A car.

The Digital Car Journal

A weblog about computers in cars
by Will Fitzgerald
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Article: INET's Conversational Interface for Vehicles. Our latest description of how conversational interfaces can be used in cars.

URL for this day Thursday, May 31, 2001

The Army's new SmarTruck, for urban warfare, based on a Ford F-350 truck body:

All the usual features of a high-end sport-utility vehicle are there, as well as a mobile video system, an onboard personal computer, built-in night-vision, high-voltage door handles and even a tack dispenser to help throw off the chase. While the base price of the SmarTruck is the same as an F-350 -- $35,000-$45,000 -- Fuller could not divulge the exact cost of the fully equipped vehicle.

Earlier articles: Automotive News. Detroit News. Auto.com. Google search.

URL for this day Tuesday, May 29, 2001

Catching up from ITSA's telematics news:

URL for this day Friday, May 25, 2001

British Medical Association report: cell phone use while driving is dangerous. This is part of their study Mobile phones and health: An interim report. The section on car and road safety claims:

There is strong experimental evidence that those engaging in mobile phone conversation have an impaired ability to react to potentially hazardous situations.... Epidemiological studies have also indicated an association between phone conversation whilst driving and an increase in the risk of involvement in an accident, although causality cannot be attributed.... This finding appears to be unaffected by whether a hands-free kit (HFK) is used or not. For this reason, the Stewart Group concluded that the effect is most likely to be due to the distracting nature of the conversation, and drivers should be dissuaded from using either hand-held or hands-free phones while on the move.

The "Stewart Group" is the British "Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones" that also reported on health issues related to cell phone use. Their focus was mainly on whether RF radiation was a health threat, but in their "Scientific Evidence" chapter they discuss studies on the relationship between cell phone use and accidents.

URL for this day Thursday, May 24, 2001

U.S. auto industry urged to work on 'smart car' technology.

The telematics market, as seen by McKinsey consultants: The Road Ahead for Telematics (requires free registration, or use user id "anonymous2001" and password "anonymous"). They break down the market among "engine and mechanical applications," "front seat market" and the "back seat market," and project $13-100 billion in revenues for off-board applications for 2010.

(Number of automotive articles from Moreover.com yesterday: about 100. Number about Ford/Firestone split: 70).

URL for this day Wednesday, May 23, 2001

Cell phone debate is heating up. Bills would ban using cell phones while driving:

Two Democratic lawmakers introduced bills on Tuesday in the U.S. Congress to ban the use of hand-held cell phones while driving.

Subaru signs up to use OnStar (MiTechNews article).

URL for this day Tuesday, May 22, 2001

Experts: Talking car 5 years away. The Digital Car Journal's Will Fitzgerald is one of the experts cited.

Trouble in paradise? Paul Eisenstein asks Telematics: Is It Just A Promise? (MiTechNews reprint):

There’s still good reason to believe a long-term telematics boom is in the making. But there’s likely to be a few delays and detours in the short-term.

URL for this day Monday, May 21, 2001

Navigating the Navigation Aids: New York Times review of the Infiniti Q45 "vehicle information system." Not positive. Among the quotes:

"Can you imagine my father trying to use this radio?" a passenger mused as I tried to wend through a maze of on-screen menus without plowing into approaching traffic...

The ... V.I.S. requires higher education...

If you find Windows 98 frustrating at the office, do you want to operate a scaled-down version at 70 m.p.h. on a rain-slicked highway? The screen in my Q45 test car was as cranky as my office PC...

In an attempt to help, Infiniti lets you talk to the system, and over time, with patience and intensive study, you and the Q may manage to communicate. But I was reduced to pleading, "Help, radio," or "Help, navigation," to which the car responded by speaking a list of possible commands. Given the matter of keeping the car out of the ditch, I didn't take notes.

URL for this day Friday, May 18, 2001

Press Releases from PR Newswire coming out of the Auto Interiors and EyeForAuto Telematics shows: Visteon Telematics Expert speaks, Personal Audio Broadcasting, Johnson Controls wins 2 "best of show" telematics awards, Visteon wins for displays.

URL for this day Thursday, May 17, 2001

Report from the EyeForAuto Telematics show: AP article.

Telematics overview article from MIT's Technology Review.

The "6th Annual Traffic Safety Summit" (organized by the Traffic Safety Association of Michigan) just took place in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The Grand Rapids Press reports on telematics and safety.

URL for this day Wednesday, May 16, 2001

Ford delays launch of Wingcast telematics service:

Wingcast Chief Executive Officer Harel Kodesh told Reuters following a conference on telematics in Detroit that the service will now be ready in about 12 months.

More on the supermodel-telematics connection.

Another E911-based location/navigation service.

Motorola and TrafficMaster agree on a deal.

URL for this day Friday, May 11, 2001

Report on Wednesday's congressional testimony from ITSA, including the written testimony of Mark Edwards at AAA (Word document), Virginia Tech Transportation Institute Director Thomas Dingus (Word document), ITSA Chair Harold W. Worrall (Word document) and Jane Stutts of the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center (Word Perfect document).

Recommendations from the above:

  • Better research into driver distraction issues,
  • Education of the public about distraction,
  • Better human-centered telematics technology,
  • Better sensing and warning systems in automobiles,
  • Adequate safety testing of telematic devices,
  • Dingus alone (in the three documents above) recommended consideration of legislation curbing in-vehicle mobile device uses.

Oddly, no one mentioned the threat to our nation's supermodels.

Special thanks to ITSA's webmaster, Rachel Romine, who made these documents available.

URL for this day Thursday, May 10, 2001

Congress is hearing testimony about driver distraction. New anti-cell phone rationale--protecting our nation's supermodels:

Last month, supermodel Niki Taylor was severely injured when a car she was riding in crashed into a utility poll. The driver said he looked down to answer his cell phone before the car ran off the road.

The Odds

Odds you'll be a fatal crash in the next year:0.02%.
Odds you'll be injured in a crash this year (but not killed):1.73%.
Odds you'll be in some kind of crash this year:3.35%.
Odds you'll be murdered:0.007%.

You know 120 people:
Odds one of them will be a fatal crash in the next year:2.6%.
Odds one of them will be injured in a crash this year (but not killed):87.7%.
Odds one of them will be in some kind of crash this year:98.3%.
Odds one of them will be murdered:0.8%.

You know 120 people, they each know 120 people.
Odds one of them will be a fatal crash in the next year:95.9%.
Odds one of them will be injured in a crash this year (but not killed):~100%.
Odds one of them will be in some kind of crash this year:~100%.
Odds one of them will be murdered:62.4%.

Data based on Traffic Safety Facts 1999 Annual Report, National Center for Statistics and Analysis, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics Comparative Homicide rates. 1999 Fatalities: 41,611. Injuries: 3,236,000. Crashes: 6,279,000. Drivers: 187,170,000. 1998 Homicide rate: 6.8/100,000.

URL for this day Wednesday, May 9, 2001

New driver distraction study from University of North Carolina. Claims: 8-13% (about 284,000) of all serious accidents in the U.S. are caused by driver distraction. Of these,

The study found that drivers were most often distracted by something outside their vehicle (29.4 percent) followed by adjusting a radio or CD player (11.4 percent). Other specific distractions included talking with other occupants (10.9 percent), adjusting vehicle or climate controls (2.8 percent), eating or drinking (1.7 percent), cell-phone use (1.5 percent) and smoking (0.9 percent).

So, roughly 30,000 serious accidents a year are caused by people fiddling with the audio system. Suddenly, this doesn't seem like a particularly safe thing to do, despite some claims to the contrary.

UNC site: methodology and results. Some pictures and graphs. UNC Highway Safety Research Center.

URL for this day Tuesday, May 8, 2001

I received a question about the note about recurrence statistics:

About the accident question. I don't know probability math and this may be out of my league, but isn't each trip mutually exclusive and therefore the probability of an accident remains the same always.

I replied:

Thanks for the comments. I'm glad someone's reading them!

You are right that each trip is mutually exclusive. But the question is somewhat different. Imagine you have a coin--how many flips will it take before you get a heads? Of course, it's always a possibility that you'll get a tails every time indefinitely, but the probability of that happening gets vanishingly small (If I got 100 tails in a row, I suspect the coin was unfair, not just say "that happens sometimes").

So the question is, given a certain probability, how many flips will it take? It turns out that at a 95% confidence level, it's about 6 flips (in other words, about 1/20th of the time you'll get all tails; 19/20th of the time you'll get *at least* one heads).

URL for this day Monday, May 7, 2001

Tim Moran claims the only reasonable business model for telematics is location-based commerce, not safety or luxury.

But what about audiobooks?

In the RISKs digest, a notice about an anti-car jacking service:

...in the unfortunate event of the vehicle being violated or vandalised, Cellstop will alert the owner by calling on his/her cellphone within seconds of the incident happening. Cellstop will dial the number three times and if these calls are unanswered or responded to, the Cellstop unit will automatically starve fuel to the engine, making it impossible to drive the vehicle.

URL for this day Friday, May 4, 2001

Andrea Electronics (microphone maker) announces 1st quarter loss. Among the "contributing factors:"

significant investments in research and development activities primarily associated with the Company's efforts in developing digital audio far-field microphone technologies ... and significant operating expenses related to marketing the Company's digital audio far-field microphone technologies, particularly to the automotive telematics market space.

URL for this day Thursday, May 3, 2001

High tech gas pumps as infomation deliver devices. Telematic lawn mowing. Perhaps we need http://www.TheDigitalGasPump.com and http://www.TheDigitalLawn.com?

URL for this day Wednesday, May 2, 2001

A recurring probability question: Assuming that something occurs with probability P (independent at each trial--like a coin toss), and it's an event that you will repeat many times, how many times does the event need to occur (N trials) in order to achieve probability R of occurring at least once? For example, assume that there's a 1/100 chance of having an accident on the way to work. After how many times will you need to drive to work in order to have a 1/2 chance of having an accident?

The formula, according to my big book of fomulas (Documenta Geigy's Scientific Tables, Sixth Edition) is:

R = 1 - (1-P)^N

This table provides some values for N, given P and R. The answer to the accident question is 70. (Excel spreadsheet)

URL for this day Tuesday, May 1, 2001

I came across this telematics marketing overview. A UM MBA class project?

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