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Virginia Tech Automated Vehicle Test Drive with Luke Neurauter, Group Leader, CAVS

Automated Vehicle Testing & Research in VA

In October, federal and state officials were treated to an automated driving experience courtesy of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. Among the participants of the test drive conducted on a 10 mile stretch of Interstate 395 in Northern Virginia was Senator Mark Warner. "The growing use of automated and connected technologies is no longer a matter of if, but when,” Warner said. “It is exciting that Virginia is positioned to be a leader in the development of this game-changing technology and the new jobs and investment that will result." The vehicle equipped with automated control technologies communicates with other connected vehicles and users on the roadway. In automated mode, the computers steered the car and responded to staged hazards by issuing an alert, braking and lane changing.

With computer technology housed in the trunk, the vehicles look like any other sedan on the road. According to a report by WBDJ Channel 7, "Senator Warner enjoyed his ride and was very eager to talk about the opportunities this technology could bring to the commonwealth. He said that at this point, he trusted the computers more than himself at the wheel driving around his family. Warner compared this research to developments made at the dawn of the wireless and cell phone revolution." The demonstration was part of the Virginia Connected Corridors and the Virginia Automated Corridors initiatives, which represent partnerships between the Virginia Department of Transportation and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, Transurban, and HERE (a high-definition mapping business), respectively.

“Next-generation vehicular technology certainly has the potential to play a vast role within the transportation community — from increasing overall safety to reducing congestion and negative environmental impacts,” said Virginia Tech Transportation Institute Director Tom Dingus. “With the Virginia Connected and Automated Corridors initiatives, we are actively working to support both the Commonwealth and the nation in efforts to be a front-runner in this initiative, increasing job opportunities, providing information to policy makers at all levels, and facilitating the work of automobile manufacturers and suppliers.”

As part of this endeavor, the safety of automated control is also being explored. Are self driving vehicles safer than manually controlled cars? That's a question researchers grapple with in a new report from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute released in January. The study, “Automated Vehicle Crash Rate Comparison Using Naturalistic Data,” was commissioned by Google. In it, analysts examine both national crash data and data from naturalistic driving studies to better estimate existing crash rates, and then compare the results with data from Google’s Self-Driving Car program. Their analysis indicates that automated vehicles have lower rates of crashes than conventional vehicles but the authors caution that there is too much uncertainty in self driving car rates to put significant confidence in this finding. More Information.


Image: Hempearth

Aviation Pioneer Plans Hemp Flight from Kitty Hawk, NC

Meanwhile legislation introduced in Virginia's General Assembly could help hemp production take off.

This Spring on 4/20, a Kickstarter campaign will launch that organizers hope will ignite a funding frenzy to lift their project off the ground, litteraly. They want to fly the world's first hemp plane. HempEarth is building a 4 seater aircraft made almost entirely from hemp. The goal is also to power the plane on hemp fuel. The company was founded by Canadian Derek Kesek who claims, "Experts have tested the strength and durability of woven hemp material compared to fiberglass, the traditional material for aircrafts, and determined that in most cases hemp is as strong, or stronger, than fiberglass. Because hemp is a sustainable crop that needs no pesticides or herbicides to grow, the plane will have a carbon footprint significantly smaller than that of standard plane." According to Kesek, he has already received permission from the park service to launch his hemp powered plane from the the Kitty Hawk memorial where the Wright Brothers first took flight.


Denver Post TV: Cannabis Car in Colorado - Watch more in a 25 minute video just released on the Hempsters Cannabis Car Sustainibility Tour Facebook page.

Another manufacturer of a prototype hemp vehicle is touring the country garnering attention and seeking investors. Bruce Dietzen, a Key West, Florida entrepreneur and founder of Renew Sports Cars, upcycled a Honda Miata chassis with panels fabricated from hemp to create the "Cannabis Car." Currently running on biobutonal, the car can readily make the switch to a hemp based fuel if it becomes available. Dietzen won a spot on season 2 of "the Marijuana Show" a reality series like "Shark Tank" that helps budding marijuana entrepreneur find investors.

In Virginia, progress is being made on hemp legislation introduced in the General Assembly by Yorktown's Delegate Brenda Pogge. HB 699 amends the Code of Virginia to clarify that it is lawful to grow industrial hemp and directs the Board of Agriculture and Consumer Services to develop a licensure program. The bill passed unanimously in the Full House on January 26. It will now move on to the Senate.

Read more about the many environmental benefits associated with industrial hemp including carbon sequestration in these previous posts: Building Carbon Stores; Cash Crop Gains Ground in the Old Dominion; Will the Green Reality of Hemp Tempt Domestic Production?

Avoiding a Collision Course

The Virginian-Pilot recently reported sightings of two humpback whales suffering injuries characteristic with boat strikes. The Virginia Aquarium is asking mariners to be on the lookout for our finned friends which feed in the region over the winter months. Last year the Navy initiated a local 3 year study to establish a baseline of behavioral patterns for humpback whales in training and vessel transit areas. 6 humpback whales were tagged this year with satellite tracking devices. The short-lived devices provide critical information about their activity in our highly trafficked coastal waters. Read more about efforts to protect whales from ship strikes in this Tidewater Current 2013 post.

Prior Posts:

W&M ELF Encounter - New Machine Demonstrates Sustainable Transport in Williambsurg, VA - From its North Carolina design hub, the solar and human powered ELF is emerging as an attractive form of transport all over the country. Read more.


Carbon Neutral Fuels - Companies like Algenol are working to deliver CO2 sequestering fuels. Diverting the gas from smokestacks to feed algae bioreactors is one way fuels are being derived. Another production method extracts ambient CO2 from the air. Read more.


Converting to Electric Transport

Learn about electric vehicles and how one Virginia teacher converted an old VW into a very reasonable EV.

Read More.



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