May 21, 2015

Rise of Self-Driving Car Set to Make My Dream Come True

A while ago, I wrote about my ideal Car of the Future: it would be self-driving, not owned by me but available at my beck and call.

It seems that I am not the only one thinking of the ideal car that way. In fact, an analysis by Barclays indicates that the demand for such transportation will be high enough that the self-driving car will largely displace the privately owned car, and that within the next 25 years.

The report, quoted in a Financial Review article, "foresees four vehicle categories -- traditional cars and trucks driven by individuals for work or in rural areas; "family autonomous vehicles," owned by individuals and shared by a single family; "shared autonomous vehicles" that would be "robot taxis" summoned by smartphone; and "pooled shared autonomous vehicles" that accommodate multiple riders, like a bus or a van."

And get this: "Every shared vehicle on the road would displace nine traditional autos, and each pooled shared vehicle would take the place of as many as 18."

With this, the cost of mobility will go down drastically from what it is today, contributing to the popularity of driverless cars in a nice feedback loop.

CelloDad is totally ready for this. There are days that I suspect his dislike of driving is what made him marry his chauffeur - that was me. He's so looking forward to the day that he can be mobile without relying on me, or having to wrangle the shift stick I insist on having. So when the self-driving car comes into its own he will be one happy fellow.

But he is not the only one who will benefit from this new mode of transportation: Children too young to drive, the elderly who are starting to feel uncertain behind the wheel, especially at night, or the occasional car user will all be helped by the self-driving car.

Oh brave new world that hath such vehicles in it!



You may also like:
1. The Car of the Future
2. The Car of the Future Comes to Singapore
3. Teaching Your Teen to Drive a Stick


May 20, 2015

Learning HOW to Talk About Climate Change

My friends, it is a wonderful time to be a life-long student! Right as my children are transitioning into independence and I'm past changing diapers or even providing for their every meal, massively open online courses, or MOOCs, are coming into their own. Not only that, they are being ofered for free by the best educational institutions partly as a public service, and partly to showcase their best professors.

You can find excellent online courses on statistics, Dante's Inferno, Python programming, growing award winning orchids - and climate change.

I've so far taken four courses on the science of climate change and climate policy. It wasn't always a piece of cake - I did sweat the problem sets on that MITx course given by Kerry Emanuel - but these came naturally to me as I am, at heart, a science geek.

But if I also want to be an effective climate communicator, I'd better get a handle on how to bring the message that we need climate action. There are online courses for that too! Right now, there are two ongoing, each with a different perspective.

One is "Making Sense of Climate Science Denial" at edX, given by a team led by John Cook of the University of Queensland (Australia), a premier climate communicator and the founder of the Skeptical Science website that offers climate science to the general public, as well as pointers on how to debunk the climate myths that are promulgated by the fossil-fuel funded deniers.

The course goes over the psychological barriers (in the minds of the audience) that climate communicators have to overcome before their message can be heard, and lays out the tricks used by the merchants of doubt to discredit climate scientists and to dampen public will for action.

It's a lively course, well produced and well presented, and the feedback so far has been very positive.

May 9, 2015

A Tesla on Your Wall?

Want a Tesla in your garage but can't afford the Model S? Don't despair. You can still own a piece of Tesla, in the form of its new Powerwall battery backup system.

You'd have to wait, though: Demand has taken even Tesla by surprise. The first 38,000 units have been reserved. That's the company's output until the middle of 2016. Seems like Tesla is fast establishing itself as the new Apple: They have the vision for introducing disruptive technology, and the industrial design talent that turns every Tesla product into an object of desire.

I mean, this thing is almost too pretty to be consigned to your garage. I don't even have a garage, but I would not at all mind having it on my living room wall. It would certainly make a statement.