The Gadgets Page

January 31, 2008

The Rinspeed Splash: Car Boat

Filed under: Cars & Transportation — Laura Moncur @ 10:40 am

Seeing this car in action just reminds me of all the cool cars that James Bond drives. He’ll be begging Q for the Rinspeed Splash.

It’s a two-seater car with no room for even a metal suitcase full of diamonds in the back. I guess you’ll just have to jettison the girl (she’ll probably stab you in the back anway).

Two seater Rinspeed Splash

With just a few changes, the Rinspeed Splash can take to the water.

Rinspeed Splash transforms into a boat.

Best of all, it’s powered by natural gas, so it’s a little more earth-friendly!

You can see it in action here:

Via: The high-speed sports car that turns into a boat at the touch of a button | the Daily Mail

January 18, 2008

Stackable City Cars Could Change The Idea of Ownership

Filed under: Cars & Transportation — Laura Moncur @ 3:31 pm

I’ve talked before about the idea of Car Sharing. You don’t actually own a car, you own a membership in a car sharing program, so you can pick up a car when you need one, but not have to deal with all the ownership problems of autos.

MIT has taken the idea one step further with these stackable City Cars.

City Car Concept Picture by Franco Vairani

MIT is working in conjunction with GM on these cars:

The City Car is a stackable electric two-passenger city vehicle. The one-way sharable user model is designed to be used in dense urban areas. Vehicle Stacks will be placed throughout the city to create an urban transportation network that takes advantage of existing infrastructure such as subway and bus lines. By placing stacks in urban spaces and key points of convergence, the vehicle allows the citizens the flexibility to combine mass transit effectively with individualized mobility. The stack receives incoming vehicles and electrically charges them. Similar to luggage carts at the airport, users simply take the first fully charged vehicle at the front of the stack. The City car is NOT a replacement for personal vehicles, taxis, buses, or trucks; it is a NEW vehicle type that promotes a socially responsible and more effective means of urban mobility.

You can see a video of how they might work here:

I LOVE new ideas for transportation and I’m sure Walt Disney would be just giddy with excitement if he was alive to see this video today.

Via: Popgadget Personal Technology for Women: CityCar paves the way for smart parking

December 12, 2007

The Aptera Typ-1 Car Is Ready To Order

Filed under: Cars & Transportation — Laura Moncur @ 2:07 pm

I wrote about the Aptera before here:

You can now see it in action:

The Aptera is out of research and development and is in the manufacturing stage now. For $500, you can reserve one now!

Via: The Aptera Typ-1 | GearCrave | Stuff you want to touch

November 27, 2007

Japan’s Melody Road

Filed under: Cars & Transportation — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

In northern Japan, they have carved specific grooves into the road to create a melody.

Here is a video of the effect here:

Melody roads? Really? That’s the best you can come up with that technology? Come on, even I can think of something better.

When I was a child, there were some birthday cards at the local odd lot store. The card came with a strip of plastic attached to it. If you ran your fingernail along the plastic strip, the grooves on it would sound out the words, “Happy Birthday!”

Why don’t we do that with the groove strips along the side of the road? Instead of “Happy Birthday,” they could say something useful like “Wake Up!”

Via: Here’s a video of a car driving on Japan’s

November 15, 2007

UPS Brown Goes Green with ZAP Trucks

Filed under: Cars & Transportation — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

UPS Brown Goes Green from Flickr

UPS has leased a fleet of 42 electric ZAP trucks to deliver small packages in Northern California. Instead of loading up their huge brown delivery trucks, and running them up and down every street in Petaluma, they are separating the smaller packages and using electric cars to do a lot of the zipping around town.

This appears to be a test program because the drivers are keeping close track of their electrical usage so that UPS can analyze the cost-savings and emissions reductions.

“This is the missing link for small package deliveries in congested areas,” said ZAP CEO Steve Schneider. “Packages go from the airplanes, to the tractor trailers, to the delivery vans, then to the drop-off nodes. From there the ZAP trucks make the final delivery to the consumer in a zero-emission vehicle that costs less to operate. It’s a perfect example of how green technology can help corporate America’s bottom line.”

I’m interested to see how it works out. Companies are quick to put out press releases saying that they are “Going Green,” but if the experiment doesn’t cut costs or reduce emissions, they aren’t so eager to announce when they “Go Back To Brown.”

You can see the entire Flickr set here:

UPS delivers load of packages in ZAP electric truck from Flickr

My biggest concern is boxes disappearing off the back of the truck. Since the back of the truck isn’t enclosed, they can’t lock them. How is the driver supposed to deliver a package and watch the rest of them at the same time? I’m sure they’ll work out the bugs, but I’m really eager to see a follow-up and I doubt UPS or ZAP will give me one unless it’s a raging success. Let’s all hope for a raging success, shall we?

November 14, 2007

Top Gear Reviews The Peel P50

Filed under: Cars & Transportation — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

The BBC’s Top Gear did a review of the incredibly tiny Peel. It was a car made in the early sixties and gave “small car” a new meaning:

This is what I thought riding in a Smart Car would be like. Fortunately, the Smart Car is MUCH taller and easier to get into.

The Peel ran on a 49cc moped engine and got 100 mpg. THAT’S fuel efficiency!

Via: Cute Overload! – The cutest car EVAR

November 6, 2007

The Fly-Wheel May Power Our Next Green Car

Filed under: Cars & Transportation — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

GyrobusDamn Interesting has an excellent article talking about the fly-wheel and how it could be used to power the next green car that comes on the market.

The fly-wheel has the potential to store far more energy than standard batteries, but it is dangerous as well.

As interesting as the article was, the comments are even more fascinating and from the people who actually worked on this project:

With an ear-piercing squeal the highly spinning metal gave off its death cry. The device literally came apart sending shrapnel in a vector perpendicular to the common axis of the flywheel. The safety shield that encased the device did not live up to its design as the debris tore through it like so much tissue paper. Unfortunately there was a fellow standing in front of it when this happened. Like a scene out of some sick horror flick, he was instantly split from crotch to forehead. Considering the amount of damage, it was amazing that we suffered only the one death.

The project was canceled shortly after that.

…as interesting as this article is, I wish that I had not read the damn thing. It brought back bad memories. Memories that are just as vivid as if it just happened. I was standing next to him, and as he fell I tried to catch him…

Let’s take a moment and thank the researchers who have given their lives trying to design more energy efficient vehicles.

October 8, 2007

Finally, An Enclosed Scooter!

Filed under: Cars & Transportation,Misc. Gadgets — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Shoprider Flagship Enclosed Scooter, Blue at Amazon.comNo, this photo hasn’t been squashed. This is a one-person scooter that protects you from the rain and snow. With a top speed of only 10 miles an hour, however, the Shoprider Flagship falls into the Segway category of usefulness, but it’s a great start:

Sadly, it will cost you almost as much as a “real” scooter that can hit speeds of 40-50 mph. For $6595, it’s merely a toy, but it looks so cute I just want to get it! Red, please!

Via: Popgadget Personal Technology for Women: Shoprider Flagship: Tiny scooter car

October 3, 2007

Electric Bikes

Filed under: Cars & Transportation — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

It has been a while since I talked about human/motor driven bikes. Now that winter is coming, it’s strange that two new bikes have been announced:

The Matra MS1:

The Matra MS1

Aside from the cheesy LCD display strapped on the handlebars, the Matra MS1 bike looks as if Apple could have designed it. Okay, that’s a lie. It looks like they want you to think Apple designed it. Human powered and electric powered.

Via: Matra shows off its human / electric-powered MS1 bike – Engadget

The Electrobike Pi:

The Electrobike Pi

If the Matra bike is borrowing from Apple’s style, the Electrobike Pi is borrowing from the VW New Beetle. The arch and two wheels was VW’s logo for the New Beetle for the first few years of its marketing. I don’t feel like I could ride this bike around town with a straight face.

Via: Electrobike Pi: the pricey hybrid electric bicycle – Engadget

The market DOES need good hybrid bicycles for commuting, but I don’t think I like either one of these. Plus, at the prices that they are selling, it’s probably a better option to buy a cheap motor kit for your traditional bike or the Synergy Cycle.

September 21, 2007

GPS For Your Motorcyle: TomTom Rider

Filed under: Cars & Transportation,Reviews — Matthew Strebe @ 5:00 am

TomTom Rider 32MB GPS Navigator for Motorcycles and Scooters at Amazon.comI’ve become completely addicted to navigation systems since getting one in my car a few years ago. Sadly, I can’t find my way around without one anymore, so when I bought a motorcycle, putting a nav system on it was a forgone conclusion.

Looking at the competing units, I decided to get a TomTom Rider because it was adapted specifically for motorcycling. It comes with a mount that converts power from 12v and a cable that can be wired into your motorcycle’s electrical bus, and with mounting hardware and a Bluetooth headset designed for helmets.

The unit itself is quite servable, having all the standard navigation features and an easy to use touch screen. Just about all buttons were large enough to press with my gloves on without difficulty, and it comes with a complete set of maps for the U.S. and Canada on a 1GB SD card. The setup and configuration was easy enough that I didn’t have to crack the manual to get everything figured out. For pure navigation features, it’s pretty solid as are all TomTom products in my experience. For that reason, I’m going to focus on the motorcycle specific features of this unit.

The unit will connect to a Bluetooth-DUN enabled phone for live traffic if your phone supports it—a really nice feature. It also supports features included with the TomTom Plus service (most of which are theoretically interesting but practically useless, such as locating nearby buddies).

The system allows you to make hands-free phone calls through the navi head unit, uploading your address book and allowing you to dial through the navi while your phone sits safely in your pocket. It’s a neat feature, but one I doubt I’ll use very often since you can’t make phone calls at speed anyway.

Unfortunately, the mounting hardware was useless on my bike. As with most modern sport-bikes, the handlebars are multi-piece forged aluminum slabs, not the ¾” round handlebars of days gone by. There was literally nowhere to attach the mounting hardware on a stock Kawasaki ZX-14, so after about two hours of trying, I gave up and bought a TechMount designed specifically for my model of bike, costing an additional $80.

Once that hurdle was crossed, wiring the unit in was easy with the provided cable. Because of capacious the internal battery, it’s not necessary to wire the power up unless you intend to leave the unit on your bike all the time. The battery lasts all day in my tests, so many users will opt to simply take the system in with them and charge it on wall power rather than wiring the mount to power on their bike. It’s nice that both options are available.

The unit comes with a motorcycle specific Bluetooth headset that can be permanently mounted inside your helmet. It’s interesting idea, but it doesn’t work well in practice. The earpiece takes up enough room inside the helmet to make it a hard to get my ear in on the side where the speaker is mounted. The disconnectable Bluetooth transceiver recharges on house power—A recharging dock on the unit would have been much more motorcycle friendly, especially for those of us who tour for multiple days at a time. Finally, the unit is all but worthless at freeway speed as it is too quiet at full volume to hear above freeway and wind noise.

Unfortunately, the unit will only provide spoken instructions via Bluetooth. I would have vastly preferred a speaker on the unit that could be turned up to hear at speed. There’s not even a headphone jack, so you basically don’t have any options—it’s Bluetooth or no spoken instructions.

A better idea for a motorcycle nav system would be to forgo spoken turn instructions entirely in favor of bright LED turn indicators similar to those used for turn signal indicators, one on each side of the unit. Flashing left would mean it’s time to take the next left, and flashing right means next right. The frequency of flashing could increase with proximity to the turn, and the number of LEDs on each side could indicate whether it’s a merge or turn. LEDs would be far more obvious and easy to interpret at speed than spoken instructions even if there was a good way to deliver them, which there is not.

Another missing feature is a speedometer calibration display. It’s pretty difficult to get raw GPS information out of the unit (you have to dig through many layers of configuration screens) and there’s no single place where you can just show your latitude, longitude, heading, and speed over ground. Accelerometer features would be a big plus as well. You can enable speed display on the main screen, but a single “info” screen with a very large speed display would be preferable for motorcyclists.

Speaking of displays, color backlit LCDs are useless in direct sun, this one included, You simply cannot see it unless there’s a shadow cast on it. The display has a small sun hood, but too small to be of any real use. A unit built specifically for motorcycles would just use a high resolution black and white LCD designed for front-lighting in the first place.

In all, it’s a serviceable unit and a good navigator, but clearly merely adapted for the motorcycle market rather than developed for it. To be honest, the motorcycle enhancements don’t make it worth the extra cost considering that none of them are actually useful. Don’t waste your money on this motorcycle-adapted unit, just purchase the correct 3rd party mount for your motorcycle and use the portable navigation unit that you like best. Perhaps someone will pick up the gauntlet and make a unit truly designed for motorcyclists.

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