We Live in the Future: 2013 Wrap Up

smart snow plow fleet image

Welcome to the triumphant (and much delayed) return of We Live in the Future. There’s too many disparate technological things happening to narrow down to one column for the end of the year, so heck, WE’RE GONNA DO ALL OF THEM!

Or at least three of them.

Twix, Snickers, Coke Zero, Kandi EV

Chinese company Kandi Electronics Group has thrown the gauntlet down at carsharing services like Zipcar stateside. Not only are they trying to implement carsharing services to reduce pollution in highly troubled areas around Shanghai, but they’re going to store them in giant vending machine garages.

Those are exactly what they sound like.

The Kandi EV smart cars that will fill these vending machines are fairly standard in terms of range (75 miles on a charge, top speed of 50 mph), and they will cost $3.25/hour to rent. Not bad if you just need to get from one side of town to the other. But where will you return them?

Have no fear: Kandi is planning to build 750 of these garages in Hangzhou, a town about an hour’s train ride from Shanghai. If the venture is successful, they will expand to build garages in nearby cities, such as Shanghai, Shandong and Hainan.

Check out the video below for more details.

Let Your Car Drive You to the Beautiful State of Michigan!

Michigan is now the fourth state to allow testing of self-driving cars. As the self-proclaimed “automotive capital of the world,” presumably because Detroit is the only place in the world that makes cars that isn’t China (hashtag-sarcasm), Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed legislation that passed both chambers of the state legislature almost unanimously to make robot cars just as legal as regular old cars.

Upside: now you don’t have to drive yourself through downtown Detroit and get crazy lost, because your car will do that for you and potentially drive you into a river because the GPS says so.

Downside: aside from the potential for inexplicable, GPS-directed detours, Michiganers (Michiganites?) at large will not be permitted to “drive” automated cars yet. Only car manufacturers, suppliers, and developers like Google will be allowed to put these cars on the road, with an “M” license plate to differentiate them from regular old horseless carriages.

Extra downside for those testers, though: they still require a human being to sit in the driver seat. No napping in the backseat on an automatic road trip just yet.

Get Smart… Snowplows

As I type this, I’m watching a winter storm warning-level weather event outside my office window, and trying to remember if I left my windshield wipers up off the windshield or if they’ll be frozen solid by the time 5:00 rolls around. So snowplows are pretty big on my mind, especially the one that has been driving around town and clearing out our lot.

Our buddies in Michigan, Minnesota and Nevada may soon be able to use smart snowplows to clear their streets. The new Pikalert Enhanced Maintenance Decision Support System (EMDSS. I’m not sure what happened to the P.) fits sensors into the plows themselves, which monitor road and weather conditions, and allow better road-clearing efforts by working with satellite and radar to find out where the heaviest snowfalls have hit.

The National Center for Atmospheric Research and the US Department of Transportation hope that this system will increase efficiency and ensure that roads that don’t need plowing services, such as salting and plowing, are ignored in favor of the ones that desperately need it. It’s a prioritization system, which we can always use more of. Check out Autoblog for the full story and press release.

Safe Driving in 2014

That’s all for the tail end of 2013. I hope to get this column back on a weekly track in 2014, and I hope you all have a safe and happy year.


About Nick Philpott

Nick Philpott is the Chief Storyteller at Lebanon Ford. He believes that every vehicle and driver has a unique story to share. You can contact him directly at (513) 932-1010 or nphilpott@lebanon-ford.com.