“Vision without execution is just hallucination.” — Henry Ford
- A hands-free Mustang
- Clean air for your commute
- Hope for a cancer vaccine
- AI and prosthetics
- Killing mosquitoes with volcano powder?
- Deep sea detection
- Mira Award winners
- Name that City!
June 25, 2020
Ford to offer hands-free driving next year
Image courtesy Ford Motor Co.
Move over, Elon Musk: There’s a new autopilot coming to town. Ford Motor Co. will offer hands-free driving in its electric Mustang Mach-E SUV in 2021.
The technology, called Active Drive Assist, is similar to Tesla’s Autopilot and General Motors’ Super Cruise features, which use sophisticated cameras and sensors to keep their cars going without input from drivers. All are intended mainly for interstate driving but software updates will eventually cover most road types. Active Drive Assist will begin rolling out in the third quarter of next year and eventually become available on other Ford models.
Car makers have been taking baby steps toward autonomous driving for several years now. Existing “intelligent” cruise-control options monitor the road and other vehicles to manage speed, and lane-centering technologies keep cars in their lane without input from the driver. And while fully self-driving cars are still a bit far off in the future, tech like Ford’s Active Drive Assist, which is seen as more accessible to middle-class drivers, is a leap forward.
Unlike truly autonomous driving, where the driver of the future will be able to Netflix and quite possibly chill while driving, current technologies aren’t so sophisticated. An infrared camera system monitors your eyes and head position and warns you when your attention wanes. If you don’t pay attention the car will slow down and eventually stop.
Ford has other goodies in store for its new autopilot tech, including stop-and-go capability in heavy traffic and “intersection assist,” which helps with left turns in busy intersections. While Ford hasn’t named a price for the new hands-free Mustang, industry watchers expect it to be more affordable than a Tesla.
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Pittsburgh company’s filtration system cleans air on trains
Many companies are responding to the coronavirus pandemic with innovative ways to make our world cleaner. Add to that group Pittsburgh’s Wabtec Corporation, a spinout from Westinghouse. Wabtec’s new product, BlueFilter, is an air-filtration system for train, light rail, and subway cars. The filter removes more than 90% of contaminants each time it recycles the air.
When countries began to quarantine people to fight the virus, demand for rail traffic ground to a halt in many places. No matter how many times workers clean surfaces inside trains, there is still a danger of contagion from airborne droplets. BlueFilter hopes to mitigate that danger by removing airborne allergens, bacteria, dust, and viruses that are as small as .01 micrometers, a significant improvement over standard filters. As a bonus, BlueFilter is compatible with current HVAC systems, so there’s no major installment hassle for transit companies.
Hope for a cancer vaccine
Researchers at Vanderbilt University appear to have developed a promising treatment for breast cancer metastasis—the latest stage of the deadly cancer.
Metastasis is caused when cancer cells from a tumor leach into the bloodstream as a circulating tumor cell, then attack another part of the body. It is responsible for 90% of cancer-related deaths. The Vandy technique, injecting vaccinations of cancer cells broken into thousands of nanoparticles, delayed primary tumor growth.
Cancer vaccine research is a fast-growing field. Typically, doctors remove white blood cells, treat them, and reinsert them in the body to see how cancer cells respond.
In the Vanderbilt lab, researchers injected the nanoparticles, known as tumor-lysate, or TSL, and found they caused the immune system to trigger white blood cells to attack not only the TSL but also the circulating tumor cells responsible for metastasis.
Bringing AI to prosthetics
Researchers at North Carolina State University are bringing artificial intelligence to bear to create better robotic prosthetics. The key is using computer vision to control prosthetic legs to help account for uncertain terrain. Cameras mounted at eye level and lower-limb level help the robotic exoskeleton navigate tricky terrain like stairs, grass, tile, and brick.
While a dual-camera system might be cost prohibitive because of the computing power required, researchers found that a single camera mounted at knee-level was a significant improvement over no camera at all. The camera significantly improved near-term predictions—what the terrain would be like for the next couple of steps. The researchers were also able to use deep-learning systems to measure uncertainty, which has value beyond robotic prosthetics.
Researchers tested the model on non-disabled people, then evaluated the concept on people with lower-limb amputations, finding that the model can be appropriately transferred so the system can operate with subjects from different populations.
Volcano powder shown to kill malaria-carrying mosquitoes
Researchers at North Carolina State have been busy. They have also created an insecticide spray that kills mosquitoes that carry malaria, a disease that kills 400,000 people each year.
Based on their explosive power, molten lava, and smothering ash, volcanoes might seem like they’re trying to kill us. But what if they’re trying to save our lives? (People of Pompeii, stick with us here.) The researchers combined water with a volcanic glass powder called perlite to create the insecticide spray.
You might know perlite as the popcorn-looking stuff you spread on your garden to add volume to soil and improve drainage. It’s also used in ceiling tiles and as a filtering agent in beer making (we’ll drink to that). It’s non-toxic to humans and carries no odor. Who knew it could kill mosquitoes?
NC State entomologists working with the Innovative Vector Control Consortium based at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, that’s who. The perlite spray causes mosquitoes to become dehydrated and, being mosquitoes, they are unable to buy Gatorade, so they shrivel up and die.
The researchers conducted a test of the spray in the West African Republic of Benin. They sprayed the concoction on the walls, ceilings, and roofs and found the treated surfaces continued to kill 80% of mosquitoes up to five months after treatment. Researchers cautioned that the spray is not a silver bullet but a tool that can be part of a comprehensive mosquito-management program.
Photo by pathdoc for Shutterstock.
Pittsburgh robotics company inks $2.5 million deal with US Navy
A Pittsburgh robotics company that makes human-like robotics systems has landed a deal with the Navy to detect and neutralize underwater mines. The Office of Naval Research will provide $2.5 million in funding to RE2 Robotics to provide technology for the Navy’s Dexterous Maritime Manipulation System. The technology will allow Navy personnel to autonomously perform “mine countermeasure missions.”
Although mines might sound old-fashioned in the age of drones, they are actually a growing and evolving threat for the Navy. Unlike older mines used in harbors and other shallow water, enemies today are able to mine the deep blue sea, making the need for anti-mine technologies greater than ever.
The key to RE2’s technology is applying computer vision and machine-learning algorithms to underwater vehicles. The company’s electromechanical system replaces existing robotic systems that are hydraulic, allowing the robot arms to stay underwater longer and requiring lower maintenance.
Results of TechPoint's Mira Awards
Nearly 4,000 people tuned into the first-ever virtual Mira Awards, an event put on by TechPoint and sponsored by Eli Lilly and Company, Genesys, Infosys, Raytheon Intelligence & Space and Salesforce.
TechPoint is the nonprofit, industry-led growth accelerator for Indiana’s tech ecosystem. The event recognized companies, places and products during its live broadcast. Here is a list of the winners, nearly all of which are bringing disruptive new products or technologies to their markets:
Rising Entrepreneur Award – Amy Brown, Founder & CEO, Authenticx
Investor of the Year – Elevate Ventures
Trailblazer Award – Kristian Andersen, Partner, High Alpha
TechPoint Foundation for Youth Bridge Builder Award – The STEM Connection
Community Impact Award – Indiana Department of Correction
Tech Education Award – Nextech
Rising Tech City Award – #FortBenTech Campus and City of Lawrence
Tech Product of the Year – hc1’s PGx Advisor
Service Partner of the Year – KSM Consulting
Innovation of the Year – Anvl’s Automated Offline Hazard Identification
Exceptional Employer Award – Kronos Incorporated
Large Enterprise of the Year – Republic Airways
Startup of the Year – Woven
Scale-up of the Year (Tech Product) – Zylo
It's ... Name that Flyover city!
- In what city would you find the first museum in the U.S. to be primarily focused on contemporary art?
- What three cities are home to one of the most prominent high-tech research and development parks in the U.S.?
- A young man named Joyce C. Hall dropped out of high school, moved to this city with two shoe boxes of postcards, and built a multi-million dollar greeting card empire. What city was it?
Click here for today's answers.
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