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The fuel crisis



The fuel crisis spells doom for petrolheads, but for the rest of us there's a solution. It will just take time, effort – and lots and lots of money

Worried about the impending fuel-related political, financial and environmental Armageddon? Here's a quick heads-up:

Biofuels won't work because they compete with food supplies and desecrate biodiversity. Electricity is as dirty as the source of energy that supplies it and right now, unless you live in Sweden, that is likely to be grimy and non-renewable.

Which also rules out hydrogen.

Solar-powered cars are fine if you are jockey-sized and OK with seeing the world horizontally at 5km/h. Petrol-electric hybrids pollute virtually as much as the most efficient diesels and are not as frugal as manufacturers claim Plus they use far more resources in their manufacture and recycling. And most of them are really nerdy.

Another solution is for governments to make us pay more to drive in every way they can imagine but there is a teensy flaw in this: a few thousand extra rands on road tax is not going to cause a Porsche Cayenne owner a great deal of angst; indeed, it will only make his car that bit more show-offy.

But it might well be the last financial straw for someone trying to run a 10-year-old Sierra.

Jeremy Clarkson's solution has been to buy a 25-year-old Mercedes limo that does two km/litre and turns pedestrians into chimney sweeps as it passes. He's saving himself tax and providing some entertainment but there is only one real solution: build safe, clean nuclear reactors – and wind turbines.

And we start mass-producing Teslas (Californian-built electric sports cars) then get China, India, Russia and America to do likewise.

Do I win a prize? - The Independent

'World's biggest Playstation' tests safety systems
DRIVER'S EYE VIEW: Toyota's new driving simulator has 360-degree computer-generated driving situations projected on the inside of the dome.

November 26, 2007

By Yuri Kageyama

Toyota's new driving simulator for testing safety features is a giant dome that swivels, tilts and slides along rails to reproduce the sensations of driving on real-world roads.

A Lexus mounted inside the 4.5m high, 7m diameter dome provides the sense of acceleration, vibration and sound of driving a real car.

The internal surrounding sides of the dome show 360-degree computer graphic imagery of roads and landscape, complete with signs, pedestrians, street-side stores and faraway Mount Fuji - all synchronized to move with the simulated driving
'The big unknown about making safe cars is understanding the human brain
.

In a demonstration for reporters today (November 26) at a Toyota technology centre, the dome moved horizontally and vertically along a rail in a 35m-long building.

When a driver pushed on the brakes, the dome tilted forward to give the effect of stopping. When the driver turned the steering wheel to the right, the dome tilted to the right to give the feeling of turning.

Toyota officials said the simulator would be useful for testing safety features such as warning beeps about oncoming vehicles without endangering drivers.

It could also be used to analyse how drowsiness and intoxication affected driving, they said.

Toyota executive vice-president Kazuo Okamoto said the big unknown about making safe cars was understanding the human brain and other aspects of human behaviour. The simulator, he said, would help solve such questions
Hitting a computer-generated pedestrian merely makes the image disappear
.

Other automakers have developed driving simulators but they tend to be stationery, giving the effect of driving by shaking and rocking, and showing imagery jn only one place

The dome and other moving parts of Toyota's simulator weighed 78 tons, the company said.

The two reporters who won the draw to try the simulator said its braking and acceleration felt much like real-life driving, although one reporter said the graphics weren't realistic enough.

There are no computer graphics of a crash; hitting a computer-generated pedestrian merely makes the image disappear.

Toyota engineer Takashi Yonekawa said the simulator's purpose wasn't to test driving skills. It would be used to develop safety features tailored to various kinds of drivers, including beginners and the elderly, he said.

Credit Suisse auto analyst Koji Endo also took part in the demonstration; he thought the simulator was a long-term investment.

"There's no immediate return, maybe for 10 years," he said.

Toyota wouldn't say how much the simulator cost to build; it said there were no plans to build similar machines for sale. - Sapa-AP
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REAL-WORLD RESEARCH: Toyota's new driving simulator is not a game - it will be used for research into driver reactions to dangerous situations.


SHAKE, RATTLE AND ROLL: There's a full-size Lexus inside the dome, which can swivel, tilt and slide along rails to reproduce the sensations of driving on real-world roads.



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