Image: Nikola Motor Co.
Image released of the planned Anheuser-Busch Nikola hydrogen fuel cell-powered electric Class 8 truck. The beer-brewing giant has placed an order for 'up to 800' of them.

Accelerating through our electrifying, autonomous world

June 1, 2018
A roundup of the latest good and worrisome news in the world of electrification and autonomous vehicles.

Electrifying! Electrifying! Autonomous! Autonomous!

I intentionally repeated those words. This last month we’ve seen Budweiser, I’m sorry, Anheuser-Busch, order 800 hydrogen fuel-cell powered electric semis. Tesla’s electric semi was rumored to be canceled, but then was seen on the road and its project manager, a former colleague at Daimler, posted on LinkedIn some pictures of the prototype on the road. NACFE published a new report on the future of electric vehicles.

Uber halted all testing in Arizona and laid off 200-300 people following information regarding the accident that killed a person crossing the road, walking a bicycle in the dark.

Chrysler is recalling 4.8 million vehicles because the cruise control may stick on. 

Six months ago, Ford recalled 100,000 F-150 trucks and Transit vans due to water ingress into electronics for their tow module.

Mistakes and accidents happen. Yes, BUT! 

I also attended a webinar on a safety development process, ISO 26262, Road Vehicles — Functional Safety. This was originally passed in 2011 and has been discussed within the trucking industry since then. While it may or may not apply to vehicles of certain weight classes in certain countries, it’s still a good idea to carefully think through what can go wrong and what should be done. The Uber group made some mistakes in choosing to disable safety systems and not replace them, among some other steps.

What impressed me most about the webinar was the use of redundancy, dual redundancy. Thus, the repetition of the words above. The webinar was suggesting, not just two of the same for redundancy, but two different processes. This could significantly increase the development and product cost. 

It reminded me of my first days in electronics development for aerospace applications at General Electric and nuclear submarines at Eaton. We didn’t just use dual redundancy, but triple redundancy with voting of two out of three. That was a lot of extra cost, of course. But, nuclear accidents need to be avoided. In spite of all that, a few such accidents have happened — Chernobyl and, perhaps as many as nine nuclear submarines.

In spite of all developments, an Amazon echo sent out a private recording.

I’ve enjoyed an Avenger’s/Infiniti commercial where the car is automatically started by voice command. 

I recently watched an episode of NOVA on PBS where the use of CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) and genetic modifications are being done to help patients with brain diseases and to modify mice that carry ticks. 

I just had my book on business published with the word “accelerate” in the title. Sometimes, things can go a bit fast. It’s great to accelerate, but let’s not outpace safety and go too fast.

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