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31 Jul

Dubbed by the company as a "semi-autonomous" vehicle, the 2018 Audi A8 will reportedly allow drivers to watch television as they sit behind the wheel.

That's because the Audi AI Traffic Jam Pilot can effectively take full control of the car when it is traveling at speeds of less than 37 mph -- as long as a physical barrier separates the pair of carriageways.

According to the company, "The traffic jam pilot manages starting, accelerating, steering and braking. The driver no longer needs to monitor the car permanently. They can take their hands off the steering wheel permanently and, depending on the national laws, focus on a different activity that is supported by the car, such as watching the on-board TV."

Before anyone gets too panicky over that state of affairs, bear in mind that the driver will still be required to seize control of the car as soon as the system crosses certain thresholds. Plus, the system will only be able to work within the restrictions and requirements of each marketplace.

29 Jul

Whether we intend to or not, humans leave an impact on the areas we inhabit. This is even true in space, where the mere existence of astronauts can change the biological makeup of a planet. As NASA continues in its plans to send manned spacecraft to Mars, the agency is researching how human presence can impact outer space.

To conduct their research, the agency is recreating the environment seen on the International Space Station, which humans have occupied since 1998. For its most recent study, they looked at the affect only a few people living in an inflatable space would have. Even with four occupants, the species of fungi present in the habitat changed.

27 Jul

If you want to simulate what life on Mars might be like, the Utah desert could be the closest thing you’ll find on this planet. At least that’s the thinking at a research facility in the Utah desert, where a group of college students and teachers lived this past spring for a week. The goal was to learn as much as possible about life on Mars.

The Utah site was created by the Mars Society, a nonprofit that set it up in 2001 to let students and companies simulate missions on the planet. This isn’t to be confused with a similar type of site set up by NASA in Hawaii to let professional space agency crews simulate missions for up to a year at a time.

25 Jul

Designed to be healthier for the workers who toil in toxic shoe factories, these revolutionary kicks incorporate a strap, manufactured out of a recyclable material, that snaps into the tread of the outsole much like pieces of a puzzle come together. The whole shoe is then held together by laces -- all without a single drop of harmful glue.

The inventor of the glueless shoes, Gyudeog Kim, recently talked to Fast Company about part of the thinking behind his creation: “The first time I went to the production line to see my designs being manufactured, even though there was ventilation, the painful smell of toxic adhesives nearly made me faint,” he said. “It was even more shocking that workers at the production line work eight hours a day within that space.”

The final product, called Ki Ecobe, is assembled at home by customers -- saving factories about 30 minutes per shoe.

Kim explained, "[I]t takes no more than five minutes to assemble your own shoe....So it’s actually much faster and more efficient to assemble your own shoes, and can eventually reduce the cost, similar to flat-pack furniture.”

23 Jul

For a mere $88, consumers can now buy and use a device that allows them to hack into their automobiles. Called Panda, the gizmo plugs into something known as a car's OBDII port, thereby tapping into information that has usually been the sole domain of vehicle manufacturers.

George Hotz, who invented Panda, also has released a software tool, Cabana, that permits gear heads to reverse engineer their machines using the data pulled by Panda.

And so?

People who know what they're doing can customize their cars in much the same way as can be done with computers.

According to  report from Business Insider, "Using the Panda/Cabana combo for example, someone could theoretically write software to give a car automatic braking or advanced cruise control (assuming the car has the necessary sensors built-in)."

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