Tiny king­dom chas­ing clean-cars lead

Lesotho Times - - Motoring -

The Mind Sense tech­nol­ogy re­search tests whether a car could ef­fec­tively read brain­waves that in­di­cate a driver is be­gin­ning to, the au­tomaker says, “day­dream or feel sleepy”.

The hu­man brain con­tin­u­ously gen­er­ates four or more dis­tinct brain­waves at dif­fer­ent fre­quen­cies.

By mon­i­tor­ing which type of brain­wave is dom­i­nant a com­puter could as­sess whether a driver is fo­cused, day­dream­ing, sleepy, or dis­tracted.

Ep­ple added: “If brain ac­tiv­ity in­di­cates a day­dream or poor con­cen­tra­tion then the steer­ing-wheel or ped­als could vi­brate to raise the driver’s aware­ness and re-en­gage THIM­PHU — With abun­dant sup­plies of clean elec­tric­ity from hy­dro power, this tiny Hi­malayan king­dom has set it­self an am­bi­tious goal: to be­come a world leader in the use of elec­tric ve­hi­cles.

In 2014, Bhutan’s prime min­is­ter in­tro­duced the coun­try’s first two elec­tric car mod­els — the Nissan Leaf and Mahin­dra Reva — and sus­pended im­port taxes in an ef­fort to win buy­ers.

Am­bi­tious goals Prime Min­is­ter Tsh­er­ing Tob­gay said: “Elec­tric­ity is like oil for us and is the most abun­dant re­source. My tar­get for Bhutan is a 70 per­cent re­duc­tion in fos­sil fuel im­ports by 2020.”

But the su­per­high­way to a clean-car fu­ture has not been with­out bumps in this re­mote Bud­dhist na­tion.

More than a year af­ter the launch, about 50 Nissan elec­tric ve­hi­cles are ply­ing the roads in Bhutan, and at least 22 more have been or­dered, ac­cord­ing to the lo­cal part­ner of Nissan, Thun­der Mo­tors.

That rep­re­sents only about a tenth of one per­cent of the cars on Bhutan’s roads, ac­cord­ing to gov­ern­ment trans­port sta­tis­tics.

But the two lo­cal deal­ers of elec­tric ve­hi­cles

Mon­i­tor­ing driver’s well­ness Another pro­ject be­ing tested is whether a ve­hi­cle can mon­i­tor the well-be­ing of the driver us­ing a med­i­cal-grade sen­sor in the seat of a Jaguar XJ. The sen­sor, orig­i­nally de­vel­oped for use in hos­pi­tals, has been adapted for car use and de­tects vi­bra­tions from the driver’s heart­beat and breath­ing.

Ep­ple said: “As we de­velop more au­ton­o­mous driv­ing tech­nol­ogy there will be in­stances when the au­ton­o­mous car needs to hand con­trol back to the driver.

“To do this safely the car will need to know if the driver is alert and well enough to take over. So our re­search team is look­ing at the po­ten­tial for a range of driver mon­i­tor­ing tech­nolo­gies to give the car enough in­for­ma­tion to sup­port this de­ci­sion.

“If the car de­tects se­vere health in this na­tion of about 760 000 peo­ple com­plain that a lack of gov­ern­ment sup­port for a broader recharg­ing net­work has lim­ited the up­take of the oth­er­wise well-re­ceived ve­hi­cles.

Lim­i­ta­tion prob­lems Mis­in­for­ma­tion about the lim­i­ta­tions of elec­tric car bat­tery life and the cost of bat­ter­ies, also has been a prob­lem, they say.

Thun­der Mo­tors CEO Tashi Wangchuk said of the Leaf: “It is the most pow­er­ful and most well-re­ceived car in the coun­try. Sales are OK by Bhutan stan­dards.” He said his com­pany of­feres a 16-year war­ranty on the bat­tery of the elec­tric cars they sell, and that they had had no bat­tery com­plaints.

But while he said he ap­pre­ci­ated the gov­ern­ment’s push for the coun­try to adopt elec­tric ve­hi­cles and its tax ex­emp­tion on elec­tric car im­ports, Wangchuk said driv­ing large-scale in­ter­est would re­quire gov­ern­ment sup­port for de­vel­op­ing more charg­ing in­fra­struc­ture and land for build­ing charg­ing sta­tions.

The coun­try so far has six recharg­ing sta­tions in the cap­i­tal, built with the sup­port of Nissan.

Another car dealer in Bhutan’s cap­i­tal, who part­nered with In­dia-based elec­tric car dealer Mahin­dra Reva, said he is yet to sell even one is­sues, or sim­ply that the driver is not alert, the car could take steps to en­sure the driver is suf­fi­ciently fo­cused to take over.”

Mon­i­tor­ing the phys­i­cal health of the driver would not only de­tect sud­den and se­ri­ous ill­ness but also al­low the car to mon­i­tor his stress lev­els.

Pre­dic­tive in­fo­tain­ment screen JLR hopes to re­duce driver dis­trac­tion by min­imis­ing the time the driver’s eyes are on the in­fo­tain­ment screen with a new sys­tem in test­ing — the pre­dic­tive in­fo­tain­ment screen.

Ep­ple said: “The driver will in­stinc­tively look at the in­fo­tain­ment screen or facis when press­ing but­tons to se­lect nav­i­ga­tion, mu­sic or the phone.

It’s in­tu­itive. So our re­search is look­ing at how we could take a cur­rent in­fo­tain­ment screen and of the com­pany’s two-door elec­tric cars.

That ap­pears to be be­cause Nissan of­fered a dis­count of al­most 50 per­cent on the first 77 cars sold in Bhutan. Those cars sold for the equiv­a­lent of R181 304 each. Once the of­fer ends they will sell for the equiv­a­lent of R345 520, deal­ers said.

The Mahin­dra Reva, on the other hand, costs the equiv­a­lent of R201 541.

No sales Ugen Tsechup who runs Zim­dra Au­to­mo­biles, one of Bhutan’s most pop­u­lar car deal­ers, said: “Mahin­dra Reva is do­ing badly and we have not sold any Reva cars on a com­mer­cial scale.

“But once the Leaf’s sub­sidy is re­moved, Mahin­dra Reva can be an op­tion too.”

Prime Min­is­ter Tsh­er­ing Tob­gay told the Thom­son Reuters Foun­da­tion that “he is com­mit­ted to see Bhutan take sus­tain­able trans­port very se­ri­ously” and had, for in­stance, raised taxes on tra­di­tional ve­hi­cles to make it more at­trac­tive for peo­ple to buy elec­tric ve­hi­cles.

“The gov­ern­ment has done its part and left it to the pri­vate sec­tor to take it for­ward,” he said.

But he also said the gov­ern­ment is study­ing the vi­a­bil­ity of in­tro­duc­ing elec­tric buses and

Hap­tic ac­cel­er­a­tor Hap­tics could also be used to com­mu­ni­cate with the driver through the ac­cel­er­a­tor pedal to in­crease the speed of re­sponse and to en­sure the cor­rect ac­tion is taken.

To cre­ate these sen­sa­tions in the ac­cel­er­a­tor pedal, an ac­tu­a­tor is fit­ted to the pedal and al­lows for vi­bra­tions or pulses to be passed through the foot of the driver.

The tech­nol­ogy also uses a torque mo­tor, which can cre­ate re­sis­tance in the pedal feel.

This re­sis­tance could be used to no­tify the driver that they are push­ing the ac­cel­er­a­tor through a speed limit.

Al­ter­na­tively, if you were crawl­ing along in traf­fic a timely warn­ing through the ac­cel­er­a­tor could pre­vent you bump­ing into the car in front.

Ep­ple added: “To avoid sat­u­rat­ing the driver with more vi­su­als and sounds, which could over­load and dis­tract them, we are ex­plor­ing other ways for the car to com­mu­ni­cate with the driver.

With our hap­tic ped­als re­search we are in­ves­ti­gat­ing non-vis­ual ways to com­mu­ni­cate which would en­able the driver to make smarter and faster de­ci­sions and re­duce the po­ten­tial for crashes.” — Wheels24 taxis.

One aim, Tob­gay said, is to cut fos­sil fuel im­ports from In­dia and har­ness more of Bhutan’s own green power as part of its ef­fort to move to zero net green­house gas emis­sions by 2020.

Money saver Some buy­ers of the elec­tric cars say they’ve been happy with the switch.

Yeshey Tsh­er­ing, a taxi driver who bought his first elec­tric car four months ago, said he pre­vi­ously spent the equiv­a­lent of R5 000 on fuel ev­ery month and R600 on en­gine oil but now saves most of that.

Tsh­er­ing said: “I do not have to pay for fuel, emis­sion tests and main­te­nance. I pay the equiv­a­lent of R200 a month on elec­tric­ity bills (for recharg­ing). The car is to­tal value for money.”

His only con­cern, he said, was whether a bet­ter net­work of charg­ing sta­tions would be cre­ated.

“Once they are in­stalled at dif­fer­ent dis­tricts, the mar­ket ought to get bet­ter,” Tsh­er­ing said.

Bhutan has seen a surge in car use and own­er­ship since a ban on im­port of cars since July 2012 was lifted in July 2014. — Reuters.

JLR’S latest safety pro­ject is aimed at pre­dict­ing whether driv­ers are dis­tracted be­hind the wheel.

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