About vehicles of the (near!) future: electric or autonomous (not and).
2017-09-18 13:48 autoelec [permalink]
Little old humble me will try to give a naunced depiction of their complex and layered opinion about something that's recently been getting some news.
I regret that most news-items on these subjects tend to handle both the new models that have a fully electric drive-train, and the fact that onboard systems of sensors and advanced signals processing may be used to autonomously let these new models operate on the streets.
Not too long ago it was made painfully clear that the seat belt should be mandatory in every automobile, and also the fact of strapping yourself in with them. In a similar light, the design of systems that could handle the performance of said automobiles has indeed proceeded by so much as to have a far better safety record with operating vehicles than us humans. So there's no doubt that the distance between a future where self-driving cars are mentioned in the text of law to some extent, is measured in years, not decades. Perhaps even months since the time is now to begin thinking about authorization and certification.
The matter of a novel power train, on the other side, is a different thing. Electrical vehicles are not new. What is new, is that battery-technology has steadily improved, and that a certain captain of industry has thrown their weight behind an undertaking to launch mass-production of purely electric vehicles(*1), trailblazing into a new domain the settled automobile-constructors weren't committed to explore (yet). Even more important is that he is succeeding at it. And building a giant battery-producing plant just for it.
What is also painfully clear is that we may just be ahead of the required battery-technology-improvement we actually need. Getting us to drive electric vehicles is hard, not only because we cling to what we know, but also because there's no way to create all the required batteries with the methods for creating them we master now. Also recharging a battery has a vastly different dynamic than refilling a gas tank; this doesn't mean that I think it should. Quite to the contrary, but it should in itself offer an improvement over how we did things before.
Where the automobile-constructors of old are set out to explore, is at the cutting edge if these combustion engines most of us are using. There's an apparent room for improvement, but apparently it only very slowly gets filled. It may have been a very good move to switch 'back' the Formula 1 specifications to a 6-cylinder design with a fuel content more in line with most mainstream vehicles. Any advancements engineered there should find their way in construction of engines a few years down the road. But that apparently takes years.
So that's why the coverage of autonomous electric vehicles kind of rubs me the wrong way. It would be the best thing for us that autonomous cars are here soon, and find mainstream acceptance quick; and that electric vehicles take over the majority when they're ready. With advances made in bio-fuel and high-milage-engines, to be expected over one or more decades, I dare even predict that autonomous control will get even more kilometers out of what you put in, be it liters or Ampère-hours.
(*1): and space-rockets, and solar panels with an in-house battery, and an attempt to improve tunnel-boring.