on April 7th, 2022

The saying trains, planes and automobiles to describe movement is fast becoming outdated.

Drones, hydrogen and rapid speed need to get added to the list, as transport is set to change when you look at the trends and advancements in the industry.

Electric cars out-speeding the rest

In November 2021 the Economic Intelligence Unit Industries in 2022 highlighted many industries engineers work in. What is fascinating about the new report is how the automotive industry adapted, and will further adapt to changes in the industry.

The report highlighted global sales of new electric vehicles (EVs) will rise further this year, in fact, a 51% growth is expected in 2022. A key factor in this rise is the newer laws on emissions, and how it has caused carmakers to change vehicles on offer.

Vehicles running on fossil fuels are expected to become less.

The change is attributed to individual governments that are becoming more hawk-like and strict in terms of regulations to cut transport emissions. Because of this, the phasing out of internal combustion engines is likely to happen more often, and EVs will be adopted more rapidly.

Passenger cars and light trucks are already facing tougher vehicle fuel economy standards in countries like the United States of America. The same report suggests that the number of regulations is driving adaptive change within the EV car manufacturing sphere. In 2022 new technologies, especially those connected with creating new batteries is a holy grail.

EV car recalls due to lithium-ion batteries that burst into flames have been a worrisome trend in EV manufacturing and the Industries in 2022 report believes that innovation in lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) and solid-state batteries are to be expected.

Dominant role-players in the EV manufacturing world like Tesla are moving to LFPs in new models and have placed an order to have these batteries in an additional 400,000 cars by next year. Toyota in Japan on the other hand is working on solid-state batteries for new models of vehicles.

Since both these batteries currently are more expensive than lithium-ion batteries, the investment could see a significant change that brings down the cost of these batteries next year. So how did the electric car evolve into what it is today? And can we predict what EVs will look like in the future?

Well, the prediction isn’t as simple as manufacturing cars, city planning and the conditions in which the cars will operate will also need to be looked at. Right now, cities are still reliant on adapting to light passenger vehicles, before moving on to further changes. Cars that need to be charged require charging points, it’s as simple as that.

To accommodate this there’s some change to what civil engineers and city planners need to do. Engineering algorithms are needed to establish charge points on routes and the optimal ways for cars to be ‘refuelled’.

One paper Smart city planning - Developing an urban charging infrastructure for electric vehicles from 2014 already looked at this kind of development from a planning perspective. The authors introduced an application algorithm and applied it to Amsterdam in the Netherlands where they established a planning area around the city center with an edge of 9km.

For each geographical tile, the authors set an edge length of 100 meters. They could then establish charging stations. The algorithm would select geographical tiles that are optimal for a charging point since it considers all factors like density, traffic, etc.

The paper also established that CP-outlets, rather than CP-stations were further optimal. But to factor in comfort, these charging outlets are then also placed in shaded areas away from the centre. The paper developed a decision support system that was based on extensive real-world data to advise city planners.

This system determined the best locations for charging points based on their utilization. The results showed how these are the optimal locations for charge points within a given area based on expected utilization. It was also worth noting that placing these points at various points of interest could also drive business or influence human movement in cities.

The authors found that some types of stores have high influence since people will spend time at the location, while other places like bakeries have low influence. CP points can effectively form part of city planning because they can also look at economic activity and even bolster it.

front view of cockpit showing topview of cityscape in lights
Photo by Austin Neill on Unsplash

Pilots optional

Air automation (within the military) is a definite reality as the expansion of the Sikorsky Matrix system shows. Back in 2019 a technology kit developed by Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company, was used to operate a Black Hawk helicopter.

Then it yielded full-authority, fly-by-wire flight controls during the flight for the optionally piloted aircraft. Follow-on flights managed to lead to fully autonomous flight (zero pilots) flights.

In 2022 the engineers behind the initial flight is still being celebrated thanks to Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS) program.

Sikorsky developed an OPV approach it describes as pilot-directed autonomy. Pilots are meant to experience confidence to fly aircraft safely, with reliability, and affordably in optimally piloted modes enabling flight with two, one, or zero crew.

The program aims to improve operator decision aiding for manned operations while also enabling both unmanned
and reduced crew operations.

Similarly, drones have become commonplace in transport in a sense. We previously looked at how drones are used by environmentalists for animal welfare.

Aerial vantages and a selection of cameras and apps mean that drones can provide a lot of information at a low cost.

While drones are relatively new in the nature conservation field, there are also different types of drones – and each has a use when it comes to conservation practices according to Conservation Drones for Animal Monitoring.

Four generic drones have specific classifications, and these drones, due to higher availability are most likely to be used in data gathering when it comes to animal welfare.

Drones most useful in nature conservation projects are often glider and carrier drones.

Because glider drones can cover large areas and be equipped with cameras that have massive potential to reach the biggest areas. Carrier drones in contrast offer the drone operator a lot of control thanks to vertical take-off, which means it’s possible to position cameras to the optimal angle and of course carry items.

What makes these drones especially great is that they are easy to modify or convert, and importantly they are affordable. They can also easily be equipped with open-source pilot systems, which means they can be programmed with GPS waypoints. This means the entire flight plan can be preplanned, which also gives better control over data.

delivery robot on the road facilitating delivery automation
Photo by Bill Nino on Unsplash

Delivery robots to your door

It’s not just the military doing unmanned transport moves – delivery automation is quickly becoming reality.

Not just for ease of access but for health reasons. During the later stages of the Coronavirus pandemic, the basic idea is to develop an unmanned robot car using an Arduino Uno Microcontroller, was established.

The robot is titled MedBuddy. The car of the robot will feature an onboard ATMega328P integrated circuit (IC) and in this instance, a medicine delivery tray attached.

The initial idea is for the robot to be a medicine delivery system that uses an ultrasonic distance sensor to send real-time distance to the same mobile application which makes the operator aware of the dynamic obstacles around it. In so doing, by connecting it to the internet.

This can be done by running algorithms on a Raspberry Pi or other microprocessor.

Interested in automation and robotics? These courses may be right for you

The designers behind MedBuddy see it as innovative as delivery automation grows because it has added major value. Health organizations were able to produce much artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots and self-assessment bots during the pandemic.

These could often reach out to over 18 million people and send over 160 million messages. MedBuddy for instance was able to save patients as well as medical personnel by limiting personal contact.

Sales of these robots and AI-assisted bots have exploded, and analysts predict that this trend will continue. The paper Design and Development of Autonomous Delivery Robot estimates that to make robots fully autonomous and also competent enough to work alongside people robots need to be able to perceive different situations and then plan the best operation for each scenario it
faces when carrying out tasks.

The paper is steadfast that for the future of autonomous robots to grow in the future, the hardware will be more focused on delivery vehicle aspects such as effective human-machine interface as well as the dashboard, distant monitoring system and sound fail-safe
management.

Research could be carried out to develop highly optimized and robust planning algorithms. Future robots could be made more robust to operate in different weather conditions is also likely to happen.

References:
Vepachedu, Sreenivasarao. (2017). THE HISTORY OF THE ELECTRIC CAR. Andhra Journal of Industrial News. 14-27.

Wagner, Sebastian & Brandt, Tobias & Neumann, Dirk. (2014). Smart city planning - Developing an urban charging infrastructure for electric vehicles. ECIS 2014 Proceedings - 22nd European Conference on Information Systems.

MedBuddy: The Medicine Delivery Robot. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/356240442_MedBuddy_The_Medicine_Delivery_
Robot [accessed Mar 28 2022].

Design and Development of Autonomous Delivery Robot. Available from:
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/350104659_Design_and_Development_of_Autono
mous_Delivery_Robot [accessed Mar 28 2022]

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