You Wanna See a Great Big Driverless Convoy?

When I was a kid, my family took a lot of road trips. During long-distance, boring rides, my siblings and I enjoyed pumping our fists in the air when we passed semi-trailer trucks. The drivers would thrill us with a blast of their horns. Sometimes the trucks traveled like a wagon train. Three or more trucks, one right after the other. For us, it became a contest to see how many in the convoy would honk. You wanna see a great big driverless convoy? Self Driving Trucks are on the road Long-Haul Trucks According to World Economic Forum, trucking is an $800 billion industry in the US. Trucks carry nearly everything we buy. That’s a lot of driving hours. John Hopkins estimates there are 3.5 million long-haul drivers in the U.S. The article discusses the huge physical and psychological toll of long-distance truck driving. Life-altering wrecks are only a part of the dangers. The job isn’t for everyone. And truck drivers, like everyone else, are aging. And few young people choose that occupation. Since at least 2017, there has been a shortage of truck drivers. The shortage and the high cost of vehicles, maintenance, fuel, and drivers, leave companies struggling […]

It Isn’t Just Science Fiction Anymore

Remember when you first read a science fiction story with nanobots teaming inside a person? Were you afraid? I thought it was cool. But that was fiction. And nanobots aren’t real–yet. However, tiny robots inside your body isn’t just science fiction anymore. A team of researchers at the University of Vermont have created a new life-form. Computer-Designed Lead author and doctoral student, Sam Kriegman, used an evolutionary algorithm. He fed it into the Deep Green supercomputer cluster at UVM. The computer ran thousands of simulated designs over the next few months. The basic biophysics of what single frog skin and cardiac cells can do drove its decisions. It discarded designs that failed and refined the more successful ones. After a hundred independent runs of the algorithm, the research team chose the most promising designs. Repurposed A book is made of wood. But it is not a tree. The dead cells have been repurposed to serve another need. UVM News From there the research went to biologists at Tufts University. Michael Levin, who directs the Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology at Tufts, and his team brought the computer designs to life. With vital help from microsurgeon Douglas Blackiston, they harvested stem cells […]

City of the Future and Living Concrete

The future may seem grim right now, but there will be a future. And it may be brighter than you expect. As a science fiction writer, one of my favorite pastimes is following articles and predictions of future technology. Today we’ll look at reports of the city of the future and “living” concrete. City of the Future In Cnet’s report on the CES (consumer Electronics Show) one of the coolest new things was Toyota’s city of the future. Until now, they have done city planning around automobiles. The prototype city Toyota will build has no human drivers.  They plan to build the Woven City on 175 acres of a now-defunct factory near Mount Fuji. The plans feature self-driving vehicles run on hydrogen fuel cells, robots, smart homes, and new forms of personal mobility. Not only that, regular people will live in this city of tomorrow. “Living” Concrete Concrete is the second most-consumed material on Earth after water. Using sand, gel and bacteria, researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder have developed a self-healing concrete. They believe that someday the concrete could “heal their own cracks, suck up dangerous toxins from the air or even glow on command”. They aren’t the only scientists […]