Tuesday, 29 November 2011



Analysis by Nic Halverson

Schools of fish, flocks of birds -- even bicyclists in the Tour de France -- all use the principles of swarm behavior and drafting to conserve energy while moving in the same direction.

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Australian industrial designer, Charles Rattray, believes these concepts are the future of transportation. That's why he's designed Autonomo, a biomimicry inspired autonomous vehicle he hopes will revolutionize the auto industry by the year 2030.

Influenced heavily by swarm robotics and artificial intelligence, Rattray's omni-wheeled, self-driving Autonomos would travel in tight platoons while shifting their configurations to maintain an uninterrupted traffic flow. Microwave sensors would allow cars to travel a mere 7.8 inches apart, thus aerodynamically reducing vehicle drag and energy consumption, making tailgating actually a good thing.

Onboard computers would synthesize data from an array of sensors (radar, microwave, lidar, optical and infrared) and external feedback systems that would monitor the road 656 feet in front of and behind the vehicle or vehicle platoon. There's also hi-def cameras equipped with object recognition technologies that would help predict the path of other vehicles, cyclists, pedestrians and other hazardous objects.

Balancing these flocks of vehicles would be a centralized database controlled by intelligent algorithms that could adjust as new spatial information is fed to them.

Rattray's concept vehicle is a svelte 3.77 foot wide two-seater with bobsled-style seating. It's slim design would allow Autonomos to travel two abreast in a single lane so that existing road infrastructures would not need overhauling.

Vehicles would be charged wirelessly through electrodynamic induction or energy transfer lasers via charging pads embedded on the surface of the road.

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Obviously, this project aims to lasso the moon with an ambition of fantastical proportions. But as the great architect of Chicago, Daniel Burnham, once said, "Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood and probably themselves will not be realized."

[Via GizMag]

Credit: Charles Rattray

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