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IBM outfits Explorer with computer technology

By Leadfoot180 in MLP
Thu Aug 30, 2001 at 02:45:18 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)

IBM's alphaWorks outfits a 2002 Ford Explorer with enough technology that we wouldn't need computers at home anymore.

Recently, IBM's alphaWorks installed quite a lengthy hoard of technology into a 2002 Ford Explorer, calling it the TechMobile (those innovators at IBM are really earning those paychecks).

You thought talking on the cell phone while driving was bad? Try speaking commands as the vehicle's computer checks your email and allows onboard PDAs and cell phones exchange data. The TechMobile has its own web server and handheld Linux PC.

One of the TechMobile's objectives is from the use of IBM's Bluetooth-based wireless middleware called BlueDrekar; it's intended to show how Linux-based wireless technology can enabled communication between a PDA and a Linux machine aboard the TechMobile.

The TechMobile will be showcased at the LinuxWorld Expo in San Francisco, August 28-30, 2001.

This seems like a nifty idea, to incorporate technology with the art of driving, but since New York is the only state at this moment with enough hutzpa to ban the use of cell phones while driving, the TechMobile will introduce a whole new slew of distractions involved with driving. Yes, we should remember the repeated notice that drivers should pull over on the side of the road and then use their cell phones, PDAs, or voice recognition driving software, but honestly, how many would do this? If we did pull over, wouldn't that on one hand eliminate the intentions provided by the TechMobile's benefits? I rarely use my cell phone in the car while is mobile, but when I do drive, I'd like to have concentration on the road and what might pop around that unexpected turn, no matter how much technology is linked within the car's capabilities.


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Related Links
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IBM outfits Explorer with computer technology | 27 comments (18 topical, 9 editorial, 0 hidden)
pulling over (4.00 / 2) (#1)
by Refrag on Wed Aug 29, 2001 at 12:35:47 PM EST

Pulling over to the side of the road, as is often recommended, isn't even enough. That in itself endangers drivers on the road. And it takes up space that should be available for drivers with actual emergencies. If you need to take your mind off of driving to work on something else (phone call, notes, whatever) you should pull into a parking lot.


Kuro5hin: ...and culture, from the trenches

Either that, or (2.00 / 1) (#5)
by hoops on Wed Aug 29, 2001 at 02:58:18 PM EST

hire a chauffeur.

If I were a koala bear, the first thing I would do is urinate all over you and bite you in the scrotum. - bri4n
[ Parent ]

In many cases that is sensible (3.00 / 1) (#13)
by Tezcatlipoca on Wed Aug 29, 2001 at 07:34:05 PM EST

In some countries in Southeast Asia foreign companies forbid expat workers to drive because they can't be arsed to follow basic safety rules.

Those companies decided in many instances to hire drivers for their indisciplined workers.

As you can imagine from then on everybody pretended they could not drive....
"They only think of me as a Mexican,
an Indian or a Mafia don"
Mexican born actor Anthony Quinn on
[ Parent ]
Driving (none / 0) (#27)
by free779 on Wed Sep 05, 2001 at 11:12:33 AM EST

From my experience, many companies hire drivers for their expats since the expats can't handle the traffic. Most Europeans and Americans do not have experience handling traffic where there are few rules, and those that do exist are rarely enforced and often ignored.

Given the traffic in Bangkok, it's also more efficient, since the driver can pay attention to the traffic jams while the expat can work on the laptop, call people on the phone.

[ Parent ]

Please, please pull over. (3.00 / 1) (#7)
by Valdrax on Wed Aug 29, 2001 at 05:03:35 PM EST

You know, I drive on a major highway every morning to work and every evening from work -- a highway filled with normally inconsiderate and inattentive drivers. When you add "large SUV" and "cell phone" to the mix, you get some of the worst drivers on the road. To be honest, I've seen drunk people drive better than them.

I'd much rather have to navigate an additional few feet in case of an emergency to get around them than to have them on the road causing said emergencies in the first place.

[ Parent ]
God this is annoying (1.00 / 1) (#11)
by delmoi on Wed Aug 29, 2001 at 06:51:46 PM EST

Should we pull over to talk to passengers too?
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
Some people should. (5.00 / 3) (#14)
by Tezcatlipoca on Wed Aug 29, 2001 at 07:36:33 PM EST

You are using a lethal weapon when you drive. This artifact has the potential to kill and cause havoc in the person and property of innocent people.

Now, do you still want more distractions in your car?

"They only think of me as a Mexican,
an Indian or a Mafia don"
Mexican born actor Anthony Quinn on
[ Parent ]
It's worse than you could possibly imagine (4.66 / 6) (#15)
by localroger on Wed Aug 29, 2001 at 08:05:30 PM EST

One of my coworkers is the worst driver I have ever heard of.

I have watched him take both hands off the steering wheel while doing nothing but talking to me in order to expound with gestures on some point in the conversation. I have watched him answer the cell phone, and upon hearing the voice lean back as if at his office, take his free hand off the steering wheel and brace himself on the center console with it as he leans back, "steering" with his knee, and prepares to schmooze.

That's not even counting his charming habit of hooking the shoulder belt strap around his left knee, or attempting to operate the cell phone while writing in the daytimer and looking at me to ask questions. And then suddenly needing to spit, since he chews tobacco constantly.

I have told him that when all this connectivity becomes available I'm going to install a live webcam above the passenger seat pointed at him and post it at horribledrivercam.com. I mainly get through our trips by staring at the dashboard, since looking out the windshield is too frightening and I can meditate on the comforting words, "passenger side air bag." Which might save me when the inevitable happens, as long as the vehicle doesn't flip.

OTOH he drives a Ford Explorer with Firestone tires, so maybe I should just make sure my life insurance is paid up. He of course thinks he is the best driver in the world, since he can "handle" all this stuff and hasn't had an accident in 12 years. (He omits to mention that that one came within 6 inches of decapitating him.) When a group of us has to passenger with him we amuse ourselves by making a pool on how many times he will go out of the lane per mile. Safe bets are in the double digits.

Short of a law with teeth, nothing is going to change this man's behavior except the wreck that kills him and an indeterminate number of other people. Fortunately, I don't have to ride with him very often. But he is the poster child for these cell-phone laws, and while I don't like them much I realize that we have to do something.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

Bad driver (4.50 / 2) (#17)
by sigwinch on Wed Aug 29, 2001 at 11:12:42 PM EST

Short of a law with teeth, nothing is going to change this man's behavior except the wreck that kills him and an indeterminate number of other people.
In most jurisdictions, it is a defense to first degree murder that the person killed was willfully endangering the lives of others. It is also generally considered legally acceptable for anyone who witnesses such behavior to forcibly arrest the offender and haul his sorry ass off to jail.

And what did you do? Kill him? Arrest him? Report him to the cops? Report him to the DA? Fuck, even report him to his insurance company? No, you kept riding with him and trotted his story out only later as a moral lesson.

If you will sit ten inches away from him and not do a goddamn thing, what makes you think a law that gives cops yet another excuse to arrest anyone anytime ('I thought I saw him using a cell phone, honest') is gonna do any good? (Or maybe I'm just cynical.)

I don't want the world, I just want your half.
[ Parent ]

Nifty! (I cant get enough of this stuff :-) (1.00 / 1) (#6)
by communityAutism on Wed Aug 29, 2001 at 04:20:03 PM EST

Commodified technology has restored my faith in so-called Mankind.

Me, me, me.

hmm (1.00 / 1) (#8)
by gblues on Wed Aug 29, 2001 at 05:51:50 PM EST

This could make playing Majestic all the more interesting. :)

... although in retrospect, having sex to the news was probably doomed to fail from the get-go. --squinky
Memories (4.00 / 3) (#10)
by spacejack on Wed Aug 29, 2001 at 06:22:30 PM EST

I find this kind of funny because back in the late 80's, I had a summer job at a computer graphics company. They had this one contract from GM (who they'd been doing a bunch of work for) for a new "fish van" design (which at the time I thought looked sort of ridiculous) that they were demoing in an auto show. It was a small side-project for the company, the kind of thing a summer student could do by himself.

Well, this fish van (which is now known as a minivan) was supposed to demo all these technologies of the future, including 4-wheel steering, supposedly aerodynamic design.. and an animated 3D dashboard display. It didn't have all this connectivity stuff like celphones or internet access since digital communication was not a big thing with the public back then. But it did incorporate an gigantic Silicon Graphics Iris 2400 minicomputer into the van itself, for realtime rendering on a mega-expensive 1024x1024 32-bit display.

My job to code all these interactive 3D display components, using these designs which a designer had drawn on graph paper, with keyframes to describe how it was to animate. I had to take scaled inputs from the engine and fueltank, etc. and reflect those values in the display. It was pretty nifty in a Tron-style kind of way, with all these simple, brightly coloured, flat-shaded primitives (zbuffer was too slow then) rotating and dancing around.

But... I haven't see dashboards like this yet (although not being a driver, I haven't seen the dash displays for many high-end car models).

Anyhow, I'm gonna head up to a cottage with some friends in an '88 VW Fox tonight.

Zbuffer (none / 0) (#22)
by fluffy grue on Sat Sep 01, 2001 at 12:51:09 PM EST

Not having zbuffer and being flat-shaded are orthogonal concepts. The reason for being flat-shaded is because the Iris had no (or at least insufficient) hardware support for Gouraud shading. I was under the impression that the Iris did have pretty fast zbuffering though.

I don't know about cars, but a lot of in-dash CD players now have these really annoying, distracting, 3D-rendered animated plasma displays. I have a feeling that their whole draw is to distract your high-as-a-kite buddies while you're trying to drive.

IMO, the only reason to go from the current mechanical indicators to computerized ones is because mechanical ones have a much lower MTBF (assuming the computer's software is completely stored in a ROM or flash memory or the like, anyway). Making the display more distracting is a Definite Bad Thing.
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

zbuffer (none / 0) (#25)
by spacejack on Sun Sep 02, 2001 at 12:25:03 PM EST

Yup, instead of "simple primitives" I should've said "convex primitives". I didn't actually do any testing to see if the zbuffer would be fast enough, but I remember my bosses didn't think so, and the graphics were designed to work without it.

Aesthetically, were I a driver, I think I'd be more of an analog man myself. Otherwise, I thought the graphics would've been too distracting and dangerous for real world use... but then I've always been surprised by the reckless driving they portray on commercials these days. There was actually a bike courier I read about in the paper recently who was trying to take the car companies to court for encouraging dangerous driving habits with these ads, but I suspect he ran into a brick wall of auto industry lawyers. I hardly know any longtime cyclists (including myself) who haven't been hit at least once by idiot drivers.

[ Parent ]
Ah, fun (none / 0) (#26)
by fluffy grue on Sun Sep 02, 2001 at 07:59:36 PM EST

Yeah, I much prefer analog (meaning directed-needle, in this case) displays... well, my favorite is analog-digital. For example, if it had both a needle and a digital readout (which would be easy on a display) it'd be great. Analog is great for quickly estimating, and digital is great for precision. Also, a directed needle is much better than, say, a bar graph, since an angle is much easier to differentiate than a position (since angles are easier to see with respect to a fixed reference point than distances, etc.etc.).

I'm only a short-time bicyclist, and I've already had quite a few close calls with idiot drivers (who were going out of their way to be assholes who didn't feel like understanding what the "Share the Road" signs they have everywhere here mean). So far it's just been things like drivers honking/yelling at me (when I was definitely NOT in their space), buzzing me, etc... one time this one guy got his young (probably 7-8 years old) daughter to shout "Stupid jerkface!" at me, which is pretty damned low.
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Mmm. (1.33 / 3) (#16)
by strlen on Wed Aug 29, 2001 at 09:06:08 PM EST

Truck based SUV's with experimental technology inside? Anyone remember the story where KKK was allowed to "Adopt a high way" by picking up the garbage along its sides? I hope they do as many test runs in that area as possible. They should have done that on a Suburan or an Expedition though.

On another note, there's also been a slashdot story about a Volkswagen Golf E-generation, an "online vehicle".

[T]he strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone. - Henrik Ibsen.
IBM and linux (1.66 / 3) (#19)
by dof on Thu Aug 30, 2001 at 07:09:21 AM EST

Perhaps it's just me.. but IBM seem to be pushing linux quite a lot .... is someone in IBM HQ thinking of ditching / removing reliance on M$ NT ?

I wish the trains in the UK had a bit of technology .. irc clients at every seat.. hmm that would be fun :)

Hopefully I'll never own a car, so perhaps I'll miss out if this turns into a big thing

My thoughts... (4.00 / 2) (#21)
by Elkor on Thu Aug 30, 2001 at 10:55:00 AM EST

My first thought was "IBM and Explorer? I didn't think Microsoft would let anyone touch that program." followed by "Maybe they can fix some of the bugs."

Then I read the body, and my next thought was "Awww, crap. Not more digital $#!+ in a car."

My final thought was "I hope it has a scrolling light on the front of its gently sloping glossy black super-hard hood."


Until it goes completely hands and eye free (voice only), I won't get behind the technology concepts. I would say brain free, but it seems most people drive that way anyway, so I doubt that computers would interfere that much.

If anything, they will probably end up helping. By the time we get to that point, the on Board Navigation system should be able to monitor surrounding traffic velocities and location using the exterior sensors (which are also used for the car alarm) and automatically react to sudden changes in traffic patterns.

THAT is what they should be working on.


"I won't tell you how to love God if you don't tell me how to love myself."
-Margo Eve
IBM outfits Explorer with computer technology | 27 comments (18 topical, 9 editorial, 0 hidden)
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