Robot ATV carries firefighters’ gear

❝ In the fall of 2018, the Center of Excellence for Advanced Technology Aerial Firefighting, along with wildland firefighters from the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control worked with Honda in testing their Autonomous Work Vehicle in wildland firefighting support scenarios.

Located at the site of the Lake Christine fire, a destructive wildfire that took place the summer of 2018 in Eagle County, Colorado- CoE, DFPC and Honda tested the work vehicles using realistic scenarios that occur during a wildfire. The team focused on utilizing the vehicle to support wildland operations with the goal of enhancing safety and effectiveness. Three missions were tested including initial attack support for dismounted firefighters, support of active fireline development, and autonomous deployment of a communications repeater to a remote site. This evaluation was performed at the Lake Christine fire site after the fire was fully contained and controlled. The initial results of the tests were promising and the CoE looks forward to working with Honda to further this mission.

Yeah, the language is a little stilted, press release-English. The concept is smart and realistic, useful. Certainly, folks here in the Rockies concerned with wildfires would be pleased to see critters like this in use.

Honda’s $25 million settlement illustrates gutless government in action


Someone explain to Honda those aren’t American flags

American Honda Finance Corp. agreed to pay as much as $25 million to settle discriminatory lending allegations as the U.S. has stepped up its scrutiny of car loans, the third-largest source of household debt.

The Honda unit that finances auto loans in the U.S. will offer $24 million in relief to borrowers who were allegedly overcharged by dealers since 2011, according to a settlement Tuesday with the Justice Department and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. An additional $1 million will be spent on consumer education programs.

The federal government in recent years has secured large discriminatory lending payments from mortgage companies, including a $335 million settlement with Countrywide Financial Corp., and has now turned its attention to auto loans. As part of the settlement, Honda said it would limit the amount a dealer could markup the interest rate of the loan.

As our government has demonstrated time and again, you can lie, cheat and steal – and if you’re a big bank, you get a sizable fine. I guess that’s repayment to the state, somehow. No one does any time. None of the creeps who signed-off on screwing American citizens pay any penalty. Shareholders get the fine subtracted from any dividends they may have expected.

Toyota Motor Credit Corp. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. have each disclosed government investigations of discriminatory pricing related to loans.

Vanita Gupta said the Justice Department’s investigation of the auto-lending industry is continuing. Auto loans are the third-largest source of household debt after mortgages and student loans…

U.S. authorities allege that Honda violated fair-lending laws by allowing dealers to charge higher interest rates on loans sought by African-American, Hispanic and Asian borrowers.

The average African-American borrower paid about $250 more for the loan than a white borrower, the Justice Department ad the CFPB said in its complaint. Hispanics paid $200 more while Asian and Pacific Islander borrowers paid $150 more during the term of the loan, the U.S. said.

And that’s the flip side of bigoted business practices in 21st Century America. Corporate barons only have to look to the Republican Party and the gerrymandering done since the 2010 census to think to themselves – hey, these creeps are publicly redefining voting districts to discriminate against Black folks, poor white folks, students and seniors – why can’t I do the same thing?

Our creepiest politicians combine the theft of voting rights with lies about non-existent voter fraud to assemble a life’s worth of deceit and discrimination equal to anything since the days of Jim Crow – and our courts will fart around for decades without doing a thing. Plus, they have the example of the Supreme Court before them saying – it’s all right, racism doesn’t exist in our plastic TV-land anymore.

Why shouldn’t Honda try to get away with stealing? Our politicians, our government says it’s OK.

OK Go — an Amazeballs music video

When Honda unveiled the slimmed-down βeta version of its Uni-Cub last year, it might have thought the minimalist electric vehicle would find its most enthusiastic audience inside office buildings, where it would simultaneously lighten the load of worker drones and perhaps inject a bit of rolling robotic tech-type fun into an otherwise drab and dreary day. It was wrong. Clearly, this personal mobility machine was destined for greater things.

For instance, it could be used for electric unicycle square dancing (Okay, technically the Uni-Cub β employs one wheel and a caster-type ball, thereby disqualifying it from unicycle status, but whatever.) Or even better, it could be a platform upon which the power pop group OK Go and a few hundred Japanese school girls could perform awesome maneuvers, including the aforementioned electric unicycle square dancing, in their latest totally amazeballs video. Honda reportedly paid for the new video, which was shot at half-speed and when you watch it, you’ll know why.

As is the band’s wont, it’s all done in one take, and is sure to drop your jaw. Ok, go!

Let’s get a geek thing or two out of the way. This was shot in one take which means it was shot with a drone. That’s way cool – there obviously is sufficient stability, control and capability to produce what you see before you. Every choreographer and cinematographer must be playing with drones, by now.

Next – Honda gets better every minute of the day at building-in stability to inherently unstable mechanisms. Especially robot attendants for not-very-mobile senior citizens. All the other uses for one-person mobility over moderate distances are counter-productive to human health – in my mind.

Yes, I’ve worked in facilities that used electric vehicles when speed was an important component of getting from one part of a sprawling facility to another. Working in a major teaching hospital with buildings connected by tunnels for unimpeded traffic, techs who needed a load of equipment for their work utilized electric tricycle go-carts to get from engineering central to the job. And when a code was broadcast on the hospital public intercom for “smell of smoke” – everyone in engineering stopped whatever they were doing and walked briskly or hopped onto the nearest electric cart and went immediately to the designated point of danger.

We were the first line of defense against a hospital fire. Carts would arrive with two or three or four techs, anyone trained to stop a fire, hanging onto the top of the carts.

Otherwise – especially in comparable industrial facilities – if you had a half-mile or more between jobs/meetings you took a single-speed bike and got a little exercise along the way. Or you walked. Both better for your health than arabesques with Japanese schoolgirls.

Honda develops technology to weld steel and aluminum

A diagram of an Accord subframe made using the new welding process

Although some engineers have had success in spot welding steel and aluminum together, it has largely been considered impossible to achieve reliable, continuous welds directly between the two dissimilar metals. That changed last Thursday, however, when Honda Motor Company announced that it has devised a technique for doing that very thing. The results, which include lower vehicle weight and better performance, can be seen in the 2013 Accord.

The Honda team developed a variation on Friction Stir Welding, in which metals are joined via mechanical pressure – it’s the same technique that has been used for experimental steel/aluminum spot welds in the past. As Honda explains it, “This technology generates a new and stable metallic bonding between steel and aluminum by moving a rotating tool on the top of the aluminum which is lapped over the steel with high pressure.” The welds that result are reportedly as strong or stronger than those made using regular Metal Inert Gas welding.

Steel/aluminum subframes built with the new technique are said to be 25 percent lighter than those made entirely out of steel, which should translate into improved fuel economy. The process also made it possible to alter the structure of the subframe, so that the mounting point for the suspension could be relocated – this change has reportedly increased the rigidity of the mounting point by 20 percent, and thereby improved the car’s dynamic performance.

Additionally, the new process uses about half the amount of electricity as Metal Inert Gas welding, and the machinery it requires isn’t as large as that traditionally used for Friction Stir Welding – in fact, it can be attached to an industrial robot. The technique can also be used for aluminum-to-aluminum welding, without any hardware changes.

The is a serious achievement. I managed support systems for a number of facilities keyed on welding components. Including early days MIG-welding ship sub-sections. This would have offered real weight savings, structural advantages.

Honda crushing new cars ruined in Thailand floods


After floodwaters receded at the Honda factory in Ayutthaya province

In an effort to prove that no flood damaged vehicles will be sold to customers, the Honda factory in Thailand’s Ayutthaya province began destroying over 1,000 cars. The factory was one of the hardest hit by the several months of record flooding, which only receded a few weeks ago. The devastating floods were the worst the country experienced in 50 years and left over 700 people dead. According to AFP, the scrapping process is expected to take one month.

Honda’s production was disrupted from the floods and only recently returned to normal. According to AP, American Honda Executive Vice President John Mendel says it will not be until March that dealers will be fully restocked.

Aerial images of the submerged cars in the Honda lot provided powerful visuals of the effects of the severe flooding on businesses…The area is home to large production centers for global car and computer industries. According to Bloomberg, Toyota had to suspend local production of its Camry and Prius lines, and Apple faced delays in parts used for Mac computers. Western Digital shares hit a year low in October and is now working to regain their losses, according to Reuters.

Not that anyone in the United States would have to worry about buying a car leftover from a flood, eh?

Alabama coppers arrest managers of two car factories under their new suspicious furriners law

To arrest one foreign car-making executive under Alabama’s new tough immigration laws may be regarded as a misfortune; to arrest a second looks like carelessness.

A judge has acted to put a Japanese employee of Honda Motor Company out of his misery by dismissing immigration charges against him, three days after he was booked under Alabama’s new immigration laws that have been billed as the most swingeing in America. Ichiro Yada is one of about 100 Japanese managers of the company on assignment in southern state.

Yada was stopped in Leeds, Alabama, at a checkpoint set up by police to catch unlicenced drivers. He was ticketed on the spot, despite the fact that he showed an international driver’s licence, a valid passport and a US work permit.

Bamalama coppers probably think an international driver’s license is just for driving outside Dixie.

Key parts of the new immigration law, HB56, came into effect in late September, including the driving provisions. Under them, the police are required to check up on the immigration status of anyone they stop who they suspect of being in the country illegally…

Yada is the second foreign car executive to fall foul of the new law. Last month police officers arrested a German director of Mercedes-Benz for failing to carry a valid driver’s licence. The move exposed Alabama to widespread criticism and ridicule…

The St Louis-based Post-Dispatch newspaper revelled in Alabama’s embarrassment by publishing an open letter to foreign car companies encouraging them to pack their bags and move to the rival car-producing state of Missouri.

We are the Show Me State, not the Show Me Your Papers State,” it wrote, telling auto bosses: “You’ve got two choices. Either ask your executives to carry their immigration papers at all times, or move to a state that understands gemüchlichkeit…”

Between redneck idiots, Tea Party idiots and the new Republikan Party idiots, freedom to travel in a free country is only a memory in the Confederate States of America. That includes all the old boundaries plus the states outside of Dixie run by the latest clan of fools dedicated to voodoo economics and ethnic hatreds to match.

Honda targets 30% reduction in global emissions by 2020

Honda, environment, campaign, blue skies for our children

Honda Motor Company has announced its 2020 CO2 emissions reduction targets to address climate change and energy issues. Honda said its global environmental slogan will be: “Blue Skies for Our Children.”

Honda has been pursuing its own environmental targets; in 2006, Honda set a goal to reduce global CO2 emissions from use of its motorcycles, automobiles and power products by 10% by the end of 2010 compared to year 2000 levels. In 2010, the goal was attained by all products.

Honda said it has now set a goal to reduce CO2 emissions from its global products by 30% by the end of 2020 compared to year 2000 levels. Furthermore, in addition to reducing CO2 emissions during production and supply chain, Honda said it will strengthen its efforts to realize reductions in CO2 emissions through its entire corporate activities. Honda will also strengthen its efforts in advancing technologies in the area of total energy management, to reduce CO2 emissions through mobility and people’s everyday lives.

The new global environmental slogan and symbol will be used with Honda’s internal and external environmental activities and communications around the world.

Anyone surprised to see an automobile company with higher environmental standards than Congress? Not so incidentally, one with a record of delivering on what it promises.

Will Toyota build Yaris hybrid in France – bring ’em to the U.S.?

Already the undisputed leader in the gas-electric vehicle market, Asahi (via Reuters) reports the Japanese automaker is planning to launch a new compact hybrid based on the next-gen Yaris platform and due to go on sale in Japan for $15,760 by 2011. That bargain-basement price will be made possible by a low-cost version of Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive, used in the current Prius and featuring a downsized four-cylinder engine that may make it even more fuel efficient than its larger sibling.

In addition to production plants in its home market of Japan, the report indicates that Toyota may also assemble the compact hybrid in France for the European market. This news comes just weeks after Toyota officially announced its intentions to build a hybrid version of its Auris hatchback in the United Kingdom. We certainly wouldn’t be surprised if Toyota imported either of the new hybrids to the States in light of the success it’s seen with the Prius.

It’s expected that the new Yaris-based hybrid will go head-to-head with Honda’s recently announced Fit Hybrid. While Toyota’s interest in hybrid technology is anything but new, the fuel-saving models have just recently earned the top sales spots in Japan and are expected to be increasingly important in over the next few years as the latest round of strict emissions and fuel economy requirements are implemented worldwide.

Another couple of choices welcome in our family for certain. My wife’s ancient Volvo is too old and gets gas mileage too good for the Cash for Clunkers program. If and when it croaks we’ll probably turn it into a planter. Not unknown in our community. 🙂

Having a couple of affordable hybrid options for commuting and errands covers 99% of our time spent on motorized wheels. Though I think I’d still prefer she have something with all the cushy bits of a Prius – more choices is what it’s all about.

Some of you need all the help you can get – to find your way

A report presented recently to the US Congress warned that sat-nav – satellite navigation – systems could start to fail from next year as the US Air Force’s satellites deteriorate. It is yet another episode in our long and fraught relationship with in-car navigation – a phenomenon that is more ancient than you might think.

Today’s sat-navs are really a number of older inventions cobbled together. In fact, mechanical in-car navigation stretches back further than most people would think – 100 years to be precise.

Honda’s Electro Gyrocator was the first computerised in-car navigation system. Developed in Japan, it was…a solid-state system that could not respond to the changing narrative of the drive. So if you went wrong the errors soon stacked up and, unlike a broken watch, it would not even be right some of the time.

However, unbeknown to most motorists, the technology for a real-time system already existed. The US Defense Department had developed GPS (global positioning by satellite) in response to the Soviet launch of Sputnik in 1957, but it wasn’t until the 1980s that President Reagan made it available for civilian use.

The other technological piece of the sat-nav jigsaw was digital mapping, which was pioneered by a tiny British firm, NextBase, which grew out of a circle of friends who met as teenagers, programming some of the earliest home PCs at a school holiday computer camp in Northampton…

The technology for sat-nav, in other words, was around for several years before it was developed. All these different inventions simply needed to be brought together…

We still don’t quite trust the electronic voice to get us where we want to go. Since before even the arrival of the car, people have worried that maps sever us from real places, render the world untouchable, reduce it to a bare outline of Cartesian lines and intersections. Sat-nav feeds into this long-held fear that the cold-blooded modern world is destroying local knowledge, that roads no longer lead to real places but around and through them.

You can sense it in all those fearful newspaper headlines about motorists guided by their sat-navs to the edges of cliffs or deposited in village ponds. We may have grown to rely on in-car navigation, but it will be a long while before we learn to love it.

Cripes. If I was still on the road, I’d have one in my car in an instant.

I’ve used my old handheld GPS – in conjunction with Google Earth – to retrace trails that go back 500 years. We build tools to aid our lives, our knowledge.