end of the week. Here's what we know about 32-year-old Kim and 36-year-old Kanye's baby so far:
• "Less than five pounds" after a birth that was reportedly five weeks early.
• Name unknown, but it "will start with a K."
• Kimchee. Kaya. Kite. Kale. Kinetoplastid protozoa. (Just spitballing.)
• "She has dark hair. She looks just like Kim," reports E! News.
• No pictures yet, but lots of creepy artist renderings. Daniel Edwards, the artist who imagined Britney giving birth on a bearskin rug and Kim as a fertility goddess, recently cast Kimye's baby in bronze. Update: Kim's ex Reggie Bush "debuted" the baby he had with his "Kim lookalike" girlfriend yesterday. If Kim's baby "looks just like Kim," and Reggie's girlfriend "looks just like Kim," then maybe the babies look alike, too? Reggie's daughter's name is Briseis, so let's add "Kriseis" to the Kimye baby name list.
• "[Kim] started having contractions Friday night and went into full labor early Saturday AM," TMZ reports. "E! Online—home network of the Keeping Up With the Kardashians—reported Kim had a natural childbirth. But witnesses said that she was wheeled into a recovery room reserved for mothers who had given birth by Caesarean section," notes a suspicious New York Daily News.
• Last night's Keeping Up depicted Kim hospitalized with an appendicitis and stomach infection, mid-pregnancy. "It feels like I am in labor. Why is this happening to me? I hate it; I can never do this again," she said.
• Kanye was present at the birth and canceled his appearance at a release party for Yeezus. After spending time with her new grandchild at Cedars-Sinai hospital, Kris Jenner walked the red carpet for the Daytime Emmys last night. The baby, she said, is "beautiful" and doing fine.
• Report from the trenches: "It is pandemonium in here, but Kanye is celebrating his first Father's Day. This may finally make him not so angry all the time. He may soften up because he has always wanted a girl."