Phantom Brakes, Drones, Flying Cars, and a Chain that won’t Break: this week’s NMA Auto Tech Watch News Roundup for October 27, 2019

By Shelia Dunn, NMA Communications Director

I’ve always been fascinated by advancements in the auto tech world. Some of these tech devices work well, some don’t and some we’re not sure of yet. That’s what makes learning about these advancements so much fun! Check out this week’s NMA Auto Tech Watch Roundup!

The Phantom Brakes

Imagine you are driving down a highway with the flow of traffic and suddenly your car brakes for no reason. This fairly new car of yours has automatic braking capability to avoid collisions. If there is nothing to avoid, though, you really don’t want that car to stop for no reason.

This occurrence, especially if it happens more than once, might make you feel as if you have entered the Twilight Zone. Not only is this unsafe for you and every other road user in your path, it also can make a driver terrified to drive and even worse—cause you to doubt yourself on the road, which again makes everyone unsafe.

CBS This Morning recently outlined this phantom brake phenomenon that is now occurring in some Nissans. The crux of this: automatic brakes will be standard in all new cars by 2022. Unfortunately, even if these brakes are behaving badly, car owners are not allowed to turn them off.

Automakers and safety officials have obviously known about this for a while. In a recent online search, I found numerous articles over the past couple of years on this issue specifically:

Question: Why do automakers continue to foist this kind of tech on drivers if they are not yet working properly? The National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) is now investigating. A recall will probably ensue, but this does not help all those drivers who are now terrified to drive their car.

FedEx makes its first Commercial Delivery to a Residence—by Drone

This was bound to happen sooner than later. On October 18th, the company announced that the delivery was conducted by Wing Aviation (subsidiary of Alphabet Inc.) in collaboration with FedEx Express. The drone took a package to a resident in Christiansburg, Virginia as part of the US Department of Transportation’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program.

Christiansburg will be the center of FedEx’s drone delivery testing program for now. Wing’s pilot program will be collaborating with Walgreens, which will be providing health and wellness products for delivery to those folks who ordered them. Check out the promotional video here. Looks interesting but there is a question that has plagued me about drone delivery—what if it goes awry and the package or even the drone itself falls from the sky and hurts an unwitting person or animal instead. The Los Angeles Times asked this very question.

Blockchain finally comes to Vehicles

Automakers (BMW, Ford, GM, Honda, and Renault) have formed a partnership to test blockchain technology for vehicle identification. Blockchain is essentially a connected-to-the-cloud technology that is a decentralized way of filing and assessing information.

For vehicles, a digital ID would be assigned to an individual car or truck and then this would be used throughout its lifetime no matter who owns it. The data would help with keeping a service record and buying and selling of the vehicle. It might even eventually eliminate vehicle tags and stickers or transponders for tolls and parking.

Automakers hope this technology will become an important payment link for the charging of electric vehicles and paying back to owners for feeding power back to the grid as needed.

The program is being developed under the Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative and the companies plan to eventually use this technology to develop services linked to cryptocurrency. This is the next step for automakers in their quest to make the big bucks after selling cars to sell services to you inside cars such as entertainment.

Flying Taxies in Singapore at the ITS World Congress

Singapore announced October 21st that the city now has an air-taxi VoloPort. Urban air taxi companies Volocoptor and Skyports unveiled this first prototype landing pad infrastructure prior to the official opening of the ITS World Congress (ITS stands for Intelligent Transport Systems).

The next day, Volocoptor actually flew an all-electric, drone-like passenger vehicle over Singapore’s Marina Bay. This was its first public test just in time for the ITS World Congress. Check out the video here.

The ITS World Congress also made its own news with these two announcements:

Here are some other reads from the NMA Driving News Feed this past week that might be of interest.

That’s it for this week’s news update. If you have a link to a story about current auto tech or car of the future tech, feel free to forward to me the link at [email protected]. Also, feel free to add your two cents in the comments section below.

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