On Sept. 5 in the U.S., Nissan Motor Co. will pull the cover off the 2018 Leaf, its first production vehicle that will steer and stop by itself—at least every once in a while.
This week, Nissan loaded its version of this hot tech onto some of its SUVs and brought them to New York for a test drive, the perfect place to put a new phase of autonomous technology through its paces. Driving in Manhattan requires a modicum of Zen, something most New Yorkers don’t have—at least not when they’re in a car. Anything to help commuters tune out a little, to tick up the chill a few notches, is helpful for everyone traveling along the city’s congested arteries. That’s precisely what Nissan’s new system, dubbed ProPilot Assist, is supposed to do.
When activated by the push of a button and the setting of cruise-control speed, it keeps the car in the center of a lane, steering through corners. At the same time, it maintains a safe distance to the vehicle ahead and will brake all the way to a stop, the default state of most Big Apple drives. It even resumes driving without a prompt, provided that the automobile has only been still for less than three seconds. “Basically, we’re focused on fatigue reduction,” explained Andy Christensen, senior manager of Nissan’s Intelligent Transportation Systems Research.
This suite of robot pilots is not, Christensen insisted, a self-driving system. The steering wheel senses feedback (not touch); if there isn’t evidence of any physical tug, ProPilot escalates a series of warnings, including audio chimes and brake checks. Eventually, the vehicle will turn on its hazard lights and come to a stop midlane. Given that humans are now able to land space-scraping rockets back on the ground as if they were lawn darts, the new Leaf isn’t exactly vanguard stuff. Plenty of vehicles on the market do what Nissan’s new system offers—if you can afford them, that is. The Leaf, however, is intended to fill the autonomous-capabilities gap that exists for machines that cost less than $40,000 or so. What Nissan’s driving robots deliver is a passable impression of a Mercedes-Benz (or an Audi, Tesla, or Volvo).
“Passable,” though, is the key word: Nissan’s package isn’t infallible. For one thing, it requires clear lane markers on each side to steer properly. On our 40-minute jaunt from Midtown Manhattan to its northern peak, painted lines were sporadic and the system often simply shut off, signaling its snooze with a chime. Meanwhile, it’s designed to steer only up to a certain level of aggressiveness (the parameters set by forces of gravity). Coming into a series of twists a little bit hot, the robots couldn’t keep us centered, even though the car was still plenty capable. “We’re trying to make it accessible and attainable.”
The problem is that the sensors and cameras that allow for a more seamless autonomous drive tend to be expensive, and thus remain squarely in the realm of luxury cars. Nissan’s ProPilot uses just one camera to read the lane margins and one radar unit to measure distance to the vehicle in front. “We’re trying to make it accessible and attainable,” said Brittany Tessmer, senior engineer on the project.
In the gray area between analog driving and full autonomy, Nissan’s new system represents a very light shade, which to me is the biggest drawback for it and all the other systems like it. It’s only a mild iteration beyond adaptive cruise control, which comes standard on 25 percent of current vehicles, and lane departure warnings, which are available in one-third, according to Edmunds.com.
When the driver is alert, the nanny steering and braking can be annoying, particularly if one likes to drift toward the inside of sweeping highway curves. If the driver isn’t alert, it’s even more grating. To be sure, that needling is necessary, but I’ve found myself wondering more than once: Is this an autonomous step too small to be worth taking? Why not just wait to roll out something more fully cooked?
“There are always going to be people who just want to get in and wake up in their driveway,” Tessmer said of the desire for full autonomy. “Until the technology gets there, they don’t want it.” What the ProPilot seems suited for, most directly, is the smartphone. With one hand on the wheel, a driver can easily toggle through emails or watch Fast & Furious flicks. The system may not be self-driving, but in that case the driver certainly won’t be, either.
Bose Frames AR Audio Sunglasses Launched in India, Priced at Rs. 21,900
Over a year after originally showcasing its audio AR sunglasses, Bose is bringing them to the Indian market. The company on Thursday announced that the sunglasses, which are simply known as Bose Frames, will go on sale beginning next week in the country alongside Bose Frames Lens Collection. The Bose Frames combine three functionalities into one device – premium sunglasses, wireless headphones, and audio AR features. The Bose Frames are the company’s first product to be based on the company’s AR platform.
The Bose Frames carry a price tag of Rs. 21,900 and will be offered in two universal styles – the larger Alto and the smaller Rondo. The Bose Frames Lens Collection of non-polarised and polarised lenses will retail at Rs. 1,990 and Rs. 2,990, respectively. The sales open June 20 via select resellers and Bose stores in the country.
The Bose Frames are essentially a pair of sunglasses that pack a tiny Bose audio system in the temples. This audio system effectively turns them into a wireless pair of headphones. The Bose Frames also include a microphone and multi-function button on the right temple for power and pairing, Siri and Google Assistant, calls and commands, or to pause and skip songs.
“With a proprietary open-ear design, they [Bose Frames] take micro-acoustics, voice control, and personal audio to an entirely new level, so users can stream music and information, take and make calls, and access virtual assistants from — while keeping playlists, entertainment, and conversations private,” Bose said in a statement.
Like many wearable devices, the Bose Frames act as a companion device to your smartphone and need the same for processing the information and connecting to the Web.
As we mentioned earlier, the Bose Frames will be released in two designs – Alto and Rondo. Alto is square and angled, whereas Rondo is round and smaller. Both can block up to 99 percent of UVA/UVB rays and weigh just 45 grams. The lenses can be easily popped out and replaced.
Apart from the audio capabilities, the Frames are also compatible with Bose’s AR platform. The Bose Frames don’t include any visual AR capabilities, but they can provide audio AR input to enhance your experience.
“[Bose Frames] knows where you are and what you’re facing using a 9-axis head motion sensor and the GPS from your iOS or Android device — and automatically adds a layer of audio through Bose AR apps, connecting that place and time to endless possibilities for travel, learning, entertainment, gaming, and more,” Bose explained.
Bose AR apps can be downloaded using Bose Connect app and are only available for iOS right now. Android apps are being developed, according to the company’s website.
The company claims that onboard battery can last up to 3.5 hours for playback and up to 12 hours on standby. It can be fully recharged in less than two hours.
Novel device can quickly detect strokes
Scientists have developed a device that can monitor blood flow and help quickly diagnose and treat strokes.
A stroke, one of the leading causes of death worldwide, occurs due to poor blood flow to the brain — a condition known as cerebral ischemia.
Its diagnosis must be done within the first few hours for treatment to be effective, researchers said.
The hybrid device, developed by researchers at the China Academy of Engineering Physics and Army Medical University in China, relies on a combination of to light measuring techniques which could diagnose cerebral ischemia non-invasively and faster than the techniques used currently.
“We can measure blood volume, blood oxygenation and blood flow using suitable near-infrared techniques,” said Liguo Zhu, from China Academy of Engineering Physics.
Zhu said that “near-infrared light penetrates one to three centimetres and allows researchers to probe under the skin.”
The working of the instrument relies on the combination of the near-infrared diffuse optical spectroscopy, which analyses the light scattered from the tissues to calculate the amount of oxygen and blood within an area, and the diffuse correlation spectroscopy, which analyses fluctuation in the tissue-scattered lights to measure blood flow.
“Both techniques share the same detectors, which decreases the number of detectors compared to other instruments,” said Zhu.
“The team’s device can record a comprehensive profile of a body part’s hemodynamics, or blood circulation. Devices should measure as many ‘hemodynamic parameters’ as necessary to obtain an accurate diagnosis, as ‘the hemodynamics of stroke is complex’,” said Hua Feng, from Army Medical University.
Another advantage of the device is that it is cheap and compact, which would make more accessible to the people, and hence, help treatment, diagnosis and chances of stroke, researchers said.
Parineeti ‘still learning’ to play badminton
Actress Parineeti Chopra has not started shooting for ‘Saina’ yet and says she is still learning how to play badminton.
Parineeti on Thursday said that the shooting for the biopic will commence in October.
“Hi everyone, we have not started the shoot of ‘Saina’ yet. I am still learning how to play Badminton! We will start in October once I get better at it! Four months to go,” she tweeted.
Parineeti had replaced actress Shraddha Kapoor in the Saina Nehwal biopic, which is being directed by Amole Gupte.
She will next be seen in ‘Jabariya Jodi’ along with actor Sidharth Malhotra. The film is scheduled for release on August 2. Directed by Prashant Singh, ‘Jabariya Jodi’ is based on ‘Pakadwa Vivah’ (forced marriage), which was once rampant in Bihar.